Admittedly, cassettes were my crack. But there was a time I almost purchased a record. The track was Infiltrate 202 by Altern 8. But at the time, I didn’t know what it was called. The only thing I knew was that it sent the 23 Hop dance floor in to a frenzy the instant it was sampled. All I could do was hum the track to the employees at StarSound and Play De who hadn’t the faintest idea what I what I was raving about. Sadly, my one and only vinyl buying mission failed.
Many of Altern 8’s tunes were anthems in the original days of Toronto raves. Fast forward 20+ years and Infiltrate 202 is widely believed to be our first rave anthem. That said, it’s an honor to include this interview with Mark Archer. A tribute to Toronto’s rave scene would be incomplete without it.
Meet Mark Archer. He’s a godfather of UK techno and an unofficial spokesperson for Vick’s VapoRub. Mark will be appearing at Reunited in Toronto on Saturday May 11.
Can you give us a brief history of your producing career?
I originally started out recording in 1988 along side Dean Meredith as a group called ‘Rhythm Mode D’ recording more hip hop based material as well as various other artist names to record a (seemingly) various artists compilation of Acid House. In 1989 we were recording some very ‘Mr Fingers’ influenced techno so decided on using the name ‘Bizarre Inc…’ for the project. Later that year I started the project ‘Nexus 21‘ and had to get someone to play keyboards so Chris became part of the group to record some more Detroit influence techno.
In 1990 we were owed studio time by Blue Chip records and recorded 9 track in that time which had wider influences than Detroit techno so it was decided to give that project a different name, it was supposed to be ‘Alien 8’ but when our then record label (Network) had the sleeves back, it said ‘Altern 8’ so we went with that name.
I’ve had various pseudonyms since 1988 which have included working with other people as well as solo, mainly C+M Connection alongside chris, Slo Moshun with Danny Taurus as well as Xen Mantra and Trackman on the solo front.
What’s your personal favourite Altern 8 tracks? And least?
Frequency and Infiltrate 202 are my personal favourites and dub pl8 would be the least, not because it’s a bad track, it just totally didn’t fit with what we were about and had absolutely nothing to do with the scene at the time.
What was the inspiration behind your suits? Did you really put Vick’s in the masks?
We were still doing pa’s as Nexus 21 in ’90 when we were first asked to perform as Altern 8. So we needed some sort of disguise, my brother was in the RAF and had 2 spare NBC (nuclear biological chemical) suits and I just added the day-glow masks and name patch to them. The Vicks thing came about in 1991 when we noticed people using it in clubs (apparently for different reasons) but we thought it would be a good idea to put it in the masks as it gets well stuffy having one of those on your face for an hour.
Was there a rift between you and the Prodigy because of the Altern 8-esque creature in their Out of Space video (roughly 1 minute in)?
Not really, we weren’t ever sure if they were taking a knock at us as there would never be a reason for them to do so. I think the video was just a representation of the scene as it was at that time and a lot of people wore the white suits and masks to a rave and they still do to this day.
Speaking of Altern 8 and Prodigy, I once head a mix that went “Charly says always” and then “watch your bassbins I’m tellin’ ya” was cut in. But I guess that’s not really a question?
Sounds like a top mix though, I may try it.
You guys were on top in 1991 and 1992 – why did you stop producing?
The UK scene had completely changed by 1993 as it was moving so fast and was totally different to scenes around the world which were playing varied styles – whereas the UK had become very pigeon holed by that time and it wasn’t going in a direction that we really wanted to follow. So we decided to start recording under the Nexus 21 name again but unfortunately that didn’t happen.
Why do you think raves burned out? Are there any remnants left over in the UK?
It got way too genre specific for its own good, the law got on top and there were just so many things that contributed to the scene going back underground, but its essence still lives on and there’s a lot of events in the UK that are bringing the atmosphere of raves back as well as a retro scene that’s been going really strong since 1999. The music has influenced too many people to die out completely and there’s still people out there who want to hear the original versions of all the classics played in a set that would fit back then.
Was it a kid who said “top one, nice one, get sorted” during Activ-8? Do you feel this influenced Project One‘s kid samples?
It was the daughter of the record label boss, she was three at the time and we got her in the studio to record that and some speech that’s on the very end of the move my body remix on the same 12″. Not sure if it influenced Project One but it was along the same lines as the Prodigy using the “Charly says” sample at the time we did it. Claire who recorded the vocals is now 21 and looks a hell of a lot different to how she did – lol.
As you can tell by this Toronto rave mixtape which features Infiltrate 202 and Activ-8 – you guys had a handful of Toronto anthems. Do you have any comments on the recording?
It sounds like my early mix tapes but is very varies as far as when tracks were released compared to Uk mix tapes from clubs of that era. Amnesia was the kind of thing that would have been played in 88/89 and the same with the dance so wouldn’t have been played really on the same night as something Like Infiltrate 202 which was out in 91. Back then though, the emphasis was more on the feeling, not so much the mixing, it was just the buzz when a massive track came on in the mix and the place would go off. We were never aware that any of our tracks were being played in Toronto and it’s great to hear them in a mix alongside some real rave classics.
What projects are you working on these days?
I’m working on solo material and remixes under my own name which will be released both as vinyl and as digital downloads. I’ve got the ‘Triangle ep’ coming out on Sonic Heavy Recordings, Remixes of my remake of Armageddon coming out on Balkan Vinyl (following on from the remake of Frequency) tracks coming out on ‘Rhythmic Science’ and ‘Flatline Deep’ as well as some remixes on various labels.
They all hark back to the sound of Nexus 21, more Detroit techno styled from the late 80′s early 90′s. I also DJ pretty much every weekend playing rave classics from 1988-92 around the UK as well as places like Brazil, Malta and Germany.
When are you coming to perform in Toronto?
If someone contacted me to say they wanted us to play a DJ set in Toronto, there’s no way i’d say no. [Well we did! Mark’s in Toronto on May 11! http://on.fb.me/14kfTF8]