Can You Feel It?

Wednesday, August 31 2011
Can You Feel It?

The Raygun is in a warehouse cum squat in Hackney, surrounded by youths drinking nothing more than bottled water, or maybe Lucozade or Ribena. The youngsters, teenagers and twentysomethings, are clad in brightly coloured, sometimes dayglo streetwear, baggy and a touch scruffy, all are clad in ubiquitous Converse canvas basketball shoes or trainers. Smoke machines are pumping out dry ice adding a distinctive aroma and making it nigh on impossible to see beyond your own hands; strobe lights, flashing almost without pause, are one of the only things that can cut through the fug of smoke. On stage, a DJ is waving a record around, soaking up the intense but euphoric but intense atmosphere and urging the crowd on. Music is pumping out of the excessively loud PA; distinctive, repetitive drum machine loops,  punctuated by synthetic handclaps and manufactured hi-hat cymbals, underpinned by sequenced bass frequencies, on top of which sits incessant,  squiggly, squelchy noises that could only have been made by machines; on top of this there’s the odd vocal sound, and uplifting piano.

It’s all too reminiscent for ageing ravers such as ourselves and the man stood next to us, DJ, producer and sometime promoter Terry Farley, a bona fide acid house legend, who was there at the Shoom, the legendary London night that helped kickstart that old acid house mullarkey almost 25 years ago and, with the Boys Own collective helped shape rave culture and usher in the dance music culture that defined a generation and is still making waves years later.

But we’re not at some retro night out for grown-ups in their 30s and 40s reliving their misspent youth (lthough there are plenty of those around these days), nor is it some newer illegal party for younger househeads (and again, there are plenty of these around London’s East End, taking in Dalston, Hackney and other areas). This is something altogether different, but something that Momentum Pictures is hoping the end result of this winter’s day work will appeal to ravers young and old.

“And … ACTION!” yells someone in the squat, as the music suddenly cut out, leaving us in near silence. But the crowd carries on dancing, shuffling to the non-existent beats. Cameramen pick out the crowd dancing, as a group of thugs enter the room and pick on one or two of those in the audience. What then, is going on? In case you hadn’t guessed, we’re on set. It’s filming for Momentum’s Weekender, which is now, almost a year later, ready for release as a platform theatrical and then DVD title due in September.

Momentum picked up the title at an early stage and was thus involved in the production and filming, which is why we’re spending a Saturday afternoon in a Hackney squat listening to house music. It’s not the first time we’ve done this kind of thing, of course, we are, after all, acid house casualties ourselves. But it’s the first time we’ve done it in the course of work.

We’re stood alongside the aforementioned Farley who is acting as a creative and musical consultant on the film and has helped compile the triple CD soundtrack out already via Demon’s Harmless imprint (see below for more on the OST). At a screening for the film recently Farley will tell us how it’s important to remember that the film isn’t a reflection of the trendier, more scene-oriented London acid house era, but more a look at the next wave of ravers who came along after the pioneering nights that helped switch on a generation.

And to that end, the film works well.

“My beautiful and vivid memories of the first acid house period is that it was a secret that we all swore to not tell anyone else about,” recalls Farley, “but everyone became evangelical and told just about everyone. That’s why it was a firestorm without ANY press or legal radio coverage . The film is set two years later in 1990 and in the north and looks at young Teds who want to emulate what was going off all around them.

“I loved the film, it shows the optimism and energy that house music even today can induce in wide-eyed young men (and women ), however I’d have liked maybe it to have been a bit more grimey – kids monging out in corridors, being sick and dancing in three inches of filth – it really was that bad and that beautiful… The 40- and 50somethings who were the pioneers of acid house will no doubt still be trying to get paint and grunge off their Converse while today’s dancers at Secretsundaze and Half Baked look at ‘rave shit’ as a badge of honour.”

The attraction for Momentum wasn’t just the nostalgia, its support for the film came from the commercial prospects and, in particular, those two separate groups. As Momentum’s Adam Eldrett notes, these are being targeted.

“Between the subject matter and our up and coming cast we have a unique opportunity to reach both of these demographics,” he says.

Our PR campaign is making up the bulk of the nostalgia angle, there are so many routes into that and it has actually surprised me a little bit just how much the fires are still burning in the world of rave culture. 

“Our media will be the main driver to the younger crowd, Jack and Henry are very prominent in all of our marketing materials and we expect to see some strong crossover from fans of Skins and The Inbetweeners.”

Word of mouth has been building for the film since its international premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, which saw the city bedecked in four sheet posters, with flyers and posters all over the place. Those flyers have appeared again at festivals such as Wireless and wil be turning up in record and clothes shops, bars and clubs.

Mixmag has become a key partner for us, supporting the film in a big way across a couple of issues and we even branded up the regular Mixmag club night with all things Weekender,” continues Eldrett.

The look and feel has become part of the marketing for both the theatrical, DVD and soundtrack.

“It was important to create a tangible brand that reflected the era and concept of the film but also would appeal to a younger crowd,” explains Eldrett. I think our bold campaign has cut through. Part rave posters, part film quad, it has struck a chord across our two age groups.”

It helps in this respect that Momentum was involved earlier in the production than it often is. “We have worked with the producers before and had great success when we released The Crew a couple of years back. 

“As before we had a unique chance to get involved in the cut of the film and worked closely with them during the final production process. 

We also got involved with this one at production stage, being on set and obtaining the key shots of cast we needed was a real coup, we were also able to ensure our EPK materials were spot on. 

I still find it amazing how many films are made without anyone doing that crucial photoshoot of key cast, with this involvement we were able to get exactly what we needed.”

With the soundtrack already out and charting well on the back of its initial sales, it looks as if it’s all coming together for Weekender.

As Eldrett concludes: “With such a great-looking DVD and CD release Weekender feels like a film that has grown much bigger than the sum of it’s parts.”

Weekender: The story of the soundtrack…

Ian Dewhirst, label manager, Harmless, part of the Demon Music Group:

“The first I heard about Weekender was when Terry Farley mentioned in passing that he’d just been music consultant for a film which covered the early house/rave era ‘up North’. My ears immediately pricked up. Not only does the company I work for control a huge swathe of house music (predominantly from the Trax stable), but this was also an area that I had personal knowledge about having stomped through the early 1970s Northern Soul era in places like Manchester, Salford, Wigan, Burnley and Rochdale among many others. So I knew the turf. 

“The next time Manchester got a similar buzz again was circa 1988 when the early House era was truly kicking and when, co-incidentally, I happened to be back in Manchester promoting Bam Bam’s Give It To Me with his first ever UK live appearance at Manchester’s Placemate 7 with the good Colin Curtis behind the decks.  Despite Bam Bam nearly getting us all shot with his lycra catsuit stripping sequence which ended with him thrusting his lycra g-string (and everything within it) into the face of a particularly notorious Cheetham Hill gangster, we actually ended up having a great night. So good, in fact, that we found it impossible to leave Manchester for the next 10 days as we soaked up the sheer vibrancy of the Manchester House scene with nightly visits to numerous different clubs but always finishing off at the Kitchen in Moss Side with Manchester legend Tomlin on the decks at 7 am every morning. 

“So when Weekender popped into the equation and I saw the film, it all slotted in quite nicely. The film is uncannily accurate in its portrayal of the early house/rave era and the right soundtrack package would undoubtedly grab several different audiences, from the youngsters who will get their first taste of the house era from the film, to the 40 year old ex-ravers who lived it first time around. To this end we deliberately created a package which we felt would have broad appeal with CD1 covering all the key gems from the film itself – bear in mind that the film conveys both the best and worst parts of the scene, so we simply took all the best ones. We made sure to include only the key mixes of each track and we had to battle several licensing issues before we managed to locate all the particular mixes we wanted, many of which have never previously made it to CD.

“CD2 would be further inspiration from the film, once again compiled by Terry and dipping deep into several of Demon’s distributed catalogues like Trax, Easy Street, Fresh and Warlock to name a few and, once again, only using the correct mixes as well as an exclusive unreleased Neville Watson and Miles Simpson dub mix of Frankie Knuckles feat Jamie Principle’s Baby Wants To Ride. Also, as a bonus, we couldn’t resist including a Terry Farley Weekender mix as a bonus CD just to round off a bumper three CD package and to totally give the taste of what it was like to actually hear this music mixed properly.

“With both the film and DVD being released in September, we’re hoping to maximise UK sales throughout the next eight weeks and then market and promote the soundtrack in each territory that the film gets released in over the next 12 months. However, we do feel that the Weekender – Soundtrack Gems + Further Inspiration package is pretty much as near to a definitive package of the era that you can get, so we’d like to think that the package will continue to sell throughout the future in its own right.”

Adam Eldrett: “DJ Legend Terry Farley was brought on board as a music consultant for the film and has helped to ensure Weekender is a definitive and accurate portrayal of this era. 

“We are naturally working with Harmless/Demon and with Terry himself who came to Edinburgh with us and in many interviews/junkets seems to steal the show!

The film is largely about the music and that word ‘Legend’ is not used lightly as far as I am concerned. Terry really is it, 20 years on he is still greatly respected and seen as a true godfather of this dance floor revolution.

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