The first rabbit hole I fell down was when I was 9 years old.
Prince’s concert film “Sign ‘O’ The Times” would be on TV late at night on England’s new alternative station, Channel 4. I’d catch glimpses of girls in spandex, oddly dressed musicians, stage and set design that looked like run-down, neon lit alleyways and in the middle of it all was this spectacled, fur clad, vision of man. And the music. Sweet Lord, the music! It shook me to my very core. Songs about natural disasters and the AIDS epidemic, songs about male vulnerability in the face of misogyny, songs empowering disabled children – it all had such a profound impact.
I fell hard.
It would take two years and a good beating until I finally took my first newly-purchased Prince album, “Batman”, home (we were broke in those days and I’d stolen the money to buy the tape, so the beating was a calculated risk).
The next rabbit hole was caused by the meteoric impact on youth culture that was Nirvana. They were my gateway drug to the dark side. From Grunge to Rock, from Metal to Hardcore and Industrial, the aggression, the angst – it was awesome. God bless my elder brothers’ tape deck – I copied everything I could get my hands on. Again, I fell. But this time I was old enough to venture out, against my parents wishes and see Slayer, Machine Head, Obituary, Biohazard and Pitchshifter first hand.
I tripped again (or perhaps it was a side-step?) when I heard Jungle for the first time. Here was a form of electronic music that held the same energy and speed as Metal but with a less rigid, more welcoming, free environment. The levels of experimentation and science that morphed Jungle into Drum & Bass were staggering. I had to explore them all. I had to beg, borrow and steal to understand what was happening in the UK, let alone keep up with the impact it had across the world. This was the biggest rabbit hole of them all.
But then something strange happened. That tunnel opened up and branched out into entirely new avenues. Asian Underground hit and the relish of combining my cultural heritage with the electronic music I loved was just too great. Here was something that seemed as though it was purpose built for me. Manna from the heavens. I dove in and didn’t look back. Everything changed. Or was Charged (sic) with a new energy.
Very quickly, however, it collapsed under it’s own weight. But that hunger, that uncompromising promise of changing things forever, had sunk it’s teeth in and wouldn’t let go. Shiva Soundsystem was born. And with it the stubborn approach that everything underground will have it’s day.
And so we continue.
This Friday, as I bid farewell to Blue Frog, I’ll be thankfully drawing from all of these rabbit holes and trying to compress all that made me into one final set. Maybe it’s unfair to call them rabbit holes. Maybe they’re actually wells we can draw from. Let’s drink deep.