Umbrella Issue One
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Covered: Ibiza, club culture 990. I was living in Clerkenwell, London EC1 and working at Channel 4. In those days C4 had a budget especially ring fenced for ‘youth’ programming, and I was number two in a department of three people who decided how to spend it. It was great. We commissioned programmes like Network 7, The Tube, Soul Train, The Chart Show – and spent the rest of the time going to clubs and fending off slobbering charlatans telling us about The Next Big Thing. But I was 28 and already feeling too old for such a whippersnapper‘s job. So I left Channel 4, set up a company, Kinesis Films, with an old pal Paul Oremland, and set about trying to make and sell TV programmes to the only two channels interested in youth culture – BBC2 and C4. Around the same time, myself and (Madness frontman) Suggs started working with the Liverpool-based indie band The Farm. There was an element of frustration from The Farm that, although they’d cultivated a loyal, predominantly male following right from their conception in the early ’80s, the music press and record industry had dismissed them as a ‘football’ band, largely on the basis of this boisterous fan core. But in 1990 football became fashionable, and bands like James, Inspiral Carpets and, especially, the Happy Mondays tapped into that same laddish fan base The Farm had come to think of as their own. ‘Baggy’ was born and The Farm found themselves isolated; excluded from their own party and, to all intents and purposes, irrelevant. While the nation was going potty for Madchester’s dislocated groove, The Farm were the cod-reggae band with the brass section who’d supported The Housemartins on their last tour. The group needed a complete remix, and the first step for me and Suggs was to get them in the studio with a credible DJ/Producer. EC1 still hadn’t been trendified in 1990. It was one of the few affordable postcodes within walking distance of the West End, and as such attracted the creative community. My local was the Duke of York on the corner of Vine Hill and Clerkenwell Road. Just around the corner was Heavenly, Jeff Barrett’s PR agency and fledgling record label. Over the road was Creation Records. Everyone used to drink in the Duke, and it was here I first met a ginger-haired rockabilly called Angus Cameron. Angus had just made his first promo for Creation – a brilliant, psychotic cut-up job for Primal Scream’s Loaded. Immediately I saw it, I wanted to work with Angus. I blagged him repeatedly about directing a full-length film for Kinesis – I just didn’t know what, at that point. Back to The Farm; we persuaded the DJ Terry Farley to work on the band’s first recording session. Terry had seen his Boy’s Own comrade Andy Weatherall hit the heights with Primal Scream’s Loaded, and fancied the challenge of giving The Farm a similar makeover. We brought the band down to work, initially, in Suggs’s Liquidator studios and after-hours they took to London’s nascent Balearic scene like ducks to water. Places like Ziggy’s in Streatham, Gosh!, The Milk Bar and Flying were all embracing a slowed-down, laid-back, Ibiza-kissed soundscape and the clubs took The Farm to their bosom. And it wasn’t just the clubs who were transforming The Farm – there was a whole community, loosely linked by Boy’s Own magazine, whose input could be felt and valued; Fiona from Sign of The Times, Jonathan Richardson at POP, Matthew Collin, the photographer Glen Lutchford, hairdresser James Worrall at CUTS. All of them, along with underground mags like The Positive Energy of Madness, embraced their new Scouse house guests. Perhaps the biggest ally, though, was club-runner Charlie Chester. Charlie was the ebullient entrepreneur behind Flying Records. He also ran the up-and-coming Flying nights at The Soho Theatre Club on Charing Cross Road. I struck up an instant rapport with him, and over the course of a vodka jelly session one Saturday afternoon, he told of his plans to run a bespoke clubbers’ holiday to Ibiza. It was to be in June 1990. Flying’s galaxy of regular DJs would be there – Harvey, Dean Thatcher, Rocky & Diesel, Glen Gunner, Ashley Beadle, Scott James and, naturally, Terry Farley – along with a whole tribe of guest jocks, too; Orde Miekle, Danny Rampling and Andy Weatherall among the glitterati. And it was one of those moments – many of my stories come along in one, fully-formed blast like this – when everything fell into place all at once in my vodka-stoked bonce. We’d get The Farm out to Ibiza. Kinesis would take a film crew. And Angus Cameron would direct. It all seemed deliciously simple and crystal clear – we were going to make the greatest filmic testimony to a living, live youth culture, ever. The film wasn’t without its hiccups and dramas; but it was inspired. It was inspirational. I knew from the very first night that we were getting – we were going to get – something exceptional. Our cameraman Tim Maurice-Jones found Herculean reserves of strength to haul his tank-like gear around the Ku Club (as it was then), dipping in and out of the bacchanalian crowd, somehow managing to capture the essence of a dancefloor that has just gone off, lit up, ignited in the way that club nights just do – without anyone noticing he was there. There were other sublime moments; A Man Called Adam on the rocks by Café del Mar, tablets just kicking in as the sun set, smiling beatifically as they got to the heart of Ibiza’s spiritual side: “How can somewhere so beautiful be so… mad?” There was writer Jane Bussman ripping up the dancefloor all by herself in Es Paradis as she had a rave-off with a non-existent groover (it was a massive big PA cabinet); and one of those moments you just wish the cameras could have been there for – the great and the good of the London club scene off their trolleys on chocolate brandies and MDMA powder, all sat cross-legged in perfect serenity, making animal noises. Andy Weatherall was a frog. The film made its debut on Channel 4 on August 31, 1990. It was loved by the people we made the film for – the club kids, old and young. Many of the artistes featured on the film went on to more mainstream success; The Source, The Shamen, Saint Etienne and, gladly, The Farm all had mega hit records thereafter; A Man Called Adam’s Paul Daley formed Leftfield, while tracks by The Grid and My Bloody Valentine underscored, I think, some of the most stunningly moving melanges of music and images you’ll ever see – prompting many a request for a soundtrack CD and (initially) a video and ultimately a DVD release. For me though, Ibiza: A Short Film About Chilling was definitive of its time. It spawned many imitators, and many a monster, Ibiza Uncovered perhaps being the nadir. Yet the film is no more or less than the joint inspiration of a scene and its people coming together at the right time, in the right place, with the right attitude. Without wanting to sound too hippyspiritual about it, ASFAC was and is an organic moment, captured and sealed in a time capsule. It’s online if people want to find it. I dearly hope it will remain elusive and semi-mythologised, out there in the ether – pure, original, innocent and joyful. ‘we were going to make the greatest filmic testimony to youth culture’ The film of Kevin’s second novel Powder will be out next year. Awaydays, his first movie, is available now on DVD www.umbrellamagazine.co.uk screenshots taken from A Short Film About Chilling http://tiny.cc/0n0ah 1