Of all subcultural Senior statesmen, in my humble estimation, one man stands head and shoulders above the rest. That man, cut like a villianous last Victorian-era East End butcher and blessed with the most menacing dead-eye stare in the whole of rave culture, is Andrew Weatherall.
Guv’nor (or Major if you’re a stickler) Weatherall’s stare, old-timey ink, and truly exquisite mustache give the man a hardened air of a man out of time. That quality of tragicomic timelessness and the fact that in interviews he is painfully droll, he tends to come of as churlish or maybe a bully. I read it as quiet cool…and just his brand of humor. Considering the fact that like some vampire in one of those Interview with a Vampire books, Weatherall has quite literally lived through entire epochs of subculture (which at turns he helped define) he has absolutely earned the right to snarl and roll his eyes at anyone and anything that comes his way. He is a dance music immortal.
Having started as a Northern Soul party kid back in the day, Weatherall was a part of a late 60s/early 70s scene that is widely considered ground zero for the rise of modern DJ culture. All night ragers where kids lost their heads to rare deep cuts and slept-on tracks mostly considered “failures” in the US and abroad, Northern Soul parties were the template for the raves and the dance underground.
From these humble beginnings, Weatherall went on to have had a hand in crafting shoegaze (My Bloody Valentine,) the emergence of Acid House (Primal Scream) and the golden era of Techno (Sabres of Paradise, Two Lone Swordsmen) all the while staying relatively anonymous (in the US at least) behind the decks.
His latest venture is a short lived party called A Love From Outer Space (named after an obscure and super amazing dance cut by A.R. Kane.) His mission: “to keep the BPM under 122 the entire evening” and create what Weatherall and his ALFOS partner Sean Johnston called “oasis of slowness in a world of ever increasing velocity.” Although it’s caught on in the UK to some extent, the concept is brilliantly confrontational and contradictory to a dancing youth culture whose idea of good is grating amusic at 138+ BPMs. That being said, increasingly a slew of dance music producers are creating fantastic work that supports the neo-downtempo idea.
As a document of the concept, Weatherall announced (in an excellent interview for the Red Bull Music Academy last year) that he’d be releasing a 3 disc compilation for Ministry of Sound. That compilation, titled “Masterpiece” is out now digitally. It is phenomenal and a behemoth that works both as a distillation of the man’s recent work and evidence of the underground’s underground.
Like Weatherall, dance culture is finally old enough to be self-reflective and critical and comically combative. This is self-assured stuff and isn’t afraid of stratifying if it has to. “Masterpiece” is dance music for adults. And no doubt like the rest of The Lord Sabre’s career will simultaneously be far ahead of the curve and ultimately benchmarking for future generations.