Head In The Clouds: A Hardcore Rave Souvenir


Suggested Audio 12-Track:


To get this party started, I have pre-loaded our airwaves with all manner of synth, hi-hat and snares to help bring those rushes on. Pick and choose your own audio from my dirty dozen Grueheads and I’ll be seeing you right in the thick of it.


Hyper on Experience “Thunder Grip”



This one’s for the hardcore massive. That’s right, got my rose-tinted spectacles on, whistle around my neck, and a tub of Vicks VapoRub in my pocket, and I feel like taking a journey back…way back…back into time. 1992 is our intended destination and happened to be a pretty monumental year for this particular eighteen-year-old in search of his identity. My story started in the summer of ’92 and it turned our to be one helluva awakening. You see, it coincided with the emergence of a new tour de force in electronic dance music – breakbeat rave. The scene was at its apex in the U.K. around that time and, from primary introduction, I was a slave to its rip-roaring rhythm. To anyone unfamiliar with this particular strain, I think it’s time to make the floor burn!

Reel 2 Reel “Raw From China 3”



Anyone with a keyboard, synthesizer, drum machine, sequencer, sampler, and bitcrusher could jump on board this new trend. BPMs tended to be well into triple figures and it traditionally featured sped-up hip-hop breakbeats, shrill piano stabs, low-frequency bass lines and all manner of cartoon-like soundbites. Nowadays it is affectionately remembered as “old skool” but there was nothing antiquated about this turbo-charged techno candy when it first muscled onto the scene. It was love at first sight for me, particularly given the surroundings within which it introduced itself. Being on the cusp of eighteen, this brave new world couldn’t have been more primed for colonization, and it put on quite the welcome party, let me tell you. Hundreds of sweaty revellers were my co-pilots and the deejay was our feeder. Acting as a Pied Piper of sorts, he knew precisely what strings to pull, and each one of them was attached to a corresponding pleasure node. His armory consisted of hundreds of vinyl dubplates, each pre-loaded with audio adrenaline boosts and he knew exactly when to drop them.

New Atlantic “Yes To Satan (Bonus Techno Mix)”



Think of the dance floor as an indoor swimming pool, only one with a built-in wave generator. We all trod water expectantly while the tide commenced to rise around us and the arrival of each subsequent wave was both refreshing and utterly intoxicating. Breakbeat rave was all about ebbs and flows and, of course, geared up towards crescendo. Should the pace drop off momentarily then that would inevitably be the calm before the storm and, the moment that crashing bass line annihilated the quietude, the roof would threaten to vacate its fixtures as we would all erupt in euphoric unison. Lasers and strobes were cunningly implemented to make the absolute maximum of each upsurge and erratic dance moves were commonplace as we threaded our dripping bodies through their Technicolor majesty. In short, it was fucking mental.

First Prodject “Right Before”



While I entered somewhat blind, its reputation had preceded it, and I had been meticulous with my itinerary. Bright red paisley print head bandana – check. Loose fitting urban bodywear – check. Audacious sneakers complete with fitted air bubbles – check. Lanyard with whistle attachment – check. Now all I needed was narcotics and it didn’t take long to sniff out any resident peddlers. The location was an old listed building by the name of Berwick Manor on the outskirts of Rainham, Essex and opening hours were 8PM-2AM. What it proposed was a six-hour stint in its pressure cooker and pleasure seekers would come from far and wide to taste the Berwick Experience. Drugs were distributed by shady vendors, strategically placed around the circumference of the dance floor and each of these was in the management’s pocket. Should you be caught dealing without a licence on this particular turf, then you would be marched out of the side gate by several gargantuan bouncers and never seen of again.

Blame “Music Takes You”



Aside from the pitfalls of breaking this one cardinal rule, community spirit was at its optimum here. MDMA and amphetamines were the bargaining tools and all deals were struck within five minutes of primary entry. All that left was the inevitable wait for said cocktail to take effect and these thirty minutes were nervy affairs as money back guarantees weren’t provided with their purchase and dud pills were commonplace. Nine times out of ten, however, the buzz arrived right on time, and the next few hours would largely be spent gurning like infants. Did we look stupid as our eyeballs rolled back into our heads and jaws locked in their upright positions? Absolutely preposterous. Did any other bastard care? Hell no, they looked every bit as pathetic. Besides, this wasn’t like the school yard during recess. There were no bullies lingering with intent, waiting for the perfect time to pounce. No teachers lurking in the shadows ready to confiscate our forbidden objects, just an ocean of teeth and buckets of unconditional love.

Konspiracy “Your Love Is On My Mind”



When I say unconditional, the condition to this was that similar drugs were coursing their systems, and any short-lived compassion would be left at the door on departure as those peaks began to drop off. However, affection was in hyper-abundance within its four bulging walls, and everyone was singing from the same hymn sheet. The word love was lobbed about like luminous popcorn and those with personal space issues had a night off from their hug aversion. Outside in the garden, meaningless conversations were the norm, although they appeared so fascinating at the time. Should it all have gotten a touch intense in the thick of it, then fresh oxygen was on hand to replenish one’s energy and tool up for our next crusades.

4 Mega “Drop This”



Speaking of which, the few of you reading this who frequented the same establishment, should be more than aware of the above jukebox selection. This was the pinnacle in 1992 and, should we have heard Drop This entering the mix, then the garden would empty faster than you could say “Watch me dance!” I witnessed more frenzy during this boogie down behemoth than the first day of the sales at Bloomingdale’s and made a habit of congregating as close as possible to the nearest speaker just to soak up its pulsing reverberations to the absolute über-max. There were other killers of course but none quite so magnanimous as this, at least not in my recollection. Indeed, hearing that drop even now fires my pistons, and hardly a week passes when I don’t facilitate a spirited renaissance.

The House Crew “Keep The Fire Burning”



As you would expect, temperatures were known to soar within this heaving structure, but that didn’t prevent its attendees from going thick with the layers. Winter coats were the norm but no duffles, we’re talking flourescent puffa jackets which lent its owner the appearance of a human blowfish. Being highly flammable, should any fires have broken out unannounced, then the whole foundations would have gone up faster than a jerry can. But humidity was our friend as each heat wave brought with it an accompanying rush and it was that which we clamored for most. Bottles of amyl nitrate and mentholated ointment were passed about freely as we all peaked together as one family.

Manix “Oblivion (Head In The Clouds)”



Week after week I returned to the fray and, when the doors finally shut at around 2.30AM, a cluster of us would head into city to an all-night club in Hackney by the name of Labyrinth. To be clear, Hackney was perhaps the roughest spot in the entire of London during the early nineties, and the last place on earth you would frequent for a quaint stroll. Of an average of seven vehicles in convoy, at least three were destined to be broken into while we worked up a sweet sweat in our sanctuary. One particularly amusing episode occurred on my second ever outing when one of my fellow passengers had her £300 fur coat pilfered from the trunk. Needless to say, she was devastated. So when we cruised through the streets of London at 7AM with no rear window and fighting off hypothermia, only to pass a street vendor selling said pelt, rapturous laughter was mandatory. Not that she saw the funny side. However, pulling over and challenging this dodgy dealer would be asking for cataclysm and even she realized this was not about to happen.

Rhythm Section “Dreamworld”



Anyhoots, Labyrinth was a sweat box unlike any other and fully lived up to its mantle. A network of tunnels connected its hubs and each was embellished with lambent graffiti. Should you traverse deep enough, then you would eventually arrive at one of two equally marvellous locations. The first was called the Stairs To Nowhere and the clue really was in the title. This was a great place to make out and each step was coated with saliva from a thousand gurning embraces. The other meant digging deep and was the nerve center for the entire infrastructure. There were no lasers in the sub-basement, just incessant strobe and the most industrial of rhythms. However, as foreboding a locale as this could appear at first glance, it came with its very own Jamaican. This radiant Rastafarian ran a tuck shop of sorts, filled with all manner of candy confectionery and citrus refreshments. Needless to say, I spent more of my time here than anywhere else as I’ve always been a sucker for saccharin.

N.R.G. “Unity”



1992 was a time I have no wish to ever forget and, should dementia come a knocking in the future, I shall remind it of the year’s immunity. Class A drugs may have enabled the experience but weren’t what made it quintessential. Unity has always been something that nuzzles my neurons and I have seldom felt it in such an embarrassment of riches as I did getting my rave on at Berwick Manor and Labyrinth. Alas, with any illegal high comes the autocratic “comedown” and I feel duty bound to end on such a downer for the full “E” experience. You see, once 7AM dawned and we were back spat out into cold, harsh reality looking rather the worse for wear, and fading way faster than we liked, the party was most definitely over. The next priority was to locate the nearest service station and grab ourselves a full English breakfast we had absolutely no intention of eating.

Acen “Life & Crimes of a Ruffneck”



Should we have planned in advance, then a house party would be on the cards, and provide a place for us to rest our weary bones. For the first hour or so, this would prove a decent enough remedy, but fatigue invariably ended up sucking out the happy oxygen and nobody was smiling for long. All that was left then was to scurry home to our respective homesteads, sneak indoors whilst praying that our parents hadn’t stirred from their slumber yet, and lock ourselves down for the next eight hours in those panic rooms until the shakes subsided. The thing about MDMA and amphetamines is that you essentially run a marathon for around ten hours, burning way more energy than our bodies ordinarily produce. So payment is inevitable once its effects eventually wear off and it can feel downright extortionate. Don’t even get me started on the long-term footprint as I’m still paying that particular price. But, cherry picker that I unashamedly am, what a fucking rush it was.


Click here to read The Trip: A Reflection in Technicolor






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