Underground originators rarely get to share in the glory; it’s the magpie acts picking influence from their work that usually get the acclaim. A notable exception being Andrew Weatherall, who died today (Monday February 17) from a pulmonary embolism, aged 56.
Not only did the DJ and production legend help to ferment acid house during his time DJing on its pioneering club scene, he was also principal in its breakout crossover success. Electronic dance music might well have stayed forever the realm of shaven-headed rave DJs and mischievous Shamen, and never received the respect it truly deserved, had Weatherall not infused indie rock with it through his production and remix work with Happy Mondays and Primal Scream, enriching alternative music for decades to come.
Born on April 6, 1963 in Berkshire, Weatherall’s DJ career began while working as a freelance music journalist and running the Boy’s Own fanzine alongside Terry Farley, Cymon Eckel and Steve Mayes. Meeting Danny Rampling at a party in Islington, he was recruited to play at acid house hotbed Shoom, and then at Paul Oakenfold’s Future/Spectrum nights. His early forays in to making his own music were released on his own Boy’s Own Recordings label, but it was at the mixing desk that he would really make his mark.
Alongside Oakenfold, Weatherall produced the club remix of Happy Mondays’ ‘Hallelujah’, which helped break the Madchester indie-dance scene into the top twenty as part of the ‘Madchester Rave On’ EP in 1989. Remixes of New Order’s ‘World In Motion’ followed in 1990, but it would be his fundamental rave reworking of Primal Scream’s ‘I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have’ which would have career-making impact.
Primal Scream had become acid club regulars and Weatherall’s glowing review of their second album in the Boy’s Own ‘zine proved the admiration was mutual; his loop-led remix of the mid-paced country rock shuffle, adorned with an iconic sample from 1966 biker flick The Wild Angels and renamed ‘Loaded’, was a revelation for both the rock and Ibiza dance scenes, proving how credibly and respectfully the forms could be mingled, highlighting the groove in rock and the grit in dance. It became the Scream’s first major hit, prompting the band to collaborate with Weatherall on much of 1991’s ‘Screamadelica’, widely regarded as the peak of acid house’s evolution into wider alternative culture and arguably the greatest dance-rock crossover album ever made.
Weatherall would continue his forays into indie rock and pop with remixes of Saint Etienne’s Neil Young cover ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’ and My Bloody Valentine’s acclaimed ‘Soon’ – voted the best remix ever by NME – and would go on to remix the likes of Bjork, Siouxsie Sioux, The Orb, James and Manic Street Preachers amongst many others. But he also built his own musical empires, starting with the Sabres Of Paradise in 1993, incorporating a band, label and club night Sabresonic. In 1996 he launched Two Lone Swordsmen with Keith Tenniswood and launched three labels under the Emissions umbrella – also with a club night Bloodsugar attached.
A solo career followed in 2006, now on his new Rotter’s Golf Club label, and Weatherall continued to innovate for the rest of his life, with production outfits such as The Asphodells and at his club night A Love From Outer Space. For many he will be remembered as a figure of enlightenment, opening doors and shattering barriers to wake young minds to the wide-reaching possibilities of dance music. His lingering message remains: don’t fight it, feel it.