Thursday, 31 January 2008

Interview : Moonboots - paid in tapas & other tales

For many people in the Balearic demi-monde (whatever one of them is) Richard Bithell aka Moonboots is a legendary figure. Any man who lists his myspace hobbies as follows, is worth an hour of anyone’s cyber-time.

'Balearic beats, cricket, Scandinavian design, Barbour jackets, Liverpool FC, fine wine, sea food, the rather fine English countryside, Metro maps of the world, beard growth, German orthopaedic footwear, Roberts Radios, Moleskin notepads, meat, Nordic crime, literature, cheesecake, photography, expensive socks, my daily Sudoku.'

Moon has been at the forefront of the British and international ‘Balearic’ scene since the early 90s and he and DJ partner, Jason Boardman’s Sunday evening Aficionado night has been going strong for nigh on a decade now. We met Moon in a charming Lymm alehouse and asked him to give us life story in easy to digest sound nuggets. Here it is.

“When I was growing up I was into the usual kind of shit; The Cure, Bunnymen, The Smiths, Japan, even Simple Minds to a lesser extent which is kind of weird because in the Balearic world these are the kind of records people are being played as like lost Balearic classics. I was a total kind of indie rock kid, went to college, hung out with different people who were more into Stu Allen, hip hop and house that kind of thing. Didn’t really get it but used to go to this place in Charnock Richard called the Park or something and they’d play early house stuff and people would jazz dance in spats and I’d think ‘this is fucking shit’ but I’d go just to get pissed.

Then some kid decided we’d go to Manchester, to the Hacienda which I assumed would be exactly the same. So we all dressed up in brogues and bad shirts and kecks and got totally knocked back so we tried again the next week, it was Wednesday and we wore slightly different clobber and we got in. That was the first time I felt I was in a club not a disco, I haven’t got a fucking clue who the Djs were, it wasn’t Da Silva or Pickering or anyone like that but the music was great, made you look at things differently and we started going to the Hac quite a lot after that, usually Fridays and Saturdays when it was mostly house music. Still didn’t get it, still didn’t make any sense to me at all.

88 came, the Hot thing started, people starting waving their hands around, I was still coming to get pissed, still didn’t get it. Went on a great pissed up blokes type holiday, came back and stood looking out onto the dance floor. Before we went away there were 15 people waving their arms around, two weeks later when we got back, there were 500 people waving their hands around. We were just like’ what the fuck is this?’ We still didn’t get it.

Then I did an E, which was bizarre because I was totally anti-drugs at the time they were ridiculously expensive. We put twelve and half quid in each and half each. Bingo! I’m not saying the music made any sense but the people waving their arms around did. I didn’t do another E for about six months after that. The thing had happened, it had changed so there was no point carrying on doing loads of drugs, til later on when I could afford it.

The Hot thing, everyone thinks it was just an acid house night but it wasn’t because (Jon) Da Silva at the time was one of the greatest Djs in the world and Da Silva was Balearic. He’d never admit to being Balearic but we’d go early doors and Jon would do his warm up and it was fucking outstanding man. He’d play these really weird dubbed out reggae things and sound effects and slow disco things. Jon was incredibly Balearic. I mean no-one would play disco records at the time but Jon would make a disco record sound like a house record. At the time you’d just think ’that’s just another house record’ but listening back to tapes I’ve got you think ’fucking hell, I can’t believe he played that in the middle of a house set’ but he mixed it all in incredibly well.

The thing that interested me most wasn’t the house stuff but the weird records that pushed me more down that Balearic route. Mike Pickering would just be plying banging acid records, Chicago, Detroit thing but we’d queue up to get in. Once I was right at the front of the queue, sat there for an hour and half waiting to get it just so I could hear Da Silva play fucking Summer Rain Fall in the first five minutes, which is this BBC Sound Effects thing, just the sound of rain pouring down. Incredible!

I think it was the tablet that changed things because before that I never danced but then I discovered if I had this little tablet, I was funky as fuck. It did open your mind to what was out there, whether you were into hip hop, black music or rock music or vice versa.

Then I started shopping at Eastern Bloc records buying acid house, early Detroit stuff but Justin Robertson was working there and he was always trying to give me things that were a bit wonkier, a bit more leftfield-y. I’d tip off Justin about things and he’d tip me off about things and we both moved along in that Balearic direction together. Then he started Spice which was a Sunday strictly Balearic membership, very semi-Boys Own wannabe. I went to every one and it’s been mythologized and loads of people say they were there. ’You weren’t fucking there!’ You had to have a membership card, it was Sunday and I knew virtually all the members, so anyone who says they were there, ’no you weren’t!’ (apart from the ones who were. Ed) It was crap! There were about thirty of us standing around with white jeans on.

I wasn’t Djing at the time, it was just Justin and Greg (Fenton). Justin was a bit more London, Boys Own lead, he’d play Weatherall mixes of any old shit because it was Weatherall whereas Greg would play records he’d have or found himself and fit it around that kind of sound. After Spice finished, Justin did Most Excellent and Greg did Glitterbaby and I did the lights at both. I just used to do an E and stand there next to the strobe machine and when there was a breakdown, I’d press the light that made the most light and then put the strobe back on. I got ten pound a night for that but all the way through this I’ve got 1000s of records which are quite rare in that kinda scene.

Obviously I’d take records to parties but didn’t have a clue how to DJ. I knew how records sounded but how to make em sound alright together, I was absolutely terrible. Then there was a thing called HPs which was after Most Excellent and that was my first proper DJ gig. I was absolutely shit I’m sure, but people danced. It was all kind of dubby On-U Sound stuff but dreadfully put together. I didn’t think I had a particular talent but I was obsessed with putting things together and 20 years on I still can’t really mix that well but at the time, that’s what people did and it’s what I wanted to do. With time I realised that if you’ve got enough good records, you don’t need to mix them all together.

Then I got Justin’s job at Eastern Bloc and when you work in a record shop, people think you’re a DJ anyway. People would come into the shop and go ’do you wanna play here?’ ’do you wanna do here?’ They could put E Bloc on their flyers and I got a lot more DJ work just because I worked in in a record shop but even then I was playing records from beginning to end. The way Eastern Bloc was designed with the big long counter opposite the doors, we’d stand behind the counter and look at people coming in and go ’look at that cunt’ before they’d even got to the counter. We were horrible, really really nasty, fucking arrogant pigs to people. It didn’t help that you were out caning it on a Friday night and then going to work on Saturday, fucking snorting wizz downstairs to keep you awake on a Saturday afternoon. We were horrible but we’d get away with it because there were so many people in there, it was like Zulu man. People thought that if you worked there, you had some level of coolness that would bring something to their party, til they actually heard you DJ!

I was guesting all over the place and I did do one residency at the World in Warrington. Kelvin Andrews was promoting it and it was a the time when the Idjut Boys and all that dubby disco stuff was coming out and that’s what they wanted. It was alright but I got sacked in the end because they wanted stuff like Carl Cox and I was like ’Jesus! This isn’t what I want to be doing’ so in 98 me and Jason (Boardman) decided to do our own night on a Thursday at a place called Aqua which used to be an American theme sports bar with tellys everywhere and a vast open space. We used to get paid in tapas and free beer but it was quite good because we got about 40 good people coming down every Thursday. They had a giant Jenga puzzle and we’d put albums on and play jenga.

We fucked it off after a bit and decided to start it up again on a Sunday as a kind of homage to Spice at a place called Zumbar opposite the BBC studio, We got paid in pizza there. We’ll play for food! It was absolutely heaving and the decks and the mixer were in a build it console you could just take out, no slip mats or anything. We were a bit snooty I suppose, calling it Aficionado and playing original records, no bootlegs, remixes or re-edits, just original vinyl copies. It’s kinda dropped off a bit since then but if you played a re-issue you had to wear the sleeve on your head all the way through.

We didn’t try to make out we were a cool night at all, it was ’if you wanna come and play then you’ve got to play original records. I didn’t care if you’re playing Detroit techno or electro or whatever just don’t play any bootlegs, re-issues or compilations. And it worked straight away, I was absolutely fucking amazed that it was a Sunday and people still wanted to go out. I mean there was nothing on a Sunday happening at the time. We never charged to get in, it was always free. We’ve always had to rely on the bar take to make any money which is alright because we know a lot of drinkers.

We’ve had loads of different venues for it and we also took a year off because we’d been doing it every fucking Sunday for about 7 years and you begin to lose interest in it because you start taking the same records and playing them in the same order. Since we’ve started it again at Odders which is the same place as ZumBar, we’re doing monthly which makes it more of an event. The good thing is we can play things that people will hate on first listening and then after 8 weeks or so, they’ll be jumping around to it. When I first played The Chaplin Band (Il Veliero) record which was about 3 years ago now and it’s a long fucking record, people walked out of the bar at first but if you keep on playing something and force feed it, hopefully people will understand.'

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