Some weeks ago we stumbled upon a performance called The Rave Space in Cube. This small underground sweat box venue in Cork city was well suited to the tightly woven jungle laced theatrics that followed. The Rave Space was part of the Quarter City Block Party and provocatively strung together spirituality and oral fragments from UK rave’s zenith. Rashers Tierney caught up with main man Will Dickie to find out just what the hell was going on.
Firstly can you tell me something about your own backgrounds? I gathered from some of the statements and the jungle obsession within the show that you guys could generally have been found beside the bassbins at such renowned clubs at The End and Fabric when ye were younger? Were there specific club nights and scenes that were getting you hyped?
I think I got into Drum and Bass at what is often considered its lowest ebb! Around 1999 / 2000. Luckily for me Calibre from Belfast was just starting to put out tunes. To my mind his music seemed to turn the tide. Wednesday night for Swerve at the The End became a regular spot. Listening to Fabio play brand new tracks at half two on a wet and windy night in October sits deep in the memory banks. It wasn’t a party, was all about the music. That club was excellent.
Everyone knew it. Swerve was in the 2nd room, but we would often go on a Friday too for the main house. All about the space and system combo. Two tunnels book ended with speaker stacks, intertwining round a booth that left the DJ standing in the centre of the dance floor. It allowed everyone to see the whole thing unfold, eyes meeting one another across the space drop after drop. Saw plenty of great people there. We went to Fabric loads too. For years they were so consistent, every Friday there’d be someone on worth seeing…
These days I don’t go so often, and there definitely isn’t as much around in LDN, but if D Bridge is playing I know he will provide something truly exhilarating. For now my favourite night is Channel One Sound System’s Sunday session at village underground. 6 – 11pm on a Sunday, £5. Beautiful crowd of all ages, backgrounds, all present for the music and the message. By 11pm everyone is still there, the lights come on and we all leap up and down together! (plenty of videos of that online if you take a search…)
At one point after egging the crowd on with a few tunes you commented about how you took your first pill about 15 years ago in Fabric but how now you still love the music and meditate instead. It’s around here that the purposes of the performance opens up, it’s a bit of an exploration of the shall we say meditative or quasi-religious elements to the collective euphoria of clubbing or raving? When did these similarities become apparent to you and why did you want to explore them in a play?
Here’s where the work gets autobiographical. Around the same time I started raving at full speed, by chance I started regular training in meditative and martial arts as part of my arts practice. Those two tracks – raving and meditating – have been weaving a pattern through my life ever since. I often use autobiography in my performance work. It has provided a sturdy and sincere place from which to discover and share things.
DJing and clubbing are both deep passions of mine, keeping me sane! With The Rave Space I wanted to see how I could use them to make something personal. On the flip side, meditation and spirituality have brought up a fare amount of confusion in recent years. I wondered how the simplicity and wonder of my rave experiences could help unravel some of the questions that were coming up.
During the show we play a monk from Tibet throat singing the heart sutra mantra. Sounds like an excellent night in the dance to me:
Gone. Gone, Gone. Completely exposed. Awake. May it be so.
At points I felt like you were trying to open up a discussion about sustainability within rave culture, looking for way in which people could enjoy the music in a club context that went beyond that initial pill honeymoon or lifestyle of weekend hedonism. Do you think the scene burns people out? I say that while always noticing how there is a fair healthier scattering of ages at events and clubs I’ve been to in the UK than at similar in Ireland.
I think of many of my friends who used to go, but now their lives have other priorities. I also think of the life cycle of the scene as a whole, from its inception to the present day. As I said, i wasn’t around for the early times and can only hear stories about them. But from what I understand there were so many exciting aspects at play. Social boundaries disintegrated through the power of truly avant garde arts experiences! Government arts funding applications eat your heart out!
For my part, The Rave Space is also an investigation into what more DJ and dance floor have to offer as a creative format. DJing is now so ubiquitous, its been on X Factor, I saw someone DJing in the window of a sunglasses hut (wearing sunglasses) and I have been on a few too many stiff dance floors with people standing and shouting at each other over the tunes instead of getting down. I see some DJ sets trying to push the vibe forward with bigger screens, more visuals, and so on…but that’s too much cinema for my taste. Got enough screens in my life already! My background is the theatre, and want to get at something thats intimate, live and visceral.
I often wonder what it was like when jungle was first being made, and the only channels to listen to it were on the radio, at some record shops or through the night with a few hundred strangers. I can’t help thinking the amount of information we have access to now is only making our tastes more disparate and individual. I have been at several nights in recent years and looked across the dance to see what looks like 300 version of me.
Through the internet we can pinpoint the exact thing we like, and cut out anything that doesn’t fit within the idea of what we want or where we want to go. It sounds to me like the beginnings of the rave movement was in some ways heading in the opposite direction. To go out and not know who you would meet, what you would hear, or even where it was! I am looking for ways The Rave Space can offer the people that come a new sense of the connection to each other and the unknown.
Some of the oral history fragments that play out during the performance are great. I loved the one about the guy following lazer lights that formed a cross beam in the sky to help convoys find their way to the rave. Where did you gather up these accounts?
I interviewed them, and the edited them for the show. The 2 ravers are people I know from going out. One became a friend after seeing them down Swerve over and over. As I say in the show, the other, Jamie, has been at almost every drum and bass night in London I’ve ever been to. Of all people I thought he’d have some interesting insights – so I tracked him down and we talked over a cup of tea. Of course the DJs get attention for what they have done for the music and so on, but where would it all be without people like Jamie?
Then there’s my sister, who was a born again Christian when she was a teen, and my local vicar who’s just round the corner. And last my meditation teacher – a Buddhist monk who grew up in Yorkshire i think. I like the blend those 5 voices give alongside the jungle soundtrack. Its a fairly contemporary and British cross section of the ravey spiritual themes at play.
Club culture is also beset by a host of problems on the outside too, such as the negative attention a space like Fabric gets from the press and authorities over drugs and whatever other hidden agendas play out. Do you think there is a difference though between a club space and a rave space? If so what are they?
During the interview, Jamie was pretty clear on the difference between the big outdoor raves in the middle of nowhere, and the club nights that followed once the raves got shut down. It seems that the ‘rave’ word has taken on slightly different connotations these days. Its more about what you are doing then where you are. I like the notion of a rave space being something that could be found within as well as without.
At one point, a really direct comparison is made between how people act at evangelical Christian events and raves. For instance, There’s even a comparison made to people speaking in tongues and MC’s on the mic. Does it surprise you that some people react fairly negatively to this?
Not at all! The narrative running through that scene is the journey of my sister, as a teenager, experiencing that evangelical environment en mass…her closing words there strike a strong chord with me:
“but then, if it didn’t happen to you you’d be worried that you weren’t holy enough, or in touch with God enough, so why wasn’t it happening to you? So you’re sort of stood there going ‘well clearly I’ve not been good enough and clearly I need to try harder, and i need to pray harder and all of that…”
That sense of guilt, discomfort and separateness are all present in this exploration of identity and transcendence. In The Rave Space we take expectations, preconceptions and put them all in the mix and blend. We are looking for that something beyond that the ravers are reaching out to – where is that to be found, if not beyond the rigid thoughts and opinions of our thinking minds?
Find out more about The Rave Space right here and keep an eye peeled for more performances.