Yesterday was the funeral of Andrew Weatherall. The outpouring of grief that followed his death on 17th February was entirely befitting a man whose work enriched the lives of so many.
A DJ, producer writer, radio host, and dedicated follower of fashion, Weatherall was as close to a renaissance man as British club culture has ever had. His consistent refusal to stay too long in any one lane marked him out in a cultural landscape that increasingly tended toward the homogenised and the carefully-managed.
To commemorate the loss of this unique and incomparable human being, The Face has spoken to a handful of people who knew, loved, raved and worked with Weatherall over the years.
Terry Farley on Weatherall the unlikely fashion icon
A music-mad Londoner who was part of the mass Sixties/Seventies family exodus to the towns beyond the city limits, Terry Farley found himself living in Slough as a teenager. On the other side of the M4 lay Windsor and Andrew Weatherall. The suburban duo – who played a vital part in setting the foundations for a very British approach to club culture – found common ground and confluence through clothes.
“For a lot of us, soul clubs were a safe haven if you liked getting dressed up, if you liked being a bit different. You were much less likely to get a punch in the earhole there than you would be at a regular club. This was a time when you’d be chased home for wearing the wrong trousers. Clothes were everything. We would have never talked to him, and he never to us, if it wasn’t for clothes.
The first time I really chatted to him was at the opening of The Mud Club, in Leicester Square [in London]. Afrika Bambaata was DJing, and Andrew was sprawled across a WW2 Jeep! You could be anyone you wanted to be back then. If you went to Le Beat Route, people were dressed like French sailors from the ’30s, or in zoot suits, or like Gregory Isaacs. It wasn’t cosplay, but a serious sort of dressing up. When you’re young and you adopt a 1930s look you look fucking brilliant. When you’re older you just look like an old man.
He wasn’t one for spending loads of money on clothes but he had a good eye, and a creative way of dressing. I think he’s pretty much responsible for middle-aged men growing beards and wearing really baggy trousers with boots. I don’t think he set out to do it, but he was quietly pleased with it, pleased that people liked how he dressed.”
Heidi Lawden on Weatherall the inspiration
Los Angeles-based British expat Heidi Lawden – herself a wonderful radio broadcaster and seasoned selector – recalls how a dip in the pool was the beginning of a fruitful and ever-inspiring friendship.
“One of our first long conversations outside of a party was in a swimming pool in Ibiza. I’d been up all night and figured a swim would help, so jumped in. Andrew jumped in after and we hung out in the water and chatted about life and music. Renegade Soundwave and Mark E. Smith were topics discussed, I believe. The rest is a bit hazy.
His influence on others as a DJ is unquantifiable – he’s inspired pretty much every London-based DJ and those beyond. He was a Big Bang for so many of us. I’m married to an American DJ now and when we met we delighted in being able to discuss our love for all things Weatherall.
He was always relevant, always on top of things. That, coupled with his wide-reaching knowledge, meant he was always going to appeal to anyone that truly loves music. He was still up for remixing things and DJing purely for the love and fun of it, budget be damned.
I read a quote after he’d passed about him leaving behind a thousand children of the acid house generation. After I’d stopped bawling my eyes out, I just thought about the enormity of his influence as a DJ, producer and a gent: the right combination of ego-less talent and being a great person.
Success seemed like a byproduct of him just doing whatever he loved. I can’t imagine him ever having done anything because he thought: ‘Oh, this will be good for my career.’ That’s the biggest influence he had on me personally – he was always a reminder to follow your own compass.”
Call Super on Weatherall the DJ
Whether he was effortlessly stringing together two hours of tracky mid-’90s deep house, synthesising the back catalogue of German record label Force Tracks, or finding the midpoint between skeletal electro and acid-tinged mid-’00s maximalism, Weatherall possessed the ability to educate, entertain and inform in equal measure. One selector who worshipped at Weatherall’s gloriously wonky altar was Call Super.
“I would have been about 12 or 13 when I first heard Screamadelica and I guess that album was most kids my age’s first engagement with Andrew’s work. It had an impact on me that can only be rivalled by a couple of other records, maybe His ‘n’ Hers by Pulp, Nightmares on Wax’s Smokers Delight, the first Stone Roses LP and The 3 EPs by The Beta Band. All those records blew open the doors into dance and dub for me, so in hindsight played an outsized role in my life’s path
I first met Andrew when I’d go to see him play in a pub near my house, The Lock Tavern [in Camden, north London]. He’d be in the corner upstairs playing rockabilly, bluegrass, the odd soul thing perhaps. He was very warm and approachable which seemed normal somehow, it seemed wholesome. Very engaged and empathetic.
Clearly his listening skills weren’t limited to music – they extended to whoever he was talking to. He evidently never let much go to his head or thought he was all this or that. It’s sad that this is seen as a special quality but I guess that the music industry is full of false modesty and idiots who spend their energy bigging themselves up. So being genuinely humble, sadly, means more than it should.
I only ever thought DJing was an interesting job when I learned that it could be anything you wanted it to be musically; that you could use dance music as a kind of canvas onto which to stitch any other kind of music you found interesting. Andrew was honest about his passions, and they were sprawling, and that validated the mess in my head. Not many DJs have ever done that well.”
Cymon Eckle on Weatherall the fanzine writer
Like Weatherall and Farley, Cymon Eckle was another suburban transplant looking towards music and fashion as a means of self-expression. A regular Friday night communal acid experience – the Nine O’Clock Drop – was the bedrock of Cymon and Andrew’s relationship in the early days. Then came Boy’s Own. Second to perhaps only Sniffin’ Glue when it comes to fanzines that shaped the culture they reflected, Boy’s Own became acid house’s parish newspaper. Inspired by legendary Liverpool-based fanzine The End, it brought together music, fashion and football in one gloriously scrappy, home-assembled package.
“The Boys Own attitude was simple: we’re not taking music, clubs, fashion or magazines so seriously that we dictate our lives by them. We’ve always been astounded by the amount of respect and regard and excitement people still have for the magazine. Considering the last issue was produced in 1992 it’s incredible.
The End came out of Liverpool and was a reflection of street culture, working class culture, for the kids who were going to football. Those guys reflected the styles, musics, fashions and reading habits of their culture. These were fanzines that talked about on-the-spot culture: what are you wearing, how are you wearing it, what are you reading, what are you listening to, and what about the game last Saturday?
The creative process was us smoking joints, drinking tea and dunking biscuits. Just talking and having a laugh. There was a sense of wonderful youthful exuberance about it. If there’s a halfway point between organic and anarchic, that’s what Boy’s Own was. I’d like to stress that the magazine definitely wasn’t just ‘content’. It was a creative process.
We were still going out in the West End and we’d pick up boxes of the magazine and beg for 50p for each copy. You were on the dancefloor trying to flog a magazine. People tend to look at you like you’re crazy when you do that.”
Paul Oakenfold on Weatherall the producer
Before the private jets and LA mansions, Paul Oakenfold was an A&R man with an ear for a tune and an eye on the prize. In 1988 Oakenfold, Farley and Weatherall were asked to remix a pair of tracks by Manchester’s most gloriously grubby group, Happy Mondays. The results, collated on the Madchester Rave On EP released that November on Factory Records, are being played out to this very day. Weatherall would go onto make all manner of records of his own under numerous guises. But this is where his life in the studio began.
“At the time, it was all about funk music. Everyone was wearing baggy trousers, floppy hats and listening to James Brown. Then Weatherall turns up and he’s more into indie. That’s why we ended up working together on that Happy Mondays remix.
Go and listen to that Hallelujah remix. It’s a great record. It’s got a lot of swagger and it managed to capture the essence of what was going on at the time. That’s where we were at, and it was very much about working with the attitude of that time. You can sense it and hear it in that record.
When we were in the studio together it was all based around rhythm. We had to make something that we could play in a club, so the approach is always geared towards: “Does this work on the dancefloor?” So you build from the rhythm up. They were a band with a live drummer, and live drums don’t generally particularly work well on a dancefloor.
We chatted about that and the arrangement and we started off with those chants of “Hallelujah” – it meant that you could put that record on from the beginning and right away people would know what it was. Generally on a dance record, you start with drums. This one doesn’t. That was a key moment. We wanted instant recognition.
It’s a rare feeling when you know you’ve got something that’s massive but we knew this would work on the dancefloor. We just knew.
As friends we went our own ways, and that’s what friends do. You don’t have to see each other every day, or speak every week to be friends. We had our own paths, and we’d circulate back, and that mutual respect is always there. Because he was, and is, a pioneer, he brought a lot to the table. Not just with music, but his attitude, his approach, as a man. He was a good person.”
Nancy Noise on Weatherall the journeyman
Acid house original Nancy Noise, who was a resident at Future in those heady post-Second Summer of Love days, reflects on how Weatherall always kept his ego in check.
“By the time we met I was DJing at Future. I wasn’t a proper DJ, but Oakie had seen my record collection and asked me to play those parties – that’s where I met Andrew. We didn’t talk much then, but no one talked to anyone really – we were too busy dancing. We were at parties and everyone was on Ecstasy!
When Andrew started doing those remixes in the late ’80s, it was a real “wow” moment. As a young girl I was in awe of the magic he produced. At Future I was playing a lot of dance remixes of indie stuff, so things like his St Etienne remix, or the James one, those were masterpieces. Each of them was its own journey.
I was over the moon when he agreed to remix my song Azizi’s Dance in 2017. My mate Craig Christon, who runs the label it was released on, was mates with Andrew, and Craig asked Andrew to do a mix. ‘Of course, I’ll do it for Nancy,’ came the reply. I was chuffed. It was something super special that he did.
He just followed his passions. He did his rockabilly things, his dub thing, the Sabres of Paradise stuff. He was always on his own journey. And he was just this super-talented, magical guy: a musical genius, who went about it in a quiet way. He never shouted from the rooftops.”
Luke Unabomber on Weatherall the honorary Northerner
One of Andrew’s regular haunts north of the M25 was The Refuge, a venue in the middle of Manchester run (in part) by local legend Luke Unabomber. Their friendship extends back to the mid-’90s and Weatherall – latterly alongside his A Love From Outer Space co-DJ Sean Johnston – played at many of Luke’s many ventures over the years. Here he outlines just what it was about the man’s way of being which endeared him to several generations of Northerners.
“People loved his realness and the fact that he didn’t play the game. It wasn’t pompous, it wasn’t holier than thou, it wasn’t underground strutting. He was the antithesis of Instagram DJs shouting to 25,000 people, earning £25,000 for playing other people’s records badly.
When he played up here there was a bond. He was one of us. He was a real soul. There was something exceptional about the affection Northerners had for him. The moment that news came through I wept uncontrollably. And I wept every day for a week, and I can’t get my head around it. So many people shared that, people with varying levels of relationship to Andrew, they can’t get over it. People were utterly heartbroken.
With ALFOS, there was a beautiful unity of the clans. Walking across the floor, the body language, the love, the unity, people were so warm and full of love, so respectful and decent and kind and passionate. There was no hierarchy, no posturing, no bullshit. It meant something more than downloading entry-level house music from Beatport and thinking it represents something. It had depth and soul and the people there were so remarkably close to one another, without necessarily knowing each other. The experience was one that, when you left the room it felt like you’d been hugged very hard.
A friend of friend said to me: ‘You keep banging on about evangelism, Luke, but it’s just fucking music.’ It wasn’t. And it isn’t. It does mean something. People like Andrew, Mancuso, Alfredo, or Harvey, they are intuitive, they are alchemists, and they create journeys that feel right, that bring people together. You don’t experience that very often.”
Matthanee Widhayapond on Weatherall the friend
Twenty-five miles up the road from Manchester, nestled in the Calder Valley, lies the town of Todmorden. Matthanee Widhayapond, better known as Gig, has been running The Golden Lion for the past few years. No regular country pub, The Lion regularly plays host to an eclectic range of DJs and live acts. It can also stake a claim to having been one of Andrew’s favourite pubs, and he and Sean Johnston made biannual trips to Calderdale to preach their cosmic sermon to a couple of hundred die-hard ALFOS aficionados.
“I moved to the UK from Thailand in 2004. I found myself at an ALFOS party at the Islington Mill in Manchester in 2014 and it was the best night of my life. After that I tried to go to every gig of Andrew’s up here. Then a friend of mine booked him for a set at The Trades Club in Hebden Bridge.
By then I’d opened the Golden Lion and was determined to book him. My partner wasn’t sure: this was Todmorden, not Hebden Bridge, and things were a bit different here. But I wrote Andrew a letter and he agreed to it. We were worried, though, that on the way into town he might meet a weirdo, or someone might be nasty to him in the street, or someone at the gig might request Madonna or something. That didn’t happen, and everyone loved him. Even the people who didn’t know who he was were into it.
When Andrew was here he’d always have ideas about what we could do, be it booking bands or starting a reggae party the day after the ALFOS gig. So it became a kind of Weatherall weekender. He loved the place so much that he wanted to be a monthly resident, but he was too busy to make it happen.
I call the place Sticky Valley. When I first came through the town I thought there was nothing here, but I’ve never left. We have rooms above the pub, and some of them are now lived in by people who came to us for an ALFOS and never wanted to leave. They got jobs in Todmorden and that was that.
I found it hard to make a real friend in my first 10 years in the UK. In Todmorden I didn’t even have to try; you just make friends in Tod. And so did Andrew.”
Benji B on Weatherall the accidental expert
Relevance is a tricky and contested concept in the context of club culture, but it’s unarguable that if any selector managed to stay relevant during the entirety of their career, it was Weatherall. We spoke to Benji B about how he made it happen.
“He remained relevant by staying true to his own musical DNA, which is something all DJs have. As music evolves, we evolve with it, but that central DNA doesn’t change. You’d hear a record and immediately think of it as a “Weatheall record” regardless of genre.
It always appeared like he never lost his appetite for music. Endlessly digging, searching, shopping, he was as excited by hearing a record he loved now as he was when he was 16. As DJs, we’re obsessed with falling in love with records, and specifically the discovery of them. That can manifest as a trainspottery thing, or just as the sheer joy of discovery and the knowledge that the creative appetite will never be fulfilled.
When you’re blessed with that kind of passion – and it is a blessing – over time you become an expert in something without having intended to do so. And those are the experts I want to hear from – not self-proclaimed ones. The best experts are the ones who’ve lived rather than learned. You know more about records that way than any Wiki page or collectors’ magazine could ever teach you.
The Weatherall experience felt like a lived experience of music. It was an invisible frequency that came through the speakers.”
OK Williams on Weatherall the radio presenter
Weatherall’s sonic adventures didn’t just take place in pubs in Todmorden or on the shores of the Adriatic. For nearly six years The Guv’nor made the short trek up the A10 from Shoreditch to Dalston in east London, broadcasting once a month from NTS’s recently replaced hut on Gillett Square. The regular two-hour slot gave Weatherall a chance to play whatever he liked, from The Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band to Fly Pan Am. Rising London-based DJ and NTS employee OK Williams had the honour of producing his show Music’s Not For Everyone for nearly half of its tenure. Here she tells The Face about two things that brought the pair together.
“I met Andrew when I started volunteering at NTS in 2017. The first show I started doing regularly was his, so he’s probably the DJ I’ve been with the longest. We bonded quickly because we’re both stoners, and we’d get really stoned during the show.
When I first started at NTS I’d also just started DJing, and we were chatting about that, and the second time I produced his show he arrived with a bag of vinyl. He gave me loads of records, and just said: ‘Here’s some stuff you might like.’ He got to know what I liked and brought those kinds of records in for me.
I always wondered how I could return the favour. He never expected anything of me, or from me. It was always done just to help me.
The first record he gave me that I played a lot was Hackney Vandal Patrol’s Bound by Faith. I remember playing that record at a squat party organised by my friend Jay, who was a huge Weatherall fan. When I played it she was like: ‘Oh my God, what was that?’ I told her it was a record that Andrew had given me, and that cemented our bond. We were already friends but when I told her that, she just wanted to talk about Andrew and that bond never left us.
Beyond the music there was the nice, funny, humble bloke. He was just like: ‘It’s not that serious. I’m just a fucking DJ!’ ”