When the topic of 90’s Hardcore arises, one image always instantly springs to mind: a pair of wild-eyed young ravers clad in chemical suits and dust masks - an outfit that can now be considered synonymous with reese basslines, jangling house pianos and double-time breakbeats (or DIY I suppose). Beneath the masks the pair are Mark Archer and Chris Peat - a duo who shot rave music into the charts with a slew of pun-titled tracks like ‘Activ-8’, ‘E-vapor-8’ or ‘Brutal-8-E’.
Over twenty years on and despite having parted ways with Chris Peat, Archer in still flying the Hardcore flag, gigging across the UK and beyond. With one of these performances being held in March at this year’s Bloc Festival, we thought it’d be fitting to invite Archer to contribute to our ‘That Time When’ series, revisiting five of his standout rave memories.
As much as it is documented that we ‘just turned up’ in a lorry and started playing at Shelley’s Car Park in Longton, there was a lot more thought behind it - well, at least a little bit. Shelley’s was a club that I went to most weekends if we weren’t doing a P.A anywhere, the promoter of the night was Amnesia house from Coventry who also did nights at the eclipse.
I’d noticed that once the night was over, most of the ravers would stand around in the car park, doors open on their cars with rave tapes blaring out. We had played at Shelley’s a few times already as Altern8 and as Nexus 21 and had promo’d Activ-8 off a dub plate there to see if the track worked, so we thought that doing a free P.A. in the car park would get some great footage for the video, as well as giving the ravers something to dance to.
3am, as everyone was coming out of the club, we pulled back the side of the lorry curtain and started playing to the crowd that had gathered in front. We had let word slip that something might happen so there were more people outside the club than usual and people had travelled from as far as Wales and Scotland! People were dancing on top of cars and the car park was literally rammed with people all going mad, not something I’m going to forget in a hurry.
The first ever Altern 8 P.A. - Eclipse, was pretty chaotic as gigs go. There was a bit of a stage invasion at the end by crowd members who were completely spangled, and didn’t even realise there was a P.A. going on, but this was the gig that brought about the Altern 8 image (we had played at the eclipse a few month previous as Nexus 21 and wanted to look different).
With Infiltrate 202 doing the rounds on promo, the reaction was brilliant and we had the whole video for Infiltrate recorded that night, complete with a girl dancing between us not even aware we were playing live. Even bumped into the Homeboy from A Homeboy a Hippy and a funky dred on the way out - top night.
Very daunting this one was, I was playing a DJ set following Skream & Benga and they tore the place a new one, with Skream totally mullered and stopping every tune he dropped within a minute. The crowd was going absolutely mental and to follow this had me wondering if the oldskool was going to cut it (I’d also had my slot moved forward so anyone planning to head to the room for the advertised time would miss it), but by a few tunes into the set I’d got no cause for worry. Hands were going up for every tune, crowd knew the words to all the vocal tracks and the total sing along to Prodigy’s ‘out of space’ at the end just blew me away, so buzzed up I left my headphones by the decks (a small price to pay for such as great memory).
City Of Music celebration, Centenary Square, N.Y.E. Having a gig booked by Birmingham City Council didn’t really fill me full of confidence with this one, but we had a gig later on that night at Wigan Pier so knew we’d at least have one good gig to bring in the new year. I got a call from my dad a few hours before we set off to say that something was on the local news about Centenary square in Birmingham - where we were playing there was already reported to be around 40,000 people there…
There were around 2000 die hard ravers right at the front who’d been waiting for us to come on, but seeing that many people in front of the stage was mental! ‘Activ-8’ was still in the charts and had got to number three so a good percentage of the crowd knew it and when our stilt walking robot came on to the stage the noise was unbelievable. Wigan Pier obviously paled in comparison.
There was some kind of industry schmooze-fest going on in a downstairs part of ‘Limelight’ on the night of this gig, so there were people like Shep Pettibone and Cathy Dennis in the crowd. DJ’s on the night were Joey Beltram and Lenny Dee so I was a tad star struck (still get like it much to the annoyance of my girlfriend).
Playing out in New York was totally different to the UK gigs we were used to doing and it had an almost punk vibe to it with people moshing at the front of the stage. Joey Beltram managed to play ‘Move My Body’ as his last tune, just before we came on and it was the first track in our live set (ouch) but the atmosphere in there was like nowhere else and the track still went off. One of our dancers discovered special K that night and despite me shouting to him we were leaving, he stayed at the venue, sat on a chair in the middle of the stage like Jim Royale.