Sunday, November 23, 2014

Vapourspace speaks

M. Matos has posted a very entertaining and rather unexpected interview with Mark Gage (Vapourspace) on Red Bull Music Academy.  The music press has been chock full of 20th/25th/30th anniversary articles over the past calendar year, but the 20th anniversary of the 1993 See The Lights tour seemed to pass without much commemoration.  I discovered Jim Poe's insider account of the tour only now, thanks to the links provided in Matos' article.

The Toronto gig without a doubt changed my life because it cemented me as a techno fan for life, mostly thanks to a transcendent live set from Orbital (who I only knew from "Chime" at that point).  Aphex Twin's set was baffling but certainly eye-opening, and Moby's was all spectacle but it hardly mattered to anybody.  Everybody knew that it was mostly a DAT show but he had a gift for connecting with the live crowds and whipping them up into a frenzy with an intensity that was off the charts.  Moby jumped into the crowd a bunch of times and I joined with countless others in grabbing him in a giant crowdsurfing bear hug.  I'm mostly on Moby's side in the infamous DAT or not to DAT flamewar -- there's room for all types of performances in techno, rock, or any other genre.  The Hartnoll brothers were pioneering the idea of the portable live studio at the same time as Moby was trying to find the meeting point between the excitement of live techno and the savvy cool factor of rock and roll.  It can all work if done right.

It's important to note that the default type of "live" performance in techno clubs was most certainly DAT-based, if not entirely prerecorded.  When there was a backlash, the promoters started putting "live PA" on the flyers to cover their asses against the charges of shows not being performed live.  But make no mistake, the standard performance of the time was three or four songs on playback with absolutely nothing plugged in, including keyboards and microphones.  See The Lights definitely accelerated the shift from live techno as a spectacle at 3 AM at a rave, to a genuine live performance in a standard concert hall.  So it's not correct to portray Moby as some kind of huckster who was betraying the fans and cheating them out of a "proper" live show.

True story: I had the money to spend on a ticket to the See The Lights tour because Suede had cancelled their planned 2nd North American tour leg due to exhaustion.

Seeing as Vapourspace opened every night on the tour, "Gravitational Arch of 10" was the first techno song I ever heard played live.  It really was a track that united everybody in the days before the scene fractured into a million little pieces.  It pleased the trance, house, and techno fans.  It's still an undisputed classic that seems to get more classic with time.  Reading the interview, I can't believe I never heard the Front 242 influence in the bassline, it really couldn't be more obvious.   Wouldn't we all love to hear the long lost super extended version if Gage can ever remember where he left it?  Finally, it's cool to hear him talk so frankly about how breezily he recorded it (live, in one take) and how he knew almost immediately that he'd never be able to top it no matter how hard he tried.  

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