Open Your Mind with Daz 808 State

Following the death of Keith Flint of The Prodigy, some of the UK’s finest talent came together in support of The Cause’s nationwide fundraiser for mental health. Raising money for the established charities CALM and Mind, ‘The Cause: Music For the Jilted Generation’ has already managed to raise over £11,500.

The Manchester leg of this tour featured some of Manchester’s favourites, including High Hoops, Phoebe Valentine of B.L.O.O.M, JDS, and DJ Paulette. However, perhaps the most highly anticipated DJ of the night was Daz from 808 State, who I was lucky enough to have a chat with before his set.

808 State first came to fame in the late 1980s, born on the tail-end of an era in which Manchester introduced artists like The Smiths, so the rise of Madchester and the electronic group’s “washing machine music”, as Daz calls it, was certainly a change.

“We started in 1987 and we built this town.’ Gesturing to the White Hotel, he continues, ‘We took on places like [The White Hotel]. The authorities said to go home at two o’clock, because clubs like The Haçienda all had to shut at two o’clock, so we decided to sweep out warehouses, put a generator in the corner and charge £2 or £3 to get into a rave like [the fundraiser].

“It’s come full circle thirty years on, but the ethos and the kindred spirit is still there. I’ve seen this all around the world, there are people in really remote parts of the world doing exactly the same thing.”

I ask Daz if, when 808 State started out, he had imagined the cultural change that would come about with the dance scene that they helped to create.

“In a strange way, yeah. You felt you belonged to a subculture that also belonged to you. We didn’t borrow it from a previous generation. We found it; we nurtured it, and the beautiful thing about the rave scene was that it had no dress code, there were no restrictions – it was just enjoying yourself and letting yourself go.”

When I ask him how it felt breaking into mainstream, even performing on Top of the Pops in 1989, he laughs and tells me that the mainstream actually broke into them.

“It was very strange. We were travelling all around the world and we represented the rave culture, so we were ambassadors. We took it to really strange places. We weren’t selling our brand, we were selling our subculture.”

He tells me that events like this fundraiser, as well as the growth of socially conscious clubbing, are the way the scene is going to have to shift.

“We toured a lot with The Prodigy, and you don’t just let people’s legacy die. It’s important that you don’t let them go, and that you make people aware that there are people out there who can help, whether you’re living on the streets or you’re at home on a Wednesday afternoon and you’re really struggling.”

“You’ve got to look after your people, regardless of whether it’s a soup kitchen on a Sunday in Piccadilly Gardens, or it’s commiserating something really bad that’s happened to Keith [Flint].

He says that events like this one really helps to show that there are charities out there to support people, especially in the dance scene, which has even created some of its own.

“We understand our people; we understand our subculture. We are kindred spirits so we don’t just let people wallow in the corner, we look after them. That’s why, thirty years on, it’s just as strong as ever.”

To anybody that is struggling, Daz says that you mustn’t suffer in silence.

“There are people out there [who can help], so all you have to do is mention it to one friend and that friend will help you, whether it’s about mental health, gender, sex, anything at all. Just say something and start the ball rolling.

“In the dance scene there are a lot of great listeners. There are people out there who are willing to help.

“When you’re putting a night on you’re the same as someone in Glasgow, someone in Berlin, someone in Stockholm. We are the same animals. That’s the good thing – within dance music we really do look after one another and I think the knock on effect is really good. They rolled [this tour] out straight away and that’s the power of it. This scene is strong.”

He tells me that in the last 20 years, thanks to the rise of events like festivals, even though you might meet people once or twice a year they still become a part of your group. The beauty of this scene, he tells me, is that the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.

“I love the DIY attitude of people putting on their own little thing, whether it’s a record label, or a night in a club. Years ago it was fanzines – people used to hand out one called Freaky Dancing outside The Haçienda, and people used to sit there and copy it to find out where the parties were. They had all the charities on them even then. Yes it had all he information, but we were looking after our own people. Thirty years on, that’s still happening.”

So how does Daz see the future of the dance scene?

“It’s gonna evolve and get better and better. It doesn’t exclude anybody. You don’t have to dress a certain way and you don’t have to think a certain way. Every year, new, fresh ideas come in and it gets stronger and stronger with new blood. It’s a wonderful thing.

“It’s not elitist like some scenes are, where it’s about how you dress or what you think or what you drive. It’s what’s inside that counts. There are beautiful people in this city and around the world. I’ve seen one person in Manchester and then met an identical person in Tokyo, and they’ve never met, but they’re exactly the same person. That’s the beauty of this – no matter where we are in the world this scene is being represented. It’s nice to see the power of this dance music.”

We talk a little about the recent issues in Manchester, in particularly in Fallowfield. Clubs there have recently had licences revoked. I ask him what he thinks will happen to the scene in light of this, and he tells me that he believes that it’ll be able to overcome these setbacks.

“We have to think stronger and we have to think harder. The reason why we swept warehouses out was because we got told by the authorities to go home at two o’clock, to lock our doors and go home. I’ve swept quite a lot of these fucking warehouses out and a lot of generators and turntables have been confiscated by the police, but if you’re telling us we can’t do something, we’re going to go ahead and do it.

The Cause’s London venue

“Every year it just gets stronger and stronger and it’s a beautiful thing to behold. If people do put hurdles in front of you, jump over them.”

Given the amount of students involved in the fundraiser, and the rising numbers of club nights being put on for students, by students, I wonder if he has any advice for those who are thinking of starting up their own initiatives.

“Just follow your heart. If you’re sat in student digs somewhere and there’s five of you discussing something after a night out – which is usually where the best ideas come about – just follow it through.

“It doesn’t matter what scale you do it on, whether it’s a student night, or in your own digs, or you just tell people about it. That little acorn seed is very much the ethos of the dance music scene.

“Don’t get into it for the wrong reasons. You do it to prove a point and because you want to do it. That’s worth more than taking money on the door. Yes, that’s the reality, but you should start it because you want to start it, not because you can make loads of money. There’s nothing better in the world than seeing 30 or 40 of your best mates dancing on a floor and going for it. That’s worth more than anything.”

As the clock nears midnight his set is about to start, and I ask him one final question. Does he have any fun facts or fun (but printable) stories from his time in 808 State? He laughs, and tells me I’ve thrown him.

“You promise not to tell on your friends, I’m not a grass!”

“We did get a gig in Hawaii because the dialling code is 808, so we did a gig in Maui in ‘92/’93. We thought it was strange because they said we’re gonna fly you to Hawaii to do a gig – but there’s no rave scene there. It was only because the dialling code is 808. It is the 808 state!

“It was fantastic. We learned to surf, put it that way.”

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