Mark Archer began Altern 8 as a side project of Nexus 21 with Chris Peat, and went on to become one of the biggest acts in rave history, crashing the UK charts in 1991 with two chaotic slices of hardcore: “Infiltrate 202” and “Activ-8 (come with me)”.
Annie Goh: How are you? Where are you right now?
Mark Archer: Unfortunately I’m just coming down with my yearly cold, which will hopefully not take the shine off Christmas (I’m a big kid and get too excited apparently).
I’m actually sat at home on my laptop on the kitchen table, very glamorous I can tell you.
AG: You're playing a night at CTM.13 called Rave Undead – if you could go back in time and resurrect/re-live one rave, which one would it be and can you describe it for us?
MA: There’s been a fair few memorable raves that I’ve been to and played at, but one I think I’d revel in the atmosphere again if I had the chance would be an Amnesia House event at Donnington Park in 1991. Back then I had no idea how long Altern 8 would last or how well it would do, so to be able to go back there and just see it all again with thousands of people hearing some of the tracks for the 1st time and the way it went off would be priceless.
AG: Last year you released a slightly re-worked version of "Frequency" with various remixes, twenty years after the original came out. How did the choice of remixers (Luke Vibert, Ed DMX, Killa Productions, Chevron, Datassette, AGT Rave Cru) come about?
MA: Easy really, they’re all people who I’ve met at various gigs and love their music (really nice people too) and knew they would be able to tackle the track as it’s a bit of a full on monster and is quite difficult to do something with. The Killa Productions mix came about as Ben & Paul had already been playing their own edit of the track out for a long time so it was an obvious choice to get them on it.
AG: This year's festival theme "The Golden Age" deals with the overwhelming amount of information and communication we have today, as well as the diversity and eclecticism of the music we have access to. For some producers and musicians this is liberating, for others stifling. Given the diversity of your various guises and projects from Bizarre Inc, Nexus 21, Altern 8 and Slo-Moshun - what do you imagine under the term "The Golden Age" of music?
MA: Golden Age will mean different things to different people, much as the term oldskool or techno means vastly different styles dependent on who you’re talking to. I’ve got a few ‘Golden Era’s’ as far as music goes though, The early Electro sound and soul/funk from the early 80’s was I guess my 1st proper love in music where I really got stuck into it buying records etc. Then there’s the early acid house, techno and rave thing from 88 – 93, wouldn’t be right if I didn’t love the whole hardcore thing would it? After that I was well into all the US House and Garage from 93 up until 99 which was when I was doing the Slo Moshun thing and running Dansa Records with Danny Taurus – good times.
AG: Around the time of the legendary Altern 8 show at Shelley's car park in 1991, Berlin was exploding with its own "Summer of Love" and parties like Tresor, Tekknozid, Mayday, and Love Parade. What was the perception like of Berlin from UK in the early 90s, did you come over here at that time? When was the last time you played in Germany and how do your experiences of playing here compare to the UK?
MA: We actually came over in 1991 to do 2 gigs in Germany, one in Berlin and one in Cologne in December of that year. They were both wicked gigs but there was a total contrast between the british squaddies who were serving over in Germany at the time, and the fashion and dancing of the home crowd, we didn’t know what to expect really and had no pre-conceived idea’s of what the crowd would be like, but they all seemed to know the tracks and were bang into it, although the much harder end of the music went down the best.
AG: What was different about how people communicated back then? i.e. through pirate radio and word of mouth compared to internet these days? From your experiences, how does this effect the way the music scene works?
MA: I think back then, you really needed to want to go somewhere or listen to a certain kind of music, search it out, search out the events and music being played on stations, whereas now it’s in your face, it’s everywhere, being given away on almost every webpage you visit, and there’s a bigger sheep mentality where people follow styles and groups because it’s a fashion thing, rather than for the content.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s still stuff to search for and still people who search, but you had to back then – there was little choice, you went to your local cattle market club playing commercial stuff or you searched out the rave.
AG: V/VM wrote as part of his "The Death of Rave" project in 2006, “The rave legacy no longer lives on, the corpse of rave bears no resemblance to those heady days in the late eighties and early nineties.” Do you agree that there is a lack of energy and passion in clubs these days? Is there anything that you think is better about clubbing today?
MA: To a certain extent, yes. It’s almost like the super-club era in the UK from 93 onwards when raves were pushed underground, but there are still events that bring back the true spirit of rave, ones that take it back to the music and the bringing together of people. Take Bangface for instance, no where has come closer to recapturing the atmosphere of an old rave and they’re not the only ones.
AG: What artists/labels/club nights are you currently excited about? What was the last record or scene you were blown away by?
MA: I Love Acid, Bangface, De:Tuned and Machine are my favourite events at the moment, heavy doses of techno, Acid and Oldskool amongst them. Artist wise I listen to a lot of different music so alongside people like Paul Mac and Ben Sims, I’ll listen to Disclosure, Global Goon, Posthuman and Stephen Brown. These days though I’m not attracted by labels as much as I used to be but Balkan Vinyl do put out some pretty nice stuff haha.
AG: What (if any) advice do you have to give to young producers and DJs today?
MA: Same as I’ve always done, just do what YOU do, not what everyone else is doing, don’t follow. If no one likes it except yourself then either you’re in the wrong game or you’re way too ahead of the game, if people do like it – bonus!
AG: What's next for you musically in 2013?
MA: Tracks and remixes for a new label called Sonic Heavy, a re-release of my first Trackman e.p. by Function from Sandwell District. A release on Flatline Deep and an acid track on a compilation from Anecdote records as well as a new re-recording of another Altern 8 track I wrote back in the day that will be forthcoming on Balkan Vinyl.
AG: Finally, you're going to be playing at Berghain, called the best techno club in the world by some - what will you have in your record bag? And will you be bringing the Vick's Vaporub?
MA: I’ll have a bag of oldskool bangers and a few of the lesser known tunes for those who know, ranging from some arms in the air piano tracks, some Belgian techno to the UK breakbeat hardcore sound of 91/92, and as for the vicks… If I’ve still got this cold it may well make an appearance.
AG: THANKS! We look forward to having you at CTM.13 :-)
MA: Thank you, Looking forward to it also :D
Annie Goh does theoretical and artistic works with sound, is editor at zero-inch.com and works at the Vilèm Flusser Archive. She has been involved with the CTM festival since 2008.