THIS IS THE REVIVAL YOU'VE BEEN WAITING FOR.
When it comes to hard house, I feel like I've been shitting in the wind for years. On my blog, the world famous Weekly Review of Dance Music, I've been pushing hard house (between the years of 1996 and 2001) just as much as I have normal house, techno, minimal house, minimal techno, industrial techno and shoulder pad techno but the mainstream haven't picked up on it yet. The hard house revival hasn't happened and I'm not sure it ever will (happen). I'd love to see Anne Savage play Room 2 at Fabric. Why isn't that long haired bloke who bounces the door at Berghain ushering in Ian M once a month?
Have a look at the rest of this article and tell me that we don't deserve a bit of fun nowadays. This credit crunch is doing everyone's heads in and the sombre mood across the European finance zone is reflected in the night clubs we now go to. From London to whatever the capital of Greece is, we're being shunted about our dance floors by sneery, greasy haired, self-conscious arseholes that care more about looking presentable and knowing about first pressings than having a good time.
So come on, let's bring back hard house (late 90s/early 00s only) and let our hair down a bit!
THE FIVE ESSENTIAL MIXES
Global Underground 005: Tokyo mixed by Tony De Vit (1997)
Tony De Vit is the Frankie Knuckles of hard house, and Global Underground 005: Tokyo is the Ministry of Sound: Sessions Six of hard house, so if you, hold on, no, yeah, that does work because if Tony De Vit is the Frankie Knuckles of hard house then Ministry of Sound: Sessions Six must also be the Global Underground 005: Tokyo of normal house which means, if you run that backwards, Global Underground 005: Tokyo is still the Ministry of Sound: Sessions Six of hard house, and Tony De Vit is still the Frankie Knuckles of hard house.
Tony recorded this mix live in the Liquid Room in Tokyo and, although this is definitely a hard house mix, it's not the kind of hard house you'd hear in your head if someone said the words, "hard house" to you. It's not an obvious, bouncy, moronic and knuckle-headed mix. It's measured, it's classy, and the two CDs are screwed together with "Turn That Fucking Music Up" by Knuckleheadz – the track I'm CERTAIN the Chemical Brothers ripped off for their worldwide hit, "Hey Boy Hey Girl."
Mixmag Presents Let There Be Hard House mixed by Fergie (2000)
One of the tracks on this, "All Night" by House Negro, sounds like an ice cream van that got lost down one of them streets off the Chepstow Road that do drum and bass during the Notting Hill Carnival, but instead of drum and bass music, it's hard house drums and hard house bass with the ice cream van music playing over the top of it, in a good way. He's also got the snooker ball sampling and evil, "The Tradesman" by Equinox on there. What's better than snooker and ice cream? Apart from hard house, fuck all.
Elements (1st Testament) mixed by Seb Fontaine and Tony De Vit (1998)
Hubby away for the weekend, girls on their way, feet up, Seb Fontaine on one CD, TDV on the other, Holby City on in ten minutes, cheeky vino on the go. Does life get any better?
Seb Fontaine's mix is not hard house, it's a time capsule trance set with an unrelated Balearic/speed garage remix of "Rapper's Delight" tacked on to the end. CD2 is the hard house side and we find Tony in a more relaxed, playful mood than he was on both of his Global Underground compilations. CD2 is a lovely collection of life affirming underground hard house, some normal house classics that are sped up to hard house speed and one trance song to throw you. If you can play me a DJ mix with a stronger four dart finish than "One More" by DJ Ablaze, "In My House" by Barabas & OD1, "Expression" by Steve Blake and "Dancing On A Ceiling (Tony De Vit Remix)" I'll be damned.
Progressive Dance Mix Volume One mixed by DJ Irene (1999)
I found this mix whilst researching for this article. It was in the hard house compilation bin on Discogs and the cover made me laugh out loud so much that I had to include it on here for future generations to look and laugh at too. DJ She's wearing them yellow sunglasses that the grown-ups used to wear when I was at school in the mid-90s. She's holding out to the camera and smiling. She looks excited to be putting out a commercial mix. She's slapped a PARENTAL ADVISORY EXPLICIT CONTENT on it. She's wearing a market stall jumper.
It would be so easy to mock her, but I shan't. As well as peppering her CD with loads of her own material and regular voice-overs telling us that "this is DJ Irene's party", she's got "Looking Good" by Lisa Lashes, "Big Love" by Pete Heller and an Armand Van Helden song on there too. Progressive Dance Mix Volume One by DJ Irene is the bravest DJ project I've ever accidentally found on Discogs.
Sundissential Live at the Que Club mixed by Fergie, Andy Farley, Paul Kershaw and Nick Rafferty (2000)
I didn't learn how to do drugs until I moved to London in 2004. Before then, in the West Midlands, I would go to nightclubs sober and dance my little heart out until chuck-out time fuelled only by bottles of beer, pints of cola and an unchecked love for hard house. During the Millennium years, the best hard house nightclub in Birmingham/the world was Sundissential and it was here, surrounded by men and women dressed up as chemists and priests, some twats, a few neon St. Trinian's girls, loads of gaudy wankers, two old age pensioners dressed like characters in the as-yet unreleased Tekken 2, a fair number of underage whizz veterans and at least five television screens looping images of male and female nuns being saucy, grown men dressed as cows and trippy visuals that I, fucking hell, I've lost my thread now.
Anyway, I was on the dance floor for the recording of this particular mix and, although I can't remember if the music was any good or not (and I can't listen to the tapes now because I haven't got a cassette player), it was probably fucking brilliant, and it's going to be worth hearing (or lying about having heard) if you want to claim that you're ANY kind of authority on hard house because of how essential Sundissential is to the genre. If you want a copy of Sundissential Live at the Que Club, let me know and I'll sort you out.
THE FIVE ESSENTIAL TRACKS:
If you can't be bothered to listen to the above mixes, jump on YouTube and please have a listen to these tracks.
"Looking Good" by Lisa Lashes (Tidy Trax / 1999)
Looking Good by Lisa Lashes is one of my favourite all-time records, whatever the genre. As a hard house track, it's difficult to compete with its power and subtlety. The use of the spoken word NASA moon landing vocal is sparse and the hoover stabs, whilst numerous, remain monotone and moody as fuck. The best bit though is when the main off-beat bassline comes in after the first use of the vocal sample near the beginning.
"Are You All Ready?" by Tony De Vit (Jump Wax Records / 1996)
How many times have I banged on about Tony De Vit in this article? Eleven times so far. Everyone says that "The Dawn" is his best track but I've always preferred "Are You All Ready?" The Dawn is a trance tune and this one is bare bones, horrible, horrible hard house with overbearing closed 909 hi-hats that don't stop to breathe, a bossy open 909 hi-hat that does let itself breathe, one of those domineering off-beat basslines that is standard for the genre and the most hooversome of hoover lines that ever got hoovered up and recorded.
"Bits and Pieces" by Artemesia (Flying International / 1994)
I've tried to replicated the kick drum pattern from this track on many of my, as yet, unreleased tracks. All would all benefit from the complicated and unpredictable kick drum pattern from To The Beat, but I've found it too complicated to do in my version of Ableton 9.
"Hoovers and Horns (Ingo Remix)" by Fergie and BK (Nukleuz / 2000)
Tony De Vit had sadly passed on by 2000 and things were about to get inane, but before they did, Ingo (previously known by the better moniker, Ingo Starr) delivered this remix of Fergie and BK's stomping duet with the funny sounding vocal, and every working hard house DJ from Birmingham to Leeds, from Sheffield to Rochdale and back to Leeds and Birmingham again were slotting this into every set during the entire night. I once heard it played seven times in a row by Paul Glazby at The Sanctuary.
"Bits and Pieces" by Artemesia (Flying International / 1994)
You can tell that this was written by a Dutch bloke in the mid-90s just by the melody. I don't know how, but when you listen to it, you'll know what I mean. The original mix of "Bits and Pieces" is one of the most mind-bendingly euphoric hard house songs of all time.
THE FIVE ESSENTIAL LABELS:
These are the hard house record labels that were prominent in the hard house era of dominance, etc, etc.
If you were a DJ in the hard house sunshine years and had never heard of Tripoli Trax, you were either a dim-witted or a dishonest teenager who was probably playing stuff out from Hooj, Positiva and Platipus and calling it all hard house.
Tripoli Trax was the classiest of the bunch. They married a rough, tribal sound with absurdly pat and vogue-ish vocals. A beautiful, understated and consistent design work on their record sleeves set them apart from most of the pack. They kept things purely about the music. And the slipmats.
No nonsense hard house, with the emphasis on HARD. A crap logo and artwork that looks like it was developed by the same people who made Killer Instinct for the Super Nintendo are supported by a long run of solid and serious releases by respected artists such as Ian M, Madam Zu, Jon Doe, Andy Farley and Chris C.
I was never that big a fan of Nukleuz for reasons I've never been able to put my finger on but they were and are synonymous with the genre so I have to include them. Mention that you always kept a few BK bangers in your box on Nukleuz if you're out and about and happen to be involved in an unlikely conversation about early noughties popular hard house labels with someone.
The Keep It Tidy man playing a record on an upturned bin is one of the best dance music logos in history, and that can never be disputed. Their period of cultural dominance (outside of London) coincided with a healthy partnership with Sundissential, I think – I might be wrong. They always seemed to be doing parties together and, in 1999, there was even a Sundissential EP on Tidy Trax. Tidy Trax weren't just a record label though, and that's why I can't quite name them as my favourite. With their logo slapped on bags, mugs, iPhone fucking 6 cases, tea towels, bomber jackets, baby bibs, personalised greeting cards and wallets, they were/still are a lifestyle brand as well as a hard house factory.
I was never lucky, old or homosexual enough to have gone to Trade at Turnmills. I did have quite a few Trade records in my little metal box though and I always had a great deal of admiration for them. "Ooh Sir" by Fergie, "Let's Go" by DJ Gonzalo vs. F1, "Get Bent" by Semtex Suzy and the eternal "Let's Rock" by E-Trax, amongst many others, all lent a sophisticated and European flavour to my bedroom DJ sets and my one appearance in the Sundissential third room in the summer of 2001.
Have a listen to "Let's Rock" today and tell me that it couldn't easily slot into Ben Klock's little metal box tomorrow.
Keep it hard.
Read a few other Bullshitter's Guides