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Chris Liberator On The White-Washing Of Rave Culture

Author: Jonty Skrufff
Sunday, November 21, 2004
"Acid house was a revolutionary force when it started but history is always written retrospectively and I think it's already been cruel on the acid house scene in general. Its history has already been brushed over, such as the fact that all these massive illegal parties actually happened, and still go on today, for example. There's an underbelly of London that never gets written about."

15 years after teaming up with Aaron and Julian to form DJ crew The Liberators, Chris Liberator remains one of the best know figureheads on the acid tekno scene, the free party subculture that continues to co-exist in a parallel universe alongside mainstream club culture. Developing from the same tiny warehouse parties that spawned Ibiza superclubs and superstar DJs, London's free party scene instead stayed underground and usually invisible, ignored by the media, few of whom cared or dared to check it out. The exception came in 1992, when the likes of Spiral Tribe and Bedlam staged Castlemorton, the infamous outdoor mega-rave that managed to draw 20,000 revellers to a field in Western England, bringing free party culture to the masses, like never before.

Castlemorton though was to prove a turning point, its size and visibility prompting UK authorities to introduce the notorious Criminal Justice Act plus a shift back to the cities as Britain's travellers found themselves almost literally driven off the land. The result was the growth of an extensive urban free party scene, centred (usually) in industrial estates in the grimmer parts of London, built around multiple sound system crews and secret telephone numbers, providing multiple party locations every Saturday night. And with parties ranging in size from hundreds of revellers to literally thousands (such as when crews would team up for bigger events), a thriving word-of-mouth culture developed, attracting non-conformists, ravers and international pleasure seekers. And spinning at many of these events was Chris (plus a whole host of equally passionate like minded DJs)

"Apart from the weekend when I got married and had my honeymoon, I've played records every weekend for 11 years straight and probably three or four years before that when I wasn't playing every weekend," he says, "I still get a really good buzz from playing and I still love parties.

Though for Chris it's always been about more than the buzz.

"History is already whitewashing over the rave scene, the drugs and the rest of it, and it's being presented back as something else, whereas the way I see it is like this;" he continues.

"Thousands of people took Es (ecstasy) and as a result changed their way of thinking and hence society, and I can see it on the streets today. For example, you don't see youth culture like it was in the 80s, when it was totally about fighting. Fucking hell, when you used to go to punk gigs you'd get beaten up every single time by skinheads," he recalls.

"I know so many people today on the party scene who are real criminals who changed when they took an E. They saw something else and became sensitive people. That fact doesn't get documented and doesn't get talked about, but that is a true change in society."

He's equally dismissive about the historical consensus on rave culture's musical beginnings.

"Take Kraftwerk, for example; I love them, I went to see them live in the 80s, but I don't see why they're so massive now in terms of their influence on the electronic music scene," says Chris.

"Or bands like Throbbing Gristle or Cabaret Voltaire- I never got into rave or techno because of those people; they weren't the missing link for me."

"The 70s was a very vacuous nothing decade, apart from punk and apart from some of the really underground disco stuff, and now you've got the 80s coming back with people talking about the influence of bands like Depeche Mode. I'm like, "no, the 80s wasn't like that; I lived through the 80s and I bought pretty much every underground reco