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Tim Sheridan: Tories, Gangsters, Raving & Revolution

Reported by JontySkrufff on May 8, 2010

“I could talk about my experiences with the previous Conservative juntas all day but I am reluctant. I was in Blackburn when they came at us with riot police, dogs and fucking helicopters so I have good reason to but I don't want to appear a frothing militant." 

"It was a different time then and really hard to get across to people who weren't there. By that I mean the atmosphere was very much one that what we were doing felt important. See what I mean ha ha ha. it sounds trite just saying that. But at the time what we did was both made highly illegal and felt very much so." 

"We thought we were changing the world. But the world just wasn't having it. An entire legal system and government came down on top of us. You can't imagine how insane it felt to have formally reliable British Law just thrown out of the window and made a mockery of. It was almost beyond belief. So these days to see a Government go to war because they pretty much felt like it; well sadly it was absolutely no surprise to me at all.”

The Shamen @ a Blackburn warehouse rave, 1990

As well as being renowned for his role as the main-man behind London/ Ibiza record label, party organisation Very Very Wrong Indeed, Tim Sheridan is infamous for being one of dance culture’s most outspoken, opinionated and colourful characters.

Something of a Zelig like character, the original acid house raver turned superstar DJ, promoter, producer and party chief has been a central player in the development of British club culture for over 20 years and remains firmly on its edge, both musically and socially (for a a full-ish biog: click here: )

Uncompromising by default, he recently delivered a typically massive email interview to the news portal of one of London’s main clubs, large chunks of which were deemed inappropriate by the club, So he sent them to us and his- highly interesting- comments are below.

Q - how (did) the Tories attitude to rave culture manifested itself – what experiences promoters and DJs like yourselves had with the authorities

Tim Sheridan: “I think we can see with the recent hysteria surrounding mephedrone ("M-cat") that it's really as much about the Middle England Media as any political party that influences the eventual impact upon us and drives the long arm of the law. I was almost laughing at how similar the reaction to 'M-cat' was to ‘The KILLER DRUG ecstasy’ in the tabloids. By tabloids that in the late 80's were talking about ‘Evil Drug Parties’ on one page and literally selling smiley t shirts on the next. 

The only difference between Tory (Conservative) and ‘new’ Labour reactions to the press hysteria is that the Tories are just a bit quicker to be led by them and much more cosy in bed with middle England and their media. The fact that this government’s own self appointed 'Drug Tsar' resigns immediately over the hysteria of 'M-cat' . . . and that this incredible gesture gets no headlines in comparison to the lying and mania . . .  well this says more about the UK and its attitudes to our scene than anything I can think of in recent memory. 

You have to understand that in the 80's and early 90's the Conservative's attitude to us wasn't actually about drugs and "music with a repetitive beat" it was about control. The laughable and I might add totally un-repealed ‘Criminal Justice" act was as much about attacking minority groups like travellers, and let's be honest by that, they mean ‘evil’ Gypsies.... in their insane racist logic. This isn't opinion it's just recent history. That is what they used it for.

At that time the Tory policy machine was attacking certain groups and basically inciting civil unrest. Miners. Race riots. Poll Tax. Nothing at all to do with us. And like the good poodle it is, the UK was also mimicking America in installing a culture of fear that we take for granted now but was almost laughable then. 

So the emergence of an energetic youth movement was a fucking gift to the Conservatives. I mean they would have had to make it up if we hadn't done it for them. The Tories couldn't put through laws basically removing the basic civil and human right to congregate and protest because of the reactions of groups like the Mine Workers and the Labour opposition. But get the tabloids to scream about a nations youth . . . YOUR CHILDREN... on evil drugs and out all night at "ACID RAVES"... well it didn't take them very long at all to get a law through on the back of that angle. 

And the really mental idea was that back then the angle of the Tories was that this was about 'protecting' the nation against itself rather than about the Tories passing laws to physically and legally attack anyone who disagreed with them. Watching ‘Travellers’ and by that I include women and children  being physically attacked and herded like cattle in ‘The Battle of The Beanfield’ off the back of those of us who really just wanted to be free to party... it took on a sombre seriousness that never went away for me. So while, yeah, I saw a lot of bad stuff, it seems cheap to say it was anything like as bad as how they used this 'law' to quash other groups after they had passed it. 

It was never really about us, although at the time we felt more targeted but with the benefit of hindsight it was entirely about state control. So when you see innocent passers-by being bludgeoned to death as they were at the recent protests in the City over the bankers, well it goes way beyond making my blood boil, I just feel incredibly sad. Because in our stupidity, or if you want to be nice 'innocence' my generation gave a nation's government the excuse they needed to do whatever the hell they liked when we physically get together. Because in the past nothing scared a Government more than having to face angry people on the streets. Sadly now it is completely other way around.

I do feel very sad and almost guilty, and then I remember that actually all we wanted to do was dance. it was the Conservatives who did all that wrongness. Not us. It worries me that some people don't know the very same horrible dusty old reptiles who did all that are alive and well and using Cameron as a front. In the same way that the architects of doom behind America's terrible mistakes were all the same cronies. The same advisors were with Reagan, Bush Senior and Dubya. EXACTLY the same people. The guy with the nice tie, slick talk and heavy make-up on telly is just the front man. It's the evil cunts running the show you have to be aware of. The same people that stamped on our faces in the past are at it again right now. Not 'similar' people. The same ones. Don't be fooled.”

Q- what progression we’ve made under Labour, and how far we still need to go (how much easier have you both found it to organise parties, and what progress still needs to be made)

Tim Sheridan: “I may disappoint and say part of the appeal of illegal parties is their very illegality. It was nice to see some progressive councils granting licenses a few years ago but as usual they don't mind doing it while an area like Shoreditch which needs a boost... but when it all gets too popular they are the first to set us up as a target for the ridiculous quotas set for the police. Labour took the American economic solution to everything and made everything about imaginary 'targets' and quotas. Fill the numbers, tick the box and your job is safe. How you go about it is not their concern. So one minute you can be presented at a license application with nothing but smiles and yes men and the next week arrested, charged and everything confiscated. Set up basically. A bone to be thrown to the stats machine. 

Sometimes the police (in the UK and Ibiza) will give you the go ahead for a party just to make arrests. It's not become any easier. The criminal justice act, which Labour promised to repeal in their pre-election promises in 1996, was never repealed it is still firmly and handily in place. It's one of the major things that led me to leave Labour for the Liberal Democrats a few years ago. If anything it is harder than ever to work in our scene because there is a system now. In the old days there were very few clubs and a lot of hype about raving. Now it is very easy for councils to say not only "why would you want to do a rave when there are heavily scrutinised clubs?" (by some council's twisted implication ; anyone who wants to put on a rave is a 'dealer')  but also the police and councils are not only so much more experienced lately they have more know-how and specialist resources than the promoters. In the past it was the other way around.

There is naturally more greed around nowadays also. There popped up something of a suddenly pricey monopoly on warehouses and car parks in East London a few years ago. Something you used to be able to get together with a nod, wink and a bung suddenly became very expensive and very dangerous. If you criminalise anything you basically are handing it to proper criminals along with a license to print money.  It's beyond ironic.

There are often good points to be made about security and safety I must concede. It is essential to weed out the people who do put on parties only to make money and squeeze the punters. I always say that unless the police bust you and you lose a fortune you aren't doing it right ha ha ha. I mean one of the reasons we are doing the thing at Matter is because it has become so hard to pull off a party outside a club environment. A couple of seasons doing free parties in Ibiza can bankrupt you, believe me. 

I do think that one of the sad by-products of drugs is that people never stop and think "hey this party must be costing someone a pretty penny" or "wow, someone is taking a massive risk putting this on". People sort of take it for granted. When actually all that stuff is both really risky and costs a lot.  Or they may say... "yeah you are giving out loads of free guest-list at this major venue as a promo gimmick"... when in fact it is a gift that costs everyone except the punters. One of the hangovers of Acid House is a desire to do it 'proper' and basically free of charge as often as you can. But it has become almost commonplace again so I don't think people think about it that much. It's like the rave pixies make it all happen by magic. 

Sorry it sounds like I am fishing for praise but it can be so frustrating sometimes. Sometimes I find myself either organising or attending an 'illegal' event and thinking "fucking hell this is cushy!" There is nothing risky or illegal about it at all it only looks like that because it isn't in a club. In many ways it is much easier to put something together lately and there is some small progress there but in terms of 'authenticity' it bears no resemblance whatsoever to what I understand a rave to be. But that is on a more critical day. There is also a school of thought that any party is better than none 

I think there will never be the atmosphere of liberty again where you could almost do what you liked without fear. Those times have gone in both the UK and Ibiza and I say that as someone who has been arrested and charged in both for putting on parties. There is a culture of both surveillance and fear that is not going away in a hurry. It is far too profitable for the sinister companies behind both.”

 Click HERE for More Blackburn rave footage

 Jonty Skrufff ( Follow Jonty on Twitter

Label: Veryverywrongindeed Recordings
Genre: Deep / Tech House
Release Date: 2009-12-14
MP3 320kbs$ 1.66
WAV$ 1.98