I discovered dance music thanks to the CD collection of an evangelical Christian I was friends with at university. At the time I had never been to a proper house or techno club, and avoided any kind of nightclub at all. I had lots of excuses for this: a) I couldn’t dance (I was geeky and skinny and did not look cool. No change there), b) as far as I knew nightclubs had dress codes and that scared the hell out of me because all my clothes came from Oxfam, and c) I didn’t know where to buy drugs, because, erm, you had to take drugs to go to a techno club, right?
But a couple of months after converting to dance music, it dawned on me that the thing to do was to go out and hear the music where it was meant to be played – a club. I felt it would be dishonest or cowardly to like dance music and not go out and dance to it – a bit like listening to The Levellers and not going to Glastonbury. So I made my mind up to try clubbing for the first time.
However, I didn’t actually have a clue about what clubs to go to. I considered my situation – I lived in Coventry, with the metropolis of Birmingham just a half hour train ride away. I wanted to avoid anywhere with a dress code, and I preferred dance music without vocals. I also liked dance music that could be a bit abstract – not necessarily groovy. As it turned out I was on a collision course with techno and the House of God.
Although none of my regular friends knew anything about techno, there was a friend I’d known since my first days at university who did go clubbing, and I think he may have been the first person to mention the House of God to me. I remember seeing posters for the House of God up in Coventry and I think even in the university building. The posters were covered with a pattern of metallic pipework interwoven with the words House of God in a futuristic, industrial looking font, and with typical House of God style there was a baby’s head with a rather demented look about it stuck in the middle. The posters said it all – no regard for looking pretty, a reputation for metallic techno with abstract, industrial leanings, and a slightly sick attitude which brought mutated babies to prominence in a lot of their artwork. Also, flyers for club nights around Coventry and Birmingham were always to be found in my favourite record shop Spin-a-disc. Back then, I probably just flicked through a pile of flyers and kept the ones that said “No dress code” – which would have included the House of God.
So the notion formed in my mind that I should go to the House of God, and soon after that I discovered that their 3rd birthday party was coming up at the Que Club in Birmingham. This was going to be it – my first taste of clubbing! The only snag was that none of my friends would go with me – techno was off the radar and for some reason they all thought the House of God was too dodgy. They also thought that you couldn’t go without taking drugs. So I considered going on my own, but I didn’t even know if that was possible? Did anyone even go clubbing on their own? I didn’t have a clue.
Now I should probably mention that one of the reasons Birmingham was a prime clubbing choice for me was that my ex-girlfriend still lived there – the girl I split up with before I had my dance music epiphany. For a few months we hadn’t seen each other, and had both changed a fair bit before we got in touch again. And, well, we sort of started seeing each other again, without really going out with each other, if you know what I mean. My new interest in dance music puzzled and amused her, until I mentioned that I wanted to go to the House of God. I think her first reaction was disbelief, then horror. Then she said something about coming along to keep an eye on me. I’m not sure if I really wanted to go with her, because I knew she wouldn’t like the music and we’d probably have an argument, but on the other hand it was a considerate offer to keep me company when no one else would come with me. So we decided to go together.
The Que club was aptly named, because unless you got there soon after the doors opened there was always a long queue to get in. We were there pretty early though, and didn’t wait long to hand over our tickets and be frisked by one of the cheerful bouncers – another new experience for me.
Once through the doors, my first impression was of walking into the entrance hall of a very grimy Victorian hostel. There was a broad and curving staircase off up to the club, and a mural half peeling off the wall. It felt dark and dusty, and had the dull sheen created by lots of passers-by, a bit like an old railway station. We walked up the staircase and checked in our coats, then walked down one of the long corridors to the back bar. We bought a drink, some water, and stood around a bit, wondering if the other early arrivals were looking at us. I felt nervous and was pretty glad to have someone else with me. Then we walked back down the corridor to one of the doors that led into the main room where all the action was happening. I paused and said to my ex-girlfriend “Shall we go in?”. I could hear the regular thud of a kick drum, the lighthouse beacon I had been distantly watching. Now I was about to throw myself on the rocks. “Yes, go on”, she said, and I pushed on the heavy door and we went through.
The main room of the Que Club was huge and cathedral-like and was about half full. The speaker stacks at the front were about the height of a double decker bus, and a steady beat was shaking a dance out of the crowd like dust out of a rug. The dancefloor was flanked on all sides by tiers of seats which at the back went about half way up to the roof. Generally the crowd looked, well, pretty scruffy – which put me at ease considerably. We shuffled into the middle of the dancefloor somewhere near the back and I started to dance. Well, sort of jerk and shuffle about anyway. Then I suddenly realised that everyone else was jerking and shuffling about too! So I got the hang of dancing to techno pretty quickly. Steadily the filters came down and the music I was hearing became the flow of the movements I was making, and along with everyone else the rhythm and noise shook the dust out of me too.
I remember there was something like a Viking Longship that jutted out from the sound booth over the dancefloor. Also there were lots of plastic babies dangling on strings that were flying around everywhere. The music was loud, metallic techno and I seem to remember DJ Skull was one of the guest DJs, alongside resident Terry Donovan. Probably the other residents Surgeon, Sir Real and Paul Damage were on the bill too. As I expected, my ex-girlfriend wasn’t enjoying the music but she was dancing along a bit. We stayed close to each other and I think she felt wary of the crowd. I remember a moment when we kissed each other – someone nearby with dreadlocks and a relaxed smile turned to me and said “Awww, sweet”. At the time I didn’t know how to take a comment like that from a total stranger – I thought he was being sarcastic and we both glared at him.
The one track I definitely remember hearing that night was “The Horn Track (Fred Remix)” by Tim Taylor and Dan Zamani – An absolute banger on Missile records from 1995. This is the moment I was truly grabbed by the House of God. It is my most vivid memory of the night. I was dancing along, and found myself locked into the fierce beats of the track when all of a sudden there was the breakdown and this wild, off-to-battle horn blared out. I was immersed in the noise and my senses got kicked sideways for a few seconds. I felt as if I’d suddenly poked my head into another dimension, and when I looked around it seemed as if everyone was immersed in the same luminous ether, had found their way into the same dimension as me. It was a lucid moment, a feeling that life had been suspended momentarily while at the same time the feeling of being alive had been amplified a thousand times. Then the kickdrum started up, we dropped out of the extra dimension and our hearts suddenly started beating again – we were reanimated. I threw my hands up in the air and screamed along with a few hundred other people.