“Marks out of ten for a good shit?”
You’re on the phone to your musical heroes, asking if they would do a guest slot on your student radio show. How would you break the ice? I’d been going to the House of God in Birmingham for a couple of years, and over the same period got into DJing and started doing a radio show. ‘WashDup’ aired weekly on W963, a student radio station based at the University of Warwick near Coventry. The station was AM most of the time, with a very limited broadcast radius, but one month a year they were allowed an FM licence and could extend their range. Everyone got excited about that. For the month we were on FM I lined up guest slots for each of my four shows. One of the slots was taken up by the BOSH crew from Coventry, who did parties at the West Indian centre and had just started their own record label. And then, of course, there was House of God.
The House of God is a techno night that started in Birmingham in 1993. Sir Real, Paul Damage and Surgeon were three of the original resident DJs. My first taste of clubbing was at a House of God party in 1996 and I quickly got hooked on it. One of the things I liked most about HoG was, simply, the lack of dress code. It didn’t seem to matter that I was an ugly nerd with no dress sense and bad dance moves; HoG was inclusive. Freaks were welcome. It felt more like a festival in a club. And of course I loved the music. House of God was known as a fierce techno night, but it was more varied than just banging techno all the time. The other rooms were taken up with drum n’bass and house music, and in the main room you got techno that ranged from funky, wonky and weird, like Neil Landstrumm and Subhead, to intense acid, breakbeat and hardcore. It definitely wasn’t a purist’s night. They often had guest DJs but I liked it best when it was just the residents playing. That was the perfect House of God experience for me. It felt more intimate and the chemistry was just right. I jumped up and down in front of the speakers all night and shouted myself hoarse. It was fucking brilliant.
So I phoned the number on a House of God flyer hoping to get them to play on my radio show. Chris Wishart, House of God promoter, answered the phone:
“You should probably talk to Neil (Sir Real). He’s here somewhere.”
“Great, can I talk to him then?”
“Ah, he’s in the toilet at the moment. Call back in ten minutes.”
There followed a nervous wait while I figured out what to say. Credit goes to my flatmate Dan for suggesting how to break the ice when I phoned back.
I was blown away when Sir Real, Paul Damage and Surgeon finally showed up at the radio station. Despite having heard them play many a time at House of God it was my first time actually meeting any of them. Sir Real was very tall and had to stoop to get through the studio door. Surgeon and Paul Damage both wore very serious expressions, like they could burn a hole through a crap record just by staring at it. I should say that the W963 studio was not set up very well for DJing. Every time we played we had to re-wire the mixing desk with patch cables to make it work anything like a standard DJ set up. There was no cross fader or EQs, just a couple of bulky sliders and a ‘cue’ button for pre-listening to a track. But as soon as you started mixing in a track, the cued up track would cut out from the headphones! So the HoG guys deserve some credit for putting up with such a terrible studio, and coping with it so well!
Surgeon took to the decks first and played a very focussed, intense set of early Dynamic Tension releases and tracks from his upcoming album “Balance”. This was around the time that Surgeon was a resident at Berlin club Tresor and was developing a very deep, dense textural sound. It was music that ploughed through you, heavy and unstoppable. At one point I freaked him out by saying I’d already come across a review of ‘Sound Pressure’ in a magazine. “I hope not, it’s not even been released yet,” he replied, holding up a white label test pressing that was probably the only one in the entire world. Not sure exactly sure what I was thinking, obviously I was wrong, but I remember the worried look on his face! Sorry Tony!
Paul Damage followed Surgeon with a lively set of techno allsorts from DJ Hell and Richard Bartz ‘Take a Shot’ to Like-a-Tim ‘Blondie Break’, plus a couple of his own tracks from the first EP on House of God records, “Tina Never Had a Teddy Bear”. ‘The Damager’ often rounded off the night at HoG and regularly pushed it past 150bpm, scratching and cutting up breakbeat and old school records and bringing everyone to their knees. The shirts-off guys who were always down the front, pumping the air and sweating a lot, were always at their most frantic when Paul played. He generously offered me his copy of ‘Tina Never Had a Teddy Bear’ after his set, although I turned him down because I already had it!
I don’t think Sir Real ever got enough credit for being one of the best HoG DJs. He would come on after the warm up DJ when the dancefloor was beginning to fill up, and before you knew it the night had gone from everyone shuffling around with a beer and nattering to everyone dancing and hooting. He was probably the most eclectic of the HoG DJs, in an Andy Weatherall, you-never-know-what-you’ll-get-but-it’ll-be-brilliant sort of way. Plus there was a sense of humour that never sounded like showing off or being obscure. “Knowing what music means to other people and not just to yourself is what makes the great DJs stand out.” I think Sir Real was instinctively one of those DJs. I hardly ever recognised the music Sir Real played, but a few of his productions from the Round Records label feature in his set here.
Years later I got in touch with Sir Real again to see if he’d be up for playing an online set at The Drome in Second Life. He was open to the idea right from the start. The day after the House of God’s 16th birthday party he hopped online and played a blinder for us!
Mercifully I stay off the mic for most of the radio show, and only play a handful of radio jingles. The promised back to back ‘madness’ that I’d envisioned for the last half hour of the show didn’t happen – It was 11.30pm by the time the HoG guys had finished their sets and they were ready to head off. In the end there was just me and a couple of friends to round the show off, which I’ll spare you! Months later I heard from a friend that HoG were ‘looking for new DJs’ and I naively sent them a promo tape which started with a locked groove of people burping then launched into 90 minutes of fierce techno. Strangely I didn’t hear anything back.
Anyway, massive thanks again to Surgeon, Paul Damage and Sir Real for taking the time to come over to Coventry and play on WashDup. I don’t know if they remember their gig, but it was a big deal for me at the time. The Paul Damage and Sir Real sets offer a nice taster of what the House of God was like back then, while the Surgeon set, way before La Real and British Murder Boys, is a snapshot of the intense other world he was heading into at the time.
Oh, and as I remember it, Sir Real said it was a “seven”.
WashDup meets House of God
Live on W963 radio, February 1998.
91 mins. 256kbps MP3 (167 MB)
Click here to download (direct download from Mediafire)