What’s all this then?
Acid Brass is the brainchild of concept artist Jeremy Deller. It is the unlikely fusion of Acid House anthems with the sound of a traditional British Brass Band, the result of which has received much appreciation from varied audiences across Europe and beyond. Since its conception in 1998, Acid Brass has been performed in locations such as the Tate Modern (London), The Louvre (Paris), and at many large popular music festivals across Europe. It continues to be enjoyed by music and art lovers and provides The Fairey band with the opportunity to reach new and unfamiliar audiences. The foundation for this music is explained by Deller’s own drawing entitled ‘A History of the World’, showing how although despite first appearances the two movements are clearly linked through their social and political settings.
Click here to watch a 5 minute video of Acid Brass from the BBCs ‘The Culture Show’ from 2012.
Acid Brass: A short History by Jeremy Deller
It’s nice to know that some pub ideas can actually make it out that cost environment and be made flesh. Acid Brass was conceived in such a place a few years ago on a hot summers night at a point in the evening when the conversation started to slip and slide.
The idea was a simple one; to get a traditional brass band to play a selection of Acid House anthems.
As soon as the words had been said I thought that this could have a life beyond the pub as it immediately conjured up a series of conflicting images and ideas. The flow diagram below is basically how my brain worked in these few seconds; and stands as both the musical and social justification for the project. It’s personal interpretation but I’d like to think that we all have similar maps somewhere in our heads.
I had initially thought that it would be a problem finding a band that would be willing to take the risk of performing these songs in public but I was wrong. The brass band world is always looking for new material to perform as an attempt to find a younger audience. This combined with the forward looking attitude of their manager John Cresswell meant that there were few problems in persuading the band to commit itself to the project. Having said that, the first time I met John and saw the band perform I deemphasised the Acid House aspect and called the tracks ‘contemporary electronic dance music’. It was over the following months that I introduced the A word, and as it was no one batted an eye-lid. The original Acid Brass album was recorded live in Liverpool at the first public appearance of the material. It was an exciting evening for a number of reasons the most obvious being neither myself, the band or the audience knew quite what was going to happen over the next hour. This was especially the case for the band as they had had only one rehearsal of the piece due to their busy performance schedule. In fact a few of the musicians were sight reading that night. The fact that the concert and the recording went so well is testament to their ability to rise to the occasion.
Since then they have become better acquainted with the music and more importantly how to approach it stylistically. The songs I chose were and still are favourites of mine, they were also tracks that I thought would translate happily for a brass band. Indeed the brass band sound is that of menace, melancholy, and is inevitably uplifting just like the memorable Acid House recordings.
I’ve used the ‘Acid House’ definition in the broadest possible sense which has allowed me to include tracks such as the pre-acid classic ‘This Brutal House’ and the epic techno that is ‘Cubik’. Although this is a studio album the ten tracks were recorded in one take with no overdubs and so retain the ambience of a live performance. The session was completed in a little over six hours.
I’d like to thank, John Cresswell the Band Manager, Bryan Biggs from the Bluecoat Arts Centre, David Sefton from the South Bank Centre and Paul Smith from Blast First Records for their confidence in what was initially just two words put together on a drunken summers evening.
First Contact – Jeremy Deller
My first contact with the Williams Fairey Band was through telephone conversations with John Cresswell. I’d been given his number by Brass Band World but I have to admit that I was nervous about approaching him with the idea for “Acid Brass”. I had expected the Brass Band community to be totally dismissive of the project and I couldn’t believe it when he happily agreed to the idea. Admittedly I didn’t mention the words “Acid House”, I called it “a new commission for Brass Bands involving contemporary dance music”. What I also didn’t tell him was that not one note had been transposed and the budget was around £2,000 short. Minor details as far as I was concerned, I’d managed somehow to get myself the best Brass Band in the country through a single phone call.
The first face to face meeting was at Kenwood Bowl on a wet Bank Holiday weekend. It was also the first time that I had met Rodney Newton, sheltering under an umbrella. His enthusiasm was such a lift and everything that night was falling into place. This was especially the case when the Band struck up: I was blown away by their playing, and I’m not ashamed to say that it brought a tear to my eye. seeing and hearing them reminded me why I had wanted to do this in the first instance.
I later found John and he took me backstage to see the Band. I didn’t really meet anyone at this point, I just stood in a corner with my cup of tea and digestive trying to be invisible. I have to admit that the first few times I was around the Band, I was petrified by them as I felt such an outsider, it seemed to be such a tight knit group of friends like a football team or army brigade even. Also I thought they might resent playing the songs – what if I caused a mutiny in the Band? The next time I saw the Band was in Birmingham, it was there I became aware of what the Brass Band movement is up against. The Band was playing beautifully to a respectably sized audience, but in the front row there was an elderly woman doing her knitting, hardly rock and roll! It was at this point that I began to realise why John was so up for taking a risk with me and “Acid Brass”.
Arranging Acid Brass:
The Inside Story by Rodney Newton
Review by Mark Peacock
The following review by former player Mark Peacock recalls those early days of the project from the Bands point of view and still sums up what it’s like to bring ‘Acid Brass’ to the public to this day!
Acid Brass – Original Studio Recording
‘Acid Brass’ features a selection of Acid House anthems arranged exclusively for the Band by Rodney Newton.
1. Can U Dance? (DJ Fast Eddie)
2. Jibaro (Electra)
3. Voodoo Ray (A Guy Called Gerald)
4. Pacific 202 (808 State)
5. Strings Of Life (Rhythim is Rhythim)
6. The Groove That Won’t Stop (Kevin Saunderson)
7. Let’s Get Brutal (Nitro Deluxe)
8. Cubik (808 State)
9. Day In The Life/Can U Party? (Medley) (Black Riot/Royal House)
10.What Time Is Love? (KLF)
Review by Dr. D. J. R. Atkinson, UK Yorks (on www.amazon.co.uk):
Once in a while something comes along that you reckon must be well worth getting “for a laugh”. I bought this album for that sole reason. Hell, the thought of Cubic 22 blasted out by a colliery band? Truly beautiful.
But then something happened – I listened to the full album and realised that it wasn’t just a laugh, it is something else. It’s wonderful. Eighties house anthems played with real power and emotion by a brass band. An album of tracks that reminds us that music isn’t all about being genre specific, that the ludicrous record store racks of categories and sub-categories serve only to create legions of music fans that grow up blinkered to a true love of music. This album isn’t about cynically combining two over hyped genres to broaden demographic appeal and shift more units (nothing personal Limp Bizkit…). It’s about timeless melodies receiving fresh interpretation through the power and emotion of brass.
It’s been a long time since I’ve listened to anything that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and a shiver go down my spine. The cover of KLF on this album did just that. Don’t buy this album because it’s a surreal novelty. Buy it because it’s great!
5.0 out of 5 stars – Wonderful, 9 Nov 2004
You can listen to a couple of these tracks here. This CD and Acid Brass 2 are available on iTunes (Original Studio Recording & Acid Brass 2: In Yer Face!), amazon or from one of our gigs (just ask!). If you wish we can also send either CD to you by mail (please use our contact form to request this).
Acid Brass 2
The Band have since recorded a second album, Acid Brass: In Yer Face. This new CD though, featuring 10 new tracks of Acid house classics, packs more of a punch than Mike Tyson in his prime. Mike Eccles (MD for Acid Brass) has really captured the harder side of the music and turned the band away from the ‘traditional’ band sound to create something quite special.
1. I Sit on Acid, Lords of Acid
2. Jack to the Sound, Fast Eddie
3. In Yer Face, 808 State
4. Theme from S’Express, S’Express
5. Gonna Make You Sweat, C+C Music Factory
6. Acid Thunder, Fast Eddie, Peter Black
7. This is Acid, Maurice Joshua
8. Oochy Coochy, Baby Ford
9. Lack of Love, Charles B and Adonis
10. Infinity, Gura Josh
Click here to hear some sample tracks.