Andrew Weatherall obituary: A revolutionary influencer on electronic and techno music

DJ and record producer whose work on Primal Scream’s 1991 album Screamadelica helped it win the first Mercury music prize

Andrew Weatherall died in hospital at the age of 56. Photograph: Prescription PR/PA Wire

Andrew Weatherall died in hospital at the age of 56. Photograph: Prescription PR/PA Wire

 

Andrew Weatherall
Born: April 6th, 1963
Died: February 17th, 2020

The list of Andrew Weatherall’s achievements as DJ, musician, songwriter, producer and remixer could fill a hefty volume. His career took him from working as an acid house DJ in the late 1980s to being a celebrated remixer of tracks by Happy Mondays, New Order and Primal Scream. His production work on Primal Scream’s album Screamadelica (1991), creating a revolutionary mix of indie, hard rock, house and rave, helped the record to win the inaugural Mercury music prize the following year, and remains Weatherall’s most memorable calling card to a mainstream audience.

Then he moved on to an assortment of collaborative projects such as Blood Sugar, Two Lone Swordsmen and the Asphodells. More recently he had released a sequence of solo albums including Convenanza, Consolamentum (both 2016) and Qualia (2017).

Weatherall, who has died of a pulmonary embolism aged 56, was regarded as a figurehead and major influencer of electronic and techno music, but was also a widely read man with whom a conversation might range from the 13th-century Albigensian Crusade to obscure mystics from the 20s. He possessed a scalpel-sharp sense of the absurd that enabled him to maintain a wry scepticism about his own abilities. “I never meant this to be a career,” he said in 2012. “It was just a job that paid for new clothes and records.”

Weatherall cited Donna Summer’s Love to Love You Baby (1975), produced by the electro-pop pioneer Giorgio Moroder, as a record that helped fire his enthusiasm for music. His parents, Robert, a businessman, and Carol, usually preferred middle-of-the-road pop, but were big fans of Summer’s record. “I like that there was something risque about it ... I just knew it was something taboo,” Weatherall said. He was also intrigued by his parents saying that “it wasn’t real music because it was made by machines”.

Born in Windsor, Berkshire, as a pupil at Windsor grammar school he spent his teen years going to soul weekenders and disco clubs. “I was into Brit funk, Olympic Runners and Hi-Tension, things like that,” he explained. “The initial punk scene in London was a load of bored soul boys who liked dressing up and that’s what I was at the age of 14.”

After leaving home at 18 he did a variety of jobs including labouring on building sites, working as a carpenter’s mate and shifting furniture.

Andrew Weatherall. Photograph: Philippe Levy 2003
Andrew Weatherall. Photograph: Philippe Levy 2003

In 1987 he moved to London, where his record collection and encyclopedic musical knowledge soon brought him many invitations to DJ at parties. Terry Farley ran the Trip club at the Astoria and recruited Weatherall, who played a lot of northern soul and indie records. Then he caught the ear of Danny Rampling, who hired Weatherall to DJ at his south London club Shoom, which had brought Balearic rave to the UK and helped to pioneer acid house.

Having earlier tried his hand at freelance journalism, Weatherall had joined with Farley, Cymon Eckel and Steve Mayes to form Boy’s Own Crew, an organisation that ran raves, produced records and printed a fanzine that probed the nooks and crannies of British youth fashion, politics, football and dance culture. In 1990 Weatherall set up his own label, Boy’s Own Productions, through London Records, and began to find himself in demand doing remixes.

A key moment was his work (with Paul Oakenfold) on Happy Mondays’ Hallelujah (1989), and another career highlight was his remix (with Farley) of New Order’s World Cup anthem World in Motion (1990). Weatherall’s remix of My Bloody Valentine’s Soon (1990) topped the NME’s list of the 50 best remixes.

His connection with Primal Scream began when he remixed their song I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have, transforming it with an array of loops and samples into the track Loaded. This became the lead single from Screamadelica (partly produced by Weatherall), the band’s first commercially successful album.

Weatherall resisted the temptation to cash in on the remix boom he had helped to create. “I could have cleaned up after Screamadelica but I’ll only work on tracks I like by bands I’m into,” he said. “If a band sound like wankers, I won’t work with them.”

Other artists who passed the Weatherall quality threshold included Björk, Siouxsie Sioux, the Manic Street Preachers and St Etienne (for whom Weatherall created the celebrated A Mix of Two Halves of their version of Neil Young’s Only Love Can Break Your Heart). His production work on Beth Orton’s album Trailer Park (1996) helped define the mix of hip-hop and electronica that became known as trip-hop.

Weatherall’s energies continued to expand in all directions. His Sabres of Paradise project, which began in 1992, encompassed a label, a band and the Sabresonic club night. Two Lone Swordsmen (1996) was a collaboration with Keith Tenniswood, and the pair later collaborated on the Rotters Golf Club label (2001). It was on this imprint that he released his solo EP The Bullet Catcher’s Apprentice (2006), followed by his debut solo album, A Pox on the Pioneers (2009).

He teamed up with Tim Fairplay as the Asphodells, releasing Ruled By Passion Destroyed By Lust in 2012, while the Woodleigh Research Facility was a joint effort with the composer and producer Nina Walsh, who had been his partner during the 90s. They released The Phoenix Suburb (and Other Stories) in 2015.

He is survived by his partner, Elizabeth Walker, his father and his brother, Ian. – Guardian