“The real killer of the underground is people proving where they are and showing to others that they’re having an experience, rather than just having it.”
It’s well documented that Groove Armada have helped shape the landscape of club culture as a production duo.
Andy Cato alone set up the label Skinny Malinky in the 1990s and produced records under numerous aliases including Big C, Mother’s Pride, Vadis, Beat Foundation, Fatback Boogaloo and Qattara.
After he met Tom Findlay in 1994 he moved to London and Groove Armada was born.
If anyone has the right to discuss the state of electronic music in 2016 it’s Andy. So we were happy when he agreed to meet us at Metropolis Festival to discuss the matter.
Let’s jump straight in – with Ibiza and London the way they are at the moment, do you think club culture is crumbling at the minute? The two meccas getting hit as hard as they have?
There are two ways you could look at it. You could say it’s crumbling, but it’s crumbled so many times before, and you know there’s something about pure house music that always endures.
There was the moment before when House was made as a thing for basements where no-one cared who the DJ was so long as it was good. There was no spotlight on anyone. Then it became this big money thing where the first EDM wave came through, in huge sports stadiums. Now that’s kind of fallen apart because of the millions of dollars and champagne. Look, it’s another wave in the cycle, but the fundamental thing of a bunch of people in a dark room listening to House will always live on I think.
That’s something I’d actually really like to talk about. Do you think the ‘Underground’ still exists the way it did in say the Haçienda days?
In terms of London and Toulouse, where I spend a lot of time these days, there are more small basement parties than there were during the superclub days of 15 years ago. There are also a lot more free parties and a return to resident parties, and all that’s cool. For me though, the death of the ‘Underground’ as I knew it is because of phones. Because part of the underground was that you were just in it and you were lost and nobody knew where the fuck you were. It was just freedom with a capital F.
The real killer of the underground is people proving where they are and showing to others that they’re having an experience rather than just having it. That’s the death of the underground because the underground is about getting lost in a groove whatever your type of groove is – and very few people do that anymore.
I mean, when you look out into a crowd do you ever wish that people weren’t recording what you’re doing?
I’ve had hundreds of days in Ibiza when nobody knew who I was or what I was doing. As a DJ? I think I just feel sorry for people, you know? Like get that shit out of your life. Like what is the underground? It’s people playing records in a small room for not much money, there are loads of people doing that. But the other part is people changing the normal day-to-day bullshit of society via music to create a few moments of genuine happiness, but people really aren’t engaging now…
Do you think with Pacha being bought and Space closing down, it’s more about bottle service VIP culture?
I think music is reflecting life, in the way it always has. There’s a general obsession with the fact that everyone wants to be either a footballer and a rockstar or a footballer or rockstar’s wife, and therein lies happiness, and that happiness is a bottle of champagne away. The thing is it’s bullshit. I’ve been lucky. I’ve seen it all up close.
“I’ve been invited into planes and private yachts, and now I’m a farmer living around other farmers in France and to be honest I know who’s the happiest.”
Unfortunately it’s the media’s agenda to say to people that you can only be happy if you’re loaded and on the pages of a magazine. As long as that culture dominates, music will reflect it and that’s what’s happening in Ibiza.
Do you think that that same greed is happening with fabric? With hotels and the multinational condos popping up?
Look, the rumours of what’s going on are many and varied, but what it’s clearly not about is drugs, because I’ve never been in a more controlled or safer space than fabric, so the idea that it’s about that is just clearly bollocks. Meaning it has to be about something else which is probably money somewhere down the line. But that’s the classic example that pop will eat itself.
Why do people want to come to London? Partly because there’s a few quid rolling in from a few oligarchs and a few city boys and it’s the same idea of what happened in Shoreditch, where Groove Armada began. It was all in a load of derelict warehouses and it was funky and fun until the money rolled in. That’s what’s happening to London as a city if we’re not careful…