Steaming In: Terry Farley In Conversation

Acid house pioneer on the state of dance criticism...
Terry Farley

Sing it loud and let it be known: Terry Farley has a voice and he’s gonna use it. The DJ, tastemaker and all-round dance pundit has remained at the forefront of the UK’s house scene for over 20 years, one of the few from those primordial raves who is still very much walking the walk and, most importantly of all, talking the talk.

Asked to talk on a panel at the London Electronic Music Event (LEME) this weekend, Farley is set to engage with an audience concerned at recent developments in music criticism – although in his opinion, it’s not nearly critical enough.

“I think if ever there was a time for someone to do a fanzine in print, now is the time, absolutely the time,” he says. “There is so much in the house and techno scene calling out for piss-take, calling out for being a parody of itself. And blogs don’t do it. If you’ve got a fanzine, you take it home, you look at it on the train and one of your mates says, ‘Have you seen that?’ and you pass it round and find all these little funny things that you missed the first time round. Because it’s something to hold, it actually has some value.”

Yet this isn’t to suggest that the acid house pioneer is some kind of technophobe. “I think blogs are still very important,” he insists. “It’s just, you know, when you write something nasty on the internet, it’s kind of dismissed immediately, like, ‘Oh yeah, it’s on the internet.’ But if you write something nasty, in a funny way, in print on a piece of paper… I think it holds a lot more relevance.”

A sense of humour is paramount to way Farley views dance journalism. As a member of the Boy’s Own crew, the DJ helped to publish one of the defining tomes of the acid house period. Scathing, bitchy and deeply passionate about music, the fanzine inadvertently captured something special, something few could match.

“That’s kind of the background we all come from anyway, where people just spend the whole day taking the piss out of each other,” he says, typically down to earth. “We stopped doing it when it was at its most popular, actually. Andrew Weatherall had just turned 30 and he said he didn’t want to do it anymore because he didn’t want to be a 30-year-old man telling 20-year-old kids what to do and what to wear and we all decided that was a good idea. I think a lot of people younger than us held it quite reverential; we never saw it like that. If we’d carried on another couple of years and it got really shit, people would’ve said, ‘Ah well it was rubbish anyway!’”

Taking part in interview sessions for Luke Bainbridge’s new tome The True Story Of Acid House, Farley is keen to have his scathing wit impart some truisms on the scene in general.

“I mean, there’s a kind of given story that everyone in London hated it and everyone in the north loved it,” he explains. “Which is kind of not true, and I tried to counterbalance that. But it’s a very interesting book. It’s worthwhile, as it talks to a lot of different people who were around and perhaps have never got the acclaim that they deserve in the scheme of things when it comes to acid house.”

“The whole thing about acid house that I really remember is how quickly it started and how quickly it was almost over,” he continues. “People weren’t very reverential about it – things get re-written and history gets re-made. It’s kind of like there was three or four years where people were hugging each other and walking around in bandanas, which wasn’t the case.”

Still gigging around the world, Farley has enjoyed rejuvenation as part of the current house resurgence. “I’ve been DJing a long time now, and every couple of years you get another 15 minutes of fame, when people seem to find you relevant again and start to like the music you play. I’ve always played the same sort of music and, you know, in 2014 deep house is back in fashion, so people are booking me to play again, so I’m grateful for that.”

Not that the DJ has noticed any increase in his ‘cool factor’ – he simply concentrates on his own sets, on crafting his own sound. “I let them wash over me,” he says, “and I get less bookings when the music I play is not in fashion and get more when it is in fashion. But I don’t change the music I play because I think you can always tell a DJ who is playing music he doesn’t really like and love – it comes out and you’re cheating the audience. You’re cheating yourself as well, I think.”

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LEME takes place London's Rich Mix venue on April 12th-13th – full programme of events.
Terry Farley online: SoundCloud / Facebook

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