Acid Jazz, Mod and British style...

“What’s British about Mod? I’ll tell you what – this is fucking great! What’s British about Mod is the fact that we take it off other people and make it better. That’s it.” Looking ahead to the Vintage Festival, Eddie Pillar is in prime ranting mode. Why interrupt?

“The clothes come from Italy, the fucking scooters come from Italy, the music comes from America, the drugs come from America. The whole fucking thing. We are the little peacocks who take everything out of context and then make it British. That’s why Mod is a totally British thing. Even though most of the important parts were made elsewhere, we’re the only ones who used it as a subversive youth culture movement.”

Given that his mother ran the Small Faces fanclub when the Wapping Wharf group were at their height, Eddie Pillar was always going to be a Mod. As a DJ, promoter and Acid Jazz label owner he has experienced many different scenes but still comes back to vintage 60s style. Charged with curating the line up for this year’s Soul Casino, the promoter has responded with a glittering line up containing many of the figures who have guided black music in Britain. “It’s always been about black music to me” he explains. “I love white music but all the white music I like – with the exception of punk – seems to have been influenced by black music anyway.”

“From my perspective I never want it to be a Northern Soul ghetto. I am very bored of clubs where you go and hear Northern Soul all night. It drives me mental and when I DJ I never just play Northern Soul. I wanted Soul Casino to reflect the diverse nature of British black music.”

With the likes of Chris Hill on board, the line up hints at Pillar’s mis-spent youth flitting between the Mod Revival and the jazz-funk clubs. “This is just a great opportunity for me to basically get all my mates, from all the different scenes and all the different eras of black music to play in the same room. It’s what we’ve always tried to do at Acid Jazz, mixing every different element of style that we like together and getting the resulting mash up. That was my intention, or at least it certainly always has been.”

Moving through the 80s, Eddie Pillar was able to make a massive impact on the Mod Revival through a fanzine –Extraordinary Sensations – and a label. Yet other scenes still appealed, and a visit to Ibiza brought the DJ face to face with a foetal Acid House scene. “I started going to house clubs – Acid House clubs, no techno –things like Shoom and I just thought ‘yeah, this is the fucking future’. All these kids, getting off on E, having a fucking great time and not fighting: but the music’s cock. It’s boring. I like ‘Can You Feel It’ and all that kind of stuff but only for an hour but after that you start thinking ‘God, I wish I had my little bit of black music back again’. Basically all we did with Acid Jazz was to take the spirit of Acid House but use our music” he says.

“It worked very well because people still liked the vibe of ‘88 but they needed something new. By mixing up all these styles we hovered up all the kids that we into black music in London and it was like Year Zero for us. We managed to build this mixture of Mods and Casuals and Soul Boys. We took all the music from electro, hip hop, funk, Northern, latin, boogaloo, bossa nova – everything. Add in a bit of Public Enemy and things like that and then mix it all up. So we were able to start from scratch. Most other scenes at that time just fucking died. Completely. And they were gone. They haven’t really come back.”

Bemoaning the loss of youth culture, Eddie Pillar points the finger of blame at Acid House. “Acid House killed it, and I mean everything. All British youth culture. Completely. I think it was good, I think it needed to be killed at the time but just the whole concept of not being into clothes, just being into taking drugs and monging out at a rave wiped the floor with the traditional British youth culture scene” he rants, barely pausing for breath.

However there are other, broader reasons. Describing his home town Eddie Pillar spits: “Goths, emus and fucking chavs. That’s about it in my town. No one gives a monkeys. No one cares.” Continuing, he hits out at celebrity culture. “Why would they care? They’ve got no understanding, no access to new music. They can’t hear good music, they just hear shit. They just sit and absorb the Simon Cowell-isation of telly, or the porn-pop of Rihanna or Lady Gaga and they just think ‘this is cool – I want to be a celebrity’. When I was a kid it weren’t about that it was about being different, finding your own identity within the group. Now no one seems prepared to do that because it’s too easy. Pop culture is on a plate and unfortunately it’s shit pop culture.”

Mod has always been about aspiration: striving to become the Face, to get the best suit to become the best dancer, the most in-demand DJ. However this sense of working class aspiration has, in Pillar’s view, been lost somewhere along the way. “If you just look at the East End Mods of the 60s who came out and wanted better for themselves. Terence Stamp, Chris Stamp – all those kind of people were pretty much Mods. Certainly Terence Stamp was, and his brother. They all wanted to do better, they all wanted to move forward. But then again that’s not necessarily a Mod thing, that’s just an aspirational working class thing. I think the tragedy of British culture is that so much of the British class has lost it’s aspirations. They’re very happy bubbling along on the lowest common denominator. That’s very not Mod from my perspective.”

The Vintage Festival runs between July 29th – 31st.

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