Seven great moments in Brisbane’s dance music history
To mark the launch this weekend of the BNE Project – a music and coffee table book package celebrating 35 years of independent electronic music production in Brisbane – we had long-time Brisbane scene fiend, musician and inthemix writer Kris Swales count down his (entirely unbiased) top seven memories of the Brisbane dance scene, from 1996 to now. [Photo by Michael Watt at Strawberry Fields 1994.]
How do you go about documenting 35 years of a scene which expands and contracts via some subconscious chaos theory; one in which key players can come and go in and instant, and are often shrouded in anonymity?
It’s a quest that Dennis Remmer of Brisbane’s Transmission Communications set out on to celebrate his label’s 20th anniversary, eventually expanding into BNE: a coffee table book shining a light on 140-plus of the Brisbane electronic music scene’s producers from 1979 to 2014, with over 260 tracks on the accompanying USB. [Disclosure: two of my acts feature on the release.]
The whole project will be launched at the Brisbane Powerhouse this Saturday 6 September, with sets from legendary local live acts Vision Four 5, Boxcar, Soma Rasa and more. Given my introduction to the Brisbane scene came via Thunderdome II: The Possession (I’m not making this up) at The Roxy in Easter 1996, we’ll start our journey through some of the finest production to emerge out of the QLD capital shortly after that milestone…
1997: Angus scratches up Bedrock’s Intoxication remix
Six years since his passing, and over two decades since he first ruled the roost, Angus Galloway’s name is still whispered in hushed tones around Brisbane. Indeed, a documentary called Flow that sets out to immortalise his deeds is currently in post-production. DJ Angus also caught the attention of international heavyweights when they came down under.
“I met Angus on my first ever trip to Australia in ‘94 when I played with him in Perth,” John Digweed told defunct Brisbane street press Time Off, upon Galloway’s death in 2008. “We stayed in touch and I asked him if he could do some scratching for one of my remixes a few years later, which he did a great job on.”
The track in question was React 2 Rhythm – Intoxication (John Digweed & Nick Muir’s Bedrock Mix), a dark and driving progressive house epic which charted at #1 in Mixmag upon its release. “The scratching in the breakdown makes the track,” local house DJ/producer Cosmo Cater (and former ITM Queensland editor) told Time Off.
“Sasha and Digweed were supposed to play Brisbane in Easter 1997 but were stuck in a cyclone in Port Douglas. They eventually made it down to play the following Thursday, Angus played the first hour and Sasha and Digweed played for four hours and closed with the Intoxication remix. It was a seminal Brisbane dance music moment.”
1999: Brisbeat burns up the Big Day Out Boiler Room
It was a Boiler Room line-up for the ages, with Luke Slater’s Freek Funk and Roni Size packing the tent to overflowing by the time Fatboy Slim closed proceedings. Earlier in the day, Brisbane’s own live practitioners of big beat had burned up the dancefloor.
Fresh from repeated sell-outs of The Zoo – a barometer of Brisbane cultural cred then and now – the Resin Dogs hip-hop troupe were in the transitional phase which saw them embrace nu-school breaks on seminal 2000 debut LP Grand Theft Audio. And shortly after gates opened, the already breaks-inclined Soma Rasa underlined the Hazard Brothers’ standing as the next act to, umm, break.
2003: Kid Kay Ferris sell out the Moon Bar
If the artist name, smashing ‘80s musical and cinematic icons together, wasn’t enough of a tip off to where Kid Kay Ferris were coming from, then the electro remixes of the Doctor Who and Mysterious Cities of Gold themes were a dead giveaway.
Joel Joslin and Danny Muller were white-hot in 2003 – beloved by cool kids, club kids and the doof scene alike. The underground was frothing with anticipation when their 2003 long-player Colour Me Badd dropped on Nutznboltz (co-run by Matt Fraser, aka DJ Aniki), and the sold-out sign went up on the Empire Hotel Moon Bar well in advance of their launch party on a cold Thursday night in June.
If there’d been rafters to hang from, people would’ve been hanging from them. The Moon Bar saw few more heaving atmospheres, despite hosting most of breakbeat’s best across its lifespan: including Kid Kenobi, who included KKF’s Phil Collins Running on his Breaks 04 mix for Ministry of Sound.