2 Sep
America gave geezers 12-minutes of “Acid Trax”; they gave us back a lifetime of culture


Experiencing my first rave is something I’ll never forget. Everything about the affair is permanently burned into my psyche: The road trip from San Diego to the map point on Melrose Ave, consumed by an overwhelming sense of mystery, of not knowing exactly what I was getting myself into. The two-hour drive to the Mohave desert — following cryptic instructions telling us to turn down dirt roads according to the last highway mile marker we passed — made the entire ride from Diego a four-hour adventure. Then finally finding the right dirt road, and how contemplation quickly turned to nervous excitement after discovering a sea of people in bright furry clothes and Cookie Monster backpacks, with colorful beads around their wrists and necks and pacifiers in their mouths, all losing their mind to a DJ on a desert floor in the middle of nowhere. The electric feeling while standing there in the middle of 3000+ people who all seemed like friends and me trying to soak it all in. It was impossible to not be sucked into the atmosphere; I literally discovered an amazing new world just outside the one I knew. That weekend in ’94 literally changed my life—both personally and professionally. Soon after those early rave days I found myself working at BPM magazine. I worked my way to the top of the masthead and spent the next 12 years there.

If you’ve ever lost yourself inside mega clubs like Pacha, Crobar or Avalon (or defunct sanctuaries like Simon’s, Twilo or Limelight), or have been to any massive licensed “raves” or dance music festivals like Ultra, you pretty much owe the spirit of those gatherings to what was happening in London and North England during the late ‘80s. America gave geezers 12-minutes of “Acid Trax”; they gave us back a lifetime of culture.

To continue reading Boojie’s feature on Gordon Mason’s documentary They Call It Acid — including interviews with Paul Oakenfold and DJ Pierre — hit the jump below the playlist.

If you wanna hear the tracks in full, head over to the LIAS Imeem page.


Gordon Mason’s feature length documentary, They Call It Acid, is an impressive tribute and chronicle of the rise of contemporary club culture while highlighting the trials and tribulations along the way. Starting off with the foundation and musical roots that were laid by folks in Chicago and Detroit, the film then shifts focus to the spirit of island life in Ibiza, and how a small number of DJs and promoters mashed up the free-feeling attitude that was happening in their part of the world with the music and club scenes in Chicago, NYC and Detroit. Narrated by legendary vocalist Robert Owens (“Can You Feel It”, “Tears”, “I’ll Be Your Friend”), with a soundtrack compiled by DJ ‘Evil’ Eddie Richards, the film includes interviews and endearing tales from originators like Carl Cox, A Guy Called Gerald, Larry Heard aka Mr. Fingers, Marshall Jefferson, Jazzy M., Derrick May, Paul Oakenfold, Jesse Saunders, Pete Tong and dedicated followers of the scene. Gordon Mason also happened to be one of them.

The effectiveness in Gordon’s film comes from exactly that place. His ability to focus on what was happening in his corner of the world, rather than a generic overview of an entire subculture, creates something more powerful, more intimate. The fact that the film is laced with classic, never-before-seen footage shot by Gordon himself just makes it all the more authentic and personal.

What made you want to do a documentary on the acid house scene?
Gordon Mason: For years I had tried to remember what happened at all those crazy parties I had been to—I remember getting there and then going home, so I thought I would try and fill in the gaps!


For the last 20 years I have worked on documentaries for television as primarily an editor and as a producer/director. About 10 years ago it occurred to me that no one had ever told the story of Acid House comprehensively, and I came upon the idea of making a feature documentary. During the early days of Acid House I was lucky enough to be allowed to film at some of the illegal parties and knew that one day this unique footage would come of age. Acid House was a very special time to me, and many of my peers, so meeting with them and collecting their memories appealed to me.

Give me a good first-person story about being Gordon Mason during the Acid House heyday.
Wow, my best memory would have to be the sound and the music at a club called The Dungeons: the acoustics there were incredible, it was in a group of arches under a road in Walthamstow, North London and I think they designed it for the heavy acid sound of the 303 and filled the place with smoke — no fancy visuals just solid sound. The DJs there included Eddie Richards and Colin Faver, who never put a foot wrong.

My most memorable experience of the summer of ‘89 would have to be at the Energy summer festival when we partied all night at an open air rave venue not realizing how many people had got through the Police road blocks and turned up. A friend of mine climbed a scaffold tower at sun up and said, “Fucking hell, come and look at this!” I climbed the tower to see 25,000 people all dancing in one massive field; at that point I knew the scene was massive.

And the best memory of a party that I never went to: the police blocked a junction on the motorway splitting up groups of cars sending us all off in different directions in the middle of the night. Eventually we gave up and went home, meeting our friends there; we never got to that party but thousands did and had a great time, apparently!

This movie resonates with the fleeting sensations, bright-eyed moments and euphoric tracts of ecstasy (both natural and chemically induced) that I first fell in love with in this culture. More than a simple walk down memory lane, They Call It Acid comes across as a universal story that will undoubtedly enlighten those on the outside that what was going on was more than sex, drugs and hedonism hidden behind a big yellow smiley face (was there even that much sex going on? All I remember is the dancing!). “It was all about the music, not what’s mentioned above,” argues Paul Oakenfold, now one of the highest paid DJs on the planet. “You have completely passed over the real thrust. [That’s just] what came out of the music.”

Young ravers nowadays associate Oakenfold with trance music and stadium-sized crowds (you remember that famous pic of him opening for U2?), but he was a pivotal promoter and DJ in London during the Acid revolution and is credited for helping to bring the spirit of Ibiza (we call it PLUR: Peace Love Unity Respect) to London’s dance scene. “To me what stands out the most were the clubs and events, with Spectrum having 2,000 people on a Monday night to being voted Time Out club of the year. That was quite something,” he recalls. “And the Future attracting a complete contrast of people from Lee Bowery, Michael Clark, etc to fans from the terraces, and a great one-off Party of the Year at Spectrum on the 5th Bank for 5,000. Those were really memorable times.”

The acid house scene broke down barriers throughout the UK, bringing together black and white, rich and poor, gay and straight—there was no social or political agenda fueling the scene. “All we wanted to do was dance. It was a question of freedom: why shouldn’t we do what we want, not what you want?” asks Gordon. “I think what came out of the scene politically was the change in licensing for nightclubs. If it wasn’t for us, the Ministry of Sound and all the UK clubs that followed through the ‘90s would never have had an all-night license.”

It’s not difficult to draw similarities in the film to my own experiences. Whether it’s from the thousands of people I witnessed weekend after weekend on a quest to turn repression into a form of expression. Or how the political system put pressure on police to domesticate a youth-oriented movement. Or how the media, almost overnight, turned a fun night out into sensationalistic and misleading front-page headlines. “Those things might have made it more controversial, but [police] never understood it or could control it,” explains Oakenfold. “Subsequently they were under a lot of pressure from the powers that be to try and prevent it.” The UK media gave the acid house scene the royal treatment too: chastising and accusing allegedly drug-crazed youngsters of having sex in the dirt, doing Ecstasy and biting the heads off pigeons. “Who wouldn’t want to go and check that out?” muses Gordon. “It spread like wildfire after that.” It’s the UK version of a Footloose scenario.

Acid house was birthed from the underground clubs of Chicago. Phuture’s DJ Pierre (Nathaniel to his family) produced one of the first acid records at that time, called “Acid Trax”. Legend has it he accidentally created the sound by misusing a Roland 303, a discontinued product originally launched in 1982 as a companion for bass guitars.

Pierre, was there one particular moment in the recording or mixing process that made you feel like “Acid Trax” was something historic?
Yeah, we knew it was definitely different and we had a gut feeling that if people gave it a chance it could be something special…but we had no idea it would revolutionize the scene.

Give me a good first-person story about being DJ Pierre (not Nathaniel) during Chicago in the mid ‘80s to early ‘90s.
Coming from a more superficial side, my Corvette with my name across it…we did that in Chicago. We got hot cars and the most popular DJs would put their name in huge letters across it. Hey we were teenagers. On a real level I remember the high I got when I was the opening DJ for Lil Louis at the Bismarck. There were close to 6000 people there…that was my first experience of making an entire crowd of people go literally nuts. At the time it was the biggest party in Chicago.

If you were starting out now, would you do anything differently? How would you use the knowledge you have today to your advantage?
Definitely! Own my publishing, get proper contracts and not trust Larry Sherman of Trax Records. Seriously…If we had all the information available now to new producers things would have been very different. We were not educated on the business end of things; we got robbed big time. But DJ Pierre was introduced to the world so I’m not mad at Larry. I’m sure he is not a happy guy at the moment anyway.

The spirit of acid house is, indeed, a musical force to be reckoned with. There’s nothing more powerful in this world than when people come together through a shared passion — no matter what it is. For better or for worse, from the hate filled rallies of the Klan to the booming positivity and progressiveness of civil rights marches. And music is no exception. If history has taught us anything, the most memorable music has always come from a rebellious place… I think Gordon Mason said it best: “The Hippies had ‘Woodstock’, the Mods ‘Quadrophenia’ and the Punks ‘The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle’ — They Call It Acid is the story of Acid House, the birth of rave, the culture the government failed to crush!”

No Responses to ““They Call It Acid”: The Story Of UK’s Acid House Culture”

  1. […] Acid: The Story of Acid House Culture. We had the opportunity to check it out a little while back (read our review here) and we liked it so damn much that we hit up the director and put together an exclusive LA […]

  2. tower 200 says:

    Am I able to get similar results as the dentist would give me?

  3. These were some very cool videos. I actually grew up back in the day of old school house music, right here in Chicago listening to WMBX lunch-time mixes and Friday night jackmaster 5. Those days are gone, but Acid house brings back a lot of memories!

  4. For all your Cop Stuff needs, Decals, Emblems, Frames and Collectibles

  5. young capone says:

    ha ha ha very funny

  6. young capone says:

    Wrong category and too long. Didn’t even bother to read it. Thanks for the 2 points, though.

  7. calender says:

    Thanks you…

    There are some interesting points in time in this article but I donft know if I see all of them center to heart. There is some validity but I will take hold opinion until I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we want more! Added to FeedBur…

  8. Bonjour…

    You should take part in a contest for one of the best blogs on the web. I will recommend this site!…

  9. Thank you…

    This really answered my problem, thank you!…

  10. resume says:


    very nice post, i certainly love this website, keep on it…

  11. Avtomobil says:

    Thanks for this article. I will also like to state that it can possibly be hard when you find yourself in school and just starting out to create a long credit ranking. There are many individuals who are simply trying to make it and have a lengthy or positive credit history can sometimes be a difficult element to have.

  12. Great paintings! This is the kind of info that are meant to be shared around the net. Shame on search engines for not positioning this submit upper! Come on over and visit my web site . Thank you =)

  13. Sweet web site, super design and style, really clean and utilise friendly.

  14. I believe that is among the so much vital information for me. And i am satisfied studying your article. However wanna commentary on some basic things, The website style is ideal, the articles is truly excellent :D. Good task, cheers.

  15. Undeniably believe that which you said. Your favorite justification seemed to be at the web the easiest thing to have in mind of. I say to you, I certainly get annoyed whilst other folks think about worries that they plainly don’t know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the highest and also outlined out the entire thing with no need side effect , other people could take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks!

  16. voos madeira says:

    Terrific paintings! That is the kind of info that are meant to be shared across the net. Disgrace on the search engines for not positioning this publish upper! Come on over and consult with my website . Thanks =)

  17. I just couldn’t go away your website before suggesting that I actually loved the standard information an individual supply on your visitors? Is gonna be again continuously to inspect new posts

Leave a Reply