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Alex Patterson and Youth interview

The story of WAU! Mr Modo

The Orb and Youth present IMPOSSIBLE ODDITIES: from underground to overground - the story of WAU! Mr Modo’ might be a bit of a mouthful.

But then set over three CDs which present the history of the label set up by Alex Patterson, of The Orb, and producer Youth, previously bassist in post-punk band Killing Joke, before the addition of former Killing Joke road manager Adam Morris (aka Mr Modo), it packs a hefty amount of music documenting the acid house explosion of the second summer of love and beyond.

Set up on the 8th of August 1988, WAU (‘What About Us’) funnelled the pioneering spirit of punk into s new world of cheap electronic instruments, producing classic acid house, balearic and dub gems, which include on the compilation a previously unreleased version of The Orb’s ‘Little Fluffy Clouds’.

We chatted to Alex and Youth about being championed by Andy Weatherall, degenerate music and actual trainspotting.

What made you decide that it was time to revisit WAU! mr modo? It seems almost impossibly romantic, given the amount of acid house nostalgia based around the second summer of love, that the label was actually set up on the 8th of August 1988.

Alex: “Impossible is an oddity . 10.10.10. 08.08.08 is a time line. 12.12.12 is a cool one to look out for. We were always romantics at WAU and it seemed a good way to give these tunes a new lease of life, away from the nostalgia of the past and slam them into the early 21st century . Why did we re-release these? Because we are proud of our label that was started as WAU, and had been releasing music prior to then on Gee Street Records which is another story…”

Youth: “It’s part of all of our culture and history, and deals with a good part of what's missing from the branded commodity culture of today, which in part is passion, community and a can do DIY punk spirit.”  

What was it like sharing the same building as Junior Boys Own? Andy Weatherall was an early champion of the label. Are you still friends after all these years?

Alex: “Funny, it worked out on so many levels, Andy W was the DJ at Schoom , playing PCO and Killing Joke ‘Turn to Red’ . I was working at E.G. Records, home of these bands and more. Nina Walsh became WAU’s label manager and a member of a band I am in now called The Root Masters. I am still in contact with Andy. We flew back together from Japan this year.”

Alex: “Andrew is a legend and one of the most passionate and knowledgeable music heads I've ever met, surprising, or not. We were both real trainspotters in our youth standing on cold wet railway platforms waiting for that elusive diesel electric to roll by. The elation when one does is very much like discovering an amazing lost record by a favourite band. I first met him when I was falling in a cab outside mine and Alex Paterson’s council flat in Battersea. It was, ‘are you youth?’, and, ‘are you Andrew Weatherall from Shoom!?’ We learnt so much from Andy and he really was prophetic and innovative in pioneering the cross genre DJ and distilling down those genres to just great music. I caught a great set from him last year and he blew me away again.”

Both the early acid house and trance scenes seems to carry on the DIY culture of punk and the collective spirit of the the ‘60s hippy movement. Was it really like that? It seems a far cry from the kind of cynicism at the heart of the music industry today.

Alex: “It was. And it’s all about £££ and profit margins now sadly.”

Youth:  “Well going back to twenties Paris, that kind of inspiration of Diyonisan counter culture has been one of the main inspirations for all the work I have done. Music must facilitate the community,
It's primary function is to restore personal sovereignty to the individual and community, not market
compulsive consumerism propaganda. Hitler banned a lot of ‘degenerate’ music in Germany and forced radio stations to play what is still known as Schlager music - sugar sweet, banal sentimental plastic pop. This kept the population in a virtual coma, so when Neu and other German bands began creating a new kind of music as reaction to that, it was a political act of art vs. the machine. In a more passive aggressive way it's very similar situation today in the western world.”    

Now you’ve made an attempt to encapsulate this period of your past, what future projects can we expect?

Alex: “The past is now the future. A bad artist copies, a great artist steals. Picasso quote. Bye-bye.”

Youth: “Well more of the same... I'm working on a dub album, a trance album, and I’ve also just released  a soundtrack to my poetry book (Kommune available bandcamp.com). I'm making films, writing books and doing paintings, have illustrated two books this year and all this in-between producing Killing Joke and other artist’s such as the Orb, The Charlatans and, coming up, Poly Styrene and John Sinclair. Don't tread time, make time. The only problem you will ever have in life is yourself, so don't give away your power, don't listen to what marketing brands propagate, go out and get some for yourself.”