The late 1980s, early '90s were a halcyon time for music. Free parties, electronic music, protest and what later became known as the “second summer of love” spawned a fresh cultural movement. It was during these early days that a collective of like-minds formed under the banner DiY, and took their place within it.
They have endured as a force for good music and ethical parties for 25 years this month. Humble beginnings, and I was late to the party.
Although they formed a few years earlier, it was perhaps a legendary gig at Castlemorton [a huge, free outdoor rave that lasted a week and provoked the authorities to impose the draconian Criminal Justice Act] in 1992 that cemented the soundsystem's vision and reputation.
I was just home from covering a Maoist uprising in Nepal, 19-years-old and trying to break into news/photojournalism. I knew about DiY and the free party scene, the birth of a youth culture movement and the music central to its progression, yet I was on the outside. Most definitely late to the party.
Fast-forward to 1996 and any dreams of being the next [legendary photographer] Don McCullen had long since dissipated, along with my desire to photograph tough subjects. It's fair to say I was lost within the photo industry, not wanting to do what I had done before and unsure about where to go next. It was then that, by chance, I moved into a flat on Foxhall Road, Nottingham, below Digs and Woosh — central figures in the DiY collective.
The building reverberated with deep house and deeper kindness, and an array of interesting people flowed through the open front door, creating and producing.
Inspired by DiY and parties in that Victorian townhouse, I began to tentatively photograph the scene. DiY's encouragement kicked in quickly. They used a photo for the gatefold of a CD release on the DiY/Diversions label, which became the first CD artwork I contributed to.
They continued to provide a lot of ´firsts´ for me. DiY were the first to publish my music photographs and the first to commission me for press portraits. It was photos from a DiY protest gig which I first showed to DJ Mag's designer in 1997, Michele Allardyce. The first pictures of mine published here were DiY press shots. More than a decade later I was still contributing regularly to DJ Magazine, and it was on commission for DJ that I met the mother of my son here in Norway, and subsequently emigrated.
To say DiY had influenced the direction of my life would be an understatement. Covering electronic music concerns inclusion and positivity, and starting with DiY laid the perfect foundation.
A DiY party meant solid music and belly laughs without pretension. A safe environment with clean ethics and the best of intentions. While they've pushed people and tweaked nature to enable creativity, they have also been a living example of how to carve out and sustain an alternative life. Simply the name, Do it Yourself, is enough to spark the imagination and bring motivation.
Coupled with the open attitude and positive vibe of the collective's members, DiY have directly and indirectly inspired many.
Intentional or not, the DiY collective's influence has been far-reaching over the past 25 years. Rather than give you a history lesson about who they are and what they did, (that´s what Google is for), here is a humble collection of photographs and words from those for whom, like me, the Do it Yourself collective created more than simply a good Friday night.
Today, electronic music is a big industry, and money has moved into what is now the third highest-selling genre of music. It´s heartening to know that some of the musical pioneers from the early days are thriving, still throwing parties and now inspiring people across a couple of generations.
Happy 25th birthday DiY, and thank you for the inspiration. Here´s to the future..
DO IT FLUID
Four dance heads influenced by DiY tell their stories
Member of electronic music outfit Bent and solo producer/DJ.
“I met the DiY crew when I was 18, through my friend Damian Stanley who had become their studio engineer. I remember hanging around the office a lot waiting for Damian, no doubt annoying everyone else in the process.
“Eventually though I was granted some studio time on the strength of some demos and probably a bit of, 'Just give him a day in there, then he might fuck off. But they must've liked what they heard, as one of those early tracks 'Cassiopeia' ended up on DiY's 'Strictly 4 Groovers' LP that came out on WARP in Dec '93. They let me use their studio whenever possible, which helped me find my way around the studio, first with Damian, then Steve Walker's help, then on my own. I'll always be very grateful for them giving me that chance early on to develop my skills, and of course putting out my first-ever records and occasionally DJing at their club nights. Huge respect for them, maybe another 25 years might be pushing it, but a few more at least, please!”
Member of the Garden Festival family in Croatia, who produce perhaps the world's most well-known contemporary boat parties.
“If memory serves me right it was back in '93, which was the second year of us putting on the Bulletproof Boat Parties. The DIY posse, who had a number of close mates amongst the burgeoning English and Irish expat San Fran community, all steeped in the late '80s house explosion, had arranged to bring the crew en masse to SF, and it was a no-brainer for me to want to book them on the boat. Their vibe was perfectly suited to the loose-limbed, ultra funky vibe that the city had been giving off in sporadic bursts for generations, and it was peaking again at around that time. Digs, Woosh and Simon DK played all over the spectrum and really took the roof off. I think that from the 25 odd (most of whom were also DJs) that travelled over for the week with them, about 15 didn’t go back for years, which is indicative of the power that first visit made on the scene back then...”
Member of the band Schmoov and co-founder of deep house label Winding Road.
“DIY are a great bunch of guys. They are totally passionate about music, but without any of the ego stuff you see so much of in the scene. Their parties are legendary and they have done loads to put Nottingham on the map for house music. DIY opened their doors to Schmoov really generously right from the start, even though they hardly knew us. They offered us studio time at their place, and nurtured and encouraged lots of the early Schmoov tracks, and got us a little bit involved in their parties. It was a real eye-opener, and brilliant to work with people who loved music so much.
We released quite a few singles on DIY and our 'While You Wait' album. The guys also supported our live project massively, getting us gigs all over the place and giving us lots of their time and help. DIY were massively important in getting our music off the ground, and giving us the opportunity to do our thing. Schmoov and Winding Road might not be here without them.
We went with the DIY crew to a long weekend party in Montpellier called Plages Sonares. A load of their mates like Eric Rug, Ewan Pearson and Rob Mello were there too, all playing the most amazing music (especially Rob Mello — wow). We were all staying in chalets around a swimming pool, next to a big club. We did a Schmoov live thing one night, but my main memory is a blur of different party scenes and a load of friendly faces.”
Founding member of Quadrant free-party soundsystem in the '90s and now owner of Vice Audio in Prague, maintaining and supplying Funktion 1 soundsystems to festivals around Europe.
“There are many people who I credit with the fact that I'm living out here in Czech [Republic] doing the job that I love. But no one deserves thanks as much as DIY. Me and Chris Goss met in the queue for the DIY fifth birthday party, and Quadrant Soundsystem was born shortly after along with Matt Powell, Kel Quadrant, Richard Powell and Sean Bowden.
Harry asked us to bring the system to Mystic SK8 island in Prague for a party in August 1997. 'Where the fuck is that?' I thought. Needless to say, it was the start of a new and very unexpected chapter in, not only my life, but of a whole bunch of other people. Inspirational. And then some. Big, big love to DIY and all who sail in her. House Music Forever.