Andy Barker from Manchester acid house pioneers 808 State has passed away. The news was revealed via a statement on 808 State’s social media platforms on Sunday 7th November.
808 State were a crucial component of the UK rave scene in its early days. Andy Barker joined the group in 1989 and remained the only other ever-present member — alongside Graham Massey — right up to his passing. They had a string of hits including ‘Pacific State’ and ‘Cubik’, worked with a number of singers such as Bjork and Bernand Sumner from New Order, and were an integral part of Manchester’s rave explosion at the turn of the 1990s.
As part of DJ group The Spinmasters with Darren Partington and Shine MC, Andy Barker was immersed in Manchester’s soul/hip-hop scene in the mid-'80s. As teenagers they’d battle in youth clubs with Gerald Simpson’s Scratch Beat Masters crew that featured MC Tunes and others, before soon the whole of Manchester started falling in love with the house music that was sweeping across from Chicago.
Graham Massey was part of Factory Records-signed post-punk outfit Biting Tongues, and he started making music with Martin Price from Manchester’s Eastern Bloc record shop — a hub in the city for the growing acid house revolution — and Gerald Simpson. They called themselves 808 State after the Roland TR-808 drum machine they’d use in the studio, and when Simpson left after just one release to pursue his solo project — A Guy Called Gerald — Andy and Darren were drafted into 808 State, and brought more of a song structure to the protracted acid jams.
Gerald had programmed the original drums for ‘Pacific’, with Massey playing a sax that was lying around the studio after a Biting Tongues recording session. “At the same time we were doing ‘Pacific’, Gerald was doing ‘Voodoo Ray’ in the same studio complex. He was in one studio, we were in the other,” recalled Andy in 2017. “That version of ‘Pacific’ that charted was the one where me and Darren got involved and said let’s structure it as a song.”
Andy had been playing a version of ‘Pacific State’ off cassette as his last tune of the night at his weekend DJ residency at the Thunderdome in the city. “When I first played it, people were unsure, then the beat kicked in and we were away,” Barker told DJ Mag’s Matt Anniss in 2018. “People were off their heads on E by that point in the night. It worked so well as a last tune.” Soon it became the de facto last tune of the night at the Hacienda, too, before being picked up by BBC Radio 1.