There's a sense in which 'indie-dance' was a gateway into dance music for a slew of indie kids back in the 1990s. Perhaps not so much via Britpop stalwarts Elastica, but dance-pop five-piece EMF were certainly responsible for converting their fair share of da yoof of the time, especially via their worldwide mega-smash 'Unbelievable' that dropped at the height of the Madchester era in 1990.
EMF's 'Unbelievable' was No.1 in the UK and US, and the Forest Of Dean act — whose name allegedly stood for 'Ecstasy Mother Fucker!' — released three increasingly less successful albums after their initial burst of energy. As EMF tailed off, three-girl, one-boy band Elastica burst through with their buzzing Wire-style guitars on indie-disco anthems such as 'Line Up' and 'Connection' at the same time as Blur, Oasis and Pulp were ruling the airwaves.
Now the drummer in Elastica, Justin Welch, has got together with the singer from EMF, James Atkin, who has actually been making electronic music ever since the demise of EMF in the mid-90s. Asbo Kid have been together a few years now, but only now – with a string of acclaimed festival appearances over the summer, and an album about to drop – are they gaining notoriety.
Taking their name from the Anti-Social Behaviour Orders slapped on unruly delinquents, their recent rave/ska/techno EP is appropriately named 'Two-Tone Techno', drawing as it does as much on the ska skank of 2-Tone acts like The Specials and The Beat as it does old skool rave riddims.
“We've both always been into tunes that are little twisted in places,” Justin tells DJ Mag. “I think we'd say that our goal when making Asbo records is to spin out the pill heads!”
James has a slightly different take on things: “I find it fascinating that I can turn on the radio and hear tracks by artists such as Rihanna that have massive TB303 squelch lines or big acid house drops and builds,” he says.
When DJ Mag asks if there's a worry 'Asbo Kid' might become a bit of a dated name in the fast-changing world of dance music, James points a finger in a clever direction: “There are plenty of major issues to criticize the current Coalition government in the UK for,” he reckons. “We can hardly get arsey about our band name getting cocked up by another useless government agenda, though.”
Their album, 'The Sus Laws', is also named after an old government diktat – stop and search, which when applied somewhat over-enthusiastically by the police to black people in the early '80s led to widespread UK riots – and is a right mash-up of styles (electro, techno, ska riffs, dubsteppy drops etc). Coming out on Corsair Records, the guys will be supporting the album release with a string of autumn dates.
Having hit mega success at very young ages (both were in their teens in their respective bands), the duo have seen the massive music biz changes from the inside. “We were lucky enough to sell large amounts of records, our houses are littered with silver, gold and even platinum disks,” James says without a hint of bravado. “This is definitely a bygone age though, I can't see how you could possibly hope to sell records these days. Other avenues have to be explored and exploited, whether touring or getting that lucrative sync.”
When touring, the guys play a game with each other to pass time during boring lulls. “It's Top Trumps with a twist, the object of the game is that we take it in turns to tell each other a past personal rock & roll story, experience or encounter,” James reveals. “As you can imagine, the fact that we were both in successful bands very early in our careers means we have an arsenal of seedy and perhaps unprintable anecdotes...”