Christmas is often a time of naff records and cringeworthy sentimentality, but in recent years — since the advent of downloads — there have been a number of campaigns to get records to No.1 at Xmas — for a variety of reasons.
In 2009 an internet campaign succeeded in getting Rage Against The Machine's 'Killing In The Name Of' to the Christmas No.1 slot, keeping the traditional X-Factor winner off the top spot for the first time in years.
And last year the Hillsborough charity single 'He Ain't Heavy' by the Justice Collective — shining a light on the injustices following the late '80s football disaster and raising money for victims' families to pay legal bills — reached No.1 too.
This year there's the usual rash of novelty singles, X-Factor graduates, Deacon Blue and festive choirboys vying for the UK's top slot alongside a campaign to get 'Highway To Hell' by ACDC to No.1. But what about dance music, we hear you cry?
Well, Orbital have reworked their first hit into 'Christmas Chime' and also a campaign has grown up to get 'Activ-8' by dust-mask-sporting hardcore ravers Altern-8 to No.1. A raft of remixes have been commissioned by people like Tommie Sunshine, DJ Phantasy and Billy Bunter & King Yoof — all of which count towards a chart placing.
With its cheeky “Top one, nice one, get sorted” sample and familiar “Come with me” vocal refrain, can 'Activ-8' make it to No.1 this time? DJ Mag caught up with Altern-8's Mark Archer...
Hey Mark, 'Activ-8' was a big record in 1991 – what kept it from going to No.1 in 1991?
“It was a much bigger tune than I ever imagined it would be. We were making tunes that we liked, just trying to make music that people would dance to and if people liked it then it was a complete bonus, but for it to chart straight in at No.12 just showed the power of the rave scene, as we didn't get any radio support back then. It climbed up to No.3 and was only stopped by Michael Jackson's 'Black Or White' and Vic Reeves and the Wonderstuff's cover of 'Dizzy'.
“Top one, nice one, get sorted.” 1991 was a mad time, wasn't it?
“It was a big turning point in the rave scene, some amazing music came out that year and some of the best raves were held up and down the country. I remember an Amnesia House event at Donnington Park (it was one of the biggest we'd done up to that point) and watching thousands of people going mental to what we were playing on stage was the best buzz ever.”
When did you first hear about the campaign to get 'Activ-8' into the charts this Xmas? What did you think?
“About six weeks ago my girlfriend showed me the link on Facebook, a guy from Brighton called Loz Russell had started the campaign as he's well into the whole Altern-8 rave thing and isn't a big fan of X-Factor.
“The page had about six likes on it but I was really flattered that someone would start such a campaign. I mean, to have people into tunes I made 22 years ago is more than I could have imagined back then.”
What signal would it send to the world if it got to Xmas No.1?
“That there's a lot of love and support for the rave era, it's not a style of music that's been shunned but looked upon as an amazing time full of creativity and positivity. The whole X-Factor thing doesn't really bother me to be honest, if people like that kind of thing then that's up to them. If I don't like watching something or listening to it, off it goes — why let it bother you?”
Is it true that the original video was filmed in the car park at the legendary Shelley's near Stoke-on-Trent?
“Half the video was shot when did the impromptu PA in Shelley's car park, some of it outside in the car park and some inside while the night was in full swing. The other half of the video was shot in nearby Trentham Gardens, with us playing the violins (the noise was horrible) and the robot running around.
When's the Altern-8 reunion?
“I doubt there will be an Altern-8 reunion, when a group splits it splits for a reason and that reason hasn't gone away. There may however be reissues of some of the Altern-8 back catalogue.”
What have you been doing the last 22 years?
“I've not really stopped to be honest, while I was recording as Altern-8 I was also doing material as DJ Nex, Xen Mantra and Slo Moshun (Bells Of NY), I've also recorded under the name Trackman for Ideal Trax and Mr Nex for TCR
“I ran the Dansa record label with Danny Taurus, was resident DJ at the Canal Club in Wolverhampton alongside Kiddo in the late '90s and have been DJing oldskool all over the UK and the world since 1999.”
Pre-order 'Activ-8' here