No Smoke / International Smoke Signal / Warriors Dance

I am stoned out of my mind. I am supposed to be revising for my university finals, but I seem to have struck up a vigil in front the TV. The comings and goings of my flat mates barely registering. I can`t remember the last time I left the room, other than to take a piss. Horrified and fascinated by the unfolding events in Tiananmen Square. Global revolution at the top of my “to do” list. As soon as I make it off of this couch. Flicking through channels on the remote, looking for news updates, I land on a documentary about House music. Marshall Jefferson and Ten City are its focus, but at one point the camera travels through a dancing crowd in a strobe-lit club and stops on a couple of girls, who shout, “We`re at Confusion!!!!” This was the moment that, mentally, I left university. This was the moment I left Leeds. Confusion was where I needed to be. 

Confusion flyer

Confusion was held on a Sunday, originally at Bill Stickers on Greek Street (in London’s Soho), and then Shaftburys (on Shaftbury Ave.). The resident DJ was Lawrence “Kid” Batchelor. A chap who`d work leftfield Pop, like Yello`s Daily Disco, into his beat-matched sets. Dancers were further rallied by legendary MC E-Mix. Both E-Mix and Batchelor were part of a collective of singers and players, DJs and engineers, that frequented Tony Thorpe`s Addis Ababa Studios on The Harrow Road. The output of which was released on Thorpe`s Warriors Dance label. 

Batchelor was part of a group called Bang The Party, alongside Leslie Lawrence, and Keith Franklin. Thumping bass for a smiling face, they were effectively the “House Division” of Soul II Soul`s Funki Dreds. Others on board at Addis Ababa included Mustafa Ali, Paul Hurt, Jah Tekla, One Love, Fred MC Pablo, Mark Rogers (ex-Hollywood Beyond), Craig Smith, Mark “Dubfire” Smith, Ian Tregoning, Paul Waller, and Cliff Whyte. All recording with, and without, Thorpe under a variety of aliases, of which Bang The Party, and No Smoke are the most well known. Tony Thorpe might be more widely recognised by his Moody Boys moniker – a creation that sometimes included KLF`s Jimmy Cauty. In the early 80s, he`d been a member of Industrial Funk outfit,  400 Blows. Together with former band mate, Andrew Beer, in addition to Warriors Dance, Thorpe also ran Warrior Records.

Both Warriors Dance and Warriors Records span out of Concrete Productions, the imprint started by Beer and Thorpe to release 400 Blows material. Besides their own records, the label was responsible for the Funky Alternatives series. A run of three compilations that collected darker dance floor moments from the likes of 23 skidoo, The Cabs, Chakk, Chris & Cosey, DAF, New Order, and Quando Quango. 

Comps were also the mainstay of Warriors Records. Titles like House Beats, and Acid Beats, featured tracks produced either by Beer and Thorpe, or their friends, as The Second Summer Of Love began to take hold. A lot of the music retaining a slightly Industrial edge, with as much in common with Psychic TV`s Jack The Tab as Chicago`s Warehouse and Music Box. They also repackaged old Industrial, Metal Dance, “hits”, as New Beats, once that genre became a vogue. Hand-in-hand with the House and Techno were volumes of Stupid Fresh, and Break Beats, that did the same for Hip Hop. 

Warriors Dance`s first release was Bang The Party’s debut, I Feel Good All Over, which had to be an ode to E. Issued in 1987, while not the first House record to come out of the UK (Hotline`s Rock This House?) it was arguably the first one to come out of a “young, turned on” London. Its flip, Jaques Theme, was almost Ambient, dance floor serenity, containing consciousness-calming synth lines for those lost, barefoot, in their head. 

Initially stuff had been licensed from Derrick May`s Transmat and Kevin Saunderson`s KMS, but Warriors Dance quickly switched to concentrate on their own productions, which possessed a distinctive, stripped back sound. Similar to Smith & Mighty, and spars Soul II Soul, it was a music rooted in Dub, and soundsystem culture. Hypnotic and tribal. Often not much more than bass, chants, and drums. Like Trax` The Jungle Wonz performing a nyabinghi Grounation ritual. They sampled Fela Kuti, and African woodwinds, and re-appropriated Rastafarian Folk songs. Pre-dating Bobby Konders` House Rhythms, and Ben Cenac`s Push/Pull project. Their marimbas and chimes raved in parallel to WARP`s Bleep. Both Bang The Party and No Smoke are included on WARP`s tenth anniversary “influences” compilation. 

I remember reading, or hearing, somewhere, that Tony Thorpe wasn’t interested in reissues, or revising the past. Moving forward, and the Future were too important. But I guess he must have  softened that hardline a little, because in the last month there`s been a remix 12, while two more E.P.s – that I know of – are on the way, and No Smoke`s album, International Smoke Signals is back in shops. Now remastered across four sides of vinyl. The celestial O.A.U. recalling The Truth`s Open Our Eyes. Its Techno tones bathed in sampled streams. Ai Shi Temasu is a French Kiss from Tokyo. Intergalactic Love Song summons The Force with “lifts” from Star Wars. East Of Eden dances for Jah. There are gated synths, piano introspection and breakbeats (a la Smith & Mighty`s “Satie at the soundclash” blueprint). Cameos from Jazzy B, and Manu Dibango. Bridsong, and downtempo, Tackhead-like moments. 

For me, Warriors Dance became as collectable / essential as ON-U Sound. Somehow the two went together. Each represented a unique singular world, with no regard for fashion, and without compromise. They were making the music they wanted to hear, and didn`t give a fuck about what anyone else was doing.  

Track-list

Bang The Party – I Feel Good All Over – Warriors Dance – 1987

No Smoke – Koro Koro – Warriors Dance – 1989

No Smoke – Oh Yes – Warriors Dance – 1990

James Harris – All The Lovers – Warriors Dance – 1988

LE Bass – Strive – BPM – 1988

Mark Rogers – I Promise – Warriors Dance – 1989

Bang The Party – Bang Bang You`re Mine – Warriors Dance – 1989

Bang The Party  – Release Your Body (Mayday) – Warriors Dance – 1988

No Smoke – Dubwise – Warriors Dance – 1992

Addis Posse – Free – Warriors Dance – 1992

Moody Boys – Free – XL – 1990

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