Disco Pogo – For Punks In Pumps

In the mid-90s Jockey Slut was an essential, and exciting, read. Packed with interviews, articles and lists, it was irreverent, put together with a scary enthusiasm, and as in love with Andrew Weatherall, and everything he endorsed as we were. 

Founded by Manchester Polytechnic students, John Burgess and Paul Benney, in 1993, it featured “celebrity” columns and contributions, but relied on wonderful “staff” writers, such as Joanne Wain, Emma Warren, Chris Blue, and Jim Butler.

After shutting up shop in 2004, the team have recently relaunched, now under the name, Disco Pogo. 

Published bi-annually, the magazine is a hefty tome – it’ll probably take you 6 months to get through it. With over 30 articles, one perhaps will be of particular interest to Ban Ban Ton Ton visitors. the aforementioned Jim Butler’s Well Balearic. 

Assigned the unenviable task of trying to work out “what does it mean?” and where do folks think it can be found today, Jim’s done a bloody good job – unbiased and balanced, letting all the heads that he’s interviewed do the talking. 

Speaking of bias, yes, well, I’m in there – slinging the odd soundbite, such as “Balearic by accident, rather than by design”. I had the pleasure / honour of ranting at Jim on the subject for a good while. 

By way of promo for the publication, which you really should invest in – if only for helping to keep proper music journalism / writing alive – here’s the full unedited transcript of our conversation….

Interview conducted by Jim Butler. 

Disco Pogo Quote

Jim: What does Balearic music mean to you?

Rob: “Balearic Beat”, to me, is specifically the mix of music that was played in the clubs on Ibiza, during the mid to late 1980s – Pacha, Ku, especially Amnesia, and also the after hours sessions at Glory’s, in `87. So, I guess, when the term`s used to describe a new piece of music, it means that it could have slotted into one of those sets. “Balearic” is also now used to describe music that could fit within one of Jose Padilla`s pioneering “pan-genre” Cafe del Mar sunset / “chill out” soundtracks. 

Is it a genre or something more – an attitude, a spirit, a choice perhaps?

I guess, it is a spirit – but I don’t think anyone, perhaps apart from those veteran White Isle DJs who started the whole thing, would describe themselves as “Balearic”. Really, musically, it`s just a kind of eclecticism – one initially born out of necessity – limited access to vinyl, a need to play long sets, and a need to play music from all over the globe, in order to make everyone feel included. 

Has there been a resurgence of Balearic music in the last decade – or has it always been there?

To my mind, “Balearic” had become a dirty word by about 1992. The “Balearic Network” had “blossomed” into super clubs and pretty much everyone was banging out a sub-genre of house or techno. In all honesty, the term “Balearic Beat” only really existed in the UK anyway – where it was created solely for marketing purposes – in the rest of Europe, it was just European dance music. As far as I’m concerned the only people who kept the Balearic flame burning for the bulk of the 1990s were Moonboots, in Manchester, and, in London, Phil Mison. They stuck to their musical guns, and their particular musical obsession. The rest of us jumped from bandwagon to bandwagon. Then DJHistory happened. For me, the forum was absolutely key in not only reigniting the passions of old-timers like myself – as we all shared info on forgotten Alfredo favourites found in local charity shops, and IDed tunes on Jose`s treasured tapes – but it also – really – introduced the term “Balearic” – in a context other than geography – to the rest of the DJing world. This would have been in around 2000. 


What does Balearic music  mean in 2022? Has it changed? Stayed the same?

As someone who writes about music, I use the term when reviewing new releases if I think the track would have fit into a classic Alfredo or Jose set. The music has changed because music-making has changed – due both to technology and unfortunately ever-increasing financial constraints. 

I mean, at heart I’m “old school”, really I want to hear, and play, records made by bands that have an energy in them which has made them Balearic by accident – a Scottish industrial act next to remixed Italian popstar – rather than similarly sounding soft synth homages created by design. But the reality is – other than the majors – who can afford to record and release music by a proper band these days? 

In the wake of Andrew Weatherall`s untimely passing, over the last two years there`s also been a lot of music made, at least in part, in tribute. In London, Weatherall was hugely important, in the late `80s, in redrawing the route that Balearic Beat took – pushing it down a dubbier, post-punk, path. 

Is there a scene?

Not that I know of. But there is a vast global network of folks, friends, who have earnt each others respect through their passion for music, and its history, and their willingness to openly share the info that they’ve found, and that they continue to uncover. 

Calling your club night a “balearic” night would probably be its death nell – as it would pretty much guarantee that anyone who cared anything about the music’s history would 100% stay away, or, worse, come and heckle. 

Is there a new Balearic Network today – or is it a continuation and evolution of the one that began in the late 80s / early 90s?

If there is a Balearic Network today, then I think it`s a new one. People like Justin Robertson who were integral to the old one have gone on to have great success doing their own, very unique, thing. There`s this sort of second, or third, wave of younger folks – probably 10, 15, 20 years younger than me, anyway – who might have initially been into techno and / or drum and bass – but inspired by what they were discovering on DJHistory, began promoting parties and running record labels with this sound in mind. With the advent of services / sites like Bandcamp, this has definitely mushroomed again over the last 5 years or so. From labels like Hell Yeah! to, say, Eclectics. 

Has the internet made something that was probably concentrated within national borders (or continents) a truly global thing?

I think I’ve answered this already – but yeah, in `88 Oakenfold and Tong invented the term Balearic Beat to sell records, and it was solely a “made-up” UK thing. Now, it`s definitely a global – often misused, in my humble opinion –  “descriptor”. 

Who are the key artists making Balearic music today – Rheinzand, Coyote, A Mountain of One… Who else?

I don’t think that I`d classify any act or artist as “Balearic”. To my mind it`s a “cherry-picked” thing. I mean someone like Phil Mison, and the music that he makes as Cantoma is deeply rooted in the sound of The White Isle, but I’m sure that he’d loath to be called Balearic. 

Timm and Richard from Coyote are obviously veterans of the original Balearic Network and have been visiting and DJing in Ibiza for decades. They largely plough their own distinct groove, of dubbed-out chill-out, but I guess they set out their stall by calling their label, Is It Balearic? 

Maybe it`s more labels, that act as an umbrella for various artists, who could be better described by the word. Kenneth Bager`s Music For Dreams, for example, home to Rheinzand, who aren’t Balearic, but simply make brilliant European pop. These imprints act as curators. We’re back to Balearic by accident rather than design. 

Mountain Of One, to my ears, are more prog rock – I hope Mo won’t be offended – but their canny collaboration with remixers means that the results, for sure, fit within my own definition of Balearic Beat. The remixing and dance-floor repurposing of pop records has always been absolutely central to this thing. Crooked Man doing over Amy Douglas and Soulwax`s rework of Fontaines D.C. are two recent for instances that immediately spring to mind. 

Is it just 40 / 50-something beardy ex-ravers? And does it matter if it is? Or are there younger people involved? Speaking to Sean Johnston and Kelvin Andrews they say there are younger people involved – both making music and dancing to it!

The “Balearic Silverback” thing kinda rubs me up the wrong way – obviously because I am one, but I get a kinda sarky, snide vibe from it, and it`s belittling a lot of folks passion. I get a kind of school bully thing from it. More “extrovert” bods poking fun at the class nerd. From my personal experience it usually means that the one poking fun feels threatened. Often it`s the beardy 40 / 50 somethings who are uncovering the tunes that go on to be big spins for the younger festival / stadium fillers…and very, very rarely do the “Silverbacks” get any credit for it. 

I have no real recent first hand experience of clubs at the moment, since because of where I live – in the Japanese mountains – during the pandemic I have been super, super isolated, but a friend of mine went to the last Low Life party in London and said that they were amazed at how young the crowd was – which is fucking great. I`ll also add that from a blogging point of view, there are new labels coming along, releasing music that fits, all the time. 

It is, of course, extremely important to have new people, and new artists and DJs, making and playing this kind of music, otherwise the legacy will simply fade out, disappear, and be forgotten, but where possible it`s also important to provide opportunities for, pay dues to, those who pioneered the thing, and kept it going, alive. Please don’t forget that Balearic Beat gave birth to Acid House, the second summer of love, and the clubbing industry as we know it today – none of this would have happened if it hadn’t been for the 1987 season at Amnesia.

You can purchase, and subscribe to Disco Pogo here. The next issue is due in October. 

Disco Pogo Cover June 2022

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