Legendary DJ Andrew Weatherall on life, Confucius and airing cupboards

Portrait of Andrew Weatherall in his Shoreditch studio

Legendary DJ Andrew Weatherall on life, Confucius and airing cupboards

Words Jim Butler

Photographs Jonas Unger

Andrew Weatherall serving tea

Legendary DJ and producer Andrew Weatherall on the lessons he’s learned from a lifetime of crafting musical classics, his affection for dingy rooms, and transcendent power of music…

Andrew Weatherall may be a messianic figure to a certain generation, but as ever, the legendary producer is moving on to pastures new. Here he tells us how he was inspired by Confucius, Throbbing Gristle and ‘some shady youths hanging about at the end of the street’…

On gentrification
‘I’m not a property developer. I came to Shoreditch because it was cheap. Grayson Perry described artists and musicians as the shock troops of gentrification, so in a way I guess we do have to take a little bit of responsibility.’

On psychogeography
‘I’m not a cosmic cat, but there is something in psychogeography and the resonances of people that have come before. It’s why certain people move to a certain place. It’s why gentrification occurs to a certain extent.’

On being idle
‘I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I won’t have the mansion in the countryside. But maybe I’m justifying my laziness by saying I’m going stay in my indie ghetto, thank you.’

On why his latest label, Moine Dubh, releases music on seven-inch vinyl only
‘The music was too good to be left as files in people’s computers. I’ve never made any statement. I like music and I like making things. It’s also archiving something that will [physically] exist. I get that everything is on the internet, but a computer file is not going to be a totemic object… If you went to a hardcore rockabilly gig with a memory stick you’d be dragged around London behind a Cadillac or something.’

Andrew Weatherall smoking in his Shoreditch studio

Weatherall, pictured shortly before eviction from Shoreditch by the forces of gentrification

On inspiration
‘I have hundreds of ideas every day, and every 20 years I follow one of them through to its bitterest conclusion! I then remember why it’s a ginormous pain in the backside and have to stop. And then of course I get a bit restless and the whole sorry cycle starts again.’

On his career
‘I’ve never seen it as a career. I’ve always seen it as a job. I thought I’d do it for a year, but here we are 27 years later! I suppose I’m a journeyman. I hate to use the word craft, because it gets my hackles up a bit. Learning your trade, let’s say. I did go through a phase a couple of years ago where if I did something really quickly I thought it wasn’t worth anything because it only took six hours. But then it dawned on me that it hadn’t taken six hours, it had taken 25 years and six hours.’

On acquiring knowledge
‘At 52, I’m aware that time is running out. There’s so much music, so little time. The same with literature. But I want to immerse myself. I don’t want to flit around. I don’t want to be a dilettante.’

On the transcendent power of music
‘I have a sacrament. It’s very rhythmic music. And I usually play that music in places where there are coloured lights. There’s a Greek ritual and it basically involved taking ergot, which is where LSD comes from. Ergot soup basically. Going in a room full of smoke and coloured lights. And this was about 3,000 BC. And then you have the Catholic Church and the thurible – the incense and smoke as the light shines through the brightly coloured windows. It’s all about transcendence. I suppose it’s about secular transcendence. And heresy. It’s Gnosticism. Direct contact with the divine without the middle man and that’s what I’m aiming for.’

Andrew Weatherall in the recording studio

On wisdom
‘I’m wiser now. But wiser in the fact that I don’t know anything. I felt nicely vindicated by two people. Confucius… and Cosey Fanni Tutti from Throbbing Gristle! I read an interview in which she said, as she got older she knew nothing and that she was embracing that. And Confucius said that the first step on the path to wisdom is realising you know nothing – or words to that effect. So, it’s not purgatory exactly, but a kind of no-man’s land, feeling wiser because I know sod-all.’

On the power of dingy rooms
‘I’ve got three rooms in a disused factory on a rundown industrial estate somewhere in North London, where my view is of a dilapidated factory with pigeons roosting in the enormous rusting extractor fan. “The glory of gloom”, as Genesis P Orridge so beautifully put it. I just feel more at home like that. I don’t know if I’m romanticising it. I love that outlook. And the fact that there are some shady youths hanging about at the end of the street.’

On embracing the ordinary whilst on acid
‘LSD has already set off your own subconscious. You don’t need other stimulants. It’s like tripping and having someone else tell you what their dream was last night. “Not interested, mate. I’ll be in the airing cupboard”. The thought of it scares me now. But if I was at Dignitas and they told me they were switching my machine off in five minutes, I’d say: ‘Stick me in the airing cupboard and give me some double strength LSD’.’


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