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Artist Profiles :: Chris Liberator

Chris LiberatorAs part of the now legendary Liberator crew, Chris Liberator doesn’t just play techno - for him and partners Julian and Aaron their particular brand of techno is nothing short of a way of life. Together they’ve played to crowds at free parties and raves all over the UK and beyond, formed a string of labels - including Stay Up Forever and Cluster - and released two best-selling F**king ‘Aving It compilations, blueprints for the acid techno sound. Chris himself has been responsible for over a hundred records over the last decade and has just released his debut album Set Fire, a compendium of acid techno, breakbeat experiments and political monologues - the latter testimony to the anarcho-punk influence that has shaped so much of Britain’s sound system culture. Today, as both a producer and DJ, he’s busier than ever before, playing free parties and clubs. We caught up with the man who hasn’t had a weekend off for over seven years to catch up on the story of the Liberator phenomenon.

Did you have musical ambitions from a young age?
Oh yeah - as far back as I can remember. Punk was the first music that really grabbed me, especially the political anarcho-punk thing - Dead Kennedys, Crass - as well as stuff on Rough Trade and early electronic music like Cabaret Voltaire. I played bass in bands when I was younger, between the ages of 17 and 23. That’s when we started doing squat parties. I still really love punk, but in the late 80s things got stale and I moved in more of an indie direction with the band I was in. But I was always looking for a new direction. When house music came out in 1988 I didn’t really like it, until the harder-edged Belgian techno came along - and early Underground Resistance too, Shut Up & Dance... It was around that time that I first met Julian.

When did you start DJing?
The first party we threw was in ‘91. It was the first time the three of us all DJed together. That was really my first DJ gig. Before that we’d been going to the early Urge raves in London as well as the Spiral Tribe and Bedlam parties. Meanwhile Aaron, who was already DJing techno, had moved to London and heard about us playing squat parties in his area, though we weren’t really proper DJs at the time. He tracked us down and suggested putting on a party together. Everything just went on from there. We started playing parties all over the place. Then in the summer of ‘92 Castlemorton happened - it was the peak of all the sound systems joining together in one place. That was the best party ever - along with Lechlade a few weeks earlier, which never really got written about all that much.

Why did you call yourself The Liberators?
We just did a party called Liberator, which a lot of people knew us for. People began to know us as Chris from Liberator, Julian from Liberator, Aaron from Liberator... eventually it just got whittled down to Chris Liberator, Julian Liberator...

Does the name have a significance? What or whom are you trying to liberate?
The name’s actually taken from Blake’s Seven (cult British sci-fi TV show)! They had this spaceship called the Liberator, and we used the image of the spaceship for the initial flyer. Nowadays, people assume it’s a political statement - which all ties in with what we do! We kept the name when we realised its connotations.

How important is that spirit of punk liberation to what you do?
Very - we’re determined not to sell out. As far as I’m concerned dance music has sold out to the mainstream. It’s become corporately controlled, absorbed by the system, sanitised and sold back to kids. People always called it ‘faceless techno bollocks’ but the whole point of techno was you didn’t have to have idols.

How does that affect the choice of clubs you play at these days?
Obviously, on a very simple level, the music policy is key. Techno-oriented clubs tend to attract a more underground, less financially well-off crowd - as opposed to something like the speed garage scene. This weekend I’ve played a range of parties and DJed for approximately 18 hours - probably two of the gigs were paid, but the rest were free. I probably do two or three paid things a week - the rest is just for the love of it. When I tour I play a lot of places that other DJs don’t go. Recently I played in Iowa City - the first international DJ there. They were so grateful - that’s what I’d rather be doing, underground things like that.

What made you start the Stay Up Forever label?
As the DJing thing took off, our idea of what kind of techno we wanted to make and what we were really into got more focused. The first tunes we actually finished together - me, Aaron, Julian and Paul - was the first stuff we put out on Stay Up Forever - the ‘Hardcore Disco’ EP. Through that, Choci of Choci’s Chewns heard about us and we started doing stuff for him.

Want to know more? check out this CD...
Chris Liberator 3cd Box Set
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