The Bizarre Inc thing…
Of course the one subject people want to know about when they speak to me is the whole Bizarre Inc thing, and while it’s been both the ‘Golden Goose’ and Rod-for-my-own-back’ all rolled into one, it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t dedicate at least one page to the subject.
I’d better start at the beginning…
I had always been into dance music in one form or another and like most teenagers growing up in the mid 80’s was absorbed with the whole ‘Electro’ movement. I was an avid record collector even back then and was buying and collecting vinyl. Bands such as Kraftwerk and labels such as Sugar Hill were a massive influence on me and I got more and more interested in the scene. It was about the same time I began to experiment with technology and so equipped with two tape decks, a turntable and no mixer I began creating crude live mixes.
We are talking 25 years ago and mixing as we know it was still relatively unheard of, but I was lost in creating these new tracks which were born from the mixing slowly began to develop my own style and technique and was producing mix tapes by the bucket load. I dished these mix tapes out to anyone who showed even the slightest interest in what I was doing. Back then all the clubs had ‘Party DJ’s’ who were sort of radio-come-wedding DJ’s in their style and delivery, so it was a bit of a shock when I was offered my first residency in ‘87 at a ‘The Colosseum’, a huge nightclub in the centre of Stafford, mostly thanks to a DJ there called Bruce Harper who had acquired one of my tapes which was passed from friend to friend into the hands of his brother.
This was a great platform for me to grow. Here I was on serious club equipment with the free reign to experiment with whatever musical styles I wanted and most importantly the opportunity to understand the crowd. It was here I first met Andy Meecham. He was a sound engineer and lighting guru and truth be known a fellow muso and frustrated DJ himself. We instantly became good friends.
Seeing the light!
It was one Saturday night in 1990 when the club was thumping I suddenly became almost part of that moment. I remember it like it was yesterday. I looked over to Andy and said ‘I can do this. I can make a massive dance track.’ ‘Why don’t you then?’ he replied, and before we knew it we were in his house with his small selection of keyboards and my record box. Andy mentioned he knew a guy called Dean who might want to join in the fun and so we met up, got on like a house on fire and Bizarre Inc was born.
The very next day I went round to Dean’s house and we called every label that appeared in our record boxes and despite the barrage of rejection we were eventually signed to a small independent record label in London called Vinyl Solution. Our mission was accomplished. We had done it. The last piece of the jigsaw was in place. All we needed now was the massive track.
Vinyl Solution was just the best. Headed up by two, rather strange but committed and passionate French guys named Alain and Yves who casually handed us a few grand for gear and two days of Studio time in Manchester.
A month or so later our first track Bizarre Theme/X-static was getting interest underground, but in the meantime we had written the bones of our next couple of tracks so we quickly returned to Manchester and recorded a follow up. I remember we used to play the mixes we had recorded on a dodgy cassette deck in my car on the way back from the studio, but as we returned home in the early hours of that Monday morning and I pressed play I knew we had written something a bit special. In a buoyant mood we decided to call the track ‘Playing with Knives’.
At that time (early ‘91) ‘Italio’ was a massive sound. Stomping piano tunes were filling the clubs, The DJ’s around that time either played Italio or Hardcore so PWK went down a storm with both and brought together these two styles eventually leading to the classic Rave sound now so familiar to us.
When PWK was released it was an instant hit with the club DJs underground and huge with the crowds but didn’t quite reach the top 40. Back on the road our gigs it was going down a storm. In our sets during PWK when the piano chorus came in the crowd began putting their hands in the air and going crazy. It was amazing to watch, a real hairs standing up on the back of the neck moment. I’d never seen a reaction to any track like this before. Our next release ‘Such a Feeling’ was a massive success. It smashed into the top 20 and got us onto Top of the Pops, but PWK remained more popular in our live sets so Vinyl decided to re-release it. While we had been gigging hard up and down the country over in the Balearics PWK had been making its mark. And when the clubbers returned from their summer break the first thing they wanted to do was buy ‘that piano track’ that had been their holiday anthem. Sales of PWK went crazy and it entered the charts at number 9. This was not only new territory for us, it was also a steep learning curve for our record label. Mid week charts of the following week had us vying for the number one spot.
We were not alone. Apart from us, other acts like The Prodigy, N-Joi, Shades of Rhythm, Brothers in Rhythm, Felix and our old friends Altern8 were smashing into the charts. The major record labels didn’t know what to do. Kids with no money, and a punk attitude were recording tracks in their bedrooms DIY style, beating their expensive artists in the charts. These were amazing days and the music industry has never really been the same since.
The UK charts were one thing, but we were also enjoying success overseas. We had continued to gig hard right across Europe and the US but our hard work was paying off with success in many oversees charts including the US Billboard top 100. We were signed to Sony Columbia Records and spent time touring from coast to coast. But by now we had been gigging solidly for nearly four years and about six months in the US and the cracks were starting to show. And when we returned home we all knew that that was the end of Bizarre Inc as we knew it. In ‘95 I parted company, shook hands with Dean and Andy and walked away. We always said we’d continue to do this while we had fun and it just didn’t feel like fun anymore. I signed soon after to Paul Oakenfold’s Perfecto Records where I wrote and produced projects both for myself and for other artists. Dean and Andy left Vinyl soon after and carried on as Bizarre Inc for their ‘Surpise’ album but then, they too put the Bizarre Inc name to bed once and for all and re-branded themselves as Chicken Lips.
I will always have fond memories of my time in the band with Dean and Andy and amazed with the impact our musical legacy still has whenever I speak to people in the industry today and to be honest long may it continue!!
If you're interested in the old Bizarre Inc thing have a look at the gallery where I'll keep posting pics of various bits of memorabilia from back in the day.