The Definitive History of New Rave in Eight Tracks, Narrated by Jamie from Klaxons

The Definitive History of New Rave in Eight Tracks, Narrated by Jamie from Klaxons

To mark the 10th anniversary of ‘Myths of the Near Future’, we revisited the scene that had you wearing neon skinny jeans and doing bumps of ket and glitter in the club.
January 20, 2017, 12:17pm

This article originally appeared on Noisey UK. 

Like a baby rearing its fresh-looking head from a womb, the 1980s gave birth to a rave new world. House music came first. Techno oscillated in shortly after. Then Paul Oakenfold fucked off to Ibiza, brought the sun home, and 30 years later we're living in a world where the Yanks are fist-pumping their way through Avicii stadium tours and mid-level marketing managers are salivating over Chase and Status.


Of course, there are a lot of missing chapters to that story. The muddied fields of the M25, serviced to the children of acid house, for example. Or the churches of the form: Paradise Garage (USA), Amnesia (Ibiza) and The Hacienda (UK). But there's one chapter that's been neglected more than any other from the hard back book cover of dance music history: new rave.

What started out as a bunch of journalists nursing their hangover by coming up with an indie rebrand of a decades old genre, descended into Britain's teenagers crawling to sixth form in primary-colored skinny jeans and glow stick juice in their hair. The movement was short-lived, but for a brief period it was omnipresent. In the space of a few months, new rave filtered through the mainstream and onto TV series like Skins, conceived more bands than you can count with the name "Trash," "Disco," or "Club" in their name, then slunk off again just as all the MDMA in Britain was seized and the next generation of teenagers had to make do with mephedrone and collecting expensive baseball caps.

From Test Icicles to Does It Offend You, Yeah? and Crystal Castles, the new rave back catalog is a glittering, varied affair. Of all the bands though, the one with the most traction, the original pioneers of the genre, were the Klaxons. Their debut album Myths of the Near Future went on to win a Mercury Prize. They performed with Rihanna. They stuck around for a decade. If there is a Zeus, Apollo and Poseidon of new rave's short-lived existence, it is James, Jamie, and Simon of the Klaxons.


So, with Myths of the Near Future turning ten this month, who better to chart us through that brief period in the mid 2000s than the effervescent Jamie Reynolds himself? We threw him eight tracks, he responded. So pour one out on the ground for that time you called any gathering—even just four mates in your mum's kitchen with one broken strobe—a "rave," kick back and relax, and read on through.


We're starting way back in 2005, before new rave was really a thing.
Jamie Reynolds: Yeah, I'm glad you pointed that out. At the time there was an air of certain groups not wanting to come under the "new rave" banner. I feel like the lineage connection [they had with new rave] is to do with the fashion. We were all wearing the same clothes. When we all toured together, we all brought a party, so that definitely connects it too. But I wouldn't call "Ice Cream" new rave—I'd call it sexy disco. I can see why they didn't want to have anything to do with a scene that referenced 90s culture.


Where do these guys fit on the new rave timeline?
We shared management with Shitdisco, and when this track came out we'd been playing shows for about a month. They were very much with us right from the beginning and we happened to be starting our bands at the same time. Musically, again—it's in the name—it's got that post-punk disco thing, which was what was going on before we came along, and this track is a continuation of that. We were trying to take it somewhere forward, but tracks like "I Know Kung Fu" came from what existed with before, with LCD Soundsystem and Output Records and stuff like that.

What was it like touring with them for the NME New Rave Revolution tour in '06?
I love Shitdisco with all my heart—we had the best time possible; it was absolutely mental. Our tour manager was called "Ravey Davy" and he invented this drink called the "Rewind" which was half a bottle of Strongbow and half a bottle of red wine and some substances. So he'd make this bottle then he'd go around doing high kicks and be like, "right, it's time for you to go on stage." Shitdisco were our brothers in chaos.


I'm surprised you didn't vom everywhere.
I did a couple of times. I think this era was the peak of our hedonistic behavior. It was just before our management had brought in a new tour manager to tell us that if we didn't get a more sensible attitude then we'd never succeed. So this was our last moment of freedom and we were having a great time. We built a family with these guys basically.


I really loved this CSS track when it first came out. Where does it fit onto our new rave journey?
Again, it's a sexy disco tune where they're openly talking about [the band] "Death From Above [1979]," who were the pinnacle of that disco rock crossover thing that happened before we came out. They're referencing that band, they're talking about making love, it's a disco track: it's sexy disco.

Why do you think people put it under the new rave banner?
I think because we were all active at the same time and it was a party song. We could all make an audience go mad and we were also touring together so we were considered the same family. Simon was dating Lovefoxx, and we were all very close on the road. It's interesting looking at this now because we were trying to leap ahead, but a lot of these bands were coming through what was happening just before.


Now we're talking! I feel like "Atlantis to Interzone" was the first real, tangible example of new rave.
I really appreciate you choosing this track and video because this is the one. It's weird because all our other videos were made by Saam Farahmand, and his videos have a fantasy element to them, but this video was the only one not made by him, and this is the one that absolutely nails what new rave was about. It's got the colorful clothing, it's got the fact we're using guitars to make rave-influenced dance music, and the whole thing is just chaos. I love it.

When you were putting this together did you have any inkling that new rave would kick off in the way it did?
It already felt like it was kicking off at home in New Cross because there was an audience that we tapped into, and they'd go mental for it. We wanted to cross over, so I guess this was lined up in time. "Atlantis to Interzone" was the peak before our pop moment, and this is the track that defines that pre-album period. Interestingly, we'd play this song and people would go bonkers, but because the album hadn't come out, people weren't dancing to "Golden Skans" or anything—they'd wait for other songs. This was our calling card.


After "Atlantis to Interzone" everyone started dressing like a Klaxon…
Yeah, I think Simon was a fashion icon at the time and I don't know if he's had the credit for that. He wore clothes and would be photographed in them, and the next minute, some of the other bands were dressing like him. The fashion was the thing that tied everything together, weirdly more so than the music.

Before new rave, I feel people were wearing a lot of black and trying to dress like The Strokes or like they were from New York, and then all of a sudden people were wearing freaky shit.
Yeah, and all of a sudden you're in a Trash Fashion video. A month beforehand, we were dressing like we were in The Strokes in suits and ties as well, and then we were like "fuck that". We went to Deptford Market and spent a tenner on children's clothes and the next minute, it was what it was.


So this track came out after "Atlantis to Interzone" but obviously they'd been knocking around for a while before New Rave.
This tune was the anthem for that period in time. It was the song that was played at the parties, and Justice were the business. When we became friends with these guys it was like meeting our heroes. EDM hadn't happened yet, so it was a precursor to all that stuff. Interestingly, I think apart from us, this whole thing was about distancing themselves from something.

This track still sounds so timeless now.
It's great. I just watched the video for it. It's got that mental abandonment, crazy behavior thing going on. They were a bigger influence on us than maybe we understood at the time. This is the song that ties it all up together. It was used as the title for that awful EDM movie, but I don't think it's fair to connect this song to EDM because it was a precursor, and this was our anthem.


What do you think it was about that period that made people suddenly want to be less serious and dance more?
Culturally, I don't really know. It was a happy time and everyone was off their nut. It was colorful and wild and stupid. It wasn't that the rest of the world was being too serious or cool, but the attraction was the chaos and that people were up for that spirit of abandonment.


So, here we are at the tail end of 2006. This is what we might call "landfill new rave"…
Yeah, I mean it's fairly safe to say that these guys were being ironic. Nobody else in this list was ironic; everybody else was doing their thing and loving it. It's like these guys were attempting to get on the back of this thing by slagging it off in an ironic way, which always happens with a pop movement. If you have a sound, somebody's always going to want to tap into it and make fun of it, and that's what this is.

Do you remember this track coming out at the time?
I've heard the name "Trash Fashion" so many times, but I'd never actually heard them. It's got references to our videos in it, and all sorts of other stuff. This seems to want to have something to do with what was going on, but it never popped up on our radar. Also, their name… Trash was the nightclub we were going to, fashion was the thing that connects everything, and they were tapping into what we were doing. It's attempting to be zeitgeist.


I read somewhere that you guys started to get sick of the whole "new rave" label. Was it around this time?
I didn't ever, but we were a democracy, and other members of the band wanted to distance themselves from new rave so I went with it. I think we'd definitely already had our pop moment by this time. Other members of the band banned glow sticks from our gig at Brixton Academy, so that was a defining moment. I guess we wanted "new rave" to become a launch pad rather than a career-defining genre.


Do you remember Hadouken releasing this track?
Yeah totally. I don't think I respected it enough at the time. Listening to it now, I've got a lot more respect for it.

I'm the opposite… I remember loving this at the time, and now, looking back, I'm like "Oh wow".
It didn't really cross my path because I was so in my own bubble. I wish that Hadouken and Late of the Pier toured with us back then because they seemed to be more linked to what we were trying to achieve than the others. He's spitting bars on this, isn't he? Grindie existed before New Rave, and Grime music with guitars was wicked. I like it when genres crossover. It can go badly, but I think this is cool. I wish we'd done more with Hadouken because it would have made more sense.

Why didn't you?
Looking back, it was a very competitive time and there was some weirdness between everybody. I don't think we ever spoke to them, but I remember feeling an edge, which over time didn't exist and doesn't matter.


I feel like Late of the Pier were similar to Klaxons. They came from the new rave era but they shed that label and stuck around.
Yeah, for sure. They're another band that I wish I'd paid more attention to. From what I remember, they were quite competitive. They went to university with Simon, I think. We should have been closer because their producer Erol was our producer and we should have spent more time with them. When I listen to "Space in the Woods," and their other music, and their lyrical content, I actually think Late of the Pier were the closest to what we were trying to achieve. There's a connection here that I think is stronger than the other groups.

Where does this track fit on the new rave timeline?
I'm not sure that it does, I think they wanted nothing to do with it. They were very musically aware, looked like they went to art school, they were very creative, and I respect that. I can see how they wouldn't have wanted anything to do with it. But again, their fashion tied into what was going on, and the fact there was that pre-new rave, post-punk disco influence in there.

When would you say new rave died out?
I guess it was when we banned glow sticks at Brixton Academy because that was our biggest gig, that was our peak, and we didn't have the thing that got us there.

Do you think it'll ever have a resurgence? Do you think kids will ever start dressing in bright pink skinny fit jeans and Lego-cut hair again?
I don't know… it would take a group to tap into that sound and make something brand new, or for us to revisit that sound [for it to happen]. I just can't see that happening any time soon.

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(Lead illustration by Joel Benjamin)