Photographing the UK's Free Party Raving Crew
Molly Macindoe spent the late 90s with her camera at raves.
Do you like raves? Do you like parties? Do you care about Europe's dance culture history? If you answered "yes" under your breath to any of these questions you might have seen Out of Order, Molly Macindoe's 2011 photo book covering ten years of her life in the free party and teknival scene.
If you somehow missed it, we've got good news for you: she's re-releasing it. We met up with Molly and had a quick chat about the book, the scene, and why it's coming out again.
VICE: So we reviewed Out of Order the first time round, for those who didn't clock it then, can you sum up what the book's about?
Molly Macindoe: Out of Order is a photographic documentation of the free party, teknival and underground rave culture scenes, from 1997 to 2006. Two thirds of the book is set in London at squat parties all over the city, but it also includes indoor and outdoor raves that took place in other parts of the UK and several countries in Europe. All of the 400-plus photos portray my passion for the people and places I've encountered.
Notice to leave – Section 63 is served (UK Tek, Bramshott Common, Hampshire, 2001)
How were you involved in the free parties? Were you just a punter?
I was at the beginning, yes. I was first convinced to go by two friends at school who'd recently discovered squat parties and wanted to share their excitement. I had purple and black hair and piercings at the time and they figured I'd appreciate it.
What was your first rave like?
My first experience was in the old Wood Green bingo hall in North London – when I walked through the front door it was chaotic, noisy, intimidating, lawless, hedonistic and exciting. Instantly I felt I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I soon fell in love with this new world of uniqueness and individuality, unconventional beauty that comes from honest self-expression and the abandonment of ego. It was rare freedom.
Lazing on a sunny afternoon (Fantasy-X Channel office, Millharbour, Isle of Dogs, London, 1999)
And when did you start taking photos?
Having just started learning black & white printing in school, I brought my Pentax MX camera to my second party and the combined love for photography and this new community grew from there. I knew early on that I wanted to make a book one day that celebrated rather than demonised the scene. Each weekend I met more people – especially after showing them prints – and became affiliated with soundsystems. This lead to creating old school slide projection shows. To this day, my best friends all come from this community.
How many years were you going to these parties for? And do you still?
It was almost 17 years ago when I started going, and yes, I still do, but on occasion rather than every weekend – plus at least one international teknival a year. Dropping out of the scene was necessary for a while to make a book about it and a long time was needed to recover from the massive project: for a couple of years I barely went to any parties. My passion has re-emerged again, in particular this year – I'm both enjoying more parties and photographing them. Work and life commitments now take priority, but a good rave with the greatest of friends is food for the soul!
R&R on the rooftop (Brick Lane, London, 1999)
It's a side of British dance and music that's been left fairly under-exposed in the recent mass love-in over 90s culture. Why do you think it's had less retrospective adoration?
I think free party and teknival culture prefers it that way. Even with the advent of mass-scale social network promotion, the majority of organisers that I know still spread the word via text messages and a phone line that activates after 10PM on a Saturday night, particularly to avoid police detection but also to semi-control the crowd that turns up. I've had random emails through my website from people desperately seeking a free party and asking for my advice on how to find one: I like that they retain their underground integrity to this degree – that's what it was all about.
Cars My Arse, Zebra crossing dance floor, Kennington, London 1998
How's it all changed? If at all?
The youngest emerging generation is continuing the rave culture spirit, but often in different ways. Inadvertently, I've ended up at mega-raves organised by absolutely no one I've heard of, attended by thousands of kids I don't recognise. The production budget is big, the decor is impressive, but the vibe is different, more commercial, even though the warehouse is squatted. The soundsystems are all hired just for the night and set up by whichever company, DJs are paid for and there are lots of burly security control and four-hour queues with £20 door prices.
Although this rather leaves behind the old "free party spirit"', the culture has had to evolve and adapt and go down separate paths to survive different political climates and ever-changing government legislation since it began in the late 80s. Sometimes we enter a period of time when anything seems possible and huge parties are held in the very centre of London without intervention. Then there are phases where police shut down even micro-raves with over-the-top shows of force. The scene has had more than one heyday and I suspect will continue to surprise people with its endurance.
New Year's morning (Mill Mead Road, Tottenham Hale, London, 1998)
And how has the book changed in the second edition?
A huge effort went into the text sections: there's now an essay by Caroline Stedman, a musicologist specialising in this culture, and a very detailed and historically accurate reference section listing every party, its location, dates, soundsystems and any interesting facts about that particular event or venue.
My mother is American, and I've spent a great deal of time there, so I've always dreamed of selling Out of Order in the States. I had no idea if anyone would be interested in the subject matter out there, but figured that surely there is as much call for books on British raves as there is for books on punks, mods, new wave and all the other music subcultures that the UK is famous for churning out. The current EDM craze in the US and Canada confirms my belief that the climate is right to get this improved reprint out there.
Lastly, I believe that if Out of Order has a chance to get more international exposure with a second edition, that will be of great benefit for my next, new project: I'm keen to start working on a second photography book, also about free parties and teknivals but with a broader perspective. It will not only show the new generation of parties and people in the UK, and more in Europe (France, Bulgaria, Spain) but also in Morocco, Lebanon, Jordan and even Iran. Plus, anywhere else I might get invited to...
Out of Order is available for pre-order (at a discount) this week on Kickstarter, with free postage for anyone in the UK/ Europe/US and Canada.