A Rock Steady Banter with Dean ThatcherWritten by Matteo Sedazzari
When ZANI was Positive Energy Of Madness, (PEOM) and we were a club fanzine, Dean Thatcher was a reader first, then a contributor. ZANI/PEOM and Dean became friends, and we could be seen together dancing on speakers or falling off stages. But I doubt if you are interested in our days of nostalgia. The fact remains that Dean was a good DJ, and in days of acid house and the aftermath, became a crowd puller, along with the likes of Danny Rampling, Andy Weatherall, Phil Perry and Steve Proctor, not just down to his choice of music; his stance with The Smiths “How Soon is Now” at Flying was legendary and truly supported the pioneer days of Acid House.
His bubbly personality was awe-inspiring, if he had demons then even the exorcist would have had a problem banishing them, he was a people’s man. He also branched into re-mixing, writing and producing music and had a successful career with the Band The Aloof.
Like a lot of things in life, people go their separate ways and you lose contact, then I was told that Dean Thatcher had resurfaced with a club night down the Heavenly social, I obtained his number and I didn’t really have to refresh his memory about ZANI. I was pleased that he was still around, and thought he would be brilliant for an interview, not for a reminiscence piece but an article on the past, present and future, on his career and popular culture in general. He agreed to an interview, as long he could bring his partners Stephen Saunders and Nick (former bass player of The Aloof and Sabres Of Paradise), no problem Dean let’s find where you’ve been and where you’re at.
ZANI – Dean, you started DJing in 1975 (youth club), what are you up to now?
Dean Thatcher - Got a new band called The Seen. A club night called Set The Tone 67,based around SKA, Rock Steady,and Reggae. A web site selling retro clothing based on the era of the late 60’s and early 70’s, the SKA era.
Starting our own clothing label selling this sort of SKA. Look. (Dean Thatcher points to a nice short sleeve checker shirt that he was sporting, that any original suede hair would be proud to wear on a blues night.). But especially Sta-Prest, but because what you can buy now that is called "sta –press" is in fact just trousers, we want the real thing, so we are trying to source the material, we’ve got a few leads (Dean gets very excited at this point.) Hopefully that will come together and we will get them made up to the original Levis Sta-Prest design. We will have all the same colours, and I would like to point out that there wasn't burgundy. .
ZANI – Burgundy Sta-Press go hand in hand with Soul boys, karate slippers, cortinas and Level 42.
Dean Thatcher – Right, the original Sta-Prest were dark blue, light blue, cream, black, loads of colours but not burgundy. What we are working towards is going over to the States, cos in the States, things like that are 2 bob. It’s like people done with Northern Soul, went over to the States and put it back in to England, we are going to do that with clothes. There is some fantastic stuff out there. We’ve already created interest without really trying; on Set the Tone 67 nights, we had a couple of stylists come down wanting some clothes, it’s just a smart look and it’s great.
ZANI – Whom are you trying to appeal to, maybe younger kids and get them away from baseball hats?
Dean Thatcher – I'd like to see kids looking smart again, rather than they have just come from a fair. You get whole families looking the same; people are already placing orders for the clothes. I am not just talking about that mod/skinhead/ska revivalist; I am talking people like Death in Vegas & trendy / arty types. I mean people want to look smart, look good.
ZANI – I agree some people make a spiritual connection with clothes at the age of 13, whether it is mod, casual, punk, skinhead and you always seem to dress in that fashion.
Stephen Saunders – I mean you still dress quite mod, (points at me) and you’ll be looking like that when your 60.
Dean Thatcher – We will have an OAP tea dance for skins.
Stephen Saunders - An hour ago we were having a discussion about plastic sandals. In 1977, you could only buy them in Lilywhites.
ZANI – Like the Ruts used to wear, I love West One Shine On Me.
Stephen Saunders – I grew up round the corner from The Ruts, I used to go and see them at all-nighters in Southall, they always had a sound system playing reggae playing things Misty and Roots .
ZANI – So it wasn’t just the Roxy, with punk and reggae?
SS/DT – (Both firm in attitude) – No,
ZANI –Dean, why didn’t you carry on DJing like Danny Rampling and Andy Weatherall?
Dean Thatcher – For starters you can’t put Rampling and Weatherall in the same bracket. Weatherall has done his own thing, always has done and always will, being totally independent. What Rampling did is he followed his heart, he played his house. Weatherall was noted for playing the dark side of things, whilst Rampling played the Soulful side of things. When Danny Rampling went to Radio One, he thought it was a great thing, and at the time it seemed like a good thing, but it didn’t work out. He stuck by his guns, and now he’s gone off to do his own thing, which is what Rampling is all about.
ZANI – The spirit of Shoom?
Dean Thatcher - Ha, yes something like that? I see him every now and then, he seems happy; he’s a cool guy. It’s a typical story; Radio One is the most influential radio station in Britain, in terms of making and breaking a record, if you get your record on Radio One it can happen. If it doesn’t get on Radio One, it doesn’t really stand a chance.
So if you get a job on Radio One, it’s huge; you get bookings from all these clubs from all around the world, unaware of your style but the promoters think, "he’s on Radio One". That’s what happened to Danny and it fucked him to a certain extent. He played what he believed in, and he was saying, “I am not going to play safe for Radio One.” and they dropped him. ZANI – But he was there for over a year?
Dean Thatcher – Yes, he was there for a while, Danny is just good, and if you don’t like it, then you don’t like his style. He is very Soulful house that is what Danny does. I think he was relieved when Radio One dropped him.
ZANI – Favourite party of the early acid house era?
Dean Thatcher – Boys Own, Shoom, KGB. I still go to Weatherall’s nights, because I have always found him to be out there. Interesting, experimental and exciting, I admire him. His new album is brilliant, and he sings on it. It’s what we have been waiting for since “Haunted Dance Floor.”
ZANI – But Dean, like I asked earlier, why did you stop?
Dean Thatcher – I just got bored, simple as that. Just thought this isn’t happening, it’s shit. To me, it was over, I always said that I would only DJ if I was having the time of my life, otherwise I wouldn't do it. I wasn’t enjoying myself any more. I just got on with other things, I done painting and decorating. I suppose you could say that I just wanted a normal job. Every weekend I’d be going to Newcastle, Manchester, back to Heathrow, it was non-stop. It sounds glamorous, but it just became routine. I phoned all the agencies I used to work for and said “I am not doing this anymore.”.
ZANI – I understand, you just moved on to do different things. Do you go to clubs anymore?
Dean Thatcher – SKA and reggae clubs, not house clubs. I’d get bored stiff in 5 minutes in a house club. Just can’t get on with it. All that "raise your hands", I’ve heard this all before.
ZANI – Why don’t you think that any one has innovated anything new?
Dean Thatcher – That old chestnut. Stephen and I were talking about this earlier on tonight, about fashion, about how outrageous fashion has been, when it moved from Soul boy to punk rocker in the 70’s, mohair jumpers and all that, which was an amazing time, and that is what I consider to be the most shocking time, and we just think how can you take it further than that? I mean with music, where do you go? I don’t know. At the moment I go to retro clubs, because those records appeal to my heart and I love them, and I grew up with them, but from a passion point of view, they have a lot more feeling than current music.
ZANI – Are there any new acts or bands you like?
Dean Thatcher – New bands wise, I love the Libertines, best band to come out of the UK, since God knows how long. They are like the Clash, they don’t give a fuck. I like The Strokes as well. When I first saw them I thought, "am I going to believe the hype?” and they blew me away. I love Billy Childish, an absolute hero of mine, an original Margate Mod. I was moved by his set at Glastonbury, he wouldn’t let his band come through the PA system because it would have ruined the authenticity of their 60’s amps.
ZANI – What about disco?
Dean Thatcher - Well it went Soul, disco, house. Some of disco I like, but there is a lot I don’t like.
ZANI – Any British Soul acts in the UK you like?
Dean Thatcher – We haven’t got any British Soul acts in the UK, we’ve got R n B but I don’t regard that as Soul.
ZANI – OK then, any of the R n B acts?
Dean Thatcher – (long pause) Let me think. No I don’t. I like the odd single. I like McKay, she does a bit of reggae; I am not sure if she is British but the guy from Portishead produces her. I like things like the internet now, you can log on to people all day all over the world and it don’t cost you anything and it's good for doing things on a flyer type basis; that’s what we use for Set the Tone. Long are gone the days, of doing mail outs. With regard to down loading records and artists not getting money for it, what do you say?
ZANI – We’ve had bootlegging.
Dean Thatcher – Yea, but this is on a wider scale, what it means is, that people paying a lot of money for studio time aren’t going to get any royalties for their hard work, which is a shame in that respect. But at the end of the day if it is on offer, who is going to refuse it? I don’t know what is going to happen? There has got to be some sort of compromise with the record companies.
ZANI – The major record companies knew about down loading, but didn’t seize the opportunity .
Dean Thatcher – The record companies aren’t in touch with the general public anyway, I did A and R a major label a little while ago. I saw a lot of stuff and it all got refused, everything I took to them. All the excuses, "it’s not quite the right song" etc; this just went on and on. They dropped me in the end. I miss the money, but not the job because I wasn’t going to get any results, it was pointless. The marketing department runs the record labels these days without a doubt, and all they want is young people who can look good, do a photo shot and dance a little. To them, it doesn’t matter what they sound like.
ZANI – Do you think it will change?
Dean Thatcher – The only way it will change, is what happened with punk, and little labels like Rough Trade start coming about. There has got to be a whole load of independent labels spring up and start signing these bands that ain’t getting a look in. If people can get it together then it will be a whole new punk revolution again.
Stephen Saunders – A lot of it is down to distribution. HMV and Woolworth’s won’t take a lot of records on. They are given freebies, and if you are a small label, how the hell can you give that way? You can’t.
Dean Thatcher – True, Rough Trade kept the music scene going, well that's my opinion. They put our band The Seen on their web site, and their walls, they’ve still got that passion and there are not many places that have.
ZANI – I don’t think those days will come back, the internet is the best way to promote.
Dean Thatcher – Yeah, there has got to be a new route.
ZANI – The record companies are dictating what to buy, they give you The Black Eye Peas as a token rap band or Joss Stone as a "Soul sensation", and the way it’s structured, the punters are passing by good rap and Soul, giving it a cult following and not allowing it to develop in the mainstream and that’s fucking shit.
Dean Thatcher - I agree with you 100 %, it is force fed rubbish. Most rap is stage school, it’s not street.
ZANI – What about 50 cent and his constant reminder that he is from “the 'hood”
Dean Thatcher – He ain’t 50 cent, he’s 2 bob. You’ve heard it so many times, "I’ve been shot 3 times", and "I am really hard", boring. Then he acts like a prima donna if things ain’t right, there is no other word for it than it’s crap.
ZANI – A “yoof” explosion on the horizon?
Dean Thatcher – Ha ha. What I'm hoping is when things go stale and they really do go stale, like they are, that’s when underground things start happening, and then the real deal comes through. Punk happened because of progressive rock, & poncey disco. (Dean mimics a Rick Wakeman keyboard solo.) And that is what is going to happen with most of today's chart fodder, fuck it off and embrace something gutsy & exciting.
Stephen Saunders - People will go back to educating themselves like the punk thing, reading interviews in NME and then go off and learn, self education is the key The NME had fantastic writers like Julie Burchill, Tony Parsons, Charles Shar Murray and Penny Reel .I would read their articles and then check out people they quoted like Hunter S Thompson, Charles Bukowski and Jack Kerouac.
I have still got the copy of the review that Parsons did of the first clash album. In those days fanzines were around but I think people remember them with rose coloured glasses. Most were badly written and illegible. I did however have a soft spot for "Kill Your Pet Puppy". I doubt the NME of today has anything like the cultural influence it had then, although it can still help to break a band "The Kings of Leon" being a prime example.
Dean Thatcher - Good Point.
The enthusiasm and love for music from Dean and Stephen is overwhelming, and they are dedicated to their cause. They have pulled from the past the best bits and moved forward with a very multimedia outlook. I have been to a couple of Set The Tone parties and recommend you get down to one before they become too popular. There is no “those were the days”, they are laced with the optimism of youth, and sown with the seeds of wisdom.
I really liked what I was hearing and it gave ZANI a great deal of inspiration. Too many people get stuck in a rut, and feel embittered to do anything but moan, not these boys; clothes, club nights and a band, and why not? There is so much talent out there, I gained a good insight into the music industry, so don’t be put off by the shallowness of this world, use it to your advantage, go out and create, just like these boys.
REMEMBER THE ONLY WAY TO CHANGE THINGS IS SHOOT MEN WHO ARRANGE THINGS.
(c) Words - Matteo Sedazzari/ ZANI Media