Formed a decade ago, 808 State are one of Britain's longest-running techno bands but still sound fresh, or, as MixMag put it, 'still know how to jack!'. Initially formed as trio the Lounge Jays - Graham Massey (keyboards and various instruments), Gerald Simpson (DJ) and Martin Price (frontman) - they scored their first hit, right across Europe, with "Pacific State" (1989). Recorded during the 1988 'summer of love', the record quickly became the band's anthem and defined the emerging ambient house genre.
This breakthrough single was coupled with two albums of acid house, Newbuild (1988) and Quadrastate (1989), released through Price's legendary Manchester dance record shop Eastern Bloc. The former was a bit heavygoing but introduced classic 808 production tricks (and is still cited by Aphex Twin as a personal favourite). The latter, however, introduced a purer, commerical sound, and a host of club anthems.
Soon after Quadrastate, however - and with some acrimony - Simpson left to pursue a solo career as A Guy Called Gerald. Massey and Price took on two young local DJs, Andrew Barker and Darren Partington, and achieved a string of hits: "Cubik" (1990) and "In Yer Face" (1991); "The Only Rhyme That Bites" and "Tunes Splits The Atom" (both 1990), with hardcore Manchester rapper MC Tunes; and "Ooops" (1991), featuring Bjork in her first dance - oriented work.
In 1991, the band's second album Ex:el, featuring the Bjork and MC Tunes singles, and vocals from New Order's Bernard Sumner, reached the UK Top 10. Again, though, the album was followed by a split - Price leaving to record as Switzerland - and by a lengthy break due to problems with their label (the notorious ZTT). The remaining trio began to forge a reputation as remix artists, as much as for original material. They were the first act to remix R.E.M. (in 1995), and credits followed for acts such as Quincy Jones, David Bowie and Yes; dance classic remixes of The Shamen, Primal Scream and Electronic; and off-the-wall experiments with Yellow Magic Orchestra, Siouxsie & The Banshees, and even that master of the wobble board Rolf Harris.
Their 'own work' in this period comprised Gorgeous (1992)
and a single, "Bombadin" (1994), both of which semed to be mellowing out.
However, the band got back to their rough - and - ready roots with State
To State (1994), a CD compilation of new and archive tracks released
exclusively to their fan club, free of charge, and continued in the same
vein on "Cubik Live" (from the movie Hackers), "Pump Your Fist"
(reprising their collaboration with MC Tunes), and "Cobra Bora" (recorded
live at 1995's UK Tribal Gathering festival). In 1996, the band set to
adding a higher profile to their work with the launch of their Internet
site, and release of the long - awaited Don Solaris album,
an epic sweep of soundtrack with guest vocalists James Dean Bradfield
(of Manic Street Preachers) and Ragga (continuing the Iceland
Quadrastate (1989; Creed). 808 at their early, raw, unadulterated best. Includes the original mix of "Pacific State", plus anthems of the time, "State Ritual" and "State To State".
Gorgeous (1993; ZTT). Despite tracks which mellow out to the point of stasis, this contains many of 808 State's finest moments - an unintentional "Best Of", despite an unfortunate collaboration with UB40 and the flop single "Time Bomb".
Don Solaris (1996; ZTT). Another fascinating outing of global techno soundscapes, at its best on the junglist "Azura".