Dance on a Volcano – Me and Pirate Radio in the 1990s Pt. 1

During the 1990s I was avoiding Phil Collins like the plague. Anything baring his name had become synonymous with utter, utter shitness. Whether he was taking a dig at Sinead O’Connor in The Sxn or making music so fucking bad it made your internal organs bleed. If you saw Phil, you knew you were in for a really bad time.

1990 I was slap bang in the middle of my moody teenager years. The underground electronic music scene was re-calibrating after the Acid House mania in 1988. The press had calmed down, Adamski was in rehab (Well according to The Sxn) and we were sitting in dark bedrooms smoking low grade dope and taking acid.

It was both an amazing and shit time. I was more or less non-verbal from 16 – 19 years old and I was bullied hard. Turns out in my 40s I was diagnosed as autistic lol.

I lived in a little sea-side town with zero culture. However, my dad lived in East London and this opened up a treasure trove of music. Family wise was tricky, dad liked a drink and going to see him usually meant sitting in the Sydney Smith pub with lock-ins typically till 3am. Sometimes we’d see some live Jazz in Soho which was cool but even more exciting was the Prince of Orange in Rotherhithe which had live, free jazz. I loved the drums and was totally mesmerised by what I saw and heard.

But something else was also happening. The Bleeps took hold. I didn’t know genres of music like I do today, there was no internet and no publications. There was Acid and there was Bleeps, some rumours of Belgium Techno, allegedly Belgium’s biggest export (citation needed, or not, just enjoy yourself) and Raggamuffin/Hardcore.

The key in this time was PIRATE RADIO! London had absolutely wicked pirates and for me this was my happy place. Friends FM, Fantasy FM, Kiss (before becoming legal). Later Innocence and Rush FM. This is pre Kool FM and Jungle but there were dubby basslines and breakbeats galore. Time not in the pub would be spent with a couple of cheap tape decks recording the radio. Now where dad lived, in Bethnal Green, the radio wasn’t a certainty. Sometimes great signal and other’s, the airwaves were dead, just fuzz or shit commercial radio.

The first station I recorded was Dance 93FM (not to be confused with the rave of the same name). This was early 1990. I caught the last 30 minutes of a set by a DJ called EZ O. A DJ I’ve never heard of again! Fuck knows why, the guy was super good at mixing, like really super tight even by later standards. A style I would go on to copy over and over.

Something happened when I got back home to my shitty little seaside town. I put the tape on in the basement flat where we used to hang out and smoke dope and people wanted to copy the tape. At this time, much as I really fucking hate to admit, I was getting bullied badly, I was a weird kid who didn’t speak and was really struggling to fit in. Having the tape didn’t change much but there was at least a modicum of interest in me, other than for bullying. Every few weekends I’d go back to London to see dad and when I could, I’d record some tapes and bring them back. Again these got copied loads and I had a tiny rep for having good tapes.

Zee was a DJ who came to our little local club from the nearest big town. That shit was the closest thing to glamorous back then lol. He was this over the top, big personality Hip Hop graffiti guy who was playing Acid records. I loved the sound but was still getting bullied so I lurked in the corner listening. After school, I’d go to the record shop and began trying to hunt down things I’d heard on the radio and from Zee.

I’m waffling now so shan’t bore you with detail too much detail but one week the Zee never turned up and I had my little bag of records I was going to show him. Eventually I plucked up the courage to ask the in house DJ, who played wack pop stuff, if I could play some records. I ended up DJ’ing at the end of the night and people who were always so fucking horrible to me were dancing and digging what I was doing. It felt good.

That was it, I cobbled two basic, plastic hifi turntables together and started learning how to mix, using my finger to speed up or slow down the records as there was no pitch control. I got mixing pretty quick, then skratching. Then I actually started getting props from people. The cool people! People who had bullied me relentlessly now thought I did something cool. Weird right? The bullying didn’t stop but I did gain a little self confidence and I kept practicing on the turntables.

Anyway, that’s some of my bolloxing story. Now to the tunes on that EZ O tape! It took me ages to track them down, trips up to Zoom in Camden, Pure Groove in Angel, various shops in Soho, the local record shop in the next town and then madly, the HMV in Tobacco Dock I found one I couldn’t track down anywhere! It was probably hiding behind some horrendous Phil Collins record. Then there was some bloke only known as Geezer who lived somewhere near Bexley Heath selling records. Eventually I got them all on vinyl.

I don’t use Spotify and these tunes aren’t on there anyway. They are on Youtube though (use Freetube, Invideous or some other tool to bypass ads and tracking). maybe one day I’ll record the vinyl and self host at on Peertube. I should warn you though, that might take years. All my records are up in the loft and the tape has long gone.

RIP tape, you were a real one!!! If anyone has info on EZ O, please share!

UPDATE! I love the internet sometimes. One of my Fediverse pals has revealed that this DJ is in fact UK Garage legend DJ EZ!!! Really very very happy to hear that EZ O went on to greater things. Big up EZ and big up Alex for joining the dots 🙂

DJ EZ O – Dance FM 1990 track listing.

Renegade Soundwave – Thunder

Unknown Artist – Back To Attack Vol 1 (Side A track 2)

KCC – State Of Mind

Fantasy UFO (Masters of the Universe Remix)

Hardcore – Hey R U Ready

Dik Fozbee – Xstatic

Cybersonic – Technarchy

Carlton – Do You Dream

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