Terry Farley Interview: In Your Bones

Mark Dale had a chat with Terry Farley to discuss the old days, the new projects, fashion and football terraces.

Becca Frankland

Last updated: 3rd Mar 2016

Terry Farley's first recognition came in the late 1980s with the short lived, but much loved fanzine he founded with Andrew Weatherall - Boy's Own. Within its pages they documented the new acid house club scene taking London by storm, its interviews and articles presented with a jokey, 'in the know' attitude that took in both fashion and football.

The magazine also covered the club scene and music of Ibiza, as did the early Balearic Beats compilation LP which Terry was involved in at the same time. The fanzine would eventually lead to a record label Junior Boys Own, whose initial incarnation was helmed by Terry Farley, Andrew Weatherall, Cymon Eckel, Pete Heller and Steven Hall.

Farley and Heller would record under a variety of aliases for the label including Bocca Juniors, Fire Island and Roach Motel, either as a duo or alongside mates, but the American house music inspired label would have their biggest success releasing music by Underworld, X-Press 2 and The Chemical Brothers.

In the time since Junior Boys Own has been away, its three biggest acts have gone on to further successes, as has Terry Farley, who has maintained a healthy DJ career, founded a new fanzine and party called Faith and continued his musical and DJing collaborations with Pete Heller.

Terry has been at his most productive in years. In 2014 Farley and Heller released a compilation on Get Physical and the same year saw the release of the second of two Chicago house compilations, Acid Thunder and Acid Rain, which Terry had compiled for Harmless records.

At the end of 2015, Farley and Heller joined some of the most prestigious names in house music production to have their original material and remix work compiled by Defected Records in their esteemed House Masters series. 

We caught up with him ahead of the acid and Balearic themed Dance 88/89 event for Manchester's Sankeys organisation to talk about the past and the present in the world of Terry Farley.

You've known Andrew Weatherall a long time. What's your favourite music production from his career?

I was resident DJ alongside Nancy Noise at Future (Paul Oaknefold's night) when we had Andrew guesting and he played an acetate of Primal Scream's 'Loaded' mix he had just finished that week.

The club was full of all the kids who had worked in Ibiza in 87/88 and they were a tough crowd to please after being brought up on nightly Alfredo sets. The room went crazy for the tune. We all felt proud that one of us could make such a fantastic record.

As well as remixing Happy Mondays with Paul Oakenfold you compiled the early Balearic Beats compilation so, in a way, the Balearic music genre is partly your fault. What have you got to say for yourself, Terry? Fuck knows how that took off it the north of England. Grown men wearing sandals in Lancashire weather.

The Balearic Beats LP was actually compiled By Trevor Fung and Oakey, mainly from the record boxes of Alfredo at Amnesia the previous summer, all the tunes he had broke in Ibiza and that everybody in London was screaming for.

All I did was write the words on the back and Pete Tong edited those to make it less London-centric. The original Ibiza crowd wasn't just cheeky South London herberts, there was a Manchester and a Sheffield continent grafting the summer away.

How did The Chemical Brothers end up on Junior Boys Own and not a Manchester label where they'd studied or the Heavenly label, whose Heavenly Social night they were known to play? 

Andrew (Weatherall) brought in a TDK cassette of the first Dust Brothers (as they were then called) single. He had just played in Manchester and Ed and Tom had thrust it into his hand.

They were home counties lads studying at Manchester university and had not DJ'd anywhere at that time. They had to change names because a USA hip hop crew called the Dust Brothers got the hump and as the next single they had given us was called Chemical Beats it seemed logical for them to rename as The Chemical Brothers. 

Underworld had been around for a while before Darren Emerson joined and they started releasing on JBO. Was his participation in the group key to their music being released by you and if so how?

Darren was a young kid DJing at The Milk Bar on Mondays 'Recession Session' and he became friends with Steve Hall who was Junior Boys Own label manager. It was Darren who brought Underworld to Steve's attention. Darren was the whole link between them and us.

You're a fan of Chelsea football club who, in the 1980s certainly had a bit of a rep for having a racist element to their fanbase. They weren't alone. In the Junior Boys Own fanzine you championed terrace fashion sensibilities, so you were obviously down with some of that casuals culture, but here you were calling one of your recording aliases Fire Island after some big gay resort.

What's all that about? Did you always have such liberal sensibilities? Did you ever encounter difficulties or things that didn't chime with you in either social situation because of your affiliation with the other?

The thing is, yes, Chelsea had racist issues, but some of the hooligan leaders were black or mixed race at the Bridge - the out and out racists we simply ignored. I've always had black and gay friends from a very early age so I've never seen a person's colour or sexuality as important to whether I like them or not.

Casual fashion in London grew out of the late seventies soul boy scene, so it was inherently racially mixed - the idiots who wanted to be racist became boneheads. Our fanzine Boys Own was very left wing (mainly because of comrade Steve Mayes, who also went to Chelsea with me) and we deliberately set out to stir shit up.

I've always connected the music I love with the culture it's connected to, some of my best early clubs were black or gay clubs where the straight white boys were in the minority. But it's important to hear music and dance to music in its real place, I think.


Coming from that casuals fashion background, what did you make of all the horrible, ill fitting baggy clothes that were associated with the dawning of the house music and rave scenes in the UK? Dungarees! Absolutely shocking.

I loved the dungarees! As a soul boy the Lee dungarees were a staple, so digging em back out in the  spring of 88 was a pleasure. Most of acid house's clobber was drawn from casual anyway - Chevignon, Kickers, Converse etc.

Once the cat was out of the bag and the country went radio rental the look became a cartoon version of what it originally was and by then everyone I knew was going back to designer wear like Paul Smith, Michiko Koshino and vintage Vivienne Westwood 

A lot of your music on JBO was influenced by New York and New Jersey. The house music of that era and those places does seem to be as revered by the young ravers today or as relevant as the music of Chicago and Detroit, would you agree? Why do you think that's the case?

Chicago and Detroit will always be cool with the collectors and underground heads, but New York was where we went clubbing and whose DJs we connected with the most.

Several London DJs had played in New York before 1988 and Norman Jay took a plane full of London kids to the Paradise Garage in 1987. I think it's more a journalist thing where they prefer to write about a style than get down and dance to it.

Maybe, but some of that big room sound like Tenaglia and Junior Vasquez doesn't seem to have aged so well. Do you agree?

Junior Vasquez's stuff definitely, but Danny's productions really stand up - I heard 'Elements' at Fabric last year and it was THE best produced record of the night. I've been playing Celeda's 'Music Is The Answer' a lot recently and everybody loves that joint.

Remind us just what it was like to be at the Sound Factory. Why was it such a special place?

Oh, it was a whole world of its own. Everybody in there seemed to be on stage. You had Broadway dancers, coming straight from Saturday night shows, doing amazing moves, the House Of Extravaganza voguing. You had muscle marys, beautiful women and veterans of the Paradise Garage. It went on until Midday Sunday morning.

The sound man and light man were as important as the DJs Junior Vasquez or Frankie Knuckles. They created a scene for every record played - you won't ever see a scene as cool and influential as that again. At 11am, when you left the club buzzing like a loon, you walked out into a New York Sunday surrounded by banji boys and six foot black transexual hookers trying to get into your cab for a 'party back at yours, honey child' - a whole different Manhattan to what it is today.

You played a big part in the JBO fanzine, the Faith fanzine and forum, but you're a DJ and music producer. Explain your dedication to the written word as a medium for expression and communication.

I'm a gobby c*nt. I've never had a real education so I still don't know my there from my theirs and quite frankly I don't care, but I've always loved writing about stuff that excites me. My style suits fanzines where it's more about the emotional content.

Why was 2014 the right time for you to do the Get Physical compilation, pairing up with Pete again?

We love Get Physical. It's a top label and the people there really love and are great at what they do. We want to work with them again and soon. We're looking at a new 'Wild Luv' style track for them. We got to play in Berlin for them at some crazy derelict east German pre war swimming pool. It was ace.

If major labels weren't such arseholes and you could have had every track you wanted on your Defected compilation what else would have made it on there? Be honest.

 The mix we did for Michael Jackson's 'Blood On The Dancefloor' is one for certain but I'm pretty sure Defected got a knock back on that. Although it wasn't a major label release, the mix we did for Armando's 'Radikal Bitch' was another, but unfortunately the guy died and we couldn't source who was the owner.

What's your favourite Junior Boys Own track that doesn't feature you or Pete?

Xpress 2 'Muzik Xpress' - stone cold killer! I played it out last weekend and it still creates havoc and has been rediscovered by a whole new generation of house and techno DJs. Diesel gave me a tape of it when they made it and I listened to it 20 times in the car on the drive up to Back To Basics and back, I couldn't stop playing it.

You are playing at heritage event Dance 88/89. How does planning for an event like that differ from planning for a usual gig?

It can be hard. You don't want to play the real obvious stuff but then again at least half the crowd want 'Promised Land' and 'Salsa House' so you've got to dig a bit deeper into what you were playing back then and make the dancers remember there's more to 87 - 90 than the obvious huge anthems. Although it doesn't hurt to give them what they want...now and then.

On a final note, let's move back on to football. How do you think Jose Mourinho will do if he goes to Manchester United? Do you think he will go there and how do you feel about that? Who is to blame for Chelsea's disastrous start to their title defending season, the manager or the players?

How do you explain Costa's increase in success since Jose left and what the fuck are comments like 'it would be difficult to say no to PSG' about, in the middle of the season, at all?

I'm a Jose fan and I think whatever went on there is an absolute disgrace (I’ve heard stuff from within that I simply can't share) but I do think he brought a lot of it on himself.

I know his father was very, very ill, but he had become almost paranoid and lost most of that lovable humour. I think he will end up at United and I wish him well. Costa is a fucking loon who we love and hate in equal measure, while Eden Hazard needs to be flogged to PSG or Real Madrid as quickly as possible.

Check out the rest of Terry Farley's upcoming gigs.

Grab tickets for Dance 88/89 from the box below.

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