Liquid Liquid are one of my very favourite bands. I love everything about them. I love the music; so interesting and rhythmic, and always danceable. I love the record sleeves; always interesting and evocative of the music. This article is about how I first discovered Liquid Liquid in Glasgow, a city which is sort of famous due to Liquid Liquid (in a roundabout sort of way).
I moved to Glasgow in September 1998, just as the legendary club night Optimo was beginning. I think it may have started a bit before I arrived, though I can’t really remember. I should point out now that I had heard of Liquid Liquid already, and not through Optimo. It must have been August 1997, and I was looking in Missing Records on Hope Street before I caught my train home. There was a list of forthcoming releases on the counter, and I had noticed that there was a new DJ Krush album coming out: MiLight. This was on Mo’Wax, and as I had become a big fan of Mo’Wax through DJ Shadow and James Lavelle’s Cream Live 2 mix, I looked at the release sheet some more and discovered that they were also releasing a compilation by a group called Liquid Liquid. I ended up not buying either of these releases for a few years, but the name intrigued me.
Fast forward a year and I had moved to Glasgow. I saw that the Psychonauts were DJing at The Arches and decided to go, I thought it prudent to check out some of their work, so I went to Fopp and bought Time Machine, a Mo’Wax retrospective mixed by the Psychonauts. It was amazing. I still think it is amazing to this day. So many records chopped up and mixed together. It was the first time I had ever heard anything like that, and I remember thinking it must have taken them ages to put together. What I really liked about it was this song that came in near the end that had all this scraping noise through it. It turned out to be the Psychonauts remix of Scraper by Liquid Liquid. It had an amazing bass line, amazing drums and seemed to switch up tempo half way through the song. I wasn’t buying vinyl at the time, so I never really knew about the remix 12″ you could buy, and at the time I couldn’t really look up the band on the internet either. (In the end, I didn’t get to see the Psychonauts dj at The Arches, but I did see them dj in Jim’s Bar of the QMU two years later.)
Back to Liquid Liquid… I finally got hold of a copy of the Psychonauts remix of Scraper a couple of years later. I had bought a big chunk of someone’s Mo’Wax collection, and this was one record I was definitely after. I played it over and over, and I played it loud. It was even better than it had appeared on the Time Machine mix. It starts off with a weird sci-fi noise, before the bass line kicks in. There is so much going on in the remix, but I think it does the song justice. It beefs everything up and gives it a good hip hop feel, even though it isn’t really a hip hop track. I love all the crowd cheers and claps that appear in the remix, and Pablo’s scratching is excellent – particularly the helicopter scratch. The Cut Chemist remix of Cavern is on the other side of the record, and this is a great remix too. He’s kept the bass line and used the drums from an 80s track, though the name escapes me at the moment. There is also a great break in it near the end.
The next Liquid Liquid record I bought was the DJ Harvey remixes of Bellhead. It was only 99p for the record and I remember when I took it up to the counter the guy said, ‘This is really weird, are you sure you want to buy it?’. I said yes and that it was only 99p and I was willing to take the risk. I guess he said that because I had been buying lots of backpack hip hop from that shop. It was Avalanche records in Glasgow, just at Queen Street Station. I took the record home and played it. He was right, it was weird. I wasn’t too sure I liked it at first, but it grew on me and I now think it is great set of remixes. I think what threw was the fact that it was a remix of a live track and for someone unknown reason in my brain, I thought live tracks were inferior to studio tracks. I should point out that I still hadn’t been to the Optimo club night at this point, but I was becoming more interested in going as this was around the time they used to type up their play lists from the club and I had noticed they played Liquid Liquid a lot. I was too into hip hop at the time to go.
I happened to read on the music pages on Teletext that Liquid Liquid had reformed and were playing a gig in New York. I think this was around March 2003. I was so tempted to just buy a ticket and go over and see them, but I was pretty skint at this point so I didn’t. Luckily, it wasn’t long before a short tour of the UK was announced, and of course Liquid Liquid were going to play at Optimo.
I think I had managed to get a copy of the Mo’Wax Liquid Liquid compilation by this point. I had definitely heard the UNKLE remix of Liquid Liquid and also the incredible DJ Phantom remix of Cavern. There was a promo 12″ for the Mo’Wax compilation, but it always seemed to go for what I thought at the time was a lot of money. Anyway, a friend of mine managed to find a copy of the record for me in London. I think it cost £12. I’ve always wanted to frame all the Mo’Wax Liquid Liquid 12″s as I think the artwork is pretty amazing. I like how they are all similar but have different images on them. I even enjoy the fact that some of the photos on the compilation sleeve are out of focus. Technology really has progressed a lot since 1997.
As soon as tickets for the Liquid Liquid gig had gone on sale I had bought two. By this point I had been to Optimo a couple of times and I knew that it got busy early. Because the gig was on a Sunday night, none of my friends wanted to go, but then my friend James said he would go as long as he could have the ticket for free. I can’t remember how much they were, but I didn’t really care to be honest, I just wanted to go and see Liquid Liquid play. I was prepared to go and see them by myself if I had to. We hit up a pub before going down to Optimo early to get in. Bands were usually on at midnight, but I think Liquid Liquid might have played at 1am. Anyway, it was an amazing gig. They had an amazing amount of musical equipment on the tiny stage at the Sub Club. I had managed to get quite near the front of the stage and I just remember dancing the whole way through their set. Scraper was played early on and the whole placed erupted when they played Optimo. They also played quite a few tracks that I hadn’t heard before, and wouldn’t hear again until Domino released their excellent compilation, Slip In And Out Of Phenomenon. They saved Cavern for their encore, and it is funny to think that that was their biggest track. But in Glasgow, Optimo was the big number. I think they might have played it twice – the gig was in 2003, so my memory is a little hazy. Once they had finished I jumped on stage and grabbed the set list, which is now framed and on my wall. That was the first time I had ever grabbed a set list from a gig. I also stole one of the percussion sticks. I left the venue pretty much right away after this, as I didn’t want to lose the set list!