Giving Them Drugs Taking Their Raves Away

Back in November 1993, three friends, a former rocker, a skater, and a snowboarder who all had their lives turned upside down by acid house, got together and released what was soon to become a huge selling anthem for drug-crazed clubbers across Europe. They called themselves Empirion and the 12" was Narcotic Influence, merrily sporting the catchy refrain "giving them drugs taking their lives away" sampled from what sounds like a conservative evangelist, over slamming hardhouse beats. Skip forward to 1995, the year of Leah Betts in the UK and Anna Wood here in Sydney, and despite the massive sensationalism in the tabloid press, the kneejerk government backlash, and the incredibly rapid response of the subcultural presses, club promoters, and record labels to distance themselves from drug-use, the refrain is no longer so refreshingly humorous. Within the techno scene a renewed focus upon "the music" has replaced what once was a collective longing for a utopian community. A community that was generated by a combination of the music, the drugs and the people - but now the whole game, the energy and the passion has, since Anna Wood, become cornered by too much seriousness, carefulness and ultimately conservatism. Add this to the crackdown on venues, and it is of lilttle wonder that "the vibe has gone".

Speaking to Empirion's Bob, shortly after the local release of the band's debut album, Advanced Technology, essentially a collection of their superb singles to date, we agree that in terms of both music and punters, things have splintered; "I think now there a whole lot of different scenes, whereas before it was all different styles but under the one roof. Everyone's into their own little scene at the moment with their own little clubs and its all quite segregated. Its a shame in some respects but at least when you're paying your money you know you'll get something you're into all night long". Strictly on a hardhouse minimalist driving bent, Empirion's tracks are sharp clinical cuts, aggressive and searing, tracks like Jesus Christ, the title track Advanced Technology and Ciao recall the era of Nitzer Ebb, the aforementioned Front 242 (later responsible for early rave anthem T99's Anasthasia) and the Electronic Body Music movement that swept Europe in the late 1980s and is still the mainstay of Sydney's 'gothic' clubs. "Back in the late Eighties I was listening to a lot of industrial bands, Front 242, Ministry, and Jamie was deejaying electro-style music, and Oz was in a rock band then when '88 hit we all started clubbing together. A lot of those industrial bands went really 'rocky', too, and that's when I got lost in the whole dance thing".

"When we had Narcotic Influence pressed up we had a run of 500 copies and got back to the house and though 'what the hell are we going to with all these?' then it just went from there. Before the re-issue at the beginning of the year [with remixes by Dave Clarke, Meat Beat Minifesto and Secret Knowledge] we had sold 5000". Recorded for UK label XL Recordings, Empirion have stepped into a major label deal; "we had the album ready with seven tracks, (minus Jesus Christ and New Religion), in 1995 and that's when [big label] XL stepped in and we put the extra couple of tracks in the nine or ten months it took to sort the contracts out . . . it got to a stage where we were getting phonecalls from all over the world saying 'where can we get your stuff' and we realized it wasn't getting very far at all being sold out of the back of three or four vans . . . . so we felt we had to get more professional and XL was up for letting us do what we wanted to do". Signing to a major has also had its financial rewards. . . . Live, Empirion have toured the UK extensively, and recently played some shows in Europe. Rumoured for the Big Day Out's Boiler Room, their live shows have been receiving rave reviews throughout the UK. "Over the last six months our live rigs have been growing. After signing to XL we invested in sorting the studio out at home so the production on the second album will be much higher. The last few gigs we've had a drummer that has played with us on a couple of tracks, Oz is playing guitar on some others, and a friend is putting together a MIDI triggered video thing".

And for a final word on THAT sample; "we've been through the scene and we're still doing it now but you started off with a lot of friends and seen some of them mess their lives up. Have respect for yourself and do what you are doing but you mustn't let it take your life over. People can take what they like from the record and even if its just making people stand back for a second". Now if the Anna Wood Foundation would use it for their advertisements . . .

Yellow Peril

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