I hate losing records. For various dull reasons I’m a bit obsessive and freaky about the things I have an interest in, and where for most people the discovery that a record appears to have disappeared may lead to a shrug or half-hearted search, for me it usually means tearing the entire flat apart looking for it. It’s not just records that bring out this behaviour in me; I once almost irrevocably damaged the relationship with my partner over a lost hoover attachment. Don’t ask. It still rankles.
But records do have a tendency to wander. From the wrong records going into the wrong DJs bag in the busy, dark, confines of a club’s DJ booth to light fingered bastards taking advantage in the messy chaos of an after-party. That’s where I think my copy of DJ Valium’s Valium EP went missing. Likely I wasn’t even playing; I probably dumped my bag in the hallway whilst I renewed my acquaintance with Mr Buckfast.
Still, these days it isn’t as near to being the end of the world as it used to be. Discogs, obviously, is the medicine that fixes all ailments and it only took me about five minutes to track down a new, still sealed copy. In its own little way it was a profound relief; this is one of those records that, for some of us, has moved beyond simply being a classic – it has become part of our heritage.
And if that sounds an extreme way of thinking about it, you have to try to see it from our perspective. Glasgow is an odd city when it comes to its love of electronica, and one can never be entirely certain that what cuts the mustard elsewhere it going to manage it here. It’s not that we’re better, that our taste in music is more exquisitely fine tuned (although, obviously, it is). It is, in fact, a distillation of different factors which range from the traditionally short length of the average club nights to the city’s industrial harshness reflected in its night-time decadence, to the impact that the town’s one time large number of dance music shops had on its relatively small population.
The Valium EP nicely draws together a period of time in the mid nineties when people were really begin to step out a wee bit from their safe zones towards stuff that was maybe a little bit more unhinged. It was Valium’s first release on Gary Martin’s insane Teknotika label; an imprint that hailed from Detroit but never, ever sounded like it. Teknotika was always looser, gathering together trace elements of disco, house, weird-edged experimentalism, kitsch, and something I can still only really describe as ‘cosmic tribal’. The music tended to be fast, dense and life affirmingly off-the-wall. It was perfect for Glaswegians.
The tunes of this EP were probably the first contact many of us really had with the label, with perhaps the exception of the phenomenal anthem Universal Love, and it was long one of those records you loved even if you had no idea who it was by, or what the tracks were called. I’ve always thought that a true test of quality. Knowing the artist colours your view, even if you don’t think it does, and confirmation bias can have a negative effect whether we mean it to or not.
In a slight break with tradition I haven’t chosen my favourite cut from the release. That honour goes to the thunderous, seething Running In October, a tune with a bassline which still makes me shudder. The tune I’ve gone for, Whiskas, is here because of, well, consensus I guess. It was the tune that delivered every time it was played, bonding together people on the dancefloor, and in grubby flats afterwards. It still sounds like very little I’ve ever heard; a brew of humour and beats, recalling something disco without sounding anything like it. It was, and remains, a true Glasgow – and even more importantly, Paisley – anthem. Gaun yersel, big Man.