Thursday, 19 November 2009

8. Rippin Kittin, Golden Boy with Miss Kittin (2002)



I can't remember where I was I first heard Rippin Kittin, but I remember, every time I heard it, how it would creep under my skin, how it would bruise a bit deeper, how its mark still survives. Back in the early days of this decade, I still thought the world of dance music was a terrifying place, even though my favourite band was Kraftwerk – the band who started so much of it, especially the techno I was drawn to – and despite the fact that I had spent the best night of my life, until that point at least, at the Tribal Gathering festival. That night in 1997 was a real revelation, and I danced to Orbital and Daft Punk, as well as my dream band from Düsseldorf, into the early hours of the morning, fuelled by coffees and egg butties from a van manned by some gypsies from Port Talbot. Nevertheless, I knew that I was more of an electronic pop nerd than a bon viveur. This was partly because drugs weren't my thing, and partly because the idea of going to a club until 7am made me want to reach for a blanket and a big mug of cocoa.

But by late 2001, my fear about dance music – on record at least – was disappearing. I'd go to Select-A-Disc in Soho and Rough Trade in Covent Garden after work, look for records on labels like Warp, Kitty-Yo and City Rockers, and buy them excitedly. This was the year of Daft Punk's Discovery and electroclash – a cold, icy genre that has not fared well by reputation, but at the time shook my nerves, and really rattled my brain. I got obsessed with the Felix Da Housecat album, Kittenz and Thee Glitz, and Miss Kittin's disco-Nico vocals, which featured very prominently. When I heard she was releasing a record with Golden Boy – I didn't know he was, but his name sounded lovely – I was itching to buy it.

I remember buying a 12-inch for me, and another for my friend Kathryn's birthday. She lived in an ex-local authority block just off Morning Lane with Jeanette, her best friend, and their flat was like a dizzy, pop culture dreamworld. They were the Liver Birds of E9, were Hudson and Leech, their digs teeming with old videos, board games and seven-inches. We'd sit around talking about music while getting through 2 litre bottles of Soave, dropping Sainsburys dips over the blue, mangy carpet. And when Kathryn loved Rippin Kittin too, I was delighted – especially because I could now share this strange song with someone else.

Rippin Kittin, after all, is a terrifying song. Sung from the perspective of a young girl, Miss Kittin asks her mummy if she "can go out and kill tonight" because "I feel, I feel like taking a life". Set against two synthesiser notes, jumping down an octave like the downward slice of silver, it's one of the most unsettling lyrics I've ever heard on record. There's something particularly chilling about the repetition of the phrase "I feel" - so off-hand, so nonchalant - and it also makes you dwell of the weirdness of being a small child. Nevertheless, I couldn't stop listening to it. Drawn to its beats like the frames of a good horror film, I wanted it to chill my blood, as well as dance to it – as Kathryn and I did regularly over the next year.

I still find it strange that I did this; that I could move my feet at the same time as battling a sensation that genuinely frightened me. But I remember thinking at the time: we all do this, don't we? We are all human beings. Fear keeps us going. And it's our fight against it – by dancing, or singing, or otherwise – that's what keeps us alive.

6 comments:

  1. It's true that electroclash has not aged well; but, like you, during the 3 weeks it was the in thing, I was seduced - I remember it was Emerge for me that really lit the spark. Seeing Fischerspooner live at the Arches in, I guess, 2001, was one of those "I was there" experiences I would dine out on if I actually dined out that much (is there an equivalent for getting takeaways?)

    Casey Spooner mimed the whole way through, to a backing CD which he very obviously - flamboyantly even - pressed play on at the very beginning. For the next 30 minutes (they only had about 6 songs after all), there were multiple costume changes (one where Casey stripped off while spinning round on a moving disc, nearly tumbling into the crowd in the process), wind machines and hilarious gayitude. My flatmate Royce who came with me was so transfixed that when he needed to go to the toilet he peed in his empty pint glass so as not miss anything.

    I interviewed Casey a few weeks later, and he was just as soundbite-worthy as I'd hoped: happy to talk about how, for example, Tiga (the DJ behind electroclash's other great anthem, Sunglasses At Night) could "suck chrome off a bumper", and so on. At the behest of my flatmate I was forced to ask him if he was circumcised; he wrote "To Royce, unfortunately not, love Casey" on my notes as a memento.

    The electroclash 'era' ended for me when I interviewed, via fax, Michael Alig, the notorious clubkid from clubland's previous moment in the sun in the late '80s. I had to interview him by fax because he was in prison for murdering his drug dealer (there's a great book about the whole thing, which was later turned into a terrible film starring Macauley Culkin). As you say, the drug-driven fear and anxiety that underpinned some of this culture could be quite unnerving.

    It also ended for me because quite a lot of the tunes were bloody terrible :) But here's a link to the great Royksopp remix of Felix Da Housecat's What Does It Feel Like which, I guess, pointed the way to what was coming next: http://bit.ly/D8pSp.

    Christian

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  2. Yeah, I have very fond memories of this tune too! It does sum up our era of Soave from Morning Lane Tesco and screeching through the pointless nostalgia three-hour TV list shows.

    Hallelujah, Jude - this is a lovely blog.

    Jeanette x

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  3. I remember that Arches gig too! For me, that was both the highpoint of Electroclash and the point where it very rapidly went downhill. It still seems like a strange dream of a performance: wasn't there a mental bit where he bit into a fake blood capsule then spent the end of the song spewing gore into the transfixed audience. I mean, where do you go from there?

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  4. The whole electroclash thing made me want to enroll to the German language course.

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  5. You have converted me.

    As someone who thought techno should be strictly about dark rooms and disorientation and had no great love for the 80s, at the time I was very sniffy about electroclash. I liked the silly clothes, but I felt that people I'd loved previously like Felix Da Housecat and Green Velvet were cheapening themselves by making this thin-sounding music. I think I was suffering nightclub burnout too, thinking about it - I spent most of my time sitting at home on Audiogalaxy downloading John Cage and Coil records as I remember.

    I later came to realise that club music had really, really needed the injection of punkiness and oddness that electroclash gave it. And like dubstep and grime, which were both just beginning to form around that time or just after, electroclash was far more than a flash in the pan, and gestated underground for a long time until it was ready to emerge (no pun intended) and properly take over pop culture (what are Rihanna and La Roux and Lady Gaga if not electroclash all growed up, after all?).

    I only really liked 'Frank Sinatra' and '1983' by Miss Kittin at the time, but this sounds GREAT now.

    She's still a better DJ than singer though - her Bugged Out mix CD from 2006 in particular is very very special.

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  6. I have no idea what electroclash sounds like, and I've certainly never heard this. But your writing is sublime, making everything come alive. The personal details really make it work and I want to hear every song you've written about. Now.

    Thank you.

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