The Art of Ecstasy

 

Alan Dearling enters into the magical, artistical (is that a word?) worlds of Vintage Disco Biscuit!

 

For details about the new book and the artist and his works: https://www.vintagediscobiscuit.com/

This is an art-book. A high-end artefact in fact. I feel that it is essentially about IDENTITY. Author, artist Rupert Alexander Scriven aka Vintage Disco Biscuit has created it. It’s a visual feast, a collage of words and images from within the Dance Clubbing scene from the 1980s until now. Memories and ‘stories’ from the DJs, clubbers, artists – it’s an Acid House extravaganza, an orgy of colour, sounds, images and ecstasy tabs: ‘doves’.  An imaginarium of club nights, parties, the ups, the ‘chuckles’ and some downs of many people and their culture.

It was a real privilege and a good mad-house laugh to meet Rupert, ‘live and direct’ at the book launch. It took place on the Golden Lion stage (in Todmorden, West Yorkshire) where, before his untimely death a couple of years ago, the Governor, Andrew Weatherall had often thrilled clubbers over nights of ALFOS: Another Love from Outer Space (along with fellow DJ-traveller, Sean Johnstone). Nights of hedonism and a real mix of musical genres and styles. Like Rupert, I was entranced on a number of occasions as I became part of ALFOS. Andrew really knew his musical histories and loved to share them with his aficionados and new acolytes. As Rupert says in ‘The Art of Ecstasy’:

 

“It was so memorable because the music was literally out this world and I was with the loveliest group of friends I could ever ask for, friends travelled far and wide to be at this special night that started at 9pm and ended at 4am. None stop acidity chugging Tech House all night long. This night proved to me that in my opinion that Rave nights have progressed, there’s a more diverse following of people who are dedicated to supporting their favoured DJs and venues…I consider Andrew to be the very best of our generation due to not only been the best track selector or remixer, producer, singer, writer, artist and speaker but like most people found Andrew to be kind, funny, intelligent and approachable and feel privileged to have got to know him personally.” 


Alan’s pic from one his meet-ups with Andrew at the Golden Lion

 

So, back to ‘The Art of Ecstasy’. It’s a bit like a posh box of chocolate treats. Full of surprises. It’s also a strange mash-up of words from Rupert, his family and friends, and from a myriad assortment of well-known figures from the Club Dance scenes across the globe. In talking to Rupert we quickly realised that whilst there are some overlaps in the music worlds where we have been living and working for many years, we also live in almost parallel universes. I mostly work at gigs and festivals, whilst this book is largely about ‘clubs’ and ‘parties’. It’s a rich, heady and intoxicating mix. Eccentric and at times a tad confusing as readers are invited to ‘hear’ the words of different colourful characters from the ‘scenes’. I was sometimes scratching my proverbial head in order to work out ‘who is saying what…’


So, what I’ve added in here are some samples from the book and the descriptions that Vintage Disco Biscuit has offered about the contents and structure of the new book.

Here are four sample pages from the book showing the images of the Ecstasy ‘biscuits’ and DJs and more, and details about the worlds of dance music and MDMA:

 

And now listen in to a bit of a Q & A session between Rupert Scriven and Alan Dearling (looking suitably like a spaced-out village idiot!)

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Alan: Great to catch up with you Rupert, especially at the ever-increasingly myth-making venue that is the Golden Lion in Todmorden. I’ve been having a whizz through your new book. A total labour of love. What’s it like for you to be self-publishing and promoting?

Rupert: This has been very much a new experience and challenge for me, but one that I have taken by the horns whilst attempting to break down new doors. Some doors have irritatingly been firmly closed such as the so-called Arts Council funding programmes, falsely promoted as being in place to assist financially with emerging arts projects and artists, but from my own experience and that of others I know, this is a boys’ club that is far from logical and cannot be challenged. Yes, self-publishing comes with a financial risk, but I have always had confidence in my artwork and my artbook, and a want for total control of my creation, rather than passing over my creation to a publishing house. The emergence of social media has really opened up self-promotion for creatives, focussing on your target audience, that I don’t think I’d gain from a publishing house placing my book in Waterstones’ bookshops for instance.

I’m still a novice but I’m learning quickly what works and what doesn’t. Throughout the process of creating my book I have met some of my musical idols and been humble in the presence of acclaimed scholars, all of whom have shown excitement in my vision, this has given me broad shoulders to have greater self-confidence. Having scrimped and saved to make this dream a reality and now having the finished book in hand, there is a real sense of adrenaline-pumping excitement that I have created a book, yes, little old Rupert you have created a book and people are praising it.

I’m simply emotionally blown away. My role to promote my own creation is unchartered territory that I’m a tad trepidatious about that to say the least, but my god it makes me feel alive and I’m ready to experience the ride. At least rather than being in the nursing home in 30 years saying, “I wish I’d …”, I can be there with my feet up saying, “At least I tried!”

Alan: I’ve written and co-written just over 40 books and been the publisher for literally hundreds more. How will you be marketing and distributing ‘The Art of Ecstasy’? It can be a big time-commitment and sometimes a bit of logistical nightmare.

Rupert: That’s a difficult question to answer my friend, as I’m still finding my feet in the world of self-marketing. I have been blessed with contributions to my book from some notable souls in the music industry and scholars within the field of MDMA research, awareness and testing, with social media at our hands and their assistance in spreading the word of my book ‘The Art of Ecstasy’, together with online and printed media publications and dedicated House Music online groups, I hope the word will spread. So far, I have only had time to drop some seeds out there to see how interest grows in ‘The Art of Ecstasy’, whilst balancing my time with a full-time job as a building surveyor. It funnily seemed a lot easier whilst creating my artwork and the book, working 9 till 5 as a surveyor, an hour break for dinner, then 7 till 3 am working on my dream project.

Alan: I imagine that the book will also help promote sales of your artworks too…

Rupert: When I created my Ecstasy-related artwork the resounding feedback was one of great interest, but sadly a concern over the impression such work would have on visiting parents and explaining such work to children within the home. I was contacted by a friend’s mother, whose daughter has sadly had years in rehab through addiction, her words were simply, “Rupert, art is meant to be controversial, go for it and good luck!” That message meant the world to me and gave me extra vigour to continue with my creativity with Ecstasy being centre stage.  I am hoping that I can go some way into removing this social taboo over recreational drugs such as MDMA, the ones the UK government don’t gain taxes from anyway. I envisage every ‘The Art of Ecstasy’ artbook adorning someone’s coffee table as a mobile art gallery for visitors to enjoy the artwork and discuss the subject matter, and, yes, hopefully engage individuals desire to purchase my wall artwork potentially.

Alan: In terms of the DJs and clubs where you’ve worked, lived, danced, photographed and partied, what are some of your favourite moments that you’ve been able to include in your book?

Rupert: I’ve tried to step back from adding too many of my own memories within the book, as I was more excited to get a wide varied kaleidoscope of memories from others, as the House Music family is a bigger construct than just one soul. That said I have added a few of my favourite memories. I’ve been rather chuffed with the feedback from others, that through reading the stories and experiences of others within ‘The Art of Ecstasy’, this has evoked discussions of memories between friends of their own experiences. What is life without memories?

Alan: I mentioned earlier that we seem to live in something akin to ‘parallel musical universes’. I’ve worked and enjoyed at hundreds of festies and gigs around the world, starting off in the UK way-way-back with the likes of Phun City and the Isle of Wight festivals of 1969 and 1970, gigs in Amsterdam even earlier in Vondelpark, Paradiso and the Melk Weg in the 1970s. It was very much about live music, but much of the music, especially the psychedelic music from bands like Hawkwind, Gong and Quintessence encouraged the audience to participate and dance. Sway around, jump around, celebrate! And cannabis, mushrooms, LSD and pills were all part of the culture of the more alternative festies…do you see this as part of the shared history of Dance Culture?

I’m also interested in how the original USA bands like the Grateful Dead were linked in with the Diggers and the Merry Pranksters – theatrical agent-provocateurs – similar to the anarchist Provos in Amsterdam with arts squats and protests. Same really in places like Nimbin and to some extent with Byron Bay in Australia. The music scene was also inextricably linked in with eco-protests. It was quite political. How does that relate to the Acid House and clubs you have experienced?

Rupert: The ‘90s was a time of rebellion against Thatcherism etc. From what I have read our experiences in the ‘90s were similar in many ways to the times of the Magic Bus and the first Summer of Love, equally hedonistic, rebellious, with a collection of souls from all different walks of life, coming together under one banner of music and dance.

Alan: For me in the UK, the Traveller scene seemed to mutate with the travelling sound systems in the late ‘80s and into the ‘90s with Spiral Tribe, Bedlam and DJs like Raja Ram, Eat Static, Gaudi and punk-reggae-dub outfits such as Zion Train, Radical Dance Faction, Dreadzone and others…is there much overlap with your worlds? Again, how does that come over in the book?

Rupert: The overlaps in music surprisingly came from the words of several contributors to my book; the multitude of musical genres including Soul, Funk, Motown, Rock, Reggae, Disco, Punk contributors to my book were brought up with; either listening to the music in their family homes as children and/or pre- the emergence of House Music as teenagers. As my good friend, Sen1 mentions in my book, “Music is the rhythm of life.”

Alan: I’ve increasingly worked as a presenter, journo-photographer at festivals across Europe that have close links to the free cultural spaces movements – places like Christiania in Copenhagen; Ruigoord and ADM in Amsterdam and Uzupis in Vilnius, the original party scene in Goa, AND festies like Boom in Portugal and OZORA in Hungary. Again, these festivals are very much dominated by EDM  and Psy-trance dance music… my parallel musical universes again… lots of musical ‘tribes’, but one musical family!

You’ve included a fair bit in the book about getting clubs and clubbing ‘safer’ for the punters. Is ‘testing’ of drugs the biggest method to make this happen?

Rupert: Drugs are never going to disappear, everyone in life wants a moment of escapism from the norms and stresses in life. Sadly, we live in a world where governments treat us like children and do not want us to have the opportunity to expand our minds and encourage free thinking. The drugs governments around the world are only too happy to earn revenues from are suppressants such as alcohol, or promotion of large pharma-produced psychological condition treatment drugs that aren’t created to cure, but form life-dependency around.

Testing of drugs is a vital preventative method in creating safe clubbing experiences. The charities, sadly a lot of them self-funding and reliant on scholars and experts volunteering, are united and well connected, so any ‘bad’ drugs – high potency or containing harmful ingredients can be shared amongst the charities to alert festival-goers and clubbers alike. Informed harm reduction advice is given using social media and face-to-face at events. The best method would be for governments to produce under lab conditions and sensibly distribute said recreational drugs. This would cut out related gang crime and offer drugs without harmful ingredients and instructions on recommended dosages. But this will never happen in my lifetime even though the revenue from taxes for governments would be rather large.

Alan: I guess that touches a few musical ‘bases’… thanks for your time, love, energy and vibes!

Rupert: Thank you Alan. It was a great pleasure meeting you at the Golden Lion in Todmorden, your creative, caring, friendly persona shone through. And I’m grateful to have made such a friend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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