hard as nails

UK hard house

UK Hard House or simply Hard House is a style of Hard Dance music that emerged in the 1990s.

Sound

Hard house is typified by a set formula of up-tempo house music compressed kick drums, signature style off-beat basslines and the use of 'hoover' type sounds. In contempt of the name it shares some parts in style with house music, but borrows elements heavily from trance music (synths and sometimes breakdown formula), and hardcore/rave music (hoover sounds, chants). Generally, hard house is part of a wider group of styles called Hard Dance and has little in common with the modern trance or house scenes going for a stronger storm sound. Hard Dance also encompasses NRG or Hard NRG, which UK Hard House is often confused for. However, the two have some variance from each other, and are considered two separate genres by Hard Dance enthusiasts.

The starting point: Chicago early to mid 80's

House was first and foremost a direct descendant of dance. Dance had already been going for about 10 years. But the underground scene was beginning to develop a new style that was deeper, rawer and designed to make people dance. Dance had already produced the first records to be aimed specifically at DJs with extended 12" versions that included long percussion breaks for mixing purposes and the early eighties proved a vital turning point.

But it wasn't just American music laying the groundwork for house. European music, spanning English electronic pop like Depeche Mode and Soft Cell. One of the reasons for their popularity was two clubs that had broken the barriers, two clubs that were to pass on into dance music legend - Chicago's Warehouse and New York's Paradise Garage. when the Warehouse, opened in 1977 and presided over by Frankie Knuckles and the Garage where Larry Levan spun, the emphasis was on the music. The music was as varied as the people - r'n'b based Black dance music and disco mixed with things as different as rock. For most people, these were the places that acted as breeding grounds for the music that eventually came to be known after the clubs - house and garage.

The British connection: late 1980s - early 1990s

In Britain the growth of house can be divided around the "Summer of Love" in 1988. House had a presence in Britain almost as early as it appeared in Chicago; however there was a strong divide between the House music as part of the gay scene and 'straight' music. House grew in northern England, especially Manchester, as an extension of the 'Northern Soul' genre. The key English club was the Hacienda in Manchester, founded in 1982 by Factory Records. But until 1986 the club was a financial disaster, the crowds only started to grow when the resident DJs (Pickering, Park and Da Silva) started to play House music. House was boosted by the tour in the same year of Knuckles, Jefferson, Fingers Inc. (Heard) and Adonis as the DJ International Tour. Amusingly, one of the early anthemic tunes, "Promised Land" by Joe Smooth, was covered and charted within a week by the Style Council. The first English House tune came out in 1986 - "Carino" by T-Coy. Europeans embraced House music, and began booking legendary American House DJs to play at the big clubs, such as Miss Moneypenny's and Ministry of Sound, whose resident, DJ Harvey brought in Larry Levan.

The combination of house and techno came to Britain and gave House a phenomenal boost. A few clubs began to feature specialist House nights - the Hacienda had "Hots" on Wednesday from July 1988, 2,500 people could enjoy the British take on the Ibiza scene, the classic "Voodoo Ray" by A Guy Called Gerald (Gerald Simpson) was designed for the Hacienda and Madchester. Factory boss Tony Wilson also promoted acid house culture on his weekly TV show. The Midlands also embraced the late 80s House scene with many underground venues such as multi storey car parks and more legal dance stations such as the Birmingham Institute (now Sundissencial's 'The Sanctuary').

Social aspects of raves

Rather than be confined in the clubs ambitious promoters took the music to large temporary sites such as fields, handling up to 30,000 people in a single illegal event, called a rave. Promoters like Sunrise, Energy, Biology, Fantasia and World Dance held massive events in defiance of the police and music industry. Unlike many nightclubs they were open to all ages and races.

The press lead the general public to believe that the events were shaped solely by the consumption of ecstasy, but others pointed out the music was refreshing and intoxicating enough without consumption of drugs. The British tabloid press helped publicize the scene, generally portraying rave parties in a negative light, which tended to alarm institutions such as the government and the police. Many tunes became hits from these events such as "Everything Starts with a E" by the E-Zee Possee," which was created by a savvy music producer rather than a band, "The Trip" by S'Express and "NRG" by Adamski who became the first rave superstar.

The publicity and the knowledge that these events could make significant amounts of money led more professionally criminal groups to take an interest in raves. The police became more active in preventing or closing down raves. As the second "Summer of Love" arrived in 1989 the police became even more oppressive, culminating in a 1990 Act of Parliament. This was counter-productive, it both forced raves back underground and increased the criminal presence in organising raves. But the music continued, one of the longest lasting and influential groups grew out of the rave scene, named Orbital after the M25 motorway. Their British hit "Chime" was snapped up by Pete Tong's FFRR label. By the end of 1989 House was mainstream music in Britain, it charted regularly with "Ride on Time" from Black Box being at number one for six weeks.

After the "Summer of Love": early 1990s to mid 1990s

In Britain, further experiments in the genre boosted its appeal (and gave the opportunity for new names to be made up).

House and rave clubs like Lakota, Miss Moneypenny's and the original C.R.E.A.M. began to emerge across Britain, hosting regular events for people who would otherwise have had no place to enjoy the mutating house and dance scene.

The idea of 'chilling out' was born in Britain with ambient house albums like the KLF's Chill Out. A new indie dance scene was being forged by bands like the Happy Mondays, The Shamen, Meat Beat Manifesto, Renegade Soundwave, EMF, The Grid and The Beloved. Two distinctive tracks from this era were the Orb's "Little Fluffy Clouds" (with a distinctive vocal sample from Ricky Lee Jones) and the Happy Mondays' "Wrote for Luck" ("WFL") which was transformed into a dance hit by Paul Oakenfold.

The rise of the UK "superclub"

During this time many individuals and particularly corporations realized that house music could be extremely lucrative and much of the 1990s saw the rise of sponsorship deals and other industry practices common in other genres.

To develop successful hit singles, some argued that the record industry developed "handbag house": throwaway pop songs with a retro disco beat. Underground house DJs were reluctant to play this style, so a new generation of DJs were created from record company staff, and new clubs like Miss Moneypenny's, Liverpool's Cream (as oposed to the original underground night, C.R.E.A.M.) and the Ministry of Sound were opened to provide a venue for more commercial sounds.

By 1996 Pete Tong had a major role in the playlist of BBC Radio 1, and every record he released seemed to be guaranteed airplay. Major record companies began to open "superclubs" promoting their own acts, forcing many independent clubs and labels out of business. These superclubs entered into sponsorship deals initially with fast food, soft drinks, and clothing companies and later with banks and insurance brokers. Flyers in clubs in Ibiza often sported many corporate logos.

Many UK clubs were playing much the same music as the commercial dance shows, as were many bars, supermarkets, and television advertisements. Dance music was perceived by many young people as being increasingly outmoded. Many older DJs seemed to be playing year after year, leading to the term "Dad house". House music became racially segregated, in contrast to its inclusive beginnings; some major UK clubs were reportedly refusing to book black DJs. MDMA became less popular than cocaine but created an entirely different atmosphere. Ketamine and GHB also appeared on the club scene during this time.

As of 2003, a new generation of DJs and promoters were emerging, determined to kickstart a more underground scene and there were signs of a renaissance in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit and other racially-mixed cities, as well as in Canada, Scandinavia, Scotland and Germany. The key to house music was re-invention. A willingness to steal or develop new styles and a low cost of entry encouraged innovation.

Other Notable Hard House DJs

  • Paul Glazby
  • Paul "F1" King
  • Andy Farley
  • Superfast Oz
  • Dark By Design
  • Ben Stevens
  • Justin Bourne
  • Identity (aka Mel The Medic)
  • Riggsy
  • Grady G
  • Narc
  • Defective Audio
  • Lisa Lashes
  • Mr S
  • Dean Peters
  • Eufex
  • Frank Farrell
  • Dave Owens
  • Pierce Rooney
  • Marc Johnson
  • Banga Matt
  • Phil Coogan
  • JP and Juksey
  • Andy Whitby
  • Lisa Pin-Up
  • BK
  • OD404
  • RR Fierce
  • Ian M
  • Paul Maddox
  • DJ Neo
  • Blutonium Boy

Hard house music labels / Hard NRG record /abels

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