Derek Plaslaiko, the great Detroit-to-Berlin DJ who is a longstanding resident of the great New York techno party The Bunker, summed it up better than anyone. On February 17, he tweeted, “Opening Twitter and the first 25 (at least) tweets are about Andrew Weatherall and then realizing it’s because he passed away is among the cruelest experiences I’ve had on here."
You didn’t have to have known or even met Andrew Weatherall to feel like you knew him. On a good day, and there were many, he was the sharpest-witted man in dance music. “I thought, DJs? Heroes? Are people really that desperate? I know people need heroes, but seriously, this is ridiculous,” he once said. But his openness and curiosity were almost unequaled in his field. Few DJs had his sheer open-ended range. And few were as enthralling or spellbinding on the decks—not in a couple of styles, but in every one he put his hand to. Is Weatherall, indeed, the greatest DJ ever, as Joe Muggs suggests? Here are ten sets across three decades that say: just maybe.
1 Kaos, Leeds (1991)
Andrew Weatherall made his name as an architect of the baggy sound of Primal Scream’s eternally delicious 'Loaded' in 1990, but he did not dwell in his own past for a second. As the rave scene got crazier, so did what he played, and for an atavist (not to mention a post-punk and rockabilly lover) like Weatherall, stab-pattern anthems were as enticing as loose-fitting breaks. This set makes a glorious hour out of that madhouse era.
2 Essential Mix (November 1993)
This moody, explosive techno showcase was only the third set of the entire series, but Weatherall’s sophistication and sense of pace were already leagues ahead of everyone around him. The dramatic pacing is very rock-like even when the BPM and the b-lines dart too fast for it—the Youth re-rub of Killing Joke’s 'Requiem' is a statement of intent as well as a killer opening number. Better yet, he works his way around to the flat-out pummel of Innersphere’s acid snarl 'Let’s Get To Work'.
3 Essential Mix (October 1996)
Deep house as moonscape disco — you can practically see the glints from the mirror ball at the edges of this music. You can also see aliens.
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4 Live at the Social Volume 3, disc one (React 2CD, rel. May 1999)
By 90s’ end, house took on a techier sheen — more of it was being made on computers than with gear — and Weatherall’s disc-one mix has a clear, cloudless cast that’s intensely dialled in. It’s utopic, which gives the mix’s highlight some extra heft: Salt City Orchestra’s remix of Marshall Jefferson vs. Noosa Heads’ 'Mushrooms', a sweet-toned recounting of an unforgettable trip. As a bonus, on disc two, Richard Fearless of Death In Vegas looked ahead to the forthcoming electro wave.
5 Hypercity (Force Tracks CD, rel. May 2001)
Though early-2000s minimal techno and microhouse gets a bad rap, early on it was frequently gorgeous. Few sets show it better than Weatherall’s traipse through the early catalog of Force Tracks, which was some of the style’s best. It’s lustrous, playful, swinging, and it finishes perfectly with Mathias Schaffhäuser’s remix of Luomo’s scene anthem, 'Tessio'. Weatherall is venerated for his breadth; here he’s equally effective limited to 30 items in a single label’s output.
6 FABRIC 19: ANDREW WEATHERALL (FABRIC CD, REL. NOVEMBER 2004)
Weatherall’s mid-2000s contribution to fabric’s mix CD series opens with that era’s vogue throwbacks in full pomp. The cheap synth bass of Sexual Harrassment’s early-80s 'I Need a Freak' (“With curly hair . . . In underwear!”) segueing into Egyptian Lover is all you need to know you’re in a master’s hands again. When it veers into the present tense, it sums up mid-00s robot boogie with a sweep—the kind of thing Weatherall did again and again.
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7 FACT Mix 85 (September 2009)
Weatherall had come of musical age in post-punk, so when that period’s music re-took center stage in the early 2000s he casually reclaimed it as well, and while he never stopped playing for floors, as the decade progressed he increasingly put out sets that worked like mixtapes rather than endless beat sessions. Exhibit A: this bewitchingly eldritch leftfield-oldies rock set for FACT. Just try to resist 'Rock & Roll Guitar' by Johnny Knight: “When I hear the sound of the wild guitar/I start jiving around like a man from Mars.”
8 RA.470: ANDREW WEATHERALL (JUNE 2015)
Starting in the summer of 2013, Andrew Weatherall and Sean Johnston began promoting A Love From Outer Space, a party where the upper-limit BPM was 122. “It is an oasis of slow in a world of increasing velocity,” went the party’s tag line. This gently paced but powerfully concentrated hour goes a little faster than that, but the idea is the same — comfort trumps speed. Other than that, there’s no overriding theme — “The idea was to sequence some records together without the joins being too apparent,” he snapped in the mix’s accompanying Q&A — nor a need for one.
9 Dekmantel Festival, Amsterdam (August 2019)
A three-and-a-half hour masterclass in slow builds that stay alluring. “He is a shaman, plays in a style unlike anyone else, a sonic time traveler,” Seze Devres, who runs the Brooklyn party Kiss & Tell, posted on Instagram. “This summer Weatherall opened up Dekmantel festival, it was pouring rain during his set. He played the perfect soundtrack, set the right mood for the weekend. When he was done, the sun came out.”
10 Music’s Not for Everyone (NTS Radio, January 2020)
Not Weatherall’s final show for NTS (Jan. 30) but the one before (Jan. 2) — as Joe Muggs noted, “a note perfect beat-free cosmic-ambient mix . . . two hours of radiant, spiritual sustaining magic, precisely what everyone needed that week.” And now this one — it’s a blend of Indian raga, ambient and new age that sounds an apt coda for a man who strode music’s furthest edges.
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