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Dance music according to Limmy

The Scottish comedian is on a personal mission to stop dance music taking itself too seriously

  • Ben Arnold
  • 7 July 2017

In comedy terms, Brian Limond is the nearest thing that dance music has to a patron saint. Despite it being ripe for sending up, few others have managed to take post-club gurn-a-thons or terrible dance music videos and make them funny. But Limmy has. The Glasgow-born comedian, for the uninitiated, first became known thanks to his podcast Limmy’s World of Glasgow, his website, and through his YouTube videos and demented Vines. Sometimes his sketches are pitch-perfect observations of life, of clubbing and post-clubbing (his ‘Party Chat’ clips are queasily spot-on), of drugs and drinking, of work and everything in between, all delivered in a broad Glaswegian accent. Latterly, Charlie Brooker picked up on his surreal talents too, and brought him in as a correspondent on his Weekly Wipe show on BBC Two.

Originally a web developer (he touched upon the clubbing world there too, making Flash games and websites for the likes of Soma and dance festival Homelands), he also started making tunes on his Atari ST and a copy of Cubase in the 90s. Long a fan of crafting electronic music – but with no interest whatsoever in making tunes for release – he uploads brilliantly daft cover versions to his SoundCloud page, like his recent Italo-house take on the Turkish Delight theme. Or the 80s supermarket version’ of ‘Latch’ by Disclosure. Or his techno remixes of ‘Ace Of Spades’ by Motorhead and ‘Africa’ by Toto. He wrote the theme tune to his brilliant BBC sketch show Limmy’s Show too (all streaming on Netflix now), a genuinely solid piece of throbbing dancefloor gear that could easily have been knocked up by Lindstrøm or Todd Terje. But as soonas anything starts to actually sound good, he immediately looks for ways to “fuck it up”, throwing in a ridiculous vocal or a face-melting gabba synth. Otherwise, it’s just all a bit too serious.

Then there’s his original tracks, like ‘Eccies’, in which he gurns out nonsensical grunts of “ecstasy” and “Keep taking the eccies, yeah” to a frisky electro backing track. Local Glaswegians Slam got him to make a video to their epic single ‘This World’. So he stuck a straw to his cheek to mimic a headset microphone, found an old VCR and pretended it was some kind of synth (“It’s got all sorts o’ shite inside,” he says) and really went for it, dancing and twiddling invisible knobs with a steely expression on his face like so many awful dance videos you’ve likely seen before, completely skewering the somewhat overwrought lyrics. He was scared they’d hate it, but they loved it.

So while he loves dance music – and he genuinely does – we’re lucky to have someone like Limmy occasionally bursting the bubble, taking the piss and reminding us of the absurdities that happen when thousands of people go out and get messy.

On clubbing in Glasgow

“The Arches was the one, in the early 2000s. Anything at the Arches was good. There was Slam and Pressure, but also there was Inside Out, which was harder stuff. You’d get Fergie playing. I liked it. It was folks mostly drinking rather than taking stuff. Now and again there’d be a fight. It wasn’t as happy an atmosphere as some of the other nights. Pressure was a nicer atmosphere on a Friday. People said Inside Out was a bit neddy [i.e. a bit rough], a wee bit aggro, but I never noticed.”

On raving

“I never went to any of the illegal raves in a field, like Earthquake. My mum and dad wouldn’t let me. All my pals did, taking tons of pills. I was kind of a late starter. Their mums and dads didnae give a fuck. I’d ask my mum and dad, ‘Can I go off to this big rave?’ They’d just say ‘No’. And that was it. Just as well, probably. I used to go this place called Hanger 13 in Ayr, on the west coast of Scotland. That was happy hardcore. People on three or four pills, gouching. That was a big mess. Everyone had their tops aff and looked hard as fuck. I’ve seen some videos on YouTube, and you think ‘Look at the fucking state of that!’ There’d be songs like ‘Fred West Is Dead’ [by Chill FM] and ‘Your Son Is Dead’ [Captain Kirk]. A lot of those songs used to be fucking horrible. I used to love ‘Soap On A Rope’ by The Rhythmic State, though. I loved that. That’s a fucking masterpiece."

On DJing

“Why is there so much knob-twiddling going on? Once the song is underway, and it’s not changing for three minutes, what exactly are you doing? There’s nothing to do, and everybody knows it. Are you a wee bit too self-conscious to dance – is that it? So you’ve got to look busy, like a train driver? ‘You lot think it’s just a track, but I’ve always got to be vigilant, in case something happens’. No, everybody knows you’re not doing anything. So either have a dance or do what Orbital did with ‘Chime’ on Top Of The Pops. Just stand there. Daen nothin. Just bob your head and say ‘fuck it, there’s nothing tae be done right now’.

On his dance music heroes

“Hardfloor. I remember hearing ‘Reverberate Opinion’ on a compilation, so I bought the album ‘TB Resuscitation’, and I stuck it on and thought ‘Right, this is it. This is what I’ve been looking for for fucking ages’. ‘Lost In The Silver Box’ is one of my favourite songs ever. So robotic, and so repetitive. I liked Orbital and The Orb back in the old days, too. Carl Craig and Laurent Garnier. Slam. Ritchie Hawtin. And Erick Morillo, for some reason.”

On making tunes

“Everybody else had an Amiga, which was better for games, but I had an Atari ST, which was better for MIDI. There were wee sampling programs, so I’d use samples from a Shamen record, looping wee bits and cutting them up. Me and a pal chipped in for a crap sound module, and we tried to make some techno. And it was kind of shite, trying to use a rock drum kit to make techno. I remember you’d see someone on Top Of The Pops with a 909 or a 303 not plugged in, and you’d fantasise about having one. Then [Propellerhead pioneering music software] ReBirth came out, and you had everything, all on your computer. Easy as fuck. Spending a grand on a 909 – that was all out the windae. I’d use it for the games I’d make as a web developer, for Flash intros or animations. Then later on, I got Ableton. It’s magic.”

On not making tunes

“When I start to take things seriously, it becomes less enjoyable. The best thing that could happen is that it will end up sounding like anything else you’d hear in a club. That’s when I think ‘Right, time to go and fuck it up’: put a speech from Rocky III on it, or Gordon Strachan, the Scotland manager, over the top. Taking things too serious, you end up with a stony face, wanting it to be good… I prefer it to be stupid as fuck.”

On his cover versions

“With ‘Turkish Delight’ I pictured a kind of Robert Miles-ey sort of thing. Then I accidentally put in a piano, and it all started sounding a bit grown-up. Then I thought ‘Right, I’ll just talk all over it about how much I like Turkish Delight’. You’ll hear an old song in your head, and think, ‘Oh, that would be funny done in this kind of way’. A lot of it’s what I grew up listening to, or a wee tune that I like anyway, that people might be familiar with. ‘Close To You’ by The Carpenters. ‘The Final Countdown’. ‘Love Bites’ by Def Leppard. I loved the drums I did for that. That’s one of my favourites. But naebody else really liked that one. It’s like The Limmy Show: you’ll have a sketch that’s one of your favourites, and naebody else ever talks about it.”

On plug-ins

“Sometimes I’ll see a list of ‘Ten Essential Plug-ins’ and it’s saying stuff like ‘make sure you make your basslines mono’, and I think, ‘Ooh, maybe I should get this’, and I have to go ‘Fucking shut up, what are you talking about? You’re making fucking ‘Turkish Delight’ techno fucking tunes, ya idiot, calm it’.”

On gurning

“I used to love seeing people in a state. Mates forgetting the alphabet. I just used to think it was so funny. Seeing a pal’s face gurning. Seeing people in a real shambles. I’ve not seen a real gurning face in the flesh for years. I don’t know what
it was that caused the gurning, whether it was something specific in the pills or something that was in with the MDMA that causes it. Aye, I was a gurner. You don’t think you are, then you just notice yourself, or someone points it out, and you’re like ‘ah fuck’. You can feel that bottom row of teeth jutting right out, and one eyebrow really high up, trying to
hold your eyelid open.”

On afterparties

“I’d listen to shite, I’d talk shite. I would say stuff I thought was clever, but it isnae. You end up in a flat with strangers, normally, and your girlfriend’s away up the road, but you’ve heard there’s a party. And then it’s about 10 people, so you just talk any old shite, just to fill the silence, and because you don’t want to go home. Keep on drinking, keep on gubbing pills if you’ve still got any. You don’t want it to stop, but the sun’s coming up outside. There’s people giving you funny looks, but you don’t care. You know you should leave, but you cannae. And you feel the comedown coming, and it’s like, ‘no, no, no, no, no!’’, and then you’re the last person there. It’s disgusting.”

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