When we look back at the British club culture during the late 80s and early 90s, our initial thoughts are usually on the meteoric rise of acid house and illegal raves, which were plastered across the pages of publications such as The Face and I-D magazine. Although these were seen as the main outputs for new trends within music and youth culture, others will remember and pay homage to independent fanzine Boy's Own, which built a cult following through spearheading and reporting on many of the current trends at the time.
Started by DJs Terry Farley and Andrew Weatherall, Cymon Eckel, Steve Mays and Pete Heller, the satirical magazine, which initially featured cut-out imagery from other magazines and text typed up by Terry’s mother, became monumental to the UK’s clubbing culture. It championed trends from fashion and football and reported on pieces such as the top five pingers around at the time to the latest music releases. Alongside the magazine the boys also ran successful club nights, sold merchandise and started a label, aptly named Junior Boy’s Own, which was run by Farley.
As we recently saw the website and merchandise re-surface, along with published articles on the Boy's Own platform, we caught up with Terry and Cymon to talk about re-launching Boy's Own, the UK’s current club landscape and the potential to re-launch the magazine.
How did the initial concept of creating the fanzine come about?
Terry: There wasn’t much else on offer for us at the time. We had the likes of I-D, but we felt that was a bit more for art school kids. In 86 me, Cymon, Andy Weatherall and Johnny Rocker went to a Beastie Boys concert, so we started to write about that, along with some indie pop stuff and a little bit of fashion.
My mum typed up the text for us and I’d cut out a few pictures from other magazines, including the 1940’s Boys Own , which is how we got our name - then we just got those printed up!
Cymon: Then we did a party in this small basement in Chelsea, which everybody really enjoyed, so we held another one at a club called The Raid – Terry was the resident and the other two DJs were Pete Tong and Paul Oakenfold, who were becoming fairly well known in the London circle around that time.
Terry: After that we started to build a name for ourselves and threw parties at a load of different venues. We just kept running with that alongside the magazine and the T-shirts, which people really liked and winged it from there.
So there was never any real push or plan to market the magazine?
Terry: We took the magazines down to shops and clubs to start with. We also put little adverts in the back of the NME, which went down well!
We started getting postcards from people in prison because there was a little football and lad culture in the magazine, although we were taking the piss out of it. We created a character called Millwall the dog, which we used to slag off different clubs and football firms.
Cymon: Suddenly we were getting stamped envelopes from prisons across the country. We started to profile firms from other cities and started a section in the mag called ‘club gangs’. This was around 89 when acid house was firmly established, so we’d reach out to others in the Balearic network and ask them to tell their mates to send us a photograph of their firm so we could see what garms the firms were wearing up and down the country.
It sounds like a pretty large-scale operation you were running.
Terry: No, it was just all a bit of fun to us at the time, we all still had full time jobs! I was a gas fitter, Cymon was a carpenter on film sets and Weatheraall was my Chippies mate.
Cymon: We were all pretty naive at the time. We sold the publication for the same price it cost us to make it as we were just happy that people wanted to read the stuff we were writing about. To be honest it’s that naivety which made the zine so charming, although that’s what held us back later on. We were given he opportunity to jump into the corporate world if we wanted, but we just wanted to go off and make records and throw parties, the bigger picture wasn’t for us to see.
Now you're both highly successful but back then, after a few years, did you think 'fuck, what have we done?!'
Terry: No because we moved on and moved up. We only printed what we could sell and only ever sold the magazines for the price it cost us to make, so there was never such a thing as profit.
It was only after the magazine stopped we carried on doing a few parties. Andrew Weatherall and myself did our thing and then Junior Boy’s Own kicked off and I became a much bigger DJ. Of course Cymon went off and opened various pubs, clubs and bars including building and developing XOYO.
So why did you guys think now was a good time to re-launch the website and the merch?
Terry: Basically a few years ago, I started getting really angry. I’d go online and get emails from people sending links to T-shirts, asking “is this real?” and they’d be sending me Boy's Own T-shirts that have been bootlegged and this was happening left right and centre. I was chasing people up and down the country trying to stop them from counterfeiting our logo.
So we said 'fuck it' and we started re-launching the T-shirts online, as well as throwing a couple of parties across London too. We had pretty good line-ups, including Dixon, Frankie Knuckles at XOYO, Lil Louis, Honey Dijon and a few others.
Cymon: The thing is it’s not about revival with the events. We’re tying to book contemporary DJs, with the exception of Frankie Knuckles, who’s the godfather of house. We’re always trying to look forward.
Terry: And with the merch, we’re not re-launching it to become a big clothing label. We’re just selling the T-shirts because we want to protect them, it’s our baby and we don’t want some fucking bloke at home with a printer making money off our designs.
From events you’ve been to, what differences do you see with UK club culture now compared to the past?
Terry: Some things are the same and some are completely different. I’ve got two bugbeats with DJing now. One is people filming on their phones, or even looking at their phones all evening, and secondly is that the crowd all face the DJ!
If it’s me playing for example, I should be incidental of the night. I’m playing other people's music so other people can have a good time, I’m not the centre of the night – the same goes for when a promoter rings me and says “we’ve got a show for you to do”. I let them know I don’t do shows, I’m not an act, I’m a DJ. I just play records.
Hopefully the trend of putting DJs on the floor like Panoramabar or Secretsundaze will grow and make people stop looking at the DJ and start dancing with their friends. The crowd really is the most important thing of the party.
Finally, what’s next for Boy’s Own? Can we expect to see the zine surface this year?
Cymon: In general we’re looking to take things up a gear, to make Boy's Own an established culture thing.
In the world we’re in now we’re going to be doing more events and more stories and the online magazine is going to build. We’ve toyed with the idea of print and agreed that if we did go ahead with it, we’d probably just sitck it in one place with 200 copies and that’s it.
Terry: I’m a big fan of print magazines, I’m really in to The Move magazine and all those Japanese magazines where you just look at pictures of a pair of jeans and a wallet. Call me shallow, many people do, but I can just look at pictures for hours if it’s photographed nicely.
Cymon: Evidently, what we want to do is become a platform and interact with people, with much more outreach to people who create content, work with people that do cool shit and give them a voice that’s not dictatorial. We want people to be able to express their work and have a laugh via Boy's Own!