24-09-2013 | 19.53
A couple days after the label Sandwell District decided to no longer release new music, Regis and Function were scheduled to play Westerunie on January 12th together with James Ruskin and Sandrien. A few friends and me went, hoping to witness the destructive tunnel techno of the British duo. Sandwell District closed off the night and brought exactly that which they’ve been known for.
When I saw Regis on the billing of the upcoming Imprint, I immediately thought of that night. I remember quite vividly that he abruptly cut off the last track of the night, after which he yelled through the mic: “Fuck off, go home!!!” Maybe not the most pleasant way to say goodnight to your audience, but for some strange way I could appreciate it. I guess in a 'I gave you what you came for, it was awesome, now sod off' kinda way. Karl O’Connor (Regis) always seems to say what he thinks and thinks what he says.
It’s been so long ago that most have probably forgotten by now, but Regis is the one that founded the iconic Downwards label together with Antony Child (Surgeon). A label that represented techno for many (and still does), but was in fact so much more than that. Think of it as a outlet valve against the national Top of the Pops culture from the working class city of Birmingham. Karl O’Connor is one of the last DJ’s to live and breathe a true punk attitude.
Karl broke through with his first 12” on Downwards ‘Montreal’. The same record – which he made within 20 minutes on his bedroom at his mom’s house – sold over more than 60.000 copies. Even while techno ever played a big role in his youth: "Techno I was at odds with, I still am at odds with it. I never was really into techno. I was never into dancing. Dancing is like a pass time to me. I could never understand it. Why are you dancing? That’s shit. What are people going dancing for? I always wanted to go out and go pogo’ing two hours and fuck off back to the night club at 1 o’ clock. This late night business, I don’t get it." How someone with that attitude towards techno made an EP like Montreal beats me, but I’m glad he did it. Have a listen to the first two videos on the right: that shit is about as raw as it gets.
For Regis, techno was the answer to the American verse-chorus guitar driven music, techno as a kind of hypnosis. After the many successes Regis has had with Downwards and Sandwell, he didn’t become more modest looking at his interviews. People say modesty adorns man, but I don’t think Karl has ever heard that expression. Is it bluff, machismo or his Birmingham bollocks? I think a bit of all the latter, but it doesn’t really matter. Sometimes you want to see someone like Regis: a man with big words, straightforward. Whether he’s right of not, it doesn’t matter. One thing is for sure: it makes his interviews a hell of a lot more fun and interesting. Like this answer from a recent interview to the question about the most embarrassing moment in his career:
"An 18 hour train journey from Berlin, freezing cold, got there, set up. I think it was outside Kiev and I mean 300 miles outside Kiev and we got there, set up and I started playing. After five minutes, they came to me and said stop. I said I’m not stopping, I’m playing. *click noise* ‘Stop’. The gun’s out and then I thought I’m gonna stop."
"You’re not gonna play. This is what you’re gonna do, you’re gonna come upstairs and sing Happy Birthday to my mum." The club owner’s got me all the way there to sing 'Happy Birthday to You’ to the mafia from this town; the mother of the guy who run that club. They paid me completely fine and then sent me home."
"I played in Kosovo during the war, I’ve done it all, I’ve slept in a mattress with a dead pigeon. The thing is when I was there, if I was dead and on the news and everyone saw it. They’d say well you deserve it because you played in Kosovo during the war, you played to a load of idiots and you slept on a mattress with a dead pigeon, you know… Yeah it’s pretty fucked up. That still haunts me, embarrassingly, apart from that nothing else."
The wicked thing about the upcoming Imprint for me is not just that Regis is simply a legit Birmingham badass, but also that everyone shares a close relation to one another. Regis released his last EP on the ultra dark Blackest Ever Black label of which Tropic of Cancer will start the night with a live performance. Silent Servant still plays a major role in the Sandwell District collective/label and Regis’ Downwards plus Sandrien who brings it all together at Imprint. Imprint comes full circle on September 28th.
Text: Frans Bootsman