Twenty years of Full Moon madness with the Wicked party crew
Garth I think a lot of Brits followed us here after they heard what was going on in the Bay Area, the freedom. The U.K. party scene was outlawed by Thatcher's conservative government when it passed the criminal justice bill, which made it illegal for groups of more than 10 people to congregate while listening to repetitive beats. So there was a kind of party exodus: trance heads went to India (specifically Goa), other Brits went to Thailand, Australia, and Spain in search of a more fun life. San Francisco is particularly appealing to Brits because the climate suits us. It's never too hot or too cold, and there's a good dose of fog. It's very liberal, the architecture is Victorian, it's by the ocean with hills and those trams — plus great food and a strong, self-sustaining music scene.
Thomas It's poetic, cosmopolitan, and charming without being European: we like that.
SFBG You definitely did bring a pagan spirit with you — not just with the full moon and witchy Wicked angles, but also in the sense of reinfusing the local music scene with a particularly enchanting Northern California-British psychedelic rock sensibility. Is that spirit still alive? After seeing how the West Coast techno scene has progressed in the past 20 years, do you have any thoughts or gripes?
Garth Life's too short for gripes. And I don't consider it a "West Coast techno scene," really. It's all just music. We've always played the best in disco, acid house, psych rock, and all points in between. It's the tempo that keeps things moving, and move it always will.
Jenö I wouldn't consider Wicked as even being a part of the techno scene. Our music was a lot broader than that, dominated more by psychedelic house and soulful disco grooves. But we definitely influenced the West Coast music scene, and that influence can still felt today in the style and sounds of the current crop of local DJ crews, from the Sunset parties to the hipster clubs currently delving into obscure house and disco-driven sounds.
Thomas I'll tell you this: I live in New York, and there's too much disco.
SFBG Any good stories from the early days of Burning Man?
Garth We were the first and only sound system there in 1995, and of the 5,000 or so people out on the playa, we had a few thousand of them all grooving out under the open skies: no marquees, no lightshow, just a kick ass 15K Turbosound system, right out of the box. During the height of my five-hour set on Saturday night, one naked freak (they never seem to be clothed) ran up and flipped the tables on top of me. There was thunder and lightning and a mad electrical hum until we got the gear up and running again. The crowd went apeshit — it's still the highlight of my DJ career!
Jenö I didn't make it the Wicked BM camps back then. But I did attend the last-ever Stonehenge Free Festival in the U.K. during summer solstice in 1984, which was the epiphany that drove me to want to create my own anarchic and free-spirited musical gatherings. Very similar to BM in style and substance — art and music-driven with countercultural ideals, but without the dust and ridiculously expensive admission of Black Rock City.
Thomas I didn't go because I didn't think I'd get served a proper cocktail. A foolish mistake on many levels.
SFBG Top five quintessential Wicked records?
Wicked DJ Garth & Eti, "20 Minutes of Disco Glory" — all the boys did excellent remixes of this seminal West Coast classic.
!!!, "Hello Is This Thing On? (Rub N Tug Remix)" — this incredible remix really sums up the Wicked sound, and they recorded it on a full moon!