This interview was first featured in the May 2019 issue of SNACK.
In the early 90s, I was a little bit young for actually taking part but I was obsessively watching the rave scene from afar. Collecting event flyers from record stores and clothes shops for my bedroom wall, nervously shuffling up to the counter at 23rd Precinct to buy the latest Metro tape, trying to catch pirate radio stations at the far ends of the dial; as with many, it’s a time that shapes my tastes and attitude to music to this day. So, Beats is right up my street. Set at the tail end of the Scottish 90s rave scene, Beats is a tender and touching story of two boys on the cusp of adulthood who fumble their way to an illegal out of town party for one last shared experience before life inevitably gets in the way.
With a soundtrack made up of classic tracks from the era including The Prodigy, Orbital, Leftfield, Human Resource, N-Joi, Carl Craig, Model 500 and Inner City; JD Twitch has perfectly captured the energy of the time. I caught up with him for a quick chat about the film and its music.
What was it about the project that you thought, ‘I need to get involved in this’?
The Genesis story is, Brian Welsh the Director and producer Camilla Bray, they came to see myself and Jonnie when we were down doing a gig in London over three years ago. They said they had this project, based on the play. I hadn’t actually seen the play when it showed in Glasgow but I knew all about it. Having read the script and seen that it was an amazing story… obviously it was an era that I had lived through and felt a deep personal connection to, particularly the music. Being asked to help choose music for film is probably a dream job, so it was really a no brainer to agree from the off.
Is music for film something you harboured ambitions in for a while now? I’ve read that you used to DJ over Koyaanisqatsi at parties?
A couple of times over the years, once in London and once in Glasgow I’d done it with Baraka, which is similar to Koyaanisqatsi, I’d done a live rescore, but DJing. I’m a big film fan, I’m a big music fan. It’s always been something that I’m open to but opportunities don’t come around very often. I’ve been involved with a couple of small short films with friends and family. But something like this, I’ve never known how you would break into it . So it was a great opportunity to see what it was actually like on the ground.
There’s a lot of talk about how Beats could be seen as the spiritual successor to Trainspotting.
I guess the obvious comparison is Trainspotting, though I personally think they are very different films. Who knows? You never know how these things are going to go. I always err on the side of pessimism and then I’m pleasantly surprised if something does well. It’ll be interesting to see. I’m not sure that it has quite the commercial appeal of Trainspotting, it’s a slightly darker story in places. But I guess Trainspotting was quite dark in its own way as well. Who knows? We’ll wait and see.
You were DJing at the party scene in the film.
I was. They used a huge amount of the film’s budget just for that scene because they were determined [to get it right]. I’ve seen so many films where they’ve tried to recreate what it was like, either a rave or at a club and they just failed to get it, they just completely got it wrong. Brian was determined that they would have as authentic an attempt as possible to recreate what a rave was like in that era, so a lot of time and effort was put into it.
On the day, it was quite emotional as I felt like I had stepped back in time because all the extras had made a huge effort to look as much as possible as people would have dressed in that era. There were a couple of haircuts that probably wouldn’t have passed on closer inspection for the haircuts of that time but it really felt like going back in time; the way that the place looked, the atmosphere, the way people dressed and then of course the music.
To you, what is the film about?
I think it’s a love story, not in a homoerotic way. It’s a love story between two boys growing up. I mean, it’s such a typical thing. We’ve all got experiences where we’ve had best friends from when we were young and you imagine you are going to be best friends for life, and then life gets in the way and your lives go in completely different directions. So I guess it’s about them knowing that it’s the end of their boyhood friendship and they’re going to go their different ways in life.
I think it’s obviously a story of Scotland at that time of massive structural change. I think Brian was coming from that slightly political perspective. The implications of the terrible policies that the Conservatives reaped on Scotland and the damage that caused to the socio-economic fabric of the country. It’s deeply rooted in that time and of deep friendship.
What do you think are the long term implications of the Criminal Justice Act? Do you see its tendrils still working their way around Scottish culture and our opportunities to get together, be together?
I think so, in that it’s still very hard to… there a load of illegal events that go on in and around the west of Scotland simply because licencing hours are so strict, because of the very paternalistic way of looking at events happening. One thing about the whole rave era is that everyone was very hedonistic and hence not very politicised. It was suddenly something that went boom because it affected people personally, it made a lot of people very political. A lot of people from that time got political and went on and still to this day are doing things related to that, in perhaps a subversive way or trying to push the barriers of what is allowed to happen.
Even now, you can see things being pushed about from the fields to the city and back again. They don’t know what to do with it, like with The Arches for example.
Absolutely, even though it’s a huge part of the economy and it’s a sign of a vibrant life. Look at other cities around Europe and around the world, they look at their nightlife as an important part of the city and their culture. I think Glasgow has a very poor attitude towards that, you’re absolutely right, they try to push it. Closing The Arches was a foolhardy, stupid act of cultural vandalism I think. My theory of it is that they didn’t like a couple of thousand people being out at one time, having a good time, being maybe a little over enthusiastic. I think the police just couldn’t be bothered with it.
Another stupid thing about shutting down The Arches, they had some instances… and it was terribly tragic that someone died there. But you had thousands of people going there week in, week out and it was an environment where they were at least trained and knew how to deal with these things, rather than pushing things out into this underground and illegal aspect where there is no way to look after them and it’s far more likely to have an incident.
What are your favourite film scores?
It’s funny that you mention Koyaanisqatsi because that’s a real favourite of mine. I’m a huge fan of the act Popol Vuh who did a whole load of film scores for the likes of Fitzcorraldo, Aguirre, the Wrath of God – those are favourite film scores. I’m a massive David Lynch fan, Mulholland Drive is a huge favourite of mine. A Clockwork Orange is a huge favourite. I could go on and on, I’m a huge collector of soundtracks.
To you, what makes a good soundtrack?
I think some sort of unified atmosphere. With Beats, it’s mainly what’s called a needle drop, where it’s external music from other sources throughout the film – also there little bits of sound design and also some composing work by The Golden Filter.
I think the best most classic actual soundtracks are those which have been done specifically composed for that film, perhaps with one or two key songs dropped in. Which is not the case with Beats, I think Beats is a great soundtrack but it’s not a classic soundtrack type film. It has a rave sound to the film but it’s music by other artists, rather than composed as a film score.
After the Glasgow Film Festival showing, there was a party in The Arches afterwards.
Yeah, that’s right, there were two afterparties. So there was the one in The Arches, and there was another one in the Sub Club, which was more of a ‘music from the film’ type affair.
And then we got the news the next day that Keith Flint had passed on.
Actually, I was talking to Brian the next day, he called me saying he heard the news and that it had happened early in the morning. I think the last song that played in the Sub Club at 3am was The Prodigy, the whole place was going crazy. We were thinking that perhaps at that exact point, Keith Flint had died. It was terrible.
Beats is out on general release from 17th May 2019