Spiral Tribe is a free party sound system which existed in the first half of the 1990s, and became active again in 2007 and continues to host clubnights and parties in the UK and across Europe. The collective originated in west London and later travelled across Europe and North America. According to one member, the name came to him when he was at work, staring at a poster of the interconnecting spirals in an ammonite shell. The group had a huge influence on the emerging free tekno subculture. Members of the collective released seminal records on their label, Network 23.
From 1990 until 1992, Spiral Tribe were responsible for numerous parties, raves and festivals in indoor and outdoor locations. These mainly occurred in the south of England. The largest and most famous party the group organised was the Castlemorton Common Festival free party in May 1992. Thirteen members of the group were arrested immediately after the Castlemorton event and were subsequently charged with public order offences. Their trial became one of the longest running and most expensive cases in British legal history, lasting four months and costing the UK £4 million. Regarding Castlemorton, Nigel South states that "the adverse publicity attending the event laid the groundwork for the Criminal Justice Act 1994". Low and Barnett opine in Spaces of Democracy that "Spiral Tribe, with their free and inclusive parties, succeeded in constituting an alternative public space, rather than just a secret one.". Between 1990 and 1992, parties included:
- The School House, NW London. October 1990. Mark and Debbie designed flyers and backdrops for Stika's party.
- Squat Party N London. Early 1991 with fire.
- Squat Party N London. Early 1991. Whole house decorated by Debbie.
- Former Job Centre, Wimbledon. 21 April 1991. Spring Equinox party.
- Labour Party Social Club, Camberwell, London. May 1991.
- Cable Street, Wapping London. 15 June 1991. Took place in the loading bay of a large warehouse about 5 floors high and open to the sky.
- Longstock, Wiltshire. June 1991.
- Mirage, Devils Punch Bowl, WInchester, Hants. 6–7 July 1991. Free party all weekend long; no problems from the police.
- Happy Daze Free Festival, Bala, Wales. 26–29 July 1991.
- Torpedo Town, Liphook, Hampshire. 9–12 August 1991.
- Chelmsford. August 1991. Original site in an open mine (natural auditorium) was compromised by police while setting up. Thousands of ravers waited patiently for hours until a new site was found; permission was given for use of a field on private land. In the morning spiral tribe members and friends all were arrested and locked up for 23 hours for a charge of suspected theft of a stolen generator from the Chelmsford festival.
- Horton-cum-Studley, Oxford. August 1991. 2 day long party (on the way back from Chelmsford), Spiral tribe borrowed a local free party sound system not to return it.
- Cissbury Ring festival, Sussex. August 1991. Held on a picnic site near to Arundel Castle. Spiral tribe set up the decks on the back of a car transporter trailer unit.
- The White Goddess Festival, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall. 30–31 August 1992.. Combined their sound system with Circus Normal (to achieve a sound system of over 25,000 watts RMS) receiving complaints from over 14 miles away. Despite police pressure they partied on until all of the partygoers went home. The event was attended along with a number of other sound systems including Circus Warp and DIY.
- The Arches, Deptford, London. September 1991.
- The Green House Part, NW London. October 1991.
- The Village Idiots Festival, Kent. October 1991.
- Lewisham Library, SE London. November 1991.
- Staravia Factory, Ascot, Berks. November 1991.
- Brewery Road, N London. December 1991.
- The Round House, Camden, N London. 31 December 1991 - 1 January 1992. The power was stolen from a light socket owned by British Rail at the back of the building and the system went off at 6:30 in the morning when they turned the lights off. Someone then found an alternative power source.
- Blackwall tunnel, London. January 1992. Held in conjunction with Circus Normal.
- York Road, King's Cross, London. February 1992.
- Numbers Farm, Kings Langley, Herts. February 1992. The old ovaltine Dairy farm.
- Tubney Woods, Abingdon, Oxford. March 1992. In conjunction with Bedlam Sound System.
- Swindon. March 1992.
- Acton Lane, W London. 19 April 1992. Ended up in a major stand-off with police.
- Chobham Common, Surrey. 26 April 1992.
- Lechlade, Gloucestershire. 2–4 May 1992. 25,000 people.
- Selsey Commom, Stroud, Gloucestershire. 9 May 1992.
- Black Mountains, Rhayader, Wales. 16 May 1992. In conjunction with Bedlam Sound System,
- Castlemorton Common Festival, Worcestershire. 22–29 May 1992. The largest free party/festival to have been staged in the UK with Bedlam Sound System, Circus Warp, Circus Normal, DiY Sound System, Adrenalin.
- Canada Square/Canary Wharf, London. 4 June 1992. About 1,000 people managed to dance for a little over an hour before 300 police sealed off roads and moved in to make arrests.
- Isle of Dogs, London. 20 June 1992. With Ruff Crew, Dog Posse. Broke up by police?
- Smeatharpe Airfield, Devon. 26–28 June 1992. In conjunction with Bedlam Sound System, Circus Warp, Circus Normal, DiY Sound System.
- Torpedo Town, Romsey, Hampshire. 7–10 August 1992.
- Cissbury Ring Fetival, Sussex. 21–23 August 1992. The police allowed the party to go on over three different sites. The system was supplied by Big Life Records; it also got split up, and at the end of the parties it was misplaced by a number of different tribe members, to resurface in Europe and around London.
- Notting Hill, W London. August 31, 1992. With Earth Leakage Trip and Xenophobia.
- Uxbridge, W London. 31 December 1992 - 1 January 1993.
- Brent Cross, NW London. 23 January 1993.
- Uxbridge, W London. 10 April 1993.
After being acquitted of all charges relating to Castlemorton in March 1993, shortly after the group moved to Europe, doing parties in cities such as Rotterdam, Paris and Berlin. Over the next few years, the collective organised parties and teknivals throughout Europe, then it slowly dispersed with some members taking up residence in Germany and the Netherlands and releasing work on Labworks and many other techno labels. Individual members of the collective joined other sound systems, did squat art events or pursued other interests.
From the summer of 1994 a number of free parties were organised by Spiral Tribe members throughout Europe. When the parties were large festivals with an open invitation to other sound systems and artists to participate, they came to be known as teknivals. In tribute to this collective, the type of music predominantly played at early teknivals came to be known as spiral tekno. Parties included the following:
- Hellfire, Dublin, Ireland. Late 1992
- Montpellier, France. 1 May 1993.
- Paris, France. 19 June 1993.
- Berlin, German. 26 June 1993.
- Berlin, Germany. 31 December 1993. At the Tacheles squat.
- Hostomice, Czech Republic. 28 July 1994. First year of festival later known as CzechTek.
- Vienna, Austria. 27 August 1994.
- Vienna, Austria. 31 December 1994.
- Vienna, Austria. 4–6 March 1995.
- CzechTek, Czech Republic. 26 July 1995.
- Rome, Italy. 31 December 1995.
- Milan, Italy. 11 May 1996.
- CzechTek, Czech Republic. 26 July 1996.
- Vienna, Austria. 14 September 1996.
- Prague, Czech Republic. 30 November 1996.At the Cibulka squat.
- Vienna, Austria. 11 April 1998.
Chicago 1993 at Pulse - Ripe Productions. Three Castlemorton members play. Spiral Tribe also toured the United States of America in 1996 and were hosted by Pirate Audio and S.P.A.Z. Soundsystems on a coast-to-coast free tekno party tour.
In 1997, Spiral Tribe toured America with a rig and crew, joining forces once again with free party systems. They were instrumental in the initiation of the Autonomous Mutant Festival in July of that year, which continues to this day. The 16th Festival was held in 2012.
Rest of World
On New Year's Eve, December 1998, the Tribe hosted a party in Goa, India.
Spiral Tribe members
The notion of member of the tribe was informal; quickly numerous artists joined the initial four members, accompanying them on their trips, some for holidays only, others in a more long-lasting way. The public tended to consider every artist performing at one of their free parties a Spiral member.
Members of Spiral Tribe have included the following artists: Sebastian (alias 69db), Mark Stormcore, Zander, Steve What's on, Lol Hammond, Simon (alias Crystal Distortion), Jeff 23 (alias DJ Tal), Ixindamix, MeltDown Mickey, kaos, MC Skallywag, Debbie (aka Pheen X), Timmy Tribe, Paula, Sally, Alex 65, Deano, Steve Bedlam, Orinoco (AKA DJNerate), James (alias Jack Acid), Stefnie, Little Ez, Nigel (alias Edge), DJ Crafty (T.C.), DJ Aztek, DJ Curiel DJ Manic Josh, DJ Renegad Sid, DJ Charlie Hall, DJ Mr K, DJ Dark, Hamish, Darren, Dougie, Sacha, Old Frank,Scouse, Paul, Sim Simmer, Joe, Sheba Luv (bathsh3ba), Tim Evans (Heathfield), Sancha, Sirius, Dom, Mitch, Terminator Chris, Roger Raver special K.
The number 23
The number 23, which is used in their record label name and in the title of several of their tracks, comes from the book The Cosmic Trigger by Robert Anton Wilson, which was read by several group members.
In 1992, some members of the collective signed to the major label Big Life, as a result of the publicity generated from their involvement in the organisation of the Castlemorton Common Festival. Three EPs were released and two albums, one merely a compilation of the tracks from the EPs, the other a full album entitled Tekno Terra. They also stole a Rig from Big Life records, along with other rigs that were leant to them.
Members of Spiral Tribe also released records on their own label Network 23.
In 1997, Techno Import, a French commercial distributor, compiled a CD entitled Spiral Tribe: The Sound of Teknival. The CD consisted of previously licensed material via Big Life Music, Rabbit City, Drop Bass Network and Force Inc. It was released without any consent from members of Spiral Tribe, was advertised on television and sold at least 30,000 copies. Spiral Tribe issued a statement against its release which began, "F**k Techno Import, Spiral Tribe Is Not For Sale", and had to take quick action to ensure the name Spiral Tribe was not copyrighted by Techno Import.
12" releases (in chronological order)
- U Make Me Feel So Good
- Spiral Tribe EP (aka Breach The Peace)
- Spiral Tribe EP 2 (aka Forward The Revolution)
- Sirius 23
- Verdict Not Guilty EP (aka Black Plastik)
- Don't Take The Piss
- Definitely Taking Drugs
- Expekt The Unxpekted
- SP 23
- Power House
- Power House 02
- Probably Taking Drugs
- Spiral Tribe 1
- Spiral Tribe 2
- Spiral Tribe 3
- Spiral Tribe 4
- Spiral Tribe 5
- Full Fill Fromage
- Strange Breaks
- Fac'em If They Can't Tek A Joke
SP23 the music aint over
Note: They also released EP 23 No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 (World Domination Part 1, 2 and 3), as well as a few untitled promo CDs, but there is little documentation about these vinyls.
- Tecno Terra
- Spiral Tribe Sound System (The Album)
- Killing Joke - "Change" (Spiral Tribe mixes)
Tracks appeared on
- Shamanarchy In The UK
- Survival! The Dance Compilation
- Technohead - Mix Hard Or Die
- World Traveller Adventures (DVD)
- Aid Asia Compilation
In 2011, several of the original members of Spiral Tribe launched the SP23 of today. A creative collective involved in a number of grass roots projects as well as major international parties, more information can be found on their website.
- Guest, Tim (11 July 2009). "Tim Guest tells the story of how the state crushed the early 90s free party scene". Thewguardian.com. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
- Reynolds, S. (1999) Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture Routledge ISBN 0-415-92373-5
- Brewster B. & Broughton F., 1999, Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey, Grove Press, ISBN 0-8021-3688-5
- ed. South N., 1999, Drugs: Cultures, Controls and Everyday Life, SAGE Publications, ISBN 0-7619-5235-7
- ed. Low M. and Barnett C., 2004, Spaces of Democracy: Geographical Perspectives on Citizenship, Participation and Representation, SAGE Publications, ISBN 0-7619-4734-5
- "Spiral Tribe". Elektrokanibal.org. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
- List of Spiral Tribe members compiled from various sources:
- "SP23 is a creative conspiracy of musicians, DJs and artists. The origins of the collaboration goes back twenty years when the crew began a nomadic journey across Europe and beyond with the Spiral Tribe Sound System.". Sp23.org. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
- Official Site
- Archive site
- Spiral Tribe mixes from partyvibe
- Spiral Tribe article and interview from Fantazia
- A first-hand account of the events surrounding Castlemorton
- Another gallery of Spiral Tribe flyers
- Spiral Tribe discography from Discogs
- World Traveller Adventurers DVD
- Network 23 Repress
- Network 23
- Tribes Gathering Apocalypse Festival, Belgium
- Reminiscences about Spiral Tribe parties, flyer gallery, record reviews
- Party memories and photos including Spiral Tribe