One of the UK’s first house and techno DJs, Colin Faver’s radio and club sets influenced generations. Joe Muggs looks at the legacy of a man who lived and breathed dance music, supporting its culture day and night.
The shock of knowing Colin Faver is gone is a bit like waking up to see a chunk of the landscape isn’t there any more. It’s a bit like when Susumu Yokota’s death was announced earlier this year: someone who felt like they were just part of the fabric of things, whose contribution to underground music was so steady and woven through so many sounds and scenes that they just felt like they’d always be there.
For me, Colin Faver was absolutely foundational. In my late teens, hearing his Kiss FM show on second and third generation tapes was a huge part of the shift from being a musically voracious general-purpose raver to understanding the channels and conduits that linked scenes, continents and generations. At first he was another of those endlessly-repeated names on rave flyers and tape packs alongside the Sashas and Carl Coxes and Ratpacks and Easygrooves – he was, after all, right at the heart of the rave movement – but as I started to become aware of the different strands, he became representative of techno as such, and listening to his and Colin Dale’s three-hour long shows on Kiss, as well as their rave mixtapes, was possibly my greatest education in that world.
As I got deeper involved in the techno world myself, sweating myself skinny at Club UK and a dozen other strobelit dives in London and Brighton, I got to know what a pillar of the scene he really was. He put out The Aphex Twin’s second release on his Rabbit City label – a label which would consistently bridge the gaps between techno and hardcore. He would be on just about every techno lineup of note. He never saw heirarchies of hipness, being happy to delve into gabber and squat-rave “tekno” as much as cooler Detroit and underground European sounds. Friends who made music back then would wax lyrical about how supportive he’d been when they’d sent him demos or asked him to play their tiny night, or even how he’d refused even a nominal fee from promoters when an event went disastrously wrong. His life partner was Brenda Russell, an awesome techno DJ in her own right, resident at Club UK and partner with Colin in the notorious Knowledge club. He truly lived techno. He was just there, working constantly to bind it all together, so a release was never just a release, a show was never just a show: they all felt like integral parts of a living culture.
Only much later did I discover that it wasn’t just techno that owed him a debt of gratitude. It was more or less the whole of UK underground club culture. As a promoter going right back to the start of the eighties, he’d put on major shows by Throbbing Gristle, This Heat and plenty of other post-punk stalwarts whose real influence is only now being understood. He had (as I only discovered this week!) been responsible for first signing The Cure. As resident DJ at the Camden Palace through the decade, he was part of a select few – along with the likes of Mark Moore, “Evil” Eddie Richards, Norman Jay, Kid Bachelor, Baby Ford and Coldcut – to really grasp what was happening in the clubs of the USA in the interstitial zones between electro, new wave and the remnants of disco, and bring real DJ culture to this side of the Atlantic. And as befits someone who’d been crucial in priming British club audiences for the house and techno explosion, he’d played at just every notorious acid house location, from Shoom to Clink Street to the Hacienda to the orbital raves around London’s perimeter.
More recently he wasn’t exactly on the cutting edge – he’d been happily settled into playing nu-soul and “proper house” on Mi-Soul radio – but even in relatively chilled-out semi-retirement he was still joining the dots, and this made absolute sense for someone with a lifelong commitment to proving that funk and tripped-out experimentalism, accessibility and balls-out rowdiness were by no means incompatible. Even when he was putting on Throbbing Gristle, he was collecting and playing soul and disco too, and he remained a soulboy to the end.
Faver was not one of those outspoken, colourful or controversial personalities who get to be known as iconic figures for one or two pivotal achievements – he was a workhorse, a much-loved, reliable figure, who could be guaranteed to deliver the goods again and again and again, but because of that reliability it was easy to let him become part of the background. It’s sad that it takes a death to throw that complacency into relief, and I for one feel guilty for not having bigged him up more when he was alive. If anything good can come of this loss, let’s make it a resolution to get behind the hype, and appreciate those quiet, ego-free figures who, like Faver, don’t give a shit about hipness or headlines, who don’t care about arbitrary genre and scene boundaries, but are still working day and night to support our music and culture around it.
Check Faver in the mix in the early 90s:
Thanks to Lindsay Wesker for the photo. Check out his book, Masters of the Airwaves: The Rise & Rise of Underground Radio, and catch the roadshow in London this Sunday, September 12.