Wild Dayz (1982 ~ 1987)
“Bristol had a very healthy scene at that time (the early 1980′s), both for live music like Mark Stewart and the Maffia and DJ-ing. In 1984, Technics just brought out these DJ decks, all my friends were DJs, they would play all kinds of records – funk, punk, post-punk and then a lot of US hip-hop and electro stuff was coming in. There was also the graffiti that people like 3D and Banksy were doing. But we had no idea what it would escalate into.”
Escalate it did, and the word soon spread outside of Bristol. Says Beezer, “For me, the peak was about ’85, ’86, the Wild Bunch threw some of the craziest parties ever to rock the town.” Members of this crew of beat junkies would go on to light lanterns across the world as Massive Attack with Nellee Hooper going onto produce Bjork, Madonna, U2, Soul ll Soul, Sinead O’Connor and many more etc etc
A childhood friend of the Wild Bunch boys Beezer captured those crucial early years with this rare documentation of an emergent youth culture that helped shape later urban lifestyles. He recalls. “The Bristol guys would go up to London to play with the other sound systems and sometimes combine to hold big warehouse parties. These were completely illegal events attracting 700 or 800 people in a freezing cold warehouse with a bathtub full of beers, and a massive sound system the vibe was incredible almost mystical. There was attitude, but none of the egotistical face we see too often now.”
It was a hyperkinetic scene Beezer was determined to record, and he obviously had a knack for capturing the moment… he takes the viewer on a voyeuristic journey through Bristol riot city, through the no go areas where even the police fear to tread breathing in the carbon monoxide sucking in the lead. There is a spontaneous, relaxed feel to the shots in the book (mainly black-and-white), perhaps a reflection of his easy-going character, and the fact the subjects were all friends out for a good time.
“I knew most of the people around me, and they knew me. So it wasn’t a problem hanging out with the camera. I put my own darkroom together at home, so I’d take photos, develop them and show them to my mates the next day.”
“Despite the heavy American influence in fashion and music (members of The Wild Bunch even adopted nicknames like Mushroom, Daddy-G, and 3-D), various aspects of the Bristol/British experience helped shape a different style-not least the pervasive presence of dub music.
“The reggae sound systems were a massive influence; lots of small events, with about 300 people, mainly black, huge towers of homemade speakers. Technology was very un-advanced, very raw.”
It was a time of very high tension, which you can feel in Wild Dayz as you turn the pages. This was the Disunited Kingdom of the 80′s. It was Madame Thatcher; it was the running battles of the miners’ strike; it was the stop and search law; the inner cities were tinder boxes; it was the summer of a thousand fires. First St Paul’s, Bristol then Toxteth, Brixton, the list goes on. They were harrowing/dangerous times he portraits.
Against such a backdrop, a uniquely UK scene was being shaped in Bristol, although it took some time for the city to work its sound onto wax. By the late 80’s however, Nellee Hooper’s flair for production helped London’s Soul-2-Soul take the UK by storm and in the 90’s there emerged ‘trip-hop’. Whatever the tag, the new Bristol sound, perfected on Massive Attack’s Blue Lines, Portishead’s Dummy or Pre-Millenium, Tension by Tricky, formed a cannon of brooding, introspective and emotionally charged music to counterpoint the bravado and violence of US hip-hop.