Spiral Tribe is a free party sound system which existed in the first half of the 1990s, and became active again in 2007. 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 Burnett 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."
|October 1990||The school house, northwest London||Mark and Debbie designed flyers and backdrops for Stika's party.|
|Early 1991||Squat Party N.London, with fire|
|Early 1991||Squat Party N. London. Whole house decorated by Debbie|
|21 April 1991||Former JobCentre, Wimbledon||Spring Equinox party|
|May 1991||Labour Party social club, Camberwell|
|15 June 1991||Cable Street, Wapping London||Took place in the loading bay of a large warehouse about 5 floors high and open to the sky|
|6–7 July 1991||Mirage Winchester Devils Punch Bowl||Free party all weekend long; no problems from the police.|
|July 1991||Bala, Wales|
|9–12 August 1991||Liphook, Hampshire||Torpedo Town; no problems from the police.|
|August 1991||Chelmsford||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.|
|August 1991||Hortem cum studley, Oxford||A 2 day long party (on the way back from Chelsford), Spiral tribe borrowed a local free party soundsystem never to return it|
|August 1991||The Cisbury Ring festival, Sussex||Held on a picnic site near to Arundel Castle. Spiral tribe set up the decks on the back of a car transporter trailer unit.|
|August bank holiday, 1991||The White Goddess festival for 2 weeks on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall||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.|
|September 1991||The Arches, Deptford|
|October 1991||Northwest London||The green house party|
|October 1991||Kent||The Village Idiots festival|
|November 1991||Lewisham Library|
|December 1991||Brewery Road|
|Christmas and New Year's Eve 1991||The Camden Round House, North London||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.|
|January 1992||Blackwall tunnel||Held in conjunction with Circus Normal|
|February 1992||York Road, King's Cross|
|February 1992||Numbers Farm, Kings Langley, Hertfordshire||The old ovaltine Dairy farm.|
|March 1992||Tubney woods||In conjunction with Bedlam Sound System|
|April 1992||Chobham Common|
|30 April – 3 March 1992||Lechlade||25,000 people|
|May 1992||Castlemorton Common Festival|
|4 June 1992||Canada Square, next to Canary Wharf, London||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.|
|20 June 1992||Isle of Dogs, London||With Ruff Crew, Dog Posse. Broke up by police?|
|26-28 June 1992||Smeatharpe Airfield||In conjunction with Bedlam Sound System, Circus Warp, Circus Normal, DiY Sound System.|
|August 1992||The Cisbury Ring festival||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.|
|August, 28 1992||Notting Hill||With Earth Leakage Trip and Xenophobia.|
In March 1993, after being acquitted of all charges relating to Castlemorton, 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.
- Tribes Gathering, Gouvy, Belgium 15 April 2011
- Tribes Gathering, Gouvy, Belgium 6 April 2012
United States of America
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 an impressive 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.
Around the 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 very informal; very 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 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 licenced 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
- The EP
- Forward The Revolution
- Breach The Peace
- Forward The Revolution (The Youth Remix)
- Spiral Tribe EP
- Sirius 23
- Spiral Tribe Sound System (The Album)
- Tecno Terra
- 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
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.
- 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 http://sp23.org/
- UWe - Uncivilized World Entertainment - World Traveller Adventures - DVD
- beyondtv - Brief History of UK Rave Traveller Scene from a spiral perspective
- 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
- List of Spiral Tribe members compiled from various sources:
- New Musical express: 9 January 1993 & 8 May 1993,
- I-D Magazine: April 1992,
- Mixmag: 16 September 1992,
- Max: N° 60 July 1994,
- Muzik (USA): N° 28 September 1997,
- Coda Magazine (France),
- Technomad "global raving culture" Graham St John 2009 Equinox Publishing Ltd (UK) ISBN 978-1-84553-625-1
- 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
- Gallery of Spiral Tribe flyers
- 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