“I feel angry that there are certain things that hold me back in my life and there is no other way that I can express that than making a record about it.”
BROOKS, MAY 2004
A brief flash back to 2002. Andy Brooks is sipping cheap lager and eating crisps in the run-down snug of a delapidated North Manchester boozer. It is the eve of the release of his debut album, You, Me & Us, for East Midlands deep house imprint Mantis.
Against the backcloth of dwindling dance returns, You, Me & Us was a brave diamond of a debut. Squashing latent Detroit techno influences, dark bleeps, morphine house and satisfyingly deep nocturnal beat shifts though the brain of our hero of the hour, potential ran through every groove. Yet for Brooks, then a gently precocious 19 year old, ambition for the record stretched only as far as maybe getting him a warm up slot at little-known, much-trumpeted Manchester nightclub the Electric Chair and someone finding the record in a thrift shop in ten years time and feeling quietly delighted with their 50p purchase.
If his personal projection for the record was slight, then the lap of the gods had other ideas for his future musical path. Within two weeks of the record’s release he was fending off the remix offers jamming his in-tray (he’s pleased with his work for The Human League, and Scissor Sisters; Liberty X was ‘an education’), flying to the seedier corners of Northern Europe in honour of razzy turntable requests and beginning to shape the quantum leap in imagination that would conspire to form its follow-up, Red Tape.
Red Tape is a personal journey for Brooks. His inspiration couldn’t be further from the techno giants that loomed large over his debut. The Weimar cabaret effect; Lord Byron’s dirty escapades in a villa with narcotics; the dark-room, skinhead sex of modern Berlin’s rapturuous night-time culture; Nazi suppression of the arts and the sound of concentration camp walls; the howling winds of graveyards in Edinburgh at 3am; the music of industrial machinery; he flummoxing notion that nothing new or riveting had happened in a gay environment in Britain for as long as he had known it. If his first outing was a last stand in honour of the party, this one is an all out, glorious, twisted, sinful menace.
“I realised that the music should have a feeling of being held under in some way. I started to think about the whole coming out process and feeling like you’d been held under water. Musically I got this idea of something being really heavy and then this huge sense of release. An explosion. Given all my obsessions at the time it seemed a good way to think about recording music and then forming an album. It keeps you under for a while and then sets you free.”
He moved back home to Derby to record and was promptly punched in the face by a local for holding the hand of his boyfriend in a bar. “It unlocked things. Right: here comes the militance. I’d lived in Manchester and the fluffy gay world for a bit but I had to step right back into the world and face it.”
Brooks is a tireless asker of questions about the world around him. He began penning notes for the album after a DJing trip to Berlin at the Panorama Bar. “Someone there told me that the week before a man in the club climbed up on the roof and was so fucked that he opened up one of the skylights and pissed all over the dancefloor. Just amazing.”
The unhinged rage and euphoria of a carnal, truely bohemian European underground unleashed Brooks from the conservative confines of corporate British club culture. The East Midlands deep house scene that schooled him might be confused by his new endeavours, but there is a whole world out there ready to embrace the underbelly of lightly sprung party culture. The debut single from Red Tape, a double delight of the explosively dark jam ‘Do The Math’ and his perverted re-tread of Polly Harvey’s ‘Mansize’, is a mere hint at the multi-layered diversity of his second outing. It is no accident that he has signed to Matthew Herbert’s Accidental label in honour of his new sonic adventures. The controlled chaos that earmarks the label is writ large through the all new Brooks.
“Some of the things that I was angry about when I was making the record have resolved themselves now. The work is so personal that I’ve used it to make a peace with things in my life. The funny thing is it seems to have worked. So for my next act…”
There is talk of Brooks assuming a transvestite persona; becoming an imaginary female tape op for Brian Eno in the 70s. He’s got her all worked out. Haircut and everything. But that’s another matter entirely.