From 1987 onwards, acid house and rave culture was at it’s peak in the UK, with the genre having spilled outwards from illegal raves and into the charts, finding a whole new teenage audience beguiled by the genre’s smiley faces, drug references and infectious energy. By 1990, illegal parties were in regular effect across the country, the ‘Freedom to Party’ march saw an 8000 strong crowd unite in Trafalgar Square… and Altern 8 was born.
Arguably the scene’s ultimate icons, the duo – Mark Archer and Chris Peat - came to visually signify the rave era with their matching dark grey chemical warfare suits and bright yellow dust masks, originally introduced to hide the fact that they were also performing as Nexus 21. Appearing to have as much fun as humanly possible, their sound ‘meant it’ much more than the cartoony styles of Smart E’s Sesame’s Treet or The Shamen’s Ebeneezer Goode – but didn’t take itself too seriously either.
Their videos and live appearances saw them wreaking havoc on stately homes and smashing it out from the back of lorries (see the video for Activ-8, filmed outside Shelley’s Lazerdome in Longton, Staffs) - an anarchic state that embodied the hardcore hysteria of a younger generation. Musically, the signature Altern 8 production mixed breakbeats with sounds of the Rolands 303, 808 and 909 and familiar samples from earlier Detroit and Chicago records. E-Vapor- 8 features miles of euphoric piano riffs set against those familiar acid bleeps, squeaks and reach-for- the-stars breakdowns, managing never to give in to cheese, whilst Infiltrate 202 samples Candi Staton’s ‘I Know’ backed by a hardcore beat.
Altern 8 made one album: 1992’s Full On ... Mask Hysteria, which (despite making it to No 11 in the UK charts), stands the test of time as a seminal rave record. In the interests of rave revivalism… if you don’t know, get to know!