Masked or unmasked, Mark Archer aka Altern-8 is one of the most recognised faces in the history of dance music. It’s been almost 40 years since Archer cut his teeth, segwaying through Rhythm Mode and Bizarre Inc., into the birth of the legendary hardcore outfit, Altern-8. From the interstellar album Full On Mask Hysteria, touring with Moby, releasing his autobiography The Man Behind The Mask, and numerous underground projects including Slo Moshun and DJ Nex, there’s not much Archer hasn’t achieved.
Busier than ever, Archer found time for quick Q&A as he’s packing up his record box to head to Ibiza for one of the biggest old skool parties of the summer – Slip Back In Time Presents Old Skool Ibiza. Held from 17-24 May in various hotspots across San Antonio over 7-days of pool, club and boat parties, the all-round rave pioneer is looking forward to hanging out with his original raving crew.
Hi Mark, how are you? It’s been a while since we last spoke to you. That was in July, 2018 when you were prepping to play Back of Beyond Festival. Don’t suppose you can remember much about that? You said it was your birthday and that you’d be in full party mode!
I actually played three gigs on my birthday with Back Of Beyond being the last one so it was a pretty hectic day starting up in Dumfries then down to Blackpool and finally on to Hertfordshire, so we covered some miles. You’re only 50 once so I wanted to make the most of it and it was a pretty epic day to be honest.
You’re touching down in Ibiza shortly for Slip Back In Time Presents Old Skool Ibiza. There are so may parties going on for the week. Where can people catch you?
I’m playing on Saturday 20th (daytime) at the Amnesia House 35 Years Of Rave pool party, which is at the San Remo hotel, and then again on the Saturday night at Plastik. Properly looking forward to being out in Ibiza with all the SBIT crew again this year as it’s always a great week of events and a chance to see loads of friends.
We hear the event is full of larger-than-life characters, many of whom were regular clubbers during the UK’s original rave scene. What is it about the scene that sees it going so strong 40 years on?
I think it’s the fact that back in the late 80’s and early 90’s you were part of something, not just a fan of a certain style of music but it was a proper scene, a lifestyle in fact. That feeling hasn’t gone away. Obviously, it’s not just original ravers who go as the age range is a lot wider. You now have a whole generation of people who have been brought up on the music by their parents and want to go to events where it’s played.
There are so many originators on the lineup such as Slipmatt, Ratpack, Shades Of Rhythm, Utah Saints and more besides. Who is still the biggest party animal and who is most known for getting an early night?
I don’t think anyone gets an early night even though we probably all should, but we can all put a shift in when it comes to partying. No one is giving up just yet.
Do you have one favourite memory from the days of the outdoor raves that you still find yourself telling over and over even today?
There are so many stories from back then as we did so many gigs and went to loads of different places, but I’m still being reminded of things that happened back then whenever we meet up. I was told at Bangface last weekend that after a gig in New York, I insisted we all went record shopping, but I didn’t know the dancers had been up all night and were still tripping their tits off – but they came shopping. It wasn’t the kind of trip I had in mind haha.
If you were locked in a room for 24 hours and had to have only one classic rave tune played on repeat for the duration, what would it be?
There are so many favourite tunes from different rave genres over the years, but if I had to pick one it would probably be Plus One – It’s Happenin’. I never get bored of that tune and it brings back so many good memories.
Plus + One - It's Happenin' (1990)
What do you think of the rave revival and resurgence of the rave house sound? Do you play any of the newer stuff in your sets?
It’s brilliant and really good for the scene – all the new tracks being made by a new generation who are heavily influenced by the golden era of rave. I’m always booked to play oldskool so it’s nice when I get the chance to play new tracks. If I play acid house, techno or breakbeat, they’re always tracks that are heavily influenced by oldskool sounds. Absolutely loving the stuff that Swankout does at the moment.
Speaking of new music, we hear you have an EP coming out with Shadow Child. Can you tell us some more about that and when it’s being released?
We’ve actually had four releases out since 2018; three EPs under the name MASC, and another release last year under the name Shadow Child & Mark Archer, which did really well for us. We’re currently working on a follow up which will hopefully be out later this year.
SHADOW CHILD & MARK ARCHER PRESENT MASC - YIH
You’ve also just remixed one of the classic DMS tracks ‘Vengeance’ on Kniteforce alongside another classic rework by Ray Keith. Is it harder to remix a track you know inside out as opposed to reworking something you’ve only heard once or twice?
It’s much harder because you have 30 years of hearing the track and the fact it’s gained itself classic status, so you really have to try and take the track in a different direction. It’s very difficult to improve on a track that’s so well loved.
Ibiza aside, what other dates do you have in the diary that you’re particularly looking forward to this year?
Straight after Ibiza we’re having to pack for Shindig where my wife Nikki, who runs a DJ agency, has curated an ‘Altern-8 and friends’ a stage takeover. I’m doing b2b’s with a few different guests as well as sets on my own. Then later in June, we’re off to Glastonbury where I’m playing a few sets – it’s always a great festival to play at. Last time I was there, I played b2b with Slipmatt, which was ace.