What strikes me when I look back at the first issue of datacide is that there is no editorial, no statement of intent — something remarkable for a new marginal publication launching itself.
Instead, the zine jumps right in with a reprinted update on the then proposed new police bill. This is followed by news items about a record company trying to copyright the term ‘Teknival’. We perceived these events as a two-pronged assault by the state and by commerce on what we saw as an emerging underground movement connected to hard electronic dance music. Indeed the following news about ‘new networks of distribution and communication’ were trying to counteract this with the optimistic proposal of a mode of autonomous organisation that would function in an ‘entirely decentralized manner that allows the specific identity of its “members” maximum freedom, a rhizome-like structure that is invisible and everywhere at the same time’. This is then illustrated with news about current activities of record labels and soundsystem crews, reviews of parties and interspersed with some experimental fiction pieces. The mixture of artist interviews, record reviews, technology critique, counter-cultural angles as well as programmatic texts set the tone for the following issues. In datacide one it was left to the London Psychogeographical Association to make an explicit call for communism, while it was Flint Michigan who provided a programmatic text titled BREAK/FLOW versus DATACIDE.
Due to the political climate at the time the first issue went to print, datacide didn’t need explanations or an explicit statement of intent to be understood by its audience.
Squatters and travellers had long been on the fringes of society, but the 1994 Criminal Justice Act (CJA) and the struggles against it in 1993-95 had also radicalized a whole generation of ravers, so the political thrust of the magazine was ‘in the air’. The magazine also provided enough music coverage to be interesting for anyone interested in the electronic underground of the day.
Praxis, the record label associated with datacide, had also been publishing a newsletter since 1994, initially to provide additional content and context to the record releases and the events that took place in the 121 Centre in Brixton, called Dead by Dawn, in that period.
Dead by Dawn was a monthly night put on by TechNet, the Nomex Realist Film Unit and Praxis and combined talks about (counter-) cultural and (anti-) political issues with hardcore party music being played all night in the basement and a “shrill-out lounge” in the upstairs area.
It was there that a lot of the issues that would later be elaborated on in datacide were raised. But not only in datacide — there were numerous zines – Autotoxicity, Break/Flow, Communist Headache, Demag, Fatuous Times, TechNet, Underground and many more – and there were numerous projects and groups such as the Association of Autonomous Astronauts, London Psychogeographical Association, Luther Blissett Project, Neoist Alliance, etc., as well as the more musically adventurous and radical fringes of the Free Party scene, namely sound systems such as Hekate, KDU and others.
And this is only mentioning the activities based on the British Isles! Contacts were made that would soon mushroom into an obscure network of counter-cultural bandits, lumpen intellectuals, noise merchants and revolutionaries spanning many countries.
In any case, when the first issue of datacide appeared in the spring of 1997 it was well received and the print run of 1,000 copies was distributed mostly through unconventional channels, like sales at parties and trades with record labels.
The enthusiasm of the production team ensured that the new zine came out three times in its first year.
The first issues were produced at 94 Aberfeldy House off Camberwell New Road where I lived at the time, a place that for an intense two years became a hub of activities. Aberfeldy House had fantastic flats spread over 3 floors and was at the time council owned and cheap. Originally built as social housing in the early 60s, kids were playing in the hallways, the lifts were sometimes scummy, and it was possible to play loud music around the clock without anyone complaining. By now the demographic must have changed completely as the flats (valued 60k at the time) are now being sold for nearly 400k.
Unfortunately, I had to move out towards the end of 1998 and a period of uncertainties and short term accommodations began, which naturally didn’t help the efficiency of the publishing and label activities.
Trying to squat again proved to be a lot more difficult than when I had first moved to London at the beginning of the decade. Only a mouse-infested little house in Deptford lasted for at least several months, rather than weeks.
In spring 1999, my father died and as a consequence I spent more time in Switzerland. A modest inheritance enabled me to release a number of records, some of which had been overdue because of the bad economic situation I had found myself in. It also helped to release two issues of datacide in 1999, numbers 5 and 6, despite essentially being homeless at least some of the time in London.
When returning from Switzerland in the summer, I moved into a squat in Stuart Road, Peckham which seemed to have the potential to be of a more permanent nature. In this duplex with a generous garden with apple trees about half of the dozen squatters were contributors to datacide.
However, the squat was subject to a number of attacks which culminated in being firebombed at the beginning of September (my memory: Sept. 8, 1999). We decided to fortify the building with barbed wire, motion sensors and floodlights. There were no more attacks henceforth, but eviction proceedings were put in motion and we lost the squat a few weeks later, which was presumably exactly what the attackers had intended.
For the months to come I lived on friends’ sofas and at one point slept on top of office tables a floor up from Backspace, the activist internet café down by the Thames by London Bridge.
Despite the fact that we had failed to prevent the Criminal Justice Bill from becoming law in 1994/5 – let alone make the revolution – there was a defiant optimism in the possibilities of subverting or even confronting the system. This was a widespread sentiment at the time. The hangover from this lost battle dissipated and new forms of action emerged, involving street occupations with the integral involvement of sound systems.
The Reclaim The Streets (RTS) protests starting in 1996 were thus logical extensions of the anti-CJA demonstrations. Coming from the anti-road protests, it was a significant development when common cause was made with the Liverpool dockers in the anti-election rally Never Mind the Ballots! in 1997. The peak was the multifaceted and multi-pronged Carnival Against Capitalism on June 18, 1999. The two following actions in London – November 30 (to coincide with the anti-WTO protests in Seattle) and Guerrilla Gardening in Parliament Square on the first of May, 2000 – were already a lot more contained. After the spectacular success of June 18, the authorities had promised a war of attrition and tougher policing. It has since then also emerged that undercover police had infiltrated many of the activist movements, including RTS.
This is not the place to analyse the development of this movement, but it has to be mentioned that these were important corner dates of the period in which the first datacides appeared.
Far from being an ‘activist’ paper per se, datacide has also been a chronicle of developments in music – including extensive record review sections and DJ-charts. In addition to this, the open format served as a platform for authors to go off on exploratory trips in different directions – be it experimental fiction, essays on film, or anything else.
In 2000, the decision was made to move to Berlin. It was relatively easy to find an affordable flat and I started to re-organise operations. For datacide this had a number of consequences which I didn’t forsee at the time.
This was not yet evident in issue 7, which came out in the summer/autumn of 2000 and which continued more or less seamlessly from the previous issues. It was in the wake of this issue, however, that the distance from the scene that previously carried datacide could really be felt.
It took two years until issue 8 finally came out.
In an attempt to set datacide on a more healthy financial footing, I concocted what I thought would surely be an offer no one could refuse: inviting a number of musician friends to contribute tracks to a CD which would be exclusive to subscribers of datacide. Surely all the people on the c8 site and many beyond that would happily spend 10 pounds on a deal where they would receive an exclusive CD and three issues of an amazing zine, right!? The tracks kept pouring in, the artists were enthusiastic and generous. The list printed in the editorial of datacide 8 included: Blackmassplastics, DJ Controlled Weirdness, Crisis Theory, Fanny, Istari Lasterfahrer, Kovert, Lost in Trans-lation, Nomex, Raquel de Grimstone, Saoulaterre, Seethe, Slepcy, Society Suckers, Typhoid & the Reverend, Blackjewishgays, Base Force One, DJ Balli, Anna Bolena, and a Thunderinas remix by Hecate, and Venetian Snares & Fanny! The first 50 were going to be double CDs, after that there would be a single CD edition until May 2003, and in the process – I thought – the funds for printing a 9th issue in 2003 would come together.
And what happened? Nothing. The response was so poor that it would have been more expensive to make copies for the artists and send one to everybody than what came in. If I remember correctly, there were 10 or 12 subscriptions or renewals. It was extremely discouraging, and, partly as a consequence of this disaster, it would take well over three years for the next issue to come out.
Another reason for the long break however was connected to the shifts in the political scene. It seems to me there were a number of changes in the period of 2001-2003, all to the negative.
The first inspiring wave of “anti-Globalisation” movements was over, the street parties in London were stopped. Even from its beginnings, the “anti-Globalisation” movement was marred by both its reformist and its national-revolutionary/anti-imperialist wings. With 9/11 and the “second intifada” and a couple of years later the “anti-War” movement, the negative aspects became more pronounced — with conspiracy theories, anti-semitism, cultural relativism and the “anti-imperialist” defense of authoritarian regimes becoming prevalent and pushing aside the emancipatory and revolutionary aspects we had seen – or wanted to see – gathering strength in the previous decade.
The third factor was that there were changes in the underground music scene. The ‘sub-net’ type distribution networks started receding, record sales were starting to decline. Simultaneously there was a ‘professionalisation’ – or a regression to more traditional marketing by the labels, depending how you want to see it.
We also found ourselves in the situation where data-cide was soon enough the only one of the zines left that had provided a ferment of the scene in the 90s. The discourse shifted increasingly online, but got also increasingly diluted. For whatever reasons the mental militancy that had characterised much of the 90s underground seemed to dissipate. This seemed in stark contrast to an ever worsening crisis of the economic system, including its superstructure.
Working more or less in isolation, it took a hell of a long time to produce issue number nine. It finally was released at a point where another re-location was about to happen, from Basel back to Berlin. At this point, I felt my own involvement with radical publishing had to be redefined and it was announced in datacide nine that another issue would be produced which would wrap up the datacide project with a last bumper issue dedicated to the historification of this counter culture, moving ‘into the past and the future at the same time’.
Finally, in 2008, this issue came out and coincided with a conference and a party in Berlin. Rather than wrapping it up, this helped re-energise the project. Talks by Hans-Christian Psaar, Lauren Graber, Alexis Wolton, Neil Transpontine, John Eden, Stewart Home and myself were followed by DJ- and live-sets by Line Destruction, Circuit Parallele, DJ Controlled Weirdness, Blackmass Plastics, The Wirebug, Kovert and El Gusano Rojo. This combination guaranteed powerful content, but some of the circumstances were extremely chaotic. The venue where the event was going to take place had been shut down only two weeks before, so a short term replacement had to be (and was) found. The deadline was too close and hectic and many mistakes snuck into this issue.
Despite these difficulties and the fact that the following year was overshadowed by personal tragedy, the whirlwind created by datacide ten substantially contributed to the re-emergence of datacide as the publication it is now. A publication flying the flag of antagonism, still seeing potential in counter-cultural developments, with the intention of contributing to a radical critique of contemporary society and culture and also chronicling the autonomous movements at odds with the forces of recuperation.
Over the last years we had many discussions about self-historification, self-theorisation, and documenting what the interesting aspects of some of our history and past struggles were. One idea was to compile an anthology of articles of past issues of datacide and other publications. It soon became clear, however, that the ‘spirit’ of the early datacides would get lost if the different levels of content would be separated and that it would make much more sense to go for a reprint that would preserve the proximity of the ephemeral and the philosophical, the musical and the political. Only like this would it create a hopefully inspiring insight into some of these counter-cultural and anti-political goings on…
It is particularly important to understand that this is not about nostalgia, or clinging to achievements of the past. On the contrary – while we think that nostalgia can be a poison, we also know that only by being aware of the triumphs and tragedies of the past can we dialectically overcome the deadlock of the present and move into the direction of a future human community.
Under all these aspects it seems ridiculous to talk about revolution, but in one way or another this is what datacide does. ‘But everything else is even more ridiculous’, as a certain group of communists/artists wrote in 1961. (see page 138 of this book).
- Written soon after the publication of the first and second issues of datacide, Praxis newsletter #12 (1997) states, “With the increased availability of technology that makes it easier than ever to create, produce and distribute independent material, new networks and mechanisms have started to operate in the last decade. We…
- Is this an introduction or a tangent into the befuddled mind of a fantasy writer? I guess I’ll leave that for you to decide, I mean if you're willing to delve into the dark recesses of the many warped, angry, deep thinkers and music makers (not always mutually exclusive) who…
- Alec sent us this fax as a contribution to the second issue of Alien Underground (1995). Unfortunately it was badly scanned and hard to read in print, and this is the picture file out of the layout, which doesn't improve the readability, but for documentation's sake I think it would…