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House music’s Knights in vinyl armour

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Who: Inland Knights

Where: Tommy Africa’s

When: Sunday, Feb. 9

Oh, the beautiful English countryside – filled with rolling green pastures, thatched roof cottages, fields of fresh flowers and thumping techno house music all night long.

"What’s that guv’nor?" I here you say. Well it would have included the latter if only you knew about those illegal free house parties that night owls like Andy Riley and Laurence Ritchie used to throw.

The DJing duo now known collectively as the Inland Knights, are two highly respected producers with their own successful label, Drop Music, based in Nottingham, north of London. But they were also pioneers of those legendary raves of a bygone era.

"Briilliant times they were," said Ritchie. "You can’t get away with them anymore, the police take all your gear. But they were a great idea. No dress code, no door price, no attitude. It was organic and natural all night long," he recalled, hoping he doesn‘t sound too cheesy.

"If people were having a good time, we’d keep doing them. Our record was one a week for a whole year."

But those pesky neighbours, they don’t like that horrible pounding music, do they?

"Actually we wouldn’t play near houses. We’d park the truck with a sound system on the back in the middle of a quarry, the woods or a far-away field and just get friends to tell friends. It was as simple as that, but as the parties grew and the police got wind of them they became a military operation."

While Ritchie ran the Nottingham area, Riley was organizing Sheffield and the two eventually met.

Any committed clubber never tires of these old skool stories. Back to the days when clubbing was all about the spirit, the energy and the relationship between the DJs and their audience, rather than the dollar. With mass market appeal, big club management and pop producers taking over the dance floors, the magic has often been considered lost. But Inland Knights have come to the rescue.

The duo have become firm favourites with top DJs around the world who say the Knight’s well-produced deep tracks sound as good at home as they do on the dance floor. The demand for damn fine house has taken them around the globe and into the clubs that care.

"One thing we’ve found is that the venues we go to all have similar crowds. From really obscure little towns in New Zealand or South Africa through to the big cities, the dress sense and the attitude is the same. Open-minded, up for it and there for a good time, and that’s exactly what we want," said Ritchie.

Sounds like house music is back in favour.

"There’s two approaches to that really," said Ritchie. "There’s the positive and the realistic. The positive answer is, ‘yeah wicked man, house will never die.’ But the truth is it has its ups and downs like most musical forms. Last year a lot of house labels struggled and failed but now it has picked up again. There’s always room for good music in any genre, but when a really good track comes out and hysteria takes hold too many people try and copy it. We’re all guilty of that so the market gets saturated with the same sounds and demand dies out again."

Despite the deep house market’s peaks and troughs, the Knights seem to avoid the busts. It’s virtually impossible to get a back catalogue record, making their music quite the collector’s item. Even Ritchie can’t get his hands on some tracks.

"I gave them all away to my friends, which was silly but I’ll be paying a few surprise visits to get them back."

For us in Whistler, we’ll have to settle for seeing them live as part of their whirlwind Canadian tour. A new compilation of old favourites is expected in a few months. Ask your local record store to keep an eye out or tag the Web site www.dropmusic.co.uk

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