Cumbria isn’t widely known for musical adventurism, with narrow minds, 2003 ‘cheese’ and EDM rife. However, ardent DJ collective The Dead Horse Gang puts it out there, arguably for one last time.
There is a dire urge for some form of auditory stimulation in Carlisle, Cumbria. Whether eerily experimental or a sudden idealistic glance back to days of more whole hearted music, it’s needed. A five-man DJ gang are avid proponents of said notion. They comprise of Doug Chippendale, Tim Forrester, Tim Hamblin, Sam Pemberton and Mike Yates. “Seems with Carlisle unless it’s an old school night or massively bankrolled with big djs, it’s hard to pull a big crowd,” states Chippendale, the founding father of the Dead Horse Gang.
Doug has also worked as a promoter, working aside the likes of Marcus Intalex, Andy Votel, Gaslamp Killer and Unabombers. “It’s hard to create a night based on something new to the city, build it up and then maintain it,” he says. “It’s not hard to book a big DJ and fill a room.” This no-nonsense brief of an apparent musically shaped hole in the area is part and parcel of the reason why the funk and disco related five-some push on, attempting to open new ears and minds. Forrester states “The music scene here was utterly depressing. It seems somewhat less so now.”
Earlier this year, the clan played Kirklinton Hall, a picturesque and humble venue on the outskirts of North Carlisle. The want for a snug fit into a “unique space was there for ages,” Doug says. “It was intimate.” Intimacy within a venue proved again to be a theme, as they supported ex-Hacienda stalwart DJ Graeme Parke in a cosy bar in town, attracting quite the raucous crowd. “The first time was great. The second time we blew the old bastard out the water,” Doug blurts tongue in cheek.
Delving into the timeline of what influenced the gang is almost like a game of chicken or the egg, as is with many acts and selectors alike. Utterings of nights at The Front Page back in their hometown frequently show face, as do mentionings of Rhythmic Voodoo nights back in the early nineties. Expected stories of visiting any record shop when funds would barely allow are also present here.
When poached about whether the funk infused and disco-drenched music they play will always be owed something by the remainder of electronic music, Tim Forrester says “You can look into any book. Any book about music and the lineage goes right back to disco etc. The thing with this though, is where do you draw the line in terms of wanting to know where it all began.” Forrester also puts forward an intriguing and eye-brow raising notion regarding the conception of techno – “I often like to piss nerdy techno purists off by saying Paul McCartney invented the genre. Hear me out – compare the record ‘Temporary Secretary’, which pre-dates a lot of other techno stuff, to earlier Cybotron records”, often cited as the infancy stages of techno.
After conversing over the selection prowess of Jayda G, the effortless swagger of DJ Harvey and Al Kent rarely putting a foot wrong, I quizzed the guys over their weirdest song requests. “Oasis. Every cunt who has spent at least one hour listening to what I am playing, then ask for Oasis,” explains Tim matter-of-factly. Mike Yates appears a little more forgiving, stating “I feel you have to gauge requests. If it’s something you can feel, do it. If it’s someone thinking they know more than you, prove them wrong.”
Finally, when questioned about the elephant (or the horse) in the room – the name – the crew said, “The name spawned from our failures as promoters and DJs. Our efforts outweighed our skills. We felt we were flogging a dead horse.” It’s this persevering continuance. This need for authenticity and feel within the music they put on. The grounded and candid admittance of hiccups along the way. This is what keeps them flogging that steed.
Words by Ryan Walker