Stuart Banks – Causing an Eclipse to Outshine
Jamie S23 goes way back to the days of acid house and rave domination with half of the original team from the groundbreaking Eclipse. It’s all going off in an exclusive interview with legendary event promoter and DJ – Stuart Banks.
It’s a long way back but rewind way back to the 80’s, how did it all begin for you?
“Before I was a DJ or event a promoter I was just somebody that enjoyed the music and wanted to go out at any given opportunity. This was the era of the legendary M25 parties, the type of events where nobody had a clue of the location until hours before and could literally be held anywhere and everywhere.
In 1988 Chris Brown was running an event called ‘Delirious’, this was an acid house night held in the underground tunnels of Napier Street in Cambridge. It’s a little known fact these days but Cambridge has a massive network of these underground tunnels, you can now only imagine how amazing a rave would have been back then. This was really one of the first proper dance music events I was to DJ at and since then I was always one of the DJs called upon to provide my services to the illegal rave crowds.
1989 saw around 5 event organisers rotate their parties, all of these promoters were also ravers and everyone back then were striving for nothing but a good party and a decent turn out. I was one of a few DJs that would play at these events, this was mainly because nobody else really wanted to be a DJ back then.”
So when was your event Eclipse born? Was this an illegal event to start off with?
“A promotions brand ran by a Colchester promoter had been having a good amount of success in their home town. I attended an event held at the Cambridge Corn Exchange where they had managed to pull a crowd of around 700. I remember having a discussion with the general manager of The Corn Exchange at the time regarding how good the numbers where although I thought a local promoter could do better.
That was pretty much the last word before Eclipse and our promotions umbrella ‘Groove 2’ was born.
Eclipse was never an illegal rave and in fact, we were the first legal event of it’s kind to take place in Cambridge on a regular basis. We were also the first rave promoter to obtain an all night license, both pretty big achievements considering the type of publicity the media were giving the scene back then.”
Tell us about the ravers fashion sense back then
“Ravers would always be so easy to spot, this obviously made it really easy back then to flyer certain crowds of people. It was all about baggy jeans, grandad shirts, Kickers shoes and big floppy curtains. The trendy clubbers who paid no interest to our scene would always look so smart and uncomfortable in comparison.”
Eclipse promoted several outdoor festivals in the early 90’s, was this a tough challenge compared to the indoor events?
“I think a tough challenge is a bit of an understatement considering the original outdoor festival held in 1991 had no license 2 weeks prior to the event, had its date changed last minute and we had huge issues regarding the rental of the massive dance tents.
The complications list is pretty much endless – take the 80k sound system for example which when fully powered was one of the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard although when the generation ran out of oil at the start of the night it caused massive issues with the crossovers. As anyone can imagine, a massive outdoor rave needs sound and a bloody lot of it and a system running at half the power doesn’t really do the job.
We also had a huge police bill of 12 thousand pounds to pay so we needed to sell a lot of tickets and pretty quickly too. Due to the date change people were a little wary that the event was actually going to go ahead but it did and although it really was a huge ordeal the first outdoor event was probably one of my favourite from the promotions side of things.
Eclipse also ran another outdoor event in 1992, again at Braham Farm on the outskirts of Ely.”
Talking of favourite moments, what would you class as a DJing highlight?
“We booked Carl Cox to headline an Eclipse and the event sold out way before the night so we knew it was going to be a massive event. At previous Eclipse events I had always played earlier or later in the night but at this event I thought fuck it, I’m going to play some records in the middle of the night.”
At the time Baby D had just released the test press of ‘Let Me Be Your Fantasy’ and I had a copy. No other DJ that night had played it so when I dropped it the place went totally mental, not knowing however that I had played the a capella side by mistake! Everyone in the venue had their hands in the air, it was certainly one of those special moments. The tune ran out so I flipped it over and played the correct side which even resulted in a rewind.
Carl Cox was an A list DJ even back then, what was it like on the night?
“Madness, mainly because my brother had sold an additional 750 tickets which took the event way over capacity. The extra tickets helped to pay off the drinks supplier from the previous outdoor event but as you can imagine, The Corn Exchange was pretty rammed that night.
People who were promised tickets were turning up to collect their non existent tickets, thankfully Dave (my brother) had done a deal with the security guard on the door so we used ticket stubs and managed to pay back our drinks debt and have a bloody good night at the same time!”
This must have been around the time the legendary Boom Tunes record shop opened?
“Tony Petchel and I opened Boom Tunes in 1992, it had a basement where we would sell hardcore and jungle vinyl and a ground floor where Tony would sell the house side of things. We also stocked the usual live recordings from previous events on tapes and acted as a ticket seller for other promoters alongside Eclipse. It was a great time to own a record shop as it really was the hub of the community, it was also ideal for Tony and I as DJs as we were playing out 3 to 4 times every weekend so always had access to the latest tunes and dubplates.
Boom Tunes then moved across town and we renamed the shop Planet Boom Records.”
Eclipse ran their final event in 1993 alongside large scale promoters Dreamscape, why did it all come to end so soon?
“Most of the people promoting rave events across the UK knew each other in some way or another and we knew Murray probably better than most due to his connection with Planet Boom Records as we stocked his merchandise.
We were under the impression he probably wanted a crack at the Cambridge rave scene but when the opportunity to promote an event together was an option Dave and I decided it would be a great way to go out in style.
The event was a huge success and was certainly a great way to end Eclipse with the likes of SY, Ratty, Clarkee, LTJ Bukum, Swan-E, G.E Real (RIP) and Kenny Ken gracing the turntables and Conrad, Juiceman and Madness on microphone duties.”
So what next? Did you continue promoting?
“I teamed up with Pete Edwards (from the legendary Warning events) to promote a night called Impact! which ran for all of about 3 different nights before we called it a day. By that time Warning was already running and had a huge following so the need for a secondary night was pretty pointless. You constantly need to reinvent yourself as a promoter each and every time and to be honest, by then all I wanted to do was DJ.
I took some time out for a while around 1997 to challenge myself as a DJ, I switched back to house music and concentrated on other projects. I also started to learn the art of hairdressing at Reza which although was such a change in direction it was also the start of a much needed change in direction.
UK garage exploded in the UK and before So Solid spoiled everything both musically and at the raves I teamed up again with Pete Edwards and promoted an event called Faster Pussycat at The Junction also in Cambridge. These events were pretty successful but like the genre they dwindled after time and we eventually put that brand to rest momentarily.”
What was the story behind the all day events at Shelford Rugby Club?
“Ice Cream Sunday’s were an absolute giggle, we decided that you didn’t need a flash venue in the centre of town to have a good time and in some respects we went back to our roots of the early 90’s although these were legal events. Shit venue, good music was our motto and it certainly worked and all of the nights we promoted at the rugby club were banging. After the event finished at the rugby club we would ship all of the remaining ravers to an after party in Cambridge via on open top bus.
We ran Ice Cream Sunday’s from 3pm to 12am followed by an after party at Soul Tree from 12am to 6am – as you can expect, the end results were usually very messy!”
I bet! Was this around the time when We Love Ibiza was launched?
“We Love Ibiza started in 2006 and ran for 6 years, this was again at Fez Club in Cambridge and was billed as a proper house event for followers of the genre. We wanted to give a real Ibiza experience to the UK and flew one of the big DJs at the time in Ibiza over to Cambridge to support the event. I was also lucky enough to play in Ibiza the same year.”
After all these successful events under your belt, what happened with the Natural Rhythm festival?
“We wanted to put on a small scale festival that combined a multitude of genres but also contained that fun element that you don’t always find at the larger scale festivals. From previous experience with the outdoor events we ran at Eclipse I knew it was never going to be an easy task but little did I know how much had changed in terms of laws and regulations.
After agreeing financial backing for the festival things were looking positive and we agreed to run Natural Rhythm at the old Dance Island site just outside of Ely. One massive difference between putting together a festival now compared to the early 90’s was you can no longer just turn up with a massive tent and expect everything to run smoothly. Everything has a place, the electrical cable runs, toilets, trade stalls, barriers – you name it and it’s probably got a specific destination. Thankfully I thought better than to tackle this on my own so we employed a team to manage the health and safety and running on the festival field.
Where we went wrong with Natural Rhythm was probably the fact we stretched it over two days, it really should have been a day and a night. It was also £75 a ticket in the middle of festival season and just as our luck would have it, the weather was really bad on the weekend of our event.
Would I have another crack at it though? Of course I would!”
Pete Edwards (Warning) took time out of his busy schedule to add some of his own history and big up the Eclipse crew.
Eclipse was my School and my Playground. I spent every weekend travelling to illegal raves around the country including many many trips to Coventry (the other Eclipse), Stoke On Trent (Entropy) and Liverpool (Quadrant Park). It soon became obvious to me that Eclipse Cambridge was THE best Rave in the UK at the time. When it ended I was devastated, absolutely lost!
Rave music had split into different directions and evolve into sub genres leaving behind its acid house and hardocre roots. The death of Eclipse and the birth of jungle was inevitable and I firmly knew where I should be going. I started Warning inspired by everything I had seen Stuart & Dave do at Eclipse and so without them there would never of been a Warning!