Interview: The Time Frequency celebrates 35 years of rave at The Hydro

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Glasgow dance act The Time Frequency celebrates 35 years at The Hydro on Saturday 1 June.

The line-up for the event this Saturday features music of the nineties with 2 Unlimited!, Whigfield, DJ SASH!, SNAP!, Culture Beat, N-Trance and Fragma.

TTF emerged as a rave act from the techno scene in Glasgow in 1990 founded by producer Jon Campbell, former frontman of the synth pop band Thru the Fire. The group first featured vocals by singer Mary Kiani who was followed by Jo Wilson, Debbie Millar and Lorena Dale.

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The Time Frequency’s debut was the white label EP Futurama. Their biggest hit was a eurodance 1993 remix of Real Love which reached #8 in the UK charts and brought them from rave events like Rezerection to performing on Top Of The Pops. Their single New Emotion from the same year remains a Glasgow anthem.

I spoke to Jon Campbell about Glasgow in the 1990s, favourite places and the future. You can find the last tickets for Saturday’s gig here.

Why do you think The Time Frequency still resonates with a Glasgow crowd after 35 years?

I think it’s a couple of factors, the first being we haven't been off the radio for a single week since the songs came out and various stations have done TTF Friday where they play TTF tracks - it's a bit like if Sweden had ABBA Friday or Norway had Aha Saturday. Plus, they always play us at the Scotland matches.

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Quite a few of the tacks were number one in Scotland so i guess we're part of the furniture now. When i wrote them I never thought they'd last this long, but it’s really heartwarming the support we get.

Glasgow stands by their own like no other, Glasgow is the best crowd and any travelling band will tell you that. I've aways made a point of saying "we are TTF from sunny Glasgow" - even though i know I’m lying about the sunny part - at nearly every show since the 90s.

I'd say the main reason would be new music, all my songs  since 2015 have been top 10 in iTunes and through YouTube and streaming people are now catching up on the older tracks. The new music is as well received live as the 90s stuff now which is nice.

I think people know that I don’t rest on my laurels. The boxer Marvin Hagler once said about staying motivated "it’s hard to go running at 4am when you wake up in silk pyjamas." That always resonated with me, so I'm never decadent and nor would i ever wear silk pyjamas. I'm not a fan of the flash types but I’m 100% off the bread and beans now.

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What was the dance scene like in Glasgow when you started out in 1990?

I actually started TTF in 1986 but didn’t release anything until ‘90 because I was skint. At the time I was the only person I knew in Scotland making electronic dance music. At the time Scotland was very guitar driven, lots of great bands singing about the rain and poverty but I literally was living that life and getting very bored of living on baked beans and bread.

I think this is the reason I write uplifting music, I’m kinda the antidote to “Tinseltown is in the rain” and “Raintown” - which, ironically, are two songs I love. I think if you come from darkness, it's good to try to brighten things up a bit as everyone needs a little bit of hope sometimes.

The problem was the Scottish music scene thought I was an alien and I was often told that electronic music "wasn’t real music" but I ignored that bias. I felt it was quite closed minded, it was a huge struggle.

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In the 80s i worked in Goldberg’s selling shirts and the store had a DJ who'd play my tracks and people would often enquire about them so i knew that i could find my audience but I had to get a record out. I knew the media would detest my music but the public would like it.

Where are the places in and around Glasgow that you most associate with the story of The Time Frequency or your own life?

Dennistoun. I'm Dennistoun through and through, to the point where i would put it into our videos. Tennent’s Brewery is in The Ultimate High video and Real Love was filmed in various parts of Dennistoun.

My label wanted me to go to Italy and Spain for most of my videos but I didn't want to do the corny 'fun in the sun' type of promo, i wanted a gritty visual to contrast with the optimistic music. Kinda like “Taggart goes to the discothèque”.

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There will be people there at the gig who have been along the whole journey across three decades, will it be good to see the ravers dancing at the Hydro?

In the 80s I was in a synth band called Thru The Fire - TTF was my side project, but I kept the initials as I didnt know what  to call it when DJs would ask me. We had a good local following in Glasgow. I know there's quite a few from those days coming. I've played nearly every venue in Glasgow, from the smallest to the biggest and the support keeps growing. I feel very lucky to have it.

Our audience has changed over the years, its 75% women who come now but there's still 80s followers and 90s ravers along with people who weren't old enough to come the first time around and people who maybe didn’t want to go to raves but who liked the music.

TTF fans are very passionate about this, they love the escape, they love to sing and party and we bring the party music. It's a win-win.

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There is a full bill supporting TTF on the night, did you cross paths with any of those artists during the 90s?

Weirdly no, for two reasons. I took five years off from 94 to 99 as I'd became disillusioned with gigging, I'd burnt-out and spent five years working on the follow up album for Virgin, that ultimately never came about - I’m a bit slow at music.

So  many of the acts never crossed my path. The other thing is I avoid socialising with people in the music buisness as it’s a very fickle industry, I'd rather hang out with my four dogs and stick to my childhood friends.

I’ve been mates with them since primary so over 45 years and we still hang out and talk daily. They're all coming to the Hydro. Don’t get me wrong, I do meet some nice people in the music business but it’s a rare thing in the rat race.

What does the future hold for The Time Frequency? 

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Not more of the same. I’ve been working on a horror film for the last six years that I've written and it’s also a musical. We start filming in November. I want to change things up and try to create something that people hopefully won’t forget, plus you can’t be all sunshine and light 24/7, it’s bloody tiring.

I'm really excited for the future as I think I’ve written my best material yet but, as always, I’ll let the people be the judge. I’ve been very lucky in life but I’ve worked like a madman and now that I’m getting up in years I realise everyday is a gift.

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