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Scottish dance pioneers Finitribe reboot

When Trevor Jackson picked out Finitribe's loose-limbed proto-industrial, percussive sampladelic 'DeTestimony' for his 'Metal Dance' compilation last year, he started having discussions with David Miller from the Scottish industrial/electronic innovators about its re-release. “He said that it was such a seminal track,” Miller tells DJ Mag. “It was actually first released in 1986 but — unknown to us at the time — it resurfaced in Ibiza in 1988 when Danny Rampling, Trevor Fung and so on were out there listening to Jose and Alfredo.”

Finitribe started off as an experimental guitar band in the mid-'80s but they soon embraced electronic music and sample culture and set up their own Finiflex label. 'DeTestimony' was one of their earliest releases, taken from the 'Let The Tribe Grow EP', and the 'Collapsing Edit' appeared on Pete Tong's influential 1988 'Balearic Beats Vol 1' comp alongside The Woodentops 'Why Why Why', Nitzer Ebb's 'Join In The Chant' and tracks by The Residents and Thrashing Doves.

Off the back of the success of 'DeTestimony', Finitribe slimmed down to a three-piece (Miller, Philip Pinsky and John Vick) and signed to One Little Indian — also home to fellow Scottish guitar-turned-dance act The Shamen. Their first single 'Animal Farm' railed against fast food chain McDonald's and incurred the wrath of their lawyers — garnering them loads of press, and turning them all vegetarian for a while — and they went on to have club hits with discursive technoid acid cuts '101', 'Ace Love Juice' and 'Forevergreen' — the latter two including remixes by Justin Robertson. Finitribe continued up until the late '90s, slimming down to a two-piece for the 'Sleazy Listening' album and embracing drum & bass, but then real life got in the way. “We all had families, so the responsibility was to make sure they were provided for,” David says. “We were pre-internet, which sounds mad but there was no way at that point to go back to being totally independent and making a living — it was just too expensive.”

Dave became the production manager for acclaimed Edinburgh Fringe venue the Gilded Balloon, and Philip and John began writing music for theatre and advertising respectively. But the re-release of 'DeTestimony', on Ibiza don Pete Gooding's Secret Life Records this month, has seen Miller starting to reboot the Finitribe live project, playing in Ibiza earlier this summer and working with John to formulate a new live show. “At first I just saw it as a 25th anniversary present to the band, but it's taken on its own life and it would seem there are some exciting possibilities as a result,” David says. “Digital music and social media have made it possible for me to even consider doing this again.”

The 'DeTestimony' re-release package includes a remix by old pal Justin Robertson that remains faithful to the original while recontextualising it in today's deep tech realm. Optimo's remix, meanwhile, increases the motorik tech quotient, and Robot 84 remakes it as a journeying, spacey, phuture-tech piece. It's coming out on twelve-inch vinyl as well as digitally, and includes sleeve notes from cult Scottish writer Irvine Welsh – a long-term fan of the band.

“More than any other act, Finitribe defined my love of dance music and
provided the soundtrack to my social life of the late eighties and
early nineties,” Welsh writes. “These weren't the songs I grew up to, they were far
more important than that; they were the songs that I refused to grow
up to.”
Miller tells DJ Mag that all the other five original members are happy that the Finitribe reboot is occurring and are helping in whatever ways they can — and that some will be involved at certain points. He's modest about their pioneer status, though, and is just loving being active in music again. “It's lovely to be told your work has played a part in peoples lives, and we have been privileged to be told this many times,” he says. “We just started making music at school and it just grew into what it was.”
Let the Tribe grow again.