About Techno Shuffle
One man’s quest for belonging … through rave
In the last week of high school, I bought a cheap exercise book, wrote my name on the front and passed it round my classmates. It was the English summer of 1994. These ‘leavers’ books’ were our nineties version of Facebook, except the ‘page’ was made of paper and the ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ were written in pen. My friends filled my book with farewell notes, drawings and Nirvana song lyrics. Two months earlier Kurt Cobain had shot himself in the head. Many of my mates were still grieving. I lost the book years ago but there’s one entry I’ll never forget. An anonymous contributor took up a whole page, drew a large square and wrote underneath: ‘This is how I will always remember you’.
Dork, nerd, geek, square; I’ve been called them all. I tried so hard to be cool and popular but I was always one step off the beat. Sure, I had plenty of friends. But I always felt like I was on the edge of the group. I didn’t belong.
As high school uniforms gave way to L-plates and summer jobs, I learnt to anaesthetise my social awkwardness with alcohol. I knew drinking didn’t make me cool but after four or five pints I didn’t care. Every Saturday night I’d prop up the bar at some cheesy provincial nightclub, my shoes stuck to the carpet like wasps in a beer trap and ‘Return of the Mack’ tearing my eardrums.
This wasn’t how it was meant to be. It was as though 1988 had never happened. Where were all those crazy tunes on Tops of the Pops with their beats, bleeps and breaks? Not to mention the thousands of happy faces dancing in a field and having the time of their lives. Rave seemed to promise a sense of community, freedom of expression and belonging — ideas that intrinsically appealed to an outsider like me. But instead of all-night dancing and random hugs, when I went out I came away with punch wounds, cigarette burns and crushing disappointment. I was seven years too late. Rave was dead, buried beneath a beer-stained blanket of punitive laws and commercial genres. For over a decade, rave lay dormant in my mind like a distant dream. And then, ten thousand miles from home, I met Kim.
‘It was like a big playground, a crazy adventure.’ Kim McClelland went to her first rave in Melbourne in 1997. ‘You’d walk in and there’d be thousands of people all doing their thing with no authority and no expectations. You could do what you want, say what you want, be who you want and stay up all night.’ Every weekend in ‘Techno City’, she and thousands of ravers expressed their freedom through music, ecstasy and dancing the Melbourne shuffle. Kim says going to a rave in the nineties was like ‘coming home’. A home where she belonged.
I was too late for London and despite it having one of the longest-running warehouse party scenes in the world, I’d missed out on Melbourne. But Kim taught me that rave doesn’t die. It lives on in the hearts of those who were there. Finally, here was my chance. Maybe, if I could record the memories of the DJs, artists, promoters and party people that built the Melbourne scene then in a way I too could belong. After five years, fifty plus interviews and 2,500 work hours, I am proud to present a social, cultural and musical history of Melbourne rave and techno. And ... I can safely say my thirty-year quest is over. I didn’t find rave. It found me.
About the author
Paul Fleckney is a writer, educator and researcher. He teaches urban planning at the University of Melbourne. He lives in Brunswick, Victoria with his wife Kim and dog Jumpa.
Techno Shuffle is 100% self-funded.