In the early 1990s a post-rave, DIY, free party scene had established itself in the UK. It was largely based around an alliance between warehouse party goers from various urban squat scenes and politically inspired new age travellers.
Spiral Tribe is a free party sound system which existed in the first half of the 1990s. The collective originated in west London and later travelled across Europe and North America. According to one member, the name came to him when he was at work, staring at a poster of the interconnecting spirals in an ammonite shell. The group had a huge influence on the emerging free tekno subculture. Members of the collective released seminal records on their label, Network 23.
Free tekno, is the name given to the music predominantly played at free parties in Europe. The spelling of the word tekno is made to deliberately differentiate the musical style from that of techno. The music is fast, normally 170 to 200 bpm and characterized by a pounding repetitive kick drum.
- Artists often use many pseudonyms, as they are not interested in mainstream success or recognition.
- Most are not interested in profit
- They also support the free distribution of their works, as they do not see it as their own material, but as something that belongs to the fans and the community
- This is described as "returning to the roots."
From 1990 until 1992, Spiral Tribe were responsible for numerous parties, raves, and festivals in indoor and outdoor locations. These mainly occurred in the south of England. The largest and most famous party the group organised was the Castlemorton Common Festival free party in May 1992.
Thirteen members of the group were arrested immediately after the Castlemorton event and were subsequently charged with public order offences. Their trial became one of the longest-running and most expensive cases in British legal history, lasting four months and costing the UK £4 million. Spiral Tribe first use the slogan "Make some fucking noise" on T-shirts which they wore in the court room.
This one event was largely responsible for the introduction in 1994 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act; effectively leaving the British free party scene for dead. Following this many of the traveller artists moved away from Britain to Europe, the US, Goa in India, Koh Phangan in Thailand and Australia's East Coast.
Within a few months the number of people attending the parties was enormous and finding secret inner-city venues big enough proved difficult. And so it was, in the summer of 1991, the Spiral Tribe collective burst out of the confines of London and into the British countryside.
Playing out under the stars, Spiral Tribe became a symbol of resistance to the old hierarchies of oppression and exploitation. But as their popularity continued to grow so too did the authorities determination to hunt them down and silence their rebellious tune.
Spiral Tribe, and other English sound systems took their cooperative techno ideas to Europe, particularly Eastern Europe where it was cheaper to live, and audiences were quick to appropriate the free party ideology. It was European Teknival free parties, such as the annual Czechtek event in the Czech Republic that gave rise to several French, German and Dutch sound systems. Many of these groups found audiences easily and were often centered around squats in cities such as Amsterdam and Berlin.