Paranoid London: Analogue Anarchy in the UK

Enigmatic electronic duo Paranoid London are waxing maniacal alongside a star-studded crew of acid house anarchists on their latest album, 'Arseholes, Liars and Electronic Pioneers.'

12 min
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Feb 2, 2024
Tracy Kawalik

Sheer ice roads wind towards banks of 808s, 909s, 303s, and analogue relics sprawling floor to ceiling in the subterranean studio where Gerardo Delgado and Quinn Whalley of Paranoid London slide into the frame. It’s 6 AM across the pond where I’m at, pitch black and heartstoppingly colder climes. Still, the rare opportunity to have a chin wag with the enigmatic electronic duo is enough to transcend 4G and knock me onto their wave.

Since Paranoid London exploded into public consciousness, the duo have applied a riotous punk attitude to each acid house track they’ve blessed. Their music has become synonymous with tape hiss, metallic handclaps, dry snares, sharp hi-hats, concussive kicks, and gnarly, bass-heavy speaker testers. They’ve united the underground and overground in sweat-soaked euphoria by firing their own blend of dance floor dynamics at maximal decibels with rough, rude, raw jack.

PL rescued Acid House from saccharine smiley faces and English rave kids in a field to instead pay homage to its gay, Black, Latin pioneers and roots in mid-80s Chicago. More than that, they enlisted a motley crew of sexually charged iconoclasts to grab the mic at their resounding live sets, like Josh Caffe, DJ Genesis and Clams Baker (aka Mutato Pintado) to deliver a powerful message.

Amid an electronic music culture that was increasingly bloated, glitzy, and insufferable, Pitchfork called Paranoid London a “Refreshing punch to the nuts.” Fast forward to the present, and PL is on the precipice of releasing their most sonically polished LP to date, Arseholes, Liars and Electronic Pioneers, fuelled by a vitriolic lick as fierce as their first tracks.

Check out Paranoid London’s latest Beatport chart.
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“The title for the album came from a throwaway comment Del made about the arseholes and liars that have taken over politics, the media and the public debate who seem intent on making the world as awful a place as possible. It just stuck. We couldn’t stop thinking about it. Over the past decade and a half, we’ve met a lot of them; in fact, there are so many that we actually had to stop ourselves from adding to the list! From there, it spiralled out of control into the album artwork.” Quinn winks. “The electronic pioneer/music royalty bit was easy! Look at the diversity of folks that have changed things for the better, e.g. James West (Black inventor of the electret microphone), American electro don Aldo Marin, British producer Andrea Parker, post-punk band WIRE”

Del pipes in, “It’s been said a million times: dance music has always been political. It’s very strange to see the comments on artists’ posts saying, ‘Leave the politics out of it’… that’s bullshit! Loads of the people of our age that we thought were lovely back in the day started to show their true colours when the drugs wore off, and they got a mortgage. Now, a lot of them are terrified of people ‘coming over here stealing our jobs,’ etc. Fuck them!”

With that, I’m whipped on a dizzying Zoom tour of the studio where Arseholes, Liars and Electronic Pioneers was crafted. Stacks of organs, hardware and tape machines fly by while Quinn passionately reels off the synths and kit used, including an ARP 2600 with a sequencer, custom-made by Margo Broom (aka Margotronics), who doubles as their landlady and engineer.

Paranoid London stepped up their production and dabbled with a slightly more hi-fi sound on Arseholes, Liars and Electronic Pioneers but trust that their signature punk urgency and anarchic attitude remains unaltered, unadulterated, undiluted.

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The old haram and new friends ignite the project with vocals.

Joe Love from Fat Dog, Brixton’s current ones-to-watch, features on the lead single “Love One’s Self,” a ‘celebration of masturbation’ and what PL describes as “a money shot of stripped-back sex dungeon jack.”

Mutado Pintado’s (Clams Baker from Warmduscher) beat poetry melts into mad midi’d drumrolls and synthesised wow on the second single, “The Motion,” moaning about late escapades and mirrorball memories of a life spent cruising, carousing, under neon and flashing lights “Up to his ankles in it. Drenched in sweat.”

Primal Screams, Bobby Gillespie opens the album with “People Ah Yeah” with an ethereal, strung-out call for togetherness harking back to the late ’80s daze of ecstasy-enhanced unity/naivety. Which PL cites as “a beatless, analogue bubble bath.”

“We got introduced to Bobby via a mutual friend of Andrew Weatherall. He’s such a legend. You’ll say something to him in the studio like ‘Do you like tea?’ and then he’ll go, ‘Oh, I was having a cup of tea and egger with David Bowie one day, and his trousers fell down,’ or something like that. Everything he says, you’re like, ‘Why are you so much cooler than all of us?’” Del laughs. “He’s still really enthusiastic about music. When we do an album, we finish it, and it’s like going on to the next. Bobby goes on and on about strings and influences like Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. He’s a really nice bloke! He would call us up and be playing us a song on his guitar down the phone. After all this time and the shit he’s been through, he’s still super passionate and not jaded.”

Jennifer Touch delivers her visceral post-punk snarl over thumping funk on “Fields of Fire” and then casts a haunting spell on “Touch the State of That.”

“Out of all the vocals, my favourite is Jennifer Touch’s because they just nail the emotions,” Del recounts. “She was the one when the final vocals were coming in that we both sat in the studio and went, ‘Oh my god! Thats it! It’s finished! Don’t touch it!’”

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Pulses race as we go track for track through the LP, and Quinn and Del chuckle when I insist that meeting them is interchangeable with “Final bosses” type status.

Paranoid London rose from the ashes of a devastated vinyl industry in 2007, dug up their moniker whilst crate digging in Phonica the day of the London tube bombs and clocked a cult following of fans and record collectors. They did zero promotion, no interviews, no photos, and no downloads, but their stripped-down, sleazy sonic aesthetic for dancers and DJs caught the attention of a scene bored shitless. “When we’d send stuff off to be mastered, we’d have to tell them, ‘Don’t clean it up, please.’ Quinn laughs. “Nine times out of ten, the in-house engineer will ask, ‘Are you sure it’s meant to be that distorted?’ Oh yeah!”

PL released their debut album at the end of December 2014 with a limited run of 500 copies that were nearly impossible to get your hands on. Sold out copies, went for silly money on Discogs, and stirred up a frenzy.

Del explains, “This way, it got the DJs off their arses to actually go to the shops and buy them. If not, a bunch of kids would have them and they wouldn’t. It was like, ‘Start working again mate.’”

“We’d always press fewer records than there were orders for,” adds Quinn. “We remembered the excitement of being kids ourselves when you went to a club, and they wouldn’t let you in, it made you want to go there even more. Or you’d be in a record shop and you’d find the record you wanted, but Danny Rampling would be standing next to you and they’d take it off you and give it to him. We thought, if [only] we could get that kind of thing going with a label!”

Paranoid London took to IG before Arseholes, Liars, and Electronic Pioneers hit the racks to hint at weird and wonderful things on the horizon, such as limited pressings, CDs of different edits, additional covers, etc. Delivered with signature PL sass: “Instead of giving your dinner money to Starbucks or to the school bully behind the bike sheds, why not give it to us for all the hard work we’ve put into making the strobe lights in your night clubs better.”

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Quinn and Del’s penchant to improve the scene with b-sides and musical rareties began as kids. “We were more interested in the records between the anthems,” Del says. “The DJ would play four tracks, and you wouldn’t know what they were: growling, no intro or breakdown, didn’t do anything for five minutes, but damn good. Those sounds that nobody wants, that’s what I want all over our records. Quinn absolutely got it; it was a partnership made in heaven.”

They both clocked street cred in separate suburbs as 13-year-olds in breaking crews wandering around London with boomboxes and lino flexing like they were in the Bronx. Del was in a crew called Warp 9 and Quinn in a crew called Electric Patrol “I was a terrible breakdancer, and mainly the only reason I was in the crew at all was because my dad had a a drum machine.” Quinn jokes, “Some of my earliest memories is my old man playing at Glastonbury – I used to cry on the way down there cos I hated hippies. “

Neither could have predicted that a decade later, they’d be making music together and getting booked to play Glasto’s Block9.

Gerardo Delgado and Quinn Whalley met in 2004, both chasing other people’s sounds like ballroom vogues from Derrick Carter to Danny Tenaglia (much of the results unreleased). Thankfully, a late-night sesh sparked a sonic shift when Quinn asked Del, “Mate, what are you really into?” And the answer was, “Banging acid house.”

After that, Paranoid London were propelled on a trajectory that led to sets at Panorama Bar, Sonar, Dekmantel, supporting The Chemical Brothers, Soulwax, and eventually gracing the pages of VOGUE with Sports Banger.

Jonny Banger, the founder of Sports Banger (a rave, fashion, and political activism collective), elaborates: “We first collaborated with the anarchic acid fuckers a few years ago. A late-night green room chat ended with Paranoid London playing live at our a/w 2020 fashion show. They thought they were just providing a tortured 303 soundtrack for the models to walk the runway. We told them there are no models, it’s just you lot, and we’re changing your outfits six times.”

Quinn and Del reflect, “That first show, we had no idea we were going to be the models, but they made us some incredible clothes to wear … at one point, Quinn had a shopping bag on his head with a customised Armani jacket with the PL logo sprayed on gold. To end up in VOGUE obviously gave us massive cred points with our daughters.”

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With a fresh collab with Sports Banger on the shelves and a string of live dates that promise a slew of surprises, I hang up by asking what else the future holds and what the most complicated obstacle has been to get here.

“At the beginning, our biggest obstacle was remembering to back up the 303 & 808 patterns. Now, it’s remembering to back up the 303 & 808 patterns,” Quinn continues “We never imagined that once we started PL, we’d spend more time with each other than with our families!”

Del drops hints about the layers of samples plucked from enormous records within Arseholes, Liars and Electronic Pioneers, hidden for only the hardest heads to decipher, then electrifies about the forthcoming live shows.

“We’ve made music for 500 people in a basement club or even 5000, but we thought, why not 10,000 people in a festival setting. We tested the LP over the summer, and it lit up festival stages at Glastonbury, Houghton, Love International, and many others.”

He adds, “The live show now has incredible visuals done by Bob Jaroc. He’s totally unique … he collects old TVs & burns images into the screens, which he films at very high speed, then does all sorts of trickery to them. It’s awesome working with somebody who thinks in visual terms – he brings a new level to the whole thing.”

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The DJ set is now a “hybrid” with Quinn on the decks and Del on the synths. At times, there can be three tracks looping plus 303 or 202 and a vocal loop. All without sync, so it could all fall apart at any second (it hasn’t yet!). They’ve also just got three-year US visas back after loads of problems, so tours are in the works.

In a world possibly more severed by class, financially crippled, and engulfed by sociopolitical shitstorms than it was when acid house was born, Paranoid London’s album couldn’t come at a better time for ravers in need of a release.

When pressed to sum up what they hope dancers feel when they listen to Arseholes, Liars and Electronic Pioneers, Paranoid London concludes: “Hopefully, the feeling you get when you’re in a field at a festival, surrounded by every different kind of person there is at five in the morning and the music is twisting your addled mind into topographies it’s never experienced before … so nothing too ambitious.”

Paranoid London’s album Arseholes, Liars and Electronic Pioneers drops on February 9th. Buy it on Beatport.

Tracy Kawalik is a freelance music and dance journalist living in London. Find her on X.