Luke Solomon and Justin Harris “literally tripped over [each] other” first at a warehouse party in the 90s, and finding mutual means and worldviews – a rebellious streak, a desire to make music that shared their gandalf weed pipe DIY ethos, and a love for instruments within ‘dance’ music – they began making music together, with no specific plan in place. What came out of it, however unplanned, resulted in an enduring musical partnership that’s spanned twenty years, a label, three albums (most recently ‘Psych!’, a long-awaited follow-up to 2003’s heralded ‘The Man Who Lived Underground’) and an avalanche of releases across everywhere from Playhouse Hot Creations, Crosstown Rebels and Rebirth Records to their own Music For Freaks and International Deejay Gigolos. It was a bond coming from, in their words, “the stars aligning”, and a journey that went from the underground basements to the sublime and ridiculous heights of the charts and back again, leaving them older, wiser, tougher and closer than ever.
Despite happily admitting that the band was a self-confessed “very stupid and irresponsible being that was born out of our youth”, it’s the abiding friendship of Solomon and Harris that is the bedrock of Freaks. Bona fide electronic music acts that have had their music played on a BBC Radio, John Peel session can probably be counted on one hand, and Freaks are exactly that, an unaffected anachronism in a digital world that simply make music with personality. Whatever self-deprecating view the pair may have of themselves, there’s an innate pride in everything they put out over the outfit’s tenure: ‘The Man Who Lived Underground’, is what makes the two veterans look back with most affection. Released in 2003 as the follow-up to ‘Meanwhile, Back At The Disco’, it encapsulates Solomon and Harris’ sense of humour and desire to rail against the 12”-friendly nature of the electronic music long-player at a time when few artists in dance music saw it as anything other than a means to sell club mixes. Given the ubiquity of ‘artist’ albums now, it’s hard not to see Freaks as ahead of their time, even if credit is given only now in retrospect.
In an era of uber-planned, social-media dominated music, the idea that two people would embark on a project by getting into the studios and “seeing what happened” seems almost quaint, but this is what the embryonic Freaks set sail on back in the mid-90s. What they lacked in technical skills in the beginning, they substituted with gusto and passion, in a desire to put together a bona fide band that played for dancefloors at a time when LCD Soundsystem were not even a twinkle in the eye, even gigging in the disused tower block of Club 11 in Amsterdam for Arthur Baker at ADE back in 2006. A pessimist might say their timing was wrong, but whatever logistical barriers existed, Freaks’ grand ideas were translated with vigour and a do-it-yourself approach.
Their resultant three albums, dozens of EPs and their own label, Music For Freaks, are testament to a combination of tenacious work ethic and sheer bloody mindedness in a tumultuous career. A career that has seen the duo re-appear triumphantly in 2015 with the full re-launch of Music For Freaks as a vinyl and digital label and a happy collaboration with kindred label, Circus Company on a CV that began with a release on Acid Green almost twenty years ago !!