Leftfield performing live in 2016: L-R: Adam Wren, Neil Barnes, Nick Rice (Hadouken!)
Infectious Music (present)|
Outer Rhythm / Rhythm King, Hard Hands / Chrysalis Music, Columbia / SME Records (former)
|Earl Sixteen, John Lydon, Roots Manuva, Afrika Bambaataa|
Leftfield are a British electronic music group formed in 1989. It began as the duo of Neil Barnes and Paul Daley (formerly of the Rivals and A Man Called Adam). In January 2010 Barnes resurrected Leftfield without Daley and, after touring for a few years, finished writing new material for a third album entitled Alternative Light Source. Daley declined to be involved and is focusing upon his solo career.
The duo were very influential in the evolution of electronic music in the 1990s, with Mixmag describing them as "the single most influential production team working in British dance music". As with many of their contemporaries, such as the Chemical Brothers, Leftfield were notable for their use of guest vocalists in their works. Among those involved were Toni Halliday on "Original", Johnny Rotten on "Open Up", Djum Djum on "Afro-Left", and Earl 16 and Cheshire Cat on "Release the Pressure". The term progressive house was coined to define their style, a fusion of house with dub and reggae.
Neil Barnes' music career started off as a DJ at The Wag Club while simultaneously playing percussion on a session basis. In 1986, he joined the London School of Samba and played in the bateria in the 1986 Notting Hill Carnival. Around 1989, inspired by Afrika Bambaataa, Barnes decided to try his hand at electronic music production, the results of which were the tracks "Not Forgotten" and "More Than I Know", released on the Rhythm King label. For the remixes of these tracks, Barnes called upon Paul Daley, percussion player with A Man Called Adam and formerly a session musician for the Brand New Heavies and Primal Scream, appearing on their Dixie-Narco EP. Barnes and Daley had previously worked together as percussionists at The Sandals first club, Violets. Described by Barnes as "[t]he sound of 15 years of frustration coming out in one record", the piece was termed "Progressive House" by Mixmag and held significant prominence in nightclubs from 1991 onwards. As their mutual interest in electronic music became clear the pair decided that they would work instead upon Leftfield, once Barnes had extricated himself from his now troublesome contract with Rhythm King subsidiary, Outer Rhythm. The name Leftfield was originally used by Barnes for his first single, with editing/arranging and additional production undertaken by Daley. However, after this, Daley remixed "Not Forgotten" and was fully involved in writing, producing,arranging and editing as half of Leftfield in the creation of all of Leftfield's work (including videos,artwork and conceptual ideas) until the duo split in 2002.
During this period, in which the band could not release their own music owing to the legal dispute with Rhythm King, the pair undertook remix work for React 2 Rhythm, ICP, Supereal, Inner City, Sunscreem, Ultra Nate and provided two remixes to David Bowie's single "Jump They Say". Finally, once the problems with their former label had been sorted out, Leftfield were able to unveil their single "Release the Pressure".
Paul Daley has been on Dance music's frontline since the release of Leftfield's debut single 'Not Forgotten' in 1989. With partner Neil Barnes, the duo went onto become one of the most globally successful and respected acts in Dance music, along the way shaping styles and creating sounds that have influenced heavily and been borrowed from literally. As a DJ, remixer and producer in his own right, Paul employs the same approach to being different, fresh and exciting as he has throughout his vocation and the success he has enjoyed has come through an absolute understanding and love of the music, the clubs and the people.
Paul spent the late seventies and the early eighties soaking up the wide variety of music that the vibrant gig and club scene of his hometown of Margate offered. This meant he was able to soak up everything from Rock'n'Roll, Punk, bass leaden Reggae rhythms,Disco/Funk, Soul and an emerging post punk underground electronic music scene. Along with being a drummer with various local Punk bands such as The Rivals and The Need he also ran and DJ'd at his own nights in a basement club on Margate seafront,playing underground European electronic disco mixed with a post-Punk attitude which at the time was a complete underground alternative scene to the tired mainstream of the time.
The early 80's saw Paul moving to London with underground post Blitz clubs such as the Dirtbox, Le Beatroute,the Mud and Wag clubs providing night time shelter along with early warehouse parties in the then derelict east/south of london. These were underground night-time hangouts and the places to be and hear old and contemporary US/UK Funk, Rockabilly, Jazz, Soul, early 80's US\ UK Electro, Hip-Hop, Dub, Film soundtracks,Disco,Afro Latin, Northern soul.
Unrealised at the time these clubs and happenings were to be the embryonic UK Balearic/Acid House pre-cursor to the late 80's\early 90's uk rave movement to which Paul was later to be fully involved on a creative musical level as a Producer and DJ.
Bank Holiday's of the early/mid eighties provided rites of passage weekender trips to Bournemouth and the uk coast for Dirtbox all nighters and daytime sessions again accompanied by a pre-balearic / Acid House DJ soundtrack. The mid 80's saw Paul working a lot as a sesiion musician in the Acid Jazz scene run by Eddie Pillar and Giles Peterson, he also playing regularly as a percussionist with many bands and dj's at Blitz legend Chris Sullivan's Wag club. A trip to the states in the late 80's as percussionist with the Brand New Heavies enabled him to visit clubs such as The Sound Factory, Red Zone, Save The Robots and many other underground haunts of the New York club scene of the time, opening him up to the exotic electronic sounds of the underground New York club scene and House music in particular.
Back in the UK and Ibiza this new breed of dance music was bubbling away, but it's highly potent cocktail of repetitive beats and exiting new electronic sounds would explode on contact with a simmering British boredom and the Ecstasy boom. For Paul, the abundance of music arriving from the States and Europe, the excitement of the clubs and hearing British DJ's mixing it up and doing things differently persuaded him to become involved in the music and get behind the decks again. Paul was now in demand as a DJ on a UK and international level taking his cutting edge sound around the country and the world as part of the early 90 's wave of superstar dj's to emerge from the london underground scene of the time. He also played regularly at every main club in Ibiza such as Ku ,Space ,Pacha, Amnesia as well as playing regularly along side chill out legend Jose Padilla at the sonic sunset temple that is Cafe del Mar. He held down guest and residency gigs at uk clubs such as Love Ranch,Full Circle,Strutt,Solaris,Ministry of Sound,Renaissance, Back to Basics and many more including regular international trips to Naples, Amsterdamn, Japan, Ireland, Scotland, South/North America ,Australia, Goa ,Canada - a lot of these places had not yet been opened up to 4/4 electronic scene and Paul was bringing a new style - something new they had not really heard yet.
"Suddenly at those early Acid-House/Balearic parties, it seemed that everything I'd ever been into came together under one roof,and everything was nice' Cue Leftfield...
In 1990 Paul was given the opportunity to remix "Not Forgotten" the first single by Leftfield - Paul had helped Neil make his first record, chipping in with ideas and also arranging and editing the final versions. The result was the 'Hard Hands" remix. Paul's Hard Hands mix was a genre splitting funked up heavy bass spaced out balearic/techno dj dance floor monster, still dropped today and regarded as a seminal tune in the history of dance music, it set sound systems alight and paved the way for other budding electronic artists and dj's. This record joined the ranks of classics and cemented Paul and Neil's partnership for the coming decade.......
As dance acts go they don't come any bigger and few have had such an enormous impact on the international scene. By not repeating themselves, Leftfield delivered two key albums - for which they received Brit & Mercury nominations for Best UK Dance Acts in both 1996 & 2000 - that helped shift Dance music's sound into new and dynamic phases and as such the reputation and the respect that the name Leftfield still commands to this day, is literally second to none.
Their debut album 'Leftism' (1995) redrew the borders for dance music, pioneering a radical hybrid that drew intuitively on rib-shaking dub, futuristic techno, house,ambient,balearic and breaks.
With its timeless qualities, is regularly declared 'The Greatest Dance Album Of All Time'. Its included collaboration with Sex Pistol John Lydon on 'Open Up' was the first ever dance/rock crossover not to sacrifice any of the attitude of either genre. Their second album 'Rhythm & Stealth' (1999), contained an equally exciting new blend of crisp, cutting-edge electronic sounds and alongside vocal contributions from Afrika Bambaata and Roots Manuva, included the fearsome electro-Funk beast 'Phat Planet', with which Leftfield once again wiped all pretenders away. Sales are in excess of 1,000,000 copies worldwide for each album.
With the Leftfield sound dictating much of clubland's direction they were in-demand as remixers and subsequently deconstructed then dusted their magic over an assortment of artists that included David Bowie,Stereo MCs, Inner City, Tricky ,Renegade Soundwave and many more. During the Leftfield years the duo also formed their own label Hard Hands which itself was at the front of the scene and aside their own music was responsible for issuing over 60 other releases by underground artists that included Pressure Drop, Dark Globe and Full Moon Scientist.
As well as Leftfield scoring music for the soundtracks of the internationally successful Trainspotting and director Danny Boyle's follow-up Shallow Grave, their music has been used on the big screen in the films Tomb Raider, The Beach, Hackers, Hackers 2 and Vanilla Sky. It has also been utilised in a number of television commercials, most notably the now infamous 'White Horses' ad for Guinness, for which the fearsome rumbling intro of 'Phat Planet' was also the teasing first taste listeners got of Leftfield's then imminent second album. This critically acclaimed unison has since been voted 'The Greatest Television Ad Of All Time' in myriad charts, programmes and polls. Other Leftfield music used in advertising clips has been for Volkswagen's Lupo car ('6/8 War') and the atmospheric intro of 'Release The Pressure'.
The impact of Leftfield's debut single helped secure Paul DJ bookings and he quickly earned himself a reputation for spinning a choice of solid tunes and raising the temperature on dancefloors worldwide. Throughout the decade he played regularly across the planet at clubs and festivals, including all the large UK outdoor events like Tribal Gathering, Homelands, Witness in Dublin (now the Oxygen Festival) and the Brighton Essential Festival. The overtaking demands of touring with Leftfield as a live band meant that DJ'ing took a back seat through the turn of the decade, although he maintained a residency at London's Fabric club between 1999-2003.
For the last ten years Paul has been in demand as a DJ, remixer and producer in his own right, turning out killer dancefloor ammunition for, among others, Slam ('Alien Radio'), Dub Pistols ('Six Million Ways') and Bolz Bolz ('Take A Walk' - which went on to be synched to a Smirnoff commercial), plus the sunset-tinted 'Adios Ayer' for long-time friend Jose Padilla (Café Del Mar) and a rework of Massive Attack's 'Butterfly Caught'. In 2004 he produced a single for the alliance of funk renegade Afrika Bambaata and robo-synth-pop pioneer Gary Numan, who teamed up on a new version of Numan's 1979 track 'Metal', resulting in an electro floor-curler with a commanding presence.
Paul has been operating more in the shadows over the last few years, DJ'ing and remixing whilst putting the finishing touches to his solo album. He is still just as comfortable playing to 100 people in a sweaty sub-basement as he is DJ'ing to larger festival crowds.
"My laws are still the same as when I was DJ'ing at my sister's house parties in the mid 1970's which is, if the people aren't dancing or smiling then it's not happening. I still get the same buzz I got when I was 12 years old playing records to myself in my bedroom, it's the same feeling but I'm sharing it with 100's of other people"
Paul understands and encourages new music from underground labels from all over the world, anyone who comes to listen to a set should not expect to hear some kind of 90's revival (he didn't hold down a 3 year residency at Fabric for nothing...), his sets and records represent an energy of someone half his age with twice as much musical experience. Anyone fortunate enough to catch his summer residency at Ibiza's uber cool country club "The Underground"from 2005 - 2010 bear witness to this.
Those who have heard Paul play understand his love and sincerity to the music. This has always outweighed taking an obvious commercial route as a DJ and this attitude continues to this day.
Leftfield's first major career break came with the single "Open Up", a collaboration with John Lydon (of Sex Pistols fame) that was soon followed by their debut album, Leftism in 1995, blending dub, breakbeat, and house. It was shortlisted for the 1995 Mercury Music Prize but lost out to Portishead's Dummy. In a 1998 Q magazine poll, readers voted it the eightieth greatest album of all time, while in 2000 Q placed it at number 34 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever. The album was re-released in 2000 with a bonus disc of remixes, and again in 2017 as a remastered version with eleven completely new remixes.
Their second album, Rhythm and Stealth (1999) maintained a similar style, and featured Roots Manuva, Afrika Bambaataa, and MC Cheshire Cat from Birmingham. The album was shortlisted for the Mercury Music Prize in 2000 but lost out to Badly Drawn Boy's The Hour of Bewilderbeast. It reached No. 1 in the UK Albums Chart. The album featured the song "Phat Planet" which featured on Guinness' 1999 advert, Surfer, and "6/8 War" featured on the Volkswagen Lupo Advert 'Demon Baby'. The track "Double Flash" featured in the PlayStation software game Music 2000.
On 25 March 2015 the new single, "Universal Everything", was premiered on Annie Mac's BBC Radio 1 show. Shortly afterwards the new album was announced via the Leftfield website and social networks, along with UK tour dates for June 2015.
Alternative Light Source, Leftfield's first album in 16 years, was released on 8 June 2015 on Infectious Records. On 1 June 2015 the album premiere was streamed live on Twitter, coupled with conversation via hashtag #leftfieldstream. 'Head and Shoulders' features Sleaford Mods on vocals, and its stop-motion and animation hybrid video debuted on Pitchfork on 6 August 2015.
The song "Phat Planet" was used in the "Surfers" TV advertisement for Guinness, ranked number one in Channel 4's Top 100 Adverts list in 2000. "Phat Planet" was also used in the animated television series Beast Machines: Transformers, the simulation racing games F1 2000 by EA Sports and Racedriver GRID by Codemasters. In addition, their song "Release the Pressure" was used on advertisements for the O2 mobile phone network at its launch, and the Kerry Group's Cheestrings snack in 2006. "A Final Hit" was featured on the Trainspotting soundtrack; the b-side "Afro Ride" was also featured on the soundtracks to both wipE'out" and wipE'out" 2097 although it did not appear on the album of the first game.
A white label release called "Snakeblood" was featured on The Beach soundtrack.
They also released a series of singles and two albums before going into hiatus in 2002 to focus on solo projects.
The song "Storm 2000" has been used as the theme tune for the BBC television programme "Dragons Den"
In Leftfield's Amsterdam show, the Dutch police were close to arresting the venue sound engineers due to the sound system reaching illegal volumes. At the next concert, in Belgium, 30 people were given refunds after complaining that the sound level was too high, leading to a newspaper headline reading "LEFTFIELD TOO LOUD". In June 1996, while the group was playing at Brixton Academy, the sound system caused dust and plaster to fall from the ceiling; subsequently, the group was banned from ever returning to the venue. The ban however was taken by the band as a ban on the sound system and not themselves, which was confirmed when Leftfield returned to Brixton again on Saturday 20 May 2000.
In November and December 2010, Leftfield did a series of dates around the UK and Ireland. Friday 3 December's gig saw more plaster fall from Brixton Academy's ceiling.
Leftfield headlined Creamfields in Cheshire, England in August 2010, RockNess in Highland, Scotland in June 2010, and played the final set on the main stage at Ireland's three-day festival, Electric Picnic in September. Further headline festival shows were announced in the coming weeks. However, Leftfield is now represented by Neil Barnes with a group of vocalists (may vary on some songs), MC Cheshire Cat, Adam Wren on engineering & programming & Sebastian 'Bid' Beresford on drums, as Paul Daley is concentrating on his DJ work, as well as releasing a solo album.
|Title||Album details||Peak chart positions||Certifications|
|Rhythm and Stealth||
|Alternative Light Source||
|"--" denotes items that did not chart or were not released in that territory.|
|Title||Album details||Peak chart
(with Djum Djum)
|A Final Hit - Greatest Hits||
|"--" denotes items that did not chart or were not released in that territory.|
|Year||Title||Peak chart positions||Album|
|1990||"Not Forgotten"||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||Non-album singles|
|1991||"More Than I Know"||98||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|1992||"Release the Pressure" (featuring Earl Sixteen)||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||Leftism|
|"Song of Life"||59||--||--||--||--||--||--||27|
|1993||"Open Up" (featuring John Lydon)||13||--||39||5||39||--||--||--|
|1995||"Original" (featuring Toni Halliday)||18||11||--||--||--||--||20||--|
|"Afro-Left" (featuring Djum Djum)||22||15||--||--||--||--||30||20|
|1996||"Release the Pressure '96"
(featuring Earl Sixteen, Cheshire Cat & Papa Dee)
|1999||"Song of Life" (re-issue)||96||34||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|"Afrika Shox" (featuring Afrika Bambaataa)||7||1||--||--||23||11||7||--||Rhythm of Stealth|
|"Dusted" (featuring Roots Manuva)||28||4||--||--||--||--||31||--|
|2000||"Swords" (featuring Nicole Willis)||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|2015||"Universal Everything"||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||Alternative Light Source|
|"Bilocation" (featuring Channy Leaneagh)||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|"Head and Shoulders" (featuring Sleaford Mods)||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|"Bad Radio" (featuring Tunde Adebimpe)||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|"--" denotes items that did not chart or were not released in that territory.|