Spiral TribeSpiral Tribe, also known as SP23, are a musical and arts collective and free party sound system heavily active throughout the UK and Europe during the 1990s organising parties, festivals and raves. They are best known for their involvement in the Castlemorton Common Festival.
Between 1990 and 1992, Spiral Tribe were responsible for numerous parties, raves, and festivals in indoor and outdoor locations in the UK. From then on, the group travelled across Europe and had a huge influence on the emerging free tekno scene.
On New Year's Eve 1991, a rave was held at the then empty Roundhouse venue in Camden, London, which was to last for a week.
In May 1992, what would become the most well known and largest party the group had involvement in, also proved to be the most controversial. The Castlemorton Common Festival would turn out to be an unintended consequence of Police preventing travellers heading for the annual Avon Free Festival. Thirteen members of Spiral Tribe were arrested immediately after the Castlemorton event and 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. The judge ordered them to remove these garments. However, when the female defendants revealed that they wore nothing underneath their T-shirts, the judge reversed his instructions, something quite rare in UK courts. Regarding Castlemorton, Nigel South states that "the adverse publicity attending the event laid the groundwork for the Criminal Justice Act 1994". Low and Barnett opine in Spaces of Democracy that "Spiral Tribe, with their free and inclusive parties, succeeded in constituting an alternative public space, rather than just a secret one.".
After being acquitted of all charges relating to Castlemorton in March 1993, the group moved to Europe shortly after, doing parties in cities such as Rotterdam, Paris, and Berlin. Over the next few years, the collective organised parties and teknivals throughout Europe, then it slowly dispersed with some members taking up residence in Germany and the Netherlands and releasing work on Labworks and many other techno labels. Individual members of the collective joined other sound systems, did squat art events or pursued other interests.
Spiral Tribe also toured the United States towards the late '90s.
According to Spiral Tribe founding member Mark Stormcore, the name came to him when he was at work, staring at a poster of the interconnecting spirals in an ammonite shell.
The number 23, which is ubiquitously associated with Spiral Tribe, was introduced by Mark Harrison. Despite allusions to the number having been used by Psychic TV and Robert Anton Wilson, Harrison has stated that it "had nothing to do with any pre-existing individual, group or subculture".
MembersThe three founding members of Spiral Tribe/SP23 are Mark Harrison, Debbie Griffith and Simone Feeney. As the notion of being a member of the collective has always been a largely informal one, it has regularly changed throughout time and place.
Current SP23 membersMembers of SP23 are: Mark (a.k.a Stray Wayward), Debbie (a.k.a Feenix13), Simone (a.k.a Sim Simmer), Meltdown Mickey, Simon (a.k.a Crystal Distortion), Sebastian (a.k.a 69db), Ixindamix, Jeff 23, Max Volume and Charlie Kane.
Past Spiral Tribe membersMembers of Spiral Tribe have included the following:
Zander, Steve What's On, Lol Hammond & Charlie Hall (Drum Club), Kaos, MC Skallywag, Curley (a.k.a Esoteric), Timmy Tribe, Paula, Sally, Alex 65, Deano, Steve Bedlam (Bedlam sound system), Orinoco (a.k.a DJNerate), James (a.k.a Jack Acid), Stefnie, Little Ez, Nigel (a.k.a Edge), DJ Crafty (T.C.), DJ Aztek, DJ Curiel, DJ Manic Josh, DJ Renegade Sid, DJ Versatile, DJ Mr K, DJ Dark, Hamish, Darren, Dougie, Sacha, Old Frank, Scouse, Paul, Joe, Sheba Luv, Tim (Heathfield), Sancha, Dom, Mitch, Terminator Chris, Roger Raver, Special K, Little Kev, Wacky (rip), Benny Blag, Fiona, Radha, Jonnie, Dommi and East London crew.
MusicIn 1992, some members of the collective signed to the major label Big Life, as a result of the publicity generated from their involvement in the organisation of the Castlemorton Common Festival. Three EPs were released with them enjoying short crossover success with Forward the Revolution and Breach the Peace, an album Tekno Terra, as well as a compilation.
Members of Spiral Tribe also released records on their own label Network 23, as well as Rabbit City, Music Inc, and LabWorks.
In 1997, Techno Import, a French commercial distributor, compiled a CD entitled Spiral Tribe: The Sound of Teknival. The CD consisted of previously licensed material via Big Life, Rabbit City, and Force Inc. It was released without any consent from members of Spiral Tribe, was advertised on television and sold at least 30,000 copies. Spiral Tribe issued a statement against its release which began, "F**k Techno Import, Spiral Tribe Is Not for Sale", and had to take quick action to ensure the name Spiral Tribe was not copyrighted by Techno Import.