REACT MUSIC was the brainchild of James Horrocks, one of the UK’s unsung A&R heroes having been behind the iconic Rhythm King label that launched the careers of Mark Moore’s S’Express, Bomb The Bass, Baby Ford, Renegade Soundwave, The Beatmasters and Cookie Crew. Its underground offshoot Outer Rhythm was the first platform for Leftfield, Moby and showcased Warp and R&S Records with releases from Aphex Twin, CJ Bolland, Underground Resistance, Jam & Spoon, LFO, and Nightmares On Wax.
The Reactivate compilations were hugely influential to me personally and I know also for many of my peers, right at the start of our life long journeys in electronic music, educating our ears with music that seemed to have arrived from another planet. The artwork was and still is iconic and I still own most of the CDs which will be passed down to my kids, we might even play them if we can find a CD player that works.
React Music have joined forces with graphic design and fashion business team David Rich and Khan Tihema, two dads from Brisbane, Australia, to create a brand new e-commerce site to launch their rave-inspired fashion label Synthd Designs.
The clothing company offers dance music lovers the chance to purchase Reactivate merchandise, along with brand new counterculture-inspired designs. Their aim is to inspire a new generation of fans and recapture the nostalgia of the ‘90s and 00s club scene for those that loved and lived it.
Reactivate was launched by React Music as the label’s first compilation after scoring an international hit with their first release with timeless classic ‘You Got The Love’ from The Source featuring Candi Staton. The albums were UK chart albums, and the series has released 18 compilations as well as several ‘Best Of Reactivate’ collections, racking up sales of over 1,000,000 copies on vinyl and CD.
The Reactivate album series introduced the new European techno sound and its iconic sleeves and stellar tracklistings ensured a huge following with albums being collected to this day. The albums pioneered the sound of European techno, trance and the ‘hoover sound’ of hard dance and captured the early sound of Europe’s exploding electronic music scene featuring seminal tracks being played at events such as Berlin’s huge Love Parade, Tresor club, Watergate, Hard Wax, London’s 1st ever afterhours club, Trade, Heaven, Troll, Sherbet, The Gallery, Club UK, Peach, Cream, Gatecrasher, Sundissential, and Gods Kitchen and festivals such as Rezerection and Tribal Gathering.
The albums featured tracks from techno luminaries such as Joey Beltram, Sven Vath, G.T.O and Fierce Ruling Diva, trance artists such as Ferry Corsten, Tiesto, Armin Van Buuren, BBE, John ‘00’ Fleming and Blu Peter, hard house artists Tony De Vit and Baby Doc & S-J, as well as the React label’s release of evergreen classic, ‘Age of Love’ Jam & Spoon Watch Out for Stella Mix.
From the 90’s, Horrocks and React business partner, Thomas Foley, captured the exploding electronic music scene in all its diverse genres. Hardcore clubbers and music fanatics, the pair set the trends in compilations, and were the first to highlight the sounds typically heard on a big night out, bringing authentic quality music to a wider audience. As serious clubbers React were the first UK label to dance their way around Europe unique scenes like Amsterdam, Cologne and Frankfurt, sampling and then showcasing the very cutting-edge sounds they heard on their travels. They were also one of the first labels to head to Ibiza, where they introduced Carl Cox to Space, Ibiza, and hosted parties with Renaissance and Manumission, and had events broadcast live on BBC Radio 1. React showcased dance floor sounds across the genres including early mixed sets from Carl Cox F.A.C.T; Jeff Mills; Laurent Garnier; Dave Clarke and Dave Angel alongside the first Cafe Del Mar chillout albums compiled by the legendary and sadly departed resident, Jose Padilla.
React Music were also the first label to showcase the sounds of the 90’s UK garage scene with their ‘Twice As Nice’ compilations featuring BBC Radio 2’s DJ Spoony; and their Bonkers hardcore series became the most successful in its genre’s history; as well as releasing 4 volumes of Strictly Rhythm classics; Bora Bora, Ibiza, with DJ Gee; the Drum & Bass Arena series and drum & bass Industry Recordings label, and lo-fi trip hop series, Dope On Plastic.
React was also involved in the launch of Sharp Recordings, the label set up by React label manager Stephen React and George Sharp of house DJ/producer duo The Sharp Boys.
We caught up with React Music’s James Horrocks this week and asked him to compile and talk us through ten of his favourite tracks from his legendary Reactivate series.
Jaydee – Plastic Dreams – R&S Records
“Untypically, at a time when dance music was either blasting, banging or shimmying, along came an electronic music track that defied convention. It was hard, it was fast, it was instrumental, but it had soul. Was it techno? Was it house? Was it trance or progressive? It was all those things and more and with its intense bluesy organ sound, it became electronic music era’s answer to Booker T & The MG’s ‘Green Onions’ or Santana’s ‘Jingo’, both of which had been the club bangers of their day.”
Elevator – Shinny – React
“DJs Blu Peter and Mrs Wood were the first resident DJs from React’s weekly club nights to have crossover success. Following the success of Blu Peter’s first release ‘Flagship’ on Choci’s Chewns, Peter was invited to co-compile the Reactivate album series and was commissioned to make a track for Reactivate 9 in ‘94. Peter went into the studio with producer Kevin White at the studio of Food Records’ (home of Blur) and came out with the banging progressive trance masterpiece ‘Shinny’ under the name Elevator.”
S-J – Fever – React
“Originally released in ’95 on Opium Records, React picked up ‘Fever’ in ’96 following a year being heralded by Tony De Vit as an anthem at club Trade, before providing his own remix. Created by legendary hard house and trance producer Baby Doc and unique vocalist S-J, the intensely throbbing sounds and orgasmic vocals of the original Baby Doc mix literally sent shivers down the spine during the drop and sounds just as dynamic today.”
Fierce Ruling Diva – Rubb It In -React
“The React label’s second techno couple signing was the New York-Amsterdam collaboration of Jeff Abraxas and Jeroen Flamman s PKA Fierce Ruling Diva. They’d had a string of huge underground anthems on their Lower East Side label and found a natural home at React following an amazing live show at React’s club night Garage at Heaven. The duo went on to collaborate with G.T.O. on Technohead’s pan-European No. 1 single ‘I wanna Be A Hippy’.”
‘Rubb It In’ was on Reactivate Volume 2.
G.T.O. Listen To The Rhythm Flow React
“React’s first signing was G.T.O. aka Greater Than One, Tricky Disco, John & Julie and Technohead. Techno couple Lee Newman (RIP) and Michael Wells were already making tracks for other labels when they signed to React following a call from the label about their G.T.O. project and their hit track ‘Pure’. React released ‘The Bullfrog’ and ‘Listen To The Rhythm Flow’ in 1991 and the tracks were featured on Reactivate Volumes 2 & 3 respectively.”
N.R.G. – He Never Lost His Hardcore – Chill
“In 1992, there was finally a UK-produced techno/rave/hard house anthem that was played across Europe, U.S., Asia and Australia. The unique track produced by Neil Rumney waschampioned by Birmingham DJ Tony De Vit (RIP) and he made it the centrepiece of his set at London’s all-night raving institution Trade at Turnmills, on his rise to becoming the world’s biggest DJ. The animated track with ‘It’s Not Over Yet’ refrain soon became the biggest track on the gay clubbing circuit and continues to be pumped out on the hard house scene.”
T99 – Anaesthasia – Who’s That Beat/XL Recordings
“‘Music maestro please!’ launches ‘Anasthasia’, followed by a tsunami of chaotic keybord riffs that you could say ‘once heard never forgotten’. Produced by Oliver Abbeloos (whose track ‘Quadrophonia’ contained the ‘Reactivate’ refrain)’ and Technotronic and 2 Unlimited’s Patrick De Meyer, the rave anthem was embellished with Snap-style rap and diva vocals, but it’s all about the riffs and slamming old skool beats. This was the opening track on the first Reactivate album in 1991. The track was licensed to React ahead of its UK deal with XL Recordings who released the single on the same week as Reactivate. Both the single and album charted Top 20 in the UK.”
Marmion Schoneberg Marmion Remix Superstition
“‘Schoneberg’ is Berlin’s Soho and its LGBTQI+ hub Nollendorfplatz has enjoyed some of the city’s best nightlife since the 1920s. However, for the gay, trance and techno communities, the track ‘Schoneberg’ was about electronic music’s love affair with Berlin and its techno street carnival The Love Parade, conceived by artist Dr Motte as a political demonstration for disarmament, the joy of music and fair food for all, prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
The street parade replete with DJs and artists on floats, was one of the biggest in the world, and was held in many other towns and cities around the world, until it’s sad demise in 2010 when it became a victim of its own success due to an overcrowding disaster when ‘The Art Of Love Party’ was held in Duisburg. The Marmion remix of ‘Schoneberg’ resonated loudly on the parade with the addition of Brazilian style ‘batteria’ drums, tribal beats and partying chants and was played repeatedly. Produced by Mijk Van Dijk & Marcos Lopez, the 9-minute epic was released in 1994 at the height of the Euro trance and main room techno boom. For many it was the highlight of Reactivate Vol. 9 and has gone on to become an iconic Ibiza Closing Party track. The Love Parade successfully returned to Berlin in 2022 as Rave The Planet.”
Beltram – Energy Flash – R&S
“1990 had been a seminal year for a change of sounds in the serious clubbers’ soundtrack. One year after the second summer of love had faded, electronic music became dirtier and grittier in sync with its grubby warehouse or field rave surroundings, a sound we now refer to as old skool hardcore. Further rhythmic elements of 80s electro were combined with sped up hip hop breakbeats and reggae basslines over Detroit techno, Belgian new beat and hard house sounds coming from the U.S. and these 12-inch imports found favour in the UK and Europe. One of the DJs beginning to make his mark with the new sound was house and techno DJ Joey Beltram from Queens, New York. His harder house track ‘Joey’s Riot’ had been one of the tracks of the summer at React’s club nights Garage at Heaven on Fridays and Troll at The Soundshaft on Saturdays. Then one weekend the clubs’ resident DJs Daz Saund and Trevor Rockcliffe dropped Beltram’s ‘Energy Flash’. Taking inspiration from European trance techno DJ Frank De Wulf’s output with its hard-hitting, pulsing, hypnotic honking keyboard stabs, resounding bass, rattling beats and ‘acid, ecstacy’ lyrics, the uproarious reaction signalled a change of taste for the younger crowd. Beltram performed
‘Energy Flash’ (together with ‘hoover sound’ anthem ‘Mentasm’) on stage at the Reactivate launch party in Heaven. The track was released on pioneering Belgian techno label R&S Records (formerly Ferrari Records), Derrick May’s Transmat label in Detroit and Rhythm King’s Outer Rhythm in the UK and was the blueprint for the sound of Reactivate featuring on ‘Reactivate Vol. 1, The Belgian Techno anthems’.”
Age Of Love – Age Of Love – Jam & Spoon Watch Out For Stella Mix – React
“Although the React label achieved monumental crossover success with its first single release The Source Featuring Candi Staton’s ‘You Got The Love’, the label’s other enduring legacy has been ‘Age Of Love.’ Mooted as one of the first trance recordings, the original 12-inch single was produced by Italian DJ Bruno Sanchioni (B.B.E.) and Roger Samyn (RIP) who released it on his Belgian record shop’s label, DiKi Records, in 1990. React then licensed ‘Age Of Love’ and set about remixing the track for re-release in 1992 (taking a further 5 years to reach the UK Top 20).
Following Goa trance pioneer Marc Spoon deejaying at React’s club night, Garage at Heaven in London on Fridays, Jam & Spoon were offered the single’s official remix. React’s Thomas ‘The Techno Engine’ Foley collected the finished master recording from Jam & Spoon at the Mayday rave in Cologne, Germany, where he had gone to watch React’s techno act techno G.T.O. perform live. When techno giant Talla 2XLC dropped the track in the stadium to rapturous applause, Thomas described the moment as like nothing he'd ever seen or heard before. He then continued raving with the DAT tape back in his pocket, before travelling by train to Amsterdam to continue partying with React’s techno act, Fierce Ruling Diva, where he was surprised to find it had survived the night and was shocked to hear how dynamic the track sounded when heard directly in front of the big speakers! In fact, the Age Of Love remix sounded so sensational and the choral breakdown so sublime, hearing it became a seminal moment in raving culture. “Do you remember where you were when you heard Age Of Love for the first time?”