Andrew Weatherall, one of the UK’s top electronic producers and remixers who co-produced Primal Scream’s landmark 1991 album Screamadelica, died Monday at the age of 56. Weatherall’s manager confirmed the musician’s death to Rolling Stone.
“We are deeply sorry to announce that Andrew Weatherall, the noted DJ and musician, passed away in the early hours of this morning, Monday 17th February 2020, at Whipps Cross Hospital, London,” a rep for the musician said in a statement. “The cause of death was a pulmonary embolism. He was being treated in hospital but unfortunately the blood clot reached his heart. His death was swift and peaceful.
“His family and friends are profoundly saddened by his death and are taking time to gather their thoughts. Further announcements regarding funeral arrangements will be made in due course.”
“We know what a special person he was and are overwhelmed at the number of people who knew this too,” his family said in a statement. “And to hear their stories and how he influenced them is a real joy at such a raw and dreadful time. Please do what he would have wanted… creating, listening, dancing, but above all pushing boundaries.”
“I’m really gutted to hear the awful news about Andrew Weatherall,” Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite wrote on Twitter. “His influence on music was incredible and he never stopped pushing forward when it’d have been easier to rest on his laurels. Most importantly though, he was a great person.”
“A true cultural icon and vital contributor to the label, his absence will be immensely felt,” Warp Records tweeted. “Thank you for all the music and memories.”
After becoming a vocalist in a post-punk band and co-founding the influential fanzine Boys Own in the late 1980s, Weatherall soon submerged himself into the bourgeoning acid house scene that would go on to dominate dance music at the time. Alongside his DJ stint at acid-house club Shoom, he remixed New Order’s “Worlds in Motion” and joined Paul Oakenfold for a remix of the Happy Mondays’ “Hallelujah” before Primal Scream enlisted Weatherall to helm their third studio album.
“Musicians in the studio can be slightly tiresome, even when they’re very nice people, because they want their record to sound how they want,” Weatherall told the Guardian in 2016. “But that’s not how Screamadelica was done. The Scream recorded stuff, and then they just trusted me, because what did we have to lose? Obviously, [the album’s first single] ‘Loaded’ had been a hit, but neither of us had much of a career to worry about. So when I get asked to do stuff, I tell them that’s how I do it. A lot of bands think it’s a great idea. Record companies – not so keen. They don’t want to entrust one person.”
Screamadelica would go on to become a landmark album in both rock and electronic circles, blending acid house and techno with a raw rock sensibility that would permeate and fuse both cultures. “I think it’s time to stop saying ‘this is a dance record’ and ‘this is a rock record,'” Primal Scream frontman Bobby Gillespie said at the time (via BBC). “If you can play music, you can do whatever you want. Just use your imagination.”
Weatherall’s newfound success with Primal Scream allowed him to pursue a variety of musical interests. He ran two London clubs while continuing his work as a DJ, producer and remixer, working with Björk, My Bloody Valentine and Saint Etienne, among many others. “A true inspiration and hero,” Chemical Brothers’ Ed Simons wrote on Twitter. “A lovely, funny man. Incredible DJ.” “A beautiful soul and a genius,” added Beth Orton, who worked with Weatherall on her 1996 album Trailer Park, wrote. “A profound loss.”
Despite his success, Weatherall was reluctant to produce more mainstream albums and avoided the spotlight that some of his more commercial-minded peers embraced. “That sort of carry-on was never for me,” he told the Independent in 2016. “It’s a lot of work, once you go up that slippery showbiz pole, and it would keep me away from what I like which is making things. I mean, I had a little look in the early Nineties. I stood at the bottom of that pole and looked up and thought to myself, ‘The view’s pretty good. But it’s very greasy and there are a lot of bottoms up there that I might have to brush my lips against. So, maybe I’ll give it a miss.’”
In 1993, he released numerous ambient techno singles on his Sabrettes label as part of the group Sabres of Paradise and, later, as one-half of Two Lone Swordsmen. A 1996 reunion with Primal Scream yielded “Trainspotting,” a standout track on the soundtrack to Danny Boyle’s movie of the same name. (He’d join the band again in 2002 to co-produce their Evil Heat album.) “Absolutely distraught to hear this terrible news,” Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh wrote on Twitter. “Andrew was a longtime friend, collaborator and one of most talented persons I’ve known. Also one of the nicest. Genius is an overworked term but I’m struggling to think of anything else that defines him.”
Talking to the Guardian in 2016, Weatherall expressed little nostalgia for the drug-fueled era that helped launch his career. “I’d been in the dark post-punk world of shadows and neon in the rain. And suddenly I’ve been given this drug that makes me love everybody and, ‘Oh, this music’s quite uplifting.’ But I didn’t become a casualty of it,” he said. “At some point I stood back and went, ‘Hold on, the only thing I’ve got in common with these people is that we’re in the same room and on the same drugs – I’ve tried talking to them outside, we’ve got nothing in common.’ So I’m not too big on the reunions. It’s like, those fucking people were horrible 25 years ago and now they’re not taking ecstasy, they’re taking cocaine. So they’re going to be even fucking worse.”
Numerous mix records would follow, and in 2006, Weatherall released his debut solo EP The Bullet Catcher’s Apprentice. A Pox on the Pioneers, Weatherall’s debut full-length, arrived in 2009, with the prolific musician continuing to release genre-hopping music under a dizzying arrays of aliases for multiple labels. Weatherall released his final album, Qualia, in 2017.
“You’re never going to have that feeling of hearing that record for the first time again, but if you look into the eyes of someone who’s hearing it for the first time, it’s a nice vicarious feeling,” he told the Guardian. “But it’s not selfish. I think I’ve never lost that thing I had when I was 12 years old and inviting my mates round to my house. They’d all be copping off with girls and I’m going, ‘No, check out this B-side.’ I’ve never lost that slightly nerdy approach to wanting to share what I like.”