… And in our madness we rave

Kit McMahon and Dena Christy

RealTime Issue 11, February – March 1996, p11


In “Rave New World” (The Good Weekend, Jan 6, 1996), Stephen Spears, after a few “horrendous days” in contemporary showbiz, rediscovers vitality, his youth, memories of by-gone days and, it would seem, an illicit thirst for life—all of this at a rave. It is—without wanting to downplay the importance of these experiences for him—a romantic view of the rave scene, a view that comes from a person wanting to rediscover life and not discover it. It is ultimately an unreal and isolated picture of the scene portrayed as untouchable and inaccessible. With a few funky graphics and blurred photographs it appears dreamy and poetically chaotic. Anarchy runs happily rife in a psychedelic, sweaty, beautiful-bodied, isolated dance.

A person loyal to rave culture could see this article as a great advertisement for the scene, making it more user-friendly and countering bad publicity such as that surrounding the death of the Sydney teenager Anna Wood last year. Perhaps this is what we should learn from Spears’ article: that we should respect the two sides to every story.

However, the story of rave culture is complex and the fact is that raves move and change. Spears’ article focuses on a dance party but raving is a way of thinking that manifests itself in a person’s lifestyle. Ravers think in terms of the big picture. The body and technology are considered interacting forces. Technology helps the body move faster and further. To be a raver is to consume technology and ideas and redefine them in an interactive environment. A raver is conscious of the world, the universe, the past, the present, the future, nature, technology and how these affect each other – an interlocking network of ideas and philosophies that one may completely indulge in or simply pick and choose from.


The most prominent aspect of the philosophy behind raving is the relaxed, friendly environment which is usually violence free. Raves are not sleazy pick up joints, people are there to dance and go off on the music. This is the essence—release and escape.

– Emma, Mel, Boba and more, “Rave Special: Dissecting The Rave” Beat Magazine, 1994


Alternatively, the rave can exist as part of a philosophical system. Raving is part of a means to fulfil a role in the world wide web of Gaia that calls upon the depths of mathematical and computer science to develop a web of life and consciousness that stretches out from traditional forms of hierarchy.

The ravers see themselves and the creation of their sub-culture as part of the overall fractal equation for the post-modern experience. One of the principles of chaos math… is phase-locking, which is what allows the various cells of an organism to work harmoniously…A phase-locked group begins to take on the look of a fractal equation, where each tiny part reflects the nature and shape of the larger ones. The ultimate phase-locking occurs in the dance itself, where thousands of… like minded young people play out house culture’s tribal ceremony…They’re on the same drugs, in the same circadian rhythm, dancing to the same 120-beats-per-minute soundtrack…It is at these moments that the new reality is spontaneously developed…

– Douglas Rushkoff, Cyberia: Life in the Trenches of Hyperspace, Flamingo 1994


Rave music—or techno as it is universally known—does not have to be danced to. Like any other music it can simply be listened to. Trish, a DJ and journalist from Melbourne, said in an interview that she discovered techno after getting bored with gothic music. She appreciates its consistent originality. As DJ of a prominent techno show on Melbourne’s PBS radio station, she praises its accessibility for composers, producers, lovers of music or ravers. The rapid development in technology—particularly audio technology—has meant that people can create rave music easily. Making electronic music is not limited to the few who have connections in the music and recording industry. One can pick up an old Roland synthesiser or an apparently out-of-date Akai sampler, and with some imagination create sounds that are new, truly different and inspirational.

Ross Harley in an article on Volition Records recognises the creativity of techno and its romance with machinery and technology. (“Acts of Volition”, Perfect Beat vol.2 n.3 1995). In this essay on the history and development of one of Australia’s premiere techno music labels he writes of “the certain perversity that prevailed…for the original design and purpose of…machines” and how these machines could “easily be turned against the industrial uses they were made for”.

But there are other issues at stake in an understanding of the scene. The taking of drugs (whether smart-drugs, E, speed, acid, guarana) is an aspect of the rave culture that is so often held out to the public as the only exhibit in the case against the culture. The focus on the taking of drugs effectively casts a shadow on the ravers and parties that don’t use drugs. There is also the business of raves. What is the economic benefit of the scene to the promoters and the public? What about its history? The scene has moved from the ‘old skoolers’—who were just learning to integrate technology and this new way of being— to the recent split between ‘clubbers’—who go to mainstream clubs and don’t necessarily subscribe to a different way of viewing reality—and ravers.

The process of understanding the rave scene could lead to the development of discourses that would enable us to work on other contemporary sub-cultures, how they work and the interplay or non-interplay between them and how this effects the wider community.

S.C.A.N. is a group of interested people gathering information and ideas about raves and sub-cultures. Contact Dena Christy on 0416 092 372 or 03 9646 4467 or Kit McMahon 02 798 3378.

1 February 1996