Leftfield Biography

Progressive house act which originally comprised just Neil Barnes, formerly of Elephant Stampede and, bizarrely, the London School Of Samba. He released a solo track, ‘Not Forgotten’, on Outer Rhythm Records, before Leftfield were expanded to a duo with the addition of former A Man Called Adam and Brand New Heavies contributor Paul Daley. Barnes first met him through a poetry group who wanted live backing. However, as ‘Not Forgotten’, a deeply resonant song, broke big, disputes with Outer Rhythm followed. Unable to record due to contractual restraints, they embarked instead on a career as remixers to the stars. This first batch included React 2 Rhythm, Ultra Naté and Inner City. They were profligate in order to keep the Leftfield name prominent in the absence of their own brand material. Later remixes for David Bowie, Renegade Soundwave and Yothu Yindi would follow, but by now the duo had already established their Hard Hands imprint. This debuted with the reggae-tinted ‘Release The Pressure’ (featuring Earl Sixteen), then the more trance -based ‘Song Of Life’, which gave them a minor chart success in 1992.

Barnes and Daley subsequently teamed up with John Lydon (Sex Pistols / PiL) for what Q magazine described as the unofficial single of 1993, ‘Open Up’. Remixed in turn by Andrew Weatherall and the Dust Brothers, it was an enormous cross-party success - especially for Barnes, whose primary musical influence had always been PiL. It might have risen higher in the charts had it not been pulled from ITV’s The Chart Show at the last minute because of the line ‘Burn Hollywood, burn’ embedded in its fade, as parts of Los Angeles were by coincidence affected by fire. Gaining favour with a mainstream audience, 1995’s groundbreaking Leftism paved the way for the later crossover success of the Chemical Brothers and the Prodigy. Daley and Barnes, who had already produced a soundtrack for 1994’s Shallow Grave, gained further exposure through their contribution (‘A Final Hit’) to the cult UK movie, Trainspotting. They also recorded as Herbal Infusion (‘The Hunter (The Returns)’), alongside Zoom Records boss Dave Wesson.

Barnes and Daley spent three years recording and re-recording the follow-up, Rhythm And Stealth, which debuted at number 1 in the UK album chart in October 1999. Stand-out track ‘Africa Shox’ featured guest vocals by electro pioneer Afrika Bambaataa. The end of Leftfield came in March 2002 when Daley and Barnes announced they were concentrating on solo projects.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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