Keef, BStorm, Pyro, DJ Pseudonym, Empatysm, Dr Weevil, Civil Unres
The story of Desert Storm sound system from Glasgow is unique and unforgettable. They drove straight through and over the frontline, forcing them quite literally into the middle of a raging war zone at the height of the Balkan conflict. They took the skin off a number of policemen’s noses as they brazenly lumbered into the centre of several illegal street demonstrations, and led thousands upon thousands of European raver’s right through the eye of some of the biggest underground free rave parties Europe has seen.
It was any weekend of 1991 in Glasgow, Scotland, and the four AM curfew in the city was giving rise to a new kind of resistance. Police were out making sure all the streets were clear as the drunken revellers wobbled home. Except this night there was a rave on. In a disused warehouse down by the docks, newly formed sound system Desert Storm were busy setting up sound equipment, lights and all the kit needed to hold Glasgow’s first illegal warehouse party. The event was a great success with hundreds of people enjoying music late into the morning hours. The police caught wind of the event, but due to some clever paperwork and a few video cameras, left the party believing it to be a video shoot for a new band. And so the story starts.
The first few party’s people were charged for entry, but after some major trouble with local gangsters trying to control the door, and a chance meeting with some of the infamous Spiral Tribe, a London sound system that had spawned the whole free party principal, all future events became free.
In 1994 the government passed a new law called the “Criminal Justice Bill” which contained legislation outlawing such events and giving the police new powers to stop them and seize equipment, it also contained many controversial clauses which were designed to stop or impede people that wanted to follow a more subversive lifestyle.
In the summer of 1994 a huge anti CJB rally was held in London ending in Trafalgar square where near 10 000 protesters gathered. Suddenly from nowhere came a camouflaged transit van, slowly making its way through the crowd. It stopped right in the middle of the Square, two people in balaclavas adorned the roof, set up some speakers and suddenly the whole square erupted to the sound of Desert Storm.
As the demonstration moved of the Square to make its way to Hyde Park closely watched by hundreds of suited up riot police violence began to rear up. It seems the crowd were fine whilst they had music to dance to, but with closing Police lines skirmishes started.
It was whilst DStorm were driving out of the unfolding riot that they were approached by a member of “Workers Aid for Bosnia” and asked if they would be prepared to travel there and hold a New Year eve morale boosting gig, in a war zone.
So with a taste for adventure and a desire to make some kind of difference the crew rallied around, raised the necessary funds to buy a 7.5 t truck and enough cash to fuel the trip. And so in mid December 1994 set off with five aid convoy trucks on the dangerous journey into the warring Balkans.
The trip took the crew across Europe and entered the former Yugoslavia just north of Ljubljana, capital of the break away republic Slovenia.
They made their way down to Rijeka on the Croatian coast where they were witness to a near fatal road accident. Some young Croat soldiers had impaled their car on a twenty foot pole and had a concrete block under their engine.
Unbelievably they were still trying to start the car, and with petrol pouring out of the tank and washing down toward the sparks flying out of the engine, our boys ran towards them to get them out.
As the driver gave up trying to start the car again the petrol washed past the spot where the sparks had been hitting. They were dragged from the car and the first thing that was understood was that these soldiers did not give a fuck, literally, this kind of thing happened to them everyday and it was a dark awakening to the fact that war was here.
After a twelve hour hair raising journey down the Croatian coast in which the DStorm truck was at one point blown by the wind up onto two wheels with a 300 foot cliff next to the road and no barrier. (Saved in the end by loading two tons of pineapple slices onto the windward side to keep it down) the crew made it to the safety of the UN compound in Split.
It was Christmas day and DStorm decided it was time to go to work; they set up a makeshift nightclub using a truck loading bay, three trucks and a huge stack of pallets to create an almost weatherproof dance floor. Some makeshift flyers were distributed around the base and in the town, and UN soldiers and locals were able to dance all night, until the Military Police came by and put a stop to it.
2 .DStorm arrive in Mostar
The next day the convoy headed onto the most treacherous part of the trip. The road to Tuzla was not an easy one to say the least, it involved mainly off road driving, edging along snow covered farm tracks up mountains deep in the Bosnian countryside, so as to skirt around the frontline. This route was known as the Pac-man route and was a UN guarded, supposed safe path to Tuzla. So with snow chains on and nerves on edge they made their way through makeshift tunnels blown in
mountains, passing very close to the besieged capital Sarajevo, until they reached the spot known as snipers alley. Here they rested until dark where upon they were told to turn off their truck lights and drive as fast as possible down a straight valley road until a check point two miles away was reached, then they were safe from not only the snipers, but also the anti tank guns nestled in the hills.
As they drove down the road it was clear from the destroyed chassis pushed to the side of the track that not all vehicles made it to the other end in safety. They had just driven past the frontline.
Desert Storm entered Tuzla on New Years eve 1994.
The sports hall in which they had been aiming to hold the gig had been mortared the day before so a plan had to be made.
It was New Years eve and they had to do something, so they piled all the speakers onto the back of a lorry and set off around the town Pied Piper style.
At one point the cops came up, the music started to be turned down, expecting to be arrested, But in probably the only time in the history of Music, the cops said
"Turn the music up...but please turn off the lights....You will get pinpointed and mortared"...
So the Dj did as he said, drank some of his Slivovitz and watched him as he started dancing alongside the soldiers. They were shooting their AK47's in the air and drinking right next to the three old grannies doing their knitting with their heads in a bass bin. This carried on all night driving from one housing estate to the next followed by a throng of kids on bikes. The tune of the night was “La Luna- To the beat of the drum” mainly due to the fact that every time it chanted “to the beat of the drum, bang “a volley of AK47 fire was let off into the freezing night sky. At one point they reached a square where a mortar had killed 40 people just two weeks earlier, one crying girl spoke to one of the crew and pointed to a dark stain on the wall,
” This is my brother” she said, the crew not sure what to do began to prepare to move off, but the girl shouted “No, I want to dance for my brother”.
The night ended and DStorm made the dangerous return journey home safely, but it wasn’t enough.
2 – DStorm route to Tuzla
They returned to Tuzla in the summer of that year, again driving around the streets trying to give some hope to the almost besieged city, the message being that perhaps if some crazy musicians can make it all the way here then maybe we have a chance of getting through this war alive.
In the summer Desert Storm entered Sarajevo just one week after the final cease-fire, the first artists to enter the city in five years.
They quickly found the musical sub culture that had been one of the most important and also dangerous aspects of living under a siege. They set up a gig at “The Obola" a club made infamous for the 300 yard sprint you had to make to get in the door and not get shot by the snipers.
Many young people would make their way here during the conflict and stay for days due to the danger outside.
The same could be said for Radio Zid, an underground pirate station that they played on.
It was run by a couple of scared looking twenty something’s, although they looked about 40. They let DStorm play for about 5 hours and all the time advertised the upcoming gig at Obola.
They then took their techno out into the streets, in the same manner as Tuzla a year previously except there were sniper signs on nearly every corner.
There is still a picture somewhere one of the Dj’s in the back of the open sided truck cruising up and down Sarajevo main strip with a fat rig and a Kevlar helmet.
When they played in Obola, the gig was incredible. They were frantic, to dance, drink, laugh, cry, hug, each other, but most of all to be free.
It was 1 week after the Dayton Peace accord and after 5 years of siege and inhumane suffering, finally they got the 1st glimpse of a future....and fuck were they happy about it!
3 – Sarajevo frontline
In the time between trips to Bosnia Desert Storm were centrally involved in many of the Reclaim the Streets demonstrations throughout the UK. RTS was counter car culture as well as being a platform for many environmental and political issues affecting the sub culture of Britain’s youth. Desert Storm was bang in the middle of many of the large demos with their sound system belting out the beats to the dancing activists, and it was only after the system left the area that the Police moved in to disperse the crowd (usually provoking a riot in place of dancers).
Trafalgar Square in the summer of 96 was the venue for one such event.
They met up with other activists in a farmhouse north of London at about five am.
The plan for entering the square with the trucks loaded with sound systems was discussed and positions given.
DStorm were to park up behind some office buildings just 100 yards from the south side of the Square, and at a given signal attempt to enter the demo. They got the call and set off. They were just yards from turning onto the Square when a line of thirty police spotted the suspect looking truck and charged it. Completely surrounded by cops, the driver got out and made an excuse about delivering to a night club, but was instantly cut off and the truck confiscated for being suspected of carrying stolen goods and driven away by some Police. The driver was allowed to leave and picked up the truck and all the equipment two days later from Battersea car pound.
Luckily for the demo there was a second truck that made it in from the north, driven by a man the Police later held on suspicion of attempted murder (For driving straight at a Policeman that was in the way of his entrance – Later dropped)
The DStorm driver was ribbed later for not charging the line of Police by his peers, so upon the next RTS in Sheffield he almost bowled over a bike cop as he tore the wrong way off a roundabout and down the wrong way of a duel carriageway to join the enveloping mass amazed protester. Shame paid!
4 – DStorm in Bristol RTS
And it was after this very memorable RTS in Bristol that one DStorm member was arrested and Held on a Charge of, “Conspiracy to cause a public nuisance”, this is catch all clause which actually carries a life sentence. Luckily the charges were dropped due to lack of evidence but the Police interest led to DStorm widening their horizons abroad.
5 - The Future!
DStorm continue to release records and organise parties in their own inimitable style....watch this space!