Once it was one big, happy, loved-up family, but something is rotten in Nineties clubland. The splintering of musical styles has created a multitude of club tribes, all with their own character, attitude and dress codes - and all at each other's throats. Katie Sampson gets caught in the crossfire
Once upon a time in the late Eighties, at the sound of a covert clarion call, thousands of ravers of every creed and colour would converge on fields, aircraft hangers and warehouses with a shared mission: to experience pure enjoyment as one big, loved-up family. But the Nineties has seen a splintering of musical styles. Drum 'n' Bass, Techno, Speed Garage, House, Handbag, Ambient, Trance, Hip Hop, R&B, Hardstep... the bewildering range of styles and sub-styles grows monthly. Each sound carries its own scene, character and attitude - and the various tribes regard each other across a gulf of scorn and mistrust.

Anyone who has ever tried to get a crowd to agree on a club knows the downside of these divisions, as the complaints mount and the insults fly. Ravers are "sweaty", Handbaggers "cheesy" and Junglists "moody". The problem isn't so much about music as image. Then agree on a club and chances are half your friends will be barred from entering because they are wearing trainers or the wrong label.

Matthew Collin, author of Altered State: The Story Of Ecstasy Culture And Acid House believes clubbers suffer from two contradictory impulses: the desire for individuality and a longing for community. "In the late Eighties the scene was a lot smaller, so it was easier for a group of people to go on a communal mission together. Now that we have mass drug culture people are searching for other things which can create a culture of one-upmanship."

Jonathan Fleming, club photographer and author of What Kind Of House Party Is This? puts a lot of the changes down to the shift in drugs of preference, the "ecstasy hangover", as some have described it. "The move away from `love doves' meant coke became the hip drug to be on, creating an eerie, edgy, aggressive atmosphere within clubland," he claims.

Yet scratch the surface and you find a nostalgia among clubbers for the harmony of those early summers of "one love". Perhaps the musical fusions happening on the margins of each scene point to a new understanding, but judging by the opinions of the club cliques we talked to, there's a long way to go.

`Speed' Garage or Raggage

Garage, a more soulful form of House, has recently been played at faster speeds by the DJs to create "Speed" Garage or "Raggage". Reggae bass lines and MCs give the tunes a more raw quality. Clubs tend to attract a showy, champagne-drinking crowd sporting Versace, Moschino and Dolce e Gabbana.

ALISON, 23 (above)

It's not true that you have to be wearing labels at a Speed Garage club, although blokes respect you more if you are wearing them. Anyway, I would rather spend money to look better. A Speed Garage club is the only kind of club I will be seen at. I've had too many bad experiences at other clubs. I've seen killings at Jungle raves, but Speed Garage is free from this because the majority of people are on something and therefore friendlier. Handbag, on the other hand, is horrible white stiletto music and Techno is diabolical music, I really don't know how anyone could listen to it.

RICHARD, 23 (not pictured)

I totally hate Jungle, you just can't get funky to it. I went to World Dance on New Year's Eve and suddenly this almighty banging and crashing sound kicked off and people began jumping up and down, with no rhythm at all. That was Jungle and I was embarrassed for it. I've known people let off tear-gas canisters just for a joke, which sums it up. Aphex Twin tried to persuade me to convert to Techno, but it was a never-again affair, the music did nothing for my melon except try it. There was no togetherness, and all the people looked freakish - all with greasy blonde hair and shirts hanging out, there was no dressing for the event. Handbag is just childish music, too much crap chart stuff. Hip Hop's not so bad, but the dancing's a bit too violent and there's no real passion. Speed Garage is about funky friendly people with a confident air. I got pounds 13,000 into debt because of the amount of champagne I shared with everyone, but it was worth it.

Hip Hop/R&B

Hip Hop is characterised by beats, rhythms and bass lines. R&B is the street soul music coming from America. The two have increasingly cross fertilised and are often heard together in the same clubs where the crowd tend to be stylish but not posey.

GUSTO, 26 (above)

This is party music with lyrics for every mood, words to make you more aware or just to have fun to. Guys and girls can dance and flirt together, whereas sexy dancing is a no-no on other dancing scenes. Drugs-wise, we use weed or just the music itself. But a Techno crowd look like hypnotised zombie clones doing the "running man" dance, white guys without natural rhythm and bare, slimy chests. The only conversation you hear is, "Have you got any E's?" Jungle sounds like speeded up Hip Hop, but after two or three tracks it all sounds the same. You can smell the coke spliffs a mile off and the guys wear sunglasses to cover up that they've been doing too many drugs.

The Speed Garage scene is a very cliquey and all about saying, "Hey, I look good." Most can't afford the clothes they wear and the champagne they drink, and the girls starve themselves and won't dance for fear of their make-up running. Handbag House is totally corny and outdated, there's no real feeling or love of the music, just Rank Disco type music, Trevors pulling Sharons in sequins and satin.

Handbag House

Handbag house is often associated with catchy and commercial dance tunes featuring female vocals. Its accessibility and uplifting snare drum crescendos makes it popular both on the mainstream scene and on the glamorous, dressy, gay scene.

ROB, 27 (above right)

Handbag gives me a sense of freedom and I can sing along to the songs. There's a real togetherness - no one feels out of place, we dress up to have a laugh or to be outrageous. Drugs? Well it's E for Handbag House, champagne for Speed Garage, acid for Techno and brick to the head for Jungle, I honestly don't know how people can dance to Jungle. It's a thumpingly fast mess of music. Hip Hop, yeuch - I can't stand it, it does nothing for me, the crowd are unfriendly, the lyrics aren't songful. Techno takes three hours to get into and as for Speed Garage, well I like going clubbing in the kind of clothes I don't mind ruining, so it wouldn't really be my scene either.

MAGGIE, 21 (above left)

Drugs really aren't so important to this scene as in others. I like the absence of attitude. It's all about partying and silliness with none of the aggression of Techno or Jungle.


"One Man and his machine music." Technology-led music, fast and atonal at one extreme and rather orchestral at the slower, Trance end. Often no identifiable beginning or end to a track and usually free of samples.

KEVIN, 27 (above right)

We live in a Techno community, where we spend six days fighting and come together on the seventh day, uniting under Techno. Our sound system specialises in a type of Techno we have developed called Dirty Acid Techno, which is very fast music to stomp to. Techno isn't commercial, it's still very underground, which is why you hear it in fields and in squats. It has a fun side too: at our free parties people juggle and fire-eat. Stig (above left)wears a furry loo-seat cover, and even my dog, whose name, Onhcet, is Techno backwards, joins in. The dance-floor forms one tribe and the music is soft orchestra, unlike violent Jungle. To be part of other music styles, you need more money for more expensive drugs, which brings an attitude problem. Handbag is pub to club-goers music. Speed Garage needs money for the dressing up. Jungle is all about attitude, with violent lyrics and moaning about life, the scene is too plastic and too young. We celebrate life. People in Techno have fun and don't worry about a dress code or the need to be anything or anyone.

Jungle/Drum 'n' Bass

Jungle consists of tightly structured jazz-style rhythms, dominated by looped drum and bass lines, usually accompanied by live MCs. At one end is the more raw "jump-up" sound, at the other so-called "Intelligent" jungle, a softer, more melodic sound that is currently flavoured by adverts.

BEN, 21 (above left)

Jungle is everything that house music isn't. People go to the raves for music rather than for drugs. I haven't got a good word to say about monotonous Techno and its whizzed-up scene. Sweaty ravers E'd off their heads don't do it for me, and the glam handbag thing is a big joke - they can keep their cheesy women singing about being in love, give me an MC to keep it rolling and gee up the crowd. Our music is all about tension and the huge release when the big tunes drop. It's so overwhelming and overpowering, it's no wonder people call it the devil's music, but it's actually more relaxed than other scenes.

BARRY, 25 (above right)

Go to a House, Techno or Speed Garage club and people are pill'd out of their heads - but light up a joint and you're out. It's total hypocrisy.