Nostalgia is an incredible thing. For one, life was definitely less complicated “back then” and the lack of complication allowed times of sheer unadulterated joy. Boards of Canada, although a modern sound, take me back to the ’70s but in the last few weeks I’ve been to see true legends from that decade; Motorhead, Saxon & Space Ritual and tonight, Matthew, I’m off to see Hawkwind. These are old bands. Hawkwind go back 40 years and, although they were in their heyday before I was old enough to really get into them, I get a warm fuzzy feeling when I think back to hearing Silver Machine on Essex Radio.
My passion for personal transport is also nostalgic, hence I’ve got an ’87 Yamaha, an ’88 Opel Manta, an ’89 Mini and a ’94 Subaru. I’m not so keen on new cars, and not having a vehicle any newer than 15 years old is a sure indication of this. What was shiny & new in the ’70s and ’80s still holds an appeal that newer & shinier 21st century things just can’t seem to match. (The Subaru is just a marvel of engineering that has a bigger turbo and more wheel drive than my ’80s motors)
But right now, the nostalgia that I really pine for is in the realm of computers, design and the Internet. I love my retro games consoles (SNES, Megadrive, Saturn) and I still have a BBC model B, but the whole concept of the Internet from a mere ten years ago is a time that I cherish massively.
Leaving school & college I had my art & computing qualifications with a dash of business. When I studied design a few years later, after mostly missing out on the rise of the IBM 486, I finally got myself a Pentium 166 and an online account with Demon Internet. The world suddenly became a perfect place when I discovered that I could do graphic design on a computer and launch my visions on the Internet.
Of course I couldn’t hold a candle to the likes of the top designers of the time and I was completely and utterly in awe of some of the work that was being knocked out at the time. .net and Computer Arts magazines fuelled my paper-based imagination but the crest of the wave was [email protected] magazine and all these glossy tomes showcased the sheer talent in the web design industry. Although how exactly I found my following heroes I don’t recall.
Billy Bussey was a genius, way ahead of his time. His work really blew me away and I remember showing his stuff to colleagues back in 2000/2001. His work was so incredibly good that it brought a tear to your eye. His work was so dynamic, in your face, the soundtrack rattled your emotions and you just wondered how you could ever have a chance of being even half as good as Billy Bussey.
Also doing the rounds at the time was work by Chris Lund of Haphazard Studios. His site went through numerous incarnations before landing at version x where it had a graffiti style and an awesome soundtrack that was so good I bought 2x LPs on the strength of the tunes; Aim’s The Force from the LP Cold Water Music and Prefuse 73’s Back in Time from Vocal Studies & Uprock Narratives. I think he got snapped up by Juxt Interactive.
And then there was Ross Mawdsley and his Simian project. Wow. Just Wow. Different again from Billy Bussey’s empirical style and Chris Lund’s funk, Simian had a degree of depth that I just loved. Simian went through a number of incarnations – I remember missing the first and diving in at Simian 2 I believe. Just like its namesake, the Simian project evolved and got heavier, darker, more political as it went on. I think we were even promised a chapter that has never been aired. When Ross Mawdsley packed his bags for pastures new I even sent him a quick note to say thanks and good luck, to which he was kind enough to respond to.
The trouble with my nostalgia drive right now is this; where are my heroes? Where are their websites so that I can browse through the good work like a cherished book?
- BillyBussey.com is static. simple. Quiet. alive again! Not what it used to be but at least there’s the slick intro from 2004 (I swear it was two years earlier)
- HaphazardStudios.com is a parked domain.
- Simian.nu is also derelict now a blog in Swedish.
I miss these sites. They certainly had their place in time, but I’d so dearly love to see them again. They’re not like my favourite episode of the Young Ones, Bambi, where I watched it again the other day and didn’t recognise it until Motorhead were playing The Ace of Spades in the bathroom because I just know that I’d be just as impressed again now, as I was back then – Whilst The Young Ones still looks like it was made in 1984, good web design, like Chanel’s little black dress, never goes out of fashion.
I’m not saying that the work out there now isn’t any good, it’s just that we were there at the beginning, we saw it unfolding, Billy Bussey, Chris Lund and Ross Mawdsley inspired us and got us into web design. Unfortunately, I strayed from that path and went too far into the text-based web with my blogging, writing, content management and SEO duties, but I will always tip my hat to these heroes in the avant-garde of web design.
Where are they now? Where is their work? When can we see Haphazard, bb ver 1.x and Simian again?
I have no more heroes anymore…