The Official alt.rave FAQ

Maintained by Chris.Hilker,

Version 2.2 - Last Modified 05-08-94 HTML Version by Brian Behlendorf (


  1. Introduction to the FAQ
  2. What is a "rave"?
  3. What is "techno music"
  4. DJing
  5. Drugs/Smart drinks
  6. The visuals
  7. Creating techno music
  8. Other rave-related mailing lists
  9. Techno music stores
  10. Techno/Rave publications
  11. Throwing your own parties
  12. Appendix I - true Frequently-Asked-Questions

Introduction to the FAQ

Raves are, if anything, the ultimate subjective experience. Your perception of how well or how badly a rave "goes off" is based at least 70% on your state of mind (and depending on the circumstances, 100%). Therefore, it's impossible to create an FAQ which is entirely objective. I'll do my best. I am MORE than happy to incorporate others' suggestions into the FAQ, to include dissenting opinions and statements, within reason. This file is not the be-all and end-all of rave culture; many of the topics here will simply be introductions to the subject and point to the little rave web site I've created at There's simply TONS of stuff there. And for the rest of the document, whenever I refer to "the web site", I mean

This document should also serve as an introduction to alt.rave. Alt.rave has been alive since early 1992, and has an extremely wide distribution. At last count an est. 20,000 people read it. As is usual on USENET, people often have strong opinions which clash with others' strong opinions. If everyone accepted the view that reality is subjective, and that on matters of taste there is no dispute, then flame wars become a thing of the past. Posts like "Orbital sucks, and the Orb can kiss my butt" are probably inappropriate flamebait. Rewording it to say, "I am disappointed by the new Orbital because..." is a lot better. Many people also complain about too many posts about a particular subject, or group, or country, etc... to which the standard response is, start talking about what you want to hear. Finally, there was a big debate about whether to create, to "distinguish" the music from the scene, and now that group exists.

What is a "rave"?

The term "rave" has been overused almost to the point of losing its meaning. The word has always meant (according to webster):
  1. rave \'ra-v\ vb [ME raven]
  2. rave n often attrib
In general practice, a "rave" usually refers to a party, usually all night long, open to the general public, where loud "techno" music is mostly played and many people partake in a number of different chemicals, though the latter is far from necessary. The number of people at the event is unimportant; it can range from 50 people to 25,000 people. The cost of attendance is also unimportant - there have been good raves and bad raves at both ends of the cost spectrum (though in practice, the higher the price, the more commercial the event, and the lower the quality). At a rave, the DJ is a shaman, a priest, a channeller of energy - they control the psychic voyages of the dancers through his choice in hard-to-find music and their skill in manipulating that music, sometimes working with just a set of beats and samples, into a tapestry of mindbending music. A large part of the concept of raves is built upon sensory overload - a barrage of audio and very often visual stimuli are brought together to elevate people into an altered state of physical or psychological existence.

The "Vibe"

The actual concept of raves is not new - it is as old as time itself. As the base level, raves are very comparable to American Indian religious ceremonies, i.e. pow-wows, and also to the concept of the Shaman in Eskimo and Siberian society - where music is the key towards pulling oneself into a unique emotional and psychological state, a state in which one experiences washes of sensations and visions, not delusions, but visions. Sounds very hokey in print, but I'm sure MANY of you out there know what I'm talking about. The hypnotizing effect of techno music coupled with the seemless transitions and thematic progressions of rave DJ's as the night progresses can be QUITE intoxicating, resulting in what could be closely compared to a religious experience. Music in general has always been able to sweep people off their feet, but what distinguishes raves are the concept of the _shared_ experience; a feeling of unity often arises, and people are open and friendly to one another. There is a loss of that "attitude" that is omnipresent in normal clubs and even in life in general. People are celebrated for who they are, not what they aren't. There are many better ways to explain the above, and more than a few can be found at the web site. For a better, blow-by-blow description of what an actual rave is like, please check check out the "The Ecstatic Cybernetic Amino Acid Test", an article that appeared in the San Francisco Examiner in February 1992, and is perhaps one of the most comprehensive surveys of the rave scene ever to appear in print.

What is "techno music"

Opinions on this vary greatly, but there are a few ways to distinguish techno from other types of music. Overall, techno is denoted by its slavish devotion to the beat, the use of rhythm as a hypnotic tool. It is also distinguished by being primarily, and in most cases entirely, created by electronic means. It is also noted for its lack of vocals in most cases. Techno also usually falls in the realm of 115-160BPM. There are of course exceptions to every one of these rules, but these guidelines seem to survive the "what about..." test most of the time.

There has also been a significant use of samples in techno songs, samples lifted in huge blocks and contributing a large share to a song's popularity. This can be both bad ("Theme to Sesame Street" in Smart E's "Sesame's Treet") or good (Star Trek transporters sampled in Eden Transmission's "I'm So High", giving YOU that transporting feeling) or great (Tears for Fears sampled in Orbital's "Moebius"). This sampling has generated much controversy, and it is the opinion of the author and many others that sampling is okay as long as the sample is not the whole song; "Seseme's Treet" might be an okay song, but if you take away the sample (which was lifted verbatim from the TV show), you don't have much of a song left.

"Rave" music has several different forms:

[and before we proceed, remember the words of God's personal DJ, Jon Drukman: "abolish labels."]

a. (Chicago) House

House music is where it all began, when Chicago DJ's started playing around with their Kraftwerk 12"'s with their soul records, and a brand new object called a DRUM MACHINE which they discovered they could use in their set. The steady and clean sound of the house rhythm coupled with uplifting soul vocals gave "house parties" an incredible energy. Please see "jackshouse" on the ftp site for a good example of the mindset of this time... House also uses more piano riffs and generally sounds "happier" than most other forms of music played at raves.

Good Samplers:

b. Acid-House

Acid-house developed when the Roland 303 and similar drum machines/ synthesizers came out producing the "funky worm" - that VERY distinctive sound (see any "Acid Mix" of any song) that just *sounds* liquid (sorry, that's the best way I can describe it). The sound and the style is linked to use of LSD, but many people (myself included) claim to feel many of the same sensations while listening to acid-house music. Others claim this is wrong, that acid was a term derived in Chicago for stealing samples from other records, i.e. the "acid burn". Still others claim this was a rumor created by people defending the scene in Britain, trying to unlink the party scene from the drug scene. writes:

Idiotic musicians from a circa 86 uk go to the uk to tour. The uk at that point is in the grip of an 60s acid rock revival ( eg the shamen started off as a psyche-? band in this thang) and they GO TO DETRIOT! THeY buy records! Being a bit stupid and under the influence of vast quanities of LSD they just buy stuff at random out of the 'acid' section. When they get home they realise their mistake but think wow this is a bit nice.
Good Samples: and more recently, more in the vein of acid trance:

c. Techno

It is probably best to split techno into three groups - proto-techno, Detroit techno, hardcore, and "techno-rave".

c.1. Proto-Techno:

Proto-Techno isn't really a style of music per se. It's merely a concatenation of the various artists and styles that had the biggest impact on the original creators of techno in Detroit. Hence, there isn't much stylistic homogeneity here. Proto-Techno can be anything from the minimal, assembly-line technopop of Kraftwerk (particularly the 'Trans-Europe Express' album) to the nonsense, party-time funk-taken-to-its-illogical- extreme of George Clinton's Parliament/Funkadelic to the early '80's hip-hop mongrelization of the two in the Electro genre.


Further Listening:

c.2. Detroit Techno:

The hallmarks of Detroit Techno are a stripped-down, aggressive funk sound, played mostly on analogue instruments (the Roland TR-808 is a favorite drum machine), and, most of all, a pounding, severe rhythm. Vocals are rare. It has no "soul" in the traditional Motown/Stax sense of the word, which is not to say that the music is devoid of feeling or emotion - it's just that the expression thereof is unconventional. "Magic" Juan Atkins, Kevin "Reese" Saunderson, and Derrick "Mayday" May are the names you need to know to fake your way through a conversation about Detroit Techno.

Eric Iverson writes:

For those not in the know, Cybotron released their first contributions to Detroit Techno in 1981 - handily preceeding _Planet Rock_ and a host of other Electro Funk. They were also an active part of Detroit's radio and club scene. True, they didn't hit their stride until a couple years later when they would produce _Clear_ which finally sounds less like technopop and more like techno proper. By 1985, Atkins, May, and Saunderson had all firmly established themselves as recording artists. They will always credit Kraftwerk and Parliament as their inspiration. In fact Kraftwerk and Clinton have both, at times, claimed responsibility for the Detroit techno scene.

Where was house? Could it have had an affect on Detroit techno? Sure! Was the affect as strong as late-70's Gary Numan or Ultravox's _Vienna_? Probably not! Kraftwerk's _Computer World_? Never!

Cue 1987...House is happening in England and Derrick May arrives with his record _Strings of Life_. The stuff catches on. The Techno movement goes into full swing. Not only do the "Holy trinity" have techno for UK consumption, but so do a bevy of others...Blake Baxter, Eddie Fowlkes, Kenny Larkin, Carl Craig, and more. All from the Detroit scene with roots that are clearly delineated. They didn't just pop up from the house scene, though obviously they benefited from it. Would they have existed without house? I think so. Would it sound different? Well, it already does sound different!


c.3. Hardcore Techno:

Where Detroit stuff is mainly a hybrid of European technopop and funk, your average Hardcore song seems to be a speed-metal tune played on Detroit-type instruments (although the TR-909 is the drum machine of choice). Hardcore Techno is easier to get up and hyped to than its Detroit counterpart. Hardcore has brought much of the metal crowd into dance music, and reconciled dance parties with the industrial crowd as well.


c.4. Techno/Rave:

Techno as product. When people complain about "techno by the numbers," they usually mean Techno/Rave. This style is generally soft and accessible. You are much more likely to have a rap or other vocal in a Techno/Rave track than either a Detroit or Hardcore track. Examples include 2 Unlimited, the Smart E's, and recent efforts by the Shamen. What MC Hammer is to hip-hop, what Winger is to heavy metal, Techno/Rave is to Hardcore.


Further Listening:

d. Breakbeat

Breakbeat is symbolized by the use of sped-up hip-hop beat samples. Very often reggae tunes and influence are brought in, to good effect too since most reggae is around 65-80bpm and most breakbeat techno about twice that. Breakbeat is very effective at getting the crowd moving, but its hypnotic effects are somewhat less.

Eric Iverson wrote:

If we were only going to rely upon sound as proof of descent then I would be ever so quick as to trace all minimal breakbeat to a song recorded in 1965 called _L.S.D_ by the Yardbirds ("Little Games Sessions & More" E2-98214, EMI). And I would trace all 4-measure repeating analog synth-riff rave tunes to an early '70s album, _The Wozard of Iz_ by Bernard Krause (out of print). Listen to either one and you'll hear the similarities. They will astound you! However, simply sounding alike is not enough. In the case of the Yardbirds, _L.S.D._ was not even released officially until 1992! It couldn't be the parent of breakbeat, despite its age!
gsc1@Lehigh.EDU (geoffE) wrote:
In regard to the heading on breakbeat...Two styles to breakbeat are emerging under the names, "Jungle" and "Darkside". Jungle breakbeat uses reggae samples on the tracks. Darkside is the brand new style of breakbeat that recently emerged out of the streets of London. It uses minor keys to create an erie feeling and horror/sci-fi samples or female vocal samples to add to its melodic feel. And now from London, Gus Lawrence, President of Reinforced Records, the most fluent and respected breakbeat label on the planet says, there is now the "breakbeat ballad". Again, it is dark sounding, but this time it uses vocals and is aimed at the audience around 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning, "when you start getting tired from all that dancing," said Lawrence.
Now for some genre samples:



e. Ambient

The genre is very well described in Mike Brown's Ambient FAQ available from the web site. Basically ambient (or ambient house) is designed to lull your mind through more soothing rhythms and samples.

Good Samples:

f. Trance

Very similar to both ambient and acid-house, trance is softer on the ears and body than most techno, but still keeps you dancing (unlike most ambient, where the effects are more profound if you SIT DOWN and listen). It's designed to try and take you, literally, into another world.

Samples speak louder than words:

A variant (or sub-genre) of this is hardtrance, which is currently very popular in the underground all over Europe. Characteristics, higher beat (c. 150 bpm), compulsory 303 sounds and string layers.

Good Examples:

g. Tribal

Tribal is denoted by exactly that - rhythm patterns and sounds which closely mimic Third-World and Native American and other "World Music" styles. The connection between modern-day raving and ancient musical and cultural rituals is thus established, and the dancer can be transported to a more primal self (in theory).

Good samples:

h. Progressive

This is the newest and least-well-defined genre; it's based less on sampling, less on wailing divas, and less on hip-hop culture, and more on authentic instruments, haunting melodies, and always around 120-125bpm. There's always a strong beat, and at times it resembles acid jazz. The appelation of "progressive" was given by a music magazine, so many people wouldn't call it that, but so far no other name has come to replace it, and it is fairly different from straight house. This is the most popular music at raves in San Francisco right now.

One could also say progressive house is "progressive" in that those who make it are trying to bring back more interesting musical arrangements with either more complex percussion or melody or both, whereas the trend in the last few years was to strip down the sound to a raw, minimal form.
Good examples: Labels: Guerilla, Limbo, Soma, Hubba Hubba

h. Deep House
Deep house is a style of house most prominently influenced by a combination of gospel and old chicago strictly house beats. Look for wailing divas (I love them!) spooky organs and that old chord progression that we know and love. Deep house never nods in techno's direction..ever..

Cuts to check out:

And to close this "definitions" section:

"My main point is that techno comes from somewhere. It was not invented in this scene, nor is it particularly new. One can easily get the impression from the omission of this fact that the contrary is true. Not only is it responsible to acknowledge origins/sources, but other people may want to explore the related types of music that they might not otherwise ever hear about." -
Tahl Milburn,
You can get on the Twitch remix company mailing list - send mail to

i. Sources

You can also get DJ mix tapes from the following places:

UK:     Yaman Productions, PO Box 393 , Watford, Herts WD1 7JZ  England
USA:    Ameba - 1732 Haight St. - 415-750-9368
	Street Sounds - 7751 Melrose Ave. - (213) 651-0630
	D.M.C. - 7621 1/2 Melrose Ave. - (213) 651-3520
	Beat Non Stop - 7262 Melrose Ave. - (213) 930-2121
	Prime Cuts - 7758 Santa Monica Blvd. - (213) 654-8251
Here are some addresses for record labels (more complete lists are available at the web site):
Boy's Own Productions   PO Box 1422, Chancellors House, Chancellors Road 
			London W6 9SG, UK  fax: + 44 81 968 8459
Djax Up records		Po Box 2408, 5600 CK Eindhoven The Netherlands
			fax: 31 (0) 40 445 057
Eye Q Records / Harthouse  Strahlenberger Str 125A, 6050 Offenbach/Main Germany
			fax: 069/800 33 36
Guerilla Records	130a Plough Road, London W10 6BL UK
			tel: + 44 81 964 1199
Hard Hands		32 Pall Mall Deposit, 124/128 Barblby Rd London W10 6BL
Limbo / 23rd Precinct   23 Bath Street, Glasgow G2 1HU UK fax: + 44 41 353 3039
MFS			Reichstagufer 4-5, 1080 Berlin Germany
			fax: 030 220 9218
Overdrive	        fax: frg (0) 6162 84918
Rephlex Records		PO Box 2676 London N11 1AZ UK   tel: + 44 81 361 0529
Rising High		fax:  +44 71 229 4061
Wonka			St. Jacobsmarkt 75, 2000 Antwerpen Belgium
			fax: 03/226 20 30


The art of DJing has come full swing in the world of the rave, where the DJ has replaced the live musician as the focal point for an event. The DJ is now regarded at the "conductor" of their "orchestra" of two turntables and a mixer (and maybe a sampler, but that's not necessary). The orchestra's "instruments" are the slabs of vinyl (or aluminum & plastic, in Pete Ashdown's case) that carry the basic grooves and melodies, and it's up to the DJ to ensure that the orchestra plays all their instruments in perfect sync and with a measure of continuity. The DJ must *know* their music, know where the breaks are, know the keys, know the BPM's, to make his/her set come out as perfect as possible. Anyone who says DJ'ing is just spinning records has never tried to do so. DJs often develop a following, and the level of devotion among some is something unseen since the Beatles. (Basically, if you have Garth playing at your event in San Francisco, you can ensure 2000 people will be there, even with VERY minimal flyering - the same holds for Barry Weaver or Doc Martin in LA, or Adam X on the East Coast)

A file of collected net.wisdom w.r.t. mixing and such called "" is available, as is a "DJ Guide" (written by Laura La Gassa,

If you are interested, check out the BPM mailing list, by mailing to with the words "subscribe bpm <your name>".

Drugs/Smart drinks

Please Note: the authors of this FAQ bear no responsibility for any possible harm or injury arising from the use of chemicals mentioned below.


The subject of drugs at raves is very controversial. One wonders whether the rave scene would have been more easily accepted by the public had the presence of drugs not been so high. Of course, many other wonder how raves could have ever come about without them.

Drugs, like anything else in the world, are dangerous when used improperly. Please use caution if you do decide to use mind-altering substances, both legal and illegal. You owe it to yourself to gather info before making a choice regarding drugs. You have access to an incredible amount of information on the networks here. USE IT!

The reason I am including drug info in the FAQ is not because I think drugs are a necessary part of a rave nor even a significant part of it, but because questions arise on the newsgroup frequently enough to warrant its inclusion.

There is a whole newsgroup devoted to drugs - alt.drugs, and any and all questions about drugs at raves are probably more appropriate there than at alt.rave. This information is presented for informational purposes only. Please, if you decide to dose, please read up on and know exactly what you are taking and what the expected affects are.

Smart drinks

Smart Drinks are drinks made with nutrients that supply needed precursors and cofactors that your body uses to manufacture neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that carry impulses in the brain. These neurotransmitters can frequently be depleted by heavy excercise, stress, stimulant drugs, or lack of sleep, and many people report that amino acid/vitamin combo "smart drinks" seem to help. For more info see the "smartdrinks" file on the web site.


There is a LOT of worthwhile info to be gleaned from the web site at, and alt.drugs. Go get it. But to breifly talk about Ecstasy: There is LOTS more to be said so go read those files NOW before you even think of trying it.


Many of the same precautions for MDMA (Ecstasy) hold for LSD. In addition:

Other drugs currently talked about

Ketamine, 2CB (also referred to as "Cloud 9" or "Nexxus" or "Zenith"), and GHB. Again, PLEASE do research on something before you pop it into your mouth.

The visuals

Visual effects are one of the most important parts of the rave, but not always essential. Sometimes the best parties have only a strobe light, if even that much. On the other end of the spectrum are the 200-ft wide, screens drenched with projection, the 10-watt green lasers bouncing off the disco balls giving the effect of laser rain, the miles of fluorescent tubing, the computer graphics which can blow your mind away... it's a very large part of the "mindfuck" factor of raves.

Live visuals have been used since the 60's at concerts, using overhead projectors and oil-and-water setups. Those are sometimes still used - and rotating color wheels in front of the projection beam can really add to the overall "trippyness".

Strobes - $19.99 at yer local Radio Shack. Cheap, but effective. "Mind Machines" are seldom much more than small strobes with varying speeds that you wear inside glasses - but the effect of stroboscopic light near the refresh speed (or half your refresh speed, or a quarter, etc) of your eye can be quite hallucinatory. You could probably build your own Mind Machine for less than 10 dollars. For a brain machine buyers guide check out the mind-l archives at

Computer graphics - there are a couple of programs available as freeware over the net that would be right at home at a rave.

MSDOS machines:

This one is the premiere freeware fractal generation program. Get it at all costs.
This is a fantastically trippy computer graphics program.
Available via anonymous FTP at the site in
size    filename
----    --------
99525   fractal-wizard-16.hqx
169237  ifs-fractal-movie.hqx (animated, apparently not very configurable)
78126   julias-dream-107.hqx (Julia sets only)