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Defining Moments - Dick O'Dell

Updated: Jan 21, 2022

Back in the early nineties dance music was a developing force, many of us spent hours at parties that gave us a whole plethora of musical styles. There was always going to be a time when those sounds would become musical genres and the term Progressive House has to be one of the first pigeon holes that would apply to a wholly new style of predominantly British dance music. We all know of the origins, Dom Phillips now famous 'Trance Mission' article explaining that we would describe this new explosion in music as 'Progressive House'... artists such as Leftfield, labels such as Guerilla were the responsible parties. PHC managed to hook up with Dick O'Dell who alongside William Orbit set up the seminal prog imprint for a chat about music, Guerilla and good times.

Hello Dick and many thanks for taking the time to speak to PHC..

Dick O'Dell

Can you give us some idea of Dick O’Dell prior to setting up Guerilla Records, Did you have a background in music ?

Certainly did! I was obsessed from a very young age. Used to listen to Radio Luxembourg on a cheap tiny transistor radio with one earpiece in bed. Watched Juke Box Jury / Thank Your Lucky Stars / Ready Steady Go (oh Cathy McGowan!). I started going to gigs in the late sixties, was lucky enough to see Jimi Hendrix and that really was a total revelation.

I then moved on to doing lighting for bands in 1970... Curved Air & Deep Purple. From that i got into Tour Managing.. Sensational Alex Harvey Band in the mid seventies and The Stranglers in 1977. I managed The Pop Group in 1978 and then The Slits in 1979.

I then started Y Records in 1980 and had a big hit with Pigbag "Papa's Got A Brand New Pigbag" and also worked with Herbie Hancock on Rockit !

I started managing William Orbit in the mid eighties culminating in some very high profile remixes.. Prince - Batdance/The Future & Madonna - Justify My Love.

Image courtesy of

What was the reason for starting the label and why the name Guerilla?

William had a recording studio called Guerilla, we hooked up and decided to start Guerilla Records, originally this was to act as a vehicle for Bassomatic who then went to Virgin. We decided though to carry on with artists React 2 Rhythm, DOP etc etc.

As for the name... I just liked the implications of it ! 

Were you much of a clubber back in the late eighties, early nineties ? Did you attend the initial first wave of Acid House parties to hit the UK? Any particular favourites that stand out ?

Yeah definitely, I loved Oakie's, Rampling's & Holloway's club nights. Frequented most of them on a regular basis and yes loved the M25 raves, was a big fan of Adamski and Orbital back then.

The iconic Steve Cook record sleeve

The artwork for the record sleeves was designed by Steve Cook who was art director and designer for 2000 AD. How do you feel the iconic sleeve design contributed to the success of the label ?

Massively. Steve brought that camo back from Thailand. It fitted perfectly with the label name & ethos.

Can you give us some idea of a typical day at the Guerilla offices at Pall Mall Deposit126/128 Barbly Road back in the early nineties?

Utter fucking chaos from beginning to end. We had Lisa Loud's Loud & Clear, Lisa Horan (Leftfield), Marion Sparks (PR) & Sally Gross (Chapter & The Verse) in that office so huge numbers of peeps in & out & dance music blaring from morning till night!

In 1997 I was working as a buyer for an independent record store chain, I remember being very excited at the news of another premier prog label Jackpot Records releasing a set of updated remixes and a mix album spanning key releases in the back catalogue. How did this come about and what are your thoughts ?

I'll be honest I didn't know about the Jackpot project. I was onto other things by that point.

In your 2019 podcast special on Guerilla you spoke about a big party in conjunction with Sean McCluskey’s Love Ranch back in the early nineties which I believe you said took part at the Bagleys warehouse. How did that particular event come about and what was it like ?

I knew Sean from Brain & I was a regular at Love Ranch. I needed someone who knew the ropes. The night was called Midnight Cowboy & it was the best night I ever had. Totally mental: had Rampling, Weatherall, Justin Robertson, Lisa Loud, Paul Daley all playing. We also had live bands: If, React 2 Rhythm and Superreal. To top all that off there were circus acts which included fire-eaters. It really was just insane.

Mixmag Update Review December 1992

You were once quoted in DJ Magazine as describing the Guerilla Philosophy as ' The beauty of an independent is that it still allows your records to be discovered not thrust down your throat, If we don't feel we have any material ready to release in any particular month then so be it, the only people our decisions affect are us'.. How do you feel about that now, do you still feel it describes the ethos behind the label ?

Reference the DJ quote. Yes I do although it didn't work out that way, we loved so much stuff, we wanted to release it all!

Mixmag Update Review - April 1992

Your label partner William Orbit found what went on to be amazing success with initially the Bass-O-Matic project and the track 'In The Realm Of Senses'.. How important was that track in the evolution of Guerilla as a label ?

Hmm... Tempo wise, a lot. William preferred 104/105 bassie type tracks but he had done a major underground dance track with Torch Song's "Prepare To Energise", so he was up for speedier electronic tracks from time to time.

Miixmag Buzz Chart - March 1992
The iconic Guerilla logo label

You speak very highly of producers Leftfield. What was your relationship with the guys back in the early nineties ? I'd say Leftfield's mix of React 2 Rhythm's Intoxication was the real beginning of Guerilla as a label. They had released Not Forgotten on Rhythm King who were great friends of ours, William having remixed for them and he & Mark Moore having done the Batdance mix together.. S Express & Bomb The Bass had hits on the label and were being featured on Top Of The Pops but Leftfield were a little bit under the radar and I really loved them, when they agreed to remix Intoxication it was...GAME ON!

My two favourite bands to come out of that scene were Leftfield & Underworld and Just for good measure I had Leftfield's manager in my office & Boys Own was a 10 min walk away!

With the success of the label now cemented in the history books, how does it feel to be so instrumental in the evolution of British dance music ?

As James Brown once said: "I Feel Good"

What is your most treasured memory from the Guerilla days.. ?

I have two... When we got presented with the DMC Album of the Year award at the Royal Albert Hall and the morning I walked out of Bagleys warehouse still buzzin' after the Guerilla / Love Ranch Midnight Cowboy party, it was a beautiful English sunny warm day..

In early 1992 you took out one of your black and white full page ad's in Mixmag highlighting forthcoming releases and a number of club nights, it was titled 'The Shiny Path' you remember that reference at all and if so what it was relating to?

Yes.. that was a take on the Shining Path guerrilla group of Peru !

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Scanning through early nineties dance music publications you come across numerous references to Guerilla club nights. Baring in mind this was a fairly new concept at the time, what did you feel the label would accomplish from this ?

It was really to take William Orbit & other key DJs on the road to clubs like Venus, Renaissance, Slam and Back to Basics. Along with the UK we also did parties in Japan, New York & Los Angeles (at that particular event Rick Rubin came along!)

And finally.. You worked with many great producers and re-mixers, if we had to put just one Guerilla release forward.. What would be your favourite?

Sorry I would have to pick two!

Dr Atomic - Schudelfloss

DJ Hell - My Definition of House Music (Resistance D remix)

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us Dick and we'll look forward to the book..

Follow Dick O'Dell on Instagram & Twitter - dickodell1

Dick O'Dell (centre) Richard Norris former member of 'The Grid' & Rolo McGinty of 'The Woodentops' on set at the Guerilla Records Special.

Check out Guerilla at Progressive House Classics Mix Collection

Jay Dobie / Wasim Afzal / Marcus Harriman

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