Leftfield are a British electronic music group formed in 1989. It began as the duo of Neil Barnes and Paul Daley (formerly of the Rivals, A Man Called Adam and the Brand New Heavies). In January 2010 Barnes resurrected Leftfield without Daley and, after touring for a few years, finished writing new material for a third album entitled Alternative Light Source. Daley declined to be involved and is focusing upon his solo career.
The duo were very influential in the evolution of electronic music in the 1990s, with Mixmag describing them as "the single most influential production team working in British dance music". As with many of their contemporaries, such as the Chemical Brothers, Leftfield were notable for their use of guest vocalists in their works. Among those involved were Toni Halliday on "Original", Johnny Rotten on "Open Up", Djum Djum on "Afro-Left", and Earl 16 and Cheshire Cat on "Release the Pressure". The term progressive house was coined to define their style, a fusion of house with dub and reggae.
Neil Barnes' music career started off as a DJ at The Wag Club while simultaneously playing percussion on a session basis. In 1986, he joined the London School of Samba and played in the bateria in the 1986 Notting Hill Carnival. Around 1989, inspired by Afrika Bambaataa, Barnes decided to try his hand at electronic music production, the results of which were the tracks "Not Forgotten" and "More Than I Know", released on the Rhythm King label. For the remixes of these tracks, Barnes called upon Paul Daley, percussion player with A Man Called Adam and formerly a session musician for the Brand New Heavies and Primal Scream, appearing on their Dixie-Narco EP. Barnes and Daley had previously worked together as percussionists at The Sandals first club, Violets. Described by Barnes as "[t]he sound of 15 years of frustration coming out in one record", the piece was termed "Progressive House" by Mixmag and held significant prominence in nightclubs from 1991 onwards. As their mutual interest in electronic music became clear the pair decided that they would work instead upon Leftfield, once Barnes had extricated himself from his now troublesome contract with Rhythm King subsidiary, Outer Rhythm. The name Leftfield was originally used by Barnes for his first single, with editing/arranging and additional production undertaken by Daley. However, after this, Daley was subsequently involved in remixing "Not Forgotten" and thereafter in the creation of all of Leftfield's work until he left the band in 2002.
During this period, in which the band could not release their own music owing to the legal dispute with Rhythm King, the pair undertook remix work for React 2 Rhythm, ICP, Supereal, Inner City, Sunscreem, Ultra Nate and provided two remixes to David Bowie's single "Jump They Say". Finally, once the problems with their former label had been sorted out, Leftfield were able to unveil their single "Release the Pressure".
Leftfield's first major career break came with the single "Open Up", a collaboration with John Lydon (of Sex Pistols fame) that was soon followed by their debut album, Leftism in 1995, blending dub, breakbeat, and house. It was shortlisted for the 1995 Mercury Music Prize but lost out to Portishead's Dummy. In a 1998 Q magazine poll, readers voted it the eightieth greatest album of all time, while in 2000 Q placed it at number 34 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever. The album was re-released in 2000 with a bonus disc of remixes, and again in 2017 as a remastered version with eleven completely new remixes.
Rhythm and Stealth
Their second album, Rhythm and Stealth (1999) maintained a similar style, and featured Roots Manuva, Afrika Bambaataa, and MC Cheshire Cat from Birmingham. The album was shortlisted for the Mercury Music Prize in 2000 but lost out to Badly Drawn Boy's The Hour of Bewilderbeast. It reached No. 1 in the UK Albums Chart. The album featured the song "Phat Planet" which featured on Guinness' 1999 advert, Surfer, and "6/8 War" featured on the Volkswagen Lupo Advert 'Demon Baby'. The track "Double Flash" featured in the PlayStation software game Music 2000.
Alternative Light Source
On 25 March 2015 the new single, "Universal Everything", was premiered on Annie Mac's BBC Radio 1 show. Shortly afterwards the new album was announced via the Leftfield website and social networks, along with UK tour dates for June 2015.
Alternative Light Source, Leftfield's first album in 16 years, was released on 8 June 2015 on Infectious Records. On 1 June 2015 the album premiere was streamed live on Twitter, coupled with conversation via hashtag #leftfieldstream. 'Head and Shoulders' features Sleaford Mods on vocals, and its stop-motion and animation hybrid video debuted on Pitchfork on 6 August 2015.
Commercial use of tracks
The song "Phat Planet" was used in the "Surfers" TV advertisement for Guinness, ranked number one in Channel 4's Top 100 Adverts list in 2000. "Phat Planet" was also used in the animated television series Beast Machines: Transformers, the simulation racing games F1 2000 by EA Sports and Racedriver GRID by Codemasters. In addition, their song "Release the Pressure" was used on advertisements for the O2 mobile phone network at its launch, and the Kerry Group's Cheestrings snack in 2006. "A Final Hit" was featured on the Trainspotting soundtrack; the b-side "Afro Ride" was also featured on the soundtracks to both wipE'out" and wipE'out" 2097 although it did not appear on the album of the first game.
A white label release called "Snakeblood" was featured on The Beach soundtrack.
They also released a series of singles and two albums before going into hiatus in 2002 to focus on solo projects.
In Leftfield's Amsterdam show, the Dutch police were close to arresting the venue sound engineers due to the sound system reaching illegal volumes. At the next concert, in Belgium, 30 people were given refunds after complaining that the sound level was too high, leading to a newspaper headline reading "LEFTFIELD TOO LOUD". In June 1996, while the group was playing at Brixton Academy, the sound system caused dust and plaster to fall from the ceiling; subsequently, the group was banned from ever returning to the venue. The ban however was taken by the band as a ban on the sound system and not themselves, which was confirmed when Leftfield returned to Brixton again on Saturday 20 May 2000.
In November and December 2010, Leftfield did a series of dates around the UK and Ireland. Friday 3 December's gig saw more plaster fall from Brixton Academy's ceiling.
Leftfield headlined Creamfields in Cheshire, England in August 2010, RockNess in Highland, Scotland in June 2010, and played the final set on the main stage at Ireland's three-day festival, Electric Picnic in September. Further headline festival shows were announced in the coming weeks. However, Leftfield is now represented by Neil Barnes with a group of vocalists (may vary on some songs), MC Cheshire Cat, Adam Wren on engineering & programming & Sebastian 'Bid' Beresford on drums, as Paul Daley is concentrating on his DJ work, as well as releasing a solo album.