From a Lancashire factory floor to working with music legends Prince and Queen

Ian Bland was living in a terrace house in Lancashire when he wrote one of the defining hits of the rave era and now he tells Tony Dewhurst about his comeback

Friday, 7th August 2020, 3:45 pm
Dream Frequency live on stage

Proud Prestonian Ian Bland penned one of the most memorable dance tunes ever written in a tiny terrace house in Bamber Bridge.

“I’m quite a nostalgic person and when I drive through Bamber Bridge I go past Collins Road and think, ‘Wow, we got on Top of the Pops’ with that tune, (Feel So Real),” says Ian.

“There are moments in your life that you never forget – the whole thing was completely and utterly bonkers. When I got Dream Frequency together my life was never the same again.”

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Ian Bland at work in his studio

Re-wind the tape back to the 1990s, Bland was working as an aircraft technician at British Aerospace’s Warton factory.

But what happened next was a supersonic journey into the beating heart of the Acid House revolution. He explains: “I posted a C60 cassette tape of Feel So Real to Nick Halkes, the guy who signed Prodigy and owned XL Records, one of the most influential dance music labels. But never in a month of Sundays did I imagine he would call me.”

But the phone did ring, during his tea break at BAE, and a colleague left a message for Bland to contact Halkes at his London HQ.

“I couldn’t call from work, so there I was, frantically pumping 10ps into a pay phone, trying to be put through to him. I finally got connected and he said, ‘Hi Ian, I’ve got your song, Feel So Real, and I like it’. I was absolutely stunned. He added, ‘What do you want me to do with it.’ There was a silence and I spluttered, ‘Put it out please’.”

Ian Bland back stage in the 1990s

With Dream Frequency on the brink, Ian quit his job and his electronic band climbed into orbit with a string of dancefloor hits.

“It was a big decision to hand my notice in, I had a well-paid job at BAE, but I had to chase my dream. The foreman said,‘You’ll be back Blandy. Look forward to seeing you on Top of the Pops. And do you know what, six months later we were, performing Feel So Real to an audience of millions.”

One high point from the period came when pop queen Madonna heard Dream Frequency’s Feel So Real and instructed one of her talent scouts to run the rule over the Lancashire hit makers.

“I was just a lad from Preston, and living at Leyland at the time, when we got a call from her record label,” says Ian. "We went down to London, and we sat in this big plush office, surrounded by cigar-smoking music moguls and portraits of Madonna on the wall.

Dream Frequency on stage in the early 1990s

“She was probably the biggest artist in the world then and she liked our songs. A loud American bloke stubbed his cigar out, looked at me and said: ‘Madonnnnnnnnnnnnnna loves Dream Frequency. It was unbelievable, but we never heard another thing.”

Now the brains behind Dream Frequency, who has used his studio knowledge worldwide, re-mixing tunes for Prince, Queen and Alison Limerick is going back to the future.

Thirty years after Feel So Real was released, featuring American songstress Debbie Sharp, a brand-new album produced by the band’s founder includes a 21st century remix of the classic tune alongside 19 other new tracks.

Bland, who runs Maison Records from his Ribble Valley home, says: “At the end of last year, I was busy working on a new house music project and having a bit of a moan about making records for somebody else.

Ian Bland today

“Then a pal said, ‘Blandy, why not make some new Dream Frequency tracks’.It just hit me in the face, and then it dawned that this year would be the 30th anniversary of Dream Frequency’s first LP. Dream Frequency is in my DNA and I’ve written this album for all the ravers.”

Come on, you would need to be wearing size 12 concrete boots and be stitched into Harry Houdini’s straight jacket not to boogie to their sky-scraping piano anthem Feel So Real.

“It had been so long since I’d done a Dream Frequency track, and starting a new album was very daunting. It did feel strange going back to those early tracks, Feel so Real and Good Times.

“But it was fascinating to de-construct Feel So Real, from recording it in an analogue era and then to use today’s technology to fly it into this century. I remember listening to Sylvester’s disco hit You Make Me Feel So Real (Mighty Real) on the radio and bingo I’d got the chorus for the song.

There’s a glorious nod to the past with the album’s opener Glory Days: ‘Hold on to those glory days when we danced in the sun, remember the times that made us, we came together as one.’

Ian adds: “There’s stuff (on the album) for the now, a couple of drum and bass tracks, and one dare I say it that wouldn’t sound out of place on Radio One. But I’ve got my rave-head on again and the core of the album is for people who love Dream Frequency.”

He adds: “Making this album is the happiest I’ve been in music for many years. It was like visiting an old friend again. I’ve put my heart and soul into every new Dream Frequency track, and I’ve had so much fun doing it. A pal said to me, Blandy Dream Frequency: 30 is the Ronseal of Rave: It does what it says on the tin.”

Bland was due to launch Dream Frequency: 30 at this summer’s Beat-Herder festival, but the Ribble Valley’s biggest music jamboree was called off due to the Covid-19 health emergency.

He says: “We had a tour planned after Beat-Herder, but sadly live music has come to a full stop because of Covid, and because of that I’ve found it difficult to fund the album on my own.

“We’ve are trying to raise the money via Kickstarter funding to bring the album out. I’m desperate to release Dream Frequency 30 on vinyl and CD because I think it is still important that people can have and hold the product in their hands. In a way, I think it makes it more special, but I’ll only be able to do that if we reach the funding target by August 18.”

Ian, who recorded part of the musical score for the movie Human Traffic starring Lancashire actor John Simm, cut his teeth at Charnock Richard’s popular Park Hall house music nights.

Recalling those early days, he says: “There was a DJ, Phil Meredith, and when I heard him play Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley’s Jack Your Body, I knew that was it. Listening to that first wave of House music in the late 80’s, my life was never the same again.”

He adds: “I never started music to be rich and famous. When all my mates at British Aerospace were buying flash cars, I was saving up to buy an 808 Drum Machine. Not long after I’d quit BAE, I was driving back to Leyland from a gig at Bognor Regis and the Radio One top 30 countdown was on.

“The DJ Bruno Brookes said, ‘And get your dancing shoes on for this one girls and boys. Because in at number 23 (in the charts) is a gigantic tune, Feel so Real by Dream Frequency’. We stopped the car, jumped out, and went mad, cheering like crazy at the side of the road. “I’ll be doing Dream Frequency when I’m on my Zimmer Frame.”

For more details about Dream Frequency: 30 visit www.kickstarter.com/projects/dreamfrequencyalbum/a-brand-new-album-from-dream-frequency