Guru Josh, rave star, dies aged 51

Agent confirms death of Jersey-born musician, who had pan-European hit with Infinity, as rave culture increasingly invaded the charts in 1990

The musician Guru Josh, who had his biggest hit with Infinity in 1990 as rave culture swept Britain, has died aged 51.

His agent, Sharron Elkabas, confirmed to the Guardian that Guru Josh, whose real name was Paul Walden, had died in Ibiza on Monday. The cause of death is unclear.

Born in Jersey, Walden studied dentistry, then had a spell in the US before moving to London in the late 1980s, where he worked as a booking agent and played pub gigs with his band, Joshua Cries Wolf.

This September, Walden told the Guardian’s Sam Richards that at one show an audience member gave him an ecstasy pill, which changed his outlook on life. In response, Walden decided to explore the burgeoning rave scene, then reinvented himself as Guru Josh, making house music with his band’s saxophone player, known as Mad Mick.

The result was Infinity, which opened with Mick’s plaintive saxophone and contained the chant “1990s, time for the guru”. Walden had 500 copies pressed to send to important DJs. Most dismissed the song, apart from Mike Pickering, DJ at Manchester’s Haçienda, then arguably the most influential nightclub in the country, who played it frequently.

Pickering’s patronage made the song an anthem on Manchester’s club scene. It then crossed over into the UK pop charts, where it reached No 5 in February 1990, one of an influx of hit rave records as the illegal party scene swept the UK. The record also became a big hit in Europe, with Walden promoting it at raves and on TV, wedged between two banks of keyboards, resplendent in a mullet and psychedelic robes.

A follow-up, Whose Law (Is It Anyway)?, was less successful, reaching No 26 that June. Its prospects may have been hampered by an article in Record Mirror at around the same time as dissent over the poll tax reached its peak in the UK, culminating in riots in Trafalgar Square. The music magazine asked a variety of contemporary pop stars what they thought of the tax. While most deplored it, Walden pronounced himself in favour.

After the release of the only Guru Josh album, also called Infinity, the entrepreneurial Walden moved to Ibiza and concentrated on his digital graphics business and rave promotions company. He also enjoyed a highly successful project under the name Dr Devious, combining music and 3D fractal graphics. In 2008, Infinity was remixed and rereleased and became a hit again – Walden said that it had sold some 6m copies.

He added: “But what do I want to do for the rest of my life, keep churning out rubbish? Music has been good to me, but now I get more excitement out of setting up new businesses.

“I’m more like a mad inventor than a musician. About a year ago, I patented a new invention that’s being manufactured in China at the moment. It’s a big secret but you’ll know about it soon. People say it’s the next cat’s eyes.”

As rumours of Walden’s death filtered through social media, fans and colleagues paid their respects. The rave DJ Fat Controller wrote on Facebook: “Not only did he make a seminal piece of dance music with Infinity he also pushed the forefront of 3D visual effects with his Dr Devious Experience.

“I had the pleasure of working alongside him with the Dr Devious Christmas Show at the infamous Sanctuary back in 94 and can only say that he truly lived up to the great quote from Lemmy who also has just passed away: ‘If you’re going to be a fucking rock star, go be one!’”

Elkabas said: “Guru Josh was without a doubt one of the biggest characters in the business and an immensely talented and creative person. It was a pleasure to have known and worked with him – he will be missed. RIP Paul Walden.”


Alex Needham

The GuardianTramp

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