How We Made Killer, by Seal and Adamski

I was living in a squat.

Seal, singer

Before that, it had been floors and sofas, but then I'd managed to finance my way travelling round Asia for a year, singing in blues bands, and it changed my perspective on what I wanted from life. I was financially unstable and figured that fame and money would be the answer to all my problems. I came back from my travels much more focused, and would sing at raves at the top of my voice – which is how I met Adam. We decided to work together on New Year's Eve 1989, when we were in a haze on the dancefloor.

When he played me the instrumental for Killer, I instinctively sang some verses I'd written over the funky introduction – but something was missing. I remember going home and hearing this squiggly keyboard line buried in the track, so I sang the "solitary brother" hookline over that. I remember calling Adam and saying: "You've got to let me sing this new bit."

The lyrics are about transcending whatever holds you back. That era was the most exciting time: they called it the Second Summer of Love. We'd just got a handle on the technology; we were coming out of a Thatcher-era depression; and of course there was this huge explosion in recreational pharmaceuticals. Everything just seemed to click. The "live your life the way you want to be" lyric spoke to a generation.

Acid house music had been banned from Radio 1 after a moral panic over ecstasy – but when Killer went into the charts they had to play it. It was such a crossover hit: before we knew it, we were at No 1 for weeks and had a hit across Europe. It changed my life. Within a week, I went from being a relative nobody – this weird guy at raves, with silver bits in my hair – to a household name.

Adamski, producer and keyboards

In 1989, I was totally engulfed in acid-house culture. I'd had a hit with N-R-G. I had my gear set up in my flat in Camden, and I made tunes every day. I had an instrumental track I called The Killer because it sounded like the soundtrack to a movie murder scene.

I played a big illegal rave at Santa Pod racetrack in Northamptonshire, called Sunrise 5000. Seal was there watching my set. Afterwards, he handed over a demo to Daddy Chester, my flatmate and MC, who told me to listen: he had an amazing voice.

We bumped into each other at a London club, Solaris, and I asked him to come over, pick one of my instrumentals and sing on it. He said he had some lyrics that would work with The Killer, and I asked him to sing it like bluesy rock. In Ibiza, you'd hear things like Fleetwood Mac's Oh Well played alongside house tracks, so I probably had that in mind.

We recorded it on the day of the 1990 Freedom to Party demonstration in Trafalgar Square, against new legislation to ban raves – a stone's throw from the studio. We'd nip over there to absorb the energy. I used eight tracks of a 48-channel mixing desk. All the music came from my keyboard, which I played using two fingers. I added a Roland 909, which was the staple house-music drum machine after pioneers such as Mantronix used one.The track has a mournful feel: a lot of that early house music was quite melancholy. The cheesy, happy chords came later.

I had a huge following after playing raves, but I didn't expect Killer to have the impact it did. I remember doing a gig in Cambridge and going back to the hotel where a wedding party were getting down to it; schoolgirls would shout the rhythm at me across the street. At the time, I was on the Enterprise Allowance Scheme, which gave you £40 a week and your rent so you could set up your own business, to get people off the unemployment statistics. I was No 1 in the charts, and they were still paying my rent.

• This article was modified on 11 March 2013 to embed the correct version of the Killer video.

Powered by article was written by Interviews by Dave Simpson, for The Guardian on Monday 11th March 2013 19.30 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


image: © Eva Rinaldi