Category Archives: Music Journalism

Cassette Boy (July ’05)

Replicating the style of Cassette Boy’s cut-up was the objective here. Check out Chris Malbon’s beautiful design. For full effect you need to compare Side A with Side B (pages 1 and 2)

cassette-boy-july-05.pdf 

cassette-boy-july-05-2.pdf 


Deep Fried Funk, Halloween, Derry

soldier-snow-white-small.jpg

On ‘Hallow Eve’ 30,000 souls descend on Derry city for the UK’s biggest Halloween celebration. As the full-moon gets high and the streets are strewn with snogging teenagers and smashed alcopops, the monster mash-up gets transferred to the Nerve Centre. Even in the club your costume stays on; if you’re not dressed up, you get a dressing down. Fancy dress here in Derry is all about being commended for toil, not making trouble.  

girlschips.jpg

Creep back… I’m not-so-easy-jetting it to Derry the next day and I still don’t have any fancy dress sorted. Into the breach leaps my girlfriend who suggested I borrow her dad’s long leather jacket. Okay, so I’m thinking, Matrix, Lost Boys, (white) Blade but know that getting fake guns and samurai knives through customs might be a bit of a problem. Checking in on-line I realise that this isn’t the half of it. I can’t even take make-up and or any kind of gel, hairspray, or wax. Hmmm isn’t it going to look like me (generic indie kid) – wearing a Goth’s jacket.   We land in Derry and I’m wearing my jacket because it’s cold and it would have meant a 5 euro levy if I’d have had it weighed. ‘What are you going as?’ I’m asked in the car from the airport. ‘Umm at the moment you’re looking at it…’ Thankfully the kids toy store in the retail park has some half-price werewolf teeth 

Walking to our hotel we see people of every age, dressed up and skipping towards the banks of the Foyle. We watch the fireworks from the balcony of the hotel and by the time we head into town it’s taken a turn for the terrifying. The town now belongs to the teenager. Snow White stumbles from a camouflaged gorilla (yes a gorilla) and points at me who’s stunned by the carnage.  ‘You know who you look like?’ 

‘Erm, no tell me.’ ‘That there, Jamiroquai.’  

‘Really?’ ‘I love Jamiroquai.’ 

‘Right,’ I can’t be bothered to point out the obvious ‘Jay Kay is the lead singer – Jamiroquai is the band’ tack and wonder how scary Jay Kay should be. I pop my teeth in, strike a pointy pose and growl. Over by the cash point, Wonder Woman is cold. Her boyfriend, Osama Bin Laden is fired up. He attempts to put his tea-towel on her shoulders but she rejects it.    

tunnel-us-small.jpg

Inside the Nerve Centre things are much calmer. In fact, the atmosphere is a beautiful freakish harmony. Regulars of Deep Fried Funk play host to the friendliest sounds: ghoul dances with ghost, witch with wizard, soldier with 40’s gangster, pimp with prossy, cowgirl with chainsaw wielding Karate Kid. In broadest bogside a ‘female Rambo’ asks me “What’s this? Where’s your fucking costume?”  

I suddenly realise I’ve disposed of all my props. I hastily put my coat back on, get my shades and teeth out my pocket, and mumble something about Matrix, Lost Boys before rendering myself inaudible with my werewolf teeth. She destroys my costume with a single stare. “Try fucking harder next time.” 

paul.jpgpepzi.jpg

No matter. The party in the back room is in full swing as Deep Fried regular Paul Hamill is switching with other regular Pepzi. The crowd are fizzing and staring at his freaky contacts which he insists are due to injecting bleach into his eyes. I have a proper boogie to a Peter, Bjorn and John remix and then get picked up with a spurt of northern soul which carries me through to the main act.   

ralph-lawson-small.jpg

Ralph Lawson is on the main stage dressed as a Dead Presidents skeleton. He has plenty of bodies to ‘go with.’ His on-stage bouncing exacerbates his menace as he twists up the electro funk. Blink and you’ll miss Jedi Middleton on stage without a costume. You see, the crowd is mind-tricked by his Cosmos sound of right- sided smashers and underground steppers. Lights come up alarmingly too soon at two am, where the party is taken back, out into the street and once more round the town.

Photos by David Bowen   


I feel so Hexstatic (March 04)

As I explain in the intro we were really big fans of Hexstatic.

To represent or ‘blowback’ this feeling of prostration, this is one of the first articles I wrote where I admitted my ill prepared short comings. It’s also a time when I let the artists speak freely (whereas in the past I was used to wrapping up my articles in explanatory dialogue)as it portrayed more of their working relationship and banter.  

I Feel So Hexstatic!

 

Too much can be a bad thing

 

The prospect of Hexstatic playing Zoetrope, underneath Blowback towers, has got me a little over hexcited. I turn up at the sound (and vision) check to meet the boys, only to find that I can’t take them upstairs as I’ve left my swipe card in the office. No-one can let me in as, everyone else is at home getting ready to come out later. We shuffle into The Kitchen, (the venue not, actually a kitchen.) with me rooting through my bag only to realise I’ve left my Dictaphone…and the questions upstairs too. Things are not working out.

 

More kerfuffling ensues as we’re told that the bottle of wine Stuart’s been carrying round, can’t be drunk here. The waitress eventually sees the look of dire need in my eyes and relents. I take a glass.

 

I break the ice by telling Robin and Stuart about when we started the Blowback – all those months ago – we had a wish list of people we wanted to interview. Hexstatic was on it. Their heavy mash up mixture of breaks, beats, Cliff Richard and whatever generally got a party going, expertly combined with a visual eye fest that has reduced MTV flickers to tears of joy; was one of Blowback’s earliest baptism moments. They are, in short, directly responsible for influencing the gorgeous beast. I’m met with awkward flattered silence. Okay, it wasn’t really a question, as such, what does it feel like to be heroes?

 

R: Oh I don’t know, we play the 333 quite a lot and people tend to lump us in with them. But we take it quite modestly I suppose.

 

S: It’s funny because we were always doing our own thing. And now it really does seem like the future. We’ve never really been over involved with Avit’s site or huge technical improvements or anything. We’re always pushing it though. I mean I’ve got a new Mac and y’know it’s a brand new laptop and I already feel like I might be stretching it.

 

R: Now it’s something to be a VJ though. There’s been a real development in software and equipment.  V-Jammin’ and better programmes for editing and looping.

 

S: I’ve got this DVD mixer, which is amazing! We’ve got the new Ninja DVD on it so we’re going to mess with that. But we are throwing things in all the time – the set is evolving as we play.

 

R: We like, build off the set, we’re throwing out the things that don’t work and he’ll either bring something new to it, or I will. It does get difficult, you get into set routines after about 30 or 40 shows. But tonight, well we haven’t played for a while so we’re just going to mess with it.

 

R: We don’t really have rehearsals. I didn’t like the idea from the start.

 

Tomorrow Hexstatic play the Lille Capital Of Culture festivities. Over on the continent they look at visuals in a different way, more prestige is given to the visual artiste.

 

R: Well we’ve played The Guggenheim Musuem (laughs) that was surreal.

 

S: We don’t do this for chin strokers

 

There has been a slightly more, goatee growing political angle to some of Hexstatic’s work. Back in ‘98 working with Coldcut as Hex, they did a Greenpeace record called Timber, which featured sampled up rainforest carnage. Recently pictures of George Bush and chimps have appeared in the live show.

 

S: [Conceding] Well it’s kind of there. The Timber track was more for Coldcut really, but mostly we’re in it for the laugh.

 

R: We’ve kind of found that a lot of people who do visuals are quite political. Y’know The Light Surgeons etc…

 

S: Infact when we were over in Chicago, some people from the audience actually thanked us because we weren’t political. It was like ‘Thank God there’s only so much 9/11 stuff we can take.’

 

R: We enjoy it. We’re about having fun. If we weren’t having fun we wouldn’t do it.

 

I launch into a rubbish speech about how you can’t produce art if you’re unhappy. Complete balls. Robin bails me out by saying,

 

R: We want people to have a good time.

 

S: I’ve never done a gig sober I don’t think… Well the name Hexstatic is a homage to that life style I suppose.

 

R: Yeah I did a bootleg with Flawless and Eminem’s Purple Pills, that was supposed to be the ultimate pilled up anthem.

 

S: I’ve never thought what it would be like to experience it sober.

 

Funnily enough neither have I! Stuart takes another glass of wine, Robin unfortunately, has to drive tonight. The pizzas arrive and we’re told we most certainly cannot eat that in The Kitchen. Others Blowbackers arrive and say equally as dumb things to the boys as the night properly begins. We get smashed.

 

I remember Bush’s leering face, Nancy Sinatra doing Drum n Bass, Julie Andrews doing something unmentionable and Cliff being totally wired. I remember laughing my arse off, dancing and everyone looking, talking bollocks to a French guy… fragments to piece together in the morning.

 

 


Salsoul and Danny Krivit (February 04)

I’ve included this article in my “best of” as I believe it shows diversity and most importantly love. Passion was a massive element of the Blowback model and this special valentine’s edition really lived up to our wishes.  

The article as itself suffers slightly from deadline furore and PR deferrals. Originally we wanted to talk to Ian Dewhirst about his acquisition and to present the history and maybe even get him to write a personal journey with Salsoul. We ended up chatting to Danny Krivit about his involvement with the label. The interview was held by Carl (Carlos) Platt.  I also felt it important to measure the historical impact of the label throughout the years.. Big up must also be given for the design of this article (by Tim Jones) which took the Salsoul rainbow and changed it into rippling hearts.

 —————————  

Love Sensation  For Salsoul there really weren’t no mountain high enough 

Salsoul records was founded by three brothers in1974. Having made a modest fortune in distributing Latino music their ambition was to combine the rhythms of Salsa with burgeoning New York Soul music to expand beyond their community. 30 years later it is difficult to imagine how the dance community would have turned out without them. Salsoul records brought together a whole slew of talents and inspired a whole load more. Salsoul spread love.  

Regardless of their early dreams, by 1975 Disco was taking hold of New York, working his first residence at Trude Heller’s was Danny Krivit.  

‘My first awareness of Salsoul was being sent their first promo 12” in the mail that year. I remember it as one of the first 12” anywhere – Floyd Smith: I Just Can’t Give You Up. It was the next year with Double Exposure “Ten Percent” and the first Salsoul Orchestra album that the label took over as a sound. It really felt like a new age of disco. Where Philly had been the standard, this was the new level, essentially disco Philly hustle music. People were dancing the hustle everywhere and you saw it on Soul Train and American Bandstand – right then, it was much more about the hustle than straight free style. “Ten Percent” blew the doors open for Salsoul. It was an instantaneous success and every release after that was usually a hit.’ 

It was the Cayre brothers decision to make Ten Percent commercially available 12”. This meant that 12”s were no longer just the privilege of the DJ and made life a hell of a lot easier for the bedroom DJ. For Danny Krivit it also meant that 12”s were taken more seriously as a useful format.  

‘They had 7 min 7inches, so to begin with, on the 12” it was the same version. An example is That’s Where The Happy People Go by The Tramps and it had the same version on the 7” that they eventually put on 12”. I would rather play it off the album than the 12”. You can imagine if it had been intended as a 12” it would have played better, because you have more room for fidelity.’ 

By 1976 Salsoul was in its Golden era, their distinctive rainbow motive appearing on a phenomenal amount of releases. Utilising the skill and expertise of people such as Vince Montanna Jr and his Salsoul Orchestra introduced vocalists Jocelyn Brown and Loleatta Holloway. These and other label releases were controlled by such luminary producers such as Walter Gibbons, Frankie Knuckles and Shep Petitbone. Krivit was doing support slots for Larry Levan at the Paradise Garage and times couldn’t get any Gooder.  

‘When I first went to the Garage I just felt like this was what it was supposed to be. We were at the next natural succession. All the way, right from the beginning, at the construction parties and it just kept getting better and better’ 

Watching Walter Gibbons and Frankie Knuckles mix their own edits inspired Danny. 

‘I noticed that DJs that I admired, had their own edits. It was beyond my comprehension how they did it, I thought it was like magic and I envied them!’ He laughs 

Taking the lead from studio mentor Jonathon Fearing, Krivit began doing his own dub plates. This included blending MFSB’s Love Is The Message with Salsoul Orchestra’s Love Break, the version was so good it got a full pressing and was added to the public pile. Krivit became a man synonymous with the edit, but even now he keeps the sensation going. 

‘You know they were labours of love. I had a lot of respect for the music as it was, it wasn’t “well this needs this” you know? Like kill it, I really treated them with kid gloves.’ 

When Salsoul finally folded in 1985, it by no means ended the story. The new house scene was picking up the baton and gold mining the past. Pushed originally by Petitbone samples were lifted for tracks such as Blackbox ‘Ride On Time’ and Kim Sims ‘Too Blind To See It’. Meanwhile MAW went to work on new version of Ten Percent.  

After several haphazard major label re-issues the first record to be done with loving care was the Mastercuts series in 1991. In the sleeve notes Ian Dewhirst called them ‘a label that has undoubtedly been the most influential and inspirational example to today’s new producers and remixers.’ Perhaps even in response to this, Masters At Work later hooked up with the same (now) ageing Salsoul faces for the Nuyorican Soul Project.

The sampling continued into the nineties and noughties, from the Jaxx’s Red Alert to Spiller’s Groovejet. Krivit agrees with Dewhirst’s sentiment. 

‘If you look at the whole scene there’s an enormous amount of technology doing the work of inspiration. I feel that fortunately for disco and other genres it’s something to reach back to and say well I’m not inspired now but I’ll borrow this thing and make a decent record because I recognise that this record is inspired.’  

Now Suss’d guided by Dewhirst and his Simply Vinyl partner Chris Barnett have brought the whole Salsoul back catalogue and are re-releasing it on 12” over the next year. There are also mixes from people who have been inspired by Salsoul. This month Danny Krivit steps up to the plate with his favourites tunes, and his own edits.


Music and Michael Franti (August 03)

So the time had finally come to leave whatsonuk. I wrote this article on holiday as I was due to leave. Unfortunately this meant that I never got a hard copy of the article and I wasn’t even creditted with it. But I was really happy to get it in there. Michael Franti is a real hero of mine and the opportunity to interview him was special. The fact that the article is so different to Blowback’s new style is rather telling. I still have the transcripts, maybe one day I’ll write it properly

Music And Politics

Michael Franti Spearhead’s a new consciousness

It’s a sweltering hot day in on the West Coast USA. In his sparse, freshly feng shui’d apartment, Michael Franti kicks back with Sly And The Family Stone on the juke box.

‘When I’m at home, there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t sit and play guitar or dig through my stacks and find records that I haven’t listened to in a long time.’ Mike smiles ‘Music is part of my life everyday.’

Away from home there’s the continuous and grueling task of touring. Franti doesn’t feel it this way,

‘It’s like Bob Marley says when the music hits you, you feel no pain so it’s never hard for me to get on stage and play. ‘

Totting up almost 20 years in ‘the biz’ from Beatnigs, to Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy then Spearhead, Franti has consistently released intelligent music which hip hops across many styles linked through sharp lyrics and real love for what ever genre. Music drives him and helps him create. A few years back the none creative process of dealing with a major label, Capitol did begin to drain though,

‘I had just become frustrated with the whole corporate culture thing,’ he points out, ‘Every time you wanted to record, you had to get everyone’s okay in triplicate and have a budget. Once we built our own studio, we just started making our own stuff and it was like “Shit what do we need these guys for?”’

Boo Boo was born and a number of different distributors in different territories now put out the major releases. It doesn’t stop there though, Franti remains ever prolific and can get titles out quicker on the web,

‘I put out an acoustic album recently and another spoken word album, we just made a DVD and I’ve got a book coming out. It’s just freed us from the pressure of selling millions of records. We just do a few thousand and keep it going by that.’

The website www.spearheadvibrations.com also contains all the Spearhead bootlegs you could ever need.

‘We allow taping at all our shows, there’s a number of sites which have all our live shows to download for free. We found that doing that has helped spread the word. It’s kind of the opposite to the way major labels operate. It’s kind of like, you know, that’s our television network.’

Franti once wrote a record called Television The Drug Of The Nation, surely now a website which is like a TV network couldn’t possibly be a good thing?

‘The internet is a great place to create communities and in that way it’s different from TV.’ Mike puts on his rhyme hat ‘TV is a place, in my estimation that breeds isolation. Through the internet people have to find what they want and then you find other people who are interested. You don’t know where they’re from or what they look like, you just know that they’re into the same thing.’

Franti flips sides,

‘Now the drawback to that is that less than 1% of the worlds population is participating in what we call the “world wide web” so it’s a really serious misnomer.’

1% could still be considered a strong voice, say for example when forming a coalition, Michael concedes,

‘Before the first Iraq war there was no voice against it and today we see in one weekend we had 30 million people around the world marching. So I feel like people are more aware than they have been, in my life time at least.’

Disposable Heroes documented the Bush war I with Winter Of A Long Hot Summer, a song which is still eerily relevant for Bush War II. Bomb The World lyrics found their way onto banners of the anti-war marches, but comparing the two songs highlights the change.

‘Like I say in the song Music And Politics, music is about the expression of emotion,’ he counters, ‘music is a voice to emotions that we never knew existed. In my early days I was just expressing anger. Now I want to express this whole rainbow of emotion and I want people to feel uplifted by the music.’

Franti gets the balance just right, the new album flicks between styles with ease but each genre isn’t tokenistic but played and produced expertly, Michael smiles again,

‘I want people to think. “Today I’m going to get up and clean my bathroom and this album will help me do that” and that’s what I really try to do is create inspiring music.’

Music which everyone deserves to hear, be inspired…


Street Talk (July 2002)

This article has appeared in various editions of whatsonuk. From the tabloid to the festival guide. I’m still very proud of it. For me it was when I started to play around with form and style to try and emulate (or I as I later coined it, Blowback) the experience of chatting to and creating with the artist. In this case Mike Skinner, just before the fame really hit. 

 

 —————————————————–

 

On the phenomenom known as The Streets

Building ruff beats and rhymes to move minds and feet 

A cheeky Brummie geezer, crowd pleaser, he can squeeze the – inspiration from the everyday in a twisted way. With verbal darts from the heart to rip the charts apart, the upstart has got his blag to a fine art. A new star for the muzik mags to celebrate. The consensus, he’s great, taking a stand in this wasteland. Dance music’s saviour? Just a raver with a plan, a young man in the right place at the right time. A kid staying true to the life that he leads, told in rhyme.  

‘I wanted to keep it real. Though not in an Ali G way. Garage bling tends to be a fantasy thing. Jus’ wanted to do it for the people see? I don’t care about booty, the Audi and shirts by Gucci.’

 

Listen…

 

You light your smoke and take a toke, sit back and recline and his verbals are blowing your mind, there’s a mad joke. A compulsive ill rhymer. No SMTV mimer. A blagger? A faker? For sure a money maker. A prophet? A poet? A star and u know it. He can flow and watch his bank account grow, but will he blow it?

 

‘I like to look mean, nothing but designer jeans. Safe ‘n’ sound I’ve got  20 pairs of trainers at  130 pounds.’

 

Wait a minute now Mike you’re contradicting yourself. That’s alright though, new wealth can sometimes affect your mental health.

 

‘Oi. It’s a protection thing you know? I didn’t always have enough dough. If people look at me and go ‘Geezer knows ‘is game’ it ain’t about the fame.’

 

Back on the street and feelin’ the heat and which streets are these? Not the same as Asher Ds.

 

‘It would have slotted in better, if I was Black see and from Hackney but I’m not so don’t criticise me. I’m suburban not inner city but these are English streets spittin’ all across Britain, not just

London and Brixton. I’m saying lets break free.’

 

Original Pirate Material coming down your aerial. Tuned into the radio. Hear your heroes in Stereo, information overload, on it goes, knowledge grows, lyrical information flows, then into the studios.

 

‘I’ve spent a lot of time getting it right and now it’s perfect. Like brandy, maybe you haven’t acquired a taste for it. You see people aren’t against you. They don’t care whether you’re there. You’ve got to get in their faces, tell ‘em what rings true… oh yeah and be bad too.’

Check 1-2. Loud and clear, speak your mind, no hate, no fear a mirror to your life inside, now Internet broadcast worldwide. Take it from your bedroom, be real but be true to you.

‘I’m wise but I don’t mean to patronise. I’m not taking the piss, it’s deadly serious, don’t diss. Well I take the piss out of me, so others can’t. That’s it.’

 

With wordplay not gunplay, they slay all in their way. Beating the rest respecting those who wan test. To the biters and haters it’s laters, jah bless’d.

 

‘But I don’t try and have a message. I don’t try and preach. I just want to be entertaining and honest.’ The Streets.