Rewind: Trevor Jackson on “Illmatic”

Posted: February 29th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , | No Comments »

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In discussion with Trevor Jackson on “Illmatic” by Nas (1994).

Can you remember the way you were introduced to “Illmatic”? Was it love at first sight?

Hip-hop was the main music I listened to in the early ‘90s. I devoured every new hip-hop release that came out. I’d been aware of Nas since 1991 when he guest-starred on a Main Source track called “Live at the Barbecue”, which was produced by Large Professor, one of my favorite producers. He was incredible on that. It was a great time for hip-hop. So many incredible hip-hop albums came out between ’91 and ’94. In 1992, Nas put out a single on Ruffhouse called “Halftime”, which was a track from the soundtrack of Zebrahead. That single totally blew me away. It still is one of my favorite hip-hop singles of all time. By that time, people in the hip-hop world were really aware of Nas, so when the album dropped in 1994, it wasn’t love at first sight, to be honest. It was a surprise.

You were expecting something big?

Yeah. All the real hip-hop heads were, not only because he was an incredible MC, but also because of the producers on the album, which were the cream of the crop at the time.

How were all the luminaries who played a part in the process apparent on the album? How would you characterize their input?

The thing about hip-hop at that time—which was very different than it is now—everyone strove to have their own sound. Nobody wanted to sound like anybody else. Probably more than any other music, people who were into hip-hop bought a lot of records because of the producer rather than the artist or the MC. It was quite unique.

On Illmatic, Nas worked with DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Large Professor and Q-Tip. Even though they were all from New York, they all had their own distinctive sound. Premier usually only took one loop, but he could do something incredible and really simple with one or two bars. Pete Rock was more complex and slightly more soulful. Large Professor had really amazing basslines, and Q-Tip was still deep, dark and street, but slightly more abstract. It was almost like The Avengers: Hulk, Thor, Captain America and Iron Man all coming together on one team. I don’t want to take anything away from Nas, who’s an amazing MC in his own right, but he always needed a great beat behind him. And they were the best at the time.

It’s kind of astonishing that there were so many different people involved, yet the album is pretty coherent.

The thing is, all these guys are from New York, and New York rap was all sample-based. It was pretty raw, and so even though these guys all had their own distinctive sound, they all hung out together; they were all friends.

That’s true. As you said, you go a long way back with hip-hop, and you probably heard a lot of classic albums. What makes “Illmatic” so special?

All I know is that I never get tired of it. A week doesn’t go by when I don’t listen to the whole album. It’s a short, too—it’s only got ten tracks on it, which was not typical, as a lot of albums used to hold 20 or 30 tracks. In contrast, Illmatic is really tight and focused. I love every track apart from one. I just think there’s something about Nas’ hunger to succeed on that record—I felt like you can hear that he came off the street into a vocal booth and just rhymed. It really has that immediacy and that hunger; you can hear it in his lyrics and you can hear it in his voice, and for me, it’s 1000 percent believable. I understand every word of it he says. Maybe it sounds silly, but it feels like he’s talking to me directly. His voice is just so direct. There’s something about that album. It was a point in time. So many different things combined to make it a special record.

It was his debut album, and it’s still hailed as one of the most important hip-hop albums of all time. That’s obviously quite a burden as well, but it’s really fascinating that he achieved this as his first album.

When it first came out, it wasn’t a success, though. It had critical success, but it didn’t sell. It took a bit of time to catch on. Looking at it now, for me, it’s always been a thing about Jay-Z or Nas. If you ask me, Nas would wipe the floor with Jay-Z in terms of rap skills. But Jay-Z is the superstar today, not Nas. Nas is still the rapper’s rapper. Also, sadly, he probably hasn’t made a record quite as good as Illmatic—not a whole album, anyway. So, if you want to talk about the greatest record of all time, many people today won’t say Illmatic. People will say it’s Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, or they’ll say Kanye’s it’s 808s & Heartbreak. For me, Illmatic is a benchmark, but I’m the older generation. I don’t know if the new generation really understands. What they perceive as being “good rap music” now is totally different, as is rap music itself.

Just in terms of the production, hip-hop—especially from the East Coast—was much more sample-based. I think that kind of vanished over the years.

The other thing is, in a weird way, that album marked a beginning, too. Before, you’d have one producer producing the whole thing. From what I remember, Illmatic was the first time so many esteemed producers all produced on the same album. That kind of changed things, because after that, people started getting loads of different producers to do an album. It’s not like they said, “Let’s get Premier or Pete Rock because they’ll sell millions of records.” They got those people because they really worked with Nas and they sounded right. But the hip-hop environment changed after that; people lost their unique sound. Everyone started to sound the same. Read the rest of this entry »


Finn Johannsen – Live At House Of Waxx, Globus, Berlin, Febuary 22 2016

Posted: February 23rd, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Mixes | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

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Finn Johannsen – Live At House Of Waxx 22 02 2016 by Finn Johannsen on hearthis.at


Das Radio und ich (1977-2016)

Posted: February 15th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Artikel | Tags: , | 2 Comments »

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1977 bin ich acht Jahre alt, und ein Virtuose der Pausen-Taste meines BASF-Kassettenrekorders. Ich nehme vornehmlich Disco und Glam Rock-Ausläufer aus dem Radio auf. Werner Veigel ist der Yacht Rock-Don von NDR 2. Dann sagt Wolf-Dieter Stubel in der Internationalen Hitparade beim gleichen Sender angesäuert „God Save The Queen“ von den Sex Pistols an. Ich bin nicht überzeugt, aber das Musikprogramm wird in den folgenden Jahren wesentlich interessanter.

1981 habe ich das Nachtprogramm vom NDR entdeckt. Innerhalb kurzer Zeit nehme ich unfassbare Konzerte von Palais Schaumburg, Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft und The Wirtschaftswunder auf.

1985 hat das Format-Radio Einzug gehalten, und es läuft gefühlt nur noch Phil Collins.

1985 wird Paul Baskerville schon wieder einen Sendeplatz beim NDR los, und spielt zum Abschied ausschließlich fantastische Musik aus seiner Heimatstadt Manchester.

1988 tanze ich seit zwei Jahren zu House in Hamburger und Kieler Clubs. Zum ersten Mal im Radio höre ich die Musik aber in einer mehrstündigen Live-Übertragung aus dem Hannoveraner Club Checkers.

1989 höre ich auf einer langen Autofahrt durch Frankreich eine beeindruckende Sendung namens „Ecstasy Club“. Aus Müsique forevör! Kurze Zeit später in Palma, auch nur noch House in der Playlist. Deutschland? Fehlanzeige.

1991 fahre ich durch Niedersachsen und kann endlich mal wieder John Peel auf BFBS hören. Er spielt dreimal hintereinander „Gypsy Woman“. Beim zweiten Mal summe ich mit.

1993 bin ich in London und mache im Hotelzimmer das Radio an. Noch am gleichen Tag kaufe ich auf dem Portobello Market zahlreiche Kassetten-Mitschnitte von amerikanischen DJs auf Kiss FM und englischen Jungle DJs. Ich will auch Piratensender.

1994 ist meine Freundin als Au Pair in Rom und schickt mir Tape-Mitschnitte von überragenden House-Shows des Senders Radio Centro Suono. Ich bin froh, dass es ihr so gut geht.

1994 startet Boris Dlugosch aus dem Hamburger Clubs Front seine Mixshow auf dem Jugendsender N-Joy. Jahre zu spät für das regelmäßige Club-Erlebnis im Radio, aber trotzdem höchst willkommen.

1995 zu Besuch in Berlin, letzte Love Parade auf dem Kurfürstendamm. Vor ihren Club-Gigs spielen eine Menge DJs im Radio. Ich kriege bis heute nicht raus, von wem der „When Doves Cry“-Bootleg ist, den alle zu haben scheinen.

1997 habe ich auch dieses Internet, arbeite mich systematisch durch die historischen Radioaufnahmen der Mix-Sektion der Deep House Page und rücke Kontexte zurecht. Ich brauche alles von WBLS und WBMX und komme mir aus nationaler Perspektive jetzt erst recht betrogen vor.

1999 verbrenne ich eine Menge Geld, um mit meinem AOL-Einwähltarif in Echtzeit ohne Buffer-Aussetzer das Set von Derrick Carter bei der Beta Lounge auf Kassette aufzunehmen und hasse den Real Player mehr als die CDU.

2001 habe ich auch dieses Breitband-Internet. Jetzt brauche ich alle historischen Radioshows, die ich kriegen kann. Kurze später finde ich heraus was ein monatliches Datenvolumen ist. Fies.

2002 habe ich auch diese Breitband-Flatrate und höre regelmäßig das Cybernetic Broadcast System. Dass Italo Disco, die heimlich verehrte Prollmusik meiner frühen Jugend, einmal derart hip sein würde, hätte ich niemals gedacht. Die anderen Bestandteile des Programms freuen mich aber auch.

2004 rotiert auf dem CBS der Acid House-Mix „Smileyville“, den ich mit einem Freund angefertigt habe. Result.

2005 sammle ich immer noch ausgiebig historische Radioshows und Club-Mitschnitte über gängige Suchmaschinen, aber jetzt kommen auch noch Podcasts hinzu. Ich verweigere mich iTunes und lade umständlich einzeln herunter.

2007 frage ich mich, was Steinski wohl so treibt und entdecke seine Themen-Sendungen auf WMFU. Ich höre begeistert Radio, als wären es wieder die 80er. Ein Moderator, ein Thema, Musik zum Thema. Vielleicht geht doch alles etwas zu schnell.

2007 erzählt mir Eric Wahlforss von seinem Start Up zum Austausch unter Musikern und gibt mir einen Voucher. Auf Soundcloud entdecke ich allerdings auch bereits reichlich Fremdeigentum. Mir schwant juristisches Konfliktpotential.

2007 gründe ich mit Freunden das Webzine D*ruffalo und dessen DJ-Exekutive, die D*ruffalo Hit Squad. Wir initiieren die Druffmix-Serie und peitschen nacheinander alles durch, was uns jemals musikalisch begeistert hat.

2010 schaue ich mir Theo Parrish im Boiler Room an, vom Schreibtisch aus. Ich frage mich wie viel bequemer alles noch werden wird, bevor es alle langweilt.

2011 Entnervt von den allwöchentlichen Gig-File-Tauschbörsen entscheiden Stefan Goldmann und ich den DJ-Mailout unseres Labels Macro einzustellen und stattdessen nur noch Radioshows zu bemustern. Wir recherchieren bis in die entlegensten Winkel und sind erstaunt, was es alles gibt.

2013 beginne ich nach diversen Gastauftritten bei terrestrischen und virtuellen Radiosendern über die Jahre bei dem neu gegründeten Berlin Community Radio meine monatliche Sendung „Hot Wax“. Eigentlich will ich nur präsentieren, was ich mir an neuer Musik von Hard Wax mitnehme, aber dann peitsche ich nacheinander alles durch, was mich jemals musikalisch begeistert hat.

2014 sitze ich auf einem Podium zum Thema Radio und Clubkultur. Monika Dietl hat eine Tüte mit Kassetten dabei, und spielt umwerfende Highlights ihrer Sendungen aus den 90ern vor. Nur Musik zu spielen, wie man es zur Zeit meistens macht, ist eben doch oft nicht alles.

2015 beugt sich Soundcloud dem Druck der Majors bezüglich Copyright-Verletzungen und löscht im Zuge auch die Accounts der Internet-Radiosender NTS, Red Light und Berlin Community Radio. Es folgt ein Exodus zu Mixcloud und anderen Plattformen, mit erheblichem Verlust an Reichweite.

2015 stelle ich aus Zeitmangel schweren Herzens „Hot Wax“ ein, nach 35 Sendungen.

2016 stelle ich zufällig fest, dass ich hundert Mitschnitte von Froggy & The Soul Mafia archiviert habe, obwohl mir die von ihnen gespielte Musik oft zu jazzfunkig und raregroovig ist, um mir das öfter anzuhören. Es ist mir aber egal. Ich weiß noch, wie es 1977 war.

Groove März/April 2016

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@ House Of Waxx

Posted: February 15th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Gigs | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

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Rewind: Shanti Celeste on “Set It Out”

Posted: February 1st, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

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In discussion with Shanti Celeste about “Set It Out” by Omar-S (2003).

So what was the first time you heard this track?

I wish I could say it was in a club where I had a life changing experience bla bla bla, but it was actually a much more ordinary scenario. I was buying some birthday records on Juno just after it was repressed in 2009. I didn’t know much about Omar-S at that point, had heard the name once or twice, but that was about it. So the answer to that question is – the first time I heard this song was on the mighty Juno player.

What drew you to it? The simplicity of the groove? The addictive synth line? How it erupts into a heartfelt song? Or something else? Or all of it?

All of it! The vocal and the beautiful rolling pad in particular though, then the nice toms and the clap, too! I just think it’s a beautiful track, it can make you feel so happy and grateful. I love singing so I just start belting out along with it as soon as I hear it or even when I play it in a club. It is just so simple but so powerful.

For me this is foremost a prime example of a very fine Vocal House record. Lyrics, singing and sound work perfectly with each other. It seems nothing is missing, and there is nothing to improve. But is it really as simple as it sounds?

Yes and no, there isn’t that many elements which I guess is what makes it simple, but it is cleverly constructed. I always think that spreading a synth line across four bars creates more interest because it gives room for all the other elements to play without sounding too loopy and repetitive, even if it is that way. Also let’s not forget what a great vocal can do to a track, in some cases it can completely transform it.

I think his track „Who Wrote The Rules of Love“ with Colonel Abrams also comes close to what Omar-S achieved with „Set It Out“. Are you a fan of his in general? Are there other tracks you like nearly as much?

I agree, that’s also really good and again a perfect example of a good Vocal House track, if I’m putting it down to just a feeling though, I prefer „Set It Out“ but they are so close! These are probably my two favourites. I do like a lot of his others as well, he has done soooo much! One of my other favourites is him and Kai Alcé’s „Not Phazed“.

I like that Omar-S is absolutely not very fussy about either producing or marketing what he produces. He is not very concerned about other opinions on what he does either. Is this the way out of modern PR obligations, just delivering the tunes?

I think part of it is a way of delivering tunes! Imagine if he did the whole PR thing every time he released a record, especially at the start when he was releasing lots, it would be a PR overload! And now people trust him and will probably buy his records anyway.

There is whole lot of discourse about Detroit in club culture. But does the origin of Omar-S really matter with „Set It Out“?

To be honest, I’m not sure. To me it just sounds like Omar-S!

UK also has a healthy tradition with Garage House, even if it evolved into something different. But to my ears the production of this track is not too dissimilar to UK club styles, or am I wrong?

I actually think there are other more garage-y tracks from Omar-S that sound more similar to UK styles. „Set It Out“ is quite straight and I always think of UK Garage House as a lot more swong. But I guess that“s the beauty of music, eh? Everyone hears it in they’re own way.

What is important if you infuse a dance track with vocals?

Tricky, I will always notice a good vocal track if I like the vocal and the way that it’s been placed on the track. It’s very important that it’s effortless and soulful but not trying to be too gimmicky and „classic house vocal’. Also sometimes it helps if they use the whole accapella, like in „Set It Out“, or if it’s a vocalist that they arrange with more of a song structure. I like the way it sounds when it’s chopped as well but it has to be done right. Basically, it has to to work great and not just for the sake of it.

I must admit that I much prefer this kind of vocals in a dance track to the majority of tracks of recent years that include a singing style usually more associated with indie records. But I would not go as far as to maintain you cannot create a good club song without a Soul aspect. But what does a good club song actually require?

For me it requires a physical and an emotional aspect. So a really good groove that you just can’t help but dance to and a melodic aspect of some kind. I’m not saying it has to be super melodic with noodly bits everywhere, although that’s the route I tend to take because I just can’t help myself. But something to go along with the groove that’s making you dance your ass off.

Is there a way that „Set It Out“ is reflected in your own productions?

Maybe yes, it’s probably influenced me in more ways than I know considering that I have listened to it so many times over the years!

The defunct Face magazine used to have these little messages at the bottom of their last page. I always have this one particular issue in the back of my mind where it read „Vocals matter“. But do they still?

They do to me!

Electronic Beats 02/16