Rewind: Holger “Groover” Klein on “The Call Is Strong”

Posted: October 24th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

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In discussion with Holger “Groover” Klein on “The Call Is Strong” by Carlton (1990).

What was your first encounter with „The Call Is Strong“?

Alongside Daddy Gee, Carlton was featured on “Any Love”, the very first Massive Attack single which was a cover of one of my favourite songs from Rufus & Chaka Khan. I was a huge Chaka Khan fan by the way, I went to quite a few concerts. The very first time I saw her, I even waited for her at the backstage entrance because I wanted to have an autograph. Want some trivia? In the 90s, she had been living in my hometown Mannheim for a few years. Back to Carlton, I was really impressed by his crystal clear falsetto. I think “Any Love” came out roughly about the same time as the first Smith & Mighty singles, so this was the starting point of the Bristol sound. I first heard about the Bristol sound when I read about it in i-D magazine or The Face. So I already knew about Carlton when his first album dropped. I bought it at the local WOM store where I used to work back then.

1990 was a very exciting year for club music. Why did you choose this album over others? Why was and is it so important for you?

After you approached me for “Rewind”, I thought that I would have a hard time choosing “that” record. But then I stumbled across a 12” of his song “Cool With Nature” which contains killer remixes by Bobby Konders. So I remembered how much this album meant to me. When I listened to it for the first time, it blew me away. Smith & Mighty did a fantastic production job. At that time, it was very state of the art incorporating elements of Dub, contemporary US R&B, classic Soul, Reggae, electronic sounds as I knew them from House music and even some Swingbeat bits. I fell in love with the ethereal and often spliffed out vibe of the album and Carlton’s songwriting.

How do you rate Carlton as a singer? Why do you think they chose him, and could the album have been as good with another singer?

Carlton’s voice struck me instantly. I think he is a truly underrated singer and it’s a pity that the album wasn’t successful. His voice is really unique, that must be why Smith & Mighty chose him. It was his album, not a Smith & Mighty project in the first place. When you listen to him you can clearly tell that he’s coming from a Reggae background. On “The Call Is Strong” he sounds like a Reggae vocalist singing some kind of otherworldly UK version of R&B.

The album is taking quite some detours. For example „Love And Pain“ could have been a 2 Tone ballad from years earlier, while „Do You Dream“ is right on par with breakbeat pioneers like Shut Up And Dance or 4 Hero. How does „The Call Is Strong“ work as an album? How pioneering was what Smith & Mighty did?

It was very pioneering! The sparse beats, their very English way of bringing together the Jamaican sound system culture and US Hip Hop without sounding like eager copycats. And of course, as they grew up in England, they must have been in touch with 2 Tone stuff as well when they were teenagers. You’re right, you can also trace down elements that became integral with the Breakbeat scene which was already emerging at a very early stage.

I first became aware of Smith & Mighty when they appeared with their Bacharach reworks „Walk On“ and „Anyone“ two years earlier, to which „The Call Is Strong“ sounds like a continuation. I thought they sounded like nobody else at that time. Suddenly Bristol was on the map, making a difference. But could anyone predict how big that difference would be?

You could clearly hear that Smith & Mighty and Massive Attack were making a difference when their first 12”s came out. It all sounded so new and fresh. But I really had no idea how big this Bristol thing would become. Also I had no idea how misinterpreted the whole thing would get when the term Trip Hop emerged.

There were groups emerging in the late 80s that were deeply rooted in sound system culture, but why were Massive Attack and the London equivalent Soul II Soul so much more successful than Smith & Mighty? Were they less traditional and closer to pop music’s proceedings? And why do you think didn’t Carlton manage to establish himself as an ongoing fixture?

Massive Attack and Soul II Soul had the big hit singles. But not by accident, both had good labels with a staff that knew how to work their releases. Smith & Mighty signed a major deal as well – with FFRR, at that time a subsidiary of London Records/PolyGram. The first big project was Carlton’s album, which didn’t prove to be as successful as expected. Then Smith & Mighty were kind of locked in this deal. Under their own name, they only released a four track EP on FFRR. I would say they missed the right moment due to this deal. It took them years to get out of it. Read the rest of this entry »


Rewind: Lerosa on “Electric Café”

Posted: October 3rd, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

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In discussion with Lerosa on “Electric Café” by Kraftwerk (1986).

There was „Computer World“, then the „Tour de France“ single, then a silence of several years. I was impatiently waiting for their next move, and it kept getting renamed and postponed. Then the first thing I heard at last was „Boing Boom Tschak“. I thought that was pure genius. I suppose you were already a fan before, too. How did you experience that comeback and what did you think of it?

My first encounter with Kraftwerk was when I was 14, the video for „”Musique Non Stop”“ premiered on MTV Italy, with its groundbreaking CGI it was unique at the time. The only similar music I might have had come across then was probably Art Of Noise’s „Close To The Edit“ and Herbie Hancock’s „Rock It“. I didn’t have access to a lot of music as I had no older clued-in sibling nor were my parents into music, perhaps bar my mom who loves her Charles Aznavour and Lucio Dalla, so to be honest I had no idea who these guys were but I was blown away. To me this was new music from a new band! Sometime later I made friends with a guy from Bolzano who told me to check out the „Breakdance“ movie to see Turbo do a routine to „Tour De France“, a freaky song with electric pulses that sounded like a bike chain. After a few months of looking for it I watched the movie, and heard that, too. A year later on holiday in Rimini I shoplifted „Autobahn“ and „Radio Activity“ and I loved both but also not understood them very well as they packed a lot of references to more experimental music I wasn’t quite well versed as a 16 year old. It wasn’t until much, much later that I finally heard „Computer World“. I don’t think I have heard the first two albums yet. I think for a lot of kids back then “Musique Non Stop” was their first meeting with Kraftwerk. Like a lot of people I was a bit disappointed with „Electric Café“ at first. I thought the A-Side was a wonderful statement, but the B-Side lacked the same consequence. I liked the sounds, but I was not that impressed with the tunes. But it has grown on me immensely, starting only shortly after.

Is this album perfectly flawed, a good example for an album that does not lose its impact due to shortcomings?

I think after getting the 12“ for “Musique Non Stop” and eventually finding the LP I too might have been not very enamoured with B-side with its cringey songs (in English, that’s the version I had). It was too much like the music on Italian commercial day time radio and I was being drawn to these new sounds, Hip Hop and early House, that were starting to seep in through the late night radio stations and occasional afternoon clubs we had in Italy for 14 to 17 year olds. I wanted to hear this new Rap music and these new weird electronic House beats, I had no time for the „Telephone Call“ etc. Nevertheless I was charmed by them as the melodies and arrangement were very catchy.I am not sure if I ever thought of it as flawed; it felt like a cohesive whole, just one where I failed to connect the dots, which is how I normally felt whenever I heard something new that really alienated me, say Peter Gabriel „IV“. I just always thought I didn’t know enough to understand it rather than thinking, „oh this is a bit shit“. I think it is insecurity that made me look at it with respect rather than try to judge it as an album. I don’t think I owned many albums back then at all.Whichever way it is, the B-side songs eventually have become the ones I play most often, especially „Telephone Call“, which I love very much. And likewise I love a lot strange pop albums like Peter Gabriel’s „IV“, or Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s debut album or indeed „Who’s Afraid Of The Art Of Noise“.

Ralf Hütter had a severe cycling accident that slowed the work on „Electric Café“ down considerably. Do you think the flaws of the album are there because they rushed proceedings to not lose more momentum?

Who knows. I’d like to think that this was delivered the way it is quite intentionally to showcase the connection between the new sounds and beats of the A-side and the more traditional songs on the B-side, all held together by the electronic sounds. I think I always looked at this record like that; as a sort bridge between the old and the new.

The working title of the album was „Techno Pop“, and they even renamed the album later on. But isn’t the B-Side more Techno Pop than the A-Side? Could’t they have made one album that was pop, and one that was pure rhythm?

Well, I am sure that back then I probably wished the same, I would have loved more of the A-side but in hindsight maybe that would have really made it too niche and austere an album to their ears, coming as they were from a mixed background of musicality and experimentation, I suppose they were trying to find a balance on one record rather than being too pragmatic and split it into two separate entities.

I once imagined that „Sex Object“ was actually a first glimpse of a whole other concept album that was neglected, just for the lack of a better explanation why it was included. Especially the lyrics seemed to clash with their usual man machine infatuation, they are very human. As are the lyrics of „The Telephone Call“. How human are Kraftwerk?

I think they are very human and that’s why they are so popular to this day. Their appeal goes way beyond the mere “electronic music” tag, it doesn’t rest on the laurels of introducing a lot of complex machinery to music. They articulated the new relationship between humans and the technological world with sounds that managed to be extremely human and extremely non-human. Quite the trick. Read the rest of this entry »


Rewind: Steve Fabus on “Let’s Start The Dance”

Posted: September 26th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Steve Fabus DJ Photo

In discussion with Steve Fabus on “Let’s Start The Dance” by Hamilton Bohannon (1978).

How did you discover „Let’s Start The Dance“? Was it in a record store, or in a club?

I discovered “Let’s Start the Dance” in my slot at my record pool, BADDA (Bay Area Disco DJ Association) in San Francisco in 1978. It was the album „Summertime Groove“, where „Let’s Start the Dance“ is the first track on side A. When I first heard it I was blown away by it and couldn’t wait to play it at the club that night. When I played it the crowd went crazy and it was the peak record of the night, not surprisingly.

When the record came out, you had already started your career as a DJ in San Francisco. What makes this record so special for you? And was „Let’s Start The Dance“ a defining record for the sound you played back then?

I was playing loft parties and underground clubs and at two of the major clubs in San Francisco, the I-Beam and Trocadero Transfer. I know one of the reasons I was brought into the scene was because I incorporated a lot of the R&B, Groove, Funk and soulful sounds from Chicago and New York and mixed it with the NRG and Electronic sounds already being made in San Francisco, and coming in from Europe. „Let’s Start the Dance“ was and still is a defining record for me because it is such a fusion of so many of these sounds but most importantly — it’s a jam. Its many elements, Jazz, Blues, Rock, Funk, Electronic, Boogie, take you on a trip in a whole movement building up to a crescendo of orgasmic release. It relates to other fusion sounds like the Isley Brothers’ „Live It Up“, Crown Heights Affair’s „Dancin“ and many of James Brown’s tracks.

Hamilton Bohannon was a drummer originally, and he started releasing records that were very focussed on rhythm and very distinctive from the early 70s on. What was his role in the history books of Disco music?

I first heard Bohannon in Chicago in 1975 at Dugan’s Bistro, a major downtown gay club. The track I heard was „Bohannon’s Beat“ which is on one of the early albums on the Dakar label. It stood out to me because it didn’t follow any of the commercial rules of the day. It presented itself as a unique sound — experimental and minimal, a mantra to hook into. It inspired and encouraged DJs to take Disco underground. It was like a loop, a tool to use to improvise, phase or use as a bridge. Mantra is a major theme for Bohannon and he carries it forward with „Let’s Start the Dance“, which is just the opposite of minimal. He turns it up with the full on jam that puts dancers in an intense trance that they have no choice but to ride to its conclusion. It is very rich with a number of instruments played including guitar and keyboard with Carolyn Crawford’s couldn’t-get-any-better-voice. What this record represents to every generation is that this is the real deal musically.

Are there other Bohannon records you rate nearly as much?

My other all time favorite is „The Groove Machine“ – as intense as “Let’s Start the Dance” but trippier with its phased out psychedelic break and its total fusion hard funk rock electronic groove. When I hear this it makes sense that Bohannon early on drummed with Jimi Hendrix. Both “Groove Machine” and “Let’s Start the Dance” feature guitar riffs prominently.

1977 saw the peak of the classic Disco era. Was „Let’s Start The Dance“ an early sign that Disco could live well past the end of that boom? That the sound could move on and still matter?

“Let’s Start the Dance” is timeless because as I had mentioned before it’s a whole movement and jam where you’re hearing real instruments. It always ignites a dancefloor and from the first note you want to pay attention. The lyrics come fast with “Everybody get up and dance – Ain’t ya tired of sitting down?” This could be cheesy but it’s not, and you know it’s not and surrender completely to it right away. There is no way you couldn’t let yourself be seduced by it and every generation experiences this seduction. It still matters because it’s a prime example of the authenticity of Disco of that time period and that’s what lives on. Read the rest of this entry »


Interview: David Morales

Posted: August 15th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , | 5 Comments »

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We should probably start at the very beginning. What were your baby steps as a DJ, what led you to being a DJ in the first place?

I think in the first place was the love for music. And I can remember when I was really, really young, with a babysitter, and we’re talking about the days of 45s. The first record that I actually remember and I was spinning was „Spinning Wheel“ by Blood, Sweat & Tears.

Good choice.

You know my family was from Puerto Rico and there was no American music in my house.

It was mostly Latin music?

Only Latin music. And we’re talking about Merengue, Salsa. Folk music from Puerto Rico. And I didn’t like it. And it’s funny because today I appreciate Latin music. Since I became a producer, now I appreciate Latin music for the production, the instrumentation, the musicians, because Latin music is not machine-made, not at all. So the first 45 that was in my house was “Jungle Fever” by Chakachas. My parents had this fucking 45 that was this erotic fucking record. And we’re talking about these stereos that were like these big fucking wooden consoles with the big tuner for the radio and the thing with the record where you put some records in the thing and it dropped one at a time and when it ended the thing drops. It must’ve been when I was about six or seven there was an illegal social club. You know I was living in the ghetto. So there were illegal social clubs that were like a black room, with day-glo spray paint, fluorescent lights to make the paint glow and they had a jukebox. And they’d play the music back then. „Mr. Big Stuff, who do you think you are“. It was all about the O’Jays and that kind of music. And I liked that. I used to sneak downstairs and such.

So when was that?

It was like the late sixties. Because I was born in ’62 so by ’70 that makes I was 8 years old. So it was before that because then I moved. Anyway, so fast forward the first 45 that I liked was the O’Jays. The first 45 I actually bought. And I remember playing that record I a hundred times a day. Putting the bullshit speaker we had in the house outside the window, we lived on the first floor. I played the record to death.

So you played it to the whole neighborhood?

The whole neighborhood. The only record I had really. So then when I graduated elementary school, I used to be into dancing, like the Jackson 5 they had “Dancing Machine”, there were The Temptations and Gladys Knight & The Pips and I liked that music. So then when we got into Junior High School – when I was like 13 years old, I had a girlfriend and we went out when the first DJs came on in the neighborhood, which was like the black DJs. I saw the first two Technics set up and a mixer in someone’s house. I was like “Wow! That’s interesting.” I saw somebody doing this non-stop disco mix and I never knew what that was all about. So, I used to hang out with all my friends. I was a dancer, we used to do all this what we now call breakdancing. We would do battles. So, I had one turntable and my friend would say “David, we hangin’ at my place” and I would play some music for us. So I just was a kid that sat by the stereo with the records and put on the tunes, one at a time. Because back then that’s what it was, you’d play one tune at a time. If it ended, the people clapped and you’d play the next tune. And it was all songs.

How did you proceed from there?

I was one of those kids that used to go to the record store even though I had no money. Just to look at the records. To walk by a store that sold turntables and a mixer and be like “one day, one day…” And I’m not working so I can’t afford to buy anything. My first mixer was a Mic mixer. 1977 there was a blackout in New York and there was a lot of stealing so I came across a radio shack little Mic mixer that I set up to make it work with two turntables. You had to turn two knobs at the same time and it was like mixing braille because there was no cueing. My one turntable had pitch control, the other one had none. I was too young to go to clubs, so I never saw a proper DJ mixing. I only saw people outside, we would have block parties and people would be mixing. And I was one of those kids that was just standing there, watching. The first time I went to a club I was 15 years old, it was Starship Discovery One. It was on 42nd street in Times Square, and we got in. We shouldn’t have got in, but you know it was the end of the club, I was 15 and I got in. The DJ had three Technics, the original 1200s, and a Bozak mixer. The booth was a bubble, and I had my nose at the fucking bubble and I was just mesmerized. The first time I actually played on a real mixer I went to a house party at my friend’s brothers apartment. And in those days, most of the DJs who were really playing were gay DJs. “San Francisco” by the Village People was the big record. But I was into The Trammps, I was into James Brown, I was into Eddie Kendricks, Jimmy Castor Bunch, “The Mexican”, Sam Records and of course Donna Summer and all this kind of stuff. So I went to this house party and he was the DJ, the first proper mixer I saw – this was before I went to that club. And it was a black mixer, it had two faders and it had cueing. So I see the DJ there, he’s using headphones to cue. So my friend says “D, you wanna play some music?” and I’m like “Yeah, sure.” I grabbed the headphones, put them on and I hit the cueing, because I was watching the guy, and I’m hearing some music and and I was like “Oh shit…” When I played at that party, I’d still play how I know how to play, which was braille. Intro, outro. And it wasn’t about mixing. All the new bars at that time were advertising nonstop disco mixes.

It was even mentioned on the record sleeves.

Yes. And all that meant was that the music never stopped. Because before the music used to stop before the next record came in. So now it was continuous. That worked, so here came the name nonstop disco mix. And then at that time all these records started coming out. The disco 45 record. At my junior high school prom “Doctor Love” by First Choice was big. And I remember the guy playing it about four times. So my first 12″ of course was “Ten Percent” by Double Exposure, on Salsoul. Another record that I played to death out the window.

You were still doing that?

I was still doing that. I used to live to just play music. I loved it. I would leave in the morning to go to school because my parents would go to work. I would buy a bag of weed, buy a quart of beer and I would go home. And you know in the old days we had all those buildings where you could really play loud music and I had these stupid double 18 boxes in my fucking bedroom. Before I’d take a piss, I turned my system up. My mother used to be like “turn that music down, turn that music down, turn that music down!”

Did you begin to play out around that time?

Yes, and playing at parties in those days meant you carried your records. Because you didn’t play for two hours, you played the whole party. And the thing is, if you owned 5000 records, you took 5000 records to the party. And in those days we carried milk crates. So here I am carrying eight to ten milk crates to a party. Getting in a car, getting a cab, you have all your friends who would help you going there, but when you’re leaving there is nobody to help. And you had to take the stereo system with you. So you carry the sound system and you carried your records. You took everything. It wasn’t like going somewhere and you just bring your records and they have everything. You had to take everything. I did parties for 15 dollars, for 25 dollars and you had to chase people down for your money.

What kind of events were you doing?

I played in clubs, I did Sweet Sixteens, I did weddings, I did corporate events. I did anything. I also did parties in high school. I would advertise a party, we would bring the sound system to some kid’s house, the parents left to go to work, we’d bring the sound system fast, and I would advertise free beer and free joints. Even 50 people is a lot of people in somebody’s apartment. Imagine we’d take over the apartment and it’s like 10 in the morning and we’d be fucking banging it, banging it, banging it — and we’d get out by 3 in the afternoon before the person’s parents come home. God knows the mess, whatever the case, baby. And in those days the sound system was in the living room, the DJ booth in the bedroom. No monitors, it was just bang bang bang. As I started doing parties at an apartment I used to charge a dollar to get in, decorate the apartment, put up balloons, and it just started with friends. Obviously still free beers, free joints, the whole thing. And like I said, I just loved the music, it was just everything for me. I wanted to play every single day. Even when I didn’t have the equipment, I knew friends that bought decks and a mixer and a small sound system for their house and they weren’t DJs and they used to say “David, come to my house and play music for me.” And I would just die to play, it was just everything for me. Read the rest of this entry »


Rewind: Anno Stamm on “Complexification”

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

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In discussion with Anno Stamm on “Complexification” by T Power (1996)

I assume you were familiar with Drum & Bass artists before this record came out. How did you first encounter „Complexification“?

It was a vinyl that my older brother had bought. At that time I was not going to the record stores by myself, so my older brother was basically my record store. When I came home earlier from school, I would go through his record collection and then record the vinyls that I liked the most to a cassette with the Hi-Fi tower from my father. This was always very “James Bond” like, because touching my brothers vinyls and touching the Hi-Fi tower from my father were two major offenses, which would turn out really ugly if one of them would have caught me.

Why did you choose this particular track, the b-side to „Symbiosis“, and not another classic of that era, or even a different track by T Power, like his much better known „Mutant Jazz“ for example?

For me this song stands out in many ways and I think even for T Power this song is outstanding and unique. You are rather out of your mind when you produce such a song, or you are in an extremely clear state of mind. It is a song which breaks so many rules but still manages to be simply breathtakingly beautiful. That is a goal that I admire very much in making art.

Is Marc Royal aka T Power a producer you rate particularly high in Drum & Bass history?

I must admit that I reduce T Power pretty much to that one song. I like his general sense for sound and chords but I am not really an expert on his complete musical back catalogue.

„Complexification“ is not necessarily a typical Drum & Bass track. It is much slower, and it is working with Jazz leanings in the synth and bass sounds, while the beats and groove are hinting more to the sound West London’s Broken Beat scene. But does „Complexification“ transcend musical folder categorization, or does it even have to belong to a certain context?

I chose this track because for me it is a good example for “beyond genre”. This song is perfect in every way. It is idiosyncratic and lives in its own cosmos. There are no genres in that cosmos. Sometimes that is the problem with genres. You get into a routine because there are rules, schemes, patterns and templates you work in. You get lazy in terms of decision making. This song is not lazy at all. Every note is in its exact right place but it feels like it really started out with a tabula rasa thinking – everything can happen.

Do you like both, Drum & Bass and Broken Beats, and do you treat them differently, or do they come from the same origin?

In terms of “Drum & Bass” I started with the “Jungle” phase, because as you might know I am a big sucker for the drums, especially if there are played by the devil himself. That is why I really was into that fast, wild, raw and breaky material. Actually when it was called “Drum & Bass”, that whole thing was nearly over for me. Because all the wildness basically turned into one sterile
drum-loop… with saxophone samples. There was a big shift from the rhythmic energy to a generally more chilled background music approach. So, I think they may come from the same origin – but I would treat them very differently.

There are other fine examples where Jazz elements were integrated to the sound palette of Drum & Bass. Are you interested in Jazz, and how it can be worked into other music?

When there was the trend to just sample something smooth and jazzy over a fast drum loop, that was not very interesting for me. Sampling some “blue notes” doesn’t make you a “jazz cat”. For me and most of the people Jazz is about expressing yourself through playing an instrument, and also pushing the boundaries of that instrument. So, you have to have a plan if you want to achieve that purely with software. Squarepusher’s “Hard Normal Daddy” is a good example from that time, how an electronic version of Jazz may work. He brought the real instrument into the software world in a very smart and respectful way. But in terms of Jazz is about pushing boundaries of an instrument, then one must say that in that days there were a lot of other electronic composers who would
deserve it much more to be called “Jazz Cats”. Read the rest of this entry »


A guide to underground remixes for overground artists

Posted: July 12th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: | 5 Comments »

As soon as the House sound left the local underground and went to the international charts, the Major record labels began scouting its most prominent artists for remix duties. The main motivation was to lend some credibility to mainstream and commercial club music, the same as it was in the Disco era that led up to House music’s pioneering days. A lot of the prolific remixers, particularly those already active throughout the early to mid 80s, could extend their career well into the following era. But there were a lot of additions too, DJs that began in the Disco era and did not give up on dance music when the classic Disco era ended at the end of the 70s, and of course new talent that just found their into the business by supplying the platters that mattered on the floor. And as it happened with Disco, House formed the basis for reworks of Pop originals that managed to surpass the original versions, either in truthful versions that just updated the beats and grooves, or more adventurous flipside dubs that stamped the self-confidence of the studio newcomers all over their source material. Here are some outstanding examples for the interaction of overground and underground.

Jimmy Somerville – Comment Te Dire Adieu (Kevin Saunderson Remix) (London, 1989)

Kevin Saunderson was hot property after the chart success of his project Inner City, but the A&R department at London probably did not enlist him to show off his underground signature of granite beats and excavating basslines, turning Somerville’s charming rendition of the Serge Gainsbourg classic into a Detroit Techno banger of the variety of Saunderson’s aliases such as E-Dancer and Reese. It’s a stunning soundclash of both original version and remix though, and both sides remain in character, and both benefit from each other. As it should be.

De La Soul – A Roller Skating Jam Named “Saturdays” (6:00 AM Mix) (Tommy Boy, 1991)

Not long after Frankie Knuckles and David Morales formed Def Productions they became to 90s New York House what Gamble & Huff were to 70s Philadelphia Soul, and turned in remixes in a sleepless studio schedule, week in week out. What distinguished them from most of their peers was that they managed to maintain a supreme quality standard while at it, for years. Here David Morales reworks De La Soul coming back from the Daisy Age with their feelgood hit for the weekend, offering three superior deep jams that are all equally brilliant. Buy double copies and just zip on by (spinnin’ and winnin’).

The Sugarcubes – Hit (Sweet’N Low Mix) (One Little Indian, 1991)

Björk the icon of clubland was not inaugurated with „Debut“, but with the remix compilation „It’s-It“ by her former band The Sugarcubes. The remixes compiled were a diverse set from which the Tony Humphries versions of „Hit“ and „Leash Called Love“ stood out (well wait, Tommy D’s remix of „Birthday“ is mighty fine as well). The record company even called them „those absurd large Tony Humphries mixes“, and deservedly so. While „Leash Called Love“ is pumping and rolling towards David Morales territory, a spectacular anthem in its own right, „Hit“ has the more typical sound associated with the New Jersey don, with all the unashamedly artificial string pads and tinny beats he so loved to use around that time, and everything about it is completely irresistible. „This wasn’t supposed to happen“, she sang. But it was.

Debbie Gibson – One Step Ahead (Masters At Work Mix) (Atlantic, 1991)

Debbie Gibson preceded the all-american stardom of Britney Spears by a decade, but when she surfaced in the late 80s the only thing that she could stick in my mind was the rather remarkable song title „Electric Youth“. I suspect Masters At Work felt similarly, as they kept literally no elements of the original song in what became one of their most beloved remixes (although there are admittedly quite a few other contenders in their vast discography). This is one for the true school Deep House fraternity, keeping you locked with a simple but unmatched hypnotic chord, while all the other sounds and rhythms come and go, creating a perfect trip that seems to last much longer than its 5 minutes plus.

David Bowie – Real Cool World (Cool Dub Overture) (Warner Bros., 1992)

Credible dance remixes for the original Star Man are surprisingly scarce, and this is arguably the finest. Def Mix’s Satoshi Tomiie at the controls, thankfully not repeating the cardinal error of most rock stars trying to connect with nightlife: mounting generic guitars on a limp dance groundwork. Instead he opts for a rather skippy groove, but his trademark keyboards are arranged immersed enough to keep up the tension for sublime 13 minutes. And don’t you dare touch that intro!

Jamie J. Morgan – Why (Extended Club Mix) (Tabu, 1992)

The contributions of the Buffalo collective to late 80s and early 90s club culture are not to be underestimated (associate Neneh Cherry did not reinvent herself with „Buffalo Stance“ for nothing). Photographer and director Morgan was another core member, and also had a few ventures into pop music. Eric Kupper, the studio wizard responsible for countless New York club classics, turns the original into a silky floating groove, with just about the right amount of floor pressure to not disturb the beauty and sentiment. As always when Eric Kupper works with this very mood, it is untouchable. And again, don’t you dare to touch that intro.

Pet Shop Boys – Can You Forgive Her? (MK Remix) (EMI USA, 1993)

There are many great remixes of Pet Shop Boys songs, but if there is one grudge to hold against them it is that it could have been so many more. Few successful remixers employed for pop artists had a contrasting signature sound such as Detroit’s MK, who turned source material into something completely his own with perplexing regularity. And as expected he turns the boisterous original into a mean and dark swinging groover. There are a lot of speculations on how Marc Kinchen chooses the lyrical content for his trademark vocal loops, but lesser minds would probably have gone for the „she made you some kind of laughing stock, because dance to Disco and you don’t like Rock“ bit. Instead he opted to accompany the breakdown with „Pain. She demands my pain. She demands meet your pain. She demands my bicycle“. This cannot be random, this is pure genius.

Daniela Mercury – O Canto Da Cidade (Murk Boys Miami Mix) (Sony Latin, 1993)

I do not know what led the A&R department at Sony to choose the Murk Boys to remix one of the most popular songs in the oeuvre of one of Brazil’s most popular female singers, maybe somebody thought at least it has something to do with Latin music?! However intended, it was a bold move. As per usual, Miami’s finest ignore whatever anthemic qualities they could have used with the original parts they were given (apart from a puzzling vocal loop worthy of MK), and strip everything down to their tried and tested booming grooves and monolithic basslines. Compare the original to this mix to get a glimpse of how radical and nonchalant you could treat your employers and get away with it. The intro? Do not dare to touch it!

Deee-Lite – Try Me On (Plaid Remix) (Elektra, 1996)

Deee-Lite assembled a diverse array of remixers for their compilation „Sampladelic Relics & Dancefloor Oddities“, but it was Plaid’s mix that seemed to kick them off their holographic hoopty just before they actually disbanded. This is not playfully psychedelic, it is REALLY tripping. Try to imagine the three of them throwing their wonderful stage moves to this eerie low riding sub bass adventure, it is just not happening. But times had changed, and times were not day-glo anymore. But Deee-Lite went out with as much style as they entered.

Mama Cass – Make Your Own Kind Of Music (Yum Club Mix) (MCA Soundtracks, 1997)

Hot on the heels of the soundtrack to „Beautiful Thing“, which consisted almost entirely of songs sung by The Mamas & Papas’ Mama Cass, came this 12“. Louie „Balo“ Guzman was more renowned for the harder variety of the New York House sound of the 90s, but then again a lot of his own productions and remixes already displayed the healthy amount of eccentricity required for the task of transforming a 60s Pop standard into a 90s club anthem. The way he molded the song into a working club track structure is beyond virtuoso, and the added instrumentation even adds to the song’s beauty. You may think this is really tacky (and flutey), but think again. If played at the perfect moment, this record can change lives. I have seen it happen.

Electronic Beats 06/16


Rewind: Trusme on “Forevernevermore”

Posted: July 4th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , | No Comments »

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In discussion with Trusme on “Forevernevermore” by Moodymann (2000).

I doubt that „Forevernevermore“ was your first encounter with Moodymann. Did you eagerly await his third album, and how did it grab you?

100% I didn’t know who Kenny was till I found a copy of “Forevernevermore” in my friend’s record bag. He had left his records at my house and I was doing the usual noseying though the records when I found this CD. I was completely into Slum Village, MadLib and Jaydee collecting the samples from Jazz to Disco. When I first played this CD, everything just became clear in my mind. This is the sound I was looking for, from Hip Hop, House, Jazz, Soul and Disco all rolled into one. I became obsessed, wanting to understand the production techniques and went on to discover the whole world of Detroit right after this. Three years on, Moodymann was playing my first LP launch in a pub on Oldham street, home to where I had been buying his records for the past few years. KDJ and Theo were just No.1 at that time in Manchester and I couldn’t help but be influenced by the whole sound.

It seems that Moodymann matured up to the release „Forevernevermore“ in terms of the album format. „Silent Introduction“ felt like an anthology of 12“ material, even though it worked as an album. But with „Mahogany Brown“ he already aimed at a listening experience more true to the format. Would you say he topped this with „Forevernevermore“?

Yes, for sure. The whole LP worked as a cohesive hour of music yet there was something at every turn that was unique and compelling to me as a listener. I related to this LP in more ways than one, due to it’s almost Hip Hop nature with intros and outros connecting the tracks and glueing the whole piece together. There are so many seminal tracks on the LP that are still played out in the clubs today, yet they are tracks that remain LP cuts and for home listening only. This ideology is what I have embraced in all four LPs that I have produced over the last 8-9 years, with something for the dancefloor, something for the car and wherever else that one listens to LPs these days.

You told me that you wanted to talk about the CD version of „Forevernevermore“, which has lots of interludes and skits, and hidden tracks. Do they form an alliance with the music that almost works like a radio play? What is the special appeal of it?

When I think of an LP, I think of A Tribe Called Quest, Marvin Gaye or The Verve even. All these LPs are constructed to be a continuous piece of music, in which the listener is taken on a journey from the beginning to the end. With the CD format, there is extra playtime in which intros and outros can give a context to the background and making of the LP.  On the “Forevernevermore” CD you are taken into the home of KDJ, as he sits playing with ideas on the piano with his child, to the studio discussions and even to listening to his local radio for inspiration. Hidden right at the end of the CD is a live recording of three hard-to-find cuts from the KDJ label, mixed together after 2 mins of silence. In many ways the CD provides the platform for further expression as an artist in the format of an LP.

I think the sound of „Forevernevermore“ was a step forward in terms of his distinctive sound. It was still dense and immersive, but also more refined. Do you think Moodymann’s sound evolved on „Forevernevermore“ in comparison to earlier works? And was it for the better?

This was for sure in an LP sense his best work. It is what most people say as their favourite work, when talking about Moodymann. He carved a sound out all for himself and also derived a unique long player format that until then was not seen in the dance scene. Most underground dance LPs were merely a collection of 12” tracks but this felt more like a well thought-out process, something like Daft Punk would execute. I believe Peacefrog Records also helped in this process and pushed KDJ, as they did all their artists to reach even further.  In many ways, earlier LPs were a collection of his previous works but “Forevernevermore” was an LP made from beginning to end with a single LP idea and it feels very much that way.

Tracks like the Disco led „Don’t You Want My Love“ display a confidence to transcend mere club credentials for traditional songwriting, a path he followed ever since. Is there a side to Moodymann the producer you prefer to others, or is it not necessary to differentiate his persona as an artist?

The marriage between your typical MPC studio production and live instrumentation was what set out Kenny on his own.  Working with local artists like the percussionist Andres, bass with Paul Randolph and keyboards by Amp Fiddler, on top of that raw production sound was just so unique. The juxtaposition of quantised groove and loose musicianship created a genre of its own and is still being replicated today. This LP was the beginning of that sound and Kenny is still using this formula very much in his productions today.

How do you rate the albums Moodymann released since „Forevernevermore“? Were they up to par with your expectations?

“Black Mahogani” is on par for me if not more refined than “Forevernevermore” but maybe it’s the rawness of the LP that better relates to me. With the following LPs I have enjoyed the productions but felt slightly less connection to the music I listen to and make today.  Not that it’s not great music, but I started to feel that the tracks in the EP releases didn’t have that Peacefrog touch of which I’m such an admirer. The LP process began to evolve towards the creation of a new sound where he begins to sing and perform more as an artist and less in the background as a producer. Read the rest of this entry »


Vocals Matter – A Guide to Garage House

Posted: May 31st, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , | No Comments »

The now defunct UK magazine The Face used to end each issue with a one-liner, but when I read the words “Vocals Matter” there sometime in the mid 90s, it deeply afflicted me. Was there really a need to point this out? In fact there was. A vocalist and a song were basic elements of House Music since its early days in the Mid 80s. Which was not really surprising, after all House was a direct continuation of what started in the mid 70s with Soul and then Disco, and instrumentals where the exception, and not the rule. Then Garage House already displayed its origins in its name, the combination of the music played in both New York’s Paradise Garage and Chicago’s Warehouse. But after its heyday in the first half of the 90s, Garage House’s popularity was gradually declining. The clubs got bigger, and the sounds followed suit. The songs, however, seemed to get weaker in the process, and eventually a good tune became the exception. It might be a bit simplistic to argue that it is much easier to produce a good track than a good song, but comparatively there are not many artists left even trying. I am publishing an ongoing chronological series of mixes consisting of personal Vocal House favourites from the past until the present, and I picked a few overlooked gems for this guide.

Dance Advisory Commission ‎– Free Your Mind (Yesterday’s Mix) (12th Avenue Records 1991)

The sole release on this imprint operated by Ben “Cozmo D” Cenac. Produced by David Anthony, who revived this track for a release on Emotive the following year. But the original record has the better versions. Eternal self-liberation on the floor imperatives, carried by a subtle Hip House aftermath breakbeat, which is just effortlessly swinging.

Swing Out Sister – Notgonnachange (Mix Of Drama) (Fontana 1992)

The Def Mix productions cannot be overestimated in Garage House history. 1992 was probably the year that saw more Vocal led House releases than any other year, as the Majors employed an increasing number of club DJs and producers to sprinkle some nocturnal stardust and dancefloor credentials on their chart bound artists. And so you have the most consistent remixer of the genre, Frankie Knuckles, turning UK Blue-Eyed Soulsters into a showstopping symphony of baroque proportions. His way of arranging pianos and strings into lush elegance is really distinct. It is also totally timeless.

Darryl D’Bonneau – Say You’re Gonna Stay (New Generation 1992)

The original masterpiece, hidden on a mini-compilation by a label supposedly affiliated with New Generation, the home of most of the weird and wonderful Larry P. Rauson productions. The track had a second life on Jellybean in 1995, albeit in way less intense versions. The interaction of main and background vocals here is pure perfection, the vocal performance is anyway. The song is an eight minute plea for forgiveness that is beyond par. I would not believe anybody telling me that she actually did not forgive him after hearing this.

K. London Posse Featuring Dawn Tallman ‎– Caught In Luv (Rhythm Mix Vocal) (K4B Records 1994)

From 1993 on Garage House was played to increasingly bigger crowds, and the sweet melodies of former years were now often replaced by a Gospel led urgency, and heavier sounds. Producers like Masters At Work, Mood II Swing or Louie “Balo” Guzman showed the way, and many producers followed. Including Kingsley O., who released a string of high quality records on his K4B label that paired Diva plus team delivery with considerably twisted dubs. Buying double copies to combine both to best effect became mandatory.

Loveland – Hope (Never Give Up) (Junior’s Factory Vocal) (Eastern Bloc Records 1994)

NYC’s Sound Factory was the temple of the new booming Garage House sound, and Junior Vasquez was its adamant high priest. His rules and requirements for his floor are exemplified by this remix, one of many he did in those years. On this occasion riding on the ever reliable Robin S template developed by Sweden’s Finest remix team Swemix/Stonebridge, but adding those tribal rhythms, those rave stabbing chords and particularly introducing that rollercoaster structure that was diminished to one or two drops in recent years. The vocals do not serve not much more purpose than barely holding it all together, but they are still needed.

Brothers’ Vibe Featuring Teddy McClennan – Can U Feel It (Vocal) (Jersey Underground 1996)

The Rodriguez brothers paying their dues to Larry Heard’s eternal classic of a very similar name. It may lack its puzzling blissful emotionality, but it manages to catch up as deep, dark and dubbed out companion and it kicks you mesmerizingly, with your eyes closed, into realms you were probably not yet ready to enter. And you do not even care if you ever get out again.

Urban Soul – What Do I Gotta Do (Eric Kupper Club Mix) (King Street Sounds 1997)

Roland Clark was an early voice of the New Jersey sound back to the very early 90s, his shattered falsetto perfectly accompanied by the dramatic melancholia of his productions. Eric Kupper, man of many a thousand beautiful moments in House Music history, expectedly manages to add further bittersweet intensity to the equation, and a direct route to wailing with the best of them. If you think that House most songs are superficial and one-dimensional, you might just listen to the wrong ones.

The Klub Family – When I Fall In Love (Main Vocal Mix) (Funky People 1998)

There cannot be enough praise for the contributions of Blaze to the canon of songs in House music. Few were as committed to the tradition of Soul within the genre, and few could update said tradition with a sound so distinctively their own. Thus they were an exception when House came into being and they remained an exception for the years to come. Sometime inbetween, they helped to pave the way to the more spiritual and conscious sound celebrated at NYC clubs such as The Shelter and Body & Soul, and then they ruled it. Never ever write them off.

Loftis #V Featuring Lafe ‎– Dreamin’ (Joe Smooth Vocal Mix) (Loft Records 2002)

After a productive but rather short period on DJ International in the early 90s, Craig S. Loftis reappeared with this stunning record (the Blaze inspired “You Are All I Need” from one year later is also well worth tracking down). At that time Joe Smooth had vanished from my radar as well, but even if they had only done this one tune, I would be forever grateful. The way this track maintains a floating excellence over such a monolithic funked up groove is just incredible. And then comes the dub version, and you better watch out.

Big Moses ‎– Deep Inside (Vocal) (Big Moe Records 2004)

Moise Laporte is best known for his sublime “Brighter Days” from 1996, but I cannot recommend this record enough either. I really despise a lot of “Soulful Garage” for its bland Pseudo-Jazz drenched noodlings but here all wrong musicianship temptations are kept in check for a well-balanced sophisticated groover straight for the Modern Soul floor. May the girls and boys keep on swinging, and may the faith be kept.

Electronic Beats 5/16


Rewind: Tyler Pope on “Batucada”

Posted: May 30th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , | No Comments »

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Photo by Annette Kelm.

In discussion with Tyler Pope on “Batucada Capoeira” (1998).

So how did you come across „Batucada Capoeira“? What triggered your curiosity?

A friend and band mate of mine! I had bought this compilation when it came out in the late 90’s and I was introduced to it that way. At that stage we were always looking for stuff that was rhythmic, and raw, and had energy. Stuff that wasn’t punk rock that had the same energy and essence of punk, and I think that is in Batucada. There were a some other great reggae and latin compilations on Soul Jazz we liked, and so I’m pretty sure thats why he bought this one. We dubbed the vinyl onto cassette and listened to it a lot on our first tour of the states in ’98. It grew on me the more we listened to it on the long van rides during that tour, and I was eventually totally hooked.

What attracted you to a sound that is so predominantly rhythmic?

I’ve always been drawn to rhythmic music, my dad was a drummer and there was always a drum set up in the house so it started with that. As a youngster I was into Primus, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and that whole funk rock thing. That music primed me for getting into soul and funk music and all other kinds of tribal rhythmic music. This Batucada compilation was probably the first stuff I really enjoyed that was only drums and thats why it’s special to me and why I chose it for this article.

The sound of a Bateria can be quite a complex wall of sound. What is the difference between that and percissive music from other countries, like Mbalax for example, or other African styles? Or are they even not that different?

There are different drums, instruments and rhythms in Bateria then in Mbalax and other African percussion music, and I guess that is to do with the European influence in Brazil. There are no snare drums in African drum music like Sabar or Mbalax, and the snare drum comes from Europe. Also I’ve never heard such a large group of drummers playing in such an organized way in African drumming. But the frantic energy of the drum music of both countries is certainly similar.

Not every track featured here is as frantic as the drum workouts usually associated with it. What do you prefer?

I like this compilation because it has some of more frantic workouts and mixes them up with the more minimal tracks. It makes for a more enjoyable listen from beginning to end in my opinion. Some of the other Batucada records that I have, that are just the big frantic drum workouts are fun to listen to for a track or so, but maybe not as a whole record

Was the compilation a first glimpse, and you investigated further from there? The tradition of Batucada and Capoeira in Brazil is rich and sure offers a lot to listen to.

I checked it out because it was on Soul Jazz, and at the time it came out other Tropicalia records were being reissued like Tom Ze, and Os Mutantes other real arty weird quality music, so I was wanting to hear more stuff from Brazil. I haven’t really gone too deep, or at least deep by my standards with Batucada actually, this comp never really gets old either so if I want to hear something like this I just listen to this record.

Capoeira is a form of martial arts developed by slaves. I always found music interesting that transfers otherwise potentially critical encounters between rival groups of people into a battle of dance moves, be it breaking, vogueing, or Brazil’s current Funk Balls. Yet the music of „Batucada Capoeira“ is comparably more dynamic than its counterparts. Are such aspects important for percussive music?

Yeah, I hadn’t thought about that but I also like music made for these types of encounters, or battles. I love a lot of the new Vogue/ballroom club music, and recently have been really digging some of the Jersey Club battle tracks. The records for dance battles are more beat driven, there is more focus on the rhythms, and of course they have to be super funky since they have to inspire the dancers. The tracks for battles also cut away at anything that wouldn’t be just for the purpose of the dancing. That focused rhythm track energy I really like. As far as the dynamic nature of this music it is because it’s actually people there playing the drums while the battles are happening, so the drummers are feeding of the energy of the battles and vice versa. Read the rest of this entry »


A chat with…Finn Johannsen

Posted: May 16th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Features, Gigs | Tags: , , | No Comments »

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The next instalment of Acetate will once again exhibit selectors of world class calibre. David Kennedy aka Pearson Sound, who organises the night, errs towards the DJs who dedicate their time to collecting music, infrequently booking those who attempt to spin plates and produce music at the same time. The DJs’ heightened awareness of the vinyl record landscape seems to breed a uniquely rich atmosphere during the club night.

Alongside long time dubstep colleague, and one of the world’s most sought after selectors, Ben UFO, Kennedy has invited a bona fide head out to play in the Wire basement: music critic and Hard Wax staff member, Finn Johannsen. The German also runs Macro Recordings, Stefan Goldmann’s primary production outlet.

Finn is rarely seen by Brits out of his natural habitat of the Berlin record shop, and is normally only spotted in the by-line of an online electronic music article. So we thought we’d do a bit of investigative work and reverse roles. Here’s our interview with him:

What is the application like for a job at Hard Wax? How did you come to work there?

We get a lot of mails every week by people looking for a job at the store, but all current staff members were already regular customers or otherwise affiliated with Hard Wax before they started working there. Same with me. Six years ago I became father of a wonderful girl, and I realized that all the deadlines involved with freelance work did not work well with that. So I was thinking about adding some steadier work to my weekly schedule, and my wife suggested Hard Wax as an option. I tested ground and what I did not know at the time was that Prosumer was quitting the job, and they were looking for a replacement anyway. So I had a meeting with Michael Hain, the store manager, and Mark Ernestus, the owner, and started working there, all within a very short time.

It’s every young DJs dream to work in a record shop. Did you always know you’d work in one? What would you be doing if you weren’t there?

I worked in a second hand vinyl store when I was studying in the early 90s, but that was more to fund my own vinyl purchases. When I started DJing in the 80s I was not trying to get a job in a record shop, I only liked visiting them and it was that way for years. My focus at university was actually on film history, not music. But apart from a brief stint reviewing movies for De:bug magazine I never really did anything with that, nor did I really intend to. I also worked as an editor for art books a few years ago. But at some point I realized that it always fell back to activities connected to music, because it probably is what I know and do best. So I stuck with it. If I would not be there I would be doing something else, but it probably would have something to do with music as well.

What do you look for in a record when buying for Hard Wax?

Something new, or at least different. A personal signature. Ideas. Integrity. Attitude. When the record is referential I check if the references are used in a smart way, and if aspects are added that were not there before. I also take a good look at the proportion of value and money. I adjust my level of support for a release according to the level of how these criteria are met.

What led you to buy your first vinyl record? And what was it? 

I started taping radio shows in the mid 70s, but I did not have enough pocket money to afford buying records then. But I already had a record player and I used to play records from my parents’ collection. When I was 9 years old, in 1978, I recorded Blondie’s Heart Of Glass and decided to buy it on 7“. When I entered the record store I just knew that I loved the song and her voice in particular, but I did not even know what she looked like. I was probably assuming that she had blonde hair, but not really that she looked that fabulous on the cover, and what she really was about. I probably learnt quite a few lessons about pop culture at once with that purchase, and soon I started spending nearly all the money I had on records.

We’ve just had record store day in the UK. Do you have any comment on it? Do you see it as a celebration or capitalisation of record buying culture? 

It is the same in Germany, and I think it is the same all over the world. Which is why the recent negative implications of the event weigh in so heavily. Hard Wax decidedly never took part. We stated from early on that for us every day is a record store day, and that is basically it. But we feel the fallout from RSD as anybody else in the business nonetheless, especially the delays with the pressing plants, which affect our distribution as well, for example, and the releases we buy from other distributors. That has improved a bit lately, but it is still a tremendously hypocritical event, and that does not seem to improve. Nearly everybody’s trying to cash in now on a format that was willfully pronounced dead before, and nearly everything is blocked by back catalogue you can find around every corner, just in different layouts and for a much lesser price. Old wine in new skins. And the new grapes cannot be harvested because of it. It is totally absurd. There may have been some respectable thought implied with it once, but as soon as the major labels entered it predictably withered away into nothing. They want to gentrify vinyl into pricier artifacts instead, for customers that care more about the item itself than the music it contains. Read the rest of this entry »