> Strafe – Set It Off
Ok, let’s start it off with “Set It Off”.
Right, we’re going to set it off with “Set It Off”. Basically with “Set It Off”, growing up in New York in the 70’s and 80’s, I grew up with my parents and my brother – my brother being a DJ since 1980, and there were a lot of musical roots in my household. I was always around music. Mostly disco and electro, stuff like that. Growing up with my parents in the 70’s, they were really big on disco and I was hearing everything from “Ten Percent” by Double Exposure to so many underground disco records, like from 76, Jimmy and the Vagabonds, or Crown Heights Affair. Old school disco. I always had roots in the family. My father also had a pretty big rock collection from the late 60’s – Sabbath, Zeppelin, psychedelic rock. That was played probably when I was really younger, but 74/75 my parents were already getting into disco at that time. The roots of the music were always there with me and I would buy records on the occasion. I remember buying Fatback Band’s “King Tim III” which was pretty much the first rap record, Michael Jackson – “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”, “Let’s All Chant”, stuff like that. I was like 7 or 8 years old buying this stuff but I was never really into DJing at this time. My brother was the DJ. He was the one buying the records and DJing. He knew what was going on musically. I would say when I really first started to pay attention to music a lot, but I still was not a DJing, was around 83/84, and I was around 12 years old at the time and I was getting into graffiti which I was actually documenting on subway trains by photographs. I was travelling from Brooklyn to the Bronx. I was going everywhere with a camera – all four boroughs that had a subway system. The records at that time were a lot of electro stuff that was being played. A lot of freestyle like C-Bank’s “One More Shot” or “Al-Naafiysh” by Hashim. I still didn’t really know who the artists were and stuff like that, but I knew the records and heard them all the time on the radio. Around 84 I went to a break dancing club at a roller skating rink to watch a bunch of people battling, and I heard “Set It Off” for the first time. I don’t know what it was with that record but it fit all the movies I liked at that time: New York movies like The Warriors, Death Wish. It was just this dark record that was kind of like the soundtrack of New York City at the time, when New York City was just like in urban decay. On my way somewhere with my parents you would see all these abandoned building like in Berlin in 1945 in certain areas. Then taking the train to the South Bronx and seeing that…I have such a vivid memory of being on the Pelham subway line going to see one of the most famous Graffiti writers in New York called Seen, who was in the documentary Style Wars, and I befriended him when I was probably like 13. He used to airbrush t-shirts in a flea market. I don’t know why music always has a place in a moment that you can remember a certain situation. I can remember being in that flea market and then playing that track. It was just like the track of tracks. It was the soundtrack of graffiti, of New York, the rawness. When I got into techno in about 1990 and I went to trace back all the records that I’d been collecting and I would go back and listen to that record it just sounded so current. Not current to what techno was, but on the production level. When you listen to other electro records or freestyle records from that time, nothing has that 808 feel like “Set It Off” does. That production is just sick. The bassline. There’s really no other record from that time period, apart from maybe “Hip Hop Be Bop” or “Boogie Down Bronx”, that should have been the soundtrack to The Warriors. It’s just an amazing track. The irony of whole record being my favourite record is that it was produced on a label located in Ocean Avenue in Brooklyn, so that record was made probably two miles from where I lived. I guess Walter Gibbons produced Strafe, but it was made in Brooklyn. It’s a 100% Brooklyn. That record… the build up, the vocals, just everything about it…I could listen to it over and over again on repeat mode.
Would you say they produced a prototype with this? It’s a lot darker than most of the electro productions around that time.
I think it’s definitely the prototype for a lot of the future electro stuff that was coming out through the techno scene in the 90’s. Anybody making electro music at that time had to know that record. You have “Planet Rock” and you have “Clear” by Cybotron but that record just stands out for me. It’s such a better record. I love the other records but when I hear “Set It Off” the goose bumps come up. It sounds like something from a John Carpenter movie. It could be from “Assault On Precinct 13”, even if you can’t mess with that soundtrack. It is in the same mode as that. It gives the same feeling, and the same vibe and mood. Those eerie chord strings in the back and the bassline. You can’t mess with it.
> Ryuichi Sakamoto – Riot In Lagos
The next one is “Riot in Lagos” by Ryuichi Sakamoto.
This is an interesting track that Bones had turned me onto in probably sometime in the early to mid 90’s. He was refreshing my memory on records that were on when we used to go to roller skating rinks, and one of the other records was Kasso’s “Key West”. I remember he was playing all these records and I was like flabbergasted by the sounds and the music and how futuristic it was for 80’/81′. The thing was when I got into techno and I realised what electronic music was, and I’m hearing Bones and Lenny Dee – this is the 808, this is the 909 – trying to get my head around all these machines, and Bones was playing me records later on saying “these are the first 808 records, or 909 drum rhythm records”, and I never looked at the music I was listening to in the early 80’s, like Kraftwerk, as electronic music or acoustic music – I never made that difference in my head. I never sat there and thought “Oh, I like music with synthesisers”. When I heard this Sakamoto record, I kind of recalled hearing it but it didn’t really ring a bell in a big way for me. But it did ring my bell. [laughs] I was like “Whoa! What the fuck is this?” because I guess it’s got that Eastern, Asian kind of melody sound to it. That is a one of a kind record. There is nothing that sounds like that. I have never, ever heard another record ever sound like that. It cannot be copied.
It even sounded different to the sound Sakamoto was doing with Yellow Magic Orchestra.
Yeah. There is another Sakamoto record that I got a little later on, once I realised who he was, that is quite rare. Not many people know it, it’s called “Lexington Queen”. It’s amazing. It was released as a 12” and also a 45 as well. I probably should have been digging a little deeper on Sakamoto stuff, when I was doing my East kind of record shopping ten years ago, when I was looking for all this 80’s stuff. But I heard a few things by him that didn’t hit me the way those two records hit me. But “Riot In Lagos” is just a special record, what a special piece of electronic music. It’s up there with Kraftwerk.
It is pioneering electronic music, but from a very different angle.
Again, it’s got that Japanese sound to it. Whatever Japanese electronic music was in the 80’s, I don’t really know much about it, but this is a brilliant track. Read the rest of this entry »