Playing Favourites: Silent Servant

Posted: November 9th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Doctor Mix And The Remix – Out of the Question (1979)

A lot of the music we’ve picked out to discuss comes from a similar background in terms of time period, style and sound, but I think this one is pretty obscure. How did you find it?

Through a friend of mine. There’s a label in New York called Acute Records maybe eight years ago or so. A few of my friends in California are really obsessed with The Jesus and Mary Chain, and one of the members of the band mentioned once that this was one of their favourite records of all time. The thing I like about it is the extremity of the music. It’s super high-pitched, with distortion and tinny drum machines but then it’s covers of, like, Stooges songs.

This track in particular has this really insane, rhythmic track that’s super metronomic but super heavy at the same time. It’s very aggressive, but not because of the levels of distortion. The first time I heard it I thought I was listening to [The Jesus and Mary Chain’s] Psycho Candy. The more I looked into it, the more I realized how much of an influence it had on them.

It’s funny. The Jesus and Mary Chain were always compared to The Velvet Underground, but apparently there’s much more to it than that.

Sure. There’s not a lot of stuff like this. The guy was in one of the first French punk bands. And, with this, they kind of combined the attitude of the Velvets with these misinterpretations from a different country. I love that because, for me, techno in California was always a misinterpretation of what was happening in Berlin and Detroit and Chicago just because we didn’t really have a big scene. We had a club scene, but not a techno scene. I just really love the weird interpretations of The Stooges and stuff like that.

Are you interested in bands that deconstruct rock tradition in some way?

At the end of the day it’s all about attitude. Willing to push things a lot and not really care. It was the same when I first heard Cabaret Voltaire’s “Messages Received.” I just didn’t know what to say, I was blown away. I thought, “It doesn’t get any more honest than that.” I think that’s the whole thing. There’s an honesty in the music that you can’t remove. There’s a visceral element to it. That’s how myself, Karl [O’Connor], Dave [Sumner] and even Pete [Sutton] interpret music in some way I think.

Cabaret Voltaire – Messages Received (1980)

There was a very heavy art slant on what Cabaret Voltaire did. I think it’s very, very art driven. They’d also have the influence of The Velvet Underground and all that ’60s psych rock, but they’d do all these awesome records and what came through the most was the attitude. “This is what I wanna do, this is how I’m gonna do it.” And they just went for it.

Is that a quality you try to pursue? Not thinking about what you can or can’t do?

Yeah, I talk to Karl every other day on the telephone, we’re in very heavy contact on a weekly basis, same thing with Dave. But it’s funny because when I make music it’s purely to see what he thinks, just for us to discuss… “Oh, I really like this. What do you think?” It’s more a conversation from an art base. I try to work in a very automatic response way. I work in art direction, so I work quite a bit on TV commercials and magazines and stuff like that. So when I work on music it’s usually very late at night and I have to work in headphones, so it’s usually like a weird mantra type state, kinda conscious and unconscious, while I’m working.

It’s nice because there’s a sense that I’m not really thinking about anything particularly. I’m able to work on music in that mindframe where I’m doing it purely just because I want to see what I can come up with. In a more artistic sense, sometimes I will make a visual and we will work to the visual. Like with the artwork for the album. That was made first. Then we made a record that matched that.

For labels like Factory, design labels were incredibly important. They were, in many cases, as important as the music.

When you get that double impact of visual and audio, you’re like, “Wow, this is really intense.” Cabaret Voltaire for me has always done that. All the artwork on their covers. The early ones especially had that handmade element, which I’m sure was some of the guys in the band literally cutting things out by hand and assembling collages. Read the rest of this entry »

Playing Favourites: Alan Oldham

Posted: July 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Weather Report – River People ( CBS, 1978)

You once told me that you were raised on jazz fusion.

I was. That was the kind of music of my early and mid-teenage years. In those days that was grown people’s music, it was very sophisticated. If you wanted to feel cool and grown up and everything, you were into Weather Report and Chick Corea. Lenny White, who drummed for Chick Corea’s band Return to Forever, was one of my all-time favorites. This song, “River People,” was from Mr. Gone and Mojo used to play it every night. He really made a hit out of a track.

Would you say that Mojo kind of planted a seed in some techno heads with this music?

I would say so. Mojo, for the black community, was it. And this was in the pre hip-hop days where black people listened to everything in Detroit when I was growing up. It was that open atmosphere that allowed Detroit techno to form I think. And Mojo was definitely ground zero for the black community. I mean this guy would play The Isley Brothers, Prince, Alice Cooper, Weather Report. He was the first DJ to play B-52s in Detroit. He broke a lot of music to the black community that we would have never heard.

What was the main inspiration of the things that Mojo played for the first wave of techno producers in Detroit?

I would say the real ground zero for this music was Kraftwerk. Which Mojo also used to play. I was in high school—I’m really dating myself [laughs]—and they released “Man Machine” and “Numbers” back-to-back in America. In Europe, there was a gap, but in America they released those two records almost at the same time. That made a really big impact.

I played this because I wondered if there is some kind of connection between a lot of Detroit techno records and jazz. Juan, of course, said “Jazz is the teacher” at one point, and there are a lot of harmonies in Detroit techno that are pretty jazzy, really complex. I was wondering if Weather Report was the source for this connection.

I think it’s a source, but not the source. I think that Detroit techno came from a lot of different influences. You have to remember that, at the same time, Parliament/Funkadelic were big. So you had a lot of futuristic connections with those guys; Mothership Connection was a big thing. Detroit was a huge melting pot. If you look back, it’s pretty incredible. Everything now is just so market-tested.

Nitzer Ebb – Join In The Chant (Mute, 1987)

That was a classic. There used to be a club named Todd’s in Detroit. It was the big new wave punk rock bar in the ’80s. The main DJ was Charles English, and he had the new stuff all the time. When I was in college we used to go every Thursday. He broke that out, and that was it. I was like, “Wow, who are these cats?”

Later, I was hanging out with Derrick May over at his place. Derrick had just gotten back from London, and he was a pop star. I was doing a radio show at the time and he gave me the double pack, saying “Hey man, take this and play it tonight.” He was in with Mute, and they were giving him everything. I still play it out today, the original version.

I don’t know how much influence it had on Detroit techno, but back in those days we were listening to everything. So when Nitzer Ebb came down the pike, it was like, “Oh, that’s really good.” There was a radio show called Brave New Waves out of Canada on the CBC and we used to hear them play Nitzer Ebb.

This track is from 1987, when you began your own radio show, Fast Forward on WDET. That was a really important year for you.

Yes. I had done the artwork for Derrick [May]’s “Nude Photo,” got my radio show. The night of my first broadcast, I went over to Derrick’s place, and he gave me all these records. He said, “Play these.” All of these records are what turned out to be the first techno records, a bunch of white labels. I was playing Detroit techno, what was then industrial and EBM, jazz fusion, a little hip-hop. WBLS, Brave New Waves, Mojo; those guys were my influences. I would go to see Charles play on a Thursday night at Todd’s and buy those records and play them on Friday night on my show.

How did you get the show?

Well, I was an intern at the station the summer before. I was putting the records in order. I started talking to the program director, and told her how much I was into Lenny White. She was like, “You know who Lenny White is?” I was super young compared to her at the time. So I said, “Yeah, one of the greatest fusion drummers to walk the Earth. Lenny White, Tony Williams.” She was impressed, and she asked if I had a demo tape. Fusion jazz got me the job, so that’s why I kept playing it. It was a whole mish-mash of genres, though.

Were the listeners appreciating that, or did you get criticism for being so eclectic?

I was on super late. It was from 3 AM to 6 AM. The graveyard shift. People dug it, they dug it right away. I’ll never forget playing “Acid Tracks” from Phuture, and some guy called me on the phone and was going insane. “What is this called? What kind of music is this?” It was the early days of electronic music, so nobody knew anything.

In those pre-internet days, doing research wasn’t easy.

Luckily, I worked at radio stations. So they had all of these libraries where you could go in and listen to whatever you wanted. Read the rest of this entry »

Playing Favourites: Joey Negro

Posted: May 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , , | No Comments »


Rinder & Lewis – Lust (Pye Records, 1977)

The first one is by Rinder and Lewis – “Lust”, which is kind of a space disco prototype so to say. For 1977 it was kind of a landmark record I guess.

For 1977, yes. I suppose Rinder and Lewis were a very prolific production team in the 70s and 80s. They made an awful lot of records, a lot of albums. That’s probably one of their most moody tracks. A lot of their stuff has got a 1920s, big band, Charleston influence to it. But I like a lot of their stuff. But some of it is unusual in its arrangement. That one’s got a slightly more mystical vibe to it.

Would you say they tried to explore their field a bit further with this record? You mentioned that a few of the other productions had certain influences, like the latin stuff for example. But this one is really something different, almost science fiction.

Yes, but that’s quite different from the rest of the “Seven Deadly Sins” album. I reckon it wasn’t a track that was made to be a hit. It was probably considered an album track. But with that weird bit in the middle with the glockenspiel, it goes into a sort of devil bit about two thirds of the way through. Which is very out of character with the rest of the record. But what I think is interesting about that is that you don’t get those sort of unexpected bits in records now. I guess when musicians are making records, it’s very different to when DJs are making records. Now, when DJs make records they just tend to have the same stuff going throughout the track, it just loops round and round. Maybe there might be some changes, but there’s nothing drastic coming in really loud. A bad DJ produced record might just be a bit boring, whereas a bad record from the 70s might have a great verse and a really terrible chorus. Or you might have something really cheesy. A lot of records now are just rhythm tracks made by DJs for mixing and whatever, whereas then you might have records that have got loads in them, maybe too much. But the reason that they’re not great is maybe because they’ve got too much in them. They might have some great musical parts, but the vocals are crap. I think I’m digressing a little bit. A lot of Rinder and Lewis stuff – have you got that album “Discognosis”?

No, I know the THP Orchestra stuff which I found really good.

Yeah, and there’s El Coco and Le Pamplemousse. I like that track. It’s always very well orchestrated, they always had a bit of money to make the records. It wasn’t done on a shoestring budget, they must have sold pretty well. I think El Coco’s “Cocomotion” is one of my favourites by them as well. Obviously a lot of the stuff on AVI was produced by them, they were putting out a lot of music. They must have lived in the studio in 76, 77, 78, 79.

This is also a really good example for what you can do if you’re a good arranger – the arrangements they did are really complex and beautiful. Is that something you miss? You talked of modern rhythm tracks and functionality – I think it’s hard to pull off these days because you don’t have budgets for studio work…

Yeah of course. I suppose you have to think, this is now and that was then. Record sales were much higher, I suppose disco was like r’n’b was 5 years ago in terms of its worldwide popularity. So there was a lot more money, obviously there weren’t downloads or people copying CDs. I don’t know what the sales figures were like of something like Rinder and Lewis, but it probably sold half a million or something like that. It’s a completely different time, in terms of being able to get a string section in for your record. I’ve paid for string sections before, but to be honest with you what I’ve found is a string section with 30-40 people is so different to a string section with 7 or 8 people. I’ve only been able to afford 6 or 7 people. It isn’t really a string section! Nowadays, with CD-ROMs and whatever you can make something that sounds pretty good – not the same – but pretty good with just samples. To really make it sound a lot better, you need a 30-40 piece, big room orchestra. People at Salsoul and a lot of them classic disco records had that big proper string arrangement. Also, paying someone to do the arrangement isn’t cheap if you get someone good. Very difficult to do that now. So yeah, I do miss it. But there’s no point missing something, it’s like saying “Oh, I wish they were still making Starsky and Hutch”.

As long as a glimpse of an orchestra won’t do, it doesn’t make sense?

I think the only it could make sense is if George Michael decides to make a disco album, or someone like that. He could afford it. Or Beyonce. Some big star. But your average dance record – I suppose Jamiroquai had some live strings on some of his stuff. But then again, he was selling a lot of records.

Doobie Brothers – What A Fool Believes (Warner Bros. Inc., 1979)

“What a Fool Believes” by the Doobie Brothers, which is a merger of rock and disco.

There’s other tracks, like the Alessi Brothers “Ghostdancer”… I suppose that just shows how popular disco music must have been at the time when people like The Doobie Brothers and Carly Simon were actually making disco records. I suppose it’s the same as nowadays people making a record with a more r’n’b type beat. Or at the beginning of house music, there were lots of pop acts making house records. I was listening to a best of ABBA a few years ago. It started off sort of glam-rock, sort of sweet, like Gary Glitter, that sort of production. And by the late seventies their stuff had got pretty disco-ey. And by 82 it was folky. So I think the disco beat was just featuring on a lot of productions by acts who just wanted to make a contemporary sounding record. That’s probably why a lot of the American rock establishment hated disco so much. It wasn’t just that it was there: their favourite acts were making disco records! They hated the fact the Rolling Stones made disco records, it just wasn’t allowed.

But the thing is, that when the disco boom ended, a lot of the rock acts who made disco records acted like they never did! They deserted it pretty quickly.

Yeah, once it became uncool they pretended they never liked it, it wasn’t their idea and all that. I tried to once do a compilation album of that sort of stuff. But it’s too difficult to license it all. They’re all on major labels, they’re all big acts, and it’s very hard to license that stuff. In fact I’d go as far as to say it’s impossible: just too difficult and expensive.

Was it just because of budget reasons, or because the acts didn’t want to be reminded of what they did in that area?

I think often those big acts have to approve every compilation album license. A lot of the time, for the people who work in the compilation album license department, it’s easier for them to say no than to write to the management of Supertramp or Queen. And often, if they do see a title that has disco in it, they will say no. And a lot of them won’t license the Rolling Stones to a comp that’s got a projected sales figure of less than half a million. There’s so many reasons why it’s problematic. You could do it, but you’d have to leave off so many tracks, there would hardly be any point doing it. I did have a chat with a major label about doing it and that was one that owned quite a lot of them. But it’s just so difficult. They want to see a big marketing budget, they want to see you spend a hundred grand on television adverts. Otherwise they just go, why are we on this compilation album?

I think it’s a shame really, there were so many good disco records done by major artists…

Yeah. I like a lot of those things. I’m doing this compilation for BBE which is maybe a similar thing, just it’s not all well known acts. People like Fleetwood Mac, they did that track “Keep On Going”, those sort of things. I guess it’s blue-eyed rocky soul. Quite danceable… it’s not all disco, but it’s not really rock either. More black music based. I always think, if you look at the back of a rock album and it’s got someone playing bongos on it, it’s worth checking out. Read the rest of this entry »

Playing Favourites: DJ Sprinkles

Posted: February 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Nina Simone – See-Line Woman (Philips) 1965

I picked this because of the extraordinary lyrics, which reappeared eventually in the house scene. Kerri Chandler did a version of it. And there are some rhythm patterns that you use as well. It was also a hit in the gay house scene. There are many house tracks based on this tune.

Personally, I really like Nina Simone a lot. I think there have been a lot of really bad remixes done of this track. For example, the Masters of Work remake added a really cheesy synth pad over her, so it’s really been bastardized a lot. But I think that’s part of the whole schmaltz of the gay house scene as well. That it has this way of reducing things to a cheap standard.

I think there’s a way in which it’s complicated to play music that verges more on gospel than soul in the club environment. And I think that’s something that Nina herself would like in a weird way. She identified herself less as a jazz musician, and more as a folk musician. And felt that she was channeled in the jazz corner by the industry. In her biography, she talks about being—if anything—a folk musician. That kind of cross-categorization is really interesting to me. And there’s also this idea of “How could her music get worked into a DJ set?”

Especially with this contrast between the euphoria of her live performances that is associated with her work, and her audience’s reactions to her work. She’ll play something like “Mississippi Goddamn,” this sad, tragic song. And the audience is like, “I love this song!” They’re cheering like idiots.

I think the same goes for this song. The way that she sings this song is not cheerful at all. That contrast struck me in that gay house context as well. It’s not the same sort of material that you ordinarily associate with it.

For sure, that’s something that I identify with in my own music. I often produce it from a perspective that people don’t sympathize with particularly. Or they approach it from an angle that is different from where I produce it from. They want to turn it into something, despite the complaints, that is energizing for a party. For me, I’m totally not concerned with this type of energy.

I really have a respect for her. I can empathize with this idea of immigration, of leaving the United States. It was under different circumstances, of course, but as an American who emigrated to Japan I feel a kind of simpatico with her.

Would you basically say that this streak in your work, where you reference things like this, is that you try to remain faithful to the original vibe of the material?

No. I don’t believe there is an original, or that there is something to be faithful to. I don’t believe in faith at all, in any form. I think this is important to clarify. That doesn’t mean just being kind of aloof or naïve about the connotations either. It’s about thinking about them in a way that allows for complications or recontextualizations as opposed to simply doing an homage or a tribute. Nina Simone has had enough tributes, you know? It’s OK if we don’t tribute always.

Gary Numan – Cry, The Clock Said (Beggars Banquet) 1981

Your Rubato series where you do piano renditions of Kraftwerk, Devo and Gary Numan. It struck me that all three of these acts have this weird relationship between technology and humanity. Was that your purpose with it?

Yes, of course. The purpose of the series was to investigate the techno pop icons that were the seminal acts of my childhood. And to think about how it polluted or influenced or channeled my own productions, as well as my own politics. And, of course, techno pop is very phallo-centric, Mensch Machine, so I wanted to also complicate the homo eroticism of this musical world that almost exclusively prevents the entry of women. Which makes it either a misogynistic or gay space. Or both. Or neither.

So all of the piano was composed on the computer, which I felt kept the technological association with these original artists and what I feel their vision was for using technology, but also to have the result be this neo-romantic piano solo that wasn’t a Muzak version, but going towards an avant-garde piano that—unless you were a big fan—you might not be able to pick out the melodies.

Sexuality this genre seems really warped in a way. As you said, like with Kraftwerk. The only time that they explicitly dealt with sexuality was on Electric Café on “Sex Object,” which is a really weird track.

Yeah. They had it in Computer World , they also had “Computer Love,” though. But it’s always about either the machine or the woman is the object. Always objectified. “Sex Object” has a very weird elementary school approach to gender.

Everybody likes to think of Kraftwerk as being very much in control of their image, but if you look at their catalogue, it’s a total mess. You have this Krautrock stuff. The Ralf und Florian album, that was cut from the catalogue for a long time because it didn’t fit in. They are much more eclectic than they want people to think.

I think their concept is also much more open than many people think. They left some leeway.

I think a lot of it is due to the record company. I’m coming at Kraftwerk as an American, and which records were distributed to us there may have been different than what was sold in Europe. So things like the first ones with the pylons were never seen until I was in New York. And they were, like, a million dollars. It was Autobahn , Trans Europe Express , Radioactivity , Computer World , Mensch Machine and that was it. If you could track down the Tour de France EP, it was a miracle.

How would you place Gary Numan in this? He also played with these ideas, but it always had a bit of a tragic note to it.

I think that the Dance album… Remember when you interviewed me about the Dazzle Ships album, and I talked about it being a kind of crisis moment when an artist is trying to figure out their own artistic direction, and they’re faced with the pressures of the major labels that they’re signed in and locked into. Dance was right around the same time, and I think it was Gary Numan’s crisis with the industry. When you look at it in relation to the kind of progress of the sound of his work—and at that time he did have a very linear channeling of what he was doing—this was the album that was the peak of this weird electronic Latin percussion thing. He had people from Japan working with him. His next album, Bezerker, was this more industrial thing. It was samplers and all this sort of stuff. For me, though, Dance was the height of this certain kind of sound that he had control over, but also dealing at the same time with pressure from the label.

Image-wise, what he did up to Dance certainly served him better than what he did after. I remember this sleeve of Warriors … Maybe the image that he portrayed earlier wasn’t exactly original, but it served his voice quite well. And his persona.

For me, the conflict of something like the Warriors cover, where he’s standing in this S&M gear, all leathered up with a baseball bat as though he’s some kind of bad ass road warrior guy, is that he has this posture that is totally faggy and limp. And the bleached hair. And then he’s not queer-identified. He’s straight-identified. He plays with gender in his lyrics, but he makes it clear in his interviews that he’s not. For me, it’s this contradiction between the kind of costume play that you could find in a gay club, but for me it was also a mismatch…like the leather bottom.

It also has to do with being a nerd that is really into science fiction. He also has this nerd component. His lyrics are all about Philip K. Dick and Blade Runner . He was totally into that stuff. And I think that’s also what drew me to him. And it also made me repress the impact that he had on me. By the time you reach 18 or so, it’s too tragic to say that you’re a Gary Numan fan. People react in this horrible way. But he, more than Devo or Kraftwerk, was really influencing me.

I used to plagiarize his lyrics and enter them into the school district contest and get ribbons for it. And when my father was upset with me about music and things, it was my Gary Numan records that he would lock away in the closet so that I couldn’t get at them. There was a lot of battle around Gary Numan in my adolescent life.

I think that’s why the “Cry, The Clock Said” has such a special connection for Comatonse. Because the first EP was basically a dub remix of this song. Read the rest of this entry »

Playing Favourites: Adam X

Posted: January 8th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

> 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 »

Playing Favourites: Traxx

Posted: September 25th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

The Residents – Diskomo (1980)

I discovered this track in one of your live sets, and I was really surprised by it. How did you get to this?

I actually heard this being played by Ron Hardy at the Music Box.

Ah, so it was Ron Hardy who inspired you then?

The people that have inspired me musically where I am now is Ron Hardy, Larry Levan, Larry Heard and fortunately but unfortunately Ian Curtis and Kurt Cobain. Those are pretty much some of my strongest influences. Later on it became people like Farley Jack Master Funk when he was really bringing it to the table musically on the radio, and from that point on it’s like my whole world expanded, it expanded to unparalleled paradox.

In regards of “Diskomo,” though, when I heard Ron Hardy play it, it didn’t make sense to me because I wasn’t on drugs. But a lot of people that were in the party scene at that time were experimenting with drugs. Ron would spin records faster, because he was under the influence. So the thing is I probably heard “Diskomo” at a faster speed. You never knew what Ron was doing at this time, so when you hear “Diskomo” and you hear these sort of patterns and tone pads and kind of modular effects like wind and stuff in this manner, it was hard to tell what was what. If you were in that time period, would you think that was Ron Hardy, or would you think that was a record?

It has a really eerie atmosphere…

It’s the same thing with Ian Curtis, and what Joy Division did. The producer behind them gave that whole thing atmosphere, that sort of specialness. And that’s what “Discomo” did for me when I heard it.

This new wave post punk music is not necessarily something you would associate with early house, which is kind of peculiar, but you seem to be attracted to this kind of music…

This is house music. That’s the thing that nobody—and let’s make this clear, I am nobody to tell you what is and what isn’t the truth—but I can tell you what I know and what I saw. And it was the innovation that Larry and Ron undertook, and it’s the innovation that I have personally taken on myself. I am singlehandedly the ambassador of truth right now. I feel like I have singlehandedly taken on the roles of these artists in the way that they described their music and the way that they played their music, and I feel that I’m someone that can say that this music that has somehow been forgotten has a greater significance than people can imagine.

New Order – Video 5-8-6 (1982)

Let’s talk about New Order. This has a kind of long-jam approach to recording, but it is also kind of a blueprint, not only for later electronic developments, but also for their own developments. There are already shadings of “Blue Monday” in it, but it is much earlier, 1982.

I play “Video 586” in my sessions. I play every type of sound known, and I am probably the world’s biggest risk taker. There are probably three other people that I could say right now that are as risky as I am.

Who are they?

Mick Wills, from Stuttgart, Germany, James T. Cotton and myself. And, actually, someone who is on another level to also give full etiquette and education and experience is Jamal Moss. In my eyes, even though he doesn’t DJ, musically what he does with IBM and these other projects… it’s not the sort of stuff that you would usually hear.

But he does DJ, doesn’t he?

Jamal is one of my guys, and I have never seen him play wax. But what I have of him, the material that I have gotten from him, is still sick. It’s like another level of Ron Hardy through Jamal Moss. Without a doubt.

You seem to be quite like-minded in your approach…

Well, “Video 586” is an idea that I didn’t realize that was important until later, Jamal didn’t realize until later, that JTC didn’t realize was important later. It’s the idea of not following the law of 4/4 music, or the law of what it should be. This is what made music risky, and this is what made New Order risky.

Why do so few DJ’s take risks that way do you think?

Because they are scared. They’re scared to lose the crowd, they are scared to be risky, to do something that they have never done. That’s why you have something called the social chain, and it’s what everybody else follows. I am not on the social chain. Those people that I have mentioned, Mick Wills, James T. Cotton, Jamal are guys that I know do not play by the rules.

So is that your main agenda? To change the set of rules?

My main agenda is to change the rules to the way that they should be. The way that everybody is crying, “Why can’t it be like the days when I was growing up.” Because this is the point, think about it: Why do people play records from the old days? Because they wanna remember. Why do you always have to remember the past? Why can’t you deal with now? Read the rest of this entry »

Playing Favourites: Soundstream

Posted: May 18th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

> Love Unlimited Orchestra – Welcome Aboard (1981)

I found it interesting that this record sounded already a bit like what Metro Area were doing later on.

It is a very unusual track, especially for the time it was produced. There was not a lot then sounding like this. It almost has a housey touch, and a very beautiful atmosphere.

The track title is very telling, it is the perfect way to start a set.

Exactly, we did a show for once with Smith N Hack and used this as the first track.

The sound is very romantically space-like. Is this something you look for in disco? Some kind of futuristic touch?

Well, here it is a feature that definitely attracts me. I also like that it is so reduced. I like tracks that are special and unusual, like this. It is very straight, there is not too much happening in it.

Barry White kind of transformed his symphonic kitsch into something completely different with this production.

The beat almost sounds like it was sampled, very strange. I think it is a warm up bomb.

Your productions are normally not associated with sounds this mellow.

Yes, but this has this certain straightness to it, and I always like that. They hold this sequence for the whole track and just add strings and vocals, and the beat just goes on.

> El Coco – Cocomotion (1977)

This goes right back to your first Sound Stream 12”. I found it interesting that you just used a tiny weird loop, instead of its catchy bassline.

Yes, I often just get hooked on single parts and sample them. “Motion” was more like an edit. It is just a loop which then gets chopped up a bit. I like the loop because it holds the tension for so long, it’s very trippy.

But it is a very special approach to editing. You certainly were not aiming for authenticity or better DJ use.

It is kind of how it started. The first re-edits in Chicago for example. They looped bits and extended them until they developed a hypnotic quality. I think Ron Hardy initiated that. He rode a loop for several minutes and after a while it just sucked you in. This repetition also goes back to James Brown. His band played a riff for a while, then a break came on, and then it started all over again.

So you decidedly edit music to achieve a track-like quality?

Yes, definitely. With nearly all my productions I try to last long with little, and it is the same with other music I like. Simple tracks that don’t need much to hold attention for quite some time, instead of losing that after half a minute.

I remember hearing a Ron Hardy set a while ago, where he extended just the break part of Isaac Hayes “I Can’t Turn Around” for ages.

Yes, they reissued that tape edit recently. It sparked early house, like “Love Can’t Turn Around”. It is basically the same, they took the tape loop and replayed it with synthesizers, and some additional bassline and piano.

What do you think of edits that keep the arrangement of the original and just tweak the beats?

No. Something new has to be created in the process of editing. And as a DJ, I’d rather take a real drummer and fight my way through the timing. It’s funkier than a streamlined edit. That makes no sense to me. It’s okay if you have track with a wonderful part in it and then a break follows with guitars or something else you just don’t want to have. But an edit ultimately has to lead to something new.

Do you make edits for your sets?

I did a few. But they are secret. Read the rest of this entry »

Playing Favourites: Till von Sein

Posted: February 11th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

> Backroom Productions – Definition Of A Track ( New York Underground Records) 1988

A rare tune from 1987. Indeed nothing but a track.

I knew this from the vinyl edition of the DJ-Kicks by Terranova. At that time it fit right in with what they were trying to represent with that compilation. I used to play this track regularly back then, it was very good for warming up.

So you actually know this for quite some time then.

Yeah, of course! I was not into Terranova that much, but the compilation had some brilliant tracks on it. East Flatbush Project and such.

This has some kind of Hip Hop vibe to it, too. But it does not exactly sound like 1988.

No, and I didn’t know that (laughs).

Would you still play it?

Definitely. I don’t know when and for what occasion but it is a class track.

It somehow reminds me of the bonus beats they used to have on the flipside of old House records.

Yeah, but bonus beats have gone out of fashion a bit, apart from Hip Hop. Argy had some for that Sydenham track “Ebian” on Ibadan last year. But I think it is not really relevant anymore for the current generation of House producers.

The percussive elements really distinguish the sound of that era from today’s productions. Lots of handclaps, or here it’s rimshots.

My problem is that I don’t really like all these percussion sounds from drum machines. I prefer sampled real instruments. This is probably some classic Roland drum machine, like a 606. I would take the bassdrum and hi-hats from somewhere else. The toms of these old machines are always cool, but the bongo sounds for example are not for me. I wouldn’t use that for my productions. I couldn’t do these 100 % authentic references. I think it’s supercool to listen to in a Prosumer record for example, but I couldn’t do that.

You got qualms about doing something like that?

No (laughs)! I’m just working on a new track for which I sampled an old Amen-break. I don’t care, if I like it I use it. This kind of break is in 90 % of all Drum and Bass tracks and nobody cares, so I don’t care either.

> Phortune – Unity (Jack Trax) 1988

This is an old track by DJ Pierre, from his Acid House days. But it is different to most tracks he produced back then. It is pretty deep.

It’s great. Awesome vibe for 1988, I could listen to this all day. It doesn’t tranquilize my feet, it’s not boring, it’s perfectly right. And I would grin from ear to ear if I would hear this in a club.

Some of its sounds have aged really well.

I really like this. I think it’s a pity that there are not so many tracks with great basslines at the moment. There are a lot of simple, functional basslines without much of a melody. Of course it’s effective and some current tracks need some of these dominating, functional elements, but a track like this for example needs a bit more, and I miss that. It’s also simple, but it has more and different harmonies. I like that, it gets me hooked. I would love to buy this on Beatport (laughs)!

Yes, that could be difficult. Read the rest of this entry »

Playing Favourites: Quarion

Posted: January 21st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

> Sound Dimension – Granny Scratch Scratch (Soul Jazz)

This is a 70’s reggae track by Jackie Mittoo. It’s almost Minimal, very basic.

True. It’s got some Techno appeal, it’s just rhythm. That’s what I like about this Dub stuff, there are so many things you can recognize that were used later on in electronic music like House and Techno. Dub was so important for that.

So these ancient production techniques are still valid? There seems to be a direct line from Jamaica to today’s productions.

Yeah, I listen to Dub. I don’t listen to a lot, but I like some of it. But I like to use the state of mind of Dub in my music. It’s more a musician thing. I like to use the techniques of it. I’m getting more into the music, too. It’s amazing, the way they were mixing the bass and the drums in the 70’s. Really crazy.

They also put some emphasis on just doing tracks, not songs.

It really is the basis of what came afterwards, from Hip Hop to House to Techno. Drum and Bass also, of course. They all took elements from Dub, that’s really interesting.

> Yukihiro Takahashi – Walking To The Beat (Pick Up Records)

The next one is by Yellow Magic Orchestra’s Yukihiro Takahashi. A Synthpop track.

It is interesting. It has this kind of proto-House feeling. What I really liked was this crazy soprano sax solo at the end. It is almost like Free Jazz, for 30 or 40 seconds, and then it stops. That was quite bold.

I think he actually wanted to do some kind of pop hit though. The singer on this record is the one from the 80’s pop group Icehouse for example. But for a pop hit it is probably too weird.

I think the harmonies are built up quite traditionally, but this solo part really surprised me. It is almost like New York ‘s Post Punk era. Trying some new crazy stuff.

Maybe you should use some sax solo in a House track.

Well, I used to play sax in the past.


Yeah, for a long time. But I kind of really got tired of the sound and I don’t think I’m going to use it. But you never know. I started playing Alto Saxophone when I was 13 years old. I had tried piano a few years ago, but I wasn’t so much into it. I don’t remember why I chose saxophone, but I remember I wanted to do a wind instrument. With the saxophone, I learned to play jazz and I absolutely loved it! I began rehearsing with a few bands, mostly Jazz or Funk groups. When I discovered DJing, I was instantly hooked and I started playing less and less saxophone, until I quit around 2001. DJing, collecting and discovering music became more important for me. I dabbled into production around 1996, but got a home studio setup two years later. I remember that my main reason for producing was that I found that certain records were lacking something or were arranged in a way that I thought was not so effective. I was thinking “Hmm, the producer should have put this part first” or “the chord there doesn’t sound nice although the beat is dope”. After a while I just thought I should make my own tracks.

I remember that a lot of the early Deep House tracks used the same sax sound. Really flat and synthetic. They seldom used a real saxophone, always this cheap sound effect.

Yeah, terrible. Read the rest of this entry »

Playing Favourites: Shed

Posted: October 12th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

White Noise – Black Mass: Electric Storm In Hell

This is very early electronic music, from White Noise’s first album from 1969. They were among the first to use synthesizers in a rock context and their music became very influential later on. This particular track seems indeed way ahead of its contemporaries, and it is pretty wild.

I didn’t know that at all. I had problems listening through it, it is almost disturbing. From today’s point of view it maybe is not that overtly experimental anymore, but setting it into the time of its production, it is very cool.

There certainly was not much comparable music back then.

The sound is very good. They already had synthesizers? There is a lot of space in the production. If you would not have told me, I would never have guessed that it is so old. The arrangement and the noisy parts reminded me of destructed Amen breaks, totally distorted. Very interesting.

Quartz – Chaos

The next one is by Quartz from France . Also early synthesizer music, but within a disco context.

I was not into that at all. My calendar does not really start before 1990 or so. Even stuff like early Model 500, Cybotron, it is ok, but it’s not mine. I also can’t get into Kraftwerk. What has been called techno from 1990 on was what got me to listen to music consciously for the first time. I was never the one to check the influences on music that I like. I know Disco only from TV, Saturday Night Fever and such. I was never really interested in it.

Is that based on a basic antipathy towards the sounds of disco music?

There was a short period I found it exciting, around the time the filter and cut-up disco house arrived with DJ Sneak, all the sample stuff. But that was over pretty soon when all the records started to sound the same. So yes, it is based on principle that I don’t like the sounds too much.

So you were more interested in how a track was built on samples than where they came from?

Exactly. It was fascinating to me how all could be said in a loop that went for three minutes, if it was a cool one. Longer than that it could get boring. Of course you can’t compare that to what happens in the original disco track, there was more happening there than in house tracks, which only used bits. It was interesting that many people used the same samples and you became aware that there must some source for it. But sample based productions are not my philosophy. I never wanted to just use bits of other people’s music.

Those disco house records also did not always pay tribute to disco, they deconstructed it, and often in a not very respectful manner.

Not at all. It’s strange how American producers often deal with each other, all that stealing amongst themselves. But in the end we all benefited from that (laughs). Read the rest of this entry »