July 4, 2011
Be rude not to write about this one… A whole night with Phil playing music for just over a fiver will be brilliant from the off. I’ll not say much more but recommend heavily and for more information you can go here.
What other DJ can claim to have been resident at Cafe del Mar during its peak period of the ‘Chill out’ phenomenon, paving the way for all those festivals full of Guardian-reading, lentil-munching folk who went to school with David Cameron? Actually that’s not his fault as he is one fucking hell of a DJ with a deep knowledge and love of the music and a party. Phil didn’t choose this mixtape for you to play while you lay back and chill as your Cath Kidston, welly-wearing wife keeps Oliver and Lucinda out of the circus tent, but for you and your skanky pals to munch on a couple of little green fellas and a cold Union beer.
Pastor TL Barrett – Like a Ship (Light in the Attic)
An obscure gospel album recently re-issued on Light in the Attic. Made by Pastor Barrett in 1971 to attract people to his church in Chicago, I heard this and instantly loved it. I’m sure there are hundreds of amazing privately pressed gospel albums that I’ll never hear, but I’m just happy discovering this one.
Eloise Laws – Love Factory (Inferno)
Taken from the ‘Out on the Floor’ compilation by Neil Rushton, I first heard my friend’s older brother playing this when I was about 12. Everything from the cover artwork with a map of England showing mysterious places like the Twisted Wheel, Samanthas, and the Catacombs, to the incredible music made me rush out and buy a copy, even though I knew nothing about northern soul.
Jackie Lee – Darkest Days (Kent)
An emotional, raw, soulful track about a man going through a hard time. After ‘Out on the Floor’ I bought the first few Kent compilations. This is from number seven ‘Floorshakers’. I started venturing up to London and remember going to Grapevine Records in an indoor market off Carnaby Street. Seemed like a big adventure at the time, like going to another planet.
Ten City – Devotion (Atlantic)
The first time I went to Groove Records in about November ‘87 I bought this and Masters at Work ‘Alright Alright’. That started years of wandering West End record shops, if I didn’t go at least once a week I used to panic that I’d missed out on something. I bought anything that had Marshall Jefferson’s name on it, after Devotion came ‘Right Back to You’, it just blew me away.
William Onyeabor – Fantastic Man (Wilfims)
A friend went to New York a few years ago for a record fair, I gave him some money and in the pile he bought back was this. A Nigerian disco album from ‘79, the cover is knackered and the vinyl is pretty scratched, still sounds good when you play it out though.
West India Company – Ave Maria (London)
In about 2003/4 myself and my friend Oscar put on monthly Sunday afternoon parties at a bar in West Hampstead. One of our regular guests was DJ Gareth, ex Market Tavern / Love Muscle. I could have picked any one of his tracks, Melba Moore ‘Standing Right Here’, It’s Immaterial ‘Space’, Dennis Parker ‘Like an Eagle’, but Ave Maria was always played when it was most busy and people had had a few cocktails too many. Detroit Spinners ‘Ghetto Child’ always went down well too.
Teaspoon and the Waves- O Yeh Soweto (Sofrito)
A super rare track from their 1980 LP, re-issued by Sofrito. A kind of cover version of Back To My Roots (same music, different vocals), this sounded good the other week at Ross Allen’s Meltdown down the Social.
Gil Scott Heron – Angola Louisiana (Arista)
From his Secrets album, this is about the state prison in Louisiana, the largest in the US. It’s Gil imagining how grim it must be to be in there. Fond memories of hearing this at Chris’s afterhours in San Diego, a private club built in an office on the outskirts of San Diego. Thanks to Hugh for taking me there!
Eric Kupper – Planet K (Tribal)
Muzik magazine organised a tour of Portugal in 1995 with a few DJ’s from England, Portugal and the U.S. Elliot Eastwick played this on the first night at the Kremlin in Lisbon and it just sounded brilliant. The week ended with Tony Humphries playing in the courtyard of a castle and Phil Perry finding an unmanned bar with free beer (a highlight of the week).
Angelique Kidjo – Batonga (Club mix)
A record I used to play a lot at the beginning of my, fairly unintentional, DJ career. Reminds me of too many vodka jellys at the Milk Bar, freezing in the bar at the Ministry and playing it most nights in Ibiza as it’s pretty long and was good to put on and nip to the loo. Heard Mark 7 play it at Disco Bloodbath last year, still sounded good.
The Crow – Your Autumn of Tommorow (Inferno)
Couldn’t resist putting another one on from the Out on the Floor album. Was either this or the Carstairs ‘It Really Does Hurt Me Girl’ which still gives me goosebumps when i hear the intro. ‘Your Autumn of Tomorrow’ is a strange piece of psychedelic funk which, according to the sleeve notes, was massive at the Blackpool Mecca.
Maxx Mann – Bloody and Blue (Red Dog)
‘This is a hot, new album by a New York City artist Maxx Mann. The music is beyond new wave and punk. People who enjoy late hour dancing will certainly crowd the floor for more than one cut of this record’… or so says the press release from this 1982 oddball disco release.
Jorge Ben – Curumin Chama (Orio)
I always thought Brazil was the land of gentle bossa nova, cocktails and exotic women. I recently saw a documentary on the history of Brazilian music, in which quite a few musicians had to seek refuge in London in the 70’s as they were being persecuted by the government (which was a military dictatorship) for being too political and subversive. Fantastic track which is generally known as “that one with the dog on the cover”.
Shuggie Otis – Aht Uh Mu Head (Resolution)
Best known for Strawberry Letter 23, first heard this on a Blessed Blackness compilation. I used to do the warm up sometimes at Plastic People, when it was in Oxford Street and the decks were on washing machines. Harri was the resident, he was always there early, I used to stick this on and have a chat. Nice bloke, very good DJ.
Jon Lucien – Listen Love (Verve)
Was aware of this first from a Jazz Juice compilation, but it didn’t really make sense until I heard Dave Henley play it one sunny afternoon at a Boys Own party. I was lucky enough to see him live at Dingwalls before he sadly passed away.
Pat Metheny – Last Train Home (Geffen)
I’m a big Pat Metheny fan, could have picked quite a few of his tracks to put on here. From the letters from home album, I’ll always remember playing this and a friend walking up and saying ‘ whats this?.. sounds like the theme from crossroads’.
Marvin Gaye – Where Are We Going (Motown)
Originally on a bootleg 12, this was finally released on a best of CD, a great track that could have fitted nicely onto whats going on. Years ago i saw a documentary where he goes to Belgium to get away from it all and sort his life out. At one point he goes into a church and sings the lords prayer, im not religious but that really got to me. Thanks to Moonboots for playing me this.
Wim Mertens – The Scene (Les Disques du Crepsucule)
Don’t know much about Wim Mertens apart from his Belgian and his music was used in the ‘belly of an architect’. Some of his tracks are bit too avant garde for me, but he’s done some real gems too, would love to see him in concert. This track reminds me of Ibiza.
Thanks to Faith.
I love the internet and its ability to move you around a topic. The other day via Facebook I saw a Groove Records rundown from the Mike Allen Capital Rap Show and then had a dig about and ended up finding an interview with the man himself courtesy of long time B-Boys the Essex Rockerz (check their Flickr page for graffiti goodness) via Charlie Dark’s Nike Run Dem Crew Twitter feed. That right there is the joys of the internet for me. Anyway, back on topic, here’s the interview with Mike Allen courtesy of Mark & Howard of the Essex Rockerz.
Mark/Howard: Well obviously firstly, thanks for doing this Mike. The first area we would like to talk about is, although we knew you from hip hop, you were quite a major player in the soul weekender/jazz funk scene?
MA: What happened, I joined Capital in 1975 and prior to doing that I’d been a professional disc jockey, in other words I’d relied on playing records for a living since 1970. So I had my own sound system, employees, road crew and stuff like that, so when I joined capital in 1975, they started getting excited about doing gigs. So I spoke to them and said “I can rent you the gear”, they said “that’ll be good”, so I started up a company called ‘MARS’ (Mike Allen Rental Services) which was based in Lotts Rd in Chelsea and we supplied Capital with all the audio and the outside lighting for their outside appearances. And then it grew and we took on bands like Robert Palmer and stuff like that, we actually did Gary Glitter… but we didn’t get paid so I don’t suppose that counts or was that tongue in the mouth (laughs).
We used to do loads of people, huge acts like The Commodores all their European stuff. So I was working in Capital from 1975 and around 1979/80 they said did I want to do lunchtimes (I was working nights) and I think I worked pretty much every shift in that station and then in 1984 I’d pretty much had enough because if two records came out and one was Rod Stewart and the other something different, Rod Stewart, being indicative of established white orientated rock, would be the one on the play list, and I desperately wanted to do something that would change the balance. I mean its alright being a ‘jock’ and doing little tricky things that impress other ‘jocks’, you know like getting the jingles to match one after the other or getting the records in the same key and you’d cue it and just take the front end out of a boring record so it would all just go ‘ba da da bang!’
You know it would be like a fuselage of shot across the studio and everyone goes “wow” with adulation. But six people know you’ve done it and the other million listeners don’t have a clue and are like “so what?” So I just thought I want to do something that’s good and then I got into listening to hip hop and of course I was listening, as a lot of people did then, to ‘best of ’ compilations like the ‘Electro’ series.
Mark/Howard: So this was at home?
MA: Well, I’ve worked 6/7 days a week for ever so no, this was in the office. So I’d have a desk like this (points to our similar environment) and Roger Scott used to sit there and I’d sit here and this was our little office and there’d be a record player and some cupboards and stuff and that was our little world. We were surrounded by vinyl…it was incredible. So anyway, I was getting really into this (music) because it had an energy and around 1984 stuff was very quiet, we were getting stuff like Aha and things like that, you know that was around. But it was all a bit too ‘synthy’, it didn’t have any grit.
Mark/Howard: It was too clean sounding?
MA: Yeah, and everyone had backcombed hair, but from the age of 11 I’d been playing the guitar, so I knew a bit about the construction of music and I think then somebody played me Double Dee and Steinski!
Mark/Howard: So that would of been the first cut you heard?
MA: Well it was around about that time, and I listened to it and I loved the construction of it… I really loved it. It was the first Double D and Steinski, so I thought this is good and I was doing the Friday and the Saturday night shift so I thought let me just try out a little bit and it was very, very different to the stuff that was around at that time.
Also it sounded very compressed because don’t forget we were talking about compilation albums, so I went down to Jean at Groove Records because Chris Palmer, he and his brother used to run Groove. Chris and I used to play in a band together, he used to play bass guitar and I used to play lead. So I knew his mother – ‘aunty Jean’ Anyway, I picked up some real stuff and that was the difference you see because the New York cuts, they cut the vinyl, you know pressed it so deep, the depth of the cut determined the amount of vibration you got from the stylus and when the stylus dropped in, if you had a really deep cut, you got loads of movement in the stylus and it sounded like a rocket going off. It was like giving a pre-amp boost to your amplifier, like you boosted the signal before you put it in. A New York cut was cut deep, an LA cut, stuff like Egyptian Lover wouldn’t of been cut as deep, until maybe when Dr Dre started and you started to get the records cut with the New York sound.
Mark/Howard: Do you think LA took from that New York sound?
MA: Look, I’ve only got to tell you a joke, like get the meatballs out mother, there’s a fork in the road. its gone, your gonna give it to somebody else. A lot of guys for example would record and album over here, but then take the finished tapes over to NY so you’d get it cut in NY. We over here probably had a better overview of that American scene than any American, because we were getting stuff shipped over from all over America to the UK. That would not of been the case stateside because New Yorkers would have been fiercely NY and the same with LA. Texas as well was starting to produce a sound, I think around 1985 – a three man crew. I can’t remember their name? It was hard though, too hard, you couldn’t play it on the radio…
Mark/Howard: I’ll bet it was that group ‘The Future – Easy Mike inc’, they did a track called ‘Prelude Its Real’?
MA: (shrugging) 15 years ago… I can’t remember where I was last night! (big laughs) The trouble is you know, that there is so much information in front of you, and I can tell you how I put a show together, i.e. I had a turntable and I used to go through stuff…. da da da da… no ….da da da da… yes. I could hear it and remember the beat pattern and tell you exactly where the cut point is because all those shows that we recorded were all done on fixed speed turntables, they didn’t have vary speeds.
Mark/Howard: Ah yes that reminds me, on the phone you mentioned about this ruling by the radio authority banning the use of Technics in those days?
MA: Yes the radio authority didn’t consider the output signal of a vari-speed Technics up to their standard of broadcasting practice, which was total nonsense because I used to record the national show for Radio Luxembourg, and they used to use vari speed Technics with no problem at all. The capital stuff was all fixed speeds.
Mark/Howard: So what about those mixes then, I remember Froggy being quite prevalent on the show….
MA: Yes, he was really good…
Mark/Howard: And when you got those mixes, were they recorded outside of your studio at Capital?
MA: Well, if it was a Froggy mix or Simon Harris, yeah they would come with a piece of tape. “Hi mike…. Friday night, do you want to play this?” Yes, if they were good, and some of them were not, not talking about Froggy or Simon Harris but I mean quite a lot of people sent stuff in. When I started, people like Simon Harris might have been into hip hop but he wasn’t doing mixes and Froggy he was doing …. he used to … Oh I was telling you about the sound system at Capital, well the rival outfit to Capital in London was Radio London and Radio London with Chris Hill and Robbie Vincent, they used to do weekenders and they used to do the holiday camps. I only ever did one, somewhere in Lowestoft….
Mark/Howard: That would’ve been Caister?
MA: Yes that was it. They offered me an hour and I got too much money for it, oh God, and so those Caister Weekenders were largely Froggy’s sound system and not mine.
Mark/Howard: So do you think he was influenced by you doing the radio show?
MA: In the 1970’s early 1980’s there was a club in Down Street in Mayfair called ‘Gullivers’ and there was a band called Heatwave (above) who used to hang out there and the house DJ – Graham started to get into mixing. Remembering at that time DJ’ ing was a guy with 2 turntables, saying ‘Mr Steviiiieeeee Wondeeeeer’ and all that jazz.
So the concept of a jock not saying anything, you know doing running mixes with varispeed turntables and things like that, that was one of the clubs where it started and it was influenced a lot in the press by a guy called James Hamilton who was a librarian at Capital, but he also used to run James Hamilton discotheques. He was very public school, very grand you know “Oh hello Micheal”. Anyway, he used to do these discos and I used to do a lot of West End Hotels before I got into radio, all the Park Lane stuff all the time and we used to have a truck – a lorry – a seven toner with air brakes. I used to love that.
So anyway, James Hamilton brought his knowledge of doing mobile discos for society in the late 60’s early 70’s and was a big soul music & black music fan. He was writing about this for Sounds or maybe NME and then he was working going to see guys in other clubs and this whole mix thing grew in 1979 early 1980 where people didn’t speak and just played the tunes. Now what have we got? Fatboy Slim, probably the best example who doesn’t say a word apart from when he get’s the money and I bet he says ‘thank you soooo muuuch’. So anyway that set the platform for the hip hop mixes because peoples ears were set up for it so I thought what i’d do were 20 minute sweeps, you know like 3 x 20 minute sweeps. As a concept it was good because I mentioned earlier the ‘cartoon’ aspect of hip hop and I don’t think people truly understand, when you say cartoon, people think your saying its cheap, although I thought it very clever because cartoons are clever by nature, taking an idea and presenting it beautifully clearly. And it was comedic, that beat….
(Mike illustrates by beatboxing in his own style a beat…boo daa boo dooh baaaa boo daa boo dooh baaa…etc. The best example I can think of is “six minutes, six minutes, six minutes Doug E Fresh your on.”
Mark/Howard: Well that just blew up didn’t it big time?
MA: I’ve got a gold disc, no, silver disc of that for 250,000 sales, they must have sold over half a million on import. When it came out in the UK they said will you be playing it on your show and I said “Well I played it about six months ago.” But that has that cartoon quality which makes it so approachable and it was absolutely magical because to me, raised on rock and roll, I was thinking “oh this has got energy hasn’t it?” And those drum beats – I used to love it!
Mark/Howard: But again, the production on it was phenomenal wasn’t it? It was so heavy. We were going to clubs in the early 90’s and they were bringing that track back and it’d blow the jam, you know, you’d have all this new stuff and someone would put ‘The Show’ on and the younger kids would be going what the hell is this?
MA: Well, because it was cut for effect, we all were into that NY sound. It was very, very strong a lot of bottom end. He was a really nice guy Dougie, such a nice guy…
So that sort of sets up the scene for you, so you can see where we were getting into mixing we’d got way from voicing every link. So the concept of mixing with vari-speed turntables, although that wasn’t the case at Capital, that’s what resulted in that particular style of mine which was little drop ins and breakbeats, so you’d be coming off of one lets say 98bpm track and you wanted to get into a track that was 96bpm, there were ways, I mean, Froggy was very inventive, at one time at live gigs he used to lean his thumb against the turntable to slow it…to break it, so he could thumb in the track from the next turntable.
Mark/Howard: His reputation is sound, a lot of people rate him as one of the best mix DJ’s on the planet.
MA: Oh, he’s very, very good. I haven’t heard him recently (Froggy passed away after this interview was done), I mean we’re talking about 17 years ago, but he was very inventive and James Hamilton as well. Froggy, he was very kind to me because he always used to bring a mix around, not loads, because I don’t think he did a lot, but he’d bring something around and it was good …. always good, very clean, workmanlike, you know nothing naff or scruffy about it. It was good stuff.
Mark/Howard: As well then, we were talking on the phone about your own mixes for the show. I’ll always remember the James Brown Livin’ in America mix, so how healthy was your interest in producing stuff?
MA: Oh yeah, well those boys used to bring in a mix maybe once a month, but that wouldn’t been in the first 2 years. In the first two years, 1984 to 1986 I was on my own out there, a lot of people just couldn’t believe I was doing it. They were absolutely outraged at Capital – “What, does he know what he’s doing?” I mean when I was putting the show together on a Friday, you could imagine, there’d be all the FM rock boys and there’d be this noise come thundering out of this office, because you got to wind it up haven’t you? You can’t just let it sit. I subsequently learnt that the youth profile of the station was held up by my two shows.
Mark/Howard: Do you think that Capital were aware that this whole thing was going to ‘blow up’?
Mark/Howard: Or were you?
MA: I wasn’t doing it because I wanted it to be a success, I was involved with it because I liked playing with it, it was incredible and when Morgan Khan asked me to do a remix to Masquerade’s The Solution to the Problem’ we just got the back end of it, turned it up, just got clear tape and put that stuff on it with Ronald Reagan…did you ever hear it?
Mark/Howard: Oh yes!
MA: (laughing) Did you hear the bottom end on it? It was so bassy it was incredible. We didn’t do the vocal, we did the Def Dance Mix, me and a couple of guys, which was the B side.
Mark/Howard: They put that mix on Electro 13 which was the UK Fresh retrospective…
MA: There were guys using it to cut up with at Fresh…. They quite liked the fact that there was Margaret Thatcher, I mean now its a bit passe but it was alright at the time.
Mark/Howard: Talking of Thatcher, I remember a jingle that you used use with an impersonator of her “You are listening to….Mike Allen”
MA: Yeah, yeah…Nnnnoww, nnnooww.
Mark/Howard: Who sorted that?
MA: Bill Mitchell was the guy that did all the stuff for capital…(Deep voice) “all the hits and more …. 194.” Well, Bill Mitchell was a Canadian and he was a mate of one of my best friends, so when they got Bill to do the station idents at capital they did mine…. thank you very much.
The two guys that I asked to help me on The Solution to the Problem, were called Ed Stratton and Vlad, and they helped me in the studio, one worked as a tape operator and one worked the desk. We did it (the remix) in about 3 hours, the remix from the master tapes, it wasn’t a cut up it was a remix that was turned into a dance track, I mean ‘Solution to the Problem’ although being a really nice pop song – it didn’t do anything for me, so we added a really good drum pattern, and turned it into something completely different….and that bass drum, the bass end on it – was so hooligan because it was a bit Schoolly D, it was a bit splattery, it wasn’t clean you know?
Mark/Howard: So do you know how many people were listening to your show at that
time, did Capital ever monitor it?
MA: well, I think its a bit like a great magazine, you know they’d probably punch out about 50,000 copies and you’d read yours and then pass it onto someone else and so on. So you probably got 150,000/200,000 readers in effect. So most of the people that would listen to what I was doing on a Saturday would record it, which was why TDK wanted to sponsor the national show. I mean they approached me and said we found all these kids breakdancing in Tunbridge Wells….Tunbridge Wells! And they’d said to them “what are you doing” and they’d said they we’re listening to this hip hop show on the radio. And the TDK people had said, “what is it on now?” The kids had said “no…. we record it.” That was to the PR person at TDK and you know the next phone called they made … was to me.
Mark/Howard: And when was that?
MA: That was about ‘84 mid around ‘85, just before T-KID came over (the clip below has Mike interviewing T-KID on his trip to London).
Mark/Howard: OK, was that part of the promotion for the show?
MA: That’s a good question, but no it was a completely separate issue, but I think maybe it came off the back of the T-KID thing.
Mark/Howard: Oh right, because to me, when I heard about it, it was like TDK were promoting hip hop and the other elements of hip hop rather than just the music.
MA: Well that’s right, cos they wanted to get people to buy tape…
Mark/Howard: Even though its so called ‘illegal’ to tape radio shows?
MA: Oh yes, of course! And your not supposed to go out with girls either.
Mark/Howard: Well younger ones anyway.
MA: I don’t mind them in there thirties, but then to me that’s young!
Mark/Howard: So what about interviews, was it up to you to hunt these people down?
MA: Well I can categorically say that there was no support from anything in the UK, virtually everything on that show was imported and I paid for it.
Mark/Howard: So Capital weren’t interested whatsoever?
MA: The format, the content, the jingles, you know Vlad made the jingles, you know the Mike Allen theme, and I gave them their name in exchange for it, which was ‘Sonic Graffiti’.
Mark/Howard: Were you aware at that time of all the elements in hip hop?
MA: No it was unfolding. You look back on it and it’s very easy to see, like in a rear view mirror, but going through that time, we didn’t know where it was going one week to the next. I can remember Paul Oakenfold coming to see me when he was a promotions guy at CBS and saying “this album is brilliant”, so I said “well give us one then” and he said “well, I’ve only got a cassette”, I said “that’ll do” and it was Public Enemy!
Mark/Howard: And the rest is history!
MA: Yeah, but I mean that’s how huge tracks arrived, on little scaby cassettes. I remember going to Lyor Cohen’s wedding and the whole Def Jam posse went down to the Dominican Republic and we were staying in this hotel, and everyone was there. Public Enemy was playing out of speakers hung from a hotel balcony, and this was a brand new hotel, never been open till that day and everybody was there… you know Beastie Boys and the whole New York Posse…what a fuck off event that was. Public Enemy were playing their second album out over the pool you know, and LL came out of his room about once a day and went back in with his young friend. But they had the biggest throwdown you’ve ever seen.Run DMC the whole lot; the night after the wedding. Anybody who was anybody on the East Coast was there.
Mark/Howard: Lets now touch on you own style of, because to me you were, in the nicest possible way, so uncool you were cool. I mean we all remember that flowery shirt you wore on ‘Electro Rock’.
MA: Oh yeah.
Mark/Howard: Or a yellow suit for UK Fresh, more like Miami Vice.
MA: Actually it was blue, I changed, I had a dark blue brocade one with a peach vest. This was 1986, it was Don Johnson time – Crockett and Tubbs. I had a light blue suit on in the evening.
Mark/Howard: But the guys you met up with, like the rap guys, would they be sort of “What’s Mike wearing?” Because if you met Run DMC, they’d be about Adidas and ‘goose down’ jackets.
Mark/Howard: I mean the first time I went to NY, I had to have a goose down jacket, you know, I had to find De Lancey St and I had to have a goose down jacket. So I thought maybe that would influence you? Or was it because you were a little bit older?
MA:Years ago, I had my first bank account when I was nine, I mean I wasn’t necessarily rich, but I knew the style that I liked. I still get my shirts in Jermyn St and my 9oz wool suits, you know, I know what I like. I still wore baseball jackets and lace front trousers but I was conscious of the fact that I was in my late thirties and those guys were doing what they do and I didn’t want to imitate them because I was presenting the music and what I wore or did, well that was my style. This whole business of disappearing into the background you know wearing black trousers and a black shirt, you know can’t be seen – man of mystery, I think is all bollocks. “Yeah I wanna’ be seen, I did this.’
At this point in the interview, its time to get a few goodies out to see if Mike remembers some of those cuts. He is handed an original of ‘It’s Yours’ T La Rock & Jazzy Jay, but hey all you collectors who’ve think they’ve got the original on a maroon Def Jam label, think again, try finding it on the ‘Partytime’ label. An original ‘Johhny the Fox’ Tricky T seems to do it for Mike as does a scarce ‘Hard To The Body’ Point Blank M.C’s in which we remind Mike that he gets a name check in the track.
Mike enthuses about the Duke Bootee style of production used on that and more obviously the Word of Mouth records. Indeed he attributes the Duke Bootee sound as the archetypal New York cut sound of those mid-eighties. Among other records brought out include ‘Power Drill’ Goon Squad, ‘One Way Love’ TKA Crew, ‘You Don’t Really Wanna Battle’ Cutmaster DC and the monumental ‘My Hands Are Quicker Than The Eye’ Byron Davis and the Fresh Crew.
Mark/Howard:: Are there any others that you remember from those times?
MA: I always thought Mantronix were very good value for money, especially from a fan’s point of view and the fact that he (Mantronik) produced good stuff and it was always fresh. I mean for a lot of these guys it was tough, because they’d have been listening to other people and all of sudden they get a record deal and probably had about three or four good ideas in their head and then they’re expected to do an album, you know “oh Christ! What are we going to do?”. So by the time you’ve done the remixes, the black car mix, the white car mix…..then that should fill it. So it was very tough, you see I could go on air once, twice a week and play stuff, but I wasn’t actually in a stones throw of the people, but those guys would do stuff and it had to be good otherwise they just get booed off. It was a tough gig to get that right. I can’t think of much else that in those times was so far in front of anything else, I think Duke Bootee’s stuff was good; most of his crews were out of New Jersey.
Mark/Howard: Well that leads us onto the one thing that every nostalgia head will talk about and that is the infamous Word of Mouth Crew session on the Friday night before UK FRESH. Are your memories pretty good of that?
MA: Yes, I mean they just turned up and said they’d like to do something. I think we had studio 4 which was a major music studio at capital at the time, so Ed set it up because he was the recording engineer and recorded it. He was in there to play the commercials because at the time the DJ didn’t play the commercials because DJ’s were some lesser species, you know tainted. So anyway, Ed got the levels and we’re like “you ready to go boys?” And away they went and it just ran live.
Mark/Howard: So where would you be sitting?
MA: So o.k, I’d be sitting here (gestures) and you’d have the window into the master control room studio B at Capital, studio over there, window into master control room and then on the right, studio 4, major music studio. So Ed just gave me all the commercials and said “you play ‘em, I’m going off to fix this”. So I was like, playing the commercials, cueing the mixes and talking at the same time, fortunately there wasn’t a broom in the studio otherwise I might of had another little jobby. And we just did it, live, and it was so slick, so absolutely excellent, so much energy – incredible!
Mark/Howard: At that time, he (Cheese – above) was seen as the best scratch mix DJ?
MA: Yeah, yeah – incredible.
Mark/Howard: And of course you had the other one Jazzy Jeff (& Fresh Prince)?
MA: Yes, I had them both on the program a couple of times and they were good, they were good, very, very good.
Mark/Howard: DJ Cheese though, was seen as the the street DJ?
MA: Yeah, he was a gun fighter wasn’t he?
Mark/Howard: And then Jeff who was the cleaner cut?
MA: Suburban, you know, out somewhere in the Hamptons type.
Mark/Howard: Yes, and you’d never really class them (Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince) as hardcore hip hop.
MA: I know exactly what you mean.
Mark/Howard: But saying that, look at show Jeff did in Madison Square Garden in 1986 where he did the ‘transformer’ scratch and the whole of the crowd went bonkers! They might have been ‘party rap’ but as a DJ he was top of his game in my eyes….
MA: I saw him do it at the Albert Hall, I mean stunning, soooo slick. But there was a funkiness about Cheese that Jeff didn’t have… it was something funky and I suppose it’s like comparing Jimi Hendrix with Eric Clapton, you know Jimi Hendrix would play just 3 notes and you’d go “Oh Yeah!” that’ll be the three won’t it? and then Eric Clapton would do it and you’d go “Yes…very nice”. And that was that quality that Cheese had, just that side of dangerous.
Mark/Howard: At UK FRESH they did two shows didn’t they?
MA: Yes that’s right, not many acts did two shows.
Mark/Howard: And that was the one thing that I thought was great, because Mark, being slightly younger than myself, had to go to the day show, and I went to the evening show and it was only when we both came back that we were able to talk about it… and then I told him about Mantronix ‘cos they only did one show.
MA: Yes they only did one show, closing show two.
Mark/Howard: I remember you saying that because the Mantronix set was so hot, Wembley were charging you for every minute that set ran over?
MA: Oh yeah, because we had a penalty clause so that for every minute after 11pm we were getting charged and we would have to pay and Mantronix were rolling over and I’d said to (Kurtis) Mantronik before he went on, look don’t go over 11 O’clock whatever you do as we really can’t afford it. And he was going on and going on and I’m standing at the side of the stage with Morgan (Khan) hollering “finish – finish up” (big laughs) and of course the crowds going mad. Bloody hell! Whilst all this is going on, you’ve got the tills at Wembley Arena going “kerching, kerching… thank you very much.”
Mark/Howard: So when the time came for you to move to LBC, were you aware that something had ended, maybe that golden era?
MA: Well I was still doing National Fresh so that didn’t finish till 1987 and I moved
to LBC in September 1987, so at that point there was still another year to go at least and I was doing this thing on Sunday afternoons called ‘Street Talk’ which was about the music, but having a slightly broader palette because we were talking about collectable old soul and we were doing mixes and talking to people like Coldcut and things like that. It was, strangely, at the very front end of people mixing at home and creating their own stuff. We’d have guys that would do the 12 week course on how to master the art of sampling… And you had that guy from ‘the Prodigy’ who won the mix competition. So it was good, and I think it was very much of its time, but then I think that capital got a bit annoyed that we were doing it because in their eyes LBC should have been a speech station only and because I’d said to them “I’m walking”. So LBC – I only did that for six months.
Mark/Howard: So then, its quite interesting what you’ve always maintained that you didn’t leave hip hop, it left you?
MA: Oh absolutely, it just walked away from me, I mean I was doing capital and the national show and then LBC in which there really was a lot of information in that show. It’d take a day of studio production before that show went out, and remember everything was over beats.
Mark/Howard: So maybe that’s why that change came about as Mike Allen, that person in hip hop at a certain time, but because it became more about conversation and explaining….
MA: I can see why you’d say that, but I’d signed to do five speech shows a week – Monday to Friday with LBC and one contemporary music show, but I think it really had just come to an end. You know its like relationships – you just look around one day and think I don’t want to do this anymore; or they look around to you and say it. It just wasn’t there for me anymore and it wasn’t my plan to walk away, it’s just that areas to do it went and strangely, this probably sounds very flashy and I don’t mean it too, but I thought I’ll finish doing live gigs at Wembley on the 6th June 1986 and that’ll be it – no more. So yeah, that’s what happened, it wasn’t anybody blowing me out the water or anything like that.
Mark/Howard: So did it take a period of time for the phone calls regarding hip hop to die out etc?
MA: Yes, but it moved on so quickly, you know, a river has very little loyalty does it? It comes down, touches the bank here and there and then its gone, and that’s the way with music – if your not there to give it a platform, it moves on, thank you, gone.
Mark/Howard: That’s quite true, when you think about it, as I said, there was nobody else doing it…so if it wasn’t for you, the like of Mark and myself and thousands of other kids would never have heard this music.
MA: That’s really nice to hear, but don’t forget that I had a great time and that was the great thing about it – that we didn’t know where we were going with it – we were making it up as we went along and it gave me an insight for what it must have felt like for people like the Beatles because they were making it up as they went along, they didn’t know what they were doing, everyone assumed they did, they were going “what if we play this chord after that? Oh that’s sounds good.”
So I can understand how stuff happens because that whole era was such an eye opener for me because you like to think that somebody somewhere has got the master plan and reality they haven’t. It was terrific, had a great time doing it. I enjoyed it although I didn’t do it for the money – I never made a great deal out of it, but I got so much enjoyment out of it.
Mark/Howard: What about now? It seems your not really aware of the reverence by a lot of those kids (now adults) from that era, and infact, I haven’t met one old schooler who doesn’t smile and profess and certain degree of respect for ‘The Boss in London’- Mike Allen.’
MA: Some people have called me from time to time, you know asking for copies of the shows and if I want to sell them? The answer to that is no. I haven’t got a single radio show I did. And that’s all really, you see I’ve not gone back there – I just did it and now it’s in somebody else’s hands now. I carried the torch for a while and said after “there you go – its yours now.”
Mark/Howard: I think that’s an interesting point, the fact that you haven’t come back to talk about it. We’ve never seen you in magazines etc. Everyone asks “where did Mike Allen go?”
MA: The strange thing was, I was still on the radio all the time, just turn the dial and I’d be there: “hello”. You see stuff changes and that’s one of the sad things about people that cannot accept change, they get old before their time and that’s why young people move forward, or younger thinking people, because their prepared to accept change, you know, if something alters – fine, they go with it. When you start to be intransigent and say “oh no this has to be this way” well that’s wrong, otherwise if we’d have been intransigent then we’d have never had hip hop. You’ve got to open that door and let it in, because if you don’t, it’ll push you out the way.
Mark/Howard: I think this is the problem that we’ve found now, that because all the history has been made, documented and ‘approved’ by all the self appointed style councils – stuff seems to be stunted and regressive.
Mark/Howard: To becoming an almost ‘closed’ culture, you know if your not in a certain clique, ‘representing’ a certain way.
MA: But I think its true to say that music in the 1980’s started to change on radio, it fragmented, I suppose really you were starting to see the pirate stations grow and then in the 1990’s you got stations like Kiss and Xfm and suddenly everyone’s playing a version – a facet of something, whereas back in 1983 to 1986 – Capital were playing everything at different times of the day. So if they weren’t playing what you wanted, you’d wait until that particular show came on. But now, you don’t do that, you want to hear it yesterday, so you put on Xfm etc. I mean the other day, I was driving along on a beautiful sunny day, roof down and they (Xfm) played The Stone Roses ‘I am the Resurrection’…. great.
Mark/Howard: Were you aware of the Bridge Wars conflict at the time? Were you aware of the connotations of that?
MA: What the violence?
Mark/Howard: Yeah, that something could happen here where you’ve got open warfare on 2 rappers dissing each other….
MA: Do you know, I think sometimes, especially in recent times you see situations where they’ve been set up, you know, were they really dissing each other? If they’d have been good to each other, nobody would’ve followed it. So maybe their management team got together and said “let’s have a terrible argument, that’ll be really good – why not do that”. It works a lot in radio, you know – one DJ will say “I was listening to the so and so show…what a load or rubbish”. So what I’m trying to say is that I don’t believe all these things are as innocent as people would have us believe or as clear cut, let’s put it that way. I was interested in the music, what they did in-between didn’t touch me.
Mark/Howard: I think that whole era changed when you dropped the first PE album, before that, for my money, it was about scratching and beats essentially
MA: I think I know why your saying that, because it was making a statement wasn’t it?
Mark/Howard: ….and then this album (‘Yo! Bum Rush The Show’) came along, and the music was phenomenal, but then, suddenly the party was over in hip hop, there was now a consciousness that needed to be addressed?
MA: Well that’s why I said to you earlier on about the politics, to me there was always the politics in it, because even with the Roxanne stuff, they were party things, but they were a direct reflection of what kids were doing in a playground – you know, the kid that’ll be the most successful in the boys playground is the one with the heaviest fists and in the girls playground the girl with the sharpest tongue. So the Roxanne stuff was a direct reflection of what had happened to us wherever we lived. We knew that, we listened to it, we thought “I understand this.” So the business with the guns, I suppose was inevitable.
I mean were talking about the majority of people in those places like the Bronx that really didn’t have a great chance to improve their life, so a lot of the time, dealing drugs was the only option etc etc.. I’m not making excuses, but one can be aware that this is the way it probably was. I was very glad I didn’t live there. That’s why I said to you earlier on, the UK’s pretty alright.
Mark/Howard: One of the things that has always plagued me if you like, is the fact that I always felt like a bit of fake because I was into this ‘ghetto’ culture. I would go out and ‘drop a hard-core piece’ in the day listening to Schoolly D and then that same evening could switch off and go to a swanky restaurant in surburbia with my girlfriend, listening to some Depeche Mode in the car. So how did you see it? Was it pure enthusiasm for the music and the other social issues didn’t matter?
MA: Well there’s never been a comedian as far as I can see in the history of the UK that hasn’t come from the working classes. There hasn’t been a rock and roller that you wouldn’t call a working class kid, even back to Cliff Richard. Even now in Jamaica, around Kingston, there’s people living in packing cases, and their only hope of getting out is to do deals with drugs or to learn to play an instrument or sing. Its their only way out and the only way is up. That probably sounds a bit of a cliche, but it happens to be true and that’s the sad thing. So I was hoping to put all of that up in the music, but not make a big thing about it, rather just put it there and if you see it you see it and if you didn’t, well that’s ok because you wouldn’t of heard it if I had told you.
Mark/Howard: Well I think that’s interesting because at that time all I could see were the cuts and scratches and Chrome Angelz (above) pieces, and it wasn’t until after PE (Public Enemy) that I started to realise this thing maybe existed on a deeper level rather that just for enjoyment.
MA: But not every record had a message in it, but it did start to harden up and it wasn’t an area of society that was widely represented so that’s why stuff that I was doing was considered so important because you couldn’t get it that way anywhere else as nowhere else could afford to fund that much vinyl for a radio show. It took most of what I used to earn, because I wasn’t getting them for a pound each, I had to pay the going rate plus the cost for the runners to pick them up from the airports. But that’s what it cost to be in front. The same with motorcars, if you race motorcars it costs money. I used to race them you know?
Mark/Howard: If money wasn’t an option then, what would be that car for you?
MA: I don’t know, I really don’t know…..
Mark/Howard: You wouldn’t race Ferraris then or Maseraattis?
MA: No, I don’t dislike Ferrari’s, but a friend of mine bought one from and picked it up in Chigwell and by the time he got to Heathrow he’d burnt the clutch out, and it was a new clutch. Ferraris you see, when they’re good they’re great, but they’re a bit like a ‘skittish’ horse
Mark/Howard: Just like an Italian women
MA: Yes, you have to ask yourself, “is it really worth it?” So I think the tuffest car is a 911, I don’t know if its the most beautiful, but certainly the tuffest. Because you can go shopping in it or you can tear it up in it. The next few minutes are taken up with recollections about driving at 140mph down the M11 in a ‘french racing blue’ Carrera and the ‘blow back’ from it when you have to slow down to 90mph quickly after spotting the local constabulary by the roadside. Now that is what I call ‘Wild style’.
Mark/Howard: If you had to put together a top 10 or even top 5 from that era, could you drop a few names in the hat?
MA: I suppose, Word of Mouth Crew, in no particular order, I think Public Enemy, I think some Mantronix (above from the UK Fresh program) because he brought something special to it.
Mark/Howard: He was ahead of his time, and that was the problem in that I don’t think he was appreciated enough by a lot of people. I mean, Music Madness when they dropped that everyone turned their back on it and I was like “no” this is electronic hip hop, this is the extension from Hard-core Hip Hop but everyone was like, we want James Brown samples.
MA: Well that’s actually pretty true of the radio stations in that they were saying they didn’t know where to go with it, it was surprising them all the time, so of course some people just resisted change.
Mark/Howard: What about the ‘Juice Crew’ and that Marly Marl sound, did you get into that?
MA: Yeah, well he used to work for WBLS and he was their cut up man and WBLS weren’t really a great deal of use to us, because we were on say about 8pm and they being five hours preceding us, they were still playing soft soul and remember that WBLS wasn’t all hip hop, it was a black music station so it’d be the soft easy listening stuff in the afternoon and they’d get in to ‘rearranging the dust’ a bit later on that night.
Mark/Howard: Its just to me, one my all time favourite tracks was ‘The Bridge’.
MA: Oh yes, a great track.
Mark/Howard: It just had such a raw edge, you know impact, it just had all the bits you could imagine going to a hip hop jam in New York. It mostly wasn’t because I never did get that chance…
MA: Well there was a lot of danger in the air at those sort of things. Your absolutely right in that to put a definitive top five together is so hard, but if I were doing a list, then I would include the ‘The Bridge’. What you have to remember is that the industry at that time was so small, you know for certain tracks I’d play, like Tragedy by the Super Kids – there might have only been about three or four 12’s knocking about. Again a lot of the stuff, they might just knock out about 50 to 100 pressings, hardly any at all, and they would sell them at the gigs, “we’ve got a gig at so and so, so we’ll take 200 records”.
Mark/Howard: So some of those guys that you got to know who got onto the bigger labels like Def Jam, did it change them? To me when the Raising Hell Tour came to England that changed my perception of hip hop.
MA: Well I think Rick Rubin got hold of them and shook ‘em up a bit and as well I think there was a pride amongst them that they were with a dedicated label like Def Jam. Plus the fact that the Raising Hell Tour was a label tour and a label tour was good because it could include 2 or 3 bands that weren’t necessarily on the same label, but under the same management. And there would be that camaraderie which, whereas, if you got that same amount of people on the tour but it was a disparate situation, i.e. bands on different labels with different management, then as a whole they probably wouldn’t be hanging.
Mark/Howard: Did you get to go to a lot of concerts?
MA: No, because most of those concerts that were in and around London were done on a Saturday night, and we were recording then. But I used to see the guys, you know, we’d meet up in the daytime. People like Cool J, a very nice guy and Chuck D, who I think is about 42/43 now, but he was quite a profound guy, not frivolous but in fact quite a serious man. You could talk to him about some serious things. Did I tell you I lent him my headphones?
Mark/Howard: Go on…
MA: Well that wedding I mentioned earlier, we had to fly down from New York to the Dominican Republic and his headphones packed up and he said “Can I borrow your headphones man?” I was like “Can I listen to your album?”
Mark/Howard: And he’s like “you won’t play it on the radio will you?” and that next Friday night your like “Hi troops, guess what I’ve got for you tonight?”
Big laughs all around…
Mark/Howard: What would you say was the most exciting time? When you had say a tape in your pocket?
MA: I always used to feel very excited when Icame back from Tom Silvermann because he always gave you something that was good, not just one thing, but about 3 or 4 things that were really, really good. I suppose it depended on the trips, but I had a lot of respect for Tom because not only was he looking out for his artists but he had a preparedness to embrace their thinking. He wasn’t fixed in his thoughts, he would listen and he was flexible… He was a good thinker. Yes I liked him, I thought he was a very good man.
Mark/Howard: Do you still keep in contact with him?
MA: No, but I’m sure if I phoned him out of the blue and said “Hi, I’m back into it” he’d be like “OK that’s cool”. But you know, I think I’ve done it as far as all that’s concerned. As I said to you earlier, I’d carried the flame and handed it on.
Mark/Howard: Did you dig graffiti art?
MA: Yes, I thought the graffiti was exciting, but I thought ‘tagging’ was a pain in the arse and I’ve said it on the radio so many times, you know it’s like a dog pissing on a territory, you know, so what! I couldn’t see the point – so you travel all the way up the Northern Line, really, alone? So what. Although we did that TDK tour around the country, so we really did try to cram as much stuff in as possible, so that everybody felt they were being represented. I felt that the ‘sonic graffiti’ was the music and that the visual graffiti, the two went hand in hand with it… even though I did wear a flowery shirt in Electro Rock.
Mark/Howard: You got respect for that. You were you.
MA: Well that was me, I did what I had to do and with that same attitude, if I’d have been following the crowd, no doubt I’d have been playing the Eagles and Jackson Brown. I thought that there had to be a bit more to life and I loved the description in Sounds magazine that described me at UK Fresh as the ‘Bob Holness of Rap’. (big laughs) If the crowd were doing something, then I wanted to be doing something else.
Mark/Howard: I think the crew that everybody associated you with graff wise had to be The Chrome Angelz? You were broadcasting the tuffest beats and TCA were untouchable on the graff front.
MA: Yeah, they used to use quite a lot of white. I seem to remember them reminding me a little bit of Toulouse Lautrec and the last three or four things he did. He was really focusing on light and playing with it, almost liberally with his use of light. And I remember thinking that when I saw some throw-ups by The Chrome Angelz that they too were very clever in the way that they used white; to make something shimmer and make it go ‘Bing!’
Mark/Howard: I think that was the essence though of that era, that someone so unthreatening like yourself was playing the most cutting edge music anywhere and you’d come out with phrases like “forgive me, I’m just a latent window dresser” or “graffiti so dangerous, it’ll frighten the gas man”.
MA: Did I say that? (laughing)
Mark/Howard: Yeah, and I’d think “what the f@ck?” as I was doing my hard-core wild style sketch for the back wall of Argos the next night. I’d wonder what that piece was like you were describing on the radio that someone had sent into you?
MA: Oh yes, we had all that stuff sent in – brilliant stuff. There was some stuff that was quite small, but it was immaculate… Absolutely fantastic. Its a shame it wasn’t TV as you could of seen the stuff we had, so much of it. And I did all that myself as I didn’t have a secretary, you know parcel it all up to send back to people and I though to myself, next time I have a good idea, keep your mouth shut Mike! So that show, I used to do it all … make the coffee….
Mark/Howard: Well it came across to us, that the set up you had was massive? Like with the backing from Capital?
MA: But they didn’t do anything, they didn’t understand it; as far as they were concerned it was like “what’s this?” I mean they weren’t awful about it, but when we got Wembley organised, they really wanted to know and they wanted in on it.
Mark/Howard: So to wrap up then, I think that’s something quite special in that you’d done it and if you were there, you were there, and not a willingness to come back like some people do, again and again.
MA: Oh yeah, you mean do a return gig in the back room of the ‘Rifle & Hounds’? No all that would be a bit sad. No I did it, it was good, had a great time, thank you very much. It’s not bad for a gig is it? To finish at Wembley with your own rig?
Many thanks to Mark & Howard from the Essex Rockerz.
February 28, 2011
Soody Sisco, Martha Fiskin and Linda Pitt made up the core of Dog Eat Dog, an early 80s punk funk band out of NYC who were sassy, smart and fun. Think along the lines of Liquid Liquid or ESG and you are on the right lines. Claremont 56 have been lucky enough to get their hands on unreleased recordings from the band consisting of live tracks and studio sessions which will be released mid-March in a lovely Keith Haring sleeve. As massive fans of that era in New York we asked the band if we could interview them and talk about those times and they kindly said yes…
So who met who first? Where were you living? Were you at college when you met? What were you studying?
Soody: Linda and I went to High School together in Piscataway, New Jersey. We met working on a school publication. I went to college with Martha. A friend introduced me to David Wald and then David brought in Kevin.
Linda: Soody and I met up during High School. We met up again in our last year of college, there we met Martha. I studied art.
Martha: I met Soody and Linda at college in New Jersey. I studied art: studio and history.
What initially made you think ‘ok. lets form a band?’ Were you inspired by other people out there. Who was that?
Soody: We lived in the East Village, NYC in 1980. All of our friends were in bands.
Linda: After college Soody and I were briefly roommates in Brooklyn. I remember watching the Miss America pageant on TV. There was a sax in the apartment, I picked it up, I made sound… If Talking Heads (art students), The Ramones and our friends Liquid Idiot could all form bands, so could we.
Martha: It was an exciting time. You could pick up an instrument and start a band.
What clubs were you initially going into?
Soody: Tier 3, Max’s Kansas City (where Linda worked), Mudd Club and CBGB.
Linda: I worked at Max’s Kansas City pre-band. CBGB’s was around the corner from home.
Martha: Club 57, CBGB, Tier 3, Max’s, Mudd Club, Hurrah’s and The Roxy. We walked to all these places. New York did seem smaller in those days.
Were you part of that whole Mudd Club scene, hanging out there or just playing gigs?
Soody: A bit of both.
Linda: We went to the Mudd Club a lot but never felt part of the scene.
Martha: I was in a group art show there.
I guess you were quite involved in that art scene that ran alongside the music scene at that time? If so how? Did you see those two scenes as linked?
Soody: Yes, Linda and I were hanging posters that we collaborated on.
Linda: Definitely linked. Take Club 57, a small venue on St Marks Place in the EV, art, performance, music, movies, a showcase for everyone. Al Diaz our percussionist did the SAMO graffiti with Basquiat. Soody and I made art flyers that we wheat pasted around the neighborhood (see above). By chance the guy with the guitar is Richard Hell. We all did our own personnel art as well.
Martha: We all made stuff; various media.
Seems a lot of people involved in the music scene came from an art background and then did the music thing as an outlet for their creative sides. Was this the way it was for you?
What were your favourite places to play at that time?
Linda: CB’s had the best sound and the infamous dressing room. We once played at 4am in a basement on Chrystie Street that turned out to be a Chinese gambling parlor.
So you played at CBGB’s. Was that another hang out?
Soody: Yes, it was in our neighborhood.
Linda: Went there a lot. I loved the matinees.
Martha: Sure. What a sound system!
So the music – it seems to have a very funky edge. The congas and the percussion have that Latin thing going on. What were you influenced by? Or was it just a New York thing to have that Latin sound as you grew up surrounded by it?
Soody: It was a popular sound at the time and our early percussionist, Al Diaz, is Hispanic.
Linda: Don’t be fooled by the cow bell.
Martha: Love love love drums. Latin, African, dub…
How do you fit in with the other No Wave bands? Were you having out with ESG, Liquid Liquid etc or did you feel aside from them?
Soody: We were friends with Liquid Liquid.
Linda: Liquid Liquid are our friends. I only met ESG once but they seem incredibly nice. We were part of the noise NY and Naive Rhythm scene so I always felt we were all in the same boat.
Martha: Totally in with Liquid Liquid and Konk.
Who were you favourite bands to go and see back then and why?
Soody: Hmmm, there were a lot. Of the local bands we would go see our friends a lot. I loved DNA.
Linda: The Ramones were always fun, and any band that was recommended that I knew nothing about. There were a lot of new bands and most music at the time was fun.
Martha: Fela, DNA, some big soul shows, all our friends.
I like the review I saw from the Soho News that says ‘the melodies are carried by a very amateurish saxophone player’. Surely that was the whole point – to play like you couldn’t? You know deconstructing your abilities and almost looking at it in a different way… Was that something you were about?
Soody: We couldn’t play!
Linda: I believe the words are self taught. We played out shortly after we started playing our instruments.
Martha: We were inspired neophytes.
The music really benefits from having that raw, captured live thing. Well some of it was obviously recorded live, but when in the studio was it a live run through or did you try and record separately.
Soody: Everything is recorded live, either in studio or performance.
Linda: I remember late nights hardly able to stay awake.
Martha: Down and dirty, low-budget and raw. In a good way.
How come you never got signed to Sire, Ze or one of the other labels picking up bands at that time? I presume that scene was picked over pretty heavily…
Soody: We just didn’t get an offer in the short period we were around.
Linda: We almost got signed to 99 records.
Martha: It would have been 99 if anyone signed us. Maybe Rough Trade or ROIR.
Boring question but how did you hook up with Keith Haring for the Dog Eat Dog piece he did. Were you mates with him?
Soody: Keith Haring was a downtown artist and easy enough to run into. We just asked him if he would do a poster because the dog was one of his favorite motifs. He was very sweet and said he would do it and made an extra for us to add future dates to.
Linda: He was part of the Club 57 scene. I think he went to school with Julie who was working with Martha at the time.
Martha: Keith was a friend from the neighborhood. His work was everywhere.
Going back to the clubs – where else were you hanging out? Were DJs important to you as people or did you more enjoy the art/punk/live scene. What about Paradise Garage, Funhouse etc…
Soody: I don’t think DJs were the entity they are today back then.
Linda: I like music live and went to places we could get in for free which was most. Peppermint Lounge, Danceteria (where I caught Madonna’s first show), loved the dancing boys, Irving Plaza, Tramps, jazz clubs names long forgotten. There was The Empire of Soul Club, Warren and the Empress spun B sides of soul 45’s at various venues.
Martha: The Empire State Soul Club was great!
Were you into hip-hop? Before it went head long down that drum machine beat route it seems the scene you were in (Fab 5 Freddy, Futura etc) was very hip-hop. I think your music is pretty B-boy…
Soody: We loved the rap scene and frequented the Roxy Roller Rink in Chelsea for rap/breakdance shows.
Linda: B-boy, I like it. Loved the early scene. Roxy was our place to go.
Martha: Checking out rap and hip hop at Roxy. Thanks for the comparison.
At the time did you look at the success of some bands around you and think about making your music slightly more commercial or were you not interested in that?
Soody: We would have loved some success.
Linda: Commercial, never wanted that as an option.
Martha: We enjoyed our artistic freedom then, but a wider audience is always great.
What happened with the band in the end? Do you still play together? Is it more of a historical thing or do you have plans to go play in the studio again?
Soody: Oy Vey, play again? We discussed the possibility, but would need to REALLY dust ourselves off!
Linda: Historical, well you never know…
Martha: No plans, but you never know…
What do you all do now?
Soody: I am a museum curator and textile designer.
Linda: Photo retoucher to the stars! That means publishing.
Martha: I work in the film business.
What music do you listen to these days?
Soody: A lot of 70s glitter and 80s punk, always The Ramones, actually too much to list!
Linda: Lots of radio, WFMU and WWOZ, still can’t get enough of Neil Young.
Martha: The Clash, LCD Soundsystem, Spiritualized, Greg Dulli’s various bands and more.
Thanks for the interview!
Dog Eat Dog is out mid-March on Claremont 56. You can order it here.
January 16, 2011
Right, here’s the next of our pretty irregular Test Pressing interviews – this time with Trevor Jackson of Underdog/Output fame. Trevor has long been known for his music but is also a hugely respected graphic designer so we decided to use the sleeves discussed to illustrate the interview. It’s good to interview someone whose not scared of being forthright and having strong opinions.
I was first made aware of Trevor through his work as the Underdog – firstly with The Brotherhood and then in turn with mixes for Massive Attack amongst others. From there it was a short step (through tough times by the sound of it) to starting East-London based Output recordings with releases from LCD Soundsystem and Kieran Hebden’s Four Tet.
Right let’s kick off with the basics. Where are you from originally?
I’m from Edgeware, North West London.
What was it like? What was the first scene you got into?
When I was 12, or 13, Edgware was mainly a Jewish area, there was a whole scene almost like the Jewish version of casuals called Becks, all these kids that would wear Fiorucci and Kickers and hang out at Edgware station. It was a big thing at the time, hanging out there or at Golders Green, or Hampstead, a place called the Coffee Cup. It’s still there. There’d be 200 kids on the street, standing around posing. That was kind of what most of the kids did but I wasn’t really interested in that. These were people whose older brothers were all estate agents and jewellers, typical Jewish suburbia things. I fortunately managed to meet more alternative, interesting people and was able to broaden my social scene. One of my favourites place was Patsy’s Parlour and I used to hang out there all the time. It was a small video arcade and ice-cream parlour full of all different sorts of people.
Growing up my older brother used to listen to Stevie Wonder and jazz-funk, his mate used to manage Light Of The World, my sister was into Joy Division and Ultravox. I was obsessed with taping any music program on TV. Top of The Pops, The Tube, I’d sit there every day recording and force my mother to tape things when I was out. I’ve still got hundreds of VHS tapes somewhere. I’d also listen religiously to Westwood on LWR and also Mastermind on Invicta. I also started to read The Face, Blitz and i-D and become more interested in club and music sub-cultures.
I was fortunate to meet a guy slightly older than me called Simon Cass whom I became really friendly with. He was really into New Order, Hi-NRG and industrial music and from the age of about 13or 14 I started going to gigs and the Camden Palace all the time. I used to go nearly every night. The first proper club I remember going to was The Embassy though.
Was that early hip-hop and electro at that time?
Well it sounds like a cliché but my first single that I bought was Giorgio Moroder ‘The Chase’ on 7”. I was really into science fiction at the time so I suppose the logical thing at the time was to listen to electronic music as it shared a similar aesthetic.
Yeah it was kind of the future. I’ve talked about it many times but the first gig I went to was the Human League for the Dare tour and it a huge effect on me. Adrian Wright was doing the visuals and they had Doctor Who, Captain Scarlet, Fellini movies on multiple screens and it blew my mind, so from a very early age I had a strong interest in visuals. The Dare album had such a strong cover and the band were really into 2000 AD and Judge Dredd which I also loved, so I was kind of linking all this audio visual stuff together. I was stuck in this suburban place dreaming of other more exciting places, New York to me was my mecca. I’d listen to Colin Favor on Kiss playing NYC Kiss FM mastermixes by Red Alert and the Latin Rascals, I’d hear about all these amazing clubs and I started to hear a relationship between the European electronic music I was into and a new American version that was even more exciting.
Where were you going out back then?
I’m trying to think back to where we were going. My older friends all used to go to White Trash and places like that, but I used to go to the Camden Palace, Batcave, Xenon, and Busbys on a Sunday which was more of a north London Jewish social thing where they played disco and jazz funk… London club culture was very small then. I used to go out every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday that I could.
Was that where the early interest in graphics came from?
I was really into this magazine called Escape. There was a group called The Battle Of The Eyes. It was Savage Pencil, Chris Long, and Ian Wright and Andy (Dog) Johnson – all anarchic British comic book artists, Ian Wright and Chris Long used to draw for the NME. Andy Johnson did covers for his brother Matt Johnson’s band The The. Chris Long’s stuff was really incredible, very graphic and unique. All his characters were club kids, the sort of people I’d meet when I was out. I was really into that. It was more kind of comic book but it was well designed. I started to become very interested in the visual representation of music and the relationship between the two, covers, videos, every aspect. It’s funny. I was in my storage last week and I found this bag and I’d found I’d cut out hundreds of music ads from magazines. I can really see where some of my influences had come from. I mean there were obvious things like all the ZTT adverts, which really were amazing, but also loads of stuff random I just cut out. So there was Escape, this small little comic book, and probably Neville Brody’s amazing work on The Face that got me into wanting to either be a comic book artist or a graphic designer.
What else were you up to at that time?
I was also working in a record shop at that time from the age of 13 or 14 for five or six years. I ended up being manager on a Sunday. Richard Russell (now Managing Director of XL Recordings) used to work for me and I used to take great pleasure in telling him to go and put the grills up on the windows at the end of the day.
What was it called?
Loppylugs. It was pretty famous for the area – in Edgware – two minutes from my house.
Did you study graphic design at college?
Yeah I eventually knew I wanted to work in music and design record sleeves, so I studied at Barnet College and I ended up there for four years. I got a diploma in general art and design, then a higher diploma in graphic design. And through it all I was still going out all the time.
Where did you first agency Bite It! come from?
I left college and started working for a company called the Kunst Art Company based in Clerkenwell. They used to do a bit of music work as well as film posters and it was really exciting. this was all pre-computers, working with photo-mechanical transfer machines, photocopiers, Tipex and rotring pens. I started to meet loads of interesting and influential people going out in the evenings. I was confident and slightly precocious, living at home with my parents so I didn’t need any money and could afford to do commissions for little or no money. Whilst I was working for Martin Huxford, doing posters for things like Belly Of An Architect by Peter Greenaway and some other cool things, I started to get my own work in. I’d hear on the grapevine that people were putting records out and when I heard Mark Moore (S’Express) was putting out a record I simply spoke to him at the WAG where I used to go regularly and said ‘I hear you’re doing a record. I want to do the cover’. He told me to bring my portfolio in the next night to show him, I went along with my portfolio, sat down in the corner and showed him my college work and he was like ‘yeah great’ and that was one of the first commissioned jobs I did.
So where does Champion come into it?
After I did S’Express, I was also doing stuff I wasn’t so into; Steve Walsh the Gypsy Kings and some really dodgy things, as I started getting more of my own work in. Martin from Kunst was like ‘Trevor you might as well get on with doing your own stuff’ so I ended up sharing the studio with him paying rent, mainly doing my own work but also helping him out when he needed it. I think it was through working at the record shop that I notice Champion were putting out all these great records. They were connected to these importers in the premises next door, called Record Importers or something, they could cherry-pick the best records as soon as they entered the country and license them. I noticed none of the record had picture sleeves, they were all in that Champion green house bag, so I went to see Mel Medalie, who was a proper character, a crazy South African guy, and I said ‘I’ll do sleeves for you for free and if you like them give me more work’ and one of the first things I did was a cover version of ‘Set It Off’ by the Bunker Crew and he liked it. So he was putting out four or five records a week and I was doing the sleeves cheap but he was giving me shit loads of work so that kept me going for ages. I was doing ‘Break 4 Love’, Todd Terry, Frankie Bones, Pal Joey records… brilliant records.
All those Todd Terry sleeves are quite distinctive with that ‘bit’ design…
You know at the time, for record sleeve designers, there were only a few big people. You had Peter Saville, Vaughn Oliver , Neville Brody and Malcom Garrett at Assorted Images whom I all really respected but you also had Stylo Rouge and all these boring mainstream companies, and for a record sleeves, alot of the time they’d just take a photo, lay some type on it and get paid a fortune. I was like ‘fuck that, that’s just lazy’ and wanted to do something different. Also, computers had just started being integrated into bigger studios, so you had Paintbox and these programs that cost thousands of pounds, and I couldn’t afford that so those early sleeves were a reaction to those big companies. I used to love playing video games on the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 and to me it suited the music. It was like 8-bit music. You know, Todd Terry is making these records on pretty low-res samplers so it seemed an obvious thing to do. That was like late ’80s early ’90s. I still had that comic book mentality. The sleeves had a mini-story to them, almost like a two panel comic strip related to things that were going on at the time in rave culture.
What do you think when you see those sleeves now?
They’re innocent. There’s a naivety and I’m proud, you know…
So house was really kicking off in the late 80s, were you still into hip-hop then?
Sure, there was still lots of great hip hop around as well as mutations of it like hip house, the scenes were still connected and as hip hop got faster the two scenes became connected. Clubs like Delirium started to play house as a reaction against the more violent side of hip hop but I still loved both genres. I related to it work-wise as I started working for Gee Street Records. I was going to fashion clubs and parties that still mainly played funk, hip hop and electro stuff as well as all the amazing early London warehouse parties, but I also started going to acid house clubs, Clink Street etc. There were certain points when they crossed over. My favourite london club was a place called Astral Flight at The Embassy. A guy called DJ Wolf played there and he was mind-blowing. Him, Colin Favor and Eddie Richards were the DJs doing it for me then. People talk about Paradise Garage and that was my Paradise Garage. Hearing New Order’s Your Silent Face over that soundsystem… They had this huge rectangular lighting rig that would descend over the dancefloor and this big inflatable couple swinging from the roof fucking. I’d listen to Colin Favor and Eddie Richards on Kiss, then I’d hear them play at the club, and the next day go to the Record And Tape Exchange in Camden and find all the records I’d heard. In the NME they used to do a little chart and I’d be able to discover all the records I didn’t know.
Who was DJ Wolf and why was he so good?
The club from what I remember, was a posh Mayfair venue full of a weird mix of rich socialites, cute girls and art students but he used to look like a goth, with high spiky blonde hair playing from a booth high up overlooking the floor. He used to go from like Bauhaus to Kraftwerk, then to ACR. He was the first British DJ I heard doing that really well. He was really really on point – and he’d play funk as well. It’d be interesting to see a playlist from him. I was too young to go the Blitz and stuff like that so that for me was a really seminal club. It was a really fucking good time.
Did you do the Jungle Brothers sleeve for Gee Street?
I did Royal House ‘Can You Party’ and then I did Jungle Brothers ‘I’ll House You’, basically the same record with a rap on it. I did the sleeve for that and ‘Black Is Black’. I was lucky you know. I was doing that and also working for Network Records. All those bio rhythm sleeves. Neil Macey was working for Network and I remember when that classic Virgin Ten Techno compilation came out and I seem to remember meeting Neil Rushton (the head of Network) at a London launch party or something.
So when was Bite It! as a label born? That was your first venture into music right?
Yeah. I was doing Bite It! as a design thing only. There was a Street Sounds remix competition and I hadn’t really made any music before but I’d bought a four-track and had a little sampling device for the Commodore 64 computer where you could sample for a few seconds with a very basic sequencer, and I made a remix on that. I was making beat-based music only. ‘Beatbox’ by Art Of Noise had a huge influence on me. I was obsessed by Arthur Baker, Trevor Horn and Adrian Sherwood. On-U Sound was a big inspiration. The first On-U dub stuff I wasn’t so into, but when Adrian Sherwood started working with Doug Wimbish, Skip McDonald and Keith Le Blanc (the ex-Sugarhill Gang Band) as well as DJ Cheese I became hooked, hearing that Fats Comet track “DJ’s Dream’’. It was fucking crazy. You know I most probably heard it at Astral Flight with DJ Wolf playing it. So, my initial records were not melodic at all just rhythm and noise.
Then I met this rap crew who lived round the corner from me called the brotherhood and I started working with them. I started Bite It! purely to put out this track ‘Descendants Of The Holocaust’ which was a reaction against stereotypical Jewish suburban life as well as needing to voice a subject we felt that was important to be heard. We’d experienced our own forms of racism and were just as angry as we were excited by the platform of hip hop.
Was that when you first went into the studio properly?
Yes, we went to this small studio called Monroe Studios in Barnet. I used to work with this guy called Roger Benou, he ended up engineering most of my Underdog mixes. We did the first Brotherhood stuff there on an Akai 950 sampler and an Atari ST. It was interesting because that studio became a real haven for loads of underground British music when it moved to Holloway Road. A lot of important Drum ‘n’ Bass producers started out there. Lucky Spin records was next door. DJ Crystal who was the original Brotherhood DJ, Ed Rush, Adam F, DJ Trace all those guys, I used to hear Amen being cut up in a million different ways 24/7 through the walls, everyone at the time worked there. It was a really important creative hub. When I was working as Underdog I was doing all my remixes down there.
The sleeves for The Brotherhood seemed to kick against what was going on in UK hip-hop at that time…
What had happened was, I had this parallel life. With the design I’d gone from Gee Street, Network and Champion then I started working for Pulse-8 doing terrible Euro pop music sleeves. I was making a lot of money but I was hating it. It was soul-destroying especially after designing records that had such integrity. At that point I made a conscious decision to stop designing and start my own label. That’s why I started Bite It! and it had a very strong visual aesthetic.
The reason I wanted to do something graphically strong was that you had Music Of Life and Cold Sweat (UK hip-hop labels) but they appeared second-rate compared to American product. I wanted to make records that sounded as good as American records and looked as good. If not better. Hip-hop visually had already started to be a cliché with the girls, guns and cars and stuff so I wanted to go against that. I was also really conscious to sample from very different kind of records. Not only did they have to sound and look right, the sources had to be different. European jazz-rock, Soft Machine, ECM, it was all about different sample sounds to what was going on at the time. That was part of the ethos of the label.
I remember buying a 12” with a sample saying ‘I might smoke a spliff but I won’t sniff’ that I’d heard on the radio. What are you proud of from that time?
A record called ‘100% Proof’ I sampled this tune by Julian Priester called “Love Love’ on ECM that was originally in 3/4…and I flipped it into 4/4 and I did this tripped-out bonus beat with flutes and tripped out shit, they sold it in Honest Jon’s where James Lavelle had started working before he set up Mo Wax. And he was like ‘What is this???’. He loved it and we started a good friendship.
Did you know the Bristol lot as well?
I was good friends with Mushroom (Massive Attack). When the Brotherhood EP came out it started to get played a lot and Richard Russell who was working at XL, asked me to do an underdog remix for House Of Pain’s ‘Top Of The Morning To Ya’. It went Top Ten on the back of my mix and my remix career as Underdog started to take off along with having the label. Mark Picken, who was managing Massive Attack liked the mixes and eventually started looking after me. I went on a European tour with Massive Attack and DJed at after parties along with Mushroom and G.
Massive Attack kind of changed when Mushroom dropped out…
For sure. I have a hell of a lot of respect for 3D and G but it’s now a very different band. ‘Blue Lines’ in still one of my favourite records of all time. I mean Mushroom wasn’t an easy character, He was always the younger one during the Wild Bunch days, so I suppose he always got treated like a kid in the band but he was hugely talented, made all the best beats as far as I’m concerned and contributed loads of great ideas. I went to Mushroom’s studio and he was like a proper audio freak had amazing gear. I don’t know what’s happened to him, I liked him a lot. I’ve been trying to get in touch with him again for years.
So where else did your influences come from?
Mainly clubs. The whole warehouse thing was massively influential on me. Shake N Fingerpop, Family Funktion, those parties. Norman Jay, Judge Jules. You know he actually used to be a good DJ. Then you had Soul II Soul and all those guys and the Mutoid Waste parties as well. It was an amazing time. That whole period of club culture hasn’t really been documented enough but it was hugely influential to a lot of people. I also used to throw parties with Tony Nwatchuku (from Attica Blues) in Oxford at a place called the Caribbean club back in ’87 ’88. We’d play hip hop, Smith & Mighty, early Todd Terry things, that really was the start of everything for me career wise.
So you had all that going on and then the Soho set with The Wag and stuff…
Yeah you had all that and then Dodo’s, Dial 9, Delirium, there was so much going on, The RAW club in the basement of the YMCA in Tottenham Court Rd was perhaps the best club in London for me after the Embassy, Saturday night with Dave Dorrel and CJ Mackintosh was incredible. But I really remember going to some amazing parties along the Thames. I remember vividly the first time I heard house music at a Shake N Fingerpop/Family Funktion party, one of the DJs was cutting up, a mix I stole for years afterwards, ‘Peter Piper’ Run DMC with Fun Boy Three ‘Faith And Hope And Charity’. I went upstairs and there was a Mike Tyson fight being shown on a big video screen and they were playing Farley Jackmaster Funk ‘Love Can’t Turn Around’ and I was like ‘what the fuck is this record?’ There were things like Cultural Vibe ‘Ma Foom Bey’ always being played but that was a proper house record I think I heard.
What made it a proper house record?
It sounded different. I was used to uptempo HI-NRG but that record… It was probably about Darryl Pandy’s vocal, I didn’t go down so well. The floor was empty but I was enchanted, the atmosphere was great. To this day I’m most comfortable in a dark, dirty basement. I’m not into Funktion One soundsytem clarity and air con. I like reggae sound systems smoke and sweat.
Going back to the label – who signed The Brotherhood at Virgin?
We got signed by Simon Gavin and Steve Brown, who went on to form Science, and then we spent a long time making The Brotherhood album. There was no-one in British hip-hop at the time making quality cross-over music with a strong concept, we had one. The band was mixed-race. It was a black guy, a Jewish guy and a mixed-race guy and musically I was sampling 90% English and European jazz rock and we got the English artist Dave McKean who’d done artwork for BATMAN at DC Comics to design the sleeve. I was really happy with the thing as a whole. It joined the dots in many ways. The cover looked very different from anything else at the time, the whole project ended up being very well received.
How do you get from Bite It! to starting Output?
There was quite a gap between the two. I was being managed by Marts Andrups he also looked after Roger Sanchez and Kenny Dope. Marts tragically suddenly passed away, he was a very close friend as well as work collegue and that had a very big effect on me. I was young. I was in my late 20’s and it totally threw me. Up to that point I felt indestructible and I’d never had anything like that happen to me.
Marts was a real character. I’d met him in Honest Jons with James Lavelle and when I met him I thought he was a stuck-up wanker. He was opinionated, totally full of himself and never agreed with me about anything but he had the coolest shit, everything you wanted, sneakers, art, records, he was completely on-point, and when I got to meet him properly we got on like a house on fire, we became great friends and he started to manage me. But then he passed away. I ended up falling out with The Brotherhood and things went sour. They pushed me out of the band and off of the label, after what had happened to Marts I just thought ‘fuck this, I don’t want to do this anymore’ and I got out of it. I don’t really know what I did for a year. I needed to find some new inspiration and I started going back to my records and I realised I was deeply into just weird weird records. I used to go to Soul Jazz and Mr Bongo and buy strange European jazz records, travel the world buying crazy things to sample and play. And It made me realise I wanted to get well away from hip hop and the way it was becoming so narrow-minded, and release music I over regardless of genre and most importantly who else would like it.
Was Mo Wax influential in the move from Bite It! to Output? You look at it as a label and they are releasing tracks by Carl Craig, Richie Hawtin, stuff like that…
James (Lavelle) is a genius, but a victim of his own success. He was on it. People don’t give him enough respect. I grew up with eclecticism, and he took that aesthetic which was missing at the time and brought it to a new label and an amazing mix of stuff. Then they had the club at The Blue Note, Dusted, and I remember DJing with me, Weatherall, Carl Craig, going to see the craziest mix of people, it was a brilliant time. He did a lot of stuff. Maybe the downfall of the label and with regards to Output, I saw that James ended up becoming bigger than most the artists. He was the label and I think that possibly created resentment and it put to much of the spotlight on him, the minute I started Output I didn’t want it to be mainly about me. I was happy for people to know it was my label but I wanted the focus on the artists. They were the most important things. The label was just a conduit for the artists.
What were the first releases on Output?
They were just some bits that I had kicking about. Remixes that got rejected and stuff. The early stuff was very beat-based. I don’t really remember what the first release was but I released three ten inches which were beat excursions…
Now I remember what I did in my time in between Bite It! and Output. I ended up hooking up with this band the Emperors New Clothes who were on Acid Jazz records. They were fucking great. They were like Sun Ra meets ESG meets King Tubby. They were amazing. I got deeply into them and hung out with them all the time and got friendly with Luke Hannam the bass player, then Acid Jazz asked me to produce their album after doing some remixes for the band. We spent perhaps a year making the record, I’d gone from working with only samples to learning how to record live instruments and working with real musicians, it was a crazy time of experimentation and pushing boundaries, it was about as un-acid jazz as it could possibly be, totally out there music, perhaps one of the best things I’d ever done. but we finished the record Eddie Pillar (Acid Jazz owner) refused to pay me. Eddie was notoriously hardcore as was his partner at the time Dave Robinson who used to run Stiff rRcords, I may have been a dick about it but I refused to be fucked over. I told him to go fuck himself and unfortunately I think it’s one of the best things I’ve done. So I ended up putting out an Emperor’s New Clothes record on Output, maybe third or fourth release, and then the band broke up and Luke started to form Gramme with Leo (Taylor) the drummer.
I didn’t realize Luke and Leo were in Emperors New Clothes…
I remember the turning point. We were doing this track that was like the precursor to Playgroup’s ‘Make It Happen’ Leo was playing the drums in a free jazz style, Luke was rolling with a brilliant uptempo wobble style baseline. and it just didn’t sound right, I was trying to explain to leo to play simpler in a more primal almost moronic style and he didn’t understand, I pulled out Metal Box and said ‘listen to this. He totally got it and I think that was the moment Gramme was initially formed. This new direction caused a split in the band and they eventually broke up Gramme formed perhaps a year later? I kept in contact with Luke, he played on many of my later Underdog remixes and also introduced me to Kieran Hebden whom he met at Rough Trade one day. I’d never have signed Four Tet had it not been for Luke.
Was it Fridge (early group featuring Kieran Hebden) at that point?
Yeah Fridge. Fridge was him, Sam and Adem. They recorded in their bedroom. And I listened to their records and went to see them play together at home and they sounded like Can or Faust or something. They sounded amazing.
Was that when the label found it’s identity?
I was really fortunate as I’d signed a P&D deal with RTM Distribution. And I could spend some money on packaging. I could do what I wanted. I was sick of doing all these crap sleeves. All my influences started to make sense. All the experimental music I loved, the fusion of things, genreless sounds, I finally had my outlet I’d always wanted. And there weren’t any labels in the UK doing what I was dong. I felt like all my artists were rejects. We were outcasts and I enjoyed that. I’d always felt like an outcast myself.
Was the label in East London at that point? There wasn’t much going on in Shoreditch at that time…
All you had was The Blue Note. And that was it. For me it felt like a second home as I’d worked in Clerkenwell for so long. I was lucky. To dispel any myth, I don’t have rich parents, I was earning money as a teenager when I first started working living with my mum, so I was saving money, and I could fortunately afford to buy a flat when I was quite young. This was the only place I could buy a nice space in East London. Best financial decision I made and I was fucking lucky and the area blew up.
I suppose there was you and Nuphonic over here…
There was also Tummy Touch. It was them, Nuphonic and myself. Tummy Touch were here before me.
What records were you buying at the time?
I was really into post rock, Tortoise and things like that. I used to have a great relationship with Darryl at the Rough Trade shop in Covent Garden and I’d buy fantastic records from him. I loved that place, and also Atlas Records with Pete Herbert and Mark Kirby behind the counter, They got me into Basic Channel and stuff like that. You know I’d done the early techno with Network but when those Basic Channel records came out they made sense to me. Hip-hop had got a bit boring and I was playing more experimental music – Kompact, Thomas Brinkmann, stuff like that was coming out, restored my faith in club music, that I thought had become incredibly boring.
So back to the label, you had a pretty good track record for discovering bands…
It was more being involved with things. I didn’t discover them. Perhaps I was lucky. I was in the right place at the right time.
Do you wish you’d locked down some of the deals with the likes of Four Tet and LCD Soundsystem?
I have never been a good businessman. I’ve never done things for money. Money doesn’t interest me. I never ran the label as a business, I just loved this music and I wanted it to be heard. Also, at the same time I was conscious of my limited capabilities as a label so I felt i didn’t have the right to sign a band to the label and lock then down to anything, it would have been dishonest to do that. Also, I heard stories about how Daniel Miller had never actually signed Depeche Mode so I was like ‘fuck it, why should I sign anyone’ and I also worked with the bands as friends which perhaps was very naive but that’s how I did it. Thing was, it also protected me in a way because the bands expectations of me couldn’t be unreasonable. I didn’t have anything in the contract I had to achieve. All I promised the bands were that I would get there records in the shops, radio and club play and press, the rest who knows? You know I had been running the label by myself, apart from a false start at with a deal with Virgin through Source Records that didn’t work out, and Rob (Sandercombe, label manager at Output) had come in and he was a life saver. He was magic. Just what I needed. Well organised and knew how to work with people so he came along at the right time.
So what happened then?
You know, when people started to really like the records was when it fucked up. No-one taught me how to run a record label and I can hand on my heart say I never drew a wage as I was doing other things, DJing, remixing and designing. I never ran the label as a business and in turn many of the bands didn’t make money, though i’d like to think most of them did well out of it in other ways. I don’t regret it at all. Unfortunately by the time a well organised structure of the label needed to be in place it was too late and we couldn’t go back. It was started in a totally relaxed casual way but the success totally took me by surprise and i was too busy trying to run the day to day business to be able to stop things and make anytime to set it up properly, that messed up everything.
It sounds like most of the bands just turned up?
It wasn’t really that, i listened to many hundreds of demos but most of the artists I released had been ignored or rejected, people just weren’t interested in them, and for me I have a strong attraction to things that other people don’t like, as well as naivety in recording. I love early demos – the initial essence of an artist.
When did Playgroup come into the picture?
Playgroup came along in about 1999. 99% of the things I do are reactionary I create things because I get fucked off with what I see or hear around me, or I think somethings missing and someone needs to do something about it. Playgroup started because I was bored of what I was hearing in dance music. I was listening to all these records through working with Gramme and I was realising that no one was making live dance music anymore that wasn’t dumb or super commercial. All the production on records at that time were super complicated; Aphex, Squarepusher, Timbaland, Rodney Jerkins… I wanted to make a simple record. I’d been doing loads of dark complex stuff and I wanted to make a credible, fun and sexy record.
My main drive was, I was 30 years old, I was sick and tired of the ’80s not getting the respect it deserved. People always used to take the piss out of it, which has obviously changed now, and I strongly felt there was massive influence in the music I was hearing around me, but it seemed people were in denial and and that whole period of time needed to be showcased in the right way. Edwyn Collins, Dennis Bovell, Paul Haig, Shinehead, Scritti Politti, I wanted to get all my influences in there and mix it up with new people. I wanted to make an album that sounded like your best friend’s house party not a commercial super club. At the end of the day, I just wanted that ’80s era to be respected. I was fortunate to work with some really great people on that record.
The ’50 Ways To Leave Your Lover’ – it’s a good one. How did that come about?
At the end of the night I always used to play ‘Mama Used To Say’ or ‘Billie Jean’ by Shinehead as well as Paul Simon’s original, I remember I was DJing at the Massive Attack end of tour party in Paris in the tiny backroom of this club and I played the original of ’50 Ways…’ as the last record and the guys from Air came up to ask what it was. I was shocked they didn’t know it, that moment stuck in my head, it all kind of linked together and it made sense to cover that record.
Is there a new Playgroup album coming at some point?
I’ve probably made about four albums since that one came out but I’ve never felt like releasing them. The longer it takes the more cautious I am about putting stuff out. The reason I want to release music is questionable now. If I’m frank about it there are so many people making great music now. I only want to make records with a purpose and records that don’t sound like other people. I’ve always made music inspired by other people and I don’t want to do that anymore. I can’t make a space disco record better than Lindstrom so why bother. There’s no point. I still have that hip-hop competitiveness at the end of the day.
So closing off that whole Output era – what would you have done differently?
I would have had a good accountant that didn’t rip me off, I wouldn’t have employed a ‘so-called’ business advisor who would end up making things even worse and I probably would have had a business partner or someone that had some experience from day one. But I don’t know if anyone would have seen the potential in it anyway, my initial plan was quite reactionary and destructive, not having a business objective apart from breaking even. Who really would have known that Four Tet would be as popular as he is now? I initially didn’t expect any of the artists I worked with to sell more than 1,000 records, to be honest I would have been quite happy with 200. I’m suppose a snob. A subversive snob. I like the idea of keeping things limited, unique, selective and special.
You’ve always designed record sleeves – what do you make of sleeve design at the moment?
I think it’s interesting now that the whole digital thing has almost gone back on itself. People are slowly reacting against it, Look at Stones Throw, they are releasing limited beautiful screen-printed records using Hennessey in the ink for Madlib, Will bankheads cassette label, people are doing really interesting stuff. So I’m still inspired by things I see around me, whatever format they might be.
Would you buy a record just for it’s sleeve?
I have done, and made many mistakes doing so, especially on crate digging excursions without a soundburger or record deck to hand! But my life has changed over the last two years. I’ve cut down on consuming and purchasing things I don’t need as I had too much of everything. I don’t want to be cynical but having lived through so many things it is rare to see or hear new things that truly excite me anymore, and right now I only want to experience powerful new things I haven’t felt before, or live with essential things that are timeless.
So looking at your design – if you had to pick a favourite sleeve what would it be?
I find it really hard musically and visually to have an opinion on my own work. Maybe the Soulwax sleeve and some of the Bite It! sleeves. I still like them.
You seem to DJ a lot in Berlin – what’s so good about it?
In Berlin you can play in most clubs the people will look really normal, but you play the weird records and they go off. You play them in London and they leave the dancefloor. And there is something about that essence of Berlin that is still super exciting to me, people seem open minded and free in many ways. Maybe that’s what is missing in London at the moment. I made a real conscious decision to stop playing big gigs at the moment. I’ve seen many of my contemporaries play bad music simply for money. There are to many people that will compromise their beliefs to earn a living and I don’t want that. If I’m honest I don’t like being in the limelight, never have, I don’t want to play anthems and do things that people want me or expect me to do. The Playgroup thing mucked up so many aspects of my life as it put me in the spotlight, made me feel uncomfortable, messed up relationships and even my health. When you put out a record and start playing the promotional game you get pushed into a world that changes everything. I don’t want that attention nor care about what anyone thinks about who I am or what I do, as long as I’m proud of what I do I’m content. Now I’m much happier playing for 2-300 people where I know I am going to have a good time than a big gig which might pay me well but I leave the booth feeling like I should of stayed at home and question why I bothered in the first place. big gigs can be great with the right promoter, line up and crowd but it’s almost impossible to play records that have any detail, sensitivity or depth, which is what I appreciate most. Berlin to me is good but it’s not necessarily the epicenter. One of my favourite gigs has been this small town Asturias in northern Spain, I played a little club for 200 crazy people for 7 hours. Fucking amazing.
So rounding up – you’ve been quoted as saying you share ‘an equal love of low brow and high brow culture’. How does that manifest itself?
It manifests itself as I am often full of contradictions, but I like what I like, not what people tell me I should, And I am opinionated in the process. People seem scared of strong opinions these days. I respect people that are passionate and have genuine reasons behind why they do things even if I don’t agree with them. For instance with movies I love Enter The Void and Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Cannes winner 2010) as much as I appreciate Hollywood blockbusters like Armageddon and Bad Boys 2. I don’t have any preconceived ideas of what I should and shouldn’t like and how I need to fit in in anyway. I’ve never wanted to be part of anything.
I respect individuality and innovation in all forms and refuse to be pressurised to think or conform in anyway that I don’t feel totally comfortable. People have been too lackadaisical recently, this country has been putting up with so much shit recently, we’ve been continually lied to and deceived, people say nothing and accept that’s the way things are or simply ignore what’s happening. I think now what’s going on with the student riots is really exciting. I got hairs on the back of my neck when I saw students revolting. That’s what this country needs. That can only be a good thing for culture as a whole
Finally, if you could go back to any club in time where would you go?
I would go to the Funhouse as shown in that New Order video. That’s the weirdest thing for me. Arthur Baker is a friend now but I considered that guy a god at one point. Everything he was involved in. Him, John Robie, Latin Rascals, you know… he was amazing. What I would do to go back to the Funhouse where JellyBean Benitez puts on that Reel to Reel tape of ‘Confusion’ and the lights go, and the B-Boys and girls start dancing, that’s where I’d want to be. I know the Paradise Garage was the one for a lot of people, but for me it’s definitely the Funhouse.
December 29, 2010
One of our favourite records of the year was the Gala Drop 12″ on Golf Channel so we got in touch with Nelson Gomes (below) of Gala Drop to ask for a mix and also a few quick questions on the band and what it’s all about. The mix shows their eclectic tastes are and the interview hopefully explains more on the band and where they are going in 2011.
Who is Gala Drop?
Me, Afonso, Guilherme and Tiago.
Where are you based?
How did you guys meet?
We all met in different periods in time (between 2003-2005) at a place called ZDB where i used to be the music programmer.
What do you each bring to the party?
Electronics, guitar, percussion and drums.
How did the hook up with Golf Channel come about?
Tiago met Phil a few years ago in New York and gave him a copy of our first record at the time. Phil loved the record and suggest that would be great do something with us in the future.
Have you been to one of their parties in NYC yet? It’s on our list of things to do…
We played at the party in September. was pretty amazing. I was pretty impressed with the fact that the crowd instead of being facing the band, they were raving like crazy as they do in dance clubs.
What’s the long term goal for Gala Drop?
Do good music, record music, play a lot of shows and have fun.
We heard you play live? What does the show consist of?
Yes, we do. Imagine a rock band playing dance music.
What’s the scene like where you are?
Amazing. It’s happening a lot of great music in such a different scales of genres.
Your mix for us is pretty eclectic – how do your different tastes filter in to the music?
I wouldn’t say they got filtered, but that they help you clarifying you more in a way of what you wanna do and/or don’t. I think the music you love became to be part of what you are. The music we do is a reaction to who we are.
What was the scene you grew up on?
I grew in a small factory town called Barreiro in the other side of Lisbon. Was pretty raw there, but i can’t complain. At the time, was happening there a lot of different things: good dance music in the clubs, a few rock shows, good African clubs, good music in the bars, a lot of loud African music in the streets of my neighborhood….good times.
Finally, tell us what you are up to so people can get involved…
We are focused right now in doing new songs for the next record, the idea is be in the studio in February 2011 and we are working in a North European tour that will take place in April.
December 7, 2010
Our friends in Australia, The Blackmail, got in touch to see if we wanted to run an interview that they had just done with Harvey for their site. We of course said yes. To be honest I don’t quite understand the cult that is developing around the man but you have to say he’s got it right – the parties, the space in Hawaii and living the happy life. On top of that he seems totally genuine and speaks total sense. So over to Mr Michael Kucyk of The Blackmail and on with the program…
Text: Michael Kucyk Images: Harvey Bassett
Spanning many scenes and sounds, Harvey Bassett has been unconsciously carving his global cult notoriety for almost 25 years. As a DJ, Harvey is like no other. His infectiously positive personality seeps into his eclectic sets that aren’t limited to meaningless genrefication and often journey for six hours. Harvey will play whatever he feels, how he feels, and will never spin a lyric out of context. Inspired by his encounters with Larry Levan, he started the lewd label Black Cock with fellow Englishman Gerry Rooney and released legendary reel-to-reel edits which became heavily sought after and widely bootlegged. With a long list of credits as remixer, producer and session player, he has been involved in recording outfits Map Of Africa and Food of the Gods, as well as his recent solo project Locussolus. After overstaying his Visa, Harvey has spent the last 10 years bouncing between Honolulu, Los Angeles and New York. A newly acquired green card finally allows him to visit Australia for the first time.
Michael Kucyk: Are you enjoying the freedom of having a green card?
Harvey Bassett: Yes I am, this year I took a tour of Japan and Europe, which was fun. It was nice to get out and about. I don’t want to spend the next 20 years on the road. It’s nice to be in one place for a couple of months so I’ve been enjoying Venice since I got back.
MK: With such a large gap between visits to Europe, the UK and Japan, have you noticed a dramatic change in any club cultures?
HB: Not dramatically, no. I mean there might be a whole new generation of kids that have come through in that ten years but there was definitely a percentage of the old school represented too. It was good.
MK: Are there any new countries that you’ve toured recently with scenes that have excited you?
HB: Nothing so far. It seems like the scene is small. The venues are maybe only up to 1000 people but globally it seems to be pretty healthy with all the digi-communication and all the rest. People tend to know what’s happening.
MK: You’re involved in thirtyninehotel, a club in Honolulu. How’s that going? Does it have a community following?
HB: Pretty good, chugging along out there. I actually haven’t been out there for ages because I’ve been touring. There are definitely people there but I don’t know if they’re thirtyninehotel people. We’re open five nights a week and stuff goes on there. It could be anything from a seminar of lawyers or earth mothers to a wedding or a jazz band, reggae band, rave party. On the weekend it tends to be R’n’B based music on Fridays and dance music on Saturdays. There are regulars that come out for those nights.
MK: Has this international travel encouraged you to start digging again?
HB: When I was away in Europe I got into it but I think that was more to do with the guys I was hanging with. They’d be like “Harvey there’s a warehouse two miles from here with five million records,” and I’d be like “Let’s go then!”. I don’t purposely go out searching for them anymore but if stuff comes by way or if someone has a bright idea then I’ll go off and dig for some tunes.
MK: Did you have much luck at the warehouse?
HB: That particular spot was in Switzerland. Usually at a place with that many records it takes a whole day just to understand what’s going on in the room. It’s like “OK I’m getting a vibration from this area.” I found one or two records but I actually gave them to the guys I was digging with. Knowledge swapping.
MK: Can you recall your strangest digging experience?
HB: I remember once being in a warehouse somewhere in New York and we had a packed lunch and got locked in for a couple days with mountains high. We uncovered a full working record player so we got to listen to the tracks right there. I’ve had various rooms ankle deep in water with rats and the records are covered in dog shit from the guard dogs at the storage units. Some awful, stinking, brutal stuff. There’s also AIDS hospices where you get gay guys who have been disinherited by their families and all their loved ones have died so all their possessions end up in a warehouse. You go down there and pick up some disco records. That’s maybe morbid instead of strange but at least they go to a good home.
MK: Have there been opportunities for you to tour Australia in the past?
HB: Loads of people have said it but nobody ever made the call or took the kangaroo by the horns. I’ve always been down. I’ve even got some distant relatives and a few good old buddies out there. But this is the first time it’s actually come together and its perfect timing in many ways. It’s a good time of year and it seems like the scene is healthy.
MK: I hear that you’re an avid surfer. Are you looking forward to hitting some waves out here?
HB: Yeah man! As long as it’s not too strenuous! I might drag out a long board. I just bought a new wetsuit and I’m considering bringing it along so I don’t have to borrow someone else’s stinky beaten up wetsuit.
MK: You should watch some cult Australian surf movies like Crystal Voyager or Morning of the Earth. Both have classic psychedelic soundtracks.
HB: I’ve seen both of those. I’m big up on the surf movies.
MK: Earlier in the year I saw you play at Cielo in New York’s Meatpacking District and you opened with a medley of Justin Vandervolgen’s edits. Is he one of a few producer-DJ-edit makers that inspire you?
HB: Yeah I think he’s really good, he’s a friend. Actually I think that was the first three songs off his Golf Channel mix. I was like “that’s fucking great, I’m going to play it!”. So that fantastic mixing wasn’t me. It was Justin making it super smooth although I was adjusting it as it was playing. There’s a thing called Hot Q on the CD player which you can edit on the fly so that’s handy.
Loads of people inspire me. So many European cats making new records and edits and obviously Rub N Tug with Eric Duncan and his C.O.M.B.i stuff. On my European tour I played alongside 20 of the most happening DJs on my scene and everyone gave me a CD with 30 edits on it. And I was like “Whoa!”. Just mind-boggling amounts of rare cosmology. There’s some sublime and some ridiculous, you just have to check them all out.
MK: You’re bringing DJ Garth with you on this forthcoming Australian tour. Do the two of you share a similar spiritual vision?
HB: Spiritual vision (laughs)! There’s not a spiritual bone in my body mate. Me and Garth go back a long way. We’ve been friends for 20 years. He’s a gentleman and a scholar and a real good time DJ. I couldn’t think of anyone I’d rather be on the road with for a few weeks. He’s definitely part of and a purveyor of the style of DJing, if there is one, that came out of our scene in the late ’80s and early ’90s. He’s a great DJ and has a great bedside manner as I would say.
MK: How did you two meet?
HB: I don’t really remember. Probably at the Zap club or a TONKA party in Brighton many years ago.
MK: What about Gerry Rooney? How was Black Cock a collaborative effort?
HB: He would often come up with the tracks that we would edit. He’s been a collector, dealer and DJ for many years and has access to unbelievably incredibly great music. We would have some fun cutting up and editing those tracks and putting them out. Although we haven’t done anything together; although we did do a remix kinda but even that wasn’t really together. It was sort of a Black Cock record but he remixed; it was kinda official but he was in London and I was in LA and we basically did a mix each. Gerry was definitely instrumental in the Black Cock thing, for sure.
MK: He seems pretty illusive. What does he do now?
HB: He’s still DJing and dealing records. I’m not sure if he has a website that you can buy records from him or if it’s by secret phone appointment only. I know he DJs out on the scene in London and gets around the world.
MK: The names Black Cock and Map of Africa are pretty potent with a sense of perverse attraction. Were you channeling some raw sexual energy when creating the music?
HB: To a certain extent. Obviously it’s all about sex – the potency of the Black Cock, the double entendre and the tongue in cheek font. And the same with Map of Africa. Just to have fun with word play, and also secret meanings that aren’t that secret. It’s a joke but it’s kinda cool at the same time. To me so much of music is sort of a version of fourplay, especially on the dancefloor. You’re sizing each other up and it’s a version of sexual play in many ways – the way you move and express yourself, shake out or dance with someone. I like names. I often like inventing names and concepts. Obviously Black Cock and Map of Africa are prime examples of the sort of fun we like to have.
MK: Food of the Gods doesn’t feel as erotic.
HB: That’s because I didn’t make it up (laughs)!
MK: Are these just recording projects?
HB: We’ve never performed live as such. It would be nice to be able to put a live unit together and play out but me and Thomas [Bullock] basically never have the time. He’s in New York and I’m in LA, and when I’m in New York, he’s in Europe. To get a tight act together it really takes a couple of months of living together and working together every day for a few months. A couple of years later we’re deep into other projects and our solo projects so I don’t know if Map of Africa will ever play live.
MK: What can you tell me about the Rwandan Ice Cream Project?
HB: Basically these drummer girls came over to New York from Rwanda. They were holocaust survivors and had come over to learn to make ice cream so that they could take the knowledge back to Rwanda and get some parlors going to make a living. It turned out that they were members of this all woman drumming ensemble so we put them in the studio and recorded a couple of hours of songs and chants. It will be released and all the profits will go towards a Rwandan good cause.
MK: Have these girls since returned home?
HB: Yes. Hopefully they’re ice cream millionaires by now.
MK: What does a regular day for Harvey consist of?
HB: Wake up, have a cup of tea, let the fog of the night before clear, decide if I have anything to do, go to the studio, jump in the ocean. You could say I’m awfully romantic and that I get on my motorcycle, drive up to the surf and have a macrobiotic sandwich on the way. It swings between that and peeling the kebab that I slept on the night before off the side of my face. Finishing off the can of hot special brew that I left on the windowsill. Straggling down a very oily 50/50 spliff before staggering out into blinding daylight. In the last couple of months I’ve been pretty healthy and productive. I’m all about good food. A friend of mine catches a lot of fish in the ocean right in front of the house and brings back lobsters and flounders. I would imagine Australian’s are quite used to that behaviour but it’s pretty exotic for an Englishman to actually be able to cook local fish caught a hundred yards away.
MK: Are you eating some quality tacos?
HB: Yes. Without question, the best Mexican food in the world outside of Mexico is in Los Angeles. There are some phenomenal tacos of every variety. I like to eat the ones from the traditional Hispanic taco trucks that feed the workers. You can get three carnitas tacos, a seafood tostada and a Mexican coco cola for five bucks and you’re stuffed and ready to go back to cleaning toilets. Happy and full.
MK: What do you think you’d be doing if you didn’t get into DJing and producing?
HB: Absolutely any kind of mundane brainless job like greeting people at the supermarket. A job that wouldn’t take up any of my brain so that my brain could be left to meditate. I once worked in a factory where the speed of the machines was such that you couldn’t day dream, or you’d loose a finger or two in the blades. I actually learnt to slow the entire productivity of the factory down by turning a particular knob. It was just slow enough so that everybody in the factory could daydream and everyone was happy and could get the job done. But this is where the party’s at and I don’t want other people spoiling party time.
As we said at the top this article first appeared on the ace The Blackmail site. Follow them for more. Thank you kindly to Michael Kucyk.
October 30, 2010
We got in touch with Wally Badarou to find out how his contribution to the classic Gregory Isaacs ‘Night Nurse’ album came about. Here’s what he said.
What do you remember about the Night Nurse sessions?
Everything, because my involvement was brief and very simple: February 22nd 1982, I flew from Paris to Nassau, no specific project in mind. The very night I arrived, I left my suitcases still packed in my flat and went down the studio just to say hello before crashing back in my bed, so jetlagged I was. As I sneaked into Studio A, there was Godwin Loggie, whom I’ve known from the days of Countryman soundtrack recording (he had done Toots “Bam Bam” magnificent version for it), now sitting at the desk mixing some great music. “Hey Wally ! Glad you came by ! Here is the Prophet ready for you !”. The synthesizer was up and ready indeed, God knows who for, prior to my showing up. I had never heard of Gregory Isaacs before, and what came out of the speakers was irresistible already. So despite my near 20 hour trip exhaustion, I agreed to have a go at a couple songs. Less than a couple of hours later, I had overdubbed on the whole of the album, somehow reinvigorated by the “less than two takes or leave it” performance, hypercritical of what I did (as usual), and never realizing this unplanned last minute session would land me to be part of one of reggae’s indisputable classics.
That album is one of the very few I contributed to, that I can listen to from start to finish, skipping no song in the process, with absolutely no favourite in mind: from “Night Nurse” to “Sad To Know That You’re Leaving”, each of the songs bears special momentum, groove, grace and spirituality within.
I met Gregory only once, a few months later, still at Compass Point Studios. We just ran into each other one day, with a “Hi Prophet!” and a “Hi Gregory!” informal exchange, mutually respectful, yet quite brief since, as far as I can recall, each of us was busy doing something. So I never got to know the man really, nor any of the brilliant musicians who performed on that album: I did not attend the main sessions. My contribution was a during-mixing totally unplanned injection, with just Godwin, some assistant and myself in the studio.