Thursday, October 30, 2003

Wiley interview here.

Incredible stuff. Love this bit:

Martin Clark: "Ice Rink,” “Eskimo” etc What’s the reason for the ice theme in the track names?

Wiley: "I’m a winter person but the cold… sometimes I just feel cold hearted. I felt cold at that time, towards my family, towards everyone. That’s why I used those names. I was going to use “North Pole” but I didn’t even get that far. It was all things that were cold because that’s how I was feeling. There are times when I feel warm. I am a nice person but sometimes I switch off and I’m just cold. I feel angry and cold."

Respect to Mr Clark for getting Wiley in the Slut. 'Ground Zero' - phenomenal; review next week, when my post finally gets here... ///

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

This is the raw transcript of an interview I did with Kevin King aka Lemon D last week for a somewhat niche magazine. The original idea for Tufluv being reviews, I'm not altogether that it works to post interviews here. But until a print or web format becomes a reality you may be able to expect intermittent Q&As like this one...

Tufluv: Has your sound system become your mission?
Lemon D: It kind of was, but I think the main part at the moment is getting our residency (Big Bad Bass) up and running so there’s a base for people in London, because we’ve done the whole country over the last couple of years but we haven’t had a London thing for a little while and I think it’d be nice to come back and do something at home. So, we’re concentrating on promoting that and we’re working on a new album which has nothing to do with the dancefloor whatsoever, it’s us making what we wanna make, an experimental album – downtempo, hip-hop beats, the whole thing.

Where’s the residency?
Studio 33 in (Vauxhall) London. It’s a nice little club and what we do there, we’ve got two rooms and one month we have completely different music in the other room, so one month we’ve got pirate radio DJs and the next month Skitz and Rodney P and some hip-hop guys and then the next month we’ve got maybe breaks producers and DJs. We’re changing it each month and what we’re also going to have is like up-and-coming DJs and stuff and we’re gonna give them regular spots down there – all they’ve got to do is just basically send a tape in and then we’re bringing through new talent down there as well.

How hard is it for new talent to break through right now?It’s really hard at the moment and we just want to bring people through, because we know that we’ve got something associated with what we do now – like a name-brand sort of thing – so if we can bring through new talent, new DJs and new producers; it makes their job easier, it makes hope for them, really, because in this scene, like any other scene, you’ve got work cut out for you. And it’s harder just to be a DJ and not a producer, so what we’re going to do is give them the chance (to produce), because it’s needed out there, that new talent coming through.

Is the drum & bass scene open to new talent?
Yeah, I think it is, yeah. I think anything that’s new, anything being brought to the table and you think ‘Oh, yeah’… And it’s better for us now because it’s like these kids have grown up on… whereas as when I was growing up it was hardcore music, they’re coming from drum and bass, like ’94 to ’96, and it’d be interesting to see what their take is on the music now. That’s why I want to bring them through, because a lot of people just don’t see the big picture, they just see it from their point of view, they don’t realise that there’s like loads and loads of musical kids out there, people that have got their own take on the scene and the music, and we need that.

Is it a lot different now to when you started out?
Yeah, everything’s different now. Even when you go to a record shop, you don’t get people, like, on it, coming to buy (all different kinds of) records. People are very particular. It’s like in drum & bass, or whatever, you’ve got people that are following, that are like sheep; they’re not really doing what they want to do because the dancefloor dictates what’s going on, the DJ dictates what’s going, so there’s no freedom. It’s completely changed.

How was it for you trying to come through?
It was hard; it was hard, but I still got gigs and I played on pirate radio stations and stuff. Then, it was very hard to get in but if you did have a bit of talent people would still notice you, you just did your own thing, really. But now it’s like, if you don’t make one big tune you ain’t getting through.

How did you get your break?
I just tried to work on doing beats and doing things a different way from other people. Like, if I was doing an ‘Amen’ tune, I’d just cut the ‘Amen’ up as much as I could cut it up.

So, you think it’s about finding your own style and being different from other people?Totally, yeah. It’s needed, man. I get millions of tapes sent to me… CDs. We’ve just signed up three new acts and what (attracted us) is that they’ve got their own little styles and that’s what we’re looking for. We’re not looking for people that wanna sound like a Valve-sounding tune – it’s gotta be their own sound.

What was your experience of working with R&S like?
Well, that was alright but it was just hard because they were in another country. They gave me complete freedom, so that was good. They folded, so there was no album, but with other labels and stuff it’s very straightforward. What they did was just put the track out, we never did any mass marketing or stuff like that, like your Vs and Prototypes, it was just put out, it was simple, there wasn’t any big pressure. They were just like mates, really, it was like working with a friend. With a major it’s just a completely different machine. It’s alright as long as they’re not going through a changeover, but majors are a different ball-game. We were working with Phil (Howells, formerly of FFRR/London, now of City Rockers) for a year and a half and then they changed the whole department and he left. You become good mates and then they get taken over and he’s gone and they get another person in but they’re not into that music and not into what you’re doing as a product.

How does that compare with running an independent like Valve?
Right now they way we work it at Valve is we do it like a major. What we do is we get an artist and his track’s really good we’ll promote it and spend the money on it and get the big full sheet posters out, adverts in magazines, adverts on radio, you know, you’re not necessarily gonna get your money back, but after your third or fourth release people know about your stuff that might never have known about you before. In terms of putting out a track in drum & bass and selling a certain amount of units, fair enough, but you can’t crossover the artist to other forms of music, you know what I mean? Like getting it into your X-Rays and your NMEs and whatever. We don’t actually make any money but like I said, we spend the money that we would have made on promotion.

Is that stuff you’ve learnt by experience?
Yeah, totally, ‘cos that’s what all the majors do, apart from the fact they give you 17 pence out of every pound they make – or ten pence – this way you’re getting more money back but might not sell as much; you’re promoting yourself totally differently – and it looks like a major product – if you look at ‘Killa Hertz’ it just looks like a proper product, you know what I mean?

What advice would you give to someone starting up a label?
Just make sure that with your first release you’ve got a non-mediocre tune, have a tune that is working out there and people instantly know and recognise that tune. It’s hard, but that’s the thing that I’d say. Not even a top tune but just have something that people are gonna buy, because you’re gonna lose money and you can’t really lose money in this day and age any more. Another way of doing it is go with the label that you think has got something there that can help you as a platform for yourself, give it to the label that will work your tune and put it out and from there make your name and then put stuff out on your own label.

Do you believe in a DiY ethic?
Yeah, totally. You have to be, because it’s not a great big scene and everything could be a hundred times better, but people aren’t letting people expand and if you don’t do it yourself then no one’s gonna do it. Everyone wants to be a DJ but there’s not enough DJ spots; everyone’s just making tunes but then they’re making tunes that sound like other people and it’s just like. At the end of the day, what we’re doing is completely different to what everyone else is doing because we’re trying to bring new talent straight in, give them a chance, give them the opportunity and doing it ourselves. I mean, the only other thing I’ve seen lately is the Movement competition. I don’t see anyone else doing anything, it’s like they don’t wanna bring no one through, it’s like they just wanna roll along like it’s all great, but it’s not great, the music could be a hundred times better, and once the music’s better the clubs are better and everything’s better. I just get a bit bored when I hear the same old thing rolling around. Everyone’s got heir style and people have got what they do, but then it’s like you got too many sheep, and that’s what spoils it, because you’ve got 20% of the tunes that are original and then you’ve got 80% of the people that flood the market trying to be like that, but if they all did they’re own thing it’d be much better. All I’m doing is doing it myself by going out and trying to find the new talent, because I don’t wanna be doing it for another three, four years, I wanna be concentrating on just developing things, that’s why we’ve got the sound system, you know, ‘cos if you don’t it’s gonna die a death, like garage, you know what I mean? If you keep sucking it dry that’s what happens. If you look at it there aren’t many key producers out there – I mean, if you took away certain producers from the scene and they said ‘Look, I’m not making any music anymore, what would you be left with? Producers that are trying things slightly differently, you take out the key producers then you’re left with hardcore music, really, I think – a lot of them are just making rubbish, not one bit of originality. And it’s like Photek’s not really making any (drum & bass) stuff because of how the music has changed and it’s a shame, you know. A lot of producers have kind of gone, and if they all go it’s gonna be a bit annoying. That’s why I’m doing this, building foundations for new guys to come through, school ‘em up so that it doesn’t matter if Karl (Dillinja) or myself or whatever weren’t making tunes, it’d stand up. We’ve got to look to the future.

How much time and effort have you put into the Valve Soundsystem over the years?
Well… to the point where it affected everything – life, everything. No time whatsoever, you know what I mean? It’s just, literally, one of the most stressful things I’ve ever done in my whole life.

Did it become an obsession?
Not even that, it just became a nightmare, because we had no time or sleep or anything and it had to be done – if it weren’t done it wouldn’t work, you know what I mean? It became something hat was literally playing on your brain, mentally. There was a lot of physical work involved, financially and everything, you know? Every penny we earnt what we put into it, and then everything suffers along the line. I mean, if you’re a multi-millionaire then fine, but if you’re not and your just trying to stay in the black it’s a major, major risk.

Has it been worth it?
Yeah, because every event we do they’re always packed out and everyone’s screaming for one more track, people throwing things at the security because they don’t want to go home! And everyone talks about it and everyone has experiences, but yeah, it’s better than I actually thought it would be. Everywhere we go, you go to Scotland or anywhere, it’s the same thing and most promoters say it’s the best party they’ve ever done, so it’s good, you get the feedback. People keep ringing us up – we get a lot of sound system companies, like big companies without mentioning names, that come down to our events now and we’ve got loads of interest from different scenes, I’ve had like big producers put on the guest list for our parties, it’s branched out in a way that it’s gone beyond drum & bass, which we wanted it to, like not within it’s own barriers, it’s gone beyond that. It’s about dance music, it’s not just about drum & bass, sound-system’s the whole thing really, whereas now it’s expanding and in dance music their ears are pricking up to the whole thing now. You notice how you get a lot of flyers now and the first thing they put on there is this sound system and that sound system because they know there’s something out there and they’re trying to get the punters in by saying ‘bla, bla, bla soundsystem’, but they weren’t doing that a couple of years ago, and now the effect of what we’ve been doing for two years has made a lot of people change the way they’ve been working, because you see ‘sound system’ turn up on a lot of flyers now, even if it’s just the in house soundsystem, or they might hire a sound system, which is good, I think it’s good, because at the end of the day if you’re gonna say that you’d better give punters value for money, that’s another reason why we did it. If people are going to a club and they get a crappy sound system, no lighting and the same DJs that are playing all round the country, playing the same music, what are they getting for their dough? As I said, we’re not monolpolising anything because we’re just doing what we’re doing but also bringing through new talent. /// October 2003

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Unknown my arse – this is the work of TLS on their until-now cloak and dagger Hidden Library label, the premise of which being that you could only buy its releases via a Sherlock Holmes-style hidden passage-way located on the Bi-Wire (Weatherall-affiliated online record store) website. Limited to 500 copies these are desirable items on a cult/collector level before even getting to the music; beyond that it’s above-average fare if a little sketchy. More reminiscent of their deeper TLS album material than their oft-brutalistic RGC ‘machine funk’, the untitled A-side rides a skipping, almost broken beat-style rhythm, augmented by those familiarly coruscated FX, like wind rattling through an industrial air duct, a lukewarm, sombre edginess tingeing the brittle beats, making the rigidity of it buckle a little. The other side is a claustrophobic hip-hop affair redolent of murky attics – any indications as to how Tenniswood and Weatherall might apply themselves to a hip-hop project never fully emerging. For some reason, however, TLS unwieldy sonic girth with its slashed ribbons of decayed emotion doesn’t lend itself well to the flimsy 7” format, but worth checking if you’ve got the inclination and swiftness of feet. /// SHADOW HUNTAZ ‘THIS AIN’T WHERE IT’S AT’ (SKAM) Indie hip-hop very rarely grabs me by the vitals but this is tugging on something. Weighing in with a grandiose Bruce Lee-meets-his-arch-nemesis-style string intro, the beats have the dazzling quality of whirling nunchucks, lulling you into a confused daze before the king cobra kill. The rhymesayers, meanwhile, sound like jaundiced lowlife skulking and conspiring in a rubbish-strew US alley. ‘Razbar’ has the desolate industrial/post-apocalyptic atmosphere of 23 Skidoo’s dub-funk battlefield, the beats that there are scampering around like crippled dogs sniffing for bones in the dark (or something). ‘Stay True’ is much lighter, however, a post-cloudburst mind-trip with sweetly corroded keys. ///

A nice touch indicating his fondness for both garage and drum & bass, Tejada’s ‘VIP mix’ strikes a chord somewhere between Todd Edwards and Stacey Pullen, with a sinuous yet smooth house groove that keeps the bottom end bumping and soulful insertions of string/synths creating a playful Todd/Akufen vibe (with a Detroit rather than New Jersey leaning) and little one-second pauses that make you hold your breath before it all bumps back in. Play this alongside the new Tuff Jam/Qualifide 4/4 garage joints and it’ll work like a charm. /// MARTIN JARL VS GUG GUS ‘MOONSTRUCK’ (RESOPAL) The Gus Gus remix here is a gem; future acid that’s sparks at the touch. A sizzling acidic bass riff buzzes along with enough hints of 303 without veering into Josh Wink dentist-drill mode whilst the drums are lively and restless with late-80s-style percussion driving the temperature up. It gets increasingly frenetic with dark fuzz-bass surges pulsing away as tribal toms beat out an old-school tattoo. It cumulates in a decidedly trancey, melancholy chord line that subsides after several bars. I like this tune a lot. /// SUBTONAL VS FRESH MOODS ‘SEMITONES IN DARKNESS’ (MIKROLUX) Fluid electro-funk with a haunting, heavily-reverbed Middle-Eastern female vocal somewhere between a belly-dancer’s siren song and Muslim call to prayer floating eerily above sparky laser-zaps, Space Invaderz fx and pulsing acidy bleeps. Brilliantly sounds like something both John Digweed and Dave Clarke might play, and its not often you could say that nowadays. Deep like the Dead Sea. /// THE YOUNGSTERS ‘CONFIDENTIAL MUSIC VOL.3’ (F-COM) ‘These In My Arms’ on the B-side begins with an angular refrain like 808 State’s ‘Cubik’ or LFO’s ‘Probe’ before a conga-ripping thump brings us right back into galloping Gallic Youngsters territory. One of their raviest cuts yet, reverse synth riffs slicing through the air like kung-fu chop hands performing some abstract dance, a European voice repeating the cryptic title. The riff is chopped up, whirs like a propellor then the track slams back in, the cheeky use of Pacific State-style bird of paradise calls bringing flashbacks rushing to the mind’s eye. The French, it would seem, know the score. /// MEEKS & BONDURANT ‘AUTISM READING EP’ (CHATEAUROUGE) Four snap-popping Parisian grooves. Like John Tejada, the A1 cut takes the cut-up sample approach of early ‘90s US garage and weld it to a techno bodykit as termulous male soul-voice seems to yield under the funk-thump of the groove, building with flashlight stabs and deep-throated vocal inserts. The B-side is strictly back to the Warehouse; Chi-town given a Metro Area boogie swing, becoming increasingly acid-fried until a deep electro-bass breakdown with the sounds Godzilla-movie screams and madening repetitive vocal samples. /// CARL CRAIG ‘TRES DEMENTED’ (PLANET E) Like the illegitimate offspring of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (God knows he had a few) and Sleezy D, this is tribal voodoo techno of the highest, strangest calibre that sees Craig revisit the bizarre vocal acrobatics of Paperclip People’s ‘Throw’. But whereas with ‘Throw’ he was playing the role of histrionic gospel diva/drag-queen screaming like an black castrato about a “good man” and throwing your hands in the air in sexual/religious fervour, here he’s the witchdoctor; a bone-shaking shaman stomping the ground, thrusting his groin and salivating madly in trance-like delirium as he lets out a series of animalistic squawks, shrieks, howls, groans over layer upon layer of rollicking tribalistic drums, sky-strafing synth flares and funky, guitar-like bleep patterns. It’s The Funk distilled to a pungent, narcortic elixir, inciting wild aggressive sex on the dancefloor. Three acidy bonus beat tracks reaffirm Craig as a class-A trackmaster as well as an artist of subtle melodic nuance. /// LUCIANO & QUENUM ‘ORANGE MISTAKE’ (KOMPAKT) A trippy, characterless bass pulse drives an urbane groove deceptively before a ravey, descending glissando ripples through it, continuously chopped and edited as wobble-board effects bring a queasy, sea-sick funk, bubbling like brightly coloured molten plastic in a pan, splattering over the sides. White gloves seemingly go with tailored business suits down in Koln, where the DJs look like architects (and often are), but no how to ‘ave it nevertheless. /// ENVOY ‘NIGHT MOVES’ (SOMA) Wicked soulful re-make of the late-80s Rickster track from dreadlocked vocalist/producer stalwart Hope Grant, rolling out a big old 303 line like an uncoiled anaconda and a slightly cliched (but wonderful) starry eyed breakdown, wherein Grant’s vocal skills are plainly evident, working brilliantly with the kinetic surge of the track to spine-tingling effect. Unabashed revivalism well done with bang-up-to-date production. Are the pills getting better these days? ///

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