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Just upgraded to a new host!
If you see any issues with the site, add them to the comments.
So, here it is, the new and improved FunkyJ.com for 2016.
When I started writing for dB Magazine and inthemix in 2002, the web was nascent and you had to look hard for material on the various artists I interviewed. Nowadays with wikipedia and google it’s really simple to find information, and I hope this writing will be added to that pile, and be useful to others.
It’s a little laborious copying and reformatting all my old interviews, so it will take a while to get all my content online again.
However I feel my writing is still valuable, not only for myself as both dB Magazine and inthemix have changed radically over the last 14 years and some of my stuff has vanished, but I also hope it’s useful for anyone who may interview these people in the future.
Oh, and just a note about the articles – the wordpress publishing dates I wrote them – or at least the creation dates the computer recorded me writing them. Publishing dates would have usually been a week or so after the creation dates. There may be some errors with this and the articles in general, but I present them as I wrote them, not as they were edited.
Since their meteoritic rise to the top of the dance charts, Kosheen, consisting of singer Sian Evans, Darren ‘Decoder’ Beal and Markee ‘Substance’ Morrison has toured the world, playing hundreds of gigs to thousands of people. Their incredible live shows have wowed audiences and their releases impressed critics on all the major continents of the globe. The name Kosheen is, according to Morrison is a mutated version of Cochise, and also means ‘Old’ and ‘New’ in Japanese. That’s an apt description, because Kosheen has been around for a while now, and yet still manages to stay fresh and relevant in the demanding dance music scene.
Both Beal and Morrison grew up on a healthy diet of punk and brit pop. “As a teenager, I was listening to The Jam, The Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen, Stone Roses, Happy Mondays,” confesses Morrison, but both grew into the burgeoning Bristol drum and bass scene, along side seminal dnb DJ Roni Size. They met at a nightclub where Morrison DJed, Ruffneck Thing. They also met Evans there, and the trio hit it off. With a view to make actual songs with a beginning, middle and end, rather than little loops and quirky vocals, they took the world by storm with Hide U, which charted in Top 30s around the world.
On the back of this success, the trio began taking their show on the road. “I think we’ve played nearly everywhere in the world except Outer Mongolia and Ecuador!” laughs Morrison. “In Asia we’ve played China, Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Japan, New Zealand. I love that part of the world!!” Travelling for such a long time and to so many places was “exhausting though”, he adds. “Especially at first as we didn’t get home for 3 months. We’re more selective now and space our touring out a bit to stay sane!”
Morrison relates on of his favourite on the road stories from when they toured Serbia in 2001. “Just after the Nato bombing!” he exclaims “We were kinda worried that they were gonna lynch us or something! All the bridges were destroyed and still sticking out of the river and stuff. When we got on stage and started our first song Catch, the entire crowd went mad and 20,000 people were all singing along. Me and Sian looked at each other like ‘Huh?!?’ Apparently our tracks were all over the radio! And when we went to the airport they were selling ‘our album’ at the airport, but it wasn’t even out yet!! And when you asked for it and they went in the back to burn it off and photocopy the cover!! Apparently we sold 50,000, but we never saw a penny though,” he laments.
The last album Kokopelli was seen by many to be darker than their debut Resist, and heralded the start of dnb producers using guitars. I asked Morrison if he has noticed the increase in guitars in dnb from the likes of Pendulum, and what he thinks this means. “Well I can only speak for myself, but the guitar was my first instrument and I write a lot with the guitar. But as kids of the electronic age we’ve experimented and fused the best elements of guitar with electronic production. I think on our new album we’ve reached the apex.” The new album Window on the World is long overdue, being held up with lawyers and contracts and the like, but is out early 2006 through Universal. “It’s the best thing we’ve done,” revels Morrison. “It’s more electronic, and the sound is awesome, it’s the kind of place we’ve been heading to and now we’ve reached it. It’s different to anything else out there, but unique quality music that people will appreciate.”
In the wake of Nubreed and Infusion, Statler and Waldorf, aka Dennis Gascoigne and Leo Hede, have come flying in to the Australian breaks scene with an amazing debut EP ‘Collusions’ and follow up album ‘Andronovavirus’. If you’ve heard the name before but can’t quite put your finger on it, Statler and Waldorf is the name of the two old balcony dwelling grumps from the Muppet show. “We actually prefer looking at the comic, cynic side of them rather than the grumpy side,” Dennis Gascoigne, or Statler, laughs. “It’s a name we thought we could grow into. If we are making music for 80 years it’ll become appropriate.”
Gascoigne has already been making music since the mid 90s, where he played in skate punk bands at a really early age. “So about ten years… long enough to know better,” he chuckles. Known for their exhilarating live performances, Statler and Waldorf straddle genres and mash all kinds of sounds together providing an interesting yet accessible sound. The name, ‘Andronovavirus’ is an abbreviation for Andromeda, Novation, Virus “which are the synths used the most on the album,” Gascoigne explains. “They’re not so much old school synths but more old school sounds. They’re not like the old Junos, which is probably a little too temperamental for our patient levels to be dealing with gear that old!”
I noted that their EP ‘Collusions’ had a rather different sound to their album, and I read that many people who saw them live were surprised to receive something quite different to what they were expecting. “We produced the EP with a lot of artists we admired and wanted to work with and it ended up sounding very unlike what we do live. People would come up after a live show and ask for our EP and we’d give it to them saying “this sounds nothing like us, what you’ve just heard”. Our aim when we made the album was to make an album to reflect where we were as live performers and as recording artists,” he clarifies, “so when people say ‘we like your stuff’ we can say this album will be their bag, you’ll like this.”
Their album is full of fantastic tunes, and an old school vibe. This feel comes partly from the equipment used, and also partly from the vocals. Duck ‘N Cover is an unabashed celebration of disco bickies and Saturday nights. The Resistance is resplendent with references to hackers and the underground. The vibe is very reminiscent of the mid 90s ‘cyberpunk’ sound. “Excellent!” Gascoigne grins as I say that. “We do a little DJing as well as our live show and one thing we guarantee is a lots of early to mid 90s everything, somewhere between the range 93 through to 98-99. As far as I am personally concerned they are the golden years of electronic music,” he states.
“It had the popularity yet the innovation. No one really knew how the gear worked and they just kept on making weird and wonderful sounds and making them work as popular music. Back before the Prodigy busted into the mainstream in Australia they were making really cool music. Even to the extent some of the rock stuff like Rage Against The Machine had a bit of that feel to it, and Pop Will Eat Itself had a great mixture. It just has a really good feel to it.” Here our conversation devolves into each of us saying how much we love the incredible PWEI, how great they were live, and I let him know that there’s a new album coming out. “I’m getting it!” he shouts excitedly.
Turning back to their music, I mention how much I enjoy Duck ’N Cover, but I had to wonder if the rock mix was put on their to appease the Australian, and particularly Queensland music listener. “Contrary to how we’ve got it on the album, the rock version was actually the original! The way it came about is the bassline, which gets a little buried in the mix, this funky synth bassline, only worked at 155 BPM, which is pretty fast. It’s pretty standard for rock, but you’re getting into your fast breaks, slower drum and bass, which we don’t delve into much. The only way it would work with the vocals, no matter how we squeezed it, was as a rock track. So we finished it as a rock track, and once we knew where it was going we slowed it down to the breaks mix. It’s really fun to perform,” he adds.
We wind up the interview talking about Statler & Waldorf’s gig at Earthcore, which they are both very excited about, but particularly Hede who used to be a hippy, and me lamenting that Adelaide’s breaks scene is still quite small. “The electronic scene in Brisbane is not so big either. You get your ‘weekenders’, guys who go to clubs and if it’s on they won’t leave,” he says, “but people who actively follow breaks and know all the DJs, other than Kid Kenobi who everybody knows, you’ll get a small crew of people but it’s not the scene you’d expect from our population.”
At age 7, Rodney Smith, thought he was too cool for the violin, and, being the son of poor parents from Jamaica living in South London, he sought out music more to his taste. “I was walking past Stockwell Skate Park and there was this sound system being set up. They were probably just trying out their speakers, and these dodgy-looking blokes standing beside it just admiring the sound of their bass,” the man who is Roots Manuva describes the first time he saw a sound system. His voice over the phone is exactly the same as it is on his albums, and his inflection and tone is wonderfully lyrical. “The sound system has been a massive part of the social actuality of the Afro-Caribbean people. Part of me culture and me heritage. That was what brought me to music, the sound through a big sound system, not the learning of music. I was learning the violin when I was 7, but it wasn’t cool enough for me, you know, so I kinda stumbled into reggae and then in my early teens was attracted to hiphop.”
Smith has just finished a “Back To Mine” mix, and just completed a tour of Australia, (sadly missing Adelaide), but I got the opportunity to see him not only at Park Life in Sydney, but a few years ago in Melbourne too at Vibes on a Summers Day 2001. In 2001 he just had a DJ and extra MC, but this time around he had a whole band. I asked the enigmatic performer why he came down with the band this time. “Using a band just seemed natural, just a natural evolution from sampling and using the machines. It adds a whole new dimension and flexibility to the live entity. It’s more of a challenge, it’s more scary, and there’s a higher place to fall from when you’re using a band.”
Smith enjoyed his tour, but finds travelling tedious. “It’s such a pleasure to be performing to such large numbers in Australia. It was a good ego boost, or ‘a ripper’ as you say over there,” he laughs. “Travelling is a real pain in the arse,” he adds. “Just as you’re getting into a place, you’re flying away again. And with Australia being so far away and so big, going through all those time zones it was such a physical engagement. There was many a tetchy moment between the band. There’s just so much to think about – everyone’s emotional state is fragile and up in the air, and it took a force from another world to come down and assist us to keep it together,” he says, with his voice rising like a preacher.
His last artist album, ‘Awfully Deep’ released at the beginning of this year, was also quite a challenge. “It was more intense, more of a laboured process, with more attention to finicky detail. Our past records have been more punk rock,” his laugh booms again. “A demo recorded in my front room, and other times we’d take five skeletons of tracks down to the studio and try and get five tracks done in two days. Have a couple of spliffs and a half a bottle of champagne and it was like, ‘right that’s it!’ But no more, we don’t have the time or money to be messing around,” he says sternly. “This time I would start off with the stripped down laptop ditty and take that to a bunch of musicians and get them to musically embellish what I do to step it further to a different sonic harmonic spectrum.”
Our chat takes us to his latest project, Back To Mine. “This compilation wasn’t about influences for me, it was more about putting together a bunch of music under the context of people coming back to my house after a night out,” he says, when I ask about the tracks he’s chosen. I mention how I think this Back To Mine is one of the most enjoyable, most listenable and accessible, especially compared to Adam Freeland’s Back To Mine. “Is it?” he asks, thanking me. “Well I’m always making mix tapes, so I kind of tried to hit it with the mix tape stroke radio show vibe. Definitely thinking about my audience, and not sitting there scratching my own balls and showing everyone how I have a deep, deep knowledge of all there is in music,” he laughs.
Twenty four year old Stu Tyson was just an 8 year old when he caught the bug for drum breaks. “They had everyone in the school band to write down a list of the instruments we would want to play in order of preference. Being 1988, the first thing I wrote down was obvious… Saxophone! But I didn’t have a second choice. So, I actually looked at the guy’s paper next to me, and saw on his “Drums”. I immediately added that to the top of my list of now two instruments,” and in a twist of fate in losing out to drums, from that moment on Tyson was hooked to the sound of sticks banging canvas.
He found his way into numerous bands as a drummer, but like a lot of performers, found rock to be a little lacking, and moved into listening to dance music. “Initially, it was the drums that got me. Most of the dance music I’d heard was house and techno. I liked it, especially the production quality and mix style, as the drums were massive, but being a drummer, the old ‘4 on the floor’ couldn’t hold my attention for too long. It was actually drum and bass that got me first, and then breaks eventually took over. When I heard these huge broken beats and deep bass, I was hooked. See you have to remember; I was coming from rock music where that style is all about guitarists. Finally I’d found a style that was all about me,” he laughs.
Shaking the shackles of rock, Tyson began his career as Bass Kleph, which Tyson claims “is the medical term for leaving a watch inside a patient… and also a musical symbol to define all instruments in the lower frequency region,” he laughs. And his career has been on the up and up ever since winning the Triple J Australia wide remix comp of Downsyde’s El Questro. “Ah, Downsyde,” he muses with a smile, “that was so long ago. It’s so flattering that people still talk about it. It was great, especially for the national exposure. Before then I hadn’t released any of my original tunes, so being able to play a little bit of Bass Kleph (via that song) to the whole of Australia was a great introduction for me. I’m so thankful we have a national radio station that plays breaks!” he cheers.
Since the win, Tyson has burst on to the international breakbeat scene with a string of chart smashing releases; receiving rave reviews the world over. Wild Card was added to Triple Js daily rotation and since featured on Kid Kenobi’s “Clubbers Guide To Breaks 04”, Triple J’s “Home Grown” CD, “Future Breaks”, Ministry Of Sound TV commercials and more. His tunes with Boiling Point stable mate Nick Thayer Fucking The Groove and Fucking The Synth sold out in the first week in the UK, and their next release, the remix of Feelin’ Kinda Strange by Drumattic Twins, is soon to be launched on Finger Lickin’ Records. This came about from the Twins’ seeing how they used the vox from the tune looped in a set. “We’d just loop the breakdown, cut the bass and – instant acapella! They thought it was great and suggested we do a remix. There was never a guarantee it would be released, but we thought we’d give it a nudge anyway. Since then it’s blown up all over the world.”
Fantastic news for the Australian breaks scene, although I was surprised to hear that Tyson doesn’t have a club residency anywhere. “I play different places every week. There are clubs in Sydney I play at whenever I’m in town, like Hijack (which unfortunately was recently closed down), Kink, Chinese Laundry and so on, but I wouldn’t call them residencies. I prefer to take my music to as many different places as possible, and luckily for me there is enough interest to do this.”
Tyson is coming to Adelaide, so what can we expect? “I use mostly CDs these days, and still some vinyl. The CD players are so good now, and most of the freshest music I get is digital. Think about it,” he adds, “the people who wrote it are gonna have it on CD from the day its finished. It’s only on vinyl when it gets signed and cut.” I mention three decks, and he laughs, “buy me and drink and maybe I’ll do four! Trick wise there is plenty of stuff going on, but only in a musical sense. I’m only really into things that sound like part of the song, or sound like they are complimenting the song. As for scratching, I leave that to the professionals!”
The Stereo MCs are back after a few years in the wilderness with a new label, a new record Paradise, and new positive outlook. Speaking with Nick Hallam from the band was an interesting experience. Listening to someone who has experienced the worst of what the fickle music industry has to offer, but someone who’s still positive about the band’s musical future, gives even jaded music reporter like myself some hope that beyond marketing, money and managers, music is still the most important thing.
Even though the core group of people who form the Stereo MCs – Rob Birch, the indomitable front man of the group, writer and instrumentalist Nick Hallam, and singer Stephanie Mckay – have been on the road and in each others face on tour busses for quite a long time, there is still a great deal of love for each other. “If we’re not making music, we go to Rob’s house and listen and play records, play some table football, that kind of thing,” says Hallam.
Hallam claims there is quite a lot of optimism now about all aspects of the group. “We toured Deep Down and Dirty for about a year or two after the release,” he says of the last few years. “It was a bit of a weird time really. Because Deep Down and Dirty didn’t sell as well as Connected, the record company started becoming a bit negative, and we felt we had to get away from them.”
Things then changed quite dramatically in the Stereo MCs camp. “We fired our manager and we carried on doing quite a lot of live shows for a number of years and then got back into the writing process. In the meantime we were sorting out our legal troubles as our manager took us to the lawyers. And after that all got sorted out, we got out of our deal with Island Records, which we thought of as a corporate record company and we didn’t feel anything for them. Then we got a new manager, who is really positive and helped us start our own label, and we started to get our confidence back.”
Not surprisingly, the legal and contractual problems left a bad taste in the group’s mouth. “There was so much negativity around us at that stage that we kind of lost the plot a little bit, we thought it was all a bit pointless, we didn’t feel as though we were part of something anymore. Island were acting like a bank and we just felt de-motivated by the whole thing,” he laments. “But now we feel it’s a new start – we’ve got the new label, we’re doing it kind of low key really, but we’re establishing a firm base for ourselves again to build something. We’ve done some live shows around the UK and Europe and it’s been real nice, it’s feeling good, as good as when we first started even,” he enthuses. “It’s refreshing.”
“After Connected we had a few bad years where we shouldn’t have been in the studio. We needed to get some fresh juice really. We did the DJ Kicks thing for K7! and it kick started us into making records again. When we did Deep Down and Dirty we felt really good about it, because we had broken through a hurdle for ourselves in terms of actually making a record, so we were a bit disappointed at how the record label treated us like a fucking donkey, you know what I mean?” he laughs.
“But now I think we have control over what we are doing, we’ve got our shit back and we’re feeling more inspired than we have done for about 10 years. Once we cleared the decks of all the bullshit, got rid of people who had grudges against us because we hadn’t made them rich,” he chuckles. “Now we got a new team who have an open minded, positive approach to us and what we were doing, and it has became about making a good record and having fun doing it.”
Depeche Mode is one of the stalwarts of the alternative music scene. They’ve been making music which is both moving and emotional for 25 years, have been through various line ups, and have endured all the hardships and highlights that a quarter of a century in the music industry could throw at them. “We feel really privileged to have worked for 25 years,” says Martin Gore, the lead songwriter of the band since Vince Clarke left in the early 80s. “It’s kind of nice being around for so long, it means parents can introduce their kids to us,” he laughs gently.
Alternative is not a word they take to lightly however, as selling over 50 million records is hardly “alternative”. But they do have a distinctive style, a style that puts them almost in a genre of their own making. The floaty vocals, the dark, electro synths and emotionally charged lyrics have kept them in a mystical place aurally, the province of Goths and other alternative subcultures, although they’ve appeared on Top of the Pops numerous times, and charting in the Top 10 with 13 album release. “We don’t really make music for any one group of people,” Gore states, “this album is aimed at anyone, our old diehard fans and new fans alike.”
Depeche Mode has never felt the need to branch out. “We leave that for our remixers,” he chuckles. They synth lines and dream-world vocals lend themselves to electronic remixes especially, and they’ve been remixed by nearly every big name in the electronic music scene since the 80s, including Flood, DJ Shadow, Kruder + Dorfmeister, Speedy J and Portishead. They even offered their tunes Dream On and I Feel Love from Exciter up for fans on the AcidPlanet website, although Martin isn’t too keen on doing that again, although he wouldn’t go into further details.
But this is almost like mutual obligation, considering that Depeche Mode pioneered synth and sample based electronic music, influencing everyone from Portishead to Derrick May. I was surprised to hear that they had asked Ben Hillier, who has produced the acclaimed Doves release Some Cities, and Blur’s classic Think Tank, to produce their latest album. “Ben Hillier isn’t known for working on electronic bands, so we were surprised and excited when he turned up with all this vintage synth gear,” Gore says. “We used both old and new technologies on this album, a bit of re-wire on a Mac G-5, along with the old synths.”
However, despite claims that Hillier hadn’t listened to the back catalogue he was supplied, he did add a little something to the band. Although the band went into the studio with an open mind, they were surprised with Hillier’s ‘down to business’ attitude. “We’ve always thought we worked quickly with other producers, but Ben worked with us really fast,” Gore exclaims, “it was probably the quickest recording session we’ve ever done, and it was great,” he adds with the touch of a smile.
The new album is also a little more upbeat, but that’s a little like saying a slug is faster than a snail. “Melancholically upbeat” laughs Gore, agreeing with me. In the press release it claims that Dave Gahan, the main vocalist said: “It’s better being in Depeche Mode now than it has been for 15 years!” “It’s probably because he’s feeling good about himself and his health,’ Gore says, a veiled reference to Gahan’s drug troubles in the 90s. “He also wrote a few tracks on the album (I Want It All, Suffer Well and Nothing’s Impossible), and I guess that makes him feel more attached to the creative process this time around, which is a great thing for the band as a whole. I feel excited to have a new album and keen to get on the road for our world tour in 2006.”
On the Comedy Channel’s Hit & Run, they asked comedian Tommy Dean, who delivers outspoken and political stand up, to be campaign manager for a porn star in a local Queensland election. He jokes that all he heard were the words “Porn Star”. This was very similar to my experience when I was asked if I wanted to interview someone from the Naked Women’s Wrestling League. The only words I heard were “Naked” and “Women” – two of my favourite words, especially when combined. So, I jumped at the chance, ignoring the fact that the phrase had “wrestling” in the title, as well as the warning that someone had already picked up the DVD to accompany the interview, and they were deeply disturbed by it.
For, when you first hear the term “Naked Women’s Wrestling League”, it doesn’t really sink in. Even when you consider the term wrestling, it seems oxymoronic. I thought it would be a titillating experience akin to Foxy Boxing. You know, two chicks gently slapping one another in a suggestive manner. I thought that it would be some kind of fun slap and tickle romp in jelly or mud, and I couldn’t have been more wrong. For the Naked Women’s Wrestling League is all about wrestling. The fact that the stars are naked is secondary to pile drivers and submission holds. Imagine moves that The Rock would do to Mankind, or Hulk Hogan to Andre The Giant, and then picture them as naked women, and you’ll get the idea.
Now, for some reason, this DVD didn’t turn me on. In fact, I cannot honestly see how it can turn anybody on. Because, like real wrestling, it looks real, and it looks like it would hurt! I know that it is all staged, but these ladies don’t have much to protect them from pinches, punches and rope burn. When I interviewed NWWL star Ninja Chops, I expressed my concern at the possibility of rope burn and other injuries in uncomfortable places. “There is no prospect to think of pain,” she begins in badly faked oriental accent, and I know that I’m not going to get the answers I came for. “It is about the passion and the amazing feeling you get from being thrown onto the mat, thrown into the ring. The red passion in my opponents eyes, the fire burning within, feels soooo good,” she purrs. Ninja Chops, being Asian, is perhaps the least endowed of the wrestlers, and maybe her slender frame allows her to be thrown around with less damage to herself.
On the DVD the extra features, which I found to be much more entertaining than the actual wrestling itself, features the girls training with the same trainer used by Trish Stratus and Edge of World Wrestling Entertainment, formerly World Wrestling Federation or WWF, but they had to change it because of people kept getting wrestling confused with the World Wildlife Fund, and probably expected pandas to smash chairs over each other. “Much training is done. I train with sensei and wrestling coach on wrestling mat. Many hours of training is spent, yes, to learn all the moves to capture my opponents fire and take her down with my mighty will!” Ninja Chops breathes. “Most training is with me nude, to make moves that follow my body movements and to strengthen the most… virtuous parts.” Ah huh! I took that to mean it’s beneficial to train nude so you know where to grab and be grabbed without fingers or toes slipping into places that could turning this wonderful DVD full of MA 15+ “family entertainment” into something that could only be sold out of Canberra.
Speaking of the DVD, it’s hosted by Carmen Electra and Megan Summers, two names you can’t google at work without being busted for ‘viewing unsuitable material for the workplace”, so you know this is pure class. Unsurprisingly enough, the production values throughout are quite similar to the other entertainment Electra and Summers are known for. Admittedly a naked wrestler doesn’t have the same opportunities for product endorsement that clothed wrestlers can, so we’ll probably not see this reach the lofty ideals of the WWE Smackdown, for example. Ninja Chops disagrees, saying her name alone should sell any endorsements. For some reason, I don’t think her bravado will pay off in this case.
I was curious as to why someone would want to do this. There are far safer and less painful ways to be naked and still earn a living. Could Ms Chops see this as a stepping stone into the WWE perhaps? “NWWL is enough for my passion and to see where my fighting may lead. This WWE falls within the sphere of my life, then I will fight, but NWWL is just fine for me.” And what do her family and friends think of her profession. “Far, far away my family know not of television or pay per view. They know I fight virtuous, and I fight for them with courage and much passion.” Fair enough, but she did also mention she was from Canada.
I had to wonder what someone who spent the majority of their day throwing naked women around did in their spare time. “Well my side job is special massage”, she says, and here I feel like putting quotes around the word special, and I don’t want to insinuate anything but if you heard the way she said it you would want to as well, “and I do hair cutting for various, famous celebrity. I do that naked for very, very special customers,” she adds seductively after asking me if I needed a haircut. I decline, and wonder how the hell I’m going to pull this off… the interview, I mean.
Maybe he inherited it from the intensity from his hippy mother who named him from reading the Iliad, but Ilian Walker is intense and likes to talk. A lot. When we chatted he claimed he wasn’t quite ready for press interviews, but the man known as “the producers producer” talked my ear clean off with me saying nary a word. He was geared up to talk about his new album, Bohemia, his third studio album under the guise of Ils, he believes is his best to date, and I have to agree.
Part of the reason it is so masterful in production is that its working title was ‘Masterpiece’. I asked Walker why the change to Bohemia, and he explained that he didn’t want to seem too conceited. “A lot of people might not agree it’s a masterpiece, you know what I mean?” he laughs. “It was just a really motivational working title to push myself. “I found it useful and it did drive me to new levels. If you’ve got masterpiece written on post-it notes all around your house it constantly sets the bar higher and higher. When you’ve got like 30 tracks, and you’re trying to pick the best ones to finish, trying to give the whole thing continuity if in the back of your mind it’s “masterpiece masterpiece masterpiece” it really does affect your approach. I really thought I could do a really good job on this one, and it was just a working title to give me a kick in the arse,” he chuckles again.
Another reason the album sounds great is that it features some incredible vocal tracks, each of them deep and moving and sounding like actual songs, not just a beat with a vocal dropped over the top. “Developing a vocal tracks for me is really the next level,” Walker says. “It really is bloody challenging. I’ve mastered how to make instrumental music, I feel confident in myself I can make good instrumental music and tearing club tracks. I never really used lyrics in the past. I was a bit of an instrumental purist as a producer. I wanted to move toward lyrics for this album; it adds another dimension”. As to the content of the lyrics, he is, “very fussy about lyrics, for me they have to mean something. So those three songs on the album have a great deal of personal meaning for me. Cherish especially, it’s the summarisation of the human condition and if that song doesn’t touch you in some way you’re probably dead or something”, he laughs, punctuating with a “ya know what I mean? Maybe I’m just getting old and developing as a person or something like that,” he chortles.
“I think on an artist album, there’s always room for a couple of songs like that,” he continues, “otherwise it’s all very same-ish. If I was going to do a purely club thing I’d rather do a DJ mix CD, to get a clubtactic vibe off it. But an album should work on different levels. An album is a reflection of one’s self, whereas 12’s are DJ tools really.” He discusses his philosophical feelings behind his album, how it reflects his journey over the last few years, and normally I scoff at that kind of talk, but Walker told it with conviction and sincerity. “In all honesty,” he adds, “my ultimate goal for an album is longevity. In my head when I’m making an album, I’ve got my grandchildren, if they’ve heard of ‘crazy Grandpa Ils’, going up to the attic and finding the dusty CD and have a listen and go ‘fucking hell!!!’, you know what I mean?” he laughs, “something that will still have relevance.”
I note that the album is quite dark, with one song being written using the lyrics of Stevie Hyper D, his close friend and dnb MC who passed away in 1998, and Life Is Precious and Storm From The East, songs written about war. “I like quite atmospheric things, and that can be interpreted as a little bit dark, but I dunno,” he says “I didn’t set out to make a dark album. I’d say there’s a bit of a colouration in that direction and that often works well with breaks. I think it’s possibly a bit intense album in places,” he says stressing the word intense. However, it’s not completely intense or moody ‘listening’ material though, as Walker knows how to craft floor burners like Ill-Logic, Tiny Toy and the early Prodigy sounding Feed My Addiction. And we may be seeing some live Ils floor burning action later this year, as Walker hinted he may be coming to Australia in September or October, but wasn’t a 100% sure, so didn’t want me getting too excited.