1200 Techniques

1200 Techniques burst onto the scene in 1998 with their track “Hard as Hell”, and built a following with energetic live shows and solid releases that crossed the boundaries of funk, soul and hiphop, with a uniquely Australian edge. DB magazine spoke to their MC, Nfamas, about the upcoming tour with Kut Master Kurt, and about the nature of Australian music today.

Nfamas got into hiphop when he was a kid, with his brother who also used to be part of the group until he moved in 1999. “We started to emulate early rappers. Like other kids who were into basketball and who all wanted to be Michael Jordan, we wanted to be MCs,” he says. People like LL Cool J, Chuck D, KRS 1, De La Soul, Big Daddy Kane, and Ice T were all targets of the duo’s admiration. “ We’d be taking their rhymes and re-writing them making them our own way. We used to go all over town to breakdance and DJ places, just building a base of knowledge and connections. All through high school I was into that, and when I left high school I made a conscious decision that I wanted to be an MC. It sounds kinda absurd but I really believed it could happen. Then I moved to Melbourne and everything is working out.”

1200 Techniques came about from Nfamas and his brother moving to Melbourne. “I was going around to bars and stuff. I knew a couple of dudes through my brother who played in really good funk bands, and I used to get up and play and MC with them, and one of them said “you gotta check out these two MCs from Perth, they’re really good” and that, hooked us up with DJ Peril,” he says. “Me and my brother were doing our own thing and doing our own beats, and we tried some stuff with Peril his vibe was different and good, so we started working with him. It was really casual, we’d get together every three, four or five months, make a track, and mid to late 1998 we did that ‘Hard As Hell’ track with Kemstar on guitar. We started using guitars on every track after that. Then my Brother left in 1999, and realised in about 2000 “shit, we’ve got a record”, went around to record companies, and ended up by accident with rubber records.”

I think the term accident is a little misleading, as Nfamas is quite a determined person. “I don’t think you can think anything (about a career), just look at it as something to work towards,” he says of his popularity. He also has a lot to say about hiphop’s popularity. “I think the scene here is very real, quite raw, and quite demanding. You have to be really on top of your game to get respect here, which I think is good, makes a good breeding ground. There’s a lot of MCs coming up now, and there are a lot of good people making music and people getting into the whole hiphop thing right now, and I think there’s quite a few dudes who are about to get notoriety not only in Australia but overseas. I think in the next few years you’ll see a big change, as young kids these days instead of looking to rock are now listening to hiphop, than the majority of kids when I was growing up. You’ll find a lot of people becoming really good at rhyming and that. Australia has a lot of good rock bands, and rock engineers, and you’ll see that changing through hiphop.”

“The overseas market is getting really big here. People like eminem have helped it blow up so much, because I guess people can relate to him, and makes the big companies go, “oh shit, we can make big money off of this”. They don’t care what music is big if it makes money and if its hiphop and that’s cool, as long as it doesn’t get bastardised.” What does he mean by bastardised? “I think there’s potential for a lot of Australian groups put on an Australian accent, and aren’t as ‘Australian’ as they act. I don’t have the full on ‘occa’ “How ya goin’ mate!”. I just rap how I rap. Koolism, Downsyde, Hilltop Hoods, they all have their style; it’s not typically Australian or US or British,” he says. “The most important thing (about rapping) is not the accent but the rhythm patterns. If MCs have hot rhythm patterns people are going to like it anyway. If you’ve got sick rhythm patterns you’ve got it made. I’ve heard MCs with really sick words that kill mine, but their rhythms are un-enticing and you don’t want to listen to them.”

Their latest tune ‘Eye of the Storm’ is quite soulful in parts, particularly the chorus, and I wondered if it was deliberate or not. “All our stuff has that soul vibe”, he states. “I like a lot of soul music and it’s always going to come out in our work. It all happens as I write. The chorus I had in my head for a while, I just hadn’t worked out where I was going to use it, and then ‘bang’ that was the spot, and it worked out nice! We just finished the video which should be on Channel V and that soon”. Along with the new single, they’re about to tour with Kut Masta Kurt, who has never toured here before. “Mainly we got him out so we can see the show ourselves,” Nfamas laughs. “He’s a legendary producer and DJ, and will educate people in his ways. We’re not trying to piss people off by not touring with Australian acts, we’re trying to introduce something new to the people,” he adds.

Eye of the Storm is the first single of 1200 Techniques next album, which should be out October with the title ‘Consistency Theory’.

Planet Funk

Planet Funk is the coming together of Marco Baroni, Sergio Della Monica, Alex Neri and Dominico GG Canu, Italian and English producers who found a common link in their desire to create a new kind of dance music, a new kind of funk. Bored with traditional notions of Italian Dance Music, they sought to inject a new life into the tired cliché that had become their scene. “We tried to produce something fresh. In the creative moment we try to let ideas come freely,” says Marco Baroni, through a crackly telephone line from sun drenched Italy. Meeting in 1999 at the Miami Music Conference, they joined together and produced the incredibly successful “Chase the Sun”, a song that got an incredible amount of airplay, which you are sure to recognise once you hear it. After the release, the guys spent a whopping two years in the studio, producing their debut album “Non-Zero Sumness”.

“We each knew each other through our individual projects”, Baroni explains, “but met up in Miami. We were looking at doing something a little bit different, because we all had been doing this for about ten years or so.” Their time in the studio was well worth it, as they took the time to finish their tracks, and learnt to work with each other cohesively. “Its not so simple as when you stay with people a long time, sometimes you fight maybe for a cigarette”, he laughs. “Now we know each other much better than we did a few years ago and work very relaxedly with each other”.

The album features two incredible singers from the UK, Dan Black and Sally Doherty. Dan Black is the front man for the group “The Servant”, and his voice has that punk rock edge, often sounding like a cross between Ozzy Ozborne and Shaun Ryder from the Happy Mondays. Planet Funk found Black through “the guys from Naples producing his album, and we like the way he sings and he really seemed right”. The decided they wanted his unique voice and punk mentality on their album, and sent him an instrumental version of “The Switch”. “He really liked the music, and wrote some lyrics for our songs. He gives the music a different style, brings a different feeling from ‘dance’. We wanted to get something different from the rest of the album, and people’s reaction is fantastic, they really like it.” Sally Doherty, a folk singer trained in Gaelic and Classical singing, was discovered over the internet, proving that this new medium can work for independent artists.

In addition to winning 3 prestigious Italian Music awards, Best band, Best newcomer and Best dance act, Planet Funk have been played by DJs across the world from Pete Tong to Adam Freeland, and have been highly praised in the European press. However, Marco holds his audience in higher esteem than the press. “We always try to think in terms of the people, because the people, the crowd, are our life. We like to make music for the people. All this reaction from Italy was fantastic, but normally we don’t like to think in these terms. We like to think of music directed to the people as most honestly as possible.”

The live show has become Planet Funk’s main focus; something that I imagine would be quite difficult for a group of dance producers. Baroni is frank in his assessment of playing live. “We like very much to play live. It was another natural step for us. We just love the reaction from the crowd. Our music changes a bit when we play live, we use real drummers, 3 singers, and we make a show of it”. The live show must be pretty impressive, as they have played in front of crowds as large as 70,000 people. The live element has also helped the direction of the next album. “We’ve just started to write for the next album, and we’re happy with what we’ve done so far. The success of the first album is important, and playing live is important. When we try and write new, different things there’s not so much pressure.”

Planet Funk’s album “Non Zero Sumness” is out now through Sony Music, and Baroni says that they’re hoping to bring their live show to Australia during the European Winter. “We’re Chasing the Sun” he laughs.


Brewster B

Melbourne boy Brewster B has been making a name for himself over the last ten years in Australian Dance Music scene for being individualistic and having a well-defined sense of fun. From remixing the theme from “Hogan’s Heroes” to writing a song about a bartender, his unique broken beats have rocked dance floors everywhere in Australia, except for, strangely, lil’ ol’ Adelaide. A complete oversight on behalf of local promoters I’m sure. Brewster has a great new tune on the new instalment of the great “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It Too” CD, a compilation of Aussie breaks which is sure to shine locally and overseas.

Being influenced by groups like Kraftwerk, Cabaret Voltaire, Devo, New Order and early 80’s Hip-hop and Electro Pop, Brewster is proud of his heritage. “I love my chilled groove a lot!” he says. “I guess you could say that’s my roots.” He was discovered by “playing chill-out stuff in my lounge room after a party shut down early and some other DJs were there. They liked what they heard and offered me a gig at their next party in the chill-out room because it was so different from what everyone else was playing.” It’s that difference which defines Brewster. “I play everything from ambient dub to weird hip-hop to soundscapes to the very left! Then there is the dance floor side of things. I love and try to play anything with broken grooves. From electro to breakbeat house to dirty dark nu-skool breaks in to the heavy rolling dark funk style side of breaks. Even DnB with bit of old skool jungle now and then! Basically if it’s broken and make’s me rock, I wanna play it out loud so the dancefloor wants to rock with me”.

His early influences play part in his productions and mixing, as he scratches and samples his name into his set, as old hiphop DJs used to do, “partly to take the piss and to let people know it’s a bit of fun. And if it says ‘Brewster’ won’t that make it clear who this record is by?” he laughs. Using a blend of both an old technology, “but as time goes on its more & more computer based” to make his tracks, Brewster isn’t afraid to work with a variety of people from diverse backgrounds, such as DJ Ransom, Little Nobody, and an “ex-techno dude called Viridian. I think the key is to keep evolving. Stuff I was playing 2-3 years ago people are playing now, so it’s about finding new sounds and making new stuff so the crowds think ‘that’s rockin’ my world more that ever before!’”

The Australian Breaks sound seems to be doing very well overseas, and Brewster thinks this could be because “we have a sound all of our own, that will in time be recognized as a style of breaks. “Oz-Nu-skool” or maybe Oz-Skool?” he says cheekily. “But at the end of the day there only two real types of breaks – good and bad! The Brits make some amazing stuff and some of it is just fillers. Just like here there are toons and fillers. I don’t think it matters were it comes from… just make it rock!”

Fortunately, there are no fillers on the “If it Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It Too” CD, which features such a diverse range of sounds and artists such as Infusion, Hybrid and Brewster pumping out great material. “Breaks seem to have a wider appeal due to some of it live elements,” Brewster says, “With an increased acceptance of electronic music, it’s brought people in to the sound of breaks from outside of the club and rave scene, which have not had it hyped up like in other countries. This has let it grow naturally. Plus I think there is one other key ingredient,” he proclaims. “It’s the climate in Australia. Breaks and warm weather go together just so well. Put it outside in a park on a nice 25c degree day and people will smile and dance for hours in and around the trees! Try that in grey ol’ England!!”

We are hoping that the release of “If it Ain’t Broke… Too” will see Brewster hit town soon. “I’m hoping to hear and see the Adelaide massive groov’n real soon. Its the one place I’ve never Dj-ed!” he cries. “I’ve played in every state at least once a year, and even Tasmania a couple of times.” He’s not sure why he hasn’t played here, but thinks, “maybe Adelaide doesn’t like phat funky dark rollin breaks, that make’s ya wanna shake what ya mama gave ya? I think you guys want to shake it?? Well do ya?!?!

If it Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It Too double CD, featuring tunes by Brewster B, Infusion, FNDA and remixes by Ransom and Nu Breed, plus a Mix CD of tunes from Volume 1, by competition winner Jeremy Judd, is in good record stores now thru inertia.