Category Archives: dB Magazine

Kosheen

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.”

Statler and Waldorf

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.”

Roots Manuva

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.

 

Bass Kleph

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’sClubbers 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!”

Stereo MCs

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.”

Ninja Chops

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.

Ils

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.

Plump DJs

Lee Rous of the Plump DJs is a very down to earth person who doesn’t like to mince words. He’s very modest in his achievements, and very thankful for the lucky breaks thrown his way. Having had the very glamorous job of waiter, especially compared to partner Andy Gardner’s box factory job, before the two met and began making music, neither had any idea they would transform the dancefloors of the world.

“I don’t think we were ever arrogant enough to believe we were going to succeed in what we were doing,” Rous begins. “You can just hope people like what you do when you get in the studio. We count our lucky stars every time we get another gig – it’s the best job in the world and we’re lucky to be doing it.” But he’s not saying it’s easy. “This summer has been giving me a good ol’ punch up to be honest,” he laughs. “We’ve been touring massively all this summer, and been trying to work in the studio when we can, but I think me and Andy are feeling the heat a little bit at the moment. We’ve been doing lots of gigs and it’s wearing us down a little bit, but it’s all for good, and we’re looking forward to getting stuck into our artist album and having a little bit of a chill out at the end of summer.”

When not touring, the pair have been in the studio, recording some new material and preparing for their latest mix CD, Saturday Night Lotion. “All the records we’ve done since Eargasm are all dancefloor tunes”, Rous explains on why a mix CD rather than a full artist album. “They’re just uncompromising dancefloor records we’ve really enjoyed and road tested for the last two years. Bearing that in mind, and thinking about what an artist album is – an artist album to us should really reach beyond the dancefloor and be a bit more personal. I think we really wanted to provide a dancefloor album, so slipping other artists on this album from the Finger Lickin’ label seemed to be quite a natural thing to do. Those artists are really influential to us,” he adds.

Rous thinks DJing and production go hand in hand. “I DJed before I knew how to work the studio,” he states. “It is absolutely lovely making a nice record in the studio, it’s a superbly creative process and such a great feeling once you finish a track. You get so excited about having the opportunity to be playing the record to people. But then again you need to play the record to people to get the full effect.” Wondering if there was any chance the pair would go the way of Adam Freeland or Freestylers and get a band together to perform, I was surprised to hear they prefer the DJing thing. “We’re don’t really have the inspiration at the moment to take the Plumps live, we really enjoy the simplicity of DJing, of playing records and providing a soundtrack to the evening, and we find it works really well. We’re learning about what makes people dance and get in the studio and putting that to practice. I think when we make another artist album you could see a lot of experiments that are quite unusual to what people think the Plump DJs are, but we’ve got no real ambition to do a band thing at the moment.”

Saturday Night Lotion is also the name of a new pheromone based scent aimed at the clubbing market, and all the promo material about it claims the Plumps are the ‘obvious choice’ for the face of the cologne. “I’m not really sure what that was all about! Rous proclaims innocently. “It’s a funny website though. Not really sure why I was the ‘obvious choice’, maybe I’m just an ‘obvious’ person,” he laughs.

The pair had just finished performing the Glastonbury festival, playing with the who’s who of dance music. Booked to do three sets over the weekend, it seemed the English Summer had other ideas. “We tried to do 3 sets, one for this breast cancer organisation, but unfortunately their tent got struck by lightning and got washed away in the rain. But the other gigs went really well, we had a great time.” Another festival they really enjoyed was Field Day in Sydney in 2003, which they still count as one of their best gigs to date. “Yeah, Field Day 2003 was such a momentous occasion for us, a first realisation of our goal of wanting to get breakbeat heard at such a large scale,” Rous says fondly. So, when are they heading back to Australia? Rous wasn’t sure about playing Field Day this year, but did hint they boys would make it down to Adelaide for the Big Day Out.

The Herbaliser

Talking to Jake Wherry from the Herbaliser is like talking to a grumpy old lecturer. You know he’s willing to impart knowledge, but is a little peeved you don’t already know about what he’s talking about. It’s a little obnoxious now that I think back, but he’s an idol of mine and at the time it was like getting instruction from a wise sensei. We spoke at length about the Herbaliser’s new album Take London, as well as their last visit to Australia. They remember Adelaide, but probably not the way Adelaide would like to be.

I began asking about Generals their new single, as on the Ninja Tune webpage for the video it read: “The Herbaliser and Jean Grae have been filming the video for the outstanding ‘Generals’ single in London – the rest of the Generals crew were not allowed on the plane at Dulles airport (USA) due (as far as we can tell) to dodgy passports”. Wherry set me straight right away. “I can now share with you,” he begins conspiratorially, “Generals is all a big myth, a lie we created. Jean Grey did all the ‘Generals’ voices. I’ve got some stuff in my studio that can distort voices to make them sound more male or female. We told a Radio One DJ and he went “so what?” and we were like “what do you mean so what? You think it’s normal we can make one woman sound like 3 men and 3 different women?” It is a pretty amazing feat, considering it is so well done – it really does sound like a whole posse of rappers.

I asked about another favourite, Gadget Funk. It’s a very groovy number, sounding, to me, like Quincy Jones. Knowing Quincy Jones was of some inspiration, I asked Wherry if Jones influenced this track. “No,” he states bluntly. “Gadget Funk is very much inspired by the music of Washington DC.” Before I get to ask, he explains, patiently. “When I was 14 and started going clubbing Go-Go music was really big, we’d hear it along with early hiphop, rare groove and funk. The music was funky, but it was a really percussive led music. Bands like Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers, Trouble Funk, EU. These bands are still going in the Washington,” he adds, “and for some reason Go-Go really broke out of Washington in 84 and lasted to 86 –87. You heard it in the clubs in London and the States, and then it got forgotten about and people moved on.”

“Some of these history of the DJ records – by Cut Chemist, Stienski’s The Lesson, some of the beats Coldcut use on Beats and Pieces – they’re sampling Go-Go beats,” he elucidates. “I think you’ll find that young people these days have never heard about Go-Go, and it’s such an awesome music that we decided to do a Go-Go Track to get people to talking about it and asking questions about it.” It’s certainly got me interested, as it is one tremendously groovy tune and I really am glad I asked.

Then I mentioned how I really enjoy their DJ set last time they were in Adelaide. “Hey, that was one of the worst shows on the tour!” Wherry exclaims “The show where the sound man thought it was better to fall asleep at the sound check and be totally asleep through the gig, and the lighting guy decided not to come until about an hour into the show.” Oh dear. Nice impression to leave.

But the rest of Australia isn’t rated too highly either, as I found out when asking about the possibility of the Band touring here. “To be honest,” he begins, “before we came out last, in the previous years I’d been turning down DJ offers from Australia. We wanted to bring our band over, and we felt that the more DJing jobs we took, the less they’d want the band. But last time we kind of gave in, said we’ll go over to big up our name and get ourselves more known,” he says, “and it just seemed it really worked against us. We were only meant to play Olly (Teeba) for and hour and he’d finish and then I’d play, that was the show that was booked. And on our own backs we decided to go in to a rehearsal room and work out a four-deck set so we could both be doing something at the same time. It was beyond what we were contracted to do. We thought since we’re not bringing the live band out, lets give them something a bit more than the regular ‘one guy play after the other on turntables’, you know?”

“But after we did that tour we got a few really abusive emails, and there’s some webpage in Australia that everyone goes on to talk about things for music (probably inthemix), and people were abusing us, saying how shit it was and that we’re rubbish. We’d never had hate mail before!” he says incredulously. “And all along people just wanted us to bring the band out. But unless our records start selling better I don’t think there’s a chance in hell we’ll get the band out there, unless it’s a big sponsored event”, he laments. Which is a really sad thing, considering they’re recognised as one of the best live dance acts in the world. But don’t despair too much, because the album is great and well worth picking up.

DJ Friendly

The funny and funky DJ Friendly, known to his DJing mother as Andrew Kornweibel, was well loved in Australia for his quirky take on breakbeat music, but about 2 and a half years ago, having worked his butt off making a name for himself in Australia, his record label were “keen for an alternative direction for me” as he puts it politely, so he left for sunny England to seek a different path. “I managed to achieved what I set out to do, I put 12 inches out, play in clubs, and changed from live performer to DJ, managed to get by and the rest of it, and now I’m doing quite well,” he says.

He’s made quite an impression on the English scene, and won the best newcomer award at Breakspoll this year. “I thought it was funny I got the best newcomer – I’ve got three albums out and I’ll be dead a hundred years before I get the lifetime achievement awards,” he chortles. “I was chuffed, and from outside of Australia’s point of view I was the new comer. But I feel like I’ve been doing it for a long time myself,” he says, chuckling. “Living in the UK is a lot more global. All of a sudden people are booking me for gigs all over the world”, Kornweibel says of the move to the UK. “In Australia I found it very hard to break out of the Australian scene. I could get a gig anywhere in Australia, but I couldn’t get gigs outside, no one had heard of me at all. Over here I’m a lot smaller relatively speaking, but I’ve got a much wider spread and my music seems to go a lot further.”

But it’s not all sunshine and roses. “The weather is shit. It’s absolutely appalling. The people are grumpy nine months of the year because the weather is so bad. Everything’s expensive,” he pauses. “Are we going to workshop this? Should I pay you for this therapy if I pour my heart out to you,” he chortles. “There’s good and bad, London is a hard city to live in sometimes,” he continues, “the people can be really closed off and it’s got that big city feel about it, but at the same time it can be so inspiring. The competition is so great, and the media from the UK gets spread around the world, and you get up on your soapbox and people listen.”

Having run into a lost looking Paul Arnold, the head of Fat Records, in Sydney, he slipped him a copy of his demo and it became his first release on Fat, and the beginning of a close relationship. With Arnold now being Kornweibel’s manager, Friendly has become the resident at the Fat Records club night called ‘Chew The Fat’. “The people who come down for the night are music lovers, there’s no attitude,” he exclaims, “it’s all about getting down and having a really good time! We get heaps of girls,” he giggles, “and all sorts of people from all different backgrounds. Some of the other nights in London can be blokey, or ‘Laddy,’” he says in a really bad accent, laughing, “and at other nights it might be young pill taking clubbers who don’t even know what breakbeat is. I like to think we draw a nice line between being there for the music and being there for a great time.”

The first Chew the Fat mix CD is Friendly at his best, being fun and funky, a true representation of the night Kornweibel says. It’s got many of his own tunes on the mix, as well as a few remixes. “I think with any musical style you need to inject a soul into it,” he says of the mix. “I’m not interested in hearing music that doesn’t have a soul, and in all genres there’s that soulless stuff, including breaks, but you can add a lot of personality with a vocal. I play this way because they kind of end up being my tracks, my own exclusive re-working of that track. And because you’re going to be listening to it at home, what works in a club with the big bass system won’t necessarily work on your tinny little shelf system,” he adds, “so I think adding vocals / acapellas lightens it up and makes it more enjoyable.”

“I definitely enjoy writing my own tunes for the simple fact that it takes me probably as long to do my own tunes because I generally totally re-work a remix”, he says when I ask if he’s got a preference for remixes or original tunes. “Some people just take existing beats and put the sample over the top, or simply shuffle it about, where as I will turn down remixes if I feel I can’t do anything with it, turn it into one of my songs. But remixing is important, because you do learn a lot using other people’s musical parts and you can get a wider audience. I’ve just done a remix of Positiva,” he adds “and I’m really happy about that. It’s a different market and I hope I can reach out and convert a few more people to breakbeat.” He’s not afraid of having his own work remixed either. “I’m happy with what Krafty Kuts has done with Bump and Grind; he’s turned it into a bit of a monster,” he laughs.