Tag Archives: UK

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.”

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.

 

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.”

Depeche Mode

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.”

 

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.

LTJ Bukem

LTJ Bukem is one of the most recognised names in drum and bass. People describe and compare styles of drum and bass simply by using the name “Bukem”. His vision of music and sound has led the drum and bass scene from its small beginnings in the UK into a massive international tour-de-force of respected dance music. Speaking to Bukem, or Danny Williamson, as his friends know him, you can’t help but notice the passion and eagerness he displays for this music. It’s why he’s been doing it for close to twenty years when many other DJs, Producers and Label bosses have given it up.

“I just love it!” he exclaims when I ask the question of why he’s still around. “I can’t think of many things, if any at all, I like better than listening to and playing and making music. Twenty years,” Williamson muses “it’s quite frightening that I have been doing it that long, but it seems like two years – I’ve done so much, but I can’t do enough, you know? It’s a mad feeling! I’m just very passionate about what I do, and it’s kinda frightening that I’m getting MORE into it,” he laughs. “For the last 10 years I’ve spent with my head buried in the record label, as well as trying to be an artist and DJ. I feel kind of refreshed now as I’m spending more time in the studio and doing those things I did these things for originally.”

Being around the music scene for so long, Williamson has seen a lot of changes in his time. “I’ve been travelling for years now, and I can tell you I used to sit on planes for hours and just twiddle my thumbs, watch the movie three times in a row, listen to all the CDs that were in my bag, and now days I sit and do so much on my laptop,” he begins “I think of start ideas for tunes, or do work for the label, catch up on emails, or get ahead in work, and that has changed everybody’s lives. And Instant Messaging has changed things greatly. Now I wake up and there’s 20 or 30 tracks sitting in my inbox that someone hasn’t had to buy a stamp and post, don’t have to buy a CD, they can encode it to wav, send it, and two hours later we can be talking about it. That’s absolutely crazy! And the whole virtual studio has changed things especially. You don’t have to have a double garage sized space to get all the things and sound in your tunes. It now all fits on one table! That has opened so many doors!”

Williamson’s passion from music comes from learning classical piano form an early age, and a family relocation that found Williamson in the tutelage of a very open-minded music teacher, Nigel Crouch. “If he wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have the musical ears I have now.” One thing Crouch did teach a young Williamson was “not to be frightened of listening to anything! People label music so much, which is something I don’t understand. People say ‘if it’s not that I can’t get into that, because it’s labelled in that way’ – that’s just ridiculous.”

Williamson also has an open mind in how to run a label, giving his artists a great degree of flexibility and support. “I would have the phone ring and promoters would ask for LTJ Bukem, and I’d say “yep, but I’m gonna bring Moloko, I’m gonna bring Blame, and you’ve got no choice in the matter”. Sometimes they couldn’t mix. Who would pay ME to DJ if I couldn’t mix, but that’s the type of thing I did for my artists. It was good thing to get them out there, get them known, but I’m not sure I’d do it the same way again. Obviously my record label won’t promote itself, and playing that music is a big part of that. I’ve always put a big emphasis on getting my artists out there to play, and if you don’t do that how are people going to hear you?”

“It’s got to start at that grass roots level, and you’ve got to do the small clubs of about 200 people in Adelaide and Hawaii,” he continues. “And you absolutely have to do that – I don’t see any other way of doing it. You can’t wait around 2 or 3 years until someone brings you out for a big do where someone wants a drum and bass tent or whatever. I think you need growth, it needs to be an organically grown thing, and that’s what Good Looking is all about.”

Bukem is also all about his DJing. “I still get a thrill DJing”, he says “There are two kinds of thrills for me. I love the mixing – I love the art form of it, so every time I play it’s like a challenge for me – will I be able to pull off this mix as well as I would like to? And when you achieve that there’s nothing better. The second thing is the people and their reaction. I’ve spent years playing new music, often stuff for the very first time to their ears, and them getting into it is awesome,” he says excitedly “And I still get nervious before I play – I need my 5 or 10 minutes where I have no one near me where I get it all together and I’m like “right, let’s play this set!” he adds.

The Freestylers

The Freestylers have been rocking dancefloors for years, but just lately they have absolutely blown up with their tune Push Up. It’s topped the Aussie music charts, is frequently heard on commercial radio and in television advertisements, and has been ruined by that William Hung wannabe, Australian Idols’ Flick. The success of their follow up Get A Life is evidence of their skills and talents, proving they’re not just as flash in the pan as they’ve also got two previous albums which have sold over 350,000 copies, and a string of remixes to their credit. They’ve been DJing for the last 10 or so years and I spoke to Matt Cantor earlier in the year just as Push Up was released. Speaking to the other half of the duo, Aston Harvey recently, I asked what kind of impact the success of Push Up and the album Raw As Fuck had made on them.

“It’s hard to take in because obviously we live on the other side of the world, and we only get told “Push Up is this number or that number’”, Harvey begins. “I get texts from friends in Australia saying ‘you don’t understand, your record is massive over here’. It’s a brilliant feeling, and sometimes its quite good when you don’t live in these countries and you’re getting this massive positive feedback. We didn’t set out to make a record that crossed over so big… You just make a record, and know that you like it, and put it out there. With the Freestylers, we’ve had record companies take this single and that single and do what ever with it, but this is the first time we’ve had one single do pretty well across the board.”

“We weren’t even thinking of making an album, when we decided to make Raw As Fuck. We just had done a load of tracks and put them together. Push Up went in the charts in England, but because we’re so dominated by house music and the money process, we didn’t get too high, but it put us back on the map in the UK. It’s been doing well in Europe, and I’ve just found out in South Africa we’ve got a Number 1 record!” he exclaims with a laugh. “You can’t really magically do another Push Up, but there will be something along those lines. Mat and I aren’t getting any younger, so there might be a track similar, try and get a pension going!” he laughs. “Not saying it’s going to be cheesy,” he quickly adds, “I think the reason why Push Up has done so well is it sounds like a commercial record, but it also sounds like a really cool record – it sounds well produced. It doesn’t sound like an amateurish pop act just out to make money.”

Whilst we missed the last DJ tour back over the Easter long weekend, the Freestylers band will be making it to Adelaide for the Big Day Out. “The band involves 6 people on stage, an MC and a singer, bass player, guitarist, drummer and me on keyboards, scratching and sampling. The MC is Surreal, who’s not on the album but has been with the band since the start of the year, and the other vocalist is Valerie M, she’s touring with Groove Armada at the moment, she moonlights between us,” he chuckles. “She sang one song on our second album (Told You So). And I’m hoping a girl called Julie Thompson, who does sing on the album (Too Far, Losing You), she plays guitar and I want to experiment a little with that, to see what happens.”

“I find having a band takes us to another level,” Harvey goes on to explain. “It’s really expensive to get a band together to travel, etc… It’s not like we’ve been five mates who’ve been playing since high school who split the profits or whatever. I have to pay all these different musicians to perform. And then there’s all the waiting around all day – sound checks and all that. As compared to DJing – just turn up with a box of records, you can be a bit drunk and that, it’s completely different. But I love doing both!” he exclaims. “Matt doesn’t do anything in the band… well, he and I were doing the same thing, and he decided he doesn’t really like touring with the band. Yet It’s worked out for the better, because it’s quite good to go away and come back fresher. Going away, getting ideas on the road.”

Like all Englishmen, Harvey loves Australian weather. “It’s looking a bit cold and drab here in the UK at the moment,” he laughs. “I’ve only ever played in Adelaide once, and we played in this really weird kind of club, it felt like a school hall,” he chuckles. He’s talking about the old Skylab, above Minke, about a gig that happened 3 or so years ago, and it was a mad night of Adelaide’s typical small but up for it crowd. “I’m sure we’ll go down pretty well!” For those who can’t wait to see them live can pick up Raw As Fuck with a limited Remix CD featuring mixes by Ronnie Size and Krafty Kuts amongst others, as well as pick up the Fabric Live 19 Mix CD featuring Surreal MC.

Lee Coombs

Lee Coombs is a quiet, unassuming, almost shy person to talk to. He doesn’t mince words and dribble on, which in some ways makes interviewing him rather difficult. I spoke to him the day after his birthday, and he told me he didn’t do anything big because he’s been too busy. Instead he just had a “quiet one”.

His debut artist album Breakfast of Champions is all but quiet, and given the popularity of tunes such as Push Up by the Freestylers here in Australia, I will not be surprised in the slightest if it does exceedingly well here. Being extremely dancefloor friendly, it’s full of fantastic tunes that transcend genres. It also features collaborations with some of the breaks scene’s biggest stars, including Andy Gardner of the Plump DJs, Jem Panufnik from Soul Of Man, Christian J and Dylan Rhymes. “It’s named after a party in San Francisco run by the Space Cowboys,” Coombs says of the title, after I suggested it could be based on Roald Dahl’s book. “It’s a New Years Day afterhours party that happens once a year,” he goes on to explain. “It’s just brilliant, one of the best gigs I’ve done, and they’ve made me part of the crew, and I thought I’d name my album after it. It gives props to them.”

“Collaboration is always 50/50 with me, but if I’m in my studio I’m the one working the kit,” Coombs states. “Everyone was great to work with. They’re all friends of mine, we all DJ together and love each other’s production work. The reason I choose to work with them is because I knew it was going to be great, and it panned out nicely.” The remixes Coombs has included on the album “are bonus tracks really, just to add a bit of spice” Coombs states. “No one’s heard the Oakenfold remix before, and I thought I’d be nice to put that on there”. Plus Oakenfold gave Coombs a big break by letting him do the critically acclaimed Perfecto Breaks album in 2002, and is no doubt once again Coombs giving ‘props’. “The New Order is a bit of a favourite of mine, a bit of an anthem, and it was nice to go over it again. I think my production has gotten a lot better since I made the original, which I made four or five years ago now. It’s just a bit of a treat for people.” The blend of genres is subtle and understated, but each track sounds perfect both in itself and in the sequence of tracks. “It’s music I absolutely love, that’s why it’s all in there. I can’t make music unless I’m really into it. Really feeling the electro vibe at the moment.”

When not working on the album, Coombs has been really busy touring the world DJing. “I’ve been touring all over the world basically, just got back form Hong Kong and China. It’s quite an experience over there!” he enthuses. “The music is new over there. The scene of “breakbeat” doesn’t exist as such, but it’s what they all seem to want to dance to, as though it’s a natural thing. It’s the first time they’ve had the opportunity to have clubs and international DJs and breaks seems to be what they want to go off too. It’s great!” He compares it to Australia a few years ago. “Yeah, it’s a little bit like Australia, but they’re into the more electro sounding stuff, not so much into party breaks.”

Not content with just touring or DJing, Coombs wants to concentrate more on his record label Thrust Recordings. “It took a back seat when I finished the album off, but now I’m getting back into it. I’ve got strong releases lined up. It’s something I really want to be pushing in the future,” he says. “I’m pretty much doing everything, apart from you know, the real office type work, but all of the A&R, all of the coordinating of the artwork and press releases, all of that. The next release is a re-release of one of my old tracks called “Oscar Goldman – Thrust 2”. It should be out in December,” just in time for Christmas!

I recently heard that Coombs was interested in opening his own club back in England, or possibly San Francisco. “That would be nice, but I don’t remember saying that!” he laughs as I explain I read it on a Polish music scene website. “I’d love to have my own club and control the music for a night, make what I do really work as an event. It would be nice to get people to come because they like it on a weekly or monthly basis.”