All posts by FunkyJ

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.

Kid Koala

If hiphop and turntablism conjure up images of trendy young kids with too much attitude, performing impossible technical tricks in front of a self-involved crowd of cap wearing wannabes, then get ready to have your world turned upside down by Kid Koala. Having parents from Hong Kong, but being raised in Vancouver and Montreal, Canada, Eric San aka Kid Koala has a diverse cultural background to draw upon, but it is his background in classical music that led him to the wheels of steel. Being one of the most enigmatic producers on a Ninja Tune, a record label that is renown for it’s eclecticism, in conversation he is very down to earth and friendly, jumping around the place, looping upon himself, much like his records, and is also very quick to laugh. After finally getting through, “It’s turning into one of those fibre optic traffic jams”, he laughs, and we chatted about his history and his upcoming tour with RDJ2.

“I’ve actually been to Australia once”, San quips when I ask about his DJ name “but I don’t think that trip had anything to do with it. There was a drink in Canada when I started DJing in the late 80’s, a really sugary beverage called Koala Springs. It had this really big stamp that said ‘Made In Australia’, which is really funny because every Australian I’ve spoken to has never heard of this drink,” and I had to concur that I’d never heard of it either. “It was actually quite a popular beverage especially amongst those who likes really sugary drinks,” he laughs. “So anyway, my mum would buy cases of this stuff from Costgo [the Canadian version of Bi-Lo] and if you were a kid, you know, 25 and under or whatever, you’d always be offered that – it’d be milk, water or Koala Springs. My friends started calling me the “Koala Kid” as a joke, as there were always empty bottles of the stuff around my room”, he laughs again, “and that’s the real story”.

San starting DJing in the early 1980’s, “in my really awkward, pimply period before I discovered discover girls”, he chortles. Inspired by the sounds of New York’s hiphop scene, as well as the sounds of the British cut up artists like coldcut, he says “at one point you stop spending all your money on firecrackers and candy and spend it on something you decide to get into. Some kids get into comic books and I got into records,” he says. “I think it was the classic music stuff I was doing. It was like an elastic band being pulled back,” he says referring to the stress of his training. “Because it was such a strict music experience for me as a kid, just being told ‘you have to play this 500 year old piece exactly the same way it’s been played for the last 500 years – any deviation will lose you points with the adjudicators’“, he laughs. “It wasn’t a very joyful musical experience for me, so when I first heard scratching the first thing I got from it was that it was so free from these rules. And the people doing it were maybe 10 – 15 years younger as opposed to 500, it was more within my grasp. I was like “oh there’s these DJs and they’re doing their thing and they’re really good at expressing themselves and they’re not like buried somewhere” and again he breaks into infectious laughter.

“Don’t get me wrong,” he begins, with a hint of seriousness in his voice, “I think at the time I was just too young to understand how you play a classical piece and actually put your own feel into it. For me it was just a rope memory exercise, and now obviously I’ve grown to like and understand all kinds of music. But when I got into turntablism there was a central idea that all the DJs, whatever they were doing, they were trying to do something new. And I think that was the most impressive thing to me. Technically I didn’t know what they were doing”, he confesses. “I didn’t know how they were making the sound, I just knew that every time I got a new hiphop record the producer or DJ behind it was trying to do something new. You never knew what you were going to hear when you dropped that needle, and I really liked that, and I think that’s something I keep to heart when I go to play or go into the studio. In my mind, if there were any rules to scratching, it would be to do something fresh,” he states.

One of the tunes that San is most famous for is drunk trumpet, a fantastic scratch fest involving a trumpet being played over a 12 note blues loop. It’s distinctive sound drew me to Kid Koala, and I still haven’t heard anything like it. “I think for me when I started scratching it was very percussive,” San begins, but the falters as he tries to describe the process behind the tune. “How can I say this? I’m a big Louis Armstrong fan, and I know I’m doing him a disservice by comparing the two,” he laughs. “For the first few years I would say [my scratching] was very percussion orientated and very much into making the WEIRDEST noises ever. Stuff that would stand out and make you go “What is that noise?” And I still like doing that, making the freakiest noises ever,” he giggles, “but I think that from playing with bands and playing with other musicians that it’s equally as interesting to try to blend in a certain context. ie: you’re scratching, but you’re scratching on a ballad, so how can you do that? For me starting to do that with drunk trumpet – trumpet through a melody scratching – you’ve got a 12 bar blues song, is there a way to play and actually run within that by scratching? Trying to figure out how can you do something that can only be done on a turntable, but doesn’t totally overtake the rest of the song.”

San is stoked to be on the Ninja Tune label. “I can’t really imagine being anywhere else”, he states matter of factly. “Coldcut were one of the first tracks I heard with scratching, and ‘bits and pieces’ was very inspirational to me, and still has a big influence on the things I do, so philosophically there’s that kinship. They’ve very patient and they let you explore whatever music avenue you want to and give you time to fall on your ass and take a break if you need to,” he laughs. Being based in Canada, but flying to London every few weeks to do a Ninja Tune performance means San has racked up a lot of frequent flyer points. “Let me put it this way – we’re very excited to be coming to Australia for the first time. I’ve been touring across oceans since 1996 and still haven’t made it to Australia,” he sighs with a smile in his voice. He’s also looking forward to touring with RJD2. “We’ve never worked together before… it should be fun!” he exclaims excitedly. “I’m a big fan of his work and I’m really excited to see him play. I know he has a show that he does, and a have the show that I have and we’ll do them on tour, but who knows what we will do with the remaining time… we’ll probably open it up”

 

The New Pollutants

The New Pollutants are about to contaminate your mind with their latest release “Urban Professional Nightmares”, a snapshot of their work of the last 18 months. I managed to speak with Mister Benjamin Speed, who provides the spoken component of this 8-bit wonder band from Adelaide. “We describe ourselves as an intelligent mash-up of 8-bit hip hop, beat driven experimental electronica, weird head-bobbing, banging beats and curious sound bytes which are reminiscent of 80’s and 90’s computer game soundtracks, dark themes from futuristic films and thought provoking yet baffling beat poetry,” Speed says of the Pollutants sound. “Hmm… that is a mouthful! We just think we make pop music really!” he jokes.

Coming together around 3 years ago, Speed met DJ Tr!p through mutual friend Red Rabbit, who plays experimental electronica at the Exeter. In late 2001 at the ‘This Is Not Art’ festival in Newcastle, a fortuitous accident led Speed and Tr!p to form a bond. “I had a broken toe and Tr!p has a limp so we were the ones walking way behind everyone because of our physical conditions, and we ended up talking and joking about together for most of the trip”. Both seem to have a love of the weird, which comes through in their music. “We are influenced by many things around us, not just music. As far as music goes, we do not care which genre of music we listen to, as long as it is good, and sometimes if it so bad it goes full circle and becomes good again. In fact we prefer it if we listen to as many different styles of music as possible.”

Something that makes them stand out is their use of 8-bit technology, through DJ Tr!ps’ Commodore Amiga. “The Commodore Amiga has only 8 bit sampling and 4 mono channel sequencing parameters. His whole sound is very lo-fi. Because I use a new computer for music, the nature of my sound is more hi-fi. We make songs on both computers but Tr!p’s contraption is definitely a defining sound. We bring finished songs from his computer and I always have to take them on to mine and hi-fi them up a bit,” Speed says of their unique production techniques. “It is a good mash I think,” he adds. “When we have composed what we describe as our ‘pop’ sounding songs they usually come out very different to what normal pop/electronic/hip hop music is today. This is just because of our backgrounds in music and where we come from. We also deliberately go out of our way to make weird tunes! We make some very experimental stuff but usually don’t play them at our gigs much. We make music people want to hear in their homes as well as when they want to have fun too.”

With the amount of lawsuits against artists and the public in general for copyright breaches, the use of sampled sounds could be detrimental to a rising young group. “Tr!p is a untraceable button man who wont even tell ME where the samples he gets are mutated from!” Speed says of their material. “He is so paranoid about being caught by the sample police, or ASIO or the FBI, or something, that his music studio and computer is like a top secret fortress of solitude. Me on the other hand, I don’t really care because really, unless we are selling more than 50 000 albums, (which we haven’t yet but are working on) no one actually cares because, as Underworld so eloquently put it – we live underneath the radar.” Speed is self confessedly brash. “If there are sample police out there I’m like, “You want me? Come and get me!” On that note, we obviously steer well, well clear of using obvious samples that are really bad… so much so we have gone full circle and put a song on our 12” with all of these bad samples on it! But don’t worry; it only goes for 40 seconds,” he adds.

With their critically acclaimed debut album and airplay on a wide variety of radio stations, they have been all over the country at various festivals over the last year or so. “Our live performances are a manic, fun and extremely energetic mash of live and recorded material that always kills me because I jump around so much”, Speed says. “So far the best show we have performed at was the Big Day Out this year. We got to meet Kraftwerk before our performance and chatted to them while we were setting up. We found out they bought our first album the day before they met us too! At the gig I was jumping around so hard I smashed the table and my computer fell off and my microphone broke… we pulled the computer back on and loaded up our last track and I used Tr!p’s headphones as a mic. After doing that we got a big cheer from the crowd to round off our set.”

Katalyst

Ashley Anderson has been producing music since the mid 90s. Along with fellow producer Illpickl (Michael Wright), they recorded Moonrock together, and were invited to submit songs for the Café Del Mar compilations. After Write passed away in 2001, Anderson took the moniker “Katalyst” and released a few titles that were issued on the “Dope On Plastic” series. In 2002 Anderson produced Manipulating Agent, a tour-de-force of laid back Aussie scratches and beats. Anderson sites the release of this record as one of his greatest achievements. “The way it was received, getting airplay, the reviews I got were all really positive, and that was the culmination of a few years work,” he says.

Anderson is also known for his remix work, remixing a range of artists such as Portishead, Dynamo Productions, Gift of Gab (Blackalicious) and Machine Gun Fellatio. About six months after Manipulating Agent came the remix album Agent Manipulated. “The remix album came about by quite a few people approaching me asking if I was going to do any remixes on 12 inch or whatever,” Anderson explains. “Also I didn’t get to put all the tracks I wanted to on Manipulating Agent due to running time, so I was able to put those tracks with the remixes and make a full-length release.”

The collaboration with Portishead saw Anderson strike up a friendship with the main man behind Portishead, Geoff Barrow. Seeing a gap in the market, they formed Invada Records, based both in the UK and Australia, to be able to give them “a lot of flexibility in a lot of other areas. Geoff has got his office in the UK, and that allows him to have his finger on the pulse in Europe and sign acts based over there. We have our ear to the ground here, and sign mainly Australian artists, and release them in the UK and vice-versa. We have a lot of phone contact, emails, MP3s, that kind of thing.”

Invada’s next big project is Jamaican born Australian artist R.U.Cl’s (Pronounced Ru-See-El) album Let The Music Talk. Due out the end of May, Anderson is quite thrilled by this new talent. “We’ve put a lot of time and energy into this,’ He states, “so we’re quite excited. His background means he’s got a bit of a different style for an Australian lad. He’s really talented, and we used some great producers on it, it’s quite a diverse product,” ranging in vibe from hiphop to dancehall. Anderson sees R.U.Cl being able to perhaps cross into the lucrative US market. “I think Australian hiphop is really good that is out there, but it’s not up to the standard of what’s coming out of the US,” he says guardedly. “I think it’s on par with what’s coming out of the UK and Europe, but I think the cutting edge production and most talented MCs in the world are American. America is very insular, and it’s hard to break into. But,” he continues, “the level of Aussie Hiphop is getting better and better. There’s lots of great new MCs I hear pop up on different tracks, and lots of talented young producers out there.”

You can get a taste of R.U.Cl on Katalyst’s first mix album, Dusted. This double CD contains a mix of funk, soul, hiphop and reggae, and includes some of Anderson’s all time favourite tracks. There were a few that he couldn’t get due to licensing problems, but Anderson says he expected that. “It’s not always the fact that people won’t or want stupid money for it,” he says. “It’s often a case of simply not being able to find the owners. That was the case in some of the more obscure tracks I wanted to include, which is a bit of a shame. It moved the direction of the compilation in some small way, but at the end of the day I had enough tracks anyway.” Anderson is also quick to point out the fact that it is all from vinyl isn’t an attempt to be wanky and elitist. “I didn’t mean to make a big point about it really. I was a bit paranoid about it because some of the records are a bit noisy, and it bugs me out sometimes if there’s a crackle. So I just wanted to get the point across – if there’s any surface noise don’t worry, I couldn’t help it. Plus,” he adds with a laugh, “it is all off vinyl because I don’t have many CDs.”

Many times you’ll see Katalyst performing not at hiphop events, but at big shows such as Ben Harper, and the up-coming show with Jack Johnson, Xavier Rudd, G Love and Donovan Frankenreiter. “Obviously it’s a really different vibe,” Anderson says of these shows. “I’m there to play a different role too. I enjoy the Jack Johnson shows, because it gives me a chance to play different sorts of tunes that I feel I wouldn’t at a ‘Katalyst’ show in a club with a dancefloor vibe. I like to break up the sets, because they’re usually similar sounding kind of acts in the bigger picture, so it’s kind of nice to mix up different flavours for the audience in between them. I guess some members of the audience can’t relate to it, but if it broadens the mind of a few of the members who are there to see Jack and Xavier then that’s a good thing,” he beams.

Grand Master Flash

Even if you’re into hiphop, Grand Master Flash should not need any introduction. You should know that he is, along with Kool Herc and Africa Bambaataa, considered a pioneer of hiphop. He pioneered the scratch, and introduced the turntables as an instrument. With his record The Message he brought hiphop and DJing from being a New York craze into a worldwide phenomenon. He’s sold millions of records, performed at the Superbowl and Commonwealth Games, and received countless awards and accolades. Anyone credited with all of this would probably be ready to give it up and retire after 35 years, but Flash still has a message he feels he strongly needs to deliver to a new generation of fans.

“I have to make it clear to all the young and up and coming young people that hiphop was created in the year 1971 and it was totally designed by a DJ. And if it wasn’t for a DJ there’d be no hiphop, there’d be no rap records, there’d be no breakdancing, there’s be no graffiti artists, there’d be no MCs, there’d be no nothing!” he begins passionately. “Now that hiphop has become so big, that knowledge is either nonexistent or it has become buried. Since I am one of the creators I have to make it clear to every audience I perform in front of, of where hiphop comes from. It’s very important.” And it’s also the reason why, after 30 years of doing it, he’s still doing it, still going on the road, performing to audiences both large and small.

“I love playing big events like the Superbowl and Commonwealth Games, because it gives the DJ a notoriety they should have. I think that people need to understand that hiphop was designed by a DJ,” he says. “In my shows I jam, which is what I love doing, and I also like talking to young people. Just to see what they know, and what I can tell them about what they should know. Hiphop in it’s beginning was just a DJ. No MC, no breakdancing, no graffiti; just a DJ, his turntables, a microphone, and his trusty records. That was it.”

I ask him if he gets nervous or could be worried by a wardrobe malfunction at such a big event, and he laughs heartily. “I’m a man I don’t think I’ll worry about a wardrobe malfunction too much. But I do get nervous, two minutes before. But when I get up on stage, it’s the only place on earth I feel totally safe, other than when I’m with my children,” he adds. “I feel totally, totally, totally safe once I come from that side stage and all those people waiting, and it’s just me and God.”

Like most fathers, he gushes when he talks about his children. “My kids keep me up to speed with new music. I might be touring for a couple of months, and might miss a few new records that come out, and they keep me up to speed with that. Let me know what’s in, what’s hot!” I was curious to know if he held high hops of his children following in his footsteps. “They’ve gotta be the best at it, because they’ve got a tough act to follow,” he laughs. “They’re going to have to be top notch at it, be deadly serious about it, because you can’t come in on pop, you’ve got to come in as you as an artist.”

As someone who created scratching and introduced the world to sampling, I wanted to know his take on the controversy that always seems to surround it. “The beauty of hiphop is that you take an older record that probably was never a hit, and make it a hit,” he explains. “Now it has become big business, these records sell millions, and the owners of the publishing rights are deadly serious about getting paid, and I think that’s fair. I think that if you take a piece of someone else’s song and implant that in your work to make your song become a hit, you should pay that person. I’m with that.”

The prospect of vinyl being replaced by CDs and other technologies doesn’t seem to phase Flash at all. “I think that in this point in time for the more animated DJ and the more serious minded person who goes and watched DJs, I think from what I understand, it’s not watching the arm on the vinyl. From what I am told, the average fan likes to watch the DJ. They like to watch them turn around dig into his boxes, take it and put it on the platter, set it, cut it, throw it in,” he says. “With a CD DJ, those steps disappear because the CD goes right to the point where you want it. I have much respect for the CD DJs who do their thing, but for the animated DJs, for those who move to the music, go the whole 9 yards, the look of the vinyl is just,” he searches for the words “more appealing, you know?”

Flash has recently created Adrenalin City Records, his record / production label, in order to produce new artists and get new material out there, and plans on doing a few more things once this current tour is finished. “When the tour ends there’s two things I want to do, things I promised myself I would do. One is to get a book deal and write about my life and hiphop, and open up some DJ schools. I want to give back, in my own way, to hiphop, because it’s been good to me. Over the last 30 years it’s been up and down, up and down, but if I were to go back I probably wouldn’t change nothing,” he says.

Flash is also looking forward to getting some time off on his tour of Australia, as he feels he hasn’t had a decent chance to explore our country, either in searching out Aussie hiphop, nor it’s natural beauty. “Every time I come into your beautiful country I fly in and fly out. They get me coming into a town, and they whisk me away to the next town. I think I have some days off on this tour, so hopefully I’ll get time to listen to some Aussie hiphop. Also, I want to see a kangaroo! I want to see your oceans. I’ve only seen it on the TV, and I want to experience it for myself, because it looks like a very beautiful country.”

 

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.

Freq Nasty – Video Nasty

Darin McFadyen was sick of the way the world was treating its population. “We know you’re sick of these companies trying to sell you sex, respect and a six pack of cool in a can. Like working 6 1/2 days a week to buy a £200 pair of trainers is gonna turn you into Busta Rhymes. I’m not buying this bullshit and I know you’re not either”, his webpage screams. Littered with anti-corporate, anti-war sentiment, dripping with irony and unique style, this isn’t some indie left wing kid ranting on his Blog. This is Freq Nasty’s Video Nasty web portal, offering a glimpse of what the Video Nasty show is all about. It’s a two year long project of extensive Audio-Visual appeal combining the music of Freq Nasty with custom made graphics, 3D character animation and bold political undertones, described by McFadyen as “the visual equivalent of Michael Moore and Public Enemy getting pissed on the set of Monsters Inc. during an anti-globalisation riot.”

“The idea behind the Video Nasty Experience is to encourage a little bit of critical thought about what is going on in the world around us at the moment,” McFaydyen begins in his softly spoken manner. “I think it’s very important that in spaces like clubs, and the arts in general, that people react to what is going on in the world at times like this. When the idea of any kind of dissent is being discourage by the government I think it’s a good idea to get out there and inspire each other to question what’s going on out there. The idea isn’t necessarily to hammer any particular viewpoint into people’s heads, just to help people realise it is ok to express a viewpoint,” he adds. “The goal isn’t to preach to anyone, it’s more ‘hey, here’s my viewpoint, what’s yours, and what are you going to do about it?’”

Combining visuals, text and sound, the Video Nasty experience has toured all over Europe, including Russia. “I kind of wondered how well the show would work over there, because I wasn’t sure how many people would speak English,” he muses. “A lot of the show is typographically based,” meaning viewers would be exposed to large amounts of text in English. “However, it seems that generally everyone of a clubbing age speaks a little English there, and with the graphics as well, it illustrates the points we are trying to make. And if they didn’t understand they all got into the music, which is good as well I guess”, he adds, chuckling.

The show will soon hit Australia, although sadly not Adelaide. “It’s quite expensive to drag about the place. We have to bring a down sized version to Australia, but in Glastonbury we had 60 screens and projectors, so when you cost the price of hiring them and the attendants it can be quite a lot!” he exclaims. “But all the visuals we’ve had in the Europe shows we’re bringing to Australia,” he adds.

As he’s been on the road, McFayden hasn’t had time to write new music, but he is just starting to ease back into it. The sounds and influences on his last album, Bring Me The Head Of Freq Nasty have now gained momentum in the breaks scene, being copied and replicated by many producers, whereas when it first appeared it was very much on the cutting edge. “I dunno, I might go retro with this next album, make some disco breakbeat record or something!” He laughs “I’m just mucking about with stuff, doing whatever I’m feeling at the time I think will come out,” he explains on the process of writing music. “The whole record develops and gains shape the further you get into it. It’s difficult to see what it’s going to come out when you start an album, but once you get the majority of it, it clicks.”

McFayden is looking forward to playing in Adelaide, as he’s never played the same gig as Japan’s DJ Krush. “That will be wicked!” he exclaims as I tell him. I mention that he and Krush are two DJs who I’ve seen numerous times, but are never the same twice. “Yeah I do try and shake things up in some way when I come over,” he agrees, adding, “This time it’s a bit more difficult because more and more people have the same tunes. But I try to add a different flavour, find a different angle.”

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.

Z-Trip

You can hear the frustration in Zach Sciacca’s (otherwise known as Z-Trip) voice as he talks about copyright laws. Known for the incredible Uneasy Listening Vol 1 mix CD, done in collaboration with DJ P, this master of the mash and blend has become a pin up boy for the fight against the incredibly archaic copyright laws which has seen him get caught up for nearly a year trying to get tracks for a mix CD cleared. This is not about getting samples cleared – this is about getting clearance for mixing two songs together. It’s like being told you can’t play two certain songs together on the radio.

“The whole concept of having to clear something is limiting”, Sciacca explains. “If you want to put out something legitimate, something that you can sell and people can buy, it’s hard. I’m an advocate of people doing it on their own, doing it independently and getting it out, because that’s the most important thing – getting it out there. It’s such a shame that it’s like that,” he pauses. “There’s no way to make an album like the Beastie Boys Paul’s Boutique for instance. That album, financially, could never be made. You couldn’t sample The Beatles – and they did – but people weren’t aware of it then. Now there’s sample clearance house business set up and you have to go that route.”

“Most of the stuff I’ve done until about now has been under the radar,” and this includes Uneasy Listening Vol 1, an amazing mix of 80s rock and electro. “People come to my shows, they tape it and put it on the internet, because people want it. That’s the funny thing, there’s such a demand for it that industry people should be more willing to allow things to be cleared. There’s money to be made if they want to make money from it.” The resistance comes from the record companies and their profiteering. In an article on DownhillBattle.org Sciacca states, “The industry is so old school in thinking, most can’t wrap their head around the concept of a work A and a work B coming together to form work C.” “I think artists are slowly getting into it,” he tells me. “At first they were a bit reluctant, but it’s starting to rise to the surface, become such a mainstream thing, that people are going to want to do that kind of thing. I did get to meet Barry de Vorzon, the guy who did the Warriors theme song,” which is on Uneasy Listening. “I met up with him, played it to him and he really dug it. At some point I would like to sit down and maybe collaborate with him.”

Sciacca has also collaborated with Del Tha Funky Homosapien in the past, and is collaborating with Lyrics Born on his debut album, due out next year. “Going through the route of trying to clear everything just takes forever, and I ran into a lot of stop signs from people who just didn’t get it, didn’t want me to use their stuff, so I had to a different route, and that was to produce an album rather than make one using other people’s music,” Sciacca says of the work he’s doing. “I don’t want to give too much up because I’m saving that for a surprise, but there’s some people I had to really search out to find, and some that were good friends. It’s a good thing though, it was a good process and I’m really happy with the way it’s turned out.”

But Sciacca is first and foremost a DJ. “I’m a DJ and playing to a crowd is my biggest pay off and also my biggest thrill. It’s what I enjoy the most and how I built my career and reputation,” he says proudly. “I don’t really worry too much about record sales or things of that nature yet, I guess I will when I put the record out, but my biggest concern is that more people come to the shows, and maybe buy a T-shirt or something, because that’s money I will see directly, versus going through the channels of me putting something out and the money gets spread out to all the people I’ve sampled, and then the record label, and at the end of the day I might get one or two cents”.

Sciacca will be hitting Australia for the first time next week, and thanks to Traffic we will get to see him perform in Adelaide alongside the Life Savas. Having downloaded a few of his DJ sets from djztrip.com, expect the unexpected from his performance. “It’s very dance floor based, I’ll be trying to rock the party. I like to be different from any other DJ you’ve heard, I pride myself on that. 98% of what I do is on vinyl, I do a few things off CD, but most of the blends and mashups I do are on vinyl,” he states, and having heard those blend I simply cannot wait to see him do it live.

Not only does he allow his sets to be downloaded for free, Sciacca is an active member of his forums, answering questions and giving his opinion on mixes and music in general. “The website isn’t really a big deal in so much as putting photos and such up”, he explains. “My main concern was to have a community where people could ask me stuff and I could interact with them. Sometimes it’s hard to speak to a fan or to someone who’s at a show when you’re packing up or just about ready to go on, so if I can answer things at my leisure, you know at 4 o’clock in the morning in my underwear, you know?” he laughs.

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.”