Junior Senior

Not a lot of people are very aware of Denmark beyond a two hundred year old play written by some bald hack, popularised for the modern audience by an Australian actor. So it comes as some surprise that one of the biggest “new” things to captivate the American Music Press is a little group from Denmark called Junior Senior. “Nobody knows much about it… it’s very small. It’s very Danish,” says the Junior of the band, Jesper Mortensen, of his home country’s music scene. “There’s a few really big Danish bands that have never made it out of Denmark, because they were lagging behind, they weren’t really original enough, or didn’t have good song writing. And we’ve always been in the shadow of Sweden, especially in the indie scene.” He pauses slightly, then continues in his softly spoken English “It’s kind of weird for us to make it outside of Denmark, we’re the first to make it big outside, and it will be interesting to see how that impacts on the scene.”

Junior Senior developed the name for more than the obvious fact that one is older than the other. “I’m kind of petite compared to senior, he’s very tall, very big boned,” he laughs, talking about his partner in music, Jeppe Breum, “and in Denmark Jesper is a very common name, and in school there would be about 5 Jaspers, and I was always the smallest one.”

If you haven’t heard their infectious ‘Move Your Feet’, off their debut album D-D-Don’t Don’t Stop the Beat, it’s a poppy, up beat tune celebrating music and life in general, and has a happy little animated filmclip to accompany it. It’s been compared to everything from Echo and the Bunnymen to Wham! The rest of the album is just as infectious, and demonstrates a range of influences. “I wouldn’t be able to narrow it down to one influence, but black music from the 60’s – early Stevie Wonder, James Brownthe Rolling Stones, the Ramones, The Clash, Run DMC, the Beatles. I’m personally very into the old black music, and the good disco music, like Chic,” Mortensen says. “I tend to go for good song writing and original ideas, I always appreciate that in music no matter what the style, whether it’s Sly and the Family Stone, or if it’s Dolly Parton, or if it’s Graham Parsons – it can be anyone, as long as there’s something in there, good songs, nice singing, or clever arrangements, you know. But we never set out to be a retro band,” he remarks. “We always wanted to make it into a 2000 band… none of us really wants to live in the 60’s or 80’s or anything like that.”

This remarkable blend of influences has capture the American music press by storm, as well as American audiences, which is no surprise considering the substantial lack of originality in the US pop music scene at the moment. “I think it’s a combination of things why people like us, but I really hope that when push comes to shove its really the music,” Mortensen says. “Everything we do we try and do it slightly different, in our own way, and not be too stereotypical. I think some of our songs are good enough to come out of the indie scene, which goes beyond the selling 500 record thing.” He trails off slightly, as if thinking that was the correct way to get his point across. “We never thought we’d amount to anything”, he continues, laughing. “We’d never thought we’d get outside of Denmark. We always thought we had something, but we didn’t think anyone would actually care about us, so it’s been a pleasure.”

Another thing about the band that’s not stereotypical is the blend of gay and straight sensibilities. Their tune Chicks and Dicks clearly demonstrates the fact that Junior is straight and Senior is gay, and this has been lauded in the US press quite a bit as something rather unusual. “It doesn’t really annoy me,” Mortensen says of this undue focus. “I think to some people that it’s a bigger deal than it should be. We don’t really care about it that much, we didn’t feel like hiding it, because it’s such a big part of the chemistry between us and the music we make. We not really big about saying our political views and stuff, but when it comes down to it, I’m happy that it hopefully helps to broaden people’s horizons, and shows that gay and straight people get along well.”

Some of their unusual achievements to date include being played whenever the Mets hit a home run, and being included in the coming “Worms 3d” video game. “I don’t know very much about baseball, but it’s one of those weird things where you don’t get a feeling about it because you’ve never been to the stadium where they actually play,” Mortensen says of the baseball accolade. The Worms thing came about by the game developers approaching the band directly. “When you’re in a band and you get all these crazy offers all the time, and most of them you reject, because we don’t want our music in all these commercials. Although I lost interest in computer games when I was younger, Senior and some of the other guys who play with us are really big fans of The Worms games, and we chose to be in the game. Maybe get our music out to people who might not have heard it,” he adds.

It appears that the addition in the game won’t really be necessary to further their career, as they play 22 gigs across 8 weeks in America to packed out shows. Their energetic live performance, catchy radio-friendly tunes, and combination of uniqueness yet retro sounds in the Gay/Straight package is sure enough to get them more than enough attention. “All the people seem to like us,” Mortensen says about the current American tour. “A lot of people seem crazy about us, which is really nice,” he adds politely.

Blim

Gervase Cooke, the Boy Lost In Music, certainly has a lot to say about music, and we could have chatted for hours if it wasn’t for the phone card giving up the ghost. Getting into dance music because he was self confessedly too pretentious to listen to indie as it exploded into commercialism, he’s become one of the most important figures on the Breaks scene today, and cites Australia as the reason that breaks parties are some of the best parties in the world.

Cooke got the name BLIM because he literally was ‘lost in music’. “I used to write music on headphones in the corner of the lounge room of where I lived so other people wouldn’t get annoyed by it or if it was late at night,” he says of his name. “And I used to do it for quite long periods of time on end, and if anyone come up and tapped me on the shoulder or anything I’d jump out of my skin because I was just somewhere else completely. A blim is a very small piece of hash here in England, the very last little bit,” he adds “so I thought of that and how it could come to mean something else, and thought up Boy Lost In Music, and it stuck.”

His introduction to dance music came from early Warp releases. “I was into indie music and rock, and when it came to about 1988-1989 I was primarily into a lot of indie – Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets, and a lot of underground stuff as well; and I went to Manchester because that was really good for that kind of music. Just as I arrived there it exploded on a commercial level, and made me not want to listen to it. Coz I’m pretentious in that kind of way,” he says, and I’m not really sure if he was joking or not. “Then I heard some Sheffield techno, some really early Warp releases, and because I was a scientist at the time, I was studying mathematics, the logic of the way the music was put together was instantly recognisable to me, and appealed to me and made me want to buy some machines to make music.”

Whilst some may think that beginning his musical life from an essentially classical orchestral base of piano and violin would aid him in leaps and bounds, Cooke isn’t so sure. “Learning an instrument growing up as a child is a frustrating experience really,” he says candidly. “Because you kinda don’t want to do it, you know what I mean? You see it as a chore.” So Cooke doesn’t think that it has had a big influence on the way he makes music. “Just the experience of growing up in constant contact with musical instruments, however badly you interact with that” may have had an impact, he says, “but I would have to say it’s intuitively… I have to say I’m not consciously aware of it.”

Cooke started his electronic music career producing drum and bass for Emotif and SOUR, before moving over to Botchit & Scarper with labelmate Freq Nasty. “The simplest way to explain it is I just wasn’t happy doing it anymore,” he says of the change in musical direction. “I didn’t feel it anymore, I didn’t believe in my music, didn’t believe I had an opportunity to make myself heard in drum and bass, for a number of reasons – some to do with the music itself, some to do with the people involved in it. And when I first started to make breakbeat, it made me feel happy, and that’s the choice I pursued. It’s not even necessarily a conscious decision; it was a matter of doing what I wanted, what I liked.”

Cooke is known for making and playing music with a party vibe, and is partly responsible for the term “festival breaks”. I say partly, because it seems it’s a joke that, due to the music press, has spiralled out of control. Certain aspects of the UK music media have pointed to it as a move away from the harder sounds of breaks, but Cooke says, “It’s not a move a way from anything. It was just a joke me and Rennie (Pilgrem) had in the studio one night when we recognised the sound that we were making. I don’t think we deliberately set out to make anything… it was just something that when Rennie and I get in the studio we make music in a certain way – it sounds big, like its at a festival, we’ll call it ‘Festival breaks’, just laughing and joking about it… and one of us mentioned it to somebody and then all of a sudden…” he trails off with a smile.

Cooke believes the real party vibe comes from visiting Australia. “Everywhere I go this year it’s exactly the same,” he says. “I’ve got a digital camera, and at some point in the night I take a picture and everyone’s got their hands in the air, and I’ve got them all in a line, and unless you take close look of the racial mix in the crowd you’d never notice the difference,” he says. “And it’s been the same everywhere I’ve been… all around Eastern Europe where I used to go 5 or 6 years ago and they had a scene but really tiny and small. They all got scenes going on now. I used to play in Israel and it was just dead – it was good, you had a couple of people into it but you couldn’t get a party going. Recently they had a rocking crowd and I ended up playing for 4 hours – they kept the venue open for two hours longer than it was supposed to be! I just played in China and they fucking loved it, and they never even heard it before. They just couldn’t help themselves.”

He cites Stardust in Adelaide and Two Tribes in Perth as the places he started to notice this. “This year all the gigs are like that, everywhere I go. It’s phenomenal, absolutely fantastic,” and you can tell he is really enjoying the breaks scene at the moment. “I think the music has become a lot more fun, and I feel that it’s the British DJs who go down to Australia for the summer bring back that influence.” An unusual statement, considering it’s usually the English scene that has been seen to influence our dance music scene in the past. “Breaks parties are the best parties to go to in this country [the UK] now, there’s no question about it. I wouldn’t have said that if I didn’t think it wasn’t true, it definitely didn’t used to be true,” he states. “You go out now to a breaks night, and it’s a real fucking party. It wasn’t in London for so long. We were amazed to find out that in Australia that was like the norm. In some ways I think Australia’s party and fun vibe has filtered back into England and made the vibe fun back here.”

“You know what I mean, just real fun, proper parties,” were the last words he said to me before the phone card cut us off, and you can see exactly what he means as he hits Adelaide.

 

 

Meat Katie

Meat Katie aka Mark Pember hates flying. LOATHES it. You can hear the venom in his voice as he speaks about it. “I’ve done over 60 flights this year, and I still HATE it. White-knuckle ride for me all the way. It’s the take off and landings I hate the most”. Yet why would he agree to do an album and subsequent tour of Australia, knowing that the only way to get here is to fly? “I don’t know… it was stupid”, he laughs, “I love DJing and stuff, love it when I get there… it’s just the flying!” he says exasperatedly. Pember was out here recently promoting the album “Destination Australia 02”, and we spoke in between sniffles as we both had the flu that seemed to wipe out everybody.

Pember got into the dance music scene in the early 90s. “I used to be in bands,” he says of his beginnings. “I started off in bands, and a friend introduced me to samplers, and the first thing I did was sample drums and bass. This was the early days of bigbeat, and it just sounded more dancey, more clubby than the stuff I did previously.” His first foray into dance production was Ceasefire on Wall Of Sound. Pember says, “I split with my partner, and he decided to continue with wall of sound with the name, and I decided to continue with a new project.” That new project was the darker sound of Meat Katie, and for those who wanted to know, the name comes from a film about sex.

Pember has been at the forefront of breakbeat since it moved from being cheesy Fat Boy Slim style breaks to what we know as ‘new school breaks’. The scene has exploded in recent years, and considering Pember once said, “I’m not convinced that Breaks is going to do what Garage or Trance has done. I think it will be a cult scene, healthy but not mainstream” I wondered if his position had changed. “It’s a difficult one, because when I said that I genuinely meant it”, he muses. “It is particularly big in Australia. There are certain acts that I think may break through to the mainstream, but as a scene it’s going to be rooted in the underground – the same as drum and bass. There may be the odd track or two or the artist that goes overground… hearing some of the new stuff, like Plump DJs and some of the Stanton Warriors stuff, I can see the accessibility more so than I did maybe a year ago. But for me, and my own sound, no, I don’t think I’ll ever break into that market. I’d love to, but it’s not realistic for me.”

The recent Destination release is the second in the series, but not many people heard the first mix, done by H Foundation. “There was a problem in that they had only released the Fabric H Foundation Mix two weeks before, so I think EQ had a few issues in that everyone was mentioning the Fabric CD and not the Destination CD,” Pember explains. “And that’s a real shame those guys at EQ are really good and it’s a bit of a shitty thing to happen. But I jumped at the chance of doing it, and I’m a big fan of playing out here and my records seem to be selling well, and I thought this would be a great way to set the record straight as actually what it is that I’m about. By doing a domestic CD I’m hoping people understand my vibe a little better. It’s breakbeat based, but I like to touch on different styles as well, and I saw this as the perfect opportunity to do this.”

Pember’s previous works, such as his track ‘the Hum’ with Lee Coombs, are often dark and tribal, but this mix CD is a lot “lighter”, showing that there’s a lot more to Meat Katie than meets the eye. “I guess it’s how people perceive it. I’m not a moody person, ya know!” he laughs. “Sometimes my music can be mood based, which may lead people to think I’m always like that, but my taste is very broad. I like funky music… I’m not a big fan of cheese, but I do like stuff with a bit of a groove.” This mix CD certainly shows this, as it moves from DJ Shadow to Meat Katie to Matrix versus Goldtrix.

Hum is also the title of his successful club, which is coming up to its 2nd birthday in November. “It’s moved to a new venue, a place called the Fortress, and it’s like two story down basement warehouse venue, and we’ve got a license til 6 in the morning, which is quite a late license for the UK. We keep it quite cheap as well…” Pember says of the club. “We do it sporadically now, every 6 to 8 weeks. Thing is, we get other work – good paying work – elsewhere, and we have families and actually have to make a living as well”, he laughs.

His other project is the label Whole 9 Yards, which has recently released the new Elite Force album. “I’m actually taking a bit of time off, as I have another child on the way which is due in January and I need a little home time,” Pember explains. “I spend a lot of my time running the label, and this will be a great opportunity to put it on the backburner for a little while, to concentrate on the things I need to do.” I wondered if Pember thought it was difficult being a father and working in the music industry. “I think it’s hard having a family and doing ANY job, really” he laughs. “You’ve got a lot of responsibility and all that. I wish I was there a bit more on the weekends… I spend the week producing and running the label, and come the weekends I go out and DJ, and try and grab moments being at home, but now I’m really making an effort to make some quality time. It’s difficult because you’ve gotta make money as well, make ends meet”.

Pember missed Adelaide on this tour, but is sure to return to Australia, most likely after his break in January. “Do you know what? I would love to come to Adelaide,” he says. “It’s a real shame I didn’t have an Adelaide date this time –I’ve been here 4 times now and I’ve never been there! I’m going to harass my agent next time I’m down,” he laughs. In the mean time, get a copy of the Destination Australia 02 CD and prepare for a funky ride through some great breakbeat!

Aphrodite

Aphrodite, aka DJ Aphro, aka Gavin King, is recognised as one of the main players in the global drum n bass scene. He’s been rocking the funky beats since the early days of the rave scene and was instrumental in shaping the early sounds of jump up jungle. No drum and bass anthem set would be complete without a few of his tunes in it, and they’re welcomed by old and new school alike. Alongside fellow partner in crime, Micky Finn, he runs the Urban Takeover label which is dedicated to releasing tracks by new and established talent of the drum n bass variety. Aphrodite Recordings is King’s solo label released on V2 Records, and has over 40 releases on the label.

I interviewed King from his hotel room somewhere in the US as he was nearing the end of an intense tour, and he sounded tired and distracted. He did a show the night before in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and says, “it was really really good. Last night there were about 250 people, and they were bangin’ to it, so when the house lights came up they were all still dancing, with encore and cheers and stuff.” That sounds like Adelaide, where you can get 2 -300 dedicated junglists out on a Wednesday night to see an international. “I haven’t played in Adelaide for yonks, years and years!” he says, “so it will be good to get back.”

King is well renown for using hiphop samples in drum and bass: in fact at one time that’s all jungle seemed to be – a phat rolling bassline, a sped up breakbeat, and some hiphop vocals. “They love the hiphop samples”, King says of the American audience. On his last project, King moved away from samples and had some old school masters of hiphop perform on his album, including Schooly D and Big Daddy Kane. “I think they may have heard some remixes, and became interested”, King says of the team ups. “I met Schooly D thru a mutual friend in Philadelphia, and Big Daddy Kane was hooked up thru the record companies”.

The drum and bass crowd is a fickle and cliquey crowd who seem to have a new hero every week. King used to be king of the beats and his tunes used to rock the dance floor every time someone dropped the needle into the groove. However, in more recent years, especially in Adelaide, he’s fallen out of favour. Some claim it’s because “all his tunes are the same”, claiming them to formulaic, cheesy and bland. Yet hearing his latest stuff, one would have to disagree, because King’s new stuff is quite different. “I generally ignore the message boards and press”, King says of the attitude toward him. “Now again I go look on them, and it’s pretty silly because someone will be saying I’m absolute crap, and someone else will be saying I’m brilliant, so, obviously none of these people know what they’re talking about” he says gruffly. “I play music for the crowd in front of me, to try and get them going. If they go off to them then that’s good.”

This last statement is also the way he makes music. He says he doesn’t sit down to specifically write a happy or bouncy tune, but rather he makes tunes in order to get people to move. “Making an album is hard. You’re stuck in a box studio for a couple of months at least, and… well it’s just a lot harder [than touring]”, he says. Despite the negativity aimed towards his style of music, he is one of the biggest selling drum and bass producers, and his last album even outsold Baby Spice’s solo effort. “I don’t really care that I’ve outsold Baby Spice… or anyone else… I just make records for the love of it,” he says of this achievement.

A lot of drum and bass DJs are embracing CD technology, and it’s not uncommon to see someone like Pendulum perform a whole set purely off CD. As it is well known that King plays a lot of dubs, but he still prefers vinyl. “Generally I don’t use CDs; I’ve just started too, but I prefer acetate,” he says. “Because I’m old school!” he laughs. CDs also allow DJs to grab tunes off the web, and play it to a crowd hungry for the latest banger. “There’s good things and bad things about people downloading my tunes and playing them out. The bad things are obvious, yeah?” King says. “My last album sold 2 or 3 times less than my first, but people seem to know Aftershock more. More people know the tunes, which I find bizarre! For example, in January this year I played in Russia, there were 3-4,000 people to see myself, Goldie and Technical Itch… it was a massive show… and they all know drum and bass and the tunes, and I don’t know when I last sold a tune in Russia! It’s all due to downloading.”

King is known for playing a good vibe that ranges from classic to upfront and exclusive dubplates. Earlier in 2003 he released the ‘Urban Junglist’ compilation on his Aphrodite label which features Peshay, High Contrast, MC Fearless and Skibadee as well as a some new original talent making their release debut’s on the compilation. King is heading to Australia for the ‘urban junglist tour’ to rock the crowd.

DJ Jazzy Jeff

DJ Jazzy Jeff, known to his mother as Jeffrey Townes, is a legend in hiphop. He, along with partner in crime Will Smith aka the Fresh Prince, are counted amongst hiphop’s first “superstars”. Their tunes Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble and Parent’s Just Don’t Understand are absolute classics. Many people may think of Townes as the lesser of the duo, because he is not in the spotlight as much as Smith, but he hasn’t been sitting back on his fat mountain of bling bling from selling over 10 million records doing nothing. He is the founder and head of A TOUCH OF JAZZ, nurturing the careers of a roster of young producers, writers and artists, including the wonderful Jill Scott, and houses them all in a studio complex in the downtown area of Philadelphia.

He is famous for getting his start as a bathroom DJ. “Basically that’s the guy that really gets to play no records or does nothing pertaining to DJing until the main DJ has to go to the bathroom”, he laughs. “Then he gets to put a record on, and make sure that the record the main DJ put on doesn’t finish. I was just hoping those guys would stay in the toilet a lot. I used to give them a lot of drinks, lots of water to keep their bladder active.” His skill quickly developed and got him noticed at parties, and it was at one such party he teamed with Smith. “The guy who was my usual MC didn’t show up, and Will came in, and we knew each other from previous parties, and he just grabbed a mic and things went from there.”

DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince were well known for using samples of cartoons and old TV shows, such as I Dream of Genie. “We got in trouble for a couple of the samples that we used,” he laughs. “That was early hiphop days when nobody really understood the sampling laws and what we had to do. But it got to a point where after we got into trouble you start to become wise, and you start to compensate whoever you use”. Yet some people in the rap game weren’t appreciative of the sounds the duo employed, or the less aggressive take on rap they used, calling them ‘soft’ and equally dismissive names. “It was when hiphop started to become multi-dimensional, and just because Will and I chose not to do Gangsta records, or really curse in our records, and talk about shooting and killing anybody, we got criticised, because at the time that [Gangsta] was what was most popular. Now you look at hiphop and it’s grown in so many ways… it didn’t really bother me because people didn’t understand how big hiphop really was.”

For someone who is a “superstar”, Townes is quite unpretentious about his work. “I never look at that,” he says of the accolades and so on from his early days. “I think because I’m so active in what I’m doing now I don’t think I’ve ever look at the contribution or the credit we’ve got in the past, and I think it keeps me grounded.” Even being on a high rating TV show doesn’t seem to have overblown his ego. “The exposure was incredible. I’m more recognised by what I’ve done on the TV show than what I’ve done in music,” he says. “But it doesn’t matter what you’re recognised for, I try to bring people into what I do, just use that exposure as positive energy”.

Exposure is what his record label A Touch of Jazz is all about. “My issues right now have more to do with not about what is in hiphop, but what’s not in hiphop. I don’t understand how you can get radio stations that play the same 25 records over and over again, and there’s a hundred thousand records out! I think it’s more important, to me, to give everybody a chance, because that only benefits the music and culture of hiphop, instead of narrowing it down to what someone deems important,” he says of the current state of hiphop. “That’s the main reason I set up A Touch of Jazz. Just to have a little more musical freedom and creativity to do what I want to do, and to put records out for music lovers. The beauty of a lot of the stuff I do is there is no great expectation to sell millions and millions of copies of records; we put records out for people who love good music. If you love it and support us we’re very grateful, and if you don’t then hopefully one day we can make something you’ll love and start to support us. That’s the main reason why I do it. It’s not so much we have to do what’s popular, or what people deem is popular, or top 40, you’re making music because you love it.”

Townes love of music can be easily heard in his voice when he talks about it, whether it’s talking about the latest releases on his label, or his upcoming tour. “The fact that two turntables and a mixer and some records has taken me completely around the globe – especially now – I am so grateful for that. It’s a joy for me just to spread the love of music. We’re all linked together through music, and for me to be able to come and play music for people who love it and enjoy it… you know I probably enjoy it more than the people I’m playing for!” he laughs, “and I’m so grateful for that.”

Soon Adelaide gets a chance to witness Jazzy Jeff in action. “I play very high impact, high energy. In a period of about an hour and a half I may play about 200 records”, he says nonchalantly. “I like to take people on a journey through music, not just hiphop. I play hiphop, I play classics, I play breakbeat, I play house, I’ll play pretty much anything! It’s more about the excitement of the night, and the more energy I get from the crowd, the more I give back. Just tell people to watch out because you’re gonna have a great time!”

DJ Debris

Adelaide has a unique hiphop scene that’s fuelled by the love and dedication of its fans and practitioners. Although we seem to miss all the larger acts that tour our fair brown land, the scene is still pretty large and healthy for a small town. Maybe it’s because the DJs and Acts we have here are as good as those that tour. One such act is the Hilltop Hoods, who have been lauded in international as well as local press. With 3 albums and a following from Gawler to Mt Gambier, they’re about to embark on a national tour with the 2003 DMC Technics World DJ Championship Heats, performing and judging. We spoke to DJ Debris (Barry Francis) about the state of hiphop and a few other things as well.

“Deep down I always had a notion that we’re going to get somewhere”, Debris begins, “because of the skill and dedication of the people I work with”. The Hilltop Hoods formed about 8 years ago, as most groups form, by someone hooking someone else up with common interests. This common interest centred on hiphop, and out of the South came three young hoods who knew how to rock a mic. “I think we’ve grown out of the Hood attitude, as has our music, although we try and make music for the ‘street’ that appeals to the Average B Boy,” Debris says.

With regard to the local scene, Debris has nothing but praise. “The hiphop scene in Australia has come a long way, a very long way, from where it was when I first entered the scene. It was very fragmented between state to state. There wasn’t very much communication between the states,” he says. “Now it’s very collaborative, mainly due to the internet and online community. Plus the availability of home studios… everyone seems to have one. There’s probably been a 20 fold increase in terms of local releases. I think dedicated followers of hiphop want to see hiphop remain underground, at the street level. And I don’t think Aussie hiphop and the Aussie accent will ever get accepted to the level of US stuff,” Debris muses. “If people live in Australia, and people know that its where they are from, and they’re rapping about guns and American issues rather than local issues, your average hiphop punter will see it as a load of crap really.”

The Hilltop hoods are fiercely independent. “We always want to keep it independent. We’ve never aimed to go commercial. We make music for ourselves, and our friends, and the people who like us.” It’s this kind of attitude that keeps Aussie hiphop ‘real’ and stops it sliding off the rails, like it seems to have done in the US. On this topic, I asked if there could ever be a dance remix of Hilltop Hoods. “We’re dedicated to hiphop, no disrespect to other forms of music, but that’s what we do. I don’t think we’d ever make a dance track. Maybe an instrumental track for a movie, that’s more our niche,” Debris says.

“We used to do a lot of collaborations with people in the past, but we’ve backed away from it with this album, tried to focus on ourselves and try to get our own sound without having too many people with their hands in the pie,” Debris says of their forthcoming album, ‘The Calling’, which should be out Mid-September. “But we’re always open to collaborations, we’d like to work more with Pegasus from Melbourne, Regent, Downsyde, Hijack & Bones, people we have in the past”.

DJ Bones will also be present at the DMCs, and I wondered how they go about judging such a competition. “I’ll be looking at Originality, skill, ability to beat juggle and scratch, variation, the ability to master of all DJ techniques,” Debris says. “Usually at a competition there’s someone who really stands out, who gets the crowds reaction”. The DMCs have been running for 17 years and cover 30 countries, with many currently well-known DJs and producers having performed in the comp, including Adelaide’s Groove Terminator and Brendon, EK, Ransom, plus overseas acts like Carl Cox and the late Tony de Vit. In 2000 Australia’s best ever placing was achieved by DJ Dexter from The Avalanches, who finished 2nd, which is no easy feat. Could this year be the year a South Aussie makes it all the way to the UK Finals? Find out by checking out the skills of the Hilltop Hoods, DJ Next and DJ Bones, as well as a heap of hopefuls who will surely tear the place up!

Yumi Stynes

Yumi Stynes is the lucky “hostess with the mostest” of Channel [V]’s Room 208. Juggling a career in television and a young child, this cute, happy, energetic young woman’s story is the stuff of legends. One day she’s making sandwiches in a Melbourne takeaway – the next moment she’s being kissed by Robbie Williams live on national television. Now hosting TXTr, Australia’s first live SMS request show, and Room 208, which is going on the road with an all-ages event, we talked to her about her career and the show.

Stynes had some idea of what she was going to be in for when she was picked in Channel [V]’s “search for a reporter” contest. “I used to host radio shows for 4 years while at uni, and worked at a radio station in the Torres Strait Islands for about a year. And I used to do other things here and there like make music videos for friends and stuff,” she says. Her first time on air was “pretty scary… I can’t really remember it. I remember that I thought that all I could do was try my absolute hardest, or I’d hate myself if I didn’t give it my all… I know it sounds pretty wanky, but that’s how I felt. I had to completely lose myself, forget about being inhibited and being coy, just grab it by the balls and have a laugh doing it.”

Losing herself is something she’s become adept at, judging by her on air escapades. “I’m kind of immune to embarrassment now,” she laughs. “I got hypnotised once. That was pretty bizarre. I ended up dancing pretending like I was Madonna.” Another time the camera zoomed out to find her on top of someone’s shoulders at the Big Day Out. “He was just some guy I asked ‘can I sit on your shoulders?’” she giggles. “Covering the Big Day Out this year was pretty awesome. We had free range of the venue, and we had technology that meant as long as we could see the broadcast van, which was on top of a hill, we could broadcast from anywhere in the festival”, she says. “And it was just the most exciting thing to know there were thousands of people watching, and we were bringing them something you don’t really see very often – that really raw, high energy you get within a rock festival”.

Sometimes when people get positions in TV by winning contests, there’s a certain animosity towards them. Not at Channel [V]. “Most of the people who work at V aren’t frustrated presenters, they’re there because they want to be,” she says. “It was really a massive thing for every one at the channel. It was a huge endeavour that everyone had to pitch in with, so they were all invested in it, and when James (Mathison) and I got the job they all thought that we were their ‘babies’”, she says, laughing.

Stynes hosts the show TXTr, Australia’s first live SMS show. “We get great SMS’s on the show TXTr. They’re always really, really clever. We did a Father’s Day special, and we were asking what advice their father’s gave them, which was kind of an open topic – people could take it how they wanted. There were a lot of straight forward responses, but heaps of really black ones, like “my dad was always too drunk to give me advice”, and “Fuck you Dad, happy Fuckers day!” You get the whole gamut of intelligence and age groups and seriousness,” she adds. “My favourite one was one after Enrique Englasius got his mole cut off, and as a TXTr topic we had “What did Enrique do with his mole?” People who texted us had hilarious answers, like ‘it was going to be the major prize on the next big brother’, and another one was ‘he chopped it up and made guacamole with it’” she giggles.

Her other hosting job is Room 208, which got it’s name from one of those corporate ‘brainstorm’ weekends. “Well, with Channel [V] everyone just parties, plays loud music and gets silly”, she says. “At this conference, everyone went back to Jabba’s room. People were flicking the lights and having fun dancing to loud music, and someone came up with the idea that we should do a show that was “just like that”. It sounds like one of those ridiculous ideas that never goes anywhere, but somebody remembered it the next day…” And Jabba’s room number was of course, Room 208.

If you’ve never seen the show, it’s kind of like Soul Train for the chemical generation, and it’s quite funny to watch. Stynes describes it as “it’s like a party on TV, but there’s a competitive element where the best dancer takes home $1000”. Stynes thinks the Karaoke segment is the funniest, and says, “There’s times we can’t talk on air because we’re laughing so much. We like it because it gets played back pretty soon after filming, so we can kick back without being sweaty and hot and crazy and watch it and laugh. But at the same time we’re there with them. The people at home do have that distance so they can take the piss.”

There have been times in the past where off handed remarks can cause trouble, as Stynes discovered. “There was this large girl dancing, and Mike (Kerry) says to me ‘What would you call that move?’ and I said ‘I think that’s the horny lesbian,’” she giggles nervously. “But even before the show was over, the girl comes up to me with tears in her eyes and says ‘I’ve got family members watching – I come from a Greek Orthodox family… do you have any idea what you have just done?’ and I was like ‘Awwww… Fuck!’ It was awful – I didn’t mean for it to be taken badly”.

Last time Room 208 toured, they shot the footage and edited it back in the studio, but this time it’s being filmed and mixed live. “We’re trying to get the essence of each city we visit”, Stynes says, “and it’s going to be massive. The studio is smaller than it appears; it’s really the size of a large bedroom, and the clubs we’re visiting have quadruple the capacity,” Stynes says excitedly. “Adelaide was one of the most successful dates on the last tour. The people were just mad for it,” she says, “Absolutely hyped!” and she hopes this time people will be just as keen.

Ils

Illian Walker, aka Ils, is one of the hottest breaks producers in the world. He was one of the first people Adam Freeland signed up to his record label Marine Parade, and he’s been recruited by Distinctive Breaks to produce the next instalment of the excellent Y4K series. Even though the record label that released his first record, Idiots Behind the Wheel, burnt him, the well-distributed promo solidified his street cred with magazine editors, DJs, and label heads across Europe. His second album for Freeland’s Marine Parade was the first full-length artist album for the label, was critically acclaimed and earned him the title of “the producers producer.”

“To be honest I don’t really understand what that means,” he laughs. “I take it in a complementary way I suppose; it’s nice to be recognised in some kind of dimension”. Anyone who’s heard his tunes will notice the incredible complementary sounds he manages to produce seemingly out of thin air. “Being in a rare groove / funk live band had a massive impact on my drum programming and the basslines,” he says, of his days playing bass in a funk band when he was a mere14 years old, but it was the seminal rave act of the 90’s, The Prodigy, that inspired Walker to buy a sampler.

Throughout the 90’s, Walker made his living by working as an engineer for various DJs and producers. It was here his technique caught the ear of LTJ Bukem, who asked him to do work for Good Looking Records, and then later he worked with James Lavelle and DJ Shadow at Mo Wax on the U.N.K.L.E. project. “It was good to be around those kinds of people, to see how they worked, to hear music through their ears. You can sit in the same room with these people, and learn how they perceive music, the sounds that turn them on. And you see different methods of work, some people use different studio, or different kit, and it’s fascinating to work with these other people”, he says of his time spent with these doyens of dance music.

The disappointment with the Fuel label going under and not receiving a cent for his work led Walker to abandon dance for a year or two. “No one’s really seen or heard from the label owner of Fuel. It’s a bit insane,” he laughs. Asked if there’s any chance of re-releasing the album to new fans, Walker is a bit hesitant to look back at that stage in his life. “As far as I know I never signed a contract for that album or anything, so technically I could re-release it, but I feel I should move forward. There’s a lot more music to be written, really.” He also doubts he’ll go back to producing drum and bass, the sound that got him his start. “I’ve worked with a couple of singers who sing at that speed, and if I was producing a singer, and drum and bass really suited, I would do a drum and bass backing track to fit the song if that energy was required, but for myself, I’m not really interested at the moment.”

Looking forward is what Walker is concentrating on. A few of his tunes have been licensed for commercials, which is a great way for a producer to cement their financial standing, but some people point the finger and scream ‘sell out’. “I think considering a lot of breaks doesn’t get mainstream radio play in this country – you won’t hear Ils on Radio 1 – so I think if I can get on TV that’s good from a musicians point of view”, he explains. “I’d be annoyed if my music was used on a tampon advert or something “ he chuckles, “that kind of thing is quite critical. A lot of my older drum and bass is used on gardening and lifestyle shows and things like that and I find it funny. But if it’s for something like Nike, that has really groundbreaking adverts, that use cutting edge editing techniques, that has really cool visuals, and if it’s a cool product, I don’t consider it selling out.”

As well as working on his third album, Walker has been working on the next Y4K Breaks album. “I’ve tried earthing it by throwing a few anthems in there,” he says; on making his set stand out from the marvellous forerunners by Tayo and Freq Nasty amongst others. “I’ve got a few vocal tracks in there; I dunno, something about the Y4K series is it’s usually quite instrumental, so I’ve put a few vocal tracks in there. I think vocals work well over breaks, and tried to represent that in there. There are also some totally new tracks in there by unknown and up and coming producers.” There are also a few of his own compositions as well. “I’ve got a track with MC Dynamite, Roni Size’s MC, that’s totally unheard and been kept under wraps for a while, and some other tracks that haven’t been allowed to be licensed to CDs in the past.”

Walker is looking forward to touring, with the possibility of hitting Australia towards the end of this year. Whilst he has only been DJing for the last year or so, he believes he could pull off a live performance similar to the Roni Size Reprazent live show. “I admire the whole Roni Size live thing, I find that absolutely ingenious. That’s one of the few rare examples of studio sequencing stuff being performed live. And still a lot of people can’t emulate that. That’s the benchmark,” he says. “I have enough tracks that I’ve written in the last 9 years, so I feel I’d be able to go up onstage and give and interesting set. I’ve got enough back catalogue, and good singers and performance people that I believe in to feel it’s the shape of a good show,” he says. But whether it’s a DJ or live set, Illian Walker’s show would be one that is worth hearing.

Check out Ils Y4K mix out soon through Distinctive Breaks, and keep your eye out for a possible tour towards the end of this year.

1200 Techniques

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planet Funk

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

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

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

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

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

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