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So, here it is, the new and improved FunkyJ.com for 2016.
When I started writing for dB Magazine and inthemix in 2002, the web was nascent and you had to look hard for material on the various artists I interviewed. Nowadays with wikipedia and google it’s really simple to find information, and I hope this writing will be added to that pile, and be useful to others.
It’s a little laborious copying and reformatting all my old interviews, so it will take a while to get all my content online again.
However I feel my writing is still valuable, not only for myself as both dB Magazine and inthemix have changed radically over the last 14 years and some of my stuff has vanished, but I also hope it’s useful for anyone who may interview these people in the future.
Oh, and just a note about the articles – the wordpress publishing dates I wrote them – or at least the creation dates the computer recorded me writing them. Publishing dates would have usually been a week or so after the creation dates. There may be some errors with this and the articles in general, but I present them as I wrote them, not as they were edited.
The Hilltop Hoods shot to prominence with ‘The Calling’, becoming the first Australian hiphop act to gain a Gold record. The follow up, ‘The Hard Road’ has a hard act to follow, and not only in terms of sales, but also in of ‘keeping it real’ for the Hilltops. I’d heard rumours and stories that the new album was ‘commercial’, and that the band were tearing themselves apart from within. But talking to Suffa a day after the album was finished made me realise that the Hoods still have it very much together, and no matter what happens, they will always be The Hilltop Hoods.
I asked Suffa if there was any extra pressure to record The Hard Road. “It wasn’t a struggle to record it, but when we started mixing it Baz (Debris) went on holiday to Vietnam,” he laughs. “So that made the mixing down a little bit more difficult.” Of course not having heard the album, I asked Suffa to describe how it sounded. “It’s similar to The Calling but it’s sort of a darker version of The Calling,” he mutters. Dark hey… Could this be a reflection of the way the band is feeling the pressure? “I don’t know,” he chuckles. “It just turned out that way. We don’t plan albums. As the beats are made, as we like certain beats and the album makes itself. There’s a couple of party tracks on there, a couple of jazz influenced tracks, it’s not like it’s some kind of melancholy beast,” he grins.
The Calling’s most popular track is the Nosebleed Section, containing the Melanie Safka sample. Seeing as how she was apparently enamoured of the tune, I wanted to find out what Suffa thought of her and how she came into knowing about this little group from Adelaide. “She got sent the track by a fan she has here, but to be honest I’d rather not talk about that because”, he hesitates, “we’re not having legal issues, but it’s not sorted out completely and I really shouldn’t be talking about it,” he says, and fair enough too.
He does openly speak of how that whole exercise has changed the way the group approaches sampling, however. “We had to either use things on this album that didn’t need sample clearance, or the ones that did need sample clearance we had to chase after and get it,” he explains. “You can sort of take care of it in the processes (of making a track). If you’re sampling a funk artist, they’re sampled so much they’ve got the process in place to legally sample them. You just need to contact their people, they’re people tell you how much it’ll be and how much royalties they want, blah blah blah, and that’s sort of easy. If you go into other genres and sample someone not used to it, it can become difficult. And also during the process you try not to sample records you know you’re going to have trouble with,” he adds with a smirk.
Thanks to the efforts of the likes of Hilltop Hoods, Delta, Downsyde, the Triple J Hiphop Show, and the seminal Aussie hiphop label Obese Records, Aussie Hiphop has blossomed and become a lot more respected by the wider community. “Yeah, the scene, if you compare it to 5 or 10 years ago, the amount of exposure, the amount of groups, the amount of interest, the amount of media attention, it’s a lot healthier than it was,” Suffa exclaims. But when I ask him about the down side of it, he’s quite frank in his answer. “I don’t really want to say negative things about it, you know? I just don’t want to sound like one of those guys who’s gone all cynical,” he laughs.
Although I didn’t like to keep the interview on a negative vibe, I had heard rumours that there was some tension with in the group over creative control. Having chatted to both Suffa and Debris in the past, I found it hard to believe, and of course Suffa set those rumours to rest with a big laugh. “It’s absolute shit!” he cries. “The reason why those rumours come about, and we’ve even seen things where people said we should have a media coach,” he laughs incredulously, “is because we’re such close mates all we do is fucking hang shit on each other all day, so even if we’re being interviewed or there’s a camera there we’re still hanging shit on each other, it’s just the way we always have been. So you know, I don’t know why people want to turn it into some kind of… thing, maybe the people starting these rumours are trying to turn us against each other or something, but it’s just not going to happen. We know each other so well, we just don’t care what they say.”
To help the launch of the Album, the trio will be hosting ABC’s Rage. “We’ve always been so disappointed when hiphop artists go on Rage because for some reason whenever hiphop artists program one of these shows they try to show how open minded they are and play anything but hiphop,” he groans. “Our sole mission was to go on there and play nothing but dope hiphop. So we played 40 songs of just straight up hiphop. We were limited a little by what catalogue they had, but we tried our best to play clips that just don’t get seen and the artists we think should get a little more exposure.”
It was quite early in the morning when I called the UK, and computer problems meant I called a little late and had to cut my interview short, but Tayo, the Don of the breakbeat world, was gracious and kind, and let me conduct the interview without any sense of annoyance, although he did stifle a few yawns every now and then. Having been around since year dot, working with Adam Freeland, being head of Mob Records, who gave Stanton Warriors a push start, and with his radio show ‘Dread at the Controls’ on KISS FM, he is at the forefront of pushing new sounds and keeping the breaks scene vibrant and alive.
He has also put out many a compilation including Beatz and Bobz and Y4K, and his new Mix CD “These Are the Breaks” is the follow up to Krafty Kuts’ fantastic double album from 2003. “They wanted me to do it,” Tayo says about the new compilation. “DMC got in touch and said they were re-igniting the series and they wanted me to do this one. I guess the label wanted to do a breaks series and they already had a brand in place, so they called me in.” The mix is quite different from Krafty Kuts mix. Whereas Krafty blends hiphop, funk, breaks and even dnb, Tayo is straight up dubby breaks, a sound which Tayo has made his own.
“It’s very much the music I’m involved in and that I make,” he notes, “and I’m just trying to bring my own interpretation of the breaks so people don’t get bored of the breakbeat formula. I think sometimes it can be a little straight ahead and know what you’re getting, you know?” and I agree, but also say how I think breaks one is the most interesting scenes out there. “There’s a lot of interesting music out there,” Tayo agrees, “and I was just trying to put my own stamp on it. It does have a few of my own productions on there because this style (dubby breaks) is hard to find,” he adds, “but at the same time making tunes is what I have been doing for the last year or so.”
And that doesn’t mean Tayo is bored with breaks, on the contrary he is enjoying the broad brush that breaks DJs paint with. “If I look through my record box I’m quite happy with what I’ve got at the moment. I’ve been looking out to other scenes, all related to the breaks genre, but not quite so much nu-school breaks, which can seem a little formulaic sometimes. But it was a chance to get some of the stuff I’ve been involved with out there.”
Tayo has been rather busy in the studio. “I’ve got a track coming out on Mantra Breaks I did with Acid Rockers called ‘Shorty the Pimp’, I’ve got another coming out on Aquasky’s label Passenger called ‘Wildlife Dub’, I’ve just done a remix of Basement Jaxx, and I’ve got a single coming out on Finger Lickin’ later this year, and they want me to do some more stuff and make an albums worth. I’m going to let stuff incubate for the next few months and get it done,” he says of the deal, which will be his first artist album. “It’s going to be whole new stuff, because the mix album was done so I could get my stuff off my hard drive and out there. Now I want to concentrate on less dancefloor tracks and more album tracks, with vocalists and so on. It’ll still be dancefloor,” he assures me “but just less 12 inch, shall we say? There will be stuff I’ve worked on but haven’t released… I’ve got a grand idea for it, but whether it works out like that is another thing, but I’m going to have fun trying.”
Tayo is also looking forward to coming to Adelaide. He says he’s only had one ‘big’ show in Adelaide, and that was at the Beach Party in 2004, but I assure him that breaks is a lot bigger now through the efforts of Blake of Stardust, Los Proyectos Magicos, Hi-Fi, and the Adelaide Breaks Collective. Being reassured after I told him about the massive Krafty Kuts and Stanton Warriors show late last year, Tayo is looking forward to “having fun and getting a good crowd” at the end of March.
In the world of dance music, it’s sometimes difficult to remember that having a career that spans over 10 years is in fact a long time to be in the biz. Many DJs come and go, having taking it up as a hobby in their younger days, or as a way to supplement their incomes, but then they have a home and a family, or get a ‘real’ job and don’t have the time, or doing something lame like music journalism. Jay Cunning, whilst still only relatively young, has been at the game since 1989, starting in acid house and working his way through musical styles until he settled with breakbeat in the late 90s.
Cunning is your pretty typical “hard work pays off with a bit of luck and lot of skill” DJ story. His main break into the spotlight was a two-pronged attack with his skills pricking up the ears of listeners on BreaksFM, and also the editors of both Musik and iDJ magazines. “I used to always go to this record store in Kensington,” Cunning begins, “and that’s where I started buying stuff that was a little bit different from house or drum and bass. I started listening to the early Freskanova stuff, early stuff from Matt Cantor (Freestylers) and Andy Gardner (Plump DJs), and I had been buying it for ages but not really doing anything with it, just playing it to myself. And I saw a flyer in the shop for BreaksFM, so I called the guy up and had a chat with Alex (Orton-Green aka Uncouth Yoof) and we spoke for a couple of hours and we got along very well, and he said, ‘send us a CD, and if we like it we’ll put it on the show’. They stuck it on the show and next thing I’m doing the weekly radio show.”
His other opportunity came from the Pressure Breaks mix CD that Cunning puts out. “It’s quite funny, a lot of people think the Pressure Breaks CDs are officially released and you can buy them in shops and stuff, but these are all purely promotional material though,” he chuckles. “It was a way for me to get a mix CD together and out there. The way I was looking at it as a new DJ coming into it was these labels and promoters are getting CDs left right and centre and I needed to do something that was going to get me noticed and really stand out,” so with a friend Cunning worked on the artwork as if it was an actual release. “The first one I did I sent it off to iDJ and Musik magazine and I actually won the competitions with the same CD twice!” he laughs, which was a little embarrassing with the two most popular dance magazines having the same mix out in the same month, but a bonanza for Cunning’s DJ credibility.
And Cunning thinks aspiring DJs need to learn from his example. “I’d say it to anyone who’s starting out DJing, put as much effort as you can. With picking the tunes and doing the mix you could be the best in the world, but I’ve been given CDs with “Bob” written on a blank CD and there isn’t any motivation to listen to it. If you’re getting X amounts of CDs a week, and some one’s gone to the effort of doing art work, as a label boss or promoter you go ‘hold on a minute, I’ll take a listen to that’”, he smiles.
Whilst Jay has been busy producing tracks with 2Sinners and Smithmonger, and running Menu Music, his label that he runs with partners in crime Atomic Hooligan, they’ve also squeeze in a mix for the latest “Beats and Bobs” on Functional. “Both Terry (Ryan of Atomic Hooligan) and I said from the start this should represent what people would hear in a club if Jay Cunning and Atomic Hooligan were on the decks,” Cunning explains. “I will say it is quite conservative, and I use the word loosely, but we’re a lot more cut and paste with rough scratching thrown in and dropping stuff down on it when we play live, but with a mix CD it’s got to be a little more structured. The Mix CD shows a diversity in breaks, there’s techy stuff, funky stuff, tougher stuff, but when you see me and Terry out, you really don’t know what you’re going to hear next; it might be house, it might be drum and bass, it might be a hiphop thing. And this is very much the Menu ethos – creating a party vibe,” he grins.
Talking to Matt Black was a dream come true. It was he, along with partner Jonathan Moore who got me into writing about music backstage at a gig in Sydney. Fearing I’d never get to talk to them again, I picked their brains until they asked if I was a music journalist, planting the seed in my mind. I must have been asking the right questions this time, because we talked for quite a while, with Black giving me some very verbose answers and some incredible insight into the world of Coldcut.
Their biography fills two pages in small print, and although they have been working for two decades that still doesn’t go far to explain just how much they have achieved. Responsible for the 80s dance smash hit Only Way Is Up by Yazz, Black and Moore went on to form the radical Ninja Tune record label. The label introduced such artists as Kid Koala, Amon Tobin, Jaga Jazzist, and Roots Manuva to the world. They’ve collaborated with political shit stirrers like Jello Biafra and Saul Williams, and campaigned in both the UK and USA against right wing governments and their oppressive policies. They’ve created new ways of performing using audio/video with their V-Jamm software, and they’ve produced on of the best records of 2006 even though the year has only just begun.
Black laughs when I ask if they sleep, given the volume of work they’ve created. ““I actually love sleeping, and find it quite difficult to get up in the morning! I suppose I’m an artist, and one’s work and one’s life are intermingled”, he continues, “there is no separation. Apart from my work, sleeping, and having a life with my family, I really don’t do a lot of other stuff. I don’t really have hobbies as such. I find that my time is filled with what I love doing and different aspects of that, and I don’t really need hobbies. I don’t think Jonathan thinks the same,” he adds, “I think he has a more rounded life in some ways, but he certainly works very hard as well.”
The album Sound Mirrors has been seven years in the making, but the wait is well worth it. Combining magnificent production with amazing collaborations, they’ve produced a stunning piece of musical artwork that warps boundaries and challenges the listener intelligently. Coldcut have always seemed to be able to capture the ‘sound of now’ and extend it to be more relevant to more people, and this album is no exception. One sound that stands out on tracks like This Island Earth and True Skool is the ragga riddims, dubby Jamaican style electronic rhythms which is finding dominance on the dancefloors of both dance and R&B clubs.
“We were working with a guy called Ross Allen, who’s a very switched on London club DJ,” explains Black, “who we used as a sounding board for the album and to keep us in touch with what’s going down on dancefloors at the moment, to give us a different perspective to the Ninja Tunes posse. He turned me onto these Jamaican Riddims and he’d come in with a bunch of new 7 inches every week. I’ve always loved reggae and I thought “yeah, fuck it, I fancy having a bit of this” and went about deconstructing them and finding out how they were made and do our own version of it.”
The collaborations done for the album are inspired, and include Jon Spencer, Robert Owens, John Matthias and Saul Williams amongst others. “It wasn’t so much people coming to us, it was more we’d work on a track and think about who would be good to collaborate to do a vocal with,” Black clarifies. “In the case of Jon Spencer we had that chorus for ‘Everything Is Under Control’ and we were looking for someone with that rock character and energy. We did try out a couple of people who didn’t work out, and then Jon Spencer was suggested to us. We contacted him and he turned out to be a great person to work with – he didn’t hand us a 40-page contract, he just said ‘yeah, I like the track, I’ll give it a go and sort out a deal afterwards,’” Moore laughs.
“That actually worked out very well, because he’s done some live dates with us, which has been off the hook because he’s a great live performer. He adds that rock energy and charisma to the shows. Some of the other tracks were done little or no brief for the artist at all,” he continues. “The Saul Williams track was presented to him as a free canvas to do with what he wanted. We don’t tell the poet what to write the poem about. And he came back with the rather marvellous ‘Mr Nichols’ which for my money is my favourite track on the album.”
Speaking of live dates, I ask eagerly if there are any plans to come to Australia, as their show in Sydney 1999 was simply incredible and is still in my top ten of live gigs. “Not soonish,” Black laments, adding “but in the foreseeable future. Most of our year is booked up but we are hoping to get over sooner than later, and it is on the agenda so hold tight”.
Despite having a wealth of releases between them, Terry Ryan, Matt Welch (of Atomic Hooligan) and Jay Cunning discovered a mutual love for a certain type of breaks that were funky and full of bass. Yet this trio weren’t feeling what other record labels were putting out, so they put their money where their mouths were and set up their own label.
“Me and Jay were in a fish and chip shop in Queens Park in London after doing a radio show a few years ago,” Terry Ryan explains, “and we knew we needed a name for the label. I was saying ‘we can call it chair records or ketchup records, it doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s got a name’ then I pointed to the menu and said ‘we can even call it Menu Music‘ and it just stuck. We even went back there to do some of our press shots!” he laughs.
Setting up a music label in this day and age isn’t an easy thing. Many fold from financial pressures, or lose their focus as the green rolls in. Even Adam Freeland’s Marine Parade had to close briefly last year. With so many out there, how will Menu Music stand out? “Well, there’s really only one true way to make a label stand out,” states Ryan, “and that’s the music. You can have promo, good press, radio and all that stuff, but if the music ain’t good, the label won’t stand out. Plus, I think we have a good package. We have the radio show and the multi-deck show that Cunning and me do, so Menu will always have a presence in the clubs on the airwaves. And we have a really clear view of what we like and what we want to play, and that spills over into our A&R for Menu. I don’t think there are many labels at the moment that are really consistent. We are very, very selective with what we want to release. And we wanted to hear music with funk but with enough ass in the bottom end to make the walls shake. That’s what we wanted to hear, and that’s what we want on Menu. That’s quite a broad statement, we realise, but when you hear the first release from Rico Tubbs you will hopefully understand what we mean. Flashlighter and Brazilia sum this up perfectly. And we have even more of this kind of ass funk to come!”
Their style of breaks is hard to define, but it certainly gets the body moving. Rico Tubbs‘ tunes are the bomb, being full of funk with a phatass booty-shaking bassline, while on Atomic Hooligan’s new You Are Here the music unfurls in a confident and stylish manner, eschewing the ‘laddy’ tag that breaks sometimes conjures up and presents a much more mature and interesting side. “We have a couple of new guys I’m really excited about,” Ryan enthuses. “Jay Stewart really has the sound we want for Menu. The next release is by J-Cat who has made this amazing little, half big beat/half ripping breaks number, that’s also got an Atomic Hooligan remix. We have Majool from Argentina who has again given us something completely different but fits into the Menu ethic. And of course there’s Rico – we still have the best to come from him!”
With iTunes and legal internet downloading becoming widespread, I was interested to find out they view vinyl as very important for the label. “Menu will always release on vinyl as our primary format. Just because there are new formats doesn’t mean the old trusted ones are going to disappear. I think there is space for all the various ways for music to be heard, but I love vinyl, no two ways about it,” Ryan declares, “and so does Jay. Personally, vinyl still holds so much magic and potential.”
That said, they also embrace digital music. They sent me a pre-release copy of Flashlighter via email, a process that is becoming far more common. “It puts us closer to the consumer. With no middleman you can really see what’s going on,” Ryan says. “And it’s a worldwide format. On a real practical level, someone in South Africa, someone in Russia and someone in London can all buy the same tune on the day of release, and that’s very positive. No waiting around for weeks for it to get to your local record shop. Plus, it’s unlimited. Once the shops run out of the release, it may take a week or may never get re-stocked; this way, a release can just tick over forever. So if someone gets into the label at a latter date, they will have full access to past releases.”
Zach Sciacca doesn’t like to define himself by media produced terms like ‘mash-up’. “In one sense I totally am accepting of it,” Sciacca, better known as DJ Z-Trip, says of the ‘mash-up’ label that’s often applied to his style. “People are going to call me what they’re going to call me, and if that’s how they know me and describe me then that’s fine. But at the same time as I evolve as an artist people are going to want to put me in my own category, my own sound. To me ‘mash-up’ is a very disposable name, it’s a name that came on the scene recently, and I don’t necessarily like to look at myself as being something that is that disposable.”
“But I don’t call it mash up, I’ve always seen it as blending or mixing, and just as something that DJs do,” he explains to me. “It’s what DJs have been doing for years, and it’s only just now seeing its own light and people are starting to identify it. But really at the end of the day if people identify with me, period, and they identify with my music, however they want to label me I don’t really care, as long as they’re getting to hear stuff and keeping an open mind,” he smirks.
With the release of his debut album, Shifting Gears, Sciacca was hoping to smash the ‘mash-up’ term, and have people call him “‘that really good DJ, guy that you need to check out, really top priority’ rather than ‘that mash-up guy’”, and it’s certainly moved him towards that goal. The album is a collection of straight up old-school party hiphop, with a little bit of rock thrown in for good measure. It features many big named hiphop MCs, alongside lesser known but equally talented performers. “A lot of these MCs I am a fan of and dug what they’ve done,” he says. “The goal was to put really well known people with those not so well known, and old and new. Put Grand Master Cas and Whipper Whip and Chuck D on there with people like Busdriver and Luke Sick, MCs people might not know, to make it as wide open as possible.”
But considering the album is so non-commercial, being devoid of modern day hiphop clichés like sped up vocals and dirty beats, I had to ask Sciacca why he put it out on a major label like Hollywood Records, rather than a more appropriate indie label. “I wanted to go with someone who would put my stuff out a little bit further and whom I thought would have a little bit more steam behind them”, he says. “But it’s funny, in hindsight I’m wondering if that was the right choice. On the one hand they definitely did the job of getting it out there, but on the other hand I still find myself doing a lot of other stuff an independent would do, like pressing up my own promos, and paying for my own tour support, that type of thing. The dream of ‘Yay, I’m gonna get signed, and then I’m never gonna have to worry about it again’ is more of a pipe dream. I learnt that through this whole experience with Hollywood. It wasn’t a bad experience, but it was definitely a learning experience,” he adds philosophically.
When it comes to live performances, you simply have to witness Z-Trip in the mix to believe it. Never have I been so enraptured by a DJ, never before has a DJ held my attention from start to finish like he did. One minute we were dancing to the Who, the next Run DMC, the next moment Credence Clear Water was juggled with Eric B & Rakim’s Paid in Full and then we’d find ourselves grooving to some drum & bass. “My thing is I’ve always tried to find the common thread with music. And good music is good music, period. No matter what genre and where it comes from, if it’s good and it rocks you and is good quality, I can throw it in the mix. It’s really been my deal – if it’s dope, and I flip it a certain way and keep it dope, people technically should be open minded and appreciative of that and should get it,” Sciacca proclaims.
We can expect to see Z-Trip in top form when he plays Adelaide, as it’s his first gig in the country, and in addition we get to see MC Supernatural, one of the world’s greatest freestyle MCs. “I’m looking forward to it,” he enthuses. “I don’t get to perform with Supernatural often. To fit Supernatural in the mix obviously we’ll perform some songs off my record, and then do some freestyle stuff, and then do some stuff off his new record. It’s nice to actually have a bona fide MC that I know can handle it. If anyone has seen him, they know what to expect, if not… whoa!” he whistles, “He’s definitely one of the best freestyle MCs out there. To have him in with my mixing is going to be something interesting and really fun.”
Originally going to be called The Fifth Dimension, but with a group already with that name, Five Deez is all about getting in your headspace, twisting the notions you have of hiphop and rapping. “When you experience music”, explains the main producer / DJ, Fat Jon, named so for his ample girth, “it is in five dimensions. You have the first three that we experience daily, and then there is another dimension of time and space, and finally a dimension of spirituality.”
Five Deez music attracts your attention subtly, not with harsh swearing or stolen 70s hooks common to hiphop, but with sweeps and processes common to trance or electronica, and a very different sound all around, even compared to other alternative hiphop. Beginning in Cincinnati in the 90s, now separated between Berlin, New York and Cincinnati, the groups’ sound is standout in a world of sameness and label clones. My favourite track on the album Kommunicator is BMW, which is to be the first single, and also Fat Jon’s favourite. “I think that track is a good synopsis of the album actually, the sound of it, the energy of it. It’s funky, it’s different, but as far as hiphop goes its familiar, but not really, you know?”
I ask Jon if he thinks living in Berlin has given this album more of a techno edge, with him hearing more techno there than he would in the USA, but he hesitates to agree. “I’ve always done different kind of things with hiphop production,” he explains. “This record being a hybrid of hiphop and electronic beats is to really try and make something different; as our third album and also for hiphop too, to try and take it in a different direction. The truth is, I’ve been doing music a long time, and I want to do something to challenge myself. Making the same stuff over and over is just boring. Being in the studio and doing the same thing you did years ago is just not fun. Trying to do something new, and making it sound dope, is hard,” he laughs, “and that challenge is fun for me, it keeps me on my toes.”
“The general hiphoper is close minded, and they just want to hear what’s on the radio,” Jon states. “They don’t like thinking. They wanna turn on a song and not have to think about it, just background music and they do whatever. My music requires your brain to come on and process it. It’s not club music on the radio; it’s something that requires a little bit more from the listener. I’ve heard this a thousand times, but with the Five Deez stuff, people come up and say ‘I don’t really like hiphop but I like your stuff.’ But my stuff IS hiphop. It gets to people who aren’t really into rap and hiphop, and I find that really interesting.”
“I think if you listen to my stuff, you need a certain level of imagination to appreciate it,” he says when I bring up the very obvious sci-fi elements contained in the Five Deez works. “I’m all about space, time travel, different dimensions, all of that – I think about it every day. I think science fiction reflects real life. I’ve always been enamoured with the concept of the future, and where man can go in the process if we don’t destroy ourselves before we get there. And a lot of the concepts are ‘yeah, right, bullshit’ and completely untrue, but at their root they’re based on some type of theory that does exist that needs exploration and experimentation.”
Fat Jon has also got his own record label up and happening, and he plans to bring out re-releases of older tracks and stuff released only in Japan. “A lot of those releases I’m going to be releasing internationally on my new label, Ample Soul. I started it to release some other side project material that I’m working on. It’s a way for me as an artist to have another avenue for my stuff, and maintain the kind of control a lot of artists want over their music. We had our first release back in November with Rebel Clique, featuring Ameleset Solomon, who I worked with on Black Rushmore and BMW on the Kommunicator album.” When I ask about the Japanese only releases, he says, “I release stuff in Japan only mainly for fun, actually. I’ve been to Japan and lived there for a minute, and produced a record strictly for the fans… I feel in some connected to Japan –. Even when I’m there, I don’t know I can’t explain it; I feel like I’m some long lost Japanese dude or something, you know?” he chuckles.
Chatting to Martin Reeves, aka Krafty Kuts, in the morning is a sure fire way to brighten your day! He’s jovial, chatty, and a lot of fun. For someone who’s been in the music scene for a while, and been burned in the past, he shows a lot of enthusiasm and respect for his peers, and is really positive about the scene as a whole. However, his usually hefty output of tunes and remixes has been a little thin of late though, and I wondered what he had been up to. “I’ve been slogging away in my studio working on my new album,” he explains. “It’s come along really well and its nearly there, it is a few songs off finished, so I’m going to have it ready to bring over to Australia. I’m really happy with it. It’s taken two years to make, a few tracks have changed, and it’s got a kind of funk feel – it’s one of those records you can listen to in your car and you can play certain tracks in a club.”
He’s worked with a few old favourites again, most of whom worked on the incredible Trickatechnology. “Dr Luke is back, and A-Skills has done some uptempo funk stuff which is interesting, Ashley Slater is on there – he’s worked on the title track Freak Show which is a dark punk meets Krafty Kuts sound if you know what I mean… it’s quite quirky,” Reeve laughs. “ MC Dynamite (part of Roni Size’s Rapresent crew) is on there, along with B-Spoke, an American rapper. I’ve just been working with people who are easy to work with and can tour the album, be part of the whole thing, rather than if I used Method Man or the Beatnuts on a track, it would be quite hard to do the album live because of their tour schedule.”
He’s also been busy promoting the Supercharged night club, held on Wednesday nights in Brighton in the UK, as well as been hard at work with his two labels – Supercharged and Against The Grain. “The Supercharged club night is still going on strong, and that’s keeping us really busy booking the DJs, and putting on really great breaks line ups continuously is really bloody hard!” he exclaims. “And putting out all the releases – Supercharged has put out a lot over the last few months – Split Loop, Superstyle Deluxe and some of the other guys. Against the Grain has been a little quieter, but next year looks to be really busy with a few artist albums and 12 inches and remix packages. But we hoping next year will be really big for us.”
Reeve’s speciality is breaks, although he often dabbles into hiphop and drum and bass, just to give himself, well, a break. But he always returns to it. “Breaks has so many different styles, funky, techy, bassy, hard, and so on, and elements of all of them creep into my sets, and I think that’s what people like about them, I capture every side of the coin of how good breakbeat is. And that’s another good thing about the breaks scene – everyone is really together. Although you have some people, say like Lee Coombs or Meat Katie, and they’re not usually on the same line ups as say Aquasky or Rogue Element, but then there’s shows like Eargasm and three rooms of breaks, and you think that would be too much, but and people are screaming for more at the end of the night. I played with the Plumps the other week and security had to push people away because they just wanted one more!”
We chatted about the differences in club shows to festivals, as he’s going to be doing both when he lands in Australia for the New Year party period. “I’m touring with an MC – T C Islam – so I’m obviously doing the live thing with TC, with Ill Type sound and Tricka Technology live, but I’m doing lots of bootys and lots of new tunes. Up until the last few days I’ve been clamouring to get my hands on as many exclusive new tunes that I can, a lot of effort and planning, but it won’t be rehearsed. But I do tend to enjoy DJing on my own because I create a whole atmosphere, and get the crowd into a vibe.”
“Festival gigs are very different, and a lot more difficult,” he explains. “You have to play bigger tunes and the connoisseur of breaks may feel disappointed because he has not heard the new or certain tunes you expect in a club. When you hear a DJ in a club he can take you on a journey and weave in and out from place to place, but when you play a festival you’ve got to keep it on a high, because you’ve got so many people and many people don’t know a lot about breaks. You’ve always got to take into consideration that there’s a few people new to it and if they came and hear a hard or dark or deep set it could put them off. It’s like easing your way into any form of music really.”