An in-depth conversation on all sorts, including the mans immense interest in movies and their music, equipment, John Peel, the link between the music and memory and a Vernon Kay possessed Darth Vader!
I see that before it all began you note John Peel tapes as being an inspiration for you to get into hiphop. For those a bit younger, what was his role and what did he do to bring hip-hop to you and the British public?
To be honest, most of the tapes I had were through someone else's hard work, sitting through the crazyness he'd play to get the nuggets of hip hop. Peely would break out after the Smiths or The Fall – from experience, if you are into hip hop, its hard to sit through other music especially if, at that age, its the Smiths which was the polar opposite of Ultramagnetic and very difficult to suffer. I did try on several occasions but between my Mum shouting at me and too much Morrisey, I failed. The real sparks for me were the series of Streetsounds hiphop/electro albums – the music on those was the drug I got addicted to – I know that John Peel was the first place that Ivory from the P Brothers heard Ultra – and if you knew how much he loves Ultra you'd know how important that was for him – but the Electro albums got me addicted to bass and is the place I first heard BAMBAATAA's Theme – one of my favourite tunes ever, and 14 Days in May by Overlord X, probably the first hip hop from these shores I heard.
What was the very first piece of equipment you had to produce with and how long did it take to gradually build up your studio into something more professional. Seems like if you haven't got a student loan, these days you're doomed.
Student loan! man I'm 33 – I've paid that shit off! I got serious when I got the MPC for my 29th birthday – I can tell you now I bounced on the bed like a trout going upstream – having fucked about on Ivory's MPC I knew I had to get one some how – my wife maxed a credit card and we were in business – I never took the computer route other than a bit of pissing about in an old mac program called sound edit pro – I use computers all day so I didn't want to sit on one all night as well! I got some decks when I was a college but the MPC is the jewel in the crown!
How useful do you think software for producing is for people without the funds to buy the hardware? A lot of the time PC made beats sound very robotic but I occasionally hear about someone like 9th Wonder only using Fruityloops.
If you can't afford it and you have no choice then you have to do what you have to do if you have the passion for it – I think the same thing applies to music creation as with design – if you use it as a tool to create your 'original' ideas then you come up with something different than if you just use the effects and sounds that either come with it or you can download – samples can come from anything so why limit yourself. As I said, I didn't want to be on a computer, and I really like the fact that we take it all up to Mark Gamble's studio on Nottz to finish tracks and lay the vocals – he has the aladdins cave of sound and his input always makes it better than it is ( CHEERS GAMBLER! )
The artwork on your releases are crazy and the wallpaper available on your site is hot. Would you agree that most UK releases are pretty shabby in terms of artwork and that every last detail of a product is as important as the content in terms of upping the standard of the scene?
Design is what I trained in and so its really important to me to get the package right – I've known MR JAGO since high school so he was always high on my list to be involved – he's got serious talent combined with a warped mind – absolute bad bowy! – can't really comment on other stuff though as I don't pay it any mind – I knew how I wanted my EPs to look and even though I had known MrJ for years we had never really done a collaboration that work for his drawing and my graphics – since doing the posters we have designed a snowboard for Logic, a T-Shirt for Casinoskates.com and Limited edition T-shirts and a camo pattern for use on jackets for the clothing company Addict – which is nice and would never have happened without the stimulus of the EPs.
When I was playing Stillexstatic I was over the moon hearing the Fear quotes from Bowling For Columbine. I thought Mr. Manson nailed it. How big is your collection of movie scores which you're always spoken of having?
BIG! but I need more. Movies and movie scores are as big an influence as hip hop itself and have always been hand in hand for me – the atmosphere that is created by 'incidental' music – the emotion of the big 'theme' – image James Bond or Star Wars with no music…impossible. I feel privileged to have grown up in the 70's/80's/90's and to have experienced these films at an 'emotional' age where they had the most impact. I managed to get my holy grail (thanks to ebay) of all the Star Wars spoken soundtracks on vinyl – cutting up the Emporer is amazing – I've also got a kids 7" version of star wars done with different voices – you know 'turn the page when you hear R2 squeek..like this.." – Darth Vader sounds like he's from bolton "Get me those plarrrrrns" and after Luke buys the droids he says "come on you two..I'll clean you up in the shed' I don't remember Luke mentioning a shed in the film! Sorry you got me started now, and this is a bit geeked but there is one extra word on the vinyl than in the film – when Leia says 'I don't know I have a bad feeling about this' in the space slug Han goes' yeaaaaaah weird' I've never seen that in he film…...
I'll shut up now. Back to your question though (!) like most people you tend to think Marilyn is a bit of a tit, but after I saw 'Columbine' I thought – hey! that's exactly what I think! – I call 'The News' the 'Death Report' its just death stories – kids die, rape, murder, famine…its too graphic – there's no need to give the information they do..things like the internet, computer games, films etc have raised the level of what's supposed to shock us..and the news tries to keep pace. I watched Farenheit 9/11 once and I can't watch it again – there's too many facts to deal with…I caught a clip of when one of the planes hit the twin towers the other day and just started reaching. Just had a sudden uncontrollable convulsion at the thought of it. That kind of unexpected emotion really scared me.
When you're watching a flick do you just sit back and enjoy or are you constantly keeping one ears attention on the soundtrack to see what's worth grabbing?
I don't watch many films anymore – with the exception of stuff like Tiggers big adventure, Nemo etc – once you start making music you are listening to the stuff all the time and for a while it ruined music for me as the act of making it was more consuming than listening – but without listening you have nothing to make – its a drug and the addiction is harsh – if you are trying to get something to work and it just isn't happening, its a major downer – been in some full on moods – but to get it to work is the best ever – just shutting your eyes and imagine it in the mix. Beautiful.
A lot of movies music seem to just call in the big names of the moment for marketing purposes and I rarely hear music relevant to the film anymore. The exception is stuff like Donny Darko, and those films eventually become more highly respected than the standard tripe. Shouldn't Hollywood realise this and address it?
Heres a fact – 95% of current films are cak. I very rarely go to the cinema now. Even when they kill it with a classic they bring out pt 2 or 3 and cak it up – Matrix syndrome – its like Bill Hicks says "they show movies to test audiences of 200 bozos, and then CHANGE the movie based on their opinions – for example the test audiences were 'turned off' by the lesbian scenes in Basic Instinct..so they cut them…boy am I not in tune with these people…cut all the acting and have JUST lesbian sex scenes…thats my kind of movie! For the record, that is Bill's opinion! What's really worrying is SUPERMARKET SATANS like ASDA and TESCO that are getting so much control they are getting in touch with magazines/music companies/film companies to get to see things BEFORE they are released and then CHANGE them if THEY DON'T LIKE IT. Scary…yeah I know there was a question about music at the start but I took a different path. ok.
Have you ever been approached by TV or film to contribute anything and is it something you'd love the opportunity of doing? I heard Mark B has done the theme tune for the new Dr Who series on BBC.
I'd love to contribute – I'd love to hear the inst. from Welcome to the City on something. I heard a Bomb the Bass tune – 'The Air you breathe' on a TV programme years ago and it had a real impact – I would especially like to contribute something as a final 'credits' tune – the last thing you hear / the last thing that sticks in your mind – can't say I'd be bothered about Dr Who though! too limiting – some music is made for use in TV Programmes – just look at Portishead – that got CAINED by every TV show maker again and again – lazy bastards – I do find the concept of doing SOMETHING for SOMETHING scary as everything I've done so far has just happened through trial and error…and the outcome is never like the initial idea. Ever.
I'm going back about eight years now but did you enjoy The Score by The Fugees and the concept of the music and the videos to the singles being like a movie?
At the time I was fully into the album but I don't rate it as a classic – despite the Diamond D production there's a ton of better albums – hip hop albums that is, not pop albums – as far as the videos go I never had access to hip hop videos – never had mtv or anything like that – the concept was done well before The Score with Kool G Rap & Polo but their album got dramatically changed due to all the sampling laws and never came out as they had intended – but that was created as a film soundtrack on vinyl – I'd love the time / money to do videos for my tracks but its not happened yet. When I was young we never even had a video! I used to tape videos onto audio tapes and listen to them in bed – you hear stuff you would never catch watching the film as your senses are focused – eyes shut – listening – then we would always put bits of film stuff on mix tapes – it creates a good atmosphere – listening to stuff like DepthCharge and Silver Bullet and early UK stuff like that First Frontal Assult tune ( thanks to Paul S for sorting me out with that Hard as Hell album to replace my battered tape ) that sampled Aliens ' LETS ROOOCK' into a severe cut up. love it. We used to listen to that with the lights off in the dark on some county lane in the car and then kick in the lights and jet off as it started. In the EAST we make our own entertainment.
What current music are you enjoying from the UK and else where? Who do you rate as really doing positive things for the UK hip-hop scene?
Producers in particular.
UK = P Brothers / Joe Buhdha / Cappo / Kon + Microdisiacs / 45 / Lee Ramsey / C-mone / Styley C / Scorz – Elsewhere = UN / Ghostface / Roots / Nas / 45 King / Large Pro / Lord Tariq / Kanye + just about anything before 95 ( not that current is it! ) – for me its the attitude behind the music that makes the music – I can't pretend to like stuff that I don't – there's no time for that – I make up my mind instantly – I don't even have much control over it! its a reaction – stimulus and reaction – its chemical! that's how I make beats too – listen and listen and listen and then..yes that bit – or off a film or whatever..you are there watching listening and then BOOM..that's the bit – gotta use that.
You've talked of music being a time print on a listeners mind and how in the future listening to a track they hear now, will take them back to this period in their life. What are a couple of tracks that'd provide the score for ya biopic?
Snooker Loopy – that takes me back! rewind…scratch that – lets have Tim Dog's Fuck Compton for starters – Ryan P from Blues & Soul was asking me about this the other day so I'll tell you what I told him… When I was young(er) we used to go to a place called Hollywoods in Ipswich and sit waiting through the cak for the 30 minutes of hip hop – NWA and the rest of the west were ruling at the time and people were starting to get into hip hop because of 'Gangsta Rap' so we were already fed up with it – still you'd driven an hour and queued another 40 minutes to dance to some hip hop but when 'Straight out of Compton' came on it was greeted by us with as much contempt as the Happy Mondays or whatever, but the muppets in the house loved it ( don't get me wrong – I have a lot of respect for this tune now and probably loved it a couple of weeks before this event happened but I was young and your tastes change fast, and the east coats ruled).
Now I know this particular trick has been done a million times since, but this was the first time I heard it and I'll never forget….play a bit of 'Straight outta Trumpton' ....pull the needle off the record like you are never gonna play that shit again and then…BOOM boom kak…BOOM kak..bring in the ufo sample..shiiiiiiiiit its TIM DOG! JUMP JUMP JUMP "lets get tight down to the knitty gritty…talking bout a BULLSHIT CITY' YEAAAAAAAHHHHH - it was TIM DOG but it was also fully ULTRA and it was 100% EAST - it was new enough for us to have got the first imports and know it word perfect, but not for the 'muppets' to have heard – to see them slowly stop dancing was magic as we got more HYPE - 'I'm from the SOUTH BRONX - FUCK COMPTON' you were shouting the words at them like daggers…killing the wack shit – you were thinking it and here was Tim SAYING IT and saying it LOUD…..hip hop magic! ...also has to be the winner for the most pointless radio version. game over – EAST COAST WINS FOR EVER! also Mentally Mad by Ultramagnetic as i got to play with decks for the first time and Ivory sent me it for xmas years ago & 90% of me is you by Gwen McCrae which played as I walked up up the isle with my wife …say AHHHHHHHH.
Taking into consideration that take on what a sound providers role is, how comfortably do you sit with it, being a producer yourself and therefore potentially being responsible for what I recall about now in 15 years time?
Once its pressed its out of my hands – the damage is done! – the agonizing over if its any good is over – just get it out there and see what happens! I may be wrong but as you get older you do mellow a bit – you don't get highs and lows of emotion in the same way as when you are young – and the music you hear during those emotional dips and peaks stays with you because of how you are feeling – if anyone remembers either of the two EPs I've done in 15 years time then I'd be very happy – at the end of the day I released these records to please MYSELF…for others to like them is great but I would have changed NOTHING just for a wider audience…that would have defeated the object
In a similar way to how I find Dr. Dre's production being predictable, unimaginative and very similar I sometimes feel the production in general in the UK scene isn't that ambitious. But yours seems more original and inventive . An obvious attempt or natural accurance?
Cheers dude! that money we talked about is on the way don't worry. My production is based on old and simple rules – If 'I' like it 'I' use it – if I get excited when I hear it, maybe someone else will. There is no more science than that ( for me ) – keep buying obscure records from every genre and keep listening.
Will future success for UK hiphop be down to the rappers upping their game or is it down to the producers to deliver a lot more?
I think half the reason Dizee and co do well is not because they're awesome rappers and 100 times better than UK emcee's, but because they haven't tried to be bog standard UK rap, and have got a bit original with their beats.
I'm sorry but I find it hard to care as it will never have any relevance to me and what I do ( and you are asking me after all ) – the quest for originality is one of the biggest diseases in hip hop. I know that may have people upset but IN MY OPINION to stray too far from the origins and you lose direction and get out of touch with what 'a thing' is all about – most new stuff I hear ISN'T Hip Hop as I know it…AS I KNOW IT - for me to say I love Hip Hop and for a kid to say he/she loves hip hop is two different things – its a different game – I'm still playin by the old rules and what I'm doing seems to be a long way off a lot of the 'originality' happening now – I'm not trying to convert anyone or change anyone's opinions, I just want to contribute in MY way – you can add whatever so-called original slants you want but then it becomes 'not' hip hop – I think for future success to happen, and I'm not the first to say it ( P BROTHERS / JOE BUHDAH & MISTA JAM ), we need to forget about UK hip hop and just make hip hop – to categorize is limiting – theres just good hip hop and wack hip hop, and that differentiation can only be made by the individual – good luck to everyone on their chosen paths though – do what you've got to do but don't sell yourselves short. As it says on heavybronx.com 'HIP HOP IS DEAD - LONG LIVE HIP HOP'
Cheers TEE - big upz rapnews.co.uk – keep bringing facts to a crazed world! 3 strikes (I'm out) 209