Artist: From The Man Like Pennywise
Title: Suspension Of Disbelief
Label: Symphony Sound Records (1993)
Artist: New Decade
Label: Strictly Hardcore (1993)
Artist: From The Man Like Pennywise
Title: Suspension Of Disbelief
Label: Symphony Sound Records (1993)
Artist: New Decade
Label: Strictly Hardcore (1993)
Artist: Shut Up & Dance
Label: Shut Up & Dance Records (1989)
Title: Sweet Dreams (Nightmare mix)
Label: RCA (1990)
Remix and additional production by Dave Angel and Dave Dorrell
Artist: Genaside II
Title: Death Of The Kamikazee
Label: Jumpin’ & Pumpin’ (1990)
Title: Hand Of The Dead Body (Featuring Ice Cube) (Possible 187 Remix)
Label: Virgin (1995)
Additional production and remix by Goldie, Remix engineer: Rob Playford
Interview: J Saul Kane
Date: June 2000
Location: via phone
Words / interview: Des Berry
2010: Setting the scene:
I think Depth Charge was about to release ‘Goblin’ on DC Recordings and as a result Timebomb press (I think) asked Breakin Point to arrange an interview. Therefore I was given a phone number and told to give J Saul Kane a call one June evening.
I managed to get Ollie my boss at Dorado Records to let me use the company phone line (and bill!?) to make the call. This was because I didn’t have any means to tape the conversation other then by placing my recorder next to the voice activated speaker phone.
This ended up being more difficult then imagined as the office was situated on Brewer Street in the middle of London’s Soho. Any noise my side would stop the voice of J Saul Kane coming from the speaker. Make sense? It didn’t help when other people came into the office as well.
They say never meet your heroes, but I’d always been a fan of Depth Charge since the release of Bounty Killers back in 1990. Sadly the interview was quite hard work and now I feel the subsequent piece might sound a bit sarcastic. Anyway, 10 years later Depth Charge still put out the odd release now and then, while DC Recordings goes from strength to strength.
J Saul Kane aka; Depth Charge, Octagon Man, Alexander’s Dark Band, TET and sometime EON has just told me what he’s been up to recently. What I hear you ask? Digging out new and crazy samples or holed up in the studio working on brand new tracks. No.
“Cricket”, he laughs. “Yeah I play for a team at weekends and I’ve been busy practising in the nets”. Could be worse. He could’ve been working on an appearance in the next Bond movie or baking cakes for the W.I.
If you’ve been reading dodgy music rags for the last decade you’ll have an idea of what J Saul Kane (JSK) is all about. He’s that guy who loves kung fu, westerns and football and six years ago he put out an LP that rounded up these pleasures. Accompanied by the heaviest of beats and breaks the LP ‘Nine Deadly Venoms’ was to many the start of the trip hop scene and until last years ‘Lust’ the only work JSK had ever done.
“I don’t mind people thinking that I do very little”. Between the two LPs numerous releases came out almost yearly including the Disco Vixens, Aliens and Airline series, Romario and Blue Lips. And that was just Depth Charge.
“Thats how I planned the whole Depth Charge thing. If I just did Octagon Man and Alexander’s Dark Band then I couldn’t make a living out of it,” he states.
There seems little to worry about in the way of making a living out of things. Along with the music, including forthcoming LP’s from all the main aliases (Alexander’s Dark Band “more filmy then the last but still weird noises meets weird hip hop. Octagon Man “thats something I have to do now and then, its in the blood”) plus a new Depth Charge single in September, theres the numerous other side line interests.
“I don’t do that much. I’m not a nutter”. Either that or he does not sleep. DC Recordings is currently doing well with releases from the likes of Tom Tyler and Greedy Fingers and on top of that theres the ‘Made In Hong Kong’ video company (started on JSK’s childhood love of Chinese movies and the success of Bizarre Inc. on the early VS. label) and ‘Blue Light Films’ to deal with as well.
“We’re currently working a few films. I just recently returned from the Canne Film Festival where I was DJ’ing for some of the films we’re putting out. Like the ‘Romance’ film we did, kind of that European independent style. Its a real film but with pornography in it.”
Right. Sounds interesting. Continue.
“Yeah. Hardcore. Real plot. Real violence. Like an independent road movie, but with porno.”
Right. So backed with evidence from the last LP. The titles, the content and artwork it would appear that porn is as big an influence as kung fu.
“Its different. You travel round the world and it (porno) quite often reflects the culture of that country. How they treat women and what turns them on.”
Naturally, like his dislike for current music he does not see the porno of today comparing in any way to that made in the ’70’s.
“Back then it wasn’t all about the money. It was more like art in a way. Now its pure exploitation. There needs to be a more amateur feel to it.”
So can we expect to see JSK baring all, Cheggers style, in handy cam flick?
“I’ve thought about doing a porno, but it would have to be a proper film with a plot. Its something I’ll have to fit in.”
Maybe we’ll get some crazy Depth Charge soundtracks over some of these planned films?
“I like to do it, but not yet. The directors have their say over the music on the films we do, but we’ll have to wait and see.
In the meantime we’ll have to wait for the next Depth Charge LP.
“I’ve planned out the next LP. Depth Charge stuff comes along when I have inspiration.” Funnily enough its the opposite to many. Artwork first then the music to put in it later. “I design the sleeves first and then that helps to influence the sound of the track”
Over the last decade or so JSK has remixed the likes of the Sabres of Paradise, Senser, Radiohead, Lhooq, Agent Provocateur, Eboman and Fuzz Townsend. Some, a strange choice for someone who is anti the whole big beat tag. A genre that he has often been tagged, wrongly, as inventing.
“Theres not many records out that excite me. Theres nothing been released that I would want to listen to in 5 years time or even six months time. Its the same old formulas that people follow. Nothing amazes me. I tend to buy synths and things to make music on rather than records.”
Not even the current success of the UK hip hop scene excites him, ” we still can’t rap or sing, the beats are good but to me its folk music and unless you grow up within it then its not something you can learn. We couldn’t do Romanian folk music well so why should we do hip hop well?”
(J Saul Kane article as it appeared in Breakin Point)
JSK also teamed up with Tim Simenon on the first Bomb The Bass LPs. A partnership that took him around the world on tours and rounds of promotion. With Bomb The Bass’s subsequent dealings with majors its maybe why, like many in the independent scene JSK is so cynical of the music industry.
“Its really hard at the moment to get the music out there, with labels even paying to get their product racked out in the shelves. Theres also too many other distractions these days and people can’t be bothered to wade through all the releases out there.”
With Blowfly the only recent guest on JSK’s work are there people lined up for any collaborations?
“Theres people out there I’d like to work with. I get approached also”. JSK turned down the opportunity to work with Kylie Minogue a few years ago, “it would have been interesting, however I copped out, but I certainly wouldn’t turn down the chance to work with another large artist.”
JSK is planning to take it easy, finishing off that new Depth Charge single and looking for samples for the follow up to ‘Romario’ titled ‘Botham’. He’ll also be hitting the turntables (” I play all sorts, what I like, but also what others like, because I realised its not good to be selfish”) around the UK over the forthcoming months. His main concern tonight though is the European Championships on the telly. Obviously (well we all know this) “England can’t play compared to other countries”.
Depth Charge – singles, eps, albums and compilations on Spotify
Sent a S.A.E (ask your dad) one day back in ’88 to the address on the back of the sleeves and got this and a nice letter from Jan P. I replied and got another back. It was like having a pen friend. Do people still do that? Probably not. Text friend innit.
Anyway after (1000?) years of waiting to get the album ‘1000 Years Of Trouble’ on digital (the CD is rare as..) Amazon and iTunes stuck them up to buy last year (I’ve only just found out). Oh and you can listen to it for nish on Spotify here as well.
Nice article published online via The Guardian website for those who want to know more. You should. Nice to see that all four are still friends. Take it!
September 2010 – update: ‘1000 Years Of Trouble’ is now abvailable to listen to in full on Spotify! Click here to listen.
Interview: Andrea Parker
Date: March 2001
Location: Andrea’s flat, London, UK
Words / interview: Des Berry
2009: Setting the scene:
Back in the spring of 2001, Andrea Parker was about to release her mini-album, ‘The Dark Ages’ on the Belgium label Quatermass. As part of the promotion Breakin’ Point were approached by ePM to do a piece for the mag. I went along to Shoreditch to interview Andrea in her studio flat on Kingsland Road somewhere near Herbal. She was in the process of planning a move, but took time out to chat for a good 90 minutes.
Sadly, due to Breakin’ Point’s somewhat irregular street dates, the subsequent article never got used. A shame as Andrea was great to talk to and even said hello a few months later down at The End when DJing. One thing though, she did make an awful cup of tea!
Back to 2001…
“I wanna get into testing car systems. I wanna make bass tones for car systems yeah! I don’t wanna get mixed in with all those XR3 boys though They’re testing 2 step in there!”
Welcome all, to the world of Andrea Parker.
Recording for labels like R&S, Infonet, Sabrettes and Mo’ Wax over the last 7 years or so, you should all be pretty aware of the music of Andrea Parker. If not you’ve probably heard or read some sort of opinion on her musical style.
“Every review I got for ‘Kiss My Arp‘ the word dark was mentioned” Andrea states, “so I did them all a favour and called it ‘The Dark Ages'”. We’re talking about Andrea’s new record out on the Belgium label ‘Quartermass’. A one off mini LP of tracks collected together since her departure from MoWax.
“People find my music too menacing, but I think its quite melodic” she says laughing. “The Unknown” on Mo Wax was the most commercial thing I did. Jo Whiley and Radio One liked it, but they wouldn’t play it because they said it was too dark! God! They should hear the rest of it.”
Along with the new LP there is a 30th birthday bash to organise, numerous remixes (De La Soul – ‘I’ll make them sound darker then they’ve ever sounded before’) and collaborations in the pipeline and judging by all the boxes of records lying around, an imminent move from her studio flat.
” Yeah. Its a weird time to be buying a new place!”
Oh yeah and theres also the new label, Touchin Bass. The first release which will be Andrea featuring DJ Godfather and DJ Assault. “The whole element will be about bass. Its not really about a style of music. The way that I DJ is how I want the label to be, not crap though” she laughs, referring to, by her own admission, her DJ style. “I play hip hop, electro and techno. All sorts of genres. I want to keep the label like that while getting artists to do stuff they don’t generally do. I’ve got people like Tipper who has done some wicked tracks, just weird stuff, using bass tones. The Space DJs, DJ Panic and the DMX crew. Its gonna be right across the board. Even King Britt is gonna do an electro track. It should be quite interesting, but its gonna be quite hard work really!”
Sounds it. “I am actually going to be taken away in a straight jacket! You’ll see me in 6 months with grey hair”.
Why set up the label?
“I was in a very unfortunate position with the merger that was going on at Mo Wax. My project got held up for a good 3 years. It wasn’t Mo Wax’s fault it was just a very unfortunate situation. I’m not signed at the moment and its nice as you get the creative flow back again.”
“Its just about having control again yourself and been able to put out anything you want. Also there are other artists that want to do different styles of music, but they can’t do it on the label they are signed to. People like DJ Panic who did all the Panic Tracks stuff like the Bass Junkies. Their not doing anything for anyone else at the moment and I think they really are amazing.”
There are not that many UK labels that are concentrating on this particular field of music. The Miami bass scene has never really kicked off over here even though LPs from Magic Mike and DJ Assault came last year from Mo Wax its never really grabbed the press headlines.
“Its a funny scene for over here” Andrea explains. “You can get DJ Funk and the Chicago side of it, but it is very hard to get hold of it. I also think people have a problem with the lyrical content, which I don’t think is as bad as people make out. Its actually got a sense of humour to it. I often get asked questions like why I’m female and working with Assault and Godfather? But loads of women listen to Dre, Snoop Dog and hip hop. And those guys are serious about what they are talking about. Like Eminem. But people seem to have a severe problem with the arse and titties ha ha!”
“But the girls who go to the clubs in Miami and Detroit are not forced. Its not a bad thing, they just get up and shake their booty and thats just it with the basslines. When I played out in Bournemouth at the weekend I played 2 Live Crew and all these guys came up to me I said I can’t believe a female is playing this. They said to me ‘you DJ like a man.’ I’m like what! If I said to a male DJ, ‘you DJ like a woman’ they would probably slap me ha ha!”
If you play anything slightly dark though its a bit weird. People get a bit shocked.
“I’ve been heavily into DJ Godfather and DJ Assault. I’ve always really loved electro and I’m used to playing Drexicya and the darker edged stuff. Really old school electro. But it can get a bit dark for the dance floor. Its quite nice to just throw in Assault and Godfather. Its a much more party sort of music. Even the ghetto tech stuff is quite housey. But it is the bass. I do like the bass element of it. And the Miami bass I really do like.” Just what is this bass obsession all about?
“I spend a lot of time in the studio trying to get really low bass tones. Thats my favourite part of making music. Going into a studio. Turning on all the analogue synths and just making sounds and programming. People don’t generally write in that old school way any more, because technology has made it so easy. People should work a bit harder. I love pioneers of different genres, like Steve Reich, Phillip Glass and Sakomoto, Laurie Anderson and Anne Dudley. Those type of people really experimented with sound. But now its so digital and you can write a tune just on a computer. Some people do it really well, but there are so many people doing it, thats its become saturated.”
So what is doing it for you at the moment?
“Artists like Photek. His LP is really good. Its not just the drum ‘n ‘ bass thing, but your on to a winner though if Robert Owens sings on one of your tracks! He’s got such a great voice. Its a timeless record. Techno people can mix that as well as house people. Its good to get into every category. Theres not much timeless music around at the moment.”
“I know its about age but when I was growing up it just so wasn’t like that. The first music that I started buying was ska and 2 Tone. Every Specials record. But it was all innovative. Even when it went into the 80’s, when you had people like the Human League. It was still them and it wasn’t about the stylists.”
At what point did you start to want to make the sort of music you were listening to?
“It was when I started listening to the Art Of Noise, Jean Michael Jarre, Ritchie Sakomoto, that type of music. It was like where have they got this sound from? People using synths and analogue sounds. Thats what made me want to write music. I did start as a singer over a lot of hardcore when I was a teenager. I moved on and did the Inky Blackness thing. I then started DJ’ing at Lost
I played an old David Morley track at the club and Renaat and Sabine from R&S were there at the time. They couldn’t believe I was playing this track out. I said I was huge fan of his and they said maybe you should hook up. I turned up at David’s studio and there was just Fairlights and all the synths that had been used by the people who had influenced me. So it wasn’t until I hooked up with David that I actually found someone who liked the same sounds as me.”
Alongside the obsession for bass is the fondness for finding new and interesting sounds. Theres a sound effect library stretching to 3000 records and tales of recording everything from sneezing, car washes to tyres running over cat eyes.
“I like experimenting with sound, but it becomes a pain in the arse. Like if I’m pushing a trolley in Sainsburys and it starts squeaking, then I’m constantly thinking that it sounds like a sequence in a track.”
“On the new EP its all very 808 drums, more sequenced stuff and not so organic. I always like to shove the odd sound in there somewhere though. Like ‘No Excuse’. Its a bit dodgy actually. I hate brass but I used it on it!. Ha ha. Rather then using knives and forks I’ve gone for a cheap brass section! Its all beatboxing tuned down as well and basically there is no excuse for a tune like that! That was one of those moments when I’ve tried to do something cheerful in the studio.”
“I like that twisting menacing sound though. I don’t know why I do that. David says ‘your doing it again! It sounds like Psycho’. Its always a menacing piano line and strings! I should just be doing horror films soundtracks!”
“It was like that with The Swamp. My music is quite visual and cinematic. I listened to that in a dark room and it really reminded me of a nasty swamp.”
Finally back to the hobbies and those XR3 boys. “They need a bit of Miami bass in the cars because that will that just shit over them! Ha ha! They’ll be vomiting left right and centre!”
“Its either that or clay pigeon shooting” ha ha!
Originally written for Breakin’ Point magazine 2001. Unpublished.
Link: Touchin’ Bass
Interview: Attica Blues
Date: July 2000
Location: Vibe Bar, Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, London
Words / interview: Des Berry
Photo: Dan King
2009: Setting the scene:
Summer 2000 and Sony / Columbia Records are about to release the second album from London’s Attica Blues. Its a sunny day when we met and talked in the courtyard outside the Truman Brewery / Vibe Bar down there on Brick Lane. I was there with Dan King who snapped the photos and helped with the chat. Charlie Dark arrived first and that talk of leaving the band was just a joke. Sadly they all left the band when it came to a natural end a year or so later. Charlie and Tony are making music today, but anyway back to ’00.
“Yeah I’m leaving you guys” laughs Charlie Dark, one third of Attica Blues.
We’ve been sitting around waiting on the late arrival of fellow band members Roba El-Essawy and Tony Nwachukwu . The delay has given Charlie the opportunity to fill us in on the groups future plans, as well as his own. Something the others seem unaware of when they join us.
Attica Blues are here. Back again on a new label, feeling good and happy to be away from the constraints of old. The new LP ‘Test, Don’t Test‘ is a mix of jazz, hip hop soul and R&B. Its sound is probably closer to the one they’ve wanted over the years and surprisingly something they could never achieve while on Mo Wax.
“Changing labels has certainly made us more liberated,” Charlie explains, “we’ve been able to just go out and make music rather then been pressured into creating a more radio friendly sound, something that Mo Wax were keen on us doing.”
With Mo Wax the label is always going to be bigger than the artists. Attica Blues were the only real band on a mainly producer led roster and looking for a big hit A&M were keen to hear a more commercial sound.
“We’re a small collective of people used to working together so it does not help when others come in to the mix. But luckily our A&R now is the guy who signed Loose Ends and Soul II Soul“. Someone who is more used to, as Charlie states “against the grain black music”.
“We started working together around ’91/92” Charlie points out, only to be corrected by Roba. All three are very close but Charlie is very much the loudest. Tony’s deeper voice battles with this while Roba is happy to sit back, listen and correct.
“No it was December 1992!” she laughs, “it gets earlier every time we do an interview”. Roba sets the record straight, “Charlie knew James Lavelle and he suggested that he went into the studio. Charlie needed someone to translate his ideas, so he brought in Tony aka The Midi Assassin”.
“Ladies love Tony Tone” Charlie butts in…
“And I went down with a friend of Charlie’s and ended up singing with them”, Roba finishes.
“We all had day jobs back then” Tony points out, “we’d be in the studio throughout the night working on stuff.” Laughing he remembers some of the earlier sessions. “We’d be literally falling asleep at the control desk, trying to EQ the tracks and leaving to go to work absolutely knackered.”
“Yeah I was working at Planet 24, doing stuff for The Word” Charlie points out.
“I’d go into work for ideas meetings first thing Monday morning, absolutely mashed! Asleep!”. Banging his fist on the table he lets the others remember the sacrifice he made for the band.
“Back then the guy sitting in front of me was Andrew Newman, who is now the head of entertainment on Channel 4. Just so you know what I gave up for you!” He points to the others “The Mercedes, the 50k salary and I knew more about TV then he did!”
Tony was a programmer with a manager pressuring him into doing commercial projects and Roba took a year out from college for the early recording sessions. All are London born and bred with family backgrounds originating in Ghana, Nigeria and Egypt.
“The music we do could only come out of London…”, Charlie pauses to look at a girl, “and as you can see its a fantastic place.”
“Its a melting pot of cultures”, he explains. “My influences lye in hip hop, but around ’86 I got into jazz. Fiendishly! You had Brian Priestly on Radio London playing traditional jazz and then he’d be followed by Gilles Peterson who would play this crazy music. I’d go out and buy stuff like the Pharoah Sanders‘ “Black Jazz’ LP. 18 minutes of him just screaming on a sax. Crazy stuff”
He continues, “I then realised that hip hop was based around samples of rare groove. I remember being out once and Norman Jay played the break from ‘Straight Out The Jungle” and I was like woaaa what is this?”
“I went into shops and saw that these tracks were real collectors items. There was a real stigma in the early days with hip hop people been accused of only having an interest in jazz and rare groove for the samples. You’ve got to remember that it was real different back then. You’d go into shops like Soul Jazz when it was in Camden and they’d say “oh you shouldn’t be in here. You don’t respect the music and your only after the first 2 minutes”.
Attica Blues were born out of the frustration of the scene around that time and Charlie felt hindered by the lack of originality around him. Though the name is stated on record as coming from an old Archie Step release, Charlie points out that it was meant to piss the traditionalists off.
“Attica Blues is like a traditional sounding jazz name and we chose it to piss people off. Its funny now, but back then, those in the jazz scene wouldn’t play stuff like hip hop. It was only when the likes of Kenny Dope started going into shops spending large amounts that these people realised it was cool to have the hip hop guys in.”
“I remember seeing an edition of the South Bank Show with Peter Gabriel on it using one of the first sampling keyboards, a Fairlight. Now back then this machine was the price of a small house and I was blown away. I got into stuff that was using samplers. Artists who were using whole chunks of samples!”
Around the time artists like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest were releasing their debut LPs. Hip hop acts who plundered the past for jazz and rare groove samples.
“These guys were taking elements of the jazz scene and in turn the jazz purists embraced the hip hop culture. Around the same time acts like KC Flightt and Marley Marl were sampling all the funk stuff like James Brown. It definitely was a revolutionary time.”
There are plans to have the next LP completed by Christmas and a label of their own, ‘Surplus’ is currently on standby for solo projects. With the backing and support of a new label (they insist there are no horror stories to tell) the group should reach a wider audience.
“Now we’ve got that big label push behind us to take it to a higher level”, Charlie concludes, “and there is no reason why bands like us shouldn’t be a household name”.
Listen: Attica Blues – Test. Don’t Test
Interview: DJ Vadim
Date: June 1999
Location: DJ Vadim’s old front room, Tolworth, Surrey
Words / interview: Des Berry
Photos: Dan King
2009: Setting the scene:
DJ Vadim has recently released his new album ‘U Can’t Lurn Imaginashun’ on BBE. A great album that mixes up various styles ranging from electronic, funk & Soul, reggae, dubstep and of course hip-hop.
Ten years ago as The Consultants, myself and Dan King interviewed DJ Vadim at his home in Tolworth, just outside of Kingston Upon Thames, down there in Surrey. Writing for Breakin’ Point magazine it was the only the second or third interview assignment we had done and this was probably the first big name we had chatted to.
The press officer on his then label, Ninja Tune, had said he would be a difficult person to interview so we were a little nervous as we turned off Tolworth Broadway into his street. After an embarassing start when I forgot to turn on the tape recorder, we all soon relaxed and Vadim turned out to be a great host. Even inviting us to stay around after we were all done.
Here is what ended up in the magazine…
Forget what anyone else might say, the Surrey area is becoming home to the current hip hop & breakbeat scene. Hard to believe I know, but down in Hersham theres Kingsize Records, and up on the outskirts, Twickenham side The Herbaliser have their base. But residing under the shadow of the Tolworth Tower, DJ Vadim is the mighty son of Surbiton.
Vadim, born in Russia, has lived in the area since he was three. With original ambitions to be “the next Boris Becker” an injury left him to concentrate solely on the sampler & his love of hip-hop. In 1995 Vadim released the 2 EPs “Abstract Hallucinogenic Gases” & “Headz Ain’t Ready”. After little response from labels & with encouragement from neighbour & K’Boro partner Mark B, he set up his own, “Jazz Fudge”. After a few thousand copies where sold, Ninja Tune stepped in to sign up the Russian percussion.
Subsequent releases like the album, “USSR Repertoire” have lead the world to understand the Vadim sound. But on the eve of his second LP, “USSR: Life From The Other Side” moods & tempos are changing.
A sleepy eyed Vadim greets us on an early Monday morning. The weekend his seen a Friday gig in Brighton, followed the next night in Leeds. Tonight its back off to Ipswich, for one the final few dates of the Swollen Members tour. But not before Vadim has got the van valetted, “theres not enough hours in the day” he yawns. Running two labels, Jazz Fudge & K’Boro (with Mark B), producing his own work & that of others as well as a DJ, rapper Blades description of Vadim on the new LP is very true.
“Yeah that was a good one from Blade. He rapped that down the phone to me,” Vadim laughs. “I’m involved in so many things, that theres often not enough time to do all of it.
Vadim also has a reputation as a massive record collector & his worldwide touring helps in searching out those rare untouched breaks.
“I am a big hip-hop fanatic. The first hip hop tune I got was Marley Marl, The Control Vol 1 back in ’88. Myself & Mark B go around Europe, America, Australia & the Far East just to buy records. I do try to get all the styles, check everything out, and get the videos & the freestyle tapes. I listen to everything, all types, from drum & bass, hip-hop, right through to techno, reggae & psychedelic. Also a lot of spoken word records, novelty & children’s. I try to put it all together & that’s what I did on the LP. A lot of variety & soundscapes.
Variety is what you get on the new LP. With many humorous skits to keep you entertained between tracks it’s the amount of rappers & artists that guest on the LP that makes it one of the best hip hop LPs of ’99. Performers like Company Flow, Scratch Perverts, Blade, Skinny Man & Moshunman to name a few. So how come with people like Vadim representing the best in original hip hop why is the UK still behind in the hip hop stakes?
“You go to places like France and artists like Assassin are selling over a million units. They are selling more than A Tribe Called Quest, but outside of France no one has heard of them. It’s the same in Sweeden, Japan & Germany with groups there hitting the charts & selling 50-60,000 copies in the process. All these countries have got their own home grown talent that are doing well. Looking at England who is doing well here in terms of single & LP sales, no one, especially not from the underground.”
The lack of support for the UK hip hop scene is something close to Vadims heart & its something he wants to see re-addressed.
“We sold 5-6,000 copies of Blades “Will Survive” & I think we did really well, but we should have sold about 20,000 copies. The distributors & shops over here don’t support it as much as they would American product. Successful rappers from the states get support from the area they are from. Acts like Too Short, Master P & Mobb Deep rap about life in these areas & in turn people by it because they can relate to it. We need people in England to talk about life in London like Elephant & Castle, Brixton, Willesden, Tottenham as well as places like Toxteth & the St.Pauls area of Bristol. Those in the core hip hop scene can maybe relate to the US sound, but for the scene to grow over here its gotta be closer to home, which is what people like Black Twang, Blade & Lewis Parker are doing.”
Even though the UK hip hop scene over here is not denting the charts or selling in the thousands it still getting respect for its innovation.
“I think its actually stunned a few people that in England & Europe are leading the way musically as opposed to America. Theres a lot of places that are actually advancing the art & even though they won’t admit it the Americans are influenced by Europe & Japan. Its funny you’ve got people like Company Flow doing instrumentals & its left people having to eat their own words. Anyone from the UK is described as making trip hop stuff but in the US its legitimate hip hop. DJ Spinna is always talking about the UK & Stash’s favourite places are London & Tokyo. People in this country have got the skills, more so than other places. We’ve got some really skilled lyricists & producers. The b-boy scene is good, UK Rocksteady Crew, Second To None, Born To Rock are getting props worldwide. We’ve got some wicked graf writers. That’s all cool. The best graf writers are in Europe.”
But as Vadim knows only to well we live in an American culture, with the US influence having an effect on everything. The lyrics for “Your Revolution” a track on the new LP can be seen as having a go at the whole US hip hop stereotype.
“Sarah Jones is a poet & she wrote the words. She was on about all the male macho things in hip hop. I’ve actually got some of those records she mentions, but I understand you’ve gotta be careful what you put in your lyrics.”
Asked on what he’ll be doing come New Years eve for the millennium, Vadim replys ‘sleeping’. With the next few months work load its no surprise. Keeping release schedules happy for three labels is a hard task. With Jazz Fudge concentrating on ‘good music, not necessarily hip hop’ (The Isolationist, Swollen Members, Mark B), K’Boro concentrates on the straight ahead hip hop with releases from the likes of the Scratch Perverts & Task Force. Ninja Tunes is solely for the DJ Vadim projects.
‘The new LP is coming out, then thats to be followed by ‘USSR: The Instrumentals’ which is basically the instrumentals of the rap tracks on the new one plus six new tunes. After that I’m releasing a track with Esoteric & Virtuoso from Boston & I’ve also got a track on a Culture Of Peace compilation, which was a funny request. Its a worthy cause but other artists on there are like Barbara Streisand, Springsteen & George Michael. I asked why me me? I only sell thousands of records not millions of records, but they were really into The Isolationist & I’m putting a together a track for it.’
It doesn’t end there. In October a four month tour starts, taking in the UK, Europe & the States. ‘We’ve got Mr Thing & myself on the decks, Kela Killa beatboxing & Blue Rum rapping & freestyling. This is about the fourth time I’ve done the States. The reaction is always good. Now that I’m doing more vocal hip hop tracks it will be interesting to see how it goes down. ‘Friction’ got picked up by a few NYC radio stations. Previously Ninja has had the electronica feel to it in the states. The Herbaliser’s The Blend did well in the states, but they are seen more of a jazz band over there.
The hard work affect is something Vadim gets from his Russian roots. The eastern European feel is evident in the titles & artwork of his current & previous work. ‘It’s not the communist idea that I attach to the LP’s but the other images of Russia. The old political artwork featuring the man in the field, the mines & the ironworks. It’s about working, the family, community & construction. I like the idea of having to work had to attain something. Too often these days its money rather than hard work that buys success. For example in my lifetime of hip hop things have changed. Years ago you had to steal sprays to be a graffiti writer, there were no videos, magazines, battle tool LP’s on how to be a DJ. You had to improvise. Now its more accessible. Along with cheap samplers & best of funk compilations more people are making music, which is good but in turn its making it all more disposable.’
With USSR: Life From The Other Side. Vadim is going to set a new mark in UK hip hop that others will have a hard time following. Its all for the better if the scene is going to survive into 2000 & beyond. The USA maybe the last superpower in the world, but now they have a new fear from the east.