Archive: a fax from Simon Smugg
2012: Setting the scene. Last week someone called up at work asking for a number for a label I deal with on a weekly basis. While I was looking for it, the caller started asking me about what was selling, how they used to have a big collection of records. Then they said they used to be a rapper. “Oh yeah” I asked, “what name did you record under?”
“Blade” was their reply. “No way!” was mine.
Here was the gig I reviewed 11 years ago…
MARK B & BLADE @ The Mean Fiddler, London 24/01/01
Re-located from the meaner streets of Harlesden, the Mean Fiddler has replaced the LA2 on Charing Cross Road, the scene of the nights revolution. And with ‘The Unknown’ getting heavy rotation on every show short of Radio 2, Mark B & Blade are in the building for a hostile takeover.
Warming up the pre-fight beers are the Mixologists, your average turntablists who are cutting everything up from KRS 1 getting digital with Goldie to the slightly worrying refrains of ‘when the crowd say bo! Selecta’. Slight technical hitches don’t prevent them getting the crowd worked up ready, teasing us all with the stabs of ‘Simon Says’ and other gems from the past and present.
Next up Phi Life Cypher step it up a gear, throwing it down hard despite their plea for food and money as they “ain’t eaten for 8 days”. These herbalists know how to rock the crowd and their humour and free-style section is one of the highlights of the night. “I can see clearly now the crack smokes gone. Its gonna be a bright – bright weed smoking day” is their message to all the crack heads out there.
Human beatbox and the host for the evening Killa Kela, must go down on record as the loudest performance of the night. Alongside DJ Plus One the beats rain down from his mouth and its definitely heavy artillery all round. Not too sure about the singing though! Plus One cuts it up nicely as the crowd wait for the main bout.
Its taken along time but finally Mark B and Blade are here. Opening up with ‘From The Word Lab’ even initial turntable problems for Mark can’t dampen the high spirits on stage. “I can’t believe we get this, on the most important night of my life!” Blade calls, asking for the assistance of Kela once more. But we’re back on. Alongside Plus One the duo rock the crowd with the likes of ‘One Shark One Piranha’, ‘Hostile Takeover’ (minus Westwood), ‘Ya Don’t See The Signs’ and for ‘The Long Awaited’ Skinnyman joins in the mayhem on stage.
“You gonna catch me?” Blade asks before jumping into the crowd for some surfing.
Back on stage its the turn of his son to do the same. “My boy saw a video of me surfing and he wants a go” cries Blade before his son goes surfing not once but about 3 times, finishing off the first time with a demand to throw Lucozade (before dad steps in with the water) on the crowd.
Before ‘Ya Don’t See The Signs’ Blade demands a “memory I can take to the grave” and after, sitting up on the decks he confesses to getting a bit emotional with the crowds reaction, and why not. The past support slots from everyone from KRS1 to Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine are over and the hard work have paid off.
“Man I’ve been waiting for that response for 12 years” shouts Blade as the crowd show their appreciation, “Maybe I won’t have to sign on every other week now.” The biggest response is of course to ‘The Unknown’ that hopefully should have dented the Top 75 before you read this. Finishing with the ‘Survival Of The Hardest Working,’ its nearly 10 years since the release of the LP of the same name, the fan financed records and Blade and company are definitely loving every minute of it.
Like Blade states through out the evening its a truly great moment for UK hip hop and the start of something bigger. Taskforce round off the night as the cream of the UK scene stand together on one stage. The atmosphere on and off stage is amazing and the venue has sold out showing the possibilities of the what can be achieved if the mainstream press and radio start supporting the home grown talent.
Like The Sex Pistols at the 100 Club, Mark B & Blade at the Mean Fiddler 24/01/01 will be one of the gigs where the amount of people to say they attended, in years to come, will easily exceed the actual capacity of the venue. “Yeah I was there in ’77 or ’88 might easily be replaced with “yeah I was there in 2001”.
Words: Des Berry
Listen: Mark B & Blade – The Unknown
Interview: Karime Kendra
Date: December 2000
Location: The Pharmarcy, Notting Hill Gate, London
Words / interview: Des Berry
Photo: Dan King
2012: Setting the scene . I thought I would add a few more things from the “archives”. So here is the first of a few old bits. I really cannot remember anything about this interview other then it was at The Pharmarcy.
You might have seen her name and heard her voice alongside many a tune or read about her recent work with Red Snapper, but there is more to Karime Kendra then just another collaborator. Wrestling, strip joints and Roni Size puking in a bucket are just a few of the secrets to tell about this diva in waiting.
We’re in The Pharmacy, Damian Hirst’s restaurant in Notting Hill. There are no dead sheep hanging around, don’t worry. In fact its pretty dead and an ideal place to start spreading those secrets. The only trouble is every person coming in seems to be an old friend of Karime’s. “I actually used to work in here, but I had to stop. If I worked here I couldn’t party here.” Priorities, I like it.
Coming from LA five years ago after getting a deal with Talkin’ Loud, people kept calling her to fly over to the UK and work on various projects. Finally it made sense to settle in London. With subsequent changes at the label Karime fell victim to the usual release date stalling. But with fresh label backing and ideas we’re about ready to hear a new solo LP.
“I’ve been involved with so many projects.” Damn right. Everyone from the likes of Outside, Unsung Heroes, Landslide and Nigo have been touched by the hand of Kendra. However don’t go thinking that Karime is just another session singer.
“After the success of a track I did with DJ Die in ’97 everyone expects me to be drum ‘n’ bass diva. Even though I could have been financially better off I didn’t want to be another session singer. With the people I work with there is a mutual respect of each others previous work.”
“On the new Red Snapper LP there are two songs I co-wrote. One is the ‘Rough & The Quick’ and the other is ‘Shellpack'(?) Both are very different songs with the ‘Rough & the Quick’ being about sex.”
Right. “Yeah the lyrics go like this.. ‘Come on my tongue – lick my clit – rub a little bit of your spit – thats it’…the chorus, ‘I want the kind of night that I read about – you know the ones you find on the top shelf.’
With valentines day around the corner its definitely a song for the more romantics of people out there, then? Eat ya heart out 2 Live Crew!
Believe it or not Karime was an introvert as a kid. Growing up in a family where the mother was a successful Northern Soul singer and the father a producer, Karime’s voice was seen as squeaky and the least expected to follow the musical path.
“My break came when my agent heard me singing when I was wrestling”. What alongside the likes of Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks and some Saturday afternoon World of Sport tag team special?
“It was on American TV, but it was a show called Powerful Women of wrestling. No mud or anything like that. There were always the really cute looking girls. That was me! We were the smaller ones, quite sexy. Then there were big burly manly women like Matilda the Hun who at 6ft tall would eat raw meat. My name was Destiny. Initially I was a bad girl, but I turned against my tag team partner ‘Hot Rod Andy’ and became a good girl, a heroine.”
“I used to do the moves where you would jump on their shoulders and they would get pissed off so they fall backwards and drop you down. My left rib still clicks due to an injury and I’ve scratches under my eye.”
“I had an agent who said why don’t you do that, get used to doing auditions. I was athletic. I thought hell that would be cool. Make a grand a week. Get on TV. Do my thing. I’m gonna be a star anyway. So this could be the way. When you’re an entertainer you cut your teeth on whatever. I then sang one day and my boss heard me singing in the ring. After that I did backing vocals on a Herb Albert LP and then I really got a taste for it.”
So do any of the moves ever come in handy?
“When Ed (of Scenario Records and Karime’s man) is annoying me, we move the tables away, take off our rings and watches and I say, Ed, I’m gonna kick you ass.”
Even with the work coming in back in those early days in the UK Karime still had to fall back on other skills between studio time.
“I worked as a waitress at the Windmill club in Piccadilly, London. A strip joint. I was in there for 2 nights as a waitress, but I decided it was not the place for me. Like, I’ve seen strippers, but these women, fingers going everywhere and I’m like whoa. I realised I couldn’t get a tip. Because why give me a tip, while the girls are giving up the whole beaver show!”
Karime’s musical influences come from her family background, a love of female vocalists like Gladys Knight, Roberta Flak, Chrissie Hynde and Mary J Blige. Writers like Elton John and entertainers like Madonna and Michael Jackson.
“When I’m on stage I’m an entertainer. With the Red Snapper shows the front person needs to be full on.”
Recent sell out performances with the band will back that statement up.
“It was really wicked on stage. When the first stabs of the Rough & The Quick came on in Holland, I made a little joke about the women telling me that the men hadn’t been doing it right there. They hadn’t been satisfying them in bed. And the men cried “No its not true!’ and I replied, ‘well if it wasn’t true i wouldn’t have had to write this song’. They knew the song and started screaming. It was just the best time.”
Okay, so finally what’s all this about sickboy Roni?
“Well I’m old mates with Roni Size, Die & Krust and we (Red Snapper) were playing alongside them. It was also Roni & Die’s birthdays. So that night we just parted so hard. We were drinking champagne and smoking before the show. So then we both go and rock our crowd. They were nervous because I was there, but I was nervous because they were there. You can perform to thousands of people, but when you’ve got friends and family there its worse.
It was a great show and then we just partied! Champagne, blunts, tequila. Then Roni got so fucked he was puking in a bucket. He had to be carried out to the bus! First it was cool, Roni puked a bit and then suddenly he’s sitting on the floor. Luckily I turned my head and I see him about to heave again, getting him a bucket just in time.”
Sounds like a top night. True rock ‘n’ roll excess, but one you might want kept secret maybe? At least for Roni’s sake.
“Please put that in, but say Karime loves you Roni and Die. Happy Birthday, belated, but I had to tell that story cause it fuckin’ happened!! Roni puking in a bucket! Ha, Ha!”
Originally published in Breakin’ Point 05.02 March 2001
Interview: Rough, Stomie & OneMor
Date: June 2002
Location: Clapham, London
Interview / words: Des Berry
2011: Setting the scene. After a recent visit to DJ Food’s blog (a source of great inspiration and recommended to all) I thought I would post this interview with artists Rough, Stormie & OneMor from 2002. Rough has recently been involved in a huge mural and gallery show in Vancouver and you can read about that on DJ Foods blog here.
This interview took place in Lavender Hill, South London on a very wet day in June 2002. The guys were great and really easy to interview. Rough gave me a copy of the Rigidmouth book which is pictured below.
The photographer took some great photos but for some reason decided to give them to a competitive magazine when the PR people requested them. As a result we never got use them as they had already featured elsewhere. I think this might have been the last interview I did for Breakin’ Point. Back to 2002…
What A Load Of Rubbish.
Is it me or does it occasionally rain televisions? Tell me if it happens country wide, because in the capital it seems to be a regular phenomenon. You’ll wake up one morning and there is likely to be a couple of TVs on separate street corners on the way to the tube. Or if its not TVs its a mattress. Forget this low paid writing lark I’m getting shares in a mattress company, because round my way people are buying them silly and throwing out the old ones.
Renowned graffiti writers Rough, Stormie & OneMor are three artists who look upon such streets as an art supplier ready for pilfering. After years of seeing walls and trains as a canvas to their work they now see the potential in the very rubbish that we discard every day. From the cardboard that boxed that new hi fi to the door off that burnt out car that has sat on your street and doubled up as a tramps toilet for the last few months they can see the beauty in it. Okay their not using TVs and a mattress but you get the idea.
‘Everything we’ve used we’ve found. For example on the street or in skips,’ Rough explains ‘You’ve always got to look in skips as you never know what’ll you find. One mans rubbish after all is another mans treasure.’
From the rubbish around them each artist has created something from those discarded objects. Where the likes of you and me might curse and get on the phone to the council to pick up this trash the trio have taken it and transformed it into original, innovative and highly desirable pieces of art. Rough has created three dimensional works from wood and similar materials. Stormie is producing drawings and paintings on card and handmade cardboard boxes and OneMor is painting directly on to scrap metal obtained from wrecked cars.
‘Sometimes its good to be limited because it makes you more creative. It pushes you harder,’ states OneMor. ‘If you have everything then you are spoilt for choice. If you’ve got it hard looking for stuff things can go mad. Its not always bad to be restricted. I’m working on bits of burnt out cars. Where do I find them? There just around wherever you find burnt out cars! You know that spot where you always find a burnt out car!’
Together the trio are pulling together their rubbish and working on a project called ‘Third’. All have worked with each other before, but this is the first time as a ‘threesome’ to put it politely.
‘Three plays a big part in this project. Three artists. Three mediums, cardboard, wood and steel and finally the third generation of an item. That’s the main focus, the third generation’ OneMor points out. Someone owns something and then discards it. What we are doing is taking what has been discarded and re-generating it back into a worthy item.’
The third life of a item.
‘We are bringing bits of the environment that we work within, into the gallery,’ OneMor continues. ‘Its important to lose that transition where a bit of graffiti has been ripped out of its environment and put in a sterile gallery. If you paint in another environment you find that they are an integral part of each other.’
‘People can often put graffiti on a nice clean canvas and hang it in a gallery, but it loses a certain edge,’ Stormie adds.
Whatever your views on graffiti and street art the project should help bring the medium to an even wider audience. People who aren’t familiar with late night track walks or train yards. However don’t be fooled in to thinking its another gallery exhibition filled with colourful pieces hanging on canvas to a hip hop / breakdance soundtrack.
‘As a project Third is going to be pretty ground breaking’ Rough points out. ‘We’re using the graffiti moniker, but its all about furniture, lighting and installations. There is no graffiti on canvas at this exhibition.’
‘The kind of art we do is a very collaborative form of work. Most group shows you go to, there might be 10 different artists and they are all saying something different. What we’re doing with this is trying to say a similar thing but through a different lens.’
The trio have a long history in graffiti. Having met in the early 90’s they have collaborated ever since, both together and alongside Ikonoklast, a collective of left of field artists featuring the likes of Part 2, Juice 126 and Prize amongst its members. Individually they have exhibited and painted for clients as diverse as Budweiser, Nike, Size to the Bug Bar, Brixton. This year saw the publication of Rough’s book ‘Rigidmouth’ containing contributions from all three as well as others such as Attica Blues’ Charlie Dark, Juice 126 and Lucy McLauchlan.
Rough was in his early teens when someone came in to his school with the book Subway Art. A starting point for many in the early UK graffiti scene.
‘I thought I’ve got to try that out. So I researched the whole dynamics of it. Things like how the paint works, how you can get it, how its made, different surfaces, characters, letters. I wanted to do everything. Like straight away. Portraits, letters, wild style. It took me 16 years to get there and I’m probably still not there.’
‘I was doing both illegal and legal stuff. I wasn’t just bombing. I’d go up to people and say you’ve got a nice wall there can I paint it? If the answer was yes I’d draw something up, show them and paint it. I wanted to build up a reputation as a good artist. Be good at my trade and craft. That was the main focus, just to be a good artist. Its still my focus.’
OneMor grew up in Edinburgh. ‘When I started painting I was like the second generation of painters, I’m talking about a year or so. There was about ten painters around Edinburgh and I hooked up with 2 guys and we started feeding ideas off each other. We we’re quite isolated living in a small city and we couldn’t really go out on a train and see stuff.’
Stormie’s start was even more isolated then OneMor’s.
‘Living in Perth Western Australia, I was on my own, because the scene was non-existent. I didn’t know any other writers. There wasn’t any. I used to go out and paint on my own.’
Trouble with law resulted in his parents sending him to his grandparents in Wales. As OneMor points out he was sent the other way. But it was a move that was of great benefit.
‘Even though it was a lot colder over here, the good thing was the access point from Wales to the rest of the country. Which was great. I just went out and did things at different events that I would never have got in Perth.’
With their commercial work often dictated to by marketing people the Third project gives the trio the chance to display their work to a wider audience. One that is not too familiar with late night track walks.
‘The good thing about this project is that we can do our thing on our own terms’ OneMor adds, ‘ we can show what we really do rather then the commercial aspect. A lot of people don’t tend to often see what you do on walls apart from other writers.’
Third opens this month at The Maharishi Gallery, Covent Garden, London. Rough’s work as one third of The Reptiles is due for release on Jazz Fudge and a book from Ikonoklast is planned for late 2002.
Originally published in Breakin’ Point 03.04 August 2002
Interview: Patrick Forge
Date: November 2001
Location: Pat’s flat
Words / interview: Des Berry
2011: Setting the scene
I remember very little about this one. Patrick’s flat was in Kentish Town. It was very dark inside and the photographers pictures were never used because they were crap.
Back to 2001…
As the only remaining DJ from the original pirate days of Kiss FM in London, Patrick Forge has a well-respected knowledge of all things jazzy, broken and Brazilian. This, along with 3 London DJ residencies and the music of Da Lata, is a reason why his previous compilations have been a must for anyone interested in joining the dots in jazz related dance music. Now with his first release for Trust The DJ, Patrick Forge runs through the tunes that make up the sound of his new compilation, as well as a bit of history on a career as record collector, buyer, musician, club and radio DJ!
Working with Jonathan More of Coldcut at Reckless Records in Soho, Patrick Forge landed a DJ role on Kiss, back when it was a pirate station.
“I’ve had the radio show on Kiss for 12 years now” Patrick states about his Cosmic Jam show that is broadcast every Sunday on Kiss FM. “There have been so many revolutions over the years, but I’m part of the furniture now. I have this stealth ninja tactic for staying. At times you have to be invisible”.
Anyone familiar with the various changes that have taken place at the station will know that is a pretty amazing thing for someone with a style that confused even the original programmers.
“When I got the show on Kiss no one really understood what I was doing or had the guts to tell me what they were really thinking.”
“I was a musician and that was my original dream, but people I wanted to do music with gave up. I started working in the record shop Reckless. At the time all I really wanted to do was build my collection and get a load of vinyl as well as to talk to people about music. At the shop old heads would come in and I’d be learning about mixes and rarities.”
“I was working with Jonathan who was one of the founders of Kiss and I really fancied getting a radio show. I was learning about and buying records and I thought I could do this on the radio. Half of the stuff I bought at the time wasn’t going to work in the clubs. Through Jonathan I managed to get an interview with Gordon Mac at Kiss. On the way I stopped off at Music Exchange to pick up some records. Later on I sold Gordon a record I’d bought. I think it was only because I sold him a quite an in demand tune at the time that I got the job.”
As a keen follower of the jazz-dance scene Forge’s big break came when he joined Gilles Peterson at the legendary Sunday afternoon sessions at Dingwalls. Over the next four years the club pioneered the sound of hip hop, jazz and rare groove.
“I’d been on nodding terms with Gilles, but the next thing I knew I was called up and asked to come down and do the thing at Dingwalls. That was the big break”.
Being so passionately involved with a particular scene can be hard at times. How do you manage to keep passionate about the music after all these years?
“The radio show is the greatest continuity for me. That creates the focus each week. I’m not pretending that there aren’t times when you get bored with the music, but you do sometimes have to look elsewhere for stimulation. You think “I’ve been ploughing this field now for a while and now I want to plough somewhere else”
“I’m usually associated with Gilles and the scenes in London that we have represented and been involved with have always gone through those evolutionary periods. That’s the whole point of what we do as DJ’s. We are seekers. We are trying to do something different”.
What about DJs like Gilles playing things like So Solid Crew on the radio now?
“Gilles attitude at the moment is ‘fuck it’. Some cynics might say it’s just a desperate attempt from an aging jazz DJ to try and seem that he is down with the kids. But the thing is you just reflect the climate you are in. It’s always amazing though the way different kinds of music start on one level. If you think drum ‘n’ bass was hardcore and artists like 4 Hero made Mr Kirks Nightmare and then they end up making Les Fleur. It just goes to show that its talent and after a while it just develops”.
After the success of the Rebirth Of Cool series, Patrick is about to release a new compilation care of Trust The DJ.
“Its that whole net thing. You feel you want to dive in there and do something and this is a good way of doing it without having to run your own website”, Patrick explains.
“It’s a really good thing for us as DJ’s. There are things there for people to look at and they can see what we are doing”.
How does it feel to be sharing a site with the likes of a few more mainstream DJs?
“What are we supposed to do? Are we to be so elite and hip that we don’t want to be associated with these people? There is a learning curve as to how people get into music. They come in at one end and go out on another. It’s nice for people to progress. That’s what they’ll get on the site”.
How have you approached this particular compilation?
“I gave them a list of tracks and they came back with lots that were turned down. This selection is the first 12 that cleared. It’s a snap shot of what I was into when I compiled it. This compilation is one representation of what I do. It’s going to be a series. I’ll look back at this one and maybe do something different on the next one.”
“At the moment I’m feeling a lot more hip hop and r ‘n’ b and I love playing that out as well. But people get confused about the type of DJ you are. I get confused myself!”
So with residencies at London’s 333 and Notting Hill Arts Club, a forthcoming compilation of Da Lata remixes and the continuing radio show, where does Patrick Forge feel best at home?
“I feel most at home in the fact that I’m doing something that I love for a living. I’m having a life in music and I’m very privileged to have that. It’s not something I ever really planned.”
PF01: The tunes…..
Herbie Hancock “The Essence”
Herbie Hancock has been a stalwart of jazz history for decades now. He is someone who has always been capable of being cutting edge and that is still true today. He’s not getting any younger, but he not getting any less adventurous.
I particularly wanted to use this track because I love Chaka Khan’s vocal on it. I liked all the mixes but that was the mix that showcased the vocal and did it most justice.
Domu “Cloud City”
The most out there thing on the compilation. You could listen to it as a techno jazz funk track. It’s from the broken beat school and the programming is pretty mad. I listen to it in different ways. Some times I think it sounds really sensible and quite accessible, other times I think that’s fucked up. He’s a prodigy of the 4 Hero guys. He recorded drum ‘n’ bass as Sonar Circle on Reinforced. He’s very much got his own style.
Forbidden Zone “Hyde’n’ Seek”
This is from a drum ‘n’ bass producer called Dextrous. Years ago there was one tune he did that I played a lot. A drum ‘n’ bass tune with a horn section on it that sounded like a big band. I met him recently at the broken beat club, the Co-Op. He sent me some new tracks and this was one of them. It’s unreleased and exclusive to this CD. Its style is like cinematic jazz funk.
Fertile Ground “Let the Wind blow (oneness of two mix)”
Mixed by Nick The Record who I’ve known since he was a kid when I was working in Reckless. He is a really good record dealer now. He has a fine list of jazz and rare groove. The band Fertile Ground is from Baltimore. Sounding like a 70’s black jazz ensemble, but very much here and now. That mix has worked really well for me in clubs.
Eli Goulart e Banda do mato “Meu Samba” (Nicola Conte Mix)
Mixed by a guy I’ve known for years. I DJ’d with him in the south of Italy, back in 91. His sound is really retro. It’s a house tempo, but Brazilian bossa sounding.
Kaidi Tathum “Ladies”
One of Bugz In The Attic Kaidi has been a real musical force. His keyboard playing has been on so many productions. He is really awesome. An explosive talent and I see him as a contemporary version of a great arranger. I see him as a Quincy Jones for a new generation.
Homecookin‘ “Lazy Days”
Another Bugz in the Attic track. This was out a while ago, but it’s a tune I still play and love. It’s accessible broken beat with soulful vocals. The whole broken beat thing is a real interesting thing at the moment. A lot of people can’t get with it. They say it sounds like people falling down the stairs, but they’re not hearing where it’s coming from. It’s not just the style of rhythm track. Yeah it does take a while to get into, but it’s a fusion of so many different influences together. They are the melting pot of London sounds.
Fertile Ground “Higher (Waiwan mix)”
Don’t know much about this, but it has a wicked, slow drum ‘n’ bass tempo. I couldn’t stop listening to that mix when I got it.
KV5 feat. Pael Black “Lies + untruths (Christian Franck mix)
KV5 is Tony our engineer from Da Lata and Mark Brown who is one part of Smoke City. Christian Franck, who is also part of Smoke City and half of Da Lata, also mixes it. It’s a family affair!!
I see KV5 as being a London Daft Punk! Because of the freshness and similar approach.
Donnie “Do You Know”
Out of Giant Steps Records New York and very Steve Wonder sounding
Originally published in Breakin’ Point 01.03
Listen: Da Lata – Songs From The Tin
Interview: Fay Masterson (actress)
Date: July 2000
Location: via email
Words / interview: Des Berry
2011: Setting the scene
Its Oscars night in the US today so I thought (out of desperation again) I would dig out an old film related piece from the archive. This one is an email interview with Fay Masterson and her role in the 2000 film ‘Sorted’.
I can’t remember if I saw the film at a screening first before doing the piece. What I do remember is that I got invited to the “premiere” at a cinema on Shaftsbury Avenue. I remember it well because I even went out and got a smart pair of shoes especially for it, which 11 years later I still have.
The film was pretty rubbish. I doubt you’ve even seen it. Typical weak British film with some awful “club / rave scenes” in it. I think we (Breakin’ Point) only reviewed it because of that weak link to music.
And that question I ask about Tim Curry getting cast as a fat Jeremy Beedle is fair. He does. Watch it and see, but then again don’t.
‘Sorted’ is a film directed by Alex Jovy. Set around the seedier side of clubbing it stars, Matthew Rhys, Sienna Guillory, Jason Donovan, Tim Curry and Kelly Brook.
With previous roles in ‘Eyes Wide Shut’, ‘The Quick & The Dead’ and even the sitcom ‘Game On’, Fay Masterson stars as red-hot Tiffany. We hooked up over a few zeroes and ones.
Q. What are you up to at the moment?
Apart from discovering new ways to enjoy sweet potatoes I’m currently out here in L.A working on my tan. I’ve been based here for about the last 4 years now, but I love coming back to the UK to work and visit family and friends.
Q. For those not familiar with you previous work can you fill us in?
I was most recently in ‘Quantum Project’ and last years ‘Eyes Wide Shut’. I was also in ‘The Man Without A Face’ that starred and was directed by Mel Gibson.
Q. How did you get in to acting?
It was total luck. I was 11 years old and I made my mother take me to an open call audition for this movie that was been held in a hotel in Mayfair. We did it as a lark and by fluke I ended up doing a role in the film. It was ‘The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking’, a family film for Columbia Pictures. I play an orphan with an attitude problem.
‘Q. Sorted’ is based around the clubbing scene. Have you ever been a clubber?
Yes, when I was living in the UK I went to clubs pretty regularly. Theres not much of a great scene over here though. Theres too much posing and not enough reckless abandon.
I love any place with a great friendly vibe. I love 70’s funk and also good dance clubs. My favourite types are places like La Scala which have different rooms for different styles and then real small places with big atmospheres.
Q. Are any of your experiences similar to the film?
I’ve never done any hard/psychedelic drugs and I’ve never been owned by a drug lord!
Q. Describe the character you play in the film
She is wild and crazy and will do anything for love, in all its crazy forms.
Q. What research did you do for the film?
Didn’t have the time. I was literally thrown in at the deep end. I had been working on another project over here in the U.S and had one day in between.
Q. Some of the scenes look like they might have been fun, nudge nudge, wink wink.
Yes I had to endure the terrible torture of getting down and dirty with Matt Rhys, but I am a professional and somebody’s got to do it!
Q. Theres a varied cast. What was it like working with an ex-Blue Peter guy, Jason Donovan and Kelly Brook?
Brilliant. Everyone brought their own special flavour to add to the mix.
Q. Why was Tim Curry cast as a fat Jeremy Beedle?
Q. Is it hard for film makers to get across the reality of clubbing of film?
Any reality has the potential to be captured well on film, regardless of where trends go. A film about clubbing does not necessarily have to be ahead of its time if the story is timeless. The club scene is simply the setting …a chosen time to tell this story. It may not capture the essence of clubs by the time the movie comes out, but it does capture “a” time in a club scene that seriously rocks!
Q. You were in ‘Quantum Project’, which was an internet only film. Is this the way forward?
Its definitely one way forward, a very exciting one, but for me it will never replace the thrill of going to a cinema, scoffing popcorn and bitching about the guys head in front of you being too big
Q. What film, book or music is sorting you out at the moment?
I loved ‘What Lies Beneath’, really gripping. I’m reading Oliver Sachs, ‘Anthropologist On Mars’ and have Gomez’s ‘Liquid Skin’ practically on loop.
Q. After ‘Sorted’ what can we see you in next?
A film called ‘Venus and Mars’ with Lynn Redgrave and Julia Sawahla.
Q. Finally, are you sorted?
My whites and colours are in separate piles.
Originally published in Breakin’ Point 04.02 Nov / Dec 01
Date: February 2001
Location: via email to France
Words / interview: Des Berry
2011: Setting the scene
Another email interview, so nothing is remembered about this one. It never got published and I’m only posting it as its 10 years old. Looks like Alexkid is still doing things in 2011. With fish…
Back to 2001
Q. Firstly did you adapt your name from the old computer game ‘Alex Kid’?
A. Oh No!!! Don’t say that!!! Now Mr Sega is going to send his Yakuzas and chop me into pieces and fry me as a “Kid Tempura”. I think I’m in serious trouble now.
Q. A brief summary of your career to date, please.
A. It’s six or seven years. I’m strictly doing music, for myself and with other people. Apart from the 4 EP’s on F Comm I have also released tracks on Guidance and something is coming out on Ovum. I also have a Dub Band called Dubphonic with two old friends I started music with. We’ve released an EP on Subtitled, and we did a remix for Dorfmeister’s Tosca on G-Stone. We’re finishing an album right now. And a very secret Pop project.
Q. What music particularly inspired you?
A.Everything inspires me. World Music, Blaxploitation, Hip-hop, Funk, Pop. Only good music can give you the vibe. But I think my inspiration comes mostly from movies and TV-Series Soundtracks.
Q. How did you start making music?
A. One day, in a dream, the one now I refer to as “The Dream with a big D”, Jimi Hendrix appeared to me with a beautiful Fender Stratocaster Guitar and a Ball. Then he pointed at me with his finger (he was floating in the air), and said, “Here my son, the time has come for you to choose. Choose the ball, or choose the Guitar!” I picked the guitar and he left. He disappeared in his endless elevation! And I heard the voice say “Now it’s in your hands….”. I woke up in a cold sweat, and since then It’s the only thing I’m doing.
Q. Have you ever had a proper job?
A. Well… I thought musician was a proper job, but if you’re talking of a job that makes you bored and you get money at the end of the month, I used to be a Golden Boy in Managua (Nicaragua), but I was making too much easy money. So I quit too see what it was like to lead a real difficult life working non-stop and trying to live from your creations. So I became a musician.
Q. Describe your music and the Alexkid sound.
A. Cinematic/Afro/NuJazz/Funk with Beats. Balearic for sure.
Q. What makes you different from others?
A. The fact that Jimi Hendrix did talk to me. I can also fly, but I usually don’t tell anyone. In our society it’s not good to be seen as different. So I’m pretty much low-profile on the fact that I hear voices and that I can fly. I’m sure you understand that. (‘Fruitcake!’ – BP)
Q. Your music features well respected French musicians. How did you meet these people and what are their backgrounds for those that have never heard of them?
A. Well , when you’re a musician , you get to meet other musicians. I was lucky to meet talented people like Jean-Philippe Rykiel who’s been working with Salif Keita, and Yossou N’Dour. Renaud Pion who’s been working with Dead can Dance, Bomb the Bass, and Gavin Friday. Christian Lechevretel who’s been working with FFF, P18 and now with his band Liquid. Stefan Goldman is a musician soulmate, we’ve been working together since the very beginning. He’s a member of Dubphonic.
Q. The EP is titled ‘What I Did On My Holidays’. Where are your favourite holiday destinations?
A. I usually go to Mallorca to see my family. Every summer since I was 20. If you get to know the place, it’s great.
The best sunsets ever!
Q. What is it like being French?
A. Well, I’m half Spanish so it’s not that hard to handle. Maybe you’re referring to the French touch thing? We have a French touch for sure, but it’s not that Disco filtered thing. Now there’s people like Pepe Bradock and Julien Jabre, so it helps to be proud of the French scene. More French producers are less obvious and more subtle in their productions now. It’s going better.
Q. Who should we be looking out for?
A. You should be checking out Llorca’s new Album out in April or May on F Comm. It’s a Soulful House album. Amazing. And for French producers that are not doing Filtered Disco. There are a lot of good things going on.
Chateau-Flight is my favourite Album at the moment (I-Cube and Gilb’r). It’s so deep and Funky.
Q. What is the outlet like for your sort of music in France? If I ever move to France what radio stations / DJs and magazines should I check out?
A. Radio FG and Radio NOVA, Trax Magazine, CODA Magazine, Crash Magazine, Technikart Magazine. Nova Magazine.
Q. As time goes on many producers lose their way, failing to keep up with current trends. How do you keep up to date or do you just do your own thing?
A. I’m changing gear and try not to do the same old thing. Use different influences. That’s what keeps me alive. Even if the listener might get lost ‘Uh! his previous EP was Breakbeat, and this one is Afro House?’
Q. Have you ever done remixes? If so who which was your favourite?
A. With Dubphonic. We did Tosca’s “Orozco”. Out on the Album Suzuki in Dub.
Q. What are you currently listening to?
A. Placebo and Chateau Flight.
Q. Are there any artists / musicians / vocalists that you would like to work with?
A. I’d love to work with Portishead.
Q. Hobbies? – Birdwatching? Stamp collecting? Anything that might surprise us?
A. No, I’m a boring guy. I’m obsessed with computers and music. That’s the only thing I do. I love going to the movies, I wish I had some more time for that. Oh Yeah! I forgot! I’m a Pokemon Master. I have 87 of them at the moment. I gotta catch them all!
Q. Are you planning to come to the UK for any gigs etc.?
A. It doesn’t depend on me. You know, in the UK you are still crazy about guys like Daft Punk or every single thing labelled with the French touch. Promoters in England don’t care about anything else that’s French with no filter.
Q. Like everyone else remotely involved in music do you DJ?
A. Yes I do, but I prefer producing. I’ve been DJ’ing all over Europe, but I never get to play in the UK. I love the UK but I’ve never played there. (There’s a hidden message for promoters in here!)
Q. An LP? What can we expect on that?
A. An LP out in June on F Communications.
Q. One last request?
A. Stay Fresh and Eat Cereals.
Interview originally submitted to Breakin’ Point magazine 2001. Unpublished.
Listen: Alexkid – Bienvenda
Interview: Chicken Lips
Date: July 2001
Location: via email
Words / interview: Des Berry
2011: Setting the scene
I haven’t updated this blog in almost a month, so for the moment, I’m just pulling out another old piece from the Breakin’ Point days. In the last year Chicken Lips have had a couple of albums released, ‘Experience Of Malfunction’ on Lipservice and a best of, ‘Show Your Shape‘ via Sav Remzi’s Tirk label.
This interview was done via email, so there is no real setting the scene here. Only Andy from the duo replied to the questions. I remember soon afterwards their label at the time stopped sending me records when they didn’ t get the review they hoped for. Its a fickle business music. Back to the inbox…
Q. What is currently happening in the world of Chicken Lips?
A. We’ve just finished our second album and it sounds fantastic! We’re off djing in Italy (Festival on the Beach), Belgium Festival, LA, Las Vegas and San Diego with Wax Records.
We are also busy finishing off remixes for the Stereo MCs, Playgroup and Groove Armada.
Q. What have you done today?
A. Andy; Today I have mostly been buying records! I found a shop on the internet called 21st Century Records. It’s got absolutely everything you could possibly imagine. Then I started cutting the lawn, but never finished.
A. Dean;doing a new mix tape.
Q. And what are you going to later?
A. Andy; I found a shop on the internet called 21st Century Records. It’s got absolutely everything you could possibly imagine! Oh yesss.
A. Dean; doing a new mix tape.
Q. Chicken Lips are?
A. Me – Andy Meecham and Dean Meredith
Q. A brief summary of your careers to date, please.
(Luckily Kingsize’s Richard is at hand to fill in the dots..
“Chicken Lips are Andy & Dean also known as Sir Drew and Psychedelia Smith.Together they’re also Bizarre Inc having recorded for Vinyl Solution in the early nineties. Production wise so far they have had four singles as Chicken Lips, ‘Shoe Beast‘, ‘Git Back/Master Jammin’, ‘The Big Legs EP‘ and ‘Jerk Chicken’, the single that accompanied their debut album, ‘Echoman‘.
They have recently completed remixes for Nigo, Bentley Rhythm Ace and Utah Saints and are currently working on remixes for Idjut Boys, Glen Gunner, Kontraband, Organic Audio & Suns of Arqa.
Q. Why Chicken Lips?
A. Why not. Sorry if that’s too brief? Ask Roger Johns if you can find him. It’s what happens to your mouth when you combine Jamesons and too many fat ones.
Q. What music particularly inspired you growing up?
A. From a young age, I was brought up to the sounds of Motown, soul and funk off me Ma. Charlie Rich, Brook Benton, John Holt from me Dad. Sound FX tapes when my Dad’s Brother used to come round and illustrate what happened when you combined the sound of a flushing toilet with an aeroplane through his new large Stereo Speakers (really).
Q. How and when did you start making music?
A. Andy; Bedroom, 6 years old. 1 Bush Record Player, 1 Phillips mono cassette recorder and me ma’s records. Front room, 8 years old. Me Uncle Bill lent my Dad an electric guitar and a Vox piano (fantastic). 12 years old, pause Button mix tapes. School, 14 years old. Saved up for a Tandy DJ Mixer, Sony and a Dual 506 turntable, both with pitch controls!!
Bought me first Yamaha Synth. Became arch mix tape rivals with Dean Meredith or Slick D as he was then known, in the year below. I was Sir Drew. Though he had a B boy crew and I didn’t. Bedsit land, 17 years old, Bought a Boss drum machine and a Roland Juno Six Synth and formed a rock/ new wave band with Chris Peat (Altern 8) and my cousin Vin as well as greasy haired lead guitarist called Andy who smoked 20 Benson & Hedges in an afternoon. Blue Chip Records/Recording Studios, 19 -20 years old, blagged (seriously don’t know how we got away with it blag) a job as an engineer/key board player with Chris Peat. Spoke to Arch Rival Dean Meredith for the first time who was in there recording a track.
The rest is history.
Q. Have you ever had real jobs?
A. Andy; St Georges Psychiatric Hospital, Cleaner. Surreal. Light and Sound Technician at a nightclub in Stafford that shall remain nameless. Aslings Pet and Exotic Bird Store, shop boy.
A. Dean; Stafford District General Hospital, Instrument Cleaner. Messy. Horsleys Removals, removing. Pine Design (Light assembly work boy – Ha ha)
Q. Describe your music if you can and the Chicken Lips sound.
A.It’s hard to describe our music because we make it up as we go along. If we tried we’d have to say Punk Funk Disco New Wave Dubbed Out Weird Shit Type thing, ish, sort of, maybe, mmm…
Q. What has influenced the sound?
A. Absolutely everything that goes on in and around what we do!
Q. What makes you different from others?
A. My names Andrew and his name is Dean and we like what we do.
Q. As time goes on many producers lose their way, failing to keep up with current trends. How do you keep up to date or do you just do your own thing?
A. We do what we like. We don’t do what we don’t like.
Q. You’ve done a lot of remixes? Which was your favourite?
A. Nigo, Mo Wax.
Q. Your more well know for your remixes. Does that bother you?
A. No. Its always our production anyway we love it!
Q. What are you currently listening to?
A. Andy – Magazine, Dean – Konk.
Q. Hobbies? – Birdwatching? Stamp collecting? Anything that might surprise us?
A. Andrew collects plastic 1970s- 80s robots, and old Atari video games.
A. Dean is constantly restoring his 1970’s mini and Scooter.
Q. Forthcoming Chicken Lips projects / plans for world domination?
A. New Chicken Lips album, new single. World Domination by 2003.
Q. Anything else we should know?
A. Cheap shots at Dean were written in his absence. For the record I think you should know this.
QUESTIONS FOR CHEAP LAUGHS
Do you ever feel like Chicken Tonight?
No because it’s 2 o clock in the morning.
What came first? The chicken or the egg?
“What” came first.
Why did the chicken cross the road?
It didn’t. It was all a con rigged by NASA.
Freerange or battery?
Sorry if this seems a bit one sided but Dean ain’t here.
Originally publised in Breakin Point 2001 (I’ll find out when later…)
Chicken Lips – Show Your Shape
Interview: Mark Pritchard
Date: May 2000
Location: Imperial Gardens, Camberwell, London, UK
Words / interview: Des Berry
2010: Setting the scene
The one thing I remember most about this one was being invited to go to the pub over the road after the interview. Simon Smugg said come over when your done. He introduced me to Tom Middleton who said hello. In my nervous state I replied “yes! I thought I recognised your voice.”
Mark is now based in Sydney, Australia recording under the guise Harmonic 313.
Back to May 2000…
Running down the Camberwell New Road, in the pouring rain, I was starting to think if I was really that lucky to be on the way to interview Mark Pritchard, his first with a magazine for around 2 years. Having been told to come with plenty of verbal ammo as his answers are mainly yes or no, my soaking clothes did not add well to my state of mind.
The Imperial Gardens is an odd venue, more like a squat from the outside and even more so when you step inside. On the night in question, a Zilgan drums event was taking place. On my arrival I found both the Jedi’s, Tom and Mark soundchecking with Simon Smugg and one of the many drummers that would be bashing the skins tonight.
For someone who does not like interviews, Mark was relaxed, good natured and more down to earth then others in the scene.
“I’m looking forward to tonight. Its a sponsored drum event. We don’t re-hearse, we jam and see what happens. Its good fun. I add funny keyboard sounds over it, Danny Breaks adds scratching and Tom, some keyboard lines.”
For many, Mark Pritchard’s name will be more familiar from the remix of Jedi partner Tom Middleton’s Cosmos project from last summer. The tune “Summer In Space” was an Ibiza success, ending up with airplay on 1FM. But Marks history goes further back to the early 90’s with his work under Reload and Global Communication. At the moment though, further remix call to arms have resulted in work for Leftfield, Underworld, The Orb and just recently KRS-One.
“I’m real happy with the new KRS mix. When they first played the original to me I thought I’d do a straight hip hop mix, but they wanted a more contemporary sound. So I said I’ll do a drum ‘n’ bass mix, but at the same time remix A Tribe Called Quest track. I’ve done that with The Creators, but thats not coming out for a while.”
In the past Mark has remixed the likes of Garbage, the Aphex Twin, Chapterhouse and most famously Depeche Mode. The result of which was Mr Lucas uncovering the use of the Jedi name.
“I don’t want to do many more remixes, but with the KRS one I wanted to avoid that hip hop vocals over drum ‘n’ bass sound. So I chose a track that had more of a spoken word vocal to it. I then chopped it up so it fitted with the vibe. Its got live bass on it and the guy from Portishead playing a guitar over it. A lot of people haven’t got their heads round it. It sounds like a fast funk tune, but its been getting plays from Hype and Zinc. The Orb mix is more like a dark techno house track, but thats the last time I do a straight 4 to the floor house tune.”
Surprising, when his partner Tom is going more house with the success of Cosmos.
“Tom has moved to London and we don’t work together so much anymore. We could have signed to Island Blue as the Jedi Knights, but it had got to the point where Tom wanted to do his thing and he’d been DJ’ing out a lot more. We we’re working and getting further away from each other over the years, so we thought you do your thing and I’ll do mine and maybe in a few years we’ll get together for another Global album.”
Originally meeting in the early 90’s, Mark and Tom have recorded under many pseudonyms and for many labels including Clear, Guerrilla, Dedicated, R&S and Warp. So how and where did the love affair with music begin?
“I left school and I was going to clubs particularly this one in Bournemouth where the DJ’s North & South were playing Chicago house, early original trance and Carl Craig things. I heard that stuff and I thought fucking hell, I’d never heard anything like it. That was it. I bought a sampler and drum machine, making techno and Detroit sounding stuff, putting it out on my own label. I met Tom while I was DJ’ing in Taunton and then we started making more ambient tracks”
At the same time Mark was training to be a chef. Like many of us involved with things we enjoy out of work the decision to jack it in to concentrate on the music is a hard one.
“It was a dream really. I did some stuff with mates from Yeovil. We took it to Warp and they wouldn’t even see us, then we went on to Basic in Leeds and they wanted it and it was like fuckin’ hell we’ve got a deal.”
Around the same time Mark was involved in a project that will always haunt him. “I always used to do interviews and I ‘d wait for them to bring it up”.
Well we’ve all got skeletons in the closet. I’ll admit I worked for the label who put out the track “A Trip to Trumpton” that cashed in on that Toytown rave that Mark was a part of.
“It saved me that track. Basically we borrowed some money off a mates dad to press up some white labels and stuck this extra track on it too make sure we got our moneys worth out of it. No one was interested in it, we were selling a few copies here and there and then this shop in Southampton brought the rest and before we knew it, it went top 10.”
The tune in question was “Roobarb and Custard” by Shaft, that went top 10 back in late ’91. And it was Mark that brought the subject up this time.
“The result was that I was able to buy better equipment and not have to go back to work. Theres that dilemma where your working and you haven’t got enough time to do the music, or your knackered from work and you can’t be bothered or theres the risk that you leave your work to pursue the music and it does not come off.”
After that the remix work started to come in and the Global Communication work took off. The risk paid off and from those early days of messing about with samplers and drum machines, Mark is now working with Crispin Mills (ex- Kula Shaker) on his solo project.
“He (Crispin) wanted to do an album with session musicians, but with ones that would come in and feel a part of it all and maybe even eventually go on to do it live.”
So how did the eastern vibes of Kula Shaker get to together with the west country work of Mark?
“Crispin got recommended Andy the drummer and then he recommended a friend of ours to do bass and then me to come in to do programming and to give it an overall vibe and direction.”
Its hard to imagine what the result will be like. Crispin’s first dabble into dance orientated music was the collaboration on “Narayan” a track on the ’97 Prodigy LP “Fat Of The Land”. But with the current project including Phil Brown as engineer the vibe is strictly 70’s. Browns work on Led Zeppelins “Stairway To Heaven” and the Talk Talk albums is evidence to the direction of the LP.
Mark describes the sound as “very natural sounding. I’m adding mini-moog and older synth sounds. The style ranges from 70’s rock, to psychedelic trippy vibes. Theres no drum programming on it. Andy’s laying down live drums and we are recording it in really old way mastering it all direct from tape with no digital equipment added. Its a very old school method, but at the same time it sounds very contemporary.”
Its hard to imagine someone with Marks more ambient and experimental background working with another from a more commercial rock background.
“No I’ve always been into guitar music. Growing up I listened to a lot of bands like Sonic Youth, Led Zeppelin, My Bloody Valentine, some of the Steve Albini stuff and especially The Smiths. I was really into the melodies of Johnny Marr and compared to a lot of bands in the 80’s they did have an edge.”
With all this work on others LP’s and remix work here and there are we ever going to see any Pritchard solo material? The current situation at Universal means a bit of a wait but what can we expect?
“I wanted to do an LP of straight hip hop, with MC’s but that might come out later then the thing for Island Blue. You can expect some tracks with MC’s on it, a few instrumentals, some tracks with live musicians and a few up tempo tracks. A bit of everything really. I’m also about to release some stuff on the Droppin Science label.”
Hip hop? MCs? Not something you’d expect from the previous work.
“I’m getting into a lot of other types of music. A lot of stuff I was playing in clubs while DJ’ing was depressing me. It got to the point where I didn’t like what was happening with house and techno. So I ended up playing a mixture off everything and that would spin people out. You go out and play some good music and people would say “what are you playing that stuff for, play some house or techno”, and the trouble is we’ve done so much over the years that people turn up expecting one particular thing and I’m not gonna play ambient stuff in a dance club environment. Over the last few years I’ve been playing more hip hop and funk because its more inspiring and hip hop is the only music thats getting me excited. Drum ‘n’ bass still is but not so much.”
Early excursions into drum ‘n’ bass resulted in a one off on the Good Looking label.
“I’d been doing stuff on my own label, but that Good Looking thing came from a track we did on Warp. Bukem liked it so we did another remix of it, but we never followed it up because of all the other stuff we were up to at the time. Its only since I hooked up with Danny Breaks that I’ve done this stuff for Droppin’ Science. Its more musical then other drum ‘n’ bass and I wanted to do something that was different.”
Fans of the Jedi Knights and the earlier stuff will be kept happy by the soon to be released “Jedi Selector” LP. Its essentially a greatest hits thing containing old tracks and some unreleased work
“A lot of our earlier work never came out on CD and some of it is hard to track down these days and what is, goes for high prices. It would be quite nice to get a lot of the earlier stuff out again as we originally did real limited pressings.”
As ever Mark seems to be working on a hundred ideas and projects at once. The Crispin project may go live later in the year and tonight’s drum event may also hit the road, possibly at the Big Chill in August. With another soundcheck needed we wind things up and head for the pub across the road. No more talking, just play that music.
Originally published in Breakin’ Point 03.02 July / August 2000
Mark Pritchard on MySpace
Interview: Andrew Dominik (film director)
Date: August 2000
Location: 2 Floors Bar, Soho, London
Words / interview: Des Berry
2010: Setting the scene :
Wow! Time flies. Is it really 10 years ago since I was doing this writing malarky. As well as doing the music stuff for Breakin’ Point I had now started doing a few film reviews under the name ‘George Arthur’. As a result I got the opportunity to go see a few films upfront in the preview rooms around Soho and even attend a premiere of a ropey British flick.
However there was one highlight and that was seeing an upfront screening of ‘Chopper’ and then getting the opportunity to interview the director a few weeks later. We met downstairs in a bar off Regent Street and Andrew was really chatty and friendly. The only trouble was he was a bit deaf. Back to 2000…
Not since Alf got really moody on ‘Home & Away’ or Max Rockatansky whipped the Toecutter’s ass in ‘Mad Max’ have we seen this level of violence from down under. Then again there was ‘Rompa Stompa’ and ‘Chopper’ comes close to beating that in the ultra violence stakes.
Based on the true story of Mark ‘Chopper’ Read. Chopper is Australia’s answer to gangsters like Capone and the Krays. A failed criminal serving a sentence in the maximum security prisons of Melbourne. Chopper deals in the only currency he knows. Violence.
Fearing for their lives after Chopper kills a prison rival, his cell mates turn on him which in turn leads to his eventual release from the H Division. On the outside life is pretty similar and Chopper takes pleasure in his belief that the police have given him a green light to exterminate the ‘scum’. As a one man arsenal and fearing a contract out on his life he visits his old associates to seek havoc and revenge.
We hooked up recently with Andrew Dominik, the director of ‘Chopper’ and asked him more about the life of Mark ‘Chopper’ Read and how he went about making this controversial film.
“Chopper was never a serious criminal like the Krays. He was, and still is, a big mouth. The Krays ran the east end of London, Chopper is more a loose cannon. Crazy, a clown and prince of crime. He certainly never had anything organised”.
Choppers life in prison started due his fumbling attempt at a kidnapping. After and during spells in prison he has written a book about his life. It is an over exaggerated account of his career in crime. Its subsequent success and backed with his reputation, Chopper has become something of folk hero.
“Well he’s not really a folk hero in the sense of Ned Kelly or Robin Hood. Theres nothing brave about him, but he’s very charming. Thats why he is famous. Not for the crimes, but how entertaining he is talking about them. He’s made himself a notorious character.”
Chopper was approached initially about the film and how he might be portrayed but he declined to co-operate. Later he changed his mind and together with producer Michele Bennett, they met with Chopper in prison.
“I wrote him a letter and he was not interested on collaborating. Which was a surprise as he’s always after self promotion. And I thought he’d want some control over his public image. But he said he was not interested in how he saw himself rather how other people did. Therefore he did not want to meet.”
Michelle and I researched his life, but then after three years he wanted to meet us. It was a huge thing. From doing the research I was writing a character that was very different from that in the books. In real life he’s a lot more insecure, a lot more pathological, more hypocritical, but in the books he’s more like a Charles Bronson. The lesser of two warring evils.”
“On meeting him you feel like you are on the end of a very interesting monologue. He spent most of the first time I met him trying to work out what I wanted him to be and therefore trying to become that for me.”
“Gradually he revealed more about himself. Things that he was uncomfortable with. He was curious to know what a normal person feels about a person like him.”
“He lied. He lies continuously. He’s the least reliable source of information.”
The film is great in detailing Choppers life and time in prison how was the information obtained?
“Mainly police and other criminals. These are well documented crimes. We just looked at trials, handout briefs, statements. There was a wealth of information.”
And after all that has Chopper seen the film?
“Yeah. His reaction to the film has been good. We were terrified of how he would see himself. He refused to read the script. I was more worried that he would feel betrayed or humiliated then the actual threat of violence. Although there were times, when he would get anxious.”
Michelle the producer was the one who dealt with him the most on a daily basis, meeting him more times then Andrew. Apparently she would get phone calls from friends of Choppers at 6am in the morning and there where many moments of fear.
“On the whole he was quite moved by the film. It was not the film he was expecting. He felt the portrayal of him was pretty fair. He felt he came across as pretty crazy. And thats the way he must have been. We don’t know how much of it is him been honest or how much of it is him re-writing his myth to fit the film.
The lead role played by Australian comedian Eric Bana. Eric is a household name and is probably the equivalent of say Shane Ritchie. How did Eric get chosen for the part?
“We’d tested everyone. And we couldn’t find anyone we liked. Then Chopper wrote us a letter and suggested Eric. Its hard for you guys to appreciate who Eric is as you have no idea about him. In Australia he does TV variety shows. He’s very pleasant. He’s even nice to hecklers!”
“But he is just like Chopper. Mark ‘Chopper’ Read’s father, who is not too sane was convinced it was his son! He actually thought it was Mark. Like somehow we’d got this footage from ’86 and cut it in with the film. He could not tell the difference.”
Chopper is full of style, humour and most obviously violence. It has received some controversy back home in Australia.
“We had a week when we had some very nasty press and I had to do talk back radio with shock jocks, but they could not get any of their callers to agree with them. Which was funny. thats what I’d expected but the articles have all touch on the violence element. Its not really the portrayal of Chopper the individual, but rather the portrayal of violence on the screen that causes trouble.”
An edited version of this interview appeared in Breakin’ Point Nov / Dec 2000 Vol 2 issue 4
Originally published in Breakin’ Point 04.02 Nov / Dec 01
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