I’m reliably informed – by curator Sean Phillips – that the sleeve of my last album,‘The Search Engine’, features in this forthcoming exhibition of 60 album sleeves drawn by 60 comic artists. Phono+Graphic opens at the Kendal Museum in, errr… Kendal this October. Check out Sean’s blog for more info nearer the time.
Very pleased to be headlining this great line up of Audio Visual artists for the re-scheduled Videocrash show (that was originally planned for last night). I’ll be debuting a new AV set called Future Shock, based around the similarly named mixes – lots of electronica, both new and old. Expect a lot of sci-fi imagery and weirdness… also expect Robin Hexstatic to reprise his incredible Acid set from the Solid Steel 20th anniversary party, complete with visuals and Cheeba and TomCentral to premiere new work. Tickets are on sale here
Joe Clay interviewed Coldcut, PC and myself back in January for a 20th anniversary piece about the making of ‘Seventy Minutes of Madness’, Coldcut‘s contribution to the Journeys By DJ series back in 1995. It seems crazy that this was two decades ago now but time flies when you’re having fun. It’s a pretty extensive delve into the circumstances and techniques involved in the creation of what they’re calling ‘the greatest DJ mix album of all time’ *blushes*.
This piece also reveals why Coldcut never made a follow up but highlights the logical successor to the mix and kicks off a series on the Quietus where writers pick their favourite mixes. Incidentally the photo above was taken in Japan around 1996/7, back stage with DJ Takemura before a gig. If you’ve never heard the mix before or fancy a refresher after reading then someone called GarethisOnit has put it up on Soundcloud as part of a Classic Mix CD Series he’s creating.
Above was filmed at the Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art in St. Petersburg earlier this year, check around the 1 minute mark for the stage-diver
Tonight DJ Cheeba, DJ Moneyshot and I retire the ‘3-Way Mix’ live set as part of the line up at the Funk & Soul Club at the Electric Ballroom in Camden. It’s been 18 months since we debuted it in Paris and since then we’ve toured it across Europe, to Russia, Canada and Australia, adding a full video component as we went. The 25th anniversary of the ‘Paul’s Boutique’ album it’s based on has come and gone and the third anniversary of MCA‘s death fast approaches. Time to put it to rest and move on…
DJ Cheeba, Moneyshot and I are putting our 4 deck, 3 DJ reconstruction of the Beastie Boys‘ ‘Paul’s Boutique’ album to bed for the foreseeable future on April 17th at the Funk & Soul Club in London. We feel that it’s done it’s job and we want to end it 18 months after it’s premiere and just 2 weeks short of the anniversary of MCA’s death on May 4th. We’ll have the full AV set up for this gig and Moneyshot’s other group, The Allergies, are also on the bill amongst others with Mixmaster Morris playing the second room as well. It’s at the Electric Ballroom, Camden and tickets are £8 advance.
My new Future Shock 2 mix is getting a lot of love on this week’s Solid Steel and now I can reveal that I’ll be premiering the AV show that goes with it
at Videocrash at Koko, London this May 23rd. *UPDATE – Soundcrash cancelled this gig after changing the line up four times in two weeks. It has since been rescheduled for another date in December at a different venue.
A new mix I did back in January has finally come to the top of the pile for Solid Steel. ‘Future Shock 2′ is the follow up to last summer’s first outing of retro electronica and future beats. This was completed just as Edgar Froese passed away at the end of January and I went back to it to include a track and interview snippets in tribute to him. Sadly it’s been waiting in the queue for a spot on the show for two months so the moment has gone plus we’ve lost other greats or equal importance since but that’s what comes with popularity and the show has been going from strength to strength over the last couple of years.
The first 10 minutes of this took an age to get right but it’s one of the most satisfying slow build intros I think I’ve ever sequenced, the pacing and layers unfold in a way that’s hard to engineer often. From then it’s a measured climb into harder and heavier waters until we hit Mark Moore & William Orbit‘s remix of ‘The Future’ by Prince. In fact there are many builds and breakdowns in this mix but of the slow burn variety rather than the euphoric kind, I’d imagine it’d be pretty good to drive to at night.
Big Fish Little Fish was amazing on Sunday, god knows how many people crammed into the Clore Ballroom at the Southbank in London. So many at one point that we had to stop the music for 10 minutes for an unscheduled break while the staff tried to calm a swell of the people trying to get in. Above is at the start as people were coming in, you can see House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’ on my laptop as the opening track.
The parachute dance (above) is a regular feature of the BFLF parties and this one was different in that they did it three times so that people got a chance to be under it, still didn’t stop a fight by two mums nearly breaking out to get underneath :). Below you can see just how much it had filled up by the end as families poured into the totally unprepared ballroom to rave inside away from the rain. Despite it being a roadblock all the staff were lovely and Hannah and Natasha from BFLF handled the whole thing like pros.
I made a mix for them back in January that I’ve been meaning to post it on here but what with the Selected Aphex Works mix I didn’t want to push too many mixes out there. But here it is – Warning! Pop Alert! This is made as much with kids in mind as adults, probably good for a picnic or birthday party rather than the more adult-centric classic rave and jungle I played on Sunday.
Few can’t have heard that earlier this month user48736353001 started uploading copious amounts of old tracks to their Soundcloud account claiming that they were a fan of Richard D James aka Aphex Twin and had made lots of tracks in his style. Very quickly speculation spread that this was actually Richard and these tracks were selections from his mythical archive or thousands of unreleased tunes, some dating back from before he broke through in the early 90’s. As more and more tracks appeared and comments started appearing from the user it became apparent that this was indeed the real deal and Xmas had either been delayed by a month or arrived ridiculously early.
I was suspicious at first but when a track named ‘8 Utopia’ was uploaded I knew that even if the person uploading and commenting wasn’t Aphex then the music was. Way back in the mid 90’s I was made a ‘best of’ tape of unreleased work by a friend of Richard’s on the condition that I kept the content to myself. As you can see from the track list above, the compiler wasn’t 100% sure on a lot of the titles but the track that starts side 2, ‘The one that makes you shiver’, was the same as ‘8 Utopia’, albeit in far worse quality. As more tracks were uploaded I started recognising more tunes with even a couple of titles matching. A total of 5 out of the 17 tracks from the tape appeared, with another 7 having been heard on RDJ-related records elsewhere since the tape was made, leaving me no doubt that this was Aphex. Here’s how the original tape titles match up (and bear in mind that the cassette titles could be wrong in the first place):
i. ‘AFX vs UZiq’ = not uploaded to Soundcloud
ii. ‘-?-‘ (’94) = track 11 from the Joyrex tape that was uploaded a few years ago, although at a faster speed
iii. ‘Untitled Jungle tune’ = track 10 from the Joyrex tape that was uploaded a few years ago, although faster
iv. ‘Epic Breakbeat’ = not uploaded to Soundcloud
v. ‘Mantra’ = the track known as ‘Humanoid Must Not Escape’ from the Caustic Window ‘Joyrex J9′ picture disc (303 side), you can hear a sampled voice say what sounds like ‘Mantra’.
After ‘Mantra’ comes a short 30 second piece of electronic glitching with the sample, “I had to kill Bob Morgan because he made a mistake”, the same as on the ‘Bob Morgan’ track included in the uploads.
vi. ‘AFX vs. Uziq’ = ‘Giant Deflating Football’ from the Mike & Rich album on Rephlex
vii. ‘unreleased Ventolin’ = ‘phlangebeat’ although a lot slower on the tape
viii. ‘Bradley Styder’ = the first track from ‘Bradley’s Robot’ from the Strider B. 12″ on Rephlex
+ scanning by R.James = ‘Phone Pranks’ (Part 1 & 2) from the original Caustic Window LP that was finally released via a Kickstarter by WATMM.
i. ‘The one that makes you shiver’ = ‘8 Utopia’
ii. ‘-?-‘ (’93) = not uploaded to Soundcloud
iii. ‘GAK track’ = ‘d15-10 dulcimer dub’
iv. ‘—- ” —–‘ = ‘Untitled’, track 5 from the officially unreleased ‘Analogue Bubblebath 5′ EP
v. ‘-?-‘ (’91/92) = not uploaded to Soundcloud
vi. ‘Dance To The Beat’ = ‘dance2thebeat’ although the tape version is speeded up noticeably so that it clocks in at under 4 minutes.
vii. ‘Fresher + Cleaner’ (The Best Aphex Track Ever!) = ‘Fresher + Cleaner’ minus the intro hi hats
viii. ‘AFX vs Wagon Christ’ (Hissy Mix) = not uploaded to Soundcloud
Looking at some of the dates on the titles – mid to late 80’s – I’m slightly dubious as this would mean RDJ was making fully-formed gabba Techno at the same time as the Detroit pioneers were weaving their magic. Anyway, back to the present day and, eventually, 155 tracks appeared and, after making my way through them all, I pulled out 40 favourites for a mix. These were further whittled down to 31 with the addition of interview snippets from Radio 3‘s Mixing It show and John Peel‘s Sounds of the Suburbs TV program, and the whole thing clocks in at 86 minutes.
My Top 10 AFX Soundcloud tracks in no particular order:
Red Calx / Red Calx [slo]
Make A Baby
Luke Vibert – Spiral Staircase [afx remix]
Th1 / th1[slo]
I’m very pleased to be added to the roster over at 45 Live – a collective of DJs who spin 7″ only sets. The site was set up by Scott Boca 45 and Pete Issac (Jelly Jazz) as a hub for booking DJs who use purely 45s as their format of choice in their sets. This is becoming more and more popular and playing at Scott’s 45-Live night in Bristol last year convinced me to jump in. The site aims to also act as a magazine showing vinyl-related stories and mixes, a shop and, later, a label. Check out my profile here.
This doesn’t mean I’ll be ditching the Serato and AV sets by any means, this is more for special occasions where I’ll be concentrating on Rock, Psych, Electronic and Break-led sets like my ‘Magpie Music’ mixes, with as much new material as old classics. It’s a different kind of discipline and doesn’t reply on the ease with which digital files mean that every DJ can have every song they want. I like the challenge of that and, now entering my 30th year as a DJ, a challenge can revitalise you in all sorts of unexpected ways.
I think Russia is rapidly becoming one of my favourite places to play, 3 gigs in the last 3 months, all memorable for different reasons and all the crowds have been so good. They seem way more into the music and not preoccupied with their mobiles, very vocal but in a positive way. Plus we got to play at the Museum of Contemporary Art in St. Petersburg with one of the biggest video screens yet.
One guy on Saturday night was stage-diving to the Beasties mix from the off, so much so that he got himself thrown out. Another kept shouting ‘more volume’ and led the crowd in his chant but we were already in the red. Afterwards we were informed that he’s a little bit deaf and always does this at every gig.
It’s been a while but here’s my first mix for 2015 and Solid Steel and it’s a second installment of ‘Magpie Music’, the name for mixes where I generally group the more psychedelic, fuzzed up, heavy beat productions I like. If it’s got a live band feel then it’ll probably be in one of these mixes for the moment but they can also include rawer, sample-led Hip Hop and Trip Hop cuts. My other series – Future Shock – is reserved for more electronic, sci-fi synth and soundtrack work although there’s always room for cross over.
I’ve decided to split music into there two camps for the foreseeable future as I find they focus the mixes more and make for a better overall listen rather than lumping the two together. There will of course be other themed mixes coming your way (I must get round to KKK9, The Lynch Party pt.2 and the Duck Rock audio documentary one day). Oh, and there’s the Alphabet Series too which comes and goes when it feels like it of which the mythical lost Sesame Street compilation is part of.
Anyway, this mix features some of my favourite songs from 2014, certainly from the second half of the year anyway. Plenty of The Heliocentrics, Jane Weaver, Temples and Ghost of a Sabre Tooth Tiger whose albums I adored and still do. I’m finishing up the second Future Shock mix right now so hopefully that should be along sometime next month too.
A decade ago this week (I think it was a Monday or Tuesday) I debuted the expanded ‘Words & Music’ version of ‘Raiding The 20th Century’, this time lengthened to an hour and featuring specially recorded voice overs from Paul Morley. It was an attempt to chronicle a fragmented history of sampling from the advent of music concrete through to tape cut ups, sampling and finally the Bastard Pop/Mash Up phenomenon at the turn of the century.
Paul’s inclusion was through his book, ‘Words & Music’ that I’d read shortly after completing the first 40 minute version of ‘Raiding…’ the year before. The two mirrored each other so closely in places that the opportunity to revisit and revise was too good to pass up. Also the fact that I’d cribbed the title from a piece of text Paul had written nearly 20 years before didn’t go unnoticed, sometimes there are too many coincidences to ignore.
Since then it’s had a cease and desist take down notice from EMI and an attempt made at a video version but still, through the miracle of the internet, it endures. Here’s a collage that I started back at the beginning of 2006 and finally finished this morning, based on the Sgt. Peppers cover, of Paul and I alongside Alvin Lucier and Kylie, surrounded by some of the cast of thousands that make up the recording.
You can still listen to the mix here via UbuWeb but it’s out there in all sorts of corners of the internet.
Coming to Solid Steel next Friday…
I’ve been wrestling with old laptops and copies of Freehand all day to try and open the original artwork for the ‘A Recipe For Disaster’ album. I managed to extract the original files from the first ever disc I burned back in 1997 which houses the first work I did for Ninja Tune on it. To think that the first designs were made in 1994 but I didn’t think to archive them until 1997 says a lot about how small the file sizes were back then. The first LP I ever designed for Ninja was 9 Lazy 9‘s ‘Electric Lazyland’ and it all fitted on a 1.4MB floppy disc!
So, ‘Recipe…’ came out in the Autumn of 1995 and I was using Aldus Freehand 3.1 to lay out my designs and deal with type. At the time there were four main programs: the ubiquitous Photoshop, the fiddly Quark Express (good for laying out books and magazines), Illustrator and Freehand. The last two weren’t that dissimilar and were both good at drawing in vectors but you could do decent layouts with them as long as you didn’t want to use reams of text across multiple pages. For some reason I learned Freehand at college instead of Illustrator so that’s what I stuck to, along with Photoshop to manipulate the images, and most Ninja sleeves were done using this in the 90’s and 00’s.
Along the way Freehand got bought by Macromedia and made some big jumps between versions which rewrote a lot of the internals apparently whilst still being backwards compatible with older versions. As with any applications, they’re at the mercy of the Operating Systems they’re made to run on and, through the years, Freehand had to make some big changes. It was finally bought by Adobe and then unceremoniously dumped with everything after Mavericks refusing to run the app. But even before this, getting older versions to open on newer Macs was a task and the files I recovered from 1995 just came up with ‘unsupported format’ messages when I tried to open them in Freehand 10, Illustrator and more.
Even on an old laptop running the OS 9 ‘Classic’ environment I had no joy until I remembered that Freehand 5.5 was a big upgrade and should be able to read the older FH3 files. But I couldn’t find a copy anywhere, not on archive discs or the web, the oldest version I had was Freehand 7. As a last resort I booted that up on the old laptop (all 24 MBs of app) and lo and behold, it worked! Here’s the lesson; don’t throw away those old applications that aren’t compatible with current operating systems, you never know when you might need them. What you see at the top is the low res preview of the DJ Food LP cover as it appeared this afternoon. I know it looks crappy but that’s all I need to work with and I’d rather have that than have to remake the whole thing from scratch.
Back at the end of 2014 the French magazine Tsugi devoted an issue entirely to Kraftwerk. They gave me a 4 page feature where I was asked to choose my top 10 Kraftwerk cover versions and I promised to post an English language version of the text here in the new year. Seeing as the magazine should have been and gone from the shelves by now, here it is.
The questions from Tsugi magazine:
When and how did you discover Kraftwerk ?
When I was 11 in early 1982 ‘The Model’ became a no.1 hit in the UK and I was suddenly aware of this ‘new’ electronic group from Germany in the charts alongside The Human League, Depeche Mode and Gary Numan. As a result EMI reissued most of their back catalogue and I bought Man Machine, Computer World and Trans Europe Express on cassette which I loved.
What do you like in Kraftwerk ?
The melodies first and foremost but also the electronic drums and percussion, I just find the songs very pure, simple and timeless. Plus they were singing about the future, robots, spaceships, computers etc. and that appealed to me rather than love songs at that age even though they wrote those too.
Do you have a special story related to yourself and Kraftwerk ?
I actually first heard them when I was about 5 years old on a tape my dad had recorded from the radio although I didn’t realise it was them until much later. The song was ‘Autobahn’ and I always remember liking it when it came on the tape but was a bit scared of the breakdown part with the motorway sounds as it reminded me of the Cybermen in Dr Who. When I bought the reissues of their albums later on I realised that I already knew ‘Autobahn’ although it was a very edited radio version, not the long LP one.
Why are you so passionate about Krafwerk’s covers ?
Being a fan of the band was difficult because they didn’t release anything new for so long so I began to seek out cover versions as a way to fill the gap they had left. It happens with many artists who don’t release new music regularly these days – Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin are just two examples. Fans show their love of an artist by covering their songs.
Do you think that sometimes covers are better than originals ones ?
Occasionally they can be, when someone takes the song into a new style or territory and these are the ones I primarily look for. I don’t see much point in recreating a techno version of a Kraftwerk song although people have done it very well. For me the most interesting ones are those that transpose the songs into a new style but still retain the essence or ones that take the song to an extreme that becomes comedic.
How many covers have you ?
Of Kraftwerk, probably about 300 but there are many more out there, for every cover I hear and like I probably hear another two techno / electro / house versions that I discard because they are just poor copies of the originals.
What are your 10 favorites cover records and for each, could you explain me why?
Gaudi & Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – Dil Da Rog Muka Ja Mahi (KKK vol.7)
An Indian version of ‘The Model’ but only just, I’m not sure how I found this, possibly on a now discontinued blog of cover versions of various artists. I think the blogger listed 70 different versions of The Model alone.
Makoto Inoue – Europe Endless/Neon Lights (KKK vol. 1 & 3)
Beautiful Gamelan versions of these rarely covered songs, this cover really takes it to another genre entirely, transposing the melodies to sound like an ancient tribe is playing the songs. Nothing electronic about it at all, in fact a lot of my favourite covers are ones that take Kraftwerk’s songs into other genres of sound altogether.
Das Erste Wiener Gemueseorchester (First Viennese Vegetable Orchestra) – Radio Activity (KKK vol.2)
The whole thing is played on vegetables, I’m not kidding and it’s as mad as it sounds but you can heard the song in amongst all the weird sounds. One of the weirdest Kraftwerk covers I’ve ever heard.
Miladojka Youneed – Pocket Calculator (live) (KKK vol.2)
A rawkus almost country version with saxophone and harmony singing. you can almost see the stetsons on their heads. This sounds as if the group has learnt the song from reading the notes and lyrics in a book but never heard the original but they sound like they’re having such a great time playing it.
Satoru Wono feat. Meiwa Denki – Dentaku (KKK vol.2)
A Japanese version with very busy percussion and woodwind instruments, very odd but works perfectly. The vocals still sound robotic but there are spoken in Japanese making this even more alien, the playing is very mechanical and precise despite the organic sounds of the instruments.
Alenia – Home Computer (KKK vol.4)
Quite a straight electronic version but I brings something to the original I can’t put my finger on, maybe this is one of those covers that makes the song perfect for today’s clubs, it’s a bit heavier than the original but still quirky.
6Blocc – Digits (KKK vol.5)
A very detailed dubstep version that updates ‘Numbers’ for the dance floor, it cleverly re-edits the drums and bassline into a half time skank and just about keeps everything from falling down.
Case Managers – Autobahn (KKK vol.5)
Absolutely bonkers Australian version, sounds like it was recorded live at the BBQ after many beers had been consumed, very funny. The singers (all male) seem to get drunker and drunker as the song progresses, the absolute opposite of what Kraftwerk are on record.
Menschmaschine – Spacelab (KKK vol.8) Beautiful jazz version, just stunning, the whole build up of the intro had me from the first listen and I’d say this is probably one of my favourite Kraftwerk covers ever. In fact I recommend the whole Menschmaschine album of jazz cover versions of Kraftwerk’s music
Scala & Kolacny Brothers – Das Modell (KKK vol.8)
‘The Model’ is the most covered song in the band’s catalogue but this one is by a female choir from Belgium. Again another example of a version where there are no electronics and the song is easily carried by the melody and lyrics across to another genre.
You can find all my Kraftwerk Kover Kollection mixes so far here:
The 2nd edition of the Dust & Grooves book by Eilon Paz arrived just before Xmas along with a beautiful set of 48 postcards, both in sturdy slipcases. Of course I’m biased but the quality in these are beyond the usual and when I say ‘postcards’ it’s a bit of an understatement because these large format cards are only one step away from an actual print in terms of quality. I’d be splitting up a great set if I ever actually sent any out into the world – you can get a set here along with the 2nd edition of the book (with extra Questlove interview) here.
You may have noticed that things are now a bit different, yes the new site is here but I’m still ironing out bugs in it.
Can you please post any bugs or things that are broken in the comments below? At the moment I’m finding scrolling in Firefox very slow and stutter-y compared to Safari. I can’t even see the site in Chrome but I have an old version that I’ve not updated on my main machine, let me know if the site is showing up.
I know that there are broken images and links in some posts but there’s 5 years worth to go through so if you chance upon some it would be appreciated if you could flag them up here and I’ll get on it. In the meanwhile, have a look around, the Discog section is now fully up to date, as is the Design section, with easier to navigate galleries and the whole site is responsive so it’ll do that neat reshuffling thing when you turn your tablet from portrait to landscape
Many thanks to David Hazell at Curious People Projects for rebuilding the whole site after a responsive one was suggested by original site builder Dean Ricca-Smith at Chalk.