Sunday, 28 February 2010
As everybody knows, the genre 'Fidget' is soooooooooooo 2009.
It's all about 'Midget' nowadays. A mixture of Minimal and Fidget. Do keep up.
Man like does a great job showcasing it in this Feb 2010 Midget Mix.
Mf Doom- America's most blunted
Round Table Knights - Calypso
Filthy Rich - Arumba
Sandy Huner - Rare Tap - 2000 and one cut
Jan Solo- Un Tabaquito con Ron - Muzzaik remix
Dj Madskillz - Surface
New Boys - Crickets
Dave Rose, Deka - Tumba me
Mowgli- Can't stop singing - Solo Remix
Dani Veiga- Control
Pet Soul Boys- Calypso Soul- Edu Imberton Rmx
Dean Martin - Ain't that a kick in the head
I've decided to share with you lot a likkle mash-up I did.
I hope you like it, and you can download it from my Soundcloud page, after the click.
By the way, this track was inspired by this mix by (specifically the last song). It's from the Butterz show on hosted by who we had for our afterparty last week. Oneman is a phenomenal DJ and this simply proves how high his game is.
Friday, 26 February 2010
And if you're on a rap battle ting, watch Asha D throw down the gauntlet to battle anyone in the audience at his launch party for his film Life & Lyrics. Unluckily, UK Battle Champion happened to be in the audience...
On a final tip, Here's a video of Biggie Smalls at 17 years of age, verballing merking his opponent outside on the pavement.
Sunday, 21 February 2010
Superb article from Dan Hancox, whose stirling work can often be found in The Guardian's Film and Music supplement on a Friday. I often come across the 696 form through work but didn't understand its deeply cynical implications until recently.
From rooftops to chart-topping, the music’s never been more popular, nor harder to hear in public. on the Met’s attempt to banish grime from the capital’s clubs, in of Daily Note.
Grime has always been the most local, the most London of genres. In 2003, in a pirate radio studio on a high-rise rooftop in east London, Dizzee Rascal and Crazy Titch on the mic, and the ferocity of their egos resulted in them squaring up to each other in that crowded box-room. They were prised apart by Wiley, as Tinchy Stryder, D Double E, and about a dozen other phenomenal talents stood centimetres away. That’s how intimate the genre that now tops the charts was at the beginning; so much flair confined into the tiniest of spaces. Ruff Sqwad’s MC Fuda Guy recently told me just how small a world it was in the early years: “To go to another youth club in another area, and for people to know about Ruff Sqwad there was mad. Then for people to actually hear us in other areas outside London, like up North, was just insane – we were like, ‘How did you even hear our music?!’”
At grime’s inception, it was a physical, real-world community – and nowhere is this more obvious than in the Jamaican-derived ‘clash culture’, where lyrical betterment comes through competition, much like 8-Mile-style freestyle hip hop battles. “Lyrics for lyrics, come”, was the gauntlet thrown down in the legendary onstage clash between early grime outfits Heartless Crew and Pay As You Go. The changes the music has undergone – forced away from the public domain, even as it tops the charts – is reflected in the death of this fiercely competitive culture.
In 2010, clashes between rival MCs take place on Twitter or YouTube. Instead of lyrical contests, UK MCs have taken to making epically long, epically boring ‘talking dubs’ for each other, where they are interviewed at extraordinary length about why they consider themselves better than their peers. 2009’s , ought to be on a par with the great battles of grime’s early days: an underground favourite taking on the godfather of the genre. Yet after a few wayward comments in interviews, it culminated in a parodically long, profoundly dull 43-minute YouTube clip in which Big H outlines his position – without once resorting to anything close to music.
The wet genre-paint dried on ‘grime’ at a point when the internet was coming into its own, when MP3 recordings and live online streams of pirate radio could instantly explode the narrow London geography of the music. , the A&R who made Tinchy Stryder a number one star last year and used to DJ on pirate radio himself, told me he knew back in 2003 that Tinchy was going to be a big deal, just because his name had traversed the capital: “I was from west London and they were from east – but I’d heard of them! East London felt like the other side of the world to me back then,” he laughs.
Thanks to downloadable mixes and internet radio, the London underground has been broadcast to the world in the last few years. But while this democratisation is a good thing, in London itself underground black music has been forced into the private sphere, away from the clubs. Grime was always meant to be club music: inheriting its BPM from garage, it was that bit too fast to simply be the British hip hop. Yet in 2010, the music has been relegated from clubs to be heard mostly through the pale grey beehive of PC speakers, or in the solitary isolation of headphones. In this context, common experience, enthusiasm and debate occurs globally on internet message boards, but not communally, locally, in the bars and clubs of the capital. Grime has been banished from real, physical London.
Part of the reason grime exists on the internet now, and not in the real world, is the infamous police . It’s no exaggeration to suggest that the period 2004-09 represents a systematic and deliberate attempt by the Metropolitan Police to remove music performed largely by young black men from the public sphere. Form 696 is a risk-assessment form used by the Met when trouble is expected at a gig or a club. At the potential cost to license holders of six months in jail or a £20,000 fine, it requests ridiculously specific information about performers and likely audience members.
To take one recent example, in August 2009 Urban Affair at the Indigo2 was shut down, deemed ‘high risk’ because their 696 paperwork had the dates of birth for two artists missing. The organisers had booked an allstar cast of performers, headlined by Wiley and Tinchy Stryder, forked out for tens of thousands of flyers and a cross-media advertising campaign, and were offering to put on a supplementary £4,500 worth of airport-style security to assuage any safety concerns. Legally, there was even plenty of time to resubmit the form with the missing details included, but the venue, panicked by the Met’s interference, had already taken the decision to cancel. It’s bureaucracy as a weapon: blunt, stupid and pretty terrifying, piles of paperwork used to bury license holders, to browbeat them into just not bothering with grime.
The Met’s racial focus was not even concealed. “Is there a particular ethnic group attending? If ‘yes’, please state group,” ran one question, and it wasn’t the only leading question on the form. “Music style to be played/performed (e.g. bashment, R’n’B, garage)”, reads one, while another asks for examples of the types of artists performing: “e.g. DJs, MCs, etc”.
The other authoritarian absurdities carried out in the name of 696 have passed into legend. In 2007, Dirty Canvas promoter David Moynihan’s passport was locked in a safe overnight (“I think it’s so that the promoter can’t skip the country if something happens at the event,” the venue’s rather confused head of promotions told me at the time), and that same year MCs were stopped and searched by plain-clothes police as they left a night at . Sometimes the Met cut to the chase and just tell promoters and venues ‘no grime’ at the outset.
And what happened after all this furore? After the pieces in national newspapers, the petitions, the lobbying by UK Music and finally the judgement of a Tory-led House of Commons committee that last year deemed the form to be “draconian” and “absurd”? The Metropolitan Police retired to consider their verdict: they would have to be seen to do something to revise this racist bureaucracy. They went away. They came back. They announced that actually, sorry chaps, they would stop bothering live music fans across the board, instead narrowing their focus to “large promoted events between 10pm and 4am which feature MCs and DJs performing to recorded backing tracks”. Or ‘grime nights’, as they are sometimes known.
In doing so, the Met gambled that the institutions established to protect the live music industry would stop their crying; and they were right. “When the form was first introduced, it suggested it was for all live music events,” Assistant General Secretary of the Musicians’ Union Horace Trubridge told the BBC in response to the announcement. “That was something we were opposed to. We believe now that the form is much more focused and that the vast majority of our members are never going to come across Form 696.” Hooray, cried the union, they’ll stop bothering our members and only close down grime nights! Grime MCs don’t join the union, see.
A new grime night called Reloads at the Rhythm Factory in October 2009 was cancelled because the Met didn’t like the fact it was headlined by MC , a man with a criminal record (never knowingly a problem for Pete Doherty or Amy Winehouse). The week before, I’d seen the same MC perform at The Albany in Deptford, at an Arts Council-funded event, to a cross-age crowd of bright young students and local middle-class arts dilettantes, along with noodly jazz tooter Soweto Kinch and 50-something poet Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze. Apparently Ghetts’ criminal record – a non-violent conviction for which he’d served his time – will lead to an inevitable bloodbath; but not if there are jazz saxophonists on the bill. It’s not even fuzzy logic; it’s not any kind of logic – it’s a systematic attack on a genre of music and the people who follow it.
This mixture of paranoia and prejudice sits perfectly in the context of the ongoing marginalisation of young people as ‘hoodies’, ‘feral youth’ and even ‘chavs’ – all of which are recently coined phrases, all of which malign young people, playing to adults’ worst fears and widening the social gap between the two. The widespread media panic about a youth knife crime ‘epidemic’ in the summer of 2008 marked a new peak in Britain’s hysterical fear of its young people. It should go without saying that even one youth murder is one too many – but when the dust settled on ‘the summer of knife crime’, and the statistics were released in spring 2009, it transpired that there had been one more teenager murdered in London in 2008 than in 2007. A rise of one, year-on-year, is emphatically not an epidemic – particularly when violent crime has consistently fallen since the 1990s. “Kids are calling it the latest fashion,” began one of a thousand sensationalist articles in the British press, without troubling to supply any evidence.
And where Broken Britain and feral youth are being discussed, far-fetched hypotheses blaming pop culture are rarely far behind. At the height of the impotent hand-wringing over knife crime, The Sun published an adorned with the sober title, ‘After 12 hours of gangsta rap I could have knifed someone’. The only proof of this causal relationship between music and violence he could cite in a lengthy feature was that he “wanted to kill someone” after listening to grime. But don’t worry, Adebayo reassures us: “I wouldn’t, of course, because I don’t have a violent nature.”
Grime kids may have been locked off from their raves – and even, thanks to the luxury “gated communities” springing up round grime’s east London heartland, parts of their local areas – but the riddims are rolling faster and fresher than ever. The likes of Dizzee Rascal, Tinchy Stryder and Chipmunk have been topping the charts with a watered-down electro-pop form of grime, but this success seems to be having a trickle-down effect. Grime DJs like has commented recently that the quality of new tracks they’re being sent is higher than it has been for years. Rinse FM’s grime DJ team of have showcased some of this bright new talent – producers like , and – in their new decade-launching, free download . Despite everything, grime keeps pushing forwards.
This is a retweet from , I thought I'd post it again as its rather troubling.
THE POLICE ARE TRYING TO SHUT DOWN PLASTIC PEOPLE.
A WORLD RENOWNED NIGHTCLUB, A WORLD RENOWNED SOUNDSYSTEM.
WE MUST NOT LET THIS HAPPEN. THERE HAS NEVER BEEN ANY TROUBLE IN THE CLUB AND BERNARD, ADE AND CHARLOTTE ARE FANTASTIC MUSIC LOVING PEOPLE.
IF PLASTIC GOES, SHOREDITCH WILL NEVER BE THE SAME.
ALL MUSIC LOVERS PLASTIC REGULARS, DJS, PRODUCERS AND DANCERS---JOIN THE FACEBOOK GROUP .
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS.
PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD!
Wednesday, 17 February 2010
Plus check the tidy Herve remix. First thing he's done that I've liked for a while
Wednesday, 10 February 2010
DUBSTEP / GARAGE / ELECTRONICA / FUNKY / D&B / GRIME / BMORE / ETCETERA
★★★ 2ND BIRTHDAY BASH ★★★
★★★ THURSDAY 25TH FEBRUARY ★★★
★★★ 10PM-6AM ★★★
To thank all of you lovely people for supporting Get Low the past 2 years, the Get Low Cartel are putting on an ALLNIGHTER birthday bash to remember.
We've come along way since that fateful February of 2008 and it's all been down to you, so we've put together a lineup that will remind you all what Get Low is all about.
★ TODDLA T ★
(BBC Radio 1 / 1Xtra / Machines Don't Care)
Arguably the most exciting and innovative British artist on the scene right now, we are proud to host Toddla T as our badaman 2nd Birthday Headliner. After years of making distinctive dancehall garage ragga in his native Sheffield, over the last couple of years Toddla T has become a superstar, destroying festivals and superclubs across the world with his trademark blend of Garage, Dubstep, Baile funk, Dancehall and anything else to make the girls wiggle. After releasing his debut album "Skanky Skanky" to raptourous critical acclaim and mixing a superb edition of the Fabric Live series, Toddla became part of the "In New DJ's We Trust" show at Radio 1, giving him a weekly platform to broadcast his bonkers and brilliant music to an eager public. He's worked with Herve on his progressive "Machines Don't Care" project and the legends of the scene are queuing up to bestow praise. He even had Benjamin Zephaniah feauture on "Rebel". This guy goes different.
DO NOT MISS OUT on this highly exclusive and intimate gig from T'willy. By the Summer he'll have moved onto the next level of super-producers and you'll only be able to watch him from 39 miles away on the Glastonbury pyramid stage.
★ ELIJAH AND SKILLIAM ★
(Rinse FM / Butterz)
Head honcho's of the innovative and highly entertaining blog and now record label "Butterz", Elijah and Skilliam are the hottest dj's in Grime. Displaying their awesome mixing and track selection on their weekly Rinse FM radio show, they're regarded as the "Saviours of Grime" and bring a welcome sense of humour to their operation. In a scene that can take itself far too seriously, Elijah and Skilliam strive to make their radio show, articles and label output accessible and interesting. Make sure you're in to catch them djing Grime, Grime and a bit more Grime on top.
Oh, check out their NANG '01012010' Mix.
★ ZIMBA ★
(The Brothers Grime)
One half of the London dons The Brothers Grime and extended member of the Get Low Cartel, Zimba is a mash-up specialist. We have been keen to put him on for some time and are delighted to have Zimba tear up the dance at our Birthday Bash, harnessing the powers of garage, 2-step, funky and other musical gems.
★ BEATS IN ABUNDANCE ★
Old school Norwich big dogs, back in the day BIA was the biggest student night when Get Low was just a young wee nipper. Long-time cohorts of the Get Low Cartel, in San Francisco Luke Baines and Dash would tag-team 5 hour sets at their residency on Haight Street. Beats In Abundance are back for a highly exclusive N-town performance. Perfect DJ's to provide a colourful mash-up of styles and surprises, you'll find it impossible not to have a boogle boogle with a big grin on your face. Don't miss this rare BIA set with beats to move, groove and improve the soul.
The signature BIA airhorn will be making an appearance!
Low Pass is the 'other' biggest bass heavy night in East Anglia. Having booked names like Dexplicit, Caspa, Benga, Coki & Kromestar; they've been repping hard in the East of England. Not just Dubstep heads though, they're equally holding down the sounds of (future) Garage, Tropical, Funky and Electro. Good vibrations abound.
★ GET LOW CARTEL ★
The founders and residents; Dash, Towelie and Lightning will be supplying Electronica, Garage, Funky, Grime, Dubstep, Baile Funk, Drum & Bass, and Bmore to top up your earholes, rumble your chestplate, wobble your knees and bring bassline to your nostril.
Expect Party Hats, Party Poppers, Horns, Goodie Bags and LOADS OF BLOODY BDAY SUPRISES!
★ JUST £5 N.U.S FOR ALL THIS MADNESS! WHAT A BIRTHDAY BARGAIN
£5 N.U.S / £6 other
GET DOWN EARLY SO YOU CAN GET LOW PROPERLY
GO HARD OR GO HOME!
THIS WILL BE FIYAAAH
Monday, 8 February 2010
He's just given away a remix he's done for Massive Attack's tune 'Paradise Circus'.
Did you know Breakage produces his tunes using normal Dell PC speakers? BADMAN.
Friday, 5 February 2010
Our residential artist Mr Penfold is a badman. I spied his art on a Hospital Records flyer for their night Hospitality in the flyer blitz when you walk out of Fabric at 5am in the morning. In fact, I specifically went up to that one promoter and asked for a few more as they were so sick.
From that, he's been doing our flyers and posters for 2 years now since the very first one. They splatter many a living room and bedroom in Norwich, and we think set us apart from every other clubnight in the city.
Using strong linear elements against organic outlines with an overly scientific approach to colour, Penfold works with record labels, promoters and clothing companies and has also appeared in a range of magazines such as Graphotism, K Mag and Don’t Panic!
Penfold is one of Cambridge’s hidden gems.
Putting his perfectionist skills to good use (and his trusted colour wheel), Mr Penfold intends to make The Frontroom hum with lines of clashimentary colour.
Amongst the lines, characters will be loitering with intent, interacting with the undeviating forms and generally enjoying their stay.
Extended member of the Get Low Cartel has mixed the eleventh edition of the superb Rinse compilation series. There's 27 tracks, which is ALOT. We've strived to support Oneman since day, as his mixing style and track selection is a joy to behold. Oneman and a cluster of other progressive DJ's and producers such as Brackles, Shortstuff, Greena, Bok Bok and Braiden are responsible for bringing the 4x4 garage tempo back into clubs, and UK garage is in rude health once again (see the successful comebacks of Heartless Crew, DJ EZ and Ms Dynamite). It's appropriate that Rinse FM should acknowledge this happy union between Dubstep and what was once called UK Garage, and Oneman is the perfect DJ to provide the mix.
Big thanks to for most of this info, the tracklisting and the interview. I'm essentially retweeting it. People make sure to check out Blackdown's blog and label Keysound Recordings for an authentic and intellectual insight into UK Urban music.
Rinse 11: Oneman
1. Double Helix (LHF) – 96 Flavas (No More Games)
2. Ramadanman – Mir
3. Martin Kemp – After The Night
4. The Detatchments – Circles [Martyn's Round & Round Mix]
5. Jazzanova – I Can See [Doc Daneeka Dub-Bump Mix]
6. Kode 9 – 2 Far Gone
7. Martyn – Mega Drive Generation
8. Bassjackers & Apster – Klambu
9. Deadboy – U Cheated
10. Zomby – Rumours and Revolutions
11. Efdemin – Acid Bells [Martyn's Bittersweet Mix]
12. Geeneus & Ms Dynamite – Get Low
13. Smoove Kriminal – Represent
14. Sticky – Jack It Up feat. Marvin Brown
15. R1 Ryders – Rubberband VIP
16. SouLTonic Sound System – The Flying Saucer
17. Bok Bok – Citizens Dub feat. Bubbz
18. Hem feat. Terrible Shock – On a Mission [Shortstuff Remix]
19. A4C – Untitled Mambo [Boogaloo Crew Remix]
20. Joy Orbison – Hyph Mngo
21. Breakage feat. Newham Generals & David Rodigan – Hard
22. Desto – Disappearing, Reappearing ink
23. Joker – Digidesign
24. 2000F & J Kamata – You Don’t Know What Love Is
25. Starkey – Rain City
26. Headhunter – Prototype [Modeselektor's Broken Handbrake Remix]
27. Crystal Fighters – I Love London [Brackles Remix]
Blackdown: So when did the Rinse CD come about?
Oneman: Probably about two and a half months ago. Rat had mentioned it to me and I’d started thinking about it but nothing was really set in stone until about October. I didn’t start working on it until Rat properly said. And from the time I started to when I recorded it, it was just under a month’s work. They’re all tunes I like at the moment.
B: So how did you go about picking the selection because you could have gone in several different directions?
O: Yeah so the way I wanted to do the mix… because I thought about it a lot: do I want to put old garage stuff on there? Do I want it to be like my old React FM sets or more like my new Rinse FM sets? But I settled on the idea that I wanted it to be a snapshot of exactly what I like, right now, and that is not so much of the new dubstep stuff and not so much of the new grime stuff, but more of the funky and the wot-do-u-call-it dark house stuff. That’s what I’m into at the moment: producers like Martin Kemp, Bok Bok and Jamie George. People like that are making really good music and it’s back to 130-135bpm again. It’s kinda gone round in a circle.
B: It has a bit hasn’t it!
O: All the values I enjoyed in early garage, especially the bpm, the shuffle, the beat base – it’s all coming back again with this new stuff. The whole 'new Wot Do U Call It dark house, Martin Kemp, Doc Daneeka thing” is that I think it fills a gap in where house is meeting dubstep at the moment and I think its really important and relevant to both scenes, because its like what I hear in those records is what definitely what I heard in dubstep in 2004/05 - just a sense of space and atmosphere, not so much about the melody but just bass beats and weird odd sounds.
B: So why did you choose not to play older garage or grime, as you often have before?
O: Because that’s what I’m known for. I’m known as the dubstep DJ who started playing garage. That was three years ago but I’ve moved on a bit from there. I was thinking: do I want another mix out that has just dubstep and garage tracks on there? I didn’t - and I realise it’s more relevant to incorporate those older garage tracks with the newer funky sound. I tried to do that but there was something in me that really didn’t want to go back too far. I did think about it and a lot of times I don’t actually think about it I just do it, I just play ‘em. This time I did want to think about this mix properly. I remember I was talking to Distance at Radio 1’s Generation Bass and he said the best thing with mixes was to plan them out a bit because you never want to look back and think ‘oh I missed out this…’ So I wanted to make sure I planned this one really, really well.
B: So there’s stuff on this mix that sounds like UK funky and other new stuff that is very close to traditional house, what is it about this space you like?
O: To me it’s like a broken version of funky, like what all the dub mixes were to garage and what the dub house mixes were to house, back in the ‘80s in New York. To me it’s just the beats and the atmosphere that have been newly created. It sounds like funky it’s just a bit different. I think it’s the beats and the atmosphere that are different because you wouldn’t see a girl with a smile on her face dancing to it, like she’d dance to a Crazi Cousins track. It’s the darker end of the scale, the dub end really.
B: It’s nice because to me it feels like two groups in London having some kind of dialog: the original funky ravers, those who started out being into Fingerprint etc – and we can feel what they’re doing – but then there’s our immediate social group who make beats that fit into the tempo but with slightly different flavour.
O: Yeah. Did you hear Scratcha on the radio the other day? I think he’d played a Bok Bok riddim and said ‘oh this is that weird sound, you can find guys like Oneman and Bok Bok in Shoreditch in skinny jeans…’ Hahaha…
B: But you know he’s obsessed with what he calls “strange” or “weird” people? He’s got these irrefutable funky, pirate and grime credentials but he wants to be “weird.”
O: Yeah I know and that’s why he’s obviously playing the track because he was like “yeah I’ve got another one coming up, it’s all good.” That’s why he wears them glasses too.
B: I think Scratcha’s unique.
O: Yeah he’s brilliant and a really nice guy.
B: He sees that there’s things beyond the ‘ends’ in which he grew up in and wants to move towards them, whereas some of his mates would be like ‘nah.’ Yet through Rinse it’s all become one thing.
[ I’d like to add some thoughts in here at this point, about the blurring of the harcore continuum axis’ this year. While there’s been much debate last year about whether something was or wasn’t part of the nuum or whether you should even be doing that, but I think a lot of observers still use fairly agreed indicators to tell the difference in a nuum context between, say, JME and Haduken. But this year all this stuff like a) funky-not-funky Jam City/Mosca b) Terror Danjah on Mu/Hyperdub c) Roska and Untold collaborations d) Scratcha making an indie/grime mixtape (“No Right Turn”) has really muddied the water in an irrefutable way. The degree of collaboration and dialog is so entrenched that in many cases, i.e. some of the most interesting ones, the boundaries are in some cases jumbled.
But in other cases, it’s less that two groups have met and blurred the lines, more that some of the axis’ have been completely reversed by 180 degrees. I’m thinking particularly of Geeneus and Wonder, both of whom have impeccable grime credentials (Pay As U Go/Rinse co founder and ex-Roll Deep member respectively) who now play the housiest of house. The housier the better, almost tribal house. Wonder plays late night 3 hour minimal sets at bars in Brick Lane and Gee’s sound is ultra percussive and very deliberately removed from grime. I guess I’d ask where this leaves the axis', when culturally they’re as they were but musically they’ve been flipped 180 degrees. There’s also the Azzido Da Bass of UK funky, Bassjackers & Apster “Klambu”, which is a European trance anthem, recontextualised as UK funky banger. Speaking of which...]
B: Can you tell me about Bassjackers and Deadboy?
O: Deadboy is a guy from New Cross. I really like his tunes because they sound organic, they don’t really sound that well mixed down but they don’t necessarily sound wrong. They don’t sound anything like anyone else’s music, especially “U Cheated” and “Heartbreaker” and that new one “If You Want Me,” which sounds like Kode9 doing garage. That Bassjackers track I just found it on a blog and it’s like a commercial house track really… I couldn’t tell you too much about the producers or who they are. Funnily, that track, I played the mix to Loefah on Friday and it was one of the only tracks he went “what the fuck is this? This is amazing.” To come from Loefah, that’s pretty cool.
B: Especially it’s in a house direction that he’s not usually interested in. Because the idea of heading to 130bpm has been around for about a year to 18 months and I remember talking to him about it in that really long interview. I mentioned we’d been working at 138 for years but we we’re slowing down to 130, there’s a gravitation towards funky and while he was interested in trying his 808 thing at 130 Loe was at pains to point out it had nothing to do with funky.
O: Haha, that sounds like him, definitely…
B: So, I like the fact that you broke the mix in the middle with Martyn’s beatless mix of Efdemin…
O: Yeah that was the point at which it was: should I or should I not do this? Because there’s also another mix of that track by Martyn, called the “Dark Mix,” more like an acid house track. But I went with my gut and thought fuck it and went with the beatless thing in the middle. Because it kinda goes from the pacey, dark house stuff into that and then straight into the proper funky.
B: One of the things you’ve always been excellent at is creating a sense of groove but a side effect is to move people in dubstep away from the halfstep idea where you break everything down and build it back up again. But here you did break it down, right in the middle of your mix. So I wouldn’t have expected it from you but I really liked how you did it. The Martyn remix reminds me of an old Aphex Twin track “On.” So, how did you manage to get the Ms Dynamite special you mix out of it with?
B: I didn’t even ask for it! I got an email from Rat saying “here’s a ‘Get Low’ dub from Geeneus,” and I was like [makes sound of filling his pants]. And I was like “[voice of someone trying to play it cool] cheers thanks!” Cos I’ve heard the tune before but I don’t know the tune from the beat I know it from the lyrics and the verse. So when I heard it [from his email] I thought ‘oh this is a good beat.’ I didn’t even know it was called ‘Get Low.’ I heard the intro going “Oneman DJ/Get down low…” and I thought it was a grime MC or something. Then it dropped in with the lyrics and it was like “fucking no way!” I didn’t even know the tune that well and now I had a special of it. It’s great. It’s obviously Geeneus knowing I was doing the CD and helping out with a dub, which I’m really grateful for.
B: It’s pretty nuts, most people would have to get on bended knee for a Ms Dynamite special.
O: So yeah I played it and loads of other funky tunes after the beatless track to bring it down and catapult it back up.
B: The end of the mix I like, you definitely play some tracks that have been some staples of yours, Joker, 2000F, Desto… what was the plan around clustering those ones at the end?
O: I just wanted to showcase some of my favourite 140bpm tunes because the mix is pretty much 130-135bpm, and you can’t play those tunes at that speed, you’ve got to play them at 140 for them to be heard properly. So I thought I’d mix Joy Orbison into Breakage ft Newham Generals “Hard”. I thought I’d mix Joy Orbison in and I’d use the intro and cut it half way through so again you’ve got this beatless part of the mix which allowed me to speed it up basically. Because I’m using Serato with the master tempo on it, you can’t tell it’s being sped up until the beat comes back in and buy that time you’ve gone 20 seconds into the tune… so it’s pretty unnoticeable. Then I locked that there at 140 and mixed the others in because that’s what speed they are.
B: So I’ve seen you use vinyl, CDJs and you’re using Serato: how do you find mixing across these different formats?
O: I’m really, really, really still into vinyl. Purely because I know all my tunes because of what a label looks like, what’s written on it, what font they’ve used, what colour it is, how many scratches are on it, how frayed the cover is. They all come into me knowing my tunes: otherwise it’s a big black disk, I’m not going to have a fucking clue what’s on it. With this Serato thing you’ve got a screen full of words, data and numbers and it’s really confusing. So for me I’m finding DJing out in clubs with Serato a bit of a nightmare…. Not a nightmare but it’s giving me a bit of trouble because I don’t know where everything is. It is just a bunch of words and you’ve got to go through it all. You go from the decks to the computer and back to the decks again. I mean I will get used to it, I’m not going to give up on it but I do prefer using vinyl purely for accessibility.
B: Does Serato allow you to play more upfront selection?
O: Yeah, that’s kinda why I got it because there’s so much music I’m getting sent right now that I like and I don’t want to carry CDs around. I’d much rather use 1210s because they’ve got a bigger plate, bigger pitch shifter – bigger, better, nicer to use. I hate CDJs they’re really small. I always end up knocking something and it goes wrong. That’s why I’m quite happy with Serato as it’s in the middle of CDs and decks.
B: I don’t know about you but I find they make me mix differently. It’s much easier to find the start of a track on a CDJ than vinyl but harder to keep it in if it goes out. How do you find it?
O: I find I mix a lot quicker and a lot better on CDJs. I just glance at the bpm counter, get the track around that tempo and then go from there.
B: They’ll get you in the ballpark. I’ve had Kode say ‘don’t ever trust them’ but they’re usually pretty spot on.
O: It’s digital: of course they are! But I like Serato, it has a really nice interface and the looping things you can do on the CDJ you can do here too. Cue points you can trigger off your keypad. I think Serato is a near to the future of DJing as we’ve got so far, with a lot of the soundsystem companies tailoring their systems especially for digital. In ten years vinyl is going to sound shit, basically. You’ll have people playing vinyl in clubs and people will be like ‘what the fuck is this?’ Everyone will be digital because all the systems will be tailored for MP3s.
B: My concern with CDs and other digital stuff is the top end. In a club it does sound really harsh at the top.
O: Yeah it’s really crashy… it doesn’t sound clean.
B: Maybe it’s because we’re all used to bassy records.
O: I think it probably is… I think we all probably need to get a pair of earplugs.
B: I do wear them and they do roll the top off, but still, CDs aren’t the same. Sometimes they’re a necessity, especially to play upfront on radio, but in clubs it’s different. So tell me about that Modeselector remix, because it’s really techno and quite different to the tracks on the mix.
O: Yeah that was another last minute tune from the Tempa mailing list. I really like the melody when it switches: it’s really old hardcore sounding. The melody is like hardcore but with techno sounds and a garage beat. I think Modeselector done really well with that tune and it’s great to mix with because there’s hardly any tunes with that sound in the intro, it’s like something Burial would use in his “Distant Lights” tune. It’s that kind of noise I really love.
B: You started the whole mix with a Double Helix (LHF) track that’s kinda junglist and quite a poignant sample in it, what was the thinking on that?
O: Yeah the sample in “96 Flava” “I don’t find there’s enough classics out there” just before the drop is definitely an opening statement I’m happy making with the mix as I do feel that way. The lack of 'classics' over the past five years has kind of lead me to go back around to garage and bring some of those tracks back to life.
B: And then you ended with Brackles’ I Love London remix…
O: Yeah I love that tune, it’s really special. The reason why I finished with it is because it’s one of my tunes of the year and its got that sample in it (“I love London…”) which I thought is so relevant to the Rinse mix.
B: What is it about London that makes music like this?
O: I dunno really I guess it’s being around it all the time and all the different cultures. When I went to primary school I was one of four white kids in my class out of thirty. Most of them were black kids, some of them were Asian, a few eastern Europeans but not so many back then. So language evolves, their parents listen to different things, you get older, you go out… it literally is just living here and being around it all.
B: Well, I think pointing to multiculturalism is a pretty good start to answering the question…
O: Yeah, I think it is, as much is it’s really cliché to point out all the cultures but in my case it’s true. I don’t think I’d be a DJ if I hadn’t lived in south London. I don’t think I’d be doing this at all. I wouldn’t got a pair of decks because my mate didn’t have a pair.
B: Who were the first big DJs that inspired you?
O: The first DJ who inspired me and pretty much everyone I know who DJs garage was EZ. The Pure Garage compilations were our first look into garage. I was in year eight when Pure Garage 1 came out but I completely missed it. But when I was in year 9 Pure Garage 2 come out, I remember it was a red CD and it had “Flowers,” “Buddha Finger” … it had literally every big garage tune all on that CD… “Sometimes it Snows in April”. I listened to that CD about 300 times, just listening to EZ’s mixing. I could reel off all those mixes now.
B: Looking back as a seasoned industry professional, do you not think that maybe some of that was done on Pro Tools, even though EZ is certifiably a badboy DJ?
O: What his Pure Garage mixes? I’ve never even thought about that… it’s never even crossed my mind.
B: Haha, sorry to mention it. And about Father Christmas yeah…
B: I don’t know about Pure Garage but I’ve seen it in other DJ mixes, I used to work with someone who built Paul Oakenfold’s mixed radio show for him, I watched him do it in a Pro Tools-like program.
O: I know EZ is a fan of the Pioneer mixer and I know on his later mixes he’s used a lot of that. And the Best of Pure Garage, the one with Bass, Beats, and Breaks on it, one of his CDs there’s actually a few mini clangs on there. I was doing my mix and was like ‘oh my god, EZ has clanged on a CD: I am fine.’ Everyone of us is OK! I even heard him clang on Kiss, and I was happy. Because you know if EZ clanged then you’re fine, you’re alright.
B: To be fair, I don’t think I’ve ever heard you clang!
O: Oh I have, believe me. I definitely have, I definitely have had my fair share.
B: Sorry I’m not having it but anyway… so for people who are perhaps starting out as DJs, what are your tips for beatmixing?
O: Literally practice mixing. I would say kick all bad habits, like slowing the plate down with your finger.
B: So how would you recommend slowing it down?
O: Just by the pitch. Ride the pitch, just keep your eye on it. And keep your ear open and you’ll hear it. As you move the pitch up and down, you’ll hear it. And if it’s a bit too fast and you’re on +2 then pitch it down to the light for a second and then back to just below +2. Ride the pitch. When you touch the plate – which I’ve been doing for years and have been getting myself out of recently – you hear the [makes the weird noise of record changing speed]. But if you ride the pitch you take all of that out. you’re just going faster or slower really, without any force on the plate.
B: So you said that it’s bad touching the deck for slowing it down, does that apply to speeding it up?
O: I don’t think it’s that bad for speeding it up. You know when people pinch the middle and speed it up like that or lightly brush your finger around the label just to speed it up, but I wouldn’t push the record as it does the same sort of thing [makes the weird noise of record changing speed].
B: Yeah, Deep Thought calls that “wanging the mix” as it makes a “waaANG” noise when you do it.
O: Hahah, yeah that’s right. You’ve got a wanger… “Oi, we’ve got a wanger…!”
[ It strikes me here that what Oneman is describing is correcting the pitch once already in the mix, i.e. you’ve taken the crossfader over to introduce the second record, before you’re sure the two tracks are at the same speed and in phase. Many DJs ensure the two tracks are already safely mixed long before they do this, but it takes time. The ‘wanging’ noise is irrelevant if only you hear it.
The ability and balls to be able to correct your mixes once they’re already public explains how Oneman can mix two tunes so quickly – he knows he can correct the mix as it happens, which for many people is a gamble (if the records go out, one of them is faster but you don’t know which) but a calculated one if you’re that capable and confident of correcting any error seamlessly. I think this is very much part of what makes Oneman such an amazing DJ: he can mix “faster” than most other people, more accurately and for longer.
Dusk and I have sometimes remarked at gigs that we wish he’d sometimes play more of the tune he’d just brought in and is now mixing out of, just because we like his selection, but frankly if you, me or anyone else could mix to these kind of levels, we probably would. I mean: you would, wouldn’t you? - Blackdown]
O: So I try and stay on the pitch now and it is a lot easier, I’ve seen Hatcha do it ridiculously. He’ll just go from +8 to -8 in a second and it will be locked.
B: Hatcha is a bit of a good DJ…
O: Yeah, just a bit haha…
B: You’re amazing and keeping stuff locked forever but what I like about Hatcha’s style is he’s amazing at using the two records to make different rhythmic patterns.
O: Yeah I know what you mean, he done that with “Red” and Ms Dynamite’s “Ramp” – both Menta tunes, recently when I played with him on Kiss. It was ‘wow’ … and the way he mixed in “Red” as well, I’ve not hear anyone mix it in like that.
B: Well, “Red” is an original Hatcha tune. Velvet Room headz called the version that came out “Red 2” because Hatcha had the original version of “Red” on dubplate that didn’t do much…
O: I think that was the one he played.
B: It’s got none of the phased breakdown it’s just a really linear DJ tool.
O: Yeah I think that’s the one he played, I’ve never heard it before. But yeah, Hatcha’s a dubplate don, really.
B: Yup, he’s a total hero of mine: it’s good to have them.
O: Yeah definitely.
B: So you were on React FM for ages and I know it was, ahem, under negotiations with Soulja for a bit about coming on Rinse.
O: So Sarah wanted me to come on Rinse from early, I’d been on React for about five months and that’s because I’d played at DMZ and at FWD, got an agent so she was interested. And I said I’d do it if I could keep my React show, but she said I had to do Rinse exclusive. At the time Heny G was at React and we are really good mates and he’d built something there that I thought would be really good so I wanted to stick it out for a bit but then some new people got drafted in and Heny left and it just went dead. The FM wasn’t on for four months, the stream hardly ever worked due to problems with their internet, it was a bit of a shambles really…
B: And you got locked in the studio a few times!
O: I got locked in the studio twice! I’d forgotten about that.
B: Asbo was quite concerned about how you were getting home!
O: Hahah. Good times…! That was really hard to get out of that studio because it had those gates at the front… it was under some arches of the tube line in Hammersmith. They had these big iron gates at the front which had serrated tops which you couldn’t climb over. They weren’t like spikes: they were worse than that, they were twisted bits of metal…
B: And you’ve got a record bag…
O: I’ve got a record bag, the gate is 9 feet tall and I’m about 5 and a half, so that was a bit of a nightmare, but I think we got out of there in the end, cut free. But back to Rinse, I decided to do it because it’s just so much more professional. I did a cover for them when they were over in the Bromley-by-Bow studio and I really enjoyed it. So Rat and Sarah offered me a weekly or bi-weekly show. I’ve had it for about a year now and have been enjoying it. I feel like they do a lot more to help their DJs, which in turn you get more exposure from. I definitely think my money is going a lot further than it was at React, especially with the new studio, how it looks in there. Ah mate it’s just so nice: have you seen the new signs as well? I looks like a proper station now. It’s a really nice place and I’m happy on there. Management are wicked, Rat’s really cool.
B: The audience is pretty cool because you’re half London, half global.
O: Yeah, it’s half FM listeners in their car or something, and at my time 11-1am, you get a lot of people locking in from the States.
B: Did you find that the DMZ gig was a turning point for you as a DJ, or where there other gigs that turned more heads?
O: I think that was the one really, because I think a lot of people were surprised about how much garage I played. I know my agent, Belinda, she first saw me there and one of the main reasons she said she wanted to work with me is that she was there all night and when I came on not only did everyone start dancing but all the girls came to the front and started dancing because they love garage. It was definitely a turning point for me because people realised who I was and what I was doing. It was the last set of the night and I was just so chuffed to see so many people stay there. People were getting a bit tired after Plastician, because it wasn’t Plastician’s best set I remember, but anyway. I was just so chuffed to see everyone who was there at 5am still there at 6am. Pretty much everyone stayed for the whole set.
B: I’ve got this theory, let me run it past you. I think a lot of people came into dubstep around the DMZ 06 era, many of them from drum & bass who were looking for something dark but not as hectic as d&b in 2006. I think a lot of people who came through had this thing about garage being shit. My theory is that you were one of the key people that turned that perception around.
O: Yeah a few people have said that to me, they’ve said the whole resurgence of garage is purely down to me and I do think I did have a hand in it.
B: I think you definitely spearheaded it. So my point is around the perceptions of people who would have come to DMZ and whether they still think garage is a dirty word or not…
O: Yeah I think what they think of garage being is the Sweet Female Attitude or Artful Dodger type sound, which is kind of 2001, champagne and charly… which it wasn’t really. I think the garage I play is more club music like the dubstep I play is club music, the El-B’s or Wookie’s, that sort of stuff. I can’t see any difference between that and early dubstep or any underground stuff really: dark beats and dark bass. But I love girly garage tunes too…
B: And you’re not afraid to play them either!
O: Yeah, I don’t give a fuck, music is music. It’s one song, it only lasts three minutes!
B: Yeah but certain DJs are afraid to show a feminine side in their DJing.
O: Oh, well I love it. You can dance to them type of tunes, properly. I can’t dance to “Spongebob” the same way I dance to “What you do” by Colours.
B: I won’t dance to “Spongebob”… I will leave the venue!
O: So yeah the older, girlier garage tracks I’m not afraid to play at all.
B: To me the joy is zig zagging between the bassier stuff and the vocals. Straight vocals can get a bit much but if you get the sweet and the sour in there together it’s perfect.
O: I totally agree, I try and do that as much as I can. These days, especially in clubs, I seem to start out with r& remixes. 702 the Resevoir Dogs mix, Amira “My Desire,” Basement Jaxx “Red Alert remix”, “The Boy is Mine” – them garage remixes from around ‘98-99, I’m playing loads of them out now for the first 10-15 mins of my set, all the classic vocal tracks that are really fuckin girly. They always get a party started: they always do. If I start with “Boy Is Mine” garage remix, when the bassline comes in, everyone knows it, straight away.
B: X-Men aka Wookie remix!
O: Big tune! The way the bass works they play one note and then the same note 1 octave above after it, so the bass is ascending...
B: This ties back into my theory about how you converted people from thinking that garage was terrible, because there was definitely a point when I realized that you were playing those records to people for the first time. Digging into those classic record was like having an arsenal of dubs.
O: I guess it was, especially for that crowd as well. Cos like you say, to that crowd, that is a new tune.
B: The mix mostly avoids 140 bpm until the end, what is your take on how dubstep is going at the moment?
O: You can say ‘this is dubstep’ or ‘that is dubstep:’ it’s subjective and everyone has an idea of what dubstep is, but what I think dubstep is and what is was when I started listening to it in about 2004-05, what dubstep is known as now it’s completely changed. If a CD came out now called “Now that’s what I call dubstep 2009” I’d not expect to like one tune on there. I’d expect it to be all big crashy snares, halfstep beats and kinda chainsaw wobbles that have no kinda depth or listen-abilty really, it just makes you wanna go nuts. It makes kids want to lose their shit: and which is what kids want to do and when I was 15 or 16 I bet…I bet if I was 15 in 2009 and I heard all that stuff I bet I’d love it. I’d probably think it was great but I’ve been through my 15 year old phase.
B: But at 15 you were listening to Pure Garage 2!
O: I dunno, everyone was listening to garage back then, everyone was happier back then. You could go to school, you could chill in the playground with a girl and listen to Upfront FM tapes from yesterday.
B: Or… what was that one that Youngsta used to be on, Freak FM?
O: I never used to get Freak, it was an east London or Essex station. I could only get Upfront or Delight FM. Delight FM was my station, two or three kids in my school went on it.
B: Hatcha was one of them wasn’t he?
O: Hatcha was on Upfront, N Type was on Delight. My first girlfriend ever, in secondary school, her big brother was Neutrino’s best mate. So I used to go around her house and Neutrno would be sitting there with her brother, Patrick, listening to garage munching pills doing hundred mile an hour head nods. So we used to go down to Delight and have a look around the studios, but not really when anyone big was on like So Solid, but it was always good to go down there. But Upfront and Delight were really the only two stations I could really get down here, where I live. My mate used to get really really good reception of Delight in Clapham. But whereas Upfront is in my area, I could get that really crisp, so we’d basically just swap tapes all the time.
B: I worry my perception of London pirates is now distorted by how good Rinse is. There used to be a broad collection of good ones, like Déjà Vu, Freak, Heat, Axe, Raw Mission…plus Delight, Upfront and Rinse. Are there any other pirates you still listen to?
O: Yeah the whole funky thing has pumped so much life into the pirates. I’m always checking for pirates in my car because it’s the only time I get to listen to the radio. If I’m at home I’ll listen to a mix that’s on my computer or go on beats or something. But when I’m in my car I make a point of not putting on any CDs, especially when I’m in London, because I like to see what’s out there and I’ve noticed you’ve got Ice Cold FM, which is doing really well again now and there’s Live FM UK which is 101.5FM, which is probably my favorite station at the moment, they’ve got some of the best funky DJs on there playing some ridiculous music, playing so much of the newer darker stuff. I sure there’s a few more. So it’s Rinse, Ice Cold and Live FM I’m checking for at the moment.
B: What about Ustream and your “Yard Sessions”, because your use of that is like a long tail pirate station. How did that come about?
O: That was just a random idea. Elijah from Butterz invited me to a chat website called Tiny Chat and it was him, Joker, JD Dready and DJ Yasmin and some other producers all in some webcam chat room thing. We were all talking about gigs and catching jokes and being a bit stupid and I got a bit bored to be honest so I was mucking about with the settings on the side and the camera and audio settings and my external soundcard showed up on the thing, so I realized I could use my soundcard instead of my mic, and play tunes. So I was playing people tunes and it was radio quality. So I left that chat room and made my own one up and did a little test run in there but the thing is from that, people can join your chat room and they can plug their webcam or mic in and talk over what you’re doing which is a bit long. So I tried to find one website that could just have one person broadcasting. And I remember seeing Snoop on Twitter saying “come on my UStream channel, I’m just smoking” because he does a “Wake and Bake” show where he wakes up and smokes weed. So I was watching the Snoop “Wake and Bake” show and thought: fuck that’s such a good idea! So I set up a UStream account and plugged my soundcard in, had a test run and yeah that was it. The rest is history.
B: Could you ever imagine a scenario in the future where you didn’t go on a radio station and just used UStream to broadcast?
O: Yeah definitely, I don’t see why not. Especially wit the whole Facebook, Twitter, up to the minute information.
B: Because if blogs are basically one person broadcasting their viewpoint rather than a whole magazine’s worth of writers, UStream is like a video version of pirate radio but just your one vision.
O: And it’s at home with your set up, that you’re used to, so that’s always going to be good. And you’ve got every record you own near you as well, it’s not like you have to bring a select bag: there’s so many pro’s to it.
B: That can have it’s pitfalls though when one record is playing, you want to mix in another but you can’t locate it in the collection! Finally, can you tell me about Asbo, as he’s such a charismatic host and a real part of your Rinse show?
O: Asbo is a great MC we've been mates for nearly 10 years, both from Streatham. I love the way he hosts a set. He likes to keep the listeners entertained with a few jokes and funny one-liners that will often rhyme as well as holding it down in a professional manner. He has a real natural approach to hosting that fits perfectly with what I do.
Rinse 11 mixed by Oneman is released is March 1st
No it isn't a joke. Starring Ashley 'Bashy' Thomas, Shank is set to be THE urban-youth-knife crime-gritty-kitchen sink-grime cameo rich film of 2010. Saying that, it looks good. I have heard that Bashy's acting is good enough to warrant the starring role and the camera work seems to accurately capture a squalid, near-primal London full of wild teens running amok. I think the decision to set it in 2015 is jumping the gun a bit though. Are things gonna be this bad in 5 years? Children of Men, set in 2029, worked perfectly to create a hellish dystopian vision that was an all too believable projection of the near future.
Adam Deacon inevitably plays a part, further typecasting himself as a 2-bit British actor who cant handle roles outside of gritty urban drama's marketed for the yoof of today, which isn't true. He clearly has talent, but needs to push himself with different projects. Saying that, Dubplate Drama: The Movie is in pre-production....
Tuesday, 2 February 2010
I contributed to this piece by chief Rock critic Pete Paphides on old school Get Low cohorts The Maccabees, which featured in The Times on Friday. They are poised to headline the NME Awards Tour throughout February, a slot that has become legendendary for creating huge bands. The Maccabees may be on album two already (the unbelievably good "Wall of Arms") but the general public are still only beginning to become acquainted with this fantastic band.
You can stream the album on their Myspace
The Maccabees may yet become greats
The NME tour’s latest headliners may be the next big thing, but they remain modest enough to doubt their No1 potential
By Pete Paphides
A week to go before the Maccabees take their place as part of NME’s annual awards tour, but Felix White is nowhere to be seen. The group was due to convene at 11am today, but an impulse buy in the West End has delayed their 25-year-old guitarist’s arrival by a half an hour. When White does show up, though, he feels confident that the band will understand when they see his spoils. It’s a replica of the shirt worn by the Fulham legend Johnny Haynes during the club’s heyday in the Fifties and Sixties. His bandmates’ faintly approving gazes suggest he might have got away with it.
The roll call of previous headliners on NME tours over the past decade includes Franz Ferdinand, the Killers, Arctic Monkeys, Bloc Party and Kaiser Chiefs. Only a year ago the notion that the Maccabees might be heading the bill in 2010 seemed unlikely. If the quintet, fronted by the art-school graduate Orlando Weeks, had a place in history on the basis of their 2007 debut album Colour It In, it was as one of a flurry of adrenalised indie combos squatting the space left vacant by the Libertines. And they knew it. Having seen several contemporaries — including fellow Brighton habitués the Kooks — rush into their second album only to see their audience seemingly disappear overnight, a similar fate seemingly awaited the Maccabees.
For their singer, Felix White’s brother Hugo, feelings of unworthiness centred on the fact that he had never envisioned signing a record deal in the first place. “When we started this, the idea was that there had to be more to the evenings and weekends than sitting on a sofa watching telly.”
The band’s early releases seemed to prove his point. Anyone with serious ambitions would probably think a little harder before releasing a single that paid tribute to the wave machine at the swimming pool in Battersea frequented by their singer as a child. The best thing about the Maccabees’ early singles was their joyfully incidental air. Toothpaste Kisses and About Your Dress were the sort of courtship memoirs young men are prone to write only if they think that no one is paying close attention.
The luxury of relative anonymity was one sorely missed by Weeks the second time round. With all the band decamped from London to Brighton, Colour It In had been mostly recorded while Weeks was still at university, working on his degree show — creating a series of screenprints based on Le Corbusier drawings of “the aims of architecture”. For what was to become their second album, Wall of Arms, the producer Marcus Dravs was drafted in to oversee the sessions. “He had just been working with Coldplay, where everything was high security,” Felix White says. “They even had to scan their own fingerprints to access files of the songs they had been working on.”
What Dravs encountered when he started work with the Maccabees was a band whose drummer had just left (Robert Dylan Thomas had entered rehab, to be replaced by Sam Doyle) and was seemingly on the verge of a collective panic attack. Before recording a note the group had argued, in Felix White’s words, “for a week about, I dunno, what the logos on our T-shirts ought to look like. It’s good to care. But perhaps not quite to that degree.”
Matters came to a head with the incident during the recording of Seventeen Hands that has passed into band lore as “Marimbagate”. Felix White smiles playfully: “You really wanted that marimba on there, didn’t you?”
Weeks can laugh about it now — well, shift his weight uncomfortably from one buttock to another at any rate. “The marimba was the least of it,” Weeks says. “I thought we needed choirs, string sections, epic percussion. I think that to be a top producer, though, you have to be a bit of a genius at psychology. Marcus was like: ‘OK. You learn the marimba part and play it, but it needs to be done in the next 15 minutes because we’re working against the clock.’ And I’m a lousy marimba player.”
Perhaps the Maccabees felt that they didn’t deserve access to expensive studios — not, at any rate, without making full use of its marimbas. “There’s a million ways to make a record,” Felix White says, “but only one record that you absolutely have to make. You need someone with a calm head to tease it out of you.”
If Wall of Arms emerged last summer to a modest reception it probably had something to do with the fact that songs such as One Hand Holding and No Kind Words had a muscular urgency that simply didn’t compute with people who knew how the Maccabees sounded. It was a period of critical quarantine that effectively ended when the group arrived at Glastonbury. Generally speaking, mid-afternoon sets on the second stage tend to pass forgotten the moment they have ended. During the Maccabees’ performance, though, something happened — and even Weeks noticed it. “No one was leaving. And then we f***ed up Precious Time and I could hear a sympathetic ‘Aaah’ coming from the crowd. In that moment I sensed something that hadn’t previously been there [with festival audiences].”
For all that, the singer’s body language still screams a painful lack of entitlement. Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor — his band are also rehearsing here this afternoon — walks in to use the vending machine, prompting Weeks to point out that his heart sinks when Hot Chip leave their studio door ajar and he hears how together they sound.
In fact, he sounds far more confident when he talks about his artistic exploits. The remarkable prosthetic lungs worn by Florence Welch on the sleeve of Florence & the Machine’s Lungs were designed and made by Weeks. “They initially needed an illustration,” he explains, “but if it was a sort of Victoriana aesthetic they were after you’d be better off making them. You start with rawhide, soak it to get it malleable, then cut it, stitch it and stuff it. That was the first time I had worked with leather. If nothing else it means I got to appear on a No 1 album.”
Having fought their way back into contention — that top billing on the NME tour acknowledges as much — it would be naive to discount the possibility that the Maccabees may yet get around to making a No 1 of their own. Part of a newly expanded edition of Wall of Arms, their new single — a reworked, retitled version of their song No Kind Words featuring Roots Manuva — shows a band reluctant to sit on their newly acquired laurels. In the hands of the rapper, Weeks’s lyric — “an appeal to a friend to sort themself out a bit” — is transformed into a hip-hop parable of karmic comeuppance. “He put his vocals over the track and we rearranged it and chopped it up a bit,” Hugo White says. “The moment he approved what we had done it felt like a success.”
In the studio café, though, it perhaps shouldn’t go unremarked that the Maccabees’ stubborn modesty continues to manifest itself at every opportunity. On the television in the far corner an MTV airing of the group’s new single prompts minimal reaction. Only when someone points the remote control at the sports channel does a silent reverence descend on the table ... well, one person in particular.
In the wake of the fourth-round FA Cup match between Accrington Stanley and White’s beloved Fulham, Roy Hodgson — manager of the London side — is pondering the performance of the League Two opponents who played far better than their 3-1 defeat suggested. “We struggled to get going,” says Hodgson, a picture of avuncular equanimity. “But what a magnificent show they [Accrington] put up.”
There are, according to Felix White, parallels to be drawn between Hodgson’s stewardship of Fulham and the current fortunes of his own band. “Do you know why this team is so great? It’s not about the individual players. It’s about a sense of collective identity. That makes them more formidable than anyone gives them credit for.”
At long last, a boast — albeit one of modest proportions.
Wall of Arms (Bonus Edition) is released on Monday by Fiction. The NME awards tour starts on Feb 4 at the 02 Academy, Newcastle (www.themaccabees.co.uk)