You’ve been touring Europe this summer and will be in Greece on the 22nd of September, what have been the stand-out moments?
(Keith) They’ve all been good. My fans are basically the same all around the world, I’ve got a cult following of people that make me feel at home no matter where I’m at. I could be in Australia, France, New York or Jersey. It’s just the same Kool Keith fans.
You’ve been back in the studio recently making the new Ultramagnetics album, what was it like getting back into the studio with them after all this time?
(Keith) It was cool but they haven’t been in the studio for a long time so it was cool but hard, we made some pretty good records and we liked it but people wanted us to have made a Critical Beatdown part 2. We didn’t want to do that though, we’ve changed, we’ve matured, we’re not as abrasive, the times have changed our voices have changed. We had fun doing the album and people need to look at it like that.
What for you were the stand-out tracks from the album?
(Keith) Late Nite Rumble’s good, it’s not a singles album though, it’s just all types of songs and people could pick the ones that they like best. We didn’t have a hit in mind when we made it it’s all for people to choose for themselves.
You’ve created a lot of different personas within your music over the years from Black Elvis to Dr Octagon, what was the inspiration for that?
(Keith) It was for the time but I’m getting out of that stuff now and I’m going back to the raw self of rhyming on raw beats, it’s not conceptual. People get caught up in that, but I’m going back to my b-boy essence, and the Bronx culture, a lot of people didn’t get a chance to experience that but I’m going back to that so the focus is on my rhyming not my image. I don’t care so much how I’m dressing now I’m just about the craft. I’m not letting the visual take over, back in the day a group got popular from their sound before you’d ever seen them but now it’s the other way round. I’d rather be heard first.
Who else are you listening to in hip-hop at the moment? Do you like the stuff coming out on Stone’s Throw?
(Keith) That stuff is still around, and will always be around but everybody’s got to find their own niche. I’m not trying to be like any body, everybody gotta take their own line. I gotta have a significant difference. People have a hard time understanding that we can’t all sound the same. I have to have some boundaries. It’s like this is what the media say we’ve gotta listen to, and a lot of places don’t have their own program - it’s like the whole world is synchronised now and I miss the variety. All the DJs own the same records around the world but there are a billion records out there. Everybody doesn’t dress the same so why play the same records all day, or the same video. People need some distinctive programming.
What do you think of the technological innovations in music in the last years?
(Keith) People don’t buy records, they don’t even buy cds, they’ve got a little gadget in their pocket that holds 9000 records in it and it’s taken all the fun out of the industry. I like to buy cds because of the art work, I like reading about the artist. Downloads aren’t even cool – it’s not like you’ve got the album where the artwork looks good in your cd case, the folder of cheap cds written on with magic marker don’t look good, it’s not even cool, you’re not even a total person.
Do you think that’s why a lot of artists and labels are pushing the live thing these days?
(Keith) Well even that’s getting really bad now, people come to shows and record the show on their phones and digital cameras, these little gadgets are taking away from a lot of experiences because they are destroying the global experience of music; after a while people are going to feel like they’ve seen stuff live because they’ve seen it on their computer. It’s obvious why people in the business are having problems.
Down south stuff still sells because down there they buy records, they don’t have computers down there yet they’re in a different time zone, they’re not like these cheap people who’ve downloaded it.
Do you still buy records then?
(Keith) Yeah I buy records, I buy cds, I’ve got everything from the past to the future and the present. I’ve got old stuff, new stuff, r’n’b stuff like Keith Sweat, Jodeci… I’m not like one of these people who’re like ‘Yeah I’ve downloaded Megadeth’s album and it’s in my car’.
Do you like Reggae?
(Keith) Yeah I listen to a lot of reggae, I like Beanie Man, Yellowman, Big Youth I like a lot of Jamaican dancehall, so much stuff is coming out of there.
I like the dancehall chants, and I like the innovation with the beats, they do a lot of futuristic things with the beats there. Jamaicans were also the first rappers, NY might have created the B Boy rappers and hip hop but the people who made the blueprint were the Jamaicans, New York brought the style and the image mainly.
You still live in the Bronx, what’s it like there now?
(Keith) I love the urban living, the south Bronx has come a long way with housing, development, cultural reconstruction; it’s a small city but it has so much stuff, you can buy anything you want, all the styles are here, other cities have the clothing but people don’t know how to wear it. We’ve got the Yankees, the baseball cap all that’s the Bronx – a lot of other cities didn’t know how to wear their baseball cap, copping it to the side is NY originally, our culture.
Did you ever write graffiti (guest question from Quality Not Quantity Productions)?
(Keith) No, I didn’t write graffiti but I used to go to block parties and dance, I was a dancer. I knew all the guys who were dancing.
Did you ever see Bambaataa back in the day?
(Keith) Yeah, I saw him at jams outside in the projects, all over the projects you’d hear the speakers from block to block, people would play in the park, people didn’t even use Technics back then, just old turntables with orange lights on the side. The Jamaicans were the first to jam outside in the park – Kool Herc brought that style to New York.
Can you comment on the word style what does it mean to you (guest question from Quality Not Quantity Productions)?
(Keith) Style means something crass, nobody can ‘be’ style, the rapper image came from New York the jewelry, the chains, the Cangol, the Cazal glasses, the Puma, the Adidas, the swagger of New York city, the cap turned to the side, it’s all New York.
(MOVING OVER TO KURT)
What kind of Hip Hop are you into these days?
(Kurt): There’s people doing new things in a way – Kanye West has his own different style with that sped up soul and his stuff is pretty funky sometimes, I sometimes like Dre’s production, or whoever’s producing for him I think it’s probably someone else. The Neptunes had some pretty funky beats but most of the underground guys are pretty standard, I don’t think there’s anyone doing something better than what I’m doing, no one’s set a new standard. I don’t think anyone’s doing anything like Ced Gee, Bombsquad, Marley Marl, Mantronix and even the 45 King, there’s nobody that came along in the last 15 years that’s done anything at that level.
What about J Dilla and his legacy?
(Kurt) It’s really sad, people are just exploiting the guy’s death, it’s bad enough to exploit someone when they are alive but when they are dead?
(Keith interjects) Yeah play my records when I’m alive, enjoy all my stuff when I’m alive.
(Kurt) Exactly don’t just become a Dilla fan now he’s dead. There’s a sickness in some fans, particular ones that like less commercial stuff who want to keep things for themselves, who stop liking things when they get better known, it’s like a fetish.
I don’t like small minded people and I think the rap audience has a small mind; they only want to hear one thing. I bet you’ve got rappers in Greece and I bet they’re good but I bet you’ve got haters saying people shouldn’t rap in Greek.
(Keith) – It should be like a sport, it should be competitive, like in basketball the players all bump each other hard on the court and elbow each other in the nose but at the end they all pat each other on the back.
(Kurt) – People take it too seriously
(Keith): Conscious rap is like a mutual way of rapping, people say they’re going to buy it but (to me) it lessens the value of rap, people want to hear competitive rappers saying competitive lines, you can’t have twenty groups all talking about being good, ‘hey let’s all go to school, let’s all hold hands’, it’s cool to have that for people that work everyday with a suit and tie on who want to make rap friendly but rap was never friendly from day one. Kool Herc used to go against Furious 5, that’s the bottom line, people have tried to advance rap to another genre that doesn’t exist. They took out the raw element, the competitive part, Rap is like wrestling: people go to arenas to see the Undertaker fight George the Animal. Everybody can’t be a preacher. I know people who ask ‘Is that good rap, is that conscious rap? I wanna know ‘cause I wanna buy good, clean rap’, there’s no such thing. All these kids on the street have got emotions I like that they release their emotions skillfully, everybody still don’t have to rap about ‘I got 18 machine guns and I’m murdering your brother tomorrow’, because that becomes a joke, you’re like a killer in the vocal booth and we don’t need too much of that either, but there’s another part where you can answer someone back cleverly, and they answer you cleverly.
It’s competitive, it’s like tennis, you’ve got Serena Williams and Venus Williams and they play other girls. You can’t play tennis by yourself that would not be tennis.
Who have stood the test of time since no one has grabbed you recently?
(Kurt): I didn’t say I didn’t like anything; I just don’t like small minded people... I think the rap audience has a small mind, they only want to hear one thing, the guy who only wants to hear underground hip hop is the same as the guy who only wants to hear any other single genre. When you get to travel around you see we’re all human beings, someone might like this food, or that, or whatever but it doesn’t make you any better than the next person.
(Keith): I thought the world was set up differently but it’s the same in Boston, it’s the same in Denver, same in LA, same in Amsterdam, same in Germany everywhere has a place where a pop artist performs, everywhere has a place where the underground people hang out, everywhere has a place where the middle artists go and everywhere has a place where Barbara Streisand will play, it’s not like someone can come out and play in the same venue as U2, this synchronization around the world is monotonous. You’ve got the people who go to the 3000 seat stadium to see Michael Jackson... it’s all formatted.
(Kurt): Occasionally you get something else though; we went on tour with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and they’re nothing like us so I was wondering why they wanted us to come on their tour, and it turns out that they’d had the Sex Styles cd and been listening to it on their previous tour and it was their fantasy to get us on their tour even though their fans might not have heard our stuff.
What’s your opinion on D styles? (Guest question from Quality Not Quantity Productions)
(Kurt) – he does his thing. He comes from a crew that nobody paid attention to in the late 80s I mean people like Q-bert, they couldn’t even get a gig, I was at their show the first time in New York and people were like ‘who are these guys?’ but by the end of the show they realised they had heard talent. It takes a while for people to catch on sometimes. There were really no Asian DJs before those guys, now every Asian kid wants to be a DJ.
The shift in music related technology has been significant in the past few years – how has that changed the actual music, is the medium the message in the end, especially in hip hop?
(Kurt) In the early 80s there were only a couple people even able to make tracks because they didn’t have the funding to go into the studio, an SP1200 cost over 2000 dollars in 1985, I think Ced Gee was one of the first people to get an SP12, but now everyone can buy a program or get a cracked program, for just 300 bucks you can buy Reason and make beats so in the 80s everyone was starved to hear something fresh and new, I’m not saying that those guys weren’t the most talented, but they were able to get the equipment first and pioneer a new sound, now it’s so accessible to everyone it would be hard to pioneer a new sound and get it recognized, the market’s flooded in a way, things are almost too accessible.
(Keith) There are about 50, 000 producers now, I’ll be reading a magazine and I’m like I’ve never heard of this guy, I’ve never heard of this guy, turn the page… I’ve never heard of this guy. Maybe someone’s just done a couple of tracks and they’re already getting in a magazine, but people like Marly Marl made thousands of tracks.
(Kurt): The other difference I’ve noticed from the earlier times of production is that producers used to usually be DJs whereas now they’re not always DJs and don’t have that history of DJing, and you can hear when a track hasn’t been produced by a DJ, it’s not so scientific it’s just very detectable especially for rappers. Regarding technology, everybody has got Reason now, everybody has got whatever program that the Neptunes have, the Neptunes are using the same thing as Joey in his basement... but the difference is not just about background in music and knowledge and history in music, but about how creative you can get and how you push the limits of your equipment or your program.
A lot of people would say what do the Neptunes use, they use Reason so I’m going get Reason (I’m not saying they do use Reason necessarily!) because I wanna sound like the Neptune – but that doesn’t necessarily make you like the Neptunes .. ..just because you’re using a program that they use it doesn’t mean you’ll sound like them, you could be using Fruity Loops and be making shit way hotter than they make! In my opinion it’s not the program or equipment that you have its how you use it, how you freak it, how you take advantage of it; when people ask what I use I don’t even tell them because what difference does it make? I choose to advance with technology and try new things I’m not afraid of that. There’s people out there that have good ideas but don’t know what they’re talking about, there’s also a school of thought that says you have to sample from original pressings, but the truth is the first people who were sampling old school records were doing it from Ultimate Breaks and Beats.
Do you go digging? Looking for beats?
(Kurt) Yeah I do, I always laugh when I go to people’s cities and they take me to record stores full of American records – I was in France and the guy said he was gonna take me to the best store and we got there and it was full of records I’ve already got!
(Keith) For me there’s 2 ways, there’s sampling and there’s making original records, rap is separated into two different things, Roger Troutman was a part of Hip Hop, now people are just bumping heads with samples, (you find one) and another group already used it, unless you’re finding your record from Kenya.
(Kurt): back in the 90s Pete Rock, Q Tip, Premier etc, all those guys used to all buy records at the same store- the Roosevelt in NY, and the guys selling the records had all the records marked up with ‘this has a beat on it’, ‘so and so sampled this’ etc... and they were doing this in the early 90s and selling them for like 200 bucks because they knew their clients were going to come and sample it and make serious money off it. It’s taken the sport out of digging as it’s become an exploited thing and the guys in the record shops are the ones trying to tell you what’s hot, so digging is sort of a joke now.
(Keith) You have to go to Jupiter to find a sound that’s different, people go to China and as far as Japan and find records that aren’t even out and hear funk bands in China instead of here... it’s not like if you’re looking for the Ohio Players – I mean who doesn’t have the Ohio players? That’s just part of collecting records. I don’t collect records but I still know the Stax collection, I know Freddie Hubbard, CTI all the common stuff that everybody’s probably got, it had to change you’ve got to go down to Brazil and find a record that no one’s heard.
(Kurt) – Everyone’s already doing that though, people have already gone down there and got all those records and put out compilations with that stuff.
(Keith) – So in this situation then you’ve got to go back to making your own stuff, you don’t lose points for that but in the hip hop world people think you’re cheating if you don’t use enough samples these days but it’s just as qualified. I don’t think anyone said anything when Slave were making original records or when Juice brought out ‘Catch a Groove’.
(Kurt): I’ve often incorporated more live and original music into my production.
Sunday, May 29, 2005
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
You were born and raised in New York City’s legendary Spanish Harlem, also known as El Barrio; tell us about growing up in this tough environment and the sounds and images that shaped you as an artist and a person?
Well it was quite different to how things are today, back then we didn’t have so much television and mostly you just saw the kids and the grown ups listening to the radio, the radio was a big part of our life and we played that through the windows and out the fire escapes and the music would emanate through the streets when I was growing up as a kid. Most of the things that were exciting to us back then was the music we heard coming out of the apartments and the juke box that played across the street in the candy store; on hot summer days the music would be playing loud and we’d open up the water pump so we could cool off and we’d play in the streets.
What sort of music were you listening to when you were growing up, what were your parents listening to?
I started off listening to pop music, they used to have the top 40 on the radio every Saturday morning and of course we were listening to Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, Tony Bennett, Johnny Ray and most of the movies that came out that had music, it was a different world because we didn’t have much black radio back then and not a lot of Latin radio. Of course later on came Alan Freed with Moon Doggy and he introduced rock and roll and that was our music as kids when we were growing up as it felt rebellious in contrast to the sounds we’d been exposed to ‘til then. Of course people had bad things to say about Rock’n’Roll, but they had bad things to say about the twist, they had bad things to say about the boogaloo... of course in the end rap music survived and that’s pretty much what we went through. After the Rock’n’Roll era there was some Latin played by Tito Puente, Randy Carlos and guys like that and eventually when it got to the 60s people like me and Peter Rodriguez were able to incorporate the R’n’B and Latin sounds together and that was the birth of the boogaloo and Latin soul.
It’s been well documented that you became a musician while serving time in prison. Tell us a bit about this experience, was it what motivated you to succeed in the music world?
Growing up as a kid I was no different to any other kid, I had my share of troubles, having too much time on my hands and I got into some trouble with a stolen vehicle and they sent me away. I decided right then when I was away that I was not going to waste my life, I was going to study and read everything I could get my hands on and so I started to learn music while I was in West Coxsackie Reformatory. After I was released I was determined that I was going to start something, so I came home and I talked with the guys that had been singing in the hallways and they said that they were organizing a Latin band, so I went to someone’s rehearsal but they didn’t want me there because I was supposedly the neighbourhood tough guy and the neighbourhood had changed while I was away so they didn’t want me involved, and that got me so angry that it motivated me to do something with my life, so I started my own band. As a result I had the youngest band in Latin music - some of them were like 12 years old! I was about 19 and made myself the leader and the rest was history. We were together for about 6 months and then we started making records – of course now we were the neighbourhood sweet hearts because the kids were so young so a lot of the younger generation could follow us and could identify with our music because no one else was really doing Latin with English lyrics, which went on to become so popular and still is today in fact.
It's been alleged that you were part of the Dragons gang in New York. If true, how dangerous was this world and do you feel that this experience was what gave your music its distinct "street" sensibility?
Yes I was a member of the Dragons for a time and that experience of being able to see life from the street level definitely influenced my street sensibility to my fans as well as to my self.
You released a number of records for the legendary Latin music label Fania – how did that come about?
We were starting to play around the neighbourhood and had started to get noticed and a lot of people wanted to put their hands on us and control us at that time, and the only thing I really had going for me was my aggressiveness, as I didn’t know about the business, about publishing, about royalties, I was just a novice. Anyway, we had a whole host of guys that wanted to sign us at that particular time, so what happened was I signed with all of them in an attempt to get the best deal because none of them were really giving us good contracts and didn’t have our interests at heart. The only way I thought I could protect myself was that Joe Bataan isn’t my real name, Bataan is actually my first name so I was signing everything as Joe Bataan, and then finally one guy caught me and pretty much threw me out the door and said to me “We’re going to teach you a lesson young man, you do things our way or you’re not going to do anything for anybody”. So there I was out on the streets, thinking I had nowhere to go and that I’d ruined things again, but nonetheless, Jerry Masucci was just starting Fania at the time and he said he would take a chance on me, and so we started to record and the rest is history. Fania went on to become one of the most legendary labels in Latin music and even bought up the catalogue of some of the smaller labels I’d had negotiations with that hadn’t got their musicians interests at heart. One record came after another for us and we started getting airplay on American stations, then the crossover effect started to take place and we built a new audience, not only the Latinos but the black community, the Jewish kids were big fans of Latin musicians and then the white audiences caught on and we had everybody. Now Latin music is one of the biggest influences in the world.
One of the ways that you managed to cross over was by singing in English. Did that cause you any problems at the time, did people consider it a risk?
It was new, but I came at the right time. I wasn’t even the singer originally, there was another guy by the name of Joe Pagan and when he started to realize that the boogaloo was getting popular in the dancehalls he wanted to try doing a song in English, but he had such heavy diction, so the guys at the label asked me to try and sing it instead, so I tried and I’ve been singing ever since. He never went on to sing his songs in English but I did, and I guess my technique was a little different to the standard boogaloo because a lot of my songs have lasted throughout the years. I’m a lyricist and a lot of my songs have stories, as opposed to ‘dance to the beat’, ’get up and shout’ kind of fillers, I had actual stories which has helped them last – this is now my 40th year in the music business.
Your biggest hit for Fania was ‘Gypsy Woman’ in 1968, which was a Latin interpretation of the Impressions hit from 1961, how did that come about?
Well, it was going to be another song and I was trying to teach the guy how to sing, so I picked up some of the words to Gypsy Woman and was showing him how they fit in to my melody – I was trying to show him how words can fit into any melody if you know how to control the pattern, so that’s how it came about. It went top 16 on New York Black Radio and was a big breakthrough for us as we started getting played on both the Black and the Latin stations.
Did you experience racism within Latin music circles due to your ethnic background?
Oh yes, you get that all over, even today but at that time it was more prevalent because I’m not really Latino. I grew up in Spanish Harlem but my father is Filipino and my mother is black but all my friends were Puerto Ricans, so growing up in a Puerto Rican neighbourhood I had to learn to speak Spanish, but I never really identified with anyone else, I was just myself, that’s how I described myself in one of my songs “Ordinary Guy’ – and I never thought it would make a difference but apparently it did down the road. What had happened was that as long as I was making Latin music the Latino community were endeared to me and loved my music, loved the slow songs, but when I ventured out into other types of music and started making some Latin jazz and some straight R’n’B the black community took hold of me as well and started to consider me one of theirs, and the competition in the streets became ‘what is he? Is he black or is he Puerto Rican?’ and that went on for years, even to this day. It doesn’t matter to me, I’m just a universal person but at that time it mattered to people, don’t ask me why. It also mattered when I went to Europe and they wanted me to change the album covers, putting certain people on the cover to appeal to the people buying records. They had a lot of things going on in the industry then, there was one radio station where they wouldn’t play my records because if you weren’t Latin you didn’t get played and then some of the stations decided they wouldn’t play artists that weren’t black and I got caught in the middle for many years. Maybe that’s why ‘Joe Bataan’ never evolved into an ‘Elton John’. Only now in my twilight years am I getting recognized in the way I thought I should have been recognized. I guess it’s a different generation and they really appreciate a lot of things I did in the past, to them it’s new even though some of that stuff goes back 30 years! I’ve actually discovered I have a lot of young fans these days and when I question them about how they know my music they tell me their mothers and grandparents passed it on to them.
The riot LP came out in 1968 and addressed important social issues; what is the story behind this album?
When The Riot was released it was awarded a Gold album. During this span The Riot actually out sold every Latin and Latin soul artist by a margin of 3 to 1. This album was musically documenting something like an outbreak of freedom for young Latinos and blacks in New York and the surrounding tri-state area. Of course what was exceptional was that this album was performed by the youngest group of musicians during that time. All the members were young teenagers the youngest being just 12 as I mentioned before.
What was your involvement with Ghetto Records?
With Ghetto Records I was basically the originator and the founder of the label. The same was true of Salsoul Records and then the disco explosion happened.
Speaking of Salsoul you are one of the people credited with coining the term as well as being part of the foundation of the label – how did you envisage the label working at the time?
Actually when I left Fania Records, (after negotiating for a long time I wasn’t really happy anymore) I was looking for a new label and I didn’t really know where to go. So there was this little label dealing with Chicano-Mexican music called Mericana Records, so I went up there and sold the idea of me recording for them to a Joe Cayre and he gave me a very small amount of money to record and I went out a made an album, got it done way under budget and then got it played on the radio. He was amazed that we sold 15,000 records in a week and of course he was excited, so we talked about a deal and then he said we could start a label together, so I agreed to name the label. The name I picked was Salsoul which just joins the words Salsa and Soul so it’s no different from Latin Soul or Boogaloo Latin but I called it Salsoul and it immediately caught on. I had the hit ‘The Bottle’ and then ‘Rap-O-Clap-O’ and things just went on from there. Of course I didn’t really get a fair deal because eventually I sold my rights to the Cayre brothers thinking I could just do it again. I remember having the dream that Salsoul would become a household name years later, but you know, I don’t have regrets, I started the label and I’m proud of that and I was one of the innovators of Latin music within the disco scene so overall I’m happy.
So you mentioned your big hit with Gil Scott Heron’s ‘The Bottle’, how did that come about?
Well he was having a big hit in New York with that record and I was always one of those people who could tell when a record was going to be big and that there was a possibility you could cover it and also have a success off the record - actually Gil Scott and his partner were really happy that I covered it as they had run out of money and couldn’t produce the record or manufacture it anymore - so I decided to do the instrumental and I got a guy to play the saxophone who’s now famous called Dave Sanborn and the rest is history, I think we sold 80,000 records in a week when it came out it, it went Top 100 in Billboard magazine which was huge for that time and we were at the threshold of disco music.
And of course you also mention Rap-O-Clap O – that’s considered quite a ground breaking track, can you tell us about your inspiration for that?
Yeah that was a real strange story, there were some kids at the community centre in the neighbourhood that I used to run, and I just couldn’t understand why the place was packed every night and what these kids were all doing just stomping their feet while a couple of youngsters at the decks were just spinning records. So one day I asked these kids to record, their names were Jekyll and Hyde back then and of course they went on to be producers for Motown, but in the end they didn’t show up to the studio, I’d arranged everything but I guess they didn’t think I knew what I was doing, so I was stuck there with the bill and everything so decided to do the song myself. I went to Salsoul with it when it was done and they told me that they wanted me to go to Holland, they said the record was a hit and I couldn’t understand how they could know a record was a hit when it hasn’t been played yet, and they told me ‘they know these things’! At that time Holland was the focal point of Europe for music, so I went there and I didn’t get back to the states for 6 months, that’s how big that record was for me, one of the biggest of my life.
Your name appears on the production credits of the Lasso LP from 1977, what other work had you been involved in as a producer?
I produced many records for all the labels that I worked with - Ghetto, Fania, Salsoul; I produced for LaSo, New Jersey Turnpike, David Sanborn (from The Bottle), Paul Ortiz’s ‘Tender Love’, a track I did with Jocelyn Brown called ‘Sadie’.. the list goes on!
More recently Italy’s Irma records released a house version of "Ordinary Guy" in 2003 - Were you personally involved in that?
Yeah I was - Irma Records flew me out to Italy to sing my song on their recorded track – there’s also going to be a vocal and a rap version soon coming out on a label in LA.
In 2005 you made a new album on Vampisoul Records entitled ‘Call My Name’ tell us how that came about?
That did really well - you know I never in my whole life got interviewed as much as I did when that record came out; it was like the resurgence of my life. I met this young kid called Danny Collas, he was about 24 years old and he came to see me play, and he had a suggestion. He said “do you want to record something with me in my basement?” and I said “yeah sure, why not?”, so I went down to his basement and we did these songs – cause you never know – Europe is a funny market, it’s not like America, there’s a lot of songs that come out there that might not do anything in the states, so I just figured you might get blessed or lucky or whatever, so I did these songs with him but he didn’t have anywhere to take the music, and I happened to notice that there was this little label in Spain that was re-releasing old Fania stuff, so I told him to call, but I had no idea he’d made a deal with them and they were releasing the record. The reviews were fantastic all over the world.
When we first heard the lead track from that release we actually thought it was an old Joe Bataan track that we just hadn’t come across before.
Yeah you have to give Danny credit, he wrote and produced these songs but he tailored them for me and my style, so he must have been one of those fans that had studied me for years, and he knew that these songs would suit me. He sought me out, he could have got anybody to sing but he wanted me and the results were like magic, because people all over the world had that same impression you had.
That track has always been a big dance floor hit for us whenever we play it.
That’s really good to hear! You know back in the day apparently I had a bit of a hit in Greece but I think your government rules made it really hard to get any money out of the country, but I saw some sales figures at least and they were good, so I always wanted to get out to Greece.
Monday, May 23, 2005
In conjunction with Black History Month 2008
The producer's producer who has released for everyone from Big Dada, 4th & Broadway, 2000 Black, Talkin' Loud and Goya and whose 2008 Japan only album 'Zen Badizm' has had music freaks from all walks of life going crazy for its geniusly conceived deep-afro-broken-funk; IG (also recording as New Sector Movements amongst myriad monikers) is not only West London's foremost broken beat pioneer but a cross-discipline multi-genre experimentalist dedicating his whole life to bass heavy productions and whose formation and participation in London's now legendary Co-Op club has made him one of the most sought after DJs around. It will be his first time out in Greece and he'll be delivering an across the board set of all the most essential broken, hip-hop, afro, dub, soul and more. The event takes place at Jazz Upstairs (Guru) and support on the night comes from Black Athena and Boycott (d2/Lowdown).
Listen to Black Athena live every Saturday & Sunday, 1-3pm on Athens International Radio 104.4FM or via: www.air1044fm.gr & www.athina984fm.gr.
Once again it’s been a couple of months since we’ve updated you with our comings and goings so we've got a lot to pack in to our irregular bulletin but first we must kick off by giving some love back to all of you who’ve supported us over the summer! From those of you who came to the festivals, to the random summer parties, who got in touch during the show and who made guest appearances for us – thank you one and all!
And of course thank you to everyone who showed their face at the opening bash of the season for the Outro ladies down at Yoga Bala on Friday – it was an excellent start to the ‘winter’ period for us so we hoped you all enjoyed the music and the party as much as we did.
We’ve also got some upcoming dates for your diary – 3 events for now (and something secret and special coming up in November!), each on a very different tip starting with next Wednesday’s inaugural ’100 bpm @ K44’ in which we’re taking things down an alternative pathway for a midweeker typified by off kilter Wonky sounds alongside crunked up synthy hype, leftfield (with a small ’L’) noises and steppy clutter the whole night long - think Bristol, think Glasgow, think "Los Angeles" and you’re thinking on the right lines... Free to get in as ever and a 10 O’clock-ish start; following that on Friday the 3rd of October we're extremely excited to be co-hosting PPP (AKA Platinum Pied Pipers), playing live for the first time in Athens on a night that also features handpicked DJs from the soul-jazz-hip hop cognoscenti of Athens across two floors for a party set to go on all night long, with the band playing live upstairs at the night’s climax. That takes place at Soul Stereo, is free to get in and kicks off at around 11.
Finally on the 18th of October, something we’ve been trying to arrange for a long time – the Godlike IG Culture will be gracing these shores for an appearance at the lovely Jazz Upstairs, hosted by us and the Lowdown boys and with DJ support from the two collectives (Black Athena on a mellow warm up tip and Boycott bringing the house sounds after the guest). We’re very excited to be doing this particular event at the fabulous Jazz Upstairs and on their heavy sound system so want to give you all a bit of a long range heads up on this so you can be ready from now – anyone who’s seen IG do his thing at the legendary Co-Op over the years will know this is not to be missed.
As always you can catch Black Athena's twice-weekly radio broadcasts on Athens International Radio 104.4 FM, every Saturday and Sunday afternoon 1pm-3pm (Greek time: GMT +2); the show can also be heard worldwide by going to www.athina984fm.gr or www.air1044fm.gr then clicking on the streaming logo in the top right hand corner of the page. The show is not currently archived (coming soon though!) so for now be sure to catch it live.
Regular listeners know the show is dedicated to the best underground music around, be it brand new beats or rare grooves dug from the crates and also functions as a stage to hear what's being produced on the Athens' underground. On that note we are producing a particular segment of the show called Platform in which we want to showcase the music being made and played around Athens or further a field and are keen to hear your mixes and demos. As ever anyone who'd like to be considered for Platform can email us to find out more: (email@example.com).
Recent Platform features have included some excellent guest mixes from the likes of AFTA-1, Thomey Bors, Fabrice Lig, J Melik and Boycott (d2/Lowdown) - a mixture of international guests and local heroes who’ve all bought their own unique flavours to the show.
Black Athena also broadcast monthly from Italy's Radio Pellenera and Singapore's Dance & Soul. The newest installment of Black Athena's show, Black Athena FM, will be available on demand in the next few days at both (www.danceandsoul.com) & (www.radiopellenera.com) and will feature beautiful music from Nas, Black Spade, Finale and Yaw amongst others and also includes part of an interview we conducted with rising star Afta-1.
It's a little earlier this year than usual due to the dates for Synch, but either way it's that time once again for a birthday party – Black Athena's to be precise – we are 3 this summer and to celebrate are bringing one of the hottest up and coming producers that the UK has spat out in the last year – Manchester based Trus'me (Prime Numbers) who with his debut 12” for the cooler than thou Stilove4music label out of Chicago, garnered the rapturous praise of house heavy weights from across the pond including the godlike Kenny Dixon Jnr. as well as Europe's own pantheon of underground music aficionados (Jazzanova, Mad Mats, Ashley Beedle, Gilles Peterson etc…).
As you can guess we are super-excited about this so hope as many of you as possible can come out in support on the night, as well as to hear the fine sounds of Manchester's most precocious production talent, and Europe's own answer to the Detroit massive.
We'll be there in musical support too so expect a night end to end with deep and heavy black musical flavours – future soul, hip hop, disco, Detroit... it’ll all be there. The party takes place on Saturday the 17th of May at Yoga Bala in Psirri and as ever is hosted by Outro.
There will also be some special little extras on the night but more news of that to come...
Extra info at: www.thecityvibe.com and in Greek at www.avopolis.gr/live/dates_events.asp
...and a big thank you to the Greece is for Lovers crew for the beautiful flyer!
Saturday the 17th of April
Yoga Bala, 5-7 Riga Palamidou, Psirri, Athens
Doors: 11pm Entrance: FREE
Black Athena Present Benji B & Thomey Bors
The collective who've been bringing the vibes at parties around the capital for the last years are very proud to announce a special evening taking place at One Happy Cloud dedicated to the best in underground black music with two very special guests at the controls: BBC1Xtra's Benji B, and up and coming Greek producer Thomey Bors who together will be taking the crowd on a journey through hip hop, future soul, broken beats, nu jazz, deep house and Detroit techno. You cannot miss this.
Benji B (BBC 1Xtra / Deviation, UK)
For those who attended last year's road blocked event at Black Athena's birthday bash where Benji B made his debut on Greek shores you'll know what this man is all about: future music woven together seamlessly with a head nodding beat and an ever present ear for melody. Benji's name is synonymous in music circles as a tastemaker, a DJs DJ, one of the best radio producer's in the UK and most recently a promoter of one of London's best club nights, his own monthly Deviation session which has featured guests as diverse as Flying Lotus, Eric Lau, Dego (4 Hero), Waajeed (PPP) and more. Benji has also shared bills with Theo Parrish, Steve Spacek, Skream and Madlib, and is currently winging his way round the Miami Music Conference with guest appearances lined up alongside Kevin Saunderson, Ron Trent, Benga, DJ Spinna and Daz I Kue to name just a few, before making a stop here in Athens. He has also travelled the world guesting at the biggest music events you care to name, from the Big Chill and Southport in the UK, to Barcelona’s Sonar festival, and to all of the world's biggest musical capitals, be it to hang with the Rush Hour crew in Amsterdam, to hold it down with the Stones Throw massive in California or to go deep with Tokyo's Jazzy Sport heads.
A true home grown talent, Thomey Bors is a superlatively gifted producer of Greece's very own; having honed his DJing skills experimenting with sounds as diverse as drum'n'bass, Detroit techno, experimental electronica, hip hop, soul and more he turned his talents to producing his own beats and the results have had heads turning and ears pricking up in Greece's underground scene. Having received a full playback of his debut EP on Black Athena's FM radio show, and contributing a highly praised set at the STFU festival Thomey now opens proceedings for one of the mentors of his art.
Saturday the 5th of April
One Happy Cloud, 12 Aristofanous St, Psirri, Athens
Entrance: 5 Euros
We want to announce a very special event that we're hosting this coming Friday night at Soul Stereo in Psirri; the night is called the True Soul Sessions and we'll be giving you soul from the past, the present and the future, from the sweet soul music of Marvin & Barry to the sample steeped soul of Dilla and Madlib, the psyched out stylings of Spacek or Badu, the refried soul that Moodymann and Theo do so well and the best of the rest of this deep and classic axis.
Check out the beautiful eflyer designed exclusively for us by Greece Is For Lovers at:
Music is Everything... and there’s no music without Soul.
Black Athena presents the True Soul Sessions:
Friday the 28th of March
Soul Stereo, Evripidou 65, Psirri, Athens
March the 1st sees a very special happening taking place as part of the monthly Black Athena night as US DJ, re-mixer and re-editor Prince Language will be joining us on the decks. As ever Black Athena will provide blissful beats and melodies from across the board including Future Soul, Hip-Hop, Deep Funk, Disco, Reggae, Detroit Techno & Jazz, while Prince Language will be bringing his eclectic take on anything and everything as showcased in his highly respected No Comprendo mixes (check out www.thenocomprendo.com for more info).
Be sure to arrive early as it's set to be a roadblock!
Yoga Bala, 5-7 Riga Palamidou, Psirri, Athens .
Doors 11pm; Free Entrance
J Dilla Tribute on AIR FM 104,4
(Slum Village Dilla Memorial)
01. Carlos Nino & Miguel Atwood Ferguson (2008)
02. J Dilla ft Dwele – Dime Piece (The Shining, 2006)
03. Slum Village – Look Of Love (Remix) (Fantastic, ‘96/2005)
04. Steve Spacek – the Dollar (Space Shift, 2005)
05. J Dilla – The $ (Money) (Ruff Draft, 2003)
06. J Dilla – Nothing Like This (Ruff Draft, 2003)
07. Bullion – Caroline No (download, 2007)
08. Slum Village – Fantastic (reprise) (Fantastic Volume 2, 2000)
09. Bullion – I Know There Is An Answer (download, 2007)
10. Minnie Ripperton – Inside My Love (For ‘Look of Love’)
11. Dionne Warwick – You’re Gonna Need Me (For ‘Stop)
12. J Dilla - Stop (Donuts, 2006)
13. Platinum Pied Pipers – Shotgun (Triple P, 2005)
14. J Davey – Red Light (Jay Love Japan)
15. Phat Kat – Nasty (Carte Blanche, 2007)
16. Frank & Dank – One Time For The (EP, 2007)
17. Dabrye ft Dilla & Phat Kat – Game Over (Two/Three, 2004)
18. Busta Rhymes & DJ Spinna – Dillagence (2007)
19. Jaylib – LA To Detroit (Champion Sound, 2003)
20. The Impressions – We Must Be In Love (For ‘Love’)
(Ruff Draft Tribute documentary)
21. J Dilla – Walkin On It (Donuts, 2006)
22. Slum Village – Raise It Up (Fantastic Volume 2, 2000)
23. Jaylib – The Red (Champion Sound, 2003)
24. J Dilla – Crushin’ (Ruff Draft, 2003)
25. J Dilla ft Pharaoh Monch – Love (The Shining, 2006)
26. Madlib – Take It Back (Chrome Children, 2006)
27. J Dilla – Light Works (Donuts, 2006)
28. DJ Cam ft J Dilla & Cameo – Love Junkee (Love Junkee EP, 2002)
29. Common – Thelonius (Like Water For Chocolate, 2000)
30. Black Milk – Look At Us Now (Popular Demand, 2007)
31. Phat Kat – Don’t Nobody Care About Us (Dedication to the Suckers EP, 1999)
32. Jay Dee - Ritmo Suave Bossa Nova (White Label, 2003)
33. J Dilla - So Far To Go (The Shining, 2006)
James 'Dilla' Yancey, 1974-2006, R.I.P.
Black Athena start the New Year in the way they mean to go on by kicking off 2008’s party proceedings this Saturday (January the 26th), representing the length and breadth of black music. Expect Future Soul, Hip-Hop, Deep Funk, Disco, Reggae, Detroit Techno & a little bit of Jazz.
Saturday the 26th of January
Yoga Bala, 5-7 Riga Palamidou St, Psirri, Athens
Doors: 11pm Free Entrance
First up we need to tell you about our monthly party taking place in our usual venue, Yoga Bala in Psirri, this Saturday night (December the 1st) hosted as always by Outro. As ever expect a blend of blissful beats and melodies from across the board including Future Soul, Hip-Hop, Deep Funk, Disco, Reggae, Detroit Techno & Jazz.
Be sure to arrive early as it's set to be a roadblock and Black Athena will be packing in the musical treats from beginning to end.
Yoga Bala, 5-7 Riga Palamidou, Psirri, Athens.
Doors 11pm; Free Entrance
It's not going to be the last Black Athena event of 2007, however, so keep your ears to the ground for news of something special coming up before the year closes…
Black Athena Weekender: Fri 26th & Sat 27th Oct. 2007
The regular Black Athena party will take place on Friday the 26th of October at Yoga Bala in Psirri and as always is not to be missed! Expect the usual mix of: Future Soul, Hip-Hop, Deep Funk, Disco, Reggae, Detroit Techno & Jazz.
Listing At Destination Out
Then on Saturday the 27th of October Black Athena present the highly anticipated double act of re-edits master Lee Douglas (Rong Music, NYC) & Andrew Lovefingers (Black Disco, L.A.) who will be winging their way to Athens to grace the decks of the newly revamped One Happy Cloud in Psirri. Expect soulful and psychedelic sounds spanning the entirety of disco, Balearic, funk, cosmic, re-edits, bootlegs and more.
Entrance is free and the warm up comes courtesy of DJ Alexees (Boogie Dub Social Club/Urban Disco).
Saturday the 8th of September saw Black Athena playing the opening weekend of the new season with a deep and soulful session at Yoga Bala in Psiri, hosted as ever by Outro. The night was huge fun as always and the resident DJs showcased all the gems they'd picked up over the summer to an appreciative crowd.
The next Black Athena party will take place on Friday the 26th of October at Yoga Bala in Psiri and as always is not to be missed! The October date also coincides with Breast Cancer Awareness Day so Black Athena will be turning Pink for the occasion in an effort to raise money for the worthy cause.
Yoga Bala, 5-7 Riga Palamidou St , Psiri, Athens .
The 22nd of September saw the long awaited live appearance in Athens by legendary rapper Kool Keith alongside his longtime collaborator and producer KutMasta Kurt and the renowned MC Motion Man. The event was a roadblock and everyone who made it down on the night seemed more than happy with the show that greeted them; highlights included the back to back versions of Blue Flowers, and Kurt's incredible skills on the decks.
The Athens International Film Festival has also opened its doors for another year and promises to keep audiences at the cutting edge of contemporary cinema. Black Athena were lucky enough to attend the Mel Cheren tribute documentary 'The Godfather of Disco' last Friday and can't recommend it highly enough. Coming up this week a documentary about Arthur Lee, the Blaxploitation classic Coffy and Michael Moore's new documentary 'Sicko' all promise to enthrall audiences.
Saturday the 30th of June was an extremely special night for Black Athena: Benji B (BBC 1 Xtra/Deviation) graced the decks of Yoga Bala to help us celebrate Black Athena’s second birthday. Benji was totally on the ball as always and totally rocked the place from start to finish! We would like to thank all of you who came down on the night and everyone for your support these two years; we promise to continue working hard to bring you all the best in aural pleasure! Keep On.
The highlight of July came in the form of the Synch festival; the annual event, which has in the past hosted astonishing artists such as Theo Parrish and Underground Resistance. This year’s line up was equally mouthwatering and included Mark Ernestus and Tiki Man from Rhythm & Sound, Beppe Loda, Chateau Flight, Moxie, and Bill Laswell’s Methods of Defiance. Keep your eyes peeled for the fruits of some of Black Athena’s conversations with the leading lights of the weekend.
Saturday the 30th of June sees one of Black Athena’s most anticipated events of the year in the form of our second birthday party, which coincides with Outro’s closing party in an event that is set to outshine all others with the inclusion of a very special guest from the UK - Benji B (BBC 1 Xtra/Deviation).
5-7 Riga Palamidou St.
A few days before on the 27th of June Peanut Butter Wolf will be making a unique one off appearance in An Club accompanied by Baron Zen. This week on Thursday the 21st of June and as part of the European Music Day 2007, Nostalgia 77 will be appearing live in Technopolis in Gazi, Athens.
The first weekend in May went off with a bang when Mr. Daniel Wang graced Athens with his presence to take to the decks at Yoga Bala in Psiri. Daniel brought the party to Greece and provided us with one of the most blissful sets heard in this little corner of Europe, keeping a lively crowd on their toes until daybreak.
Friday the 20th of April also saw an exclusive visit by Detroit legend Eddie "Flashin" Fowlkes who played a super-deep mix of Detroit gems past, present and future to the El Barrio punters before popping in to the Black Athena session the following night.
The next Black Athena party will take place on Saturday the 26th of May at Yoga Bala in Psiri and as always is not to be missed! The May date will see resident DJs on a classic tip before the exclusive June Birthday party, which Black Athena can now confirm will take place on Saturday June the 30th and feature very special guest Benji B (BBC 1Xtra) playing exclusively for the first time in Greece.
5-7 Riga Palamidou St.
Saturday May the 5th also saw Black Athena’s introduction onto the Greek airwaves. You can catch the brand new radio show hosted by Athens International Radio 104.4 FM and produced by Black Athena every Saturday afternoon 1pm-3pm. The show is dedicated to the best underground music around, be it brand new beats or rare grooves dug from the crates and will also function as a platform to hear what’s being produced on the Athens’ underground with a particular focus on giving a voice to the non-Greek community.
Black Athena will be representing once again at Yoga Bala in Psiri on Saturday night (April 21st). Those that can make it down should expect sounds and rhythms from the spectrum of black music - now and then. On the night the DJs play from 11 and of course there's no tariff on the door. Look forward to seeing you there.
We would like to thank everyone that came down and showed support at our last Black Athena night at Yoga Bala. It was really exciting to see all of you down there having a good time! If you're still left wondering about some of the tracks aired on the night, check this month's Black Athena FM for some insight. The next Black Athena night at Yoga Bala is on Saturday the 31st of March and as always, it's going to be a roadblock!
5-7 Riga Palamidou St.
The beginning of March has been an interesting time in Athens as Friday the 9th and Saturday the 10th saw two amazing guest DJs in town. On Friday night Barrio played host to Slam Mode's Michael Cole who thrilled the crowds with a deep and atmospheric set, while on Saturday one of the most instrumental personas in Broken Beat, Dominic Stanton, AKA Domu made a special guest appearance at Yoga Bala, playing music from every conceivable genre of modern and classic dance music.
In other news as well as our regular monthly shows at Dance & Soul, Black Athena are now also broadcasting from Italy's Radio Pellenera. The March installment of Black Athena's show, Black Athena FM, is now online at both (www.danceandsoul.com) & (www.radiopellenera.com) and features the blissful sounds of: Smokey Robinson - 'Quiet Storm', Temptations - '1990', Peven Everett - 'All My Life', Doris Norton - 'Norton Apple Software' and many more.
Following Black Athena's exhilarating January session at Yoga Bala, highlight's of which included the Salsoul Orchestra's 'You're Just The Right Size' and Lesette Wilson's 'Caveman Boogie', the next Black Athena night at Yoga Bala will be held on Saturday the 24th of February with residents playing soulful underground sounds all night long.
5-7 Riga Palamidou St.
El Barrio, the newest addition to the underground Athens music scene, has another excellent Sunday session booked for this week, supported once again by Black Athena. The night has been newly named 'Workshop - The Collective Sound of Athens' and this week features scene stalwarts Dr.Vodkatini live, as well as DJ sets by Bomba/Energia.
53 Keramikou St.
Live Band: 10pm
El Barrio is Athens' newest underground music venue and although only recently opened the club has already hosted one of the hottest producers and DJs of the moment, Karizma, and is now embarking on a regular Sunday session whose debut this Sunday will feature two of Black Athena's own collective of DJs, Tassos Apokremiotis and Petros AKA Just Landed Cosmic Kid, who play together on the night as Deep Jazz Experience. Jazznovation will also be playing live and will be on stage at 10pm.
53 Keramikou St.
Saturday the 27th of January will see the Black Athena collective taking charge of the decks at the ground floor bar of Yoga Bala in Psirri once again. Expect soul, disco, reggae, hip-hop, jazz and beats.
5-7 Riga Palamidou St.
Black Athena celebrated the festive period by delivering a crowd-pleasing session at Yoga Bala, as ever hosted by Outro. Black Athena residents played all night long, into the small hours of Christmas Day. It was good to see you all down there and we certainly hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. Highlights of the night included: Arthur Verocai - 'No Boca Do Sol', Jaylib - 'The Red', Capricorn - 'I Need Love', a classic flashback in the form of FSOL – 'Papua New Guinea' and many more.
Christmas Eve will see Black Athena delivering a festive Yoga Bala session in collaboration with Outro with Black Athena residents playing all night long, into the small hours of Christmas Day. Black Athena hope you'll come and kick off a merry Christmas with us from 11 onwards.
October has been a busy month for the Black Athena collective, the 22nd saw us taking charge of the controls at the newly opened Lab 22 in Exarchia, while on the 28th we returned to Yoga Bala for another packed out Saturday night session, which was a stormer! On Sunday the 29th we were back at Lab 22 for a 'Day After' Session and because Sunday just wasn’t enough we did a session the following Thursday to round it all up!
The next Black Athena dates for your calendar are:
Thursday 16th of November, Black Athena Sound System Live @ Lab 22, plus Black Athena DJs
Zoodochou Pigis & Academias Str. (Kiafas Str.)
Friday 24th Of November, a Yoga Bala session in Collaboration with Outro, Black Athena residents all night long, we advise getting there early!
5-7 Riga Palamidou Str.
Black Athena will also be playing at the PLATFORMA VIDEO film festival in early December. PLATFORMA is an international film festival held annually in Athens, aimed at promoting contemporary cinema and films created using video and new media.
Now in its sixth year PLATFORMA VIDEO will be held from the 2nd to the 7th of December, 2006 at the Nixon Bar Cinema and Bios in Gazi.
More info on Black Athena’s participation will follow.
Thursday the 7th of September will see the Black Athena collective taking charge of the decks at the ground floor bar of Yoga Bala in Psiri, for the first of a series of parties to kick off the new season after the calm of August. Black Athena hope to see our usual crowd down there and will be bringing the sweet music from 11pm onwards on the night. Entrance is free.
Riga Palamidou 5-7,
This month English Deejay Carlos Slazenger (while currently holed up in Athens) posts a one hour set of 1950s and 60s horror rock'n'roll. These novelty songs are from the era of crazy exploitation rockabilly made by mostly one off groups to cash in on the teenage horror movie craze that began with television broadcasts of 1930s horror films.
Carlos Slazenger has produced programs for Resonance FM in London and regularly plays live as part of DJ team Non-Stop Hits, and solo.
Disillusioned by bland mainstream pop and supposedly alternative indie groups he trawls the junk shops and markets for unusual music to add to his collection of outsider and incredibly strange rock'n'roll.
Carlos will next be plying his unique wears on Resonance FM on the 15th of August 2006 at 1900 BST.
Listen online at href="http://www.resonancefm.com"_blank">www.resonancefm.com
You can also visit Carlos at his myspace page:
The July installment of Black Athena's monthly radio show, Black Athena FM will be online until August 15th, courtesy of the Dance & Soul crew (www.danceandsoul.com), if you haven't checked it out, here's your chance.
Highlights of this July's show included: Mary Lou Williams - 'One', Aloe Blacc - 'Liquid Love', Roy Hargrove - 'Crazy Race' and Alton Miller - 'Clouds are Gone'.
The next installment will be with you mid-month so don't forget to check back.
The 14th of July saw the Black Athena collective taking charge of the decks at bar Open, for a follow up to their first birthday party back in June. Again we would like to thank everybody that came down and helped make it another night to remember. Aside from the Black Athena regulars, our special guest for the night was DJ Vags who impressed once more with his synthetic disco beats and his trademark cosmic influences.
The main musical event of note this coming month is of course Greece's answer to Sonar, the Synch festival, which is held in Lavrio on 8th and 9th July. This year looks to be a first-rate celebration of underground dance with Black Athena particularly looking forward to Galaxy 2 Galaxy and remixer of the moment, Henrik Schwarz.
Aside from all the Black Athena fun June also saw a visit to Athens by man of the moment Dixon from Sonar Kollektiv. His June 23rd appearance at Psirri's One Happy Cloud was seminal and definitely counts as one of the events of the year.
June 21st was another big day in Black Athena's summer calendar as Black Athena Sound System took to the stage at the European Music Day Festival, in Thissio. Black Athena played an incendiary set fusing Black Musical tradition past and present to a curious gathering of onlookers, with live spoken word additions from Black Athena's resident words man Steve.
A big thank you to everyone who made our first birthday party go off with a bang! The night was a huge success and individual contributions from all the DJs, musicians, visual and culinary experts combined to create a fabulous night.
June the 21st sees the Black Athena Sound System taking to the stage at the European Music Day Festival, which takes place at various locations around the city. Black Athena will be fusing Black Musical tradition past and present with Urban/Ancient Athenian surroundings. Expect music, movies and more.
For more Info please check: www.musicday.gr and our site at: www.black-athena.com.
Black Athena is One!
June is turning into a busy month for all of us here at Black Athena. The first date for your diaries will be our one-year anniversary birthday party, to be held on June 9th in a brand new bar, situated right in the center of town in Syntagma, which has the rather unusual name: ‘Open Sky with a Bird and a Parrot by the Square’!
The usual Black Athena residents Costis, Jo, Petros and Tasos will be joined on the night by Athenian persona DJ Idolos for a special CDJ – live Trumpet session, which should make it an unmissable occasion. Culinary experimentalists Funky Gourmet will also join forces with us on a mission of warming up your palette, with their ultra modern creations. You’re all welcome!
Black Athena / One Year:
Friday 9th of June/ Open Sky with a Bird and a Parrot by the Square /10, Othonos Str./ Metro - Syntagma.
Kick off – 10pm
The May/June installment of Black Athena's monthly radio show, Black Athena FM is currently online courtesy of the Dance & Soul crew (www.danceandsoul.com).
In the latest show we give listeners the chance to sample the so far unreleased project by The Concorde Loop Band entitled 'Feelosophy'.
Other highlights of this month’s show include: Gil Scot Heron 'Peace go with you brother', Dudley Perkins 'Come Here My Dear', Hugh Masekela 'The Boy is Doin' it (Carl Craig Remix) ' as well as Greek 80’s electro rarity Jazzburger 'Set On Fire', Per cussion 'Don't Stop' and 94 East 'One Man Jam'.
May’s musical highlights included an appearance by Bronx born DJ Antonio Ocasio for a one off session, in Black Athena's prior home 'One Happy Cloud’, whilst Friday the 12th of May also saw the appearance of Jurgen von Knoblauch, of Jazzanova at Moshi Moshi, Athens.
May 4th brought a very special visitor to Athens - legendary New York jazz drummer Steve Reid along with the 'ensemble' that helped produce last year's 'Spiritwalker' album (Kieran Hebden AKA Fourtet), a work of mastery which combines electronic synthesis with straight ahead free jazz.
Steve Reid cut his teeth drumming in a number of cult outfits including Sun Ra's Arkestra, and for Motown records and as such brings a rich heritage to this contemporary pairing which made the night one to remember.
Black Athena had the chance to speak with the legendary drummer and the results of those conversations will be available on www.black-athena.com in the near future.
The Years of Defiance: The Art of the 70's in Greece is the title, of the latest offering from the Greek Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition offers an insight into Greek modern art from '69 to '81. The period is particularly interesting since it coincides with the years of political unrest and the military dictatorship in Greece.
Many works are heavily fuelled by the political dead end of the time, while others explore issues of the body, sexuality, mass culture and art itself.
The exhibition is being held in the Athens Concert Hall (new wing) and ends on the 7th of May 06.
For more info visit: www.emst.gr
Also check: http://www.theodoros.net/ergo/xeirismoi/xeirismoi.htm
The April installment of Black Athena's monthly radio show, Black Athena FM is currently online courtesy of the Dance & Soul crew (www.danceandsoul.com).
The latest show introduces a brand new section entitled 'spiritually speaking'. Black Athena cohort Petros Malevris aka Just Landed Cosmic Kid, dives deep into his record box and reveals some excellent and hard to find spiritual jazz gems, for your ears only! Highlights include Horace Tapscott's 'Desert Fairy Princess', Jaman Quartet's 'Free Will', Nate Morgan's 'Mrafu' and many more.
Thursday the 13th of April saw the re-appearance of Osunlade for an unpublicized, full moon special, in Black Athena's prior home 'One Happy Cloud'. It was good to see him in a more urban setting again, away from his newly adopted volcanic surroundings of Santorini!
The March installment of Black Athena's monthly radio show, Black Athena FM is currently online courtesy of the Dance & Soul crew (www.danceandsoul.com). For those tuning in for the first time, the show mirrors the work Black Athena have been doing during the past few years through the Black Athena website and club nights and spans decades and genres of quality music.
The latest show is crammed end to end with luscious sounds such as Audley Rollen's 'Be Wise', Bilal's 'Hollywood' and RB Hudmon's boogie classic 'Searching For Your Love'. It also features Tasos Apokremiotis' Black Athena Mix for March (we liked it so much that we had to include it on the show!)
Check back mid April for the next installment.
The first day of April saw Black Athena out and about at the annual Record Fair, which has just taken up residency at Technopolis in Gazi, Athens. Black Athena were in an anticipated minority against a barrage of rock behemoths but still managed to meet plenty of like-minded souls and a good day was had by all.
Black Athena are in the process of forging some interesting collaborations with local fanzines and radio stations, more details of which will be announced as plans are finalized.
The first of Black Athena’s new monthly radio show’s aired in February courtesy of the Dance & Soul crew (www.danceandsoul.com) and by all accounts went down a storm. The show mirrors the work Black Athena have been doing during the past few years through the Black Athena website and club nights and spans decades and genres of quality music. The February show is still online for those yet to catch it; while the show for March will have been recorded by the time you read these lines. So log on and enjoy!
February also saw the return of the Black Athena Discotheque, with a guest set at 'Loop' on Saturday, February the 11th. The gathered throng were treated to classics including Cerrone’s Look For Love, Voyage’s Point Zero and Marta Acuna’s Dance, Dance, Dance as well as some Detroit rarities and other assorted gems. Thanks to those of you that came down and showed your support, keep checking the website for news of our next date.
The saddest news of the last month came with the tragic death of Hip-Hop luminary J-Dilla who sadly passed away due to complications arising from the chronic autoimmune disorder Lupus.
J-Dilla, born James Yancey, was just 32 years old however his life’s work already more than surpassed not only his contemporaries but also the legends of the Hip Hop scene. He was a founder member of Slum Village and worked with almost every other Hip-Hop artist of note including Kanye West, Madlib, A Tribe Called Quest and Common.
Such was his commitment to music that J Dilla recorded the foundation for the current 45-minute instrumental album Donuts while hospitalized last year due to his condition.
Tributes have poured in from his contemporaries, his idols, and his fans alike, and radio shows from the likes of Benji B have acknowledged the great man’s untimely passing with shows dedicated to his life’s works. Black-Athena would like to add our voice to the many in the global music community to say that he will be sadly missed but never forgotten.
Black Athena are pleased to announce the commencing of a monthly radio show entitled 'Black Athena FM' courtesy of the Dance & Soul crew at www.danceandsoul.com. The show will reflect the work Black Athena have been doing during the past few years through the Black Athena website and club nights. So log on everybody and enjoy!
February sees the return of the Black Athena Discotheque, with a guest set at 'Loop' on Saturday, February the 11th. Entrance is free and on the night Black Athena’s deep soul, disco and dubbed out sounds will be on the menu.
Mikro Mousiko Theatro in Koukaki, Athens are hosting a cinematic tribute to Sun Ra comprising two nights over two weeks. Part I will be held on monday the 16th of January with the projection of John Coney's "Space Is The Place" (1974), while part II will be held the week after and features Phill Niblock's "The Magic Sun" (1968)and Robert Mugge's "A Joyful Noise" (1980). Projections commence at 21:30.
Black Athena the club is relocating! We are currently in talks with several interesting venues and in the New Year will be revealing our new home for the next few months. There will also be a charity fund-raiser at the start of 2006, which everyone on the mailing list will be invited to attend.
There have been an increasing amount of enquiries regarding the films projected during our last two Black Athena club nights. For those that were interested we projected:
'Shadows' (1959) Dir. by John Cassavetes
'Two or Three Things I Know About Her' (1967) Dir. by J.L. Godard
Black Athena (Discotheque)at "One Happy Cloud", 12 Aristofanous Str. Psiri, Athens.
Another sunday session with guests DJ Tassos Apokremiotios and DJ Vags in the mix, doing it Black Athena stylee."Space is the Place" on the screen was tripping out everyone at The Cloud. Highlights of the night included Directions "Busted Trees" Carl Craig's mix, Yam Who's "Wrap You Up" and Osunlade's "5th Dimention".
Black Athena (Discotheque)at "One Happy Cloud", 12 Aristofanous Str. Psiri, Athens.
Another Sunday session with a few faces which we haven't seen for a while coming down to join us. Highlights included Roy Ayer's "Holiday" (DJ Spinna Mix), Fonda Rae's "Touch", Airto's "Celebration Suite" and Bobby Mcferrin's "Turtle Shoes".
Black Athena (Discotheque)at "One Happy Cloud", 12 Aristofanous Str. Psiri, Athens.
Black Athena (Discotheque)at "One Happy Cloud", 12 Aristofanous Str. Psiri, Athens.
Black Athena (Discotheque) at Caffeina, 6 Kiafas Str. Exarheia, Athens.
Black Athena (Electronics) at Loop, 3 Plateia Agion Asomaton, Thiseio, Athens.
Forthcoming residency in "One Happy Cloud" in Athens Psiri district soon t.b.c.
Black Athena (Electronics) at Loop in Thiseio, Athens.
Highlights included Steve Martin's "Smoking" as well as Ian Ardley's "Santorini" from the Greek Variations LP recently re-issued by Soul Brother.
Black Athena (Discotheque) at Caffeina in Exarheia, Athens.
Black Athena (Electronics) at Loop in Thiseio, Athens.
Friday, May 20, 2005
Your radio career began when you worked as the producer of Gilles Peterson's World Wide show. What impact did this have on your development and how was it working with Gilles?
This had a huge impact on my development as it was my first gig in radio and was like jumping straight in at the deep end. I taught myself nearly everything – I learnt on the job while the red “on the air” light was on every week. At this time I was headhunted to produce for an independent radio production company too, so I must have been doing something right. It was a crazy time and definitely gave me a confidence in the broadcast environment that you can’t learn anywhere else. I was only 16, I’ve been involved in radio for over a decade now.
Regular listeners of your show will know that you were a huge fan of the late J Dilla and continue to give his and his associates' work a great deal of support in the UK. What do you think it was that made his music so unique?
God made him unique. I don’t really know what to say beyond that – he was a musician with his chosen tool, beyond the realms of just a beat maker or producer. He had a sound that inspired a generation, but that was impossible to copy. Only he could get the feeling he achieved in his music, because there was, and is, and will always only ever be one J Dilla. May he rest peacefully.
The independent hip-hop scene seems to have undergone a renaissance in the past few years, resulting in an abundance of brilliant records. Can you pin-point what was integral to this happening?
I’m not sure I agree about the abundance of brilliant records, but there have definitely been a handful of very special ones. What was integral? The homogeneity of “mainstream hip-hop and R&B” or in more direct terminology, pop music, the dominance of MTV culture and the further globalisation and merger of major recording companies. There’s definitely been a surge in wonderful beat making talents over the last few years, but there is only a handful of MCs at “independent” level who can consistently kill it. In some ways the counter-culture movement is stronger than it ever has been – in other ways the independent hip-hop scene is dead compared to even 5 or 6 years ago when entire record stores could dedicate themselves to that music. Those stores are gone and no-one is buying the records. If the internet nearly killed hip-hop beyond the mainstream, let’s hope it’s the thing that eventually saves it. I think that this will be the case - I hope so.
Do you have a point of personal reference musically that's been essential in giving you your direction and individual style?
Jazz and my background as a musician; those are the foundations for me. I played sax for 14 years.
Considering the sheer amount of music you must receive and get to hear each week, how difficult is it for you to edit yourself, for the purposes of a two-hour show?
It’s not hard at all to be strict about editing the music. In fact the hard thing is actually finding music that lives up to the extremely high standards I set myself. Often the hard bit is not getting depressed by the mountains of rubbish music that it’s necessary to listen to in order to find the jewels, however when you find the gem it is always worth it. This is basically my job with the radio; to arrive at the station with a box full of music that has been filtered down into just the essentials; the good stuff. Music is like food to me – and I never ever lose my appetite.
You are known for having helped to break some of the best artists and acts of the past few years including Amerie, Sa-Ra Creative Partners, Aloe Blacc, Tawiah and others. What are the stories behind their discovery?
It’s simple really – I’m in the privileged position of receiving music direct from labels, studios, A&Rs and the artists themselves, often before it is signed, pressed, or in some cases even finished. If the music fits the show, offers something new, inspires me, or may be of interest to the audience, it gets played. It is not based whatsoever on a notion of what is ‘cool’ or might go on to be ‘big’. Of course if I can break artists that I care about, that feels great to me; if they go on to be huge that’s fantastic, but I don’t seek credit for any of the above. My job is to be early on these things, and although I’m in a position to give the music a platform, ultimately the music will speak for itself.
For a number of years the cult of DJing (where DJing was an art in and of itself) had been relegated in many cases to simply being a promotional/money making tool for producers. How difficult is it to be a good DJ? Can producers be good DJs, and do you think we're returning to a time where the distinction between the two is again relevant?
No – I don’t think the distinction is relevant, often being a producer means that you can bring a different perspective to the decks that a gigging DJ wouldn’t. Likewise, someone who has spent a long time in clubs honing the art of selection and mixing for the right moment and the right crowd might be able to offer experience in the field that someone else couldn’t. It’s pretty simple – either you are a good DJ or not! Asking the question can producers be good DJs is almost a rhetorical question; of course they can! Often they can be more amazing than those who are not musicians or producers; look at some of the biggest DJ names in the world: Louie Vega, Francois Kevorkian, Theo Parrish, etc. All heavyweight selectors, all heavyweight DJs, all heavyweight producers. I hope this answers the question.
What happened to Broken Beat? Did it suddenly go a bit quiet? Why do you think that was?
Broken Beat hasn’t gone quiet, only the hype has. Journalists and fashionistas were on it for a minute and now they are on something else. It might be fair to say that broken beat hasn’t exploded into something bigger than it was – but it would be inaccurate to suggest it had disappeared anywhere. Co-Op in London is still rocking, and the key producers in that scene have just as busy DJ diaries and studio schedules as they ever had. The problem with broken beat is that people (i.e. the media) want to generalise and pin point a “genre” when it’s really just about an approach to syncopated polyrhythmic music and not at all about a uniform sound or beat.
What is your view on the dubstep craze that's taking over the UK underground, is it all hype or do you think some of those artists will be able to evolve outside of the scene?
I don’t really think it’s a craze, again I think the media is just in a craze about it. Next week the craze will be Nu-Rave. Dubstep is another native music of the UK which has been healthy and alive and kicking for well over 5 years. It still will be long-after the ‘craze’ has shifted. Hopefully the new found focus of the media and the unity of the key players in the scene will allow it to grow into something quite powerful though. Forward (the flagship dubstep night in London) has been running for about as long as Co-Op has. People like Skream and Benga and Coki make incredible music. The sonics they achieve in the bottom end are so sophisticated they could test any sound system worldwide and some of these guys are only 20, 21... that’s what makes their music and their development within music so exciting. Personally I love it and I know that the most prolific and talented artists in that sphere already have the skill to evolve into anything they want to.
You've DJed at parties and festivals all over the world from Detroit to the UK, to Holland and Japan, and in June you're coming over to Athens to play at the Black Athena second birthday party. What has been your favourite DJ gig that you can recall?
Favourite DJ gig ever? That’s a hard one. Of recent times, I must say Mercati General in Sicily wins for environment; it’s set in an orange grove in an old wine making building with the volcano Mount Etna bubbling behind. In terms of fun, the Stones Throw party in Miami was a lot of fun, DJing with Madlib and co. was very messy – too many mojitos! Also in Miami I got to do a party with my good friends Geology and Waajeed – we’re calling it the Rocketscience collective. I have to say Japan is always extra special too, last year playing at Unit in Tokyo was a big gig for me, and a highlight of the last 12 months would have to be playing in Brazil for about 5 hours till 8 in the morning with the best dancers I have ever spun for. Amazing.
I was playing around with instruments, turntables and tape-decks since a very early age, but my initial decision to actually finish a track and send it to a label was in 1996 when C-Rock of the Stir 15 label heard some tracks in my studio and asked me for a demo; that led to my first two 12"s as Jackmate back in 1996/97. My influence to make house tracks was, and still is, the early Chicago and Detroit sound. Artists like Lil Louis, Larry Heard, Derrick May, Ron Hardy and Electrifying Mojo tapes from our American friends had a great influence, as well as Hip-Hop and also EBM, which was heavy in the 80s here in Stuttgart.
After working as a type of solo producer for all these years what made you want to work in collaboration with Benjamin and Nik under the Manmade Science banner? Is it easier to produce as a collective ensemble?
We have all been friends for years and all have our certain ways of DJing and producing, so to begin with we just started to jam... I’m not really a band person, so I was kind of surprised at how smoothly it went and so we continued from there. After quite a short time and our first releases on Philpot we got our first gig at the Stuttgart Jazz Open 2005; that was the moment when we started to become serious about it.
As you’ll no doubt be aware your output in many of your guises including the Manmade Science album is compared to that of Kenny Dixon Jnr. – whilst this is obviously a compliment do you ever find it frustrating to have the sum of your efforts diluted in such a way?
I see it as a compliment as well as a burden, ‘cause really the most we’ve got in common is that we both make House Music! It shouldn’t bother me, that people don´t really seem to know about the culture of House Music, its history, the roots, whatever… Kenny Dixon as well as Theo Parrish or us are just continuing in that tradition....there´s not so many people doing that, so if that means we must be compared to each other so it be...I don´t care, I love ‘em both! It should be noted though that House Music isn´t slowed down "Minimal" with strings!
How necessary are the often bandied about terms such as "click" and "minimal" within dance music to describe something that is essentially techno in your opinion?
Nowadays the term "minimal" describes, for me at least, the total absence of soul or sexiness...so I better know that before I listen to the record! I guess those terms are necessary for marketing people, but it is all techno...if it´s not really different, name it different, so maybe people will recognize it. Minimal for me (originally) was Rob Hood, DBX, that kinda stuff. For me it’s more interesting nowadays to examine the use of the term ‘House Music’ (see above!).
Having experienced the music industry from many angles including a period working in a record shop, producing your own music, DJing and being a fan and a buyer of records have the changes brought about by the digitalization of music made you feel more or less positive about the future of the industry?
We (as Philpot-Records) don’t care so much about the industry! Really to think today that you can make big money from vinyl is absurd... vinyl will always be there, as long as there are pressing plants, but it isn’t a real part of the industry anymore. What I really dislike about the digi-formats is that people don’t really care about real quality! Some people play recorded 96 Kbps MP3s from MySpace at a club! Others share my album on soulseek at 128 Kbps… I don´t care about the sharing all that much, as long it’s not for commercial use or in a forum, but I hate to produce on proper equipment to get a proper sound and then have people lame it down to 10% of what it was... just respect the art !! Personally I use digital and analog equally in the studio, but I use vinyl to play in the clubs.
Do you consume music in the same way as you used to? Do you still buy physical product?
For sure!!!! I’ll support vinyl to my or its death and beyond, it’s the media of my lifetime! (But I also buy CDs sometimes).
Arguably your work and that of a handful of other European producers such as Simbad and Red Nose Distrikt attempts to bridge the distance between Detroit hip hop and Detroit techno, yet in the US the scenes and sounds are still often quite disparate, why do you think that is?
As SoulPhiction I try to merge all my influences from hip-hop and dub to electronic music to jazz....Detroit is just a part of that...but I feel the music has got the same roots, and basically I like drums and bass ...! I don’t know if the two scenes are always disparate, I mean Amp Fiddler introduced Jay Dee to using an MPC...and he also worked with Kenny Dixon and others. Hip Hop is also using a lot of synthetic sounds today, so sometimes a, for example, Dilla track can also have a kinda Rave quality.
Do you think the semi-imagined, almost romantic otherness that Europeans feel about Detroit and Americans feel about Europe creates part of the musical myth?
Detroit ain´t no romantic myth for me and I guess that changes for everyone who´s ever traveled there, but I do feel Europeans relate to Detroit-artists with a kinda imagined ghetto-style, so the artist and the music seems more authentic to them… inner-city Detroit is partly horrible though, for sure, but to my knowledge, there´s not so many Detroit-artists actually living in downtown Detroit today. Anyway, maybe because of all this I love white labels, because I just want to care for the music, and not where an artist comes from.
The album ‘One’ works as a story from beginning to end yet has disparate pieces that appeal to the dancefloor; was this simultaneous appeal deliberate? How did you go about creating it?
The reason for the variety of styles is that we mostly jam with each other, and each of us has got his own prior styles...while Nik is mostly into the more acoustic and vocal stuff, Phlegmatic and I love the early House era... and we all share a heavy addiction to quality Disco and danceable R&B, so the mixture of that made it onto the album, while the 12"s are more club-related.
Which is your favourite cut from the album?
Definitely "Chicago Sidewalks", ‘cause it’s got that sonic tension and atmosphere that is very sexy to me and the sax from John Thrower perfectly blends with the track.
Who do you tip to break through in 2008?
It’s got to be one of our Philpot Artists! His name is Tim Toh and that youngster is a miracle to me, so raw, so tense… I also hope Patrice Scott and Reggie Dokes Records will find their way into every DJ’s bag!
Thursday, May 19, 2005
Karl Bartos is best known to most as an ex member of the Godfathers of techno, Kraftwerk, and co author on such pioneering tracks as 'The Robots', 'The Model', 'Pocket Calculator' or 'Tour de France'. The Techno Nation never ceases to stress the importance of Kraftwerk's influence on their creative work and as such he enjoys something of a cult status amongst this new generation of electronic trailblazers.
Bartos’s authenticity as one of the founders of a particularly German genre has also meant that he has remained a la mode with his peers and contemporaries which has lead to fruitful relationships with myriad musicians including Depeche Mode, Electronic, The Human League, and contemporary electro producers such as Anthony Rother.
Black Athena got the rare, and incredibly propitious opportunity to speak with Karl whilst on a promotional tour of the UK to coincide with his solo album 'Electric Music', available on Soundjam, the result of our encounter however, has until now been hiding in the dusty archives. Now for the first time the interview finally sees the light of day. Here you will find the first of our two-part interview with the great man:
So what was the idea behind Kraftwerk? What was the mindset of you and the other members at the time?
Karl Bartos – Well we’re looking way back in the sixties and seventies now, and at the time Germany was occupied by English and American music, and if you wanted to make a statement about your background and culture, you had to come up with something else. Something completely different, otherwise we would have sounded like skiffle, or Lonnie Donegan or The Beatles, so we wanted to represent what the Bundesrepublik would sound like, the music landscape of our culture, which was destroyed within WWII.
How did all these different elements, the computers, the futuristic sounds, robots, new technology, and new society how did it all fuse together for you and become what we know as ‘Kraftwerk’?
It was really a case of the right people at the right time, in the right place. We took what existed around us and ran with it.
What were you listening to at the time?
James Brown! If you listen to him you’ll find it actually very synthetic, no melodies, but loops, cut ups and samples. Very repetitive. At that time we were also very into minimalist stuff like Steve Reich, people who use a very tiny piece of melody and then repeat it. Basically it is very annoying to do these things yourselves, so why not do it with machines? They do it for you and you get to take a back seat and listen.
So how do you feel about music now that you can see comes from a tradition of Kraftwerk? Do they inspire you or do you feel that you’ve already done that and people should be breaking their own boundaries and pioneering new ideas?
If I’m in a club and I hear Detroit sounds I really like it.
Do you relate it to what you did, because all these DJs say ‘Kraftwerk, Kraftwerk, Kraftwerk’ but maybe you don’t think they are doing what you thought they’d do?
No I hear it, I hear it in Afrika Bambatta for example. But to be honest I don’t care too much whether it is from us or not. I’m actually tired of these sounds for me personally, which is why I did my last record very organically. It was rehab to me to use different musical colours to keep me excited.
Your new record is very pop compared to the dark, synthetic sounds we are used to from you, apart from the aforementioned escapism what was the influence behind that?
I spent two years in Manchester hanging out with Johnny Marr, trying things. I’d helped him out with his previous album ‘Raise The Pressure’ and it had bought all the guitar culture back to me, and reminded me that I can play the guitar; it was the instrument that I started off with. In 1968 I was 16 and I was listening to Radio Luxembourg and I was listening to The Beatles and The Kinks. I started my first band playing all those sort of songs. So really I’ve done all this before, and Johnny bought it back to me. I couldn’t hear a 909 and more I couldn’t hear techno anymore – I was so tired after doing it for 20 years.
Electronic were borne out of New Order, who themselves claimed to be inspired by Kraftwerk; so it’s something of a circle isn’t it?
Yeah I know and it does make me feel claustrophobic, so I really had to work to do something different. To keep myself interested.
So was Johnny Marr the person who inspired you, or did your desire to try something different lead you to Johnny Marr?
Both I think, I was tired of dumtsch, dumtsch, dumtsch, as although some of it is good, a lot of it is not! Meeting Johnny took me back to my childhood, so it helped me break out!
When did you start playing with Kraftwerk?
When I was 21.
Was there anything about at that time that sounded anything like Kraftwerk?
No, we were completely fresh and new. I was playing opera at the time as I studied music, and they picked me up during their Autobahn America tour. It was my professor that got me the job. I met them; 2 weeks later I was performing Autobahn on Broadway. It reminded me of classical music more than pop, in the sixties and seventies we had a lot of classical electronic sounds coming from people like Stockhausen, John Cage and Steve Reich, so it reminded me of these very serious performers. We also considered ourselves part of the German culture above being part of the rock and roll culture. Although we knew about it, so in some ways we attempted to put both worlds together.
Around the end of the seventies there was another band close to your sound called Telex..
Yes, they were French, no actually Belgian, which is worse!
They were also very influential and have been remixed and re-edited by the likes of Carl Craig. Were you connected with them at all?
Not really, if you play similar instruments you sound similar that’s all. If you play a guitar you sound like The Beatles, if you play very fast people call you heavy metal, so certain sounds are simply similar.
What do you think of the current musical scene in Germany?
Well there’s a lot of techno, a lot of machine music. There’re some clever guys in front of a computer getting a black female singer to sing over the top and in some cases that’s it.
Do you think there is an inherent German ness about Kraftwerk that would have meant that no three or four other people from another country could have done what you did? Is there basically something about your country and it’s societal culture at the time that led to this as a natural progression?
Definitely, we were a post war generation, there was no German music anymore, and we had to do something about it. Have you heard of the Comedian Harmonists? There was a male vocal group in the thirties and forties, and apparently a few of them were Jews so they had to ‘leave’ Germany during the war, and basically they were considered to be the last German group, everything got cut off during the war and all the good musicians of the twenties, the Berlin scene, the classical scene was all destroyed by a small Austrian man.
He was very fond of music though reportedly.
Yes but Wagner, he got it all wrong.
Did you ever feel that you were part of the Krautrock scene?
No, we don’t belong to that, there was never any connection between Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream, or Kraftwerk and Can – especially Can – they didn’t even play electronic music. The only link is that we were all from Germany! In this country you can come from Liverpool like The Beatles, or Manchester like Herman’s Hermits and you are considered to be worlds apart – we came from simply the same country, and suddenly we were all the same!
So how did you expect people to react to Kraftwerk when you first played it? Did you expect them to dance, or sit around listening?
I really have forgotten, I’ve not had to answer this question before and now I really can’t remember. Don’t ask me! You’re really so immersed in it when you are doing it that you don’t even really think about it.
What was the reaction to start with, expected or otherwise?
Well when I first entered America some guy said to me ‘Heil Hitler’ and I just thought, where do I come from? What do I represent for these people? And when we first came to England we had a centre fold in the NME and it featured a swastika, then over the top it said ‘Kraftwerk, the final solution of pop music’ so obviously they also considered us to be Nazis, because we were German and because we were using machines. David Bowie also did a song ‘V2 Schneider’ about Florien. So there were all these comments, some jokes, some not. People were afraid. Ralf joked that we were the sons of Marlene Dietrich and Eva Braun, but eventually people did get to understand that yes we were German, but no we were not part of that.
Do you think your generation suffered any war guilt then, or this a myth?
I don’t feel it, but it’s like a suit, you can choose to put it on or not, and I don’t. I was born in ’55, the war was over, and I grew up in the British occupied zone. My brother in law is from Yorkshire too!
Is there a resentment on the part of the German people that there was a direct Americanisation of their culture after WWII? Did this lead to the taking back of the German identity by members of the arts community such as yourselves? Did people want to regain a German ness do you think?
No, only idiots were talking about these things, right wing movements, which unfortunately are still going on everywhere. These people think for some reason that being a nation is important. I think it’s important to try and keep your identity but we always considered ourselves Europeans. Hopefully pretty soon everybody will become modernised with shared language and currency.
Is that why you sung in English a lot. Did you like the idea of it being a universal language then as well?
Exactly, and although I’m now back after this last really organic record, to making electronic music again – using cut ups and big beats - before I was making pop songs, and for me these things only work in English. After spending two whole years in Manchester, I started thinking in English anyway, and coming up with lyrics in English and they sound better. I mean ‘Together we can do it all’, ‘Zusammen wir konnen es schafen’ it just doesn’t sound as good!
What do you think about experimental bands like Atari Teenage Riot that are somewhat obsessed with the concept of German ness?
I like them a lot but I can’t abide this obsession. Germany is such a weird country, if I wasn’t a German I wouldn’t want to live there. It has good history, and good artistry, but now that the wall has come down you see that there are strangers to us from our own land. There is a language barrier between us the way there is between the English and the Americans! They are good people there, but I can’t understand them, they are really slow. It will take at least two generations to put us together!