Posts tagged ‘Manchester’
Mark Mace Smith is a performance poet who lives in the North of England. As you would expect from a poet, he’s lyrical and also pretty witty. In fact he’s so lyrical that he’s performed at many poetry slams across Britain, including at Glastonbury Festival. He also enjoys classical music (sometimes), makes short films from his bedroom window and does percussion. All of this is part of Thud Dub, his own style of ‘dub poetry’. Some Thud Dub paintings are on display in a laundrette in Whalley Range, Manchester. If you’re in the area and need to wash your smelly undies, drop in and have a look…here’s what he thinks about life / music – awfully deep with a touch of Zen.
What was one of the first sounds you can remember hearing? How did it make you feel?
My early years were full of reggae and classical music. My family had four classical music box sets from Readers Digest. Beethoven, Schubert, Bach and Chopin. I know we preferred the Chopin and Beethoven but I’m sure the others got played because we were a family who would not waste anything. My dad also had some seven-inch singles including some reggae that he had cut of his own. I know that these two genres have greatly influenced my taste in music.
However, the first sound I can clearly remember hearing was my first word. “Fitzroy”, he is my brother. I remember this because of the fuss everybody made when I said it. I guess I decided there and then that I’d like to be a performer of some sort. I felt important for, as the last child of six, I rarely felt anything other than ‘in the way‘.
How and where do you enjoy listening to music: at home, on the go, at a gig?
There is a time and place for everything. Even music that I love can annoy me in the wrong place or time. Particularly on adverts or covers. (Nina Simones ‘Aint got no’ or Run DMC’s ‘Walk This Way’ for example). If I listen to a new album, which an audiophile insists is awesome, I will take it in on a long journey. The five hour megabus from Preston to London is a great way to truly absorb new music, or on a long walk around my local park. I don’t listen to the radio for I can’t really suffer dj’s (Guy Garvey is OK) and I detest all adverts. I enjoy live music (and live TV) because you don’t quite know what you are going to get and it is good to see the artistes being forced to (re)create, somewhat adrenalin driven and fear filled.
I have particular morning music: classical, easy reggae. Afternoon music: funk, upbeat reggae and music with intelligent lyrics. In the evening, if I’m having a beer, I like it loud and bass heavy but If I’m writing, which can be at any time of the day, I like nice soft mellow tunes. I’m particularly keen on Ivan Campo at the moment. I often listen to new versions of my own tunes when in the bath. You get a lot from the acoustics, there is a certain purity, and if I ever need to skip a track when I’m having a bath, risking getting my CD player waterlogged, then I know that it just isn’t chilaxing enough.
You use words to make poetry, in what way is music also poetry? How do the two art forms relate / connect with each other for you personally?
Music is not poetry but poetry can be music. But it isn’t. Yagetme? The right combination of words, acapella, can make you dance. A composition of notes can make you think deeply, as poetry should, but the words, or images or emotions, that are created are not specifically designed by the composer to create those images, emotions or words, that you experience.
Poetry is direct. Music is like an enveloping mist. You are in it but you don’t perceive all of it at once. What you get from it is only what you perceive of it. There are many ways to interpret Wordsworth’s Daffodils but you can’t really go beyond the words and word sounds. There are a thousand and more ways to interpret Mozart’s ‘The Marriage of Figaro‘. (which I am currently listening to).
It depends on how you feel. Those daffodils will always be fluttering and dancing in the breeze. Figaro’s marriage may inspire you one day or leave you limp the next. Music can be in the background whereas poetry can not. For me, personally, I’d rather create an emotive piece of music than an emotive poem. The latter is restricted to my emotions. The former can be experienced in a multitude of different emotional ways by the audience. And music can also just be there without any demands on the consciousness.
What’s so great about rhythm and percussion?
The heart’s beat is a human beings first perceptible sound. In fact, now I come to think about it… I remember, as a foetus, holding my breath so as to try to synchronise my heartbeat to my mothers heartbeat which was pulsing at a half time to mine. Then I’d kick her belly and try to shock her into doubling up her heart rate so that we both pulsed to my rhythm. It was great fun for a while but then she made me leave.
Why do people talk of ‘the sound of one hand clapping’? Does that mean anything to you?
Zen Buddhist monks send their students away to contemplate the concept of “the sound of one hand clapping”. They send them away partly because it is important that their students learn these things for themselves but mostly because students are bloody annoying. If they return, without the answer, unenlightened, they are admonished in some way, sometimes with a big stick, and sent away to think about it again.
And again and again until they achieve enlightenment. However the enlightenment they may eventually receive is not from an understanding of what the sound of one hand clapping actually sounds like. Their enlightenment comes from the depth of their meditation in pursuit of the answer.
It is when the mind is clear of all pursuits, focused on one thing, centred on a concept that mortal man would believe is beyond earthly knowledge, (the sound of one hand clapping), then the true awakening of The All is experienced. The sound of one hand clapping is the same sound as creations heartbeat. Of existence itself! Possibly.
I recall sitting on a mound, on a hill, at Glastonbury festival in the early nineties, with Lucy (in the sky with diamonds) and Aretha (Green) listening to many drums being played and awaiting the sunrise. There was one huge drum and loads of smaller drums and chanting and whistles and instruments and bongs, pipes, chalices…
That huge drum held the beat, in fact it seemed to hold EVERYTHING together. Every other drummer could play whatever the heaven they wanted but that one huge drum held it all in shape, maintained the form of the rhythm and it did not stop regardless of many a false dawn. Drums are the heartbeat of music, of life.
For my heart is my drum and I will endeavour to do whatever the heaven on Earth I like as long as I do not cause it to stop beating. Perhaps, indeed, our hearts make the sound of one hand clapping. Discuss.
While we’re at it, here’s some more good stuff from Manchester: the peeps at development have done a wicked interview with DJ Spinna, who is playing their fourth birthday bash alongside Osunlade this weekend (at Sound Control).
Exclusively (yeah, that’s right), we’re quoting some of the best bits here. For your fix of phonic tonic, head back to their blog.
Nice1 deep cats!
You recorded the hip hop album ‘Sonic Smash’ last year, which was fantastic. How much of your time in the studio is devoted to Hip Hop these days?
It’s hard to balance the two but I would say I’m doing more dance records these days as it pays the bills and there’s also less politics involved in that scene. I also enjoy the end result much more, from the studio straight to the dance floor. With hip hop it’s just not the same.
Hip hop has changed a lot over the last few years with a very different sound making it through to the mainstream, what are your thoughts on the genre right now?
As for the mainstream it’s pretty bad, not much innovation there. I’ve always remained underground because of this. With that said I feel like the realness is dead in the mainstream world. There’s still good hip hop out here but most of it remains underground as usual. I miss the early 90’s when quality hip hop like Gangstar or Tribe were mainstream. Those days are over. The genre has made too much money and the soul is gone.
J Dilla or Michael Jackson?
No comparison. Two different kinds of legends for their own reasons. Michael being the greatest entertainer of all time and J Dilla being the most innovative and progressive thinking producer of this generation. There will never be icons like these again in this lifetime.
Your style always seems to cover a lot of genres, from Stevie Wonder to Sade through to Hip Hop to Techno etc……. what music don’t you like?
I don’t like Death Metal, makes me want to slit my wrist and it gives me a stomach ache.
Tell us about Stevie and what he means to you?
Stevie is the ultimate humanitarian artist. His music reflects love and peace, and his voice is golden. But in the 70’s he was super funky and his production was innovative and way ahead of it’s time for that era. If you listen closely to some of his recordings you can hear everything from the talk box, to Hare Krishna choirs, apregiating moogs, sick drum programming and sampling before the general listener knew what these things were. The water drops instead of finger snaps on “Overjoyed” for example, who thinks of this? And that was 1986!
New York seems to have lost a lot of record stores over the last few years, where are your favorite digging spots in your home town and what is the most treasured 12″ in your vast and highly respected collection?
My two favourite spots to dig are Academy Records and Big City Records. One of my most treasured 12″‘s is Stevie Wonder’s As. It was only legitimately pressed as a German Motown Promo with a picture sleeve. It was never commercially released as a 12″ in the States or any where else in the world and it’s stupid rare and expensive.
Tell us something we probably don’t know about you…
I am a home body. Don’t go out much these days. I’m not impressed by much and I prefer to be home working or chilling with the fam. Sometimes my wife has to give me a swift kick in the butt (figuratively speaking) to get out and live a little.
Chubby Grooves has been steady rocking Manchester’s independent music circles for more than a decade and worked as a DJ for many years. He used to play at the Hacienda club and was resident DJ at the much-celebrated Headfunk night. Chubby runs the Chopped Herring Records label – you’ll find lots of history and fishy sounds here.
No bones about it, this chopped herring is more than a little wacky and out of the ordinary – no wonder he’s mates with MC Paul Barman. He lived in Bushwick, Brooklyn for many years, hung out at D&D Studios(<shazzam>) and hooked up with the Beatminerz. Their unreleased Pandemonium EP with classic 1990s material has just dropped on Chopped Herring.
One more thing: hear his advice on how to snap up some mint condition vinyl online. Oh, and before I forget – here’s what he looks like in his Sunday Best…
(CG: “Actually, it was one of the pictures used for the inside cover of ‘three sinister syllables’…a LAME mexican kids TV star called Chubelo!! when I dropped 3ss I gave stores the original record cover (I had about 50 copies from a massive Latin stash I found in 2001) to put in the vinyl racks to advertise the CD…..shit is silly.”)
Tell us a little bit about your time in Bushwick, Brooklyn: what was it like living there as a Mancunian?
Well, first off, I am not a Mancunian. I moved to Manchester in 1991 and stayed until around 2005. I was one of many people involved in the Manchester music scene of the mid 90s that came from outside of Manchester. Between 2005 and 2009 I was living between London and NYC. Before that I used to go to NYC a couple of times a year to find wax. I used to crash on the sofa of a kid who had lived next door to me in Rusholme (Manchester). He had dual citizenship and had moved to NYC in about 1998. When he moved out to the west coast in 2005 I had to find a new place to stay! I went back out to NYC with a laptop and few contacts.
I stayed at the YMCA in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and looked for a cheap house share situation. Managed to hook up with some cool cats who lived in an (illegal) loft space literally on the border of Ridgewood, Queens and Bushwick, Brooklyn. That was my first experience of that part of NY.
What has New York got in terms of music that Manchester hasn’t, and vice versa?
Manchester and NYC do have many things in common in relation to music. Both have a large West Indian/Caribbean community. ‘Black music’ has always been a major influence on the Manchester music scene; from the Northern Soul movement in the 1970s up to the present day and the same can be said of NYC.
Both cities have many transients that have made them culturally vital music scenes and both have a background in Industry. The key difference for me is that NYC has a strong South/Central American influence. From producers to musicians to BBoys, Hispanics had contributed heavily to the New York music scene the 70s/80s. This adds another dimension for me and something that makes NYC music more colourful and distinctive.
You must have heard a lot of good music in your time living there, which hip hop heads did you hook up with? Any memorable concerts or gigs that stick in your mind?
Connections always began with the vinyl. My first introduction into the New York scene was through selling vinyl. I took the early Chopped Herring Records releases into the stores and did some cold calling. At that time Eclipse (Non Phixion) and Breeze (Juggaknots) worked in Fat Beats. I would hit them up with the Jay Glaze 12s to get them on the racks and sometimes even did some guerilla planting! Breeze gave us our first ‘Chopped Herring section’ in a NYC record store.
I also used to hit up Sound Library (when it was on 1st Ave) to trade and sell UK breaks, library and funk pieces. Then, through the success of ‘Three Sinister Syllables‘ I hooked up with the likes of MC Paul Barman who introduced me to a bunch of cats. Also I met more heads looking for wax in the city. I ran into Evil Dee around 2000 in a thrift store in Queens looking for flava and a load more producers and MCs in ‘The Thing’ in Greenpoint and ‘Beat Street’ in Fulton Mall. Just being there, looking for vinyl and promoting Herring allowed me to get to know more cats on the scene.
How did the Beatminerz release come about, some unreleased gems on Chopped Herring Records? Who pulled the strings and what can you tell us about the record?
As I mentioned above I met Dee in the basement of a thrift store about 10 years ago. I got reintroduced to him and his brother Mr Walt when a New York collector and producer called Nobs told me about them selling their collection. I met Nobs online originally and we became digging buddies.
We would go to flea markets and share record spot info. (By the way he just dropped an album with an MC called Dez that is hella-nice!!). So I started buyin wax and deadstock from Walt. Walt produced and funded the Shadez of Brooklyn projects. They had released 3 singles on his label Pandemonium Wreckords but the rest of the material hadn’t been put out. They recorded that stuff at the time when Walt and Dee (Da Beatminerz) had a room at D&D studios in NYC.
There were only 2 permanent rooms at D&D, one was theirs and the other was inhabited by DJ Premier. Walt hooked me up with Da Dysfunkshunal Familee‘s Crazy DJ Bazarro and Finsta (Finsta Bundy and original member of Black Moon). I released the 2 Dysfunskhunal EP’s with Bazarro and the Shadez of Brooklyn EP with the help of Walt and Dee who owned the masters.
None of this would’ve happened without the help of my man Nobs. Props Son!!
Due to the success of the Dysfunkshunal EPs in 2009 I’ve had hardcore headz come to me with suggestions of other unreleased projects and contact info. So I have a few ILL unknown/little known projects from the 90s to drop.
As with all these pre-order style releases I keep the info undercover right up until the day I drop the pre-order info. So I can’t say ANYTHING!! But I will be concentrating on lost Indy Hip Hip, with attitude and with a good amount of breaks and samples. So look out for some more 90s flava soooooooon.
You are an avid crate digger and ebay bargain-hunter – from personal experience, have you got a few hints of advice on how to snatch up good condition vinyl on the web?
Well, the obvious difference between diggin and scorin wax online is the condition. This is the same as any secondhand buyin; you need to feel/touch the merchandise to know the full picture. There are some ways to reduce the risk though.
Stick to certain reputable sellers. Forums should help when trying to exclude dubious sellers (and even good sellers gone bad). Feedback on Ebay or Discogs will help. Also, developing good relationships with big sellers. If a record isn’t up to the described standard then, if you are tight with a dealer you can return it. You just have to use your head and like with anything, be prepared to take a loss in order to really score over time. It’s a marathon. And, don’t expect perfection; just appreciate it when it comes along!
What was one of your recent vinyl best-buys? Any favourite record shops?
Hmmmm. Was in Florida in January. Found a bunch of stuff from a guy who used to have a radio show up in Buffalo (upstate NY). Was a bunch of original Jamaican pressings from the 70s as well as a load of avant-garde Jazz ish. It got the blood pumpin!
Stores? Not so much anymore. I used to go to NYC specifically to go to ‘The Thing‘. I used to leave that place with 100s of pieces every trip, before it got hot and they hired staff that knew what was up. In the early 2000s before the Random/Indy heat it was amazing. It’s owned by the dude that owns A1 in Manhattan. It was supposed to be stuff that couldn’t sell in A1 but they made NUMEROUS mistakes. So many that I could run my whole business off the back of it for a few years.
Manchester has lots of record shops and always had a good infrastructure for music – you came up in that environment of an emerging independent music network, the Hacienda etc. What was that like? Was it really an endless party as its been portrayed in films / the media?
Well I wouldn’t have set up my own label if it wasn’t for those Manchester years. It was, at many times in modern music history a hot city for music. For American House music (Hacienda) before I arrived and for Hip Hop (Fat City – where I worked for about 5 years) as I got up there. In the 70s for Northern Soul and 80s for Alt/Indie stuff.
It seems tho’ that every time the media got onto it it would die for another 5 years. The media attention always kills the vibe. But also that attention would create a reaction and a deepening commitment from the underground. I guess it depends if you’re concerned with profile or with quality (rebel) music.
Did you ever get annoyed with the hip hop ‘scene’ in England, or do you prefer homegrown sounds?
Yes. Peep the track ‘Homegroan’ on the second vinyl release on Chopped Herring Records, Staunch Liaison EP. I had a lot to say about that subject. Now it’s old news and isn’t such a focus for me. It’s generally very healthy (creatively) to dislike whats going on around you at any given time. It breeds originality – which is vital.
Are you a football fan? If so, who do you support? Any preference for City or United?
I’m an Arsenal fan. Since I was a kid. Growing up in North London you were either Arsenal or (wretch) Spurs. My grandad and cousins were always into the Arsenal. I inherited that from them. The first match I went to was in 1983.
Re: City/United. Well, while I was living in Manchester it was City. But since I got out of town and the big money turned up at City, I hate both equally!! It has been and always will be all about the Arse.
Any last words or shouts?
Props to all the cats that buy Herring wax, DWG and VA cats, Nobs, Da Beatminerz, DJ Bazarro, MC Paul Barman, Chopps Derby, Memory Man and all the heads that don’t take shit too seriously but drop serious shit, ONE GLOVE.
It’s not just Christmas that’s being celebrated in a few days…
Krispy are a hip hop group from the north west of England: producer Mr Wiz and his brother Mikey D.O.N. have made a big impact on UK hip hop, especially in the early days when most of the new sounds still came from the US. They were brought up on a diet of roots reggae and dub, mainly through their father’s sound system MellowTone. Together with their homie Sonic G they formed Krispy3, got down to business and released “Coming Through Clear” in 1989. They’ve been on the scene ever since and Mikey now hosts a show on Manchester’s Unity FM (Tuesday, 8-10pm Brit time).
In the 1990s, the Finlayson brothers traveled Europe with MC D on the ‘Kold Sweat’ tour. Mr Wiz remembers: “Katch 22 was also on tour with us and I remember being in Dortmund in Germany, roundabout 1995. The atmosphere was amazing: Mode 2 was painting graff pieces and the crowd were going crazy. It’s something I won’t ever forget.”