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Taking this band in straaaaaaaaange new directions, maaaaaaaan.
I had the pleasure of DJing before Tokimonsta, Thomas William and Elizabeth Rose last night at The Basement – which was a fantastic venue for the show. A lot of people were asking what I was playing so I thought I’d post some of the stuff from my playlist you shoudl all go out and enjoy!
Jai Paul – Track 5
Run The Jewels Album
Ta-ku ‘Re-twerk’ (Volumes 1 & 2)
Blue Daisy ‘Used To Give A Fuck’ EP
The Bug – Freakshow feat Danny Brown
Dro Carey – Vital Trails EP
Swindle – Long Live The Jazz
Mark Pritchard ‘Ghosts’ EP
Charming and engaging young man!
For those who don’t know, Bebop & Rocksteady was my ‘Leftfield Electronica & Future Soul’ column for 10 years in (free Sydney street press) 3D World and Drum Media magazines.
In 2007 perennial Bebop & Rocksteady faves Jazzanova released a compilation entitled Ten Years, Who Cares? And so, in homage it’s with this kind of self-effacing tone I thought I’d take on the last ever Bebop & Rocksteady column. In July of 2003 I approached 3D World Magazine to cover the ‘other’ side of dance music; for the broad spectrum of people who dabbled in a bit of this and that and would never necessarily gravitate to just one genre, taking in Funk, Soul, Jazz Remixes (which was the tradition at the time), BBQ friendly Hip Hop, Chill Out, a bit of World Music, light House and yes, lots of Nu Jazz (which was the tradition at the time).
Before iPods, Seratos and even CDJs, DJs were DJs because they spent the time and money researching the records. Like me, you didn’t even have to be particularly good; you just needed to have the records. Bebop & Rocksteady hoped to join the dots for listeners and DJs alike and at the time, as disciples of cats like Thomas Crown, JD Walker, Pete & Heidi Pasqual, Soup, Tim Ritchie, Steven Ferris and so on, the extended fam would push our wares in the background whilst noisey white dance music came to fore. None of this is a gripe, mind you. Anyone that doesn’t embrace change, be it technological or stylistic, will never survive in the music business, unless they’re Nick Waterhouse. It’s irrefutable, though, that the noughties were a huge step away from the sounds of Big Beat, Golden Era and Backpack Hip Hop, Acid Jazz and Disco House (ala the French Touch) which dominated the mid and late nineties. So whilst Le Tigre and Princess Superstar were teaching a bunch of young folk that distorted guitars did have a place on the dancefloor, a lot of my colleagues and I weren’t making the connection between what was going on then and the late seventies and eighties movement of genuinely cool bands like ESG and Tom Tom Club who were blending Punk with Dub and Disco and other worldly fusions. We may have saved ourselves a lot of grief if we did!
So here we are, full circle after a decade and what do you know? Daft Punk have made a Disco record with Nile Rogers, Jurassic 5 have reformed, The Bamboos have been nominated for an ARIA, Deepchild is a globetrotting Dance superstar, Disclosure have a number one record and one of the most popular Australian songs of all time is backed by a cruisey Brazilian Jazz guitar sample! Yay! We won!
Music journalism is not a competition but at times, writing Bebop & Rocksteady has felt like a marathon. That’s why, coming out the other end it’s been wholly rewarding to get pulled up at bars and clubs on records people either agreed or disagreed with my opinion on and that’s always been my motivation: to create a dialogue on what were, for a long time, the ‘underground’ records. It’s satisfying as hell to think in my first column ten years ago I was talking about a record called Hard Groove by The RH Factor that featured Erykah Badu, Q-Tip, D’Angelo and other artists who are still innovating today whilst at the time, I thought they were peaking! It’s been a wonderful experience for me and I want to thank all of the editors I have worked under and the brilliant staff at 3D World and Drum Media for putting up with all my missed deadlines, overly conversational tone and sometimes very uninspired work (remember the ‘Mosquito House’ column?). I especially want to thank everyone who’s ever read this column and gone out and investigated one of these records for themselves. Ten Year rant over.
Just realised this has been sitting in my drafts for a year!!!
Mark has a new EP out this week under his own name and its some of best work yet
Did this catch up with Mark when he and Tom Middleton were about to do their first DJ sets together again for a while.
The name Mark Pritchard has been attached to many recording guises, all synonymous with quality. Be it his collaborations with Tom Middleton as Global Communication, Jedi Knights or Reload, or his own Troubleman, Harmonic 33 or 313 phases or simply his birth name, consistency is what Pritchard has brought to the table since the early nineties.
In early 2008, the first definitive Harmonic 313 (a reference to Detroit’s postal code) product in EP1 arrived on Warp, after an all too brief taste on the Azymuth remix album and it showcased that low slung, bass heavy instrumental hip hop that is gaining some popularity thanks to a close knit scene of beat makers like Flying Lotus, Jay Scarlett and the extended Benji B (BBC Radio 1Xtra) or Andrew Meza (BTS Radio) family.
Currently in the UK touring the EP, Pritchard took some time out to talk about juggling projects, the Harmonic 313 album and the upcoming Smirnoff Experience Secret Party he is playing with fellow Jedi Knight Tom Middleton.
‘I have been really happy with it (the reaction to EP 1),’ he says. ‘I haven’t had anything out for a while and the industry has changed since my last record. All of the people I have met have said that it sold well… Not what you do five years ago but still a reasonable amount. The record shops are saying they’re doing quite well,’ he says, genuinely relieved that it’s not all doom and gloom in the market place.
The aforementioned musical family (as profiled recently in Shook Magazine) seems to have planted its roots firmly in the ground and are not going away anytime soon. How does Pritchard the seasoned vet see the scene developing?
‘It’s getting a nice reaction and people are liking Flying Lotus, SamIAm and Hudson Mohawk, but it still needs to be broke to a lot of new people,’ he explains. ‘People still need to be exposed to it – Dubstep people are checking it out – and people seem to be checking out new styles (in the club). I am noticing people want to hear a bit of hip hop, a bit of Dubstep, new and old stuff, and some classic techno, so tastes are definitely switching up.’
The album is due out in November and Mark is all too happy to share the plans for the 313 project with me (and with the rest of the world on BBC 1Xtra later that week).
‘I am back (in Sydney) in June and have a month and half to finish it. It’s all written, it’s just mixing and arranging. The plan is, it’s got a few tracks with MCs on it, Steve Spacek on a track, the rest will be instrumental and quite varied with some electronica, some hip hop and some four-four acid tunes, but slowed so it doesn’t seem like a house tune.’
To separate the album and straight up club fare, 12”s of tunes you may have heard on Benji B’s radio show will appear. For example the illusive Drunken Isht may appear with vocals by MED and the impregnable Battlestar may have more than just a reference to Detroit on it, if Elzhi and Phat Kat’s vocals come through. Couple that with material as Africa High-Tech (with Steve Spacek) and Reload (with Tom Middleton) plus his up to date bio mentioning a new Troubleman album and you have one very busy boy.
‘(I am) juggling them – not very well! When I finish this – I am working on a lot of them together – When that’s done then it’s the Reload and the Africa High Tech stuff and then some Dubstep too – but the Reload stuff will take the next priority,’ he says, seemingly making a list in his head.
‘Me and Steve have three tracks done to start the ball rolling,’ he says. The name itself conjures all kinds of different genres, which is exactly what we can expect.
‘It’s all a bit faster, like140bpm, with some grime and techno and some dubsteppy things, some dancehall things… there’s one that’s more of a broken beat tune – we want it to be a futuristic dancehall style. I’m really happy with the sound we have been getting with it,’ says Pritchard, explaining the work ethic as experimental but fluid and natural at the same time.
Finally, his reuniting with Tom Middleton as Jedi Knights for the upcoming Smirnoff Experience events across Australia will be a similarly varied affair.
‘I’m looking forward to it,’ he says. ‘We will pick a classic era and do a set in that style, like classic electro or maybe an old school techno and acid house set and do that together and then we’re both playing separately, too, so I can play a varied set in a different room, I might play dubstep one night, another gig I might play boogie and disco, which will be fun.’
What may seem a risk for a big brand looking for mass exposure is definitely not when putting their audience in the hands of such formidable talent.
‘We do a set like this for Fabric once a year with classics and maybe a bit of new stuff,’ he explains. ‘It works quite well cos Tom and I are quite different. I play more classic stuff and although he plays less commercial stuff (in the club sense), he’s a really good club entertainer and can entertain big big crowds of two or three thousand people. We play in different ways so it works.’