Africa Hitech is comprised of the production duo of Steve Spacek and Mark Pritchard who, separately, have been behind some of underground EDM’s biggest records in the last ten to fifteen years. Steve Spacek’s voice is often compared to a modern day Marvin Gaye whilst Mark Pritchard has proved a deft hand at production in the Ambient, Techno, House, Nu-Jazz and Beat scenes with projects like Troubleman, Global Communication and Harmonic 313 but together the two are taking on their current big love: UK Bass music.
The debut album 93 Million Miles precedes two EPs, the Grimey-Garage of Blen and the Acid-Soul of How Does It Make You Feel (the lead track from the Hi-Techerous EP), yet the long-player follows a different path to its predecessors, allowing listeners in to the full spectrum of Africa Hitech’s influences. Most notably, the duo expose Footwork early in on the album with the single Out In The Streets.
“The sound came from booty music,” explains Pritchard. “It then turned in to Juke and the Juke stuff has different vibes, more of an Electroey rhythm. The claps and kicks are more in Electro patterns but still with the heritage of Chicago House music, you know, with like snippet vocals,” he continues. “When it turned in to Footwork – I’m not sure when, it might be the last couple of years – the rhythms switched and had a more African feel.”
It’s the perfect fit for Pritchard who, as a DJ moves seamlessly through these sort of syncopated dance styles.
“It’s the rhythms (of Footwork), that remind me of Grime, Drum n Bass and early Rave music. When I heard that I was blown away,” he says. “It was the most crazy sounding dance music genre I had heard in a long time. And that it has come out of America… you think of the roots of dance music in Chicago and Detroit, the drum patterns aren’t straight up, parts of the rhythm are syncopated.” However, Pritchard is more enthused by the UK’s rendition of Juke. “If you look through the last twenty years, the UK, for me, has had more of an influence past ‘93, apart from Hip-Hop. I haven’t been as drawn to American dance music for the last 10-12 years but Footwork is there and it fits in with what I play out, from Dancehall or Dubstep or whatever.”
With the newest offspring of Dance music since Dubstep only now finding its feet, Pritchard finds himself fielding questions from journalists keen to know about the emerging style. Do overseas journalists have the scoop over Australian journalists?
“It’s pretty similar. I have found in Australia that a lot of this music, the music I play out, is from the UK and people think the UK people are more on it. If you take Dubstep that’s come out Croydon, at the time people weren’t paying much attention. In Australia, the Garage Pressure guys that were doing their radio show since 2000, they were playing the tougher end of Garage and a lot of the original Dubstep guys have been sending them their music for ages, like when Kode9 came out here in 2003.”
Pritchard goes back to 2004 when what he calls the first wave of Dubstep happened across the world.
“ I remember at that time, I was playing it and in London you would go to (Rinse FM promoted club night) FWD and it’s the only place that people are playing it, so I’d then go to Amsterdam and no one was playing Dubstep,” he says. “So, Australia is as ‘on it’ as other places. I wondered how it was going to go down out here but it’s a similar thing in Europe. It took a while for people to get their heads around it but the energy of the music carried people.”
Whilst 93 Million Miles showcases all of Pritchard and Spacek’s love of dance music, there is also a great deal of attention pad to the more organic World and Spiritual Jazz flavours. The Africa part of the group’s name, if you will. The most notable reference would be the sample of Sun Ra on Light The Way. Pritchard explains the way they went about going after one of the giants of Jazz.
“With the Sun Ra, a friend of mine works for (Dutch record label and distributor) Rush Hour who runs their art house label and takes care of Sun Ra’s catalogue and makes sure it’s done well. As soon as I heard the original track, I thought I could instantly do something with it.”
Having not sampled much over the last few years, the process has made him consider sampling more.
“It’s exactly how you want it to be,” he says of the experience. “Fair. 50/50, reasonable fee plus royalty… you would sample more and clear everything it could be like this!”
In amongst the business of the Footwork rhythms, the sampled vocals of Ini Kamoze and Sun Ra, there’s not much room for Steve Spacek’s vocals to shine through. Used sparingly, one could call it a wasted opportunity, however, there was a time during the course of recording the album that as tracks amassed, the decision to showcase Spacek’s production prowess over his voice became a more clear decision.
“Subconsciously it’s led to that,” Spacek says at a rapid-fire rate. “I have sung on so many things like Spacek, my own stuff (as Steve Spacek), Space Invadas and that’s kind of taken over, Steve Spacek the singer, you know? They speak about the project I’ve worked on and they speak about the other guy as the producer when nine times out of ten it’s my production, with the exception of Space Invadas which is not necessarily the kind of music I would make myself but the music I would definitely sing on,” he says.
Suggesting that there’s a lot more to come, the two allude to a general balance that they strived for in making a well-rounded album that could be listened to in clubs, in a car or at home.
“They have their own life,” describes Steve of the process of making albums. “Singles are more geared to clubs, it’s why we included more listening tracks, to hopefully make it more interesting for people.”