BEATS & PIECES
Derek B is the latest remixer of Eric B & Rakim ‘I Know You Got Soul’, his “Eric and Derek” mix having an element of ‘Superstition’ (meanwhile, the Streets Ahead Changing Gears Remix of his ‘Goodgroove’ hit is 98-96⅔-0bpm)… rm’s new readers should note that “bpm” stands for beats per minute, useful information for DJs who need to know the relative speeds of different records so that they can synchronise them together in a mix… Supreme Records have put out Acid House Mixes of Project Club ‘How Low Can You Go’ (SUPETX 125), now a far tougher properly acidic 0-119¼bpm instrumental (apart from its “bass” title line), and Mel & Kim’s ‘That’s The Way It Is’ (SUPETZ 117), a harder driving 118bpm starker and sparser arrangement though hardly hydochloric!… rm’s free ‘Cool Cuts 1’ single has Richie Rich’s 106bpm Trouble Funk mix and Rob ‘Hotrod’ Manley’s 0-119⅓-117⅓-118-0bpm Breakout megamix, while free with rm on ‘Cool Cuts 2’ next week will be exclusive remixes of the aggressively juddering 87½bpm Derek B ‘Def Beat Boy’, ‘Baby Wants To Ride’-ish muttered wriggly quite acidic cantering 123¼bpm Julian Jonah ‘Jealousy & Lies’ (an impressive newcomer), and percussively bounding 121¼bpm Jellybean ‘Jingo’… Jellybean incidentally has a hush-hush double LP due containing unreleased remixes of all his current album’s tracks and more (he got rather shifty when I mentioned ‘Was Dog A Doughnut’, so could something special be coming?!)… Quark Records (the label Blaze are on) is setting up a London branch, co-owner Curtis Urbina purchasing a ready made company while here for the DJ convention – he and Jellybean were at reform school together in the Bronx when aged around 14 to 16 (for joy-riding in cars, that sort of thing), and by the time they next met about seven years later they found they were both in the music business (Curtis then working for the Emergency label)… Danish DJs Kenneth Baker and World Mixing runner-up Mick ‘Cutfather’ Hansen have created an excellent Baker’s Brutal House Remix of Nitro Deluxe, which Cooltempo are considering for UK release – full of overlays, inserts and edits in the current style, it’s very different in spirit from the original but retains that nagging “wheee-ee” noise throughout, it all being a bit LA Mix-like in style… S-Express, sizzling on white label, isn’t now out fully until April 11… Groove’s follow-up will be an updated remake of Herbie Mann’s ‘Hijack’… Fourth & Broadway have picked up Stereo MC’s and Cesare here too, perhaps misguidedly putting most emphasis on the less good vocal versions and, with radio in mind, making ‘Move It’ the A-side (12BRW 94)… I have, for understandable reasons, not had time to review so many newies this week, like the import LPs by Atlantic Starr-ish excellent Visions (US Polydor), rather patchy Mantronix (US Capitol), and a Scott La Rock-remixing Boogie Down Productions twin-LP (US B Boy Records)… Pete Waterman came on stage for the seminar session about sampling with a portable telephone… Alan James Jewell brought a cute Chinese girl trio called Passion with him from Hong Kong, plus two 15 year-old mixing champions, Singapore’s Gabriel Chong and Hong Kong’s Simon Choi (the latter got into the final by, according to 1987 champ, Chad Jackson, copying everything he’d demonstrated while staying at Alan’s over the New Year – Chad was spluttering “I wish I had competed again now!”)… WEA’s often controversial and always idiosyncratic disco plugger Fred Dove finally won the Club Promotion Man Of The Year award… MCA Records’ party at Brown’s was in fact at night, not lunchtime, after the mixing finals, and was so besieged by a roadblock of people that many invited stars couldn’t get through; however, once inside and allowed upstairs to the uncrowded “star bar”, it was the most pleasant part of the entire three day jamboree… Baz Fe Jazz’s new venue, detailed last week, in fact has been unable to open this month… Big ‘H’ is successfully running the fortnightly Friday (this week, March 18) Harry’s House members club in Windsor, details on 0753-652611… Steve Wren jazz-souls Fridays at the Toejammer in Harlow’s Monroes, and Saturday (this one being a Fourth & Broadway night) with Kev Hill at the Sweat Box in Harlow’s HighWire… Sundays at Streatham Zigis are trendy Seventies dance fashion nights, with Carl Cox and Maxine from Brick House and the Boiler House boys Ben and Andy (the latter are with Glen Gunner on Wednesdays at Kingston-on-Thames Options)… John Matthews funks Harrow’s Tudor Club (opposite civic centre) every Thursday… Terry Billy not only looks like but is also a great friend of Janet Jackson… Nicky Holloway – who was having a slight nose job on Monday! – is yet another DJ making a record, under the clever group name of Beats Working… Narada Michael Walden has finally recorded himself again, to reportedly stunning effect… Hindsight are the latest UK soulsters to hit the US black charts, and do comparatively better there than here… Hashim ‘Al-Naafiysh’ has suddenly started selling like crazy again – maybe “its time” has come, after so much use by mixing competitors!… ‘One Bad Apple’ was the Osmonds’ first US chart-topper but never hit here back in 1971, so now, because it blatantly borrowed the early Jackson 5 sound, it’s inevitably become – guess what? – a rare groove!… Slim Gaillard was using the word “def” back in the Forties, as part of his gobbledygook jazz “slanguage” – there ain’t nothing new, attitudes and incidentals stay the same, it’s just the noises that change… GET OFF!
The opportunity to meet people in the same business is what makes any convention worth attending, so, viewed as a three day continuous cocktail party (which is what it amounted to!), the Disco Mix Club’s 1988 International DJ Convention must be judged a great success. By being over three days for the first time, it had the appearance of a more substantial event so that the expense of a visit could be more readily justified, and it was noticeable how many Americans in particular had made the trip this time. I say the appearance, because not much of any substance really went on.
The opening Sunday evening party at the Hippodrome included a host of PAs and pivoted around the Jive Records/Shure Golden Microphone UK Rapping finals — interminably, it seemed, considering there were only six contestants. Marked at each stage (by judges including Derek B, the Cookie Crew, Mike Allen, and US DJ/producer Mark Kamins), the rappers began with a solo and then were paired off to “dis” each other — trade spontaneously rapped insults — which was good fun at first, the most riotously obscene and amusing dis being between American-born MC Brooklyn and London’s Einstein, the big audience pleaser of the whole evening.
But then this process was continued through three more elimination stages, to end up with Brooklyn being beaten by Huddersfield’s MC Fresh J in a final dis to which the weary audience hardly responded. Fresh J (real name Martin Jaffier) won a gold plated £400 Shure microphone, two days’ recording time at Battery Studios, and a red leather Adidas track suit.
Monday afternoon’s actual seminar, further up the Charing Cross Road at the Astoria, featured two panel discussions on the stage, a long way from the balcony where most of the audience continued drinking and talking right through the opening debate about radio, which was informative for those who made the effort to hear it. However, everyone did shut up for the debate about sampling, probably the best that I’ve heard at any convention. Skilfully moderated by Tony Prince, the panel consisted of Arthur Baker, Jeff Young, Chris Hill, Pete Waterman, Simon Harris, Les Adams, Paul Dakeyne and Ben Liebrand. Pete began by stating that in America, sampling is illegal if it contains anything you can recognise, unless — the point he kept repeating — permission is sought to use it. Here, as Les pointed out, guidelines are needed to clarify what one can sample, as the technology itself is not illegal. He then cleverly trapped Pete into admitting that Stock Aitken Waterman are plagiarists, copying the basslines from ‘Trapped’ and ‘Dancing In The Key Of Life’ for the first two Rick Astley hits but with four notes changed, because, as Pete unguardedly revealed they’d thought, “We’ll get away with that”. “A-ha!”, cried the entire audience! But, as Pete maintained, plagiarism (recreating something yourself) is not sampling (lifting the original sound electronically), and he never samples anything without permission and/or payment. James Brown got paid for ‘Roadblock’, Arthur Baker drily muttered, “The Bugga Groove?” – referring to the ‘Roadblock’ remix’s added vocal lines, the owners of some of which were not in fact traceable, as he well knew! Chris Hill, with his ‘Renta Santa’ hit in 1975, used snippets from 20 different artists, all of whom were paid (including even the strings session on a Stylistics clip!), his ‘Top Of The Pops’ appearance costing £6,000 in royalties. Ben Liebrand admitted to building up a drum sound by combining several different samples of Phil Collins, citing economics as his reason — it’s cheaper to sample than pay for live musicians and studio time. Paul Dakeyne, who uses samples in his mixes, has got so interested in the creation of music that he’s now actually learning to play the guitar and piano, because he wants to be sampled by other people! Jeff Young reckoned that by the summer we will be bored silly by sampled volume pumping hits and want to hear proper songs again, while Arthur (who used David Cole to recreate Vince Montana’s vibes sound for ‘Private Party’, rather than sampling it) summed up by saying that comparing sampling with creative music was “like comparing graffiti with Gauguins”. Monday was then lengthily culminated by the World Mixing Final eliminations, which over-ran by hours, with the 19 international winners being weeded down to a final nine. This, however, was in many ways even better than the actual finals the following night, with the best DJs coming across much more exciting than at the Albert Hall.
The Hippodrome and the Astoria had only been open to those actually attending the DJ Convention, whereas the Royal Albert Hall was open to a certain amount of the general public. By the nature of the beast, mixing for competition purposes has inevitably come to mean scratch mixing, as unfortunately, satisfying though they may be, long beat on beat, chord on chord running mixes don’t exactly get people screaming, and they take too long out of the short time available to each competitor. Scratching is fast and furious, ideal for creating maximum impact in minimum time — granted, its best practitioners have developed subtle slow techniques too. Although the evidence would suggest that the majority of Disco Mix Club members are pop-orientated in their tastes —voting for the likes of Sinitta, Bananarama and Rick Astley in their annual poll — these were not the sort of artistes that interested the specifically scratch and rap fans who mobbed the Royal Albert Hall on Monday night!
Luckily, most of the night had been geared very much to their taste, although Tony Prince, with utopian vision, had promoted the evening as a star-studded music biz awards night for the industry in general. Next year he may well have to separate the pop acts from the rap acts, or restrict admission in order to take full advantage of the Albert Hall as a prestige venue, as this year somehow the balance there was definitely wrong. None of this is to suggest that anything ugly happened (indeed, certain behaviour last year when Chad Jackson won was far more disgraceful).
Matt Aitken was booed when he took his place on stage as a judge, and then at the start of the Stanton/DMC World DJ Awards ceremony halfway through the evening, Stock Aitken Waterman had some bottles and cans thrown at them. Obviously, it was pointless continuing along commercial pop lines, most of the other award winners being more “street credible” in any case … an understatement! Check the photographs to see what I mean. Public Enemy were inevitably the real heroes, more so than Run-DMC, but then James Brown strolled on stage and the applause lasted a full six minutes!
But what of the Technics World DJ Mixing Championship finals? Finland’s Kari Vesala did some interesting slurred scratches amongst other tricks; Australia’s jet lagged Andrew Muirhead scratched Public Enemy and Derek B; Hong Kong’s 15 year-old Simon Choi seemed dull on the big night but synched ‘White Christmas’ through ‘Pump Up The Volume’; Sweden’s Robert Watz (who I thought deserved a runner-up place) was a slippery scratcher who brilliantly changed the record speed pitch while transforming to make a stunning finale; France’s Dee Nasty aggressively fast cut the words “nasty” and “bad/good”; Britain’s Cutmaster Swift also did fast “stop/go” cuts and had his usual odd little syncopated tricks but seemed a bit lacklustre; 1987’s defending runner-up, Joe Rodriguez cut up Wild Cherry and Vaughan Mason’s ‘Bump Rock Skate Roll’ at length and actually did running mixes, but seemed dull. In the end, third place went to Holland’s Juan Elmroon, who climaxed his repetitive cut-backs by combining a Cash Money-namechecking record with an obscene comment from another, very cheeky! Second was Denmark’s Mick ‘Cutfather’ Hansen, who cued accurately if sometimes a bit jerkily without using headphones, and synched Run-DMC’s ‘It’s Tricky’ with Olivia Newton John & John Travolta’s ‘Summer Nights’.
Almost inevitably, the winner (by communal wish fulfilment?) was America’s Cash Money — with Marvelous as his record feeder —who began slowly before basically alternating beats, but also stood on a chair to scratch with his foot, then his elbow, before using his mouth and stomach to manipulate the crossfader! A popular win, then, although I must say (as one of the judges) that none of the finalists seemed fantastic on the night. The other judges were Mantronik, Ben Liebrand, Phil Harding, Les Adams, Red Alert, Derek B, Paul Dakeyne, Sanny X, Def Jam’s Dr Funk-En-Klein, and Matt Aitken, all of whom knew what to look for!
CJ MACKINTOSH and DAVE DORRELL collected the award from BOY ‘Loads Of Money’ GEORGE for best single, M|A|R|R|S ‘Pump Up The Volume’. A year earlier, CJ was the UK champion and competing unsuccessfully on the same Albert Hall stage for the World title.
KEITH SWEAT ‘Something Just Ain’t Right (Extended Version)’ (US Vintertainment 0-66776)
Jogged along by percolating Timmy Thomas-type, Anne Peebles ‘I Can’t Stand The Rain’-like synthetic beats, his album’s hottest cut is now in a strong soulfully weaving 0-105⅔-0bpm remix (in four versions), obviously targeted at black radio in the US as right now his previous black smash, ‘I Want Her’, is top 10 pop.
PEBBLES ‘Girlfriend’ (MCA Records MCAT 1233)
Perri McKissack used to sing with jazz-funker Bill Summers but her first solo US smash is a frothy, perky 118¼bpm pop chugger with squeaky baroque “strings” —which are missing from the Dance Remix (MCA Records MCAX 1233). Continue reading “March 19, 1988: DMC International DJ Convention, Keith Sweat, Pebbles, Gwen McCrae, Sargent Tucker”