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An Interview with Landslide (2002)

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Steve Goodman
London Hyperdub HQ

Originally published in 2002

Here at the Hyperdub Softwar Agency, we continue to track the mutations of the uk garage sound. If you have been following the plot so far, we have been joining the dots between 2step and dancehall, dub reggae, techno, hip hop, hardcore, drum’n’bass, nu school breaks and Timbaland style R&B. This time we pick up on the cross fertilization between 2step and the infamous ‘West London’/’Nu Jazz’/’Broken Beats’ sound. Doing most to push that convergence forward has probably been Zed Bias under his Maddslinky moniker. But also making serious impact in this zone of transition has been Landslide from Hospital Records. If it seems like uk garage is paralleling the evolutionary pattern of drum’n’bass, then it also appears that each time the cycles compress. So with Landslide, you could be forgiven for thinking that 2step has hit its ‘liquid funk’ stage (the Fabio coined term for all varieties of soul jazz/blaxploitation influenced drum’n’bass in which Hospital’s London Elektricity have been entangled) much quicker. For some the attempt to take hardcore and its various guises into the territory of ‘real music’ is the key sign of the dissipation of its ferocious energy, a recuperation into ‘good taste’, ‘repectability’ and ‘musicality’. But Landslide’s sound seems balanced, giving the elements of the ‘broken beats’ sound, with its the slices of jazz, soul and latin, a speedy kick up the arse, and a heavier low-end pull. Simultaneously, at a time when there is a glut of vibeless sub-standard breaky garage flooding the market, some flavour is most welcome.

With his stabby mixes of London Elektricity’s ‘Round the Corner’, the stunning latino-buzz of ‘Incurable Voices’, his ‘Betcha’ remix with Kaidi Taitham and the forthcoming ‘Hear My People’, Landslide is picking up props from within a range of scenes (eg. EZ, Grooverider, Adam Freeland, Gilles Peterson, Pete Tong, Mat Jam Lamont and Seiji) Being an ex-drummer, there are few better with whom to zoom-in on how the fractured rhythmic DNA of ‘broken beat’ and 2step may get spliced together.

SG: You used to be a drummer. I’m interested in what it was rhythmically that interested you in 2step.

L: I was into the early garage scene when it was Chicago garage and lost it when it became speed garage. I just couldn’t understand that it had got so fast with a 4 to the floor. For me it’s just about the swing, with big ties and links with that whole jazz feel. As soon as people started to break up the beats it started to become very interesting as a rhythmic template. So I’ve been really excited about 2step for a very long time but a bit upset that the musical side of a lot of it was just really lacking.

SG: What kind of jazz drummers are you influenced by?

L: It’s more the fusion drummers to be honest. I was a bit of a ‘drumming nerd’ when I was a kid. I used to be into those power drummers who were big in the 80s. You know, those guys with perms who had these huge drum kits. So I was into that for a while and drummers like Peter Erskine, Steve Gadd and Billy Cobham and so on, who would really fire up and then the jazz drummers like Art Blakey and Jack De Johnette, so unfortunately I never got close to getting that kind of feel so for me, I have to use computers.

SG: When as you put it, ‘speed garage started breaking up and the rhythms starting getting more interesting’, what sounds pulled you away from for example from drum’n’bass patterns.

L: I had been following very closely what MJ Cole was doing, because musically it was so strong, and there was a few other tracks. I had been wanting to make 2step for ages, but I’d bottled out basically. It was the more jazz influenced stuff, like MJ’s remix of a Mondo Grosso track MG, which I never managed to find. And also the Poppen track, ‘Voom Voom’. I was listening to the pirate stations but wasn’t really buying, but was kind of waiting. I didn’t really start making 2step until about a year and a half ago. I think ‘Muted Voices’ was my first track. There was also the ‘Jupiter Effect’ which has a lot of support from Gilles Peterson. It was on a compilation I think. The one that really took hold for me was the ‘Round the Corner’ remix I did for London Electricity. It was that one which EZ picked up on and the garage scene generally.

SG: Why do you think people from outside the UK garage scene have been so snobish towards it?

L: I think the garage scene know is evolving. Until recently, there was a certain amount of ignorance about it. I think a lot of people within the scene are growing up and starting to get more experimental about sound within garage. They are now a bit more accepting of jazz producers who are having a go at it. Certainly the Mondo Grosso album sounds increasingly fresh right now. I think within garage there is now an attempt to distance themselves from those producers who are just trying to make pop tunes out of it. I’ve started to get some links with the Ammunition people who promote the Zinc stuff and Oris Jay.

SG: Yeah. Oris Jay with his fill style, always reminded me of Billy Cobham.

L: Yep. All that lot, they get their drums to swing, and for me Zed Bias is the one to both get them to swing and be heavy at the same time. Often a lot of garage can sound really clonky or spiky and it doesn’t roll or groove very well. I think the Ammunition lot have spent time thinking about the relationship between the drums and the bass lines, getting them to swing. Very simple tunes but they definitely work.

SG: Generally, there are a lot of ways in which the evolution of 2step is starting to parallel how jungle and drum’n’bass evolved. Do you see any differences apart from the speed.

L: I think the main difference is that garage went commercial very very early on and drum’n’bass never did, it was never able to take hold. Now, you go to any playground and every kid there is Mcing. It is the sound of the playground. Drum’n’bass was a bit of a fashion thing for a lot of people. I think garage has struck a lot deeper and it’s readily able to draw on a much wider range of influences because with drum’n’bass it really just came down to formula. Because you had such a narrow band of sounds and tempos, and rhythmic variations that you can make, but with garage, its dancehall, its drum’n’bass and so much more. As a sound it has a lot more mileage for exploration at the moment.

SG: With regard to this ‘MCs in playgrounds issue’, coupled to the fact that UK hip hop has never properly fired on all cylinders as it could/would/should of. So now we have an MC based music round about 135bpm and so the issue is now, is this the UK’s proper version of hip hop culture?

L: I think so. For me the fundamental thing is that everyone had to emulate that US accent, the language. It wasn’t a native, homegrown thing. Mcing is something that people do in their own tongue with the kind of language that has evolved in the UK and it is homegrown and much more powerful. The problem for UK hip hop was always that it would be compared unfavourably with the US. It has taken people time to get used to listening to chirpy MCs from UK council estates but it is evolving. I didn’t get it for a long while, then I went to see the Heartless Crew doing it live (I’d heard them on the radio and didn’t really get it) and it really dropped. They almost had a kind of Jurassic Five or Pharcyde feel. They had all these bizarre characters within their voices. So it is the UK thing and it will be very powerful.

SG: Also most of the best MCs are still very very young.

L: I also think you are going to see very different, twisted MCs coming through and also that whole culture of producing new words.

SG: So you DJ as well as produce?

L: Yeah, but so far it’s just international. I’ve been to Japan and Germany and Moscow and Italy and France soon. I’m a producer/DJ and not a fantastic technical DJ. I just go and play my story really. It’s been hard to find the sound that I wanted to play. For me it’s been a while, but I’ve picked up the pieces. I play bits of the Ammunition sound, and what Zed Bias is doing as Maddslinky. He is the man for me totally. I watch everything he does very closely. Also everything that Headtop does and some of the West London stuff around the 130bpm mark that you can slip in between as well. For me, my personal ambition is a fusion of the West London sound with 2step. I suppose I just want to take 2step a bit musically deeper. And there are some things heading that way. Zed Bias is working with Kaidi Tatham so things are starting to happen.

SG: We are still in the paradigm or the echo of hardcore and rave in this country. The process of the last 10 or so years has been one of massive sonic specialisation with lots of micro scenes emerging in the UK. Do you think the cluster of micro scenes around that 135 bpm marks a move away from that process or it’s continuation.

L: I think people pick up and reference the sounds that they like, and the creation of something new is always to fuse 2 things together, and I suppose that that is how any of these scenes have been born. So in many ways what is happening is just more cross pollenation and fragmentation because each time you do it, you create something new. But I do feel quite positive about this particular tempo, and it is because it has permeated the charts and is reaching a majority audience, and so has lots of permutations. I feel that that tempo, that feel. . .there is also a kind of production, a sound as well which is sounding very new. Not so big, and lush, and pop but very dry and in your face. It’s a raw, home studio sound, and I like that. I like the fact that we are not necessarily building up a higher and higher standard of production, but we can make things raw and gritty, and actually quite badly produced, but with a strong vibe.

SG: So I’d imagine that you sell much better outside the UK.

Landslide: Yeah, well in Japan and Germany I sell better. The Japan thing has been really important for me. It is a fantastic connection and one that Hospital have really worked upon. Going out to Japan was a real eye opener, having heard all about it, and knowing how into UK music they were, but actually hearing it first hand. It was pretty awe inspiring. You do come back to London and appreciate the fact that despite all the problems with the city, how expensive it is to live here and so on, you are quite privileged to be in a city where that much music and diversity happens. People all over the world look to London for so much new music and its influence travels all over the place. Each country has its own take on what it understands and what it connects with. So you can only deal with each country as a separate thing. What surprised me quite a lot was just how big West London music was in Japan and Germany. It’s huge. I was surprised. Sometimes it can veer off into overly ‘noodley’ and self-indulgent territory and that’s where it looses it for me. You know, ‘broken’, just for the sake of being broken. I feel that that kind of exploration in the sound has stopped now and people are more focused again on making quality music. Often when it travels abroad, people can analyse it without actually feeling it, and it becomes purely technical, and that can sound shockingly strange. But they do tend to be more open minded to more experimental stuff. In London if it starts to get even a bit broken, for most people outside of that scene, it’s like “what on earth is this” and they can’t deal with it.

In London it’s very competive which is essential to make people work hard and make decent music. People are really cynical and you have to work hard to impress them. That’s good, because it will travel, and push up the standards. But it does depress me a bit that things that are really special in London aren’t recognized by more people in London, because everyone else in the world is on it. But you can only live in hope!

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Copyright © Hyperdub 2002 – Reprinted with permission.

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