Published: 3D World, November 3, 2010
“I don’t wanna’ release other peoples music. Well, not at the moment, maybe I’m going to eat my words, but right now I don’t want to.”
Sound like the head of a newly established record label? Perhaps it’s a strange notion in a modern, growth-obsessed capitalist economy, but at least part of the business model for Vadim Peare’s recently started Organically Grown Sounds label is just that. The Russian-born, London-raised producer better known as DJ Vadim is content to grow his already considerable discography alone, having learnt from his first ill-fated foray into the world of label management with Jazz Fudge that it’s easier to concentrate on your own output than deal with the often misguided expectations of others.
“It’s just everyone has different expectations for their music and one of the worst things in the world is like, you sign people to a label and suddenly people think, ‘Oh my god, you’re the label somehow you’re meant to make them huge mega-stars’.”
With an 11 year partnership with Ninja Tune, a brief stint in A&R and, more recently, a licence agreement with BBE, it’s fair to say that Peare is familiar with traps of the music industry. And despite a desire not to get himself too entangled with the day to day management of other artists, he’s more than prepared to look after his own affairs.
“I started with Jazz Fudge and I’m going back to being on my own label,” says Peare, only just audible down a particularly poor phone line from London. “In 2010 it just makes economic sense. I know how the system works – I know the PR companies, I know the promotional agencies, the DJ’s, the radio stations, blah blah blah – so I don’t need to pay or give someone 50% of my profits for them to do something that I can really do myself.”
In an industry that’s so enamoured with both hype and hyperbole, Peare’s honesty and forthrightness is as refreshing as the music he makes. Having first made a name for himself as a talented and prolific member of the Ninja Tune stable in the late ‘90s, the tireless producer, performer and collaborator has gone on to cement himself as a true icon of the underground hip hop scene in the UK. And while his rise was initially associated with Ninja Tune, looking back, he’s clearly not prepared to perpetuate some of the myths that surround the London label.
“I’m not going to describe Ninja Tune as a family and stuff like that,” says Peare, when questioned about his relationship Ninja Tune, who’ve recently celebrated their 20th anniversary .“I never felt like it was a family, even though people put this mystical kind of relationship on it. I know some of the artists there and I like some of the music. I know they have a role to play in, I suppose underground music, and they have put forward some great music, but it’s not like I’m standing there awe-struck going, ‘Oh my God, it’s the Jesus of music’ – it’s one of many labels. I mean I don’t want to belittle what they’ve done, but I don’t want to say it’s like the parting of the sea or something.”
Perhaps it’s the nature of the diminutive Londoner not to get too caught up in nostalgia, but considering the label has played host to some of his best work over the years, it’s a particularly candid response. Regardless, since he parted ways with Ninja Tune in 2006 he’s never stopped growing the Vadim sound, and has subsequently released some of his best work. 2007’s Soundcatcher and 2009’s U Can’t Lurn Imaginashun are both masterful lessons in moulding an overwhelming range of influences into a coherent album. Both combine snatches of funk, reggae, disco, and soul – all tied together by Vadim’s well sharpened beat-making intuitions.
As such, Vadim will have plenty of musical ammo to draw from when he plays his five date Australian tour at the start of November, and will no doubt be filling at least part of his set with new material. While he admits he’s got screeds of unfinished solo tracks sitting on his hard-drive at home, fans are bound to be exposed to some of his new collaborative work with US MC Pugs Atomz and UK neo-soul singer Sabira Jade. The Electric, as the group is called, is the first scheduled release on Organically Grown Sounds. At face value it’s a similar combination to his short-lived but well received hip hop-soul combo, Oneself, but Vadim is adamant The Electric has a different sound and came together in quite a different way.
“Yes it is true that there are connotations to Oneself, but for me this is a bit different, we really did make The Electric album on the road – the album’s finished, that’s coming out next year – but it felt very different to the way we created Oneself.”
Having successfully supported Fat Freddy’s drop throughout Europe this year, The Electric are well on their way to gaining a wider audience themselves, but for now, Australian audiences will have to remain content with Vadim’s eclectic and dynamic solo set, something he says is influenced primarily by the mood on the night. He’s certainly not averse to an encore, either.
“If there’s a good vibe I’ll come back on, it’s not like – music has never been for me like, hey it’s an hour contract I get payd $10,000 and I’m not going to play a single second over my hour, you know what I mean? It’s not like that. If there’s a good vibe in the club and the people really want more, I’m gonna’ come back and do more.”
5:12 pm • 17 December 2010
Published: Real Groove, October, 2010.
Music Is Choice
* * * * *
A comprehensive snapshot of the group at the height of their powers.
Tinged with humour, sentimentality and the organic, down to earth feel which has been a hall-mark of all of their music, Trinity Roots’ multi-media release Music Is Choice imparts a heartfelt portrait of a group who’ve understandably become iconic to New Zealand.
Since disbanding in February 2005 and leaving the country at the mercy of a host of less talented and overreaching impersonators, Trinity Roots has remained an oft-referenced but rarely matched presence within New Zealand music. Genuinely original, their deft synthesis of styles and ability to tap into a very real and pervasive part of New Zealand sentimentality has understandably invoked praise and emulation in equal degrees.
With all three members having subsequently embarked on their own projects – Warren Maxwell with Little Bushman, Riki Gooch with Eru Dangerspiel, and Rio Hemopo with various collaborations and intermittent solo projects – the release of Music Is Choice is naturally billed as a memento, but their recent announcement of a reunion tour and, more than likely, another album, make that description pleasantly redundant.
A two-disc affair, Music Is Choice includes a live album recorded over two nights at the Wellington Town Hall and Sarah Hunter’s well-constructed documentary of the same name. There’s also extras from Chris Graham, including his wonderfully shot and conceptualised ‘Little Things’ music video, and the hilarious ‘True, bro’ promo for their first album True.
Always most potent live, the recordings here – culled from a show in August 2004 and their farewell concert on February 2005 – are a prime distillation of a sound which ran (or is that runs?) the gamut of psychedelia, folk, jazz and reggae. Imbued with a sense of occasion and spontaneity, their live shows would often lend themselves to long, drawn out psych-grooves that helped build tension and atmosphere, but were never marked by any of the self-indulgent flights of fancy that would beset a lesser band. It’s evident across the course of this release – ‘Ego’s’ stretched out to an entrancing 10 minutes, ‘Two By Two’ to a glorious 20. Both deeply, hypnotic sonic explorations which form the backbone of the album.
While some people would have caught Sarah Hunter’s documentary at the recent International Film Festival it’s re-release as part of this package is a welcome addition. Drawing on interviews with the band, along with friends, family and music industry peers, Hunter crafts a portrait of the group from their early inception whilst studying jazz in Wellington, right through to their farewell concert in 2005. The interviews are intertwined with photos, footage from early tours and the beautifully shot black and white reels from their farewell concert. It certainly takes a benevolent, fan-centric view of the group, but the wealth of material Hunter draws on, along with the insights gleamed from Maxwell, Hemopo and Gooch provide a thorough picture of the groups development, dynamics and the wider Wellington scene from which they emerged.
7:09 pm • 28 November 2010
Published: Real Groove, October, 2010.
For his third album Mark Ronson has called in favours from all corners of the music industry, the result pits Southern rapper Pill alongside The London Gay Mens’ Chorus, and Simon LeBon alongside Wiley. Real Groove spoke to the in-demand producer to get the lowdown on his latest album, Record Collection.
Even granted a healthy dose of cynicism it’s hard not to applaud Mark Ronson for at least one of the collaborative coups he’s presided over for his latest album Record Collection – successfully committing D’Angelo to tape. Considering the last ten years has seen the faltering career of the r ‘n’ b visionary tragically run the gamut of incarceration, rehabilitation and only intermittent vocal appearances, it speaks volumes of Ronson’s oft-referenced ‘connected’ status. But it also speaks volumes of his music, substantiating something he’s had to prove over and over throughout his decade long career in the industry – that he’s more than just privileged and connected, that he’s actually a talented musician who’s in demand.
According to Ronson, it was D’Angelo that approached him with the idea of a collaboration, relaying through a shared ex-manager that “he hadn’t liked that many records in the past year outside Back To Black”, and that he wanted to work with him. It was a proposition that took Ronson by surprise, and a creative endeavour that induced a significant amount of nerves on his behalf.
“He (his ex-manager) asked whether I wanted to hook up with D’Angelo, like just spend a day in the studio, and I nearly blew it off because the thought of being in the room with somebody that was that virtuosic, and that much of a true genius – I was thinking ‘What am I going to do? Is this going to be horrible?’”
Despite the initial misgivings the collaboration went ahead, the result of which, ‘Glass Mountain Trust’, Ronson describes as one of the highlights of the album. It’s just one of many high-profile guest spots on Record Collection, an album with a cast as diverse as Boy George, Ghostface Killah, The London Gay Men’s Chorus and Alex Greenwald. On paper there are some pretty strange parings (Simon Le Bon and Wiley anyone?) but Ronson is adamant that it wasn’t simply a major label ploy that’s seen seemingly disparate artists from multiple generations feature on the album.
“I’m not getting anyone on this album for the sake of getting them on it,” states Ronson, “these are all people that are genuinely in my record collection or on my iTunes library or whatever you want to call it these days. Everyone on here I’m a genuine fan of and collect their music and play their music, or listen to it.”
While Ronson credits the likes of Fela Kuti and Neu! as informing the rhythmic template for Record Collection, the predominant brass and strings sound of Version has been eschewed for synthesizers, something which can largely be accredited to his work producing Duran Duran’s latest album.
“Well one of the main catalysts for me was coming after working on the new Duran Duran album, which is ironically going to come out after my album. But that was a huge influence. Just being around Nick Rhodes and the synths and how they influenced the album.”
His work behind the boards for the British rock giants rekindled a love for ‘80s British synth-pop, the sound of which he’s harnessed to create an album that’s sonically removed from the ‘60s and ‘70s soul inspired sound of Version. It also resonates with a superior creative depth, something he was clearly conscious of when he sat down to record it with the revolving cast of players he refers to as ‘The Business Intl’.
“I’m certainly aware in England, where the record had the most attention, that I was becoming known as this guy that was synonymous with trumpets and cover versions,” says Ronson. “And you know, if Version hadn’t been as successful as it was I probably would have been happy to keep doing that sound for awhile – ‘cause I love that sound, ‘60s and early 70s Motown and James Brown, and those horn arrangements and the rhythm section the way it goes. But it did force my hand to switch it up a bit. But to be honest I was a little bored of it as well.”
Despite a conscious desire to change his sound, the album is still heavily indebted to the Daptone Records family, with the album being recorded at Dunham Studios – a subsidiary label of Daptone started by Dap-Kings Thomas Brenneck and Homer Steinweiss. It’s a strange move considering the Dap-Kings have all but cemented Ronson’s reputation as a key mover in the modern soul movement, adding the brass and rhythmic backbone to Version and Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black, which Ronson produced. Still, it seems Ronson couldn’t overlook their musicianship when setting about to record Record Collection.
“They’re just the best musicians I’ve ever worked with. They’re brilliant and it doesn’t matter what style. You know one of the things going into Record Collection – they knew that one of the main goals was to switch up the sound, so it was cool you know? I got all these keyboards that I’d been working with on the Duran Duran album, and I was inspired by the keyboards that they were using, so I bought a few for myself and moved them into Tommy’s (Thomas Brenneck) studio.”
The nucleus of the album was fleshed out in Brooklyn at Dunham Studios, with a core cabal including Thomas Brenneck, Homer Steinweiss and Victor Axelrod of the Dap-Kings, Nick Hodgson of the Kaiser Chiefs, and Alex Greenwald of Phantom Planet. After those initial writing sessions vocalists from both sides of the North Atlantic were brought in to finish the album off. Although Ronson is still struggling with the true identity of the record, he’s adamant that those initial recording sessions form the backbone of the album.
“I think luckily enough most of the spirit of the album comes out with the four or five of us in a room, writing and recording and jamming, so whatever songs came out of there, that’s the underlying DNA of the record. I definitely had no idea what the sound was going to be like going into it, I just knew that we just wanted to switch it up and do something interesting.”
6:59 pm • 28 November 2010 • 3 notes