Yowzer yowzer yowzer! What a ball-achingly intense week! The first episode of the KOTJ mixtape series has arrived and I’m finally ready to post it along with an interview Mr. Forrest so kindly agreed to.
Last weekend saw me bang my face so vigorously I nearly lost consciousness. Fortunately there were some good points as I managed to hook up with Donna Summer, Kid606 and Chrissy Murderbot (however briefly). Sadly, for one reason or another I missed out on interviews with those two. On the up I did bump into Appleblim just before I left, getting an impromptu interview with him – more on that later.
So tell us a bit about your musical background.
“Well, I don’t really have any, technically speaking. I was always really interested in sampling. Public Enemy was always one of the biggest bands for me. Eventually, when everyone had computers in the 90s I was like ‘Well, I can do that too!’”
At this point Mr. Nex from Altern8 came over and they begin to discuss their highlights of the festival.
JF (on Bangface): “These guys are so good about attention to detail, like really small things. Last night they turned the AC down a little and it makes it nice and sweaty and a better feeling for the party. I heard them talking about it: ‘Well, it’s 10.30 it’s time to reduce the AC a little.’ That’s seasoned experience, to know it needs to be warmer by the end of the night.
“I’m trying to talk them into doing a stadium gig. It’d be the best. Make it like fairly cheap, like £10 and just see how many people you could have. Wouldn’t it be cool? 10, 20,000 all for Mr. Nex!”
Mr. Nex: “Them were the days! I can’t use the name Altern8 and I don’t have the rights to the old songs. But I’m doing a cover of Frequency if you’d be up for doing a mix.”
JF: “It’d be my honour.”
JF: “We met in Berlin. We got them over for a Nightshifters night. They showed up and they were just lovely. I don’t expect anyone to be an asshole at this point. Especially them, they’ve had their highs, they’ve had their lows. The only people that are usually assholes are new, people who have only been around for a year or two and have a lot of NME press and they think they’re really famous but in reality they’re not famous. Those are the people who are total cunts. It’s like “get over yourself”. People who have been around the block like they have are cool.”
Some of the new dubstep and bassline DJs are proper arrogant, you can’t even talk to them.
JF: “I don’t even know why. It used to be that the drum & bass scene was full of the most arrogant people ever. I don’t wanna say everybody, but they just had this vibe of “Don’t you know who I am with my celebrity girlfriend giving me drinks while I’m DJing passively” and then somehow that shit moved over to dubstep. A lot of people in the dubstep business are really difficult to deal with; they always demand really high fees for a remix.
“I also find it really funny that some of the dodgier, urban dubstep parties are so gangster. This is basically IDM music and you’re glassing people? I don’t get it.”
“So back to the original question, I was really interested in Public Enemy and I had a friend who told me you can make music on computers. Really? You import a sample this way, cut up that way and then for like 3 years I was making really bad Noise music. I couldn’t figure out how to make the music I wanted to make. And that’s when I started Cock Rock Disco. I started it cos I thought it was a really funny name and then as my music got better and I learned about time-stretching I was like ‘Oh! That’s how they make all the samples fit together! And not clash all the time!’ from there I was running. It’s funny because the music I then went onto make fitted Cock Rock Disco, not as I wanted it to, but that’s just how it evolved naturally. Then over the years – I’ve been around for 10 years, this is my 10th year as a professional musician (which is shocking for everyone, including me) – I just tried to evolve.
“I did Breakcore Gives Me Wood 3, one of the really early ones. We had these Gabba kicks and we knew what this gabba music was but we didn’t really know how to mix it. We were just making all these really fast things but at the time we didn’t really know how to make anything dancey. We were just like ‘Isn’t this crazy and extreme and weird?!’ In America nobody danced. You just sorta listened to it and stood there and maybe jumped around a little bit cause I’m more from a punk background. Here, you could play a song and people would dance to it. And at Breakcore Gives Me Wood 3 everytime there was a big kick or a drop people were dancing and moving so I would just double it to give it a stronger kick.
“If I’m gonna play at a dance party I’m gonna do a really solid set where people can dance to it. You start to learn and build it up and I’ve got a tonne of Altern8 and those Dance Paradise cassettes, just listening to how real pros make a set, how you really build it. You don’t wanna just push them with a 250bpm for an hour or they get disinterested. So you learn that even a nice high hat drop can have a major impact when that comes in right. Then I started to make a lot of dance music. Then about 4 years ago when electro started to get more interesting, I started doing more electro parties in Berlin. We made a Birthday Party for everyone and no-one and they we started making more electro things and that’s kinda where we are now. Basically, I do club music and then I do super extreme rave music and nothing in between. It’s like ass-shaking girl stuff and then going for broke breakcore.”
With the music you make under your own name, it’s not as dancey, some of it’s more introspective, some of it’s rockier, some of it’s disco. Is that still going?
“It is gonna still go. Basically, there is a third wheel and that’s the Jason Forrest stuff. My last Jason Forrest record was in 2005 so it’s been 5 years. In that time I’ve moved to Berlin, got involved with more parties. Then about 2 years ago I saw that that musicality was missing from my stuff. Sometimes you learn a way of doing things and you can’t unlearn that. So for a long time I just couldn’t get the spark back over music. Last year I started on a new album. I’m pretty close to being done with it. It’s really changed. It’s very prog-rocky, really musical, there’s a lot of chord changes. But the thing that’s funny is that the structures are way more stripped down. If you listen to post-disco crash there’s a song where there’s like 5 different sequenced drums at the same time. There’s something about that over complexity that’s really exciting. Whereas on this record I have maybe 4 total drum sounds. It’s much cleaner and much more direct but also i think it depends what you wanna do but for me it’s about delivering the music a bit more clearly. So I’m quite close, I’m not 100% and there’s an internal struggle of ‘how do i finish this album?’. I’m also trying to do some new things with the club music as well and i have a baby now – he’s fantastic, I love him to death, obviously, says the father. So now my time is getting to be tight and running the labels. So I get 2 hours and I’m like ‘Do I finish this remix or do I do the Jason forrest stuff? I really wanna do this new club tune I got a feeling for, well I’ve really gotta do some finessing on this music.’
“So everything slows down but im still doing a lot of stuff. I hope to have it out this year. It’s called ‘The Everything’ and it’s a lot of styles. There’s a lot more snap percussion and it’s like proggy, with a no-wave feel to it. There’s a lot of distorted bits. But then it’s also kinda light, there’s some rockabilly parts in it. I’ve only given some bits and pieces to some friends and they really liked it.”
You say the Jason forrest stuff is a bit of a third wheel. Do you think that applies to breakcore and hardcore generally?
“I think the issue is that there’s a bit of a crisis within breakcore. It’s certainly not anything that’s happened lately. Basically there was a big schism. First it was just breakcore and then it became light breakcore and dark breakcore and then from there I think everyone who was making breakcore have gone off in 4 tangents, or 3 tangents and a 4th category: some went metal like Drumcorps, or electro like Sickboy and myself or like dubstep like the Wrong crew. Or even like Squires of Gothos, a prime example of a breakcore-head who made dubstep that’s kinda close to breakcore. There’s amens and stuff. It’s different but it’s not 250bpm, it’s 140, 150 and that’s still plenty hard, especially in a dancefloor set. But then there’s this 4th category, this newer second generation who’ve come up who basically make breakcore on forums and that stuff’s really interesting, I really wanna support it more. But at the same time they’re such a different community from a different standpoint where they have all of those things mashed up into a 1 minute song.
“There were some people in the past who made breakcore and moved onto other things and some of them were ok with the transition but some were like ‘No, we’re not doing breakcore’. Thing is, I love it. I feel like I had some hand in establishing it so I still love playing the tunes and I still like making the tunes but the spark’s not there after 10 years so much as it was. That said, I’m definitely not stopping. Panther Tracks is only 2 years old and I played 4 tracks from it last night.
So where do you see music going in the future?
“I guess the issue, as a musician, is you don’t really know. The one thing I’ve learned over my ups and downs is: first of all, I’m still amazed I’m still here 10 years later. I really thought I had an album or 2 in me and then I’d have to go get a job again. That’s not to say I had low expectations, but I was realistic. So over the years I’ve tried some things that really worked and some that maybe didn’t work so well. You have to follow what you’re interested in. So that’s why I’m not really sure. The club music’s going really well, Nightshifters is really kicking off. I’m totally committed to it and I’m really excited by the artists on there. Things have really taken a turn for the better.
“It could be that the Nightshifters thing really kicks off and I do more of that because that’s where I need to focus my energy, or it could be that that doesn’t kick off so much and the Jason Forrest stuff does what it does and I follow that path. The point is over the years I’ve started little paths then had to stop them and come back to some later. Now I’m at a really good spot where I’m making the music I want to make. Granted it can be for this audience or that audience but I really like both of those paths and I’m doing it for me. Sometimes you think ‘Well, if I put this structure together with this they’ll like it more’ and I just got to this point where I’m not doing that anymore. Like ‘I know it’s only supposed to have 16 bars but if i do 15 bars and then this massive drop’ and playing around with the rules and not just following the rules but trying to push the rules. So that’s where I am now and I have to say I’m super pleased with everything and really on top of the world these days.
“In some part it’s down to blogs like your own because traditional media’s not so easy anymore and there’s always new people interested in your music. With every new movement and new crew of people that show up there’s always something that pushes me to try to push them back.”
So what are the plans for nightshifters in the future?
“Basically, Nightshifters is an experiment. It’s an experiment in business, it’s an experiment in art. I’m really not interested in following anyone. I’m not interested in being an Ed Banger junior or an Institubes junior or a Trouble & Bass junior. I wanna do a label that has its own identity, that has its own vision. Yeah, we’ve got friends but you wanna do your own thing and we’re doing it. What’s cool is it’s going really strong. Last month with the Rx release we had 19,000 views on the Vimeo page in a month and that’s real numbers.”
And Radio 1 are picking it up.
“It’s great. I’d like to reach out to some of those dudes a bit more like Annie Mac and Kissy Sell Out but I’ve had nothing. We’ll get there. Obviously, Hostage did the Essential mix with Annie Mac so that’s coming along too.
“The next release is by Proper Villains and it’s really solid. There’s a lot of breaks on it, some really wobbly bassy stuff. Quite housey and one of the songs has a really old-school ravey piano breakdown. I wanted to play it in my set last night, it’s just slow for Bangface.
“After that we’re gonna do a mini best of release in the summer. Then after that we have new releases from Rampage and Rob Threezy. There’s some new artists we’re trying to get from the States and a guy from France.
“The thing about Nightshifters is it’s digital only and I try to keep it really fast moving. When we get a track sent we get it mastered in a few days, then we send it away and it comes out a month later. It used to be that it took a year to release something, now we can get it out in 6 weeks. So we don’t wanna schedule too much stuff in case something new comes in you have to jump on it now now now! So that’s what the Rx was, something just happened and we were just like ‘Shit! Let’s go go go!’ and that was a free one so we didn’t have to worry about the digital stores or anything, we just got it and ran.”
Which artists have you got your eye on at the minute?
“Artistically, there’s a lot of people I get inspiration from; there’s a lot of people i would love to work with, they just have other commitments. Dubbel Dutch is really great, he’s flipping some UK sounds with some US ghetto stuff and it really works. And he’s a nice guy too. He did a remix for us for the Momma’s Boy that just came out. There’s so many people right now, so much really incredible UK stuff. The Night Slugs posse totally rip it up. The new Girl Unit album is mindblowingly good. I’m totally into the Bok Bok stuff. But then there’s this new kid from Canada called Samo Soundboy, he’s quite fresh, making really good tracks, really clean air-pressure music, lots of weird woosh sounds – it’s like gases are filling the club!
“But then as far as inspiration, I think Untold is the dude. When you hear those Untold tracks they’re so fucking weird and so hard but there’s nothing there. It’s like a cowbell, a woodblock, a highhat and some reactor patch and that’s the tune but it’s so beautifully produced. He’s incredible. I have a lot of inspiration from that weird IDM dubstep stuff. There’s tonnes of stuff, I could go on for hours. We have a guy in Berlin called Naifian who makes a little techno, a little dubstep, a lot of really weird sounds and I wanna do something with him as well. We just gotta work it out.
“So basically with Nightshifters I’m trying to push it a little deeper and harder. I keep telling the people I want more with less. We’re not making headphone music, it’s gotta bang. You gotta be able to pogo to that shit. I want some new sounds. You wanna make a night where people can have a really good experience. If it’s just all that sidechain electro it gives you a fucking headache after a while. More with less!”
I have to say Donna Summer appears to be doing his damnedest to make my like Funky, and to be honest he’s winning. Before now all I’d heard was the really lazy RnB-soaked asinine crap. If you’re not sure about funky, listen to his remix of Momma’s Boy’s new single ‘At Night’ – it’s definitely one of the highlights of the mix with really old-skool rave vocals over a genuinely danceable beat.
Kick Out The Jam Radio Vol. 1: DJ Donna Summer – Fast(er) Mix
Para One – Idiot
Unknown B’more – Clap Ya Hands
Chuckie – Pong To this
Naifian – Last Night
Untold – Rework
Renessainse man – Fruit Loop
Spooky Mobb Deep Outta Control Refix
Momma’s Boy – At Night (DJ Donna Summer Remix)
Mind Therapy – Pushing Pot
Untold – I Can’t Stop this Feeling
Bok Bok – Ripe Banana
Deathface – Samedi
Caspa & Rusko – Power Shower
Missy Elliot – On And On (Tittsworth Refix)
Harmonimix – A Milli
Baobinga – Ride It
Duran Duran Duran – Bass Racist
DJ Virus -The Fuckin Master
Ramadanman – Don’t Change For Me
Terror Danja – Acid
Thomas Bangalter – What To Do
DJ Donna Summer – Wood