When it comes to the career of legendary session musician Alan Hawkshaw, it's best to let him do the talking. He's been involved with more amazing projects than we can count, and practically everything he's had a hand in has become prized by collectors of heavy funk. We were lucky enough to sit down with Hawkshaw recently to discuss his incredible career in music, spanning his earliest groups, the KPM period, his involvement in the breakdance classic "The Champ" by The Mohawks, the transition to the disco era, and the embracing of his music by modern DJs and producers.
Our collection of essential library music on the KPM label, Music For Dancefloors, is available now.
In the late 70's and early 80's in Communist Romania, Rodion Ladislau Roșca and his band Rodion G.A. created a hybrid of electronic music, psychedelics, and progressive rock that, decades later, has revealed itself to be remarkably ahead of its time. After years of obscurity, and only a handful of singles ever released officially, Rodion's music is finally getting the recognition it deserves. This is the story of the music, conducted as an interview with Ion Dumitrescu of Bucharest's Future Nuggets crew. Rodion speaks from his home in Romania about way he created his music, the creative climate in Communist Romania, and the sad fact that he feels that even the renewed interest in his work is coming too late to make a difference in his life.
The Lost Tapes, the first ever commercially released album of Rodion G.A.'s music, is due May 28th on Strut Records in association with Future Nuggets and Ambassador’s Reception.
Here's the second half of our video documentary on Celluloid Records. Bill Laswell and Grandmixer DXT, part of Celluloid's production brain trust, speak on some of their production work together outside of the label, including Herbie Hancock's groundbreaking song "Rockit," and PiL's Album with Ginger Baker. Label founder Jean Karakos also speaks about signing Fela Kuti to Celluloid. Hearing info on these projects and more from the mouths of their creators is one of the reasons we love what we do! Change The Beat: The Celluloid Records Story is out now on double CD, double LP (w/ CD insert) and digital download.
The story of Celluloid Records is a complicated one, and one that goes deeper than the music. Vivien Goldman did a fantastic job of outlining some of the label's history and context in her liner notes for Change The Beat, and now we have the pleasure of learning even more from some of the key players in the label's storied history. Filmed in Paris and New York City, this two part series features producers and musicians Bill Laswell and DXT (formerly Grand Mixer DST) and founder / owner Jean Karakos. Part two in the series will be posted shortly. Change The Beat: The Celluloid Records Story is out now on double CD, double vinyl w/ CD insert, and digital download.
Romania, late '70s, early '80s. Ceausescu is in power, the "July Thesis" has been passed and, because of the increasing censorship of arts, music has become dominated by polished domestic pop-rock and nationalistic festivals. There is only one label in operation, the State-owned Electrecord. Cut to Cluj, Romania's second city. A home-made studio, a bank of Tesla reel to reels, an East German Vermona drum machine, a toy Casio VL Tone and a small Soviet-made Faemi organ, adapted with fuzz and flanger pedals. There's visceral, other-worldly music being made here and it will remain hidden for 34 years....
The story of the Fangnawa Experience collaboration is one best told by the artists themselves, and that's exactly what we've done in this video feature on the project. The guys in Fanga and Maâlem Abdallah Guinéa & his musicians don't speak the same language, but they were able to connect via their dedication to music. Watching them perform together is a real treat, as is the closer look at the instruments (the qraqab and the gimbri) used by the Gnawa players. Fangnawa Experience experience is out November 13th.
We can't say enough good things about Souljazz Orchestra's new album Solidarity, which happens to be out this week. It feels like they've taken all of the things that we love about them (airtight musicianship, raw analog recording, diverse global influences) and created a perfect synthesis for us to play over and over. We can't wait to see them live when they hit the road this fall, but until then we have this awesome new video which captures their blistering live show with the glory of analog video tape. We're all about this.
As if turning up rare footage of a Shark Vegas performance while going through the !K7 video archives wasn't fortunate enough, we've now been introduced to another Factory Records video obscurity, courtesy of Biting Tongues. The band have been generous enough to share a VHS-rip of the video for "Meat Mask Separatist," which appears on the Fac. Dance 02 collection. It's a great video, and also well worth reading the description which lists some of the recording techniques behind the song, including "early digital sampling using a BELL delay 's hold function (upright piano), loops of Belisha beacon, pyrex and kidney dishes & Lowenbrau shekere." Amazing.
Shark Vegas was a Berlin-based outfit, lead by Factory Records' German representative, Mark Reeder. Despite an excellent pedigree, including Bernard Sumner on the boards and the infamous Connie Plank recording, the group's music remains an overlooked entry in Factory's vast catalog, and performance footage of the group is extremely scarce. You can imagine our surprise then when we turned up this recording of a performance of the track "You Hurt Me," which also happens to appear on Fac. Dance 02, in a dig through the !K7 video archives. Call it synchronicity. From the lighting to the video quality to the instruments on stage, every element is perfectly evocative of the era. Fac. Dance 02 is out now.
One of the most rewarding parts of working on This Ain't Chicago was the ability to learn about the golden age of the UK underground party and acid house scene from the people who were a part of it. By virtue of the word of mouth nature of the scene, the inside story hasn't been widely shared in same manner as, say, accounts of the early days of hip-hop in New York. As a supplement to the music on the compilation (and the excellent liner notes by Dave Swindells), we sat down with some of the major players, including Lesley Lawrence of Bang The Party, P-Mac (producer for May), Kiss FM DJ Colin Faver, and of course Richard Sen, to speak about the parties, drum machines, labels, and drugs that inspired the music. These guys are a wealth of knowledge and talent, and it was an honor to listen to their stories.
This Ain't Chicago is available now:
iTunes • Amazon • Boomkat
Ebo Taylor's hometown of Saltpond in Ghana permeates several aspects of his new record, from the title to the folk songs he incorporates as source material. The video for lead-off track "Ayesama," which itself interpolates the victory song of the Fante Akans, is made up of images of the community, shot in Saltpond. Appia Kwa Bridge is out this week!
With his two-disc collection of alternative dance music (which he claims could be called "Trevor's Teenage Years") coming soon, the man behind Output Recordings, Playgroup, and too many excellent record sleeve designs to count sits down to tell us a little bit more about the aforementioned teenaged years. His discussion of exposure to London club life as a fourteen-year-old make us nostalgic for one of the golden eras of nightlife. The music on Metal Dance just makes the the feeling hit that much harder...
For all its inventiveness and artful genre-bending, it's easy to forget that the convergence of post-punk, dance music and funk typified pioneered by many of the Factory groups and others in the early 80's was motivated as much by the desire to have fun as by anything else. The spontaneity and sometimes outright goofiness really comes across watching the vintage footage of A Certain Ratio in their video for "Back To The Start," an excellent slice of disco-fied noise (complete with spontaneous percussion breakdown) from 1981.
Encyclopedias of disco knowledge that they are, it's always educational to hear the Horse Meat Disco guys hold court on the subject of music history. One such topic on which they have a lot to say is the after-hours disco sub-genre known as Sleaze, made popular at seminal NYC night clubs like The Saint. In fact, the entire second disc of the London collective's latest mix album functions as a Sleaze survey. Not familiar? See what the guys have to say in an interview with the mighty djhistory.com (encyclopedias in their own right). Both discs of HMD III are likely to soundtrack more than a few parties this summer.
It's now been close to a year since we had the honor of releasing Mulatu Astatke's first solo album in decades, Mulatu Steps Ahead, but the album has stayed in heavy rotation for us ever since then. We're currently working on a new compilation featuring previously unheard material that will be sure to excite. More info on that coming soon (sorry to tease), but for now here are two clips from Astatke's recent Brazilian tour to tide you over.
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