27 December 2011

Radio: George FM Selector Show

George 96.6FM
Selector Show Special Guest Host:
Nyntee aka Bro 90
From Midday 'til 3pm
Mon 26 - Fri 30 Dec
Local frequency: 96.6FM
Streaming live here...
Text the DJ: 966
Email the studio: studio@georgefm.co.nz

I'd love to have your ears!!

24 December 2011

Bumps: Daryl Hall & Chromeo 'I Can't Go For That'

Would you trust these men? Not with your daughter, perhaps, but almost certainly with your ears; as this is Daryl Hall (yes, from Hall & Oates) and Patrick Gemayel (from Chromeo), who recently jammed together on this Bump. And what a bump...

21 December 2011

Interview: Junior Marvin of The Original Wailers


"When you make a promise to Bob Marley you try to keep it!" says Junior Marvin, the singer and guitarist most widely known for his work in the late '70s with Bob Marley and The Wailers. He had plenty of stories to share with VOLUME magazine recently, about working with The Beatles and saying "no" to Stevie Wonder, as well as life after Bob.

Born in Jamaica, Donald Hanson Marvin Kerr Richards Jr. (variously known as Junior Marvin, Junior Kerr and Junior Hanson) moved to London when he was nine years old. Already a musical child, he landed a role in the Beatles' movie Help: "The Beatles were all pretty short and I was tall for my age," Marvin remembers, "We were at Pinewood Studios, and it was made up to look like the Bahamas, and I was the police, chasing Ringo."

"I was playing keyboards and singing then, but when I was sixteen years old I saw Jimi Hendrix and thought I had to play guitar!" enthuses Marvin, "And later, my friends in England were in bands which were part of what was known as the 'British Invasion', going to the US and touring with Jeff Beck and with Traffic - and I thought 'I gotta go!' because that's where everyone else is going!"

Marvin continues: "My original plan was to go to a music school in Boston, but I met a manager who had heard me playing and he said 'Look, T-Bone Walker needs a guitar player and I think you're good enough.' Of course I thought I was nowhere near good enough!" he laughs, "But I spent a year with T-Bone Walker, and I met Billy Preston, Ike and Tina Turner and Sly Stone."

When Marvin moved back to the UK, he worked with Steve Winwood, Toots and the Maytals and the Keef Hartley Band - and was a member of the London cast for the stage musical Hair - before forming his own group, blues-rockers Hanson.

And in February 1977, one of those right-place right-time moments.

"I met Chris Blackwell, and he says 'Hey, come to this hotel and meet a friend of mine' - he didn't tell me who it was," Marvin chuckles, "So on that day, just as I was walking out the door my phone rings - and it's Stevie Wonder offering me a job in his band. I said I would think about it and get back to him, as I had this meeting to go to. So I meet with Chris Blackwell and walk into this hotel room, and there's Bob Marley sitting there, and he says 'Junior, I want you to join my band'."

Marvin laughs again at the memory: "I got home and I had to call my friends and family and decide whose offer to accept! I went with Bob because he was Jamaican, and there was more encouragement to do it."

Junior Marvin appeared on four albums alongside Bob Marley, including Exodus, which Time magazine labelled the 'Best Album of the 20th Century'. After Bob's untimely death in 1981, Marvin continued with The Wailers, recording four more albums and performing across the globe.

"We were in Germany when Bob was ill," says Marvin, quietly, "And he said to us, 'Listen, if anything happens you should stick together', so we felt we owed him. We made a promise to him and it felt right, you know, everyone had the same vibe. Bob had a unique message, and I was very honoured to be able to continue to spread that message. I still think it was the right thing to do."

In the late '90s, Marvin decided to leave The Wailers, moving to Brazil (where he hung out with Gilberto Gil for a few years), before heading back to the US and joining with fellow guitarist Al Anderson to tour as The Original Wailers.

Junior Marvin released his long-overdue debut solo album, Wailin' For Love, in 2007, and songs from that album - alongside Bob Marley classics - are what New Zealand audiences will hear when Marvin brings his touring band with him to perform at Ragamuffin.

"I can't wait to get back to your beautiful country," Marvin says excitedly, "I was there with Bob, and again shortly after his passing. It's going to be an exciting, extremely lively show with audience participation encouraged. One Love!"

Top Ten Junior Marvin Musical Moments (in chronological order):

(1972) What It Is (from the Keef Hartley Band album Seventy Second Brave)
A foot-stompin' blues-rock bar brawler

(1973) Rain (from the Hanson album Now Hear This)
Funky psych-tinged blues rock

(1977) Three Little Birds (from Exodus) / (1978) Is This Love? (from Kaya) / (1979) One Drop (from Survival), all with Bob Marley and The Wailers
...we'll just call it a three-way tie...

(1980) Hail H.I.M. (from the Burning Spear album Hail H.I.M.)
Deep Rasta vibes

(1980) Spanish Dancer (from the Steve Winwood album Arc Of A Diver)
Gorgeous guitar-work for the blue-eyed soulman

(1982) Dub Softly (from the Sly and Robbie album Dub Rockers Delight)
Beautifully mellow guitar playing

(1989) Reggae Got Soul (from the Toots and The Maytals album Reggae Got Soul)
A storming stepper with a classic guitar line

(1990) One Draw (from the Rita Marley album Who Feels It Knows It)
An hilariously controversial ode to sinsemilla

(2005) Give Them The Rights (from the Congos album Give Them The Rights)
Righteous reggae and the characteristic falsetto of founding member Cedric Myton

(2008) Stillness Of Heart (live at the Nuke Festival, Austria)
A scorching guitar solo playing with Lenny Kravitz

(2011) Where Is Love? (from the Junior Marvin album Wailin' For Love)
Classic good-times reggae vibes

Nb. We at VOLUME highly recommend tracking down and listening to all of these songs listed above.

Interview and sidebar originally appeared in VOLUME magazine issue #016

18 December 2011

Playlist: George FM 'In The Pocket' Sun 18 Dec

J-Boogie's Dubtronic Science with Chrys Anthony | Undercover (DJ Nu-Mark remix)
Mark Ronson with Erykah Badu, Trombone Shorty, Mos Def & Zigaboo | A La Modeliste
Dutch Rhythm Combo with Joe Dukie | Venom (Dr Rubberfunk remix)
The Players Union | Pick Up The Telephone
Late Night Tuff Guy | Pull Us Apart (LNTG rework)
Blunted Funk Project | Warm Weather
Pumpkin Patch | Blueberry Jam
Drop Out Orchestra | It Will Never Be The Same Again
B-Jam | Sugar
360 with Pez | Just Got Started
Boogie Culture | Lipstick
Class Action | Weekend (Young Edits)
Shapeshifter | Electric Dream
Erykah Badu | Bump It
TY | Music 2 Fly 2
Choklate | Bigger Than You
Anita Baker | Sweet Love
Lowrell | Mellow Mellow
The Dynamics | Feel Like Making Love

15 December 2011

Live: Pork Meets Disco

Barrio and Old Mout Cider present
Free Entry / Kids Welcome / Courtyard Open
Pig On A Spit / DJs Spinning Proper Disco Music
Buy An Old Mout Cider and Eat For Free!
From 2pm Sunday 18 Dec

13 December 2011

Review: Thrashing Marlin 'Donkey Deep'

Donkey Deep
[Braille Records]

Reviewing this album is almost like reviewing the history of music - where should you begin? Donkey Deep is the fourth album from New Zealand group Thrashing Marlin, which is effectively the multi-instrumentalist duo David Donaldson and Steve Roche. The pair contribute all manner of musical styles and genres across this collection of fourteen songs, which vary from the country-folk opener Time Of Your Life to closing sing-along One More Time, which moves from a finger-picked acoustic guitar to Mexican-flavoured brass. The standout though, is Tangiwai Train, a raw, Nick Cave-styled murder ballad with all the necessary ingredients (death and damnation) delivered over a harmonica-laden, whiskey-soaked stomp; while the vaguely Middle Eastern Another Man's Grave sums up the darkness at the heart of this record. Deeply layered instrumentation, compellingly structured songs which straddle a variety of genres and deft, sophisticated lyricism make for a hugely enjoyable album which rewards repeat listens richly.

4 stars from 5

Check out the Donkey Deep album here...

This review originally appeared in the Waikato Times.

12 December 2011

Live: Jam

Fonk Presents
5 DJs - 2 Tunes - Back To Back All Night!
Lowe1, CoopaBlu, Nyntee, SarahTonen & Average White DJ
Friday 16 Dec
(On The Rooftop!)
Free Entry

Playlist: George FM 'In The Pocket' Sun 12 Dec

Moodymann | Ol' Dirty Vinyl (U Used To Know)
Moodymanc | Black Paint (Larry Heard's 'After Dark' mix)
Trus' Me v Chic | Working Nights / Rhythm Makers
Moodymann | Lake Shore Drive (Tangoterje edit)
GQ | Lies (Theo Parrish edit)
Wham | Lovemaker (Horse Meat Disco re-edit)
Linkwood Family | Miles Away
Blunted Funk Project | Think Twice
Late Night Tuff Guy | Come Inside Me (LNTG edit)
Marvin Gaye | Sexual Healing (Simon's 'Dark Keys' remix)
Drop Out Orchestra | Ego (extended)
Surface | Falling In Love (First Aid Disco edit)
Norma Jean Bell | I'm The Baddest Bitch In This Room (Moodymann edit)
Oliver Cheatham | Get Down Saturday Night (edit)

08 December 2011

Review: Gilles Peterson In Brazil & In Africa

Various Artists
[Ether Records]

Various Artists
[Ether Records]

While neither of these compilations are new releases, much of the music will be new to most of you. That's the way things are with compilations curated by Gilles Peterson, legendary UK DJ, label owner and talent-spotter. He has established himself as one of the world's most influential DJs - indeed, "taste-makers" - of the last twenty years, with a proven track records in exposing exciting music old and new. These two compilations, released on Ether Records in 2004 (Brazil) and 2005 (Africa), follows that pattern, each with two discs featuring a tailor-made selection from Gilles himself. The Brazil compilation's Classico disco does what it says on the tin, with tracks from Wilson Simonal, Sergio Mendes and Brasil '77, Mario Castro Neves and Tim Maia; while the second disc, Da Hora, brings the sound of the Latin nation's future, with DJ Marky and XRS (and the still-magical Moments Of Lust, with Vikter Duplaix), Drumagick, Spiritual South, 4Hero (with Patricia Marx) and Marcos Valle, alongside remixes from Edu K (featuring Bebel Gilberto) and Bruno E. The entire compilation sparkles like your stereotypical sun-kissed Brazilian beach scene, sambas nuzzling drum and bass while bikini-clad girls dance suggestively. The Africa compilation is also a joyful celebration, and tribute to the originators of Afrobeat. Disc one, Soul, features classics from Fela Kuti, Manu DiBango, Miriam Makeba, Lette Mbulu, Mulatu Astatqe and Oscar Sulley (with my favourite Afrobeat song, Bukom Mashie); and the second, Spirit, bringing together artists and remixers such as Masters At Work, Cesaria Evora, Carl Craig, IG Culture and Thievery Corporation. Though labels like Soundway have mined deeper into the musics of Africa, this selection covers all bases, providing the perfect introduction to the essentials. Indeed, both compilations are essential for fans of Latin and African music - and of Gilles Peterson. As usual.

4 from 5 stars (for both)

Check out the Brazil compilation here and the Africa compilation here...

07 December 2011


[Young Turks]

Finally there's good reason to get excited about pop music again. Well, some pop music, anyway. While many may argue, suggesting "post-dubstep" is a more accurate term to apply to the subject of this review; modern pop music is exactly what SBTRKT has aimed for on his self-titled debut, for Young Turks (home to other notable sound-of-nowsters, The xx). By and large he succeeds. Admirably, even. Unlike contemporaries and closest comparisons James Blake and Jamie Woon, SBTRKT aka Aaron Jerome (who had a handful of releases under his own name on WahWah45s some time ago) is undeniably accessible, with tracks like Pharoahs (which out-Basement Jaxx's Basement Jaxx) and the just-wobbly-enough Wildfire (featuring typically outstanding vocals from Little Dragon's Yukumi Nagano) far more digestible than anything from his peers' recent efforts (as excellent as they both are). The key difference is that Jerome makes room for his guest vocalists (also including Sampha, Roses Gabor and Jessie Ware) among his intricate arrangements, with the skittering, Timbaland-for-2011 beats only one part of the whole picture. With hints of dubstep and garage among these glitchy-yet-soulful grooves, SBTRKT has found a winning formula - and a label - which bodes well for the future of pop music.

4 stars from 5

Check out more from SBTRKT here...

Review: Adele 'Live At The Royal Albert Hall'

Live At The Royal Albert Hall

Do sales equate to quality? It's an age-old question for those from an independent background. Adele is a prime example. WTF? I hear you say. How can you sell ten million odd albums without being good? Fair question... kinda. I'm not suggesting Adele is undeserving of some success, but ten million albums? That's getting into Michael Jackson territory. Beatles territory. Elvis territory. Is Adele the equal of any of those folks? There's no doubt she has a handful of very good songs - Rumour Has It, Someone Like You, Rolling In The Deep, you've heard them - and a very real, girl-next-door appeal (the "she could lose some weight" calls hold no sway with me at all), but her singing range is limited, her lyrical content entirely one-dimensional and her between-song banter is far more entertaining than the songs themselves. I really couldn't imagine being the poor bloke her award-winning 21 album was written about - and he gets a fair few mentions during the course of this performance too - but that shared experience of "arsehole ex-boyfriends" goes some way to explaining her appeal. Alongside her fishmonger's wife's accent and personality. Good, without being great. Which is pretty much the definition of MOR.

2 and 1/2 stars from 5

Please click here for a list of the 12 Most Disappointing Facts About Popular Music, which puts a lovely bookend on the 'do sales equate to quality?' question. And prepare for serious disillusionment...

04 December 2011

Live: Strut

With Jay Jeffrey & Nyntee
Rare Grooves and Boogie and Soul and Funk and House
From 10pm
Saturday 10th Dec
No Cover Charge

Playlist 'In The Pocket with 90' George FM Sun 4 Dec

Freddie Cruger and Anthony Mills are Wildcookie | Jackson Miles
Benny Tones with Mara TK | Nevermind
Bah Samba | So Many People
Unforscene with Alice Russell | Don't You Worry
SBTRKT | Wildfire
Dam Funk | LAtrifying
Q-Tip | Manwomanboogie
Jack Mayforth | Disco People (Monk edit)
Wu Tang Clan v Aloe Blacc | C.R.E.A.M. (Theory's 'I Need A Dollar' edit) (inst.)
Aloe Blacc | I Need A Dollar (Theory's 'Get The Money' edit)
Mayer Hawthorne | Maybe So, Maybe No (reggae version)
Monk-One | Bossa Biz
Martha Vandella | Heatwave (King Storm remix)
Marcia Griffiths | Tide Is High
The Black Seeds | Make A Move
Red Hot Chili Peppers | Funky Monks
Natural Self | Feet Keep Moving
Linn & Freddie | Live 4 Love
The Jackson Five | We're Almost There (DJ Spinna remix)
Little Dragon | Constant Surprises
Sly Dunbar | Don't Stop The Music

Review: Nuyorican Soul 'Nuyorican Soul'

Nuyorican Soul
[GRP Records]

Nuyorican Soul is the name of the musical project assembled by "Little" Louie Vega and Kenny "Dope" Gonzalez, aka production and remix duo Masters At Work. The self-titled album features appearances from Roy Ayers, George Benson, Vincent Montana Jr., Jocelyn Brown, Tito Puente, Jazzy Jeff, India and some of the Salsoul Orchestra. Original tracks (You Can Do It (Baby), with fluid guitar and vocals from George Benson atop a trademark MAW broken beat) crop up amongst covers of songs, often re-interpreted by some of the original performers (Sweet Tears, with Roy Ayers at his nonchalant best). Other notable tracks include the Jocelyn Brown-voiced epic I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun; an inspired and deeply respectful reading of Bob James' classic jazz-funker Nautilus (subtitled 'MAWtilus'); and the gorgeous disco floor-filler Runaway, featuring members of the Salsoul Orchestra - and lead vocals from Louie Vega's ex-wife, India. From hands-in-the-air house to laidback head-nod hip hop, slinky jazz to heavy Latin ibes and percussion - and plenty more besides, Nuyorican Soul is one of the most fully realised dance albums in the last thirty years. There is only one Nuyorican Soul album - and there may well be a reason for that. Essential listening.

4 and 1/2 stars from 5

You can check out music from Nuyorican Soul by clicking on the song titles highlighted above, or by taking a look/listen here at Last FM...

01 December 2011

Review: Tru Thoughts 'Shapes 11.01' Compiled by Robert Luis

Various Artists
SHAPES 11.01
Compiled by Robert Luis
[Tru Thoughts]

Throwing shapes. Making shapes. Whatever. For me, the word 'Shapes' will forever be associated with semi-regular lable compilations from Brighton-based independent Tru Thoughts. For the past wee while they've been putting out often double-disc (and recently on vinyl, too!) selections of tunes old and new; and 2011 is no different, with co-owner Robert Luis again compiling a bespoke collection reflecting the label's eclectic musical vision. Brand new signings (Mark de Clive-Lowe, Anchorsong, Benji Boko) nestle alongside old hands (Quantic, Kinny, Hint), plus all sorts of other goodies, including previously unreleased tracks (which are actually quite good, not just outtakes), new remixes and guest appearances from Aloe Blacc, Bembe Segue, Tawiah, Skream and Mark Pritchard. Shapes 11.01 is divided into two discs, and disc one is the clear winner in terms of sheer "listenability". Standouts include Lanu (aka Bamboos' main-man Lance Fergsuon) and Megan Washington's quirky Roosevelt Blues; Belleruche's classy, stripped-back dancefloor-pleaser Northern Girls; the effortless soulful pop of Lost Baggage, from Kinny (currently working with De La Soul on their next single); Portada Del Mar, my faourite track from the Quantic Presenta Flowering Inferno album Dog With A Rope - plus Dr Dre re-interpreted cumbia-style with Nuthin' But A 'G' Thing given a radical rework by Quantic Y Su Conjunto Los Miticos Del Ritmo. All of this alongside the hazy glitch of Anchorsong's Plum Rain and the thrust and impetus of Hidden Orchestra's duelling drummers on Dust; while, elsewhere, Tawiah teams up with Maddslinky for the future funk twist of Hiding Place, Tenor Fly adds toasting style vocals to Smerins Anti-Social Club's mad reggae version of the Dr Who theme, and Anthony Mills and Freddie Cruger's hit-and-miss Wildcookie collab contributes one of their better tracks with Serious Drug. Even if it purports to be more mellow, CD1 really is an absolute belter of a selection. Standouts on disc two feature Bembe Segue and Nia Andrews adding funky, gritty prettiness to Push (itself one of Mark de Clive-Lowe's most complete pieces of tough future funk from his recent Renegades album); a trip back to Lanu's self-titled debut album for Tru Thoughts with the funky breakbeat of Mother Earth, featuring Quantic (guitar) and Aloe Blacc (vocals); J Boogie adding a little club-flavoured beat-spice to Quantic and His Combo Barbaro's already fetching Un Canto A Mi Tierra; electro-styled bleep-funk courtesy of Beta Hector and their Jupiter Mission - which sounds exactly as the title suggests; a mad mash up of glam synth funk and dubstep with glitch-tech via dancehall on speed, thanks to Be Electric, from the also appropriately monikered Randomer; and Maddslinky and Skream seriously upping the wobble-factor with 50 Shades Of Peng. Disc two, while inarguably fresh and exciting, is perhaps just a little too ambitious and varied in its musical spread to consistently please these ears - but that could be splitting hairs. Either way, the "future music" found - particularly on the second disc - on Shapes 11.01 brings not just freshness and excitement, but also a certain sense of balance, to what is ultimately yet another compelling collection showcasing one of the most thrilling independent music labels ever to really give a shit.

4 stars from 5

Check out the Tru Thoughts site and sign-up to their newsletter too!

28 November 2011

Playlist: 'In The Pocket' Sun 27 Nov George FM

Radio City with Bajka | The Hop
Gazeebo | School Boy Chubby
Red Astaire | The Right Thing
Sly & The Family Stone | If You Want Me To Stay
Patrice Rushen | Forget Me Nots (King Storm edit)
Dawn Penn | You Don't Love Me (No, No, No)
Grandmaster Flash | The Message (Roots Manuva remix)
Rick James | Mary Jane
The Spinners | It's A Shame (Frico edit)
Stretch | Why Did You Do It?
Mark Capanni | I Believe In Miracles
T-Connection | Do What You Wanna Do
Guru with Erykah Badu | Plenty
Wee | I'm All Changed
Lord Echo | Wang East
Huba | Man Brings The Bread
Kologbo with The Deacon | Freedom Back
Earth, Wind & Fire | Evil
Killer Funk Disco Allstars | Shake Your Booty Baby! (Peak Time Disco re-edit)
Marvin v Bob | Healing In Vain
Salmonella Dub | For The Love Of It (David Harrow remix)
Dubxanne | Roxanne (dub)

23 November 2011


Jameson and Barrio Present
Soul, Funk, Boogie, Disco and Rare Grooves
And Special Guest JAY JEFFREY
From 8pm Saturday 3rd Dec

21 November 2011

Review: J-Boogie's Dubtronic Science 'Undercover'

[Om Records]

Undercover is the third album of original material from San Francisco DJ/producer J-Boogie, in a career which stretches two decades, countless remixes and a host of DJ and radio accolades. Spanning a diverse selection of styles, Undercover sees Middle Eastern-flavoured psychedelic hip hop (Salaam) and heavy cumbia rhythms (El Ritmo) nestling alongside languidly drifting reggae (Blue Mountain Dub) and '80s lazer funk (Magik). Regardless of genre, summertime grooves abound, with loads of Latin influences, big fat brass sections, guests like Lateef The Truthspeaker, Raashan Ahmad (Crown City Rockers) and The Pimps Of Joytime - and that indefinable sunny Cali sumthin sumthin. I've always preferred J-Boogie's slower cuts, and that remains true, with the two standout tracks here both deeply chilled: the nu-soul bump of Space And Time, featuring vocalists Gena Rene and Rich Armstrong; and the aforementioned Blue Mountain Dub. However, some of the songs suffer from being overproduced, with a slickness which seems to have squeezed much of the soul from the final product. Oh, and there is actually a track here with the chorus "There's a party on the roof / don't look now, I think it's on fire". Undercover maybe, but certainly not subtle, nor groundbreaking, for that matter.

2 and 1/2 stars from 5

See if you think if I'm being too harsh by checking out Undercover here - and cop yourself some free J-Boogie downloads (inlcuding the DJ Nu-Mark (Jurassic 5) remix of Undercover) here. Just steer clear of It's On Fire...

George FM Playlist Sunday 20 Nov "In The Pocket"

Jimi Tenor & Tony Allen | Up Against The Wall
Loop Professor v Gilberto Gil | Stop & Gil
Gecko Turner | Un Limon en la Cabeza
Quantic | Only A Little While Here
DJ Angola | Bailalo (Quantic remix)
Paul Simon | Diamonds Dub (Tangoterje edit)
Jean Claude-Gavri | Kalifornia Dreamin' (Jean Claude-Gavri re-touch)
George Shearing | Aquarius (Tangoterje edit)
Ben Sidran | About Love (Seegweed edit)
Seu Jorge & Almaz | Everybody Loves The Sunshine
D'Angelo | Everybody Loves The Sunshine
Quantic & His Combo Barbaro | The Dreaming Mind (Pt. 1)
Oneself | Bluebird
DJ Day & Miles Bonny | Learning To Fly
The Black Seeds | Make A Move (Downtown Brown remix feat. Mighty Asterix & MC Switch)
PPP with Dwele | Open Your Eyes
Crazy P | A Night On Earth
PPP with Zeno | Fever
Raphael Saadiq as Ray Ray | This One
Soul Village | We Gettin' Down
Bootsy Collins | Fat Cat

20 November 2011

Review: Kele Okereke 'The Hunter EP'

The Hunter EP

Noel Gallagher of Oasis once famously described Bloc Party as "a band off of University Challenge". While he was trying to be disparaging, he was actually bang on - and Kele Okereke, the on/off frontman for the accused, did little to disprove that statement with his debut solo album, The Boxer (2010). His new, 7-track EP, The Hunter, continues in a similar, brainy vein. Yes, this is electronic indie-pop music, sure, but there's thought and heart in every groove. Again working with album producer XXXChange (Spank Rock, The Kills), Kele has crafted a diverse collection of tracks, with his keening vocals the common thread. Opener What Did I Do (featuring Lucy Taylor on vocals) sits comfortably alongside the pop-dubstep of Katy B, while Devotion blends New Order with Vangelis by way of Magnetic Man. Love As A Weapon begins with a glitch-laden, bubbling beat with gives way to a mesh of swelling samples and layered pianos, and closer You Belong To Someone Else sounds like an Eastern European accordian festival being raided by rave horns and fat bass drops. And Kele's retort to Gallagher? "They've made stupidity hip." No danger of that here, as The Hunter keeps listeners on their toes throughout.

3 and 1/2 stars from 5

Yeah, I know it's his official site, but it's the best place to check out his new EP. And hilariously dramatic/dramatically hilarious cover art.

Originally appeared in Waikato Times

17 November 2011

Review: Crazy P 'When We On'

When We On
[20/20 Vision]

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. While that hoary old chestnut may be a tired cliche, Crazy P are anything but, despite having spent the last thirteen years and five albums mining similar-sounding ground. When We On won't surprise anyone either - though Crazy P are more reserved here than ever, with their slow-burning disco funk pop stripped right back to the essentials. At first listen this does make some of the tunes sound a little sparse, or even underdone, but chief songwriters and co-founders Jim Baron and Chris Todd understand the strength of a song lies in what is not played as much as what is - and that it usually takes more than one listen to get under your skin. And these do get under your skin. Frequently. As does frontwoman Danielle Moore, still one of the most compelling performers in dance music. Oh yeah, they still on, alright.

3 and 1/2 stars from 5

Check out previews of When We On here...

16 November 2011

Live Review: Portishead at Vector Thu 10 Nov

Vector Arena
Thursday 10 Nov 2011

"Evening. Bit of a shaky start."

Those were singer Beth Gibbons' first words to the crowd at Vector Arena, three songs into what was actually a triumphant return for Portishead to New Zealand, fourteen years since they were last here. She didn't address the audience again until the end, when she simply repeated "Thank you, thanks!" as the band took their deserved bows.

And yet she - and the rest of Portishead's touring party - had us enraptured throughout.

Gibbons was joined on stage by fellow core members Geoff Barrow (percussion, scratching, keys, guitar and goodness knows what else) and Adrian Utley (guitar, keys); a drummer, bass player and additional keyboardist. When VOLUME magazine spoke with Utley a few weeks back he professed the band had been rehearsing hard to play as much as possible of the material live, rather than relying on loops and samples. This approach paid rich dividends, as the bands' playing was close to immaculate, with many genuinely breath-taking moments - particularly the big drops and drums, eerie harmonies and hip hop scratches of tracks like Cowboys, Glory Box and Machine Gun.

Those moments - indeed, most of the show - were enhanced by the syncing of the absolutely massive - and equally impressive - LED screen behind the band, which took up the entire width and height of the stage. The visuals segued from underwater shots of seaweed to oscillating whirlpools; from an incredible bright orange-red rising sun to crackling, scratchy, grainy and extremely (mis-)treated live footage - often layered atop one another. The lighting too was spectacular, with one particular standout moment the stark, bright red backlighting during a crackling hot reading of Glory Box.

At several points mobile phones were held aloft in the audience in a manner not unlike lighters at a rock gig; and there were moments when crunching guitars, the power of two live drummers and layers of keys created an epic, stadium-like feel despite the confines of a truncated Vector.

A friend remarked, "...they're so much better live!" and that summed it up nicely: the show was everything you would expect from Portishead if you'd only heard their albums - moody, eerie beats and a cinematic, widescreen sound - with that extra bit of polish which goes a long way to explaining their continuing appeal, despite their famed "relaxed" album released schedule.

A master-class in tension and release, both musically and visually, and a hugely impressive - and appreciated - return.

This review originally appeared in VOLUME magazine issue #011

Read the interview with Adrian Utley of Portishead here.

Review: Mark de Clive-Lowe 'Renegades'

[Tru Thoughts]

Uncompromising. That's the first word I'd choose in describing Mark de Clive-Lowe's approach to music making. Over a career which spans nine solo albums and countless collaborations across the globe, MdCL has developed and delivered a style which has become all his own; and while he may have a new label (Tru Thoughts), that uncompromising approach remains on his latest album, Renegades. Running the gamut of his preferred genres, with a heavy emphasis on contemporary funk, hip hop and broken beat, Renegades displays a consistent thread from go to whoa, giving guest vocalists Omar, Bembe Segue, Tawiah, Sandra Nkake, Ovasoul7 and Nia Andrews plenty of space to deliver compelling performances. Andrews is the standout, appearing on three of the best cuts here: We Renegades, with its crunchy head-nodding lope; the loose-limbed, jazz-tinged Hooligan; and the future-soul bounce of The Why. MdCL's love for working with like-minded, virtuosic musicians remains strong, with percussionist Sheila E. (Prince), bassist Pino Palladino (D'Angelo, The Who) and string master Miguel Atwood-Ferguson also among the guests. Despite the superstar line-up though, the songs are more than good enough to stand up, marking Renegades as MdCL's best work since Tide's Arising - and maybe even his best yet.

4 stars from 5

Check out a preview of Renegades here...

10 November 2011

Review: J-Rocc 'Some Cold Rock Stuf'

Some Cold Rock Stuf
[Stones Throw]

"Brilliant! More awesome driving music!" That was the first thought that crossed my mind when this album appeared before me. I'm a long-time fan of Stones Throw, and I've found many of their releases, particularly those by Madlib and J Dilla (J-Rocc has worked closely with both) best suit being listened to at a high volume while driving. Surprisingly, when you consider the length of time J-Rocc has been around - he founded the turntable crew Beat Junkies in 1992 - Some Cold Rock Stuf is his debut artist album. Unsurprisingly, it's a diverse and challenging listen, with a dramatic, widescreen scope spread across flavours which range from Bollywood-styled party beats to treacle-thick hip hop. His turntablist abilities are on point, and an array of spoken word samples provide a kind of otherworldly narrative on an otherwise largely instrumental album - and also show J-Rocc has a healthy sense of humour. Let's roll!

3 and 1/2 stars from 5

Check out Play This (Also) here...

09 November 2011

Review: Funkommunity 'Chequered Thoughts'

Chequered Thoughts

Chequered Thoughts is the debut album from Funkommunity, the brainchild of musician, songwriter and producer Isaac Aesili (Opensouls, Solaa) and vocalist/songwriter Rachel Fraser (Recloose, Sola Rosa); who first collaborated on I'm All In, the standout track from Aesili's excellent solo debut album Eye See. Soaked in future soul and funk, Chequered Thoughts treads a similar path to the likes of Electric Wire Hustle and Platinum Pied Pipers. The key difference is provided by Fraser: while her voice isn't technically amazing she has soul and gravitas, recalling old school jazz divas with her ability to draw listeners into the heart of songs; songs which are cleverly constructed, showing the kind of deft touches which belie Aesili's prolific musical experience over the years. Squelchy basslines and wobbly beats underpin bubbling keys and washes of horns and harmonies, while Fraser's voice ties it all together on what is an assured and accomplished debut.

4 stars from 5

Check out more from Isaac Aesili here...

05 November 2011

Playlist: Expansions with 90 "All 7" Vinyl Selection Special"

Nightmares On Wax | Flip Ya Lid
Bob Marley & The Wailers | Buffalo Dub
Roots Manuva | Witness (Drums Of Death remix)
Red | I Should Tell Ya Momma On You
Red | I Should Tell Ya Momma On You (Dam-Funk remix)
Timothy McNealy | Sagittarius Black
Diplodocus | Thingamajawn (Birney Elementary version)
Sugar Pie Desanto | Git Back
Orgone | Duck & Cover
Myron & E with The Soul Investigators | It's A Shame
Fabulous Souls | Take Me
Big Pimp Jones | The Smokeout
LA Carnival | Blind Man
Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings | How Long Do I Have To Wait For You?
Kylie Auldist | Made Of Stone
Opensouls Presents Tornadoes with Tyra Hammond | Huihui
Sunlightsquare Latin Combo | I Believe In Miracles
Kool & The Gang | Dujii
Tuomo | Don't Take It Too Hard
Breakout | Planet Rock (Pt. 1)
Aiff | Watergirls
The Haggis Horns with John McCallum | Hot Damn!
Coke Escovedo | I Wouldn't Change A Thing
The Brothers Johnson | Stomp
The Isley Brothers | That Lady (Pt. 1)
Natalie Cole | Sophisticated Lady (She's A Different Lady)
Ohio Players | Fire
Average White Band | Pick Up The Pieces
Sly & The Family Stone | Family Affair
Stevie Wonder | Too High

01 November 2011

Interview: Thom Powers & Alisa Xayalith from The Naked and Famous


Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah. Words which propelled The Naked and Famous into the ears and record collections of tens of thousands of New Zealanders. The huge chorus of that song struck a chord further afield than our shores too. After a year playing shows around the world, and on the eve of what looks set to be a successful return to our shores, front-folk Thom Powers and Alisa Xayalith sat down for a yarn with VOLUME about tall poppies and living up to the hype.

"I feel privileged and a little confused as to why it's worked out for us," says Powers.

"We never really thought things would get this grand, to the scale of what it is," agrees Xayalith, "Or we didn't think it would happen for us this year!"

It's certainly been a rapid rise for the five-piece. The single Young Blood went straight in at number one on the New Zealand charts and earned the band a coveted Silver Scroll Award. The debut album Passive Me, Aggressive You was also a number one, and the group have received six nomintions at the 2011 NZ Music Awards. They've spent the last year performing shows throughout Europe, and at major festivals like Reading, Leeds and Glastonbury. They're currently in the US, where they played the famous Lollapalooza festival, gathering some famous fans along the way.

"I don't know of any greater achievement that when people who have inspired me say that I've inspired them," says Powers, recalling recent tweets from Mark Hoppus (Blink182) and Danny Lohner (Nine Inch Nails, A Perfect Circle), "I grew up listening to those bands, walking around brooding to them at high school, and here's this guy saying 'dude, it's awesome'. It's those kinda moments you just get stopped in your tracks."

"I mean, I had my sights set on the bFM Top Ten," he recalls, "And we did that and then it just snowballed from there. Now it's to the point where things are happening for us that we had no ambition for. Sometimes we have to work out what it is and sometimes it's just whatever, let's not be too pretentious about this. If we can reach anyone - it doesn't really matter what the avenue is - if we can convert someone to be a fan of our band then that's great."

Some in the scene here in New Zealand bandy about the term 'overnight success', and there's a feeling these opportunities have come to you too easily. Do you think that's fair?

"Nah," says Powers, pointedly, "I don't know how anyone could say that."

"Sometimes it can annoy me," says Xayalith, "It reminds me how much New Zealand can be a goldfish bowl and people just get caught up in that very small town mentality."

"The tall poppy thing in New Zealand seems kinda cute to me now seeing how the rest of the world works," agrees Powers.

"If you want to put it in simple terms," continues Xayalith, "Somebody liked our music and wanted to take it to the rest of the world. We got our big break with someone from overseas fell in love with Young Blood and we got plucked out of New Zealand, and that was more than we could hope for."

Do you feel pressure to create a "Young Blood Part Two"?

"I've always been thinking about that and the challenge really excites me," enthuses Powers.

"And Thom's so good, so driven, he can write anywhere.He does little bits here and there every day," explains Xayalith, "We've already got a lot of songs built up and I know there are some really good ones in there."

"We've met bands who can't write on tour," says Powers, "And we're going 'wow, we're really a little further ahead here'."

Part of the reason the band have moved ahead so quickly is their crack management team.

"What happens behind the scenes is a large part of why bands get out of bed in the morning," says Powers, "Paul and Campbell at CRS have helped us out in more ways that I can even remember. They're like surrogate fathers!"

"We also have a great record label," adds Xayalith, "When Fiction Records heard our album they didn't want to change anything. They knew we had a very strong vision of what we were, and they really respected that. I think that's what a lot of bands need to have these days if they want to be able to survive - they need to have a strong vision of their own."

Almost a year to the day since the band showcased their vision, performing their lauded debut album, they're returning to our shores to play at the Music Awards and the Auckland Town Hall. What's changed in the live show since we saw you last?

"The touring live band we've become is something I don't think we would ever have had an opportunity to become in New Zealand," says Powers, "But nothing's really changed. We're still showcasing an album that we feel very confident about and proud of."

"I remember going to see my favourite bands and hearing the songs in all their glory, so to speak, and it just felt like such a privilege and such a pleasure," he explains, "You had this expectation of wanting to hear your favourite songs, and your expectation gets blown away because it's just so fucking loud!"

This interview originally appeared in VOLUME magazine issue #009.

Live: STRUT with Jay Jeffrey & 90

With Your Hosts
Good Time Soul, Funk, Boogie and Rare Grooves
Old School Vinyl Records Selected With Love
From 10pm
Sat 5th November
No Cover Charge

30 October 2011

George FM Playlist Sun 30 Oct "In The Pocket"

Loose Ends | Hanging On A String (Contemplating)
Tom Browne | Come For The Ride
Unlimited Touch | Love Explosion (Recloose Hit It & Quit It edit)
Incognito | Summer's Ended
Roy Ayers | Evolution
Mouzon Electric Band | Everybody Get Down
Lil' Louis | I Called You Why'd You Fall (Moton edit)
Change | Searching
Kabbala | Yo Yo Dance
Escort | All Through The Night
Jonzun Crew | Space Is The Place
Gwen Guthrie | Seventh Heaven
Nightcrawlers | Push The Feeling On (extended version)
Donald Byrd | Dominoes
Feel | I'd Like To
George & Glen Miller | Touch Your Life

26 October 2011

Review: Superheavy 'Superheavy'


Superheavy is the self-titled debut album from an unlikely grouping of genuine music superstars - Mick Jagger (Rolling Stones), Dave Stewart (Eurhythmics), Damian (son of Bob) Marley, Joss Stone and Indian performer/composer A.R. Rahman. Self-described as "a mad alchemist type experiment", SuperHeavy seems to aim to please everyone, with its open-handed approach to blending Western-styled rock and soul, reggae music's rhythmic pulse and the spiritual ound of Indian and Middle Eastern influences - but, as the old saying intones, you can't please all of the people all of the time. The main problem with this album is SuperHeavy seem unsure as to who they're appealing to. Reggae fans won't be impressed with Jagger's snarling, while Marley's patois-inflected toasting will be a stretch too far for Stones fans. At their best, SuperHeavy is a fun romp; but at their worst, they sound like they're rehashing Live Aid, and that's neither super not heavy.

2 and 1/2 stars from 5

(Originally printed in the Waikato Times)

24 October 2011

George FM Playlist Mon 24 Oct "In The Drive Pocket"

World Champions Drive

Jean Claude Gavri | Les Dance
Dez Andres | As We Rock On
Seductive Souls with Donald McCullum | Disco Jazz (Patchworks remix)
Legacy | Word Up
Drop Out Orchestra | Release Myself
Baja Domitia | Gangsta Party
40 Thieves with Qzen | Don't Turn It Off (Greg Wilson edit)
Yuksek | On A Train (Magician remix)
Two Door Cinema Club | What You Know (Redlight remix)
Kele | Tenderoni
Calvin Harris | Feel So Close
PNAU | Solid Ground (Adrian Lux remix)
Sanchez Last Stand | Done With You
Holy Ghost! | Hold On (Blackjoy remix)
Recloose with Dwele | Can't Take It (Milton Jackson remix)
Jay-Z & Kanye | Otis (A-Skillz remix)
Ron Basejam | Is The Word
Crazy P | Sun Science
Lette Mbulu | Kilimanjaro (The Revenge edit)
Eva Gina | Mandinga
Jayl Funk | Piece Of Mine
Lunatics | Vent (Matty Blades remix)
Editorial | Uptight (Space Disco Fix)
Ben Westbeech | Something For The Weekend
Jamiroquai | Cosmic Girl
Louis La Roche with Ad-Apt | Missing You
The Chemical Brothers with Wayne Coyne | Golden Path
The Awa Band with Tony Allen | Bababatteur (Quantic remix)
Linkwood Family | Miles Away

George FM Playlist Sun 23 Oct "In The Pocket"

Erykah Badu | On & On (Leo Zero remix)
Breakage with Roots Manuva | Run 'Em Out
Trinity Roots | Call To You
The Roots with Erykah Badu | You Got Me
Fat Freddy's Drop | Ray Ray
Al Green with John Legend | Stay With Me (Max Kane Slump)
Milez Benjamin | Chop That Wood
Blackstreet | No Diggity (B.Cause Sick Wit This blend)
Flevans | Lay Back (Regal remix)
Hot 8 Brass Band | Sexual Healing
The Illphonics | One Of Those Days
Lord Echo with Lisa Tomlins | Thinking Of You
The Black Seeds | Cool Me Down
PM Dawn | Set Adrift On Memory Bliss
Livingstone & Canosis | Walk On The Wild Side (edit)
Brother 2 Brother | Chance With You (Stickypod Connection re-boot)
Funk Ferret | Whole Loada Shizzle
Wick-It The Instigator | Rolling In The Fire
Dave Dobbyn with Herbs | Slice Of Heaven

20 October 2011

Review: Bella Kalolo 'Without The Paper'

Without The Paper
[Bella Sounds]

There's something about Bella Kalolo's debut solo album Without The Paper I just can't quite put my finger on. It's not the part-Samoan, part-Tongan, part-Maori songstress' velvety voice, which drapes itself languorously over mellow soul as srikingly as it tears through heavy funk stylings. It's not The Soul Symphony, the crack backing band - whose number includes master drummer Darren Mathiassen (Trinity Roots, Hollie Smith) and Bella's husband Alistair Isdale - as they're skin-tight and razor-sharp throughout. And it's certainly not her pedigree, as Bella recently performed at Glastonbury and has worked extensively as a vocalist for the last ten years performing and/or recording with Don McGlashan, Dave Dobbyn, Fat Freddy's Drop and Nathan Haines, among many others. Ultimately though, what lets the album down is the song writing, as too many of these tracks sound too derivative for Without The Paper to be anything other than a solid, but enjoyable debut.

2 and 1/2 stars from 5

19 October 2011

George FM Playlist Wed 19 Oct "Play It All Back In The Pocket"

Hello all. Filling in today for Roger Perry, covering his Play It All Back show. 'Twas fun, even on a moody midweek day such as this.

Ben E. King | Street Tough
George Duke | Shine On (Late Night Tough Guy edit)
Dianne Marie | I've Waited Much Too Long (Frico edit)
First Choice | Love Thang (edit)
Gap Band | Baby Boogie Baba (Noodleman's Chop Shop edit)
Patrick Cowley | Get A Little (extended version)
Blackwell | Boogie Down & Mess Around
Tiger & Woods | Gin Nation
Gazeebo | Shake Those Hips Bitch
Area Social | The Blow Is Back
Nigel Martinez | Better Things To Come (Ashley Beedle's Heavy Disco edit)
Digital Emotion | Get Up Action / Do You Wanna Funk? (Drop Out Orchestra edit)
First Choice | Let No Man Put Asunder (Ron Hardy edit)
Donna Allen | Serious (Rayko edit)
The Jungle Brothers | I'll House You (Rayko edit)
Angela Bofill | People Make The World Go Round (Seegweed edit)

17 October 2011

George FM Playlist Sun 16 Oct "In The Pocket"

Moodymanc | Black Paint (Larry Heard mix)
Miguel Migs with Aya | Don't Stop
Juan Atkins | Dayshift (Oliver's Nightshift remix)
Crazy P | Sun Science
Bah Samba with The Fatback Band | Let The Drums Speak (Phil Asher remix)
U-Tern | Amy's Missing (DCUPS edit)
Cassius | Cassius 99 remix
U-Tern x Drake & Lil' Wayne | Style Class Flair (Emynd "Money To Blow" blend)
MC Mellow Dee | And You Don't Stop (True School mix)
Carter Bros | Full Disco Jacket
Harvey Mason | Groovin' You
Heatwave | Boogie Nights (Slynk re-edit)
Fries & Bridges | Forever This
Jamiroquai | Emergency On Planet Earth (Masters At Work remix)
Harold Melvin | Bad Luck (Dimitri From Paris edit)
Don Ray | Got To Have Loving
Me&You | How Can I Hold You When Your Body Keeps Moving?
Marvin Gaye | Heard It Through The Grapevine (Rob Tex remix)
Ben Westbeech | Something For The Weekend

15 October 2011

George FM Playlist Fri 14 Oct "Key To 90's Pocket"

Always a pleasure, never a pressure - covering for Bevan Keys on George FM today...

Crazy P | Open For Service
Sleazy McQueen | Troutman Street Roller Disco
Five Special | Why Leave Us Alone (Larry Levan remix)
Fever | Dreams & Desire (Jim Burgess remix)
The Salsoul Orchestra | 212 North & 12th
Status IV | You Ain't Really Down
Ron Richardson | Ooh Wee Babe
Vaughan Mason & Crew | Jammin' Big Guitar
Zapp | Itchin' For Your Twitchin'
Jermaine Jackson | Erucu (AC edit)
Totalcult | Disco Call
Rayko | Getting Down
Odyssey | Going Back To My Roots (Fingerman's Maximum Fonk edit)
First Choice | Love Thang
Al Green | Piece Of Mine (Jaylfunk edit)

13 October 2011

In The Pocket Mixtape Vol. 1

An all-live, one take, continuous mix from yr Bro 90 aka Nyntee, assembled with Sunday afternoons in mind. From Aloe Blacc to Leroy Hutson, from Jean Knight to Jamiroquai, no stone is left unturned in helping you tune in, turn on and chill out.

Just click here.

Aloe Blacc | Billie Jean (live)
Al Green with John Legend | Stay With Me (Max Kane Slump)
Bebel Gilberto | Baby (Yam Who? Uptown Jazz Safari mix)
Marvin Gaye | Sexual Healing (Simon's Dark Keys remix)
Ike & Tina Turner | Livin' For The City
Jean Knight | Mr Big Stuff (Frico edit)
Bo Kirkland and Ruth Davis | We Got The Recipe
Raphael Saadiq as Ray Ray | I Know Shuggie Otis
Cardell Funk Machine | Shoot Your Shot
Sly & The Family Stone | If You Want Me To Stay
Azymuth | Dear Limmertz
Checker Kabb | By My Side
Snooky | Ease The Pain
T-Connection | Do What You Wanna Do
Jamiroquai | Alright (Frico edit)
Keni Burke | Risin' To The Top
Huba | Mary
Leroy Hutson | Cool Out

11 October 2011

Review: Dennis Coffey 'Dennis Coffey'

Dennis Coffey

Don't call this a comeback, he's been here for years. Detroit guitar legend Dennis Coffey's raw and funky playing can be heard on a roll call of seminal songs - The Temptations' Ball Of Confusion and Cloud Nine, The Sylvers' Boogie Fever, Edwin Starr's War, Freda Payne's Band Of Gold, among many, many others - as Coffey was a member of the original Motown Funk Brothers' backing band, popularising a heavy, funky guitar sound. But this self-titled set for Strut is no old timers' get-together: guests include Mayer Hawthorne, Mick Collins (The Dirtbombs) and Fanny Franklin (Orgone), and Coffey stylishly leads a crack band through a dense selection of new material and hand-picked covers (from The Parliaments and Funkadelic to 100 Proof Aged In Soul and more). The funk and fuzz levels are set to high, with a swirling, soulful psychedelica permeating most tracks. A rare treat from one of the originators.

3 and 1/2 stars from 5

George FM Playlist Tue 11 Oct "Free Range"

I sat in on Free Range this morning, covering for the big man, Soane. Considering the muggy and foggy day we were endowed with today, I had more fun than should reasonably be expected!

Hot Toddy | Late Night Boogie
The Haggis Horns | The Traveller (Pt. 2)
Crazy P Present The Syndromes | The Hit
Starsgarage | The Massage
Mid-Air | Ease Out (The Revenge edit)
Fat Freddy's Drop | Ray Ray (Slope remix)
Slynk v Ed Solo | I Wish
Recloose with Joe Dukie | Dust
Outkast | Spottieottiedopalicious (DJ Angola edit)
Spectral Display | It Takes A Muscle (Crucial Three edit)
Louis La Roche with Ad-Apt | Missin' You
Robyn v The Cure | Close To Konichiwa Bitches
Chromeo | Hot Mess (Oliver remix)
Ben Westbeech | Something For The Weekend
Lewis McCallum with Tama Waipara | Way We Live
Philly Blunt | Love California
Funk Ferret | Fonky Magnum

10 October 2011

George FM Playlist Sun 9 Oct "In The Pocket"

TY | Music 2 Fly 2
Choklate | Bigger Than You
Gotye | State Of The Art
The Players Union | All Green
Roy Ayers | We Live In Brooklyn Baby
Daz | Inside My Love (Daz Inside My Filter rework) (Get Down edit)
Killer Funk Disco Allstars | Look! A Van Gogh! (Good Groovin' edit)
Daz | Far Beyond (Get Down edit)
Rockers Revenge | Dubbing In Sunshine
Stephanie Mills | Put Your Body In It
Crown Heights Affair | Dream World
Crazy P | Bumcop
Gladys Knight & The Pips | Bourgie Bourgie
Heaven Sent & Ecstasy | I'm A Lady (LeBaron edit)
The Players Association | Turn The Music Up!
Cindy Rodriguez | What You Need Is My Love (Disco Tom edit)
Michael Henderson | Wide Receiver (Pt. 1)
Oliver Cheatham | Get Down Saturday Night

06 October 2011

Interview: Adrian Utley of Portishead


It's been 14 years since Portishead last performed in New Zealand - which seems reasonable considering there were 10 years between their second and third albums. Alongside Geoff Barrow and Beth Gibbons, Adrian Utley forms the core of the famed group. He had plenty to tell VOLUME about the band's beginnings, their forthcoming shows, and how they stay sane in the music business.

"I have really fucking had enough of this!" Adrian Utley was over it.

He'd been playing guitar since hearing Hendrix's Axis: Bold As Love, he'd kicked off a career in music in the mid-'70s, playing in country and western bands, British holiday camps, jazz groups and with legends like Jeff Beck and Big John Patton.

Utley was a noted session musician, a virtuosic guitar-slinger for hire, and he'd reached the end of his tether.

In stepped a young Geoff Barrow: "Geoff was working as a tape operator - which really meant making loads of cups of tea for the bands and engineers - and he sampled a band I'd played in," says Utley of his first meeting with his future band mate, "I heard him messing about with it, and introduced myself."

"He was 19 and I was 30. We were both listening to A Tribe Called Quest, Black Sheep and electronic avant-garde music, but while most of the people in my life were respectful of my desire to hear hip hop, they didn't like it," chuckles Utley, "But Geoff and I were as obsessed with Public Enemy's It Takes A Nation Of Millions as we were with making new sounds, so I was like: 'There's a new door here'."

The Portishead story is well-told: this 'new door' opened to worldwide fame as their 1994 debut album Dummy sold like hotcakes pretty much everywhere, winning the prestigious Mercury Music Prize and essentially breaking the band in the US even before they'd toured there. Dummy is rightly considered a classic, and in 1997 their self-titled follow-up cemented them as a big deal. Then, nothing. Well, sort of nothing, as the band disappeared from public view for the best part of seven years.

So, did Portishead split up? "No!" Utley exclaims, "We'll never split up! We'll always make music together, but at that point we just didn't want to do it anymore. I mean, we wanted to play music together, but the experiences we'd had, particularly in touring the Portishead album, affected the level of expectation on us," he says, referring to a combination of "pressure, press and misquotes".

"Don't get me wrong; I've played my whole life in shitty dives so I'm grateful for Portishead, The thing is, we care very much about the music and getting it across, but our home lives had fallen apart and it got so intense, so we just couldn't keep going."

Portishead played a scattering of shows in the mid-2000s before releasing the aptly-titled Third in 2007, which quickly silenced the doubters and was embraced as a worthy addition to their small but highly regarded catalogue.

Now, they return to our shores - what can we expect from the show? "We'll be playing the old tunes and loads of stuff off Third. We've got some very cool visual stuff going on, and we've worked very hard as a band to be able to play 90% of everything you'll hear live, with only a few samples," Utley enthuses. "Though it sometimes feels a little like a house of cards, it's exciting and gives us the opportunity to really cut loose. We're looking forward to it immensely!"

I press him again on how long this all might last this time - is this the 'final hurrah' for Portishead? Or can we expect another album, eventually? "Nowadays we really just play together when we want to," says Utley, "I don't mean to sound conceited about it - I mean, we've all got kids now - and we don't want to thrash ourselves anymore. Plus we've all got other projects on the go, and we've found that working with people outside of the group breeds enthusiasm for writing more Portishead songs, so we're all excited about working on the new album when we're home from the tour."

That grounded attitude must have helped hugely in dealing with the level of success Portishead has enjoyed. "Definitely. We all lived in Bristol when we started - and mostly still do - you know, we didn't all move to London and change the way we live. We didn't all suddenly come swishing into the studio wearing cowboy boots - none of us would've let the others get away with it!"

Trip Hop: The Birth Of A Movement. Or Not.

"They're just words, aren't they?" Adrian Utley is talking about 'trip hop'.

Alongside Massive Attack and Tricky, Portishead are considered originators of the sound, or at least responsible for popularising it.

"People need a vocabulary to describe music," he says, "but it is weird. And while there were lots of bands who got in on that sound, I thought they came at it the wrong way."

"Portishead were influenced by hip hop, electronic and avant-garde music, but we were always reaching for something new," Utley says of he and Geoff Barrow's early endeavours, "We came to this music from trying new things; putting the drums through shitty little amps but throwing really fucking heavy guitars on there."

"I guess us, Massive and Tricky were on a similar tip, but we never intended there to be a movement; we never shared what we were trying to do with those guys," he says, "I mean, one time we were recording in a studio in Bristol and we knew Mushroom [of Massive Attack] was in another studio down the hall, so we went to say hello. When we walked in the door, he pulled down all the faders and turned the computer monitors off!"

This interview originally appeared in Volume Magazine Issue #005, 4th October 2011.

Read the live review of Portishead's 2011 NZ show here.