PANIC BUY – WHILE STOCKS LAST!

STOP PRESS: ALL MY COPIES SOLD IN LESS THAN 24 HOURS.

Order direct from the label instead.

9 track 33.3 rpm seven inch EP. 200 copies only.

Murky business all this Libbe Matz Gang stuff, but more of that anon. They are hooligans, basically, who have entrusted me with a few copies of their debut release… check out the youtube megamix for a vague idea of what you’re letting yourself in for!

PRAISE FOR LIBBE MATZ GANG

“Sounds great. So come on, who is it?”

– Ekoplekz

“I like! ‘Mod Violence’ is brilliant.”

– Peter Rehberg (Editions Mego)

“It has been a while since I received such an intriguing unsolicited item
in the mail. Primitive murky computer electronics. Great grimy graphics,
multilayered reference points. Some kind of cranky political messages I
can’t decipher. Postmark was North London, handwriting was unfamiliar.
Label claims to be based in Sealand.”

– HongKongGoolagong (Special Interests Forum)

“John Eden sends me this, being a bit coy about details, but nothing to do
with him personally, apparently. It seems vaguely Edenic in it’s vision
tho, being all dystopic Industrial subversive occultic blackness with the
samizdat typewriters & the PO Boxes etc, ha ha.

Beyond that I’m still totally in WTF mode, to be honest. The first track I
put on “BLACKWALL TUNNEL DRIVE” kicked off like perfect minimal electronic
black grunge like Shitcluster with the last residual funk drained out it,
and I thought for a cold sweaty moment some uncut stuff was going to
change my head forever, like all slop-fed miserable junkies do, especially
since it’s pressed at 33.3 to fit 9 songs on & it’s DEDICATED TO ANYONE
DRIVEN MENTAL BY CONSENSUS REALITY.

When I die my job in hell will be to write blurb for Boomkat while Libby
Purves and Justin Webb chivvy me along and I suppose given this task at
that point I’d be gurgling about a Nate Young/Hype Williams collab being
produced by Damon Edge in a horrible perpetual East German early 80s
winter, and only Nathan Barley would believe me. I’m not really into
clever things myself, but the palette is spot-on in its
cold-distorted-metal-in-warehouse colours, which they say/he says/she says
they get from ATARI/VUVUZELA/E.V.P!

Beautifully detuned and masterful reverb, good use of the stereo field.
Whole thing hangs together perfectly with the collaged quality of a good
zine. It makes me a bit suspicious, but then I quite like being teased.
The record is better than this megamix, I would say, and cheerlessly cheap
at £5 including p&p!”

– Pete UM

WOOFAH R.I.P.

Illustration by 2ndfade -commissioned for issue 5 of Woofah

Every Dog Has Its Day

So farewell, Woofah. You were the best independently produced magazine about reggae, grime and dubstep.

At the beginning of 2007 I ruminated about doing a little zine covering the music I was passionate about. Paul Meme was up for it and we both knew a whole bunch of talented people who we proceeded to rope in.

I’d pictured it as being my usual scrappy photocopied effort, but a load of people offered to help with illustrations and design – so it ended up looking amazing.

Droid was fundamental in the presentation of the mag from the outset and doing all the hard work liaising with printers.

The first issue came out in Autumn 2007 and sold out absurdly quickly.

We built the magazine up from there, with everyone contributing in their spare time, for the love of it. I think that showed – the professionalism and the incredibly high quality content could only have happened because it was such a labour of love.

Exploding Designers: Droid Fights Capitalism

The magazine looked so good that it placed a fair bit of pressure on its designers, who put hours and hours of work in. They never stayed long, either their huge contribution took its toll, or they simply found more lucrative things to do with their time – and fair play to them. I used to joke about Woofah’s designers being like the exploding drummers in Spinal Tap.

I had to step down from being the editor in 2010 because of other commitments and Droid took up the reigns. Issue 4 was very much his baby – it was our biggest and arguably best issue. (And there are still a few copies of it left!)

Around this point the goodwill of the designers started to dry up. All of the main contributors to the mag found themselves having to work harder to keep a roof over their families heads as the recession started to bite.

Issue 5 got written at the end of 2010 but despite various calls for help we weren’t able to get the it produced in the way that it should be. Having written 15,000 words for it I am as disappointed by this as anyone.

Parallel with this, my attitude to the project has changed. The thrill of seeing my name in the Dub Vendor catalogue and being sent new music has diminished to the point where I can’t face listening to yet another half-arsed promo. I personally feel less of a need to be evangelical about “bass culture” now – partly because I think most of what needed to be said now has been, and partly because the music itself has changed in the 5 years since I sat on my balcony chatting about doing a zine with Paul. Dubstep especially has no need of my assistance, and grime has now split into pop music or an insular scene for an ever reducing number of die-hards.

So the end of Woofah is sad, but it is also an opportunity to start new projects. Paul is still producing as Grievous Angel and Droid has a slew of projects including the Ruff Revival label. I have more modest ambitions, which may or may not come to fruition soon.

Woofah was a great magazine and the best thing about it was the people. It was amazing working with so many talented characters and the response we got from readers was incredible. Everyone involved with the project can be very proud.

Thank you.

 

 

notes on sigue sigue sputnik and the boardroom fetish

As part of the post-hack clean up, I found a few drafts of things I’ve not been able to finish – here is the first… comment welcome!

6509_1

Some musings on Sigue Sigue Sputnik and their hyper-glamorised capitalism.

A wilfully optimistic reading of Mclaren’s “Rock N Roll Swindle” was that punk aimed to make “cash from chaos” as a fall back position. If you fail to destroy society, you may as well be rich.

“a group has to represent what’s exciting around in the world today”
– Tony James, South of Watford TV documentary on Sigue Sigue Sputnik, 1986

Sigue Sigue Sputnik revelled in products, affluence and multinational corporations like Sony and EMI. Not because these things signified wealth and success, but because they were exciting in and of themselves. Tony James (the band’s defacto ideas man) had previously been a punk alongside Billy Idol in Generation X. Punk’s DIY “get off your arse” ethos translates well in to the business world – every “self made millionaire” has exactly the same attitude.

But before we get to Sputnik and their 80s “sado capitalism”, what are the precedents for bohemians adopting the aesthetics of commerce?

As Stewart Home has noted, the mail art movement had parodied and imitated bureaucracy from the early 70s onwards:

“Most of those participating used the new ‘hot medium’ of xerox alongside old fashioned rubber stamps. Certificates were produced in great number, which, like the rubber stamps, were used to parody officialdom.” (The Assault On Culture, Chapter 13)

Mail art was influenced by Fluxus. Genesis P-Orridge participated in both these movements and would continue to imitate and parody the structures and signs of corporate bureaucracy with Industrial Records, Throbbing Gristle’s “Annual Reports” and Psychic TV as band/TV Station/cult.

pil

At the end of the seventies Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister and Johnny Rotten became John Lydon, director of Public Image Limited: “We’re a communications company, not a group”.

The transformation happened immediately after Rotten has spent three weeks in Jamaica with hip capitalist Richard Branson, scouting out talent for Virgin’s “Frontline” reggae sub-label: “Virgin offered me a job. It was the perfect break for me after the Sex Pistols split up.”

Early interviews with the band include reference to six Company Directors, including their accountant and Jeanette Lee (a non-musician who helped with mixing down tracks, video and interviews – Lee is now co-director of Rough Trade).

PiL’s business focus was a result of their frustrations with the music industry (being dictated to, being tied up in legal hassles) and a lack of autonomy. Adopting the guise of a businessman is punk’s DIY translated from the artistic to the economic. Like punk, it demystifies the role of “the artist” – as a special category for people with divine inspiration. But it also assumes that the corporate model is the correct/best one…

h17pandp

The PiL Corporation was followed by Heaven 17 and their “British Electric Foundation”

The BEF are not just a group, they are a registered company with Marsh, Ware and Bob Last as the three shareholders – a business enterprise that is truly enterprising, and the essential tightness of The BEF is based around its organisation.

Ware: “What we’re doing is a much more realistic way of approaching things, you have just got to get out of the old cliched way of organising groups. I think that there are going to be more organisations like this in the future, with more of a business ambience about them.

I don’t think PiL have succeeded at all, they’re still just a group. Let’s face it, Public Image Limited are a moderately successful group. I can’t see any evidence of them being a business organisation at all.

I think that people may find it interesting, in as much as it’s an entirely different way of organising ones’ abilities and creative talents. It’s just getting away from the standard format of how groups are organised.”

And:

So you’re trying to create an almost Tamla-like stable of artists?

Ware:  “Yes, because obviously it gives you more flexibility, and it also enables you to close down an enterprise that is not paying off. Not just financially, but also artistically.”

From an interview in Sounds, 11 April 1981 online here.

Ware, in the thrall of the business model calls for cutting of red tape, downsizing, flexibility. Heaven 17’s modus operandi here is very similar to the gradual breaking up of large workplaces in the into smaller units (with the consequent reduction in the influence of collective bargaining for workers). Or at least it would be if they had ended up being in any way distinguishable from any other group. As time passed there seemed to be less and less mention of BEF and more focussing on the core business of the Heaven 17 brand.

Sigue Sigue Sputnik might be the first band to admit that their branding was more important than the music. Indeed, Tony James never allowed record executives to hear SSS demo tracks, instead playing them a short video collage of futuristic and science-fiction movie clips.

The group signed to EMI, reportedly for 4 million quid. This arrangement was celebrated and presumably exagerated – in stark contrast to anarcho punks like Conflict who identified Thorn EMI’s links with arms trading and gave EMI groups like New Model Army a hard time:

Conflict’s ascetic vegan anti-capitalism is the polar opposite of Sputnik’s total embrace of hi tech corporate culture. The  video for “21st Century Boy” includes a shot of Martin Degville licking a Sony Discman. Sigue Sigue Sputnik embraced commercial sponsorship at a time when this was still thought of as massively uncool by most “serious” music fans.

They also provided the press with  enough ammunition for either pro (slogans, excitement, good quotes, video) or anti (they can’t play, they are immoral, it glorifies sex and violence) coverage. According to James they were accompanied on a UK tour by tabloid journalist Garry Bushell who proposed that they entered News International’s Wapping compound on top of a tank as a publicity stunt during the lengthy picket by sacked printworkers. James et al didn’t do it (and haven’t said why) but Sam Fox did.

Ultra futurism dates quickly, but alongside the brick like mobile phones, corporate logos (Sony/EMI/Atari), anime, video nasties, et al – the group scored some bonafide “crystal ball” moments:

“Flaunt It”, the debut album, included adverts between the tracks for products like hair gel, youth culture magazines, the never-to-appear Sputnik video game, pirate TV station Network 21 and of course The Sputnik Corporation itself. This prefigures “free listening” services like Spotify which squeeze in ads between tracks.

Less plausibly Tony James also claims that their “Live TV” multimedia gig at The Royal Albert Hall influenced U2’s “Zooropa” tour. And the timestretching and pitch bending of the beats on “Love Missile F1-11” has resonances with Jungle…

More notes:

  • The old eighties schism: Commodities, branding, adverts, contracts, suits VS inspiration, art, subversion, decadence, the triumph of the talented genius, culture.
  • P Diddy / Abba / Pink Floyd / Lady Gaga  all very successful brands, possibly because they are not “arch” about it. The brand is the music, the design, the concept of the band members as genius artists. Not grubby boardroom wheeler and dealers.
  • Vs Cottage industries – Martin Degville’s limited edition art prints, deluxe vinyl represses down “the long tail”. Both The Pixies and Florence and The Machine have released very expensive, hand signed and lavishly produced editions of their work.
  • Is exposing the inner workings of the music business still subversive in 2012? “It’s an [advertising] campaign, it has nothing to do with art.” to misquote Genesis P-Orridge on Heathen Earth.
  • Is all this simply boardroom fetishism – bohemian individualists getting excited about the slim lines of the company logo, expense accounts, power? Rubber suits, office porn. Tony James holding up an umbrella, the bowler hats from Clockwork Orange reinstated as the icons of London commuters of yesteryear.
  • The lie that this is glamorous (long hours, savage battles, insecurity, rules and regulations, budgets – work sucks!). The bohemian myth replaced with the American dream, that you can pull yourself up your own bootstraps and enter the terrain of the ruling class, by talent and tenacity alone.

thorn

Afterword

Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s futurism looks old now, not just because it’s out of date but because futurism itself seems quaint.

Does anyone still sing about the future in utopian terms to escape from the harsh realities of the present? Maybe people realise that, whilst things are bad now, the future is going to be much worse.

Space travel has become mundane, computers have merely heralded new ways of shopping, new forms of alienation. And even shopping is less possible now.

Business, boardrooms and commerce look less sexy in 2012. Not because of the triumph of art or anti-capitalism, but because of the failures of business. Perhaps the re-emergence of the boardroom fetish will be the first signs of the recovery…

other places you will find me online

These are now re-listed on the sidebar.

Twitter – waffle, interesting links, records I have played whilst doing the ironing

Youtube – videos I’ve uploaded to illustrate blog posts

This Is My Jam – one tune a week

Mixcloud – stream (some of) my mixes online

Shop – various bits I am selling on amazon, discogs and ebay

I’m not on Facebook, but I’ve added Facebook “share” buttons to the blog anyway.

No Ice Cream Sound – issue 3 out now!

The Shimmy Shimmy crew have just published their 3rd fanzine. Labour of love: by the fans, for the fans style.

I’ve not had time to write anything for it this time and am kicking myself, because I could have been in there alongside:

– Exclusive interviews with

  • Stylo G
  • Popcaan
  • Mungo’s Hifi
  • Young Warrior

– A day in the life of Curtis Lynch (Necessary Mayhem)
– Exclusive chart from Poirier
– Illustration from Smutlee & design from Al Fingers
– Doubles recipe from Hipsters Don’t Dance
– Soundsystem special: how to build your own, and a timeline
– Erin Macleod talks to Alric & Boyd about house in Jamaica
– Feature on India’s first soundsystem, the Reggae Rajahs

50 pages, 300 copies only. All back issues sold out.

Order from here while stocks last – I have!

Ooops

All of the websites I host got seriously hacked last week.

I’m not entirely sure how it happened but all of my wordpress installations got messed up and people who looked at them were redirected to an amazing variety of scam and porn sites.

Apologies if you were affected.

The Woofah and Babylon sites are now back up.

This one is now nearly there. I’m just having some problems with my ftp connection crapping out, and the size of the backcatalogue.

Thanks to Droid, Zone Styx and Alex for their practical assistance, and to everyone who expressed sympathy or asked what was going on.

I’ve not been prolific with the posts recently for various reasons, but it’s nice to know people care!

It’s been a learning process, I might write a bit more on that soon.

Saturday: 3 crews inna clash called CHAMPION SOUND

 

Really looking forward to conquering the January blues with this great event next weekend. The skint people of London can reach early for a 3 quid deal, so no excuses!

Split loyalties for me though – who to cheer for?

Here is the blurb and video:

TIGHTEN UP + SHIMMY SHIMMY + EXTRA CLASSIC present:

CHAMPION SOUND

SATURDAY 7 JANUARY 2012

@ The Silver Bullet

5 Station Place

London N4 2DH

Tel: 020 7619 3639

Doors: 8.30pm – 3.30pm

Gate Pressure: free till 10pm / £3 till 11pm / £4 After

We kick off the new year in fine style with an ultra-special, one-away, party-clash-type-sumting we’re calling… CHAMPION SOUND!!!

CHAMPION SOUND brings together three of the tuffest crews on the UK Reggae scene – SHIMMY SHIMMY, EXTRA CLASSIC & TIGHTEN UP – in a head-to-head, toe-to-toe, tune-for-tune Three-Way 45 Clash!!! All crews will be on rotation all night long spinning the hottest Jamdown sounds to keep the people dem dancing! Expect Scorchin’ Ska, Rugged Roots, Raw Bone Rub-A-Dub, Dangerous Dancehall, Booty-Shakin’ Bashment and beyond!!!

Representing on the night will be some of the finest selectors and MCs to ever drop a tune or bless a mic:

For SHIMMY SHIMMY up step tip-top selectors THE LARGE & ILLANJA with the mighty SEROCEE pon di mic!!!

For EXTRA CLASSIC taking to the decks will be the crucial combination of AL FINGERS & DISORDA with the ever-versatile SEANIE T rocking the microphone!!!

For TIGHTEN UP at the control tower will be resident rude bwoy selectas MISTAH BROWN & TIM P with the dynamic dual deejay talents of DADDY RANKS & RAS JAHNY (aka JOHNNY DOLLAR) dealing with mic duties.

We’ll be kicking up rumpus all night til daylight! Come and join the party!! Reach early!!!