Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Interview: Fresh Produce Collective

For all the talk of podcasts over the last few years there are few that bring a range of quality music from across the beat spectrum which are actually worth listening to. A notable exception is Fresh Produce. Broadcasting since 2008 Fresh Produce play everything from funk to Dubstep although there can be little doubt their hearts reside with variations on the theme of hip hop. I caught up with main men Daddy Like and AG...further down you can access their latest broadcast with features yours truly!

How did you guys meet?

AG: The original FP line-up consisted of Dr. Swerve On, Daddy Like and me. Swerve and DL knew each other. We met at a party, started talking music and they invited me to join them for an interview at the local radio station the next day. I got drunk, overslept and missed the interview – but they let me join them anyway. And we’ve been playing new tunes for and with each other ever since.

What sounds did you first get into that led to your current interest in hip hop, funk and dance?

Daddy Like: In the US, where I grew up, hip-hop is one of the musical forms that surrounds you; in particular, any time you dance – whether in a club, at a school dance, or a wedding, it’s mainly to hip-hop. Unfortunately there’s few other genres of dance music that break through the hip-hop miasma... every once in a while I would hear snippets of it, and wanted to know more -- but in the US they call dance music “electronica” and that superfluous “a” more than anything means that it’s something pretentious and snobby. So when I moved to the UK more than a dozen years ago, it was a revelation to find that dance music was as ubiquitous here as hip-hop was in the states. And ironically, they appreciate older forms of American music such as funk and rare groove much more in England than they ever did in the States. But perhaps we repay you the favour by respecting the British classic rock people over here sleep on!

AG: Growing up in Manchester, you can’t avoid its musical heritage: it’s a loud, proud and self-consciously brazen city. Liverpool had the Beatles? F--k that: we had the Buzzcocks, Factory Records, New Order, the Mondays… plus Oasis, of course, if you cared about lad-rock. But it was Manchester’s drum and bass scene that was my first real exposure to the world of beats; and from that to the jungle, hip hop and electro nights around the city. Always slightly full of itself, Manchester tends towards the insular: but sitting on the top deck of the 85, on the way to Electric Chair, it felt like all the music you ever wanted was here, somewhere, in the city.

How did you come to start Fresh Produce?

AG: Our radio debut was on the short lived Oxygen FM in the sleepy city of Oxford – Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10pm till 1am. Highlights included the weekly “FREE R KELLY” t-shirt giveaways, Daddy Like’s stand against the unjust incarceration of one of his musical heroes… Dr. Swerve-On returned to the States in 2004 to continue his career as an itinerant scholar of hope; when I moved down to London in 2007, DL and I resurrected the show as a podcast. And a new era was born…

What’s your music policy?

Daddy: In four words: anything with a beat

Where do your listeners come from? How many people tune in?

Daddy: It’s a surprisingly diverse bunch! For a while we were getting tons of listeners from China, but I always suspected that was some sort of spam crawler software rather than real people. Our podcast platform makes it easy to see where people listen from but difficult to see how many unique listeners there are. I’d guesstimate that there’s about 140 unique listeners per show.

Any plans to extend the brand into other media?

Daddy: Only live sets – wedding, bar mitzvahs and funerals.

Are you going to be doing a Guru tribute?

Daddy: I feel like we have to play some songs in honour of the man, even though our next show isn’t until about a month after his tragic demise. I think we’re going to play exclusively tracks we haven’t heard on any other tribute, which will be difficult because there’s so many great ones out there.

AG: ‘Lemonade was a popular drink and it still is/ I get more props and stunts than Bruce Willis’. Love it.

Which songs are doing it for you right now?

Daddy: In no particular order:
Strong Arm Steady feat. Phonte – Best of Time
Ty feat. Sway and Roses Gabor – Heart is Breakingz
Kylie Audlist – In A Week, In A Day (Ashely Beedle’s Streetsoul Edit)
Chemise – She Can’t Love You
Erykah Badu – 20 Feet Tall (Yoruba Soul Remix)

AG: RSD – Naked Mario Kart
Method Man & Redman – City Lights ft/ Bun B
Hackney Colliery Band – Money
Theophilus London – No Answers ft/ Jesse Boykins
Amanaz – Sunday Morning

What next for Fresh Produce?

Daddy: Hopefully we spread like a virus around the world... not a disappointing one like swine flu, but the real deal! Audio polio...

Any final shout outs?

AG: Manchester-based Sidestep Music ( always bring the heat. And keep an eye out for FP Stateside from Swerve, appearing later this year.

Daddy: Also a shout out to all the labels that sustain us: BBE, Strut, Kindred Spirits, Soul Jazz, Tru Thoughts, Wah Wah 45s, Stones Throw and Ubiquity. And London pirate radio – is there anything cooler in this world than 15 year-olds risking ASBOs to bring us new music for free? Who needs “Big Society” when you’ve got that kind of public-mindedness amongst the young?

Thanks guys...

To subscribe to Fresh Produce or simply to have a listen, go to

If you’ve downloaded the podcast to your iPod, hit the centre button four times while playing to see the tracklisting

To get new FP mixes automatically downloaded to your iPod when they’re posted, just click on the “Add to iTunes” icon on their homepage

Monday, 17 May 2010

Ten songs to remember London by...

I hope you’ll forgive me a little self indulgence this week. After 14 years of living in the big smoke I leave London in the next couple of days to start a new life in the country. Fear not, the blog will continue to bring you the best music across the spectrum but this week I felt a reminiscence was in order. Below I select the ten tracks that will forever remind me of the greatest city on earth.

DJ Kool – Let me Clear my Throat

I moved to London in 1996 and was immediately drawn to the emerging (and now deeply unfashionable) big beat scene. In later years this became very formulaic - hip hop beats punctuated with big vocoder builds (think Propellorheads or Bentley Rhythm Ace) but this did big beat, as it was initially conceived, an injustice. The key club and the one I went to on a number of occasions was the Heavenly Jukebox at Turnmills. Resident DJs were Fatboy Slim, The Chemical Brothers and (in my opinion the best of the lot) Jon Carter. The ethos of Heavenly was simply to mix it all up – hip hop next to indie next to techno next to dancehall. For a club scene which had been dominated previously by house and techno purists this was thrilling and (until the beer monsters moved in) created a unique atmosphere. Carter always played this track – essentially a call and response track over the top of the 45 King – and the place would explode.

Red Astaire – Follow me

If you are a Dj it goes without saying that you can’t play bangers all night. A good DJ takes the listener through a range of moods and as such there is a genre that will forever be known as ‘warm up’ records. The records you play as people arrive are crucial in setting the mood. This record has become my ultimate warm up record. It features what can only be described as a xylophone riff over the top of some funky beats but it has a certain loungy, cheesy listening quality which draws the listener in. Astaire has recorded under a number of guises including Freddie Creuger and his work is well worth a further listen.

John Holt – Ali Baba

The first night I put on in London was Shop Local. Myself and mate Will secured a residency at an old boozer in Stoke Newington in 2000 and we spent the next half a decade playing all over east London to anyone who would listen. The general consensus was that the Trolley Stop in Dalston was the best place we played. It was run by an Irish guy who didn’t give a shit what went on and as a result it would go off in there. Pitchers of Vodka and Red Bull were downed at a tenner a time and that was just the people who hadn’t taken something stronger! Our ethos was eclectic – everything from reggae to house and back again. We would love taking people up to a peak and then drop some reggae or soul later on to build the lovey vibe. Ali Baba was an example of the sort of track we would play at 2am with everyone boogying together before the inevitable after party back at someone’s flat. Happy times!

Jean De Kou Kou – Fela Kuti

One of the best things about Lnodon’s nightlife is the way it draws on influences from around the World to create something new. The Future World Funk guys were a real influence on me for a while – turning me onto Brazilian Drum n Bass, Afrobeat, African House and Balkan Reggae. I had a residency at a bar called District in Hackney where I would seek to play some of this stuff and this track has been a favourite ever since. It isn’t particularly typical of Kuti – you couldn’t really call it afrobeat as its much mellower but its 10 minutes of great instrumentation.

Da Funk – Daft Punk

In my humble opinion the best dance music record ever made. A huge club and chart hit and yet no vocal and, like the clash, completely uncompromising. If there was a word to describe this track its ‘dirty’ – it instantly takes you to a sweaty club at 3am with no-one thinking about anything but enjoying themselves. This track will never let you down.

Standing in the Rain – Don Ray

I couldn’t not include some disco which is without a doubt my favourite genre of recent years. The track starts with a wonderful floaty synth before a catchy vocal and an irresistible breakdown. I played this track many times at my Castle residency in Walthamstow in recent years.

Chi-ching Party – Lady Sovereign v’s Fred Wesley.
Bootlegs really hit London hard in the early part of the last decade. For me, this was one of the very best – taking Fred Wesley’s funk classic House Party and putting a Lady Sovereign accapella over the top. Again, well utilised in the Walthamstow years – I think it was put together by a producer from Bristol called Rhythm and Booze and is probably pretty difficult to pick up now.

London Calling – The Clash

I can’t really have a list of songs that remind me of London without having at least one that refers to it. For me, this is one of the best singles ever made – it has a great melody but isn’t in any way compromised. Strummer’s wolf howl is perhaps one of the most thrilling moments in popular music. If you don’t know the London Calling album seek it out as its brimming with ideas and an absolute classic.

Tarrantula – Zomby

London is always at the forefront of musical innovation and Dubstep is the latest of a number of genres to explode out of the capital since I’ve been here. This is a great example – quite melodic and accessible compared to much dubstep. It features on the excellent Hyperdub 5 compilation which has been on my CD player pretty much non stop over the last couple of years.

Les Fleur – Minnie Riperton

Mentioned on this blog a number of times already. If push came to shove my favourite song of all time and one which has ended many of my finest nights in London. The folky start gives way to a crescendo of joy and there is no feeling in the world better than punching the air, hugging mates and living for the moment. Goodbye London, I’ll never forget you but it’s time to move on...

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Album review: Cosmogramma - Flying Lotus (Warp)

Every so often a record comes out that completely changes the rules, confounding expectations of what is possible. Think about the first time you heard 3 Feet High and Rising or Odelay or Entroducing. Albums so fundamentally fresh that they actually redefine what modern music is and create genres in their wake. Well, ladies and gentlemen, we might just have another…Cosmogramma is Los Angeles producer Steve Ellison’s third album as Flying Lotus following his debut 1983(which actually came out in 2006)and the excellent Los Angeles which came out two years later. It’s fair to say that it is his most realised record to date, bringing together a dizzying array of styles into a sound which, at first listen, is off kilter and confusing, but with time creates a rewarding tapestry which takes the listener on a drug induced trip into dubstep, free jazz, baroque soul techno and J-Dilla style hip hop.

The sound that Ellison and others bring to the party has, in fact, been emerging for a while now. Influenced by the UK dubstep movement the slow bassy dynamic has been taken into a new realm by producers such as Glasgow’s Hudson Mohawke, the excentric Gaslamp Killer and Lotus himself. These protagonists have moved on from the smooth electronic sounds of dubstep to create something more off-kilter or ‘wonky’ as the genre has become known in some circles. His other key influence is undoubtedly jazz, perhaps unsurprising when you consider that he is the nephew of Alice Coltrane(his cousin Ravi Coltrane plays tenor sax on the album).

The start of the record is suitably erratic - harp riffs give way to double bass all underpinned with heavy, jagged beats. Its five tracks in on Zodiac Shit that the hard beats give way to a mellow soundtracky vibe and the album shifts into a druggy dreamstate which is maintained throughout. If you are the sort of person who likes a good tune, this album is not for you. This is all about pushing boundaries, taking music onto the next level to create something truly new. That isn't to say it is necessarily difficult. There are a number of moments of beauty and even, in some sort of concession to commerciality, a number of guest vocalists including Thom Yorke and Thundercat. Its fair to say though that their vocals are used to drift in and out of the tapestry rather than to lead the charge. The Yorke track And the world laughs starts off as electro funk before giving way to the Radiohead man's claustrophobic vocal then heading off in a joyful direction at its close. This is sypmtomatic of the album as a whole - a range of emotions conveyed in quick succession - the sheer ambition of what Flying Lotus attempts here is astounding with just snatches of influences identified here and there (The Stepney-esque intro to Mmmmmm for example or the odd snippet of free jazz). The resulting take out is of one elongated piece of music which takes the listener on an otherworldly journey rather than individual songs .

Time will tell if this record is as significant as it sounds. We're only 5 months into a new decade but like Aphex Twin before him you can't help think that Ellison will spawn a host of imitaters who will spend the rest of the decade playing catch up while he leaps forward again to a new sound. If you want to know where music's future lies I suggest you buy this record. Patience will be required for it to reveal its depths but once identified this is a sonic adventure which will reward time and time again.