Interviews

Hot Press - 1998: A DRUM N BASS ODYSSEY

QUADROPHONIC diarist DONAL SCANNELL chronicles the Dublin-based collective's recent jaunt around the US of A, and reports that Uncle Sam is currently welcoming drum n bass with open arms.

It's a little-known fact that America loves drum and bass, or jungle as most of them insist on calling it. And we, Quadraphonic, got to find this out at first hand during our recent jaunt around this most gargantuan of countries. For, despite preconceptions of the general nature that all Yanks are popcorn-munching Metallica-loving couch potatoes, there is actually a thriving dance scene over there which grows bigger by the day.

The trip over was made more interesting by the fact that Charlo Spencer from Roddy Doyle's Family Sean McGinley to his mum was sitting right next to me on the plane. For some bizarre reason, on most flights I end up sitting beside slobbering priests, so I figured I might at least get some interesting conversation going with Ireland s answer to Harvey Keitel! I was wrong, however: never has the phrase blood from a stone seemed more appropriate. I did feel sorry for Sean, though, as he manfully fended off a drunken succession of revellers. The fact that it was St. Patrick's weekend may have had something to do with it. I considered giving Charlo/Sean the window seat for refuge for at least five seconds, before dozing off.

DJ Razor was already in New York when I arrived, having journeyed from The Miami Winter Music Conference the day before. Thanks to the Ryanair-related airport strike, Razor had been two days late getting to Miami and had missed Roni Size & Reprazent's gig on a beach, amongst other things. His own live show with Johnny Moy, Darren Emerson, Mr. C and Norman Cook had been going brilliantly until a bouncer objected to his choice of cigarette, resulting in a screaming Johnny Moy pretending that Razor was his manager and demanding he be allowed re-enter the club. This tactic worked, funnily enough.

We spent one night in New York before Bass Odyssey arrived, during which we received tips about Texas from Denis Leary on the beerless Conan O Brien Show, and checked out America s top drum & bass DJ (and expat Dubliner) Dara Guilfoyle playing at his Anseo Bar on St. Mark's Place. We ended up at a mental transvestite salsa hip-hop night at Cheetah a venue which is basically Columbia Mills with mirrors.

Exhausted and hungover, we were woken by loud southern accents as Bass Odyssey and their entourage of exiled Corkonians arrived at the hotel. It was Paddy s Day so the least we could do was walk a few blocks to watch the parade which was surprisingly diverting.

Tonight was the first Quadraphonic collective show with Bass Odyssey and Razor DJing. The venue, The Knitting Factory, was hosting an all-Irish bash to celebrate St. Patrick s Day. The radio had been full of rumours that U2 were playing so a packed venue greeted us as we arrived. The mostly ex-pat crowd were evidently more used to no-frills hard rock, and struggled with the beats initially before cutting loose. We legged it at 1am for another show at the 205 Club where Razor and Graham from Bass Odyssey were DJing at a shamrock-free zone an underground drum and bass night called Camouflage, run by another DJ called Beau.

The atmosphere was amazing: the club was about the size of an average country pub and everyone was dancing. Razor and Graham played the dubplates of the next Calibre and Bass Odyssey singles, to a great reaction from the clubbers on the floor. This one got marked up as a major victory for us.

Our flight to Austin was at 6am so we headed straight for the airport. Texas looked incredible as soon as it came into view after the bitter winds of New York the sunshine was well appreciated. We rejected three different hire cars before we got one big enough to hold all the gear, much to the amusement of the Hertz employees who all blagged guestlist slots for the gig that night.

The best thing about Texas is that you haven't seen everything on the telly a million times, the sights are fresh to the eye. Consequently, all four of us spent our first half-hour there gawping at the scenery.

Following a quick hotel stop-off and conference check-in, we rushed to meet up with a film crew with whom we d arranged to shoot a video for Bass Odyssey s next single. After hours spent running around the streets, being chased by a mysterious black 4X4, Alan and Graham were utterly exhausted, and insisted on taking the crew on a tour of the hotel s jacuzzi so Alan could record a greeting for his mates back on the banks of the lovely Lee.

South By South West was the reason we were in the States it s a massive music festival and conference coordinated in part by Una Johnston and Lisa Tinley from Carpe Diem Productions. Charlie Llewlin and James Neal, the bookers for SXSW, gave Quadraphonic a prestige night at Twist, Austin s version of The Kitchen, on the strength of some tapes we sent to them.

We were blown away by the crowd who showed up, not just because of the numbers, but because a vast amount of locals turned out, including an all-female drum and bass DJ crew called Rollers Redefined, who waved lighters in the air every time they hear a tune they like.

DJ Carbo, a drum and bass DJ from Los Angeles who also runs Grand Royal for The Beastie Boys, showed up tonight as well. Rather kindly, he sent over some beer to our table, as well as invites for his gig a few nights later.

At this point, Bass Odyssey and Razor had to head back to New York for a gig at Koncrete Jungle, but as I d got a gig to play and a panel discussion to attend, I had the opportunity to sleep on. They, on the other hand, ended up hanging around the airport after missing their flight.

The panel discussion was about The Future Of Electronica and I managed to start a row about the Americans ignoring vinyl. Apparently the average 12 in America sells only 500-2,000 copies, compared to an average of ten times that in Britain. I told them they didn t know what they were missing, which certainly provoked a reaction!

My evening was pretty free so there was a chance to check out some of the other bands playing in one of the 30 or so venues around Austin, where a new band takes the stage in each place every hour. Those who rocked included Prodigy-esque thrashers Junkie XL from Holland, Tommy Boy s dreamy Icelandic signings Moa, and De La Soul s producer and Gravediggaz member Prince Paul playing his favourite records in a pub with Dan The Automator.

My DJ gig was to open up for Josh Wink at the Austin Music Hall, a 3,000-capacity venue more familiar with hosting Carl Cox or Portishead, as opposed to Quadraphonic's drum'n'bass. The crowd were pleasingly responsive apart from the five-deep crush of trainspotters who stared at me constantly. That's just America, don't mind them, Josh assured me, before swapping one of his new tracks for a CDR of Calibre's single.

The plan after that was to party 'til 7 at a Spin Magazine bash with Christine and Ruben, two funky Austin natives who took us under their wing, but with an early flight and a long week ahead, I instead opted to go back to the hotel, where Dave O'Grady of Independent Records was busy celebrating huge Australian interest in his label's forthcoming Stars Of Heaven rarities album.

By now, New York was snowed in and Bass Odyssey and Razor were well frozen when we hooked up at JFK. They were still buzzing from their Koncrete Jungle show and were already talking about the return trip, which hopefully will happen within the next year. They got the Shannon flight, Razor and I took the Dublin one. We stumbled to the gate before crashing out on the flight home.

What stood out most about our time in the USA was the Americans eagerness to adopt new music their whole outlook is much more open than you d expect. Every city, even the smaller ones like Austin, possessed a healthy underground dance scene which we can t wait to spend more time exploring.

Calibre launch their debut single, Last Man On Earth/Reflections , on April 17th in The Kitchen, Dublin with a Quadraphonic party featuring DJs Fabio and Razor.

Donal Scannell

 

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