Sunday 9 August 2009

For the fourth episode in the Lifetracks series, we tracked down a true survivor of the original rave era and arguably one of the most under-rated producers around, Mulder. Mulder's output during the mid-90s for labels like Aphrodite's Urban Takeover defined the elements of jump-up when that wasn't such a dirty word, producing jungle anthems like Gettin' Blunted, Don't Give A Damn and Stick Up Kid . After an extended break away from music production, Mulder found favour in the fledgling hardcore breaks scene, recording for Malice & Enzyme's 2Fresh imprint with definitive tracks such as Soundclash and Devil Inside. With an encyclopedic knowledge of rave culture and all it's facets, Mulder's selection was always going to be top quality - and we weren't disappointed. Get ready for some stone-cold classics!

B: Hi Mulder, how are you today?

M: I'm fine.

B: Where are you right now?

M: Sat in my room, which is quite warm at the moment, in front of my laptop.

B: A common position for Mulder up beats?

M: I was playing around in Ableton earlier, trying to prepare some samples, yep.

B: For an imminent release or just for fun?

M: For a potential release, yeah, just trying to sort out the timings on a sample with really loose rhythm so it doesn't clash and flam with the breaks when I'm writing the tune.

B: So we're talking Hardcore Breaks or something else? Sounds intriguing...

M: Yeah, trying to write a jungly HCB tune with ska samples.

B: Sounds awesome! Are you always consciously trying to adjust the template of Hardcore Breaks with other elements?

M: Well, I think it's best to keep doing different stuff with it, otherwise I get bored.

B: Some people might consider HCB a bit of a creative cul-de-sac, but there seems to be loads of energy and invention in the genre these days...what's your thoughts on that?

M: Well, the idea was thought up by people who loved that original Hardcore / Jungle Tekno sound and wanted new tunes in that style to listen to, but you don't have to limit yourself to just that, you can become influenced by other new music around you and throw some of that in the mix too. I've been one of the people to break off a bit from the B2VOS forum where it started too, and do stuff under the 'nu-rave' banner, which whether it's a good idea or not is our way of sticking a finger up at the NME's attempts to pre-empt the oldskool revival by making Indie the 'new rave'.

B: NME weren't kidding anybody over 18 with that one! HCB has been fairly divisive amongst old skool heads though wouldn't you agree? Those that think of that era as a set time and should be left as it is, and those who want to take that sound further?

M: Yeah, there have been those who've lapped it up and those who just didn't care for it. The divisions within HCB itself were about certain personal differences more than anything else, and a lot of that has blown over now. It took a while for those of us who wanted to use the 'nu-rave' tag for ourselves and join up with the Rave Breaks and J-Tek guys, to get accepted by those who wanted to just stick to promoting HCB on it's own. Hang on, that didn't make any sense ...ah no, it does make sense, just a long-winded way of putting it!

B: No it makes perfect sense ha ha! So you feel the future for HCB is looking good?

M: It could be great, it could just fade into the background. I think there is a little oldskool revival happening within the fidget stuff and certain dubstep records have even tried to go a bit old skool - Skream's La Roux remix for one, even though he's just stuck a full speed amen at the end. Then there are people like Clipz who is doing some great varied stuff under the name Redlight, a lot of which has subtle or even quite obvious old skool influences in it. All this is good, but we need to bring it all together.

B: So where do you feel you fit in all of this? You've been around the block twice so to speak....

M: I'm not really sure! I have had a few problems which got me out of the D&B thing and I wasn't feeling much new music at all for a while until HCB grabbed me and I started doing it for fun. I guess I just want to provide some of the tunes and play a few gigs and see where it gets me.

B: Would you consider returning to D&B or do you feel your time in that genre is done now?

M: I think that I'm pretty much done with it, but if I feel like writing a tune in that style again then I'll just do it and see what happens, but I doubt I'll ever make a proper full-scale return. The genre seems so stuck in it's ways now.

B: Let's take a look at the mix you've very kindly put together, starting with the first brace of tracks which are all bonafide classics - Bang Zoom, Rock It, Close To The Edit - all pivotal in the development of dance music as we know it now. Where do these tracks take you back to, how did you come to experience them?

M: Rock It was one of the earliest things that introduced me to what we now know as turntablism. I have a funny feeling I'd seen somebody scratching and so on before Rock It came along but it's a really hazy memory. I was only 6 or 7 when it came out. I already had a fascination with record players and music as it was, so it kind of reinforced it. It wasn't my first encounter with Hip Hop though, that was a COI Public Information Film known as Don't Step Out or Close To The Edge, which I think was around at the same time as Rock It. It used Grandmaster Flash The Message beats and changed the words to teach the Green Cross Code.

Art Of Noise were the first people I heard using samplers and making records that were just a large collage of sounds. It's easy to see the link between Close To The Edit and early Hardcore records in that way. I think I've included Nu-Shooz I Can't Wait because that's the other big tune I remember with a lot of samples in it, especially the main riff of the Dutch version which I think is played using a sampled moan from a p*rn film or something!

Bang Zoom is similar again, uses a lot of Bugs Bunny samples, but it's the first Hip Hop record I actually bought and it's really a masterpiece. By now it was 1986, so I was 10 and really wanting to discover more Hip Hop which I did via the Beastie Boys a bit later. All this was so new and fascinating for a kid.

B: How were you experiencing music then? Through radio, TV?

M: Largely, yeah. I was really into Shakin' Stevens when I was about 5 or something and that was down to seeing him on Top Of The Pops. There was also my parents record collection which had a few interesting things in it. My gran also used to play me classical music and other stuff, mostly Strauss waltzes. On the telly side though, it wasn't just TOTP and music programmes but also any music used in the background or on the testcard or pages from ceefax, it all just soaked in to me.

B: So was early hip hop your first love musically speaking?

M: I think just music in general was my first love, hip hop became the main focus though by the time I was 12, and a bit of house too.

B: Speaking of which we have Jack Your Body here representing you were just trying to consume as many styles as possible when you were growing up? We're heading into the mid to late 80s here...

M: Yeah, well, Jack Your Body is 1986 and I first heard it on TV-AM! They were talking about the tune and wondering what 'House Music' was, because on the cover of the record it's got The House Sound of Chicago written on it. Both the track and the video in combination I thought were really cool. 1986 was quite a year as I remember it, with Jack Your Body, Bang Zoom, and another Art Of Noise with Max Headroom called Paranoimia. That year I discovered Kid Jenson's chart show which aired on the commercial radio stations, and I thought was much better than Radio 1's show. They would often play 12" versions of records and make their own re-edits of these remixes. That's why I've got Janet Jackson in the mix, it's a tune I remember they chopped up and I always wanted to hear it again but I never will, so I did it myself! Hearing those re-edits got me doing it myself with two little tape decks and the lead from my ZX Spectrum to link them up Earphone to Mic socket.

B: So you were making re-edits from an early age, that's awesome! When did you get involved in DJing for the first time?

M: Well, I first remember trying to scratch on my Dansette using my 7" copy of Bang Zoom as it goes! Later I saw somebody doing something similar in the video to Roxanne Shante's Go On Girl. It was pirate radio that kicked it off properly though. I heard hip hop on Raw Radio in 1988 and it was all mixed. It was really the first time I'd heard beat matching and I wondered how they were doing it, so eventually I discovered how to mix a record on a record player alongside a tape on a tape player and realised there must be a speed control to keep the record at the right speed all the way through the mix. It just went from there and eventually I got some belt drives once I was earning a bit of money in my late teens.

B: So were you beginning to produce around then too?

M: Nah, I didn't really think I'd ever make any music until I started playing with Octamed in 1994. I just didn't think it was possible without loads of gear, until I realised the Amiga had really good sampling abilities.

B: I think you're not alone in cutting your production teeth on the Amiga. What were some of your first attempts back then styled as? Jungle?

M: Yeah, it was a mix of jungle and hardcore I suppose - some of it was as fast as 190bpm! I was just mucking about until I started writing to Aphrodite. I was pretty bad at making rhythms up and structuring tracks at the time.

M: So you pretty much went from bedroom producer to record label fairly easily?

B: Yeah, I was sneaky though. The reason I've included Some Justice is because I loved the bass in that tune when it came out and later on I found out that it was written on the Amiga, and I worked out that Gavin (Aphrodite) now had his own label and his tunes were still all done on the Amiga, and they were much better than mine. Booyaa for example, great bassline for it's time, great drum programming and a really danceable feel which a lot of jungle lacked at that point, because the beats were too chopped up and not rhythmic enough. So, I wrote to him and he told me my tunes were sh*t, but keep going. Eventually I managed to do something that he thought he could work with, and he offered me a release on Urban Takeover which he was about to start with Finn.

B: Seems a world away from the industry as it is today, even if it wasn't that long ago! Let's talk then about the rave/jungle portion of your mix. With your tunes getting around and DJ sets out and about you were starting to really make a name for yourself. You've picked some essential rave classics here, Mr.Kirk's Nightmare, Charly, Bang The Drums...what are your memories of that time, was that a great period for you in the first honeymoon period of rave culture?

M: It was a bit of a weird time for me. Hearing Mr Kirk, Spliffhead, and other tracks of that kind in 1990 moved my attention away from hip hop a bit and I was still only 14 I guess so I wasn't going out raving or buying many records but it was fresh and hip hop was going a bit stale I thought. I liked the bass and the crazy little stab melodies in the tunes. I was also sort of going off on a bit of a religious tangent in my personal life, which kind of conflicted with the idea of going to a rave a lot and came to an end just before I got the call from Aprhodite to do my first single. So, I stuck to just sitting in my room listening and buying records when I could. I've never really been much of a dancer anyway, and drugs are just bad imho. Except beer! It was all about the music for me!

I think that's why for a long time I was more interested in the Bukem etc side of things, because those tunes lend themselves to listening at home a lot more than the jump-up tracks. When the more 2-step period came in and people started calling it D&B rather than jungle, it collided with the basslines in the jump-up stuff becoming more than just sub and the melody of the basslines stood out more, so then I got bang into labels like Dope Dragon instead, but still kept buying the Good Looking 12s too. The early Bukem stuff is really ravey though!

B: Yeah for sure his early stuff is basically proto-hardcore! It's interesting you saying you were into the more "chilled" end of D&B, given your recorded output...

M: Yeah, I just didn't get on trying to write that kind of stuff I guess, because the Amiga was probably a bit better at doing bass than it was at doing lush pads for example, and by the time I'd learned how to write tunes better I'd gone out and realised how it didn't go down on the dancefloor so well compared to the jump-up, which was now more musically interesting to me anyway. The Bukem stuff also ended up going into the realms of jazz drum solos where the beats were concerned, especially when you look at some of Photek's output when he did his album. It's just not funky, it's jazzy, so when people talk about 'Drumfunk' I think they've got the wrong idea.

B: So the era of "liquid" D&B was something that didn't interest you in trying to make tunes for? At that time the scene was pretty much divided between the "jump-up" styles and the deeper styles...

M: Yeah, I really didn't get on with techstep either. The liquid stuff can be really great musically, really danceable, sometimes really rushy and ravey in a way, but often people just don't do enough with it for my liking and it just boils down to a loop of some nice sounds that you tire of really quickly. The best liquid tunes are things like 3am by MIST and High Contrast, really nice horns in that one and really ravey in a way. I wouldn't write either liquid or techstep off completely though, there's always good tunes and bad in all of it, I just guess I prefer party tunes.

B: Speaking of which, given your re-emergence on the scene producing HCB, you haven't selected any of that genre here. How did your transition back into production come about through HCB, and who influences you in that scene?

M: Well, I think all of us in that scene look outside for influences, we look to stuff we used to listen to or new forms of dance music and I don't know if we really look at one another like that. I know what artists and labels I like though. When I was writing D&B my love for oldskool was always pushing me to try and do something oldskooly anyway. I loved that little period in D&B in the early 2000s when the Dubplate remix came out and all of a sudden there were oldskool sounds all over the place in D&B again and remixes of old classics. I'd say hearing Vinyl Junkie and Darkus' Warehouse Wax stuff made me think that I should get into this. I just started listening to the clips of tunes on Hardcore Projecktz record shop and then I dug up a little thing I'd been working on about a year before and posted it on B2VOS. It got some interest but never got finished, I just started writing other tunes instead.

B: And so looking to the future, what's in store for you? Any more releases on the horizon you can tell us about?

M: Nothing solid. I've taken a break for most of the year so far, as my inspiration is a bit like that, it just runs out and I have to recharge until I get that itchy feeling to do something again. It's started to happen, I remixed Ghettozoid's Seeking for the hell of it the other day, and did a tune using the music from Ocean's ZX Spectrum version of Robocop for a laugh. I don't really think they are that spectacular, but something else will happen I hope with these samples I'm trying to sort out at the moment. I originally started the tune with Jamie Enzyme and Alex Fluff from the Nu-Rave forum in January, but we've not managed to get back there and do anything else since, so I thought I'd just work on it myself and see what the others can input.

B: Nice one, well I look forward to hearing what you come up with next! Thanks for chatting to me Mulder, anything else you'd like to add before we wrap this up?

M: Can't think of anything!

B: LOL! Fair play...thanks anyway!!

Lifetracks # 04 - Mulder

01 - COI PIF - Close To The Edge
02 - Real Roxanne and Hitman Howie Tee - Bang Zoom (Let's Go Go)
03 - Herbie Hancock - Rock It
04 - Art Of Noise - Close To The Edit
05 - Nu-Shooz - I Can't Wait
06 - Kraftwerk - It's More Fun To Compute
07 - Janet Jackson - When I Think Of You (Mulder Re-Edit)
08 - Steve 'Silk' Hurley - Jack Your Body
09 - James Brown vs. Coldcut - The Payback Mix Pt.1
10 - Home T, Cocoa Tea and Shabba Ranks - Pirates Anthem
11 - Ragga Twins - Spliffhead
12 - 4Hero - Mr Kirk's Nightmare
13 - The Prodigy - Charly (Alley Cat Mix)
14 - Urban Shakedown - Some Justice (Concrete Jungle Mix)
15 - Tayla - Bang The Drums
16 - Amazon II - Booyaa! (Open Your Mind)

Download : Lifetracks 04 - Mulder
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Ffi : Mulder Website