For this week’s mixtape, we welcome producer, DJ and artist Wrongtom to the Dusk Dubs family....
"Our teenage years are a minefield of mood-swings, awkward relationships, wild proclamations and questionable fashion choices, well mine were at least. For a lot of us it's also a time of major musical exploration, so whilst I would happily never go back there, I'm also happy I have hundreds of great records to mark those 7 tender years.
So I've selected a handful of tracks I picked up in my teens, in chronological order from 1988 to 1995, and handed them over to the Dusk Dubs crew to splice together for your listening pleasure. It wasn't an easy task - I listened to reams of records back then, but to narrow things down, I stuck strictly to music originally released at the time. This means that much of my teenage soundtrack didn't make the cut, lots of reggae, soul, jazz and funk from the 60's and 70's especially. I left out Prince too because it was too hard to simply pull out one or two tracks. I may have to return to Dusk Dubs to do an accompanying "old" selection from the same era, or even a dedicated Prince one but until then, here's 20 tracks of teenage confusion and fascination..."
You can find him here:
1. Boogie Down Productions - Stop The Violence - I'd been a fan of hip hop and reggae for a few years before BDP's 2nd LP dropped, and I'd heard a couple of tunes which tapped both genres but this wasn't simply a hip hop track with a slightly skanky sample or a bit of token patois, 'Stop The Violence' featured KRS-One doing what he does best over a rework of a Winston Riley dancehall rhythm which had been doing the rounds earlier the same year. There was no need to reinterpret it, add a funk break, or beef it up with an 808. This was someone rapping over straight up dancehall - proof that reggae could be hip hop and perhaps vice versa. This might not sound particularly revolutionary now but in 1988 reggae was quite marginalised in NYC, and some Caribbean New Yorkers opted to hide their accents for fear of being considered too country. The anti-violence, anti-gangster message here resonated with me too, I wasn't really into NWA, Too $hort etc, I was an annoying pacifist, I still am, and I still dearly love this record.
2. Overlord X - Rough In Hackney - The largely overlooked UK hip hop scene had a golden era at the end of the 80's and it quickly struck a chord. I made a grand claim that I only listened to British hip hop (this sounds a bit Brexit in hindsight) which wasn't actually true but I was a big fan. My favourite at the time was Overlord X and his crew of Hackney soldiers X Posse. I rarely dig this record out now but one thing which struck me on a re-listen was the depth of production: thundering kicks drums and clattering percussion which may have played a subliminal role in me taking up the congas a few years later. Some less-familiar listeners might find the "rough in Hackney" refrain a little strange if you're listening in a pokey flat off Mare St which you've just spent a cool million quid on.
3. Neneh Cherry - Outré Risqué Locomotive - "But I thought you said you didn't listen to pop..." I ask teenage me as I slip Neneh on the deck. I did, not loads but I found my copy of Madonna's 'Justify My Love' whilst ferreting through my shelves. Neneh though, another great pop anomaly like Grace Jones or Prince, steeped in underground music, yet she still made some evergreen and universally loved chart music. Raw Like Sushi captured everything which was great about the UK music scene at the time, with production credits from Bomb The Bass and a pre-Massive Attack DJ Mushroom, not to mention On-U keyboardist Nick Plytas and Essential Logic's Phil Legg. Neneh herself cut her teeth with jazz-punk situationists Rip Rig & Panic but I didn't know that at the time. I did know that this album was wicked, and stuff like 'Manchild' and this slice of Prince-esque "new power" funk, using a classic James Brown riff, remains close to perfection.
4. Depth Charge - Depth Charge - Master of the dark arts J Saul Kane ploughed the field when it came to downbeat music in the rave era. This was triphop before triphop was a dirty word, or even invented for that matter. We'd hear another of his themed 12"s on pirate and eagerly await it's release: the audio nasty of 'Dead By Dawn', the spaghetti western funk of 'Bounty Killer', I even loved his football tune (still have absolutely no interest in football!) but DC's eponymous debut is still his finest. I experienced the 2nd summer of love in '89 vicariously through my brother and sister, too young for adventures round the M25 or dancing in sweaty backroom venues to acid classics myself. Enter Kane with his antidote to rave, detuned into a dub-hop soundtrack for your comedowns or maybe for those too young to come up, in my case at least.
5. Renegade Soundwave - On TV - Sonically not too far flung from Depth Charge - I think DC even sampled an RSW track on Bounty Killer - RSW sparked my new interest in spikier, (almost) rockier music. Though they were very much an electronic act, Gary Asquith's voice harked back to their former incarnations as Mass and Rema Rema on indie label 4AD. Most people remember them for their rave crossover breakbeat beast 'The Phantom' but it was the debut LP Soundclash which opened my eyes to darker experiments with hip hop, dub and electro production. Their RSW In Dub album still sounds fresh too.
6. Ragga Twins - Ragga Trip - By the late 90's you'd rarely hear a hip hop head say he liked house, reggae purists refused to see the lineage between lovers rock and UK garage but around the turn of the 90's it often wound up in the mix all at once. Shut Up & Dance helped pave the way for hardcore and jungle with an onslaught of dark, dancehall influenced rave classics but it was their vocal collaborations I loved the most. Nicolette had that "Ella on acid" thing going on whilst Ragga Twins toasted in a classic UK chatter style over amalgamations of everything which was good on the dance floor at the time, from rare groove samples to bleeps lifted from Japanese synth-pop, it all went in the mix to create a mutated revisioning of sound system music for a new generation. Case in point was 'Ragga Trip', where brothers Flinty & Deman revisited a lyric from their Unity Sound days, toasting over the top of a rolling hip hop break and a squelchy 303 bassline. I had to buy another copy of their LP Reggae Owes Me Money 'cause I played my original one to death, and it still seems surreal that I've just made an album with these guys myself.
7. Samuelle - So You Like What You See - Whist weird crossover stuff probably suited this grubby, lovelorn teenager, I still had a thing for a sweet soul tune. I may not have dressed slick or owned a click-suit but I loved new jack swing with it's rat-a-tat beats and be-pop influences. I don't remember much else from Samuelle but this track had it all: butter-smooth harmonies, a nice drum break and that preset organ bass sound which would later become a garage staple. Perfect.
8. Daddy Freddy - Article Don - Another raggamuffin hip hop pioneer, Freddy, along with MC Asher D and producer Simon Harris brought the UK's love of skanky hip hop across the sea to the states and Jamaica. Meanwhile back on UK soil, Freddy was showing off his lyrical dexterity to Roy Castle and Cheryl Baker on Record Breakers, "what do we call you, Freddy?" asked Cheryl, "you can call me Daddy" he casually replied.
I later met Daddy Freddy while I was playing main stage at Outlook Festival in Croatia. He popped up back stage after I'd just dropped his Fashion Records classic, the fantastically titled "Baba Loo Baba L Baba Loo Baba Laba" and he excitedly told me it was his birthday. I asked him if he was playing that night "nuh it's mi birthdeh, Mungos ask mi fi chat, I chat two lyric and go." I saw him later that night on Mungos Sound, they couldn't have got him off the mic if they'd tried. Nice guy.
9. Young Disciples - Step Right On (Dub) - I got my first proper job in '91 selling fruit n veg in a supermarket in new Malden, it sucked but I was making just enough to buy a few records - £3.83 an hour! - and I bought Young Disciples' 'Road To Freedom' LP with my first paycheque. A lot of it went on Talkin' Loud releases over the next few years come to think of it.
This felt like the accumulation of all that was happening on the dance floor at the time (I assumed, I was too young to go clubbing still), taking in elements of soul, swing, hip hop, jazz, funk and in this instance dub. The richly textured production sounds amazing all these years later and I still drop 'Apparently Nothin' from time to time.
10. Corduroy - Skirt Alert - Whilst Gilles Peterson was looking ahead with Talkin' Loud, his former partner Eddie Piller was happy to release shamelessly retro sounds from the likes of Corduroy and Mother Earth on his Acid Jazz imprint, though I should stress, it wasn't solely a retro venture and plenty of forward thinking material came out of the AJ camp.
Corduroy were loads of fun. Formed by the Addison twins of 80's mod-oddities Boys Wonder and the bassist from that lot that covered 'Spirit In The Sky', you'd be forgiven for thinking they were style over content but really, lighten up, they made loads of great records including a fuzzy jazz-rock cover of Hawkwind's 'Motorhead', the latin soul of 'Something In My Eye' and 'Mini' which was like proto-Brit pop without being either boring or shit. This track's from their largely instrumental debut Dad Man Cat which - having discovered a new found love for live music beyond simply MC's and DJ's via Galliano - probably helped me crossover into rock territories. Which brings me to...
11. The Telescopes - Yeah - At college I started to dabble in guitar music, Pixies, Fugazi and Violent Femmes all hit the spot but the revelation came when my friend Phil, who read the NME like it was the bible, played me some shoegazer stuff. My Bloody Valentine were obviously great but it was the funky psychedelics of The Telescopes which fully won me over.
I've only included the first half of 'Yeah' here because it inexplicably features about 20 seconds of silence in the middle which often led people to skip to the next track thinking there was something wrong with their walkman. I spent a lot of time glued to my Walkman back then.
12. Medicine - Aruca - The other shoegazer band I loved was Medicine who were much noisier than The Telescopes but not limited to simply distortion and overdrive. Brad Laner's guitar work was one part Metal Machine Music and one part musique concrète, ear-splitting yet full of melody. They had a funk to them too, in fact one track 'Sweet Explosion' had a bass riff slyly lifted from 'The Message' by south London afro-funksters Cymande.
I got chatting with Laner after a Medicine gig in Windsor around the time, I'd made a (fairly ropey) video for this track at college, he told me to send it over, I planned to but thought better of it (it really was quite bad from what I remember).
13. Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy - Satanic Reverses - This album never gets old for me. Production-wise it really should sound dated but seeing as nothing else sounded like it at the time, it still sounds as alien as it did then. Disposables main-man Michael Franti conjured the pre-rap rapping of The Last Poets, Watts Prophets, Amiri Baraka and Gil Scott Heron, his lyrics informed and delivery precise. They were the indie-kid's preferred hip hop act at the time with their industrial on-stage antics with chainsaws and TV's but there was so much more to them than that. Thanks to the current political debacle in the UK and US, tracks like 'The Winter Of The Long Hot Summer' and 'Satanic Reverses' are as lyrically potent now as they were 25 years ago, which is actually kind of sad.
14. Federation - Rusty James (Portishead Remix) - One of the most awkward memories of my teenage years was thinking the language Mo Wax boss James Lavelle used in his reviews section in Straight no Chaser magazine - "slamming' tricknological dope phatness" etc - was actually cool. I discovered some amazing records from those pages though.
In one breath Mo Wax releases take me back to the dub-hop wonder of Depth Charge a few years prior but there's another part of me that regrets how much I spent on this label, a lot of their output dated quite quickly. Fortunately there's a few stone cold killers in their catalogue like the early Attica Blues 12"s, Palm Skin Production's collabs with 2-Tone legend Rhoda Dakar and this remix by a very fresh-faced Portishead, possibly their 1st ever release under the name. It's full of the classic Persuaders-esque guitar wobbles and crunchy drums you'd expect from the west country miserablists but what I find remarkable about this is it's nod to the aforementioned new jack swing shuffle. Perfect for me, even if I wish I hadn't bought quite so much of Mo Wax's output in those first few years.
15. Espiritu - Los Americanos - Heavenly remains another perfect fit label for me thanks to a seemingly mutual love of wonky pop peppered with hip hop chops and dub experiments, not to mention many a Weatherall remix, (though my all time favourite Weatherall mix was for Galliano's 'Skunk Funk' so notch another one up for Talkin' Loud).
Espiritu were like Heavenly alumni St Etienne's latino cousins, making shamelessly catchy pop-soul, sometimes sung in Spanish with soaring choruses over lush productions and booming drums. They really shouldve been bigger!
Years later Heavenly asked me to remix their act LCMDF which unfortunately happened in the wake of my dad's death and the result wasn't half as good as I wanted it to be. I chanced having a bash at doing an 'Only Dub Will Tear Us Apart' for St Etienne but it sadly never happened, not for want of asking. I'd still love to give it a go.
16. T Plays It Cool - Expressions In The 5th Dimension - I can't remember when this record came out, there's no date on the sleeve but given it's by a pre-Attica Blues Tony N'Wahchukwu, I'm guessing it was before Mo Wax started up. It's great either way. Full of jazzy drums, dreamy keys and Tony's surprisingly soulful vocals considering he's more known for his work behind the faders. This is a stark reminder that before the abysmal gentrification of triphop, there were simply great downtempo beats happening here in the UK.
17. Emperors New Clothes - Nature Never Repeats Itself - Back to Acid Jazz who, as I mentioned before, released some oblique material outside of the retro expectations of the genre. This was a collective effort with shades of dub-funk experimentation harking back to south London weirdos like Family Fodder and their ilk, and a touch of quasi-jazz ala Pigbag.
I knew their percussionist Mark at the time from the jam nights on Wednesdays at the Blue Note on Hoxton Square (sadly now a Bill's, I stopped their for dinner once and it felt weird), and if memory serves, he said he'd never played congas until the day they entered the studio to make their debut album. Mad if true because he was seriously good.
18. Sandals - Osocurioso - As a fresh-faced wrongun, I was a regular at Sandals' club-night Tongue Kung-Fu in Covent Garden and really fell for their brand of agitprop oddness, freeform poetry and surreal soundscapes. Sounds pretentious? No doubt, I was at art school after all, where I wound up befriending their one time sax player Dallas who briefly joined my own funk outfit Three Bean Salad. I also later discovered that Sandals ran the head-shop in central London's ropey Trocadero shopping centre where I often hung out (mainly for the arcades upstairs), it was also their rehearsal space.
I'm not sure how well some of their tunes stand up now but it was all pretty unique at the time, more of an art collective than a band which made it even more bizarre when their label (FFRR) lent on them to not make quite such experimental music after hearing their 'Cracked' EP from '94. Some of it still sounds amazing though, I opened my set at Spiritland the other night with 'Open' from this EP and I think I especially love 'Osocurioso' even more now than I did at the time. Im also sad to inform that they had nothing to do with the package holiday company of the same name.
19. Funki Porcini - Dubble (Organ Swell) - Back to the Blue Note, once a month on Thursday nights, I could generally be found at Ninjatune's Stealth night. Coldcut, like a few other folks in this selection had inadvertently changed the shape of London's musical landscape and after a few issues with their major label deal (a theme developing here perhaps) carved a new niche with their Ninjatune label, but really I don't need to explain any of this. The main thing here was, they were releasing stacks of fascinating and fun beat-laden records in a similar vain to Mo Wax but much less poe-faced, and like I said, loads of fun. I don't remember what the rest of Funki Porcini's output sounded like but this quasi-dub track with hints of jungle creeping in every so often still gets a regularly airing at Chez Wrong.
I later wound up making my own reggae and dub material for the label with Roots Manuva, and a woozy dub rework of Kid Koala which is almost impossible to find now.
20. KRS-One - De Automatic - Coming full circle with my final track is the post BDP KRS-One who released his 2nd solo effort around the time I was leaving my teens. It's oddly almost the antithesis of 'Stop The Violence' with his call to get the "auto-ma-atic (sic)" because "tonight a rapper g'wan die" but i'm giving him the benefit of the doubt that it's metaphor, and simply a good old fashioned soundboy burial lyric.
Regardless I love the menacing undertones on this track, it's dark and claustrophobic, and features a sample flip - i forget where the baseline comes from now - which on hearing the original tune is surprisingly up beat and very dance floor friendly.