This issue brings you a rather special personality Clash takeover in conjunction with TT remastered – a genre busting initiative where iconic tracks have been reworked by cutting edge artists for your pleasure.

There are 15 tracks in the series guaranteed to blow your mind – Clash caught up with electro upstarts COCO ELECTRIK to pose a few questions to Dave Ball from SOFT CELL. Their reworking of ‘Tainted Love’ kicks off the Remastered campaign which is brought to you by Audi.

COCO ELEKTRIK: Had you been a long time fan of ‘Tainted Love’ when you recorded it?

DAVE BALL: Yes I’d been a Northern Soul fan from 1975. I first heard it at a club in Blackpool.

CE: Rumours are that the vocals were done in one take?

DB: Quite possibly, I know we always worked very fast, it took about 16 hours over two days to record.

CE: Was the instrumentation done in a
similarly spontaneous way?

DB: Yeah, the drum machine and bass synth are very four on the floor, the syndrums were just Marc and I bashing around until we got something exciting that worked, the stabs and pads were done on Mike Thorne’s (the producer) synclavier.

CE: Have you ever met Gloria Jones?

DB: I met her once backstage at gig at The Venue in London in the 80s .

CE: Was it true your label were about to drop you when you recorded this?

DB: We had some club success with the previous track ‘Memorabilia’ but no real chart action and our manager Stevo had to convince Phonogram to give us another chance as we didn’t even have an album deal.

CE: Out of the numerous versions recorded over the years do you have a definitive version?

DB: I love Gloria Jones’s version but I guess our version is the most famous, I mean, even Marilyn Manson liked it so much he copied our version!

CE: In an interview Gloria Jones said that she considers the Soft Cell version to be the best one: “I loved the emotion in his voice. Their version was far better than mine.” I imagine you must have been rather flattered!

DB: Totally.

CE: ‘Tainted Love’ was released in 1981, at the dawn of HIV. I was pretty small but I remember being terrified by these grim reaper style adverts they were running on TV in Australia late at night. In retrospect the song kind of gets tied up in the mayhem of the times, though it was actually released prior to the discovery of the virus, it went on to be embraced by the gay community as it took on this other meaning. How do you feel now looking back at this unintentional relationship that was formed?

DB: I think lots of songs are ambiguous and open to reinterpretation, the song was written in the 60s by the late Ed Cobb and he told me it was about a broken down relationship he’d had, I think the woman was possibly Jackie Kennedy!

CE: Statement: Soft Cell and your subsequent incarnations were one of the first groups to join the dots in club culture, from the northern soul scene, through to punk, New Romantics and then the acid house. Is that a fair assumption?

DB: I think that is down to a lifelong obsession with dance music.

CE: We did a cover of the Princepenned ‘Apollonia 6 – Sex Shooter’ last year, and some friends initially deemed Prince as untouchable. Are there any songs / artists out there that you felt you couldn’t touch?

DB: No, I think some tracks have been done to perfection by the original artist. I think if you do a cover of a classic you have to reinterpret it and make it your own in some way. just don’t do a karaoke version!

CE: Do you approach writing music in any particular way?

DB: I usually just plonk around in my studio with a few rough ideas until something starts to take shape if I’m lucky. I like working to picture because you get ideas about mood from the imagery so you have an immediate starting point.

CE: Do you think it is easier for musicians to make their mark in the digital age?

DB: Yes and no. I think it is more direct as in MysSace, You Tube etc but I think the competition is greater than ever because computers make it easier for anyone to make something half decent sounding.

CE: Equipment-wise do you prefer analogue or digital?

DB: Both, I love a lot of old synths like Prophet Fives and MiniMoogs for their sounds and hands on feel and not forgetting their wooden side panels, but I love working on my Mac with Logic7.

CE: How did you feel the reformed Soft Cell shows went?

DB: Some of the best shows ever because we are much more professional nowadays and not off our heads on chemicals during the gig. We played a lot of festivals all over Europe for the first time and that was great because you play to much bigger audiences.

CE: You met Andy Warhol during the early Soft Cell days. What was he like?

DB: A bit like a cat – quiet and observant.

CE: Is it true you were you among the first people in the UK to try MDMA?

DB: In the early 80s in New York it had just hit the club scene although I think people had used it back in the 60s

CE: And is ‘Memorabilia’ the first Ecstasy song ever?

DB: Apparently.

CE: You can choose three songs from your back catalogue to take on a desert island – what ones would you take?

DB: ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’, ‘Baby Doll’, ‘Torch’.

CE: Where do you fit into the pantheon of electronic music pioneers?

DB: File under B.

Welcome to Local Heroes, a brand new feature. We’ve scoured the earth for the freshest new acts and asked them to guide you, our awesome readers, around their home towns. From Jakarta to Johannesburg they’ll introduce their scene, their hangouts and the best local bands.

Johannesburg. Jo’burg. Jozi. The better you know South Africa’s largest city the smaller its name becomes.

The same is not true of BLK JKS. Though abbreviated and vowel-less, they are about to make a very big name for themselves. Johannesburg is their hometown, but this thrilling quartet is ready to blast straight out of Africa and into the world beyond. They fuse traditional African music with heavy rock guitars, dubby, elastic bass, clattering, complex rhythms and a relentless thirst for experimentation. This isn’t world music, but music informed by the world. With just one single BLK JKS have earned a reputation as musical revolutionaries, comparisons with TV On The Radio, and found fans in Diplo and his globe-trotting Mad Decent family. Their forthcoming album may be the most exciting South African release since Nelson Mandela strolled off Robben Island.

Frontman Linda Buthelezi and his childhood friend and lead guitarist, Mpumi Mcata formed BLK JKS several years ago. The line-up was later completed by Molefi Makananise on bass and drummer Tsepang Ramoba. “When I first met the guys and heard this sound they were making, I thought, ‘this is what needs to happen’,” explains Makananise. “I come from a more traditional background and these guys were playing this raw rock sound. I knew blending our sounds would work, so I said, ‘hi’.” Afrobeat, dub, indie-rock and hip-hop, the band draw influences far and wide, something unusual in a country once so divided. “It was difficult in the beginning for us to sell our music because of the way the industry is in South Africa,” says Buthelezi. “But as we became more comfortable in our musical skin it became easier.” Buthelezi is eloquent and measured, but not quite ready to be called a pioneer. “I couldn’t agree with that. It would sound too narcissistic. But I guess it’s true to say one is the pioneer of his own sound. We don’t set out to sound like anyone. That’s something that must be said by all bands everywhere, but we genuinely don’t.” Laidback Makananise is more ready to accept the compliment. “If people really say we are pioneers then I would never say no we are not. But we give thanks to bands like Harari. They were the first black South African rock band and the first people to create a black rock sound. We really take our hats off to those guys.”
Concise, bold and unconventional, the name BLK JKS suits the band. Buthelezi, a budding graphic designer, pruned several letters to fit the logo he had created, but as he points out it has serious origins. “There was a division of the police force during apartheid called the Black Jacks. It was based in the townships and comprised of black people. They were sent by the Afrikaans police force to bring heartbreak and pain to the locals. They were called traitors and used against their own people.” Though they are clearly political minded they insist they are not a political band. “We describe ourselves as a band that sees the reality,” says Makananise. Buthelezi elaborates. “We just speak on topics that affect our every day lives and in South Africa that just so happens to be political.” One of their songs, ‘Lakeside’, addresses just such an issue. “It’s about the aftermath of a taxi accident,” says Buthelezi. “Over the years, the South African taxi industry has always been dangerous, really shitty. It’s only now the government is doing something about it. ‘Lakeside’ is an ode to that.” Buthelezi is keen to point out that with this song, like others, it is a blend of the political and the personal. “We wanted to outline the lives of the people within the transit itself, the real human tragedy. We try to tackle issues that concern the environment we are in and from, you know.”

As it stands, their forthcoming album will be called ‘After Robots’. The name does not relate to a Terminatorstyle, post-apocalyptic future, but something surprisingly prosaic. “In South Africa we use taxis a lot,” explains Makananise. “When you are in a taxi and you want to get off somewhere, most often what you do is get off at the robot. In South Africa we call robotic traffic lights robots.” “It’s a township thing,” says Buthelezi. “We’re just reflecting our everyday lives.” Of course, ‘After Robots’ could also be read as a reference to apartheid and BLK JKS are not shy of discussing their country’s troubled past. “Apartheid was very oppressive and it’s not as it was before, clearly not,” says Buthelezi. “But it’s taken on a different shape. It’s taken on a different light. It goes deeper into the mindset of the people and how it affected them. It’s not as oppressive, but it’s still very much there. We are trying to move forward towards integration.” “That’s what BLK JKS is all about,” says Makananise, “integrating people. We’ve got to broadcast to a white audience and a black audience. Most of the time you will find those two people dancing together, because at our shows they are one people.”
An appearance at South By South West and a string of New York dates will introduce BLK JKS to the world, so the world will soon know that, above all else, BLK JKS know how to rock a party. “It’s exciting to be a vessel for this South African experience,” says Buthelezi modestly, as his band chart a course far beyond Jozi. “We’re just glad to be on the ship. We don’t think of ourselves as ambassadors or anything. At the moment, this is all we know.”

WORDS BY SCOTT WRIGHT

24 hours in Jozi
Linda Buthelezi: “What’s big now in the townships is a culture called chisa nyama. They’re like car wash parties. Basically, you bring your vehicle to be valeted by local guys. You park up. There’s music. You barbecue meat from a local butcher. It’s nice, chilled. That’s what’s happening in the townships.”

Molefi Makananise: “We might take you to a hostel, the Zulu people live in hostels and on the weekend they do this cultural thing, a ceremony, where they dance and play Maskandi, the traditional Zulu music. And we’d have to take you to a Rasta chant. It’s a gathering of the Rastafarians. You won’t eat meat there, just smoke your dope! As you’d expect they play good reggae music. We would definitely take you to the Hector Pieterson Museum in Soweto. And there are lots of restaurants in Soweto. We’d eat droewors, a kind of sausage, and what we call pap, a kind of porridge, not soft porridge but a hardened sort of porridge. We’d have it with a hot sauce.”

LB: “Then we would go to the Bohemian – wooden floors, low ceiling, very dingy, very, very cool. Some nights they have a band playing. We can play pool. It’s a down and out sort of place, where we like to hang out.”

MM: “Or we could go to Seventh Avenue in Melville. If not the Bassline in Newtown, see what’s happening there. Then we’d take you to any parties that are happening around. There’d be no point in us taking you to any posh parties. We’d show you the reality.”

LB: “The parties will have DJs and house music. Jo’burg has a diverse culture, there’s plenty yet not so plenty, if you know what I mean. Some parts of South Africa are in real poverty, but to see the real South Africa you have to see the townships because to the majority people that’s where real life is.”

The Scene
LB: “We’re part of the third wave of postapartheid music. There was kwaito, then a move into real hip-hop, and now more live bands. That’s not to say that all those movements have fizzled out. Kwaito is still the biggest thing in South Africa. There are also pop things, I guess this is universal. Then you’ve got your afro-pop and your gospel. But the scenes that shine through at the moment are the house scene followed closely by live rock music and bands, but even then we don’t have enough venues to really enjoy what’s happening.”

MM: “There’s a band called Menage A Trois, they are good friends of ours. The singer is quite something.”

LB: “Kid Of Doom is a 4-piece band. They do what Explosions In The Sky are trying to do – instrumental rock, playing music without a vocalist. Japan And I is an all girl band. These are the bands out there now, but you know what it’s like; one bit your there and the next you’re not.”

MM: “HHP (Hip Hop Pantsula) has a rap/almostrock thing happening. He’s big in South Africa but mostly in the townships. He fuses rap with that South African vibe and addresses pressing South African issues. He’s been around for years. The longer you’re in this industry the stronger you become.”

Music Festivals
LB: “We don’t have festivals coming out of our asses like you guys, but when they do happen they’re always worth playing.”

MM: “We have a big music festival every August called Oppikoppi and then we have Splashy Fen, and the Obz Festival, that’s at Observatory in Cape Town. On the local side, there’s the Soweto Arts Festival, which we played for the first time recently. It’s in the heart of Soweto. We played for a real township crowd. We don’t often play for a township audience. For us it was intense. It was the first time a lot of them had seen us play. And township audiences are hard. If they don’t like you they ask you to step off the stage. Luckily that didn’t happen to us. They wanted more.”

LB: “It was quite a thing to actually play out the whole show. Especially as it was different to the usual crowds we play for. To be able to please the masses was a real eye opener for us. In South African terms the masses are the townships – where most of the population lives.”

A to Z:
THE BASSLINE
A popular club in Newtown. www.bassline.co.za

THE BOHEMIAN
The BLK JKS bar of choice. www.thebo.co.za

CHISA NYAMA
Township spots where you can eat braai (barbecued) meat, hang out and get your car washed.

DROEWORS
A dried, spicy sausage served in township restaurants.

HECTOR PIETERSON MUSEUM
Soweto’s first museum. Opened in 2002.

HARARI
Legendary afro-rock band. Founded in the ’60s they were South Africa’s first black rock group.

HIP HOP PANTSULA
South Africa’s biggest rap star www.myspace.com/hiphoppantsula

JAPAN AND I
An all-girl punk group. www.myspace.com/japanandiband

KID OF DOOM
Psychedelic instrumental rockers – www.myspace.com/kidofdoom

KWAITO
Based on crude house beats, Kwaito is South Africa’s ghetto dance music.

MASKANDI
Zulu folk music that evolved in South Africa.

MENAGE A TROIS
Female-fronted rockers and pals of BLK JKS. www.myspace.com/menageatroissa

OBZ FESTIVAL
Held in the Cape Town suburb of Observatory in early December. www.obzfestival.com

OPPIKOPPI
An alternative music festival held in the Limpopo Province during August. The name means On The Hill. www.oppikoppi.co.za

PAP
A thick porridge eaten with meat. Like the American dish, grits.

ROBOTS
Robotic traffic lights.

SOWETO ARTS FESTIVAL
A township-based music and arts festival held in December. ww.sowetoartsfestival.co.za/Home.html

SPLASHY FEN
South Africa’s longestrunning and most renowned annual music festival. Held in Drakensberg during March. www.splashyfen.co.za

It’s depressingly true, but female musicians are often judged more on their aesthetic value than on their overriding musical abilities.

This is sometimes the unavoidable curse of our sex, but it is in no way immutable. Just look at Beth Ditto. Defying convention and putting two fingers up to those judgmental bastards, the ferocious front woman stormed back onto the scene earlier this year with Gossip’s fourth studio album, ‘Music For Men.’ And she didn’t disappoint.

This raucous American has certainly broken the mould in a number of ways, gaining widespread critical acclaim and oodles of respect for her talent as a chanteuse and not as a visual stimulant for the male libido. And she joins the stellar line-up of women who have this year made waves and pushed boundaries for the sake of music. Yes, 2009 has certainly been their time to shine.

With Karen O and her third album ‘It’s Blitz’ making it to the top of everyone’s list, she proved that she has the longevity required to make a serious mark in the Noughties hall of fame. And Speech Debelle’s modest Mercury win earned another point for us girls, as well as emphasising the rich variety of talent that exists out there in the feminine ether.
So, with established artists adding to their already sparkly repertoire and newer acts breaking through the frequently unyielding wall of the music industry, the fairer sex have done pretty well for themselves this year, it must be said.

Lily Allen

Lily Allen in 2008 was much as we’d come to expect: a shambolic poster girl for celebrity excess, swiftly becoming a tabloid trainwreck. Critical acclaim for 2006 debut album ‘Alright, Still’ all but forgotten, the following years were, as Allen admits, “off the rails”.

“Everyone must think I’m a complete twat,” she said recently. “If I didn’t know me, I’d think I was one.” In 2009 however, the girl once pictured pulling a Basic Instinct leg cross is fronting Chanel campaigns, picking up awards and shyly claiming to be ‘genuinely shocked’ by the accolades.

With a Bat For Lashes-cum-Gaga wardrobe, Allen embarked on a festival-heavy international tour for ‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’ – still employing her successful lyrical formula of wit and honesty, but grown up enough to playfully acknowledge her celebrity.

Quitting Internet blogs stemmed the drip-feed of media gossip, and she’s now set on taking a break from music – though EMI hastily retracted her ‘I quit’ statement earlier this year.

“I feel like I need to go out and live a little bit more,” she said in October. “And then I’ll see.” Sheer bloody talent has banished the fur-coat-no-knickers showbiz offspring, but we hope it’s not a complete retirement. Oh hang on, are those some co-headline dates with Dizzee Rascal next March…?

Words by Amy Swales

Juanita Stein

While much is often made of a hot female musician’s looks in a band, there is one underrated femme fatale who gently smoulders from the indie sidelines without relying on her appearance.

Step forward Howling Bells’ Juanita Stein, a talented musician whose song writing ability was lauded across the board upon the release of their self-titled debut.

Having written much of the album alone in her bedroom, she had difficulty in persuading male contemporaries that the resulting songs were her own hard work.

She acknowledges that such misogyny is now changing, however. “The realms within what is ‘acceptable’ for female musicians has changed,” she explains. “Our range of expression, emotion and aesthetic seems boundless right now.”

Juanita may have since relinquished solo writing duties to include the rest of her band mates, but her influence – and honeyed vocals – still looms large across their aesthetic and sound.

2009 has been hit and miss for the Australian chanteuse and her band of merry men – second LP ‘Radio Wars’, a vividly technicolour record, is sadly one of the more under-appreciated releases of this year.

Despite this, Howling Bells made strong progress in America when they supported Coldplay, something that is sure to stand them in good stead for the future.

And what of the future? A third album, of course. “We’re all currently holed up in a country house in Australia jamming our hearts out every day.”

Words by Laura Foster

October

Morrissey is never one of music’s most predictable artists. In the space of a month the Manchester singer collapsed onstage in Swindon before ending a Liverpool show after just one song. Hit on the head following opening track ‘This Charming Man’ the iconic lyricist departed, leaving a trail of dust in his wake. Leaving behind the misery of Blighty for the continent, a show in Germany just a few days later saw the one time Smiths icon turf out another fan. His advice? “Go fuck yourself”. How eloquent…

Oasis have never enjoyed the most relaxing of relationships. Led by the Gallagher brothers the siblings have always had their fall outs, with both parties having previously walked away from the group. However following a cataclysmic argument at a French music festival the band was left with crippled. Guitarist Noel Gallagher walked out citing unacceptable “intimidation” towards himself and his family, leaving fans across the world shocked.

November / December

Amongst the year’s musical deaths none were more keenly felt than that of Jerry Fuchs. A lynchpin of the New York scene the drummer propelled the tribal groove of !!! before joining The Juan MacLean. A pivotal figure at DFA Records the musician also worked with LCD Soundsystem. Jerry Fuchs died tragically in an accident this November.

Aerosmith are one of the biggest names in rock music. With a career spanning over thirty years the band have had more than their share of fall outs. However recent events have pushed the rock giants to breaking point. Frontman Steve Tyler fell offstage during a North American show, forcing the cancellation of several tour dates. Secluding himself away from the band, a series of interviews with Aerosmith led to fears that the group were set to split. However Steve Tyler announced his intentions in spectacular style, bounding onstage at a band mate’s solo show. Denying any intentions on leaving Aerosmith, the singer left the stage with the cryptic message “I am the motherfucking rainbow”.

Calvin Harris is not one of life’s more predictable individuals. The Scottish dance producer is prone to foul mouthed Twitter outbursts, sparked by the slightest condemnation of his music. GMTV’s failure to show his new video was met by the accusation that it is a “beige death hole”. However perhaps the most entertaining incident came on X Factor. Invited to the show as a member of the audience, Calvin Harris was so enraged by notorious Irish twosome Jedward that he leaped onstage with a pineapple on his head.

Robi Insinna aka Headman and Manhead faced some of his toughest questions ever in our last personality clash with Erol Alkan. This issue Zurich based producer Robi sets the questions for output records boss, legend of the uk hip-hop scene, producer, remixer and top designer Trevor Jackson, who throughout his life has made, and continues to make, serious waves in enough areas to satisfy three careers. Now he finds enough time to give clash the rundown too.

H: Tell us a little bit about the early Underdog, The Brotherhood and Bite it! days and how it all turned into Output.

TJ: I started out making sounds after being inspired by the Usual Suspects, Grandmaster Flash, Double D and Steinski and Art of Noise etc. Until I got my hands on a Commodore 64 I was making pause button mix tapes in the style of the old school edit kings, The Latin Rascals, Omar Santana and Chep Nunez. I wasn’t so much into making music but making collages of sound and was studying Graphics at college and these techniques were just an aural extension of what I was doing visually.

The first track I ever properly made was a house track sampling the bass from Gwen Guthrie’s ‘Peanut Butter’. I loved early house music and was designing sleeves for most of the seminal records of the time like Todd Terry, Frankie Bones and Pal Joey. I continued to make instrumental hip-hop until I met The Brotherhood, a rap crew who were based in north-west London where I was living.

We began to make tracks together, and eventually I created the label Bite It! to release the first Brotherhood EP ‘Descendants of the Holocaust’. This record, a Jewish hip-hop perspective, began to get media attention. As the band progressed and with a string of well received singles under their belts the band reformed as a multicultural trio, who signed to Virgin Records. I also began to remix artists such as Massive Attack, U2, The House of Pain, Run DMC and many others under the Underdog moniker. This work stopped for 2 years while we created the ‘Elementals’ album which, when finally released, was hailed by many as ‘the best British hip-hop album ever made’.

All this attention began to cause friction between myself, who as creator of 100% of all the music and production was more than happy to shun the limelight, and the band whose egos after numerous interviews and TV appearances began to far outgrow their modest record sales. After being asked to leave the band, I happily went on to resurrect my remix career, whilst after throwing me out, The Brotherhood spent the next decade blaming me for their loss of career! This situation, the financial nightmare of running an independent UK label along with the death of my close friend and manager Marts Andrups forced me to rethink my career.

Hip-hop was becoming more and more restricted creatively and lyrically. I found very little of the integrity and intelligence I loved in the classic MCs like KRS1, Chuck D, De La Soul and Ultramagnetic MCs. Everything had turned to sex, money and violence and I really didn’t want to be part of that anymore. I then took a long time out and decided to create a new label, which would allow me to release music of any form.

Output was born and along with it the chance to design record sleeves for my own bands whose music I loved (unlike the manufactured dross I had ended up working on for the previous couple of years). I swiftly made Output my number one priority. I was working with unique and highly talented young artists like Fridge and Fourtet, who totally understood what I was trying to do, and finally had an outlet to express all my varied musical tastes.

H: Why do you think it took a while for people to notice Output? Before it was really underground and it was hard to get the records.

TJ: Output is now 9 years old and since the beginning I have been incredibly fortunate to have had the positive support of the media, due to my earlier work, something which is so integral to building the strong foundations of an independent label. Most of the early releases were only printed in very limited runs, mainly because we didn’t actually think we could sell any more! We also spent time producing expensive but innovative packaging, which created a great demand early on.

H: I’m based in Switzerland, over here and in Germany you are seen as a kind of style guru. Do you like being seen as that?

TJ: Essentially I want to surround myself with things that have a purpose, things that exist for a genuine reason, and as much as people might think otherwise, trends are really not important to me. What I respect most is things that have an integral sense of timelessness; I hate transient culture. I want to possess something for a lifetime, something that functions well and I want to look at forever. Younger people are now brought up with a really throwaway attitude, which I think is crass. Taste is totally subjective, I am not interested in anything because I am told I should or have to like it. People are too easily influenced by marketing nowadays and are scared of having a strong opinion and being an individual. These are the things that I grew up with. People today want to feel safe, feeling part of a gang, not standing out, that’s a crying shame.

H: What do you think of the rise of the Punk- Funk revival? Do you feel you are the pioneer of this style?

TJ: It’s flattering that I may have decided to revitalise a form of music and update it for a generation who didn’t know, or another that forgot. I did what I did because I had a genuine feeling that the music I loved was being ignored and needed to be re-formatted in another way so people could start to discover what fantastic music there was being made in the 80s. I always felt that era really lacked the deserved respect that the 60s and 70s always seemed to get. I didn’t work hard to create any type of movement or scene. I would really rather to be seen as a pioneer of a form of music that is totally innovative and original than something that I am honest enough to admit is just a contemporary update of something that has gone before.

H: Tell us about your design work. Are you doing loads at the moment? How do you see the connection between art, music and fashion? Who is your favourite artist, designer, or biggest inspiration in creating visuals?

TJ: As explained before I thrive on ideas, I try not to separate all these things, there is only good creativity and bad creativity to me. At the moment good is simple, strong, direct and authentic. I don’t have any one favourite, there are thousands of things I love, I find it so hard to concentrate sometimes when there is so much great shit around at the moment in all fields of creativity. Quite how I manage to work when I could spend every waking moment in the cinema, listening to music and reading books and magazines is a mystery.

H: How do you find the time to do all the different things: remixing, producing and art directing?

TJ: Not easily, I would much rather be doing one thing well than 10 things not so well. Working on the Soulwax artwork was the rare opportunity to pretty much drop everything else for a small while, and it really shows to me. It’s the first thing I think I have ever done that I am more than 75% happy with.

H: I’m sure a lot of people wanna know, what’s happening with your own productions? I heard some rumours that you have a lot of new material?

TJ: Well I currently have over 100 tracks that are sitting nervously in my hard-drive awaiting finishing touches. I love them all, so want to try to get 5 albums out in the next year (that’s not including Playgroup). Some of these things are so old now I really should hate them, but they still sound fresh to me. So I am trying to divide them into different projects and find a bit of time to decide on some vocalists between these long interviews, being an indie record mogul and and designing stuff for the label. One of them is called ‘Pink Lunch’, a track has appeared on a Gigolo compilation and also a Colette compilation. There’s the Post No Bills Project, which debuts on the next Kitsune compilation. An RnB album, a hip-hop album and a kind of mutant house thing, got lots to do. I think I need to get some people to help me finish them.

Oh and there’s our project Robbie; Don’t Forget The Drugs EP (a crack track, a smack track, an acid track and a weed track) from the two cleanest men in music. I think we should get an award or something?

H: Regarding the release of your remix album: what do you think of remixing? Do you enjoy it? Do you think it’s a good thing? What is the criteria for you to choose a song for remixing and to commit to it? Do you ever have the feeling you give away too many ideas that maybe could have been used for your own track?

TJ: I did over 80 remixes as the Underdog and nearly 25 as Playgroup, it can be fun. I am fortunate that I very rarely do these things for the cash and have the chance to do things for amazing artists. I would like to think I have never really done anything that doesn’t really have some honest relation the original somehow and I always try to get inside the head of the band and the type of music they like etc when I approach the mix.

I always want them to be happy but in 15 years of this job I have only ever had two direct compliments; one from Peshay for my ‘Miles At Home Remix’ and one from the RZA who loved a Gravediggaz mix and apparently wanted to re-vocal his part. I would only ever do a remix if I think I could do something as good or improve the original somehow. As for giving away ideas, I actually think it has taught me loads & inspired me to do the things. It is frustrating that for most of my mixes. I always recreate all the music and keep the original vocal, yet earn no publishing. It’s like I have written over 100 pieces of original music and not really got the income I deserve.

H: When is Mister Jackson gonna get a family and settle down?

TJ: When I can find a woman that can put up with me.

In recent years, hip-hop has been declared dead more times than Michael Myers. Now, after a cycle of gangsta nihilism and goofy dance hits, its fortunes are slowly changing. It took a senator from Chicago to breathe new life into American politics and it seems the Windy City has lungs enough to save hip-hop too. From Kanye West to Common and Lupe Fiasco, Chi-town’s rap alumni has all but colonised the top of the pop charts. Now a new class is in session and its star pupils, the freshest of freshmen, are called the Cool Kids.

Mickey Rocks and Chuck Inglish met on MySpace two years ago and have been racking up friends ever since. Their super combo meal of succulent slow flows, ear-amazing wordplay and sparse, future-thinking beats oozes the kind unpretentious fun that rap fans are hungry for. They pepper songs with references to early hip-hop culture and the cool stuff they grew up around; you’re more likely to hear them boasting about the blag mags on their bikes than the spinning rims on their ride. This, though, has found them criticised by some. Inglish, aged 23 and the older of the two by three years, is irked by accusations that the Cool Kids are ’80s revivalists. You can call their music what you like, he says, but don’t call it a throwback. “This is stuff we were born into. We’re not trying to capitalise on anything or bring anything back. We’re just kids who never grew up.” Listen to songs like ‘I Rock’ and ‘Gold And A Pager’ and you’ll see what he means. They sound like they’re having a blast. But while they have jokes for days they don’t rap dumb. “We didn’t have a plan to bring the old hip-hop shit back. We’re just doing what we know how to do right. And we’re good at it.”

“People think they got us figured out. Don’t get it confused, man. We will rap your ass into a hole. We are writers and you will get demolished.”

Rocks is happier to concede that rap music from the late ’80s and early ’90s has helped shape their sound and, more importantly, their attitude. “It was a really good time for hip-hop,” he says. “It was really organic. Nobody was really getting paid that much – you were the man if you went gold – so nobody was really doing it to make that quick cash like now. Back then everybody was just doing it for the art.” One band in particular, he admits, has had a big influence on them. “The Beastie Boys had a live show that was like a rock show. They paved the way for the dudes like us to just go into this whole hip-hop thing with a band mentality.” The Cool Kids have been quick to forge a reputation as one of the best live hip-hop acts around and it didn’t happen by accident.

“My dad used to say he didn’t like to watch hip-hop,” explains Inglish. “He used to love it, but said some of the shows were just horrible. I took that shit to heart.” Rocks says the band not only know how to move a crowd, but engage it too. “Some other rappers just pace back and forth looking at the ground rapping their stupid songs,” he says. “We interact. We party with the crowd. People come to see us and we’re honoured so we try to make it as much fun as possible.” It’s not nostalgia that drives the Cool Kids but a desire to take the best of hip-hop’s past, to fix old mistakes, and fuse it with something new. “It’s all of our influences, hip-hop and otherwise, all rolled into one,” says Rocks of their sonic signature. “Everything we listen to and everything we love. It’s all rolled up into one big burrito of music.”

In late 2007 the Cool Kids played at a Chicago benefit for local hero and presidential hopeful Barack Obama. “It was us, Macy Gray, Jeff Tweedy…an interesting combination,” says Inglish. They met Obama backstage just before he made his speech. Rocks does a killer impression. “He said, “Hey Cool Kids, right? You guys are up-and-coming like me, that’s good!” He has that voice. It’s crazy, man, how a voice can be so powerful. It was cool sitting there and being able to chop it up with him for a while.” While many of their early songs are about little more than the joy of stacking words on top of each other and how cool it is to be a Cool Kid, ‘Action Figures’ sees them flip into social commentary and hints at new, unexplored depths in their music. “That song is kind of like a warning sticker,” says Rocks. “People think they got us figured out. All these hip-hop guys say ‘oh, you make cool music, but you can’t rap, not really,’ even though we’re rapping our asses off in every song. Don’t get it confused, man. We will rap your ass into a hole. We are writers and you will get demolished.”

“When we get back to the States we’re going to start work on our album,” says Inglish, who also produces the band’s beats. “There’s a level that people expect from the Cool Kids and they’re anticipating. But they anticipating old shit. And the new shit…seriously. I will talk that shit up. I can talk as much shit as I want because we are going to go above and beyond. We’re at a whole new stage. I have this whole sonic theme planned. It’s going to sound like jeep music. It’s laidback, but just crazy. Like N2Deep’s ‘Back To The Hotel’. We’ve got this whole rider music thing going on.”

Inglish and Rock are cool kids, focused on the good times, but don’t let that fool you. They know the world has problems and sometimes they’ll talk about it. The rest of the time, well, that’s the party. And they’re going to kick it like kickstands.

WORDS BY SCOTT WRIGHT

24 hours in Chicago
Mikey Rocks: “We live together in an apartment where our landlords harass us a lot. We live a little bit north of downtown, kinda north-westside.” Chuck Inglish: “You can’t see Chicago in 24 hours. You gotta move there. We don’t have a Times Square or a monument that says, ‘This is Chicago’.”

MR: “Giordano’s deep dish pizza, man. That’s my gift to the rest of the world. You come to Chicago and get the Giordano’s deep dish. Your life will never be the same. You haven’t tasted pizza until you’ve tasted that.”

CE: “You need to get some kind of deal going with them, man.”

MR: “I should! I give them so much publicity. I go in there and I’m like ‘$18.99, please.’ They should be giving me free pieces! But if you go, eat that. Eat that and like it because it’s the best. You should get shoes from St. Alfred. They always hold us down and save us a pair of Jordan’s in the back when the new ones come out. I’m always there. But you gotta live in Chicago for two years to find out what it’s really like. You gotta go through every season. We have real seasons here. And you gotta go through every season twice. Then you find out what Chicago’s about.”

In the Club
CE: “You should come and listen to me DJ to hear the shit I like. I don’t really play no new shit. I like funk; not funk like George Clinton, but that Minneapolis sound. Acts like Time, Cherrelle… I like people from that era between disco and ’90s R&B. Like Roger Troutman and George Benson. I DJ at a club called Empire Liquors, at the Debonair Social Club, Buddha Lounge… I DJ all over the city.”

MR: “Chicago runs in nights, not spots really. Sonotheque is dope on certain nights. Subterranean’s got some dope nights. Metro has always got some dope shows. Our friends throw parties at some of the clubs in the Wicker Park area. It’s kind of like the Soho of Chicago. It’s way more fun in the summer than the wintertime. Winter, you got to make that fun because it’s rough, but summer time is dope. We have crazy festivals too. Pitchfork and Lollapalooza; it doesn’t get any better than that. It’s a good time for music in Chicago. There’s a lot of people trying to do their own thing which is refreshing. Nobody’s trying to cut from the same cloth as anybody else.”

Jukemusic
MR: “Juke is Chicago party music. It’s weird how the rest of the world is really amazed by it. Growing up out there, it’s what we’ve been doing since we were shorty shorties; really young, like 5th grade. I didn’t know the rest of the world didn’t know about it. It’s played at every party, man. We’d play the regular party songs and then turn on the juke mix and everyone’s like ‘ahhh yeah’, and then it gets started, man. It’s cool because I grew up with that stuff. It’s pretty much my childhood, every party was just juke stuff. Now that I look back on it we were a part of a really cool underground scene that nobody really knew about. There aren’t really juke acts, it’s more a DJ driven scene. Check out DJs like Gant Man and Nehpets. DJ Chip – he was a childhood hero man. DJ Chip had every mixtape on super-lock man. He was the Lil Wayne, Jay Z of juke stuff back then. It’s a fun, fun form of music. Play it at a Chicago party and see what happens. It goes down every time.”

A to Z:
BARACK OBAMA
Chicagoan presidential hopeful who chops it up with the Cool Kids.

BUDDHA LOUNGE
Oriental-themed club on W. Grand Avenue.

DEBONAIR SOCIAL CLUB
Head for the basement of this Wicker Park nightclub.

DJ CHIP
A driJuke DJ and local hero.

DJ GANT-MAN
AKA General Juke, one of the scene’s most popular DJ/producers.

DJ NEHPETS
Juke legend with a popular show on Chicago’s Power 92.

EMPIRE LIQUORS
Cool Bucktown bar and lounge.

GIORDANO’S
Home of the world famous deep dish pizza.

JUKE
120bpm Chicago party music that combines rap, house and booty bass. Check YouTube for amazing the amazing dancers.

LOLLAPALOOZA
Chicago’s most famous music festival.

METRO
Northside concert hall with impeccable booking policy.

N2DEEP
Early ’90s Chicano gangster rappers who scored a hit with ‘Back To The Hotel’.

PITCHFORK MUSIC FESTIVAL
Bryant Park festival curated by the indierthan- thou website.

SONOTHEQUE
Elegant Chi-town club with some great nights.

ST. ALFRED
Chicago’s premier sneaker and apparel spot.

SUBTERRANEAN
Popular Wicker Park club and home to Chicago’s most popular hip-hop night.

WICKER PARK
Hip Chicago neighbourhood. Their Soho or Shoreditch. For weblinks to all of Chicago’s essential hotspots, see ClashMusic.com/local-heroe

It’s depressingly true, but female musicians are often judged more on their aesthetic value than on their overriding musical abilities.

This is sometimes the unavoidable curse of our sex, but it is in no way immutable. Just look at Beth Ditto. Defying convention and putting two fingers up to those judgmental bastards, the ferocious front woman stormed back onto the scene earlier this year with Gossip’s fourth studio album, ‘Music For Men.’ And she didn’t disappoint.

This raucous American has certainly broken the mould in a number of ways, gaining widespread critical acclaim and oodles of respect for her talent as a chanteuse and not as a visual stimulant for the male libido. And she joins the stellar line-up of women who have this year made waves and pushed boundaries for the sake of music. Yes, 2009 has certainly been their time to shine.

With Karen O and her third album ‘It’s Blitz’ making it to the top of everyone’s list, she proved that she has the longevity required to make a serious mark in the Noughties hall of fame. And Speech Debelle’s modest Mercury win earned another point for us girls, as well as emphasising the rich variety of talent that exists out there in the feminine ether.
So, with established artists adding to their already sparkly repertoire and newer acts breaking through the frequently unyielding wall of the music industry, the fairer sex have done pretty well for themselves this year, it must be said.

Beth Ditto

Bursting back onto our radar this year was the hard-to-miss Beth Ditto with The Gossip’s latest album ‘Music For Men’.

Renowned for her Gok-Wan-would-be-proud body confidence, Ditto has become the muse of many designers due to her outlandish fashion sense, with Chanel even providing her with one-off versions of their usually size six garments.

Yet, at twenty-eight, Beth’s larger than life personality (and size) is something that has far from overshadowed her incredible musical prowess. Her almighty vocals exude an unrivalled soulfulness with their glass-shattering strength capable of diluting any feeling other than the compulsive desire to dance.

Choosing not to shave her armpits or wear deodorant, Beth is the complete embodiment of nonchalance when it comes to what people think of her, yet fiercely defensive of her family and her long-term girlfriend.

Fronting Gossip’s worldwide tour into the New Year, the unconventional fashionista looks set to continue to shove two proverbial fingers up at the expectations of others. No doubt making the music industry a better (and more interesting) place for it.

Words by Laura Routledge

Vivian Girls

Another trio of Brooklynites fighting for the women’s corner. But this time it’s the Sixties infused sound of the Vivian Girls jangling their way to the top spot.

Bright-eyed and bushy tailed, Cassie, Katy and Frankie began their musical journey just two years ago. And in that time they have achieved a hell of a lot, releasing two critically acclaimed albums and cementing their status as a worthy all-female indie band. Vivian Girls’ eponymous debut is an exercise in accessible noise-pop, best served painstakingly lo-fi. Short sharp bursts of frantic, crashing guitars and soulful three-part vocal harmonies bring to mind the spirit of The Shangri-Las.

And thankfully the girls’ second offering has not progressed far from this, although it appears to inhabit a strangely self-conscious mentality, with darker lyrical constructs and even thrashier guitars taking centre stage.

This assumption is not far off the mark. According to guitarist Cassie, ‘Everything Goes Wrong’ is an album hinged on negative emotional experiences. “I tend to use songwriting as a therapeutic measure,” she says “And there was a hell of a lot of material to write about between the recording of the first album and the second. When I write songs I play guitar for a while and see what comes out, usually stuff that my subconscious is dwelling on. So, most of ‘Everything Goes Wrong’ is about what I was dwelling on in 2008 and a lot of emotion went into it.”

But, rest assured, there is no dramatic transformation on the cards for the Vivian Girls just yet. They are planning on taking their sound even further back in terms of production value. “We have very specific ideas about how we want to record and mix our next album,” says Cassie. “Ideas that are more or less settled around getting back to the basics – forgetting a lot of the unnecessary baggage recording technology has left us with over the past forty or fifty years, using almost no effects or overdubs (except in cases where an overdub is an aesthetic decision). Basically I think that the less excess is put into a recording, the better the chance is of actually capturing the emotion of why you wrote the song in the first place – that’s why I think I generally like recordings from before 1963 the most. Which is not to say that we’re going about recording haphazardly. A lot of thought is going into the logistics of it so that we can more accurately capture what the songs are about when it comes time to do it, and we want it to sound beautiful.”

Rock and roll has never sounded so sweet.

Words by April Welsh

Mick Jones and Tony James are part of Britain’s rock heritage thanks to their groups the clash and Sigue Sigue Sputnik, but they’re also part of its future with Carbon/Silicon.

As musical innovators come Carbon/Silicon are up there with the best. With The Clash Mick Jones helped bring funk, hip-hop, reggae and rockabilly into the narrow punk genre.

With Joe Strummer, the guitarist wrote and sung The Clash’s canon of rock classics from the early garage sound of ‘White Riot’ and ‘Career Opportunities’ to the trippy, expansive and genreless ‘Sandinista’.

Later with Big Audio Dynamite and Dreadzone (both underrated) he pushed the boundaries even further using samples and Mick’s rapper delivery. Tony James has known Jones over 30 years when he was also a mover in the early punk movement. The duo were briefly in the London SS but musically went their separate ways. Bassist James formed Generation X with Billy Idol in 1976 bringing punk to a more mainstream audience with their self-titled debut and follow-up ‘Valley Of The Dolls’.

In the next decade Tony indulged his passion for electronic music founding Sigue Sigue Sputnik whose new wave music and futuristic visual imagery stunned pop.

The pair have been putting out music as Carbon/Silicon on the web since 2002 – Tony is a major technophile. Initially building songs around classic rock samples they’re now releasing their first physical release ‘The News EP’.

Clash Mag’ met the duo at Mick’s West London studio where the two were suited and booted in smart pinstripes. We were shown in, handed cans of Kronenbourg and given a tour of the vast library of Jones’ next door.

So we sat back and watched them chat…

Tony: Well we started this 5 years ago when I had an idea for a song called ‘MP Free’. It’s a song about freedom of music on the internet. We can make the music and go to the laptop and put it straight on the Internet.

Mick: It’s now the same as when we came in with Punk. The same situation now only they can’t figure out how to get it under control. It’s like what we did in the old days.

Tony: The deal with the Internet is that we don’t have to deal with corporations who are only interested in money. Now so many artists come along and just put four songs on MySpace.

Mick: They don’t know nothing about music. It should be about our creative culture- so we aren’t gonna dance to their tune anymore. Things move on and we adapt to it and embrace the new technology.

Tony: Carbon/Sillicon grew organically but we had to do it with dignity. When we first started we sampled MC5 and The Who and put it over dance beats. That meant the first album was unreleasable!

Mick: That’s where it came from but it’s now a traditional 4-piece band with Leo from Dreadzone and the drummer Dominic, who was in Reef.

Tony: Now we’re playing rock and roll by understanding dance. We phased out the samples so the songs don’t have any loops in.

Mick: Where do you get your ideas from then?

Tony: You never know what comes into your mind. I write a lot driving at 80mph and listening to techno music. Years ago Alan McGee asked me to DJ at Death Disco so I started making mash ups of rock over dance beats. People aren’t using loops of rock and roll groups like Slade and the MC5 so I did and it gave us this fresh exciting pallet. That early stuff we are remixing at the moment it’s gonna be impossible to release it because of all the samples.

Mick: I really like that idea of a blank page and turning it into some-thing. Our track ‘Third World War Poetry’ is about England and on ‘Why Do Men Fight’ I wanted to say what it’s like to be us.

Tony: It’s like I come in with a pitch and then you make it into a song.

Mick: And I’m better at everything now, writing songs, playing the guitar. I always felt I was too young for things; I always wanted to be older. The good thing is even now we haven’t stopped learning. If I stopped learning I’d be a stalactite! We get into a band and find out what inspires them. It’s a line that runs both ways. You pass it on. It s like in The Exorcist when your head turns round. That’s why The Libertines were important because we (Jones produced both their albums) did the records in the old way.

Tony: Do you remember where we first met?

Mick: I think we met in the Fulham Greyhound, it was a hairy metal kids gig. I was about to get chucked out of the group (The London SS) so they brought you down to pal up with me. We both had long hair. He came in with a semi-mullet and a budgie jacket. When you were in Generation X we always remained friends. I liked all the Sigue Sigue Sputnik stuff – they were really ahead of their time.

Tony: What scares you most?

Mick: Fame – we know the shit parts of it and we are beginning to see it again. You can’t say you don’t want to be famous when you are already but there are all the contradictions that come with it. You have to wonder if you’re verging on narcissism though I’m really proud of all The Clash stuff. Like Malcolm (McClaren) said to us at the time, “Don’t think about things too much”.

Tony: You have to make music but the other stuff is bullshit. We always describe it as climbing a mountain. When you are young you get up faster. For our third time up the mountain we’re more careful cos now we know how scary it is getting to the top. We are trying to enjoy the moment though.

WORDS BY THOMAS THOROGOOD

The Portuguese capital of Lisbon may not be where you expected Europe’s most exciting, raw and raucous new music to spring from, but then you probably hadn’t reckoned on the arrival of Buraka Som Sistema. Their sound, an alchemic mix of Jurassic bass, crackling African polyrhythms and party-starting mischief is, they say, “the sound of kuduro”.

The band recently visited Angola, Africa’s second largest diamond producer and birthplace of kuduro, the bombastic electronic dance music that has helped make them Portugal’s hottest musical property. “We were searching for the Black Diamond!” laughs Joao Barbosa, better known as Lil John. “A lot of people don’t realise that there are these huge cities in African countries. Everyone thinks it’s all lions and safaris, but it’s not,” he says. “Kuduro comes from these cities. It doesn’t come from traditional music, it exists as a reaction to it. It’s anti-world music. At the beginning of the ’90s it wasn’t anything more than an Angolan guy trying to make techno or house. But because he doesn’t think like a German guy or an American guy, because his mind thinks in a different way in terms of rhythm, he developed this amazing new take on old sounds.”

Nowadays kuduro is big business. With a legion of MCs and producers and an uncompromising attitude it has become Africa’s answer to hip-hop. It says a lot about the music that, literally translated, means ‘hard ass’. The sound soon spread to Portugal via Angolan immigrants, arriving in the Lisbon suburbs where Barbosa grew up. He had been producing music with old school friend Rui Pité AKA DJ Riot and the pair decided to start incorporating kuduro into their sound. “We grew up on bass music: jungle, drum and bass, hip-hop and dubstep. We love it all. So 50% of our music is that stuff, as much as it is kuduro. We took the rhythmic construction and added our own ideas.”

The pair began a club night to showcase this new hybrid strain of kuduro. “The night was called Buraka Som Sistema: Buraka, the area, and Sound System. So that’s where the name comes from. It’s also where the band grew from. We developed our own little web of people and it started from there.” It was at this club night that Andro Carvalho, known as Conductor, introduced himself. The trio would become the core members of Buraka Som Sistema. MCs like Kalef, an integral part of the band’s live shows, were also regulars.

Barbosa is keen to stress that Buraka’s sound is notably different from the kuduro you find in Africa. “It wouldn’t be honest of us to say this is pure kuduro,” he explains. “We had a big show in Lisbon on Friday and we invited this group of dancers, there were six of them. They’re one of the best kuduro dance groups in Lisbon and two of them are white kids. There is a new generation of kids growing up around Lisbon and they reflect what we’re doing. There’s a fusion of cultures, Angolan and Portuguese.”

The band made the trip to Angola in order to further understand kuduro and to work with a number of MCs. “People were really receptive to our work,” says Barbosa. “They really understood that we weren’t trying to colonize their sound and sneak back to Europe with it. They understand the difference between their sound and ours. A lot of kuduro doesn’t generally use synthesizers or basslines and the people we hung out with understood that this was what made our sound popular with European audiences. Everyone we met wanted to work with us because of the challenge as well. We don’t really do proper kuduro beats so they wanted to try and rhyme over our kind of beat.” The fruits of this trip will appear on Buraka Som Sistema’s forthcoming album, ‘Black Diamond’.

The title was inspired by the diamond trade and all its flaws. While in Angola the band met an entrepreneur who ploughed his considerable diamond profits into a record label, a lonely example of the country’s resources benefitting its people. “It’s terrible the way the money from diamonds leaves that country,” say Barbosa. “The money should be used to develop cities and the whole structure of the country, but instead millions and millions of dollars pour out, and the diamonds end up in bracelets that people wear on stage. Our diamond is different. It’s black and it’s rough, fresh from the mine. It represents the whole process, from the ground up.” Barbosa has recently discovered more meaning in the name. “I went to Cape Town a few months ago and found out that a black diamond was a second generation black guy from humble beginnings who’s made it in life. A self-made man. That’s us too.”

Buraka Som Sistema concerts are explosive affairs. This is a band well versed in the art of partying, so the political nature of some of their music may come as a surprise. “Some of our songs – like ‘Yah!’ – are about nothing. They’re just party tracks,” says Barbosa. “But when we made ‘Sound Of Kuduro’ with M.I.A. we knew the world would be listening. We knew 80% of the people listening wouldn’t be able to understand the verses [like all Buraka songs, they are delivered in Portuguese] but we wanted there to be substance for those that could understand. So that song is, as the title suggests, about the history of kuduro. It started there. Some of the songs tackle political concepts and issues, both Portuguese and Angolan. We don’t claim to be Public Enemy, we’re about making people dance, but if you can throw some words on top of that music, words that make sense, helpful words, then perfect.”

Words by Scott Wright

Fish Mode
“We usually hang out around an area called Bairro Alto. There’s loads of bars, restaurants, and small clubs. Before dinner we might go to Nubai café for a cocktail. These last few days I’ve been on my fish mode, so going down to the Belem area and getting some fresh fish on the grill is definitely a necessity! Round summer time a typical Lisbon meal is definitely fish or meat grilled with some rock salt and whatever you have to go with it. After dinner we might go for drinks at Maria Caxuxa, Bicaense, Clube da Esquina… there’s loads of them!! If we make it to the next level – wasted – then onto LUX. We go here three or four times a year when we have our Enchufada parties.”

The Burbs
“Some of us live in Lisbon and others in the suburbs, near where we grew up. Me and DJ Riot met in high school, a long time ago. We used to go round each other’s houses and try to make music on computers. Throughout our whole evolution we’d DJ at different parties in the suburbs, like the night that eventually kick started the band. It’s hard these days to get away from tourism in a European capital, but to show you the real city I would probably give you an introduction to the suburbs. We could visit Amadora, which is where I grew up or Buraka or Queluz. Inevitably we would end up in some Angolan friend’s house eating ‘muamba de galinha’ and ‘funge’!”

The Scene
“Lisbon had the worst music scene possible during the ’90s. Everybody was in grunge cover bands. It just wasn’t very interesting. Hip-hop made Lisbon interesting again. Because it became possible to do everything yourself in one room and invite all your friends over to rap. It was just easier to be creative like that. Music is closer to the room where it was made. A lot of bands got picked up, but it’s complicated here. There are a lot of small labels who only have one or two acts. We’ve always been into bass music of all kinds. Riot and I have been producing for years. At the moment I really like Macacos do Chines and Octapush.”

Clash’s A to Z:of Portugal

Amadora
Portuguese city nearby Lisbon, where Lil John and DJ Riot grew up.

Bairro Alto
One of Lisbon’s oldest and most animated districts. Bel ém Picturesque Lisbon district, near the coast.

Bicaense Stylish
Lisbon lounge bar (Rua da Bica Duarte Belo, 38-42, Bairro Alto).

Buraka
One of Lisbon’s sprawling suburbs.

Clube da Esquina
Lisbon nightclub that opens mid-afternoon. (Rua da Barroca, 30-32, Bairro Alto.)

Enchufada
Label run by Buraka Som Sistema. Funge Angolan dish, usually made from cornflour.

Kuduro
Unruly Angolan dance music.

LUX
Lisbon nightclub and home to Enchufada label parties.

Macacos do Chines
Crazy Portuguese hip-hop group.

Maria Caxuxa
Another great bar in Bairro Alto. Mini-Mercado Fridge-obsessed Lisbon nightspot.

Muamba de Galinha
An Angolan chicken and palm oil stew. Musicbox Lisbon’s premier venue.

Nubai café
Laidback bar in sunny Plaza Doctor Collado, Lisbon. Octapush Purveyors of awesome Portuguese club music.

Queluz
One of Lisbon’s many suburbs, home to large Angolan community.

It’s depressingly true, but female musicians are often judged more on their aesthetic value than on their overriding musical abilities.

This is sometimes the unavoidable curse of our sex, but it is in no way immutable. Just look at Beth Ditto. Defying convention and putting two fingers up to those judgmental bastards, the ferocious front woman stormed back onto the scene earlier this year with Gossip’s fourth studio album, ‘Music For Men.’ And she didn’t disappoint.

This raucous American has certainly broken the mould in a number of ways, gaining widespread critical acclaim and oodles of respect for her talent as a chanteuse and not as a visual stimulant for the male libido. And she joins the stellar line-up of women who have this year made waves and pushed boundaries for the sake of music. Yes, 2009 has certainly been their time to shine.

With Karen O and her third album ‘It’s Blitz’ making it to the top of everyone’s list, she proved that she has the longevity required to make a serious mark in the Noughties hall of fame. And Speech Debelle’s modest Mercury win earned another point for us girls, as well as emphasising the rich variety of talent that exists out there in the feminine ether.
So, with established artists adding to their already sparkly repertoire and newer acts breaking through the frequently unyielding wall of the music industry, the fairer sex have done pretty well for themselves this year, it must be said.

Florence Welch

Since her 2008 release of ‘Kiss With A Fist’, Florence Welch has seduced a horde of infatuated fans and earned critical acclaim.

From winning the Critics Choice Award at the Brits in February this year, Florence released ‘Lungs’. The thirteen-track album sold over 100,000 copies in the UK and maintained a number two position in the Top 40 for five deserving weeks. Her debut showcased everything that we had hoped for from the twenty-three-year-old singer/songwriter.

The clambering redhead is a hurricane of strength, vulnerability, self-assuredness and insecurity; an entirely addictive paradox.

Florence’s monumental vocals force out her infectious all-encompassing passion. That, underpinned by a gothic depth, effortlessly exudes her ability to articulate every pain your pitiful heart ever endured, but could never find the words to express.

The summer saw Florence shine doing what she does best to thousands of dry-shampooed, welly-toting festival-goers at Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds. Fearlessly mounting stage speakers and having the time of her life, she demonstrated to the adoring fans below exactly why she has come so far.
Now, with plans to perform in Australia and Japan in 2010, it looks like our homegrown indie sweetheart is set to spread her wonderfully deranged but entirely intoxicating tornado around the globe.

Words by Laura Routledge

Mica Levi

Mica Levi is a classically trained musician from Bow with a penchant for fashioning instruments from household objects. These ingenious contraptions range from a modified guitar with an attached hammer action or ‘chu’ to a CD rack-turned stringed vessel.

But this is not kids’ stuff. Trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Mica possesses the refined musical penache of a classical composer and plays violin to the standard of a Suzuki virtuoso. She wrote the first half of the Matthew Herbert-produced ‘Jewellery’ in her east London home before meeting The Shapes two years ago. Keen to expand her repertoire they formed a band, finished the album and were signed to Rough Trade.

And with their critically acclaimed debut narrowly missing a Mercury nomination by the skin of its teeth, it would seem that joining forces was a good move. “The album was definitely heading in a hip-hop direction initially,” says curly-haired urbanite Mica. “Teaming up with the band gave it a more solid sound. We wanted to combine electronic music and instrumentation with live recordings, breathing life into the electronic element and at the same time make the live outpourings seem more plastic.”

Beginning her career as a garage MC, Micachu’s first love was hip-hop. “Lauren Hill is definitely one of my female idols,” she gushes. “I have a lot of respect for Speech too; I just wish people were more aware of all the amazing female rappers out there.”

So, what will next year bring? “I‘ve been building this instrument that uses a rod to find the pitch on the strings. I’m constantly working on lots of different designs, as they don’t cost very much to make and it’s really fun to do. It helps you to approach writing music in a slightly different way each time and it definitely freshens up our sound.”

Words by April Welsh