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STEREO MC's - Exclusive guest mix

STEREO MC's - Exclusive guest mix

STEREO MC's - Exclusive guest mix
This month's RadioEject exclusive guest mix is a very special one indeed!! This month brings us all a very special 'Spatial Awareness' mix tape brought to you by Rob Birch of the brit award winning 'Stereo MC's' . 
If you don't know who the 'Stereo MC's' are you've probably been living in a underground tunnel for the past couple of decades, surviving off of licking mossy rock faces for nourishment. Formed in Nottinghamshire between two friends the 'Stereo MC's' have gone a long way from humble streets. The 'Stereo MC's' blew up in the British charts, in the minds of the people and across the globe in the late 80s and 90's…originally consisting of the two creating members, Rob Birch and Nick Hallam. Stereo MC's we're pretty much Britain's first global rap stars, rocking stages, working with or producing across the globe with the likes of U2, Janes Addiction, De La Soul, Happy Mondays, Peter Gabriel, Madonna and even the Jungle Brothers. And being one of the first Rap/hiphop groups to ever perform at British rock festivals…you young upstarts starting on your journey to festivaldom need to doff your snapbacks in respect to these trailblazers of UK hiphop. 
The Stereo MC's 1992 single 'Connected' burst through the speakers and echoed across the globe with their first top 20 hit…rippling them to number 2 in the British album charts and almost a year charting, the Stereo MC's we're here!! I remember my brother and I eating our cereal to 'Connected' on MTV singing along, then getting to school with the other kids singing it in the yards allday. Mixing breakbeat, funk, hiphop, electro, dub step ,dance, lyrical poetry and neck breaking beats the Stereo MC's can be a bit tricky to pin down to one sound…a little bit like us here at Ejecto's…diverse styles and a strong sense of perfectionists working towards some breaking of rules and regulations. 
For this RadioEject I am going to be passing the interview over to Ejecto's good friend LSK, who will be asking Rob some better questions than I could possibly imagine. LSK has worked alongside the Stereo MC's in the past, and has been influenced by the Stereo MC's so it would be silly of me not to utilise this mans knowledge……also one love to Rob for firstly the influence on UK hiphop and also being super cool, creating us a mix. so over to you Mr LSK!! - EPeace - Eject.
lsk:First of all on behalf of Ejectos i'd like to thank you for the mix and taking the time out to do this interview.
So... you just completed another album called the "Emperor's nightingale" whats the story behind the title? 
 
Hey no problem man its a pleasure! Emperors Nightingale is actually a couple of years old -since then we've toured and are back in the studio.
The title came about because at the time of making the record , I used to go home to read to my kids in the evening and then come back to the studio and a certain story resonated throughout this period. It was about a Chinese emperor who had everything in life you could imagine and yet visitors to his palace told him the most beautiful thing in his land was the song of a nightingale who sang for the poor fishermen. 
He ordered that the bird be brought to him and he was spellbound by her voice so he kept her in a gilded cage to sing for his court whenever he wanted. 
The jist of the story was that the nightingale lost heart because she needed to sing for the people in freedom.
We thought it was a cool concept.

lsk:Who did the sleeve design? is it a real piece of origami or done on computer?  
 
A company called village green did it and,yes,it was real! I think somewhere in the artwork there is a diagram showing how to make it.

lsk: As a child you grew up in nottingham and have known your music partner nick from an early age 
how did you guys meet & manage to stay friends all this time? 

I used to see Nick cycling up the road on his chopper when I was six and he used to use the same school bus as my brother and sisters and they told him he should come and check me. 
We became more like brothers over our childhood and early teens so that really was a foundation that can withstand any of lives dramas or differences.We can go for a day in the same room without barely saying a word because the art of life is in being and we both have a focus for music priority number 1.
I learn a lot about myself from our relationship.

lsk:Nottingham is always spoke highly of amung the old school heads regarding its music scene
be it punk, reggae, hiphop, or soul/funk,  a lot of folk i know used to travel far and wide to the venue 'rock city'
for it's all dayer events during the 80's and on Goldie's timeless album he says the track 'a sense of rage' was paying homage to the all dayer events at rock city. Do you have any memories of that place? 
When I left Nottingham in the early 80's ,I was emerging from the punk/human league vibe in music and had just discovered dub at art foundation.Nottingham was emerging from pub rock lethargy to the awakening of hip hop and dance music but at that time I was only aware of the need to leave for London as I couldn't see a future for making music there and the vibe on the streets was at that time quite confrontational if you came across different from the norm. Since leaving I became more aware of the musical depth emanating from the city.
You know how it is…..stand back and see the bigger picture.

lsk:Were you or nick ever in bands or involved in any other musical projects before starting the stereo mc's?

Yeah we both played guitar when we were kids and were totally absorbed in music's spell. We lived quite separate lives for a number of years when I was at college and doing odd jobs and we were both actively 
pursuing musical vibes in bands.We ended up living in the same building in Battersea with my big brother and Nick was into electro like Yello and Marc Stewart and making electronic tunes.I think I was fusing punk futurism and flamenco for some reason and I loved drums.He asked me to give him a hand with some melody issues cause I have a natural ear for tunes and that was really how we started to work together more to have some fun helping each other out

lsk: Who came up with the name stereo mc's? 
Nick. 

lsk:The recording process has been made so easy nowadays and pretty much everyman and his dog are making beats on their gadgets and tinkering with music. What equipment were you guys using to record with when you first started out? 

At the embryo stage we had a reel to reel Teac 4 track , a £50 sanyo keyboard you could sample into its little dodgy mike and a belt driven turntable/radio/cassette given to us by Owen Rossiter who later became our drummer. 
After getting a three week demolition job I bought our first roland 808 and then we got a Bell echo unit that you sample into and trigger from a drum on the 808. This gear made our first two albums--that and the records I got from the local junk shops.

lsk:Do you think that the less you had in those days made you more creative? 
 
Undoubtably. We heard early rap like scooly d , P.E. , eric b and rakim ,beasties Run dmc….
we were like…How do they make that sound---it was the biggest shift in the sound and energy of music since punk rock. We didn't know how  and we didn't have the money or materials and there was no google to look up ! 
So…we experimented with tape loops , our dodgy deck and any instrument we could find…I think a hippy lady who lived in our house had a sitar--that got rinsed on an early tune we did.
Because there was no plug in's and no predetermined method people carved out their own individuality.

 

lsk: Your first album '33 45' 78' is a heavy sample driven now UK hip hop classic was the production process a joint effort with nick or did you just focus on the lyrical side of things? 
Nick and me work on everything together…..I love making music and beats and he steers the boat and tells me to get on the mike when the vibe is there…….he has ideas and I just love the journey man.

lsk: A lot of beat makers dig and find breaks in the most obscure places 
have you found any "gems" (that you ended up using) anywhere interesting?  
In the early days of rap the whole vibe was to be original--be yourself.
Finding original breaks was part of that and you would look across the whole sphere of music.
Demis Roussos to Sly and the family Stone…King Tubby to Liberace….honest the gems were scattered everywhere and you felt you would never run short if you kept scouring the bargain bins and withstood the temptation to hit the ultimate breaks and beats!

lsk: Do you still buy vinyl?  
Not much. I was a junkie for vynil and I literally overdosed on it.I actually have a problem looking through crates of records now…its kinda strange. 

lsk: How did you guys come to get involved with the "native tongues" alongside the jungle brothers 
a tribe called quest, and de la soul?  
The JB's were signed to Gee st records in the U.K. which we ran with Jon Baker and dj Ritchie Rich. 
We ended up doing some mixes for them and there was some musical empathy between us.Thats one of the reasons we spent a month in New York at Caliope studios (where a lot of the Native Tongues and outfits like the Black Sheep recorded) and Africa from the JB's did a few tunes with us.I loved the vibe working downtime -cheap studio time cause u do the night shift-with some of those guys dropping by checkng out what you up to and Jarobi from Tribe sleeping under the mixer cause he couldn't get a cab home from the club.
Also we did some touring supporting De La Soul in the late 80's round Europe when 3 feet high and rising was out.

lsk: What was recording like in new york during the 'golden era" of hip hop rumour has it that you slept under the mixing desk on that session? 
Sort of answered that but it was a total blast--to me , a boy from Nottingham, I felt like I'd stepped into an updated episode of Kojak--I loved walking the streets and soaking in the atmosphere and Africa took us to some proper hip hop parties where mc's would be thronging the stage from the hall of fame of rap but it was just a block jam. We kept pretty low key being about the only white dudes there and N.Y. was pretty much like those films Do the Right thing and  boys from the hood (I know thats L.A but back then those films described fairly acutely the vibe of social imbalance and conflict that existed in the U.S.). Burst water hydrants,gunshot and girl fights  sweltering heat and tropical rain, records and clothes to salivate over not to mention the pizza slice , 
looking at Manhatten bridge from the vocal booth as I voiced I'm a believer, junkies prowling the fire escape at night at the studio not to mention the red light areas it was a trip.

lsk: Did you see much graffiti out there?  
Everywhere I got up early one morning and rode the train to brooklyn just to take pictures--your eyes where obese from feeding on so much visual food.

lsk: The song "connected" in my opinion is as relevant today as it was back then it starts with you saying "something ain't right" & then you say that you "see through the dirty tricks" can you tell us what event inspired you to write those lines?  
It was the social climate of the U.K. coupled with the beating of Rodney King in America by police and the subsequent riots and a long period of being immersed in roots music although none of it was a conscious influence , it was just going on at the time and it all seems to ring bells to me .

lsk:What was it like hearing connected on the radio for the first time & where were you? 
I was in a basement record stall in Camden where the guy actually had a section just for breaks--juicy ones too--and I heard someone going up the stairs singing the chorus. Something dawned on me. 
I heard it in Brick lane ( an East end market) first I think.

lsk:You seem to have stayed the same person throughout your career
what keeps you grounded in such an ever changing unstable industry? 
Gratitude and change.

lsk: On Charlie Sloths "Can't forget the uk" it was nice to hear you get a mention
and see you appear in the video (along with a long list of pioneers) & at the end you bless the track with a verse
where you say "never forget those who laid the path"
who were the one's who laid the path for you? 
All musicians and artists and energy formed beings pave the way for those to follow if they are actively involved in service. 
Personally , key figures are bruce lee, John Lydon, my brother Dave, my Dad Archer , Malcom x , Bhudda , muhammed ali , grand master flash and the furious five 
sly,led zep , bowie and eno , talking heads ……..

lsk:okay last question if you could work with anyone alive or dead who would it be?  

Eddy Grant , King Tubby, Chopin , Norman Whitfield , Isaac Hayes, Marc Stewart, The The , Rick Ruben, 
and as always the roulette wheel of life.

Again on behalf of Ejecto's and myself thankyou for taking the time out to do this!
"power to the peaceful" - LSK  

Peace to you bro and health and strength to all that life throws at us will teach us.