I Got To Interview My Hero

I wrote the following interview for the up and coming music video outfit, Sektion Red – they allowed me to put it on my own blog too. J-Zen is one of my musical heroes and it was an absolute privilege to talk to him –

J-Zen is a French producer who has been fascinated by the world of soul, jazz, funk, and world music since his record-collector father offered him his first LP at the age of seven. From then on, he developed an insatiable appetite for music — any kind of music — and transformed that inspiration into his own genre-defying brand of songcraft. This eclecticism can be easily heard in the young producers compositions. At the age of 12, he learned to play bass guitar before discovering Rza, DJ Premier and Jay Dee. These artists proved to be a revelation.

His originals mixes and musical knowledge allowed him the honor to open for some of the greatest in the game: Jazzy Jeff, DJ Premier, and Pharoahe Monch to name a few. In 2004 he got a Mpc200xl and decided to create his own vision of Hip Hop: a mix of samples (soul, jazz, rock), fat beats, and heavy basslines.

So, you have a new album out, Padwork. It reminds me of DJ Shadows ‘Pre-emptive Strike’. How do you feel about that comparison?

Thanks for the comparison, I’m honored that you even mention my name and Shadow’s in the same sentence! But honestly I’m far from touching Shadow’s work, he’s one of the best

Where do you draw your influences from?

I grew up listening to hip hop, Rza, Primo, Pete Rock, Dilla but I also have a Rock background, I love King Crimson, Pink Floyd…

Your work is sample heavy – did you grow up with these sampled tracks in the background of your childhood? Or, were they found sounds once you left home?

My dad was a record collector, he taught me the love of music but also love of the object himself, I’m still collecting but the essential part of my collection is from my dad

How is it working with a small independent label?

It’s great! The roles are really well defined, the label is taking care of the business side and all I have to do is focus on my music, create. Of course is not always easy but it fits me better

What are the scale of your ambitions in music?

My ambition is to always do what I want to do musically, no boundaries! Doing what I feel, it’s basically what I did until now. I’m realistic about the music business right now and I know I won’t make millions but as long as people love my music and I can do few shows, I’m good

You have released digitally and on vinyl – would you say that hip-hop is keeping vinyl alive?

Definitely! Even when the vinyl sales were really low, hip hop labels kept on releasing vinyl. I would say dj’s and music lovers are keeping vinyl alive to be exact

Moving away from Padwork. Most of my friends now own a copy of Sextape. I am all for female emancipation, but I am also a fan of the ridiculous 1970’s porn films that you sampled in Sextape. Does porn have a place in beat tape culture – and, if so, which 1970’s porn films would you recommend?

Honestly I’m not the biggest specialist in 70’s porn, I collected my samples via streaming, all I can remember is beautiful background music and a lot of hair and moustache! Everything can be inspiring is what I tried to prove with the sextape

What is the hip-hop scene in France like at the minute, especially in your home town? I, for one, have to travel to get to any good gigs – what about you?

I used to live in Rennes there’s a lot of mc’s and producers but not a lot of shows except the festival of my label, now I’m living in Paris, the hip hop scene is amazing here, I made a lot of connections.

I have fond memories of MC Solaar blowing up around 10 years ago in the UK – who do you look up to both in France and internationally?

The biggest French producers in my opinion are 20 Syl and Onra, they’ve been releasing quality music for years and now they achieve to get the recognition of the public. Internationally, I really dig Tall Black Guy’s and Suff Daddy’s work

Who do you dream of working with?

Doing a collab album with Kankick would be dope or working with Common

The first track I bought that you had made was GOD MUSIC (feat. Georgia Anne Muldrow & Declaime) which, had lyrics on it. Why, and how often, do you get an MC to guest on your tracks – will this change?

Sometimes when I produce a track, I can imagine who I’d like to sing on it. Having a mc on a track allows it to go higher, combining his touch and mine

What are your plans, musically for 2013? Tours, gigs, releases?

More music with mc’s and singers and my live beatmaking show”

J-Zen has once again redefined the shape of the French underground with his latest release, Padwork – available now. For J-Zen’s back catalogue, please click here.

I Was a Credit To The Uniform!

But what was the uniform I hear you cry – stone-wash denim, white t-shirt and terry towelling day-glow socks covered with Clarks Big Grippa trainers. I was a credit to the Daisy Age, indeed.

Whilst most of my friends were listening to Michael Jackson or A Guy Called Gerald, I was bumping De La Soul.

When I attended Greenhoe Middle School in Swaffham around 1990, the highlight of my week was the school disco that lasted 20 minutes – it started at 10am and cost 20p entry. We raved it up big style! Unfortunately there was not a chill-out room but we really went for it!

The aim was not to find a girl/boyfriend. Just, to dance in a bigger group than last weeks disco. Every now and then they would play WORLD IN MOTION by the England Football Squad and we would rap along with John Barnes – but the highlight was doing my shaky dance to SAY NO GO and try my hardest to imitate the video.

How to lose a bet and yet hold your head high in the HG1 ghetto

As readers (if there are any) may be aware, I had a bet with Matt. We both publicly committed to blogging for 365 days and the loser would have to cough up the sum of 1 x Black Sheep Beer.

Due to a technicality, I lost the bet – Matt, if you are reading, there is a beer lined up for you ……. curses, I only lasted a week!

See …. When I thought I was blogging on Monday, I was blogging on Tuesday – I blame the heady dose of psychotropic drugs my doctor makes me take. They balance me out in the long run but get sense from me is like pulling hens teeth.

I graciously concede. It has been a lot of fun running around my flat thinking of things to write about. I may keep it up, but, by the laws of the game I have lost the bet. Well won Matt.

Cheers!

Can I be so bold as to recommend something …..

…… it is another Blog. Dragondrop.org to be precise. Or, as I like to call him – ” Fresh Prince of Blog-Aire”

Matt, curator (right word?) of the site is a host on Harrogate Alternative Radio’s RIFE Radio show. We currently have a bet running. We have both publicly committed to try and blog every day of 2013 – the first one of us to fail in this epic quest has to buy the other a bottle of Black Sheep Beer (hmmmmmm delicious).

I am quite looking forward to my prize.

Thing is, Matt has Blogging pedigree and I am the young upstart – it is more of a challenge on my account. However, genetics are on my side – I do not have four children and am unemployed due to illness. He has three children and one on the way plus a high flying job.

Only time will tell …..

Monday 00:41

I’ve been told that if you change your mind, you change the world – or at least the way you experience it. Let’s take a moment to examine that. The presumption is, if you thought the world was a hostile, ugly place filled with awful people doing awful things, that is what you’d see. Your mind would naturally seek out confirmation for its preconceived ideas (e.g., if you’re intent on buying a red car, as you go about your day you’ll see lots of red cars). If, however, you were able to sincerely change your mind and see that we are all God in drag, that we are the conscious aspects of a perfect universe which had to create us so we could bear witness and stand in awe before its loving magnificence, then that is the soul-shaking reality you’d be greeted with each and every moment of each and every day. In other words, it is entirely our choice as to what kind of world we live in. With a simple decision, we can suffer in the darkness or play in the light. We can be angry, frightened and enslaved, or loving, joyous and free.

I know. It’s a toughie.

Chuck Lorre

Continue reading “Monday 00:41”

Helping a Friend Out

Years ago, when I went to school – I knew a mate called Jon. He now has a custom guitar business operating from the Highlands of Scotland (close to where my Mum is from). We got chatting on Facebook and I agreed to help him out by building a site so he can sell his guitars to a wider market.

The result is Dead Horse Custom Guitars – a site I am very proud of. It is built in the way I build most of my sites, using RWD (Responsive Web Design). Like this site. To see how responsive web design works, take the corner of your web browser and make the window as small as possible – see how the site rearranges itself to fit in the window?

I do not yet know if Jon wants me as an un official web site manager (doing a favour to a friend) or just for me to teach him how to use the site. Either way it has been absolutely fantastic chatting to him again – we have a lot of shared memories.

Even though we have not seen each other for the best part of nearly sixteen years, we picked up as we left. My Dad employed us and a group of other kids from South Dalton to go Wild Oat Rouging in the hot summer of 1997 (and it was a hot summer!). Wild Oat Rouging is easily the best job I have ever done. Because the Barley & Wheat is so close to harvest, it is unsafe to use Herbicides to try and get rid of the Wild Oats that shoot up during the summer. It makes healthy sense to employ a gang of local urchins to pull out the Wild Oats, stuff them in the sacks on our backs and dump them in a trailer so a responsible adult can drive them away.

With the number of girls on the team, I admit my attention was not focused on getting the job done – just to suck in my pot belly and try and act mature and sophisticated in the hope of impressing the girls. It did not work.

……….. when I publicly committed to Blogging every day for 2013 I realised that a lot of the Blog would be drivel or piffle, but I suppose if you get talking to someone you spent one of the best summers of your life with, the result will be a spewing of nostalgia.

Today’s interaction with Jon has made me thankful for my childhood.

Christmas News 2012

First off, I would like to wish you all a very merry Chrimbo – how was it for you? Christmas Eve saw Kathryn and I sampling German Wheat beer in the comfort of our own front room.

The stand out memory of that night was me bursting into tears whilst watching the Snowman And The Snow-Dog – that film was dangerous and should have come with a warning. It almost had as big an effect as the time I watched the film UP with the Mrs. Both films are not for the faint of heart as they are real tear-jerkers.

We both enjoyed ourself on Christmas eve to the extent I got really excited and invited Kathryn to open her Chrimbo Pressie from me just after mid night. Kathryn received a massive book from me – it is a photographic journal of Paris, which is the place we spent our honeymoon. She made all the right noises and seemed to be most pleased with it.

Christmas day saw us sleep in until our hangover woke us up – I started running around wishing people on the street merry Christmas by shouting from the window and it was reciprocated, which gave a Reformed Ebeneezer Scrooge/A Christmas Carol feel about the morning, although there was no snow just a mild drizzle. I received a Raspberry Pi and a great jumper amongst a host of other useful items.

We trundled over to Kat’s Folks for more presents and wine. Christmas Dinner was a no holds barred pig out with flowing wine. The wine was so flowing that Kat’s Dad offered to take me inter-railing next year. A promise he showed some regret making when I reminded him over Christmas cake 2 hours later. After doing the pots, I popped out for a smoke and upon my return found Kat playing poker with out Christmas money – She Won! With my cut I think I might get a Gristleizer Effects Pedal for my synthesiser (if I do get it another blog entry will be written here).

We finally got to meet Kat’s eldest brothers Girlfriend who seems a real sweetheart. He has been courting her for three years but we have never been introduced – it is as if he is embarrassed by me? Ha Ha!

Boxing day is being spent around my rentals at Newby Hall. We are lucky enough to have my paternal Grandparents, Grannie & Grandpa, Uncle David and cousin Ellie – my brother, Michael, Sister Alison are also here.

I am trying my best to stay out of the way and help at the same time but Mum seems to orbit a different star during the festive season. Alison “Spirit Of Xmas” Sister is on top form and ensuring that all are well fed and over drinking.

So it leaves me to, finally, wish all a very merry Christmas! I will try and write a blog article for New Year.

Toodle Pip!

“Buy nothing day”

It was difficult – But I managed it! Saturday the 24th of November is Buy Nothing Day here in the UK.

twenty-percent

I took all of the purchased music off my MP3 device and replaced it with music I downloaded from a Netlabel – Treetrunk Records to be exact. I guess it just resulted in a Buy More Friday?

Okay – I have not single handedly changed the world – but if everyone thought carefully about what they bought and the social and environmental impact that they had through consumerism …?

work-shop-buy-nothing-day-map

Of course, Buy Nothing Day isn’t about changing your lifestyle for just one day – it should  be a lasting relationship with you consumer conscience – maybe a life changing experience? I now want to make a commitment to consuming less, recycling more and challenging companies to clean up and be fair. The supermarket or shopping centre might offer great choice, but this shouldn’t be at the cost of the environment or developing countries.

As consumers we need to question the products we buy and challenge the companies who produce them. What are the true risks to the environment and developing countries? We all know recycling is OK for the the environment, but consuming less is better and Buy Nothing Day is a great way to start.

Table Manners – A Step Too Far

In 2010 the Danish Astronomer Tycho Brahe’s body (famous for having a brass nose) was exhumed to determine the cause of his death. An earlier exhumation, in 1901, showed traces of mercury in the hair of his beard. However, it is now doubted that he was poisoned as the level of mercury is of that of any beard wearer/grower/afficionado alive today.

A team of Danish and Czech scientists have been working to solve the mystery by analysing bone, hair and clothing samples.

“There was mercury in the beard, you will also have traces of mercury if you have a beard… But the amount of mercury was as you see in people [alive today],” Dr Jens Vellev, from Aarhus University in Denmark, who is leading the investigations, told us.

Dr Vellev now thinks there was no foul play involved in Brahe’s death.

“It is impossible that Tycho Brahe could have been murdered,” he explained. When asked whether other poisons could have been used, Dr Vellev said: “If there were other poisons in the beard, we would have been able to see it in the analyses.”

Instead, he says, the description given by Kepler of Brahe’s death at the age of 54 matches up well with the progression of a severe bladder infection.

One widely told story about Brahe was that his bladder burst at a royal banquet when he had been too polite to leave the table and relieve himself. Accounts say he died 11 days later.

This is proof that we need a new Table Code for this millennium. How many other pointless deaths have there been due to over politeness? The campaign starts here!

Baffled Geography & Blind Jack Of Knaresborough

Being the first Sunday of the calendar month, it was Baffled Geography time. This is where a series of randomly selected tweets are broadcast to give Flaneurs basic directions towards getting lost (please see www.baffledgeography.org.uk). Me & the Mrs. decided to set Knaresborough as our starting point – seeing we had covered most of our side of Harrogate.

We set off on the bus and arrived there just after it had started, but we did not realise we were late as we did not receive the updates from Twitter due to NO SIGNAL.

There was freezing fog blanketing the Market village of Knaresborough and we were wrapped up snuggly. I recieved one direction from Twitter: “Follow a hat”. With this in mind I paused for a second so that The Mrs. would take the lead …… we got royally lost!

From the castle we went down a set of stairs and discovered the birthplace of John Metcalf, aka Blind Jack (1717 – 1810). Blind Jack was the first professional road-builder to emerge from the industrial revolution. In the period spanning 1765 – 1792 he build 180 miles of turnpike road.

At the age of six, he lost his sight to a smallpox infection. The child was given fiddle lessons as a way of making provision for him to earn a living later in life. He became an accomplished fiddler and made this his livelihood in his early adult years. In 1732, Metcalf succeeded The Queen’s Head fiddler: “Morrison” at the age of fifteen. Morrison had played there for the past seventy years. Metcalf had also an affinity for horses, and added to his living with some horse trading. Though blind, he took up swimming and diving, fighting cocks, playing cards, riding, and even hunting. He knew his local area so well he got paid to work as a guide to visitors. The youth of Knaresborough would dare him to dive off the more dangerous rocks on the River Nidd – he was famed at retrieving things that had dropped in the river.

His fiddle playing gave him social connections and a patron, Colonel Liddell. In one much repeated story the colonel decided to take his young protégé to London. John found the colonel’s leisurely progress too slow and went ahead on foot. He reached London first and then returned to Yorkshire before the colonel. He managed this though on foot and blind and the story demonstrates Jacks determination and resourcefulness.

During the second jacobite rebellion of 1745, Jack’s connections got him the job of assistant to the recruiting sergeant who was raising a company for the King in the Knaresborough area. Jack went with the army to Scotland. He did not experience action but was employed moving guns over boggy ground. He was later captured but released.

After the war he used his Scottish experience to begin importing Aberdeen stockings to England. Before his army service Jack had tried his hand as a carrier using a four wheeled chaise and a one-horse chair on local trips. When competition cut into this business he switched to carrying fish from the coast to Leeds and Manchester. After 1745 he bought a stone wagon and worked it between York and Knaresborough. By 1754 his business had grown to a stagecoach line. He drove a coach himself, making two trips a week during the summer and one a week in the winter months.

His attitude to the ladies was one of his time – however, the epitaph on his grave in Spofforth, at the cost of Lord Dundas, bears this epitaph:

“Here lies John Metcalf, one whose infant sight
Felt the dark pressure of an endless night;
Yet such the fervour of his dauntless mind,
His limbs full strung, his spirits unconfined,
That, long ere yet life’s bolder years began,
The sightless efforts mark’d th’ aspiring man;
Nor mark’d in vain—high deeds his manhood dared,
And commerce, travel, both his ardour shared.
’Twas his a guide’s unerring aid to lend—
O’er trackless wastes to bid new roads extend;
And, when rebellion reared her giant size,
’Twas his to burn with patriot enterprise;
For parting wife and babes, a pang to feel,
Then welcome danger for his country’s weal.
Reader, like him, exert thy utmost talent given!
Reader, like him, adore the bounteous hand of Heaven.”