Column: Gordon Raphael #24, November 2005 + Report: The Basement Club - 27/10/05
17 Nov 2005
gordon raphael, revered producer extraordinaire, returns. with the strokes' third album looming - which raphael produced some tracks for - and movements in mexico and berlin, raphael writes back xclusivly. we've missed him. he also reviews his/our third anniversary club-event from oct.
A world of various grooves and tempos. Shall we do it acoustic or use the built-in drum machine in our software package?
I write this to you from Berlin - the Kreuzberg neighborhood overlooking trees, a quaint street called Wiener with a cheerful grey day unfolding and spiced up by Autumns last few white-yellow leaves diving from their branches onto the road below.
November 2005, and it's been a long and winding year indeed for this gypsy mutant producer.
Let's start out congratulating my Basement Club and Toby L for the tremendous efforts on behalf of music in the UK that he is doing (Ed-Note: do we really have to? He's a jumped-up primate with a thoroughly crap wardrobe). When I first met him as a precocious lad at the Heaven London gig of The Strokes, I almost sort of realized that this person was a serious musical ass-kicker wearing a very friendly smile. In watching him interview bands that were so tired and used to journalists without a clue; star-struck pencil pushers with only dreams of column inches
in their minds - yet here was Toby, still not fully grown, looking like he was 'missing' school and firing away magnificent pointed questions and making brilliant observations about the band's music. No wonder he quickly got a reputation as someone worthwhile for busy international superstar music makers to speak with when they came to the UK! Now all his many ideas are taking off, and making the fresh waves with the young crop of bands and fans - for that, I salute him and clap hands.
I was fortunate to attend the last Basement Club, our actual 3 Year
Birthday Celebration. I remember within a few months after I moved to London in 2002, and after a meeting with Toby that we decided to do a basement-style rock night in our own flavour, partly because I've always rehearsed in basements, had my recording studios in basements and recorded 'Is This It' in my basement studio Transporterraum in New York. Well, when I saw the reprints from all the great shows of the last three years proudly displayed on the walls - Regina Spektor, Satellites, Bloc Party, Libertines, Crystal Radio, Miss Machine, Boy George, Ed Harcourt, Zutons, Kill Kenada, Graham Coxon... and the list goes ever on.
The show I saw in October was a perfect night - which for me means only that I truly enjoyed and cared for all three bands. Larrikin Love - mega fun music - super high energy and with plenty of chaos - but grounded in utter musicianship and delight in powerfully good songs. (I am betting on them taking over the hearts and ears
on UK's music community by storm and sheer love!).
Josh Pearson was first - his hellfire and brimstone dirty acoustic guitar noises and cigarette and beer-kissed sermons were riveting. An ocean of memorable words and giant rhythms and harmonies all coming from one man driven by the force of music. I became a fan quite instantly, and if he ever wants to record a really nasty sounding record, I am standing by with several microphones and a silver brick room in London to capture it in.
The middle slot was Plan B, who fit in nicely, now that Gordon Raphael has finally heard some hip-hop sounds this year (first on the radio in Seattle - KEXP underground show) that got me thinking. The stuff that hooked me, finally into feeling the importance and message within Hip Hop, getting me past my previous aversion to bragging, gun messages, certain attitudes towards women, etc. - was hearing 50 Cent's 'The Massacre' after reading his autobiography, hearing the truly amazing song (good luck finding it anywhere!) 'Dreamin' by Crisis on Infinity Records, and a song called 'Lovin' It' by Little Brother and Joe Scudda. Now, I can understand where that music comes from, and respect its sounds and beats simply because it rocks and is tremendously innovative. My mum never got shot while dealing crack cocaine, so there's a lot of things I was not set up to immediately understand, but I can't deny that these things are happening almost everywhere on the outskirts of all the nicely manicured streets lit up with Top Shops, Virgin Megastores and perfume counters all over the world, yes?
So Plan B was my next instalment of hearing the stories of people living very different experiences to what I am having, and feeling the truth in that. Some of this guy's words were very harsh, and almost obsessively descriptive of fear, terror and violence - but done as an artist portraying situations without trying to perpetrate those same actions among his audience. The song of a killing with part of the story told in slow motion reverse lyric writing is very cinematic and made for TV, so to speak - quite imaginatively written, I think.
OK, now on to the current events part where I have to tell you about music that I have been working on, producing and recording in various locations. First off, it's got to be all about Skin now. (www.skinmusic.net) She came to Berlin for a small tour to warm up the world in preparation for her new album that we produced together. The show was tremendously epic - her voice is just something that can fill a club in the most miraculous way. The place (Knaack Club) was packed with fans and she just came on and knocked everyone out with her new songs, heavy duty band full of energy and THAT voice. The new songs that I worked on with her sounded every bit as good live as the versions we recorded, and the crowd especially went crazy when she pulled out some older Skunk Anansie numbers and made the breathe again. I can't wait for this album to come out (March 2006?) cuz its gonna put some new ripples into the ears and minds of music freaks everywhere.
The band I produced in Mexico - called Fobia - actually went to NUMBER ONE in that country. I have never been associated with a #1 before, and it's a very large music-consuming country - so hopefully I can get a hacienda or a country house there some day! Fobia has some truly stunning, jaw-dropping musicians in the band, most notably the drummer Jay and the excellent guitarist Paco. Their singer Leonardo has been melting the hearts of the ladies and young girls in Mexico for many years. I personally witnessed throngs of girls following him around in some small town in the mountains - for which he graciously bought them all ice cream cones, and as a gentleman simply signed some autographs and walked to the nearest bar to enjoy a tequila with a real old scorpion floating in his glass.
The other members of Fobia, including keyboardist Inyaki and bassist Cha!, are also part of a sensational group called Moderrato that also have fans running for the beaches with their small children to get photos taken with the band on their cellphones and seek autographs. Imagine being in two of your country's top bands at once - what a musician's dream! One feature of the record we made was a session sponsored by the Doritos company (lots of free snacks at that one), recorded in a studio made from stones that originally were lava from inside of a volcano. The studio felt like a spacious black cave, and had the greatest sound for bashing smashing drums that I have ever recorded in. Somehow, the lava rocks made the sound explode and compress at the same time, without the use of the usual recording devices that do that. Cool, huh?
And, lastly, I will leave you with a band that you simply must hear.
Super 700 is their name. Three sisters, singing with harmonious voices, singing in a jazzy way with gritty, pretty tones blending as only sisters can. Ibadette, the main sister singer, has a sly and captivating smile that goes with a powerfully controlled yet street-smart voice, like a little bit of Billie Holiday meets Bjork, but singing in torn up setting like the early Talking Heads. Very hard to convey in words why I love this band and have been working off and on with them since May on their new record. Michael Haves is their bassist and main songwriter, and he has more ideas and enthusiasm about music and the bass guitar than any ten people I can think of. Drummer Schmiddle performs true stunts and displays of audacity based on his approaching rock and hip hop feelings from a punk-rock perspective. Like a street hood with a PHD? His limbs are crazily
co-ordinated and he gives the music its pure party and dance feeling.
Guitarist Johannes is another reason why I stay in Berlin - sure, there are musicians all around the world, but here in Berlin I have met many who go a few steps beyond and are sincere young masters of their instruments. Johannes can quite nonchalantly mesh funk, rock, jazz and bash away in a truly unique style of his own, often able to improvise new songs at the drop of a hat or to come up with perfect parts to complement the group's intent.
Finally, keyboardist Simon is like those other German keyboardists you know - Bach, Beethoven, Kraftwerk - that gang. Simon can remember a lot of parts and sounds during a Super 700 show, and can impressively play with his fingers and sound like a computer-sequencer at rapid speeds if and when he chooses to. Quite impressive, and gives a spacey, extra funky dimension to the band at all times. I am going to try and hurry this album up so you can all hear it soon, but in the meantime there is a mini-album they made themselves last year that can definitely give you the flavour 'til then - it's called 'When Hare And Fox Had Fun', find it, get it. Here is an mp3.
'Till our paths cross, take care and rock well.
Basement Club Photo-Credit: Deborah Delornay