Writing by Neil Kulkarni

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

C30-C60-C90 GO NOWHERE. TAPES AND MEMORY.

14:26 Posted by neil kulkarni 1 comment

C30-C60-C90 GO NOWHERE

(from Plan B Magazine, Summer 04) 


I found it in my chimney.
   I find a lot in my chimney. Sometimes the clumsy pigeons drop their bread and it bounces into our laps. Sometimes spiders big as your hand drop down for a mosey around the living room. This chimney was in my ‘office’ and eeeh, look at the muck in here. Haven’t flicked a duster around in weeks. In a spirit of late-come springcleanliness I decided that that pitcher’s mound of tapes in my dead fireplace was just too ugly to ignore anymore and I had to shift them.
   It wasn’t a task I took to with any relish: not only was it punctuated with the odd shrill girlish shriek of panic when a moth flew out or a woodlouse peered from under the scattered cassettes, it bought back too many goddamn memories. Tapes were everything to me once. Usually skint, somewhat nervous about any shops in which my contemporaries gathered, tapes (of the kind that were killing music) were the primary way in which I enjoyed pop. Such a maligned format but such a spoddish joy: from the sticking on of labels to the writing of tracklistings (I only wrote neat when filling out tape inlays). I remember making a tape of T Rex hits for the only girl in school who had the stomach to speak to me: I spent a whole hour doing each letter a different colour with my 13-colour biro and couldn’t understand why she looked at me so tragically when I handed it over.

   
I remember taping hip hop for tough lads and sticking Bowie tracks on the end, going home fantasising I’d somehow be turning them my way, problematising their puberty as much as mine, by stealth, as if time would drag us both wanking to the floor.
   I remember those blessed years when Coventry Central Library employed some sacredly-disposed lunatic with amazing taste, and every week I’d be taping some new Durutti Column or Nick Drake or Rapeman or Penderecki s/he’d kindly decided to allow the citizens of Cov to borrow. I taught myself about pop from that library. Hurling the tapes into a black binliner a dizzying myriad of blind alleys and launch pads and dead-ends go flying by, the month I listened to nothing but Sonny Rollins, Mikey Dread (God he’s good), discovering Miles and The Fall and Prince Far I and The Ink Spots and everyone who’s sustained me for the best part of two decades.
   With my library ticket, all of history was open to me, and all of it made my future that much more full of possibility, that much more an inevitable disappointment when it came. From the near-incomprehensible public generosity of the library making so much available, there was something almost sacred about tapes, the way you could just take these infinities with you and keep them, the way you imprinted the legend on each one, the way you created the object that held such possibilities within. Tapes totally suited those years when there’s too much catching up to do, when your hunger outstrips your time.
   Digging my nails into the rubble and dust of the hearth, scooping up armfuls of plastic and cardboard and rattling reels, there were moments where I had to stop, stick on Brothers Like Outlaws or Swirlies or Iris DeMent or Tim Hardin or some Atlantic soul-comp to remind myself of things I’d loved, tapes full of looped beats and bad acoustic guitar I did with two tape-players and a condenser mic at age 14.

   
Crucially though, all the nostalgia did was make me realise how music was never something I’d simply ‘enjoy’. For the joy of every discovery carried with it the painful burden of being that pioneer, alone out on these islands. The more I looked and listened at what I’d filed and piled high the more I thought, Jesus, I was such a pseud-fucker. I was so far up my own arse. I listened to an awful lot of this music just to look cool, just to service my own endlessly enraptured self-regard. The idea that listening to music can make you attractive always running up against the sad realisation that no one cares about shit like that apart from you, y’dumb fuck. Sticking Roland Kirk next to Spacemen 3 and trying to turn the fifth-form centre on and wondering when the fucking Mission fans who made up my school’s ‘alternative’ kids would fucking catch up with me, worrying that I was too far ahead to ever be friends with my ‘friends’ again.
   It’s easy to scoff at adolescent arrogance, less easy to realise you’re still exactly the same, that you still believe the mysteries of pop will slowly, steadily, somehow become accessible to you and your frighteningly heightened awareness. Including an awareness that a five-year-old Britney fan knows just as much about pop as you. Including an awareness that the moments in which you’ve managed to con someone into loving you, you’ve forgotten about how you’ve stacked your vinyl, what you put on the jukebox, how wrong everyone else is. If the tapes that were now disappearing into attic-bound sacks were a reminder of that crucial time where everything that shouldn’t matter mattered like fuck, where does that leave me now? Can I slip the moorings of all that taste and float free, unconcerned? Can this start being fun, ever?

   

Or will it always be the frantic effort to clip and prune and ornament that never finished work of art – yourself? Will you always need to be surrounded by these bits of plastic because they tell you who you aren’t (and who you are), tell you where you’re not (and where you are), warn you of what you can’t be (and what you should want to be)?
   Or can all this crumble, could all this tape simply end up wound round the lamppost at the end of your street played by the wind to the bugs? Could your limits be set by yourself rather than so many others? Could yourself be something more than simply that space that happens inbetween all of these objects? Could you be or will you always simply be suggested by what you own? Can you, finally, now, as you commit your last oh-so-eclectic C120 compilation beyond the drawstring and into the abyss of official junkdom, start being a human being? God, what a grisly thought. Being so withered as to accept myself. Fucking never.
   The bags stay downstairs. I throw press releases into the fireplace and clear the air with smoke and the kiss of Alice Coltrane. Pretension must be felt to the bone and kept close like your own skeleton. Without it, you fall apart. That’s enough goddamn spring cleaning.

"A CHUBBY GHOST OF AN URGE"

14:09 Posted by neil kulkarni , , No comments
New Years Resolutions, Winter 2004. 
(From Plan B Magazine)

all DJs watch kids, but this DJ hates them

Sometimes it seems people invite me out just so they can call me a miserable sod and blame me for ruining their evening. I wish they’d phone and tell me; drop notes. They should know by now that summer kills me, that my spirit dies when mercury rises. I only go out when I have to, but at the weekend I’d be skint as a badger’s runt if I didn’t DJ. So every Saturday night I press the flesh, and every Sunday morning I try and scrub myself dirty again. There’s these kids, see. They’re loyal. They’re on the dancefloor every Saturday night. Don’t ever let me live anywhere where Saturday night doesn’t matter. They dance to Pixies, Breeders, Pavement, Fugazi, Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth, Belle & Sebastian, The Smiths, Sebadoh, Mudhoney, Grandaddy. A circle of boys and girls committed to a certain pantheon that can’t be questioned but does strike one as terribly precious. One of them moans the guy in the main room is playing Prince, so they’ve come into my side room to hear some ‘proper music’. I scowl and dig out ‘Hot Thing’. See, they don’t even dance to The Specials. They’re not from round here. They’re students from dahn sarf. They’re beautiful, but this week I kill the room an hour early and tell them all to, “Fuck off into the main room – the people are prettier.” A holler of disapproval. “We want real music,” they whine. “POP IS REAL MUSIC, Y’DICKS!” I bray, and then I pull the plug. It’s a gimmick thing .It’s all jealousy on my part, of course. Being into that music never got me friends, but there they are, loved up and moshing to ‘Teenage Riot’, surrounded by gorgeous androgynous replicants. Fuckers. Where were these sexy, young, thrusting, weird people when I was their age? I reassure myself by thinking that something’s lost now the underground rock of my youth is the ‘classic’ floor-fillers of my present. Listening to Dinosaur Jr’s ‘Don’t’ when you’ve got a rockin’ social life is one thing – listening to it in a bedroom is another. One implies a shared joy and the interpersonal flow of substances both emotional and physical. The other implies self-implosion and crystallised spunk on your jimjams; it’s about me and FUCK you. It’s nice turning your natural repulsiveness into an aesthete’s self-exile. Now that people insist on talking to me, forcing me to cough up words so sour they almost make me retch at my repetition, I want that young fogey, frigidaire, hemmed-in, mute virginity back again, big style. I want to go back to when I believed in nothing but a future, rather than the grisly horror the present always seems to end up being.


give up on keeping up


Modern life demands you think about such colossal trivialities. In 2005, don’t ponder Franz Ferdinand or Tracey Emin or whatever mediocrity is being jabbed in your face. Think about the following: JS Bach. Shakespeare. Leonardo. Picasso. Michaelangelo. Miles Davis. Jean Renoir. Y’know, the greats. Depressing gods, all the above, because they created new things but destroyed any possibility of originality for everyone since. Realise always that art, all art, great art should always endeavour to explain and describe. When it loses sight of this transcendent purpose, when it simply wants to keep up with the overladen, eager meaninglessness of the mass media or instant fix satiety of consumerism, it’s proper fucked. The past contains so many futures we ain’t even got round to yet. And Goya didn’t do owt decent till his sixties, so bear up, bison. There’s time to change the world yet.

 life’s additives keep you alive

Listen to pop music greedily; on the radio anywhere except Radio One. It’ll make you happy like Haribo. Sour. Buzzy. Hopeful. Tragic. Immortal. Dead in a week.


take stock. y’fat knacker 


Go on. Really take a long, hard, brutal look at yourself. Take your clothes off. Pinch your rolls. Tweak your tits. Make fun of your carcass. Put into place a mental block that stops you yearning for what can never be. The myriad lust-objects you see everyday, see through you to real people. You’re a chubby ghost of an urge. You’re no longer a participant in silly games, unless we’re talking Janet Kay, and only the emasculating horror of self-realisation can save you.

stay in. talk less

Disconnect all your phones. Open letters, but forget how to read them. Look at and through them like a monkey would. S’a lot easier being the idiot you are than the smart arse you’re meant to be. answer the call of the wilderness Go to the beach. Look at a hillside. See the curvature of the earth. Look at the moon. Get foetal in cathedrals. Realise your place in space, the little speck you’re stretching at every opportunity. And the sodding sun can stay across the street.

consider the true majesty of Trout Mask Replica 

The way you can always feel it raising your expectations on life. The subconscious and mathematic and stellar and here and there and reality and dreams all rushing out at you. And the beauty. The primal kick of the fucking thing. The goodbye paid in ‘Frownland’, the mutterings of a man who’s gonna walk up the high street for 2,000 miles until he’s out in the world, the real world (matched by the Magic Band’s unrepeatable stumble-ass, L-plated progress). Where he can gather his thoughts about thisworld. See the damage done and wield the scalpel, finally let his heart’s tenderest aches find voice. ‘Trout Mask’ is a documentary of what happened to these people while they were making it. Yet it’s a transcendent triumph of the imagination as well, charging connections in your brain possibly dead since puberty. There is a sense of wonder at nature and the unnatural – and the way words can come so close to both. It’s not such a bad thing for a poet to make you feel things again. Or provide a picture of his nation so thoroughly sensual in its enjoyment and brutal in its disappointment, so total in its understanding and compassion. There’s venom here. And words that knead your shoulders like the first drink of the day. At once outwardly futurist and inwardly ancient, the earth’s first and last song. Take it monthly.

swear down that you’ll address your addictions

Not the harmless ones like crack and Terry’s Chocolate Orange. I’m talking about the habits you picked up randomly from no one, but you can’t shake because they don’t occur to you as addictions. Like cracking your fingers arthritically. Taking corners too fast. Listening to your mother. Shaving your mono-brow. Saying ‘sorry’ after cumming. Saying, “Erm, yeah, give us a couple of days on that” when you know you have no intention of doing a fucking thing. Arguing. Getting out of bed. And of course, the most difficult habits of them all to shake: pornography, and hope.


 now, more than any other time, is the right time to finally go mad 

It doesn’t mean you have to be a full-on, sectionable, lip-diddling loon. It just means relaxing a little. When you see someone buying The Daily Mail in a paper shop, don’t resist the shout of ‘NAZI’ that comes to your lips. Release it. Enter competitions. When the beer-lads stare, stare back, pull faces, front the fuckers out. If you feel like drawing on your face before you go out, do so. Show off your hickeys in your child’s school playground. Scan your face onto 40 A4 flyers and hand them out on the street asking for help in tracing your identical twin. Commence a long-running correspondence with a local free paper. Commit yourself to every moment and kill the false modesty: when someone asks you what you do, tell them plain that you’re the new messiah. take out some insurance in case none of the above work. A bomb’s good, but a sponsored suicide for your favourite charidee’s even better. Failing that, promise yourself you’ll look into the opportunities of monastery/convent life. Try and get yourself hid, or die trying in ‘05. Cos by 2006 you’ll be too nuts to think straight.  Imagine that.

Singles Reviews, Plan B Magazine, Issue 03, December 2004



single of the moment
REJOICE! We now have evidence both incontrovertible and danceable that Sharleen Spiteri should stop writing songs with immediate effect! No, I’m not talking about that single, the single that’s making summer stick in the head even as what’s without turns so fresh and decaying. That single is Outkast’s ever new-born ‘Prototype’ (BMG) which very nearly makes ALL else mere interference…But don’t let me lose my thread. JoJo’s ‘Leave (Get Out)’ (Mercury) is something Spiteri (and Dido, Joss Stone and the rest) has been dying and trying to write all her life. Men can gather round in hesitant circles, shifting from foot to foot while growling the words to ‘Sugar Kane’, ‘Waiting Room’, ‘Ace Of Spades’ or ‘My Generation’. Meanwhile, we all know there are records that groups of women will surmount all class/age/race boundaries to dance and sing together AT MEN.
   Take my wife. Take ‘I Will Survive’, ‘Oh! Bondage’, ‘Silly Games’, ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ (both Marvin and Slits re-rub), ‘Wuthering Heights’ or any Supremes or Aretha. For my wife, and her sisters, and her female friends, these are songs seemingly designed for male-baiting (such fun, and so hilariously badly-taken). These are songs for letting someone know where they stand, or for giving fair warning of who the fuck you think you’re dealing with. 


   JoJo’s boy has clearly been a right twat and a dirty stop-out too. Sung from the edge of a dancefloor towards a moodily motionless boyfriend, ‘Leave’ is raw, new emotion blown out of proportion and honed to brutal finitude. The martyrdom of wounded love and a sacrifice barely noticed combines with the infuriating irrefutability of teenage logic for the odd, defiant pay-off: “You’re just a waste of time”. Pitched exactly between townie and punka 10- year-old girl chic, JoJo looks exactly right to play the protagonist. Gloriously unsaddled with Anastacia or Kylie’s world-weariness, it seems she’s enjoying the hate way more than any affection she ever felt – the jutted chin insisting that every second without him will be so much more full. And the cold rationale of dismissing someone as ‘just a waste of time’? Only the young could be so efficient, so clear and so numb. Such clarity makes great records. In contrast, the attempts of Spiteri et al to create the perfect femme-solidarity lurve anthem are simply crushed by the searing belief and passion of JoJo’s three-minute monster. There is no will more thorough, as unkillable and as total as that of a teenager. Sometimes we’re lucky, and they translate for us.




singles of the day:
    A BRACE of indisposable eternity is what hip-hop always provides, so this month go for: Zygote Ft The Sundragon & Jazz T ‘Grizzly’ and Hug Ft Diversion Tactics ‘Murder By Class Vol 1’(both on Boot), Subtle ‘FKO’ (Lex), McEnroe ‘Working In The Factory’ (Vertical Form), Optimas Prime ‘Slang Shotgun’ (Dial Up), Kyza ‘Real Rap’ (Kemet), Teddybears Shtml ‘Turbo Booster’ (Xpr), Skrein ‘Mind Out/Once Upon A Skrein/The Youth’ (Dented), Styly Cee ‘Once And For All/Want What’s Yours’ and C-Mone ‘Stan Bac’ (both on Son) cos they’re all unmissably good. Snoop’s new Neptunes collaboration ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’ (Geffen) is a return to form for Pharell & Co (but then, I loved ‘Flap Yr Wings’ n’ all) while Eminem’s ‘Just Lose It’ (Interscope) is merely the soundtrack to his new comeback video (which is all Eminem’s career seems to be based on now). Wish Dre would bless a few others (not just Obie and 50 Cent) with the same care. In the unreal world of the indie ghetto, things go from bad to worse. Indiepopslashrock is so busy going nowhere that the desperation’s starting to seep through the stitching. It looks flustered, knackered out from hitting its head on the brick wall of its limitations. So the records that reveal quite how quickly the new wave of new wave has become the same old shite are coming thick and fast.
   This week, there’s The Rocks’ wanker blues (the dismal ‘Can You Hear Me?’) and my nomination for Worst Single Of The Year, The Departure’s ‘Be My Enemy’ (Parlophone). It’s a song that’s bad from start to finish in every possible way. Lyrics grasp for profundity through vagueness, a grubby wash of reverb over everything that seems to put Thatcher back in power as it gets deeper (oh, how they wish). There’s a vocalist you actually want to bully into suicide and the most painful moment of white-boy funk I’ve ever heard. A band seemingly designed to piss off every unsigned band in the country with their utter undeserved leeway to make music and be heard. Shut these motherfuckers up – somebody. I’ll pay. 


Single of the month (and a mooted peace plan for the 50 years war)
   WELL, fuck, it’s still in the Top 10, so – I was gonna start by saying Girls Aloud’s ‘Love Machine’ (Polydor) pisses all over Jet, Zutons, The White Stripes and The Detroit Cobras…but you know this, yes? Besides, I’m wary of pop evangelism and the inverted snobbery/crypto-fascism of indie fans slumming it in the Top 10 World, so I’ll simply say that indie bands make poor attempts at pop records compared to those who only want to make pop records. ‘Love Machine’ has the most wonderful vamp voices. ABBA bridge. And then…The fucking Monkees!!! But better! Betty Boo better. Ace voices. Rattling along now. Mark E Smith should be involved. But WOW – the doom entombed deep within Girls Aloud’s eyes, the reckless effort it’s pushing against, charges a record as wonderful as ‘Love Machine’ with an extra grit to the glam. There’s a push and shove to the perfection that gets you onside because it’s good to hear people trying their best. Even as they apprehend the Girls Aloud project’s ultimate futility and its present-day grind, they squeeze such immortality from the rush to life.

   And for those who’d seek to attack the pop-minded and are suspicious of being thrilled by melody as opposed to sonic detail? I’d simply say that pop eclipses so much rock right now because it frequently crams way more invention, soundscaped wow and spontaneous magic into a hook-laden three minutes as yer ‘experimental’ hobbyists spread over their entire careers. Pop gets dissed cos it feels no need to wrap up that magic in the disabling smog of righteous smarm, woolly mysticism and charitable self-indulgence that surrounds the lore of rock creativity. Rock aims for timelessness and ends up instantly forgettable. Pop knows its shelf life and so hits immortality.
   Pop makes money, rock makes sense; pop uses everything it can to avoid being earthbound, rock ‘interprets’ its sources, explicates, connects, etc, etc. Bands and critics alike perpetuate such snobbish diktats of basic rockcrit, including those writers who imagine they’re defending pop by trumpeting its ephemerality – the best pop is the absolute opposite of fluff. The problem is rock’s constant desire to be seen as ‘breaking the rules’. Pop knows there are rules and that clichés are only so because they’re true and they work. And so pop will always be seen as hostile to rock’s artistic pretensions.
   This whole wrongheaded battle between pop (patronisingly celebrated for its supposed falseness and superficiality) and rock (condemned to the unambiguous confines of ‘passion’ and ‘honesty’) must cease now, perhaps with the realisation that, queerly, the best pop is blood’n’guts and the best rock is plastic.
   I can believe in Girls Aloud, Outkast, Terror Squad, Britney, Dizzee, just as I can believe in Comets On Fire, Minus Story, and the fine people on Constellation, kranky, etc. The problem is the fucking middle ground. It’s the people like cunting Robbie Williams who wanna make pop ‘serious’ (sniffing a Mercury and a spot on Later…). It’s the people who want to popularise true experimental music by wrapping the sound of Zoviet France around the dull thud of foursquare rock (see Radiohead, Coldplay, Elbow, Interpol and cunting U2).
   Why be happy with that careerist compromise? If you’re gonna go interstellar then go interstellar. Pop could contain and discipline you. Anti-pop could spin you out forever and set you free on yourself. Either way, excel, accelerate towards your own peculiar dead end and out the other side. There’s too much swimming with the shoal right now – chancers hoping to get enough right (ie: enough recognisable) to be waved through. I just wanna dance to ‘Love Machine’, thanks. I’m through with seeing things how they are. I need a better world by the time I’ve finished this fag. Next month, singles of 2004 and a death list for the New Year revolution.

Monday, 28 January 2013

SINGLES PAGE, MELODY MAKER, MAY 28, 1994



SINGLE OF THE WEEK
DISCO INFERNO
SECOND LANGUAGE  EP (Rough Trade)
OH God, notes couldn’t spell out the score.
No band have robbed my speech and plundered my tears quite as greedily as Disco Inferno have this year. And, in the current pop climate, they grown more essential daily, a reason to believe rather than just another band. So much British pop is living in now-fear: bands that talk about British life from a rakish patronising distance of the “artist” and filter their “observations” back through a haze of retro-retreat and sickening cowardice.
   Disco Inferno are beyond the poverty of such chicken-shits, they are the bravest band I’ve heard in too long; they insist on rendition not representation, they create the sound of living today there in your headphones, pouring from your speakers, there is no distance, they are VIRTUAL REALITY POP and they leave you gasping for air, clawing for words, shuddering stunned in the overwhelming truth and beauty of the music surrounding you.
No other band can make you feel this scarily alive, this acute sense of being on the brink of the big and wide. When the guitar at the end of the title track starts to bend and warp, writing difficulties set in. My heart skips a beat and then packs in two dozen in an instant. With this EP, perhaps their most gorgeous and accessible yet, I’m praying that one of those crazy moments when life actually works is going to happen.
Tattoo it under yer eyelids and sleep knowing it, you’re letting one of the best British bands of the decade slip through your fingers. There’s now reward for being ahead of your time but, on paltry planet pop, there’s no reward for being OF your time, either.
F***ing heroes, no question.

DAWN PENN
YOU DON’T LOVE ME (NO NO NO) [Big Beat]
After that camel’s abortion of a CJ Lewis single, it’d seem that the way to get a Number One is to find the most teeth-itchingly irritating old novelty hit and get some conveyor-belt toaster to Dalek out his drivel whenever the song runs out of words (depressingly often). I await Shabba Ranks’ take on ‘Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep’ and Buju Banton’s cover of ‘It’s Raining Men’ with terror. Hopefully, this song’ll hit big enough to banish all dire reggae-fied covers from the hit parade forever.
   This is as catchy as crabs, with a vocal that’ll etch itself on yer mind all summer and a great early 70s “Tighten Up Vol.4” feel that could make it the best female reggae hit since the Soul Sisters “Wreck A Buddy”. A fab summer pop single and, oh yeah, play it next to Luscious Jackson’s ‘Daughters Of The Kaos’ and pat yourself on the back. Uncanny, aint it?

SHARA NELSON
NOBODY (Cooltempo)
YOU know this already, of course.
   You’ve put it on quiet at 3.30am to watch the rain run down the window and drag deep on your fag and nod slowly. You’ve let it buzz your ears on the night bus home and let the aching strings and sashay funk melt the tiredness and beer out yer head. You’ve been sat in niteklubs surrounded by couples slopping over each other, whispering to yourself, “I will not get alienated . . . I will not get alienated” and it’s come soaring over the system and you’ve clung to yourself and felt the warm glow of lonely happiness suffuse you.
You miserable old bugger.
Exquisitely measured defiance slips and slides into the terror of loneliness and, as ever, it’s gratifying to hear someone sing about life struggles who isn’t still a f***ing whiny adolescent or a solipsist sap or any of those clichéd lovelorn characters pop is choked with – just a person with all the attendant complexities, hang-ups and angelic neuroses that entails.
This has five mixes that you really don’t need but still, stack it up with “Hips & Makers”, “The White Birch” and Cassandra Wilsons incredible “Blue Light Til Dawn”, and keep several cold ones in the fridge for me. I’ll be round later.

BARRY BLUE
CANCEL ‘EM ALL OUT (Vinyl Solution)
FROM the label that have already sunk vast craters in yer skull with Depthcharge, Eon and Gunshot comes more mind-bending future f***-cry from debutee Barry Blue. “Cancel Em All Out” is a blistering indictment of the music industry’s abject ignorance of British rap, and makes its best point simply by sounding like a hand grenade dropped down Matty Hanson’s nappies and a 100 times more powerful than any Snoop Lawdy Lawd drivel.
DJ White Child Rix masters the mayhem and is rapidly turning into the John Woo of hip hop. His mixing here  is brutal and minimal, giving the mammoth beat a rawness that humps your woofers like a rutting rhino that’s been chewing on its own horn. Missus. Christ only know what they put in the water down at Vinyl Solution, so HE can fix me up with a double.

FITS OF GLOOM
HEAVEN (MCA)
You’ll hate it, inevitably. You’ll run out of cheap jeans shops to avoid it. It will follow you everywere. Building sites, taxis, HMV, kebab houses, passing Capris. In a pub, it’ll come on the juke and you’ll look around accusingly. You’ll turn to your friends and say, “God, I HATE this song.” You’ll make damn sure that everyone knows this kind of music is utterly anti-thetical to everything you hold dear in pop. And you’ll sadly watch it ascend the charts, wonder who is buying it, curse your generation.
   And then when you’re in the shower in the morning and Steve Wright plonks this on, you’ll be singing your heart out, every single inane lyric, using the faucet as a microphone and generally acting like you should be wearing a one-piece sequinned leather body-stocking and playing “Pass The Mic” on ‘The Hitman And Her’ (still sadly missed). The Shower Test is the ultimate critical criterion of great pop and this passes it with barely a pause to reach for the loofah. You lav’ it, yoo filfy caaah.

HUGE BABY
GOODNIGHT IRENE, HELLO DOLLY (Org)
Y’KNOW how every now and then, when your faith in music is waning, a record seems to come out of nowhere and show you a whole new infinity of possibilities that need exploring? Happened with Public Enemy, Throwing Muses, LFO, The Young Gods, Rhythim Is Rhythim. And now Huge Baby.
   This band are most intriguing. “Black Mama” turns from a Main-ish feedback wall into the dirtiest scuzziest blues I’ve heard in years, before stopping, starting again and finishing on a crescendo that even had the cat pinning her ears back. “Hopscotch” is a terrifying Slint-ish lullaby that will send you to sleep clinging to the sheets and bracing yourself for a restless night, and “Voodoo” is a cross between Pram and AC Temple, featuring a most astonishing vocal performance.
Thinking the record was warped, I got up to take it off but it wasn’t, she was doing that shit naturally! As I stepped back from the hi-fi, already a little spooked, whoevershemaybe’s voice abruptly mutated from a light croon into a frankly horrifying blast of vocal rage that actually physically sent me jerking away in fear. Good job I hadn’t eaten.
Fascinating stuff, and one to keep an eye on, albeit a widely-dilated, shit-scared one.

JERU THE DAMAJA
D ORIGINAL (ffrr)
WHOOPS, looks like Premier’s been at the ‘nana skins again. The Gang Starr axis have fully emerged as the true inheritors of Eric B & Rakim’s dark universe of avant-rap. This puts the boom in the bap and bites hard, topped off with piano madness like Cecil Taylor has found Jerry Mouse in his Steinway.
“Blackness” is still too often pushed as a signifier of relaxed sunny-side-up self-confidence, from Lenny Hernry to Ere Com De Lilt Mon to that kinda loosed-up orang-utan skank you can see a 100 kids suddenly adopt up and down the country whenever Cypress Hill gets played in clubs. Try and shuffle to this and your blood will run cold.
Chill Out And Die.

SEPULTURA
SLAVE NEW WORLD (Roadrunner)
I’M glad my parents didn’t call me Chili (think about it) as they once planned. They worked out that they couldn’t afford the inevitable psychiatry bills and settled for ‘Neil’ and pinning a ‘KICK ME’ sign on my back. I’m sure Max and Igor Cavalera are glad their parents didn’t christen them “Laughing” and “Vauxhaull” but they still don’t sound too happy on this, the final single from their excellent “Chaos AD” LP.
Where most death metal politics usually amounts to wanting to run round the house butt-naked and piss in the sink, Sepultura come straight from the war zone, their worldview is so totally monochromatic and medieval, it’s a ghoulish look into the mind at the end of its tether. Trouble is, the sublime precision of the music is so seductive, you’re half-tempted to go down the park with a three-litre bottle of Tesco’s cider and start saying things like “Love is a lie y’know” or “We’re all just walking corpses man” again like everyone did in the mid-Eighties.
Errrm, or so I’ve heard.

THE JON SPENCER BLUES EXPLOSION
TRAIN NO.1 (In The Red)
MARY ELLEN CARVER
MONOPOLY QUEEN (Sub Pop)
SEEING as how usually, at this point of the page, a load of disconnected yet similarly (supposedly) ephemeral rap and dance things are collectively chewed up and spat out in one easily digestible bolus of of indifference, let’s turn the tables a tad shall we? Yeah!!
Grunge!! You would not believe how many records made by the geekoid offspring of of chipmunk therapists and racoon farmers from Inbrednaziville, Ohio I had to lug back to Coventry. There’s f***ing loads of this stuff and, trawling through it all, I was waiting for that Damascus moment, the new Shudder To Think or Thin White Rope to come searing out the sky. But, nope, 90 per cent samey heads-down gutbucket dirges all the way. These two stood out from the pack, though.
Jon Spencer was actually as good as that Sarra Manning review of him was, funky swamp blooze bedlam with that fat low end that Pussy Galore were always missing. This kicks ass and flicks ash in torrid abandon. And Mary Carver is comedy record of the week, she’s Lisa Suckdog’s (remember her?) mom, inspired by a dream, Lisa wrote this song for her about someone who just hadto win at Monopoly, and has set it to a hideously accurate Sixties light orchestra backing, replete with miaowing feline chorus and a musical director who looks like Charles Manson’s older brother. To be encouraged, I feel.  

Thursday, 24 January 2013

"I'm a volcano of ideas"

Any film that manages to offend Bunuel & Antonioni has to be worth watching. "Fists In The Pocket" remains one of the most intense, hysterical, hard-boiled conjurations of lust, longing, disgust and boredom I've ever seen and so it becomes the debut in a new series wherein I shove films I love (and some of the best critique of those films) at you, and you lap it up like the slavering sub-human dog-creature you are, I am, we all are. Paola Pitagora is the new love of your life and Lou Castel your new favourite loon. Enjoy. 



watch the film in full here 


"This first film by Marco Bellocchio must surely be one of the most astonishing directorial débuts in the history of movies, yet it is hard to know how to react to it. The direction is exhilaratingly cool and assured, and the whole movie is charged with temperament, but the material is wild. It's about a bourgeois family of diseased monsters; epileptic fits multiply between bouts of matricide, fratricide, and incest. The material is so savage that the movie often seems intended to be funny, but why it was so intended isn't clear. It features the best strange-brother-and-sister act since Les Enfants Terribles (1948): Lou Castel, with his pug-dog manner, and Paola Pitagora, looking like a debauched gazelle. Cinematography by Alberto Marrama; music by Ennio Morricone. In Italian." - Pauline Kael.


(from David Thomson's 'Have You Seen: A Personal Introduction To 1000 Films')

"A long-overdue screamer from the semi-forgotten, underscreened New Wave archives, Marco Bellocchio's 1965 debut "started something" in Italian cinema, according to DVD talking head Bernardo Bertolucci—and the attack on everything old-world Catholic, provincial, late baroque, aristocratic, and traditional remains fierce and disconcerting. A family bell jar of sociopathy and funeral rites, Fists centers on a decaying, villa-occupying family that could be characterized as Milanese Gothic—brawls are common, homicide always threatens, and epilepsy, impressionistically observed as a metaphor for psychosexual entropy, is rampant. It's one of those films that mysteriously make every image—a bonfire of bedroom furniture, a caged chinchilla, a family dinner on the verge of explosion—resonate with social disquiet. As the family's middle son and primary agent of manic- depressive chaos, first-time star Lou Castel is an unforgettable figure, a dissolve between Brando and Matthew Perry, simultaneously affectless and hyperactive, as if the hot wire connecting feeling and expression were cut and giving off sparks. (Just as hypnotizing is Paola Pitagora as the young, sexy sister, weirdly creepy in her misanthropic prettiness—that is, until a line is crossed in the clan's degeneration, sending her into a spiral.)" - Michael Atkinson, Village Voice 

Friday, 18 January 2013

R.I.P HMV (1921-2013) - Some thoughts on growing up and falling apart.


DON'T you dare look like you’re not having a good time. Modernity won’t stand for it. Nostalgia is only tolerable these days if effectively neuteured into the eye-twinkling safety of much-missed sweets, ephemera, a dim halcyon chortling at a time when things ‘mattered’ and you ‘cared’, a ferociously maintained media-wide intolerance for ever suggesting that things mean any less now. Get the fuck over yourself old man. Everything is retrievable, via this link or that. Quit blubbing.
  But hold on. Nostalgia, as it’s phonetic adjacency to neuralgia suggests, is a more complex, nagging, painful thing than that. Nostalgia doesn’t have to be about yearning for what’s lost. None of us are dumb enough or depressed enough to think our school days were the best years of our lives, let alone wish ourselves back into the strange world of threat, confusion and hyper-sensitivity that childhood was. Nostalgia can, though, be about confrontation, can be about running against the brick wall of time’s ongoing moves of obsolescence on everything you once held dear. It can be a brutal realisation that in at its depths, what you’re really sad for is what the hell’s happened to you, how much you lost getting so much smarter. Case in point. Yesterday, I saw this photo and like every other image I see on a screen it should’ve been in one eye and out the other, should’ve been neatly processed at nano-speed, distracted me for a moment, maybe a few, but not put any kind of impedence in my day or in any way stalled the infa-red agility of living a modern life, being a modern consumer. Cos that’d be boring man. That’d be an old fart getting wet.


   But my god, it stopped my heart. Photos can do that when they don’t just capture a place and time but actually timetravel you back there, back into the skin you were in and the heart you had within, erase the accrued sedimentary cynicism and numbness of your intervening demise and remind you of when your soul hadn’t been disconnected from the mains, when your mind and metabolism actually cared about the next moment and whether you were gonna be around to see it. Nothing’s more heartbreaking than being reminded of a time when you thought you had a future, even if it was a no-future, fuck-everybody, gonna-die by the time I’m 30 kinda future. At least you had a hope (in hell), at least even if you were just drifting like you are now, you felt you could thrash your cilia and flagella and motor yourself somewhere, somewhere onwards, elsewhere, further in, deeper out. These photos, of the interior of Coventry's old HMV (next to the Dog & Trumpet pub aka the Woof N Puff) have effected me emotionally far more than anything else I've seen in a while. I don't mourn the HMV 'brand' (although huge sympathies to everyone in threat of redundancy), I suspect what I mourn is precisely that which is irretrievable - the feeling of how special a record shop is when you're a kid into pop, what a vital part of your trail round town it is, how littered with memories of things that have stayed with you forever, even as the shop changed and eventually went. That excitement in your heart when you walked thru the door, whether in a position to buy or not - that's what I miss. And that's something Amazon will never be able to bring back to me. Not complaining, or moaning, or wishing things back. Just saying - this photo brings me as close to a spiritual yearning as an atheist can get because - sounds dramatic but you are dramatic at that age - places like this, and libraries, and bookshops aren't just business concerns, they're places that save your life and make you who you are. You could say 'no, they're just the places that SELL those things that you think do all that'. But looking at these photos I know what I feel and it's powerful. This place was a sanctuary, as desired & sought by a pop kid back then as a cathedral would be to a medieval pilgrim. A home away from home. A place that contained wonders.


   Like I say, didn't matter if you had money. A place to go, and hang around, and rack up the daydreams and yearn, tucked under Cov's other palace of dreams, the ABC cinema. Corrugated fingertips from all that rifling. Pure pleasure, self-directed. Pulling out gatefolds, reading. If you'd managed to liberate a quid from yr mums purse then straight to the singles. When something massive, like a new Prince or a new Public Enemy dropped, I'd go to the shop just to slaver, just to be near. When I did have money, when I knew what I was going in to buy, I'd still tease myself, pretend I didn't know what I wanted, have a scan through the sale racks, check out the classical section, eventually find the self-teasing unendurable and stomp with righteous joy to the thing I wanted, pull it, take it to the counter. Seeing the counter-staff bag it up, handing your money over, taking the solid flat thing you got for your squids, finding a bench outside, getting it out of the bag, running your hands over it, keeping the cellophane unripped til you got home but maybe popping the side so you can tip the disc out, check the grooves. And then, of course, getting home, dropping it on the spindle, placing the needle, sitting back, waiting. When the first thing you hear might be 'Rocks Off', 'Five Years', 'Mambo Sun', 'You're Gonna Get Yours', 'Wendys Parade', 'Love & Haight', 'Holidays In The Sun' these moments become charged with significance, the further away you look back the deeper the hit. The first time I heard 'Rebel Without A Pause'. The first time I heard Kristin sing 'Call Me'. The first time I heard 'Teenage Riot'. All from this shop. All bought on a wing and a prayer.


   Part of the problem being an old fart and being in that intermediate generation tween analogue and digital is that the old formats seem so more imbued with magic, and so more upfront and honest about that magic. That's not just a reactionary habit - showing 78s to students,  the 16 and 17 year olds I teach were entranced with the shellac heft, the fragility, the fact that these objects didn't hide their love away, could, as demonstrated, be fixed if they went wrong with a dab of ivory soap or a penny on the needle. Scratches you grow fond of, locked grooves that accompanied long nights of narcosis. Records LOOK like they contain something, CDs (perhaps the most deceitful unsatisfactory format of all time, lying about their reliability, hiding their inconsistent workings behind a black impenetrable door) never did, and MP3s don't even look like anything other than numbers rotating on a screen. Don't get me wrong, no true luddite I, the MP3 is THEE ultimate format because it answers all the questions previous formats have left unanswered (portability, storage, taking up NO physical space). But with its tactility and warmth, vinyl remained an umbilicus back to the beginnings of recording technology, the fantastical sense that electricity had etched these hills and dales in 45 degree Westrex waves, the always barely-believable sorcery that could drive a needle up and down these PVC cravasses, sending signals out that saved your life.


   Vinyl was the format that nurtured me, that accompanied that burning stretch from 12 to 20-odd when you feel MOST at odds with the universe: consequently looking at these photos gives me feelings like nothing else because memory at its most vivid is contained not in the head but in objects and places and the feel of something in your hands, the way you could look at a record and imagine its sound all the way from the edge to the Porky's Prime Cut. Remembering that crazy 2 year period when file-sharing was just kicking off and I downloaded every single thing I ever wanted, will never give me the same sense of trepidation, fun, risk, discovery. The internet replaced all that waiting (the way the maths went was 1 record = tenth of your giro = only really afford a dozen albums a year, a few more dozen second-hand),  all that yearning, with a glut and ease you'd have been mad not to engulf yourself in. But whilst I have a fondness for my heaving hard-drive and my thousands of mediafire/rapidshare thieves, I have a love for those few-score slabs of PVC  HMV and others sold me in those Nice Price years, things bought blind with no preview, things that I HAD to learn to live with to make the money spent seem worth it, things that went through twists of fear/affection to stay with you, things that friends, writers, elder sisters and other talismans pointed you towards with intrigue and suggestion. Of course there'd be the joy of specialist shops as well, and later on outside of Cov. But that HMV was a place where the whole city went for music. It felt like everyone inside was chasing the same joy, albeit down myriad different alleys, all of us entranced by the sheer magic of soul and spirit and imagination transduced into wax.


Of course, part of HMV’s particular pull on you, the reason you greeted news of its demise with a certain self-protective numbness is that logo, how imprinted 
internally it is on all our memory banks, how you know that in India Nipper was sometimes replaced by a Cobra. Just how far the magic reached - across empires, how all my dad's Indian records still had the insignia of that shift from cylinder to disc. In its way, Barraud's picture reveals alot. The arrogance of Edison in knocking it back ("Dogs do not listen to phonographs"), the opportunism and luck of Berliner picking it up. That moment at the dawn of recording when the purposes of recording technology were almost entirely non-musical. Edison's original patent for the phonograph contains a myriad of uses of which musical reproduction is only one.

"Letter writing and all kinds of dictation without the aid of a stenographer. Phonographic books, which will speak to blind people without effort on their part. The teaching of elocution. Reproduction of music. The "Family Record"--a registry of sayings, reminiscences, etc., by members of a family in their own voices, and of the last words of dying persons. Music-boxes and toys. Clocks that should announce in articulate speech the time for going home, going to meals, etc. The preservation of languages by exact reproduction of the manner of pronouncing. Educational purposes; such as preserving the explanantions made by a teacher, so that the pupil can refer to them at any moment, and spelling or other lessons placed upon the phonograph for convenience in committing to memory. Connection with the telephone, so as to make that instrument an auxiliary in the transmission of permanent and invaluable records, instead of being the recipient of momentary and fleeting communication."
MUSIC here as perhaps only one use of that magical mid 19th-century moment when photography and phonography suggested for the first time in human civilization that time could be stopped, that the previously evanescent could be captured and relived. The way that Recording technology has progressed, the way it's thieved from other technologies, turned the swords of electrical recording (WW1) and tape-recording (WW2) into the ploughshares of the microphone (intimacy) and multitrack (playfulness with source) is an odd one, a stop-start narrative of stasis and sudden progress that almost seems accidental. Deforest's Prime Evil, the stereo of Blumlein, Jack Mullin's tinkering with captured German magnetophones, Goldmark's microgrooves - these were not conceived of with thoughts of how what could be done with that technology could form some of the most important art of the century, they were tinkered into life with nothing but curiosity and playfulness. Even the MP3 was initially an academic research project into the impossible. Of course, we’ve been tutored by the white-heat of all that technological change to be dispassionate about this, even if for at least 40 years after the change from 78 to 33 & 45 the format really didn't change (and so we felt held in that post-war moment, as close to the Beatles & Stones & the comforts of the canon as we were to those ever-changing sounds pulling the ground out beneath us). Really what we’re seeing is the return of music to an almost pre-industrial state, the state it was in before this strange 150 year frightmare that is the record-business took what was previously ethereal and momentary and captured it and barcoded it for commerce. But looking at these photos I can't just blithely march into the future, no matter how much the fact musicians are back throwing their caps on the floor and hoping for the best might actually open up new ways of thinking about music making and listening, no matter how much the collapse of the record industry might loosen the systems of debt and dependence that have left so many in penury, and have so strictured and strangled the ambitions of western music. Looking at these photos I'm reminded that no matter how much of a bloated graveyard of artistry the record industry could be, it still had an exclusive control of my hope for much of my growing life, a direct control over my vacillation between despair and determination. It touched me innapropriately. I will love it forever, despite everything. RIP HMV. You, more than school, more than home, more than anywhere else, were my LIFELINE. Don't fret, I'm safer now. Safer. Not sure about happier.


Monday, 14 January 2013

WHY THERE IS NOW A 'DONATE' BUTTON ON MY BLOG



Cos I'm skint, nigh-on permanently. That's not gap-year/middle-class skint. That doesn't mean I've always got a few hundred in the bank. That means I'm frequently hunting pennies down the back of the sofa just to keep the power on and building up debt just to feed the kids. Want to keep the blog going, would be nice if it'd occasionally not just take up my time but give me food to eat. All/any largesse gratefully received. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

"You're right. F*** EVERYBODY" - GETTING STONED WITH CYPRESS HILL IN LONDON AND THE HOLLYWOOD HILLS, 1995

"Cypress Hill: Do Believe The Hype"
Neil Kulkarni, Melody Maker, 16 September 1995

"CYPRESS HILL's self-titled debut album changed the face of hip hop. Their second, Black Sunday, was the rap crossover LP of the early Nineties. But their soon-come third long-player, Temples Of Boom, is the business, da shiznit, the BOMB. So we sent NEIL KULKARNI first to Ladbroke Grove for an exclusive playback of the record with mainman DJ MUGGS, then to LA to meet the rest of the crew responsible for the next crucial stage in hip hop's development"

DJ MUGGS, INVENTOR of the Soul Assassins sound, mixmaster general for Cypress Hill and one of the most important producers in hip hop history, is sitting in a club in Ladbroke Grove next to a massive sound system and smoking the smelliest, phunkiest green shit ever. Muggs has invited me down to hear the new Cypress Hill LP, one that no one, not even in America, has heard yet. While I'm waiting to adjust to the excitement (and the chronic fog), I take the opportunity to review Cypress Hill's career.
The sad truth is that Black Sunday, Cypress Hill's last album and the hip hop record it was OK for indie kids to like throughout 1993/4, was kinda stuck in one groove, more of the same only less so compared to the sonic revolution that was Cypress Hill, their eponymous debut.
Sure, Black Sunday was occasionally fantastic ('Cock The Hammer', 'Break 'Em Off Some'), but it was more often just tired, dope-fugged laziness. Of course it was massive but, for Cypress Hill to still mean anything in '95, they have to have moved on, create a whole new blueprint rather than simply pursue their own history into the future.
Perhaps most importantly, Cypress Hill must distance themselves from the rest of the increasingly tired Soul Assassins axis (Funkdoobiest, House Of F***ing Pain), move back to hip hop's cutting edge yet still retain their mass appeal.
Impossible?
Muggs flicks a switch and the room is flooded with sound. And it's immediate. They've done it. They've come through. The results will silence everybody. The first second you hear this new LP, your soul quakes. After 20 minutes' exposure, your doubts evaporate in a puff of dope smoke. Temples Of Boom is the motherf***in' BOMB. You won't believe your ears.
Muggs is sitting back now, Lobbing his head, grinning. HE KNOWS.
Back. In a big no f***in' way.
Driver! LA.


REAL ESTATE
"F***, F***, F***ING MOTHERF***ER."
Muggs is hyped. He paces his Hollywood Hills home more intimidatingly than the two Zoltanhounds he's got by his pool to savage any unsuspecting wheat-germ killers. As we pulled up to his house, we could smell the skunk OUTSIDE. Like all the homes up here, you can actually see more of them from down in Hollywood than you can up among them. Christ knows what kinds of depravity are going on behind these doors. Images of cocaine being snorted from a pig's nether regions flood the mind, as ever.
At the top of this hill, Sly Stallone has bought a house, cleared the land around it, dug a bunker into the hillside and now commands the greatest view in LA. Well, wouldn't you? L.A. is the Western Mecca, popular culture's secular cathedral, Disneyland for grown-ups. But they let me in anyway.
The reason Muggs is so frenetic is because the band have been given three days in which to finish the LP before they fly to South America for gigs. Cypress Hill's B-Real and Sen Dog are here, Muggs has a studio set up in the corner and a vocal booth in the wardrobe. Handy. We're given an hour. Max.
Sitting down on the luxurious carpet (a houseproud Muggs has told us all to take off our shoes) in front of the biggest TV I've ever seen in my life, as the sun glints off the pool and shines on the wall of platinum discs, I ask B-Real if the pressure ever gets to him.
"Never," he says, directly, "because we've been in control since day one. Everyone we deal with knows that, if they leave us to do our thing, we'll give them the best shit we can. But we're in charge of our own careers, no one else, since day one."
How did you start out? It's not all that well known.
"Well," he starts, "I met Sen Dog thru his brother [Mellow Man Ace]. He used to have a break-dancing crew. Slowly and surely, I started hanging with Sen, and we just moved from breakdancing to rapping just as a hobby. Nothing serious. Somewhere along the line, we met Muggs [who was then Djing for underground act 7A3] and eventually it was just us three hanging out the most. They wuz ruff days, y'know?"
He looks around at the splendour and smiles.
"We had nothing, but we did what we did to get by. Sometimes we had shit, sometimes we didn't, but, if I hadn't have gone through that, I wouldn't be who I am today. Whether that's good or band, I learned a lot of shit from that."
And presumably you'd started to write back then?
"Yeah, I found my method of writing back then and it's stayed the same ever since. Either I'd just get an idea, or Muggs'd spark me off on one and it'd just flow. I used to ride the bus from Gardenia all the way to Hollywood and I'd just be thinking, I'd have shit in my head all the way. It's a f***in' hour-long ride – that's how I wrote 'Stoned Is The Way Of The Walk'. It just came into my head. I thought up every single line, the whole thing on that bus ride, and, when I got off, I went to Muggs' house and wrote it all down."
And this was how the crew created their debut album, one that would change hip hop forever. Only available on import in the UK for some time, in the US its impact was instantaneous. It has since gone platinum-plus.
Were you aware in its making that it was gonna have such a massive affect?
"We were just happy to have an album deal," says B-Real, "to be a part of the whole culture. See, that first LP spanned about three years of songwriting, just waiting around for our shit to happen. It was a relief more than anything;. We never thought of it would change stuff."
But it DID and, when it came time to recording the follow-up, Black Sunday, the pressure to do it again was definitely ON.
"Well, see, nobody knew the first LP was gonna blow up so big. We didn't ever imagine that what we wanted to hear, y'know, another f***in' million people would wanna hear, too, and the record company didn't, either. So they needed something to follow it up with, like, NOW. We were kinda inexperienced at that point, so we just said, 'All right, we'll do it.' And we just went in and knocked it out in two months."
Hence the hurried vibe. Muggs tells me he was only 50 per cent happy with Black Sunday. Parts of the hip hop media in the US took this as a cue to react angrily to Cypress' new-found success. Caught in that moment of elitist bitterness when THEIR babies become EVERYBODY'S, US mag The Source in particular accused Cypress of "selling out", even (absurdly) targeting them for racism on 'Lil' Putos'.
"Source can suck my dick. I'll beat all their asses," snorts Muggs. "The Source thing was a personal thing, no other critics or magazines said that. They were trying to plant a seed in other people's heads."
"That magazine's a piece of shit," adds B-Real.
But it does indicate a wider trend in hip hop. Where the obsession to "keep it real" and stay underground engenders a spiteful, embittered backlash whenever the WAY OF LIFE becomes some taste/style accessory.
B-Real isn't having it.
"They should be f***in' happy for that artist – it gives an opportunity for hip hop to be big, a well-respected part of the music, not just this constant outcast. Most all the other music genres respect success. Some don't, some might see it as a phase, a fad. But what we've done is show that rap is here to stay, it's been around for 20 years, and look at the heights it can achieve. So far, we've done everything we've wanted to do, no regrets. And we've kept control over everything. In music, let alone hip hop, that should bean inspiration."
But hip hop has moved on since '93. Where do you see Cypress Hill fitting in now? "Well, there's a lot of competition so I don't really know where we stand right now," says Real. "There ain't shit out there but Raekwon, all the rest can suck a dick," snarls Muggs.
"Well, that's his opinion," B-Real snickers, "But, I know, we always try and keep our ear to the ground, keep on top of what's goin' on."
"And right now," Muggs says, "hip hop is f***ing boring, ain't nothin' but us and Raekwon. The rest suck."
"He's right. It is boring right now," concedes B-Real.
You realise that Muggs is f***ing wired. This could get really interesting. Then something terrible happens. It does.



ICE ICE BABY
A LOT OF misinformed people might say the LA sound has moved on to pure G-Funk (God save us).
"Well, they can suck some dick. F*** that," says Muggs. "G-Funk just started last year, it ain't all about G-Funk. S'cool, and that's their LVC thang, but there's more to LA than all that G-Funk shit."
"And, truth is, we ain't never given a f*** about anyone else anyway," adds B-Real. "We hear it, but we're over here, doin' our own thang.
"But there are a lot of producers out here who don't get props," continues B-Real, after a moment's pause.
"There ain't shit in LA except Snoop..." Muggs pauses. B-Real chips in: "As you can tell, he's not in a very good mood today." Muggs, however, carries on, oblivious to all and sundry.
"Ice Cube? He's the most biting-ass motherf***er in the world. He's a bitin'-ass nigga. All that shit King Sun said about him? It's true. All that shit wid' the Torcha Chamba [Cube's collaborators on 'Wicked'] suing him? It's true."
Whoa, whoa, what are they suing him for?
"They didn't get paid, man!" exclaims Muggs, "I did 'Check Yo' Self' in '92 and still ain't got my f***in' royalties cheques, man!"
B-Real picks it up.
"I'll tell you this," he says. "I did countless favours for Cube, didn't get paid, no credit. I'll do that for him outta friendship. But, when it came to doing the track for Friday [the movie soundtrack], we played him 'Throw Your Sets' [the first single from Temples Of Boom] cos we had just finished it. And it just so happens that he put our f***in' chorus on his f***in' song for Friday. It's coming out next week. He had it done, finished before we played him 'Sets', but his track had no chorus. Then, waddayaknow, a month after, our chorus turns up on his track. Then he even takes a line out of our track, that line, 'Los Scandalous California', and titles the new Caution LP with it. And the real f***ed up thing is that I'm in the studio with Cube listening to the Caution LP and I hear it in the lyrics. So I go out, come back and listen again and he's f***in' muted it out. Tryin' to make me think I wuz buggin' out when I heard it! But I heard it, now it's their LP title and that's just not cool. You need to think of your own shit. I was cool with him till then but now we say, 'F*** him, f*** him twice, f*** him three times'."
Muggs is getting into this now.
"He ripped off Sun, he ripped off Ricky Harris, the stand-up comedian. 'How You Like Me Now?' is a straight rip-off of one a' Ricky's stories. Even his own people told us he never used to smoke much until we met him. Y'know that pipe on The Predator cover? That's Muggs' f***in' pipe, man!"
"He had his art-work done," continues Muggs, "a cartoon of him ripping someone's spine out. I'm in the studio doing 'Tear this Motherf***er Up' and he's like, 'Gimme yr pipe. Gimme yr pipe.' I'm like,'Naah, man', 'I'll give you 100 dollars for it.' So the next day I'm just, 'F***, take the f***ing pipe and just shut up, man.' Next thing, it's on the cover. He don't even smoke weed! The man don't even smoke! The man smoked weed with me one time in the studio and he couldn't do the vocals cos he couldn't even think, didn't know if they were good or nuthin'."
"S'true, I was there. I saw the whole shit," laughs B-Real.
"I mean, if you wanna use my shit, I'll write something for you, don't be taking the shit I'm gonna use. It's like taking my bitch, I'm gonna punch you in the f***in' head."
"Exactly, dude," concurs B. 'That's like f***ing with a man's woman, man. Anything I made I cherish, cos I might not remember that shit the next day."
"Cube, man, he's a biting-ass motherf***er. His homeboys'll come outta jail and say, 'Yo, Cube, I just got out after 10 years, niggers tryin' a stick, tryin' a stick.' That nigger'll go home and [slips into uncanny Cube voice] 'FRESH OUT THE PEN!!! JUST DID 10!!!' – y'know what I'm saying?"
The room collapses into laughter.
"I used to respect him so much," says B, sadly. "But all that shit is gone now. Y'know what?" he turns to Muggs. "You're right. F*** EVERYBODY."
"We're hitting everybody up to shit, we on a war with everybody, everybody else should shut the f*** up," Muggs is thumping his fist into his palm.
Looks like I got you on a good day.
"Heh, heh, shit, where's the weed at? I gotta mellow out now."
And off he goes, leaving me to add, just as a matter of interest: Mr Cube, sir, if you're reading this, I stuck up for you, sir, I did my best to defend you.
Well, I laughed like a drain anyway.



HIP HOP DISCONNECTION
SERIOUSLY, though, the difference runs deeper than that.
As with all great bands, it's misguided to try and place Cypress Hill in any rigid scheme. They only sound themselves when they're out on a limb, endlessly re-inventing their approach.
But if hip hop in general can be divided up right now, it's those West Coast/East Coast camps. In sunbaked LA, r&b/hip hop fusion and G-Funk are the predominant styles (flip a radio dial and you'll drown in it). The likes of Twinz, Bones Thugs & Harmony, Coolio, Cube, MC Eiht and Scarface are bringing together the rap and swing audiences to form one giant commercial base.
In New York, hip hop has gone in another, more avant garde direction, producing a more sparse and chilling sound, one that's almost designed to remain true to the hip hop junkies and beat heads, to stay uncompromisingly underground, to not cross over, to keep grimly fiendish. Think Junior Mafia, Redman, Murray, Mack, Jeru, Show & AG, Mobb Deep, the whole Wu-Tang stable.
What's great about Cypress Hill is that, while they share the popular appeal and ambition of their LA peers, if anything, in sound and spirit they have a hell of a lot more in common with East-Coast hip hop than with their local contemporaries. Temple Of Boom, their forthcoming LP, is a stunning, at times terrifying, record, one that, as Muggs says, is "a step beyond anything we've done before but still an addition to it."
The immediately identifiable Cypress sound is still there, in B-Real's nasal whine, in the dirty black Indian summer of their sound, in the way, like all CH records, your body starts involuntarily snapping itself about the moment you hear it.
Yet what grabs you most immediately is that this isn't just another addition to the hip hop canon. Implausibly, this late on in their career, Cypress have made an LP that is as ground-breaking as their debut, that doesn't just follow form but revolutionises it. Muggs has taken his trademark lurid, blunted sound to new depths, higher planes. Pockets of space have been allowed to open up and hatch new horrors, suck in more sound. Looping has given way to deeper experimentation within individual samples.
This may have something to do with simple economics: the crew have claimed they gave away half of what they should've received from Black Sunday merely for sample clearances. The second-long snippet, "I think I'm going crazy", at the end of 'Insane In The Brain', cost them $50,000 alone.
But rather than allow this to tie them down, Muggs has used it as a cosmic springboard, the enforced discipline sending his production further into inner-space. Every single sound is f***ed with and ripped apart with clinical, razor-sharp brilliance that sounds anything but limited. Rather it's limitless, infinite, the weirdest, most staggering shit I've heard since 'StoneD Is The Way Of The Walk' first detonated our lives forever.
The first taste of the new LP will be the unnerving, brain-jangling single, 'Throw Your Sets In The Air', coupled with the equally fearsome 'Killa Hilla'. Together with the other tracks I've heard, 'Let It Rain', the stunning 'Temples Of Boom' itself and the jaw-dropping collaboration with Wu-Tang, 'Illusions', Temple Of Boom is more than worth the wait – it's Cypress Hill's best yet and the unarguable headf*** of the year next to Maxinquaye, Timeless, Goodfellas,The Infamous, Tical and... Jesus, this is a brilliant year.

And it's about to get even better. "Really, the difference between this LP and the last one is that we made this LP in our own time and that gave us the freedom to take it all to another level," explains Muggs.
"Basically, all the shit that be getting props on the radio is not the shit we wanna hear. And, bar us and Raekwon, and unless the Dogg Pound come out with some new shit this year, there ain't a f**inq thing we really wanna hear in hip hop. I've been listening to Portishead and Tricky, but people over here won't listen to it. F*** r&b. We just went in, did our thing and made the music we wanted to listen to. And that's what you'll get."
Muggs pauses for a while and smiles. "I know people will see this LP as a test, they'll be waiting for us NOT to come off, then they can say it's over and they told us so. Heh heh. F*** 'em. They don't know what's gonna hit 'em."
I'm telling you, people, as someone who loves you all. Prepare yourselves. It's the motherf***in' BOMB.
"Hey, Sen Dog, don't you ever speak?" says a voice to my right as we wind up.
Sen Dog, who has been perched on the sofa watching sports for the duration of the interview, turns his head ever so slightly. "No."
Back. The BOMB.
The F***ing End.