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Jon More and Matt Black are the mad scientists behind the musical experiment known as Coldcut. As a duo, these DJ's / producers have paid their dues and have made an impressive contribution to hip-hop and dance music. Their remix of 'Paid In Full' by Eric B. & Rakim has earned them a place in hip-hop history. For years, Coldcut has been making diverse music with exceptional rhythms. Their list of collaborators ranges from Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys), Roots Manuva, '¦. And more
Consistently releasing solid records is just one element of Coldcut's musical contribution. They founded Ninja Tune Records in the U.K. Parent label of Big Dada, Ninja Tune has released music for MF Doom (King Geedorah), Mike Ladd, Roots Manuva, Cloudheaded, The Magesticons, and more. VJAMM is another addition to the list of Coldcut's amazing accomplishments. VJAMM is a musical sequencing software where the user can remix audio and video. Demo versions have been included on their CD releases.
Coldcut have reached the pinnacle of their career. In 2006, Coldcut released their best album to date, 'Sound Mirrors'. Released on Ninja Tune, 'Sound Mirrors' includes songs filled with passion, diverse musical styles, and a myriad of excellent vocal performances from varied guests. The opening track, 'Man In The Garage' is a classic song with a heartfelt performance by John Matthias over an unusual musical backdrop. Roots Manuva contributes one of the best performances of his career on 'True Skool'. Delivering a powerful message, Robert Owens gives dance music substance with 'Walk A Mile'. Mpho Skeef dazzles the listener on 'This Island Earth'. Political issues are explored on Whistle And A Prayer" featuring Andrew Broder aka Fog. 'Mr. Nichols' is an exceptional track where Saul Williams uses his poetry to talk a suicide jumper off the ledge. Other powerful tracks include 'Colors The Soul', 'Just For The Kick', and the title track, 'Sound Mirrors'.
As DJ culture evolves, the infinite possibilities of musical revolution will continue to entice music lovers. Coldcut has not only survived for decades, but they have become an element of the culture' foundation. Their musically creative contributions are just as important as their technological innovations. Their label (Ninja Tune) has also opened the doors for a myriad of unique artists. When Jon More and Matt Black are in front of their 'Sound Mirrors', they should be proud for what they hear and see.
T.JONES: 'What goes on?'
MATT BLACK: 'Cheers.'
T.JONES: 'Tell us about Coldcut's new album, 'Sound Mirrors'.'
MATT BLACK: 'We wanted to make a more complete album. Everyone tells us we've succeeded, and that does feel good. Dance music is about tracks. It's about 12' singles. The number of albums by dance artists that can be seen as successful are pretty limited. You can almost count them on the fingers of one hand. 'Journeys By DJ' was a good album, but then that was put together as a montage of loads of other people's stuff, so that didn't quite count. We did want to make something complete and coherent that you could put on from start to end. I don't know if we've succeeded in that, but I think we have at least partly succeeded. It's a balance between coherency and diversity. We are pleased with it, Jon and me are getting better at what we do. The novelty of just doing phat beats and funky noises has worn off a bit. We thought, 'What are we going to do with all this tech now?' The answer? Write some songs. We're not Lennon and McCartney yet! But, we're still sharpening our edge, not loosing it.'
T.JONES: 'What is your favorite song on 'Sound Mirrors'?'
MATT BLACK: ''Colours The Soul' is my favorite track. It came about in a really strange way. I was having my VW van repaired in a local garage where I met a man who Jon had taught 20 years ago. He was a singer and guitarist, so I invited him round to my gaff to sing on 'Everything's Under Control'. In the end, he only did backing vocals for that, but we were chucking some things around. Out of that, came 'Colours The Soul'.'
T.JONES: 'Why did you choose 'Sound Mirrors' to be the title?'
MATT BLACK: 'In 2004, we produced a play for BBC Radio 3 called 'Sound Mirrors'. Sound Mirrors are giant concrete ears on the English South coast, military installations that didn't work and are now art installations. The play itself was about an obsessive record collector and sound collagist who went mad. I guess this struck a chord with us which we played on in the album.'
T.JONES: 'You released your last album 8 years ago. What took so long? Did that lengthy break affect this album?'
MATT BLACK: 'I've been away on the beach researching my new film, 'Beaches and Massages of the World'. A guy called David Rockerfeller gave me $50 Million to produce it with, but, we got through that and now we're seeking further funds. If any readers fancy contributing, just get in contact with us via Ninja Tune. I don't think it's affected the album in a negative way.'
T.JONES: 'How did you hook up with Saul Williams for 'Mr. Nichols'? What was this collaboration like?'
MATT BLACK: 'There was a DJ Spooky project by Saul called, 'Not In Our Name'. It is an anti-Iraq poem, which Ninja put out a few years ago. And even though it wasn't a big earner, we thought it was an important record to put out. So, Saul was open to doing something with us because we'd taken a risk on that. In terms of the theme of the song, it was about something I have been finding out about recently, the crisis of men in today's society. I really relate to the story of a man throwing himself off a building. I've thought about that sometimes, but I don't think I'm the kind of person to do that, so maybe thinking about it is a waste of time. But getting yourself out of the downers is hard sometimes.'
T.JONES: 'How did you meet Jon More and eventually form Coldcut?'
MATT BLACK: 'Jon and I met in classic DJ style, in a secondhand record shop where he was working. Reckless Records. He sold me a bootleg copy of 'Cross the Tracks'. We were both fascinated by records coming from New York, go-go, funk, and particular the records of Double Dee and Steinski. I had already done a record like the 'Lessons' trilogy. It was called, 'Say Kids What Time Is It?' Jon liked it and we decided to form Coldcut and put it out.'
T.JONES: 'Do you think success and credibility are mutually exclusive?'
MATT BLACK: 'No, but they're rarely combined. It is a personal goal for me to reach both of those. Success is an interesting word. To do what you want to do and to make a living from it is success in my definition. We've managed that as Coldcut.'
T.JONES: 'What do you think of the term trip-hop?'
MATT BLACK: 'As a keyword, I like it. But as a label, it can be a straightjacket, like most labels. Keywords and adjectives are better than labels because they're not exclusive. Something can be jazz, electro, and afro-beat if you think in terms of labels.'
T.JONES: 'Describe the overall recording process.'
MATT BLACK: 'Each track is different. Some of the recording sessions started 4 years ago and have weaved their own little way. Others only came together at the last minute, like the Roots Manuva track. Some of them are mainly Jon's work. Some, mainly mine and some, we collaborated on.'
T.JONES: 'How do you decide which artists will be the guests on the album?'
MATT BLACK: 'It was different with each collaboration. Some came about because we wanted to collaborate with the artist before we'd written anything. Others we had written something and it struck as that a particular artist would suit it. That's what happened with 'Walk A Mile'. Originally, Jon had done it with a white rock / soul vocalist. It sat around for ages and no one really liked it, but he was playing with it one day. Me and Ross said, 'You know, this is alright. It's a bit trancey. The vocals are not right, but the idea is really good.' Jon wasn't convinced and neither were the rest of Ninja Tune, but Ross and I hung in there because we reckoned it could be good with a new vocalist. Someone suggested Robert Owens, who we thought would be very difficult to get hold of, because he's a legend. But I happened to have a friend in London who knew him, so he was very easy to get hold of, in the end. One of the good things about being Coldcut is that we have a fairly good rep because we've been round for a long time. We haven't blotted our copybook too often. We've hung in there. If we approach someone like Annette Peacock or Robert Owens, and even if they don't know who we are, their mates or their kids say, 'Yeah, Coldcut, they're pretty cool. They've done a lot of good stuff. You might as well give it a go.' So, we haven't been turned down by anyone asked to do a vocal for us. Obviously, Roots Manuva is on the label, but you can't force Rodney to do anything. He's his own master. He wanted to do a track and we jumped at the chance to do it.'
T.JONES: 'How did Ninja Tune start? How has running the label changed things musically?'
MATT BLACK: 'Ninja Tune was formed as a Technicolor escape pod to get out of the music industry contractual swamp we found ourselves in when we signed to a major label. We saw that a lot of house producers used to release things under different names, so we started DJ Food and that was Ninja Tune. Ninja Tune is about small, sustainable, organic growth. We always thought that if we built it well, people would come. And here we are.'
T.JONES: 'When creating a song, do you have a set theme or pre-written lyrics? Do you write the music first? Or, does everything come together simultaneously?
MATT BLACK: 'The music is always first. All the songs have come from music we wrote first. Either we've got a vocalist in and worked with them, or we've sent the track to a vocalist.'
T.JONES: 'Favorite sampler?'
MATT BLACK: 'Abelton Live 5.'
T.JONES: 'Favorite keyboard?'
MATT BLACK: 'EMS VCS4.'
T.JONES: 'What is your opinion on downloading music from the Internet?'
MATT BLACK: 'It depends whether you mean for free or not. I have downloaded things illegally, but have given it up. It's bad karma for a musician to do that. If people think that all music can be free on the Internet, than there won't be any new music made. I do buy stuff on iTunes. Downloading is a cool way to get music. Systems like iTunes enable artists to bypass the monopoly of big companies and that's good.'
T.JONES: 'On the song, 'Money, Power & Influence' from Guru's 'The Street Scriptures' album, Talib Kweli mentions that Protools made producers lazy. Do you agree?'
MATT BLACK: 'I can appreciate the sentiment, but like everything, there's a duality. The expertise that producers needed in the past, when studio time was expensive and resources limited, is no longer necessary to an extent. Protools offers a shortcut. However, extra power often just gets used up. Today's R&B groups expect to record 96 tracks of vocals rather than 3, which just results in many long hours spent staring at a computer screen, rather than significant musical developments.'
T.JONES: 'What do you think of film '24 hour Party People'?'
MATT BLACK: 'Pass.'
T.JONES: 'What is the favorite part of your live show?'
MATT BLACK: 'My favorite part is my video break beat solo using VJAMM. It's pure freestyle beat juggling improvisation using a new instrument we've developed.'
T.JONES: 'Who are some artists you would like to collaborate with in the future?'
MATT BLACK: 'I'd quite like to do a track with M.I.A. She's wicked. I'd like to do a track with George Clinton whilst he's still around.'
T.JONES: 'Where were you during September 11th terrorist attack? How did you deal with it?'
MATT BLACK: 'We were on tour in the Balkans. In fact, we'd just left Mostar having done a show there, with 20 people and a 40Kw sound system. If there was going to be an outbreak of war, we felt we were well placed to survive having already adopted a nomadic lifestyle.'
T.JONES: 'Death penalty ' for or against?'
MATT BLACK: 'I'm against. But I don't think that murderers should be released after a few years for good behavior. Life, in some cases, should mean that convicts are not released.'
T.JONES: 'Abortion ' pro-choice or pro-life?'
MATT BLACK: 'I can't see such a crucial question identified by these two polarities. It's more complex than that. Each case is individual.'
T.JONES: 'What has been in your CD player or on your tape deck recently?'
MATT BLACK: 'I'm getting into the Temperance Seven at the moment, who were a bunch of art school students in the 60's. My parents used to play them and I've recently rediscovered them. They're absolutely stinging! They're like us, man, four white guys who fell in love with Black music. In their case, 20's and 30's New Orleans jazz. It's so witty. The musicianship is excellent. I've been learning the Charleston, with my girlfriend, over Christmas.'
T.JONES: 'Word association. I am going to say an emcee or name of a group and you tell me the first word that pops in your head. So, if I say 'The Beatles', you may say 'Revolution' or 'Lennon'. Ok?'
T.JONES: 'Massive Attack.'
MATT BLACK: 'Heavy.'
T.JONES: 'Trisomie 21.'
MATT BLACK: 'Unknown.'
T.JONES: 'The Stone Roses.'
MATT BLACK: 'Flowers.'
MATT BLACK: 'Shoes.'
MATT BLACK: 'Carpet.'
T.JONES: 'The Fall.'
MATT BLACK: 'True Grime (laughing).'
T.JONES: 'The New Fast Automatic Daffodils.'
MATT BLACK: 'Old.'
T.JONES: 'My Bloody Valentine.'
MATT BLACK: 'Park.'
T.JONES: 'The House Of Love.'
MATT BLACK: 'Nonsense.'
MATT BLACK: 'One brown dried leaf.'
MATT BLACK: 'Svelte.'
T.JONES: 'The Wolfgang Press.'
MATT BLACK: 'I am not a computer.'
T.JONES: 'Cocteau Twins.'
MATT BLACK: 'Lush.'
T.JONES: 'The Dandy Warhols.'
MATT BLACK: 'A copy.'
T.JONES: 'Psychic T.V.'
MATT BLACK: 'Softwarmgood.'
T.JONES: 'Renegade Soundwave.'
MATT BLACK: 'Bass.'
T.JONES: 'New Order.'
MATT BLACK: 'New York circa 1979.'
T.JONES: 'Meat Beat Manifesto.'
MATT BLACK: 'Dangerous Tones.'
T.JONES: 'George Bush.'
MATT BLACK: 'Playing the role that has been prepared for him by his handlers.'
T.JONES: 'Margaret Thatcher.'
MATT BLACK: 'People should be numbers in a state computer.'
T.JONES: 'What do you think of the U.S. involvement in the Middle East?'
MATT BLACK: 'US involvement in the Middle East has many unfortunate, clumsy aspects, but I wouldn't know how to fix it. I admire aspects of American culture immensely, but the way it is painting itself as the 4th Reich is pretty upsetting.'
T.JONES: 'Who came up with the name Coldcut? Is there a deeper meaning?'
MATT BLACK: 'I came up with the name. Hip-hop DJ-ing is about cutting records, hence the term 'cut'. 'Cold' is cool. So, 'Coldcut'.'
T.JONES: 'What is music lacking these days?'
MATT BLACK: 'Cowbell.'
T.JONES: 'What is next for Coldcut?'
MATT BLACK: 'Gigs, Gigs, Gigs! Party, party, party! We've got about 30 or 40 gigs in the tour. That's going to be a hard grind, but we love it. We're going to do Europe, Japan, the States, and even Chile this time, I think.'
T.JONES: 'Final words?'
MATT BLACK: 'Thanks!'
Thank you MATT BLACK!!!
Interview by Todd E. Jones aka New Jeru Poet
NOTICE: This interview is property of Todd E. Jones and cannot be duplicated or posted without written permission.
Coldcut Myspace page: http://www.myspace.com/coldcut
Ninja Tune: http://www.ninjatune.net
'Everything Is Under Control' eFlyer
Listen to streamed tracks of the whole album:
'Man In The Garage' ' COLDCUT (f/ John Matthias)