Tag Archives: 1999

Morrissey

WHAT did Morrissey do that was so bad?

For the tabloids it was his undisguised loathing for the Royal Family, his rampant vegetarianism, his refusal to play Live Aid, and his audacity, as a mere pop star, in discussing the crimes of Myra Hindley and Ian Brady.

The music press, his initial champions, never forgave him for the split of The Smiths in 1987. He’s too intellectual, they say. He can’t cut the mustard as a solo artist without Johnny Marr, they claim. And worst of all, he has been tainted with accusations of nationalism and racism since he wrapped the Union Jack around himself at a Finsbury Park gig in 1992.

Two weeks ago, the NME listed his crimes in anticipation of his British tour this week, and advised its readers to ‘brick’ the singer offstage. It’s the martyrdom of Saint Stephen all over again.

So it’s not altogether surprising that this most English of entertainers has gone into self-imposed exile. The quintessential Mancunian miserabilist now resides in the shiniest happiest city in the world: Los Angeles, renting Carole Lombard’s bachellorette pad at 7953 Hollywood Boulevard no less.

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Alex Gopher

SUCCEEDING where Napoleon failed, those dastardly French have at last managed to invade this sceptered isle.

But rather than manning the barricades and ridding our supermarket shelves of brie and Golden Delicious, as a nation we seem to be welcoming this particular Gallic menace with open arms and dancing feet.

Whatever happened to the Dunquerque spirit?

In reality, it’s not like we have much choice. With music of the quality produced by the likes of Daft Punk, Air, Mr Oizo and Etienne de Crecy, we can do little but capitulate.

And just when you thought it was safe to go back on the dancefloor, Parisian funk merchant Alex Gopher turns up to deliver the coup de grace with his debut British album, You, My Baby & I.

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Unique 3

BRADFORD’S Unique 3 have been mixing up reggae, house and hip hop into over-the-top, bass-heavy dance music for a couple of years now. On the eve of the release of their new single Activity, they talk to Expletive Undeleted about bleeps, basslines and Belgium.

Even by bad taste nightclub standards, the fun palace where I’m to meet Edzy from the Unique 3 in Bradford is impressive.

It’s the kind of place which utterly transcends abstract concepts like taste and style. It’s huge, it’s gaudy and it’s one of The Hitman and Her’s more upmarket future stop-offs. But despite all the free aftershave, the multiple screens blasting out MTV, and the gold plating around the ornamental goldfish pond, the bottom line is that the gents still smells like a gents.

The rest of the club is as grandly decked out as the pissoir, with all the state-of-the-art audio and visual equipment you would need to make Sharon and Darren’s Saturday night go with a bang. All in all, there are a lot worse places to spend a Saturday night, I suppose.

But only if you can actually get through the door.

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Fila Brazillia

THEY know how to do band names in Hull. The Housemartins were named after the tuneful domestic songbird. Everything But The Girl were named after the ladies boutique on Beverley Road.

And Fila Brazillia are named after a huge South American fighting dog which is now banned in this country, thanks to the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act.

The name is nothing to do with trainers then?

“I think we confuse the hell out of most people.”

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Chuck D

I DID this interview with Chuck D in August 1999, ahead of the release of Public Enemy’s seventh album, There’s A Poison Goin’ On. Can you tell that I didn’t really know what I was talking about when it came to all the downloading e-webnet business?

Thought so.

* * *

THE bar and grill of the Regent’s Park Hilton is perhaps not the most obvious place to meet a musical urban guerilla of the stature of Public Enemy rapper and chief propagandist Chuck D. But sure enough, walk through the swing doors held open for you by a liveried concierge and there he is.

He’s easy enough to spot. Aside from his manager Walter, busy taking care of business on the other side of the room, Chuck is the only black man in the place. Alone at a table between interviews he seems at home, comfortable even, among his well heeled fellow guests, using the free time to jot down notes in the ever present notebook.

Despite the baseball cap and the head-to-toe black Adidas, Chuck doesn’t look like a successful hip hop artist supposedly should. With body adornment limited to a simple silver chain around his neck, a not particularly ostentatious watch on one wrist and of all things, a copper rheumatism band on the other, he exudes an understated style a world away from the fat gold chains of LL Cool J and the Rolex-cool of Jay-Z.

But we wouldn’t expect anything less. Public Enemy have always eschewed the dubious delights of hip hop’s love of conspicuous consumption – choosing instead to concentrate on harsh realities which affect us all rather than the exclusive pleasures of the lucky few.

PE adopted a genuinely revolutionary stance, at once uncompromising, unforgiving and, it should be said, pretty uncomplicated. They were tightly focussed, structured like a military unit, distrusting of outsiders and seemingly unperturbed that their radical, pro-black mesage was often percieved as being anti-white.

They called their third album Fear Of A Black Planet. Assuaging the fears of white liberals and rednecks alike wasn’t – still isn’t – high on their list of  priorities.

“We do songs, we play our music and we hope that we make some of those songs come alive in performance,” explains Chuck. “We hope we make some people think about the things we talk about. It’s as simple as that.”

Of course, there’s much more to it than that.

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Macy Gray

IT’S a delicious irony that the one thing that really sets 29-year-old singer songwriter Macy Gray apart from the rest of the crowd – her rough-hewn diamond of a voice – is the thing that made her subject of merciless persecution in the school yard all those years ago.

“When I was little, I had this real funny voice,” remembers Gray, her voice still as squeaky, but decidedly less funny 20-odd years down the line. “Every time I talked the kids would make fun of me, so I stopped talking. Everybody thought I was shy, but really I was self-conscious of my voice.”

“I used to write all the time,” she remembers. “If I wanted to say something to somebody, rather than say it right out, I’d write them a letter. At school I used to write letters in class, sitting at the back, rather than actually listening to what the teacher was saying. I always had a pad and pen on me. Still do.”

The habit paid off. Gray released her debut album, Macy Gray on How Life Is in July last year, and revealed a unique, singular talent: her scribbled notes had matured into prodigious, brave songwriting while her voice had deepened and strengthened beyond all recognition. She’s got a voice that could stop traffic. And this time, no-one’s laughing.

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Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare

CLAD in baggy, faded denim dungarees and baseball cap, locks carefully tied-up at the back, Lowell ‘Sly’ Dunbar is stretched out on a wicker sofa in his record company’s offices in Notting Hill, west London.

Only a wide variety of conspicuously chunky gold jewellery betrays the veteran drummer’s status as one of the most successful – and influential – musicians ever to emerge from the Caribbean.

Robbie Shakespeare, who accompanies Dunbar’s thundering drum patterns with an equally-apocalyptic bass sound, is absent, having just flown in from Jamaica, and he‘s sleeping off his jet-lag. The pair are in town to promote their new album, Strip To The Bone, which they recorded with U2 and Bjork producer, Howie B.

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