Going for a bit of full package here, with a link to the High Stakes mixtape that is well worthy of your attention and bandwidth, a full transcript of an interview with architects of said mixtape, and a little bit of history and Youtubery amongst the inevitable whaffulating on.
(Buy) Gentlemen Prefer Bombz here for a piffling 23 Pacific pesos.
Simon has a Master of Fine Arts degree from Auckland University; he got into using the studio at the Intermedia department at Elam where he discovered his interest in recording and production. He’s worked on music since.
Tiopira has an MA in history and has been researching and teaching Maori history at Auckland University for the last 5 years. He’s been DJing, promoting and writing music under various monikers around Auckland for about a decade.
We flatted together about 7 years, and have worked together on everything from radio ads to stoner-rock bands, to Booty Bass parties, to 2 step remixes. Weirdly it’s taken us this long to come up with a joint project we’re both interested in. High Stakes is the first time we’ve been able to combine all our influences and ambitions into one coherent project.
Your previous productions?
All sorts of shit, too much to mention, everything from Electro-Clash-ment tunes with Coco Solid, to commercial RnB hits with Maia Rata, to Tech Step DnB with Kog Transmissions, to 2 Step remixes for Mai FM, to bhangra-crunk with local desi MCs, and heaps of underground hip hop and rock stuff. And lots of failed art-rock and roots reggae bands.
What’s your main means of production/gear?
We write on a Korg Triton and Reason, and record and mix in Logic. We’ve got a couple orchestras’ worth of instruments between us but all you need for dancehall is a Triton and Autotune.
Who are your influences producer wise?
We’re most directly influenced by the new crop of emerging producers from Jamaica: Stephen McGregor, Daseca, Don Corleon, Jam2, Birch, Delly Ranks, Black Chiney, too many to mention. Outside Jamaica, Timbaland and the Neptunes from the US, RDB and Tigerstyle from UK. We’re influenced by everyone we’ve ever listened to.
How did you go about linking with all the MCs internationally?
Simon had a lot of links through making dancehall mixtapes, which lead to artists linking him to promote their stuff. We’ve built on that via the internet. Having a hot riddim goes a long way to help link with artists. With Drums of War we didn’t have to search out a lot of the artists: something like 40 artists recorded versions independently cause they liked the riddim, and we followed up the ones with the most potential.
Give us a rundown on what’s happened with ‘Drumz Of War’ riddim.
We released the first three versions on line in August last year to get some hype going: we got a big response, particularly to Kari Jess’ version. We got played on the biggest stations in Kingston: Zip 103, Hot 102 and Irie FM, and probably the smallest stations in Auckland haha. And a lot of places in between: all the islands of the Caribbean, the US, the UK, all over Europe, NY, everywhere except Wellington. Pussyclot! On the back of that we voiced another 10 versions with Jamaican artists plus 3 with locals. We’ve had dubs cut from JA to NY, some of them even ended up becoming official versions. We’ve got a video in the works for Kari Jess’ tune, which Nick D and crew shot over in the shopping malls, back yards and streets of Kingston for us a couple weeks back, shot boys!
We’re looking to release the top tunes on the riddim internationally on 7” vinyl, and will probably organise a release party for that here in Auckland. We’re voicing on another 4 riddims which are already doing the rounds in JA. We want to keep moving up, establish ourselves internationally, and work with the big dogs in the industry. At the same time we want to consolidate our foundations with up and coming artists and labels. One cool thing JA producers do is they ‘give away’ riddims for others to voice. We’ve got a couple riddims out there now which we produced and a long line of labels who want riddims. We want to build things to the stage where we have as many as 10 to 20 riddims going at any one time, under our name and credited to others, to totally dominate the underground.
What’s you thoughts on the current state of dancehall?
The state of dancehall is ever changing: there’s always new artists or producers coming through, and dancehall is always incorporating new influences. Change is the only constant so if anything we want to stay up with the play while having our own influence on what’s going down. Hip hop and techno are both having big influences on the sound of current riddims: who can say what’s next? If we have our say it’ll be kapa haka…
Could you ping us a little bit about at least the geography of each mc and anything about them, or them doing the rhythm that’s remarkable
Sometimes the choice of who you get is outside your control thanks to the crazy situation in JA. We lined up Craig Dennis for a version, and he was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident. We wanted Aidonia but he was locked up for gun offences. Deva Bratt was lined up for ‘Ghetto Celebrity Riddim’ till he made a ghetto celeb of himself for allegedly being involved in a ‘carnal offence’. On our latest riddim an artist voiced a tune about committing suicide, then when we asked for the files he said he was having real troubles and didn’t want to do music anymore. Then there was the young member of Sizzla’s crew who called begging for petrol money, or the producer who wanted to swap versions for Honda car parts which are common in NZ. The horror story of a certain female artist who voiced with Don Corleon half way through voicing her version with us and decided she was a star and deserved big dollars. And the less said about the Movado ‘spliced’ dub the better.
There were positive things too: voicing locals has helped develop artists from recording dubs to writing proper versions, and really pushed the scene forward in terms of output and ambition. Having said that the local dancehall reggae scene is nothing on what was going down here a decade ago with the likes of Mighty Asterix, DLT, Joint Force, Bureau De Bashment, Jules Isa, UHP, D Faction, Unitone HiFi, Dam Native, 12 Tribes and the likes: in a way we’re still trying to catch up with that locally.
Flowsions’ version was written about the recent Police ‘terror’ raids, and copies were sold to raise funds for the individuals and families affected. One local DJ wasn’t too impressed though when we sent copies of the CD to her workplace at the Department of (in)Justice.