Music driven by DJ’s / producers has evolved beyond our wildest imagination. For decades, listeners usually focused on the singer’s voice, the musical genre/style, and the lyrics. Some forms of music, like jazz, were based solely on the music itself. The lead singer was not more important that the other band members. Groups like My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive made music with drowned-out vocals. Other eccentric artists like Brian Eno, Meat Beat Manifesto, and The Orb made solid instrumentals, which took the listener on a journey. The DJ was the true catalyst for this movement. Hip-hop has become more of a producer’s market. People are buying albums because they like the producer’s beats even though they may dislike the emcee. Respected hip-hop producers like J Dilla, Prince Paul, MF Doom, J. Rawls, Fat Jon (of Five Deez), and DJ Spinna have all released instrumental albums under their own name. As groups, DJ’s and producers have used their talents to work with their idols. With different vocalists on almost every song, some these DJ groups create diverse albums that that cross multiple genres. Massive Attack albums have included Tricky, Elizabeth Fraizer (of Cocteau Twins), Sinead O’Conner, and more. The Chemical Brothers released albums featuring Tim Burgess (of The Charlatans), Q-Tip (of A Tribe Called Quest), and Ian Gallagher (of Oasis). While hip-hop music is diverse, the sound always fits within the hip-hop genre. Groups like Massive Attack can be categorized as trip-hop, but their music truly defies any categorization. Coldcut is one of these DJ/producer groups who have crossed genres, opened minds, and made people dance.
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.
MVRemix: 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.
MVRemix: 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’.”
MVRemix: 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.
MVRemix: 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.
MVRemix: 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.
MVRemix: 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.
MVRemix: 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.
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"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."