03/15/18 Articles

An excerpt from Prince and the Purple Rain Era Studio Sessions: 1983 and 1984



An excerpt from Prince and the Purple Rain Era Studio Sessions: 1983 and 1984 by Duane Tudahl, available now from Rowman & Littlefield. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

Prince Duane Tudahl book

In almost every possible way, Prince was at an artistic peak unlike any other time in his career. His recent rise in popularity and creative output had made him the envy of most musicians in 1983, despite the fact that for the first year since his debut in 1978, Prince hadn’t release an album. His 1982 album 1999 was still on the charts and by late December most of the music for his movie, Purple Rain, had been recorded and with the exception of some pick up scenes they’d film in 1984, his movie had been shot. Prince was on the verge of super-stardom, but directly ahead of him was a lot of work. He’d have to find a way to keep Morris Day and the Time from self-destructing while he finished writing and recording their third album and he was racing the clock to create an entire new collection of songs for Apollonia 6, but for some reason he ended the year working on “She’s Always In My Hair,” a track that wouldn’t fit on either album. Over the next seven months, he’d also record complete albums for the Family and Sheila E., but the song wasn’t included in either of those as well. The track wouldn’t even fit on any of his own albums and would be hidden away on the B-side of a single. In an era of when Prince was recording brilliant B-sides including “Erotic City,” “17 Days,” and “Another Lonely Christmas,” “She’s Always In My Hair” stood out as was one of his best.

This is the story of the day Prince spent recording “She’s Always in My Hair.”



“She’s Always in My Hair” [listed as “Sex Shooter”]

Sunset Sound, Studio 3 | 6:30 p.m.–4:00 a.m. (booked 5:00 p.m.–open)

Producer: Prince | Artist: Prince | Engineer: Prince | Assistant Engineer: Bill Jackson


I don’t plan or anything like that. When I record, I find

if I usually just sit down and do something, I’ll gradually

come up with something. Sometimes it starts with a lyric.



She's Always In My Hair lyrics


Prince was renting a house on Benedict Canyon, but like he’d done the day before on “The Glamorous Life” he was again writing lyrics on the stationery from Le Parc Hotel. His original draft started with the phrase, “A boy got killed at Disneyland today / Some say he was trying to be Superman,” which was supposedly based on a story in the news, but the lyrics were discarded and the focus of the song shifted to a playfully romantic tone. Prince would later use this method of songwriting on “Sign o’ the Times.”

“She’s Always in My Hair” is another amazing track Prince recorded in one day. It is the sort of song that would be a crowning achievement for most musicians, but Prince would relegate it to a B-side. In many respects, the A-sides of Prince’s singles were released for the record company and for airplay on the radio, but the B-sides gave him a chance to stretch out and reveal some of his extensive unreleased work that may not have fit the theme of an album. There is also a financial benefit to this, as the B-side of a hit single generates equal sales royalties as the A-side.

The reason Prince listed “Sex Shooter” on the work order can be traced to the influence of the Apollonia 6 song, which was strongly featured in the Purple Rain movie. Prince literally sampled himself when he took the lead line from Apollonia 6’s “Sex Shooter” (the four-note riff heard at 0:09), slowing it down slightly to create a recognizable sequence that comes between “she’s always there” and “telling me how much she cares” at 0:43 of “She’s Always in My Hair.”

Prince was the only musician on the track, and engineer Bill Jackson remembers how this session began: “He was out at the piano writing a few words, playing some keys, writing a little bit more, and he was out there maybe a little over an hour.”


Sunset Sound Studio 3


Prince quickly programmed the pattern on the LM-1, nearly replicating the beat and the phasing effect of the drums he’d created on the long version of “Sex Shooter.” Jackson says, “He put the two-bar phrase in and within ten minutes, he had the drums. I remember there was a pause in the song [probably at the ‘Maybe I’ll marry her, maybe I won’t?’ section] and he just stopped it and waited and then started it back up in real time without a click track, and then he went back and erased the kick drum and the snare drum that he didn’t want because they were doing the same thing through the song.”

Prince then recorded the keyboards on the Oberheim OB-8, a Fender bass, and a guitar, followed by the piano. According to Jackson, “He went out there to the grand piano and recorded the piano with him singing. And I think we went in and fixed a couple of things in the vocals.”

When it came time to delegate tasks during the session, Jackson recalls that Prince didn’t seem to want to rely on the engineer: “A lot of time he’d just run the tape machine himself. He’d just take his hand off of it and he’d punch in and punch out because a lot of times he was faster than talking to someone about it. Sometimes he’d let me do it. He needed someone to engineer, but he didn’t need them to do everything so you were kind of partially an assistant and partially the actual engineer.”

Even though Prince hadn’t recorded the track before today, he instinctively knew the song. “He’d be listening in his headphones to the tape rewinding and he’d hear it going backwards and say ‘Okay, stop there,’” according to Jackson. “He wouldn’t tell you to go back to the chorus or anything like that, he’d just say, ‘Rewind,’ and then, ‘Stop there,’ and I’d play it and we’d just punch in for the places he wanted to fix. And then he’d do it again. ‘Rewind . . . stop,’ and he would punch in for a harmony on another track. And he never messed up. It was all there in his head, and he’d just put it down when we’d record it.”

The handwritten lyrics contain an additional verse, but because of the length of the track, Prince decided to discard it.

Months later when working on the song in Minneapolis, Prince confirmed the track’s muse to his engineer Susan Rogers: “He told me himself that it was inspired by Jill Jones, so I can say that with some authority. Jill was around at that time and he really loved her. He had a lot of affection for her, but as he said, ‘She was always in his hair.’ She was one of those women who wasn’t doing anything wrong. She was always there telling him how much she cared and he said it with a great deal of affection. He really cared for her a lot.”

The track’s inciting incident supposedly stemmed from Jones leaving food on the counter at his home: “He was very orderly. Very organized. And he thought I was a complete slob. I was lots of fun, but kind of messy, leaving stuff everywhere. And I was like, ‘Well I was going to get it later,’ and he was just like, ‘But who does that?’ I was like, ‘Who does what?’ ‘You leave little bits everywhere you go.’ I think Prince sometimes got confused with me. We wanted to do the right thing, but a lot of times he just couldn’t. We were all just too young.”

Prince offered Jones a cassette of the song as an attempted apology, which was something he’d done for other women in the past. It didn’t go over well, especially the line: “Maybe I’ll marry her / Maybe I won’t.” “I asked him ‘Who says that?’” remembers Jones. “And he was like, ‘Well, I thought you would really like it.’ He was really, really sincere and I’m like, going, ‘Maybe?’ I got really hung up on ‘maybe.’ I said, ‘Everybody knows the woman always decides about marriage. Always. Whether the man knows it or not, it’s the woman. The woman can make the man do it.’ And I just tore up the house. I didn’t really like ‘She’s Always in My Hair.’ I said, ‘You can’t give me this song and think it’s going to make up for everything.’”

Jones never ended up marrying Prince and, reflecting on it years later, she is very philosophical: “I really truly believed that Prince was married to his music. There was no woman who could ever, ever rival that. Or compete. No way. You could try to fit in next to it, but nah, it was his music.”

A mix was created at the end of the session that contained a dip in the audio at approximately 6:15, consisting of a brief fade to silence and then a resurface of the last few notes and final sting. Because the song had an obvious Beatles influence, it seemed like a tip of the hat to the Fab Four, who had used this trick on “Helter Skelter.” Prince would also revisit this stylistic decision on The Black Album with “Rockhard in a Funky Place,” and on the 12-inch releases of “Alphabet St.” and “Mountains.”


12-29-83 work order


Status: “She’s Always in My Hair” (6:32) was worked on again in January, adding finger cymbals, creating a new mix, and discarding the false ending. Additional work was done in Minneapolis in August of 1984, but it is unclear if the song was simply overdubbed or completely rerecorded. If it was rerecorded, the newer version was deemed less satisfying and remains unreleased. The version of the song recorded on this date was given the name “She’s Always in my Hair (New Mix)” and eventually released on June 19, 1985, as the B-side for the 12-inch of “Raspberry Beret.” An edited version (3:27) was released as the B-side to “Raspberry Beret” on May 15, 1985. It was also included on the B-side of the 7-inch and 12-inch of “Paisley Park” in Europe and Australia.

(The quotes from this article were gathered by personal interviews of the author with additional content from interviews conducted by Alan Freed. Musician magazine and Rolling Stone magazine were the source of the quotes from Prince.)

Prince and the Purple Rain Era Studio Sessions: 1983 and 1984 by Duane Tudahl (with a foreword by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson) was released on November 15 from Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (Hardcover, 514 pages).

03/14/18 Record Rundown

Record Rundown with Phantogram’s Josh Carter


Josh Carter Phantogram

“It was a series of vignettes, these short little pieces that could stand alone but all together went really nice back-to-back,” says Josh Carter, the production component of Phantogram, along with partner, musician, and vocalist Sarah Barthel. “At the time, I had never heard anything like it,” he says, describing his first intake of Dilla’s Donuts.

You can hear currents of Pete Rock, the Knife, and ESG in their songs despite a paucity of terms like “dream pop” or “electro-rock” used to describe them. Heavy swaths of rolling bass and sinking drums, melodic at times yet macabre in tone, anchor Carter’s effusive production aesthetic. Says Carter: “I grew up on the best ’90s shit, so my sound sort of encapsulates everything from the Nine Inch Nails to OutKast.”

Big Boi’s 2012 album, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, featured Phantogram on two tracks, foreshadowing an eventual EP, 2015’s Big Grams, between the venerated ATLien and the duo from Greenwich, New York. OutKast soundtracked the youth of so many for so long, and Josh was no exception. “That’s always what I loved about OutKast: they never had borders, they just did what they wanted for like twenty years, and they got away with it.” After completing a huge fall tour in both the States and Europe, we asked Josh what records in his collection have been profoundly impactful on his own approach to music making.



Sparklehorse It’s a Wonderful Life (Capitol/EMI) 2001

I first heard this the very first day it came out. I was probably twenty years old, and I was in L.A. for the very first time, and I went to the record store right away to get it. It’s still one of my favorite albums of all time, so dark and eerie and sad. I always really liked how Mark Linkous would mix sounds, and I never had heard a band sound like them before; it was almost goth, almost like a dark country album. The lyrics are so dark and weird and heavy. It’s just super depressing but is a good listen from front to back. I’ve always liked depressing music.




J Dilla Donuts (Stones Throw) 2004

Dilla is a huge influence on Phantogram. His whole idea of juxtaposition and contrast to create different moods is very inspiring. And his songs sound special. When I first heard Donuts, I as unaware at the time of how much I was already a fan of Dilla’s—I just had never put his name to these songs I liked. I actually didn’t know who he was. I didn’t realize he had made all these songs that I liked before, and that he was the guy behind Pharcyde’s “Runnin’.” Even when I’d hear friends make beats, or even when I made beats, it was usually to freestyle over. Whereas this, these beats are more of a listening experience.




Beastie Boys Paul’s Boutique (Capitol) 1989

One of the first albums I’ve ever owned. When did it come out, like ’88 or ’89? My brother was older, and he turned me on to music at a young age. I can’t remember exactly how old I was when I first heard this, but I was young, like ten or something. The production and samples and how it flows is brilliant. It really paved the way for a lot of other albums. I’m pretty sure that was one of the first records that got everyone all up in arms about sampling, on a legal basis. I’m a big fan of those guys. It was this, Licensed to Ill, and Fear of a Black Planet were among the first records I ever bought. I have huge affinity for Beastie Boys—as well as PE for that matter.




Radiohead OK Computer (Parlophone/Capitol) 1997

I first got this record on my seventeenth birthday; my brother got it for me. I remember first hearing this during a thunderstorm that killed all the electricity at my parents’ house. There was a tornado nearby too. [laughs] I also remember listening to it on CD, in a Discman. I remembering thinking it was one of the coolest records I’ve ever heard. I imagine it was like hearing Dark Side of the Moon or something for the very first time. It was intense. By the time you’re three tracks in, I was blown away. From start to finish it stands as a great, thematic album.




OutKast Stankonia (LaFace/Arista) 2000

That’s another example of an album that combined so many different styles and textures. The reason I really like Stankonia as compared to their other stuff is that it comes off psychedelic to me. It’s really colorful and rich. I think it’s a genius record. It’s fun, the skits are great. Nobody had ever made a rap record that sounded like that to me before. I mean, “Bombs Over Bagdad” had like a drum and bass sound to it. What kind of band could get away with doing stuff like that?




Nine Inch Nails The Downward Spiral (Nothing/Interscope) 1994

I just love a lot of the tones, especially the drum machine kind of stuff. I think Trent [Reznor] is a musical genius. It’s a very dark album, but he was able to create heavy darkness and evil sounds that are contrasted by songs like “Hurt” towards the end. I was always interested in the analog drum machines he used and wondered how he got the textures that he did. Mixing machine drums with live drums and stuff like that has been a huge influence to my approach to making music.




The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Parlophone) 1967

Their songwriting, if you deconstruct it, is much more complicated than it sounds. Paul McCartney on the bass is one of the most interesting bass players of all time; just listen to how he goes up and down the neck of the bass. The more I think about it, it goes back to that juxtaposition and contrast I mentioned earlier. So, like, on Sgt. Pepper’s, you’ll hear all kinds of styles; even just in a single track you’ll heard different styles. So many bands these days that get a lot of high praise and I don’t get it because with some of these bands, you hear one song and you’ve heard them all. But when you listen to the Beatles or Bowie or something, it’s all so different.




Madlib Beat Konducta Vol. 1 & 2, Movie Scenes (Stones Throw) 2006

That album really tripped me out when I heard it for the first time. Madlib has this amazing way of making beats really fun and interesting, almost like stoner-vision tracks. [laughs] He makes fun records to vibe and smoke a joint to. Between hearing Dilla and being influenced by someone like Madlib, this was sort of my first introduction to beats being off and not super quantized. I just liked the approach. For me, when I want to get inspired, I listen to Madlib. He’s having fun with what he does. When I hear what he does with certain samples and listen to his music, it gets me off my own ass. I’m making music because I love it instead of making all hits, and that’s what comes out from Madlib’s records.


03/14/18 Guest Blog

Nappy Nina: Future Classics of the Internet VOL. 2

Photography by Shan Wallace

Photography by Shan Wallace


Crammed into the corner of a smoked out bedroom in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, underground lyrical sensation Nappy Nina chops and screws lyrics for a jam packed house party—accompanied by DJ Ahb mixing tracks from her latest underground hit, Extra Ordinary. Flash forward to almost a week later at legendary performance venue Baby’s All Right, a sold out crowd of a few hundred are in a similar state of bass induced hypnosis—heads nodding to a den of smoked out tunes, Nina’s intricate cadence wrapping and un-rapping itself around their psyches. It’s 1996 all over again in Brooklyn, except you’re asking what happens when a young Jay Z meets the Pharcyde twenty years later—hotwired over hazy electro-bass beats? With producers like Norvis’ Jr., Dane Orr (Sonnymoon), Ahb and Afrointernet, orchestrating the perfect marriage of east coast urgent and west coast chill on Nina’s future-alternative sophomore soon-to-be classic, we’re guessing the answer to that question is eminent.




You’re originally from the bay, how long have you lived in BK?

Though the whole bay raised me, gotta say I’m from Oakland specifically. I’ve been in BK for five years now.

How has living in Brooklyn influenced your style lyrically?

Brooklyn made me a little more concise with my lyricism. I doubt my laid back style will ever disappear, but I think BK made me think about beats differently, the way Brooklyn moves… is a for real game, which influences how I approach my lyrics now—like a mix between a game of chess and connect four. You gotta be quick on your feet here but precise.

What would you say are the main differences between your first album (Naptime) and Extra Ordinary?

Naptime was my introduction to real rap I would say, or at least an introduction to me taking myself seriously with the craft and this game or whatever. I wrote most of the songs from Naptime while I was still living in Oakland and during some of my first days living in Brooklyn. That time was really hard. Trying to be comfortable in this beast of a city with no money, no job—it was also a beautiful time because I moved here to be with some of my best friends. We created Naptime in our “studio” which was just a room with a desk and a mic and made jams all day. I think you can feel all ‘lat on the record. Extra Ordinary was a little bit more thought out, I came into the project with the new musical family that I found in Brooklyn. I was still experimenting heavy with my sound but was definitely more comfortable with my flow. Lyrically, I spoke a lot about of finding a place of my own, both in my life and in music. But overall I just wanted to just have fun with it. Everything I made on that was genuine to the moment that I made it in. I was in a more comfortable place in life.




What was it like working with each of the producers on Extra.

Dane Orr of Sonnymoon— I’ve been wanting to get on one of his beats for a long time so getting “Growth Groove” from him was a blessing. Working with Norvis JR is next level, his beats are not easy to rap over but I prefer it that way, it always feels like a test but the kind you want to take. Théo Mode is always ten steps ahead of me technologically, and I believe our individual skills as listeners, writers and musicians come together inside of the sessions. Hann_11 is a chill dude and his beats reflect that, I love working with him ‘cause he’s so nonchalant about his talent. Twelve45 is the newest person I worked with and our connection was pretty much instant. Ahb pulls samples from obscure places and has made some of my favorite piano beats to this date. Langsto—his beats move me through the day. We sit together, smoke and listen to everything with a deep head nod.  Afrointernet is a very particular dude and he takes that into his work so I knew I had to come correct on the track. I knew Stas (Thee Satisfaction) would be the perfect fit for “Ahmad.” She’s one of my favorite people period and rapping with her is just like talking shit with my cousins on Christmas, its my favorite thing to do.



Pic by Shan Wallace


What are some of the ways the internet has been helpful with the creation and promotion of Extra and what challenges are you facing as an indie artist? 

First, I love Instagram. I’ve gotten plenty of opportunities through instagram and for that I am thankful for the ways it helps me connect with strangers. I have been able to connect with people from all over who I would have never imagined were tuned into my music or even aware that I existed. On the other side, some opportunities are withheld from me and other independent artists because our internet presence doesn’t show our true reach or potential. We don’t have the number of followers that translate to an immediately packed house, it has always been hard to build a following I think the internet just allows you to be more creative with how you go about it.


Pic by Shan Wallace


Queer women of color seem to be a lot more visible in music now than say a decade ago, what do you think are the main reasons for this? 

Shit, the rest of the world just took forever to catch up. Queer women of color been doing this music thing and doing it well. We’re in the middle of an interesting ass time where we can look how we look and talk how we talk and for the most part it’s all good now. I think the greater hip hop community is starting to realize they can’t do this shit without us—and we as Queer women aren’t going to compromise who we are any longer.


02/26/18 New Releases

The Herbaliser returns with Bring Out the Sound on BBE

The Herbaliser shoot by Matt Humphrey

Photo by Matt Humphrey


Today’s world is a rather immediate one. Simplified, easily digestible information and entertainment are available at the flick of finger on a phone screen. Yet, as the saying goes, patience is a virtue. And who would begrudge the virtuous their rewards?

With an ever-increasing time occurring between album releases, fans of U.K. hip-hop innovators and perennial festival favorites the Herbaliser are used to waiting. But, half a decade after their last album, that wait is once again over. Early 2018 sees the release of Bring Out the Sound, the Herbaliser’s debut release for BBE Records.

“The past few years things have been working against us, even though the quality of our records has been getting better,” reckons Ollie Teeba, hinting that the band’s pervading studio perfectionism is not the sole reason for the delays in delivery (band members have experienced life affecting personal tragedy and serious, recurring health issues over recent years).

Thin, with sharp features and high cheekbones that still lend him a rather boyish charm, Teeba is one half of the duo that founded the Herbaliser in the mid 1990s. He is tirelessly chatty and prone to veer off on tangents. In comparison, his musical partner Jake Wherry is much more round of face. Initially Wherry can look quite stern, affording him an air that lies somewhere between music mogul and nightclub security. But as a familiarity creeps in, his face softens and he proves to be friendly, relaxed and affable. He is perhaps the more straightforward talker of the pair.

“I don’t think we’ve got shit,” says Wherry. “It’s just that the periods between our albums have got longer and longer.”

The Herbaliser’s new album Bring Out the Sound is much more than a classic addition to the Herbaliser canon, it redefines it. Bereft of any samples or interpolations and with their strongest concentration on hip-hop yet, it is different to anything they’ve made before. Chopped up hip-hop beats add a weight to the production that, after 25 years, is now at a masterful peak. But none of these beats are recycled; each drum sound utilised is solely their own. 
There are still widescreen cinematic pieces, imaginary soundtracks for dusty spaghetti westerns or stylish 1970s spy thrillers, but this time they quote no one but themselves. Their expansive funk machinery is also joined, for the first time, by a psychedelic sound lead by the debut inclusions of Wherry’s fuzzed out guitar.

The album also features a sea change in the Herbaliser’s approach to vocal inclusions. Bring Out The Sound offers their strongest reliance on hip-hop vocals to date, many of them helmed by original U.K. don Rodney P, whose many previous collaborations with the band have only happened in the live arena. It also showcases the Herbaliser’s first attempt at an acoustic guitar-backed pop song in “Seize the Day,” sung by Just Jack. An instant classic, the format slips so comfortably into the Herbaliser’s sound you’re left wondering why it has taken until now to appear. But the Herbaliser has always had an uphill struggle in procuring just the right vocal accompaniment to their sound. 


“We wanted to make a hip-hop album but we didn’t know any rappers,” says Wherry of their debut album Remedies, issued by Ninja Tune in 1995, “so we kind of developed an instrumental style. As kids growing up in the 1970s the music on TV was so good. All the library music in the background, which diggers and producers have been sampling ever since, that was our soundtrack. Remedies was a mix of our love of soundtracks and TV music with hip-hop.”

“Ollie hates it,” chuckles Wherry when remembering Remedies. But the album, which featured frequent future collaborators Kaidi Tatham and Malachi, placed the Herbaliser at the forefront of an exploding U.K. hip-hop movement. Spearheaded by Ninja Tune and Mo Wax, with its distinct sound, this U.K. movement would capture global attention from both existing hip-hop fans and the new entrants it generated.


“It wasn’t an album so much as it was everything we’d done up until that point,” says Wherry, somewhat dismissively, of an album that nevertheless sold very respectably and is counted as a classic of the era.

“To me, some instrumental hip-hop sounds like a beats tape that you’d write a rap to,” says Teeba in a similar vein. “We thought, if we’re going to make some of these as instrumentals, let’s make the arrangements more interesting. So we drew heavy inspiration from movie soundtracks. Hip-hop instrumentals of movie soundtracks. That’s kind of how we came to develop the Herbaliser sound. Because we didn’t know any rappers we thought, let’s just put something out. We were hoping to gain traction in other territories so that maybe opportunities to work with rappers overseas would then present themselves. And that’s what happened. We put Remedies out and ended up working with What What from Natural Resource [now known as Jean Grae] on the next album.”

Wherry nods in agreement. “It didn’t really start to gel until that next album, Blow your Headphones.”


Although Remedies remains an unsatisfactory memory in the minds of the Herbaliser it was so well received that it prompted a response from the band that would become one of the most important decisions they would make. 
“It really just blew up so quickly around the time we signed,” remembers Wherry of the period. “Our first album came out September 1995 and within months all of the artists on Ninja Tune were out on tour in Europe, America and Canada.

It was really exciting.”
Until the release of the Herbaliser’s debut, Ninja Tune had not been seen as an artist lead label. They were more regarded as issuing ‘food’ for DJs: breaks albums, DJ tools, and compilations. But Ninja Tune and Mo Wax both held incredible visual identities and a sound unlike that of American hip-hop. The public demanded more and the labels responded. Each label began to host their own club nights, showcasing some of the identities behind these sounds. On Ninja Tune, ‘DJ Food’ morphed into an actual artist rather than a description. In the Herbaliser though, audience demands were met by an altogether different approach, one that, in the live arena, would become one of the jewels in the crown of the new movement.

“We started doing the band six or seven months into doing Remedies,” says Teeba of the development, which would change both their sound and their lives. “We specifically didn’t want to sound like Acid Jazz, which was the sound that had preceded the scene Ninja Tune and Mo Wax were leading. We wanted to use sampled beats, produced in the studio, with live instruments. It’s very common now, but in 1995/1996 nobody was doing that. We wanted it to feel like hip-hop, to have that weight that a hip-hop record has.”

“I’d been playing in bands since I was 14, doing gigs in horrible places where you’d only get paid a burger and chips,” says Wherry who brought not only his guitar and bass playing skills to the project but also musicians from his last funk band project, the Propheteers.

“Our first gig as the Herbaliser was at a pub in Brixton (the place just went bananas) and our third was at the Phoenix festival, so we didn’t have to go that route.”

“June 1996 was the first gig and the next year we were doing the Jazz stage at Glastonbury” recalls Teeba. “It sped along quite quickly as people’s awareness of Ninja Tune gained momentum and we gained a good reputation.”
 Though that reputation might have been earned quite quickly, it is one the Herbaliser have bolstered through continuous touring ever since. High caliber musicians such as the aforementioned Aide Tatham and U.K. alto saxophonist and composer Chris Bowden have since done stints in the band (the latter returning to the fold by way of string arrangements on Bring Out the Sound). An integral element of this live set up is also the Herbaliser’s punchy horn section—Ralph Lamb, Andy Ross, and James Morton—a crowd pleasing element that would go on to become as important to the band’s studio output as it was their endeavours onstage.

Together, this tight knit band of musicians, which has kept its same core since their mid-’90s convening, have gone on to tour the world including repeat trips to the USA and Canada, mainland Europe, Israel, and Australia and to some of the biggest events on the festival circuit. 
From sophomore effort Blow Your Headphones (1997) it would be this band around which the Herbaliser would build their studio sound and, as a result, with each release their reliance on samples diminished. 
Over five albums in total for Ninja Tune, including the landmark Something Wicked This Way Comes (2002), plus two albums released since they left the label (including 2012’s unjustly overlooked, self-released There Were Seven), these musicians would be joined by guest vocalists such as Jean Grae, Blade, Bahamadia, Roots Manuva, Seaming To, MF Doom, and Phi-Life Cypher, each adding individual contributions to the hip-hop sound that had long been the Herbaliser’s desired aim. But though hip-hop was where Wherry and Teeba wished to dwell, circumstances necessitated they assume a sound all of their own.
“We’ve never really been welcomed into the U.K. hip-hop fold,” says Wherry with a tinge of regret. “We worked with Roots Manuva on a couple of albums, but working with Rodney P, who’s fantastic and one of the pioneers, we now think it holds that element.”

“That’s where we come from,” agrees Teeba. “In ’94/’95 when we met up with Ninja Tune there was zero U.K. hip-hop market. There’d been London Posse and people like that, but the press was never that interested in U.K. rap and so when the rave thing took over, the labels lost interest.”
Though they’ve collaborated on stage many times before, Bring Out the Sound is the first album by the Herbaliser to feature the vocals of legendary U.K. rapper Rodney P (Rodney’s entrance on the U.K. music scene predates even that of the Herbaliser, London Posse having debuted on vinyl in 1987.)
“When London Posse came out they were the first to rap in their own accents, their reggae hip-hop thing was a pure U.K. vibe,” reckons Teeba, who was willing to approach this album as a purely instrumental project before securing the services of the esteemed rapper. “Rodney P is a legend.” 
Rodney P’s inclusions on the album “Like Shaft” and “Some Things” (also featuring Tiece) show the veteran rapper in fine form and are bonafide highlights of Bring Out the Sound, offering a classic juxtaposition to the Herbaliser’s cinematic instrumentals. “Seize the Day” with Just Jack and the aforementioned psychedelic input add new dimensions that mark a ceaseless evolution in the journey of this time honoured, much loved band. The album stands as a testament to the Herbaliser reassessing themselves, it also demands the same of the audience.

Bring Out the Sound really shows a different side of us,” states Wherry. “But it still sounds like the Herbaliser.”

Bring Out the Sound will be released in March on BBE Records.

02/21/18 Videos

Breaking the Ice documentary explores Icelandic breaks dug up by DJ Platurn



“I always wanted to tie all these records from the motherland into some sort of release, ever since I started messing around DJing in my teens,” says DJ Platurn, who originally came to the U.S. from Iceland. “They traveled over 4,000 miles and all over the West Coast of the U.S. until pops finally let me have ’em. He played some of ’em on his radio shows and the clubs and events he used to DJ at almost fifty years ago.”

Watch the premiere of the mini-documentary Breaking the Ice by Peter Magnusson (pka Kicker Dixon) above, and you can buy the mixtape here. It releases on March 23 via Needle to the Groove and will be sold as a 2xCD package that includes rare photos and liner notes from Wax Poetics scribe David Ma.

“My fascination eventually got serious enough that I started to dig much deeper,” Platurn continues. “Slim pickings and deep obscurity/rarity made finding the kind of stuff I like even more difficult. Finally I had enough. Magnus, excavating with my cousin Sveimhugi back home, and my own research culminated into a lifetime worth of vinyl tinkering.

“Iceland isn’t known for the funk, but anyone who’s a fan of the funk knows it can emit from the unlikeliest of places. Groove-based music is a feeling that comes [from] within, as a fan and a composer. No one’s ever put it that well into words. I’m not gonna attempt to either. It’s just that thing that makes finding soulful music on an island deep in the North Atlantic an actual possibility.”

Check out a glimpse of the mixtape:

02/13/18 Mixtape

Digable Planets Reachin’ 25th Anniversary Mixtape

Mixed by Chris Read for Wax Poetics & WhoSampled



To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Digable Planets’ 1993 debut LP Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space), our friend Chris Read has crafted a fine tribute mix featuring album tracks, alternative versions, interview snippets, and original sample material from the likes of Art Blakey, Herbie Hancock, KC & the Sunshine Band, Kool & the Gang, and Lonnie Liston Smith. Enjoy!

Artwork: Leon Nockolds

Track list:

1. Digable Planets – Where I’m From (Aural G Ride Instrumental)
2. Chris Read – Theme #3 (Scratchapella)
3. Lonnie Liston Smith – Devika (Goddess) (Sampled in Pacifics (NY is Red Hot))
4. Digable Planets on Rap City 1993 [Extract]
5. The Headhunters – God Make Me Funky [Loop] (Sampled in Pacifics (NY is Red Hot))
6. Hamilton Bohannon – Take the Country to N.Y City [Extract] (Sampled in Pacifics (NY is Red Hot)
7. Digable Planets – Pacifics (NY is Red Hot)
8. The Crusaders – Listen and You’ll See (Sampled in Examination of What)
9. Digable Planets – Examination of What
10. Eddie Harris – Superfluous (Sampled in What Cool Breezes Do)
11. Digable Planets – What Cool Breezes Do
12. The Crusaders – Mystique Blues (Sampled in What Cool Breezes Do)
13. Edwin Starr – Easin In [Loop] (Sampled in Nickel Bags)
14. Herbie Mann – Push Push (Sampled in Nickel Bags)
15. Digable Planets – Nickel Bags
16. Steve Parks – Movin In The Right Direction (Sampled in Nickel Bags)
17. The Honey Drippers – Impeach the President [Loop] (Sampled in Last of the Spiddyocks)
18. Digable Planets – Last of the Spiddyocks
19. Kool & The Gang – Summer Madness (Sampled in Jimmi Diggin Cats)
20. Digable Planets – Jimmi Diggin Cats
21. The Crusaders – Lillies of the Nile [Loop] (Sampled in Escapism (Gettin Free)
22. Herbie Hancock – Watermelon Man (Sampled in Escapism (Gettin Free)
23. Digable Planets – Escapism (Gettin Free)
24. James Brown – Funky Drummer [Loop] (Sampled in Swoon Units)
25. Digable Planets – Swoon Units
26. Sonny Rollins & The Modern Jazz Quartet – Mambo Bounce (Sampled in Time & Space (A New Refutation Of))
27. Digable Planets – Time & Space (A New Refutation Of)
28. KC & Sunshine Band – Ain’t Nothin Wrong (Sampled in Where I’m From)
29. Digable Planets – Where I’m From
30. The Honey Drippers – Impeach the President [Loop] (Sampled in Rebirth os Slick (Cool Like Dat))
31. Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – Stretching (Sampled in Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat))
32. Digable Planets Grammys Acceptance Speech 1994
33. Digable Planets – Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)
34. Tom Scott – Sneakin In The Back [Loop] (Sampled in Appointment at the Fat Clinic)
35. Digable Planets – Appointment at the Fat Clinic
36. Lightnin’ Rod feat Kool & The Gang – Sport [Loop] (Sampled in Femme Fatale)
37. Digable Planets – Femme Fatale
38. The Headhunters – God Make Me Funky [Loop] (Sampled in It’s Good to Be Here)
39. Digable Planets – It’s Good to Be Here
40. Grant Green – Samba De Orpheus (Sampled in It’s Good to Be Here)