APART FROM THE YOUNG GODS, NASTY ROX INC. ARE THE ONLY BAND WHO UTILISE THE LIMITLESS POSSIBILITIES OF SAMPLING TO PRODUCE SONGS. SIMON REYNOLDS EYES ZTT’S LATEST SIGNING WITH SUSPICION, BUT LEAVES THE INTERVIEW A TRUE BELIEVER. CATHEDRAL PORTRAITS BY DEAN FREEMAN.
TO be frank, the initial flickers of “buzz” about Nasty Rox Inc, did not seem promising. The idea of “grebo go go” (two lame ducks for the price of one), the fact that manager Dave Dorrell dubbed himself their “pop instigator”, the collusive suggestibility of hacks shamefully addicted—
Even the group’s name seemed to pile on loaded terms in a way as fundamentally suspect as Sigue Siaue Sputnik or Transvision Vamp: “nasty”—
I feared that, like Transvision, they would be bright but not brilliant, able to read the signs of the time but never mutate or transcend them, doomed victims of their input (comix, trash movies, the music press), trailing ignominously in its wake.
THEIR signing to ZTT seemed to seal this doom—
“Escape From New York”, their first single for ZTT, is gimmicky but great fun, a go go landslide galvanised by mammoth riffs of turgidly tumescent heavy rock and by massive, deliberate, basso-profundo piano chords, whose long, mega-amplified decay recedes into the depths of Steve Lipson’s production. All manner of deft nicks and gashes are thrown in by their scratch deejay CJ Mackintosh (like Dorrell, a member of M.A.R.R.S.), while Dan Fox’ vocals are from the Mary Mary school of overstatement.
Indeed, the general vibe is of a kind of funk Gaye Bykers, which sounds better than it reads. Better still is the dub version, with the band more or less wiped off the page: all the go go lumber is shifted leaving a limber, spry mixing-desk work-out, as fresh and skeletal as a Mantronik megamix. Whether I’ll be listening to the record in a month is another matter.
Nasty Rox Inc see themselves as the first band to use sampling and scratching. (They’ve not heard of The Young Gods.)
John Waddell (guitar): “The single is a song with a Chuck Brown bit incorporated rather than a track built around a Chuck Brown part.”
Dan: “The difference is between something that’s been manufactured in the studio and something that’s been sweated out in rehearsal. With all the Simon Harrises and Bomb The Basses of the world, it’s all the producers work.”
John: “It’s all real paint-by-numbers stuff, that kind of record.”
Dan: ‘Whereas we started out in some grothole with a riff.”
ONE of the things you’ve criticised is the lack of imagination of samplers and scratch deejays when it comes to finding sound-sources. It does seem that despite the limitless potential of sampling, most practitioners confine themselves to an approved repertoire of R&B and rare groove references. What kind of things will you use?
Dan and John (in touching harmony): “Anything.”
John: “Deep Purple. Carpenters… I don’t think we should say, lest it all gets nicked. We should be wary.”
CJ: “We don’t use ANY James Brown.”
Well, three cheers for that. But most hip hop quotes recognisable extracts rather than disfigures or alchemises its sources.
Dan: “No one in the genre has really broken out of that. There’s a few classic samples that have just been used over and over again. It’s the cliquey-ness of it I suppose. If you’re ghetto-ised, you tend to listen to the music of the ghetto.”
How did they get hitched to ZTT? And will they be able to evade the ZTT jinx?
Dan: “Well, we’re gonna find that out next week, when the single’s out. I suppose we’re the first band they’ve ever had to try and break…”
Perhaps the first band, period: as in a unit of people who play together. Most ZTT product seems to be assembled by floating session hacks and overbearing producers, which isn’t necessarily bad provided anonymity is the aim (as with House etc). But ZTT set such store in flair, elan, charisma, the signature.
“They’ll have to grow out of their arty crap. When ZTT did all that quoting from poets, it was alright, but it’s old hat now. I think they’re in a sort of growing process right now.”
John: “I think they’re good in that they still have a real enthusiasm, which you wouldn’t find on some of the bigger labels.”
Dan: “Also they’re not dealing with idiots anymore. I mean, God bless the Frankies, but they’re not the brightest people in the world. They seemed to be happy so long as they got the birds and the booze, but we’re not like that, we’ve got other ideas.”
“Er… a fast car? No, I mean, we’re not a pop band.”
John: “I think they were struck when they saw that we were a band who knew what we wanted. I think it was a new thinq for them to work with a band like that.”
What appealed to you about the name, Nasty Rox Inc?
Dan: “It’s just a comic book thing, innit? Larger than life.”
Is the “Inc” to indicate business acumen, a rapacious desire to succeed, the Sputnik idea of band-as-corporation?
“We’re into music as business, cos if you’re not then you’re being totally naive. If you’re on a record label, it’s business, whether you’re an indie band or Neil Young. If you don’t realise that, you’ll come a cropper. You’ve either got to get them or they’ll get you.”
WHAT’S Dave’s role as “pop instigator”? Sounds a tad McLarenesque…
“He’s definitely more than a manager. He’s not directly involved in putting the records together, but he makes constructive criticisms which is better than having someone there to pat your back and lick your arse. Continue »
Dave: “My input is a kind of X factor.”
Dan: “The Goebbels of the band.”
Dave: “Yeah, the minister of propoganda, But yeah, there’s things like the cartoon element. I’m fascinated by comix. I think it’s a medium that’s yet to be fully exploited. I’m really keen for the band to take out ads with Marvel and stuff, which no one does. I don’t know
why no one does. Maybe it’s really exorbitant, but I doubt it, ‘cos how could all those dodgy Charles Atlas people afford it? But the computer and electronic games manufactures have moved in there, whilst the music industry hasn’t.
“All those things—
Why is this synthesis or coalition happening now?
Dan: “I suppose they’re all LARGER THAN LIFE, fantasy type things. The way comix blow things up (in more ways than one). It’s quite a good way to look at things, rather than taking yourself or the world too seriously. It’s happening now because more intelligent people are writing and reading them. It’s all much more real than the trashy Sixties stuff.”
You’ve been presented as operating from an anti-yuppie “underground” (where all this comic book stuff goes down) from which you’ll emerge to invade the overground with your combative “difference”.
Dan: “Oh, we don’t set ourselves up as different. If people want to compare us with Kylie Minogue, that’s fine. It’s other people’s perceptions that make you different. We don’t sit and think, ‘oh, we’re different’. We are what we are.”
John: “I hate this idea of having to get an angle, striving to be different. You’ve either got it or you haven’t, as soon as you try to contrive something it’s gonna be seen as contrived.”
There’s nothing sensationalist about Nasty Rox Inc?
“Oh no, we’re not trying to break new ground, just do what we do.”
I SHALL close with a little vignette, which, reading between the lines, suggests a tension between mouth-merchant and strategist Dave Dorrell (ex-NME) and the band, basically a likeable bunch of musos. Dorrell is very keen to find an exotic backdrop for the photo session. The first brainwave is to shoot them through the underwater viewing window at the Oasis swimming pool.
Unfortunately, he can’t get hold of anyone to hire swimsuits. The next idea is to find a church (the video for “Escape” has a religious theme). And there’s one round the corner, down Wardour Street. Brilliant. We proceed, the band trailing along, a straggling rabble. Stone me, the church has been knocked down—
Off we go again, in search of the ecclesiastical. En route, Dorrell has another brainwave. Wouldn’t it be great to do a shoot up there, on the top ledge of a big building on the corner of Piccadilly Circus, right beneath a huge neon advertisement? Somehow we all get swept along by the lunacy of this notion, and follow Dorrell as he cases the joint for a secret point of access. He disappears for 10 minutes, then reappears saying he’s negotiated a route to the top. But it would mean a “Blade Runner” parapet and ledge job. Sanity prevails.
Off we go again. Continue »
Finally we get to St James Church, and take (nervous) interior and exterior shots. There’s slight panic when the rector approaches, but he turns out to be an affable, urbane fellow who played support (on the organ) to Siouxsie & The Banshees when they played a concert inside the church. But this combination—
The sign-play’s vaporous, but the beat is solid.