ZANG TUMMM TUMB ARTICLES “the first draft of history”



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—at this late hour!—to the notions of scam and subterfuge, (the kind of hacks who believe, that sampling is plunder): all this did not bode well.

Even the groups name seemed to pile on loaded terms in a way as fundamentally suspect as Sigue Siaue Sputnik or Transvision Vamp: “nasty”—ye olde rebel rock, plus the black slang connotation of real funky; “rox”—glam and tack; “inc”—the dismal notion of the rock band as corporate buccanneer, beating the biz at its own game.

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—this label whose groups all seem like belated distillations of pop press rhetoric three years after the polemic lostany topicality or salience. But, against all these odds, Im happy to say, with Nasty Rox Inc, theres less there than meets the eye (in terms of rhetoric), but a whole lot more that meets the ear.

“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 Lipsons 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 Ill 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. (Theyve 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 thats been manufactured in the studio and something thats been sweated out in rehearsal. With all the Simon Harrises and Bomb The Basses of the world, its all the producers work.”

John: “Its 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 youve 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 dont think we should say, lest it all gets nicked. We should be wary.”

CJ: “We dont 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. Theres a few classic samples that have just been used over and over again. Its the cliquey-ness of it I suppose. If youre 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, were gonna find that out next week, when the singles out. I suppose were the first band theyve 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 isnt necessarily bad provided anonymity is the aim (as with House etc). But ZTT set such store in flair, elan, charisma, the signature.

“Theyll have to grow out of their arty crap. When ZTT did all that quoting from poets, it was alright, but its old hat now. I think theyre in a sort of growing process right now.”

John: “I think theyre good in that they still have a real enthusiasm, which you wouldnt find on some of the bigger labels.”

Dan: “Also theyre not dealing with idiots anymore. I mean, God bless the Frankies, but theyre not the brightest people in the world. They seemed to be happy so long as they got the birds and the booze, but were not like that, weve got other ideas.”


“Er… a fast car? No, I mean, were 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: “Its 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?

“Were into music as business, cos if youre not then youre being totally naive. If youre on a record label, its business, whether youre an indie band or Neil Young. If you dont realise that, youll come a cropper. Youve either got to get them or theyll get you.”

WHATS Daves role as “pop instigator”? Sounds a tad McLarenesque…

“Hes definitely more than a manager. Hes 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.

Hes also the artistic controller, keeps a tight rein on the artwork. He got Kev ONeill to design our logo in keeping with the cartoon thing.”

Dave: “My input is a kind of X factor.”

Dan: “The Goebbels of the band.”

Dave: “Yeah, the minister of propoganda, But yeah, theres things like the cartoon element. Im fascinated by comix. I think its a medium thats yet to be fully exploited. Im really keen for the band to take out ads with Marvel and stuff, which no one does. I dont know

why no one does. Maybe its 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 hasnt.

“All those things—comix, skateboarding, BMX, splatter movies, metal, rap—theyre all getting grouped together, all the young things. So you get a Biz Markie advert, a hip hop advert, in Thrasher. Thats great. Its all coming together, but its not yet fully developed. But its gonna be soon. A whole new subculture.”

Why is this synthesis or coalition happening now?

Dan: “I suppose theyre all LARGER THAN LIFE, fantasy type things. The way comix blow things up (in more ways than one). Its quite a good way to look at things, rather than taking yourself or the world too seriously. Its happening now because more intelligent people are writing and reading them. Its all much more real than the trashy Sixties stuff.”

Youve been presented as operating from an anti-yuppie “underground” (where all this comic book stuff goes down) from which youll emerge to invade the overground with your combative “difference”.

Dan: “Oh, we dont set ourselves up as different. If people want to compare us with Kylie Minogue, thats fine. Its other peoples perceptions that make you different. We dont sit and think, ‘oh, were different. We are what we are.”

John: “I hate this idea of having to get an angle, striving to be different. Youve either got it or you havent, as soon as you try to contrive something its gonna be seen as contrived.”

Theres nothing sensationalist about Nasty Rox Inc?

“Oh no, were 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 cant get hold of anyone to hire swimsuits. The next idea is to find a church (the video for “Escape” has a religious theme). And theres 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—surely in the last 48 hours. Uncannily thwarted. All that remains is the spire and some rubble. This in itself would make an amazing backdrop, but the place is walled off. We debate whether to climb over, but the possibility that a large dog is prowling within proves a deterrent.

Off we go again, in search of the ecclesiastical. En route, Dorrell has another brainwave. Wouldnt 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 hes negotiated a route to the top. But it would mean a “Blade Runner” parapet and ledge job. Sanity prevails.

Off we go again.

John says to me: “Dave gets those ideas, and he gets a bit carried away. I mean, what does it matter what the backdrop is? In the end all you see are four guys.”

Finally we get to St James Church, and take (nervous) interior and exterior shots. Theres 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—Dorrells faintly hapless sensationalism and the bands reluctant but dutiful pliability—seems to me to say a lot about Nasty Rox Inc.

The sign-plays vaporous, but the beat is solid.