Tell us in your own words what your sound is.
Wow! No pressure on the first question then. Well… originally we were known as funky breaks act. Which kind of works. There is definitely some funk going on, and plenty of breaks. But then the sound tended to veer towards the exotic and loungey end of the spectrum, so the tag “easy-break-funk” was coined. However, we have changed our spots quite a few times over the years, so nowadays we tend to see ourselves as a purveyor of interesting genre collisions, old and new. I’ve always liked the phrase “the love child of music past and present”.
#FileUnder: Contemporary Retrophonic
Who makes up your band?
The core of the band are myself (Alex Rizzo) and Elliot Ireland. I write & produce the music and Elliot is the DJ and guitarist, although we’ve both played a whole multitude of instruments across all the albums.
We’ve worked with a whole spate of wonderful musicians, Djs and vocalists over the last 15 years including scratch DJs Steve Canueto, Mista Dexta & Mad Doctor X & Singers like Charlise Rookwood, Tiu De Haan, Vanessa Contenay & most recently Rayna.
Seeing as we are rather partial to the odd bit of genre-hopping, we tend to change personnel depending on the style of the album project. For example on the last album “Ghetto Latin & Broken Ballroom” we were looking for a singer who could both sing and rap in spanish.. Rayna was perfect. Whereas whenever we’re talking lounge, yehyeh, 60s, mod, beat… enter Vanessa Contenay Quinones, who features on “Man Turns Animal” and “Breaks of the Unexpected”.
How did you meet?
Well.. it goes a little something like this.
Elliot and I were in sunny Brighton in the early 90s. I was recording house & techno under the name Synaesthesia at the time, and had just signed a Belgian techno inspired track to Vinyl Solution. Elliot, who was at the time playing guitar in a punk/techno band, is Belgian (& Techno for that matter), so when he popped round to my studio uninvited, asking to see whether he could borrow a DAT machine, our mutual belgian technocity made us get past the uncomfortable “no you cant’s”.
We then quickly realised we had not only lots in common, but also many things that were complementarily opposed. In a good way:I programmed drums and chopped samples, He programmed synths and understood mixing. We had totally opposing studio setups too. I had Amigas and trackers, he had ataris and cubase. I had Wasps and Casios, he had 101s, 303s and al manner of analog beasts.
We merged studios and started writing together immediately & under many different names. There was Pedigree Cuts, The Mook Brothers, Buena Ventura, Krissy Waddle, Skank and of course Shaft.. Those are just the ones I can remember. There were so many vinyl releases on different labels, we were forced to change our name more or less every time we released something!
#TheHow – Chalk & Cheese
What were your influences when you first started writing music? And what are your influences now?
That’s easy. All of it. Every single morsel of recorded musical history is the jewel in our oyster, the feather in our cap. We don’t discriminate, we play both kinds. 😉
Sure.. in the beginning there was Jack, and Jack, as you may remember, had a groove.. But then the dinosaurs came, they got big and fat, and all died. The rest in between is just stuff that happened. Take that how it comes 😉 #mashup is #postmodern
But seriously, we were both raised on an extremely varied diet. I went something like this.. From birth… Classical, Opera, Ballroom (what my mum played) 60s, Beat, Mod, Lounge (What my Dad played) Rock, Funk, Soul, Reggae (What everyone else in London in the 70s was playing) and then Hip-Hop Changed everything. So as a kid I started making beats. Then Acid-house happened. & that changed everything again, so I started making things go nyip nyooorp nee neee.. then hardcore, then jungle, then, then…then I realised I had to calm down a little, cos you cant collect them all, and there was quite a bit of “changing everything” going on.
Elliot had much the same story.. He had the whole classicalfromthemotherrockfromthefatherbutilikehendrixadnthenthenthebeastieboyschangedeverything thing going on too. Doesn’t everyone else?
I guess when you realise that you could happily go out and listen to banging drum and bass all night, but then come home and chill and listen to zep or the stones, enjoy a good jazz gig but are man enough to admit the allure of of a sizzling cha cha cha, then that is when you realise its all good – You just have to find the exceptional within every genre.
Nowadays we’ve come to believe that ALL musical genres can ultimately be of use. They are just another tool in our locker. And just like storing bits of old tat in the shed, cos you never know when it’ll come in handy (thanks dad), you never quite know what the future may revive..
For example.. Whenever we were asked If there was a genre we wouldn’t remix.. we would always answer “Bavarian Polka” to much hysteria and merriment. This year we released “See me dance the polka” on the Ghetto Latin & Broken Ballroom album. Never say Never.
#YouLike – Alll of it – Now let’s kick genre-ism out of music!
What are you working on at the moment?
Who? Me Or Skeewiff? Or EL? Or any of our alter egos? Or Ireland/Rizzo or Pedigree in general?
The truth is, we generally don’t know. There is no master plan. Both me and El write and produce stuff on a daily basis, so there are always a few projects on the go at once. At the moment I’m working on a Funk album which should hopefully feature a fine list of collaborations with many fine funky folk, but i briefly interrupted it to do some of the Brazilian inspired stuff that El has recorded with another Skee-Veteran, horn arranger Dan Hewson. And yesterday, Elliot who was supposed to be writing a track for a forthcoming IKON project (another one of our pseudonyms), ended up accidentally writing a Skeewiff soul track for Charlise to sing. See? Completely haphazard.
Fact of the matter is, its pretty random. We do stuff. Then some of it forms a posse and gangs up on the rest of them.. then we release it, to give the others a fair shot. Thats how both the Electro-Swing & ManTurns animal albums came about.. they are naturally occurring groups of genres that form clusters for survival.
#FutureProjects – Not sure, please check after we’ve released it.
Do you have a procedure for writing music?
I refer you to the previous answer. Yes, we do, but you dont want to know 😉
Mostly – I like starting with a groove. That can be drums, keys, bass or guitar. Not fussy. Just something holding down the rhythm.. Then comes the progression.. where are we going to, and how are we getting there.. Then arrangement. Once the skeleton is in place, we can start adding the baubles and tinsel and lashings of fairy dust.
But scrap that… Thats for when I’m composing. When I remix, I like just the vocal, and preferably to have never heard the song before. Then I start again. Sometimes i like swapping out the chord progressions completely. Other times not.
Other times – I’ll get a sound up on a Hammond or a guitar – or try to get a drum break recorded. See where I’m going with this?
As you may have guessed by now, Elliot it the complete opposite. He likes to start with a little chocolate, then some coffee.. then he bangs it out without quite knowing how he got there (probably due to too much coffee)
So I guess the answer is yes, no.. maybe.. Can you repeat the question?
#TheMechanics – Regrettably, still no rhyme or reason
If you could collaborate with any musician in the world, who would you collaborate with, and why?
We’ve been lucky enough to have worked with Clyde Stubblefield (THE funky drummer), Young MC, Finlay Quaye & Alan Hawkshaw & have remixed folk like Amy Winehouse, Tom Jones & Tower of Power during our careers.. So we have already ticked a few of those lifelong ambition boxes.
I guess If we had to choose one person both me & El agreed on it would be Betty Davis. She well and truly satisfies all requirements. She was the queen of Funk in the 70s, drop dead gorgeous.. oh.. and had a little fling with Jimi Hendrix (Whilst married to Miles Davis!) Boom. Her funk lives on. I personally live for the moment that someone replies.. “No. I’ve never heard any Betty Davis” Then I take out the 80s Ghetto Blaster that I carry with me at all times and hit them upside the head with the raw funky shizzle. Changes everything.
#Who? – Betty Davis. Boom. Changes Everything
What do you think about “the world”’s music scene? And if you could play anywhere, where would you love to perform?
Seen any good acts lately? Who are you digging?
We are happy to announce that the whole world is now our local scene. We moved in a couple of year back. At first we didnt know anyone, but know we’re really getting to know the place.. settling in nicely.
Sure – once music was local. None more so that in the UK where our natural geographic insularity has protected us from stray musical vagabondery. But as we all know by now, everything changes… and slowly a few folk songs migrated over hundreds of years. Then it sped up with planes.. English folk would get on a plane, fly to the states, buy the new releases, come back, cover it, have a hit. Still took ages – and would ultimately serve to pickle musical genres in pockets across the globe. See Trad in the UK for example. Then longwave sped it up further and then.. and then.. you know the rest.
Today, music is instantly global. You make a track in North London (with a Brazilian living in Italy) Release it and… boom. Worldwide. Then, a few hours later, on a good day, you may find that a Swedish dude who lives in the States has mashed the instrumental or given it a refix. Then the remix of the refix. Then the edit. All within hours. Across the globe. Mind boggling.
Genres live and die like fruit-flies. In the morning someone uploads the latest viral sensation, by tea-time youtube are receiving 14,000 copycat videos and by the following day you can already buy the “***insert latest sensation here*** is dead” T shirt. Super! Turbo genres.. No mucking about. Like speed dating: Who are you? I’m Trap. What do you do? I go booom booom. very good.. Next!.. And you? Dubstep? What do you do? I go zzzubb, zzub wob at half tempo. well done…. Next! You? Electro-Tango? Well I know what you are – over there with the mashups.
It kind of feels like we’re all careering towards some form of musical perfect competition, as all genres and musical cultures start to influence each other and homogenise at exponential rates… or in internet facebook speak, like when the 64 out of time metronomes on the rubber sheet slowly start to sync to each other until they form one global pulsating mass of rhythm.
I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what the amalgam of all music will be. I reckon when we reach that point where all the musics of the world have been perfectly blended we’ll find Herb Alpert standing there, arms crossed, going “You see.. I friggin told you so.. What took you so long?”
#GhostOfMusicFuture – Herb Alpert
Any interesting stories?
I’m going to turn this one on its head – Which do you think is the right answer?
A) None whatsoever. Here at skeewiff we, have always led chaste and professional lives. For fear of being termed, god forbid “Semi-Professional” we have dedicated the last 20 years of our lives to mastering our craft. We now kick ass, however this has come at the detriment of all other facets of life. Nothing to report here at all.
B) There was that time that Elliot rode that wrecking ball wearing only a cowboy hat, but I didnt have the presence of mind to take a photo.. Not that we had anywhere to upload to back then. The closest thing would’ve been taking it Boots, printing 5,000 of them and pinning it up all over London.. but that would have just been weird.
C) A while ago when we shared studios with Incognito, the legend that is Stevie Wonder popped in to see Bluey whilst he was in the country. Naturally, as me and El are always in the studio that meant we were nailed on to meet the great man. We were always in the studio of course.. except for that time when we got so trollied on absynthe one night after a gig, we ended up sleeping in heaps on the studio corridor floor, only to be scraped into a car by our also shizzle-faced managers the following morning, to be driven to a radio interview 3 days before the actual interview. “Sorry.. i got my dates muddled up” were not the kind of words you want to be hearing when you have a #fullonbastardbehindtheyes, #stinkyvombreath #IJustMissedStevieWonder kind of hangover.
#Anecdotes – No facebook back then (thank fek)
Where are you playing next?
Not sure.. due to the complexity of all the alter egos situation I always have to check online for that sort of stuff.
I’ve just checked online and it would appear that we do not exist. Apparently we are merely the figment of our own Alter-egos imagination.
Well there you have it – Its happening already…Like the folk disappearing in Marty McFlys photo.. as music is homogenizing – individual genre branches are being wiped out and our alter egos are all that remain of us.. see you.. in a.. O M G its ha….pp…e…..
#CatchUs – If You Can