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My Philosophy: Matt Black Of Coldcut

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It’s been over 15 years since Matt Black and Jonathan Moore broke a bottle across Ninja Tune’s bow and set sail for uncharted territories, discovering dozens of new species along the way, including (but not limited to) Koalas, Bonobos and a large but extremely Funki Porcini. Since then, their label’s aesthetic has set the bar for the modern day independent, and their credibility on the mix is second only to Julia Child’s. And as far as Matt Black is concerned, they’re just getting started.


The teacher will now speak…

We made a record called People Hold On with Lisa Stansfield, and we put an a cappella on the 12-inch that’s been successfully sampled so many times that we got enough publishing to help set up Ninja Tune and stay in business. That was a good decision.

Once upon a time, Coldcut was signed to BMG/Arista. It comes to the launch of the album, Philosophy, and there’s an A&R meeting. The managing director says, Are people passionate about the new Coldcut album? The first single we’d done hasn’t managed to get on the charts. No one says anything but one guy. He’s just been taken on; just started at the company. He stands up in front of the whole meeting and says, Coldcut are the Daddy’s of sampling. They’re the ones who started the scene in the UK. You ought to have some respect and support for them. BMG/Arista dropped us, and that guy, Terry Donovan, fucked off and started Rockstar Games. He knew what time it was.

I don’t get involved in Holy Wars between Microsoft and Apple, but we use PCs for Coldcut compositions and live shows. Yes, it is true.

Boys generally like girls and girls like boys and it’s all good, and I would be lying if I said that getting off with girls wasn’t a big attraction of the music business. I saw a caption the other day that said, Music: Getting ugly men laid since the Stone Age. Let’s just say we all have our different types of peacock feathers.

I certainly don’t want to go around trying to convince people that we’re the goddaddy’s of the remix and by god they ought to give us a gig. We’re with the people that are paying attention. I’m not all that interested in people who are asleep. Let them enjoy their sleep.

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I’ve often said that one shouldn’t be too greedy when sampling. I’ve got a bit of a red face there.

My first self-made 7-inch record was from my band called the Jazz Insects, and we got it done by Dennis Bovelle, a reggae producer who ended up producing the Slits. I was 21 at the time. We sent John Peel a copy and he didn’t play it. So I phoned up and actually got through to him and he said, Yeah, I’ve got it. I’ll give it a spin. You cannot imagine how much that meant to someone my age with my lack of experience. John did that, not just for us, but for hundreds, maybe thousands of people over the years. I think he stressed himself out because he felt he had to do complete justice to everything he was sent. Music was just naturally what he did and what he loved. One less hero to hold back the forces of darkness.

We want our tracks to be about something, and politics is the air that you breathe. Politics concerns us all. I’m not sure what I could tell you what I’ve learned about politics and music, but I can tell you plenty about what I’ve learned as a Dad. It’s the politics of love.

I’ve been rehearsing the last three days. Songs have more structure than tracks, so one cannot just freestyle over a load of beats and make it up as you go along. This is the first time Coldcut has rehearsed in 18 years.

We got banned from playing in Baltimore because of Ninja Tune rolling papers. The chief of police surveyed our website and decided that he didn’t want miscreants who sold gear like that in town, so we weren’t allowed to put on a show. Do you remember Your Revolution by Sarah Jones and DJ Vadim? That was banned from American radio for having obscene content, which was a decision I found extremely worrying. I give my heartfelt empathy to all those Americans who resist being in the 4th Reich.

Our music is still cut and paste. It’s just diced a bit finer and better produced than it has been in the past. We’ve learned how to cover our tracks and not be so obvious.

Video games are a way of fast-forwarding your life, and I want to be present. That’s enough of a vide game for me. This one called Reality in which you get only one man and that man is you. But I totally remember the excitement of Populous II and bringing down volcanic lava on your opponent. When I was a student, I used to get more value out of putting 50 pence into the Defender machine than I’d get out of a rap of speed.

Mr. Nichols is basically talking about the plight of man in today’s Western world, and it’s something I can relate to personally. Suicide is a major killer in men 16 to 60 in the West. I myself have experienced morbid thoughts on more occasions than I care to list. But there’s something badly wrong with men in our society. In the Twenties, women used to live a year longer than men. Now on average they live seven years longer, so this idea that men have all the power obviously has another side to it. I can barely listen to Mr. Nichols without weeping.

We’re going to do our best work after this.

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