Monday, January 10, 2011
Deepgrooves - Three the hard way
Three the Hard Way were another hiphop crew on Deepgrooves, and the most successful act on the label. Consisting of Mighty Boy C (Chris Ma'ia'i), DJ Mike Mixx (Mike Paton) and DJ Damage (Lance Manuel), the group signed to Deepgrooves on a single by single basis. The first single they delivered to the label was Hiphop Holiday, a very clever flip of 10CC's hit Dreadlock Holiday, with a cool reggae breakdown mid-song, featuring Bobbylon guesting - he was everywhere on Deepgrooves. The song was produced by the band and Angus McNaughton.
The initial pressing by Deepgrooves ran to 500 copies, which suggests they didn't have much confidence in Three the Hard Way (or much money, maybe). The song hit number one in New Zealand and stayed there for several weeks (selling something like 25,000 copies in total), and made it to number 5 on the Australian pop charts, selling over 35,000 copies there.
The sudden success of the single led to the band being sent on a 40 day Australian tour with only seven days notice from their label. "In the six days between then and when we left", said Boy C, "we had to record our album.... and because we'd only been signed up on single deals, we only had two or three other songs that we'd even really played around with. So we were writing and making mistakes as we went." It wasn't the ideal studio experience for a first album.
The Australian tour was very successful - "We were headlining gigs.... and playing to between 3,000 and 5,000 people. We did 50 gigs in 40 days ... it was quite mad, a definite eye opener".
As I mentioned earlier, Bobbylon (Hallelujah Picassos, Riot Riddum) guested on the Hiphop Holiday single (watch the video below - "I'm a white man chatting in 93... Three the Hard Way, a different category, mixing raggamuffin music intelligently... "), and the crew took him on the Australian dates along with Sulata (ex Colony) who featured on their second single, Many Rivers to Cross, reworking the Jimmy Cliff reggae tune. Urban Disturbance also went along as tour openers for some of the dates.
Bobbylon remembers that tour well. There was one night they did a show at some pub, and Three the Hard Way were fond of a beer or two. At the end of the night, the bar manager came up to them and said in an amazed voice, "You guys drink more beer than Jimmy Barnes!" He remembers Sulata took a while to come out of her shell, and he took on training her to face the audience when she was onstage singing, instead of facing the back of the stage.
The single's success should have been a huge payday for the group, but their label let them down. Boy C tells the story: "We didn't actually sample it in the end. We replayed it in a different key, but at the time we said to Kane [Massey, Deepgrooves label boss] that he should still clear it with 10CC's publishers. But because Kane didn't think the song would do very well anyway, he didn't want to. Intially they only produced 500 copies ... and what did it sell in New Zealand? Ten thousand copies! And something like 35,000 in Australia. And he hadn't approached their publishers at all, which was a fairly shocking oversight.
"They challenged the song soon after hearing it and put an injunction on all earnings, which gave our record label six months to reply and put through an offer or state the case or whatever. So we were saying to Kane just to make sure we got some part of it, ya know? Maybe we'd go 50-50 because it was replayed and it was in a different key, but he failed to answer within six months so they ended up taking 100 percent. So we got nothing off the whole thing, which was a real shame". [Above quotes from Boy C: From the excellent book Hiphop Music In Aotearoa, by Gareth Shute, published 2004. Well worth checking out.]
Three The Hard Way released their debut album Old Skool Prankstas in 94, which went platinum in 95. They took an extended break, reuniting in 2001 to work on a new album with Alan Jansson (OMC writer/producer), called Eye on the Prize, which came out in 2003.
In an interview in NZ Musician in 2003, the group reveal the reason for the extended break was due to hassles with Deepgrooves. "We sat out the last four or five years of our recording contract with Deepgrooves," states Ma'ia'i. "We weren't too happy. There were a few things that happened over that time and we decided that the only satisfactory way we could go about it was to sit out the rest of the contract and not release anything." The article says that at that time (2003) the group had only recently regained the rights to their first LP. I've heard they had planned to reissue it, but no one had a copy!
Coming tomorrow... the Mighty Asterix vs Scritti Politti
... and here's a photo of me with Lance and Chris from Three the Hard Way, backstage at the 1995 Big Day Out, the year the Hallelujah Picassos played at it, after being left off the bill for the first year, 94.