Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Deepgrooves - DLT

Two tracks for you, DLT meets the Projector (aka Mike Hodgson, later of Pitch Black) from the first Deepgrooves compilation (1991), and DLT meets the Dutchman (Joost Langeveld) off the Deep in the Pacific of bass compilation (1992). Killer tunes.

DLT was closely involved with a lot of the folk on Deepgrooves and around it. He had left the Upper Hutt Posse by 1992. He was part of the Stylee Crew (Dubhead, Slowdeck, Asterix, Slave, Stinky Jim, Roger Perry etc), and worked with Mighty Asterix, Dubhead, MC OJ and Slave (DLT, Slave and OJ/Otis later combined their resources as the group Joint Force in the mid 90s), and collaborated with Danny D on the early stages of Dam Native, then known as Native Bass.

 I recently interviewed DLT about the Deepgrooves era.

DLT says he got involved at the beginning of Deepgrooves - "I think I tagged along with Bob and Roland [Riot Riddum Sound System], and I was trying to get Asterix on vinyl. I was on a bit of a crusade to get the master's voice on wax. The 12 Tribes kids weren't given the love, you know? Like Jules Issa, and Asterix.

"I remember the initial meetings we had at Deepgrooves, I was SO excited, to be in a room full of our contemporaries at that time, and the energy that's created by like-mindedness was amazing. So it was real exciting, the concept and the idea of the Deepgrooves compilations. I just wish that Kane had handled it a bit more diplomatically.

"To be quite honest, I wasn't that keen on Kane Massey and those cats, it was more about getting our Stylee Crew on vinyl. I remember the meetings we had. I remember one meeting we had a revolt, we had a mutiny, we walked out on him when he  pulled out contracts. Have you seen any money from that shit? He [Kane] wanted everything, publishing and all that. And he got it all, in the end, cos we were too rock n roll to chase our shit up.

"That's why I called one of my mixes DLT meets Kane Massey in a dark alley. That got back to him too, and I never heard from him again! [DLT laughs]

"I just think Kane, like most of us, was ten years ahead. He was an indie, back when there were seven multinationals ruling everything. [Signing acts for a single by single deal] That's a great way to do it.  He was way ahead of the game doing that.

"I see the Deepgrooves compilations as a beginning of a musical form that we were all deep in, all of us, and that was the kind of reggae/hiphop fusion stuff, and that was the exciting part of it. To me, the ultimate is reggae and hiphop blended together. That's the ultimate, always has been, always will be. The raggamuffin thing.

"Cos back then , 93, 94, we were really up against it. That was the "No rap, no crap" era, so it was going out on a limb,  so we gotta give Kane props for that. He wasn't trying to make Sulata sing R'n'B and stuff like that.

"We were kind of the kids in the transition age from analog recording to digital. We were kinda lucky. At the time I was annoyed with Kane, I thought he was just a real estate agent, but now, far out! It was actually really good fun back then."

We talked about the pitfalls of having your music pressed up by Festival Records distributor of Deepgrooves and number of other NZ indie labels at the time, like Wildside/Southside. I'd seen this with my old band The Hallelujah Picassos, when our first album came back from being manufactured by Festival over in Oz, and they'd cut down the mastered volume by 10%. Our noisy punk songs sounded limp.

"My masters went away mastered, and came back sounding like a demo. I had another go at that song I did for Kane, [later] on the Trueschool album, just to get the mix right. It's the track I did with Michael Hodgson. I used those compilations to teach myself about what I was hearing and what was being recorded. I called it bass hell.

"I believe that you have to go to bass hell before you can get bass heaven, so I was way over-recording bass, really loud, trying to reach that point between distortion and super-bass. I remember all I wanted in those days was big, booming bass, and I remember Mike Hodgson was a bit more free, he'd take the needles into the red, but Angus ([McNaughton] wouldn't! Love you Angus, love your ways!

"You can still find that Deepgrooves comp, in 2nd hand stores, like Hamilton. I've bought that a few times. That's some gold, that 10-inch stuff. Those Deepgrooves comps were the Auckland sound, we were the Auckland sound."

DLT remembers seeing Three The Hard Way doing a gig at the Siren in High st, "and the stage was right next to the bar. And I watch those kids lift trays of piss from behind the bar and stash them in their gear!"

DLT is also responsible for one of the greatest albums to ever come out of Aotearoa, The True School. It's an album that hasn't aged a bit since it first came out in 1996 and features every cool cat from Asterix to Che Fu to Billy TK Snr.

Like a lot of the Deepgrooves material I've been writing about, that classic album is out of circulation. Someone at Sony NZ needs to wake up and reissue that, pronto. It's the 15th anniversary of its release this year. HINT.

DLT tells a great story about when the single Chains went to number one in NZ and to his surprise, stayed there for six weeks. This was just two weeks after Che Fu had been forced out of Supergroove. DLT had hooked up with Che Fu while his group Joint Force (DLT, Otis, Slave) had been out on tour with Supergroove.

DLT says he wasn't seeking out the limelight, going out to clubs going "Yo, I'm here, what's up?", instead he stayed home with his family and giggled his head off. "Every morning I woke up... 'It's still number one! Hee hee hee...' And the song it knocked off the top spot was If I ruled the world by Nas and Lauryn Hill. Now that - that's the power! I knocked off two superdogs! Two local dogs took them off.. I'll never forget that... That was a huge buzz". (Quotes: Hiphop music in Aotearoa, by Gareth Shute).

The other great story about Chains is that his label A & R, Kirk Harding at BMG, kept sending DLT back into the studio until he got the version that satisfied him. Apparently he sent them back to the studio THIRTEEN times. Worked too.

I remember telling DLT a few years back how much I loved the True School album, and he told me he'd recently got some CDs with out-takes off old DAT tapes from Angus McNaughton, and would I like to borrow them? I said Yes please, and he went over to his car and pulled them out of the CD player and handed them to me, and I got to hear a few of those unreleased mixes of Chains. Absolutely killer.

ADDED: Che Fu talks about writing the chorus for Chains 5 minutes before he had to go into the vocal booth.


Tomachi said...

Awesome article. I'd love to hear those other Chain's mixes too.

Peter McLennan said...

Thanks, Tom!