Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Will Ashon picks the tunes


Here's Big Dada label boss and acclaimed novelist Will Ashon picking the tunes, both from his own label and general faves. Lots of great stuff some of which we asked Will to tie up with reference to the Big Dada ethos, some of which was just buzzing around his head. It's a good insight into the mindset of a great British label, one that turned 10-years-old last year.

Roots Manuva – Witness

Probably our biggest club record and the biggest single we’ve ever had. I think it’s one of the all-time great basslines and some superb wonky drum programming from Mr Manuva. When he plays it live he says bands always have trouble ‘cause they try to be in time and the whole point is that it’s out of time. It’s a nice summary of the Big Dada label ethos really: it’s the wrongness that makes it right.

Bjork - Earth Intruders (XXXchange Remix)

It’s a fantastic remix. I think that Alex Epton – the guy who produced the Spank Rock album – is an amazing producer and this is one of the best remixes I’ve heard for a while. He’s turned it into a really low-slung, quite baggy remix which is quite bizarre for an American to have come up with.

Fiery Furnaces – Duplexes Of The Dead

From their latest album Widow City, this is just a killer, short psych pop song. What I like about them is that they’ve always done their own thing, whether it’s sensible commercially or not – down to making an album with their Grandmother singing the whole thing (which I bought and I can tell you is completely unlistenable). I kind of like that spirit, when musicians do exactly what they want to without any fear of the consequences.

Company Flow – Simple

The New York underground scene in the mid-nineties was a big influence on setting up Big Dada and I think that of those groups, Company Flow was probably the most cutting-edge and exciting. I remember picking up their first EP in a shop in New York and getting home and playing it and being amazed that anyone was doing anything like it.

Wu-Tang Clan – Proteck Ya Neck

Really the whole first album, just a huge record and out of step with everything else that was going on at the time and very exciting. Tough and stripped back compared with all the bloated stuff that was going on in the mainstream at the time. I was never a really big fan of the west coast, Snoop Dogg stuff…

The Specials - I Can’t Stand It

From their brilliant second album which, in a way, is a good reference point for Big Dada: where a British group very influenced by Jamaican music stepped out of that and made something which could only be made in the UK. Big Dada is an album label really and I think this is a great album in that it runs from start to finish and works as an album.

Bromhead’s Jacket - What Ifs And Maybes

I think they’re a really good, young guitar group – we actually tried to do something with them but in the end they decided to stay where they were. That would have been a departure for us, except for the fact that the lyricist in his teen years listened to hip hop and it shows in his style. I just think it’s a really good little tune.

Freestyle Fellowship – Seventh Seal

Once again, anything off the first album would do just as well. They were part of the whole Los Angeles underground scene of the early nineties that started around a café called The Good Life. They had freestyle sessions there and, along with the New York underground scene of the same time, this was one of the things that made me want to start a label. Amazing lyrically and an amazing group that never really got the props that they deserve.

Dizzee Rascal - I Luv U

An amazing record, I remember hearing about it and getting it on white label and I was staggered by it, really excited. Then I got all the Wiley stuff and Kano’s first thing and it was a really exciting time. It was something we really wanted to get involved in but due to the speed at which things move from underground to overground we missed that limited window where we’d have been able to afford to sign anyone and we had to wait a long time for it to settle down again. It was good to do Wiley’s record this year.

Slimm Calhoun – It’s Okay

It’s got Andre 3000 from Outkast on it and it’s a really good example of what makes him special. The track is an extended misogynistic rant about groupies but then Andre 3000 comes in and manages to do his verse from the point of view of the groupie. It’s one of those moments when you think, “Jesus, this man is clever.” It’s an incredible verse, brilliantly done. He’s a genius.

TTC – Dans Le Club

For a label that’s probably more known for its albums than its singles, this is probably Big Dada’s other big club record. An amazing beat from Para One: hugely pummelling and powerful. And then TTC do their French, nasal weirdness all over the top to beautiful effect.

Infinite Livez – Worcestershire Sauce

This is on the Well Deep compilation: a track about eating crisps… only it isn’t. Infinite is the archetypal Big Dada artist in that he just does what he wants to do regardless of whether people think he’s a mad pervert or whatever.

New Flesh – Stick And Move

Stick And Move, although it’s a bit slower, in terms of the sound and the vocals is kind of proto-Grime in a way. They’re another group that I think have consistently produced cutting-edge black British music and have largely been ignored for it. As a collective they’re one of the most important acts we’ve had on the label.

John Coltrane – Spiritual

From Live At The Village Vanguard which I was lucky enough to snaffle off my Dad… it’s just them playing their arses off really. I like a lot of jazz and Coltrane isn’t necessarily my favourite but that particular session is amazing.

Sizzla – Grow You Locks

A lot of the British stuff we’ve done on Big Dada sits between two influences: hip hop from America and reggae, dancehall and dub from the Caribbean which is where a lot of our black British artists’ families come from. It’s just nice to have something on there that reflects the Caribbean tradition as well.

Cadence Weapon – Sharks

A good mix-up of someone who is fascinated by electronic music and also hip hop. He combines the two really well, especially on this track: it’s got a really harsh electronic sound but, in terms of the way he raps, he still sounds like he’s from that tradition that I was talking about that goes back beyond Company Flow. People who put too many syllables in their rhymes, basically…

Flying Lotus – Reset EP

From a hip hop background, as a piece of instrumental music it’s the thing that has grabbed me most in the last six months. I think instrumental music is as much about creating a mood as anything and this has got a real feel to it, it doesn’t just feel like a retread of Mo Wax. I think his stuff is going to be great.

Os Mutantes – A Minha Menina

Just a fantastic pop tune. Good in that it came out at a time when no one expected fantastic pop records to come out of Brazil. One of the distinct things about Big Dada compared to other hip hop labels is that I think we’ve always taken a very international view of the music so it’s good to have a bit of an international flavour to my playlist.

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