Sunday, 26 April 2009
Severe Carnage ( Part One with DJ Mack)
Up until a very recent review by Rhyme Traveller on the Diggers With Gratitude website, very little information has been available on the world wide web about a U.K. Hip Hop 12" which for a number of years has been commanding big bucks when copies have appeared for sale on the internet or traded hands privately. 'The Struggle Continues' by South Coast crew Severe Carnage has consistently sold from anywhere between £50-£100 and holds a certain mystique when talked about amongst collectors. Now, I've been meaning to post this up for quite a while now but due to various computer problems I've not been able to do so. All my 'lost' files have now been retrieved so hopefully this write up will add on a little from where Rhyme Traveller first touched down...
The name Severe Carnage is probably not familiar with too many Hip Hop collectors, and maybe even a fairly new one to some of the most hardcore U.K. fanatics out there. The crew were originally based about 6 miles down the road from my home town in the sunny seaside location of Bognor Regis. Being a local lad I was fortunate enough to have known about them from years back and picked up a copy of their only 12" when it first got released. A Hip-Hop group from these parts actually having a record out was a pretty big deal so I made sure I bought it fresh off the press. At the time I was heavily into the fast hardcore U.K. sound so it definitely did not disappoint - in fact my original copy got played so much that it was pretty trashed by the time I found another one some years later at my local carboot sale. Anyway, enough about my personal relationship with the record, lets get down to some proper background information...
So, as stated, the crew were based in Bognor Regis and formed in the late '80s with the core members consisting of rappers Tiny Cee, MC Pryme and A.K.A. with producer/DJs Scape One and Mack One. The line up changed sporadically over the years with other members including DJ Trooper One, DJ Shelly Mack and Millzee. Although 'The Struggle Continues' is the only release that made it on to vinyl a follow up E.P. entitled 'The Hunt' was recorded, mastered and sent to be pressed. Unfortunately the same week the masters were sent out, the pressing plant went bust and disappeared without trace, taking one of only two DAT copies with it. The other copy, according to Scape One and Mex (who both produced tracks on the E.P.), is most likely with a Studio Engineer named Simon Locke (I've tried tracking this guy down but with no luck. Apparently at the time, in the early '90s, he owned every record in the Sugarhill & Enjoy catalogues, collected percussion instruments from around the world, and had an amazing collection of original press photos for all the classic Funk groups - Kool & The Gang, The J.B.'s, The Meters, etc...He also used to produce a Funk/Breaks fanzine called 'Concrete Funk'. If anybody out there knows who I'm talking about and has contact details please get in touch).
Over the years I've become friends with various members of the group, mainly DJ Mack One who now DJ's and produces under the name Beathoven and runs the highly acclaimed Puma Strut record label (responsible for dope releases from Phil Most The Soulman (Phil Most Chill), Presto, DJ Format, Bobby Boucher, and of course himself. I mentioned a while back that I wanted to write about the Severe Carnage record as there was very little info about it or the crew on the internet. Mack did some digging through old tapes, pulled out some flyers and chatted about the recording of 'The Struggle Continues', as well as his personal history within the South Coast Hip-Hop scene...
I was a little nutty mod boy around '83/'84 when I moved to Bognor from Kent - I'm originally from London. I don't remember being aware of Hip-Hop at that time although I do remember liking 'Rapture' by Blondie which was released in 1981. I had it on a compilation tape but had no idea or conception of what Hip-Hop was. 'Top Of The Pops' was pretty much the only TV programme showing music videos and probably only one, maybe two a week. So I hadn't seen anything - I was into The Specials, Selector, etc, and just getting into groups like The Who, The Yardbirds, The Kinks and James Brown - James Brown was mentioned in a book that I'd bought called 'Mods' and I remember buying an album of his and not liking it much! I think I needed the connection with Hip-Hop to get his music.
The first time I was ever aware of 'rap' was on a school trip to France. I heard this music coming from the back of the coach and my mind just flipped, it was like a switch going off in my brain. I had never heard anything like it - Deborah Harry rapping did not have the same effect on me! I went to the back of the coach where all the big, cool, hard guys from the year above were sitting, and started bugging them about what the music was. They were like, "f*ck off you little sh*t", but this didn't faze me, I kept hassling them the whole trip paying little attention to anything else. The kid with the tape ended up giving it to me just to shut me up and get rid of me. It was a dubbed copy of Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five's 'Greatest Messages' so it must have been 1984. I didn't know anything about this music, I didn't know if it was made by black or white people, where it came from, nothing, I just knew I loved it. I also remember not knowing who Grandmaster Flash was or what he was doing as most of the tracks on that L.P. were replayed by studio musicians and the Furious Five were just doing what they would have done live, shouting out Flash's name. But instead of his cuts being live, horn stabs came in. I was really confused by this new music which I think added to the attraction of it. I wanted to find out more, a lot more.
When I got back to Bognor I wore the tape out and started to realise that whilst I had been into the Two Tone scene there had been another movement emerging which was the whole Hip-Hop / Casual thing. I noticed these kids who were a little bit older than me wearing tracksuit tops, trainers instead of D.M.'s or loafers, and Farah trousers and Lee cords instead of Stay Press. I started seeing more stuff on the T.V. - London All Star Breakers on Blue Peter stands out. I also saw some B-Boying at school and it all started to click into place. The music, breaking, graffiti...I was immediately hooked. No more Stay Press or Doc Martins for me! From then on it was strictly Adidas, Fila, LaCoste, Sergio Tachini, B-Boyin', Electro, Beat Street, Wild Style, Style Wars, etc. My world had changed completely and all this stuff was fresh, exciting and cool. Even though you could see bits and pieces on the telly the actual music was harder to hear and find. The Street Sounds Electro series was a lifeline for kids fiending for the latest beats, especially if you didn't live in the big cities.
The first time I realised there was a real local scene going on was when I took a visit to Bognor Boys Club where they had a back room with turntables set up and some lino laid out on the floor. I had been practicing breaking at home and in lunch breaks at school so when I saw the lino and heard the beats it was on! I was rocking all my fresh new moves and instantly got respect as I burnt a couple of the local Bognor boys - I was a Felpham lad see. This was the first time I ever saw live scratching and import 12"s as opposed to copied tapes and the Electro series. It was K.B. Scape (Scape One - Kurt Baggaley) and Pride (John Ide) on the turntables. I remember they were cutting up doubles of the Ultimate Breaks & Beats records and scratching the "aaaaaahhh, this stuff is really fresh" off of an original copy of Fab Five Freddy's "Change The Beat". I went to Our Price and ordered a copy the next day, which I still have. I would definitely give credit to those two guys for being very influential on the Bognor B-Boy scene. They were a couple of years older than me but I was now down with the local lads - B-Boying was my main thing at that time though. During this period I also met Krafty Kuts who I was later in a breaking crew with called 'The Infinite Force', along with Scape One and Pride. The one event that changed my emphasis from b-boying to DJing was going to both shows at UK Fresh '86...
Seeing DJ Cheese, Hitman Howie Tee, Hashim, DJ Yella, Grand Dragon K.D, Jazzy Jay, and Grandmaster Flash live on one big stage DJing for their respective groups/MCs blew my mind (Hip-Hop has done this several times to me over the years). It was definitely DJ Cheese who influenced me the most though. So I went out and bought a sh*tty belt drive turntable and a mixer with a tape deck and started cutting between one record deck and a pause button tape deck on my bedroom floor. I got water on the knee from doing this and my knee is still f*cked to this day because of it! I progressed to two turntables - still on the floor - and began to get a little rep. I started digging for breaks and bought a 4 Track porta-studio, which at the time was expensive and hard to get hold of. So I started making beats - looping stuff up on two channels, bouncing tracks and adding cuts, etc. I made tapes and they started getting about a bit, mix tapes and that. I was going to jams in Bognor, Worthing, Portsmouth, Brighton, etc, and meeting all the local Hip-Hop heads. Everyone knew each other and there was a lot of battle related rivalry going on. So by around '89 I knew all the Carnage boys...Tiny Cee (Lee Chapman, he was the group leader), then there was MC Pryme (Orson Bramley, who was second in command), A.K.A (Adam Boucher), DJ Shelley Mack, DJ Trooper One, K.B. Scape (beat programmer) and Millzee (an affiliate MC). Shelley Mack was the original DJ and Kurt was the man for drum programming - he had an 808 way back in the day, the first one I ever saw. He would re-program popular beats and set it up live so you could rhyme or cut over them. I have a tape of him programming all the beats from the 'Licenced To Ill' album and it's exact! Not the samples as samplers were financially out of everyone's reach at the time - these were just the drum machine beats. He did have one of those Casio sampling drum machines which had 0.1 seconds of sampling time or something daft like that, but because it was so short I remember those beats sounding really choppy.
I was digging for breaks at this point - nothing rare by today's standards but my whole thing has always been that it doesn't have to be rare, just original - stuff that hasn't to my knowledge been used before. The Carnage boys had heard some of my beats and wanted to do a new demo. They passed on a tape Kurt had done with basic beats and vocals which was perfect for me to lay down my loops and cuts over the top. I did the new tracks in one week and remember the crew being really happy with my choice of samples and cuts - from then on I was their main DJ/Producer. The next thing I knew Lee got some cash off his old man to go to Joe's Garage Studio in London for a day to record a white label 12". I had moved to Horsham by then and arrangements were made to pick me up on the way. I had all the records I used for the demo ready to go plus a few more in case we got the chance to do another beat. So we got to the studio and everything was cool - I had never been in a studio or touched a proper sampler before but we were ready to go. This is when things got a bit tricky for me. "Which track do you want to hook up first?". Lee was like, "No, we're not doing any of the tracks off the demo, we want something new and as fast as possible". This was the first I'd heard of it! I had all the samples and cuts from the demo tracks planned out and ready so we didn't waste any studio time. Fast rap (now know as Britcore) was all the rage and luckily I had the Curtis Mayfield 'Move On Up' drum break with me which had not been used before and was 136bpm, so I thought "you want fast, I'll give you fast, boys". I'm talking to the engineer, a cool guy with mad long dreads, and he's like "we can hook this up no problem". "808 kicks?" - no problem. I wanted something mad so we hooked up the screams from the beginning of 'If There's Hell Below" off the same Curtis album - I know that was slack but I was under pressure to deliver. I also had a Kool & The Gang LP with me so I hooked up a little guitar lick and the boys were digging it - mainly because it was 136bpm I think! They had their raps planned out and they dropped them pretty quickly so I left the room to do the cuts. Now I had proper scratch sentences worked out for the original tracks but because of the changes the track was too fast so nothing I had planned would fit. I had the new Public Enemy album with me so I just cut up Flavor Flav saying "Hit Me" for the chorus. So it's all sounding good and it's time to do the shout outs - it's funny 'cause if you listen closely you'll hear Lee shouts out 'Regis Windows' which was his Dad's double glazing company who fronted the money!
So that was the A-Side finished and we had about half an hour left to do the other cut. I had the Ike Turner album 'Funky Mule' (UK version of 'Black Man's Soul'), which was packed with unused breaks so I hooked that beat up in about 5 minutes and the boys did their rhymes. I had just enough time to do one scratch over it so I cut up a snare on top - I wish I hadn't done it now as it sounds wack and I go well out of time in places.
And that was it - all done. The record was pressed but we had no distribution, that was all done ourselves. I had 50 copies to sell and printed up some labels - most went to friends and I supplied the shops in Brighton. I put my phone number on the sticker and had hardcore U.K. Hip-Hop fans calling my Mum's house asking for DJ Mack One from Severe Carnage - she didn't know what they were going on about! It's pretty mad that it goes for good money now - I only have two copies left. I wish I had more! I reckon there's probably a whole stash of them locked away in a garage or loft somewhere in Bognor Regis!
DJ Beathoven Discography
Severe Carnage "The Struggle Continues" (1990 W/L U.K. 12")
Wilstyle Bob Nimble "80 Something Below" ("Seaside Capers" 1997 True Perspectives U.K. 12" E.P.)
Wilstyle Bob Nimble "The G.L.U.E. E.P." (1998 Under 5's U.K. 12")
Wilstyle Bob Nimble "The Unbrainwashed Follower" (1998 Under 5's U.K. 12")
Indian Ropeman "Sunshine Of Your Love (Wildtyle Bob's Dope Surprise Mix)" (1999 Skint Records U.K. 12")
Rec Rangers "Toot Toot, Beep Beep (Wildstyle Bob's Magneeto Mix)" (1999 Skint Records U.K. 12" T/P)
DJ Beathoven "The Funky Devastate Pt.1" (2000 Puma Strut U.K. 7")
DJ Beathoven "Raw Chile" (2002 Puma Strut U.K. 7")
Blake 9 & Pasha Da Emcee "Nah (Beathoven Remix)" (2003 Puma Strut U.K. CD track)
Presto & Lowd "Back In 92 (Beathoven Remix)" (2004 Kajmere Sound Recordings / Puma Strut U.S. 12")
Kidda feat. Psycho Les "V.I.P. (Beathoven Remix)" (2007 Kidda U.K. 12")
Parker ft. Rasco "Western Soul (Beathoven Remix)" (2008 Leisure Recordings U.K. 12")
You can catch Beathoven DJing at the next Positivity night on June the 5th at The Loft in Brighton alongside DJ Foly, DJ Southpaw and myself...
In next weeks post I'll be talking to Scape One (who is also still very musically active) about his roots in the South Coast Hip Hop scene as well as his involement with Severe Carnage...check back for more Severe Carnage demos and visual delights.
Severe Carnage "The Struggle Continues" (1990 W/L 12")
Severe Carnage "The Struggle Continues" (1989 Demo Version)
Severe Carnage / DJ Mack One "R U Ready" (1989 Demo)
Severe Carnage / DJ Mack One "Untitled" (1989 Demo)