Friday, March 10, 2023

François K inspiration but wrong

Went to see François K talk about his musical journey at the British Library last night at Classic Album Sundays. 

And I’m reminded: here’s how he accidentally inspired a track I made, “UKD”.

François K’s been involved with so many musical moments: being in the room to see the Second Great Miles Davis Quintet reform (including Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams & Wayne Shorter). A&R/production at legendary disco label Prelude. Or DJing as part of the foundations of house and garage Walter Gibbons, David Mancuso and Larry Levan at the Paradise Garage... yes where the word “garage” comes from. 

Producing for Depeche Mode and Kraftwerk. Or starting Body & Soul with Joe Claussell and Danny Krivit and the Deep Space night at Cielo that welcomed people like Mala DMZ into the dubby house world. He mentioned, but didn’t namecheck Dub War bigup Dave Q, Ken Sekkle, Joe Nice, Juakali & all the gang.

Anyway: you might remember a Reel I made recently when “Rollage Vol 5: eM-PLT” EP came out and I talked about imagining influences and getting them wrong. Well seeing François K reminded me of how his “edits” technique accidentally inspired creative sideways step in a section of a track I put out called “UKD”.

Obviously the main idea of this track is the middle point between UKG (garage... Paradise Garage) and Detroit techno, hence “UKD.” And admittedly there’s another “imagined influence, but wrong” in the kick pattern for this, because Dusk and I have been using rippled Jersey kicks without really knowing much about Jersey club. On beat in the first half of the bar, counterpoint in the second half... funky!

But here’s how thinking of François K, but not actually listening to his music at the time, inspired a section in “UKD”.

Last night he described how his DJ career accelerated when he turned what Walter Gibbons would do with two copies of a record and decks - then a very forward thinking idea - into an edit recorded to a dubplate. See the clip above “Happy Song (The François K & Walter Gibbons Edits)“, complete with dubplate cutting lathe equipment in the background. It might not sound much on your phone now, but the bass in the congas sounded like THUNDER in the British Library over a system, and like the future in the ’70s, I’d imagine.

Cutting up edits of the tape, literal tape, in 1977 to loop the most intense parts of organic disco records into these more inorganic, intense drum tracks was ahead of its time and the start of house music. This technique of collage, of contrasts of organic/inorganic, live band/drum machines, working only with a master always stuck with me, esp when you add dub inspired FX as he did to make it sound otherworldly.

So as I got most of the way through writing “UKD”, which is pretty inorganic to me - halcyon clear pads and crystal shards of zaps - I suddenly had a lateral François K-but-wrong-inspired idea. What if I layered in organic sounds for a section? I began jamming with some horn and vocal samples from some old afrobeat records, and found they fitted as this strange coda to the track. LDN > Detroit > NYC > NJ and now Nigeria, in one.

Was this a “reel to reel edit?” No, I’d got that wrong. Was this what François K was doing with disco into (early) house with a dub influence? No, wrong. But look what the happy, accidental influence did! My sideways “imagined influence, but wrong” had ended up somewhere else entirely.

I need a better phrase for “imagined influence, but wrong”, but for now bigup François K and anyone with as much passion for music as he still has, to this day.