pre-Guilfest Interview

Stereo MC's

published: Thu 22nd Jun 2006

Friday 14th to Sunday 16th July 2006
Stoke Park, Guildford, Surrey., England MAP
£85 for w/e, £95 with camping; days £40; under-16s £50, or £60 with camping, £25 any day.
last updated: Tue 27th Jun 2006

Yesterday I got a chance to speak to one half of the creators of one of the biggest dance acts of the late Eighties. Nick Hallam and his friend Rob Birch got together to form the Stereo MCs. With their performance at Guilfest next month approaching and while hard at work on new material, Nick had a few spare minutes to answer a few questions.

Stereo MCs are - Rob Birch, Nick Hallam, Cath Coffey, Owen If. That's a few less than I remember, from the heady days of 1992 and the first smash album ‘Connected’. What happened to the others?
Essentially it hasn’t changed, we wanted more female vocals at that time. We used various females as vocalists. We always had Cathy on main vocal, other females come and go, but the band is always the same core people.

You were on every compilation of Dance for years, do you have any that stick in your memory? I’ve checked my tape collection and have found you on Now Dance and The Best Album in the World Ever!
Laughs. Yeah I know we’re on a few. They have to ask permission but I don’t own any of them. In fact we’re probably the last people to get anything like that.

Your new digital single ‘Sun/Tomorrow Never Knows’ is coming out digitally the day you play the Guilfest festival? Is that coincidence or planned?
Yeah, it’s probably planned, just because we’re half way through the new album. We wanted to do limited appearances this summer and limited gigs as we’re stuck in the studio recording. So were concentrating more on the music we’re making in the studio more than anything else. But we wanted a record out to generate some excitement for the summer to carry it along.

Can you tell us more about the new album?
It’s pretty different to be honest, early days yet, but I really think it’s the best we’ve ever done. A different turn. We’ve changed to our own record label, and after the last record (2005’s Paradise) we were in change. Now we’ve got a good footing. Everyone says it takes us ages to make records. But that was the first few really, we’re more into making music now. We’re steaming now, with people onboard who are into the music. They’re more connected to what we’re doing, more part of the plot we feel more rejuvenated, we played lots of festivals and loads of shows.

Will you be playing any of the new tunes at Guilfest?
Well I was thinking about that, we might do a couple.

Will we still get classics like Connected, Ground Level, Elevate My Mind, Fade Away and Step It Up at Guilfest?
Yes. We do a collection of songs off all our albums. Live we’re better now than ever, these days we know what we’re doing. It’s a different energy to riding the hype of a hit record and we’re enjoying it more. It’s what we want to do.

What influenced you to want to make music?
Rob and me have known each other since we were seven. Rob’s older brother played guitar. We loved Hendrix, Bowie, Zeppelin, when we moved to London hip-hop turned our heads and changed everything. We thought about turntable music, making new stuff out of the old stuff. We were listening to Chuck Chill-Out, Tears for Fears, Kraftwerk and Yello and we amalgamated all of that. The English dance scene was young at the time. Massive, Happy Mondays, Stone Roses were just making their sound. It all seeped in to the scene and started putting out a different vibe.

Bearing in mind you were at Glastonbury back in 94 or 95 - my memory's a little hazy! which I saw but can remember little of. It was the NME Stage, you Ozric Tentacles and the Orb! Mental! What’s your memory of that?
It was 94 I think, we were actually asked to headline, but let them give it to The Orb, we did it as we wanted to be on as the sun went down and give everyone that kind of vibe. We were on tour with U2 straight after and literally flew straight in from America to play. It was very hectic.

Was it good to be back there last year? Did you get muddy? Yeah it had rained and it was muddy and it was great. People get into it more at Glastonbury when it’s like that. People all pulled together. I went a couple of times as a punter I like it when the spirits like that.

Will you be staying on site at Guilfest?
We’ll have had 2 gigs in Russia and then on to Vienna to a festival. So I’ll probably go home and we’ll only stay until 9 or 10. We won’t have had much sleep.

Had you heard of Guilfest festival?
Not really no, but I have now. I’ve been being interviewed by Surrey newspaper journalists and they’ve told me about it. Sounds good, a family vibe a good vibe.

What’s your favourite festival performance ever?
Playing at Glastonbury both 94 and 2005 just a great vibe, the crowd there are just amazing. But we’ve played festivals all over Australia, South Africa… Actually I really liked Brazil that was a great festival different people, different festival, different culture a great atmosphere.

Do you wander about the festivals?
I do yeah, if we’re there in good time. If we’re playing we lock ourselves away for a few hours to prepare. But if I have the time I tend to look around.

Anyone else on the bill whose set you would like to catch?
Not really sure who’s on the bill. Ah, Sparks are there. They’re both very weird aren’t they, very different. I’d like to see them, I remember their stuff I might go and see them.

If you could choose any band from any era who would be your favourite headliners at a festival and why?
Hmmm, bit of a tricky one. Sly and the Family Stone and Led Zeppelin. Sly because they were funky and heavy and with such a great message. And Led Zeppelin just to hear what they were like live. But there’s millions Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley. Loads of the legends. I saw Kraftwerk at a festival in Ireland last year and thought they were really good. I’ve seen them before at a festival years ago and they were even better.

What do you eat at a festival when you’re there?
I wouldn’t really eat. Well probably salad, not meat though at a festival. Well unless there’s a Caribbean food stall, then I’d be tempted by the jerk chicken. I quite fancy that now actually.

Me too. Which reminds me I told some friends I was doing this interview and they said to ask what's your favourite pie filling! So what’s your favourite pie filling?
Pie Filling? Fish, definitely fish, fish pie.

You, well probably Rob influenced me to buy a pair of baggy jeans way back in the early nineties, will you be leading any more fashion trends at Guilfest this year?
That was Rob, not me, it just happened. Actually we’re mulling on that one for Guilfest, not really, but it’s still in the early stages (laughs) we’re gonna provide a few styling tips, we’ve got a stylist, we’ll start a new trend (laughs even more)

Actually my baggy’s are probably a lot less baggy these days.
Funnily enough Rob’s actually even thinner but he’s still in jeans.

Which of you two works the hardest?
I’d say it’s pretty equal. Rob works the hardest live. But I go to the studio at 10am every day. But then Rob might get inspired and stay on working ‘til 3am. Well it’s not work when you enjoy it so much. It’s not hard work it’s music.

You toured with some pretty huge stars like U2 and The Mondays what were they like?
Both were great. A couple of the best bands on every level. The most friendly, accommodating and helpful. Sean and Bez are real friendly people. We did a show with the Happy Mondays last year and they were still really good people. Sean’s a little slower but still hugely friendly.

You've been on the soundtracks of some cool movies like Trainspotting and Hackers, do you like movies? If so what's your favourite?
Yeah it’s great to have a track on a film. I remember watching ‘Wayne’s World’ and they had ‘Step It Up’ in it. I love sound in movies, it’s so much better, it sounded good. There’s something magical about movies. I love movies from The Harder They Come, all the classics Raging Bull, Godfather, Apocalypse Now. I remember particularly that Brazilian street kid film, Tixot. A street kid who became famous for being in the film, it’s a powerful film and in real life the police shot him for burglary.

You've just done tours of South Africa, Europe and Australia how do festivals around the world differ from UK festivals?
Well I remember doing Roskilde a few years ago which was much more alcohol based crowd, less people smoking and it had a slightly different vibe. But no music and festivals are pretty universal and they’re all pretty similar to be honest. Actually we did Reading in 90 or 91 or even 89, a dance band, at Reading years ago. It was early days for us. Island had signed us and it was the first time the bosses saw us there. Just a turntable, tunes and a microphone. I don’t think anyone had done that before. But the guys at Island saw the potential for a bigger audience. John Peel was the MC. I remember coming off stage and he said, it was really good and that he didn’t think we could pull it off. But we had.

As MCs you also do DJ sets what's your hottest tune at the moment?
Rob does that, I don’t, I prefer to make my own music. I don’t really do the DJ thing. Rob does, he does like to go and look in record shops. It’s his thing.

You remixed Madonna’s Frozen who'd you like to remix these days? Haven’t been doing that many, we did one for our German support band. I forget their name. I have a bad memory for names. But don’t really have any desire to, I’m just happy making my own music.

You've collaborated with Jungle Brothers, but who'd you most like to work with either living or dead?
It’s all about the time and the place. We just like to make our own stuff, although we had Platinum Pied Pipers a US crew over and one of them has been doing something. We got a nice track it might come to something. We like to keep it a low profile thing though, not a record company thing. It’s much better when it can happen anytime we’re not going looking for it.

Any chance of a guest vocalist at Guilfest?
Well Rachel’s been singing with us. Rob’s wife and she’s sounding great. She’ll be with us on all the summer shows.

Lastly with the footie on in a minute, do you think England can win it?
They’ll rise to the challenge.

Thanks Nick have a great summer!

The Stereo MC's are playing at Guilfest on Sunday 16th July. For full details of Guilfest's line up click here.
interview by: Scott Williams

Friday 14th to Sunday 16th July 2006
Stoke Park, Guildford, Surrey., England MAP
£85 for w/e, £95 with camping; days £40; under-16s £50, or £60 with camping, £25 any day.
last updated: Tue 27th Jun 2006


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