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- Club 414 & fabric Fight Back
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Bizarre Inc. on the Prodigy, Major Label Disasters & (Re) Playing with Knives (interview)
“Over the years we have been asked whether the song title refers to playing with hot knives (smoking hash off heated-up knives), playing with knives and even actual violence: For me, it’s none of the above (despite what may have been going on in Carl’s head when he chose it) it’s more about the feelings and images that it conjours up, taking risks and living on the edge.”
Nestling near the top of Britain’s pop charts at number 4 in 1991, Bizarre Inc’s Playing With Knives was one of the definitive crossover club anthems of the first wave of Britain’s rave culture, placing the trio firmly alongside fellow Staffordshire associates Altern-8 and Essex rave newcomers the Prodigy.
Following up their initial 1990 success with top 20 hit Such a Feeling and number 3 hit I’m Gonna Get You, the Staffordshire trio of Carl Taylor, Dean Meredith and Andrew Meecham appeared set for the same success that the Prodigy later realized though chatting to Skrufff today Andrew is frank about why it wasn’t to be.
“Where did it all go wrong? That’s an easy one to answer,” he chuckles. “It was signing to a major . . .a big mistake . . . HUGE!” he laughs.
“It seemed like a good idea at the time and our heads were turned by Warner Bros. We were young and very short sighted. They wanted to mould us and tried to operate us like puppets to try to churn out top ten: then dropped uswhen we didn’t come up with the goods,” he continues.
“We then went to Mercury. We didn’t have the wisdom to continue to do our own thing which probably could have increased our longevity. If I wanted to change my career path then we should have maybe stayed with Vinyl Solution and continued to value our artistic freedom – who knows what would have happened then!” he muses.
Whatever might have been, 23 years on they’re back with Vinyl Solution who this week release a bunch of fresh remixes of the piano house classic to mark the legendary London independent label’s 25th birthday.
So how much has the release been inspired by EDM’s commercial explosion worldwide?
“The timing was really decided to coincide with the 25th anniversary being celebrated by Vinyl Solution. The timing was not inspired or influenced at all by the rise of EDM,” he insists. “But I suppose if the timing had not been right then Vinyl Solution may not have approached us with this proposition.
We were and are happy to support them and will do anything we can to help them celebrate this momentous and unprecedented (for independent labels anyway) occasion. I will always have very positive memories of my time with Vinyl Solution,” he says.
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): What does the release mean for Bizarre Inc; how likely are you to fully reform and release new music, go on the road as a band etc?
Bizarre Inc: “In all honesty – whilst never saying never, Bizarre Inc are extremely unlikely to reform, although Dean and I never exactly unformed if you know what I mean – we just became something else (they record together these days as Chicken Lips). We are even less likely to go on the road and we have not been on the road for at least ten years- beware cheap imitations.
The main reason that Bizarre Inc is unlikely to get going again is because we are stacked up with our own projects. Emperor Machine and Future 4 for me are taking up a massive amount of time. Dean is also very occupied with Rhythm Odyssey. But as I said, never say never . . .”
Skrufff: What do you make of all this Black Eyed Peas, Guetta, Avicii, Steve Aoki type stuff: how much do you see it as the equivalent of your music for a new generation?
Bizarre Inc: “They do what they do and they do it very, very, well. Its popularity means that it has to be considered the equivalent for the new generation. The sales in music may be down but the exposure dance music is getting these daysis so much wider now. I remember asking (90s TV presenter) Lisa I’Anson once to play more dance music on MTV. It did not go down well at all. So even if sales appear to be down it’s reaching out so much further. So yes – it’s is for the new generation.”
What’s the same? 909 kick-drum (or to be technically correct and to preempt the techies lets say a classic drum machine or plug-in equivalent) what’s different? Higher production values; and more polishing.”
Skrufff: Looking back Bizarre Inc were better positioned than the Prodigy at one point in the early 90s: how hard was it to avoid feeling bitter when you saw the likes of them and the Chemical Brothers becoming huge by following In your footsteps?
Bizarre Inc: “I am personally unabashedly jealous of Chemical Brothers and The Prodigy. I remember for a while in America we were doing the same circuits and seemed to be following in their footsteps. Am I bitter? No! They deserve to be where they are; they have made the right decisions and continue to produce quality stuff.
Whilst it doesn’t stop me from getting wistful on occasion I would not be where I am musically or personally if my career path had not followed the route it has. I am probably the happiest now I have been for a long time and unless I had hit the tough times that I did in the late 90s then I would not have pursued Sir Drew, Chicken Lips then Emperor Machine. That means a lot to me and I feel musically very free. If I was tied to Bizarre Inc then I couldn’t have pursued Future 4 either.”
Skrufff: Talking again about the track Playing With Knives: always an interesting title; did you ever carry a knife as a teenager?
Bizarre Inc: “The nearest I have come to carrying a knife is carrying a pen knife as a kid and carving wood – we are from Stafford – there are a lot of trees. Also I spent my teenage years locked away in my bedroom with headphones on. Now even in Stafford, kids are being sent home from school with knives. Sad. Do I advocate playing with knives? No.”
Bizarre Inc ‘Playing With Knives’ with remixes by Utah Saints, Drumsound &
Bassline Smith is available now to buy on iTunes http://smarturl.it/pwk
Jonty Skrufff: https://twitter.com/djjontyskrufff