It's probably easier to espouse the virtues of laughter when you're on a mobile phone, basking in the sun on a park-bench
somewhere in London, like Black is. My own reality - hanging on a public phone at Akihabara Station on a particularly cold
and drizzly night - is a tad less conducive for a hearty chuckle...
By Andrez Bergen - Daily Yomiuri (Japan), April 2004
I don't know when exactly the subject turned to the many shades of jocularity, but we are talking about Coldcut - the pioneers
of sampling plunderphonics who've reined-in anything from the Dr Who theme and James Brown to looped kung-fu kicks and chainsaw
riffs in the course of creating their own gob-smacking style for 17 years.
While fellow British iconoclast Si Begg rates a mention here for his hilarious cut-ups in the Noodles releases, it's Ninja
Tuneís Kid Koala who gets the bigger plug from Black. "Much of what weíre doing with sample manipulation is making puns,
so when Kid Koala says "you mustn't scratch it like that, my dear", or "what have you got, Charlie Brown? ...I've
got a rock", it's puns that we're talking about, and a pun is something that means two different things at the same time.
What an intellectual would probably call the cognitive dissonance between the two meanings is a crack in which one can fall
Double-edged humor has shaped Coldcut's current project, which dabbles with the issue of genetic modification. "It's
an audio-visual called 'Cooking With Coldcut' that's got an anti-G.M. theme. It starts off as a rhythm track made out of kitchen
samples, then proceeds into Jon and me making an illegal agreement with a large agricultural company to promote G.M. foods
on our cookery program. In the end the cartoon versions of Jon and myself are overwhelmed by hordes of mutant vegetables in
a kung fu extravaganza. We'll be showing it when we come over to Tokyo."
These days a Coldcut performance is an inventive blend of cut-up audio deejaying accompanied by equally anarchic visual
veejaying. And while much of the projected material has a political slant - against logging and pollution, for example - most
of it is as hilarious as it is ingenious.
"We've extended the idea into audio-visual punning," Black says. "The seeds of the those ideas are flowering
in quite a few different places - there's Hexstatic, VJamm All-stars, and over in the U.S. thereís an outfit called TV Sheriff
that is absolutely hilarious. So I think audio-visual composition and performance - as the new hip hop - is flourishing."
Fortunately for these people, "there's been a trend that the more switched-on music equipment manufacturers started
making tools for audio-visual composition. We've seen the Korg Entrancer - which is a KAOSS Pad which also processes visuals
- and Roland launched a range of video mixers."
Maybe it's the sun on his side of the world, but Black is clearly excited at this point of the conversation. "Most
recently there's the new Pioneer DVJ-X1, which is a scratching DVD player. They're not quite out yet, but Pioneer has enabled
us to get our hands on the prototypes and we used one in a show for the first time in London the other day. I'd say this is
going to revolutionize club entertainment, and we'll be bringing them also to Japan."
Japan, it seems, holds a place of special significance in the hearts of Black and his Coldcut cohort Jonathan More. In
the biography on their website they declare that when they came to this country over a decade ago they found a book about
cut-out ninjas that sparked their own musical revolution. "The idea of Ninja Tune [the label] was in fact inspired by
our first visit to Japan," Black confirms. "We feel a strong affinity with Japan - not only for the technology,
which has been the foundation of electro and house music - but when we first came there it was just so different. The food
is different, the people are different, the architecture, the topography; so you get a real shock. And that shock is very
Ninja Tune's roster has included Luke Vibert, DJ Vadim and Clifford Gilberto, but for this tour audio-visual doyens Hexstatic
and cut-up, scratch-happy deejay/producer Kid Koala will accompany Coldcut - along with Bonobo, Jason Swinscoe and Dominic
Smith - in order to promote two new label retrospective compilations and the inaugural Ninja Tune DVD release.
"A lot of that music wasn't widely available, and it's a great opportunity to get loads of it collated together for
a reasonable price. So I think there are a lot of Ninja Tune fans who'll be quite happy. It's also based around the release
of the DVD 'Zen TV' - so it's a celebration of all the good stuff we've done up to now."
Black and More are also finishing off their first major Coldcut offering since 1997's 'Let It Play', but the album is
as-yet-unnamed and Black dodges the issue with characteristic panache. "There're loads of potential titles - but I don't
think I want to lay one of them on you yet," he chuckles kind of lazily, out in the midday sun.
This article contributed by Nobody special.