23rd June 1990
Nish, clish, fish! Bugger the Madchester bandwagon, Northern gits MC TUNES and 808 STATE are the original Hit Squad and they don't wear flares neither. Choon's insanely cool new hip-hop album pishes on the rest. Verbals: IAN McCANN. Vish-uals: PETER WALSH.
The double act. Throughout the centuries the double act has been your mainstay of entertainment. Cain & Michael. Romeo and Janet. Lauren & Hardy. The Two Stooges. Bobby & Bryan Robson. Roy Castle and his horn. Randall & Hopkirk (deceased). Morrissey and, er... um .. .
Here's the latest. The biggest. The funniest. From the capital of Great Britain, ladees an' gennelmen, Manchester's very own ... MC Tunes and one of the bods out of 808 State.
The mention of the word Manchester should be enough to have got rid of most of you. Those die-hards, those I read every word of NME, me types, will learn many amazing facts from this article.
BACK IN 1984 when Manchester was a little-known fishing village in Switzerland, any Mancunian with any sense was in The Hit Squad. The Hit Squad was a collection of like-minded individuals into 'electro' music, which was the forerunner of hip-hop and featured mass electrocutions and someone called Afrikaa Lambada who was eternally searching for the perfect beat but never finding it.
In fact, those who owned it didn't know it. They were 808 State, part of The Hit Squad. They had been through school, nicking Mars Bars from corner shops and playing in the local Sunday leagues, the ordinary things that all kids go through. Then they took up breakdancing, human beat-boxing and generally wearing away certain parts of their anatomies in the name of funky Music.
"By '84 I'd fucked all that off because I found I had a hidden talent for writing lyrics," says MC Tunes.
"I just kept me head down, did what I 'ad to do and gradually over the years 808 State became a production unit."
"Four years ago," says the bod from 808 State, "we released a maxi 12-inch featuring MC Tunes on one side, 'Back To Attack', and an Altrincham rap group called Shure 4, an 808 State/Maxi Price collaboration which we pressed 1,000 of. And that was our first encounter with Tunes."
The record is now, you guessed it, a collectors' item. It's nishin' impossible to get.
In 1986-7, perhaps also four years ago, they did a record together called 'Dance Yourself To Death', licensed to White Boy Records in Germany. It is now a collectors' item, etc. Then suddenly, ZTT Records, recognising the redundancy of mid-European palefaced torch singers and Holly Johnson's boys, became hip to the 808 State trip.
Manchester, owing to the greenhouse effect, suddenly washed up on the Manchester Ship Canal, providing the Hacienda with a city to be in and every journalist in Britain an excuse to run up an expense account. 808 State released 'Pacific State', became very rich indeed and got their records cult status in America through the prestigious dance independent Tommy Boy. Tommy Boy put out a different, heavier version of their album which everyone should own because it really is perfect and tremendous.
808 State had, at last, found their nish.
"WHILE THEY were sorting out their deal with 'Pacific State'," says Choons, "I was like shelved. I was just writing lyrics because I was gonna make an album. That was the bottom line. I got the album finished, came down to ZTT, signed up, got the 12-inch out, that's it."
"He got his shit together," says the bod from 808 State.
"We're not a band, we make music," says Tunes.
"We see ourselves as a studio outfit. We like to be in the studio, where a lot of bands don't like to be in the studio," says 808 State's representative. "They like to be out on the road in their leather jackets and bandanas. We like churning out music in the studio."
"'S 'right," says MC Tunes.
Manchester is, of course, famed for Kenny Dalglish, Scallies, Balm Cakes, and leeks. It has also, in recent years, become home to several thousand pop groups who believe that they know a thing or two about funky beats. This must, surely, be the source of some amusement to those that have been into those beats for many years. Like MC Tunes and 808 State, for example.
"There's a lot of views on this, really, 'n't there? There's Unique 3, they're very good ..." says MC Tunes.
I meant like those M*ch*st*r bands with guitars and names with flowers and days of the week in them.
"Ah well, the indie bands like the Mondays with 'Step On' and the Roses with 'Fools Gold'," says the card-carrying member of 808 State. "Call it what you want, whether it was cashing in, call it growing up, opening your eyes, whatever, the idea was these bands got off their arse, found out that the 'flowers in your back pocket' scene had dropped, progressed and moved on. Which is a good thing. Because they go to the dance scene in Manchester, become part of it, they can't help it. It projects through their music."
PRINCE CHARLES (A SUBTLE ONE, THIS)
"THERE IS no acid, no hip-hop, no indie, no soul music," says MC Tunes.' Well, there is, but it all falls into one category now, and that's dance music. If you can dance to it, it's a tune that is worth playin'. And that's the only thing that goes on in Manchester. It Isn't how much gold you've got on, whether you've got flares on. I don't wear flares, none of 808 State wear flares and none of us have gat those fuckin' floppy hats 'cause it's not our thing. You could be three-foot-four, eye in between your fuckin' forehead and wings sproutin' out a yer head, if you can make a good tune that's what it's about."
"Manchester's the kinda place where you can be accepted, London you can't," says the man from 808 State. "In Manchester you can be influenced by Londoners, Scousers, Glaswegians, Dubliners, anyone. That's what makes Manchester so good, it holds no barriers. They'll let anyone into the town as long as they come in with the right attitude. Londoners are like a recorded message, speak to one or another and they're all saying the same shit."
"There's no-one downin' anybody for no reason in Manchester," says Tunes. "If someone goes out and makes a ount of themselves, then you call him a cunt and a twat, right? Because they do nothing for the music and our thing. You've always had people comin' into the music and making silly records. Everyone just knows that they're cunts."
"WE PUT all our energy and thought into a record," says Tunes. "So the customer is fuckin' gettin' quality. "You've gotta know the dance scene inside out and ..." interrupts the gentleman from 808 State.
"Trends are no good," resumes Tunes. "You do what you do and do it with the best possible taste, not jump on a bandwagon, right? People are losing their sense of quality. They're trying to palm a load of shit off as part of a trend. Put a Soul II Soul beat on it and a funky bassline, and a dicky guy going 'Jam Fire Boss Woh Jam Nifty Gritty an there you've fuckin' got it. What sort of shit is that? You've got Leila K screamin" I'm gonna do it again and again , they're one-hit-wonders, right?"
"Rock the nation as you wish, Leila," says Mr Roland 808, "but people are forgetting that we've come up through the ranks. They're saying that MC Tunes is just another 'Manchester bandwagon' thing. We're not like another bandwagon in the same way that Leila K is another dance thing. Loads of different things are happening in Manchester, but it all gets stuck together in one lump."
"They haven't got a fuckin' clue what goes on in Manchester," says MC Tunes with an air of finality.
MC TUNES is of course right. Certain records are not 'Jam hot', they're a pile of steaming shite. They are made by clumsy idiots with more technology than ideas, who know nish about clish. This is why you cannot rubbish MC Tunes and 808 State.
FACT: although 808 State are named after a drum machine famed throughout the world for the hip-hop bass-drum sound bigger than Paul Gascoigne's chocolate bill, they've used the instrument and hip-hop and House music in a completely different way.
FACT: this makes MC Tunes' 'North At Its Heights' album completely, insanely different hip-hop. It's aggressive but weirdly cool at the same time, from 'Primary Rhyming' to the depressingly brutal 'This Ain't No Fantasy'. No other git has made a record like this.