Saturday, 1 October 2011

Exclude Us From The Ranks Of Mediocre

Earlier this year I put those nice dudes at DIGGERSWITHGRATITUDE in touch with UK rap veterans FRESH SKI & MO ROCK with a view to putting out their unreleased "COARSE SELECTORS" EP on vinyl. To cut a long story short, the project went ahead and the limited copies flew off the shelves immediately. I wasn't surprised by the reaction of hardcore hip hop collectors who rushed to scoop a copy, in fact I was sure that the vinyl would sell well based purely on how sought after their original releases are (namely "Talkin Pays" 12" single in 1988 and "Long Awaited Paroxysm" EP in 1991).
Many of our US and European readers may not be instantly familiar with the FRESH SKI and MO-ROCK names, but I can tell you that here in the UK they were renowned for their ahead-of-the-game production and FRESH SKI's unique rhyming style compared to other crews. MO-ROCK was already known as being a master of records (along with fellow beat digger DJ FINGERS) as early as the mid 80s, and his production ethics and skills placed him in high regard with other DJs and beat makers. Their records were independently released and as such had no media hype or proper distribution on their release.
Hence both records never reached as far as they deserved to, despite "Talking Pays" reaching number 5 on the FUTURE RAP 20 CHART as featured in ECHOES magazine. There was also a gap of almost 3 years in between the two releases and we wanted to know why this happened and what else was stuffed away on tape reels in the cupboard somewhere in the duo's homes?? Was there more unreleased material by the legendary UK duo? We needed answers.
Back in February myself and RARE DAVE from DWG headed over to North London and met up with MO-ROCK and FRESH SKI to delve a little deeper into their history, and to get their take on the hip hop scene present in London in the early to late 1980s. It's an interesting read - I'm sure you will agree. Make yourself a brew, sit back relax and get stuck in....


KID DYNO: There is very little background information on you guys, the only exception being the interview on of yourself FRESH SKI on Youtube. Other than that I tried to research you guys and could find very little.

(FRESH SKI and MO ROCK are signing a portion of the DWG sleeves ready for the limited release of COARSE SELECTORS.)

FRESH SKI: I'm not sure what to write.

KID DYNO: North London's Finest?

RARE DAVE: You could always write some of the lyrics on there....

KID DYNO: From watching the youtube interview FRESH SKI - can you even remember the lyrics? LAUGHS

FRESH SKI: Ha ha I get caned for that by every person I speak says "How could you forget the lyrics?"

MO: That's a dark move why didn't he edit it out?

KID DYNO: So who recorded the video of you on Youtube Fresh Ski?

FRESH SKI: That was Michael Morgan, the DJ from 2 THE TOP (members D-COY MC and TDK).

KID DYNO: I remember those guys, had that pic cover 12" with the 2 THE TOP logo on it.

MO: Yeah KINETIC designed that logo actually.

KID DYNO: So that must must have been around the time when you guys were getting towards the end of your time in the scene?

MO: No that's a few years earlier maybe 90, 91. We did our last demos in 1992.

FRESH SKI: Yeah, but don't forget some crews had been around but didn't quite get where they wanted to be straight away. There's a line in "Talking Pays" where I say "check it out FRESH SKI and Mo ROCK are on wax". Like yeah we are FINALLY on wax, we made it, let's shout it out. Sounds silly now that I would say that but that's how it was back then. There was always a lot dialogue between everyone in the hip hop scene, like I would speak to MC MELLO and I would speak to SINDECUT and you know it was like a family. It was like..."How's it going I heard you got a deal, what happened". There was lots of conversation between us all.

KID DYNO: So was it like friendly competition between you guys to see who could release a record first?

FRESH SKI: Um, I don't really think so, we were probably all following each other around, seeing all the same sort of people in trying to get a deal.

MO: But MUSIC OF LIFE turned us down didn't they?


MO: Twice!

FRESH SKI: Why did we get turned down?

MO: I can't remember.

FRESH SKI: I wasn't happy about that.

MO: Yeah me too, especially as he did release that, er what's his name, Chris Biscuit, no disrespect to Chris, I'm sure lots of people loved and bought that track but i couldn't understand why he signed him and said no to us!

FRESH SKI: Everybody gravitated towards MUSIC OF LIFE back then.

KID DYNO: Yeah I've heard SIMON HARRIS was making porn movies a few years ago, along with the guy from Sunday Sport.


KID DYNO: I meant producing them not starring in them!

FRESH SKI: I listened to a DEMON BOYS track the other day, I forget the title, but the production was quite good actually, it had a strange title.

RARE DAVE: Glimmity Glammity?

FRESH SKI: Yeah that's the one, nice beat.

KID DYNO: Did Simon Harris get a lot of credit for producing stuff when in truth was more an executive producer?

FRESH SKI: He did some peoples beats and remixed some.

MO: I'd hear some of the artists, naming no names, and they'd be bragging and boasting about how good they are etc etc, and i was always thinking, how can you shout out how great you are when your not even making your own music.

FRESH SKI: Yeah maybe we were a little, you know had our shit together, so to speak, so SIMON thought well what do I do with these guys you know?

MO: Yeah we gave him the COARSE SELECTORS EP demo and he turned it down.

KID DYNO: I don't understand that, I like DEMON BOYS and EINSTEIN etc.. yet he was happy to release someone like DEREK B, who no disrespect to him and rest in peace Derek Boland, but he wasn't that good as an MC!

That upsets me cuz if you speak to any US hip hoppers they only know Derek B because of all the hype surrounding him. Worse still think that all us UK heads were listening to stuff like that which simply wasn't the case back then.

FRESH SKI: Of all the people to think of as an example of UK hip hop - I mean, where did Derek B come from? Some DJ who came outta nowhere. He wasn't part of the scene back then.

KID DYNO: It was as if SIMON HARRIS had plucked him out of whatever job he was doing and said right you're gonna be my new project frontman. He had his own hip hop factory going on over there at MUSIC OF LIFE. In my opinion, you guys were above that, you'd been down with the scene for years, you did your own production - I'm sure you guys can appreciate that now looking back. It's obvious from your lyrics Fresh Ski and even in your rhymes make it clear that you were different to other MCs out there at the time. How many UK joints were there where you could hear AND understand every lyric and every line? Not many I bet.

FRESH SKI: Yeah I was probably obsessive actually at times.

KID DYNO: For me it was the perfect combination - dope beats and eloquently delivered rhymes. But it never took me away from the beats cuz I would still be able to hear the lyrics clearly, I would also analyse the music and try to work out where this sample or that sample came from, how you (Mo) had chopped up this beat or noise etc.. You guys had your skills down TIGHT.

MO: Ahh so you've sussed out our samples (LAUGHS)

KID DYNO: Yeah, but it took me 20 yrs to find some of them records. You are probably the same as me Mo, as a beathead I like to play to a rap record and listen to the beats first, unless there was a particularly good MC over them. I'm homing in on the beats first, then I go back and listen to the rhymes. I was the same when listening to old school tapes, I would be desparate to know what this or that break was that Grand Wizard Theodore or Bambaata was dropping.

FRESH SKI: Yeah that's normal.

MO: True, when listening to rap back then it was always about the backing track, the kick drum, snare, what are they using, how’d they put it together, and the whole feel of the song. Then when it comes to breaks, its drums, bassline, guitar riff… everything and anything that’ll give you some sort of clue as to what it is. Over the years I learnt that you could kinda tell when a song was recorded by the sound of the drums, you couldn’t pin point it down to the actual year, but you’d hear something and say, yeah that sounds early 70s, maybe 71 72…sounds crazy, but im sure the beat collectors know what I'm talking about. There was untold discussion back then about break records, say for instance the Jackson's "It's Great to Be here" break - we used to think that was called "Soul Bad/, So Bad’ because of the line "So Glad".

I used to be like I gotta find it, I gotta find it, who's it by, not sure but it's this record called "Soul Bad" (EVERYONE LAUGHS). So I’d be in Reckless Records in the Soul/Funk section checking out the backs of every LP for the Soul Bad or So Bad title. And even the Commodore's "Assembly Line" break we used to call "Video Man". The last bar before the break comes in, I would have bet money on it back then that they were saying “video man”

MO and FRESH SKI sing "let's get down with the video man, huh!"


KID DYNO: I'm sure you will agree MO that some of the best breaks are ones that are by regular artists. I would be looking for all the rare shit when there were dope drums on some real easy to find LPs, but at the time I just didn't realise that fact.

MO: There was a fantastic shop that I used to get a lot of breaks from called CHEAPO CHEAPOS. Everything was around 2 quid, so it was a great place to experiment and take a chance buying stuff.

KID DYNO: Yeah that shop is still there in Soho, I still check it out once in a while.

MO: They sell mostly CDs now but back then, nearly every lunchtime I’d go downstairs into the basement where they kept their LPs. Along Berwick Street past the Raymond Revue bar into Rupert Street.

(Jokes about popping for some peep show action then down to Cheapo Cheapos to cop some breaks)

KID DYNO: So FRESH SKI, going back to the days of SPATS night club in Oxford Street, I understand you were down with the IMPERIAL MIXERS crew.

FRESH SKI: You know what, I used to go to SPATS . At weekends we would listen to WESTWOOD's show, then you would head to SPATS and it was an open mic, and very few people would be brave enough to rap, so the dominant crew there was FAMILY QWEST and the star of the show for me was MISTRI MC.

I would go on at SPATS and rap, after a while you would start to get a good response and people would say, you know "who is that guy?" Different people were interested, I guess the most interesting story being that I almost ended up being HIJACK's MC. Back then I would speak to DJ UNDERCOVER, and he told me that he was forming a crew, let's get together. I'm sure if it had been in the days of mobile phones back then I'm sure we would have got together.
Also I could have been in SINDECUT, because CRAZY NODDY wasn't around back then and DJ FINGERS was another guy I would hang with.

KID DYNO: So you could have been a member of HIJACK or SINDECUT? Who would you have worked with then Mo?

MO: (in jest) I would have been on my own wouldn't I? Just me alone on the street.

KID DYNO: (in jest) Maybe you could have worked with DEREK B - maybe you would have made his career a little better!


KID DYNO: So how did you guys originally meet and get together as a duo?

MO: At school.

FRESH SKI: I was in the sixth form.

MO: He was a few years older than me, I was in the 4th year. I bought GRANDMIXER DST "Grandmixer Cuts It Up" 12" and word got back to the sixth form that someone got that record.

FRESH SKI: That's how it would happen - what? someone's got that track? From where? A 4th year? Where is he? He's a 4th year! So I went and tracked Mo down.

MO: That's how we met.

FRESH SKI: I think I probably wanted to be a DJ back then cuz that's what everyone wanted to be.

MO: I wanted to be a body popper, but I only had one move.

FRESH SKI: Yeah all you had was that tummy move(?????) that's all you had going on so you were never gonna make it!

MO: Yeah making myself look pregnant and being able to roll my belly wasn’t gonna work, I was a two-trick pony!


KID DYNO: That's true back in the days everyone tried at least one or two of the elements of hip hop to see which one they were best at, whether it was graff or b-boying etc.. That's how it was for everyone, you tried all elements. Some people were good at more than one, some could do all four!

FRESH SKI: We would be around Maurice's house, there would be me, Paul, Maurice and sometimes Louis. Mo and Louis would practice deejaying, and me and Paul would be MCs, and we would steal lyrics from Wild Style and what have you, repeat them, and then I started to change things round and come up with my own stuff. Paul would say "oooh what's going on? You're going to the next level!", and so eventually he stopped doing it. I had some savings which I was about to put to buying some turntables, and then ended up buying a microphone instead. You know turntables were £250 each or something like that back then.

MO: I had the Technics SL-QX200 which were about £120 each I think.

FRESH SKI: I saved enough money to buy one SL-1200, but then bought the mic instead and that's when I started to write my own lyrics.

MO: It was more a friendship really, it's wasn't like "ok, now we're a duo, lets start making some demos..." we were just school friends.
I got my turntables in late '84, Toks would come over to play music, talk etc and practice his rhymes. At that time i had the SL-QX200 turntables , a REALISTIC Mixer, a BOSS Dr-55 Drum Machine and an Echo Machine. I could do anything on those SL- QX200s that could be done on SL-1200s, those were good old days. It was around this time that Fresh met NEWTRAMENT. So now Fresh would come over sometimes with Dr Fate, Noise, Kid Gee & Sweet Pee and they would all practice their rhymes for the ROCK BOX jams.

FRESH SKI: Yeah I'm not sure how familiar you are with the ROCK BOX days, well what they would do in the 80's, or what NEWTRAMENT would do, was to go out and break into an old warehouse mostly in the west London area, and just set up their stuff and play for the whole night. They were unbelievable gigs. I think I remember seeing Boy George at one of them.

All kinds of people there - gays and lesbians doing stuff, people breaking, people rocking the mic, SWEET PERFECTION from SHE ROCKERS would be there rapping, really mad gigs. This is the point just as SOUL II SOUL were just getting started, I would rap with them, I would rap with WESTWOOD, I would rap with ROCK BOX. I'd also rap when I was with MO, and around this time I was rapping with a guy called Leo (DOCTOR FATE). He was a popper with another guy called FEATHERS, I forget their name as a duo, but he would write some of our lyrics and I would also write some of them. I can't remember exactly what happened, but Leo wasn't really delivering the goods, and I remember even NEWTRAMENT told me I should be rapping on my own. In fact there was even a little rivalry between NEWTRAMENT and MO cuz he wasn't keen on MO at the time. Although his beats were'nt that great. NEWTRAMENT is often credited with the having the first UK rap record released with "London Bridge Is Falling Down", but before him there was DIZZY HEIGHTS "Christmas Rapping" which was actually the first about a year earlier in '82.

KID DYNO: Isn't that SIR DREW rhyming on that NEWTRAMENT record?

FRESH SKI: Yeah you're right. See when we would go to those warehouse gigs he would be there, occasionally some other MCs, but there wasn't many other people rapping back then in London.

KID DYNO: So we are talking about the origins of hip hop in this country?

FRESH SKI: Yes for sure, I mean you would know everyone. You could go to a gig and know at least 60% of the people there.

KID DYNO: So we are talking a small circle of people. You mentioned not having mobile phones, but I guess in those days you would see everyone at the next jam or down at Covent Garden and that's the scene kept in touch.

FRESH SKI: Yeah that's it. And I also got to include in the Rock Box days the Bristol collective that would come up to London - WILD BUNCH guys like NELLY HOPPER and 3D, WILLY WEE and DADDY G (who went on to be in MASSIVE ATTACK with NELLIE) etc. they would make it up to some of the jams and were rapping. It was a great scene in Bristol too, we would also go down there to their jams with ROCK BOX, in fact the recent book WILD DAYZ is about them, there's also some pictures of me in there rapping down in Bristol.

MO: Yeah it would have been nice to go cuz I would have been in the pictures too, but I was only 15 years old at the time so my Mum wasn't letting me go down there and stay the night.

FRESH SKI: I must have been about 18,19. I remember driving an old van down there once, you know what it's like when you just started driving, well everyone would pile in the back and we would have the speakers in there too with music pumping. They were shouting at me "c'mon turn the music up" and I'm thinking "I don't wanna kill anyone!" LAUGHS. A dodgy white van with speakers in the back. Good times.

KID DYNO: So what school was that where you two met?

MO: Highbury Grove, just around the corner from where I live now. In fact FRESH SKI is close too. We still live close.

FRESH SKI: Although I moved to Manchester for about four years, that was at the time when our relationship in terms of FRESH SKI & MO-ROCK had started to die off. I left for Manchester in 89, I was probably getting a bit disillusioned with the scene, but even when I got to Manchester they had a little scene. A few people knew about me and I got fired up with it again. I came down to London briefly to do the LONG AWAITED PAROXYSM but even then it was a struggle to get back down to London to do it. Around the same time I kinda lost touch with the UK scene.

KID DYNO: Yeah I know what you're saying, at that time the base that UK hip hop had grown upon began to change, the music changed, and a lot of people left the scene to do other things, some went off into the rave scene around '89 or '90. A lot of people left the scene.

MO: True, at that time out of the 20 records coming out each week I was beginning to only like one or two. Whereas years before you could go to GROOVE RECORDS and every new release was a must buy. GROOVE used to have an advert in ECHOES music paper with a chart with all the new release 12"s on, and I would cut it out and tick them off as I got them. By the end of the 80s I think I picked up all of those records on those lists. I have great memories of that shop, especially the old lady Jean behind the counter. I asked her once about "Letzmurf acrossdasurf' by The Micronawts", thinking that she wouldn't have a clue about it, but as soon as the words left my mouth, she said "that's sold out, and and wont be coming back"! I remember thinking "fuck me, she knows about that track?"

KID DYNO: What's the story behind the release of "Talking Pays"? How did you hook up with TUFF GROOVE and RICKY RENNALS?

MO: I think I got a phone call. We did a demo, we gave it to WESTWOOD, WESTWOOD played it, then I got a phone call from RICKY saying "I'm really interested in that record, are you signed?". I told him we weren't and he said "well I'm really interested in putting it out". That's basically how it happened. We went round to his house, that was in '87, and we released it in March '88 but we had gone back into the studio to re-record it in January '88.

FRESH SKI: And just to give it a bit of context, RICKY had been around, he would do hip hop showcases and things like that. He was involved with the COOKIE CREW, and did a lot of things at the Battersea Arts Centre where I rapped as did some others. Once we showed him the demo and that was it really.

KID DYNO: So we can thank TIM WESTWOOD then for getting it kick started?

FRESH SKI & MO ROCK - "The Solo Rhymer " demo recorded for TIM WESTWOOD's CAPITAL 95.8FM radio show

MO: Yeah TIM was alright he would play our demo/jingle that we did for him, he would play it quite a lot.

FRESH SKI: Yeah he played that for years after, when I was in Manchester people would tell me he still plays the jingle you did for him.

MO: I have it on tape but I don't have the right lead to convert it to mp3, but I'll get it done soon. We did that track/jingle at the same time as the original Talking Pays demo, around Oct ’87 and was done minus the vocals in about twenty minutes in the studio. I looped up a Johnny Jenkins break, used a small part of the organ that I used on "Incredible" with loads of echo on it, and flashed in some vocals off Deathmix. Two short verses and then some shout outs at the end and that was it. I loved it purely cuz it sounded so different & dark to what was about back than.

FRESH SKI: I'm trying to remember the lines, but I can't oh I'm so rubbish!

MO: It's something like "You know me, I'm Fresh Ski the solo rhymer, do I sound paranoid, yes, I get kinda upset when i heard the news, you ain't gotta be fresh you ain't gotta pay dues..."

KID DYNO: I think my favourite FRESH SKI lyric is when in "It's Working" you say "FRESH SKI's back, new and improved"

FRESH SKI: Yeah that's a lot of people's favourite. LAUGHS.

KID DYNO: I read an interview where some mud was thrown at RICKY RENNALS by someone within the hip hop community who shall remain anonymous. What's your take on that?

FRESH SKI: Yeah there was to some degree. Some people felt that they didn't get money, the same old things ... the record is out I haven't been paid. We were just happy to be on vinyl.

MO: We didn't even think about "are we gonna get money for this" I was just happy to have it on vinyl, play it and watch the label spinning round! I remember having an argument with him because he didn't want to put CONSCIOUS MUSIC PRODUCTIONS on there, he wanted to put a TUFF GROOVE production or RICKY RENNALS production or something like that. I was like "fuck off you've had nothing to do with this, you're only putting it out".
Apart from that, I had a LOT of respect for Ricky, he was the only one that saw something in us, when everybody else said no. In fact if RICKY RENNALLS (or anyone who knows where he is now) is reading this please get in touch with KID DYNO!

MO: I put a lot of time into my production. That's how it used to be - it had to be how I wanted it. I wanted to prove to people what I was about, by doing my own music and using breaks that no-one had heard. I didn't listen to any British stuff, not really, because I didn't want to be influenced by any of that. So if I sample anything that someone else had done it was purely co-incidence.

KID DYNO: Sounds like you were somewhat of a perfectionist with the music MO?

FRESH SKI: He was, and would even knock me back in the studio cuz I listened to everything, I was totally into the rap, immersed fully. I was like "why don't you try this?" and MO was like "No I don't like that!". In fact, that "Talk-t-talk-talk t-talking pays" on the record is me, cuz MO didn't like that part, he hated it, and he hated me for it!" LAUGHS

MO: He (FRESH SKI) was like "we need to put something in" and I was saying "no, just let the music run". (MO ridicules the talk-t-talk-talk t-talking pays sample)

FRESH SKI: He's such a purist!

KID DYNO: MO, one of the first breaks I ever bought was "Cosmic Sea" by the Mystic Moods because I loved the way you guys used it.

MO: I bought that record from RECKLESS in 1989 for £2, took it home and played it and thought "fucking hell listen to that I gotta use it." And on the b-side is the sitars, that i also used.

KID DYNO: For back then MO that was some off the beaten track sampling. People were still regurgitating James Brown loops and the usual funk.

FRESH SKI: You know what, I remember MO playing that to me, and thinking there's something about it but you're gonna have to do something to it, and then he did it again and played it to me and I thought "ah yes that's gonna work yeah!"

MO: Yeah I added drums, strings, horns, some 'Weather Report' and a little Joe Cocker.
In fact on the first 12", FRESH SKI more or less came up with the music. For Talking Pays he said "I like this break, (Givin' Up Food For Funk) I wanna use it." And for Pick Up On This, he said "I like this bass noise (Heaven & Hell) what can you do with it?" so I added the horns over the top with the METERS drum break in the background.

KID DYNO: So when was the COARSE SELECTORS actually recorded?

MO: We released "Talking Pays" and "Pick Up On This" in early March 88 then straight away we went in and recorded "Down To The A.M." and then did "Incredible".

KID DYNO: So we're talking around Summer of '88?

MO: Around April/May 88

RARE DAVE: That's unbelievable, that's why it was so hard for us to pin it down when it was from, because it doesn't sound like a track from 88.

KID DYNO: That's because MO's sample choices were so different to what everyone else was using at the time. Everything else in '88 was James Brown's "funky drummer" and stuff like that, but your choice of breaks were really off the radar for the time. Where else did you go MO to dig for records other than Cheapo Cheapos?

MO: Reckless Records and always in the bargain basement section, 2nd hand shops, there was couple Oxfam type shops on the way up to Reckless in the Angel (Islington). I was buying purely music between 1968 and 1974/5, because after that Disco started to come in.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the Disco breaks, but I was looking for breaks for us to use, and a disco break would come off a bit weak. Sometimes it was just to do with the record covers, if it looked freaky I'll buy it.
You see, back then the scene was in its infancy. There was no-one around or I should say that I knew no one, that could tell you to go look for that record, that band, check out that label etc etc, so it was just down to you to find out everything.
Sure you'd buy a load of crap and there was a lot of money wasted but it was worth it when you hit the jackpot and found that lovely break.
Another thing that got me started back then was having an older brother with around 300-400 records. Going through those records with a fine tooth comb was a lesson in its self, found loads of breaks....Piranhas, Comsat Angels, Talking Heads, Bowie, Weather Report, Television to name a few...
So now on my shopping trips I was leaving out the Soul/Funk section and going straight to the Rock/Folk/Psychedelic section and looking for 23 Skidoo, Supersister, Au Pairs, Brand X, Certain ratio or a Blurt LP. Which, in turn opens your ears & eyes to other bands like Can, Faulst, Ultimate Spinach, Gong, Ananda Shankar,& the fantastic Mr Gainsbourg.

KID DYNO: The MYSTIC MOODS LP is a perfect example of that.

MO: Yeah that spacy cover did it for me…and the price, two quid & cool cover, bargain!

RARE DAVE: SALT & PEPA used the same break as you, you must have heard lots of stuff where you had got the records they used and thought damn I wished I'd used that.

MO: Lots of stuff, so I've been told. Back in 88/89 I was making these tapes, just looped up breaks, basslines etc, maybe a little scratching over the top, they was mainly for me but sometimes i'd give them away to friends. I gave a few to a friend Dj Apollo (Touchdown MCs, Rhymeside), and a while back he told me that over the years slowly but surely all of those loops had been used. Deep Purple – Living wreck was another break I'd loop up & scratch over. That track has so many parts you could sample, So when PE used the exact part in '91 I was like "shit!". Also on the BODY SNATCHERS "Genocide" EP - MC Killer, they used a track called The Mind Excursion, the exact same part we used for a demo a few years before. There's a couple of Gunshot tracks, a Blade, KRS, Blacksheep, they're the artists I kinda remember, but all the track names escape me now.

KID DYNO: It's weird how different people can pick up the same sample if it has that hip hop sound to it. I myself listen to other genres of music with a hip hop ear, listening for a dope loop whatever.

FRESH SKI: I think there's an element of courage to it as well, in choosing which sample to use. MO sampled stuff which other people would have left well alone.

MO: There's a lot of stuff I would play to FRESH SKI and he would be like "it's way too hard to rhyme over". I would say "no c'mon let's use this" and he would say "it's just too hard we can't do it.". That's one of my regrets, cuz of some of the tracks that we could have done. When people talk about some of the "Britcore" stuff and how hard & dark it was, well I know I could have given them all a run for their money if only you (FRESH SKI) would have said yes to some to those beats. LAUGHS

FRESH SKI: You know, you were talking about being a perfectionist, well rap certainly did not come easy to me. I'm not like JAY-Z who can just go in a studio and bang out a dope verse, that was real hard for me.

My parents are Nigerian so I didn't have that Jamaican twang thing going on, I didn't throw any reggae type lyrics cuz it wouldn't have sounded right for me. I was really just trying to rhyme and construct lyrics as best I could, and quite often I was not happy with it. MO would have loads of beats ready and I would be telling him he's gotta wait for me cuz I'm not ready yet! We gotta wait.

MO: I remember telling him that you cant rap like those rappers over in south London.....

FRESH SKI: I just wanted you to know that I was a clever bloke and I could rhyme and I could make it sound good and I would talk about my DJ and stuff. I would talk about rappers that were watering down their sound and how they were kinda like not staying true to the hardcore hip hop, they were selling out etc.. All that stuff said in a million different ways of saying it.

KID DYNO: With hindsight that's probably what made you stand out because you didn't follow the traditional UK style, 130bpm uptempo, sirens, and horror samples typical of the late 80's. In contrast to what you said about writing rhymes, you sound really natural and comfortable on the mic yet you say it was a style hard to develop?

FRESH SKI: I was really working on sounding natural, working on my sound trying to come up with new ideas.

KID DYNO: You do come across very eloquent and intelligent on the mic, and your delivery is smooth. It's obvious from the rhymes that you had taken the time to organise your flow and make sure the message was delivered clearly. In "Down to the A.M." you say that you're "not no microphone clone" and "all MCs are not the same". Was being different important to you?

FRESH SKI: I really tried to analyse rap and how it should be put together. You know... I was watching a documentary on BOB MONKHOUSE the other day on how he would study comedy in depth to work out what exactly made a joke funny, and I thought, knowing I would be speaking to you guys, that this was how I looked at MCs. You know, RUN DMC for instance there not as articulate as KRS ONE, but there some elements of them that are quite good, but on the other hand why does no-one like CHILL ROB G as much as other MCs because he had an unbelievable flow. Talk about flow he made it effortless. Like it was real natural. I had a long running argument with a friend who thought that KOOL G RAP was the simply the biggest thing ever, and I do like him and take my hat off to KOOL G RAP of course, but I just prefer the people that can do it quite naturally.

KID DYNO: That's why I like your style FRESH SKI, as someone who can do it, and knows he doesn't have to brag about that fact other than on record. Hence, no surrounding hype machine necessary to make up for the lack of skills.

FRESH SKI: Yeah there was none of that shouting on my rhymes, in fact MO - did we record my voice twice?

MO: Yeah, on Pick Up On This, we layered it.

FRESH SKI: I thought so, cuz we needed to thicken up my voice a little.

KID DYNO: You have the voice for it too. GURU once said "It's mostly the voice" and I think that is very true. Some MCs could drop one dope line but if the voice weren't right......

FRESH SKI: Spot on! We were quite laid back about it all though, and I remember once MO's ex-girlfriend saying "when are you guys actually going to record something?"

MO: That's why LOGIC CONTROL MC's was released on CONSCIOUS MUSIC RECORDS before our record - I think they got fed up waiting for us to record our album. LAUGHS


MO: Mc’s Supreme & Wyse & QuickCut Jay

KID DYNO: So who else making UK hip hop records were you influenced by?

FRESH SKI: I thought there were a lot of decent tunes, but nothing really grabbed me like HIJACK's "Hold No Hostage" - KAMANCHI SLY smashed it lyrically on that record. Although in terms of music I felt our stuff had an edge over a lot of other UK records, we had an extra dimension to our production. It was really hard for everyone to produce good tracks, because we didn't know how to make it sound beefy like the Americans. Their sound had the bass and even if the rapper was cheesy it could still sound good. If some of the US rappers had been on UK record it would have sounded rubbish, but over a big fat bassy track they could pull it off. HIJACK was the group that stood out for me, not just them but also SYNDECUT who I was mates with. Also NEWTRAMENT because it was the first UK rap record I bought, but other than those mentioned we weren't really influenced by any other UK crews. Don't get me wrong we all supported each other, we would wish them luck with their gig or record deal etc.. all of that.

KID DYNO: But of course there weren't many people actually putting out records before you were on the scene.


MO: I never really listened to much UK rap, I remember thinking some of them sounded very amateur. Nothing really struck me. You see I always listen to the music primarily, but a lot of the rappers sounded like they had only just started rhyming last week.There was so many tracks using rare groove samples or stuff off the latest UBB release that I was just bored by it all. I wanted something to jump out and smack me in the face, to leave me thinking “fuck, where did they find that beat, what kind of music is this”???

KID DYNO: I must confess to owning some early UK rap 12"s that are embarrassing to listen to now after all these years, so I understand you on that point MO. On the other hand, I have recently found out about some incredible UK releases from the late 80s and early 90s that I wasn't even aware of back then. Because of the underground nature of the scene many records were self released and didn't get any kind of distribution. The internet has changed the game in the respect that people can now share knowledge of these hidden gems, and this often can blow up a record in terms of desirability and value. Some early UK rap records now are very sought after and command similar prices to for instance a hard to find underground US 12". "Talking Pays" is a good example of that - it wasn't easy to find when it was released even if you were in the know, and it's just as hard to track one down now for less than fifty quid so high is the demand for it. That's how sought after that record is. There is a real fondness for early quality UK rap amongst collectors both here and Europe, the US and JAPAN. Everyone knew HIJACK, DEMONS BOYZ, LONDON POSSE etc. but it's the rarer UK pieces people are looking for now. And many are more hardcore than the mainstream releases.

MO: I think because I had this attitude towards UK stuff, i probably missed out hearing some real gems.

FRESH SKI: I remember hearing LONDON POSSE on the radio and thinking to myself ... "when are they gonna play our stuff?"

KID DYNO: But the cream always rises to the top, but not necessarily at the time. You guys weren't on a major label, so media attention would have been hard to come by without the usual hype machine surrounding you like other names had. However 20 years later the FRESH SKI and MO-ROCK material stands out for the dope music that it is. Now we have the privilege of looking back on the UK scene we can filter out the wackness and pick out the real deal crews. And your music speaks volumes right now.

FRESH SKI & MO-ROCK "Down to the A.M."

FRESH SKI: I think it was the beats!

MO: I think we worked well together. We both complemented each other.

KID DYNO: What equipment was used on THE COARSE SELECTORS?

MO: The project was recorded with Adam, we were using an AKAI S1000. Plus the usual studio equipment, keyboard, computer, echo, reverb etc etc

KID DYNO: The S1000 was expensive back then!

MO: Yeah he had only just bought it. On "It's Working" I had the break and told ADAM that I really wanted to use the whole part, not just part of it. I think we got most of it apart from the end 4 bars, but you can hear if you listen closely that it changes pitch slightly after so many bars. That's where he had to tweak it a little bit to make it fit.

KID DYNO: So who is this ADAM dude?

MO: He was the studio engineer at the time.


FRESH SKI: That's BRIAN, he was our friend and the main man behind CONSCIOUS MUSIC RECORDS. And there was also a guy called MARK who helped out in the background.

KID DYNO: There was a 2 year gap between "Talking Pays" and "Long Awaited" am I correct?

FRESH SKI: That's about right.

KID DYNO: So why did you decide to come out with the "Long Awaited..." rather than COARSE SELECTORS EP?

MO: Because it took forever to do it, going in and out of the studio, and also holding down jobs. And we were quite lazy weren't we? BOTH LAUGH

KID DYNO: Was it destined for release on TUFF GROOVE?

FRESH SKI: No the deal with TUFF GROOVE was only for a 12". The COARSE SELECTORS was a demo we shopped around to other labels. Nothing was really happening with it and I remember having to rewrite one lyric where I mention 1988 and changing it to 89 where the whole process was taking so long. That was on "It's Working". I seem to remember I wanted to re-do a few lyrics also. I felt if we were going to an album it needed a little something else on there, that was a concern of mine.

KID DYNO: Is that why you put those tracks to the side when joining the CONSCIOUS MUSIC label?

MO: Yeah I think we got bored with some of the tracks and thought they were a little dated.

KID DYNO: That's strange to hear you say that, because when you listen to those tracks now they sound anything but dated. Your samples were off the beaten track, and the way you were chopping up beats and samples back then in 88/89 was pretty ahead of the game. People weren't doing that shit, it was more about loops.

MO: That was a very conscious decision to do that, I didn't want to be influenced by anyone. I didn't want to follow everyone else by simply buying a breakbeat album and using it. Even if it was one of the UBB breaks it had to be an original pressing of that record that I was sampling from. That was something I insisted on.

KID DYNO: Yeah it's an unwritten rule of hip hop production that you must use the original records. The digging aspect has to be respected. Although there's a lot of producers out there that don't follow that rule.

MO: It's kind of like a record snobbery! I would make sure if I made a piece of music I used a sample that no-one else had got just so they would say "hey what's that from...?". I like the fact that it would get them thinking "what has he used there, and how did he get it to sound like that?".

KID DYNO: That takes me back to around 93/94 when I found my first copy of THE MYSTIC MOODS LP and first found the "Day Of Reckoning" break with the spacey looking cover. It was such a special find to me because I loved the way you guys flipped it a few years earlier.

MO: I had a few MYSTIC MOODS LPs, in fact my copy of that LP in question I no longer have as I inadvertently left it one day in a studio me & Dj Fingers was using

KID DYNO: Drop a few other samples on me, I've been trying to figure out a few from the "Long Awaited..." EP.

MO: "Down to the AM" horns are from ISAAC HAYES "Tough Guys" soundtrack. I've also used the "Happy Birthday" bassline from JIMI HENDRIX. "It's Working" drums are PRETTY PURDIE I think it was the SHAFT LP. I actually used two drum breaks on that track, the main break and a slowed down loop.

KID DYNO: I noticed you layered drum breaks a lot MO, once again a technique that not many people employed back in those days. Two drum breaks don't always fit together nice like that, and it's not easy to make it sound good. So how did you get it right MO?

MO: We did that a few times. Sometimes I would have to splice it in half to make it all fit nicely, and sometimes it just fitted together perfectly.

KID DYNO: "Talking Pays" is a fine example of two samples working together in perfect harmony. Plus you used that great stab noise, where did that come from?

MO: That's actually from a SALT & PEPA LP. I never really thought much of them, but I remember hearing it and thinking that's a lovely noise! We used "Think" by LYNN COLLINS and "Giving up food for funk" by the JB's and some extra kicks and snares, and of course the sample of FRESH SKI saying "Talking Pays!".

KID DYNO: And the "this is a revolution sureshot" sample.

MO: we took that from a D.ST record "Home of Hip Hop" Thats RAHEEM from the furious 5 saying the phrase.

RARE DAVE: There's a few nods to the Old School on the COARSE SELECTORS. Little subtleties like that we love, such as the snippet taken from "Death Mix". Some great samples used too.

MO: 1983 is my favourite year for hip hop, and I was influenced a lot by that sound especially Fantasy Three’s dub versions of ‘Its your Rock & Biters in the City’. In fact those two tracks and the last few minutes of ‘Disco 4- We’re at the Party’ Instrumental made me want to make music. Those tracks were so way ahead, the production, feel and atmosphere blew me away. I used the Disco 4 in the original Incredible, and the piano part was a nod to Biters in the City. As regards to samples I would listen out for music from 1968 to 1975, given a push I’d go up to 1982-3 but the sound quality of music changed after that so by the mid 80s the drums didn't sound too hard. So most of the records I bought and used were from way before that. I had a musical family. My Uncle played guitar and had a big record collection, my brother was going through the whole culture of punk, reggae and Bowie, Velvet Underground, and played bass in a band, my Mum would buy soul music, and my Dad would have PERRY COMO and FRANK SINATRA records. So I had a lot of different influences in what to listen to. And this helped me to find some of the off the radar breaks that no-one else had discovered. I remember bunking off school one day to go buy the new SEX PISTOLS – ‘Never mind the Bollocks’ album with my brother. I was more about buying records for cheap rather than paying big money for an obvious record that everyone knew. In fact I often hear obscure breaks played recently and think to myself "shit I had that record years ago".

KID DYNO: So please tell us before we leave you just one highlight from back in the days.

MO: Just one! Impossible. Here's a few - being on vinyl for the first time, Meeting Bambaataa in 84, seeing QuickCut Jay at the Rockbox Dome jam in 85, especially when he dropped his own dub plate version of WildStyle. Being part of the B.R.O.T.H.E.R track & K-sly & Supreme coming up to me and saying they wanted to meet and shake the man’s hand that made ‘Pick Up On This’. Hearing your track played on the radio for the first time. Buying certain records or remembering when you first heard them and doing a gig with ULTRA MAGNETIC MC's in Paris. I could go on an on.

FRESH SKI: ...we got on stage and KOOL KEITH, CED GEE, MOE LUV and TR LOVE are just leaving after their performance as we began to do our thing. We played our tune and I started rapping (getting warmed up) and I remember they heard us, stopped in their tracks and walked back in to check us out.

That concludes the INTERVIEW, but before you go check out these unreleased demo tracks by FRESH SKI and MO-ROCK below, with recording details courtesy of MO-ROCK himself. Another DAILY DIGGERS exclusive for you.


"Murdering the Underground" snippet

This was recorded back April '92 for the 'Exclude Us From The Ranks Of Mediocre' EP and was one of the last vocal tracks me & FRESH did...
What you will hear is just a backbone to the track, something for FRESH SKI to put some vocals over and get a feel for it. The intro (over the Pick Up On This loop) would have had various different scratches introducing us i.e. firstly 'Search & Destroy - Arkade funk' ("Are You Ready for the...") secondly 'Grandmaster Flash - Freelance' ("and yes y'all, the sounds you hear are def to your ear...") and thirdly 'Masterfleet - Academy Awards' ("and the winner is...")
For the main part of the track, I knew I was gonna use Geoff Love's "Jaws" & Billy Joel's "Stiletto", but still hadn't worked out how to use 'Beyond the 16th Parallel' Acapella where Demon Boys say "Murdering" & FRESH SKI says "Here's a place governed by a certain set of rules...". These last two were meant for the chorus.

"Fresh On a 45" snippet

Recorded April '92. Another backbone track. And another track for the 'Exclude us...'EP.
This was something I had rolling around my head for a few months and needed to get it out before it dove me mad, FRESH was hearing it as I was putting it together for the first time.
Around this time I was also making a few tracks with S.Flow (who appeared on 'The Long Awaited...'EP) and another MC called I.Q.

MC IQ and MO-ROCK "Black As Fortified"

Insane Macbeth heard the track I did with I.Q. at the time, but a few years later and knowing I had stopped making music and that nothing was going to come of the I.Q. track, he asked if he could have that break etc, and this IMO went on to become a great track namely 'The Catalyst - Kinetic Effect'.

MO-ROCK signing off.

A BIG thanks to both MO and TOKS for taking time out to get together for a good cause and giving us their incredibly dope unreleased material. And also for making it a fun and enjoyable process. I hope by releasing the COARSE SELECTORS EP on vinyl through DWG we have added to the already revered FRESH SKI & MO ROCK story.
I'd also like to shout out JUMP2 the man behind the TUFF GROOVE logo design. And also thanks to SOUL SAFARI, CHRIS AYLEN and to RICKY RENNALLS if you are reading this interview ... where are you now?? Please get in touch RICKY! Thank you.

Kid Dyno


Chris said...

Absolute top notch! An amazing interview – well done Kid Dyno.

Shouts out to Fresh Ski & Mo for their contributions to hip-hop – and thanks to everyone who supported the release.

Anonymous said...

great interview guys, makes me want to pull out Talking Pays and I got that Atorie record somewhere too

Peter Tron said...

I enjoyed this so much, really great to hear you guys talk about all your classic tunes and experiences from back then.


Drasar Monumental said...

Damn Dyno you did your motherfucking thing on this one....

You kept it thorough and informative....

Good work famo-

Anonymous said...

wow so freshski could've been the MC in hijack!!! thnx for such in depth info kid dyno -- that's why i love this site!!! 8-)


Daily Diggers said...

We like to give you the real deal interviews here at DAILY DIGGERS HQ, so I'm pleased you all dig it fellas. This duo are a particular favourite amongst my crew so it was a real pleasure to meet these dudes and find out the scoop on their time in hip hop.

thanks for all your comments

Kid Dyno

Leo Slayer said...

deep interview, gonna be a hard one for the short attention span crew to get through!!
nice one D.

Ben said...

Always good to hear about those Saturday afternoon jams, I used to leaf through me dads Time Out and read about them, I was so jealous, stuck up in the Midlands! Great interview, and great music!

p.s.Supreme Dominion said...

Mass respect Dom & Dave you pulled out all the stops on this one. Still love'Talking Pays'uses that '..FOOD FOR FUNK' break, i always loved how Mo Rock used a small portion of the ill vocal part from that,amazing.

I liked reading the bit about those unidentified UBB breaks at novice level like the'soul glad'.
So true i think we could all write a list of mythical titles and misleading artist names we were told back inthe 80s,jokers!.

Good stuff,