Music

Top Cat – The Violin Player

top-cat-laszlo-laszlotop-cat-record-storeA piano concerto? An oboe obbligato? Glockenspiel glissando? No it’s just the finest episode of early sixties classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon Top Cat, named The Violin Player. It’s an amazing one, beginning to end, with loads of references close to my heart, like record shopping (and pre-ordering), German wordplays and strange fictional names. Benny starts playing the violin and he doesn’t show much talent for it. Officer Dibble goes to the record shop to see if the record he ordered arrived — but turns out it didn’t. As he’s into Violin Music the salesman shows him this very rare Laszlo Laszlo record, and he falls in love with it. Dibble spins it back home, over and over, while Benny is rehearsing downstairs, in the alley. Then a certain Mr. Gutenbad mistakes the sound coming from Dibble’s apartment with the blue cat’s violin and tries to make him a star by booking the Carnegie Hall for him. Watch it, if you’re lucky, here.


Renegade Soundwave

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There are three acts that shaped my beginnings at music production and behaviour towards the music industry. One of them is Renegade Soundwave. If you don’t know them, think of unique dub basslines, really cool deadpan style vocals and funky beats. Add really great sampling to that, and fantastic obscure yet nonchalant references and you’ll get an idea of how RSW is awesome. Just an idea. It’s got a laid-back vibe with an incredible energy that I miss in music and in life these days. It’s simple yet deep, it’s hard yet soft and like Martin Hannett would say, it’s fast yet slow. They’ve been around since 1986, and in 1994 they ruled the world to me, when Howyoudoin’ was released.

rsw-howyoudoin

That was it, I thought. That was the record. In my naive mind that release was going to make them as big as they undoubtedly deserve(d). It was a complete album, with a couple of hit singles and without any compromise. All tracks were unique, different and most importantly GOOD. It also came with two booklets. The main inlay, giving not enough information, making me even more interested and curious. The second, as usual, their catalogue displayed over four pages using the Futura typeface. What’s not to like? The whole catalogue was obviously purchased over the following years, in several versions, including the japanese promos of HowYouDoin? and In Dub, the latter with a bonus disc.

renegade-soundwave-rsw-catalog

They split shortly after Howyoudoin?, a year later or so. But until this day their music surprises me. Until this day I listen to them, and they still sound fresh. Until this day, they rule the world. Long live Renegade Soundwave.


Good Neighbour Sam

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For years I’ve been saying that Good Neighbor Sam is my all-time favourite movie. I think this kind of assessment is usually silly and diminishes my love for cinema and I my personal history with it. But you know what? Good Neighbor Sam is my favourite movie. It has everything! It kickstarts with an amazing quirky theme song by Frank DeVol — one of the most underrated and undocumented film composers – along the lines of tiki/exotica dance music late 50’s jazz, one of my big passions in music. Then a great set of actors and a brilliant script set the atmosphere of this long flick – it’s over two-hour long! A gorgeous looking Romy Schneider also wasn’t too bad for a pre-teenage kid. Lovely middle class couple have a nice life but the husband is a bit frustrated for being too creative and not appreciated at work. Then the wife’s childhood friend appears out of the blue asking to borrow the husband to receive an inheritance. The plot is simple but it’s flipped lots of times. It’s brilliant from start to end. I watched it for the first time when I was 13, maybe. At that age my gigantic love for music was already there, and I used to draw a lot by then, but this film made me consider advertising as the path to choose in my career — and eventually I went to college to study it.

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I could write pages and pages about the myriad of layers this movie has, like the imagery of Sam and Howard — as the man we are versus the man we want to be — or its portrait of classism and status in the early 60’s (and how it didn’t change much). But I’m just going to say this – pure 130 minutes of guaranteed fun for everybody with a brain and a couple of eyes and ears.

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Funky Alternatives

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Funky Alternatives was one of my first CDs and my first international mail order. It came from Germany and for the following 10 years I received an illegible catalogue twice a year with hundreds and hundreds of random releases from different small labels sharing 24 pages. Since I already had all albums, my attention to New Order was then re-focused to singles and other releases and this record was purchased mainly because of Evil Dust, so far its only CD release  – an instrumental version of Angel Dust.  But there were also Cabaret Voltaire and Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft tracks on it, so it wasn’t a total gamble. When I finally got it, it made me discover the joys of England’s post-punk electro, with sensational bands like 23 Skidoo, 400 Blows, Quando Quango and Chris & Cosey, the latter being the first band whose music I downloaded on the internet years later. Legally by the way. Like the KLF tapes, this great record had very little information – and that sort of thing has always captured my interest. A sentence from James Brown and another from Arnold Shoenberg and a few thank-yous. Until this day a heavy influence and the cemented path to, one year later, discover and appreciate the great Renegade Soundwave.

This record also holds another story.

The aforementioned Evil Dust has an Islamic sample that always intrigued me. In 1992 if memory serves me right I heard the same sample on another track, Boneyween by the magnificent 808 State, just a small part, speed-up and equalised but I’ve always been good at spotting samples. Then I heard it on an Orb record. Years go by, and I hear it again on an Byrne and Eno track. For years it’s bugged me, not only the origin of this sample, but also the reason all these people decided to use it. Then in 1998 I’ve met Yusuf Islam – also known as Cat Stevens. I told him that I was a producer and that I would be interested in working with his music. I had his attention for a moment, and then I suggested we could sample some Islamic chants  – primarily influenced by this sample, but also because of my ignorance and the stupidity inherent of youth. He was really offended. He said that it shouldn’t be used for that, saying it was a prayer and not to be made fun of – which in my defence I never did. Anyways, until 2010 I never knew which sample that was – and now I know. I still have to ask around to know hy everybody sampled it, maybe there was an excess of stock in Manchester and London – or maybe everybody was listening to Brian Eno. Do you want to know about the sample? Send an email to estate@vonrunte.com asking me and I’ll tell you.


The KLF

The KLF is one of many names Bill Drummond and James Cauty use, in their incessant quest to break paradigms and conventions. There wouldn’t be enough space in any media to talk – or write – enough about them so I won’t even try. I’ll stick to my story with this incredible art collective.

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Mary ‘Queenie’ Lyons – Soul Fever

Mary Queenie Lyons - Soul Fever

It was 1990 and my personal heroine was going though hard times. We needed money, and my mum decided to sell my father’s record collection. This bald man came to the house to put a price on it and I didn’t want to let it go. My mother said I could choose one record, and I got this. It wasn’t my favorite, but it was too hard for me to go though his musical estate and choose one. The same records I used to listen with him, with big ass white headphones. So I picked to first one in the row and kept it to me. Never listened to it, until this day.


Substance | New Order

New Order's Substance

New Order’s Substance was definitely a major inspiration. Graphically & musically. The 12″ mixes compilation opened my eyes to several things, including… well, 12″ mixes. Their importance, their characteristics and their energy. The dub versions, and their uniqueness. Also, the liner notes with the original release dates, the appreciation for cataloguing, trainspotting and collecting. Why was Sub-Culture so different from my Low Life record… oh it’s a new version! The typography, the black and white cover, and the art inside it was also very very influential. The blue and dark red images made us kids think it was a ‘N’ and an ‘O’ respectively. I was eleven and this was my 1987 xmas gift.