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Known to most as the DMC Epic’s, they were (and not my words) ‘infamous & iconic’ works. One in particular has followed me around through the years. As the Royal Ruler, Tony Prince always reminds any audience I was put in front of, I did, amongst others, the one called ‘Sigue Sigue Sputmix’. It was the first of these themed mixes, but hands up and a nod of respect to the likes of Double Dee & Steinski‘s great sample based collage’s that probably set my wheels (of steel) in motion.
The plot was simple. The execution was time consuming and sometimes frustrating, but on the other hand could be completely exhilarating. One record was the central entity, the glue that held everything else together. This track had to be very important, relevant to it’s time, unique enough to stand alone as a classic.. oh, and have drum breaks or a dub that I so desperately needed (no access to multitrack parts then of course). Its title was ‘Love Missile F1-11′ by electronic-glam-rockers, Sigue Sigue Sputnik.
It became almost a story telling scenario, a narrative of sorts. I would trawl through stacks of audio pop culture taking movie dialogue samples from VHS tapes, TV documentaries and news bulletins. These ‘clips’ would have a significance in their own right, but more importantly would either back announce the previous musical interlude, or introduce the following one. The sections of music would tie in to these vocal samples, maintain a vibe that reflected the content of the main track, be serious, philosophical, or in some cases, amusing or funny.
The equipment used was then a home/bedroom based set up as I’d not yet ensconced myself at DMC’s pro studio’s. The main kit involved was, 2 X Technics decks, DJ mixer, 2 X Korg SDD-1000 digital delays (pictured above), a Korg drum machine, a small spring reverb unit, a Revox reel to reel tape machine and a cassette deck. The Revox would be the master recorder, with all the other sound sources feeding it as and when. I used the two Korg delays (each having only 1 second of sampling time at full bandwidth) as a left and right signal sampler (1 second stereo – not much eh?). These could be simultaneously triggered with the Korg drum machine having entered a pulsed ‘note’ at the appropriate 16th part of the bar (to get that N-N-Nineteen kinda sound – very 1980′s). This system would also [just about] give me enough memory to sample in a 1/2 bar drum loop, thereupon mixing any audio source in from vinyl on the Technics decks or as long dialogue sequences from the cassette deck.
Various (now considered) old skool bullet editing techniques where used to add further excitement and aid links between different sections, often with a verse/chorus returning in it’s correct order of sequence. And that was pretty much it. The sourcing, selection and editing of dialogue clips and vinyl tracks could take two to three weeks, the actual mixing, overdubbing, editing and arrangement assembly probably a full 7 day week. This was all rounded off by a usually mad dash rush to the train station to get it on a Red Star overnight delivery to London – and if that 15 i.p.s. quarter inch master tape had gone missing, I literally had no back up – bloody hell!
I was more than pleased in early ’07 when, after getting a play on James Hyman‘s XFM ‘Rinse’ show, Hard-Fi’s jock, DJ Wrongtom, listening to it in his car, had to evidently pull in to the side of the road to listen and take it all in.. It was great to hear that it could still ‘move’ a DJ/Producer of that calibre in this decade James Hyman (probably the most forward thinking, retro-knowledgeable radio jock on the planet) kindly supported the whole Epic mix series and played the other 4 in following weeks. This inspired me to re-master them all later that year and they’re available from DMC here [you can listen to 'Sigue Sigue Sputmix' in it's entirety by clicking the link below]