You’re not just musicians – you’re label owners too, yet you’re quite anti-authoritarian. What’s your stance on internet piracy? We’re in tune with what is happening and there are good and bad points to it. But digitisation is here and that means anything that can be digitised can be distributed around the world for zero cost. That has implications for artists and labels. We anticipated the growth of the net years ago, so we’re just trying to come up with new ways of doing what we do. For instance, on the Coldcut website there are parts only accessible with an official CD.
You must get clearance for music samples, what about visual ones? We’re aware we can’t just take “King Of The Swing” from The Jungle Book and stick that on a DVD and sell it, otherwise we’d get fucked. We did a track called “Re:volution” a few years ago [however] to celebrate the election and the excellence of our politicians and there is a sample of Tony Blair saying “The lunatics have taken over the asylum”. He gives a good sample, Ol’ Tone. We feel politicians, the news and the media – they’re all fair use. We pay those guys’ salaries, and the news is life, it’s not just something owned by Rupert Murdoch.
You’ve been quite the guerrilla through your career starting with the pirate KISSfm… That’s right, KISS had quite a list of illuminati. There was Jazzy B from Soul II Soul, Tim Westwood who is still the main man in UK hip-hop, Colin Dale, Judge Jules, who I always used to vote for as my favourite mixer. Radio 1 has scooped up a number of pirate DJs who they thought would add something. The KISS list of infamy is long, for sure. It’s purely a commercial station playing purely commercial music. It’s interesting to see that process going on whereby the underground throws out that energy and gets that love from the people and the commercial vultures sweep in.
And what is the new underground? Well, we still have our show Solid Steel and we broadcast that on the internet and syndicate it to a bunch of stations worldwide on conventional radio. Piratetv.net is another project that I started a few years ago with collaborators, which has been quite a training school, teaching people how to be their own TV station and do streaming media. Apart from just streaming music and entertaining people, there is also what we call dis-entertainment, which is entertainment with an activist thrust to it.
Can you explain the revusa.net project? That’s a Coldcut project in combination with a crew, Nomig, a bunch of guys we’re known for a few years who are into cut and paste and are politically active. But we also did this thing with TV Sheriff. If you have a look on revusa.net you’ll see this thing called Coldcut vs TV Sheriff: World of Evil. We did that for the American election.
The opening track to Sound Mirrors is the blistering “Everything Is Under Control”. What was the creative process? The idea for the chorus was inspired by American free thinker and psychedelic guru, Robert Anthony Wilson’s book called Everything Is Under Control. His message is “distrust authority and think for yourself”. It sounded like it could be sung in quite a rocky way and the name of John Spencer came up. We sent him the track and collaborated via transatlantic cassette – a good high-bandwidth medium there. I had some good ideas for the verses but we couldn’t tie them down so we collaborated with Mike Ladd who’s on Big Dada, our rap label. So it’s quite a mad, rap, rock, hybrid.
Roots Manuva has lent his voice to True Skool and he’s on your label, so you’re basically his boss. Did you just tell him he had to do the track? Ha ha. What do you think, mate? Do you think with Rodney’s style and the fashion that he brings over on his records that you can just tell him what to do?
No, he’s probably not a push over. No he’s not, and we don’t operate like that. Ninja Tunes is a different sort of organisation. Yes, Pete and Jon and me run the label, but we have a tribe, it’s like a family. It doesn’t work by just telling people “you have to do this”. Coldcut went through this whole artist/label thing from the other side and we decided that the normal way of doing things sucked – the artist was just regarded as a commodity that the label exploited in any tack-handed fashion that they felt fit. We have an equal relationship with our artists.
Coldcut’s Sound Mirrors is out now on Ninja Tunes through Inertia.