Mat Randomplay talks to Rhys Adams and Mark Rae from YES KING.
The influence of Jamaican elements and culture on British music is well documented, and while Mark Rae (Rae & Christian) and Rhys Adams (Rockers HiFi/aka Frankie Valley) continue this exciting tradition, what results is an innovative, refreshing take on modern Reggae, Funk, Soul and Hip Hop. Armed with a whole lotta unfinished business from previous Wall of Sound project â€˜Two Culture Clashâ€™, these two ground breaking producers set about a second on-location working holiday to Jamaica. Upon listening to the resulting album â€˜Rock this Worldâ€™, you might find yourself constantly flicking to YesKingâ€™s hugely popular â€˜Shakeâ€™ remix, which is generously included as a fitting funk finale on the local release through LOOP recordings.
The best advice I can give is resist that temptation, as â€˜Rock this Worldâ€™ is a head-nodding skanker from start to finish, and each track deserves your ears attention.
MAT: At what stage of the process did you decide that a trip back to Jamaica was essential to how this album had to be recorded?
RHYS: Our trip to Jamaica was for an Album on Wall of Sound called “Two Culture Clash” This trip encompassed part of the inspiration that led to the Yes King album and we also recorded the vocal for “Tomorrow is Another Day” there, from President Brown. Music is essential in Jamaica and it’s this culture thatâ€™s inspiring not the access to Jamaican artists, as there are plenty in London.
MARK: We visited Jamaica once with Wall of Sound on the two culture clash project that gave us the inspiration to join the worlds of urban London with some of its Jamaican roots
MAT: Thereâ€™s a huge amount of variation on the album – both lyrically and instrumentally – was this a result of working with so many talented and wide-ranging vocalists or did they follow your production lead?
RHYS: The album represents the huge variety of music that has influenced us over the years. You cant be into hip-hop without loving disco and soul and so on…..We would tend to work on a lot of tracks at once and have different projects on the go, so we could just write and then see which project the track ended up in. This allowed us to throw a lot of different material at our vocalists and it gave them an opportunity to pick tracks that they wanted to write on, which for some of the younger vocalists, meant they were working on material that they wouldn’t normally get to work on. This produced some of the most exciting results for me mixing the old with the new. ...Ayak singing classic soul on Elevate and mystro rappin with Dawn Penn and Kenny Knotts on Rock This World.
Dub and Reggae is huge in New Zealand, however this album is far from downbeat. Was the original idea to make the tracks so danceable or did that come about through the recording process? I think this is a result of us both being DJ’s and listening to music in clubs alot. Its also the most exciting place to see reactions to your music so we would tend to make tracks with this in mind and test them out in this enviroment. Its also part of the sound of the album, its only really fully appreciated on a big soundsystem, heavy bass and drums.
MARK: Its because we are both mad and have no boundaries
MAT: Dub and Reggae is huge in New Zealand, however this album is far from downbeat. Was the original idea to make the tracks so danceable or did that come about through the recording process?
RHYS: I think this is a result of us both being DJ’s and listening to music in clubs alot. Its also the most exciting place to see reactions to your music so we would tend to make tracks with this in mind and test them out in this enviroment. Its also part of the sound of the album, its only really fully appreciated on a big sound system, heavy bass and drums.
MARK: We have both djed and seen house go go hip hop dancehall do their things on the dancefloor…it came from that collective conscience
MAT: Production-wise the album sounds perfectly rooted in tradition, but at the same time so fresh. Without giving away any production secrets, how did you achieve this?
RHYS: Its about taking the best of the old and the new. We use old samplers like the MPC 60 and SP1200 for the timing and sonics of the beats, old analogue synths and then put alot of live instrumentation over the top into a pro-tolls rig. Pro-tools offers you all the best modern technology you need but we still use alot of analogue equipment in the mix and recording stages because it still sounds better in particular the tape machine and the valves.
MARK: Rhys is a don
MAT: What was working with dancehall legend Dawn Penn like, and did you expect the meeting of newer and more established artists to work so damn well?
RHYS: Dawn Penn is a character and was great fun to work with stories a plenty from the studio 1 scrap book. Originally she voiced a kind of calypso track with the Rock This World song she wrote but I didn’t really like the music that much so I re-wrote it from scratch. I didn’t want to do a track with a legend like Dawn and for it to be average. So I started from fresh and tried to come up with something that would challenge whatâ€™s she’s done before rather than stick to straight up reggae or dancehall. In this way working with Dawn was significant because it made you consider everything and take it up a level. The surprising and most satisfying part is that the newer artists like Mystro took things up to the next level too providing us with some of the strongest lyrics on the album. The biggest collaborator on the album is Ayak though, she really brought the project together and was fundamental in the writing process…watch out for her .!!!
MARK: A bit crazy actually she was quite a bit older than us and as ever the greater the talent the more cookie the mind, it was actually a long process to make it all work we did plenty of things that didnâ€™t and in some cases took three vocalists versions of the same song (beat wise) and melded them together (rock this world for eg was mystro ,kenny knotts and dawn penn working seperate to eachother)
MAT: Finally, how has the live show been working out so far, and what can we expect in Auckland and Wellington in mid June?
The live show has been developing in the UK over the last year. Its consists of seven of us: 3 vocalists (Mystro,Ayak and Baby Chann) a three piece brass section and i play keys and percussion. The rest of the parts are played back of CD or Laptop. We haven’t gone fully live mainly due to the fact that we would need an enormous band and its too expensive to tour …also for the show to have the impact it does its important that it sounds as big as the album. The most important elements for vibes on stage are the vocals and the brass section, and with these 3 artists fronting the show itâ€™s always a big show.
When we come to New Zealand its going to be a slightly scaled down version of the sound system. Mark Rae and I will be DJ’ing and performing some of the tracks off the album with Mystro on the Mic. We’ve got some exciting new versions of tracks that Mystro has replaced the vocals on and a couple of new tracks too.
MARK: Rockin Soundsystem vibes….
Thanks so much for your time fellas, really look forward to the upcoming tour and loving the album!
Watch out for a very limited Yes King â€˜Rock This Worldâ€™ CD album to be released in select record stores in New Zealand and Australia in early June 2008. Also released in early June: a world first – the â€˜Album Teeâ€™! Loop in conjunction with Huffer, Serato and Amplifier are proud release Yes King â€“ the album tee. A unique code will be printed on the swing tag of each Yes King tee, which will allow the customer free access to download the entire Yes King album ‘Rock This World’. The â€˜Album Teeâ€™ will be available for $75 from Huffer outlets, Real Groovy nationwide, Conch Records and online from LOOPshop.
Yes King feat. Mark Rae, Rhys Adams and MC Mystro
June, Fri 13 – Bacco Room, Auckland w/ Mark Rae Dj Set, O.G. ft. KP and Switch and Dylan C – $25 + BF available from Real Groovy outlets and Conch.
June, Sat 14 â€“ Sandwiches, Wellington w/ Mark Rae Dj Set, Takkas and Jake
$25 + BF from Real Groovy outlets and online at Sandwiches.co.nz
Story By Mat Randomplay