Our guest writer, Craig M. Riding, is back Waxing lyrical about Mo’Wax’s album, Headz.
At the age of 18 I went to university in Leeds, leaving my beloved homeland of Greater Mancunia behind and venturing over the Pennines to the land of my ancestors enemies. After a week of getting drunk and debauched with my new peers I woke one morning and took a walk around my new neighbourhood. The usual mix of students and normal people (Royal Park Road, if you know Leeds). I never really blended in that well with most students at that time, being a little rough round the edges and you know, god forbid, working class. So I got lost on purpose, a trait I have done well over the last 20 years. After wandering a little I stumbled upon a second hand record shop called Joes Garage and entered. Whilst perusing the rather small Hip Hop section (I picked up Ride the Rhythm by Chill Rob G. for a couple of quid I seem to remember) I heard the opening bars of what I found out later (10 minutes) to be DJ Shadows epic Lost and Found. While I made my purchase I enquired about what the Record Shop guy was playing. It turned out to be the second half of the Headz CD, it was a promo copy and the guy didn’t seemed that impressed, but still wouldn’t sell it to me.
I returned to the homeland of Greater Mancunia the weekend after, because you know the great urban conurbation of Manchester would have collapsed without my presence, that and I needed to score some weed as I hadn’t made any decent connections in the White Rose county. I paid a visit to X Records in Bolton, which was always a good place to get new and old vinyl at decent prices. They had a proper copy on CD, and I purchased it immediately.
I was no stranger to instrumental Hip Hop, I had been listening to instrumentals off the B-sides for a while, free styling (to myself, I am no emcee) and making tapes to chill out to (read and smoke),ambient music (I had heard at mates houses), or Jazz (though I was no expert, something I still don’t claim to be). Still the music on the album came as something of an eye opener. The packaging alone was fantastic, the art work, the vinyl style sleeve for the CD’s. It was all very clever, but the music dragged me deeper into a love of the weird and the abstract. A brilliantly conceptualised album, full of low end bass, spacey vibes and jazz. It still sounds fresh to me, but so does a lot of the music that followed in its path. I may be looking at it through rose tinted glasses and with a full on bias but it still pulls me in and sends me back in time to a hazy, smoke filled student flat at 5am watching the sun appear through the cracks in the curtain making the whisps of smoke dance (flashback!!). It was the album of choice for the comedown of clubbing for days at a time, and so the soundtrack to me failing my degree in fantastic fashion.
It introduced me to DJ’s Shadow and Krush, UNKLE, Attica Blues, Howie B, well Mo’Wax’s roster and was a gateway drug into the world of Mo’Wax which throughout its years produced some great albums with great packaging and vision.
A few months later I bought a ticket to see DJ Shadow (along with OC’S and Keith Murray’s respective debut albums) at a club in Leeds called the Cockpit. Originally I was going to go on my own, something I used to do a lot but the closer to 40 you get the weirder you look, however a few flat mates tagged along. To this day I am not entirely sure Mr. Davis turned up, I was to put it politely off my tits, my only memories being hazy recollections of some good Hip Hop playing and sharing a pipe and some bodily fluids with a girl with a shaved head (yes she was a she).
Later on the term Trip Hop blew up over the music and mainstream media, a term that has always irritated me, and seemed to dilute what it actually was about. It’s just good ol’ experimental music with a foot in Hip Hop and a foot in the comedown of club culture.