Next up in the ‘vs’ series we have two homegrown pioneers – one a veteran beatsmith and former DMC champ, the other a boundary-pushing leader of the nu-skool.
Mr Thing is hip-hop to the core. A DJ raised on a diet of classic 90s influences from Gangstarr and Pete Rock to the X-Ecutioners and Invisibl Skratch Piklz, his obsession with the artform came to the fore as a founding member of the Scratch Perverts and winner of the DMC team world championships in 1999. An elite crate-digger and party-rocker, Thing went on to take the DMC UK solo title in 2000, land a Fabric residency, produce for the likes of Yungun (aka Essa), Doc Brown and Devise, and found the Extended Players crew alongside Harry Love, Shortee Blitz, DJ MK and Inka Hero.
Gerard Roberts aka Kidkanevil is another figure with roots in the UK hip-hop fraternity but now aligns himself with the electronic scene as a key member of London-based super-crew Tempo Clash, alongside Om Unit, Blue Daisy and Kutmah. A weaver of stunning, drum-heavy instrumental patterns, he’s also a DJ of the highest calibre and graduate of the prestigious Red Bull Music Academy. With releases on the likes of Ninja Tune, Error Broadcast and Project Mooncircle his previous collaborators include Bonobo, Jehst, Foreign Beggars, Illum Sphere and Dorian Concept, as well as the recent Kidsuke project alongside Daisuke Tanabe.
Both artists are on the bill for Soundwave Festival this July, and will be performing a b2b set at the launch party this Sunday May 26th at XOYO in London – head here for tickets and details. Ahead of the event we thought we’d grab the opportunity to sit them down in a face-to-face versus, with the pair chatting records, the early days, Dilla, and Soundwave hype.
Ok so first things first. Tell us one record you got in the bag…
T: I got a few 45s today. This is the first thing I found when I walked through the door. It’s a promotional record for the blaxsploitation movie Shaft. It’s a really cool radio interview record for Shaft in a really cool foldout cardboard cover. I’m probably going to frame this and put it on the wall, it’s that cool! I’ve never seen anything like this in this country! I’m always looking for things like this but never ever see them, so I’m quite excited. I’ve got something similar – a Dolemite (1975 Blaxplotation feature film) one at home, where comedian Rudy Ray Moore is the main character. It’s an LP sampler for Dolemite where he talks about the songs on his album, you’d love it! It’s just sample material, galore.
K: Have you seen the back of this? It tells you the best way to utilise it if you’re a radio station.
T: How to queue it up and how to play it if you’re on a radio show, haha!
K: I got this mad Japanese shit. Standard. Totally amazing. The synth on the last track is like….crazy! I’m going to have to sample the shit out of that!
T: Let me look at that a minute as I’ve never seen that before. Blimey…whoever had it paid $100 for it.
K: Wow that is crazy. How much did I pay?
K: Nice, I win!
When did you first meet each other?
T: Properly, it was probably at one of the Manchester ‘Friends and Family’ parties at the bbq, where you did a live set and you had Laura with you.
K: Yeah, yeah. I used to do a live set with MPC and my friend Laura – crazy! Yeah I can remember now.
T: I think that was the first time I properly met you, but I think I may have met you at one of the ‘First Word’ parties up in Leeds back in the day at the Faversham. How long ago was that now?
K: I remember Taskforce being there and I bought a copy of ‘New Mic Order’ for like £10 out the back of their car. You did the cuts on that right?
T: Yeah, yeah. I did the cuts on that. I wonder if that was the time I met Jehst for the first time then?
K: Yeah, the first time I met Jehst I was at a hip-hop night in Leeds and he’d got into some shit with the bouncer and they beat him up and stuff like that. First time I met him he was on some proper moody shit.
K: Yeah and he’s such a bless dude. I was only a teenager and was like geeking out. Like “oh shit it’s Jehst!”.
T: I think Farma G introduced him to me and said ‘he’s wicked’ so I bought the ‘Premonitions’ EP off him at the Faversham the first time I met him. So yeah, that was a long time ago.
K: Yeah man, I was a yoot.
T: I was not a yoot! I continue to be old.
How have you influenced each other since then?
K: Back when I was at school I was a total hip-hop geek – it was my entire world man. Me and a few people used to semi-worship Mr Thing ‘cos he’s so sick man, his cuts were just unreal! We were proper like scratch geeks so that’s really where I knew your work from. Initially yeah just from being a total geek!
T: For me, when I got to hear more of G’s music. Every time I saw him I’d be like how did you do that? How did you mix it that way? Why did you mix it that way? What compression did you use? How did you do that…and then that?!
K: And that’s kinda how our conversations started and I was like, “your beats sound perfect – you’ll do a remix for me right?”.
T: I did do a remix for you! That was a while ago.
K: I did a track with Jehst and Smurf which Mr Thing remixed. That was like a nice full circle moment for me.
T: Ha, yeah I remember sending it to you and you saying can you move the vocals very slightly to the right!
K: Haha, yeah, the chorus vocals were like a bit out or something! I was like… ahh how do I go about this??
T: Yeah it’s cool, you’ve just gotta tell me.
K: The beat was unreal though! I love that track. It’s way better than the original.
T: I tried to do it, as like, you know the little bass loop at the end of every 16 or every 32 of that track or something like that is a Gangstarr break but I only used it for that one bar, so that’s my little Premo nod.
How good is Mr Thing as a DJ? Why are you excited to play alongside him on May 26th?
K: My three favourite DJs are D-Styles, because his cuts are just incredible, musically his album really influenced me and he’s a super bless dude. Plays loads of crazy beats and stuff as well.
Kutmah is just like, dude he is incredible man, where does he get all these beats from? And he just has his own style. Just flicks between stuff really quick like. When we’ve done Tempo Clash I’ve seen him play quite a lot and it’s always totally different which is super dope as well.
T: It just makes perfect sense, how he plays. I don’t understand how his mind works putting a set together. It constantly changes all the time and you can’t predict which direction he’s going to go in.
K: …and Mr Thing, like I said, totally growing up as a hip hop geek as a kid, Thing is just the best man. His cuts are amazing, DJing is amazing. He tells me he makes mistakes but I never see him make a mistake!
T: It does happen, frequently…more frequently!
K: I’ve seen him smash so many parties. And he’ll always play a track and I do that thing where I’ll be like “ahhh, why didn’t I play this?”. Then I start playing it after that!
T: Haha, thank you. Thing is with playing Kidkanevil is it’s going to be a very different sound for me. He plays quite futuristic music and I play quite a lot of older music, but I’ve been leaning towards the newer stuff a little bit lately.
K: I think we’ve found some nice common ground
T: I think we’re gonna get on that!
K: I might throw some curve balls at you though!
T: Do it!
K: I want to see you cut over this tempo…
T: It can be done, haha!
Kidkanevil has steadily explored elements of electronic music. Your (Mr Things) sets on Funhouse TV prove that you have taken an interest in this too, especially the “beats” aspect. How do you feel your two sounds are going to compliment each other?
K: They are in many ways the same thing. Most of what people would term as, for want of a better expression, the ‘beats’ scene today is totally rooted and it is hip-hop really. It’s kinda branched out in all kinds of directions and soaks up all kinds of influences. If you go back to the pioneers and the people at the forefront of the scene, loads of them were turntabalists back in the day like Lorn, Om Unit, etc. So you know, it’s not really two separate things at all man, it’s like a lineage. It just depends what moment in time you represent more of.
T: Totally true, and I think a lot of that scene as well. For me anyway as someone looking out, as I don’t really know too much about it, but for me I noticed more things like that coming out since ‘Donuts’ came out. People were suddenly less afraid to put out a 20 track just beats album. And because they’re only really little, short tracks I think it influenced a whole other style of DJing and a whole way of putting that together to make it interesting.
K: When you really start to think about it, it’s kind of mind-blowing how much ‘Donuts’ did change things!
T: ‘Donuts’ really did change everything.
K: It’s crazy, maybe that would be the middle point, the turning point between two ends of the spectrum. We should start with something from ‘Donuts’.
T: We might just play ‘Donuts’ and wile out.
You’re both Soundwave family members, playing year on year. Why is the festival so special to you?
T: It’s just bonkers, you don’t know quite what’s going to happen next. The sound is great and the vibe is good and when the vibe is good everything else just falls into place and it makes it all work. The boat parties are (shakes head)…they’re crazy, just absolutely crazy!
K: The first time I ever DJ’d on a boat was Soundwave. I remember being there – maybe it was with you actually. Yeah I think Spin was there.
T: You did the one where one of my records blew off the decks and the guy caught it and gave it back to me – I didn’t miss a beat!
K: That’s some Croatian ninja shit right there!
I remember just thinking…I don’t really see how life can get much better than this. You’re on a boat playing the music that you love, to loads of people going crazy! There are friends, the sky is blue and the sea is blue and it’s hot – so so hot!
T: For daylight-fearing folk such as us it is a novelty!
K: I get my entire Vitamin D hit at Soundwave – the rest of the year it’s just darkness.
What are you most looking forward to at Soundwave this year?
T: I’m looking forward to seeing Hiatus Kaiyote. I went to see them when I was in Melbourne on tour in Australia earlier this year. I saw them at a rooftop gig, on the top of a pub in the middle of the afternoon and it was absolutely fantastic. It was amazing, I’ve got their new album – I’m a big fan.
Really, really looking forward to Robert Glasper and Tall Black Guy too.
K: Yeah Tall Black Guy will be super nice and Robert Glasper, I’ve never seen him play so I’m pretty excited about that!
Have you seen Shigeto live? He’s amazing, laptop and midi controller but live drums as well. He plays live kit and he’s a totally sick drummer. Yeah you need to see Shigeto play.
T: And Flako killed it last year!
K: Loads of friends, that’s what I like about Soundwave.
T: Yeah, a lot of us know each other so it’s nice for us to catch up as well.
K: I want to see that dude Mr Thing!
T: Ha ha!
K: One of my favourite sets from last year was me and Eliphino when we DJ’d together on the beach, that shit was so fun man. We had a proper riot going. People were going crazy! We were trying to out-Timbaland each other, which is always fun.
T: It’s going to be crazy.