By: Dream Chimney
The following interview was conducted August 1, 2023
RSL are the Manchester trio who released an award-winning album 20 years ago. The album – Every Preston Guild – caught the ears and attention of all the heads, including Danny Krivit, Dave Lee, and King Britt, all providing remixes of the lead tracks The Mast & Wesley Music. Gilles Peterson was also a fan and supported RSL on his Radio 1 show two decades ago. This year Gilles has invited the band to play live at the Worldwide FM festival – We Out Here. This week the album gets released digitally for the first time ever giving new generations a chance to love it too! Here we ask the original trio Joe, Martin, and Chas to talk us through some albums that have impacted their musical world.
Morao Morao by Moratio
Moratio's guitar style is effortless perfection but without losing its authenticity. The way he plays gives his sound a rustic rootsy flavour, not so silky smooth and virtuosic that it loses all character and emotion but this is modern Flamenco - I'm a real traditionalist - but somehow Moratio balances the two styles.
Born in Jerez De La Frontera into a Gypsy family and whose father and uncle were renowned guitarists. Moratio was quite literally born to play Flamenco. He was known for his very powerful style and was a highly sought after accompanist to all of the great singers of his generation.
For me this album was an inspiration during the RSL years and in the time after RSL, I delved deep into Flamenco and studying this album was a great journey into the traditional techniques, compass (pulse of the music) & falsetas (melodic 'solo' sections as opposed to rhythmical passages). What this album allowed me to understand is the concept of expression which is the foundation that Flamenco music is based upon. The idea that the force of expression is paramount and actually the tuning of the singer for example, or the virtuosity of the guitarist or the technique of the dancer is secondary and actually, when all the musicians are locked into the (very strict) rhythms, which are ingrained into Gypsy children from birth, then every person involved including those witnessing this happening is carried along by a spirit that takes over from our thinking minds. They have a word for it… Duende.
As with all great flamenco musicians Moratio lived the gypsy life to the full but sadly dies of cancer at only 54. The power and energy of his life now released into the universe and his music lives on in all of us who love and play his magical compositions.
Earth Rot by David Axelrod
This album probably had the most profound effect on all three of us than any other album, maybe I can't speak for Martin & Chas, but for me its without question. Anything and everything I've ever done since first hearing this album is influenced by it, I want everything to sound as good as this.
Very few albums are perfect but this one transcends all worldly endeavours. If it’s true that the universe is simply both matter and nothingness vibrating in such harmony that it forms the world we see and that sound is a representation of waves vibrating, then this album is the prefect expression of that. The energy and the expression of the musical and intellectual concepts presented here, I believe, come from beyond the artists consciousness through the body and out into the air, the magnetic tape that captures this, holds that energy within its particles and allows the magic to be released every time we play it. This is why I love music so much, it’s simply moving air with vibrations created by our own bodies, the result of which can give us an overwhelming sense of joy, it can make us cry, it can compel 20,000 people to simultaneously move in unison, almost involuntarily. If that’s not alchemy, I don’t know what is.
Blue Lines - Massive Attack
I grew up a rock kid, which means I was slow to pick up on a lot of other genres, but as I got to the end of high school this was one of the first electronic albums to catch my attention and make it into my record collection. Unfinished Sympathy was such a stand-out track but I’ve always listened to albums, often on repeat, so I end up really absorbing the feel and atmosphere of albums as a whole.
This album carried a seriousness – it felt like an electronic record made by conscientious adults, and I became really hooked on tracks like Ballad of the Big Wheel, and Just be Thankful. There was something about songs in the electronic genre too. I grew up a huge Kraftwerk fan thanks to my dad, and they were also songwriters, not just groove and loop writers. This musical and lyrical structure to deliver a message connected to a feeling is very powerful.
Endtroducing – DJ Shadow
I feel like I’ve chosen two really obvious albums. But when you are hit by something new and amazing I guess you aren’t the only one. Another album that was on repeat and I love every bar of it, and it gives me the anticipation of the next track as the previous one finishes. I think the simplicity and rawness of the component parts, and the resulting depth, atmosphere, energy, and originality of what came through this music is a unique and rare musical moment. It gave me a window into so much music, sample culture, beats, (I appreciate very much that Shadow is a drummer), and a side of musical culture that had massive draw for me at that age.
Ex:el - 808 State
I was only 13 when this album came out in 1991 and it blew my mind! I bought it on cassette and then later on CD, it was the first time I’d really heard anything like it and it’s the album that drew me into electronic music. Not only was it ground-breaking but it was the first time I’d heard Bjork. I’ve been in awe ever since!
I remember getting the sense that there must be more out there in the world than all that I knew out here in Darwen, Lancashire, it opened up my horizons. Three years later I was at Salford University on a very specialist music course where I met Joe. I remember playing it to him - a jazz hippie - and he didn’t even know where to begin! It is after this encounter that we decided to start a semi electronic/live instruments band together.
Sketches of Spain - Miles Davis
Joe and I were at Uni during the mid-90’s, studying music together, and we’d started to build our studio. We were gigging as RSL around Manchester, it was a glorious, if not a little hazy, time. This was one of those jazz albums that was so much more than simply jazz, it was hypnotic, trippy & ambient and I used to come in after a late-night gig or something and just stick this on, sit back and close my eyes and just absorb it. We’d listen to it in the studio, almost just to wind down or decompress. Its free form nature was really easy to float along with, creating images, which actually was one thing that we really wanted RSL to do; to create music that painted pictures in your mind.