Prince Fatty Meets Nostalgia 77
In the words of Ben Lamdin aka Nostalgia 77…
I met Mike Pelanconi via a mutual acquaintance in the spring of 2005. Our friend dealt in rare ideas on subjects ranging from the occult to the ephemeral. A self made man, his passion for the heady pursuits of the mind fascinated, engaged and united us. Afternoons were often spent in his central Brighton office discussing politics, film, and not least music, and that gilded palace’s fading empire.Read more
I myself was still a novice and could only claim to be learning the craft of music making, while Mike, though still a young man, was already a veteran of the industry and had taken refuge in Brighton to recover from the gruelling demands of running his own premises in Wood Green. In the Brighton mix room, the snapshot of the Neve control room at Wood Green took pride of place on the wall, Pultec equalizers flanking Mike like grey-blue henchmen. He confronts the camera like an audiophile Neal Cassidy.
As I had just formed the first live incarnation of Nostalgia 77 I recruited Mike to do our first live recording. Live at the Jazz Cafe was the band’s second gig. We were full of enthusiasm for the music and, although rough, the recording has a great energy. The dub of Zombie Dance comes from this session… It showed us the worlds of dub and jazz could clash with powerful results.
From this point it seemed like a door had opened into the world of recording, on one side of me powerful musicians and on the other an eccentric and talented engineer; and we set about organising a residential trip to a barn in Wales. Returning to Brighton with the hard disks full, we assembled some classic tools, EMT plate reverb, Pultecs, Fairchild and a Studer 2 track machine for mixdown. The resulting album, Borderlands – released under the Nostalgia 77 Octet name – set me clearly on a new path, leaving the 1210s and samples on one side in favour of manuscripts and microphones. The hit was strong and the high enduring.
Pelanconi’s alter ego Prince Fatty, long in gestation, was gaining more and more strength. During this time Mike was still working for the industry, ‘flipping burgers’, as he used to say. But it was clear that it was the dub that kept the studio ticking and the spirit of rebellion that powered Fatty’s soundsystem-distressing productions. Legends started appearing at the villa studio. Coffee on the step would now be taken with reggae greats like Little Roy, Alcapone, Winston Francis.
Our collaboration continued; I would take my projects to mix at Mike’s: Nostalgia 77, The Broken Keys, the Konkoma record for Soundway… jazz for Jamie Cullum and so on. Meanwhile Prince Fatty productions for Hollie Cook, Mutant HiFi and Little Roy, and his own projects and dub LPs, continued apace. The rhythms piled up – probably there is already more recorded than can ever be released.
This record is a snapshot of the worlds of jazz and dub colliding. Not for the faint hearted, these tracks, bastards as they are of two estranged parents. Two such different styles in many ways, or so they have become, but jazz and dub share so many roots as is plain to hear in the swing of New Orleans, the Jamaican mento or ska, the prophesies of Sun Ra or the praises of the Nyabinghi. But perhaps what truly unites lovers of these two musical dynasties is the spirit of rebellion that lies at the heart of both.
As the music industry slowly becomes more and more a pale shadow of the industrial complex it serves, true characters become fewer and farther between and the character of rebellion harder to ignite. If old musical styles are to continue to sound relevant they must capture the true spirit of the form, not just ape the sound and tropes of the style. In all walks the people are there, working for an alternative sound, propelled by a creative imperative rather than motivated by profit, cache or kudos. Be it the rockers, retro rastas, soul boys or electronic pioneers, it is precisely at times such as this that we need the non-conformist spirit, the righteous and rebellious, the eccentric and the freaky. We need less Bruce Bannerman more Hulk, less Jekyll more Mr Hyde, less semi-skimmed more FAT.