It was ten years ago today…

Posted on Monday, September 15th, 2014 by erickleptone

…that a small number of you received this email:

hip hopera email invite

(Click image for larger)

Download links here if you need them, now available in Flac too if you want an upgrade!

Well, apart from that email, and a post on the old “Get Your Bootleg On” forum (RIP), which gathered like-minded audio-slicing miscreants, that was it, as far as publicity goes.

In the next 12 months it gathered nigh-on a million downloads and a crapton of on- and off-line recommendations, collapsing my own website in a couple of days (I remember sitting there with my flatmates (hey Dillon & Kev!) watching the bandwidth charges accelerate by the minute before fiscal reality got the better of my ego and I pulled the plug), then being mirrored and promoted by such fine folks as Andy “Waxy” Baio and Jason “Boogah” Cosper (vintage interview on that link from two weeks after release).

And then a whole bunch more folks. And more. And so on until I found myself sat at a front table at the 2005 Webby Awards receiving the award for “Artist Of The Year”. Great fun, (hey, I got to shout “motherfucker” in front of Al Gore *teenage giggle*) but boy, did I feel out of place. With the benefit of hindsight, maybe the Webbys organisers expected the old-school media to be shocked that someone like myself was being publicly honoured for illegally slicing, dicing and re-purposing existing culture?… might generate a bit of shock publicity? but nah… nobody seemed that bothered, thank zod. We’d already moved on. As we do.

Eric Kleptone at The Webby Awards 2005

(Gorgeous, huh? Click for larger. Text of shirt: “Your failed business model is not my problem” – Truer today than ever.)

So… 10 years ago. Seems like centuries. How fast we move… Back then? No Facebook. No Twitter. No YouTube. Some blogs. Some forums. That was about it. Life moves pretty fast, huh?

Downloading a whole album for free? How quaint? Was still quite a novelty then. With the deepest of ironies, as this anniversary rolls around, a free album by one of the biggest bands of all-time has been distributed to allegedly five billion people. A lot of whom don’t seem too happy about it.

But… plus ├ža change. Free music is everywhere now, and you can’t move for it. Everywhere you go people are desperately trying to ram it down your throat. So much so that even the hugest bands have to do it to get heard. You can’t move for the stuff. Awful.

Well, Boo hoo you.

Because today, here, right now, as far as music goes, things are awesome.

Yes, despite the daily hoo-hah of the “new” music industry, of iTunes, Spotify and Pandora, of mega-corps taking advantage of their huge content distribution systems (that you have all signed up for) and automatically generated playlists (that may well favour heavy advertisers, haha), today there is a humongous global musical underground at your fingertips that ten years ago had no chance whatsoever of reaching you. And you probably will really love some of it. It may well even change your life.

The power of a simple tune is greater than ever. But now, more than ever it needs to be discovered. In the same way as folks spent infinite amounts of time digging through piles of dusty records to rescue and repurpose the drum breaks and riffs that now underpin some of your favourite tunes, you, as a listener, have to dig the crates!

This is (still) a really good thing.

Same as it ever was.

So, please, please, dull down the adverts pummelling you from all sides, the clickbait loud-hailers bombarding you from above, push all that stuff into the bin where it belongs, fire up your inquisitive natures, and keep them well stoked. Dig deep, deeper, deepest and often, and you WILL be rewarded. Not just with fine sounds, but with new friends, amazing performances, wonderful communities and an unshakeable knowledge that just by your very participation (and occasional purchase or show attendance, hemhem), you are sustaining and developing a cultural eco-system. One of millions.

(And if you’re think “ahh, I can’t be bothered to do that, clicking through links (ugh), following blogs (zzz), Hey oldster, I don’t have to look for stuff any more, that’s so 20th century”, then fine – enjoy the nutritionless crap you get served up.)

Because it’s true.

And it grows.

“Increment by Increment”.

That’s what we’re rather good at, as a species, on the whole.

We create.

And share.

And grow.

So from me, thank you for downloading, listening, coming to our shows, dancing like a loon, saying hi!, buying me a beer, putting up with me on verbal overdrive, but most of all for being my friends. Even if you’ve never met me, you now know what I’m like, which is an amazing thing.

You’ve blown my mind sky high, restored and energised my faith in music as a culturally-changing force, and I love you for it.

So here’s to the next ten years. I hope this, too, feels like ancient history when I read it back then.

(PS And before you comment, Yes there will be more Kleptones. We’re taking a breather, but it’s evolving. We’re not done yet. Life is a long song, yes?)

xoxoxo

Eric K

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Nope, it’s that man again…

Posted on Thursday, November 15th, 2012 by erickleptone

Okaydoke, I’m coming back from a forced couple-of-months hiatus, mainly due to having to find somewhere new to live and make a Kleptones base, which took rather longer than expected – Space, as you may well imagine, is at a premium in this overcrowded city, which has led to some very over-the-top rents (32% rise in three years apparently) and some rather minuscule dwellings – Being rather a tall chap with a bit of baggage, living hand-to-mouth, it’s not the most ideal of situations. Sorted now though, thank f–k, and it was just in time for us to kick off the new venue for Kleptonite on 10th November!

kleptonite banner
kleptonite bannerkleptonite bannerkleptonite banner
(Pics appropriated from Instamatic and DJ Payroll, sure they won’t mind!)

As I mentioned before, The Britannia in Hackney (map) seemed to be an ideal venue, and so it proved, with valiant back up from the Butch Auntie visual massive, and Instamatic producing a storming and very well received debut AV set, it all went rather well. Not the hugest of sound-systems, but good enough for now – If the crowd grows, we’ll be able to afford a better PA! And we’re going to continue, second Saturday of each month – The next one will be on Saturday 8th December (special guest to be announced soon!), so if you’re in the vicinity, come down, and if you think you’d like to play a set, especially if you’re video-centric, get in touch!

pretty vacant logo
While we’re on the gig front, after many attempts, I’m going to be DJing at Pretty Vacant in Dusseldorf on Saturday 1st December. Those of you will remember the last time I attempted this I ended up snowed in, so we’ll be pulling out some major weather spells to ensure it doesn’t happen this time!



Finally, now all the home-moving shizzle is out of my bizzle, we can get back onto the regularly-posting-tunes-and-mixes train, so here’s a couple of classic 70s rockers given a rather dubby makeover. Hope you like, and see you soon!

(Soundcloud links below – open the post in a new window if they don’t show up in your blog reader!)

Just a little bit louder now…

Posted on Sunday, September 23rd, 2012 by erickleptone

So… back to modern times, sort of. Here’s a tune I debuted at Bootie SF the other week, which screamed Bootie as soon as I put it together, and worked a treat I must say. So much so, that I’ve passed the download over to them as an exclusive, so if you want a copy, you’ll have to head over to the Bootie site. It’s worth it though, there’s a fine clutch of tracks there to be had for free!

What’s more, I’ll be playing at the next Bootie London alongside New York’s finest DJ Lobsterdust, and local heroes Instamatic and Payroll in support. Like last time, it’s at Electrowerkz, running later this time till 4am, so if you’re about, you really should come down! Full details at the Bootie London site!

More plans are afot for future London and elsewhere shows, and we’re starting to investigate Kickstarter ideas to see how we can make more shows happen – if you want us in your area, wherever that may be, and/or you think you can help us with some ground level wisdom from your own town or city, please drop me an email, it would be amazing to make it happen, and it’s a lot easier than you might think!

Solid piles of stuff…

Posted on Sunday, September 23rd, 2012 by erickleptone

San Franciscan archipelago
Well it certainly feels like it. So much has happened in the last couple of weeks, and there’s more on the way as always! I’m going to split everything I want to say into two posts, the “then” and the “now/future”, to make it a little easier to digest / skim, but first off, I must extend hugest of thanks to both Bootie SF and the team behind XOXOfest for being so many flavours of awesome and making my US trip such a joy.


Smash-up Derby @ Bootie SF
I’ve always maintained that the San Francisco Bootie crowd are probably the most open-minded bootleg crowd in the whole world, and again they did not disappoint, lapping up everything that I threw, including the debut of a clutch of new tunes. A mighty fine time was had by all, big hello back to everyone that came up and said hi, and thanks to the cheerfully tolerant DNA Lounge crew and A+D as always for being excellent hosts. Again, soon, I hope!



Breakfast in America!From the rolling fog of San Francisco thence up the coast to Oregon, to find Portland gently fanning itself in what I was told was rather unseasonable, humidity-free, mid-late 20s heat (celsius, I am a euro ;). A glorious and welcoming start to what was, well, a glorious and welcoming long weekend.

A working start for me, though as I immediately zoomed up to Holocene to provide a five and a half hour DJ set as backing for the festival opening party. Not that I was complaining, it was a great relaxed opportunity to play right across the board, drink good beer and meet some folks, including a long-overdue first hello with co-organizer Andy Baio, a fan since early K-days, and whose mirroring of “Hip-Hopera” back in 2004 when my site went down led to a considerable amount of legal hi-jinks.

Ad-hoc SF AV WorkstationFor most of Friday I was in a rather stressed state of mind, preparing for my first-ever solo AV Kleptones performance that night, and generally looking down my own body for more digits to cross. Yes! Previous AV shows, as you know, have been ably assisted by Butch Auntie, but budgetary restraints had always stopped us from taking this show any further than Europe. As XOXO was going to be rather special, and also I was a little unsure as to whether the crowd would be in a dancing mood or not, I thought the time was right to take the plunge and do it all myself. And I did… just. Needless to say, sharing the load onstage is a great thing, and not to be underestimated!

XOXO YU Building signageThat said, I was delighted with how it went down. and doubly delighted to see many, many dancing people (including the aforementioned Mr.Baio ;). Thanks to you all and the ace crew at Holocene for making that a fun one, and also hail-fellow-well-met to both Julia Nunes and MC Frontalot and their respective musicians, who both played great sets before me, and did wonders in reducing my own pre-set nerves. A top night, if a little scary. Apologies to everyone that got the full blast of my adrenaline-fuelled relief afterwards – I was buzzing quite a bit, as you may have noticed…

XOXO YU Building signage
Saturday morning found me with my responsibilities discharged (HT ‘The Young Ones’ ;), allowing me time to soak up the festival and conference itself.

Much has been already written online by finer hands than my own (see Wired, The Verge and Boing Boing), so all I need to add is that it was an absolute joy for myself to be part of the friendly tornado of ideas and wisdom that constituted XOXO.


As has been pointed out elsewhere, some in attendance were not what one would call “natural mixers”, but the collective down-to-earth mindset (established and encouraged in no small part by co-founders Andy McMillan & Andy Baio), the beautiful urban setting and the balmy weather (and of course, the fine Portland food and drink) encouraged everyone to dump their excess mental baggage and egos at the entrance and use the weekend as the creative playground it was intended to be. Big talk, you may say, but for once, it all fucking worked, and it was glorious. Coders, designers, makers, artists, musicians (hi!), organizers, do-ers, thinkers-one-and-all stepped into the ring simultaneously yet gave each other sufficient space. Yes, that is possible, and it was truly impressive.

A high standard of presentations and speeches (including a highly polarizing keynote from Dan Harman) provided plenty of kick-off brainwaves to keep the conversations buzzing throughout the day, and some great after-parties (and other concurrent local events – was surprised to end up at a Fade To Mind show on the Saturday night!) allowed folks to kick back and continue their conversations at a more leisurely pace. Everyone I met, without exception, was a true star in their own field, and many, many new friendships and creative partnerships will, I’m sure, be formed in the festival’s wake. Job well done, everyone!

SF sunsetI did feel rather sad to be returning, but fortified by the wave of energy described above, it doesn’t feel so bad to be home.

Onwards and upwards, as always…






I Just Wanna Dream…

Posted on Monday, September 3rd, 2012 by erickleptone

Decided to have a crack at the new Major Lazer single, even though I think the original takes some beating… Tried a few styles but this knocked everything else out of the water by a country mile.

So here you go… hope you enjoy!

Love in the cities…

Posted on Thursday, August 30th, 2012 by erickleptone

bootieA couple of things to announce and a couple of new tunes for you! We’re going off on a little September sojourn… First stop will be Bootie SF on Saturday 8th September, with hosts A+D in town, Smash-Up Derby live, and the finest mashup crowd on the planet!

bootieFollowing that it’s up to XOXO in Portland on Thursday 13th September (you need to be registered with XOXO to get into the Portland show, and it’s completely sold-out, but we’ll be around all weekend, so keep watching the Twitter feed, PDX-ers, you never know what might happen!)

And a couple of new tracks! Up top, “Love In The City” takes some Putney boys off to meet a Canadian Godfather uptown, or possibly round a campfire, and down below “Short And Round” gets rather silly and offensive indeed…

Hope to see you soon!

A Whiter Westway?

Posted on Friday, August 3rd, 2012 by erickleptone

Just a quickie – A lot of people, myself included, have commented on the similarities between Blur’s “Under The Westway” and Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade Of Pale”, but until I tinkered, I hadn’t realised *exactly* how close they were – same tempo, same key (C major, I think)… although Blur cut the last bar of each verse three measures short to achieve a rolling, overlapping effect.

Didn’t need to do more than a minute for you to get the idea…

I do like “Westway” a lot, and, well, “Whiter Shade” was heavily influenced by Bach, so as usual, round and round the riffs we go…

New Reunited Remix…

Posted on Thursday, July 19th, 2012 by erickleptone

Well, the sun came out here today in London for an hour, so to celebrate this momentous occasion, I felt inspired to do another “Reunited” remix, this time sending young Michael off to the Caribbean…

Hectic City 15 – Paths To Graceland

Posted on Thursday, June 28th, 2012 by erickleptone

The Graceland Tape
Image borrowed from Paul Simon’s Twitter feed.

WARNING: Long read ahead. I’d be delighted and honoured if you didn’t TL;DR me, simply hit play above and read on down the page – pretend it’s a Sunday paper or something… As always there’s an interesting story behind the mix.

The temptation to call this mix “Gumboots: Accordion Jive Hits, Volume 2″ was huge, but it would be misleading.

By way of explanation, if you google “Gumboots: Accordion Jive Hits, Volume 2″, you may well be surprised at the number of results. A popular record, you might think; well known and discussed. But try to find a copy, and you’ll while away a day or more clicking from site to site around the world, maybe chancing upon “Greatest Accordian Jive Hits, Volume 3” or even “Sax & Accordion Jive Hits, Volume 1“. But Volume 2? Not a sniff.

The “Gumboots” album, should you be unaware, has been awarded it’s place in history due to a cassette copy which found its way into Paul Simon’s car stereo sometime in 1984-85 and providing him with the initial inspiration to seek out (and eventually travel to South Africa to record with) the musicians playing on the album. An occurence that has been documented virtually every time the story of “Graceland”s creation has been told, over the course of thousands of interviews, several documentaries, and now again with the release of a 25th anniversary edition and an accompanying tour with Simon reuniting on stage with many of the original album’s participants.

Jive Hits 1So, considering the legacy of “Gumboots”, one would imagine any music-minded enterpreneurial soul, or even Gallo, the label that allegedly released the original album, would jump at the chance to re-issue such inspirational recordings and make a few bucks off the back of the multi-million selling “Graceland”. Standard form for the music industry, indeed, but in this case, nothing.

(I say Gallo allegedly released it, but as no-one I’m aware of has actually seen a copy of the album, and as repeated enquiries to the label from a multitude of Paul Simon fans have gone unanswered, no-one’s entirely sure.)

To further confound the investigation, from information given in interviews by Simon and other musicians, only one track on the original tape is actually identifiable. The “title” track, “Gumboots”, lent it’s music lock stock and barrel to become the backing track of Paul Simon’s song, also titled “Gumboots” on the finished album. Indeed it’s not difficult to imagine Simon driving around singing his prototype vocal melodies and lyrics over the bouncing mbaqanga groove.

But was the original tune actually called “Gumboots”? or did Simon just use the title scratched on the cassette as an identifier? You can see one side of the actual tape above – does it have “Gumboots” written on the other side? (It’s rather doubtful the tape came with a tracklist, as any car-driving cassette fan would understand.) There’s certainly no mention of Gumboots in the lyrics. Further Simon interview comments reveal the track originally involved The Boyoyo Boys, yet any online search for “Gumboots” by The Boyoyo Boys brings back, yup, you guessed it, thousands of results for the phantom “Gumboots Accordion Jive Hits Volume Two” album. Another dead end.

Furthermore, one would imagine somewhere along the assembly of the two very large scale re-issues of the album, someone involved might think to seek out at least this individual recording and add it to the album as a bonus track. But no, nothing.

Indeed, very little previously unheard music has been added to the original album by way of bonus material on these re-issues, despite co-producer Roy Halee’s assertion that there was more than enough material generated during the initial sessions at Ovation studios in Johannesburg: “You should hear some of the out-takes. Even today, there could be two instrumental albums consisting of those fabulous grooves.”

It’s also known, through “Graceland”s writing credits and investigation of the wealth of documentary evidence, that at least two more of the albums tracks are based on pre-existing music – On “I Know What I Know” Simon shares the writing credit with M.D. Shrinda, and on “The Boy In The Bubble”, he shares it with accordion player Forere Motloheloa (part of Tau ea Matsekha, the Lesotho group responsible for the “Bubble” backing track). Although no original titles have surfaced for the music that formed part of these songs, I’ve located what I consider to be reasonably close matches, and included them on this mix.

Jive Hits 1I’ve also included at least a handful of tracks that have surprisingly close links with riffs and melodies used on Graceland, and many, many other excellent tracks that could (and should) be considered forebears of “The Big G”. Note that I’m not making any claims of plagiarism (like I would dare!), simply demonstrating the common trading and development of grooves, basslines, horn, guitar, accordion and vocal riffs that took place between musicians at the time in both South Africa and Lesotho, and still takes place today, I hope.

As for the mysterious “Gumboots” instrumental? With no confirmation of the orginal title, and very patchy availability of The Boyoyo Boys back catalogue, it’s proved impossible to locate. I’ve included a track on the mix that The Boys recorded with Lulu Masilela (co-writer of “Gumboots” as it appears on “Gracelands”) which I consider to be it’s closest locatable relative.

I refuse to delve deeper into the discussion about whether the writing credits on “Graceland” are fair – Indeed amongst Simon’s catalogue “Graceland” is rare in the number of songwriting credits shared – proof that he was certainly not shy of demonstrating, and remunerating, the collaborative effort involved in producing the finished work.

More importantly, I must thank Paul, who, alongside sterling work by broadcasters John Peel and Andy Kershaw, both promoting similar music at the same time, opened up a new musical world to the young me, giving South African music far more of a UK (and worldwide) audience than it had previously enjoyed, and paving the way for many artists to bring that music out into the world. Also, in my opinion, he made a truly great album that, by blending his New York lyricism with another continent’s grooves, gave my young ears a taste of what marvels can be accomplished when different styles of music collide.

Ethiopian art

01a Tau Ea Lesotho – Nyatsi Tloha Pela’ka
01b Tau Ea Lesotho – Puleng
01c Puseletso Seema & Tau Ea Linare – He O Oe Oe!
02 Mahotella Queens – Umculo Kawupheli
03 The Rainbows – Mashonisa
04 Soul Brothers – Uthembeni-na
05 Dark City Sisters – Ezomculo
06 M.D. Shirinda & The Gaza Sisters – Pfuka N’wavolo
07 Abafana Baseqhudeni – Mubi Umakhelwane
08 Mgababa Queens – Maphuthi
09 Zorro Five – Barcarolle
10 Amazulu Queens – Sankatana
11 Marks Mankwane – Khupa Marama No. 2
12 Naledi Boys – Bump Again
13 Ebrahim Isaacs – Meadowlands
14 John Amutabi Nzenze – Angelike Twist
15 Queue Sisters – Ethembeni
16 Spokes Mashiyane – Kalla’s Special
17 Soul Of The City – Hustle Bump!
18 J.K. Mayengani & The ShingWedzi Sisters – Khubani
19 Mahlathini & Izintombi Zomgqashiyo – Okwamadoda Kuya Bhikwa
20 Izintombi Zodumo – Mississippi River
21 Sannah Mnguni Nesimanjemanje – Ukhulupheka
22 Lulu Masilela & The Boyoyo Boys – Small Time No.4
23 Tempo All Stars – Take Off
24 Paulus Masina – Umalusi
25 Intombi Zephepha – Ingoina Le Nyathi
26 Mgababa Queens – Akulaiwa Esoweto
27 Mahlathini & The Mahotella Queens – Bophumthwalo
28 Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje – Awufuni Ukulandela Na
29 African Symphonics – Zulu Roll
30 Kings Messengers Quartet – My Lord

Ethiopian art detail
Images of Ethiopian art, as used on Graceland, borrowed from The Peabody Essex Museum.

Compiler’s note: One of the most appealing yet frustrating characteristics of this music is it’s timelessness, both in arrangement and recording quality. I say frustrating, as it’s tough to tell the difference between an archive 1950s recording, a rather expensive studio recording from 1968 and a lo-fi shed studio recording from 1980, especially considering sound quality alterations due to poor quality vinyl, cassette-to-cassette dubbing and yes, a modern layer of MP3 encoding.

Post-1980 the differences are easier to note, as the introduction of electronic drums and early FM synthesizers give the game away somewhat, but even then dating things is not that easy. According to Global Groove’s blog, the track “He O Oe Oe!” is from a 1985 UK album, but the blog claims the original recording dates from 1981. Also the Tao Ea Lesotho tracks date from an album released in the UK by Sterns in 1988, but “Puleng” was apparently a South African hit a few years before that. The truth is very, very difficult to find, so even if a couple of these actual recordings actually don’t pre-date “Graceland”, the songs and grooves most definitely do!

Apologies also for any spelling errors in the tracklisting, and the largest of thanks to all re-issuers of this music, particularly the “Indestructable Beat Of Soweto” and “Next Stop Soweto” series of albums, and the blogs Afro Slabs, Matsuli, Electric Jive, Global Groove and Soul Safari, who do an amazing job unearthing and digitizing tons of outstanding African music.

There’s plenty more I could add about the above artists, but I’ll save that for another time – Thanks for reading and listening – hope you enjoy the mix!

(Previous Hectic City mixes can be found by clicking here!)

Listen up!

Posted on Thursday, May 17th, 2012 by erickleptone

listening club
(Image of “Paper Record Player” by Simon Elvins – details here)

A couple of months ago I spontaneously decided to set up an album listening club on Twitter, borne out of that good ol’ simple desire to spread and share interesting music. Admittedly, there have been a spate of similar things appearing in the last year, mainly either “listening together in a room”, or “listening online at an allotted time”, but they all either decided on their music by a vote, or stuck to pretty straightforward (although classic) choices.

That’s all very well and good luck to ‘em, but what interests me more is that “personal choice” – those albums you discover that fit your needs of the time so perfectly you’re left wondering about the powers of synchronicity as your heart fills to the brim with joy, and those albums that boggle your mind so much that you dive online immediately to find out more about the people behind them, and what drove them to create such a thing and unleash it on the public.

Also it should come as no great shock to you that we here at Kleptones Inc. are very much big fans of the “long-play”. Albums, mixes, whatever… the ability to take a listener off on a satisfying journey is rarely something that can be accomplished in three or four minutes, as has been proven time and time again over, ohh, the last few hundred years or so.

So to empower the participants, and to increase that random “personal choice” factor, the only rule established has been that whoever selected an album for listening would pick their favourite tweeter from the playback, and the baton would then be passed to that tweeter to make the next selection. Simple as.

And it’s worked rather well – a fine troop of listeners has emerged, and the selections so far have ranged from lesser known albums by established bands, a raft of new (or “new to us”) artists from far and wide, and obscurities from the flip-side of previous decades. Not everything has been to everyone’s taste obviously, and there have already been several WTF moments, but that’s that way it should be, really. However, it’s only just getting started we think, and the boundaries are only just beginning to be pushed, which is why the time has come to let you all know about it, and invite you to come join in the fun. We need your input!

Timezone corroboration obviously is a bit tricky, but the agreed time of 8pm BST (GMT+1) each Sunday is working well (although apologies to the Aussies, can’t stretch that far sadly), however the albums generally stay up for a little while after, and there always seems to be a few folks tweeting their catch-up listen in the following days. We realise there’s no way that everyone is going to be around every week, but, like your favourite radio show, Listening Club will be there, should you be in the mood.

So yea verily, get your tweet on and come join us by following @listeningclub on twitter, where all the info is passed out and questions answered (album info gets posted on a separate blog here). It’ll be great to have you along, and find out what album you’re going to pick…


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