Bret's Ramblings interview with Jack Dangers of Meat Beat Manifesto

Dangerous Liaisons With Meat Beat Manifesto

I caught up with Jack Dangers, main personality behind Meat Beat Manifesto, at the end of their two week tour with The Prodigy. Exhausted and somewhat under the weather, Mr. Dangers tried to answer my questions in a serious manner but his mental state got the best of him. As you shall see, this made for a humorous interview.

Highwire Daze: You're on tour with The Prodigy?

Jack Dangers: Well, we finished last night. It went great. Two weeks of complete mania, flying all over the place [in the U.S.]. We haven't done a tour like that before, where its all flying. Its more exhausting than [travelling] on a coach, you know, after a gig you can go to the coach and crash out. Eight hours later you wake up outside another venue. You can't do that on planes, get up really early. It was crazy.

HD: How was your new music received?

Dangers: Good, it was very good. Seeing that the audience was obviously a predominantly Prodigy-inclined audience, all ages, some of the kids there were about one when the first [MBM] record came out. It was interesting, and everyone enjoyed it. I didn't get any negative reactions. This was the first time I've seen people crowd-surf, doing all that shit to our music in a long time. Last I saw that was in 1991, '92. It was good.

Jack Dangers Live

HD: When can we expect to see Meat Beat headline a tour?

Dangers: I think we'll be going out at the end of August. Nothing's confirmed yet. The album [Actual Sounds and Voices] is coming out at the end of August.

HD: I've already got three advance cassettes! The Prodigy headlined the KROQ show earlier this summer. I'd have much preferred to see you.

Dangers: But you know those extravaganzas always suck because those particular bands are on rotation on the station. We've never had a [radio] hit in our life. Because we're not commercially inclined we don't get asked to do those events.

HD: How do you think you'd handle such success that you could headline a big show?

Dangers: I don't know if I'd like it really. It's probably too much pressure for me, at that level. It's not something I've been striving for.

HD: You just want to be that guy with the shaved head at the corner of the stage behind your analog synthesizers, right?

Dangers: (laughs) That's where it is, that's me, man. I've picked up an ARP 2600 and a vocoder, and some other things like that which I can use and tweak live.

HD: Tell us about the recording process on the new album.

Dangers: It started off with this great big freestyle jam, improvised session for two weeks. After the last tour, which we finished in November of '96, in December we went into the studio and in a couple of weeks we recorded hours and hours of material, some of the live stuff, but mostly we improvised, making up new stuff.

HD: Who was in those sessions?

Dangers: It was mainly the band, to begin with, but then I was inviting other people in. Some of the people that played on it were Danny Olsen, he's a friend of ours in the Bay Area, he's playing the Fender Rhodes; Benny Maupin, who used to play with Herbie Hancock and The Headhunters and Miles Davis, he plays on it; Pat Gleason who used to play with Taupin as well, he played a bit of electronic stuff; that's mainly on one track, called The Thumb. Bernie sort of springs up on other tracks, Lynn Farmer plays most of the drums on the record; John Wilson plays guitar; and I played the rest of it on the album. I think that's it.

HD: When I last spoke to you when you were doing interviews at Interscope in L.A. you said that this album was going to be more like the second CD on , more experimental jams. I was looking forward to hearing that and sure enough....

Dangers: Do you think it is then?

HD: Yes.

Dangers: I don't know. I don't anymore.

HD: I think it really opened up your sound. It really opened you up to all you can do. It wasn't so much 'That's Jack with his records again' so I think the combination of everything turned out pretty well. Are you happy with the results?

Dangers: Yes, I am. I like the way the vocals came out on this album, better than any album before. There's vocals on almost every track some of them just one line. I like doing that. There's really only two songs on the album that would be considered the usual format.

HD: Do you think that you're finally living up to the claims that you are the father of drum'n'bass? You've come from a more abrasive mode into a spacey, dubby sound but now it seems you are focusing more on the drums.

Dangers: Obviously, I've got no control over what people say but... yeah, it's not drum'n'bass, I might have triggered a few ideas along the way but as a band Meat Beat has always jumped from one track to the next. We're an A&R person's worst nightmare. Like the albums change, the tracks change. We're a unique band. You name any other band that does that, I can't. Every band has their own sound. Meat Beat has always jumped that little bit further because I don't care about having one particular sound so people can easily listen to it. I like music that is complicated. I listen to a lot of classical and jazz and avant-garde music so it just kind of rubs off.

HD: It seems to me that especially on this new album you have used more of those elements you mentioned. Are you now more comfortable using the more avant-garde and jazz influences now?

Dangers: Definitely, yeah. It's just from the soul, man. Do it with soul.

Meat Beat in a contemplative pose

HD: Do you think this time out you were just more open to experimenting this time?

Dangers: I think all this music is experimental music. Everyone asks how I'll start a song. It could be a spoken word bit like on Acid Again, it started with that intro. So it chops and changes. Things just sort of come out. We are lacking on the planned aspect. You know, just doing this little tour, a few months ago, just wasn't happening and a month later we've played to more people than we played on any tour. Things might begin happening. It's not in my control. I'm not pushing it in any way.

HD: As the members of Meat Beat Manifesto hit middle age, people are finally coming around to them...

Dangers: ...As they're getting hair transplants and liver transplants...

HD: You obviously haven't peaked yet.

Dangers: Look at the Orb. They're in the same boat. They were big to begin with, they were in Britain, anyway. There was a little dip [in popularity] and the last album brought them back right into the front again.

HD: Who have you remixed since your last album?

Dangers: I co-produced and wrote a track for the last Public Enemy record, you know, the He Got Game soundtrack. I did a remix of God Lives Underwater, I did a remix of Planet Drum, by Mickey Hart (Grateful Dead), a percussion, world extravaganza. It turned out really good. I was happy with that one. It's got a really cool keyboard line on it that I'm sure is going to crop up in the future somewhere. I've got a great respect for what he's done and who he is playing with now. He's a fucking blast. I did some executive producing for a couple of breakbeat records, I'm not sure what label they will come out on. I did them with Ben Stokes. We produced them for this guy called Tino, Tino's Breakbeats Volume One and Two. So, look out for them, (laughs). It's a really weird, experimental breakbeat record. I think in five, ten years time it will make sense.

HD: I was listening to your 99% a few days ago thinking that it still sounds pretty good. People are still catching up to you. With your early material getting repackaged some people may think those CDs are new.

Dangers: Storm The Studio and Armed Audio Warfare were deleted so they were reissued on Mute and Nothing put out this new one. The older records were all done by the same artist. They were redone so they look new and makes the originals more interesting to buy now.

HD: What records have you purchased recently?

Dangers: Recently I bought this 4-CD box set of covert signals from government agencies on shortwave radio. I love it. I have a lot of shortwave recordings at home and I'm always leaving them on, doing their thing. I like their sound. I buy alot of old records. I stumble across used records. I'm looking forward to the new Beastie Boys record, looking forward to that. The Bee Gees' first from 1967 which I picked up for 50 cents, actually found two incredibly good psychedelic classics on there which I never knew existed. I like finding things like that, not some gleaming brand -new batch of white labels shipped over from London, you know. I never listen to what's going on, never have. If I did that I'd never do [Meat Beat].

HD: Do you think that's to your benefit?

Dangers: Yeah. That's how Radio Babylon was created: it didn't sound like anything out at that time. I tend to follow those lines. I tend to do what you're not supposed to do. I don't check stuff out, I don't go to clubs, I don't know the scene or that DJ from this DJ. I'm just doing my own thing in my own little world, watching the real world go by. Watching kids go to school, shooting each other and then the media asking questions why it's all happening, when the actual fact is because people own guns. Shit like that. It just comes out in the music.

A few minutes later I could tell that maybe Dangers' mental state was deteriorating from lack of sleep and good food so I decided to wrap it up when he went "Captain Beefheart" on me (don't ask, I didn't understand him either). In his distant past he actually worked with Andy Partridge of XTC as they both came out of Swindon, England and he knows that C.J.Pollard is the drummer that everyone has sampled for their various sped up drum'n'bass loops. I thanked Mr. Dangers for the interview and let him get some rest. Be sure to look for Meat Beat Manifesto on the road later this year and please get their CD Actual Sounds and Voices later this summer. I'd hate for the record buying public to miss out on such an excellent batch of intelligent and danceable tunes. Music this good is lacking in most record store inventory but shouldn't be left out of your collection.


MainPage: Read more of Bret's Ramblings
Meat Beat Manifesto official web page: Read up on Jack Dangers and band plus some great links and photos.
Jay Bain's web page: See more photos from this great photographer including live events and outdoor shots.

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