"Fuck dance. Let's art."
Known as "The Original Dance Floor Hooligans," Coldcut is DJs Matt Black and Jonathan More. They are what happens when a computer programmer and an art teacher (respectively) discover they love music and DJing more than anything else. Today Coldcut is predominantly described as urban breakbeat, though their music is at times more adequately classified as acid house, rave, hiphop, ambient, or jungle.
People often mistakenly refer to Coldcut as one person, rather than a group or collaborative effort. This is in part ignorance and in part false advertising; on several early records, they billed themselves as "DJ Coldcut" to avoid legal issues of copyright on their samples. After breaking with Arista, the name Coldcut was tied up in legal channels for a few years, so the two had to use other names when releasing new material.
More and Black began collaborating in the 1980s, hosting pirate radio shows on Network 21 and playing clubs together. In 1987 they released "Say Kids, What Time Is It?," the first (for them, and the U.K.) record of breakbeats. The popularity of their work, coupled with the fast-rising success of the club scene, meant plenty of rock, hiphop, and dance production and remix invitations for the duo. Soon they established the Ninja Tune and Ntone labels to explore London's underground scene, introducing a variety of electronica and experimental hiphop talents.
By 1990, Coldcut received BPI's prestigious "Producers of the Year" award and used their increasing popularity and industry success to permanently break ties with larger labels. They wanted to oversee all of their own music, as well as publish some of the most promising minds in the mix business. Black and More used their Ninja Tune label and spent several years cultivating a crop of varied and unique acts that included DJ Food, the London Funk Allstars, The Herbaliser, DJ Vadim, Mr. Scruff, and Kid Koala. Through Ninja Tune, Coldcut produced and presented to the public everything from Latin/Jazz breakbeats to comical slomo. Their emphasis on a series of breakbeat artists inadvertantly led to the birth of a new movement in electronica. "Without realizing it we laid seeds and fertilizer for the thing which evolved into trip hop," explains Jonathon More on Coldcut's website.
By the end of 1995, Coldcut's prodigies, and in turn their label, became so popular in London that they were able to headline a single venue. Like everything else they touched, it turned to gold. Stealth was voted "Club of the Year" by several organizations, only to be shut down by its creators. It seems Matt and Jonathon understand the value of going out on top.
Remember, though: this is a computer programmer and an art teacher, more a recipe for a Mac commercial than a hiphop duo. Will they stop with traditional house shows and novelty acts? Hardly. Coldcut's ability to think so far out of the box that it's a circle came into play as they toyed with their fields of study to create more diversified multimedia entertainment. Coldcut wanted to be more than DJs spinning records; their talents spilled over into videogame design and a new sort of art exhibition known as "VJing," wherein the DJ incorporates sight and sound to provide a more wholistic musical experience.
VJing, though, was something that had to be experienced live. To break the barrier between home and live performance, Coldcut went back to their beloved drawing board. They combined their software creations with their inventive multimedia stylings and created a software program called VJAMM, which allowed users to mix their own music and artwork at home. "Let Us Play!," their first major release on their own label, demonstrated the genius of such a program; the album included a CD-ROM that featured games, music videos, and audiovisual collages.
Though their music ranges from the upbeat "Stop This Crazy Thing" to the serious "Timber," Coldcut have proven themselves over the last two decades to be more than DJs--they are pioneers in the music industry and true inspirations to the future of blended culture. Matt Black and Jonathon More have lead the way by branching out of traditional projects to develop their own wealth of multimedia creations that range from creation and gaming software, live radio shows, innovative remixes, and spontaneous international collaborations. What's next?
- 1987 Say Kids, What Time Is It?
- 1988 Out to Lunch with Ahead of Our Time
- 1988 Stop the Crazy Thing
- 1989 What's That Noise?
- 1994 Philosophy Arista
- 1996 Cold Krush Cuts
- 1996 Journeys By DJ: 70 Minutes of Madness
- 1997 Coldcut & DJ Food Fight
- 1997 Let Us Play!
- 1997 Stoned...Chilled...Groove
- 1999 Let Us Replay!
- 1999 Vjamm
Note: Included here are major albums only. There are also a bajillion sets, singles, EPs, remixes, and compilations that I didn't list. For more information visit their home at ninjatune.net, a neat summary of their work at allmusic.com, or your favorite website for music information.