Solid Steel celebrates 25 years of non-stop beats this year. This December as the cold nights draw in they're taking the festivities onto a dancefloor with a stellar line-up of DJs including DK, Mr Scruff, Trevor Jackson, PC, and Coldcut meets The Orb.
Starting off with a 2 hour slot on Kiss FM Solid Steel has grown and mutated into one of the behemoths of digital radio. Ahead of their quarter century extravaganza, we caught up with Strictly Kev (DJ Food)? to learn all we could about the history of Solid Steel and what has made the name so synonymous with such a consistently high level of quality radio.
Greetings Kev! How's life treating you?It's been a year of hits and misses, some highs and some lows to be honest, still here though and celebrating 25 years of the Broadest Beats.You've overseen Solid Steel's rise and rise for a number of years now, how would you say the beats have evolved since the early days? Still as 'broad' as ever?I'd like to think broader actually, we have more DJs involved and a higher turnover of guests now so it would have to be. We've gone even further out of our way this year to get guests to do different kinds of mixes for us too. The show is more professional now that the whole world can listen and download it, we have a higher standard, we won't put out any old rubbish.How would you say Solid Steel as we see it today came into fruition? Was there a particular moment in time when everything just clicked into place?Darren Knott (DK) coming on board in the late 90's got us organised , he really is the unsung hero in this who pulls it all together every week, keeps people on schedule and knocks out some fantastic mixes himself. We needed someone like him to help pull things together, especially as it's a weekly show and I don't think we've ever missed one in all the time I've been around. There was a place there waiting to be filled only we didn't realise until he was in it.
In prior interviews you've alluded to the 'radio trip-style collage' aesthetic that drove the show forwards. Can you give us a little insight into how you would go about collecting and compiling such a diverse range of music for a two hour recording?
Back in the 90's when we were at Kiss FM the four of us, Matt, Jon ( Coldcut ), PC and I (DJ Food) would turn up on a Friday night to pre-record the show for Saturdays. We'd each come equipped with whatever we had found that week, not knowing what each other had and it was trial by fire once the record button was on. We'd improvise for 2 hours straight, as if live, Coldcut usually conducting if you like, with two or three decks, CDs and jingle cartridges.We had special spoken word and sound FX CDs that we'd made called 'Word Treasure', each holding 99 samples that could be triggered over or in between things. These were our secret weapons and those phrases and sounds got well rinsed over the years and became part of the DNA of the show. Many a time people have come to me after finally finding a track that they'd heard in a mix they'd taped years before only to find that the spoken word bit that they liked wasn't there, we'd mixed it over the top.
The collective clearly values the art of DJing as highly as the art of producing. Has the coming of the digital age had any adverse or advantageous effects on the way Solid Steel has evolved from a DJing perspective?The main one, back in the mid to late 90's, was hard disc editing, once that was affordable we could produce shows in our own studios and take our time. Things got tighter and we could layer up mixes more rather than go with the one take. Then of course the web played it's part in getting the show out further than local radio ever could. The web really gave us the best place to present the show, we've been streaming it for over ten years but sites like Soundcloud and Mixcloud are just the perfect platform for it.
Possibly an impossible question to answer - which is your favourite artist mix of the series and why?Well, I always come back to the original Coldcut meets the Orb session from Xmas '91 as this was one of the first I heard and it blew my mind. It was an unlikely meeting of two of my favourite production teams and they both bought their respective sides of themselves to the tables. I must have played it to death when I was a student and it's taken me years to untangle the tracklist . This was before I'd met Coldcut and to be given the chance to edit the sessions for a return trip version earlier this year really bought things full circle.All artists playing on the 6th at the 25th anniversary party have contributed in some way or other to Solid Steel over its many years in the game. What are we to expect on the night?The line up will be unique, I doubt you'll get these people on the same bill ever again. Mr Scruff and Illum Sphere are doing a special 4 hour back to back vinyl set, Hexstatic is doing a classic late 80's Acid and Rave set. Coldcut and the Orb are going to jam for several hours and myself, DJ Cheeba and DJ Moneyshot will be doing a 4 deck reconstruction of the Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique album from all the original samples for the first time in London. PC, DK and myself are also cooking up something special too...
What's next for Solid Steel moving into 2014?
I honestly don't know, this year has taken some serious effort to organise and we've had our most diverse set of guest mixes yet - from Peter Serafinowicz to Chris Carter (Thobbing Gristle) to giving the whole 2 hour show over to Four Tet for one week. I'd like to think we'll continue in this vein and add to the growing pile of video mixes that we occasionally do too over on our Vimeo page. http://vimeo.com/ solidsteelWhat do you think the future holds for music if people are no longer willing to pay for it?I think we need to re-educate people who aren't willing to pay for it to be honest. The problem is that most people have never 'made' a record in their life. I think if people had to go on a course - from music conception to final product manufacture - of one of their own creations then they would seriously reconsider ever downloading something for free again. The effort required is incredible, not to say the time involved. The same should go for film, books, writing...The urge to create will always be in us but you hear more and more stories of artists going and getting conventional jobs because they just can't live from it any more. It's not as if you even need to be that successful to earn a living from music but it's becoming harder every year. It's also partly because of an over-saturated marketplace where anyone can now make music / film etc. - the digital age has been a great leveller in that respect but almost every day I see people spouting nonsense on message boards or Facebook about how they assume artists live and how copyright works.
If you had to send one record into space, to introduce extra terrestrials to human music, what record would you choose?Eno's Apollo soundtrack album springs to mind, with music that intelligent and beautiful at least they'd realise we had something worth investigating.
You can choose four members of a band to form a supergroup - who would be in it and what instruments would they be on?Budgie ( Siouxsie & The Banshees) on drums, Edan on the mic , Larry Graham on Bass, Brendan Lynch on the mix.Which figure from throughout history would you most like to meet and what would you ask them if you had only one question?I would have liked to have met the French artist Jean Giraud aka Moebius , I'm not sure if I'd want to ask him anything but I'd have liked to shake his hand and say 'thank you' for all his beautiful work.What do you think the world will be like in 100 years?Fucked if the people in power don't wake up.And finally, what's the one 'urban essential' you couldn't live without?My family.
Happy Birthday Solid Steel!There are still a few tickets available for the event, grab yours here before they're all gone.