FEATURE: Ninja Tune 20 Years Of Beats 'n' PiecesThursday , 19 Aug 2010
As legendary label Ninja Tune prepare to celebrate their 20th year of banging out quality beats, I speak to co-founder Matt Black about their phenomenal success.
It’s 9pm UK time and, somewhere in London, self-described ‘funky granddad’ Matt Black, one half of legendary English electronic duo Coldcut - and a co-founder of seminal underground UK music label Ninja Tune (alongside his Coldcut production partner Jonathan More), has just, he explains with a laugh, “finished up for the day, chucked on the washing and cracked open a beer.” And is settling in for a series of interviews.
The reason for this, along with the accompanying flurry of press, events and releases is simple: Ninja Tune, Black and More’s legendary record label, has just turned 20 years old. In Black’s words, “[Ninja Tune] made a decision that [the anniversary] should be much more looking forward than looking back...a futurespective if you will.” As such, they’re celebrating with the release of an ornate box set of new material from new generation, mid-school and old guard Ninja Tune artists. The collection also includes a book (authored by Stevie Chick), on the history of the label, as well as numerous other goodies.
Stories as old as this one really need to start at the beginning though, don’t they?
The year was 1990. Having been active as Coldcut since 1987, the year in which, as Ninja Tune’s current general manager Peter Quicke later puts to me, “Coldcut changed the meaning of the word remix,” with their, heavily debated, yet near-universally loved remix of Eric B & Rakim’s anthem ‘Paid In Full’. By 1990 Coldcut had reached the musical holy grail; they were touring in Japan.
“It was the first time that John and I had gone to Japan,” Black reflects. “It was a big culture shock. When you go around Europe, New Zealand and the States people look fairly similar. The food is mainly the same, and the newspapers look the same. Then when you go to Japan everything is totally fucking different. There really is a huge sensory buzz, so I think we were all buzzing on that. We were over there with Norman Cook [now known as Fatboy Slim] actually, when he was in Beats International. We were just hanging out with him and we just got taken with the idea of ninjas. There were two things [that inspired us] - [one] was a TV show that we watched about ninjas, but we couldn't tell what the dialogue was. [But] just from the action the ninjas were pretty cool. And then there was a magazine with the article ‘How To Be Ninja’, and John and I were quite inspired by these. That was where the idea came from.”
When asked how long it took them to action the idea for Ninja Tune, Black says, “It was done in the time it takes a Ninja to turn himself into a silk sheet and disappear from one room to the next.” After thinking for a moment he, perhaps more appropriately, tags on, “Let’s say an indeterminate length.”
Learn more about the future of Ninja Tunes. Read the full interview by Martyn Pepperell in the August/September 2010 issue of Rip It Up Magazine. If you live outside of New Zealand or if you are struggling to get your hands on a copy of the magazine, Subscribe to Rip It Up for as little as $39 per year!
Ninja Tune XX is due out 20 September, 2010.
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