By J.C. Tripp
Hailing from Bristol, England, Up, Bustle and Out are producers Rupert Mould and ‘Clandestine Ein’ who met in 1989 while hosting the pirate radio show. ‘For the People’ radio boasted Bristol’s most inspiring DJs – Daddy G & The Massive Attack, Smith & Mighty. The pair produced an early single, “Une Amitie Africaine” (released on their own Forever Groove label in 1991) bringing early attention to their talents for fusing sounds.
The pair pursued other interests until 1993, when they reformed to produce material they eventually sent to Coldcut’s Ninja Tune label. Impressed with their work, Ninja Tune released Up, Bustle and Out’s debut, “The Breeze Was Mellow (As the Guns Cooled in the Cellar)” in 1994, catching the ears of American hip-hop DJs as well as the more eclectic British underground.
Getting an itch to disembark from their Bristol home, the duo travelled for two years, archiving source material for their follow-up, “One Colour Just Reflects Another”, utilizing field recordings from excursions to Mexico, Central America, the Middle East, and the Andalusian mountains, where Mould played with and recorded Gypsies, smugglers, thieves, and revolutionaries. Combining those source tapes with hip-hop beats, percussion and instrumental tracks recorded in the studio, and vocal and spoken snippets, the group fashioned a unique, signature blend attracting fans of Latin jazz and world music as well as hip hop heads.
From this point on the Up, Bustle & Out quest continued with 1997’s “Light ‘Em Up, Blow ‘Em Out” with more wordly flavoures with elements of the bands’ journeys as well as deleted and previously unavailable material. On October 8th 1997 the group released a timely EP single in memory of Che Guevara on the 30th anniversary since his death in combat, a sign of projects to come.
UBO’s Cuban connection and desire to combine music, text and film was fully realized on “Rebel Radio Master Sessions”, a Havana-meets-Bristol project that encompassed 2 CDs, a book (‘The Rebel Radio Diary’) and a 16mm film shot by Mr Jules ‘Shoes’ Elvins of ‘Waldo Films. Working with the renowned composer-arranger Richard Egües, the group alternated their trademark smokey-urban sound with Egües’s tropical arrangements. “Rebel Radio Master Sessions” was a groundbreaking moment for UBO, showing that traditional and more contemporary urban sounds can fit together just as generations can.
At this point UB&O departed from Ninja Tune and took some time out, releasing the “Urban Evacuation” album on Germany’s Unique Records. Fast forward to 2004 and the UB&O ship lands back in Bristol for “City Breakers” a hip hop-reggae crossover featuring the talents of MC Blaze (of Roni Size fame). Her powerful stage presence and delivery has projected UB&O’s Sound System into bigger performance halls. In addition to MC Blaze, Spiritual Rasta ‘Ras Jabulani’ from Black Roots adds his mystique and deep, earthy tones as does Rudeboy DJ ‘Mexican’ with his frank, witty and hard-hitting toasting. Spanish Guitar Maestro Cuffy ‘El Guapo’ adds his touch to the mix. The mix between vocal and instrumentals is equally thought-out with songs like ‘Bob Your Head’, ‘Everyday’, ‘Dance Your Troubles Away’, ‘500cc Revolutionary’, ‘Song For You, Soldier Boy’ are all experimentally funky productions.
“City Breakers” was met with overwhelming critical praise and UB&O have wisely followed up with 2 vinyl-only remix 12″s that have become must-plays for leading DJs and radio programmers. These two volumes bring together an impressive array of remixers from across the board, including Lightning Head (aka Biggabush) King Britt (“Dance Your Troubles Away”) GB (“Bob Your Head”), Beatfanatic “Tabla Talkin’ Dub”) and Butch Cassidy Soundsystem (“Everyday”). As if proof were needed, the City Breakers remixes shows that UB&O are not to be discounted and are clearly headed toward bigger horizons.
In addition to their work as Up, Bustle and Out, Ein and Mould are also involved in solo projects extending well beyond the boundaries of their combined effort. Mould performs with a traditional Andean flute group, while Ein is a studio producer and engineer, also recording club tracks under a number of different names.
Infused in all of their efforts is a political and social outlook that is both revolutionary in imagery concept and humanistic in tone and content. Up, Bustle & Out were there at the beginning of the whole urban music game and they will most definitely be there at the end when with music and cultural awareness minds open and social change becomes reality.
MUNDOVIBES: You have travelled a great deal and performed in many “exotic” locales. What are the roots of this? What got you into this way of life?
RUPERT MOULD: Principally I feel that music belongs to the world, is outside of its political boundaries and that the same time represents the many cultures of this world. It is important to remember that many cultures live around frontiers and are not often country specific. It is also the eccentricity that is created when meeting musicians with different perspectives to my own, and working on something together. What often happens is an unusual encounter where fusion becomes the root.
Literature also opens the world without necessarily travelling in it. I have learned a lot by reading, listening, seeing films — such as the great Eastern European film director Emir Kusturica, through his films I have learnt about Gypsy music. After we release “City Breakers, the Mexican Sessions”, we will be following with a new album set in eastern Europe. It will be called “Bohemia: Former Kingdoms Speak”. We already have done a 12-track production, what I need to do now is go over there, travel and see what the route throws up at me.
With portable recording equipment, professional at that, I am often lucky to capture moments of great magic, such as the Mexican sessions when I visited Catemaco, Veracruz, home to black and white magic, known as ‘la brujeria’. Here, just the geography and colours and strangeness of it all was sufficient for me to write 2 songs. What I found there were huge trees with roots that were divorced from the soil, a volcano that had blown its top, becoming a black crater full of black water, with black shoreline where strange birds chattered as if wanting to talk to you in their strange language. In the evening I was invited to communicate with such a strange world through percussion and dance. This is what I did and then read up on the mythology of catemaco, and began to make songs about surrealism, circumstances outside of our everyday lives, where there is a lot of confusion in what is principally a love song, where animals are converted into stranger creatures, muses, musicians, almost like a battle between nature, forces and characters. And finally out of this anarchy comes harmony.
I am grateful to the witches of Catemaco for allowing me into this unusual world and not only as a spectator rather as an artist to then reinterpret these experiences musically, painting a musical canvas full of imagery and this whole idea that sharing cultures, working together can create these magical fusions.
In Europe people have always crossed borders, looked beyond their continent, married. The distances have never seen too great, and adventure is a very prominent seed in our souls.
MUNDOVIBES: Your creative method seems to be based heavily on travel and you clearly have a “global” perspective. How much of your music comes from you and how much comes from the culture or place you are involved with? In other words, how you meld your ideas with your collaborators?
‘CLANDESTINE’ EIN: Up, Bustle & Out are firstly a Bristol, UK-based band and this is where our roots are to be found, the soul of UB&O if you like. The city has always had a rich and varied musical heritage, with all the influences of Jazz, Reggae, Asian, Latin and Hip Hop combining to create a great working environment for us. This means that we are never short of musical collaborators to inspire us; there is always a new perspective fresh musicians can give to our projects.
For example, our latest release “City Breakers”, is true to this way
of working. Rupert and myself work on a basic backing track with just a few beats, chords and basslines — we try to keep it simple. This gives room for the others to express themselves. Eugenia, our long serving percussionist from Argentina is usually the first to add her fluid and experimental beats that help to give the whole mix a human rhythm. Cuffy ‘El Guapo’ now adds an original Flamenco guitar to the mix along with Colombian Freddy’s authentic Latin-style trumpet playing. Lastly our resident Jamaicans ‘DJ Mexican’ and ‘Ras Jabulani’ come in to give it a realistic roots feel on vocals .
However, once this is all done it’s up to the UB&O crew to give it our unique flavour on the mix ,this is what really gives us our ‘sound’. We have all the tracks up on the mixing desk and here we start to mix and mute the music, applying our own ideas and perspectives to create the sound we want. Radical use of eq and dub effects help to give it that special flavour in the time honoured tradition of Jamaica’s ‘King Tubby’ .
Past UB&O albums have featured a bewildering mix of so many cultures and styles from across the globe, but on ‘City Breakers’ we have moved on to experiment with a more home-grown style, but still based on the varied influences listed above. Having so many collaborators close at hand with their own cultural input into our projects has helped to keep our sound fresh and inspired, constantly moving in new directions, instead of being pigeon – holed into a standard dance/world category. Our upcoming “Mexican Sessions”‘ project will continue this theme but this time including contemporary Mexican influences and working with renowned artists from that country.
MUNDOVIBES: So, collaboration is an imporant element of Up, Bustle & Out concept. What other themes, ideas and concepts are central to what you are?
‘CLANDESTINE’ EIN: The most important concept for UB&O is that of experimental fusion of styles and influences, the creative freedom to mix in elements from Latin, Jazz, World and Dance genres . This means that there isn’t really a standard UB&O style, but people will always remember ‘Hand of Contraband’, ‘Y ahora Tu’ and ‘Carbine 744’ as our signature tunes, though these were all done some time ago. Since then we have branched out to encompass Flamenco, Dub Reggae, Ambient, and Hip Hop styles, as you can hear on ‘City Breakers’ .
This musical approach perhaps echo’s our own personal outlook of the world, that perhaps we should not allow ourselves to be guided by rules and convention and always apply our own set of values to what we do. Having said that, integrity, honesty and sharing should be the guiding principles and this is reflected in our creative output. We are, after all doing this because we want listeners to enjoy our sounds and receive something meaningful from our music.
On the subject of sharing, file sharing in particular, I am excited by the way that new technology has helped people to hear our sounds, even though our record company may not agree with that. It’s pretty amazing that with the internet you can send music around the world in seconds and this has also helped us in our writing of songs. We have been able to collaborate on tracks with musicians thousands of miles away by sending demos and mixes between studios, and all without having to use jet airplanes and their contribution to global warming.
To draw another parallel with the real world, recycling has always been a creative tool near to my heart. Instead of relying on preprogrammed sounds in the studio, I find the search for unique elements on long-deleted vinyl a real labour of love, and my local car-boot sale every Sunday is a rich seam of ‘sonic gold’. There is no direct sampling of musical riffs or songs, just the minute clips that can be collated and assembled into unusual sounding backing tracks, all in our original UB&O style.
Politics, there’s no way of getting away from this one in our shrinking global world. We have tried to steer clear of any direct political message in our music, it makes more sense to let people work it out for themselves. However, I hope our experimental and diverse sounds will encourage free and forward thinking, not easy in today’s climate of total media saturation and political manipulation. But if there has to be a message it is that there is only one Earth and we had better take good care of it and one another.
MUNDOVIBES: The Up, Bustle & Out sound combines many seemingly disparate elements? What is the logic or philosophy behind this mix of sounds and music?
‘CLANDESTINE’ EIN: All music is a blend of all that has gone before, constantly combining and cross-pollinating styles to create new genres. What we are doing is simply continuing this concept, taking elements from many cultures from across the world and through time to make our own sound all within the framework of our trademark mixing philosophy. All musicians should be free to try out absolutely anything if it sounds good. There should be no conservative restrictions on what is ‘cool’ or what is ‘current’, the only arbiter should be if people enjoy hearing it. This follows a parallel with real life where those who are less confident endlessly follow the crowd here and there, whilst others are setting out on new journeys both physical and intellectual. Having said that we do have the greatest respect for those musicians who have excelled in established genres and further refined those art forms, I am thinking here of the Jazz masters and those working on the cutting edge of new music today.
A worrying modern development is that of the ‘tastemaker’ a job with disturbing Orwellian overtones, that is to say someone who tells other people what they ‘should’ be listening to, what they ‘must’ enjoy and what they should be thinking. I mean, isn’t musical taste supposed to be a reflection of your own personality, or is it just another way to blend in with the ‘in crowd’ to be unseen. Whatever, UB&O will be making music that challenges the influence of this insidious group, the so-called tastemakers.
MUNDOVIBES: How do you find or choose your collaborators?
‘CLANDESTINE’ EIN: Our collaborators a drawn from a wide circle of Jamaicans, Argentineans, Cubans, Mexicans, Indians and Europeans, in fact anyone who has something to contribute to our projects from far or near. We invited vocalists such as MC Blaze, DJ Mexican and Ras Jabulani to articulated their own thoughts, thus giving others on input into the philosophy of the whole “City Breakers” project .
Our percussionist Eugenia has been with us since the beginning and together with Flamenco guitar maestro Cuffy has added an essential live element to our music. Freddy who played trumpet on the album was actually in the UK with his band from Colombia when we asked him to contribute on the off chance. This idea of collaboration has become yet more important to our writing process, and our future projects will definitely be moving in this direction.
MUNDOVIBES: What was the concept behind the “City Breakers” release? How did this project come together?
‘CLANDESTINE’ EIN: Perhaps unlike many of our other projects ‘City Breakers’ is more urban based ,and more centred on one locality, less of the world and more of the city which is maybe a world in itself. Living as we do in a city with a rich multicultural heritage we wanted to do a project that said something about where we we from and about some of the local culture that has influenced us and this is why it has featured heavily the local musicians of Bristol. The atmosphere is certainly more smokey, just like the town, giving voice to some of the ups and downs of inner city life, but with also a positive note of hope for the future .
MUNDOVIBES: What role do visuals play in UBO?
RUPERT MOULD: Important. As mentioned above even instrumental tracks are sown with imagery, beginning with the title. I’ll give you an example, ‘the revolutionary woman of the windmill’ tells the story of an isolated woman working the land, her life has peace. However this is threatened when a man invades her world. The woman is represented by the flute, the man by the Spanish guitar. The music creates harmony, then becomes tenser until the music is halted and the sound of the guitar is heard. What follows is a chase between instruments, and various promotions are created throughout the song’s lifetime. So that is imaginary.
Also, many of our albums have been made with the inclusion of film, the Cuban master sessions have five films in total, they are filmed on super 8 and 16 mm film, both great mediums to capture imagery. It was important to film the Cuban master session series because we wished to show life on the island, the people, the colours, the nature and overall show to the public the effort and experience that had gone behind the making of this to album series. When we perform as a sound system we also project our films behind us, they are well liked.
MUNDOVIBES: You had a longstanding relationship with Ninjatune. What brought it an end?
RUPERT MOULD: Ninja Tune have done very well, worked hard to become successful. We have respect for this achievement. However, us being from Bristol always made us feel a little bit isolated, for me they felt like a London boys club. This was at odds with the hard work that we put in for the label, in fact it was our sound that brought the world to Ninja Tune as we were multicultural and attracted European, American listeners. Yet we didn’t really partake in their overall philosophy, and showcases. We made the most number of albums on their label, 5 and in a very short space of time. We currently are working on our tenth album, and still looking for a good home. At least though, we have the freedom of experimentation, the right to work in our own way and produce our own sound. This counts for a great deal, it keeps us in the vanguard, and responsible for the revolutionary sound.
‘CLANDESTINE’ EIN: We had a very rewarding relationship with Ninja and they gave us the freedom to develop our own ideas. As one reviewer said ‘only Ninja would back such a madcap project as this. Of course the label were proved right in the end as our records are still selling well. However, we wanted to move away from the monolithic Ninja tag and develop in ourselves in our own right as a band.This has also given us inspiration to experiment with musical styles that may not fit with the Ninja sound, however there’s no saying ‘never’ as far as the future is concerned.
MUNDOVIBES: You have worked in two musical regions, mixing urban beats with genres like cumbia and son. Is there a bridge between the urban music culture and the more rural music culture of places like Mexico, Cuba and Colombia. Can music create a common ground?
RUPERT MOULD: We often travel, explore not just geographically but musically, always looking for new fusion, and exciting combination of genres.
we must remember that Up, Bustle and Out are quirky by nature, a great fusion of musicians, producers, personalities – and all this we have brought to our sound. Some of us are more traditional in our views on the world and take our own inspiration from folkloric music, some of us are more rooted in the beginnings of hip-hop, funk and urban grooves. So we bring all this together, and make danceable music, often with a message, even trying to so imagery into instrumental songs. Of course music can create a common ground due to the fact that it can unite people in a musical language that talks even when they don’t share a common spoken language. working with people from different countries can be very rewarding and add progression to your overall musical capability.
MUNDOVIBES: You refer to important revolutionary figures and ideas in both your music and imagery, Che Guevara in particular. With the world more oppressed than ever by corporate rule as opposed to the former model of colonialism, is it time for a new “revolution” and if so, what kind? What can music do to help accomplish this?
RUPERT MOULD: I am now convinced having travelled the world, met the people in, fluent in many languages, travelled across hard and inaccessible lands that corporate rule will inevitably lead to a world of greed, a form of ‘take manufacture and throwaway’ society and beliefs, and yet what will destroy is quicker will be environmental issues. Of course, I am aware that corporate greed is fundamental in the destruction of the environment, yet also is overpopulation. I am convinced that the next revolution will be global, people-orientated, a united global cause where people will want corporate businesses, governments to listen to the environmentalists, anthropologists, scientists, botanists, etc. and take on issues that will affect every single one of those living here – overpopulation and destruction of the planet.
Of course through music we can send messages, all the great musicians who cared about their communities, the world they live in, immediate surroundings did so. I am talking about Juan Luis Guerra, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Gill Scot Heron, Last Poets on Environment etc… Up, Bustle & Out have always sent out messages of a social, political, environmental, fantastical, and reality vibe. There are levels to which this may be done, it is a good to preach to music, neither is a good to have a high moral tone. So you need a lightheartedness, and through music with rhythm and melody a good message is often effectively carried.
In Juan Luis Guerra’s music, for example ‘Ojala que llueva cafe’ – we have a song about one crop economies, about how the people of the Dominican Republic are suffering and poor, they need rain and they need it desperately, for only through rain will they be given the possibility of having a fruitful coffee harvest. the song opens with the title, the asking to Providence, to a god, to some other force or being that can possibly help them. The whole songs full of imagery of the countryside of the hard work of the dryness, and yet the song is light-hearted, and brings the real issues without a depressing, heavy musical tone. And who is singing for this change? The whole nation, United and hopeful.
‘CLANDESTINE’ EIN: No, is the answer to this as revolutions can be very messy affairs and afterwards it’s the same old faces in control. What we need is a slow revolution of our minds. It won’t happen over-night as we are all so addicted to our 21st Century lifestyle, but gradually people are beginning to see it will be in everyone’s interest to live a life of peace and respect in harmony with our world.
We must all realize we are individually responsible for everything that is done in our names, it’s no good blaming the politicians and businessmen, it is we who are buying their crazy schemes. Wishing for ‘strong leaders’ is no good, it’s up to everyone to make the difference themselves, the task is too great for one man or woman. However let the likes of Che and Mandela be an inspiration to us and show what can be done against the odds if there is the will.
MUNDOVIBES: Imagine Up, Bustle & Out is as popular as, say, Michael Jackson. What would you hope or imagine your impact might be?
RUPERT MOULD: I would want to use my influence in the most beneficial way to mankind and the world we live in. I would invest in education, and form an environmental group, bringing awareness to environmental disasters, depletion of natural habitat and animal life. This may sound unthought out, of course I would seek the influence and knowledge of some of the leaders in this field, such as university professors, and work with a group of like minded leaders in an informed and passionate way that would not isolate my audience through heavy jargon, rather make more aware of the challenges we face if we are to survive as people in a beautiful and complex world. education is fundamental and the youth must understand that in this world of quick access, purchase power – it is in fact that things that we study for, work towards, achieve that bring the greatest rewards and happiness. If I was on the world stage this is the message I would get across, however I will also look to home and invest in a department to my local university for those who want to study the issues of population, environmental concerns etc, for these people might go on to become the ones who revolutionise the way we think, live and reflect upon the world we live in.
Let’s face it, leaders like George Bush have no concerns about the environment, poverty, climate change, making changes…they are all just petty gestures that come as afterthoughts. The environment is the most important challenge we face, it is not an issue at the bottom of the pile. History will look back on leaders like George Bush and expose him for the short-term, money orientated individual that he is. When future generations are faced with major problems they may well ask how it is that in the years 2000, political leaders were so slow to take on the environmental challenge.
War for oil is so petty in comparison. It just keeps a few shareholders, arms traders feeling better about themselves. Murdering 120,000 people is nothing to be proud of, and it is no answer to the real issues of poverty and global concerns.
‘CLANDESTINE’ EIN: It is something I would not really want to imagine given the way that Michael is being treated at the moment, to be surrounded by parasites and yes men and hounded by an obsessive and biased media. I feel that his predicament is a clear statement of the values of our society, after all doesn’t everyone want to be ‘famous’? Think again.
However if our music was as widely listened to as Jackson’s we would feel as if we had achieved something really worthwhile on a personal level. I mean what musician could be happier knowing he/she is influencing so many people with their sound, and what a great legacy to leave behind.
Impact wise, I would hope it would encourage everyone to be more open minded about music, to know that experimentation is for everyone to explore. Music is for people, not for money making machines.
MUNDOVIBES: Rupert, your writing has been a separate creative outlet for you. How do you approach being both an autor and musician. Is your music and writing all part of one creative vision for you or do you separate the two in terms of themes?
RUPERT MOULD: literature is so important to me, you really have to feel what you are writing whether it be a song or a book. Such feeling can come easily, or be difficult to find, yet I love what I do, my music and my words live in me, and I cannot imagine my life without this creative tension, outlet. words are generated through the need to express feeling, as is music, for this they are closely linked and it is no surprise that so many musicians are also considered poets, and continue to publish books. Words have rhythm and are musical too. I often look in to a sentence, move it around, change it, chisel it so as to give it a good, solid flow and rhythm. I would like to be a successful writer, I am proud of my first two books and have more inside me waiting to be written. I just wish I could find an agent who would take me on. the approach is similar, first comes the feeling, the idea, what needs to be said and then you think, experiment about how you are going to get this across. I have studied music and read literature beyond a master’s level, I feel it is important to have a very good solid understanding of what great people in the world of literature music have had to say. music and words live in me, they have formed the person that I am, I cannot imagine another way of living, for me it would be like living and having nothing to say.
Now I am off to Turkey, and I hope to make it to the East and to the border with Iraq, my sister wishes to work with the Kurdish people, and I have agreed to accompany her.
MUNDOVIBES: Will we see an UBO tour anytime soon? What adventures are on the horizon for the group?
RUPERT MOULD: We are dying with enthusiasm to make a tour across Europe, the Americas – particularly Mexico. We are just waiting for the invitation, a record label to support us and then we shall be releasing three albums in succession, with videos, photography and literature.