Nextmen: Staying ahead of the mash-up pack

Dance music just aint the factionalised collection of different scenes that it used to be, and thank god for that. The genres are crossing over, identity challenged scenes like fidget are smashing down boundaries, and the mash-up approach is as big as it ever was. However, some people have been doing it for longer than others. Like America’s Z-Trip who is one of the most enduring supporters of the mash-up aesthetic, UK’s the Nextmen have an impressive heritage behind them, with a sound that includes everything from breaks to drum n’ bass to hip hop to jazz to funk to soul to whatever.

“We don’t really look at what others are doing when putting together mixes,” Nextmen’s Brad Baloo told ITM. “We just work with music that we love, which is more than I can say for a lot of new DJs who play any trendy trollop in every direction without any real affection for good music. It takes more than the Goonies soundtrack, some Jethro Tull samples, a bunch of Ed Banger 12 inches and some wet look leggings to really rock a crowd of music lovers.” Don’t mess with the old-school. ITM gets down with Nextmen to mark their Australian tour which is ripping round the country currently.

Your mixes often contain a wide variety of music, but I’ve noticed more and more DJs doing the kind of thing you do. How do you set yourselves above the others?

We don’t really look at what others are doing when putting together mixes. But for us, one reason doing fresh mixes is harder these days is because there is less music we like being released. Of course the UK dubstep and drum n’ bass scenes are both really healthy but the mash up scene can be a bit dry. It’s hard to be an eclectic DJ because it requires taking a number of risks and the ability to be able to move seamlessly between different genres and through different tempos. That said, I went down the local for a pint the other night and there was a bloke playing a Nextmen style set and he came up to me at the end and said he started DJing after he saw us play years ago, which was pretty sweet. He seemed genuinely chuffed I was there having a quiet one.

You’ve remixed Steve Winwood’s I’m A Man. How did this come about?

Steve called our management. Surprisingly for us, he, his wife and his kids are all fans and had apparently been wanting to do something for a while. It was a great experience. I’m a massive fan of the Spencer Davis Group and this is probably our favorite track of his. I mean, I think The Bamboos did a version of this at my wedding? But it was a bit surreal. When we were working on this, I’d check the email and boom, there’s Steve in the inbox. It was pretty awesome really. He has an amazing voice.

Is there any one you’ve wanted to remix and been refused by?

No one’s refused us. We’ve been really lucky I guess in that respect. A lot of artists we really respect like Public Enemy, Groove Armada, Morcheeba, The Pharcyde, Blackalicious, Fat Freddy’s Drop, High Contrast, Yes King – we’ve worked with them all and try and make time when we can to do any good remix that comes our way. It’s more about time than anything.

Your last album was a really solid album, your song writing was a cut above most other DJ-cum-producer albums, and I can’t help but wonder where do you go from here?

That’s very kind of you to say. Hopefully our new LP called Join The Dots takes it up a notch from there. We are definitely finding our form as songwriters and producers, especially in the last 18 months, and we’re just trying to make sure we cover all our bases. We’ve always written dancehall, reggae, hip hop and soul tracks, but we’re just working with Groove Armada and Miss Dynamite on a club track and we’ve just finished a pretty hilarious old-school mock Shaggy “girls, girls, girls” track with Dynamite MC, you can imagine the LA hotpants and gold chains. That man’s got ladies.

You’ve played with a full 10 piece band before – are you likely to tour with that band any time soon?

It’s really hard to make it work logistically to be honest. Also, at the moment, our DJ calendar is full and we haven’t had time to think beyond that and the new album. Ultimately over time we’d like to do more live stuff. Much of the promo for the last LP was done as an acoustic three piece. Me on the piano, Dom on guitar and Zarif singing. That was really fun. I guess we’ll do launch events around as much of the globe as we can for the new LP with the full band and then promote it through a DJ tour with selected acoustic sessions. Sounds like a lot of hard work to me!!

I’ve heard you have a soft spot for Australia, and Australia certain has one for you guys. With high speed internet, laptop composition tools, and cheap flights overseas and the like, could you see yourselves relocating here

What’s not to love? Great people, great music, great weather & space and general deliciousness – I must replace half of the fluid in my body with coffee every time I go back. I am married to an Australian and father of a lovely Australian son. I’ve loved it ever since we first toured back in 2003 – 2004. Especially Melbourne which I know one day is where I’ll settle when we relocate permanently when we’re older. And apparently in a year or two I can have an Australian passport once I pass some test which I imagine will be: sing two verses of Throw Your Arms Around Me, eat twelve lamingtons, name ten swimming gold medalists, say how long it takes to BBQ various meats, shorten every word you can and add the ‘o’ sound to the end of it, and know how to place a bet on the Melbourne Cup. Oh, and talk for an hour non-stop about the change. God it’s hot, when’s the change coming? What are you doing? Waiting for the change. Want to go for a pot? After the change. The bloody change! Bingo, there’s your Australian passport.

Nextmen tour dates:

23rd April – Transit Bar, Canberra

24th April – Roxanne Parlour, Melbourne

25th April – Halo, Hobart

26th April – Villa, Perth

1st May – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney

2nd May – Groovin the Moo, Townsville

2nd May – TBC, Brisbane