In the space of one supremely funky hip house track 'I'm Alive', STRETCH & VERN have become overnight stars. Now they're back with a new single 'Get Up, Go lnsane,’ and they won't take no for an answer. Words: Jim Byers
Every now and then, dance music turns out a special tune that crosses over from the dancefloors of the underground scene and into the mainstream. Think Armand Van Helden’s remix of Tori Amos’s ‘Professional Widow’, Farley & Heller’s ‘Ultra Flava’ or, more recently, Byron Stingilly’s ‘Get Up’ — all clubs hits first and commercial hits second.
Stretch & Vern’s ‘l’m Alive‘ is another classic
example. The bangin’ hip house track and instantly familiar Earth Wind And Fire ‘Boogie Wonderland’ sample was an instant hit when it was released in September last year. ' The track, which was knocked up in a single afternoon, reached Number Six in the charts notching up an incredible 90,000 in pre- sales and subsequently. over 250,000 in the UK alone. This secured the inevitable appearance on Top Of The Pops, and the somewhat less predictable phone call from Liverpool goalie David James - apparently desperate for a copy.
The track was eventually licensed to over twenty British compilations, including Now That's What I Call Music 35. At its peak, original promos changed hands for £140 a time.
Things haven’t been the same since for Stuart James Silvester and Julian Peake (aka Stretch & Vern). Such was the widespread appeal of ‘I’m Alive’, the duo have been in demand as DJs across Europe. Better still, they are scheduled to play in Australia and even on board a plane somewhere
‘I whip it up and bang it up for the full hands-in-the-air experience, but I try not to take the obvious route.’ Stretch
Stretch 8: Vern: they're alive. and enjoying chart success
above Finland at an event called (wait for it) ‘Air- Rave’.
The story goes back further than ‘l’m Alive’. Stretch and Vern have been friends for eight years since they worked next door to each other in London’s Covent Garden. The friendship developed into a drinking and clubbing partnership before the pair eventually went their separate ways in the industry.
Perhaps then, it was inevitable that the pair would join forces once again. At first they started to DJ together ‘inspired by a passion for making people go mad on the dancefloor’. Later, they moved into production. Stretch made a name for himself in his Funk Esensuals guise, notably with another disco sample track ‘Bee Gee Tips’. He also records as Buzzarena (new track ‘Siobhan’ on his Furry Windmill imprint is out soon).
Vern. meanwhile, works extensively with Seb Fontaine as production and remix team Itchy & Scratchy. who also run Spot On Records. Vern has also remixed tracks for the likes of Positiva, Go! Discs and Manifesto, while Stretch & Vern also remix together as the Moonmen.
‘Get Up, Go Insane’ (Spot On) — the follow-up to ‘l’m Alive’ — sees the duo in similar sample-based anthem mode. though this time they’ve gone for a hip hop angle. Silvester dismisses any worries that the track might not live up to “I’m Alive’. ‘We’re both 29, we’ve been in clubs all our lives and we’ve made music long enough to know what works and what doesn’t,’ asserts Stretch. ‘And I know this one does.’
DJing-wise, Stretch plays what he calls ‘sugar- coated underground’ stuff’ — or, in other words. a mixture of epic trance and party tunes. ‘I whip it up and bang it up for the full hands-in-the-air experience, but I try not to take the obvious route. I try and play the best of everything and give the whole cake. not just a slice of it.’
Stretch 8: Vern make their Scottish debut at Catwalk, Club Mercado, Edinburgh on Fri 7 Mar. 'Get Up Go Insane' (Spot On) is out soon. A remix of Ariel's 'Deep
FRENCH TRIP HOP DJ Cam Glasgow: Fopp Records, Thurs 20 Mar.
'I think it is music for the head,‘ explains French abstract hip hop artist DJ Cam when asked to describe his stunning Substances (lnflammabIe/Columbia) album. 'It is music for home,’ he continues, choosing his words carefully so as not to be misunderstood. 'It is not dancefloor music.’
In 1994 Cam, who has been Dling since the age of fifteen, released his first album Underground Vibes, a collection of melancholy hip hop instrumentals and jazz samples on his independent imprint Street Jazz - a label he now reserves for jazz compilations. Now, alongside Daft Punk, Dimitri, Motorbass, La Funk Mob, Air, Eric Rug, and The Mighty Bop he is living proof that techno producer Laurent Garnier isn't the only Frenchman capable of producing great music.
Substances (released on Cam's new label Inflammable) stretches across a magnificent soundscape that touches on abstract ambient, trip hop, jazz, warped hip hop, deep Detroit-tinged experimentation and even a bit of drum ’n’ bass. It is truly progressive, featuring several beautifully-crafted 'pieces' of music.
Cam has also worked with Mo Wax beat freak DJ Krush, a collaboration which came about after the Frenchman name-checked the Japanese artist on Underground Vibes. Krush phoned back to say thanks. Cam went to Tokyo, Krush visited Paris and the pair became friends. They have since worked together in New York on a track for Krush's forthcoming album.
That aside, Cam produces house as Jazzmaster and is currently working on another project under the monicker Silent Way. He has also worked with Tek 9, Air, Dimitri, Mighty Bop, Vadim and Japan's Silent Poet. His main aim, however, is to work with American rappers like Gang Starr's Guru, Jew The Damaja and Tribe Called Quest’s Q Tip. Only one problem though, they're all too expensive.
For now, he has created a truly inspirational album: a timeless. cosmopolitan classic that could have been made in Detroit, London or on Mars. But who cares where it's from when it's this good. (Jim Byers)
I Substances (Co/umbia) is out on 77 Mar.
DJ Cam: he's a cool trip-hop type dude and, what's more he's French
7—20 Mar 1997 TIIE “3173