Brit-ish: OK, can you first introduce yourself and let the readers know a bit about where you are coming from?
B: Where were you born and where did you grow up?
Carlon: I was born in Hatfield, near Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Incidentally it smells of small girl’s wee wee and I hate it. But I lived there for nine years of my life until I moved to a secret location in the Notts area. I still live there now and it does remind me of France at times.
B: So is Mr Montana and Carlon Stardom two different facets of the same person? One a production persona and the other an MC persona?
Carlon: Yes, Mr Montana is my production name and my DJ name on many pirate stations. Carlon Stardom is the first persona I have unleashed on the world. It is my vocal name, the other is my beat –making, musical moniker.
B: Could you describe the mentality of each? Carlon frankly doesn't seem to give two chuffs? Is it just an act?
Carlon: Carlon gives less than two chuffs and it is not as far removed from an act as I would like to believe. Carlon is a small-time porn film maker who uses amateur equipment, real housewife models and real locations to shoot his low fi aural grot. When you listen to the album you will get that feeling of pure homemade uncensored smut. And that is Carlon Stardom – the Steve Perry of rap music. Models required. Listen to the album and feel that fly-on the wall, uncut true housewives approach. It’s real sex and sex sells.
B: What other personas are there in you waiting to burst forth? Do you have a bit of a split personality?
Carlon: Well Carlon Stardom has another two albums about to drop then he’s moving to the US where he will pursue a career under the guise of John Magnum, a 80s porn star/producer who has a weakness for Lamborghinis, hair gel and Don Johnson suites with the rolled sleeves. The first John Magnum is based in Miami in 1984 and is packed full of brash blondes in jeans who all have a passion for diamonds.
The beats are so 80s it’s unbelievable – synths, vocoders – I’ve blown myself away by this album!
I’m also working on a double CD under my real name Matthew Thomas entitled ‘The Happiest Days Of Your Lives’ and the beats on that are on some high-pitch heaven vocal loops. Very soulful and very real. That’s a serious album and is sounding incredible, got like 30 odd tracks done but have to now pick out the real killers. That album is also radio friendly but very real – a pure summer album. Droppin in the Summer. Then there’s my final persona Doctor Venkman – a real ghostbuster who will present the world with one album based on the cheesy Horror movie genre. Can’t reveal too much but be prepared for some very sinister sounds.
B: How did you come by your names? Is Mr Montana a reference to paint? Carlon Stardom on the other hand is a very unusual moniker, there must be some weird story behind that?
Carlon: Mr Montana was a name I made up on the spot when I went along to the studios of The Big FM mid 99. I’d carried the records for a DJ on there and did mic duties for his show but didn’t have a consistent name so had to think quick. And that name was born – loosely based on Graf writing, loosely based on the icon, Tony Montana. Carlon Stardom on the other hand, came from a member of my family who misheard me when I told them about Carlton Palmer’s court case. I said ‘Carlton Palmer’ they heard ‘Carlon Stardom’ and repeated it. And that’s how that name came about – the product of a half deaf bastard who did the Peter Kaye ‘Garlic Bread??’ routine. They’re still alive but disabled.
B: Right, so how did you first get into Hip Hop, and when would this have been?
Carlon: I got into hip hop at the age of nine, from listening to National Fresh on Radio One. For those that remember, it was a one hour show on Friday night which was presented by Jeff Young. Still at school, it was such a buzz to tape all this new music that hardly anyone I knew was into. The artists who really got me into it were; De La Soul, Public Enemy, Big Daddy Kane, ATCQ, JBs……. any artists big in 1990/91. Since then it’s been all uphill – I’ve consistently followed the scene every year. Some say the modern scene is not a patch on the golden era, but I disagree. I just think that the majority of mediums most people use to hear new music are essentially ‘pop’ based sources (Radio One, MTV Networks). They push and present the mediocre side of our music, the ‘obvious’ artists ( Neptunes – every beat a slight variation on the last/ Ja Rule – trash/Nelly – ditto/The Lox/that Argos catalogue keyboard produced Ruff Ryder sound – it’s pop music. May it all burn.) For those who want to hear the quality music they need to look further than the hip hop Max Clifford that is Tim Westwood and have a dig of mixtape/independent distributors – Ruf Beats/Wolftown/Suspect Packages. Go to jams, go on the web, look for it yourself. Don’t be happy with spoon fed music placed on a plate by politically motivated Djs, seeking friendship and hugs from the people who make the records they play. By the same token though, if you like something – go buy it. Whether it be a No Limit release or an Eastern Conference 12”, if you like it listen to it. These are my opinions and not the views of this site. Or Tim Westwood
B: So, you are now from the North Notts region, one of the hot areas of a lot of untapped potential.So break it down, who are the artists in your locale you really rate? Who is going to be the next big thing from your area and surrounds?Carlon: I’m now based in between some key areas for hip hop in the UK. Nottingham hasa thriving scene with artists such as Out Da Ville, Cappo, P Brothers etc all makin big moves. Sheffield is to the north of me and that has a whole underground scene as well as the more well-known artists such as Doyen D, Hoodz Undaground etc. In my immediate surroundings there’s quite a good hip hop following – but it is really underground. There’s one geez form my towncalled Wordsearch who is set to release a self made documentary entitled ‘Look Norf’ which will cover Notts, Sheff, Manchester, Derby. I’ve seen the finished product and some of the raw footage round at his place and it is quality. Artists on there like Out Da Ville, P Brothers, Cappo, Blood & Jones, Mr CRF, Hoods Underground, Dermo, Chester P plus much much more. I honestly think that if he can get the support, that vid could be massive. So keep ya eyes peeled and get in touch with him if you wanna know more on 07980 127505.
B: Can you break down some of what has been happening Hip Hop wise in the Notts/Sheffield/Mansfield conurbations and the surrounding areas over the last few years? What I mean is who are the local heads who have been performing, putting on shows and setting up pirate radio stations?
Carlon: All the artists I mentioned in the last question are out there now, plus a whole roster of artists on Fascination Records. Pirate radio is something that I have been involved with for about 10 years. Got my own little station Fascination FM and done many shows on various stations but at the mo you can catch the following on air : VIBE FM 88.7 (Mansfield, Sat Night), CREST FM 106.9 (Sheffield, occasionally on), SUNSHINE LIFE 106.6 (just closed but may be back). Plus me and DJ Scotty are planning big things for a new station for the Notts region. Can’t say too much but its gonna be like old times. I’ll cater for the hip hop, DJ Scotty the old skool and it’ll be tight. Watch 99.9 FM for an explosion. Any DJs who wanna get on out there, send us an e mail and we’ll sort something out. You don’t have to be brilliant, just have the energy to do it.
The major players in the pirate scene over the last decade have been Fantasy FM (Sheffield), SCR (Sheffield), The Big FM, Freedom FM, Dance FM, Kool FM, Joy FM, Fresh Fm – all based in Sheffield. Mansfield had its monumental stations like Dance Power FM, Vibe FM, Sunrise FM, Energy Rush FM, Mack FM – all classic stations. Pirate radio is set to boom once we get digital and the FM band frees up. You can all count on me. Shouts to Paul G, Jake Jay, Raz – look out for their online station. Click here to go to it - on every Saturday.
B: OK, what are the main club nights round your way? What makes a good night out for you? Would it be a night when you were performing, or do you have a better time when you go to watch acts?
Carlon: Po Na Na in Sheffield is a strong night out- plus Bed. Depends what you want – shiny or grimy? Grimy is Marcus Garvey in Nottm. Some dark nights there. Seen some acts all ova but none as amazing as me on the mic. I am particularly ruthless when I put on ‘You Can’t Touch This’ and do a sideways moonwalk past Cooplands on a weekday. I went to a NY Sushi night in Sheffield but spent tha whole night in the ladies tying to squeeze out a chair-legger onto the windowsill. Incidentally, I was arrested and cautioned for that and the inexcusable misuse of a kestrel. Rather bizarre but true.
B: What have been the best gigs you have done and why? And have there been any mad experiences you can share with the readers?
Carlon: I recently did a gig in Derby and got my van nicked from the club. I wasn’t that bothered about the van but it contained a copy of the new Carlon Stardom album which is not out till the Spring. The Police came but they were useless- Sting had stubbed his toe a couple of hours earlier and was still in a stroppy mood with everyone. So that is out there somewhere – but it’s only a draft copy, unmixed etc. I wanna do more live performances so if any promoters out there – let us come and entertain your crowds for free. E mail me to let me know the deal.
B: Is it a problem being from an area where there is, on the surface not much of a Hip Hop scene and less competition to make you raise your game? What are the bad points and what are the good things about being so far away from London where most of the UK's music business is?
Carlon: Well, the best thing is that the majority of hip hop music from London is wank. Full of fakers, copycats and crossover puffs. In the North and Midlands every artist has their own unique sound and approach to making music. Nobody follows American trends and Radio One-fuelled fashions when making their music. That might keep most of us unsigned – but so many of us up here do it for the fukkin buzz! I could reel off artists like Mr CRF, Aerosolik Records, Out Da Ville, Ruf Label…too many to mention. All unique, all starving to make product that we can feel. So many fans and artists in London have ate too much hip hop and are fat and lazy. In the North and Midlands we genuinely still love hip hop. Most southerners don’t. Your plates are too full. We have to scrounge around for hip hop , doin full time jobs all week and then makin music at the weekends. There are no bad points.
B: It is obvious that so far you have taken a certain route to stand out from everyone else? Was this intentional and what else do you have up your sleeves to make heads pay attention?
Carlon: Yeah it was definitely intentional. I just wanted to create something that you could not buy anywhere else. Something that will make you laugh and make you ashamed to listen to it. Something that you will only play when your lass is not around or you are away from a built-up area. A comedy album in the mould of League of Gentleman, Reeves & Mortimer and Monty Python, with a twist of Benny Hill and Chubby Brown. Oh, and a hint of Billy Pearce for good measure.A real silly but downright filthy album, stretched to the limit with musky scented musical forefingers. The perfect Valentines gift for that special person in your life. Or your girlfriend.
I have a new album out soon called ‘Being So Far Away From London Is Amazin (So Use Guns)’. That’s should make ‘em pay attention. The lazy gits.
B: Right, you have already dropped your Dirty Little Snatch LP on Fascination Records. Is that your debut?
Carlon: No my first album was called ‘If Only I Lived Near Peckham’ . Nah, only joshin – yeh this is my first professional album and it was recorded in January-March 2001. But in reality I actually did my first album when I was 10 years old, on a crappy tape recorder with a built-in mic. I had a Yamaha keyboard playin beats in the background while I went on about pollution and the state of the world. Political rap was big late 80s so I gave it a go. I had mates on some tracks and even mi Nanna playin the keyboard on one track! Classic material. I’ll probably release that album when I’m retired. To be honest, even though I was pre-puberty and had only just passed my English Key Stage 2, I was significantly more entertaining than Beanie Siegel. Strange.
B: I personally rated the effort. As far as demos go it was well put together and should act as a good advert for you. How did you find it putting that together on the independent tip? Was it a bit of a struggle?
Carlon: Yeah it was a big struggle. Someone tried nickin mi mixer!
Nah….it wasn’t really that hard. Because of my limited equipment I had to record all the tracks in one take then do a bit of editing later. This means that you get some of the daft gaffs and blunders kept in. In a way these inclusions made it a different album than the one I set out to do.
B: What did you aim to achieve with that first release and do you feel you did it?
Carlon: I set out to make something which reflected my bizarre sense of humour. Hopefully this does. When I listen to it now I hear the concepts and ideas more than the quality of recording and as long as it’s approached from that angle I think it’s a unique product.
I’ve been beat making since 93 and writing raps since 1990. I used to produce beats on Octamed for the Commodore Amiga back in 93/94 and that really set me up to do something like this.
One major disappointment for me was distribution. I work a 5 day week and getting time and resources to spread this album to all corners of the country was very difficult. I had sound advice from both Dave Ruf and Disorda to focus more on actual organized audio quality rather than just splashing about 30-odd ideas onto a CD. I appreciated that advice and hope that the new album will show some progression. I still hope to maintain that homemade feeling though – that quality money can’t buy.
B: In case the readers haven't had the chance to hear your LP can you tell them a bit about it, the overall mood, the topics of the lyrics and maybe the atmosphere in which it was recorded. There must have been pure jokes...
Carlon: ‘A Dirty Little Snatch’ is a 24-track opus of comedy rhymes, funky beats and explicit subject matters. Initially planned as a contemporary jazz album, this set defines the sound of Fascination Records; a bizarre, whimsical world, where even Cocker Spaniel pups wear hair gel and dance on their hind legs to Phil Collins songs. It’s a UK album which contains references to things that you can relate to, like dancing about in Argos on a windy Sunday afternoon while shoppers look on in disgust at your naked tomfoolery.If you want to hear something totally different, then check this album.
Some of the best tracks include, ‘Open Wide (And Call Me Vince),'Walking Like Greyhounds'; an epitaph to everyone and anyone who has ever considered walking like a domestic pet, often through Miller Brothers on a Saturday for example. 'Mr Penis' offers us an insight into Carlon's deep and carefully thought out rhymestyle, with such lines as 'Mr Penis thinks his arse is like a chin', simply highlighting his clever and witty wordplay.
Other standout cuts include 'Ass To Mouth', complete with references to Toymaster and Vic Reeves, and 'Swallow My Pride' in which Carlon quite brazenly enquires about the listener's enjoyment of his wobbly John Sergeant, whilst simultaneously telling us about all the rude things he says in Asda.
Yet I did get serious for a moment, particularly on the track, 'I'm Buying Snettisham (me)', which sadly never made it to the final album. These inclusions, along with Carlon's tendancy to insult almost every woman on TV, make this album a worthy addition to any Rap fan's record box. So order it now!!
Oh and it was recorded in a very serious, Library-like atmosphere.
B: So, Mr Montana is behind the production. You got a really lovely funky sound which for me harks back to the so called 'golden age' of Hip Hop. Can you describe how you see the music you make? What can you say to make people feel where you are coming from?
Carlon: Thanks for that, yeah well I still compare most modern hip hop to the ‘golden age’, clinging to anything dooz like Prince Paul lay their fingers on. I love finding beats and making hooks – it’s so satisfying when that beat just comes through. It can make you laugh or make you cry. I really see my production as eclectic but not pretensciously so. I don’t loop my dad farting into a mic and add the sound of an Iguana slashing onto a semi-conscious dormouse for the chorus, if that’s what you mean.
I have different styles for different occasions. The Carlon Stardom production will always be funky/comical while the Matthew Thomas album shows a very soulful and magical sound, similar to early RZA high pitched vocal hooks. Then the Dr Venkman album is sample laden with horrifically scary beats and themes, John Magnum a pure 80s coke rush from beginning to end. Can’t wait to hit the world with these. Anyone wanna help out, e mail or text me on phone number.
B: What equipment did you use to make it?
Carlon: I used a 2000 spec Pentium PC, a sampler, a microphone that I got with my camcorder (the only one I had that fitted into my PC!), audio sequencing software and a pair of beltdrive decks and mixer. A collection of vinyl bigger than Lisa Riley’s arse on Boxing Day and a mixer with a 4 second punch sampler to capture them hooks.
It was a real bedroom setup but captured the sound well. Cheap as well, so I was able to knock out the CDs on my cd writer. Talk about lo-fi!! Since then I got a Yamaha Midistudio console, a Zoom Studio FX unit, a new microphone, new software, a new PC, pair of Technics, more vinyl and tons more beats. Sounding much better. Even moved studios! The all-new Fascination Records. Carlon Stardom is amazing - naked pictures of Britney Spears.
B: You achieved good results with limited equipment, but I guess those are becoming classic Hip Hop tools. What equipment would you be looking to use if money was not limited?
Carlon: I’m happy with the setup as it is now but if I could, I would have a vocoder/talkbox. I love that early 80s Zapp, Mtume sound and would like to recreate that vocal pitch. SO that could be the next investment. That or a fully kitted out vocal booth. Most of this big money spending is bollocks when the people who use the equipment are so cheap. I wonder how much Nelly’s studio cost to build and kit out? What bout Big Brovaz? Or Blazin Squad? It’s not the studio which makes the music – it’s the geez usin it.
B: Can you talk us through how you would go about making a track? Would you start with a specific sample and beat pattern and sequence in mind, or do you sit behind the boards tapping away until something you like randomly pops out?
Carlon: I have what I call ‘Beat Tape’ sessions where I go through a load of vinyl and pick out any hooks usin my 4 sec punch sampler. I then put the hooks/songs on a TDK as I find them and also any parts of songs which have inspirational qualities. I’ve filled about 32 90 min tapes with hooks, breaks and vocals from a variety of sources. This then gives me the time to listen to the tapes in the car/home and pick out the beats that I can work with. Then it’s off to the studio and time to sample the song segments I need. Although my budget is tight, I do have an ear for a good beat and I can literally see wavelengths in my mind of the song as it plays. This enables me to recognize where the hook is in any song. I use a massive variety of vinyl too – some artists I have used on the new projects include Whitesnake, Sam & Dave, Go West, Long John Baldry, Shaking Stevens, PLUS LOADS A OTHA STUFF.
B: How do you feel about sampling in general, and more specifically sample clearance? Your music relies heavily on those trumpets and funky loops. Should your music ever reach a wider audience I fear eager lawyers may be coming after any dosh you may have.
Carlon: I feel that sampling is hip hop. That is how it began and that should be how it should stay. But you are right, I would be buggered if I went big time. Although you do hear of some stuff being exempt from copywrite or the copywrite has ran out on certain songs. My whole attitude about sampling is fuck em, if it sounds good then I will use it. I don’t care if it’s Elton John, Peter Townshend, Michael Jackson or Garry Glitter. I will use it.
Some of the best beats in hip hop have all been nicked! Check any breaks CD and hear all the originals.. US producers are sneaky gits! Dr Dre’s a right one, he claims he plays a lot of his own stuff but that’s bollocks. Nearly all of his stuff is based on breaks and other people’s music. Same for Primo, he just jiggles it about and adds a drum. His original (and best) work 90/91/92 era was all original breaks. ‘Step In The Arena’ is a classic but most beats are just nicked on there. Don’t underestimate some of the top producers.
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