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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Coldcut is a dance music duo comprising English DJs Matt Black and Jonathan More best known for their hit "Doctorin' The House" and their remix of Eric B & Rakim's "Paid In Full".


Coldcut first came together in the autumn of 1986. Computer programmer Matt Black, carried a tape recording that featured the inception of "Say Kids, What Time Is It?", a track he had made for a Capital Radio mix competition, browsed in the Reckless Records store on Berwick Street, in London. Ex-Art teacher Jonathan More, who worked in the store at the time, listened to the mix, suggesting a separate edit be made of the Jungle Book's "King of the Swingers" - Matt had mixed this with the break from James Browns "Funky Drummer". Using his contacts from his Meltdown Show on Kiss FM and his club night. In January 1987 this mix was released on a white label and "Say Kids, What Time Is It?" became their first single.

Later that year, spurred on by an enthusiastic rep from Island Records, they released their influential remix of Eric B. & Rakim's "Paid in Full," which made the top 20 and was voted best remix of the year. Featuring a prominent Ofra Haza sample and many other vocal cut ups, it is now regarded as both a hip hop classic and a breakthrough in the remix field. The looped rhythm at the heart of the remix can be seen as an early precursor to the Breakbeats genre (one has merely to speed it up to note the similarity). The tracks "Beats and Pieces" and "That Greedy Beat" were soon to follow on the duo's self-run "Ahead Of Our Time" label (a forced acronym results in "AHOOT", and the duo wittily catalogued one release as "AHOT 14U"). All of these tracks were made by the painstaking assembly of spliced tape edits that would sometimes run "all over the room". The duo showed originality and resourcefulness by sampling Led Zeppelin as well as James Brown.

In 1987 Matt Black joined KissFM with his own mixed based show,the pair eventually joining forces, Jonathan and Matt produced their own radio show, Coldcut Solid Steel.

Their first major hit as Coldcut was the top 10 hit "Doctorin' The House" in 1988, featuring singer Yazz. In the same year, under the guise "Yazz featuring The Plastic Population", they released "The Only Way Is Up", a cover of a Northern Soul gem which brought the song into the House Music era. The record reached no.1 in the UK charts, and the success of this funded more studio equipment for the duo. Their other most well-known hit single was the UK top 20 hit "People Hold On", released in March the following year. It featured Lisa Stansfield, whose band Blue Zone UK had been creating a mild buzz with the single "Jackie", and whose charismatic video presence was getting noticed within the industry. She would go on to have a UK chart number one in her own right later that same year, with "All Around the World". Prior to that major hit, Coldcut and Mark Saunders had produced the single "This Is the Right Time", which appears on her debut album "Affection".

The subsequent 1989 album "What's That Noise", released on Ahead of Our Time and distributed by Big Life records, featured such luminaries as Junior Reid and the fictional George Jetson(on the single "Stop This Crazy Thing") and Mark E Smith. The United States version was distributed by Tommy Boy Records and featured Tommy Boy artist Queen Latifah rapping over the (previously instrumental) track "Smoke This One". Latifah's rap was decidedly anti-drug, while Coldcut's reggae dub-ish instrumental had tongue-in-cheek connotations of marijuana appreciation by virtue of its title. Its UK follow-up, "Some Like It Cold" released in 1990, featured a collaboration with Queen Latifah.

In 1991, whilst touring Japan, they conceived and started their second record label, Ninja Tune, which continues to release diverse music by a small army of like-minded artists. In 1997 the duo unveiled their own real-time video manipulation software, VJamm. Coldcut's current live and DJ sets rely on video as much as records, taking the concept of multimedia performance into largely uncharted territory.

Conceptually, Coldcut owes as much to the ideas of beat writer and cut-up theorist William S. Burroughs, 1970s art / industrial group Throbbing Gristle, and the religious writings of J. R. "Bob" Dobbs as they do to Hip Hop originators like Grandmaster Flash or later innovators Double Dee and Steinski.

Recognizing the power inherent in Burroughs' cut-up technique and its presence in hip hop music, Moore and Black have relentlessly pushed the D.I.Y. ethic and an understanding of play as a means of fostering greater interaction with and understanding of the world. The similarities between this ethos and that of hacking need hardly be stated. Ninja Tune uses a corporate facade to communicate via the marketplace itself, an idea first implemented by Throbbing Gristle via their own Industrial Records imprint.

One of the key aspects of the Ninja Tune ethos, Stealth, implies that their following of DJs and listeners are "agents" in a Burroughsian sense, propagating the D.I.Y. ethic of play as an essentially subversive act by replaying and manipulating media under the radar of mainstream culture. Black has recently (2003) worked with Penny Rimbaud (ex Crass) on Crass Agenda's Savage Utopia project. Coldcut have recently released a new album, Sound Mirrors which has helped build up a massive underground audience thanks to the popularity of the single True Skool. The song itself features an Indian sample from a cult Bollywood era making the track incredibly popular on the bhangra and desi scene and with much of British Asian urban culture. The video for True Skool will be included on the Microsoft Zune at its release; perpetuating the idea of "manipulating media under the radar of mainstream culture."

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Coldcut" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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