Meat the Man Behind the Curtain : Meat Beat Manifesto’s Jack Dangers trascends genre and predates hype

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By Brett Mannes

In 1989, Jack Dangers and his creative collective, Meat Beat Manifesto, cut an obscure track called “Radio Babylon.” In the prime of the “four-on-the-floor” acid house days, “Babylon” intro duced a faster, choppier kind of beat. Ten years later, it is being cited as the song that created drum & bass.

You would think that after pioneering a music sceen one would stick with it – become the Godfather of Jungle or something equally as meaningless. But all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Aside from the beat, Meat Beat Manifesto’s focus is experimentation. Someone with Danger’s 10,000-strong record collection cannot be tied down to one style. Coming into his own primarily on the recently bankrupt Wax Trax! label, Danger’s experimental stylings kept MBM distinctly in the shadows of industrialites like Skinny Puppy and Front Line Assembly. But without his alien hybridization of hip hop and industrial dance music on albums such as Storm the Studio and Armed Audio Warfare, more mainstream sub-genres like big beat and drum & bass might not even exist.

Now on Trent Reznor’s Nothing label, MBM’s very existence continues to influence big names. The Chemical Brothers sampled MBM on classic tracks like “Loops of Fury” and “Song to the Siren.” They even spin MBM’s “Mars Needs Women” on thier latest record. Prodigy, who toured with MBM last year, pilfered parts of “Radio Babylon” to create thier mega-rave anthem “Charly.” Nine Inch Nails, David Bowie, Future Sound of London, the Beastie Boys….they all owe something to Jack.

As thier latest album Actual Sounds and Voices proves, MBM – here consisting of Dangers, peercussionist Lynn Farmer, and recently departed guitarist John Wilson – changes thier sound not only form album to album, but from track to track. as well. Thier latest single “Prime Audio Soup,” reveals an early dub influence. “Acid Again” pounds you skull like a big beat attack should. Breakbeats nad sub-bass come together in the jungle medly “Where are You/Enuff.” ” The Thumb” brings and organic feel to an otherwise technological album through studio-improvised free form jazz. Actual Sounds and Voices, despite its inner dissimilarites, maintains the beat, the sample, the raw experimentation that has become the heart of MBM.

UR : I noticed that Actual Sounds end with your saying, “How do youl ike it so far?” Does that mean that after all this time you’re not even close to finished yet ?

Dangers : Yeah. I’ve never dried up with coming up with ideas. in fact the past couple of years, i’ve been bailing people out. Doing repair jobs on other people’s work. Thet can’t do it anymore. They get on thier knees.

UR : Why do you think that is ?

Dangers : I have no idea. I think a lot of people get the opprotunity to do music – get the platform to get to do it. But nine times out of ten, thier not very good. They’re just doing it for money or to screw girls or to take drugs.

UR : The opening sample to “Acid Again,” off the new one, features a self effacing girl expressing her “love” for drugs. The sample’s also prominent on some other bands’ records. Where is it from and what’s the obsession with it ?

Dangers : I actually know the records you’re tlaking about. And I completely forgot it was in there. When i heard it, it was like, “Huh. That would be good in a song.” It’s from this promotional record from 1967, an anti-drugs record. I took passages from it and edited words out to give it a more surreal, wierd feeling doesn’t make any sense, or makes some sense. The whole record is just this sad, whimpering women. THe actual intro took fivedays. I recorded some stuff under the Golden Gate Bridge while i was on a boat. Just little elements, all this psycho-acoustic stuff. If you listen to it on headphones, oyu hear all this wierd crap. It took me ages to do that. But then the song only took me a day.

UR : Looking at the song literally, how much has drug culture affected you music, wheter internally or externally ?

Dangers : Well, I’ve partaken in some (pantomimes smoking a spliff). But before that, no. Where I grew up, there was no drug culture at all. Zero> It wasa little town in England, 25 minutes from Bristol. Nothing ever happened there. The last band who played there was, like, Thin Lizzy. It was completely dead-end. No drug culture ? There was no culture!

UR : Lyrically, what was going through your mind on this album, such as when you you say ” I don’t like humans/They don’t like me,” Is that truely how you feel ?

Dangers : Well that wasn’t me saying that. That’s a qoute from the Unabomber, from old Ted. On the last album (Subliminal Sandwich), “Mad Bomber” wasn’t about him. He wasn’t even found yet. But when he was, everyone forced this connection with him onto me. So I went back to that in a more direct way to confuse people even more, especially the press in England. They hate anything confrontational. It’s always been like that over there. THey are so stuck in the mud, it’s unbelievable. They come and go. I’ve seen them primped up writing for NME, and five years later they’re stuck flipping burgers. It’s bull.

UR : I Know that you are very socially conscious. What in the US makes you angry? What can’t you believe is happening ?

Dangers : Over here, it’s the way you can get guns. The way kids are killing each other in school. That doesn’t happen anywhere in the world. It’s such a violent society with television, movies, Hollywood. People probably get into fights in bars because they think “Ooo, I can handle this.” Like Chuck Connors.

UR : How did you inclusion on the Depeche Mode tribute albume For the Masses project come about ? Why did you choose to do “Everything Counts” ?

Dangers : It’s the only one I like. I haven’t got any of thier albums. They were pretty inconsequetial to me. I did a remix for them a couple of years ago for next to nothing. It’s good that they’re still doing what thier doing though.