Introducing Mad Mats – The Return of the Wild Style
For those who grew up under of the influence of techni-colour grafitti era. The smell of lino, as life & limb are twisted and contorted for the love of the B Boy moves. A whole generation marched under the banner of “Fab Five Freddy told me everybody’s fly“! Kool DJ Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, spun the world on its head with turntable marvels and HipHop breaks.
Amidst this pioneering movement originating in the Bronx, wave formations circumnavigated the planet until they that reached Sweden and the ears of young Mats Karlsson.
It is no coincidence that when the now infamous Wild Style and Breakin movies were released in the mid 1980s, that Mats would some how get caught up in the a whirl of ground breaking music as well as break dancing.
DJ Mad Mats, has become synonymous with the embodiment of the old skool turntable spirit; using his tracks like an itch he needs to scratch, leapfrogging over genres, never being afraid to drop the unexpected into his mixes.
Mats, is no stranger to the Southport Weekender family, after causing a sensation at last year’s Suncebeat 4 in Croatia. He returns for Heritage to baptise the congregation with his high octane, evangelical DJ booth sermons.
Here starts our story and the first tentative steps into Hip Hop, B Boy culture and beyond.
The excitement for the Heritage weekender is starting to reach fever pitch. Did you ever attend the original site? Which aspects of the weekender are you most looking forward to?
Yes, I’ve actually played at the original site twice, but it was a while back now. I still remember the first time I played the Beat Bar when I had my old friend and vocal maestro Aaron Phiri with me as my MC. We played after Henrik Schwarz and we just went all in, spinning a 360 degrees freestyle set…We even laid down some drum’n’bass if I remember correct.
My favourite thing with Southport is simply to hear that soulful music I love, but to a bigger audience. There is sooooo much techno on the scene today. To hear vocals is uplifting too say the least!
Are there any particluar acts that are a must see on your list?
Would really love to check out Kindred The Family Soul but it will clash with my own set (f**k!), Body & Soul finale will be massive and I’ll always enjoy some leftfield biz from my man Benji B.
In the introduction I made reference to seminal cult movie classics such as the Wild Style & Breakin. When did you first discover the Hip Hop and the B- Boying scene?
My world changed when in around 1984 I discovered hip hop and b-boying. It shaped me as a DJ and to what I am today. I can’t actually remember what was my very first introduction to hip hop but I do remember that it all went really fast. One week it was all about football and the next week I was spinning on my back in Stockholm city centre. I still spin on my back on occasions, last time was together with my man Andy Ward at the Vocal Booth Weekender…still got the scars to prove it also haha.
What do you most recall about this period in your life?
I remember that I was very competitive in everything I did back then. I always wanted to be the best in whatever I did. It didn’t matter if it was breaking or DJing but I always wanted to beat the guy to my right or left. I did loads of b-boy battles with my crew Throw Down Rockers and I was also in the Swedish DMC championship in the late 80s. Looking back I see this as happy period where I made many friends and I glad to say that I still in tight contact with Swedish hip hop scene. From time to time I DJ for street dancers here in Stockholm at the big hip hop/dance events. There is nothing like spinning beats to real b-boys, poppers, lockers etc.
Question from Sean McCabe – If you had to choose dancing or DJing which would it be and why?
Hey Sean, thanks for asking ;). If you asked me in the 80s I would have said dancing but now I have to say DJing. There’s nothing more pleasing to the soul than standing in a DJ booth spinning your favourite tunes to the dance floor. But when I really feel it you can see me dancing in the booth.
Growing up in Stockholm, your music tastes took on a global flavour, after making trips to London and New York at the start of your career. You hit upon underground dance music scenes in both countries respectively. Describe your experiences the first time you visited London and New York. What did you learn most about yourself and your music during your time there?
London and New York were two very different experiences. I went to New York as a b-boy and came back with bags full of underground house 12inches. It was refreshing to see and hear clubs like The Sound Factory Bar that had a big sound system in comparison to the hip hop parties we played over in Sweden (always sounded wack). But also to see hip hop producers like Kenny Dope spinning house was a big thing for me. The dots were slowly starting to connect for me! In London it was more about the whole Rare Groove scene where I went to dig, buy, sell and trade rare Soul, Jazz, Funk and Latin records. People like Gilles P, Norman Jay, Kev Beadle and James Lavelle etc had a big impact on me and my friends. Not sure how many trips I made to the UK in the 90s but I was usually over 2-3 times a year. London is almost like a second home to me.
How did this experience change your outlook on music?
I learned that all music is connected and the more you listen to music the more new music you will discover. It’s a healthy learning process that with age makes you appreciate all aspects of musicality, even though everyone of course have their preferred choice. With me its mainly been based around black music but I’m always curious about anything new.
In the mid 1990s you opened up the now legendary Raw Fusion Club in Stockholm; which went on to run for many years. Raw Fusion allowed you to have complete music freedom. During those 13 years the likes of; Theo Parrish, Peanut Butter Wolf, Gilles Peterson, Carl Craig, and Kerri Chandler to name but a few have graced the decks. Did you have to work hard on buidling up a following or were the people of Stockholm ready for your music explosion?
The Raw Fusion club started in 1996 out of 100% musical frustration. Me and my friends got all this amazing music but in this cold city hidden away far up in Northern Europe we never got to experience true underground club culture like you did in the UK. We always had to travel to London or New York to get this. It was especially tricky to do parties on the weekends as Swedes just wanted to get drunk and get laid, the music and dancing was not their focus. But then we decided to try something different and to throw a monthly party on Wednesday night. In Sweden nobody had tried this so it was a big risk. But from day one the club was big success and we had 800 people the first night and after this we averaged around 1000-1200 people. We had two floors, the big floor downstairs with “bigger” music played underground Deep House, Techno and Drum’n’Bass. Upstairs in the smaller “Jazz room” we played everything from Funk, Soul, Jazz, Latin, Hip Hop, R&B etc etc…anything really. After 4 years we moved to a smaller venue (Mosebacke) in the southern district and I think over there is where we really found our way and we continued successfully for 10 more years. I’ve had some amazing nights at this spot I really miss it…badly! I dare to say that there has never been a more important club, that introduced and inspired more people in Stockholm…Period!
How would you describe the dance music scene in Stockholm, when compared with the rest of Europe?
Trendy! Stockholm is a wannabe city. We have some of the best DJs in the world here but DJs like myself rarely play in Stockholm except on a few occasions. I mainly play hip hop in Stockholm, for example even though abroad I mainly play house with Local Talk…weird! In Stockholm its mainly young trendsetters with a big fat “I really wanna move to Berlin” tattoo on their forehead. They play linear techno and tech-house (on vinyl of course, cus’ its trendy again). That said we do have some great younger talents like HNNY, the Studio Barnhus crew and my man Pure P who runs one of the finest soulful R&B /Hip Hop parties in the world every Friday (Devotion).
DJ Tooli & yourself formed Local Talk. Best known for releasing ground breaking productions since it’s conception, and moving dance music into new directions. How did you meet Tooli? How was Local Talk formed? Was there a shared vision or dream behind Local Talk?
After I stopped putting out music on my previous label Raw Fusion Recordings I had a long think of what I wanted to do next. I decided to start a new label that was not so diverse as Raw Fusion Rec and to start a straight up house “brand” (and not just a label). Tooli had at the time been running a very successful blog and club called 24:HRS and I knew he had a similar musical knowledge and vision like me. I invited him to play one of the last Raw Fusion parties and after this I simply told him of my idea and asked if wanted to join in. Thankfully he jumped on the idea!
Local Talk has created a distinctive sound, with productions from the likes of HNNY, Kyodai and Crackazat that make up a whole host of talented DJs & Producers. When choosing new artists for your label, what do you look for? Which new emerging artists excites you?
Initially we were mainly choosing tracks that sounded appealing to our ears like most label do. But nowadays this has changed and we try to find artist and producers that we can work together with over a longer period of time. We basically want to build up a solid stable of Local Talk artists that release their music, DJ and play live with us as a Local Talk artist. We have some really exciting music coming up from our already established artists but I’m really looking forward to our man Crackazat and his upcoming album (its amazing!). We also just signed a young Italian producer called Corrado Bucci (currently the A&R at Rebirth Rec), that I easily can see he will go big. We’ll also be working more with Lay-Far (such a talent) and we just signed an amazing EP from Kiko Navarro that I think will surprise a few heads.
You also co run two other labels called Basic Finger and Gold Finger, tell me more about these labels?
I have to plead the 5th on that one I’m afraid. But I run a few other labels also haha… hush hush
A little birdie told me that you also coach your son’s football team. If you were not a music maestro what else would you be doing?
I would co-coach with my big hero Arsene Wenger in Arsenal of course. But I would definitely get his squad to attack more straight ahead. All this side to side passing sh*t has gone to far haha.
For readers and listeners discovering your grooves for the first time, which break dancing move best describes you and why?
Easily the “Up-Rock”. I’m so tired of all these power move b-boys, I prefer real b-boy dancing. Like Rock Steady’s Ken Swift, this is the real shit to me…
Big love and thanks for sharing your story with me. Look forward to popping, locking and breaking on the dance floor with you.
Big hugs to you Mel and the whole Southport family !!!