TF Archives

The Wiseguys

Author: Alias
Sunday, January 1, 1995
"It's an antidote to various things. It's an antidote to um, [long pause] wack!" Theo Keating otherwise known as DJ Touche is summarising the mission behind his second album The Antidote, an album which takes the dynamics of that style we call hip hop, and concocts tunes that cannot help but satisfy the selective dancefloor, whilst at the same time keeping the hip hop headz nodding in unison.

The Antidote does have something to offer everyone. The first two singles off the album - the delightfully dapper Ooh La La, and the barber shop meets breakbeat Start The Commotion - firmly placed the Wiseguys (or more accurately Touche. Former partner Regal has left to further his role in disco beat assassins Bronx Dogs) in the hearts of many around the world. They were big beat tracks that had easy crossover appeal, however they were far from indicative of The Antidote as a whole. If anything The Antidote is a hip hop album, or more accurately, music of a hip hop culture.

"Hip hop is definitely one side of what I do," explains Touche, "but to me there is no point releasing a single which isn't going to get club play. And if you release a hip hop track, unless it's on 'x' label, or released by 'y' distribution then a lot of people aren't going to take it seriously as a hip hop track because they need so much convincing. I think a lot of amazing hip hop comes out but it gets unnoticed because people have to have it delivered in a certain form from a certain angle, otherwise they just don't want to know. I'd rather put out something as a single that is going to get club play and go somewhere."

Indeed, Ooh La La and Start The Commotion did get club play, but anyone expecting an album full of rapid fire breakbeat lager anthems a la Propellerheads or Chemical Brothers better think again. The Wiseguys are not a big beat act, and Touche owes more to producers such as Prince Paul and DJ Premier than Norman Cook. "I get that all the time," states Touche bluntly. "I don't try to justify what I do, but I have gotten way bored with trying to explain it to people. I still get people telling me 'that you are a big beat artist', and I think there are tracks that I have done, such as Start The Commotion, can be played definitely as big beat records. Then again, I've always said if 900 number came out now people would be calling it a big beat record, but people now have this very narrow view of hip hop that it has to have a rapper, and it has to have a certain beat, and if it has anything other than 'that' then it is a bit more leftfield."

For Touche it was the twin vices of graffiti and Djing that introduced him to hip hop. He met former Wiseguy, Regal, at college in Clerkenwell, UK in 1990, and the two started producing work for the Direct Current MC's that same year. After cutting an independent 12" Keep In Step, both Touche and Regal left and started working on tracks for Solo E, a hip hop artist at the time signed to Circa records and managed by the owner of Black Market records, Rene Gelston. Gelston loved what he heard and asked the two to produce some work for his own label. Ladies Saw Ow! was the first material produced under the Wiseguys banner, an ep which picked up serious praise from the likes of Giles Peterson and Patrick Forge.

The group moved to seminal UK label, Wall Of Sound in 1995 to release the double a-side, Nil By Mouth/To Easy, and then followed it up with the brilliant debut effort Executive Suite in 1996, which mixed UK production with US lyrical flows to create a transatlantic tour de force. Smooth intelligent rapping melded with organic production techniques - instrumental riffs, live bass - and some of the nicest sampled breaks ever heard. "All the drums I get are from are from old original songs," Touche tells me, "and I don't really like using second generation samples and beats. I prefer to go diggin