TF Archives

Public Domain

Author: Jo Vraca
Thursday, August 23, 2001
Like all good children of the rave generation, I have a little collection of Irvine Welsh books. I have read one or two stories from The Acid House and I've seen Trainspotting. I've sworn never to read any more Irvine Welsh until someone publishes the companion edition - in English - and the films are subtitled.

That's not to say that when speaking with Alistair MacIsaac from Scottish hard house band, Public Domain, I had to revert to the old 'sorry, bad connection, can you repeat that,' but I did venture a few looks across the telephone in my 'what the fuck did he just say-' gaze.

While in days gone by Scotland was recognised more for its lochs and its haggis, over the past decade, its clubs such as Sublime and The Tunnel, the Hook and Bellboy labels and their progenitor Chris Cowie (X-Cabs) have carved an indelible mark. But Public Domain, consisting of MacIsaac, Mark Sherry, James Allan and Mallorca Lee - two sound engineers, a DJ and a vocalist - are bigger than Ayr, the Scottish town that they call home some 55 kilometres from Glasgow.

Not exactly renowned for their subtlety in dance music, writing more for the clubs than commercial radio, 'Rock Da Funky Beat', Public Domain's follow up to last year's 'Operation Blade (Bass in the Place)', which was the first track the band wrote back in 1998 and samples New Order's 'Confusion', sees them opting for what some might call a more restrained approach. Let's not get carried away, now.

'Subtle' isn't exactly a word that gets bandied around with this techno/rave/hard house outfit. It's almost a rock'n'roll approach, complete with frontman Mallorca Lee, fresh out of Ultrasonic, who is part MC, part crowd teaser. "I've DJed for almost two decades," MacIsaac explains, "Mark's DJed for about ten years. I think it's monotonous to watch a DJ for two or three hours or so. What we try to do is have a DJ set with a bit of animation but we make it a lot more involved with the crowd. Really, if the kids are going to spend 20 to 30 quid to go to a dance event, the one thing you want to do is give them some sort of decent memory rather than just looking at a stack of speakers and watching a DJ with his headphones on. [In the past] I think a lot of dance bands really lacked in production. We just took the biggest soundsystem Ibiza has ever had down to Privilege the world's biggest club. It was an experience; we're trying to combine the music with animation on stage and the graphics and the sound system."

Their stage presence which has wowed audiences at Homelands and Creamfields has also astounded Public Enemy's Chuck D who they managed to corner on their second single for that vocal - 'if you really want to rock da funky beat, rock da funky beat, rock da funky beat' that has been sampled on more than one occasion by the Natural Born Chillers and Utah Saints amongst others. Chuck and fellow Public Enemy band member, Griff, appeared with Public Domain live on stage at a recent industry showcase for their debut album 'Hard Hop Superstars'. "Yeah, that was a bit bizarre," recalls MacIsaac. "That was in the middle of the Mayday Riots in London. A couple of executives got their cars kicked in. Nobody really knew or expected it because we kept Chuck really hush, hush. Chuck flew in from LA, he came straight off the plane, straight into the venue, took his jacket off, I shook his hand and then we went straight onto the stage. The whole set was totally bizarre to be honest with you.

"On stage [Public Enemy's] idea of the construction of music was a DJ with two turntables and them rapping over the top. Whereas we're using keyboards and samplers and computers so for them to actually perform in that environment, I think it actually blew them away. It was a fantastic thing to work with Chuck. They're certainly up for working with us again some time next year."

While Public Domain, who have turned down remix work for Sheena Easton and S Club 7, had the enviable luck of working with Ch