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Stereo MCs

Author: Jo Vraca
Wednesday, 3 October 2001
They were the first UK hip hop act to score a Top 20 hit in the US, they toured with the Happy Mondays and played at that bastion of rock, Lollapalooza, and then… nothing. Had the Stereo MCs decided to pack it all in just when they had overwhelmingly established themselves as the Next Big Thing-

After nearly ten years of music production, three albums included the much lauded, beats-laden 1992 release, 'Connected' which earned them two BRIT Awards (Best Album & Best Band), it seemed that the Stereo MCs had resolved to cash in the cheques and renounce their throne. "We were just a bit fucking burnt out," admits founding member, Nick Hallam. "We had to sort out a few personal things. I think we got a bit stressed out and we didn't get on particularly great for about a year."

Touring their third album, 'Connected' for two years didn't help; success had begun to sour for Hallam and co-founder, Rob Birch who formed the band in 1985. "I think when you become successful you can also become sucked dry by the whole business of it and I think, to a certain extent we felt a little bit like that," Hallam laments. "I think that's what burns you out - the whole American music business. It can do you in and it stops you being particularly creative."

Burn out and personal issues didn't prevent Hallam and Birch, who were old school mates, from concentrating their efforts on their label, Response Records or their publishing company, Spirit Songs to which they signed Jurassic 5 and Finley Quaye. The duo also regularly combined their efforts with Italian DJ Cesare under the Ultimatum alias. They may have been out of the public spotlight but that didn't prevent the remix offers from rolling in from the likes of Tricky, Madonna, U2 and the Disposable Heroes of Hypocrisy. "We've always done mixes for people," says Hallam. "We enjoy that but we enjoy making our own records better.

"We were just going through phases where we were working on stuff and, I guess, experimenting and listening to what other music was going on. In a way, we decided that really it was just about us making our own music and our own sounds."

With a nine year break between original releases, fans got a taste of what was to come on last year's DJ Kicks compilation mixed by Hallam and Birch. "I think that helped us get back into it just from the fact that we finished the record in a couple of days and then we had a record in our hands that we'd made although it wasn't all our material it was still a record that we put together. I think that really helped us see that we were still in that loop of making records. And after that, we decided to have a laugh and not worry about making a record, just make some music and then it came together really fast."

What developed, after seven months, was 'Deep Down and Dirty', the Stereo MCs' long-awaited fourth album which has seen Hallam fielding a plethora of media enquiries about just what it is that they've been up to for nearly a decade. Although they didn't steer too far from music, Hallam does acknowledge that the respite between original releases was a necessary development. "Maybe it was commercial suicide, who knows but in the end, the only reason we ever made records was because we wanted to. When we put out our first album [33-45-78], nobody had ever heard of us and really, it's a challenge to put a record out after this period of time and just kind of grow again.

"You can always look back and think if we'd put an album out after 'Connected' and that had been successful then we'd probably be the biggest band on the planet by now. On the other hand, who really gives a shit- And what does it mean, being the biggest band in the world- You know what I mean- Where have you got to go from there- I actually think that if we'd put an album out a year after we'd finished touring we probably would have split up because we weren't ready to do it. We needed to get away from the music business and find our own roots again."
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