They're back! Jake Wherry and Ollie Teeba have emerged from the studio once again and something wicked this way comes.
It may seem a long while since "Very Mercenary" showcased both The Herbaliser
's way with the beat-heavy blended hip hop , but the dynamic duo have been busy.
First there was a tour with full band which covered 21 countries, took their gig tally to well over 350 shows and included highlights such as the Glastonbury Festival, Montreal Jazz Festival Paleo Festival, Axiom Beach Festival, Montreaux, Drum Rhythm, and Essential. During this epic journey they took time to dive into the studio with the band and record the critically acclaimed "Session One" - a widescreen, epic and beautifully produced version of what crowds were hearing live on stage.
Once they got back to their Traintrax Studio, Jake and Ollie then began work on a number of commissions, from contributing production for MCs from T-Love to Princess Superstar, to remixing acts like Push Button Objects (a hip hop supergroup featuring Del Tha Funky Homosapien), to soundtracking Odeon Pictures' "Pimp Of The Year," to recording and compiling music for EA Sports' Playstation title "NBA Street" and even contributing music to Guy Ritchie's "Snatch" (apparently Madonna brought their music to his attention!
Then, at last it was down to business - the creation of their fourth and most ambitious album for Ninja Tune. As Jake says, The Herbaliser
always "start off with a concept". The idea this time was to combine what the band had been doing live with what Jake and Ollie were capable of creating in the studio. As Ollie explains, "for ages people have been approaching us at our shows and saying "Why does your live show sound so different to the records?", so we decided to use more actual instruments in the process, making our own samples rather than only using bits of other peoples' music. We would still construct tracks along the same lines, with a good strong sample idea as a foundation then building along with that. Although on several occasions we would remove the original sample at a later stage and develop the remaining music."
Jake expands: "With Something Wicked we had such strong ideas about what we wanted to hear that it was simply easier to play the stuff ourselves, or in the case of our horn and string arrangements,get it done by either Chris Bowden or The Easy Access Orchestra (our horn section). I played bass and guitar on most of the tunes and even played keyboards for the first time since I learnt as a 10 year-old!"
Collaborations with US rappers, Raaka Iriscience (Dilated Peoples) and MF Doom (formerly of KMD), UK's herbal favourite, Blade, the exotic and mind-blowing singer Seaming To, sparkling street gal Wildflower and Gorillaz touranauts Phi Life Cypher all show that the boys can produce blistering vocal productions that firmly establish them as beatmeisters par excellence. The guests are for the most part people they have met and grown to know over their years of making music and traveling, the collaborations sounding natural rather than forced.
But just as there are two meanings to the word 'wicked', so there are two sides to the record. The other aspect of this album has been to develop and further explore their cinematic production techniques on a series of instrumental tours des forces, which is where the writing skills of The Easy Access Orchestra and Chris Bowden with the string performances of Echo Strings and the keyboard extravagance of West London funk gurus Kaidi Tatham and Ollie Parfitt have all come into their own. Nodding back to the horror-funk of classic DeWolfe and forward to a psychedelic soul movie that may never be made, Herbaliser can get the hairs standing up on the back of your neck as well as setting you spinning on your head!
Something wicked, indeed. As Ollie says, "we feel that musically this is the pinnacle of our achievements so far." Don't get confused, though - this is hip hop done in another way. "Its the same but different," laughs Jake. "We aren't trying to change, we just try and get better as producers, and keep on challenging ourselves. Hopefully the masses of stuff we did live will still meld with our sample based ideas but people will be able to appreciate the fact that it was done live in a room in Twickenham... " Thank you.