Lo Fidelity All Stars
Lo Fidelity All Stars
Part rock and roll, part punk-pop, and mixed with hip-hop and dance beats, the Lo Fidelity All Stars’ sound included elements from a variety of different musical genres. After the release of the group’s first single, 1997’s ‘Kool Rok Bass, ’ the All Stars became an overnight sensation in their home base of London, England, and throughout the United Kingdom. The group was regularly featured in two of the nation’s well-established music magazines, Melody Maker and New Musical Express (NME). The latter publication also presented the band with the Philip Hall On Award for Most Promising New Band at the annual NME Brat Awards in 1998. Several singles later and following the release of their full-length debut album in 1998 (released in the United States in 1999), the All Stars seemed well on their way to worldwide stardom. However, by the end of 1999, the All Stars’ future appeared uncertain, largely resulting from major line-up changes and canceled tour dates.
The Lo Fidelity All Stars formed early in 1996. At the time, The Albino Priest (real name Phil) was working at a Tower Records store in London’s Piccadilly area and
Members include Albino Priest (Phil; born in Leeds, England), decks, samples; The Many Tentacles (Martin; born in Leicester, England; joined band in 1998), keyboards; A One Man Crowd Called Gentile (Andy; born in Leeds, England), bass; Sheriff Jon Stone (Matt; born in Sussex, England; left band in 1998), keyboards; The Slammer (Jonny; born in Leicester, England), drums, percussion; The Wrekked Train (Dave; born in Sussex, England; left band in 1998), vocals, lyrics, artwork.
Formed band in London, England, and signed with Skint Records, 1996; released first single,“Disco Machine Gun” (single withdrawn after three days); released “Kool Rok Bass,” Skint, 1997; released debut album, How to Operate With a Blown Mind, Skint, 1998.
Awards: Received Philip Hall ON Award for Most Promising New Band, NME, February, 1998.
Addresses: Record company —Sony Music, 550 Madison Ave., New York City, NY 10022-3211, (212)
writing instrumental music and working with samples in his spare time. The unusually pale, thin turntablist (hence the alias “Albino”) had been mixing records for sometime; during his childhood, Priest would earn extra spending money selling mix tapes to his friends. The decision to form a band arose after a beer-fueled night of recording with friend and vocalist/lyricist The Wrekked Train (real name Dave). “I left Dave alone in a room with one of our backing tracks and loads of beer and let him do whatever he wanted,” remembered Priest, as quoted by the All Stars’ unofficial website. “He just got pissed [drunk] and rambled through an echo unit, but it really seemed to fit. After that, we started letting loose on all our tracks.” Train’s vocals would become one of the trademarks of the All Stars’ sound. In the May 31, 1997, issue of Melody Maker, in which the publication named the All Stars’ debut single “Pick of the Week,” columnist Sharon O’Connell called attention to the vocalist’s “impressively deadpan delivery.”
Joined by keyboardist Sheriff Jon Stone (real name Matt), drummer/percussionist The Slammer (real name Jonny), and bassist A One Man Crowd Called Gentile (real name Andy), Train and Priest started playing low-key shows around London. Priest explained to Joshua Ostroff in SUNday why the All Stars used nicknames rather than their true identities. “They’re all nicknames that the band have had,” he said. “Also we’re all massive Funkadelic fans, so it’s a tribute to them really. It’s nothing too contrived. It’s just names we had for years and it’s a nod to those bands that have inspired us.”
The band found inspiration in other soul and funk musicians as well, including Marvin Gaye, Isaac Hayes, and James Brown. They also praised the hip-hop genre, giving high nods to artists like Rakim and KRS-1. In contrast, the All Stars also cited punk and pop acts like the Sex Pistols, Oasis, the Verve, the Mondays, and the Stone Roses as major influences. Intending to incorporate elements of all the above mentioned musical styles into their overall sound, the All Stars thus refused to be fenced in or labeled. However, they often referred to their music as punk-based.
After seeing one of the All Stars’ shows, the Skint Records (a hip Brighton imprint) label managing director, Damian Harris, signed the band to record two singles (the offer was later extended). “I was sent a tape of theirs about 10 months ago, the main track was ’One Man’s Fear, ’ which is now the B-side of the first single,” Harris said, according to the group’s unofficial website. “It was so distinctive, mainly because of the singing, or rather ranting, on it. I went to see them play in a pub in Camden soon after that. It was one of their first gigs and a bit of a mess because they hadn’t quite sorted out their live sound, but they obviously had potential. The show was exciting. They looked like they were going to fall apart any minute. That made them seem like a proper band, like a rock ‘n’ roll band that just happened to be making dance music.”
Before entering the studio, the All Stars opened for more established acts in the hopes of gaining a wider audience and building anticipation for their first record. One set of dates included the band’s firsttour of the United Kingdom, for which they opened for the group 18 Wheeler. In addition, the All Stars put their sampling skills to work; they remixed a track for the band Cast, remixed a Pigeon-head single entitled “Battle Flag,” and accepted an offer to do remix work for the band Supergrass. Afteronly one year together and with no recorded work to their credit, the All Stars had already begun to establish a reputation. Nonetheless, Priest was quick to point out that the All Stars weren’t DJs, but rather an up-and-coming act whose focus was to create their own music. As Priest expressed to O’Connell,“I want our tunes to be played at Cream as well as the Heavenly Social [two well-known London night spots]; I want Jeremy Healey to play us at the peak of his party set in the main room, as well as the Chemicals [Chemical Brothers] at the peak of their set in the back room.”
The All Stars finally released their first single,“Kool Rok Bass,” in the late spring of 1997. The sample-led song filled with sexual undertones led critics and radio stations to brand them “the Stooges of dance music” or “the dance Stone Roses,” according to Priest, as quoted by O’Connell. Moreover,“Kool Rok Bass” earned the band critical acclaim; the song was named “Single of the Week” by NMEand featured as Melody Maker’s “Pick of the Week.”
Alternative rock enthusiasts took to the single and the All Stars as well. “We haven’t got our heads shaved; we know we look like an indie band,” Priest told O’Connell,“but we like that. We’re massively into hip hop and we like the fact that there’s all these new hip hop fans who look at us and think ’what the f**k do they know about all this?’ We supported loads of indie bands when we started out and they used to think because we had a turntable we were going to sound like PWEI. Then we started up and they couldn’t believe it. We like that.” Train further explained,”We’re electricity personified. You knowthose big cables under the road when they cut them off and they’re flapping around? That’s whatthe album’s going to sound like—so many volts you wouldn’t believe it.” Shortly thereafter, the band released a second single entitled “Disco Machine Gun,” which was taken off the market after only three days because of problems with clearance of a sample taken from the Breeders’ “Cannonball.” However, approximately 8,000 copies were sold to the public, and the single (now a highly collectible item) made the top 40 in the United Kingdom.
In February of 1998, the All Stars were presented with the Philip Hall On Award for Most Promising New Band from NME. They edged out such groups as the Beta Band and CampaqVelocet. Two months later, in April, the group released a third single,“Vision Incision,” which included snippets from a night when Train took a dictaphone on a journey through the streets of London.
May 25, 1998, saw the release of the All Stars’ highly anticipated debut album in the United Kingdom, How to Operate With a Blown Mind entered the British album chart at number 15, received critical accolades, and sold over 60,000 units in Britain alone. That same year, the band performed numerous live shows, including three tours the United Kingdom, various dates throughout Europe, and a headlining slot at the Glastonbury festival in 1998.
Despite the band’s stunning rise, Train, one of the band’s founding members, left the All Stars in December of 1998, citing musical and personal differences. Soon after Train’s departure, keyboardist Sheriff Jon Stone left the group as well. Although The Many Tentacles (real name Martin) replaced Stone on keyboards, the group’s future seemed uncertain.
“Disco Machine Gun,” (U.K. single; withdrawn afterthree days on the market), Skint, 1997.
“Kool Rok Bass,” (U.K. single), Skint, 1997.
How to Operate With a Blown Mind, Skint/Sony Music, 1998. (with others) On the Floor at the Boutique, (mixed by Lo Fidelity All Stars), 1998.
“Vision Incision,” Skint, 1998.
Independent on Sunday, January 25, 1998, p. 7.
Melody Maker, May 31, 1997, p. 14.
New Musical Express (NME), April 4, 1998.
SUNday, February 14, 1999.
“Lo-Fidelity Allstars, How to Operate with a Blown Mind,” MTV Online, http://www.mtv.com (December 1999).
“Old Allstars,” Unofficial Lo Fidelity All Stars Website, http://www.underworl.net/lofi/index.html (December 1998).
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