Interview with Mr. Chop (Coz Littler, english version)
(Interview by Nicolas Ragonneau, for Paris DJs - March 2012)
Those of you who have been following Paris DJs for years will know about Mr. Chop (aka Coz Littler) for sure. We've been supporting his music since the early days, from the outstanding EP 'Sounds From The Cave' (Jazz & Milk, 2008) up to his recent masterwork 'Switched On' (Now Again, 2011), one of our ten records of 2011 - and believe us, it's still a heavy 2012 rotation. As the man says in his own words, he "provides a blend of futuristic cinematic synthetizer prog, psychedelic funk, jazz and musique concrète". In his studio and vintage instruments sanctuary near Liverpool, the multi-instrumentalist patiently and endlessly sculpts incredible cosmic and liquid sounds, never-heard-before beats and breaks. The alchemist Mr. Chop belongs to a prestigious ancestry stretching from Raymond Scott, Dick Hyman, Pierre Henry, Gershon Kingsley and Jean-Jacques Perrey to Bernie Worrell, Money Mark, DJ Shadow, and other groovy noise eccentrics. Whenever he covers Can, Jimmy Smith, a reggae tune (Greedy G from Switched On) or Pete Rock (For Pete's Sake), Coz Littler adds a touch of wizardry to the originals and turns the standards into genuine Choppy tracks - these melt invisibly into his own compositions. We've caught up with the man as he was working intensively on his upcoming album, due later this year on Now-Again Records. He talks vinyl/analog obsessions, vintage gear, Malcolm Catto, moog demigods, and his next album. In for a penny, in for a pound, we have prepared a killa mix (online on Saturday, 3 March) presenting Mr. Chop's music with two brand new tracks he's exclusively written for Paris DJs' sake!
(Interview by Nicolas Ragonneau, for Paris DJs - March 2012)
01. We do not know much about you. Would you mind presenting yourself a little bit?
My name is Coz Littler and I record under the Mr.Chop pseudonym for Now-Again Records. I own and run Ape Studios a vintage recording studio in the North West of England outside of Liverpool. I'm an analogue/vinyl obsessive mixed into one vessel, others will know that's not a healthy mix of obsessions. I love strange esoteric records, library records, freaky soundtracks, the more psychedelic the better. Records that inspire me most are La Planete Sauvage by Alain Goraguer, Jean-Claude Vannier - L'enfant Assassin Des Mouches, most Can/Kraftwerk and The Velvet Underground. Old radios, tape delays and talking computers make me happy!
02. What was your musical education?
I spent a year at school going through the Music theory grades playing guitar but I found that not to be very inspiring. My real musical knowledge has come via a few avenues, my Dad used to play me all sorts of stuff when I was young, everything from The Beatles, Motown, Stax, Northern Soul, lots of psychedelic stuff, early Floyd, Velvet Underground, Prog/Classic Rock, Classical etc. That was a real good grounding for me as a youngster and kept me open-minded to all genres, cultures. When I first heard hip-hop that changed a lot of things for me because I needed to know where all these samples were coming from, that's when I got into record collecting. I've spent best part of my life absorbing everything from entry level James Brown & JB's raw funk to the more obscure, esoteric soundtrack and library music lps then onto the stranger things like say The Feedback Band etc. It's been a great journey and still one that continues day to day. I'm self taught multi-instrumentalist, but I'm not a fantastic musician or play any particular instrument very well but I seem to be able to get sounds out of most things I put my hands on. But saying all this you probably wouldn't want me in your band...
03. Where does this Mr. Chop pseudonym come from?
The name Mr.Chop was sort of bestowed by a friend after he dropped in on a session on saw me working on a track with a hilarious amount of edits/chops on ProTools. Chop does sum up a large chunk of how I make music so it pretty much has stuck from there after really...
04. A few weeks before the interview you told me that 'Switched On' was quite tough to realize. Why?
Well the original tracks we chose for the record are just classics and sound amazing, its was just very hard trying to do these great records some justice. I'm not even sure we did, but you guys liked it at least... it was fun to do and I think I could make a better one if I ever attempted something like this again.
05. What kind of sound and textures were you looking for on 'Switched On'?
The concept was that we were a band from 1970's, like when all these Moog records where first being produced, only we'd had a glimpse of the future and travelled back in time with a little knowledge of the future of music evolution. With that in mind we recorded everything with equipment from that era, lots of old vintage equipment, analogue tape machines etc the kinda stuff that would have been used to make records from the 60's-70's.We only cheated by using Pro Tools for our edits and and some drum pads that we bought from Maplin's Geeky electronic shop hooked onto Malcolm's drums to trigger a modular synth. Overall I was just going for a very in-your-face organic record with lots of different analogue synthesisers and great heavy drum-breaks.
06. Does the title 'Switched On refer to the great albums of Walter/Wendy Carlos?
It's a tip of the hat to all the synth records from that era, tracks I love are Dick Hyman's 'Give it up Turn It Loose' and Gershon Kingsley's 'Hey Hey' etc., everyone was doing some kind of novelty record to demonstrate the Moog synthesisers capabilities, most of the ones I've stumbled across aren't really something I'd listen to much, but theres a few diamonds in amidst all the usual Moog-does-classical stuff.
07. Moog is a very important instrument in your music. Tell me why it's so special to you.
Not just the Moog but most analogue synths from that same era are a obsession of mine. The world of modular and analogue synthesisers are fascinating to me, not just sonically but the realms of possibilities you can explore are very deep.
08. Who are the Moog artists of your own pantheon?
I have real admiration for the likes of Raymond Scott, The BBC Radiophonic workshop and the Musique Concrète guys for the real hands on approach they used to make electronic records before the invention of the modern synthesiser as we know it. My electronic heros are Kraftwerk, Popol Vuh, Klaus Schulze, Pierre Henry, Giorgio Moroder, Brian Eno and Delia Derbyshire, there are many many more but my mind is a blank right now... I love what Francois De Roubaix, Piero Umiliani did with the EMS VCS3.
09. You are very close to The Heliocentrics. Can we imagine one day a Mr. CHOP / The Heliocentrics' project on the same record?
Possibly a collaboration, but we work in quite different ways. I tend to work by myself and produce/sculpt the sound as I go along where as those guys are really strong on performances and an overall band production approach. I could imagine doing something with parts they have already recorded in the Chop lab and have some fun. Malcolm Catto and myself have talked about doing a project together, when he came up to play some drums for the new Chop record we sorta planted a seed with each other. That would be something I'd love to see grow...
10. Tell me about your Ape studio and your vintage instruments collection.
Ape Studios is my lab where I conceive all the Chop records, it was once a commercial setup catering to the more vintage minded out there, but now I pretty much use soley for recording my own projects and for bands who approach me because they like what I do.
I favour old tape machines like Ampex and Studers to record on but I prefer the flexibility of editing with digital. I use big old plate reverbs, tape delays and have a fondness of analogue synthesizers. The EMS VCS3 is my goto synth, this was built in Putney London and is used on too many great records to mention. Everything is recorded live via a big old Neumann and Helios mixing board from the late 60's with vintage microphones. Instruments wise we have lots of old drums, Ludwig and Slingerland springs to mind, keyboards consist of Hammond organ, Mellotron, Minimoog, Solina, Clavinet and a Digisound modular synth. The usual outboard an guitar efx plus a few drum machines...
11. What are the records made at Ape Studio you would be particularly proud of?
The current Chop record I'm working on is the one I'm most proudest so far without a doubt. I can't really single out any one project from the past as they all have fond memories in one shape or form, but if I had to pick one working with Phill Brown was a great moment, he's the man responsible engineering the likes of Sly Stone, Harry Nillson, Led Zep, Bob Marley & The Wailers, Brian Eno, Pink Floyd etc...
12. What about your upcoming projects?
Upcoming Chop projects - Well I'm finishing up the new Chop record for Now-Again and thats about the only thing I can concentrate on right now, it's the most exciting and hardest record I've ever made. It should hopefully will be out before the Mayan calendar runs out…
13. You remind me of another Jazzman/Now-Again artist, Miles Newbold of The Natural Yogurt Band. Like you, he owns a studio loaded with instruments and is an analog addict. Like you he's a multi-instrumentalist doing a music between Library, Jazz and instrumental hip-hop. Like you he's quite discreet.
I know of The Natural Yogurt Band, Egon sent be some of their music, its great. Although I don't know Miles personally, we both seem to have quite a few parallels in life. Maybe we should meet up...
Tasty slices from Mr. Chop
In addition to the interview, we've asked Coz Littler to comment briefly some tracks he loves, and some his own tunes.
Gershon Kingsley - Hey Hey (From 'Music to Moog', 1969).
This is just fantastic. I brought this of Jazzman Gerald about 12 years ago for probably too much money. How much Moog Modular can you cram into 2 minutes, quite a lot apparently. Thanks Gershon, you are the man..... Great drum break intro, drones and superhero sword bending breakdowns!!!!! Mega Moog modular-tastic.
Issac Hayes - Breakthrough (From truck Turner Soundtrack, 1974).
God damn what can you say???? Fuzz guitars, super tight drumming, funky ass Fender Rhodes, mega tight production and that guitar solo. Yikes! where's my woman????
Mr.Chop - Caveman (From Sounds From the Cave, 2008).
Robots and Cavemen... I should go back and make another record like this, it was a good fun time when conceived...
Mr.Chop - Greedy G (From 'Switched On', 2011).
The notorious monster from the 'Switched On LP'. I quite like this number, sounds nice in the background while I drink this cup of tea in front of me. What? I am English for Pete's sake!
Mr.Chop - Mecca and the soul brother (From 'For Pete's Sake', 2009).
Hmmmmm! Sometimes you look back in life and realise you could have done a much better job, this is one of those moments...
MRR-ADM - Untitled One.
Possibly the heaviest drums ever? Shall we all have a street fight? I'll settle for a good old fashioned arm wrestle if that's ok.
The Beastie Boys - Off The Grid (From 'The Mix-Up', 2007).
I love The Beasties. I'm much more a fan of the earlier 'The In Sound From Way Out', it's got a bit more lofi quality that makes my ears pop up, but this is still really cool and has some great stand out tracks, plus it's always good When Money Mark pops his head up behind the keys...
Broadcast - Pendulum (from 'Haha Sound', 2003).
Amazing track, I love this band, the real deal these guys, no-one gets anywhere near this. Such a tragedy you are well missed Trish X.
Mr Chop : apestudios | discogs | facebook | myspace | parisdjs | twitter
Now-Again : official | discogs | facebook | myspace | parisdjs | twitter | youtube