Electric Six Big Country The Hellfreaks

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First met in college in 1987 while all studying electronic engineering (OND). Mark and Ian had already formed a sound system from ’86 called Solar Zone. Whilst in college met some electronic wizards who claimed they could build radio transmitters, so the three put moneys together to start a pirate radio station. The station was called ‚Strong Island radio‘ and started transmitting in January 1988. It quickly established a strong underground cult following due to totally individualistic approaches to the music played.

Dego was one of the best DJs on the station and soon joined the sound system at which time had changed name to Midnight Lovers. Persistent raids on transmitters and aerials, mostly by rival stations and a promise from the then government to give licenses to some of the pirates led to the close of the station and the in March ’89.

As this was happening one of the quartet was making a name for himself in the hip hop world as one of the best hip hop producers in London. Gus had become involved in the music side of hip hop after Mark had brought a drum machine into college one day. He borrowed it for two days in which time Gus discovered his true vocation in life, to become a record producer and even though he will spend most his time running the business side of the label he still has the blood of a music producer.

Gus had made over 40 hip hop compositions of which only 3 ended up on plastic (two for MC Mello and one for his own group Trouble). Faced with an endless amount of sour major record label promises, he naturally became very frustrated. The many compositions he had made using totally original drum loops and musical breaks out of the vast amount of records Mark and Dego had collected were going to waste. These frustrations and broken promises made by various record companies eventually took its toll on Trouble (the hip hop group Gus was part of) and they split up. Many in the hip hop world believed they could have been the biggest hip hop crew in England.

Mark was always aware of the ‚run around‘ tactics these major label and a&r men would use to tie up talented musicians and was convinced that the cru could record and put records out themselves. Now was the opportune time to start a record label. Unfortunately hip hop was fading partly due to the explosion of house music and also because of the frustrations of the hip hop groups in the UK. In the Autum of 1989 Mark, Gus, Dego and Ian formed Reinforced Records. The idea that Mark came up with was not totally novel, but they felt that it had not been achieved successfully, and that was the hip hop fusion with house and reggae.

The first release on the label was 4 Hero’s ‚Rising Son‘ a rough hip hop beat produced by full blooded hip hop followers and the current house sounds incorporated into the beat, the main loop was from the ‚Shaft in Africa‘ soundtrack, and gave the track a ‚jungle‘ sound . Once the track had been recorded on an old broken down four track fostex, the guys put money together and pressed and sold 800 copies. The second recording was a track called Mr kirks nightmare. Mr Kirk sold more than 24,000 copies and for a independent label this was a great achievement, but the label received no money for the sales, once again the industry let them down. The distribution company (Pacific Distribution) went bust. This left the guys with a big production bill and a bitter taste of the music business. They had to make a decision, to carry on or to pack up and all get a regular 9 to 5 job. Well… as you know they continued, but with a stone cold background to see them into the future.