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talks straight

Urban Dance Squad

Urban Dance Squad were a Dutch band whose music was a blend of genres such as hard rock, funk, soul, hip hop, reggae, jazz and ska. They were one of the first mainstream acts to incorporate a turntablist in a live line-up. They are often considered as pioneers of the crossover trend of the early 1990s, commonly referred to as rapcore.

In the U.S., the band is still associated with their hit "Deeper Shade of Soul", which topped at the 21st spot on Billboard's Hot 100 in 1991. "Deeper Shade of Soul" samples the 1968 Ray Barretto song of the same name. In their native Europe, however, they have enjoyed popularity throughout their career and most listeners at the time discovered them through their popular single "Demagogue" (1994).

Origin

December 20, 1986 marked the first UDS band meeting, intended for just one jam session at a festival in Utrecht, the Netherlands, on January 11, 1987. In a 45-minute off-the-cuff jam session, they combined the live strength of drums, bass, and guitar while adding elements from hip hop: rap and scratch. The non-committal character of a jam session soon grew into a close group that laid the foundation for the band’s later international success.

The band appeared on a series of club performances, strategic supporting performances (with Red Hot Chili Peppers), carefully chosen radio and TV performances and 'special events' (with Masters of Reality and De La Soul). In this 'obscure' period - there was no record yet, but live on MTV Europe, UDS swept the New Music Seminar NY (summer 1989).

Mental Floss For The Globe

The money made in these two years of playing live was used by UDS to finance the recording of the first album: Mental Floss for the Globe. The album was recorded at ICP in Brussels in the spring of 1989 with the help of Jean-Marie Aerts (of Belgian band TC Matic). In August 1989, the ready-made mixed tapes were offered and just like the venue managers line up to bill the band, record labels fought to take the credit for signing UDS. Eventually UDS signed with Ariola/BMG.

Mental Floss for the Globe was a major success and receives universal critical acclaim. It is an unprecedented combination of rock, rap, funk, ska, hip hop, soul, trash, reggae, and acoustic sounds. A true melting pot of what used to be traditionally separate musical styles, full of rhythmic and tonal boobytraps.

'The world at large' meets UDS. This was the start of extensive international tours, among which two headlining club tours in the US. UDS played at major festivals (like Roskilde with Lenny Kravitz and 24-7 Spyz, and Pinkpop) and seminars (like in Bourges, with e.g. Public Enemy, and again the New Music Seminar NY, this time on the special opening night with Mano Negra and George Clinton).

In the US the album had new approach and a new sound. In 1990 tracks like 'No Kid', 'Fastlane' and 'Deeper Shade of Soul' were internationally regarded as classics. ‘Deeper Shade' climbed to a 21st position in the bastion of Billboard's Hot 100. The sixth song on the album "Piece Of The Rock" samples the Mother's Finest song of the same name, from their 1977 album "Another Mother Further."

Life 'n' Perspectives Of A Genuine Crossover

After an extensive American tour with Living Colour, the band produced its second album in the spring of 1991. This album, Life 'n Perspectives of a Genuine Crossover, was once again recorded at ICP, Brussels in the spring of 1991, and released in the autumn of 1991; while the Beastie Boys recorded Check Your Head at the G-Son Studios in California in 1991 and released it on April 21, 1992. This is of interest because the "Life 'N' Perspectives" interludes on the UDS album sample the same Jimi Hendrix song ("Happy Birthday") and overlay near identical live drums as the Beastie Boys would use on the song "Jimmy James" from Check Your Head.

Musically speaking this album was a more extreme and even more kaleidoscopic sequel to Mental Floss for the Globe. While press and audience did their utmost to invent all kinds of superlatives, the record company, especially with hindsight, seemed to have been pretty insecure about what to do with such a groundbreaking and progressive album. Eventually the lack of an obvious hit single made American Arista stop promoting this album.

Unphased by such inconvenience the band concluded 1991 with performances in the European and American club scenes. In March 1992 the band toured Japan and with the Rollins Band (with Andrew Weiss on bass) in Germany. A long summer of festivals followed, in which UDS visited the large European festivals like Torhout/Werchter (starring with Red Hot Chili Peppers and others), Pinkpop (with Soundgarden and others) and Pukkelpop (headlining with the Beastie Boys and others).

In September 1992, UDS broke with Ariola/BMG and locked itself into the rehearsal room to write new material. In set-up this material seemed to be barer and more song-oriented. It cut away the trimmings and was intentionally less diverse than the previous two albums.

In the spring of 1993 the band decided to go on the road again and try out new ideas: a headlining tour of the French clubs, in Italy with Primus, and support performances for U2’s European tour. While on tour, DJ DNA decided to leave the band.

Persona Non Grata

In the summer of 1993, UDS, now a 4-piece band, played a set at a new major festival: Lowlands (with The Smashing Pumpkins and others); this gig was the direct reason for Virgin to sign the band in the autumn of 1993. This new collaboration ended a label-less period that had lasted 400 days.

In January 1994 the time was ripe to record the third album, this time at Ridge Farm, London, with producers Phil Nicolo and Stiff Johnson (producers of Cypress Hill, Urge Overkill, Industrial Frost and G. Love & Special Sauce). In March, the final parts were recorded and subsequently mixed at Studio 4 in Philadelphia. In May 1994 Persona Non Grata was released.

In contrast to the first two albums, Persona Non Grata was an album without overdubs. A trend, started by UDS in 1993 as the original five-piece band, was present in a 'blown-up' format on this album. The result was powerful and dynamic. This album was also called 'the secret route to the musical heart of UDS'. In the words of Rudeboy: 'In an era of ultra hype, it's back to grassroots!It's still the music that counts"

Upon release, Persona Non Grata was an immediate success in Europe. 'Demagogue' became a club hit in Europe and even entered the charts in the Netherlands. Again, the band bombarded the European club scene with a continuous series of shows and many festivals were visited in the summer, such as Dynamo Open Air, Pinkpop (third time), Phoenix Birmingham and Bizarre (with Biohazard). While on tour, UDS flew in to London for an appearance in the movie Hackers, performing 'Good Grief' in one of the film’s key scenes. The Persona Non Grata tour went on without interruptions, appropriately rounded off in February 1995 with an equal billing show together with the Beastie Boys at the Statenhal in The Hague. A month later the band left for the United States for yet another successful club tour. The intimate atmosphere of the American clubs allowed the band to jam more frequently than during the much larger scale European tour of 1994. This proved to be essential when the band returned home.

Back in Amsterdam, the recordings of these jams, sound checks, and 'song atmospheres' turned out to be a perfect starting point and rich source of inspiration for writing new material. First the band decided to improve the sound quality of the rehearsal room. To this end the large hard concrete space was reduced to one-third size with the help of sound absorbing materials.

Planet Ultra

UDS changes its rehearsing routine: drafts and new song ideas are no longer recorded carelessly with a small mono-cassette recorder, but in full stereo in a simple 'close-miking' setting. This turns the rehearsal room into a 'studio', called Ultra Dynamic Shaft.

In the months of June and July 1995 the new ideas ferment and mature almost by themselves, but when in September, after a holiday, the material is listened to afresh, the conclusion is short and drastic: direction, color and atmosphere of the recordings are just right, but the original arrangements needed improvement.

The final quarter therefore brings a third and decisive phase that eventually generates over thirty songs that can stand the test of criticism. The hip-hop element in a number of songs is a Seda (Osdorp Posse's beat creator) contribution. UDS then contacts Andrew Weiss (producer of Ween, Butthole Surfers), Rob Schnapf and Tom Rothrock (producers of Beck, Foo Fighters), Wim Tops and Peter Revalk (Wizards of Ooze), and sends them tapes with the request for creative input.

In January 1996 recordings start in Jet, Brussels and Orkater, Amsterdam. With the help of Andrew, Rob and Tom the fourth album, Planet Ultra, is recorded. There are guest roles for Seda, contributing the musical bases for songs like 'Dresscode' and 'Pass the Baton right', the Wizards of Ooze adding extra spark to some tracks with their hallucinogenic keyboard sounds. Some tracks, recorded earlier at UDS' own studio, turn out to be unsurpassed in atmosphere and energy and finally appear on the album in their naked original form. After about four recording sessions in three different studios, 21 songs survive all recording processes and selection criteria.

In May 1996 Butcher Brother Phil Nicolo (producer of Persona Non Grata) is called in for the mix. In his Studio 4 at Conshohocken, PA, he mixes the songs. Planet Ultra has been born.

Once again UDS releases a kaleidoscopic album (although in a creative sense in no way related to the first two albums), where heavy centrifugal powers seem to be at work, but that is a unity, in spite of its extreme palette of colors, because of the musical flexibility and experience.

Planet Ultra displays a UDS that has succeeded in developing and changing without denying their 'roots'. The 'classic' Squad sound has been given an extra dimension, has been approached from a different perspective, resulting in a new workable balance between form and content. The drive and power with which the songs are performed underline the subtle distinctions of the arrangements and compositions. Rudeboy still talks straight from the shoulder, but his sense of humor and relativity are more obvious than ever. As is apparent from what he says about Planet Ultra: 'The 'crossover' category doesn't exist, this band simply makes music! Also, this is not a concept album, just an album with a lot of ideas that reflect the way we live. Before you say it's all fiction, nothing about reality, for there are not so many 'political' things said on this album (everybody nowadays wants to be political - then it's real!!), I'd like to point out that the reason why there's a lot of comic related stuff on the album, is simply because I live comics, I eat comics, I shit comics, I sleep comics, I f**ck comics, etc. Comics reflect the wishes and hopes of individuals, to be better persons than they actually are, and even if it's not possible to reach that goal, then at least the dream lives on in a fully detailed, full-color, portrayed image. The title Planet Ultra is just a reflection of the world in our heads, when things get too boring, dull or hard to bear in life; it's things beyond the ordinary. No big deal! If you an't see it, you're not supposed to see it. If you can't hear it, you're not supposed to hear it!'

The enigmatic album Planet Ultra again seemed to puzzle the press, but unperturbed by their evasive reaction the band hit the road, knowing there has always been a vast and solid fanbase waiting out there. The tour that followed from early October 1996 sees the band in all the familiar places in Europe. UDS, by now playing in a five-piece line- up, having asked the formidable young and gifted U-Gene to join the band on keyboards, plays venues in Italy, Spain, France, Germany, the Low Countries, appeared at festivals in Denmark, Switzerland and Holland, and played the German Rockpalast (second time), the biggest televised pop event in the world today, broadcasted in many countries, watched by tens of millions.

One leg of the tour also takes the band to 'new territories', like Prague, capital of the Czech Republic and Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. Many factors combine to make the visit to Belgrade an absolute legendary event in the band’s history. Impressed by the overwhelmingly warm reception and the flawless logistics of the concert promoters, UDS spends two unforgettable days in this city that was craving for live music after four years of political and economic embargo during the wars that followed the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. The band plays two sold-out shows at the SKC. The first one, on November 20,1996, coincidentally took place just one day before a large crowd gathered right in front of the club, the beginning of a long period of continued mass demonstrations for democratic reforms in Belgrade and other Serbian cities. UDS immediately understood the exceptional status of these shows and decided to release the recordings of the first show as its first bootleg album, called Beograd Live. The album contains 21 songs, mixed directly to two-track without overdubs, and includes a jam version of the Beatles song 'Helter Skelter'. This album is the de-luxe souvenir of the 1996 UDS tour, that proved to be very successful.

Back at home in early 1997, the band sets out to prepare the releases of Beograd Live and new singles. Four titles are pulled from Planet Ultra as single releases, some of them in a remixed version (like e.g. the Aphrodite's vinyl jungle remix 12" of 'Temporarily Expendable'), all of them with extras and outtakes that had not reached the album.

Then in April 1997 UDS again surprises both insiders and outsiders. An official press release on April 6, 1997 announces the renewed collaborator of the five original founding UDS members, meaning that DNA rejoined the band! He had left the band during the 1993 spring tour and not much had been heard of him since by his former fellow band members. By now, obviously only one telephone call was needed to get the original Five around the table again in an Amsterdam bar. At this meeting the new (!) band set out the plans for 1997. Two objectives were agreed upon. The main goal was to write songs for the fifth studio album, again by the original Five. The second plan was instrumental to the first objective: just to check if it would feel good to be on the road again in this renewed setup, it is decided to do a limited club tour during spring and summer.

The band deliberately opt for the 'old style' of touring, like in the early days: no crew, just a small van driven by one of the band, the band members setting up their gear themselves, picking the smallest possible venues they can think of (many of which had hosted the band in its early formative years). This tour proves to be a great success and the best decision the band could have made: besides the goodwill it creates with a bunch of amazed venue owners, who could suddenly afford this band again on their tiny stages, this was the very thing that live gigging is all about: band and audience hugging each other in sweaty hot and steamy matchbox size clubs. Of course, there were bigger venues as well and festivals, like the in-line skating convention at Lausanne, Switzerland in July, where 140,000 skaters gathered{{Fact]}

Also part of the original plan in April is the decision to play the CMJ Convention, scheduled for the first week of September in New York, and a French club tour in November. So early September UDS plays a short American tour centered around the CMJ Convention gig at the Continental Club, NYC.

In New York the band takes the opportunity to have an informal lunch Meeting with Peter Heur of LA based record label Triple X, the label that stocks the first Jane's Addiction albums amongst a host of other early indie-punk bands. Years before, Triple X had already indicated that it was seriously interested in releasing UDS's back catalogue that had once been released in North America by Arista/BMG and Virgin. By now, these majors' licenses have terminated and UDS has regained full ownership and rights of its back catalogue, which offers a good opportunity for new talks with Peter Heur. It is agreed that UDS will sign a license deal with Triple X as soon as the parties have worked out the details of such an agreement.

At the end of October UDS starts a short three week tour of France as the last part of their plans for 1997. To many French fans it is a great experience to hear and see the original line-up play some of the old tracks again that had been cut from the playlists for years during DNA's absence, together with the songs from the last two albums, now completely rearranged and cut up with special FX of a DJ.

On arrival back home in mid-November, UDS edits 'Warzone 109' and 'Grifter Swifter' for use as the main songs in a Dutch feature film. This film, 'Temmink', premiered at the International Rotterdam Film Festival in February 1998. Three other songs, 'Deeper Shade of Soul', 'God blasts the Queen' and 'Bureaucrat of Flaccostreet' are also prepared for use as the score to a French film, 'What I did for Love', that is released some weeks later in the spring of 1998.

Artantica

Now it is time to prepare the next album and work out the many songs and jams that had been gathered during the 1997 tour and in earlier rehearsals. Having found a good working space to this end, UDS sets out to arrange these new songs. Rehearsals took place in Amsterdam during February and March 1998.

The band has decided to record the next album with two old friends, Theo Van Rock (bass player of Nasmak and 'fifth member' and engineer/ producer of the Rollins Band) and Peer Rave (producer of Jeffrey Lee Pierce / Gunclub and also the Rollins Band). The album would be recorded in studio Pablo y Pablo in Tienen, Belgium.

On April 1 UDS starts recordings and starts by putting the basic parts of twenty-two songs on tape. With these parts on tape, recordings proceeded in an on and off pattern, giving the band time to work out the details of the pending release of the band's back catalogue in the American territories.

After the summer break recordings start again in autumn and proceed well. At this point the arrangements have to be topped off with lead vocals. These vocal sessions are booked in Orkater studio in Amsterdam, as had been the case with the vocal sessions of Planet Ultra two years earlier. At Orkater, in a short burst of concentrated energy, Rudeboy adds his raps and melodies to the rich instrumental textures. Within ten days 18 songs are ready for mixdown.

So early December Theo and Peer kick in the final part of the project. Their studio now being set in full mix mode, they unleash all their creativity, finesse and experience and mix down all eighteen recorded tracks into powerful, transparent and highly original songs. UDS select their new album Artantica from these eighteen. The outtakes will eventually be released as 'b-sides' on other occasions.

UDS has come full circle. Artantica is the true product of that extraordinary musical chemistry between the five individuals that make up UDS, and in its uncompromising diversity bears resemblance to their early groundbreaking albums.

Artantica is released in the spring of 1999, preceded by a limited petitiën vinyl release of the first single, Craftmatic Adjustable Girl. A long summer of European clubs and festivals follows, in which UDS visits the large European festivals like Festimad (with Queens of the Stone Age and others), Pinkpop (with System of a Down and others), Phaze festival (with Massive Attack and others) and Drum rhythm (with Outkast and others).

During some of these gigs Rudeboy wears an original US Rangers uniform, a personal gift from Steven Spielberg, that was worn during the D-day landings in Normandy in 1944 and was later used in the film Saving Private Ryan. This film from 1998 was one of the sources of inspiration for the lyrics on Artantica.

The last concert of this tour at Axion Beach Rock (featuring Lee 'Scratch' Perry) on July 17, 1999, later proves to have been the very last UDS gig. When on February 2, 2000 Tres Manos announces that he is to leave the Urban Dance Squad, the band decides to end all its activities.

In the summer of 2000 all UDS albums are released in America on the Triple X label. When UDS signed with Triple X in 1998 it was agreed that Triple X would remaster all four studio albums and reissue them with new artwork, each including a bonus disc containing a live concert from the original release's corresponding tour. For this purpose UDS selected four live shows from their own archives: Hollywood Live 1990, Tokyo Live 1992, Chicago Live 1995, and New York Live 1997.

From the very beginning, UDS emphatically chose to retain ownership of its music, videos and artwork. As a result, albums were licensed to record labels for a fixed period of time. When the last license deals (with Virgin Records) expired in the summer of 2005, the band itself moved to prepare the entire back catalogue for online sale. This involved digitizing all(studio) recordings including outtakes, unfinished early recordings, live concerts, associated artwork and video material. At the same time the decision was made to release a Best of album entitled ‘The Singles Collection’. The release of the UDS back catalogue will be supported by a number of exclusive gigs in Europe.

Reunion

The band performed at the 2006 editions of the Dutch Lowlands festival and Pukkelpop in Belgium, as well as at the Antwerp music club Petrol. It is, however, unlikely that this will lead to a permanent reunion or a new studio albums, as these performances were only to support their compilation album The Singles Collection in 2006.

Members

  • Rudeboy Remington (Patrick Tilon) - Vocals
  • Tres Manos (René van Barneveld) - Guitar
  • Sil (Silvano Matadin) - Bass
  • Magic Stick (Michel Schoots) - Drums
  • DNA (DoNotAsk) (Arjen de Vreede) - Turntables

Albums

  1. Mental Floss for the Globe (1989)
  2. Life 'n Perspectives of a Genuine Crossover (1991)
  3. Persona Non Grata (1994)
  4. Planet Ultra (1996)
  5. Beograd Live (1997)
  6. Artantica (1999)
  7. The Singles Collection (2006)

Also appear on the Hackers soundtrack and in the film, in which they do a cameo with the song 'Good Grief'. They also have a track on an episode of The Sopranos.

In the 2003 movie Gigli, the song 'Demagogue' is loudly played in a diner. It is included in the credits but not on the soundtrack.

References

Frans Steensma (ed), "OOR's Eerste Nederlandse Pop-encyclopedie" (12th edition, Amsterdam, 2000)

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