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The Shakti Interview with Phil Webster a.k.a Philli Whizz
Shakti
Shakti
Shakti - Ash
Shakti - Makrad
Shakti - DJ Rasp
Shakti - Philli Whizz
Liverpool is a pretty big city and with its history one would have thought that there would be plenty going on. Maybe there is and the Scousers don't export it, maybe they just keep it on a local vibe. Well, all that is set to change with this new crew - The Shakti, who are dropping their debut 12" and are looking to spread their name further a field.. 

OK, lets get straight into this. Lets talk about the name of the crew first, because it is a bit unusual. I understand that Shakti is an African term and has something to do with spirituality and upliftment? Is this correct?

Shakti is a Hindu word. It is a word to describe creative energy. This is the energy present in all living things. This is the energy exchanged between people. Shakti was also worshipped as a goddess in India, our equivalent of mother nature. A divine creative force. We use this word as a term to describe the energy created in our music.

Can we now get a brief break down from each of you describing what your individual roles are and how you work together?

Phil Ė white rapper
Ash Ė half white half Jamaican rapper
Charlene Ė mixed race soul singer
Makrad Ė Persian born producer, bass and guitar player
D.J Rasp Ė crazy silly fresh DJ from St. Helens. Finished 3rd in the DMC heat in Liverpool.

Basically Maks the producer, the rest write lyrics together, then Rasp adds his cuts.

Right, so how did you first get together as a group? You donít all look like family so did you meet at school or college or something like that? And what were your intentions when you got together? Did the group come straight away, or did you never really have plans to make records? When would this have been?

Myself Phil and Mak first met 3 years ago with an intention of starting a live funk Hip Hop band. The band went through a few guises before ash who was Mak's friend at the time started rapping. So we brought him in at the time when the first musicians we had were leaving, at this point we met DJ rasp from St. Helens. The band at that point became DJ rasp playing breaks, with me and ash rapping and Mak playing live bass on top. After this Mak then got a princes trust grant to set up a studio which is what we use now to do all our production and recording on. Also at this point we met Charlene who is undoubtly the best female singer in Liverpool. So we now have the five of us working together as the Shakti. Currently recording an album.

Are you affiliated with any other crews and are you working with any young cats you are hoping to bring through? Who should we look out for?

The other crews we work with in Liverpool are mainly the OIC who have been together for 10 years, their the guys we mainly gig with in Liverpool. There is also a number of younger kids starting to come through such as underground intelligence, Feminine force and a few others.

So, you are from Liverpool, not sure on the exact size, but it could be the third biggest city in the UK, and yet there has been relatively little noise coming out of there Hip Hop wise. This is especially surprising because of the large black community which resides there because of the links with slave trading in the past. On the web I have come across Cloakley who represents for Liverpool and seen that the Liverpool University has a lively Hip Hop Society creating a small buzz, but apart from that I would be hard pressed to know what is going on over there. What do you think the reasons for this are?

Liverpool is actually a pretty small city. Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle all dwarf the city centre. Unfortunately in Liverpool due to considerable poverty their just has not been the places to play, no facilities, no labels no managers. In 1995 a band called 1st in command from Toxteth made a brilliant album called pest control. They has already been voted best demo in HHC and toured with credit to the nation. Unfortunately due to politics the album never got released but its is fuckin brilliant full of jazz loops and funny skally scouse lyrics. The only other notable act has been OIC, however these are still to have anything released. The only Hip Hop night for the past 6 years has been no Faking which is a wicked night. But until the student Hip Hop night it has been the only night in the entire city. There are more cats cumin through and the scene is starting to grow but ultimately Liverpool has been a very small very poor city for the last twenty years and is only starting to turn a corner now because of the capital of culture bid.

Can you break down some of the history of Hip Hop in Liverpool back in the day? What I mean is who were the local heads who were performing, putting on shows and setting up pirate radio stations? Who influenced you and made you think, yeah we can do this? Things like who was the first Scouser to put out a Hip Hop record?

1st in Command are legends here in Liverpool. Fractions of them became lyrical compact who released a tune that I heard Westwood play and he had em on his show once. They donít play has a Hip Hop band no more but still put on shows and run static records which is an independent record store.. Other acts include solo artists c zero and ghost 2000 who are old time Toxy MCs who still gig and are tight acts to see. OIC are the only band from then that are still going. As seasons performers when I first seen them guys freestyle I was inspired to get to the same level of attainment. Their front man is TL a wicked big bald scouse rapper whose done lotsa recording and shows he goes down to the kung fu night in London he also brought Kela up to Liverpool last month. Paddy and his bro DJ Kwinzola, are the guys responsible for no Fakin at the Zanzibar which is by far the premier Hip Hop night in Liverpool for the past 6 years. Everyone's played their form taskforce to Edan to swollen members to ugly Duckling.

Since those early days, how has the scene developed over the years? Who are the acts that have come and gone and apart from yourselves, who is prevailing and building a bit of a following?

We are the first Liverpool Hip Hop band to release a vinyl pressing in the last 6 years so at the moment we are the only ones trying to get recognised outside of the city. TL from OIC is still going strong along with his crew theirs a female rapper called Nikki. Quite a few young rappers are coming out bout not quite ready to get out their yet but finding their voice. Feminine force are an all girl group doing quite well they ve been on telly recently and have been supporting space. Theirs quite a few compilation albums been put together with all the Liverpool acts. But they havenít really been the best way of promoting the acts. But I must mention again first in command they really were a class act, if their up for it, ill try and send you a copy of their album.

What do you think are the main differences between what goes on in Liverpool and London? Is it just a matter of scale and what are the bad points and what are the good things about being away from the Big Smoke?

Definitely size and infrastructure. Until we have an act that blows up no label or manager is gonna give a fuck bout Liverpool Hip Hop. The only thing that comes outta Liverpool is a guitar band every 2/3 years. Thatís all labels look at Liverpool for. There are sum great funk soul bands in Liverpool as well as the Hip Hop. But always only typical guitar bands are the ones to get any kinda support. In London you ve had a few acts out a few labels so old heads. Here theirs nothing like that , thatís why we are doing it all ourselves at that moment cos there is no other way. Also theirs the radio thing and magazines, how many do you think there are in Liverpool? As far as good point they are the fact that its small means we all work together and support each other, and itís a really honest open vibe, their no backbiting and no harsh competition, basically we are all in the same boat struggling for recognition, so theirs no egos in Liverpool we are all sticking together.

Shakti Live
Shakti Live - Ash
You have done a few shows now. Can you tell us about them and how it went? What do you get from being on stage in front of an audience? Is it a rush?

We played loadsa shows in the north west, also at a couple of uni's around the country. I luv playing live, we are a very energetic band on stage, usually bouts of beatbox freestylin and crowd banter. Sometimes we get musicians to play with us sometimes itv ll be just decks and mics I just luv performing and interacting with the crowd seeing their response to your music is the fundamental thing. Thatís what lets you know that your work is being recognised and its never time wasted.

You now have your self titled debut release out right about now. What was it like putting out your first record? You largely did it yourselves didnít you, but you have had a bit of help from Honey Records. How does that relationship work?

Basically we got money to do it through LIPA (Liverpool institute of performing arts), we were doing a course set up by the EU to help unemployed musicians we recorded ourselves took the money and put in into pressing vinyl. Everyone else spent their s on recording and doing CDs. We knew we needed vinyl. Honey are a local label who basically said if we put their name on it then they d help promote and distribute it. This turned out to be bollocks and they ain't done shit, so it doesn't really mean anything having their logo on it. Cos apart from the EU funding we ve done it all ourselves.

Can you tell the readers a bit about each of the tracks on your record. Describe the sound, mood and feel, as well as breaking down what the lyrics are trying to say. What was in your minds when you wrote and recorded the tracks?

SHAKTIPACT Ė is a introduction to Shakti, just trying to give everyone a feel of who we are and what we do. Just kind saying look where here check us out we do have something to say. Musically the sample sound very middle eastern/Chinese to a hippo track. Mak produced it and does the last rap on it. The chorus I written is just kinda saying we came together for a cause and made a pact together to see it through to the end.

NORTHWEST ESCAPADES Ė this is the other side of the Shakti coin. We are now well read spiritual fairy, maturing conscious people. However the skally element is never far away. This song is a collection of true life stories of drinking, fighting , shagging whilst rampaging the north on a night out. We ve always written funny stories about the north and kinda parody a lot of what goes on here. Skally culture, drugs, petty crime, its rife in our city and our lives and we do find a lot of what happens v amusing, so to tell it in a funny way is important cos everyone knows that northerners are brilliant at taking the piss outta themselves we are not bling bling heads who take themselves too seriously.

SOMEBODY TO BLAME Ė this is by far the most compelling of the tunes on the pressing. This is basically about how people always find it hard to take total responsibility for themselves. Whether good or bad you are creating your life and your experience of life. Its saying people want to blame their parents or their friend or the politicians, but at the end of the day the buck stops we you as an individual to make things better. Ash's lyrics relate mainly to his experience with his parents when growing up, mine are more universal on a bout that if we donít come together and take responsibility for the damage we ve caused to ourselves and the planet we could stand to lose everything. The music is very haunting to this tune I particularly like the piano sample. We are playing to make a video for this song very soon.

Describe for us your production and recording set up. What equipment do you have? And how do you use it? Would it be a matter of getting samples and sequences together on your home equipment and making demos, which you would then take to a professional studio to record and mix down on a multi track?

We record/produce on pro tools, using a combination of samples and live instruments. We mixed the EP ourselves then set it away to be mastered.
 

>> Continue on to Part 2
 

Intro Early Doors:
1979-1985
False Dawn:
1985-1990
Underground Years:
1990-1995
The Renaissance:
1995- 2000
The Future:
2000 & Beyond
Artists &
Discographies

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