Beatfanatic: Salsa, Drums, and Hip-Hop
- Words: Peter Nicholson
How do you start out playing guitar inspired by The Clash and end up releasing cut ‘n’ sample masterpieces that win fans as varied as Bobbito Garcia and Thievery Corporation? If you’re Beatfanatic, you can blame it on Run-DMC. Bucking the trend for solo producers to head up a one-man band with rotating guest instrumentalists, Beatfanatic (born Jonas Ture Sjoberg) sticks to the vinyl trickery that formed the basis for ’80s hip-hop. He whips up a frenzy of party-rocking beats and samples on his second full-length, The Gospel According To... (Soundscapes).
Even in faraway Sweden, the sea change heralded by the heyday of labels like Def Jam was strong enough to send Sjoberg out of bands and into record stores. He soon began refining his tastes, amassing an arsenal of rare grooves that were chopped, manipulated, and harnessed to the groove. 2003’s “Cookin’” was one result, a banging blend of Afro-Cuban hip-hop that landed on compilations from the aforementioned Bobbito and ThievCo.
Despite his sophisticated rhythms, Sjoberg’s musical technique is fairly straightforward. Building up from the bass and drums, he works in Cubase SX and Soundforge. “No fancy, top-of-the-line stuff but it works great,” he explains from his home in Stockholm. “It is all based around a computer and a pair of M-Audio monitors. It is all very no-fi.” (Hence the name of his first album, Adventures in No-Fi.)
Sjoberg’s no-nonsense approach to his gear is paralleled by his relationship with his records. When pressed for some rare gems he’s digging, he offers Bobby Valentín’s Fania release Let’s Turn On–Arrebatarnos and “Soul Freedom” by Ray and His Court, but insists he’s not trying to out-collect the collectors. “I guess these records are rare but my main focus is never how rare a track is, it’s how good is it? I am not a stamp collector, if you know what I mean.”
This emphasis on the good over the unusual is reflected on The Gospel According To... The disco drums and snatches of vocals on “Like A Sound” aren’t earth-shatteringly new, but it’s impossible to ignore the effectiveness of their call to get down. “Holdin’ Out (No More)” is at first blush just some rolling percussion, a wicked bassline, and a devastating vocal hook, but it keeps revealing layers of aural balm, a ‘Saturday night and everything’s all right’ track if ever there was one. Ask Sjoberg and he’ll tell you that’s his goal. “[When people hear my songs] I hope they feel happy, dance, and maybe even forget that a madman is trying to rule the world.”
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