Moving to the beat of their own drum

The emergence of the drum and bass scene in Australia is picking up speed. Over the last few years, interest in electronic music, and sound systems has been renewed and is making a huge impact. One sound system in particular has found itself emerging at the core of the Sydney drum and bass movement. Along with producers such as Josh Abrahams (Puretone), and talent such as Pound System, Endorphin, and The Avalanches, Wicked Beat Sound System are bringing Australian drum and bass and electronica to the world, and proving once and for all that we can kick it (yes we can).

Wicked Beat Sound System are Sydney based duo Dave Carnovale (DJ Crucial), and Damien Robinson. Dave scratches beats and cuts samples, while Damien Robinson is the audio engineer. They are however, only two people out of the many who come together to create Wicked Beats.

"We believe the sound system style is less to do with being a 'band' and more to do with being experimentalists: in this case, a DJ and an audio engineer, with charismatic, talented artists making their own contribution to the tracks - either in the studio or live."

It was regular late nights at the Bentley Bar, which led to the beginnings of Wicked Beat Sound System. Dave and Damian where joined by Scott Pullen on the decks, MC/rapper K.Y.E. and Linda Jannsen on vocals. The sound that spawned was unique and passionate. The live performances differed greatly from what was typical of that time, extending the philosophy of DJ's decks and break beats, with rap, melodic vocals, live sampling, and percussion.

Wicked Beats took a bass loaded, funk filled leap into the local music scene mid 1991, with their sound, which has been described as experimental trip hop, electronic soul, and many things in between. This led Damian and Dave to set up a pre-production studio in an old warehouse in Sydney, in order to mature the talents of the system. Two years were spent developing sound, and experimenting with equipment. Time well used, filled with writing, and recording. Rhythms were constructed using elements of reggae, ragga, and hip hop. Lyrical input was provided by both MC K.Y.E. and Linda. The outcome convinced the crew that this was a project worth some serious effort.

A 'Heavyweight Sound Clash' in 1992 had Dub Conference (featuring the Mighty Asterix) squared off against Wicked Beat Sound System on the roof of an old Surry Hills warehouse. Many live performances by WBSS proved beyond doubt that they could play original rhythms successfully to a local audience. The diversity of the crew manifested itself in a vast range of styles: Jazz-Funk, Dancehall, Dub & Soul, all delivered in a Hip-Hop fashion.

On New Year’s Eve Andy Glitre of Triple J played WBSS's 'Summer Sun' as the first track of the year 1994. That year was a big one for the wicked crew, including an invitation to take part in the first ever Vibes On A Summers Day. WBSS have played at Vibes many times since, and continue to grace the festival with their presence.

After two years looking for an acceptable deal, local independent label One Movement signed WBSS to a two-album deal. The first LP 'Music From The Core' was finished in October 1995, and released thirteen months later due to distribution problems. The single 'Local MP' was well received, and found itself on compilation’s in the US and Europe.

Music From The Core was received with open arms by some, and shaking heads by others. Although nominated for an ARIA award for best album, some critics thought it had too much of an american hip hop sound.

If there was any doubt about the commitment of Wicked Beat Sound System to the Australian music community, it was blown away in 1998 with the launch of I-Rate Records as an outlet for various independent releases. And in 2000 the crew had the critics down on their knees with their progressive sounding second LP ‘Inna Styles’.

Inna Styles found WBSS expanding, and remoulding itself in order to focus on the soul and slow grooves, which had been epitomised by Local MP. This release boasts melodic soulful tracks, dub filled grooves, and instrumental soundscapes, and despite being clearly linked to Music From The Core, it represents a growth in the systems continuing experimental philosophy. The album was nominated for 'Best Dance Release' at the 2000 ARIA Awards and 'Best Album' at the 3-d Dance Music Awards. Inna Styles left Janssen as the sole voice of Wicked Beat Sound System, following the departure of MC K.Y.E. The resulting sound Dave half-jokingly dubs as ‘nu-soul breaks’.

Inna Styles proved so popular that it was re-released in November 2000 with a bonus 12 track re-mix titled 're_styles'. This bonus disk features WBSS mixes of other artists, as well as remixes of WBSS by the likes of Hatman, Andy Page, Sheriff Lindo and Stuart Crichton.

Wicked Beat Sound System have supported groups such as The Fugees, and Ben Harper during their Australian tours, they have played at festivals all over Australia, and Europe and their tracks have come into regular use on dramas such as Heartbreak High and The Secret Life Of Us. This system has become an icon of sorts in Australia, bringing sound up from the underground in a big way.

It isn't a surprise that the term 'nu-soul breaks' has resurfaced as the title to Wicked Beat Sound Systems third LP, which was released in September 2002. Wicked Beats continues to break boundaries, and scatter music across the world in a style like no other. It is smooth beats built over smouldering vocals which gives Wicked Beat Sound System its fire. Nu-Soul is the perfect way of describing this style, and the Australian music scene wouldn’t be the same without it.


Music From the Core - 1996 - One Movement

Inna Styles - 2000 - Mushroom

Inna Styles/re_styles - 2000 - Mushroom

New Soul Breaks - 2002 - Wicked Beat Records

3D World Article 1996, and other online sources used to extend existing knowledge

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