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Rotten Hill Gang Interview - Part I

By Piers Thompson

Rotten Hill Gang performing in Powis Square

Piers Thompson interviews the Rotten Hill Gang. Part I of III

 I love everything about Rotten Hill Gang. I love the sound, which is blindingly modern whilst harking back to first generation hip-hop, dislocated funk and the sound of the Language Lab. I love the Artful Dodger look. I love the endless new venues they find to play. I love the stream of gorgeous singers they unearth. I love what they stand for.

For an insight, check out the new video, City Of Cold Steel. You will find a proper, fully formed band, with a distinctive sound, singing about the stuff of everyday life. They descend directly from the spirits of rock n roll that haunt this neighbourhood, but the Victorian Grime is brand new. The core is bassist Gary Stoneadge (who was in Big Audio Dynamite with Mick Jones), guitarist and unicyclist Andre Shapps and singer Reds. I met Gary and Reds on Portobello Road.

video still - reds shiningthesourcemag.net – where does the name come from?

RHG:        It comes from a chance remark from a mate of Reds. About four years ago, we were doing a remix of The Clash’s Magnificent 7. That’s what we were doing at the time and obviously it was with their permission. So he comes up with something like Notting Hill Hoodsman and we all riff on it till it becomes Rotten Hill Gang. It was a golden nugget, it’s like the Sugarhill Gang and all that but it’s now and here. So we told him we’ll have that.

thesourcemag.net – the early rap thing seems to be a big influence?

RHG:        That’s what we formed from, that BAD (Big Audio Dynamite) vibe. If it weren’t for the Clash, I would never have listened to rap because Mick used to bring cassettes back from America. All these tunes that you’d never heard before. That’s how we got into the rap thing. Even people I was into when I was young, like Rodney P and the London Posse and all that, BAD took them on tour to the States. Mick always loved that stuff, new sounds while other peole were scared to embrace them.

This area has got so many influences and it’s the same with the band. You’ve got hip hop influences, guitar rock, punk, reggae everything.

Rotten Hill Gang performing in Powis Square

thesourcemag.net – the area is very important?

RHG:        A lot of people think that we overplay the importance, and it is like that. But the area represents an interesting question. It’s got the kudos from the past generations doing something but now it’s somewhat asleep on what it’ got. Everyone’s so caught up in doing their own little thing that no-one’s doing anything.

People are trying to do things, like the Pop Up cinema, the Rock n Roll Library, your magazine. Everyone’s trying to make some change. But the only way it’s going to work, and I’ve always said this, is if everyone works together. Everyone’s gotta support each other.

We all bitch. I know we do. But it’s like some of the bands we put on, I don’t necessarily like their music but I like the vibe. Pink Cigar. They’re wicked. I’m not necessarily into the music but they’re great. They’ve got a great energy and they’ve got passion.

The West Borns are thirteen-year old girls. They’re great but no-one wanted to touch. I want them to support us everytime. When I was thirteen, I wouldn’t have had the bollocks to go on stage. Now everyone wants them so I know we’ve got a good influence on things. It would be nice to get some credit sometimes though.

It’s a mystery to me why what’s left of the record business isn’t beating a path to Mike’s on Talbot Road to sign the band. Gary has a suitably late Rock n Roll breakfast there every day. Perhaps they are held back by the conflicted view of Notting Hill that the media carries these days. They certainly make an effective antidote to the anodyne Seven Days. You could say they’re more real than the reality show.

There’s more of this interview to follow. Stay tuned.

City Of Cold Steel on SBS-TV

Catch all of Piers Thomson Blog entries here

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Photographs courtesy of the Tabernacle Manager, Christopher Scholey

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