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Baker's Dozen

Champion Versions: Steve Mason's Favourite Albums
Joe Clay , March 2nd, 2016 11:04

With his new solo album, Meet The Humans, just released, the prolific musician and former Beta Band man gives Joe Clay a tour of his record collection, meandering through electro, hip-hop, punk and more


Public Image Ltd – Metal Box
When Metal Box came out, I was eight years old. About a year later, I bought the reissue, which wasn't in the metal box. It was called Second Edition and it was a double album. At primary school we were really into the Sex Pistols and X-Ray Spex, The Ruts and Buzzcocks and Stiff Little Fingers and all that. It's so weird thinking back. There was no internet so the information that you got, especially in a little town in Scotland, was all word of mouth. You never really knew what was going on. Then somebody told me that John Lydon had gone off and the Pistols had split up. He'd formed a band called "Pill", I thought. Then I found out they were Public Image Ltd and I went and found the album and it didn't look like a punk record. It had this weird, distorted painting on it. But I thought it must be that, so I bought it and took it home and because it was an album I expected it to play at 33rpm. But you're supposed to play it at 45rpm – they'd cut it like that because you get much better bass frequencies. So I was playing it at the wrong speed, listening to it at 33 for about a fucking month thinking, "This guy's lost his mind, what the hell does he think he's doing?" I'd be listening to it and my mum would walk past and say, "That's so beautiful. Is that whale song?"

Eventually I went round to this older guy's house and he had the actual Metal Box album and he played it to me at 45 and I realised what I'd been doing. But it still made no sense to me because I was too young and too into punk. I just thought it was bollocks. Although I did get a lot from it – it felt really dark and really scary, and the bass was much louder. This was before I got into dub and I'd never heard a record with that much bass on it before, so that was a big thing. Keith Levene's guitar sound is terrifying. It's a record that I had to come back to so I could appreciate what an amazing piece of work it was and what an amazing transition it was. To go from the Pistols and punk to that, and so quickly as well. It's pretty impressive – from three-minute punk-pop songs to complete avant-garde, post-punk, dub reggae in a year. The way he uses his voice... It's so frightening. You can't really just put one track on. You make a decision to listen to the album and you listen to it from beginning to end. It's an experience. Once you're in there you can't really turn it off.