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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


Kraftwerk – Autobahn
The first time I ever heard Kraftwerk was on an album called Tommy Boy's Greatest Beats. It had 'Planet Rock' on it and I think that was where I first came across it, although it might have been before. 'Planet Rock' just seemed like part of the fabric of life back then, or at least our lives in the little scene we created. I'd never heard of Kraftwerk so I didn't know that Afrika Bambaataa sampled it. But then we went to the cinema to see Breakdance: The Movie.

That's not aged well.

With hindsight it was a load bollocks, unlike Beat Street, which is the film to watch. The music is so much better. But there was a scene in Breakdance where the guy's sweeping up and dancing with the broom to 'Tour De France'. I was like, "Wow, what the fuck is that?" To me it was definitely an electro track, so straight away you think it's got to be from New York or Chicago or wherever. But I couldn't find it anywhere. Then the soundtrack came out and it wasn't on the album. Eventually I found it was by this German band, Kraftwerk, and I was like, "How the hell do they know about electro?" I ended up buying the 12" of 'Tour De France', but I still didn't really know who Kraftwerk were. Bizarrely, after I did the whole b-boy thing I got into being a mod. I went back in time again and got into the whole scooterist, northern soul, mod scene. So it wasn't until much later that I heard Autobahn and Trans-Europe Express and Radio-Activity and slowly started to join the dots.

Autobahn is such a beautiful record. They blend together so many different sounds. There's bits of guitars in there, there's the electronic stuff, the flutes, drums they made themselves... It's so seamless. When such talented and clever people put an album together you don't really realise, until you stop to analyse, what you're listening to. It's just a load of really beautiful things happening. That German automaton voice – all their vocals seem really stilted and unemotional, but they're actually the exact opposite. The way they work with the melodies is really affecting. It was another record we used to listen to a lot in the early days of the Beta Band. It was an influence on us in that one track took up the whole side of a record. The fact that you could sustain a track over that length of time and it could be an experience with recurring themes. We certainly attempted to do that in the Beta Band. It was part of the opening of your mind to the idea that songs didn't have to happen over four minutes, they could happen over 20 minutes.