Nebraska’s Mixed Up Music For Mixed Up People is, to use Morgan Geist’s term, an “unclassic” of an album. Slept on by most when it was released by DownLow Recordings in 2008, a couple of years later it not only stands up to comparable efforts by Geist’s group Metro Area and Recloose (Cardiology), but joins them as one of the best house albums of the last decade. As the title of the album, and those two reference points might suggest, Mixed Up Music For Mixed Up People is not your average four-four thump, melding funk, jazz and soul influences into a coherent whole. A couple of reissues from Rush Hour and a new EP titled A Weekend On My Own later, and it feels like people are finally ready for Nebraska’s music. We also felt it was about time to invite the man behind the moniker, Ali Gibbs, to answer a few questions and contribute a mix for our 53rd exclusive podcast.
LWE Podcast 53: Nebraska (54:50)
01. Placebo, “Balek” [CBS]
02. Chocolate Milk, “Time Machine” [RCA Victor]
03. Marvin Gaye, “Cleo’s Apartment” [Tamla Motown]
04. Cloud One, “Atmosphere Strut” [P&P Records]
05. Skyy, “First Time Around” (Cosmo Vitelli Edit) [I’m A Cliché]
06. Floating Points, “Truly” [Eglo Records]
07. Nebraska, “Untitled 1999 Archive Track” [white*]
08. Nebraska, “Hi Ya” [Smooth Agent Records]
09. Steve Winwood, “Penultimate Zone” (Nebraska Edit) [white*]
10. Graham Central Station, “The Jam” [Warner Bros. Records]
11. Harmonia, “Watussi” [Brain]
* denotes tracks which, as of the time of publishing, are unreleased
Please tell us a little bit about your podcast for LWE. When/where it was made, and if there was any theme?
Ali Gibbs: It was made in my home in South East London, using my 20 year old Technics 1200s and also a demo version of Ableton — my first real attempt at digital DJing. The theme was simply to use stuff that’s been on my mind recently, a mix of soundtrack soul and spacey funk. And a bit of Kosmichmusik at the end.
The recordings for your debut album Mixed Up Music For Mixed Up People were made between 1995-2004. Do you like a long gestation period for your music before it is released, or is that purely circumstantial?
I get things to a certain point and don’t know what to do with them. You have to stop thinking about them for a long time to understand what’s good or bad about them. Sometimes you don’t recognise that what you’ve done is any good. “Plastiscene” from the DownLow LP is a case in point; made sometime around ’94 by myself and James Mason in one live take, but it never seemed “complete,” until I realised it didn’t need anything more. It just needed to ferment to the right vintage.
Following on from that, was your last release A Weekend On My Own “new” material?
Yes, that was nearly all made in the last year or so. Although “Masala Dosa” is from around 2003, I think.
You released Mixed Up Music For Mixed Up People on U.S. label DownLow. How did you hook up with them?
We first discussed the idea of me working with Minto and JT around 2003/4 — I was contacted by them out of the blue via email. They knew the material I’d done on Ferox and asked if I had anything else. It was around the time where I had sold all of my original equipment and was planning to not do any more music in order to concentrate on my “real” career.
Steve Pickton (aka Stasis) and Soul223 remixed “Vicarious Disco” for you. Did you know Steve or was this organised by dL?
I’d long been a huge fan of Steve’s stuff and own nearly all the records he made. I’d never really met him to speak to; I’d bought the odd record off him when he worked at Smallfish, but never introduced myself. Minto suggested it and I leapt at the idea. I liked that what he did with that remix suggested a hybrid between Madlib and Theo Parrish, just the sort of thing I imagine.
Your music is quite different from pretty much all of the British house or techno community. Do you have any connection to that community, and more widely, who do you feel are your peers?
I have no idea who my peers are, or really thought about any particular community. Recent British music I like has been by people like Floating Points, Lukid, Hudson Mohawke, Four Tet… although the stuff I’ve released in the past few years has been loosely “house,” stuff before that had a techno edge, and prior to that it was more downtempo/hip-hop led. I listen a lot to pre-80’s music — jazz and rock — and to DJs like Theo and KDJ. Sample-based hip hop has been the big inspiration for me — Double Dee & Steinski and the first few A Tribe Called Quest LPs.
I understand you released a few records on the Russ Gabriel’s British techno label Ferox in the mid-90s. Do you want to talk about that a little bit?
Around 1996 I’d become more interested in the sample-based techno I was beginning to hear from people like Russ, Kirk Degiorgio, Stasis, et al. I sent a few tapes around and Russ got back to me, suggesting we do an album. We ended up being good friends and Russ released the original Terrestrial Variations 12″ (the last of the material I made on my old set-up) around 2000. I think he lives in Germany now; we lost touch a bit when he moved.
Some of your music has a very cinematic quality, made explicit in the track title “A Film I Can’t Remember.” Can you “remember” any of your favourite films, and some of your favourite soundtracks?
I’m a big film fan — all the usual Coppola and Scorsese ones, and “Withnail & I” is a movie I’ve watched a million times like a lot of British people my age. Love all the jazz guys who made the great soundtracks – Quincy Jones, Lalo Schiffrin, et al. Always great for samples. The one I’ve caught on to recently is the Ennio Morricone score for Magdalene — that’s amazing and the drums were used on the Bel Air Project 12″s that blew me away in the late ’90s.
Plans for Nebraska this year?
Another four track 12″ on Rush Hour. Maybe a mix compilation of the last four 12″s plus some unreleased stuff. I do music when I feel like it and when I have time. As I’m not trying to make a living at it, I don’t do it if I’m not feeling it. I’ve gone for a year before without doing anything. Sometimes a break is what makes you creative again.
LWE Podcast 53: Nebraska (54:50)