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Artist Profiles :: Jon Carter

Jon CarterJon Carter’s history is famously colourful. Indeed, in recent years he’s become renowned for his alcohol and drug excesses more than any other DJ (Derek Dahlarge excepted). But it’s an image that’s increasingly hard to believe, giving the CV which follows. For it’s a CV which paints a picture of someone who’s achieved too much to have spent his life in some debauched drug-influenced stupor. In fact, the direction of Carter’s career path has perenially defied the expectations of those who’ve strived to pigeon-hole him, musically or otherwise...

The story stretches back to the late 80s, when Jon moved from his home in East London to the south coast to pursue a Philosophy degree at Southampton University. It was here that he started his own ‘experimental’ rock band, Everybody Burns, gigging on the local pub circuit, influenced by childhood faves like The Jam and old sixties rock, as well as the hip hop breaks of old school acts like Schoolly D and dub reggae. But disillusioned with both his degree and the frustrations of getting recognition for a band outside the London gig scene, Carter quit Southampton and headed back home, set upon teaching himself to engineer and produce his own tracks with the focus on sounds rather than songwriting. DJing at this time was not even vaguely part of the Carter equation - production, he felt, was always his primary calling.

By ‘92, Jon was engineering for the No U-Turn label, at that time famous for so-called ‘techstep’ jungle, with its harsh, abrasive, ‘Reese’ bass sound. It was here that he came into contact with some of jungle’s future stars, Trace and Ed Rush among them. But he was also forging contacts elswhere, with the Wall of Sound and Heavenly stables. In fact, by 1993, Carter, despite his initial lack of ambition for the art, was DJing at the now legendary Heavenly Social club night

The Heavenly Social provided the launch-pad from which his career took off, paving the way for his first dub-house single ‘The Dollar’ (recorded under the name Artery), a collaboration with Wall of Sound label boss Mark Jones. Nevertheless, in the long-term, Carter was still focused on a project that would be able to draw together and meld his wide range of disparate influences.

The result was Monkey Mafia, who signed a deal with Heavenly in early ‘95, unleashing the massive smash ‘Blow The Whole Joint Up’, which shifted over 10,000 copies, as well as being a critical favourite. The limited edition follow-up ‘The Gimp’ soon followed, providing an early indication of the ragga-influenced sound that Carter wanted to pursue under the Mafia banner.

But, for some time, it was through a series of remixes that the Monkey Mafia name was best known, giving the Carter treatment to a host of luminaries. There was the Prodigy’s ‘Minefields’ and Kula Shaker’s ‘Govinda’ as well as reworkings of U2 and The Manic Street Preachers. Looking back, Jon maintains that the remixes were a great way of working through the big beat sound, leaving Monkey Mafia’s own material for the pursuit a more eclectic, experimental sound. On the DJing front, Jon was now firmly installed - alongside Richard Fearless - as resident at the Heavenly Social and it’s sister club, The Heavenly Jukebox. After The Chemical Brothers had dealt with Volume 1, he took the reins for the second Live At The Social compilation CD. By now, his DJing talents were much in demand: the Prodigy invited him on the road with him, a tour which became a favourite press source for the debauched Carter image, as Jon dashed around every which way, keeping up the Jukebox residency and playing at gigs all over the UK.

Things were pretty much a rollercoaster ride from now on, especially from ‘97 on with the release of a string of twelve inches that saw the Monkey Mafia crew spread their wings, mixing a massive range of influences from hip hop to reggae to techno and more Brazilian sounds: there were the insane breakbeats of the ‘15 Steps EP’ with lead track ‘Lion In The Hall’; the awesome ‘Work Mi Body’ which sampled the vocals from ragga queen Patra’s dancehall anthem ‘Worker Man’; and then - just to show that you couldn’t begin to pin them down - a cover of the Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Long As I Can See The Light’!

By now the team had incorporated Krash Slaughta, the Scottish turntablist, MC Dougie Reuben on vocals, and Dan Peppe and Tom Symmons on bass and drums respectively, both from the Wall of Sound crew - all accompanying Carter on keyboards and sampler in a series of incendiary live shows supporting Roni Size’s Reprazent on a sell-out UK tour.

Want to know more? check out this CD...
7 Live #1: Jon Carter
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