Assorted scribblings of a dog-eared music journalist

Melody Maker | Sidelines | 2 April 1988

S'EXPRESS
FULL THEME AHEAD
featsexpress


Do you ever get to see daylight, Mark?

“Sure. Every morning. Just before I collapse into bed.”

Mark Moore is a professional nightclubber. As a DJ at London venues like The Mud Club, Heaven, The Wag, The Fridge and, irregularly, one or two other places, clubland gives him his living. Even when he’s not working, he’s holding court in some dark corner, beside some polished bar, maybe for half an hour, maybe for the whole night. He confesses it’s a religion to him.

Not content with that, Mark Moore is the latest of a growing group of DJs to produce their own record. His vehicle is called S’Express.

Mark says S’Express has a flexible line-up of street and clubland superstars, discovered across the nation’s dancefloors and in various alleyways. As well as singers, musicians and dancers, there’s a former pimp and two actresses. Mark also says the stories about the group –like vocalist Michelle singing along to The Supremes in an all-night pizza joint, Michelle's reservation at the Betty Ford Clinic for later this year, and Mark’s own breakdown, scheduled to be filmed and set to music as an early 1989 S’Express project – are true. Perfectly.

“The whole thing is my concept,” he declares. “But I wanted to work with people who weren’t restricted by rules. They’re mostly friends of mine, though it’s hard to maintain friendships under working conditions. I’ve already split from the original line-up.

“The idea is to produce utter mayhem for the purpose of PAs and so on. I prefer to operate through chaos and it’s far more fun to see slide shows and films and manic dancing than a couple of singers looking awkward. Anyway, it complements the full, freakish sound.”

The first S’Express single, “Theme From S’Express” on Rhythm King, is upfront and uptempo, brassy and sassy. A tall house, a fat funk, all screams, laughter and overdrive, bubbling synths, sampling, groovy licks and smooth mixes. “Suck me off” gets repeated several times as a tribute to Karen Finlay, although the seven-inch is clean. The central message is to “enjoy this trip”.

“I can’t say exactly what’s in it. I’d be arrested! No, not really. It’s 100 per cent original. We wrote and played everything ourselves. The initial idea was to ignore record companies and do bootlegs, wild megamixes like the ‘Genius At Work’ mixes from New York, and slip them into the shops in a similar way to what Coldcut were doing. I still feel like doing that now, but we’re signed to a proper label and we have to uphold the law. There are loads of excellent ideas which the law simply won’t permit.”

Wth the rise of a discernible British DJ culture and the impact club-oriented records are having on the commercial charts – from pop maestros Stock Aitken Waterman to messers Dorrell (M/A/R/R/S) and Simenon (Bomb The Bass) – it looks like more and more record spinners will be taking the road of transmutation into artists in their own right.

Like Bomb The Bass, however, S’Express’s club background is variegated. While their material has a definite house feel, the full sound allows space for other funky waverings. Mark feels it’s important to combine as many styles as possible, without causing imbalances and creating confusion. In a way, S’Express reflect the numerous splits in the club scene. In places like The Mud, for example, house music is a tried and tester floor clearer. On the other hand, extra beats per minute are the mainstay of clubs in the north of England.

“It all comes down to drugs,” argues Mark. “The reason why hip hop is so massive in London is because the dominant drug is the spliff. People get stoned and they can be laid-back and nod to the dope beats, just as they used to with reggae. But if you look at somewhere like Chicago, the main drugs are more uplifting. I’m not advocating the use of, shall we say, social additives. Music is all that should be needed. But I recognise the strength of the argument that says London is lacking a good, healthy drug culture, so long as people use their intelligence.

“In recent years, everyone has been dressing down. The influence of hip hop meant everything got very serious, very def. Now the trend is back up again and that’s most obviously seen in the 1970s fashion revival. It’s really outrageous and not to be taken seriously. How can you take wearing flares and platform boots seriously?! Those who knock it just haven’t got the guts to do it themselves.”

But remembering the fashion victim syndrome, isn’t dressing up a show of elitism?

“A few years ago, there was always an in-crowd that everyone wanted to be with – Philip Salon, Boy George and Marilyn, long before they were in the public eye. But that kind of scene is redundant now. Rivalry between the DJs and the faces is disappearing. Today, people like Mike Pickering from T-Coy, Jazzie B from Soul II Soul, myself, Tim Simenon, house DJ Colin Faver, we work together, we help one another. It bodes well for making the club scene a lot stronger. And it creates entertainment and enjoyment, rather than just hanging out with someone as an exercise in social climbing.”

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