Uk Proto-House Rediscovered: Tim Brinkhurst Talks


Since 2010 Andy Butler's Mr. Intl label have concentrated on releasing new music, albeit new music steeped in the history and heritage of house and techno. Now though, the label is dipping it's toes into the burgeoning reissue market by re-releasing the excellently named MacDonald Flak And The Ack Ack Pack – Cortina Kidz. Produced by Tim Brinkhurst in 1987, the track was tucked away on an obscure B Side, soft-released by Brinkhurst as a way of getting out of a shady publishing deal that was threatening to derail his then band Soho's future chart success (Soho themselves later passed into UK Pop history with the Smiths sampling classic Hippy Chick). Now re-discovered by Andy Butler, Cortina Kidz is a mental piece of proto-house, the sounds of young enthusiasts messing aroud with kit they had no idea how to use, forging out into wild new electronic lands. Coming repackaged with remixes from Factory Floor and Juan Maclean & Tim Sweeney, Cortina Kidz is more than just an old skool oddity- it's a banger that's stood the test of time. We've been lucky enough to be given the online premiere of the track – listen below, and then read our interview with Tim Brinkhurst, talking shady deals, imagining house music, and the grimey reality of mid 80s East London… 

Tell us about how Cortina Kidz came about

I was in a group called Soho, and we had just signed off first record deal. We’d stupidly signed a deal with an agency called Station. You don’t normally sign a deal with an agency, it’s normally an informal relationship, but they made us sign a deal where we promised them the publishing of four tracks, that was two named tracks that they thought were the hottest ones in our set at the time, and two unnamed tracks which were the first two that would be released after we signed a record deal. So when we signed a deal with Virgin they wanted the publishing for all the tracks we did – to make sure they were happy, and also because we weren’t happy with what Station had done, we decided to release an EP before the main Soho releases – because we’d signed with Station as writers rather than as Soho. And so the idea was we’d release these two tracks, they’d get the publishing, we’d be sorted and then we could move on with the new deal.

Had you written the tracks at the time


So when you wrote these tracks there was a slight element of 'fuck you' to it?

Hahaha- There was a large element of fuck you to it..! It was a nasty deal, a horrible thing to do to a young group, but there you go. Everyone fucks over young groups in this business. Nigel Lackey who was the programmer and erstwhile drummer in Soho at the time – and also somewhat of an electronic visionary – he was so bang o the money with what he was into and what he tried to introduce to the group – he was working on this cut up track that turned into the A Side, and then I got together with my first attempts on the old really clockwork computer technology of the time- I had to teach myself how to program because Nigel refused to do it for me – in a way he did me a great favour. Then I got Simon Waller in to sing it.

Did you feel liberated because you weren’t caring about making a hit?

Well there’s always an element of that where you do a track where you’re concentrating but also you’re divorced from it, so you don’t worry about it too much. But it was interesting to me because it was the first time I learnt how to write beats. Working with Nigel he’d have whatever beats he’d ripped off the latest underground thing that had come out of America. I think I was probably concentrating on reading the manuals more than anything.

Were you very immersed in the house scene of the time?

My background, even before I met Nigel, from post punk onwards, was to mix whatever could be perceived as the latest dance beats with punk rock and pop music, and other influences as it went along. The groups I was involved with did that from a very early time, from 1978 onwards

Who else had you played with?

Oh nobody that had any success – little groups on the London circuit. Blazing Red were one, another one was called Groovalax. Groovalax had one self-released single that John peel played. Then in 1986 when I got together with Nigel we were using a lot of high energy beats, the electro beats at the time- you didn’t really call it hip hop as much then – and then the nascent house, pre-techno. And those floated in on the little bits and pieces we could garner sometimes from just reading about it and trying to interpret it, as it wasn’t so easy to listen to things in those days, before the pirates kicked in.

I like the idea that there’s this imagined version of house you’re trying to bring in

I think in a sort of mild way that’s what the original house guys were doing when they were trying to interpret the electro sounds that were coming from the UK and then mix it up with their own beats, – it’s always a collision- or at least it used to be, I think everyone has far too much knowledge now – but it used to be a collision between groups of people who don’t know that much about something else that’s happening, but are excited by it.

And you were living in Stoke Newington at the time you wrote the record. It was pretty different in the 80s to how it is now – did you pick up much dance music influence from the neighbourhood?

I lived above a dry cleaners that was next to a reggae record shop, and when I first moved in, for the first few years I had the front room ,and I used to wake up to basslines coming from the speakers they’d have hanging outside the shop, they’d sell a lot of African stuff as well. That was more the nature of Hackney at the time. At that point the rare groove scene and the warehouse scene was just kicking off and that’s what I see as the routes of the English rave scene

And Stoke Newington police station was notorious as being one of the worst in the country at the time-

Well that was when Colin Roach managed to go into the station, stand at the desk with a fully loaded shotgun, put the shotgun in his mouth – not a sawn off one – and blow his head off. You have to wonder what was going on in Stoke Newington, they had a terrible reputation. It was a very different place then – if we told people from other parts of London that we lived in Dalston, there’d be raised eyebrows and they wouldn’t come and visit you. It’s hard to believe now, but things change and move on, Brooklyn’s not the same either is it? I like seeing young people on the streets and the place seeming alive – I’m not gonna go round examining everyone’s credentials

Are you still making music?

I’m actually feeling shattered today as I was up all night making music on these old machines that I used back in the late 90s. I’ve still got the beats on them I programmed then, proto UK Garage kind of things, and it’s amazing how these things can still sound good. I do it for fun though, I’m way too long in the tooth to be putting out dance tracks – I figure you shouldn’t put any dance music unless you’re prepared to dance to it yourself and I seldom get out of my chair these days… 

MacDonald Flak And The Ack Ack Pack – Cortina Kidz is out via Mr Itnl on May 6th