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  Tipper of the Iceberg
by Balz Biellman
photos by Balz Biellman

Fuel Banner at the RivieraAnyone who follows new school breaks knows the name Tipper, and if you listen to his music, you'll understand why. Tipper's unique production style is as distinct as a fingerprint. Blending unequivocal sub-bass tones and mechanical rhythms with precision engineering, his music leaves you with an acrid taste of metal and steel combined with the exhilarating sensations of a Formula One race. His label, Fuel, which he co-owns which Rich Warren, advocates all things bass-laden and boasts the aptly appointed slogan, "Music For Sound Systems." Backed up by elite and innovative producers devout to Fuel's manifesto, the Cold Fusion Mafia and Si Begg's Buckfunk 3000 project round out the impressive roster, giving Fuel full reign over the intelligent low end of breakbeat. Memorable appearances from Keith Tenniswood's Radioactive Man and Barge Charge projects, Ils, Voice Stealer and Tsunami One (props if you remember that!) further established Fuel's prominent, pivotal and innovative role during the golden era of new school in the mid to late nineties.

Tipper takes time to chat with Balz These days Fuel is still on top of their game and keeping busy. Having just released samplers for the sequel to last year's Sound Off compilation and riding out Tipper's newest album, Holding Pattern, Fuel is embarking on a US tour armed with DJs, Tipper's live set, and Fuel's customized Dodge Chargers. The purpose of the tour, however, is not just to get people hyped about Sound Off 2, but also to announce the establishment of Fuel USA, their new domestic headquarters run by San Francisco's Eye Phunk Distribution. Ultimately, this will make all future Fuel releases more readily available and affordable. The tour also allowed me a chance to interview one of the true pioneers in electronic music today about his music, history and future.

Tipper on stage at the Riviera It was quite an exhilarating experience to meet Dave Tipper, the man behind some of the most exciting sounds I've ever heard. Despite the audacity of his music, he was very modest, calm, and reserved in person. But I quickly discovered a keen sense of humor when he disclosed to me that he's been collecting samples of redneck and hillbilly colloquialisms. The topic soon changed to Tipper's great cooking skills and then the interview began. Twenty-six year old Tipper is from Wimbledon, London and was originally turned on to dance music by his older bother in the late eighties/early nineties. He began playing old hardcore (English for old breakbeat/rhythm section-type stuff) and scratching. Around the mid-nineties he began producing and soon had notable releases on Coast and Gee Street before signing to Leftfield's Higher Ground label, a subsidiary of Sony. Higher Ground hosted an onslaught of singles which preceded his debut album, The Critical Path, and also allowed him the opportunity to remix fellow Higher Ground artists such as DJ Rap, Pressure Drop, Left Field and Grooverider before the label's eventual disintegration. Tipper describes his sound as "multifaceted and anything left of center," with a craving for "anything weird." He also was quite adamant about his love for electronica. Tipper's live set that night consisted of some of the most beautifully melodic and twisted IDM I've heard since Schematic's last tour. Opposed to his more common dancefloor endeavors, Tipper's exquisite and unique fusion of hip hop beats and atmospheric melodies unquestionably establishes him in a league with artists like Phoenecia, Plaid, Otto Von Schirach, Richard Devine, and Boards of Canada.

The cars on the Fuel Tour When I asked Tipper about the breakbeat scene in England he introduced me to Kosmik Neil, one of the DJs now touring with Fuel in the US. Neil hosts the notorious Trigger parties in London, an all breakbeat event featuring some the most elite artists and DJs in breaks today. Neil also collaborated on a track to be released on the Sound Off 2 compilation this fall. Domestically, Tipper praised San Francisco's breaks scene and introduced me to Salim Rafiq. Salim hails from Miami's bass-laden scene and is also a DJ on board for Fuel's US tour. He recently released his first single on Napzzz Music as Wreck and just finished a remix for E.V.A.C. on the same label. Salim is also slated to mix the CD release of Sound Off 2.

The cars on the Fuel Tour Before the interview was over, I had to pry out some hints as to what we can look forward to from the Fuel camp. Aside from Sound Off 2, which will be released as a mixed CD and as a vinyl compilation, there is a new single from the Cold Fusion Mafia on the horizon. "Donut" will be the next single from the Holding Pattern album, featuring remixes by Wagon Christ and Radioactive Man. If we are lucky we may eventually see Tipper's mix of the Soul Oddity classic, "DJ Tokyo." Tipper is also currently working on a collaborative audio-visual project in which he is designing a 5.1 surround sound soundtrack that will be released as a DVD on Electromatrix/MyUtopia. He has also been working hard undercover on his IDM project, Crunch, a collaborative effort with Mike Wallis. Their first single, "Boy Rek," was released on Delikatessen, with a full length CD released on Musik Aus Strom Records. Tipper also has a new IDM label called Colony. Colony's first release is Crunch's second available vinyl single entitled "The Laurel EP."

The cars on the Fuel Tour Winding up the interview, I chatted with Rich Warren, Fuel's co-owner. Rich clued me in a bit more on Fuel's agenda, giving me the full tour and specs of the two Dodge Chargers parked outside the venue. The Chargers feature custom-built hydraulically operated speakers which rise out of the trunk. Rich told me about Fuel's involvement in auto racing and competitive car stereo contests. "Fuel isn't just a breaks label," he professed. "Fuel is a fully operational racing team." The cars on the Fuel Tour Aside from owning two of the loudest cars in the world, there is also an actively competitive drag racing Fuel funny car. They have a team driver and the Chargers do full on audio demonstrations reaching inconceivable decibel levels which tend to draw a lot of police attention. Rich also said to keep an ear out for Fuel at an auto show near you.

Ultimately, Fuel encompasses an array of productions whose underlying theme is pushing limits while maintaining streamlined perfection. The Fuel collaborative undoubtedly proves itself to be as much of a philosophy and way of life as it is an advocate for unique and innovative music. With that philosophy at work, all we can anticipate is much greater things to come from the camp which knows no limits.

Related links


Sound Off from Sound Off
Presented by Tipper

Track Listing:

  1. Sentinel - Cold Fusion Mafia
  2. High Volume - Buckfunk 3000
  3. Sable Taco
  4. Sine
  5. Outsider - Cold Fusion Mafia
  6. Multiplexus
  7. Tug of War
  8. Utopia - Buckfunk 3000
  9. Game Over - Andrea Parker
  10. Odd Job [Get Fresh Version] -
  11. Subbus-Maximus
  12. Filthmonger
  13. Throb-Longtemps
  14. Sounds of the Cone
  15. Sonic Chronic
  16. Bulge
  17. Rinse-It-On-Ya-Stezza
  18. Bowel Movement
  19. TNT
  20. Colonic Irrigation
  21. Bouncing Bins
  22. Smorgus Hertz
  23. Knobby
  24. Lo Sweep
  25. Scale
  26. Supaknob
  27. Sweepy
  28. Twisty
  29. Explosion
  30. Fuel Car 1
  31. Fuel Car 2
  32. Fuel Car 3
  33. Thunder
  34. Twister
  35. Rain and Thunder
  36. Overhead Jet

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