“Am I both General Midi and Starecase? Confusingly, yes, ” explains Crossman. “I got together with Al (Wason) in ’97 to form Starecase and we’ve been working together ever since.” It started out with a record on the Lakota label, back in the day, with General Midi coming into conception a good couple of years later.”
The Lakota club was to Bristol what the Hacienda was to Manchester: inspirational, infamous and unforgettable to all who experienced it. Having met through mutual friends, they hit it off and began promoting club nights together. It was only a matter of time until their shared love of dance music saw them working on tracks with First Floor Deadlock the second release on Lakota’s fledgling record label.
“We’ve been working with the guys from Lakota from the beginning,” confirms Crossman. “A couple of them began a new record label called Hope Recordings who we’re still with to this day. Lakota has an incredible reputation around the world. When Al and I started recording together it was the first place we went to. The club is still around but it’s not what it was. It’s glory days were in the mid 90’s with the peak between ’94 to ’97. All the big names at the time used to play there. Roni Size and crew used to do a backroom there. The vibe was indescribable really. An awesome, awesome club. There are all sorts of cliches you can start rolling out such as the ‘oneness of the crowd’. I just remember it as a lot of hazy nights. Many things came out of that era for us and a lot of working relationships that are still holding true now. One thing about labors like Hope and what we’re doing is that we’re still here. We’ve seen a lot of people fall by the wayside in the last few years and especially the last couple. There seems to have been an incredible cull in the industry. But we’re still doing it. That’s the problem with the DIY ethic. It’s a great thing and it democratized the music, but what it’s also done is allow every man and their dog to do it but not everyone can do it well. Similarly everyone put out compilations and you can’t be surprised when it goes tits up like it did. Dance music has had an incredibly good run, it’s natural for tastes to change and the way that rock has resurged is just a natural part of it. Over here a lot of the dance music has gone underground again, like it was originally, with the innovators still doing their thing and not doing it for exorbitant fees.”
So then, having heard a little of their history and Crossman’s philosophy on the dance music cycle, we’re back to the question of who is General Midi? “The way we do it is that I front General Midi a lot more. I’m the public face. We try and keep the two things as separate as possible. General Midi is breaks and that came out of a love of the sound around 97 to ’98 when we did the first General Midi mix which was actually a remix of one of our own records. It was our response to a sound that was developing in the UK at the time. Big Beat was great in some respects. It opened the door to a non serious form of dance music where it was all about spilling your pint on the dance floor, shouting a lot, taking pills and reaching for the sun for 12 hours. Nuskool breaks crept out of it which was much darker and more electronic in sound. It took influences from house and drum ‘n bass. We found this sound very appealing so we started working on our own versions of that. General Midi was born from this.”
“Starecase is more of an album project now, using techniques we’ve built up from what was then the progressive scene. It’s more a song based traditional way of doing things. With General Midi we try and explore a more urban sound. There’s a nod to the UK garage scene. Rennie Pilgrem came up with the term break-step to describe it. When we started Starecase, we used to do breaks and house together which was very much a signature sound along with guys like Hybrid and Way Out West. What we attempted to do was separate the two things as we found it was getting a little messy and unfocused. When General Midi was born we were able to take the breaks side of it and focus on it properly. At the same time it freed Starecase up to explore more of an album route.”
So, now that we can answer that important exam question in Dance Music 101: ‘compare and contrast Starecase and General Midi’, but which of them will be making an appearance at Two Tribes? “I’ll be known as General Midi on the Australian tour,” answers Crossman with a laugh. “Sometimes I tour as General Midi with an MC but unfortunately he can’t make it so you’re stuck with just me.”
While Starecase may have been the starting point it is definitely General Midi who is making all the noise at the moment so the timing of the tour is perfect. Crossman happily elaborates on the rise and rise of the Midimeister. “There was a compilation called ‘Genetically Modified’ that came out on Streetbeat Records in America and Hope in the UK. It was a half album as 50% of the stuff on there was General Midi tracks and remixes and the rest consisted of tracks I really liked at the time. We’re gearing up for a proper album towards the latter half of this year. The last couple of tracks we had out were Further on TCR, around the middle of last year, and You Will be Under that came out on Hyper’s Kilowatt label. We’ve just completed a track called Entertainer for TCR with MC Jakes who is more widely known for his work with EZ Rollers. He’s another Bristol lad and we collaborate on a few bits and pieces. He’s an amazing lyricist and a very good frontman. Provisional release date is the end of February. There is another track called We’ve been Waiting which is a General Midi vs Hyper collaboration and will be coming out at a similar time.”