Former Sydney Kings basketballer John Blake is an Australian music original. Sure his sampology schtick gets tired quickly in the light of advanced sample wielders like Shadow, Herbert or Four Tet. But there’ something exciting and infectiously alive about his work as DJ Soup that drags me back.
Since his first outing with Fonke Knomaads in the late “80s, Blake has been a fixture in Sydney hip hop, although admittedly one of the more leftfield adherents of a community that often tends to the middle. Blake went on to produce a string of solo albums, produce a record for Sleek Tha Elite (now best known for his role on SBS TV show Fat Pizza), and is now signed to Katalyst’s Invada label.
For all the DJing and production, pro basketball and hip hop credentials, it’s his involvement with the Mu Meson Archives/Moodarama weird world think tank – he claims his biggest influences as the Michael Jackson trial and conspiracy theories instead of the usual rare grooves – that has most firmly stamped his music.
Blake skips the one-dimensional party funk pastiche of his label boss, instead using obscure film and video samples to uncover meaning: whether that’s the manipulation and manoeuvring of mainstream politics or the depth of musical knowledge that fires up his drums with unquantised funk.
Recorded in his home studio, Beatroot well and truly embraces the outsider – â€œIf you’re out there, come in! You’re at home now!â€ it says – the artwork must come from a similarly “original’ place. I hope for Blake’ sake that not too many people skip past the CD because of its cover.