While dance radio and clubs are full of eighties covers and remixes, Armand Van Helden has taken a different direction with his GhettoBlaster album. Rather than remixing the eighties, he has made tracks that sound like they are straight from the eighties, keeping the authentic sounds of legendary producers like Arthur Baker, Stock Aiken Waterman, and Jellybean intact. If you are fan of late 80s dance music, be sure to check out what's playing on Armand's Ghettoblaster.
DJ Ron Slomowicz: I've been having fun listening to this album, it's like the
ultimate party album. Was that on your mind when you put it
Armand Van Helden: I don't know if I was thinking that, but I'm in a party mood, so I guess selfishly I just made it relative to the music I was heading towards. I was shooting for that 80s kind of sound - going to an urban dance club back then, I don't think there were too many dark songs, so there were definitely more 'party' tracks.
RS: There's definitely an upbeat happy vibe to the album. and
it's actually a pleasant change from all the dark electro and trance
that's floating around.
Armand Van Helden: When it comes to the stuff that DJs are playing or the records that are hot in the clubs at the moment, one piece of advice I give to others is that you definitely don't want to do is turn in an album that sounds like what everybody's playing at the moment. It doesn't do anything for anybody and there's just no artistic integrity in that.
RS: Listening to each track on the album, I can guess the song
or artist that might have inspired it. Was there in your mind a song
for each song on the album?
Armand Van Helden: Not one song, but a mash-up in my head of maybe three or four for each. That's definitely intentional. You can hear a melody from something similar and you think that sounds like this song I remember. Then there's these drums from another record that you might remember. So yes, it was a definite combination of elements that I was shooting for and it was intentional.
RS: There's one track which I swear is Exposé or Cover Girls and
then there's another track that sounds like a Kid 'n Play bass kind of
Armand Van Helden: Yes, absolutely.
RS: The one thing I didn't get is that I never pictured Stock
Aiken Waterman as one of your influences.
Armand Van Helden: Stock Aiken Waterman, I didn't even know you knew that, so that's a good reference to pull out. I was trying to get a lot of influences to show – Jellybean, Arthur Baker, Mantronix, but I couldn't do everybody. I was listening to the songs from that time and looking at who produced them and realized that these people did a lot of good songs. It was actually a history lesson for me at the same time.
RS: It'll be a history lesson for a lot of DJs out there who
don't really see back more than two years.
Armand Van Helden: Well yes, for sure.
RS: I would love for the hip-hop people to get their hands on
this because this is hip-hop before it got all thuggish or all
serious, back when hip-hop was fun.
Armand Van Helden: It's still hip-hop at the end of the day. There's always one thing people get confused with hip-hop is even with all urban music there's always the pimp element. That goes back to the 50s and 60s, the pimp element is always going to exist and the criminal side of that music is always going to exist. There's a whole other side to it too and it just seems that it comes in hills and valleys where sometimes hip-hop's real conscious, sampling rap records like when Digable Planets was out and Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, and then it goes into the gold chain. Or before that time it was gold chain and all about shooting and killing people. It goes in waves.
RS: I really liked the idea you had to sample "Do You Want It
Right Now" for the "I Want Your Soul" track, how did that come about?
Armand Van Helden: I'm not really sure but I know that I have the twelve inch here. I go to this record shop and pick up a lot of records that are in the bottom bin for a dollar per record. It's a serious store for collectors and I really did all that record collecting stuff and I'm kind of over it, so I just go for the dollar bins and that record happened to be in there. I remembered seeing the video when I was a kid and seeing it in a movie and thought it was a great song in terms of the bassline and the soulful singing. I thought that it was exactly the sound I'm shooting for on this album and that this is something like nobody's doing. It was a strong song and I thought the song has all the right elements in it because it has a freestyle kind of beat but it's not freestyle. I wanted to bring it back to where it was before. I loved freestyle but there was some freestyle that came out during like maybe '87/'88, then it started to get kind of cheesy. I just wanted to make sure that it was sounding like a freestyle song, kind of more Arthur Baker-ish than, let's say, Cover Girls.