Ninja Wisdoms : 5 Things That We Can Learn From The Ninja Masters of Ninja Tunes.

For the first Sun Down Circle session of the year, Potato Head Beach Club Bali is bringing the legendary multitalented Mr. Scruff! But first let us introduce you to the legendary label behind the legend itself; Ninja Tune, the London based label that is founded by the duo Matt Black and Jonathan More (better known as Coldcut). So without further ado, let us look deeper into the secret wisdom of this 30 years old (and still standing strong) Ninja Clan!

1. Doing It Out of Love.

When asked about what he personally define as an underground musician on a interview for London Electronic Music Event back in 2014, Matt states that it is all in the attitude of the musician themselves;

“.. if you love making music, you don’t care what happens to that, you don’t need to have a million followers on youtube and a big recording deal, you’re into the art form and the enjoyment of the music”

With said statement in mind, perhaps its not a coincidence that this kind of attitude plays a major part in the formation of the legendary label itself. After Coldcut’s success with their first label, contractual issues prevented them to release anything under their own name. Feeling as if they were pushed into a sausage machine and forced to create hits after hits, they felt that they’re unable to do what they love best, which is messing around with sound, experimenting with different forms and having a good time. So as a reaction, they came out with an idea to start their own label and create whatever they want to release under some other identities, and eventually Jon & Matt’s love for the music itself became the foundation of the Ninja Tune that we knew today.

2. D.I.Y: Do What You Can With What You Have.

Matt started his first production using a four track cassette and some decks, while at one time, Mr.Scruff done a mix using a fixed speed deck, one dodgy vari-speed belt drive turntable, and an £80 Realistic mixer from Tandy. In the earlier days of the label itself, the founders doubles as the admins and get things done themselves with additional favours from friends and colleagues. They consider taking these responsibilities as a good thing because they know that they were doing it the best they could, and they haven’t got anyone else to blame for it. It seems that with every step they take and the hardship that they went through, paving their own path at their own pace, using what was at hand builds character and gradually adds up to their knowledge.    

3. Earlier Riders Of The Convergence Wave.

The two founders of the Ninja clan is a well known early adopter of technology with an obvious streak of artsy D.I.Y mentality. With Matt’s professional background as a computer programmer and Jon’s stint as an art teacher, the label’s forage into the field of technologically inclined experimentation is well known and deeply casted into their brand; From CD-ROMs packaged with Coldcut’s 1999 remix LP Let Us Play!, to Amon Tobin’s shows that was dubbed by Vice Magazine’s Creator Project as “revolutionising the live music experience, to releasing audio and visual softwares and app such as VJAMM and Ninja Jamm, to the creation of the Ntone sister imprint that specialised in experimental electronic music, their cunning use of technological aspects seems to be a borderless frontier.

4. A Rooster With A Distinctive Characteristics

Some labels focused on a certain genre and hold on to it as a defining character, but this is not the story with Ninja Tune; their rooster is made up of artists that bend genres, varying from hip hop to drum ’n bass to house and even experimental. But if there’s a thin red line that somewhat connects these talents, it is perhaps the undeniable fact that each and every talent they enrolled has a distinctive character to it that sets them apart from their competitions. Mr. Scruff and Amon Tobin are two best example from their embarrassingly rich line of rooster.

Mr. Scruff a.k.a Andrew “Andy” Carthy is known for his eclectic musical taste, long sets, and his whimsical hand drawn “potato style” artwork that can be found on his album and single cover art, music videos, merchandise, website, and especially projected onto large screen during his gigs. He’s also known to be very fond of tea. He began selling tea from a small room at the Manchester club, the Music Box, where he was resident DJ in around 2000, with the proceeds going to charity.

Meanwhile, Amon Tobin is noted for his unusual methodology in sound design and music production. In 2007 he released Foley Room, an album based entirely on the manipulation of field recordings. 2011’s ISAM included “female” vocals made from his own processed voice. His music has been used in numerous major motion pictures including The Italian Job and 21. Tobin has created songs for several independent films, including the 2006 Hungarian film Taxidermia, and had his music used in other independent films, including the 2002 Cannes Palme d’Or nominated Divine Intervention. He also produced the musical scores to critically acclaimed video games Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory by Ubisoft in 2005, and Sucker Punch’s Infamous in 2009. He’s also incorporate multimedia installations on his gigs. He told Wired Magazine “The idea was to integrate myself, quite literally, into an audio and visual presentation of the album

5. Outstanding Visual Performance.
A standard set forth in the very beginning for the label is that it would also push the boundaries in visual performance art. With Coldcut themselves setting the standard of performance with meticulously prepared visuals on every gig, most of the talents on the label has their own distinctive visual elements, such as the (aptly named ) Cinematic Orchestra’s venture into cinema verite by creating the musical score to Dzigo Vertov’s masterpiece Man With A Movie Camera. And then the earlier mentioned Amon Tobin’s collaborated with several visual artists, namely V Squared Labs, Leviathan, Vello Virkhaus & Matt Daly, Alex Lazarus, Vitamotus Design Studio, and Stefano Novelli for the ISAM and ISAM 2.0 concert, to name a few.