Through their experiments with classical, bebop, and improvisational jazz, DJ Food have made what is old new again. Orchestral nu-jazz beats and breaks are dance music's latest excursion beyond the dance floor, and few artists have proven more instrumental to this genre than Ninja Tune's DJ Food, whose mature, atmospheric compositions point to the future of trip-hop and breaks.
“It's about the interrelationship between sounds, how they play off each other and the space that is created by putting them next to each other,” says DJ Food collaborator Patrick Carpenter (aka PC). “It's the juxtaposition of different noises — something that sounds like rubbish next to one thing can sound amazing next to another thing.”
The DJ Food collective is the brainchild of Matt Black and Jonathan More, who founded the respected indie label Ninja Tune Records in 1990 after discovering the philosophy of ninjitsu while on a trip to Japan. When they started Ninja Tune, Black and More had already been recognized as innovative dance producers under the Coldcut moniker. Their 1987 remix of Eric B and Rakim's “Paid in Full,” featuring sinuous samples of Israeli singer Ofra Haza, pointed the gyroscope into the as-yet-uncharted territory of cut-and-paste beat sampling.
Using the DJ Food alter ego to circumvent contractual issues associated with the Coldcut name, Black and More went on to explore their hybrid, dirty funk-jazz-tickle sound with Jazz Brakes (1990). The first volume of a groundbreaking DJ tools series, the influential LP combined jazz elements and atmospheric samples with down-tempo hip-hop beats. The jazz-breaks style helped lay the foundations of trip-hop, the genre later made popular by artists such as Massive Attack, Portishead, and Tricky.
Although Coldcut may have been DJ Food's original backbone, the outfit soon became a collective effort with multiple collaborators. In 1992, PC joined Black and More in the studio to record Jazz Brakes 3. Strictly Kev joined DJ Food in 1995 for the Recipe for Disaster LP, an envelope-pushing record including licks that, for the first time, took breaks and beats into the realms of orchestral movements and nu-jazz.
PC says that ReCycle influenced DJ Food's evolution from phat beats to jazzy breaks. Although he himself didn't use ReCycle, the software gave rise to the short, precise samples used in jungle. Coupled with PC's lifelong interest in classical music, the new drum 'n' bass aesthetic primed DJ Food for their current thoughtful, melody-based direction.
As the Coldcut boys got busy with other projects — including developing their own innovative video-sampling software, Vjamm — PC and Kev became DJ Food's public faces and touring arm. Their chemistry further altered the structure of DJ Food, and Coldcut stepped out altogether for last year's Kaleidoscope LP and Quadraplex EP.