Artist: Chuck N Roll
Title: Playing Dirty
Label: Looq Records
By: Michael Schreiber | 29 May 2003
  • A: Original Mix
  • B: Jondi And Spesh Mix

Chuck N Roll "Playing Dirty"

Out Now on Looq Records

San Francisco music purveyor, Charles Herbert is the man behind “Chuck ‘n Roll.” Although “Playing Dirty” is his first released production, he’s been dj’ing since 1999, after given the opportunity by a friend in the dot-com field that needed a dj for a company party.

His musical talent has been groomed by his piano instructor mother who had him study 15 years of classical piano and play trumpet while growing up in the suburbs of Kansas City, KS. While attending University of Kansas, he worked production and security for various live performances, ultimately leading to learning about mixing and beat-matching via co-workers who spun acid jazz/old funk sets around town. Upon graduation and relocation to Florida, he purchased his first set of decks and began record collecting. It was at this point his passion was ignited even further after hearing John Digweed’s “Global Underground – Sydney” and Paul Oakenfold’s “Transport” compilations which were completely new sound experiences for him. He’s held a variety of SF residencies including those at “Release” and “Qoöl” parties and Tonic bar’s “Sonic Sunday and Mondays” for about a year and a half. 1015 Folsom is his favorite SF venue to play, because nowhere else can he experience the amazement of sending out sound streams from the turntables through 100,000 watt speakers. As far as travel, he’s played in LA, NYC, Portland, Ibiza, Kansas City and the Burning Man yearly Arizona desert party

Charles cites Sasha and Josh Wink as major influences for him due to their continued ability to further push the envelope of house sounds, and having such long reigns as leaders within the progressive movement. From them, he has developed his own style as one in which he always tries to keep his mixing exciting so that something new entirely is brought out that wasn’t there before when the two records were layered together. Although he considers his music to be “house,” that classification should be used very loosely in defining him, for what you’ll hear from him all depends upon the people in attendance, the venue and what hours he’s spinning. His mission is always the same though – to make sure what you hear is “deep, moving, hopeful, groovy, driving and fun.” And with “Playing Dirty,” he’s put forth a gripping, mind-twisting surreal haunting dark rhythmic dance floor journey, thus more aptly defined as progressive-trance than house.

This track was released on May 12th, which was three days before the “Matrix Reloaded” sequel opened. Maybe it was no mere coincidence that the street date was on that Monday, since it heavily utilizes a vocal sample from the original “Matrix” which may be more easily recognized on dance floors, as interest and storyline recollection of the Matrix saga is freshly back in everyone’s minds now.

Charles takes part of the dialogue from the segment where Neo is presented with the choice of taking the red pill which will allow him to see the world as it really is, or the blue pill which will make him forget about the matrix and go back to his illusory, but relatively safe and predictable life. In “Playing Dirty” though, that decision is ultimately made through the vocal repetitions as if listeners are ultimately being brainwashed with a correct answer. A continuous repeating “take, take, take” is overlaid with “the blue pill,” along with subtle additions of “take the....” coming in lower in volume, thus being more whisper-like. These are all summed up with the vocal “Why oh why didn’t I take the blue pill?,” as if to re-affirm that there’s really no choice to make.

Even furthering the evocative sci-fi, murky space vibe is the whispering sound highly drawn-out to sound like stressful, hard heavy exhalations and inhalations, similar to how Darth Vader sounded in the Star Wars movies. Multiple percussion layers are easily distinguished including the main bouncy skip-like 7-part bass drum, and two different layers of bongos – the emphasized pattern being 5 taps that scale upward before they repeat. A brushing of cymbals fades inward before being crashed one time strongly for emphasis, then followed by a squelch-like “yelp” sample used to conclude the beat segments.

This mix creates a fantasy-like interlude for the listener as if they are put into that particular movie scene where they are confronted with this question and subconsciously the answer to choose is being murmured eerily to them. Rarely does a track like this come along with vocalizations this compelling.

Jondi and Spesh lend their production skills on the flip-side. Worth noting is the fact that they are the founders of the 1998 Loöq Records label, on which this release has come out on; and originators of the Qoöl parties where Charles is a frequently featured dj. With their remixed combined with the original, this 12” fits perfectly into Loöq’s catalog to define what the label is most known for - sophisticated, trippy and emotional soundscapes.

In their remix, they put at the forefront the driving bass of a buzzing drone of five repeats of the same minor note continuously, underneath sweeping scratchy taps that are almost the same sequentially as the bongos in the original.

Their mix is a bit more nightmarish, scary/evil sounding through emphasis upon a few inclusions of a chilling horror movie soundtrack sound of a high-tone, toy piano like bell riff and a stuttered digitalized tone that weaves inward and outward as it’s flying around. The “why oh why” vocal is stretched out and echoed extensively, so that it sounds more wailing and tortured the two times it’s heard at the middle and end. The only other vocals present are the few inclusions of the whispered “the blue pill.”

Jondi & Spesh shift the focus upon the concentration on the sounds giving listeners a mind-twist by usage of delays, distortion, feedback and vibrations, while Chuck ‘n Roll’s original focuses upon the vocal samples to keep the listener riveted. But there’s no question that both really put out a very thick dark atmospheric resonance.

On the heels of this release, Chuck ‘n Roll is heading east to Boston for two years while his girlfriend completes her doctoral degree. With him, he is taking the inspiration he has gained from San Francisco, where he believes positive energy has contributed to giving the city a reputation of being where some of the world’s best producers of music are. Specifically, he cites the examples of Miguel Migs’ and Jerry Bonham’s contributions to the great deep sound of house music.

But now, he eagerly awaits the opportunity to contribute to Boston what he has learned on the West Coast. Ideally, he hopes to further that knowledge in a new direction as he experiences the growing underground music scene Boston currently thrives upon. His specific plans include collaborations with friends, for by doing so, he feels that he’ll have much more success in gaining increased notoriety. He has a mindset that to stand-out, it’s a necessity to get involved in track production and not just rely on playing great tracks. Part of the reason for this is due to influx in competition that has become very prevalent with the increased opportunities computers and the internet continue to offer.

We can only hope that this year he’ll follow through in bringing us many more stand-out gems like “Playing Dirty” that are unique convergences of progressive stylings which not only make you groove, but also provoke mind stimulation.

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