Straight No Chaser

Straight No Chaser… 1988 – 2009

For nigh on two decades Straight No Chaser magazine went around the globe reflecting the musical pre-occupations of a devoted readership which included musicians , DJs, crate diggers, music junkies, artists and designers  and those people who just wanted that bit more.

Conceived as a magazine of “world Jazz Jive” that was attuned to the “Freedom Principle”, Straight No Chaser rejected boundaries, was devoted those musicians who created the foundation of what we have today, and welcomed the spirit of the new. Straight No Chaser was founded by Paul Bradshaw, Kathryn Willgress and Neil Spencer because nobody was interested in publishing stories about the music and artists that fired them up.  The magazine was rooted in clubland and the jazz dance scene but it embraced wider global endeavours.  Basically, it was about the impact of the African diaspora and how that’s shaped a global culture.

That meant that jazz, jungle, funk, acid jazz, mbalax, samba, salsa, merengue, soukous, hip hop, rai, nu-jazz, trip hop, ska, reggae, mento, mambo, rumba, gnawa, garifuna, afro bloco, chimurenga, cumbia, vodoun, afrobeat, deep house, bruk beat …  amongst others… sat side by side. It was a heady but exciting mix that never failed to thrill when it came together.

Straight No Chaser spanned a crucial era in the evolution of club culture. Giant steps were taken: The Wag, Sol Y Sombra, Soul II Soul @ the Africa Centre, Shake & Fingerpop, the Sunrise sessions, Talking Loud & Saying Something, Bar Rumba,  Mambo Inn, The Blue Note (Anohka, Metalheadz… ), Speed, Co-Op. Chaser was written by those who were involved… who lived the life.

Straight No Chaser was a family.  It was built on its contributors. The design of Straight No Chaser was always radical. It was conceived at the dawn of the new technology and its designer, Ian ‘Swifty’Swift rapidly notched up an Apple design award. He was the “graffix overseer”,  designed his own fonts and delivered killing spread after spread. Though ably assisted by Matt ‘Monkey Boxer’ Bailey in the latter years, Swift was always the magazine’s art director.

Chaser combined Swift’s typo-graffix with the photography of lens-people like Peter Williams, Jon Oppong Wiafe, Alexis Maryon, Suki Dhanda, Pav Modelski, Rob Hann, Chris Clunn, Liz Johnson Arthur, Chris Bierlein et al. There were also the artists and illustrators who added to features or dished up a Gallery – Ian Wright, Mitchy Bwoy, Andy Ward, Doze Green, Kinsey, Brad Howe, Cody Hudson, Florencia Zaval, Os Gemeos, HV8, Ian Johnson, David Ellis, Oscar Romp, Robi Bear, Reggie Pedro. The music, the visuals… Straight No Chaser was about the Art.  Full stop!

Of course, there were the writers. Paul Brad, Kath Willgress, Spence, Maxine Kabuubi, Jez Smadja, Amar Patel, Andy Thomas, Claudius Hilliman, Pete Yak, Kate Wharton, Al Burton, Jon Wingate, Sue Steward…  to mention but a few… and columnists like Gilles Peterson, James ‘Holygoof’ Lavelle, Dave Hucker, Max Reinhardt, Tyler Askew and Ross Allen.

On its 10th anniversary, Straight No Chaser mutated via a major re-design into a magazine of ‘Interplanetary Sounds Ancient to Future’. The world had changed. Imagine,  when we started there was no internet, no mobile phones, Apple Macs were in their infancy.  We had come a long way. The Berlin wall came down, apartheid ended and Mandela became the Black President.

There were the Chaser tours of Japan (big respek to Naoki Toyama) and the collaborations that manifested in the groundbreaking Shape Of Things To Come events. Putting bands together that included The Roots, MC Solar, DJ Krush, Airto, Palmskin, Steve Williamson, Omar, Jhelisa, Bjork, Leila, Talvin Singh, Afro Bloc, Snowboy…. that was something the Chaser crew were seriously proud off.

Straight No Chaser was based in Hoxton (and London Fields) and a quick scan of who’s who in that classic Peter Williams shot of the Chaser crew – Great day In Hoxton’ – goes some way to illuminate the historical impact of the magazine.

Though Chaser wouldn’t have existed if it hadn’t been for the technology, it was the net that finally sealed its fate. Advertising revenue began to slide and after 97 issues the difficult decision to cease publication was made. It was a wild ride for those involved and it’s left us with an incredible archive that needs to find home in a book (or two). In the meantime, the plan is to delve back into time and revive some of those stories and images for a new generation of readers who are tuning in to this Ancient To Future thing.

Paul Bradshaw  – June 23, 2011

PS: Props to Lady B along with PT, James, Dickie, Vince, Pete & Nick.

OFF THE TOP OF MY HEAD – A FEW PEOPLE THAT CHASER INTERVIEWED: Gilberto Gil, Curtis Mayfield, Don Cherry, Jeff Mills, Milton Nascimento, Seu Jorge, Pete Rock, Pharoah Sanders, McCoy Tyner, Steve Reid, Airto Moreira & Flora Purim, Bheki Mseleku, Toumani Diabate, Stella Chiweshe, Olodum, Ile Aiye, Bjork, Talvin Singh, 4 Hero, IG Culture, Cedric Brooks, Ernest Ranglin, Sizzla, Cassandra Wilson, Abbey Lincoln. Max Roach, Steve Williamson, Courtney Pine, Julian Joseph, Cleveland Watkiss, Marque ‘Innamost’ Gilmore, Saul Williams, Jayne Cortez, Jim Jarmusch, Michael Caine, Charlie Watts, Billy Bang, Lester Bowie, Joseph Jarman, Galliano, 2BO4, Roni Size, Fabio, LTJ Bukem, Kemistry & Storm, The Roots, Ampfiddler, Joe Clausell, Osunlade, Omar, Dwight Trible, Masters At Work, Joao Donato, Branford Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis, Art Blakey, Yusef Lateef, UFO, Soil & Pimp Sessions, …

29 Responses to Straight No Chaser

  1. Jeff Lyons says:

    Still deeply missed. Long live SNC!

  2. Edo van Duyn says:

    those were golden days.. Edo (Bulldozer and Movement)

  3. Tony Todd says:

    Really miss SNC. Bought my first copy in Mole Jazz in 1989 on the way back to Leeds. There was always was a bit of a northern connection with the Dig! Posse in Leeds, which was great. Respect…

  4. Adam Sieff says:

    SNC turned me on to so much great music I might otherwise have missed. We need filters now more than ever, so if anyone reading this gets inspired to create one, the Chaser was a great example of how it’s done.

  5. Tony Poole says:

    In the 90’s my mail order rare record biz was built around my advert in SNC. For seven years I travelled the globe, crate digging and selling old vinyl all over the world. Sadly the internet took it´s toll on me too (but hey, shit happens, I moved to sunny Spain and back to being a Sparks). The look and the style of the mag was something else. Bradders, I luv you Man!

    Tony Poole
    ViRGO ViBES

    • Paul Brad says:

      Greetings Tony… sounds like you are all good… visting Manchester today so it’s raining (of course!)… Spain sounds good to me… nice to see you are tuned to ancient to future… best for 2012… Paul Brad

  6. Straight No Chaser was a classic and an original, and I have missed Paul Bradshaw/Swiftys artistic work greatly since the magazine’s passing. A very sad loss. SNC never received the recognition it deserved but hey, don’t ya know, everybody knows rock stars, pop tarts, and overpaid so called celebrities are the really important persons in this culture of the glitterati. Unfortunately.

  7. roberta cutolo-adjaye says:

    SNC = knowledge …

    • Don Vito says:

      late recognitions, ‘minor apprehension’.. which either mclean’s tune you choose to hear? jackie.. it was a ‘one step beyond’..paul
      many people have been of assistance in the preparation of the SNC magazine, and their efforts are deserving of a brief mention. to begin with, i would like to thank the entire buyers staff of the various stores who pushed the-sales-on-return policy regardless at the infancy stages of the magazine. the collectors and the KNOWLDGABLES such as brain, hugh, ahmed, john, paul, naomi, raphel, pedro rojas. additionally the feets of bulldog, steve, idj, the four technicians, the brothers and all the dingwells crew. as well as the performers. baz, giles, patric, dean, and co..
      as I said, this is a brief note: I like to knowledge all who supported mr broadshaw on his sublime quest. Including those who help him to physically distribute the heavy boxes at late hours. late recognition becomes the favourite hindsight for the happy ending, usually is….

      • Paul Brad says:

        Indeed… Straight No Chaser would not have existed had it mot been for an endless flow of like minded souls willing give their services free of charge. They cam from the four corners. I remember getting a phone call from King Britt in Philly in the very early days… before we had a real office… and thinking how did this geezer get the mag when he’s in Philadelphia…but Chaser did travel and wherever it went someone inevitably got in touch… “I’m an illustrator and want to do a gallery”… “I’ma photograoher and I’ve just come back from Senegal” … “I’m a writer and live in the Bay area and can do a piece about the Church Of John Coltrane” … “I run a shop and would love to sell your mag”… “I DJ, can send you a chart of tunes that’s rocking our club in Kyoto”. Producing a magazine is very hands on… and we while we had a lot of interns (schools, colleges, University inc a succession of excellent students from Boston University who were drpped into a avery different cultural world) they all got real experience and all made it into print. As you point out we were constantly inspired by those around us… DJ s, dancers, aspiring musicians… that history remains in our archive which, one day, has to emerge in book form. OK… as it’s just opped into my head… Big Up to Rob Mac (Scratch) cos when he was working the shops around London Town for Time Out (our distributors at that time) our circ=ultion was the best ever. As for those boxes… I’ve still got a few. (PB)

  8. Tony Poole says:

    Hey Bradders, do you have an opinion on Nicholas Payton and the BAM movement?
    http://vibesfromthecostas.blogspot.com/2012/01/dont-mention-ja-word.html

    • Paul Brad says:

      Hey Tony… this is not a debate I’d like to get involved with cos there’s a tendency to get your ass bit or get caught in the crossfire. I’m sure that in the past I declared that Jazz Is My Religion and the first incarnation of Chaser was World Jazz Jive… but this blog owes it’s name the the Art Ensemble of Chicago who rejected the word jazz for Great Black Music: Ancient to Future. So, I understand and respect the ideological side of Nichols Payton viewpoint and go along with AACM and Duke Ellington. I’m sure Miles was desperate to lose the Jazz tag when he was doing Bitches Brew… he didn’t want to be filed in a record store next to Birth Of Cool… he wanted to be in the same rack as Hendrix. In the end all categories are restricting… look at Cassandra Wilson when she did with Blue Lights Till dawn – it was on a “jazz” label – Blue Note – but the concept behind the album was to take her beyond that category into “alternative spaces”. It worked. Basically, the quest is to get the music over to a new generation of listeners who can the tap into the richest musical tributary in America… and if they can move the music into a new era without using the J-word that’s fine by me.

      • Tony Poole says:

        Cool Bradders, I respect your view not to get caught up in the crossfire. At the end of the day the music marketing moguls and powers that be will never drop the j-word, or indeed change it to Black American Music. Let it be up to whatever the individual chooses to call it. Besides, I ain´t going through my iTunes and changing the “Genre” on 40,000 tunes. Saludos mi amigo. TP

  9. Dan says:

    SNC was without doubt a bible to me throughout my youth, it introduced me to so much wonderful music, it introduced me to new ideas and I still remember the sadness I felt when it finished. Thank you Mr. Bradshaw, I remember there was talk of a book charting the history of the movement?

    • Paul Brad says:

      Ahhhh… the book. There’s an amazing archive… 20 years worth of stuff… but sadly , a lack of publishers out there with vision. We will get there!

      • carmenbannerman says:

        HI Paul, where can I get all volumes of Straight No Chaser. I’ve misplaced so many. Is this impossible task??

        Cheers

      • Paul Brad says:

        Hi… if you do me a list I can try and locate them next time I’m rooting around in the workshop. Where are you located? Best.. PB

  10. Don Vito says:

    Thank you Paul for having the courage to publish SNC counter to the pop-ular opinions of the day.

  11. Don Vito says:

    Imagine life without SNC
    If I start writing down all the minor things you helped to inject into the streets, I will – fo soo, ran out of space, especially when I tried to fit it here on this WordPress field. Here are a few of my thoughts listing why I dig you Paul. You are kindness and gentleness. You are caring and loving. You are fun. And in equal measure, your ‘Goodbye Porkpie Hat’.
    Lester Young will agree of how phenomenal you have become to be. Things that people have not done that they have wished now to be done; in your case Things that you have managed to do that makes us proud to be part of…..
    Things will always come to those who are sincere in their work. As Max once said Deeds, not Words.. AT

  12. Niels Christian says:

    Noooo. Just discovered SNC right about now… Damn. I’m allways behind! Found some editions from 2005 in a dusty box here at the radiostation i work at in Denmark. Love them and would love to see this mashup -based on the j-word- magazine still come out. Damn you interweb and declining advert-income. Well.. Thanks anyway. Any idea where to place yourself today if you wanna be on the lookout for newish dancable music rooted in jazz and related? Seems like theres no place on earth that collects that kind of information anymore and puts it out as a whole.. Or?

  13. Colin Smith says:

    SNC miss you ,remember eagerly awaiting each new issue and always being blown away by the depth and knowledge of each contributor whether words or visual.There is nothing like it around right now ,Space Is The Place..One Love.

  14. Dr Bob Jones says:

    Brad, SNC will NEVER go away, the spirit of the mag will live in on all of us, who contributed
    and to our receptive audience forever my friend. Stay blessed and Big love Dr Bob Jones

  15. Derrick D says:

    I remember the first Straight No Chaser that I’d purchased. It had Four Hero on the cover & a free CD that included Terry Callier on one of the tracks. I really enjoyed the content & style since I was coming from a Hip Hop / Acid Jazz background together with being a big Gilles Peterson fan. I ended up purchasing some back dated issues since being issued every quartely didn’t take up too much room. Hey, Wasn’t Tom Waits on one of the front covers.
    Kind regards
    Derrick D (From Derrick D & The Backbones)

    • Paul Brad says:

      We did have Tom Waits on the cover… very long interview between him and film maker Jim Jarmusch… 8 pages… maybe more… the crew would let me run the whole thing… they thought I’d gone mad… I got in trouble from Jim J for not running the whole thing….

  16. Mike Wolfe says:

    Miss this magazine so much. I still have some of my old hard copies that I subscribed to here in the US. This was my favourite reading material, haha!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s