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, …