In the morning I want to Jazz it Up. What exactly? From before Erick Morillo was massive.
Words: Frank Tope
Published in Mixmag August 1994
Don’t you lust hate Reel 2 Real? Talk to any self respecting dance snob and Strictly Rhythms most successful export are more likely to be top of their bitch list. And who can blame them? For six months, from Top Shop to the Ministry Of Sound, there’s been just no escape. ‘I Like To Move It’ spent six months in the Top Ten, shifting a phenomenal 350,000 copies with bugger all help from Radio One.
Then last years underground favourite ‘Go On Move’, shot, as they say, with a bullet into the Top Five within a week of release. What people hate about Reel 2 Real, I suspect isn’t the band, or even the records, which after all are darn ﬁne party fodder, itʼs their success. Our precious records have been apprehended by the great unwashed and are heard on Steve Wright rather than in a Pete Tong mastermix
Not that such perverse Anglo Saxon attitudes bother Erick Morillo and his young toaster, The Mad Stuntman. Visiting Britain on a recent promotional trip, their itinerary was so heavy they had to temporarily split up. The Stuntman appearing as Reel 2 Real, while Erick coped with a full schedule of DJing across the country. Catching up with the pair in a swanky Mayfair flat, they seem ebullient, full of the joys of Summer and a second chart smash. Erick, with his cropped hair and faded John Richmond T-shirt, looks like any average trendy clubber, but the Mad Stuntman , blundering in late, having dashed across town after filming a children’s magic show, looks suitably insane in a roomy, shoulder padded, gold suit with matching slippers.
“I dress like this all the time at home,” he tells me in his Jamaican-tinged Brooklyn accent, keeping a convincingly straight face, “but I couldn’t here, I’m too scared. In scotland I was chased by 3,000 girls all screaming and trying to tear my clothes off.” This is the point where I should ask this emerging pop star his real name, but what’s the point? If he dresses like this for real, he just is the Mad Stuntman, nothing more but certainly nothing less. So I settle for asking if he is, you know, a bit mad. He is, of course. Totally tonto.
“Yeah, my friends say I’m mad, I do crazy things, I do stunts, but nothing like jumping off a cliff or anything, because I’m real scared of heights. I am the Mad Stuntman.” He also likes to surf the crest of a sartorial wave, getting noticed almost as much for his distinctive one-leg-rolled-up selection of strides than his individual MC style.
“It’s the style, you know. At home I’ve got a denim suit made that way. I’m thinking of starting a range of Mad Stuntman clothes. I’ll get all my kids to wear it,” laughs the hulking father of four.
Erick ‘More’ Morillo is in a less expansive mood, looking a tad hungover after a night of serious partying with the Ministry tour in Brighton. He first met the Stuntman after recording a series of ragga tracks with Hispanic MC The General.
“The General was huge,” explains Stuntman, “because he’d record a Shabba song in Spanish, so all the Spanish kids would pick up on it, but it’d be kind of familiar to all the English speakers, so they bought it too.” Then came Morrillo’s first house track, Reel 2 Real’s ‘Funky Buddah’ and reggae was all but forgotten. “It was weird,” says Erick, “to go from being The Man to nobody overnight, but it’s paid off in the long run.”
With his Smooth Touch projects like ‘Come On And Take A Trip’ and ‘House Of Love’ holding the loyalty of ever-fickle club crowds and launching his DJ career, Erick is certainly having his commercial cake and eating it at his leisure. He is, predictably, a workaholic. “When we’re in the studio,” admires The Stuntman, “I’ll go home to sleep and Erick’ll just stay there working all night. I’ve never seen that kind of dedication.”
The pair enthuses rabidly about the British club scene praising it almost to the point of embarrassment. “It’s massive,” nods Stuntman seriously, “MASSIVE.” They’re not the first Americans to compare the scene here favourably to New York’s increasingly jaded nightlife.
“People here grow up on dance music, “Erick beams admiringly, “they live and breathe it. When I played over here I wanted to DJ all night, like in New York, but now I can see that having DJS play for two hours each is better, it gives you that bit more variety.”
“When Erick plays here,” grins the Stuntman, “people just stand and watch him mix.” Sounds pretty boring to me. “No, man, they really understand the music, they appreciate it in ways New York doesn’t.”
“The Dave Morales that plays in New York isn’t the same Dave Morales that plays over here,” adds Erick, warming to the theme. “I heard him play at the Ministry and he blew me away. then I heard him in The Tunnel [v. trendy Manhattan club] and it was like, what is this wack shit? Dave told me he just can’t get as deep at home as he can over here. People in New York want boring commercial music.”
So have they experienced any of our native house/reggae fusions? Have they heard any jungle? “Yeah, General Levy, that track is PHAT,” booms the Stuntman enthusiastically. “I love the way there’s two tempos going on at the same time, a rapper can really roll his lips to it. That music is totally phat.”
“We went down to a jungle club the other night, agrees Erick, “it was cool. I’d have killed to put some of that style on our album, but it’s already finished. I might do some jungle remixes of our stuff in the near future.”
The Reel 2 Real album is scheduled for release in mid-September, hot on the heels of their third UK release, ʻCan You Feel It’, featuring the vocal talents of Smooth Touchʼs Althea McQueen. Sporting some slower reggae tracks as well as pure house instrumentals, it’s sure to crossover between Erick’s Strictly fans and the huge pop market already hooked on the leveled Stuntman’s vocal gymnastics.
“The Stuntman does some mad stunts with his voice,” admires Erick, “when you get him in the studio he lust goes off. He writes brilliant stuff off the top of his head?.” The Stuntman bashfully agrees, “When Erick ﬁrst called me, I thought we’d be doing reggae stuff like he did with the General. As soon as I heard the kind of music he wanted me to rap on, I was going, ‘Yes! Let me at it.'”
“Did you know he wrote ‘Go On Move’ about Saddam’?” grins Erick. Pardon? The Stuntman laughs and obliges with a little exclusive toast:
“Bibbidy bom do dom, bomb Saddam,
Bibbidy bom do bom, bomb Saddam,
Bush too slow, him move like woman,
Who was the last president? The man Reagan,
He would of bibbidy bom do bom, bomb Sadism,
Blow off his foot and blow off his hand,
Send him back to Iraq in a garbage can,
Bibbidy bom do… (etc. etc.)”
Er… so you wouldn’t exactly call yourselves bleeding heart liberals, then? “Reggae always takes its lyrics from the news,” explains the Stuntman,”we changed it because at the time every record seemed to be a war song. There’s a reggae song about everything. Right now there’s even a song about OJ Simpson.” Perhaps there could be a great new career waiting for you on CNN: ‘Here is the News, with The Mad Stuntman’. They both crack up at this suggestion
“That would be wicked, man,” laughs Eric. “Stuntman’s written a song about that guy who got his dick cut off, you want to hear it?” Well, alright then. The Stuntman obliges:
“John Bobbit John Bobbit John Bobbit,
John Bobbit John Bobbit John Bobbit,
His wife cut it off, throw it in the woods
Doctor locate it, take it back then try to save it,
John Bobbit John Bobbit John Bobbit…”
Ah, yes, well, is that the time? Time for me to catch the bobbedy bop bus home. Reel 2 Real; nice guys, great records, lousy current affairs analysis.