Hailing from Scotland and the UK, The Beta Band have quickly become a symbol of hope in a sea of musical mediocrity.
The Beta Band are John Maclean (decks, samples, piano), Steve Mason (guitar, vocals, percussion), Robin Jones (drums, piano, tape loops), and Richard Greentree (bass guitar, percussion). They all try to play more instruments. They could be mistaken for surreal or crazy but as they once said “we don’t do irony”.
They met up a couple of years ago in London and set out to make beautiful music while living together in Shepherds Bush. When the band played their first gig (London Water Rats, July 97) there wasn’t room for everybody to get into the venue. This has continued to be the case ever since. Their unique sound and performances brought a whole new world to the concept of playing live, with a multi dimensional stage show and rave party vibe which sometimes includes home made films, DJs, human beat boxes, costumed mates, self created instruments and fantastic outfits.
By the time The Three EPs was released in January,1999 The BetaBand were so influential that it wasn’t unusual to find members of Wee Papa Girl Rappers, Rick Moranis, Ricky Martin, the Chuckle Brothers, Rick Diddly, Jet Li, the Haggis Rappers and the cast of Different Strokes at the shows, checking out their innovation (The Three EPs would later turn up in the film, “High Fidelity”).
Radiohead admitted to having “a Beta Band phase” during the Kid A/Amnesiac recording sessions and have invited The Beta Band on both their 2001 North American tours as special guests. Dr. John (who Steve and Robin played with on his 1998 album “Anutha Zone”) says they are “very New Orleans”. The Beta Band themselves are turned on by King Tubby, Barry White, Lee Perry and hip-hop among much else. Alongside their music, they create short films for their releases/shows, make art, DJ and produce a magazine called Flower Press.
Their first album proper, The Beta Band was recorded between Autumn 1998 and February 1999 (in three different studios – Sawmills, Rockfield and Jacobs – to keep spontaneity and creative inspiration at it’s extreme). With their high standards of perfection, they felt that the recording was rushed. Though reviews were mixed, the spontaneity and creative inspiration shone through on tracks like “It’s Not Too Beautiful” and “The Hard One.” It was hailed as one of the most important and innovative LPs by the end of that year, and it’s live translation is a masterpiece.
The Beta Band’s new album, Hot Shots II, was co-produced by The Beta Band and Colin Emmanuel (a.k.a. C-Swing) and was recorded at Parkgate Studios, E. Sussex (U.K.), mixed at London’s Strongroom Studios and mastered at New York’s Masterdisk by Tony Dawsey.