Hook N Sling - Captain Hook
Friday, 1 February 2008
Hook N Sling – his moniker is derived from the title of an Eddie Bo groove classic, apparently – is pushing a fresh mix of house, electro and, importantly, breakbeat. As such, the DJ is not only challenging nu-skool breaks purists, but also revitalising a near dormant subculture.
Incredibly, Maniscalco has broken into the international DJ ranks while still consolidating his profile at home.
“It wasn’t really a conscious decision,” he says of his global onslaught. “I always wanted to play in London and do those tours over there and play Ibiza and do those things, but it was never like, ‘Oh my God, my goal is to be an international DJ!’
“My label is here in Sydney and so I never focused too much internationally. The fact that it has become international is a big buzz.”
Little is known about Maniscalco himself. He’s relatively low-key compared to other homegrown superstar DJs such as Ajax. Hook N Sling is more akin to Melbourne’s elusive Dirty South. However, Maniscalco is widely respected as a producer. In 2007 he was voted one of Australia’s top five producers on the dance website InTheMix.
His DJ career has modest antecedents. “I started DJing in about 2000, but just at house parties and things like that,” he says. “A few mates of mine bought decks...it’s pretty much the usual deal. I got hooked on it and obsessed by mixing two tracks together. It’s something that fascinated me.
“It just all started at a house party one night when we all were quite stoned. I ended up mixing the same two records together for three hours on end. After that, I started record shopping – I knew a few guys who worked in a record store – and that’s how my DJing started.
“I had the most basic stuff. I think I had a tape deck and a belt-drive turntable – this is like early, early, early days. Then the production side of things progressed about three or four years after I started DJing – after I started getting a few regular gigs in clubs.
“The production came from doing bootlegs and little edits for my sets, because sometimes I just felt some tracks weren’t right. They were a bit frustrating for me.”
As it happens, Hook N Sling has released a compilation prior to Clubbers Guide. Last year he completed Chew The Fat At The End... for the British breaks concern Fat!. At the time, Maniscalco had no idea how to approach a mix-CD.
“I was just so shit scared,” he laughs. Anthony wondered if the label chose the tracks. He needn’t have worried. Chew The Fat... slipped under the radar in Australia [It was Album of the Week in 3D though – Ed], but it was well received in the UK. The same fate is unlikely to befall Clubbers Guide. Maniscalco is embarking on an extensive tour for Ministry.
For Clubbers Guide, Anthony has selected anthems from Armand Van Helden, Tocadisco and Plump DJs. His favourite is Fedde Le Grand & Funkerman’s 3 Minutes To Explain, which he heard on an Essential Mix and desperately hunted down.
Hook N Sling’s Clubbers Guide typifies his current club sensibility – “a genre-defying house music style”.
“I started off with breaks and the house music I used to play around that time was breaks-influenced,” he recollects. “Now it’s almost the other way around – like the house music I play is a lot more breaks-influenced and techno-influenced.”
Maniscalco continues to impress with his productions. He joined Kid Kenobi to rock dancefloors with The Bump, which was signed by Cr2 Records and nominated for an ARIA. Hook N Sling was responsible, too, for that ubiquitous remix of Sarah McLeod’s He Doesn’t Love You as well as a credible take on Stanton Warriors’ Shake It Up. Maniscalco offers an original track, Plastic Wrap, on Clubbers Guide. It’s lifted from his new EP. While Anthony touts The Plastic Wrap EP as his first, he previously issued The Number Cruncher EP, but, for him, that was in fact a double A-side.
These days many dance producers are content to unleash 12 Inch after 12 Inch, or successive remixes, with the album format increasingly outmoded. Yet Maniscalco is determined to present an ‘artist’ album.
“I can see an album from me on the horizon, because when I finished this [Plastic Wrap] EP, two out of the three tracks were more album kind of tracks – even though they’re instrumental, they would fit on a ‘listening’ album.
“An album itself is really a body of work that’s between 10 and 15 tracks – and I could see myself writing a lot of stuff like that. I can definitely see myself doing an album sometime soon.”
Maniscalco is unsure where he belongs within the contemporary dance scene.
“Things have changed so quickly for me in the past 12 months,” he says. “It all started with the Sarah McLeod remix at the end of 2006, so, really, I’ve only been touring for just over a year.”
Nevertheless, Anthony believes that he’s bringing something unique to clubs.
“I can see myself doing the mainrooms across Australia, but I feel like it’s more about forging your own sound. If I was just DJing, I would find it hard to find my place among the thousands of DJs out there. But, if you can produce and be a good DJ at the same time, you can find your place a lot quicker, because people associate your sound with your tunes – and vice-versa.
“As long as you just keep putting out strong releases that you can stand behind and you can play out in a club, then I think you can take it wherever you want.”
Following his Ministry touring commitments, Hook N Sling will play dates across North America. “I’ve already got 20 dates locked down,” he says, chuffed. Unfortunately, Maniscalco will miss Miami’s Winter Music Conference by a week. Some things can wait even for Hook N Sling.
“Miami is not all it’s hyped up to be,” he says, “but I wanna go one day just so I can figure it out for myself.”
WHO: Hook N Sling
WHAT: Clubbers Guide To 2008 through Ministry Of Sound/Universal / Clubbers Guide National Tour
WHEN: Out now / dates online