2 Mar 2024

The Mixtape: Martin Kwok

From The Mixtape, 4:00 pm on 2 March 2024

Martin Kwok is an Emmy award-winning sound editor, DJ and music obsessive based in Pōneke Wellington.

He worked on Peter Jackson's Beatles documentary Get Back and the soundtrack to the highly anticipated film Dune Part Two.

Emmy award winning sound editor Martin Kwok is sitting at his sound desk in a studio

Emmy award winning sound editor Martin Kwok Photo:

Martin Kwok played:

Massive Attack: 'Unfinished Symphony'

"It's just perfect music. In terms of the production, they just seem to do everything right, to my ears, at that point. Sonically, it's just so deep and lush, so many notes and just the right sort of way.

"Their debut album Blue Lines was produced by The Wild Bunch, which was a Bristol-based collective of B-boys, DJs and street artists who grew up on hip hop, house and club beats and came up with something very special that has just stuck with me to this day.

"[This track is] built around a very iconic vocal performance from Sharon Nelson, which actually came out of small improvised moments when she was taking a break when they were trying to lay down another song and it just sort of grew from there, all the way to the point where eventually they had a 40-piece string section record at Abbey Road Studios, which pushed the whole album completely over budget to the point where one of the band members had to sell his car, his fancy Mitsubishi Shogun, to actually pay for the sessions. But it definitely all worked out in the wash because it is a timeless piece of music, some three decades later."


Primal Scream: 'Loaded'

"Primal Scream were a Scottish rock band. They turned to Andrew Weatherall, a British music producer, DJ, visual artist with a DIY, almost punk aesthetic within dance music was one of the great defining sounds from the 1990s UK. The choices he made as a producer on the Screamadelica album totally changed Primal Scream's sound and trajectory and came at the perfect crossover point where acid house and the early rave scene started to blend with popular culture. [This track is] a classic for all the ages. It really is."

Innerzone Orchestra: 'People Make the World Go Round'

"For me and my crew back when we were doing a lot of radio and DJing and party-promoting, the Detroit techno sound really defined a lot of the most forward-thinking ideas and music production through the 1990s and also some of the philosophies and principles that some of these crews were putting out there just resonated for us a lot.

"It seemed to be a true continuum for Detroit as a music city, as well. It's like an innovative city in that regard, the music that's being built in a hard-working hard-living environment and that's charted back through the incredible history of groundbreaking soul jazz and pop rock, which has steadily seeped through the city's veins. The city has an extraordinary breadth of musical history that has really kind of always punched above its weight.

"I remember having the opportunity to interview [DJ and producer[ Carl Craig while doing a radio show many years ago. It was the first time and one of the things I asked him was 'What is it about Detroit that sort of gives it such great musical weight?' And he kind of put it down to the environment and said 'Well, a lot of the time there is nothing else to do in Detroit, you can drive around… but most of us, we just like to go into our studios and 'reach for the innovations' was the way he framed it. They were all just sort of creating their worlds out of the music and the studio environments that they had access to, whether they be big studios or bedrooms, DJ studios. A lot of early Detroit techno artists were creating incredible music on the smell of an oily rag and the drum machines."

Minnie Riperton: 'Les Fleurs'

"It was here in Wellington and it was at a point it was in the mid-90s I think at a time where we were getting more serious about exploring [records] … digging in the crates, as they say. Just going looking for records which back then was a lot more involved than consuming music digitally or ordering what you want online. You had to really work for it and seek out the great music and records.

"'Les Fleurs' comes from her debut album 'Come to my Garden' from 1969. I think she's one of the most incredible voices with one of the most incredible vocal ranges ever committed to tape. There's greatness all over this record. Charles Stepney was one of the producers, he did a lot of work for Chess and Cadet Records in Chicago and also produced by her husband Richard Rudolph. Their daughter is the comedian and actor Maya Rudolph who I find incredibly funny. And then when I think 'oh my god, that's my daughter'. I just love that. So you know, it's just simply an exquisite piece of music, a bit like Massive Attack. For me, it's perfect in every way. I wouldn't change a thing.

"One of the hallmarks of Minnie's sound was just the incredible range that she had, which has been sampled on a lot of subsequent hip hop, R&B and soul records over the years. Yeah, she is one for of the ages."


D'Angelo: 'Spanish Joint'

"Turn of the century, new millennium and the Voodoo album dropped and really they just stopped me in my tracks. I bought it the day it was released and listen to it pretty much nonstop for days, if not weeks. Sonically, it felt different from the hip hop and R&B at the time and simultaneously it was precise in nature and loose in feel. one of the hallmarks of it is analogue recording with Russ Elevado, studio engineer at the helm and recorded at Electric Lady Studios in New York City, with its links to Jimi Hendrix. And I think the recordings just soaked up a lot of the heavyweight pressures and good juju and vibes that that room had had over those days. It was a brilliant meeting of minds, as well. The way that D'angelo brought his core team together on 'Spanish Joint'.

"Questlove was on drums. There are many stories about how he sort of had to ingratiate himself with D'Angelo, having sort of dismissed him early, just saying he was an R&B artist. And then he heard 'Brown Sugar' and realised that he'd sort of messed up. He ended up figuring out how to get into D'Angelo's good books. And yes, that was a major part of what became an incredible studio session… when I say 'session', I think they were recording for years at Electric Ladyland, actually."


Matt "Recloose" Chicoine: 'Dust'

"I totally remember [Matt Chicoine's] first records dropping on Carl Craig's record label in the late 1990s. When Matt's first records came through, his music was part of another shift in the Detroit techno and house sound - it was a new generation coming through. What I loved about it was that he had a loose soulful jazz vibe running through his electronics, he made great downtempo cuts as well as dance for jams and there was this playfulness to his music, which really appealed.

"A few years later, we were lucky to have Matt living here in New Zealand, having followed a Kiwi girl home, so he settled here in the early 2000s when it happened to be a really good time for music here in Wellington and he was just an awesome part of the scene here at that point in time.

"He recorded a couple of great albums here in Aotearoa and 'Dust' is from the first of those albums. So it's music from Detroit by way of Aotearoa. The demo version is a little unpolished, no backing vocals, but for a demo it's an absolute gem. With the vocals of Joe Dukie - aka Dallas Tamaira from Fat Freddy's Drop - it's still a knockout on dance floors.


Jones Girls: 'Nights Over Egypt'

"This for me is another timeless track that just flies through the decades with effortless grace and soul. it doesn't sound like it was made in 1981 to me. They were three sisters, originally from Detroit, which I didn't know actually until I checked a few of the details. And as it happens, they were vocalists for folks like Lou Rawls and Teddy Pendergrass and Aretha Franklin and Diana Ross, but they had their own thing going as well.

"'Nights Over Egypt' stands as a bonafide soul boogie disco classic from the Philadelphia International Records stable. It's produced by the powerhouse Gamble & Huff production team. It wasn't their biggest chart success but for me this is the one that stands the test of time so very well."