Saturday, June 23, 2012

MARRS - Pump Up the Volume

MARRS (or M|A|R|R|S) was formed when Ivo Watts-Russell, the head of 4AD records in London, proposed a project to blend soul with electronica.  He did this after two bands on his label -- Colourbox (electronica) and A.R. Kane (dream pop) independently mentioned the idea to him.  The project was called MARRS, after the artists' first names --  Martyn Young (from Colourbox), Alex Ayuli, Rudy Tambala  and Russell Smith (from A.R. Kane), and Steve Young (from Colourbox).

Unfortunately, it soon became obvious that the bands simply could not work together.  As a result, each band recorded material and then let the other band provide input.  Although the original idea was to record an LP, the groups recorded one song each and then the project shut down.  Colourbox contributed "Pump Up the Volume," which sampled some A.R. Kane guitars, while A.R. Kane wrote "Anitina," with Colourbox providing the drum programming.

This would have been the end of the story, except that "Pump Up the Volume" sounded really, really good.  Released as a single in 1987, it became the first #1 song in the UK that used samples. (It peaked at #13 in the U.S.)  The title comes from an Eric B. & Rakim sample (from "I Know You Got Soul"); other samples include songs from:  Fab 5 Freddy, Kool & the Gang, Public Enemy and Run-D.M.C.  In fact, some samples were cut from the U.S. version, as the rights could not be obtained.  Overall, the U.S. version has 23 samples (the original UK version has 26 samples).

In spite of the huge success, the bands had no desire to record together again, and the project was never re-formed.  Colourbox broke up in 1987, while A.R. Kane remained active until 1994. Interestingly, while both bands were well-regarded by critics, neither had much commercial success either before or after the MARRS project.

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