"LEFTFIELD: SET TO PROVIDE A NATIONAL 'STEALTH' SERVICE"

Leftfield release a new album, "Rhythm And Stealth", on September 20 through Hard Hands/Higher Ground, which is the first since their enormously successful 1995 debut, "Leftism". It's preceded by the single "Afrika Shox" on September 6, which is accompanied by a startling video that has already been banned from daytime television.

The Maker spoke to Neil Barnes about the band's almighty comeback and their long absence.

The new single "Afrika Shox" is a real electro stomp of a tune.

"We were trying not to make it too electro, we just wanted to make a record with Afrika Bambaataa that sounded like a Leftfield record with Bambaataa singing on it. We see it as a futuristic electro record, if the word 'electro' has to be used, rather than something from the past. But it is electro, no doubt."

There were plans to release the track last year. What happened?

"There was talk of releasing it, but that didn't really come from us. We thought it was a bit silly to release it then, before the rest of the album was finished. The early version wasn't as futuristic as we wanted it to be. The time wasn't right, whereas now the time is perfect, with the millennium just round the corner."

You and Paul [Daley] were fans of Afrika Bambaataa in your youth. How did it feel to get to work with him?

"Bambaataa was a very strong influence on my early interest in electronic music. It was great fun working with him, because he is very open-minded and he keeps in touch with what is happening. He had part of his posse with him, the Zulu nation, who came down to the studio as well, and the whole thing had a really happy atmosphere."

The video for the song is quite shocking. Was that the intention?

"It's a black comedy; it's a send-up, really. It was made by Chris Cunningham who is taking the mickey out of the horror video type of thing. I mean it's ridiculous, the guy walks around and bits of his body drop off - it's not to be taken seriously. You could say it was a reflection on society, that nobody is willing to help him until the end, when Afrika Bambaataa says, "Do you need a hand?" and he hasn't got any. A lot of people don't think it's funny, but we do.

"We approached Chris, as we liked the videos that he's made [Aphex Twin and Madonna]. He really is something new in terms of film-making and is a breath of fresh air in the boring world of video. He takes a different approach and we like that."

Does it bother you that it'll only be broadcast late at night?

"Yeah, I think it's stupid, we didn't make the video for it to be banned. I think it's over-protective. People can make up their own minds and can turn the telly off. There is no violence in this video whatsoever... What happens to him is interesting, there is no blood or gore, but it is shocking. But the reaction to it is predictable."

"Rhythm And Stealth" is one of the most eagerly anticipated albums in the dance world. Are you surprised that so many people are waiting with bated breath?

"I don't know if they are, I've been told that they are and I have to believe that they are. I know that 'Leftism' was very successful and a lot of people have been affected by it.

"I suppose all second albums are eagerly awaited, so it's not surprising - it's just the way it goes. I hope people like it - time will tell. It's a much tougher album than the first one, it's much rawer and has a more stripped-down sound. It's not like 'Leftism' at all, it's a very different album and I'm very proud of it as a record."

Why did it take so long?

"It took us two years to do and we worked on it solidly. Before that, we'd just come off tour. If you want to do something new, then it takes a long time and I actually don't think that two years is too long.

"A lot of people may be disappointed by this album and a lot of other people will be really excited. It's definitely an album of the future, rather than of the past."

When will we get to see Leftfield live?

"Next year. We'll start rehearsing in the autumn, so we won't be out before the millennium. It won't be as long a wait as the last time."

(article nicked from 'Melody Maker', dated 28 August 1999)

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