Mark Knight’s most recent cut on Toolroom, ‘Brutal’ features an unmistakable ear-worm of a riff. It’s a standout melody sampled from Nitro Deluxe’s ‘Brutal House’ – a track that sits amongst similarly timeless gems in the eclectic Cutting Records catalogue.
‘Brutal’ pays homage to the original and its Electro, House sound with a tasteful rework, targeting and moving the modern dance floor. To learn more about Cutting Records’ place as a pivotal outlet for the beginnings of House Music, we sat down with the label head honcho, Aldo Marin to discuss the birth of the label, maintaining its eclectic catalogue, and how this rework on Toolroom came together.
Nitro Deluxe – Let’s Get Brutal (Brutal House Mix) 1987
How did you come to start Cutting Records?
Well it’s kind of a long story, we started Cutting Records by doing this demo at the time called ‘Al-Naafyish (The Soul)’ by Hashim, That was our first track that we put out on Cutting Records in 1983. It started out as a demo that we were going shop to other labels, Tommy Boy Records, 99 Records, bunch of different labels, some didn’t like the way that it was arranged or they wanted to add a rap to it, and we wanted to keep it the way that we had it, and that forced us to create a label and put it out ourselves.
Hashim – Al Naafyish (The Soul)
I was working out of my brother’s record store called The Music House at the time and all we did was start selling records to the people we were buying records from. And it just started popping off in different places, Florida, North Carolina, California, England, you know it came back in a positive way and that’s how Cutting was conceived pretty much.
Thinking about Mark Knight’s rework, ‘Brutal’, that’s coming out on Toolroom specifically, what do you remember about finding the original ‘Nitro Deluxe – Let’s Get Brutal’ record, how did that come about?
Nitro Deluxe was a big fan of the Hashim‘s records that we had out at the time so he’s from Philadelphia and he approached us to be signed. We heard his talent was a more electro hip hop type of feel, he called it Nubian beats and we liked his style. We put out his first record called ‘Journey to Cybertron’ and it was pretty much out of this world. It did well in the Electro, Hip-Hop genre but this whole changing of the sound was coming and House music was coming out of Chicago and we really liked the style because I used to play a lot of the Disco songs, and it reminded me of Disco.
So, I had approached Nitro and I said look we need to do a House record – lets experiment. So, we got into the lab which was my bedroom at the time, an eight track quarter inch reel to reel with a Sound Craft board, and we just went in everyday of the week for about a week and ‘Brutal’ is what was created. ‘Let’s Get Brutal’, or ‘Brutal House’ as many people know it.
Mark Knight, Nitro Deluxe – Brutal
Also, what I’d like to mention is as we were recording the song, we didn’t have at that time a sequencer or anything like that so everything you hear on the original track is small loops, percussion loops, claps etc. and it was all programmed by hand. Playing on the keyboard, like one measure at a time, some were two measures at a time, but it was all live tape and on the original reel the original song is 14 minutes long, that’s one of the sides of the original vinyl.
Nitro Deluxe – Let’s Get Brutal 1988 VHS
Wow so you sort of did like a live jam in a sense and then recorded a 14 minute version then the one that now everyone knows and loves is like a cut of that, is it essentially, like an edit?
Actually, there’s three versions on the original vinyl, two of them are edits, one is the original format that we recorded right on tape, right off the quarter inch eight track to a quarter inch reel to reel 15ips, and that one pass was one full pass, no edits, the 14 minute version. All the keyboards were played live to tape too.
You mentioned a little about how the house sound was coming out of Chicago and starting in New York. Could you talk a little about what the scene of New York looked like in those early years when you started up Cutting?
The scene in New York at the time – I was working as a DJ on 92 KTU, and it was a very mixed crowd, you could go to a club and they would play all types of music, not just one genre the whole night. It was hip hop, it was European imports, there were domestic records, all different types of dance music. I grew up in a record store called The Music House and I liked all types of music, so that’s why when you go through the Cutting catalogue it’s very diverse. You know it has a lot of different tastes to it.
It’s amazing you’ve managed to cover so many different areas really over the years.
Yes, we even have a rock band called KHZ that a lot of people don’t know but when they hear it, they’re like wow you know, it’s authentic. Electronic and Rock at the same time, KHZ.
KHZ – Broken (What Could’ve Been)
Thinking about how eclectic the catalogue is across Cutting Records, how do you think you’ve achieved that impact and longevity over 40 years, and what keeps you inspired?
I think a lot of the different hits and styles that we put out on Cutting Records were due to the fact that I was working in a record store and we knew what was coming through the pipeline earlier than the major labels. We knew exactly what type of music was coming out and this definitely helped us.
The catalogue kind of transcends genre on Cutting Records. How did you decide where you wanted to take the label creatively?
I’ve always gone with my gut on the songs that we’ve signed. There’s been a lot of songs that we’ve passed on that, for an example, George Morel is a perfect example – he wanted to do something for Cutting Records early on, I kept passing on a lot of his records. I called him up one time to tell him I was passing on his record and I hear something on his answering machine and I said look, if that’s not signed to anyone and original, I would like to sign it. That song was ‘As It Grooves‘ on the first 2 In A Room Album Vol. 1 and it eventually went on to become ‘Wiggle it’. That might be one of the strangest ways I’ve signed a song.
George Morel – Wiggle It
When you think back on the catalogue, what are some of the records you’re most proud of?
The one I’m most proud of is the first song we released on Cutting Records – ‘Al-Naafiysh (The Soul)‘. It happened very naturally. Jerry Calliste Jr. / Hashim would come by the record store with his Casio and one day I told him let’s do a mix for one of my mix shows, you can play the keyboard. So that’s what we did, we got a beat going on the 808 and he jammed on top. That eventually went onto become a remix on my mix tape. Some other favourites from out House catalogue are Swing 52 – ‘Colour Of My Skin‘, Masters at Work – ‘I Can’t Get No Sleep‘, Kathy Brown’s ‘Turn Me Out‘ and of course, Nitro Deluxe ‘Let’s Get Brutal‘ to name a few.
One final question, how did this project with Toolroom and getting Mark Knight to rework the Nitro Deluxe track come about?
I was approached by Andy Bailey, he contacted us saying Mark Knight was interested in reworking ‘Brutal House‘ and I’m a fan of Mark so thought it was a great idea. We began talking and it worked out! I think Mark did a great job in keeping a lot of the original elements and making a dancefloor hit.