First In CommandPest Control '95 EP
During the early 1980's, Liverpool and specifically Toxteth was not necessarily a "fun" place to live!. The area was one of the most segregated in the UK, unemployment was at a 50 year high and race relations were tense. The predominantly black community, a strong and vital part of the cultural make-up of this major UK port city (which was incidentally built on the slave trade), was ghettoised within the L8 Liverpool postcode. Police brutality and victimisation of young black kids was rife and in the summer of 1981 the anger and mistrust between the two factions was at boiling point. Following the St Paul's riots of 1980 in Bristol and the Brixton riots earlier in the year came Liverpool's edition: the Toxteth riots (also know as the L8 uprising, depending on which side of the road you were standing). Several weeks after the violence that was to rock the city (pun intended) "Raiders of the Lost Ark" was released (!). It was after seeing this epic and entirely unrelated piece of Spielberg cinema that Toxteth residents Dave and Mervyn met. Dave remembers the two boys chattin' about the film in their first conversation and also that their meeting was probably sealed with a ceremonial and bond-forming burning of a box of Swan Vestas. Those actions in the problematic summer of 1981 led to the creation and recording of their never-released album "Pest Control" 14 years later.
Dave was exposed to electronic groups like Kraftwerk and early Hip Hop tracks via his brother, 8 years his senior, who was in an electro-pop group at the time. His mum had allowed his older brother to convert the upstairs box room into a makeshift practice room for his band and one day the heard "Rappers Delight" bumping through the floorboards of the house and was immediately affected. Mervyn had heard a lot of early Electro from his brother who was 4 years older than him plus his mum would play a lot of Reggae (John Holt being a favourite) and soul groups like the Chi-Lites were often on the record player. When his brother was out the house he would sneak into his room and spin records by Flash, Bambaataa, Whodini and early Run DMC, being extremely careful to leave his brothers records in the same order and state he found them in for fear of a beating!!!!
Being from the same neighbourhood the two boys used to hang out at the Charles Woolton Centre, a local community centre in Toxteth. The youth centre had a music room, and Dave, an aspiring drummer, would mimick classic breakbeats and they began, slowly to start to write tracks together. Mervyn aka 2Kind remembers not being able to recite his rhymes until the light was turned off for fear of embarrassment. They would do cover versions of classic Hip Hop joints, one they remember doin on the reg was Tuff Crew's "She Rides the Pony" (in a Scouse accent? DOPE!). Their evolution took a huge leap after Mervyn brought the instrumental of Main Source's "Watch Roger do his Thing" to the club one day and they both recited written rhymes over the top - it was soon after this that they knew they wanted to record.
After the mind-expanding realisation that Rap tracks contained samples, following the discovery of the Ultimate Breaks and Beats series, hardcore digging for samples ensued. They would separately and as a duo hit up stores like Spin Inn and Eastern Bloc in Manchester on their weekly inter city pilgrimage to cop new and old Hip hop and to satisfy their breaks and beats cravings they would rinse out Hairy Records in Liverpool city centre or Backtracks in the Whitechapel area of the city. It was on one diggin mission at Hairy Records in 1992 that Mervyn stumbled across a bunch of "Library Records" that the owner had marked for 50p each. The popularity of this sample-laden genre was still fairly low key and the cover prices that these records fetched would not peak for several years. He brought the swag over to Dave's spot and realising that they had found something they could use, went back the following day to clean up - there were KPM's, Conroys, Chappells, Brutons. The owner of the shop had bought 100's from an auction of stuff from an old BBC office and not knowing their value (to a Hip Hop producer), had flung them all out in the racks for peanuts. The boys ate them up like starved Pacmen.
Dave put together a small home studio set up to write beats for their rhymes. He had the obligatory Atari ST with an early version of Cubase, an Akai S950 and a Yamaya PX27 keyboard to trigger samples - basic yet affective. They began writing tracks around 1991/1992 and worked on a set of material over the next 3 years. They joined forces with local DJ and DMC competitor DJ Olabean who provided the appropriate deft cuts for the project. With no one in the city to guide them with their Hip Hop production, everything they created was was done via Rap osmosis, listening to the likes of Main Source, KMD, ATCQ and Pete Rock - i.e decent influences. They hooked up with a music producer in town with his own studio who let them record for nothing and although he didn't have any knowledge or experience in the music they were trying to make, acted as a manager of sorts, looking to recoup the studio hours in some shape or form. They set up one of the first Hip Hop nights (Phat Skills) in Liverpool, a city which had not seen any success in that genre of music. The only group that had had a record out was Power to the Max in the late 80's. Dave had run into one of the members at a Monie Love gig in 1988 who had encouraged him to write. There was also the group Bantu who were legendary on the local live scene in the mid to late 80's, but never dropped anything other than a white label in1991 and like so many Liverpool Hip Hop acts failed to reach their potential. First in Command truly believed that they would be the first North West Hip Hop group to get some success while making pure, quality Hip Hop Music.
With a demo complete they hit up a load of labels and publications. They won a demo competition in Hip Hop Connection magazine and received a few press mentions but the buzz wasn't spun into anything further. London-based labels didn't know what to do with the Liverpool accent and what few labels there were didn't pick up on the demo or invest in the group. Then, as is usually the way, life took over and families, children and work became the main priority and the First in Command project had to take a back seat and eventually fizzled out.
This little-known UK Hip Hop group made the music they wanted to hear and were never steered by any outside forces. The content of the songs were shaped by their experiences alone. Rather than glamourise their upbringings or talk about an imaginary life of drug dealing and crime, they focused on their friendship, shared passions (Hip Hop for one), going out and gettin pure fanny!! They never caricatured their [strong] Liverpudlian accents for affect and never created self-deprecating parodies of the "Northerner" to get a deal. These cats were always true school. What more could you want.