Crossover legends SENSER changed the alternative music landscape forever in 1994 with the release of Stacked UP; an album of unprecedented cross pollination and pure inventiveness that resulted in a sound that influenced a generation.
Fusing metal, electronica, hip-hop and everything in between, Stacked Up sold over 200k records in 1994 alone, putting SENSER on the covers of magazines, earning a deluge of daytime radio and gaining the band tours with the likes of Rage Against The Machine and Henry Rollins, playing to millions worldwide. Many of today’s musical elite consider Stacked Up a major influence; 20 years on with a 21st Century re-master, it sounds as fresh as ever.
Senser will release Stacked Up XX on 17 November: a deluxe double CD box set with Senser collectibles, double vinyl album and digital editions will be available, containing a remastered version of the original record, remixes and unreleased tracks.
Vocalist Heitham Al Sayed reflects: “When no one has told you it's not possible, you just assume it is possible. We just played whatever we wanted. The music we listened to was all fair game. It was a long time ago, before the segregation of the music clans was finally made official.
“After touring a lot of these songs in ratty little vans for a few years, a couple of very forward thinking fellows from a small record company in Camden saw that more people might want to listen to them, and gave us the money to record them well."
SENSER recorded Stacked Up in 1993 in Bath. Upon completion, they knew they had created something special.
Heitham continues: “After that everything accelerated around us as if rushing in to fill a void. Travelling the world to work is the best way to see it, especially when you're young. We know that for many people, this album took on an importance beyond our expectations. We were then and still are, humbled and grateful to all those people who took this music into their hearts and worlds.”
Although written two decades ago and in a technologically different time, SENSER’s hard hitting lyrical content is as relevant today as it ever was.
Heitham explains: “Some of the lyrics on Stacked Up are ambiguous but others are almost premonitory, and particularly Age of Panic and Eject. They were written at the dawn of the culture of surveillance and before the internet but they have some specific references that mirror the NSA spying project, anti terrorism laws, the financial crashes and the recent anti corporate activity. I suppose I just tapped into a feeling of where things were going."
Mark from musicmuso met up with the band in turn and took time out to chat to them about how things have moved on since 1994, singing in the shower and favourite Sunday Morning albums, here's how he got on....
It's 20 years since the release of your debut album ‘Stacked Up’, why do you think this album has stayed in so many people’s hearts all this time?
It's hard to say. I suppose at that time there were very few people trying that type of mixing of styles. I know we meant what we were saying. A lot of it is ambiguous but some is quite direct expression of ideas so people could relate to it. It sounds good to me but I'm very grateful that other people care.
What do you sing when in the shower?
Gorgoroth, Barbara Streisand, Mayhem , Liza Minnelli, John Cage, show tunes...that type of thing.
‘Switch’ is a track that was played many times at metal clubs, what is this track all about and who filmed the music video?
It's about making a switch or a change in consciousness , from a violent narcissistic outlook to a clear thinking compassion. I can't remember who filmed that one but I know it was on the set of a theatre piece called Machinale.
Who designed the artwork for ‘Stacked up’...and what is it?
In those days before the internet there were very few people designing with computers that we knew. We went round to see the brother of Mat, the drummer from the band dodgy because he had this technology. When we got there it transpired that he had only about five disparate images to chose from. For the cover image we couldn't have been more limited in options open to us. I think the only other photo he had ,one of a tree frog wasn't used. So it was a collage with a couple of the band directing .
The rest of the liner notes and photos were thrown together by someone in our management while we were on tour . We were disappointed because we had never authorized the photos but it was too late to change. We learned a big lesson from that experience: once it's out there you can't change it so get it right!
There are many good bands and musicians out there, who would you ask the readers of musicmuso to look out for?
Too many! Completely different in styles: Dead Residents, Marnie Stern, Galaxians, God Seed, Lizzo, Dead Skeletons , Shabbaz Palaces.
Coffee or Tea? Arabic unroasted green coffee
Robert De Niro or Al Pacino? Gene Hackman in The Conversation
Lemmy (Motorhead) or Ozzy (Black Sabbath)? Lezzy
What music are you grooving to at the moment?
Rare groove, funk and soul from the 60s and 70s
Give me three words that best describe you as a band?
Hip Hop, Metal, Psychedelic
First gig you ever went to?
Fresh 86, featuring Africa Bambatta, Mantronix, DJ Cheese, Hashim, World Class Wreckin Crew, Grand Master Flash, Just Ice, Steady B, The Real Roxanne
Is there something you would like to tell each of the band members that you haven’t told them before?
You smell of elderberries
Coca Cola or Pepsi? Coca Cola
Drum machine or the real deal? Roland 808
CD or Vinyl? Vinyl
Tattoos or Piercings? Tattoos
The guitar riff to ‘Eject’ is powerful, what was the inspiration behind this? also what guitar riff still makes you orgasm?
I was a big fan of Anthrax back in the day. Their collaboration with public enemy on "Bring The Noise" was a huge thrash metal / hip hop crossover revelation that became the blueprint for Eject. We wanted to write an original song in that style rather than put heavy guitars on an existing rap song. That gave birth to Eject.
I don't think a guitar riff has ever made me orgasm (!) But there are so many that send shivers down my spine! Hard to pick one as there are so many genres and styles of riffs but for thrash i'd have to say any riff from Slayer's "Reign in Blood" certainly gets me going. Jeff Hanneman (R.I.P and sadly missed) pretty much wrote the book on thrash riffs on that album. Absolute master piece. I also get very excited listening to Jimmy Page's guitar work on Led Zeppelin II and Alex Lifeson's riffs on Xanadu and Moving Pictures. These are just the tip of the iceberg!
What is the best advice you ever received and who was it from, also what advice would you offer to up and coming bands and musicians?
I know it's corny but the old adage of "be nice to people on the way up as you'll need them on the way down" holds very true. I don't think I was actually told that by anyone but it's still invaluable advice. I would pass that one on to up and coming bands. I would also advise them to not sign the first deal they are offered unless it really is too good to turn down. I know too many bands with amazing potential who destroyed their careers by signing away their lives to really dubious managers and record companies. Go on the road; work hard; establish your own sound and your own fanbase. Become self sufficient. You will then be in a much better state to withstand the fickle music press and industry. You will also be in a far stronger position if ever you are offered deals. Don't give up your artistic freedom for large amounts of cash. It might initially seem tempting but will ultimately be soul destroying.
Stacked up is a diverse album with tracks such as ‘Eject’ then ‘Peanut Head’, it's an album for all tastes, was it your plan to try and do this?
I think the diversity on Stacked Up reflects the musical diversity within the band.
I don't think we set out with the intention of appealing to as wide an audience as we could. It was more a case of us trying to satisfy our own creative freedom and broad influences.
Where did you record your debut ‘Stacked up’ and what made you choose that studio?
We recorded Stacked Up at Moles Studio in Bath. I think it was chosen because it had the right mixing desk and equipment. It was probably reasonably priced too. We actually recorded our single The Key and No Comply there before we returned to record the rest of the album so we knew we could get a good sound at Moles.
1994 or 2014? 1994 for music scene, 2014 for technology.
Acoustic or electric? Always electric!
Have you had any ‘Spinal Tap’ Moments? If yes, please share!
Yeah we've had a few "Hello Cleveland " moments where the dressing room is in the basement of some massive university, with a complex corridor/staircase arrangement, you soon realise how little attention you were paying when you were first shown where the dressing room is ! I seem to remember playing a squat gig in the early days and a dog just decided to aimlessly start walking around on stage for a while !
In your opinion, what is the BEST album/record ever released and why?
Impossible to say just one, but I think Quadrophenia by "The Who" has to be up there. There's a proper story running through it, production is still amazing, the playing is brilliant and the stress and strain the band was under at the time means it was a miracle it got made at all. There's a good documentary about it.
‘States of Mind’ is the first track and is a strong one to open up with, what was the process of choosing the playing order for the album?
We gaffa taped song titles to kittens and made them race. First kitten across the line had states of mind taped to it.
If you had a chance to put together your own ‘super group’, who would be in it? (Only living members please)
Drums - Danny Carey - Tool
Bass - Geezer Butler - Black Sabbath
Guitar - Josh Homme - Queens of the Stone Age
Acoustic Guitar - Stephen Stills
Vocals - Chris Cornell, Ray la Montagne , Norah jones
Keyboards - Herbie Hancock
What is your ‘Sunday Morning’ record?
Anything by James Brown, Ryan Adams or Ray la Montagne
It’s been 20 years since ‘Stacked up’ was released, how did you approach the recording of ‘To The Capsules’ and what did you do differently?
Everything was different. When we made 'Stacked Up' we had management, record company, budgets, big tours, professional recording studios, producer, engineers. You name it we had it. When we did capsules it was just us and the support of our loyal fans who pledged their hard earned cash to make the album happen. Thanks to them !
Live Show or Recording studio? Live show
Fry up or Sunday roast? Sunday roast.
Please introduce the band and your music in one sentence....
We're a rap metal electronic crossover psychedelic rock act from London and Paris that's been touring and releasing records for 20 years.. who also like eating a lot of hummus (is that two sentences?)
How did you all join forces?
Back in the early 90's there was a bit of a scene based around free festivals, squat parties and gigs.. we all had similar yet disparate music tastes and hooked up through that.
I was introduced to Senser by my older brother who was an Adam Ant fan, he said to me “You’ll love these guys they are the British Rage Against The Machine”. How did that make you guys feel, to be compared to RATM after Stacked up?
RATM are a great band who've achieved a great deal so that's definitely a compliment.. We used to get quite cheesed off by it though.. we both started out at the same time and there are differences in musical approach even though there are obvious similarities but someone once said to us 'RATM are like the US version of Senser' - we were totally fine with that!!
Tell me a fascinating fact about you or one of your band members?
Andy is a time travelling druid
What are your plans for 2014? Re-release our début album 'Stacked Up XX" and have a launch show in London on 31/10/14
Car or Motorbike? Car
Shower or Bath? Shower
God or Google? Google knows everything
To celebrate the release of ‘Stacked Up XX’, Senser have teamed up with Voodoo Rock Club for a one off celebratory show at the Electrowerkz in Islington, London on 31/10/14.
This show will feature a unique Senser set from the last two decades including a selection of Stacked Up tracks making their first live appearance in nearly 20 years.
We’re also pleased to announce a very special line-up of acts including Hed PE, The Algorithm, Death Remains and Heretic Order with more great acts to be announced soon.
Stacked UP XX will be released via Strike Back on 17 November 2014.
1 States Of Mind
2 The Key
4 Age Of Panic
5 What's Going On
6 One Touch One Bounce
8 Door Game
9 Peanut Head
12 No Comply
1 Age Of Panic (Git-O-Rama Mix)
2 Twice As
3 Tin Can Hurricane
4 Fast Song
5 States Of Mind - Fusewire Remix
6 Age Of Panic (The Sick Man Remix)
7 Eject (Over Zealous Mix)
8 Switch (Depth Charge First Venom Mix)
9 The Key (Liquid Lunch Mix)
10 Door Game - (Phut Demo)
11 Age Of Panic (Eat Static Saturated Slug Mix)