Aussie girls have always struck a nerve with foreign men. Often smitten by their down-to-Earth demeanor, many men have fallen victim to their charm, humour and kindness. That’s probably the biggest load of shit I’ve ever spun as a writer, but it was certainly the case for Mark Pritchard and Steve Spacek, better known as Africa Hitech. The duo, who met in the UK, later learned through a mutual friend that they were both living in the same country halfway across the world. They both married Australian girls and made the big move Down Under around the same time. Now they stand at the intersection of an eclectic diaspora of electronic styles. The result is a synthesiser-fuelled syncopated bass explosion.
With the acknowledgement that all electronic music stems from African musical traditions, Spacek and Pritchard have formed a musical partnership that knows no boundary in terms of style, drawing from soul, dub and acid to UK garage, grime, techno, house and Jamaican dancehall. 100% speaks with Africa Hitech about their successful solo careers, how they teamed up, and the Australian music scene.
While their first tastes of dance music were different, Africa Hitech have mastered their art. Mark says he came across electronic music via Science Fiction soundtracks and was lucky to hear Chicago house music and Detroit techno when he left school. Steve reminisces on his encounter with Donna Summer’s I Feel Love marking his exposure to the genre at the tender age of five. “[It was playing on a] massive reggae sound system in my school hall,” he says, “This was during the holidays at play school – southeast London style!”
At around 1990, both men began dabbling in the early beginnings of their music careers. Mark says, “I worked with Tom Middleton and from that various names came [including] Reload, Global Communication, Jedi Knights.” Steve created the ambient group Spacek and worked with a conglomerate of hip hop gods including Common and the late J. Dilla. “[J.Dilla] was one of the most humble and gracious peeps that I have ever met in the industry,” Steve says. “He was a real joy to be around. He was all about trying to make great music. He wasn’t into scenes or bullshit. I walked into his apartment, who he was sharing with Common at the time, to pick up a beat. When I walked in he was flipping it saying, ‘Yo Spacek! I can’t believe you’re here.’ That blew my mind. He was so humble and appreciative.”
After collaborative work together in the early 2000s, fate would have it that both Mark and Steve wound up in Bondi. “We met Aussie girls in the UK and moved here at the same time,” Steve says. “All I really knew about Australia was from Neighbours. When we had our first kid I said we should go where my wife is from so she can be comfortable. I was a bit scared because it was so far away and I’d never really been there.”
Their earlier collaborative work proved the two were on the same wavelength when it came to making music. “I heard the first Spacek single Eve via a mutual friend…I was blown away by that record,” Mark explains. “It was way ahead of its time. Steve has a really unique voice and is the most talented musician I have worked with. I suppose we have very similar roots into music and we are both striving for something new. So when we both ended up ten minutes from each other on the other side of the world almost eight years ago we started working straight away.”
Since then, Africa Hitech has put out two EPs on the globally respected Warp Records. Their style flirts with elements of dubstep, grime and funk with a hard hitting and encompassing edge. “We are open to all music,” Mark says. “We just want to hear fresh things and also get inspired by music from the past.” Steve adds, “It’s nice to try and visit different places within music.”
Despite having different exposures to dance music, the duo shares the same perspective on African rhythms. “As soon as you start making modern dance music, you start touching on African music,” Steve says, “especially the rhythms, arpeggios and mantra type melodies. You can start with any of the genres and trace them back to Africa. Our thing was to really be conscious of that fact whilst making 93 Million Miles [and to] always maintain that raw tribal swing, mixed with a bit of beautiful tech.”
Both Mark and Steve have separate projects they continue to work on. Steve has been busying himself with a solo album and Mark is returning to a Harmonic 313 project. “I’ve been working on it for a while in the background and I am trying and get it finished in June ready for release in September,” Mark says.
Having lived in Australia for nearly eight years, Africa Hitech has good insight into the Australian music scene. “Now the dollar is strong, even more people are coming out which is great,” Mark begins. “Whatever type of music you are into you can find people doing good parties in that style across Australia. Sydney suffers from a shortage of medium sized venues and great sound systems though.” Due to play the No Parlay VIP Boat Party and Shed4 Party, Melbourne will see Africa Hitech grace our stages once more after a hiatus due to the pair gigging overseas.
BY TAMARA VOGL