Howie B

November 2009 > One of the first selections by our big friend Howie

One of the most respected electronic composers of the ’90s, Howie B is a sonic polymath whose production work with U2, Bjork, Tricky, Brian Eno, Sinead O’Connor, Sly and Robbie and Everything But The Girl has made him an ace hired gun often called upon to give pop stars credit in the dance world.

Born in Glasgow during the 60s, Howard Bernstein grew up in an unenviable position; a Jewish child within the west of Scotland’s sectarian divide. Rejecting all forms of bigotry and division he found solace in music. Invigorated by John Peel’s scattershot broadcasts, he began collecting 70’s vinyl from the likes of John McLaughlin, Santana and Gong. After moving to London he gained production skills with a 3 year stint at Lilley Yard in Fulham, manning the controls for Swing Out Sister and the Siouxsie and the Banshees.

By the mid 80s Howie was part of Soul II Soul’s ‘weekend posse’ and reinforced the connection with Nellee Hooper and Jazzy B with contributions to the first Soul II Soul album. During the 90s he worked with Massive Attack and a pre-jungle Goldie, began releasing ‘Howie B Inc’ 12s on James Lavelle’s Mo’ Wax label and helped to programme Tricky’s Island-deal securing demo’s.

1993 saw the launch of his own imprint, Pussyfoot, and two years later he collaborated on and co-produced U2s ‘Pop’ album. He was invited to produce the live sound for its accompanying world tour, a project that went far beyond previous attempts in merging rock spectacle and electronic ingenuity. Howie continued a small-but-steady stream of material. Moving hip-hop instrumentals a step beyond the experimental joined him with beat junkies like DJ Shadow, U.N.K.L.E., Portishead, and Coldcut at the forefront of a U.K. breakbeat renaissance.

Although his genre-spanning work with Skylab on 1994’s ‘#1’ brought his talents for organized chaos before a wider audience, it was ultimately his role in the production chair for such artists as Tricky, Björk and, eventually, U2 that landed him a multi-album recording deal with Polydor, yielding LPs including 1996’s ‘Music for Babies’, 1997’s ‘Turn the Dark Off’, 1999’s ‘Snatch’ and followed by ‘Folk’ in 2001.

He provided music for Wim Wenders’ movie ‘End of Violence’ and the short film by Run Wrake that accompanied Music For Babies has won numerous awards. Recent production work has included Happy Mondays’ first album in 14 years, which is also set to feature a guest appearance from Ry Cooder. His most recent releases include ‘Last Bingo In Paris’ for French label Stereo Pictures and ‘Mayonnaise’ (a collaboration with Crispin Hunt and Will O’Donovan) for U.S. label Lunatic Works/BMG.

Recently Howie has been involved in the world of fashion, working with Italian Fashion House Fornari in the creation of his design collection HVANA. Music For Astronauts and Cosmonauts is his first collaboration with Icelandic musician and artist Húbert Nói, produced over the last eight years in the legendary Greenhouse Studio in Reykjavik. Both recently performed the show with cellist Borgar Magnason at the Donaufestival in Austria.

Over the last few years he has been working in China with young musicians (and older ones), there he has been focusing on sharing his production skills with the emerging music scene. He recorded an album with Ciu Cian the “rock god” of China in 2008/9 and wrote and produced for Sa Ding Ding who featured in the film score he created for the Chinese Film Production of “Gasp”.

Last year Howie formed a band with members of the Italian group Marlene Kuntz and their producer Gianni Maroccolo . The name of the band is “Beautiful” and their album will be released later on this year.

At present he is relaunching his label Pussyfoot and setting up another label with Craig Richards that will focus primarily on dance music and art. He is working closely with Keith Reilly of Fabric, curating live music and art installations and has also just been commissioned by the Milan planetarium with another four musicians to compose a musical back drop to a space show to be performed live in 2011. As well as still DJing regularly in clubs around the world, Howie recently debuted his new Live show at Fabric, a fully improvised, hardware only, dark dancefloor set that will be followed by a full Live tour in 2011.

His new album, ‘Good Morning Scalene’ is a collection of twelve new pieces of music from Howie, produced and recorded in Italy, China and London and will be released in March 2011.