Started in Year
Australia’s premier groove band of the mid-1990s, Renegade Funktrain, presented a melting pot of soul, funk, hip hop, jazz and rap elements. Rosano Martinez and Brian `DJ A.S.K.’ Patrick began their association during the mid-1980s in notorious Sydney hip-hop outfit West Side Posse. Coming from multicultural backgrounds (Martinez was of Spanish descent) and influenced by American hip hop and rap, the group was one of the first in Australia to embrace overseas dance trends of the day.
Martinez’s association with music went back further. He was a breakdancer with the United Break Team which supported the New York hip-hop group Rock Steady Crew on its 1984 Australian tour. In 1989, Martinez (aka `El Assassin’) formed dance/hip hop/pop outfit Sound Unlimited Posse with Vladimir `DJ B.L.T.’ Cherapanoff (ex-Digits) and rapper Alan `Kode Blue’. CBS issued the group’s debut single, `Peace by Piece’/`Suicide’, in 1990. That year, Sound Unlimited Posse supported overseas visitors Public Enemy, De La Soul and New Kids on the Block on their respective Australian tours. With the arrival of Martinez’s younger sister Tina, the group adopted the shortened moniker of Sound Unlimited. Sony/Columbia then signed the band for the 12-inch EP `Unity’/`Paradise Lost’ (#36 in August 1991), the single `Kickin’ to the Undersound’ (#19 in April 1992), and the album A Postcard from the Edge of the Under-Side (March 1993) which yielded the singles `Saturday Night’ (October 1992) and `One More from the City’ (#22 in April 1993). `Kickin’ to the Under-sound’ sampled Daddy Cool’s `Eagle Rock’ and Men at Work’s `Downunder’.
Sound Unlimited was the proud owner of the first major release of an Australian rap album. With a dearth of appropriate local producers, Sound Unlimited had travelled to Boston to record the album with the American production team Slamm’ Antunes. In early 1992, Sound Unlimited supported US visitors The Beastie Boys, Ice-T and Public Enemy on Australian tours. With the success of the group’s singles, Rosano got involved in production for a number of dance acts like Rockmelons, the Magnificent Seven and New Zealand singer Mark Williams. Tina Martinez married the group’s American producer Dereck Antunes, and by 1994 Sound Unlimited had transformed into Renegade Funktrain. In 1995, the group recorded its debut album. The CD single `Testify’ appeared, but then Renegade Funktrain had to wait nearly a year for the release of its second CD single `Renegade Funktrain’/`I Wonder’.
The band had built `I Wonder’ around samples from the Boz Scaggs song `Lowdown’ and the American singer was reluctant to clear its use. Eventually, he relented (the group wrote him a personal letter) and `Renegade Funktrain’/`I Wonder’ reached #49 on the national chart in March 1996. The Renegade Funktrain album came out a month later to a positive response.