In 2018 I received a grant from the Arts Council of England to fly to Berlin and meets with people whose lives and loves weave in and out of the rich tapestry of music that spans across this incredible city.
The results? Lost and Sound in Berlin, my podcast series, which mashes together interviews, narrative, and field recordings, capturing the atmosphere and creativity of Berlin.
You can listen now. Along the way, you’ll meet former Syrian refugees becoming techno DJs; non-binary artists redefining musical and cultural borders and some of the city’s finest menschen recounting tales from the pre-reunification bohemian west and the communist east; you’ll be transported from squats to the music tech sector; from clubs to collectives and through this, the podcast aims to show you why Berlin has such a creative energy. The podcast was supported using public funding from the Arts Council Of England. Podcast music by Tom Giddins
I have a new show on Berlin electronic music radio station BLN.FM
From my first time inside Berghain to getting to know producers and musicians across the city’s musical underground map, I set out to create something like a sonic Ryan Air between London and Berlin – the main difference being I won’t attempt to flog you duty free perfume.
Once a month, expect a journey through the underground and exotic, between bedroom producers, subterranean noise makers, the dance-floor and all the strange and exotic gaps between.
I love putting together the music for my weekly show on Hoxton Radio.
For me its about freshness. It’s about whoever in the world right now is making fantastic new sounds. I need to find it, hear it, and if it makes my ears come alive then I’ll play it to you.
Recently, I’ve spoken with Tel Aviv’s Noga Erez about mixing empowerment and beats; Jane Weaver on her love off Krautrock; the New Zealand Taite Award winning slacker-popstar Merk revealed how he lost all his material possessions on his European tour and I met with Shabazz Palaces collaborator Pierre Kwenders over coffee in Ace Hotel.
Guest mixes have included pioneering DIY label/collective Upset The Rhythm and the Bahrain/Dalston psychedelic fusionists Flamingods.
Once a month I make my way over to High Street Kensington, up escalators, through a giant glass atrium that looks like something Roald Dahl might have dreamt up for Willy Wonka and onto the studio of London Live where, usually, the amenable Anthony Baxter asks me to give my musical round-up of things going on in London.
Hull’s reputation might not lead one to think it an obvious choice for UK City of Culture 2017. However, on a recent visit, I glimpsed a city in transformation. Along the marina, I grabbed a spicy chickpea burger amongst the mismatched furniture of the seafront cafe Thieving Harry’s and took in some galleries, then went and played DJ sets for screenings of The Sad And Beautiful World Of Sparklehorse and the 1973 Jimi Hendrix doc.
Photo by Bruna Amaral
These docs about two visionary yet ultimately tragic musical heroes were curated with passion by the Doc N Roll Festival, team, who are on a mission to bring the most raw and inspiring music documentaries onto the big screen in some of the most unusual locations.
I’m one of those people that actually really enjoys getting their haircut, having a good old catch up with my hairdresser, Ann, finding out what she’s been up to, trusting her scissor-fingers. London salon Radio has been my hair go-to place for years now.
I teamed up with fellow DJ/Curator Matthew Hayman to create monthly playlists for them. The ambience inside their salons – that have spread across the city in Broadway Market, Shoreditch, Kings Cross and Farringdon is note perfect – the kind you just want to hang around in and absorb, so programming the sounds had to reflect this (*no Vengaboys).
Curating DJ sets for the event company Euphonica takes me to some of London’s most beautiful and historic locations.
Finding music that matches and fills the epic-ness of Tate Britain and Tate Modern, The V&A and Somerset House has led to some startling revelations – Psychedelic Bollywood, Roman Flugel, The Bush Tetras and Horace Silver – not only do they go together really well, but amidst the granduer of the Tate Britain – seem to invoke some kind of spectral lightforce. See the picture above for proof.
We’re all curators.I remember stories of our parents and their parents getting everything they need from one place. Their shirts, their biscuits, their cheese. Going down the market they’d experience an assortment of delights, like a pre- digital Spotify for their daily needs.
Now, much like a modern day M&S, the streaming giants perform algorithmic handstands to be that one-stop shop for our richest, darkest, deepest musical cravings, promising to deliver us from the chaos of making our own minds up. Yet, like that new couple in a cafe the morning after swiping right, who’ve not yet wiped the sex from their faces, we’re submerged in choice. Shebang. How do we find the next amazing thing?
Maybe a Senegalese Psych band playing straight after a rapper from Streatham might initially sound unfamiliar. You could, for all I know, not be too down with the Streatham rap scene and Senegalese Psych sounds a little hard to swallow. But fear not. Just like that Bradley Cooper film where he becomes super intelligent because he can access every memory he’s ever had, we already know everything – the emotions, the struggles, the context of all music, we absorb it on the street, through our browsers, our neighbours, in the chip shop and out of headphones spilling across a bus.
Your musical kitchen already has every ingredient you could wish for, and I’m here to stir all these flavours into one fucking great casserole. You’re more brave, more bold in your choices and more eclectic than you know, my mission is to make sure all these colours, these flavours and textures feel as appetising to you as they already do to me.
“My mom never told me to be a man, she just let me [be]. If I want to cry she gives me that space. She encouraged me to wear colours, she encouraged me not to be limited, she encouraged me not to be a shell of a human being, and she never called it masculine or feminine, she just told me to be a full person.”
I interviewed Serpentwithfeet for Crack Magazine, read the full interview here
As a young teen in the early 90s, wearing my Ride T-shirt and Doc Martens, I’d go raving in fields, barns and derelict old houses. The sheer buzz on a Friday, finding the location through a phone-line given out at Madison’s Nightclub in Bournemouth, the convoys of cars all full to the brim of expectant ravers tail-jammed along country roads and then the destination … Pulsing, primitive, turbo-sped sounds beamed out of makeshift rigs, sometimes very literally held together by bare hands.
Hippie travellers, urban rave crews, sharp clad townies, grungers like myself. All together dancing.
This euphoria, this anarchy, the sheer punk thrill of early rave I summoned back into my memory to curate the music for Kathryn Gardner’s Repetive Beats play, which performed at the Vaults Festival in March 2017.
A hologram Bowie? A greencard for Grime? What will happen to vinyl stales and will Drake ever bloody go away?
Style Bible Highsobiety commissioned me to gaze into a crystal ball on emerging musical trends across 2017
Where would we be without The Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer? Discontinued in 1983, the ripples of its precise sound have informed how our ears and bodies receive music to the point that, I think, our musical landscape would be more different without in now than without the Marshall Amp or Fender Stratocaster.
I partnered with film event company Eleven Fifty Five’s At The Pictures screening of the 808 Movie in East London’s Oval Space and met up with director Alexander Dunn, who explained about how his love for this machine propelled him to make the film.
The vibrancy of London as a city of music remains an elixir. No matter how bad things get – clubs closing, licenses lost, I’m always in awe of how the city continues to reinvent its musical language, wether its Skepta winning the Mercury Prize together with the continuing evolution of Grime, the Bjork Digital Exhibition at Somerset House or bewilderingly bold steps made by independent artists carving new genres and methods of releasing their work.
Once a month, London Live invites me to share what’s on my radar on their lunchtime news.
I first became aware Robert Rauschenberg through the sleeve artwork he made for Talking Heads’ Speaking In Tongues album. A record that has very rarely left my DJ bag. So you can imagine my utter excitement upon being asked to play at the Tate Modern this December for the launch of the major Rauschenberg Retrospective.
Pop Art pioneer, contemporary of both Andy Warhol and John Cage, his art is synonymous with my love of 2oth century New York music – Greenwich village folk, minimalism, bee-bop, new wave, disco, the dark anti-psych of Velvet Underground, and I’ll be putting this all together into two DJ sets, accompanied by Percussion and Saxophone on December 1st and 7th, at Tate Modern.
To me, the current musical landscape is more exciting, more diverse than ever. Artists can operate free of major label restraints, free to delve into the entire history of sound, release their music how they wish, using the internet to work across international borders. And the results, I find are often startling.
From the heart of London’s most culturally vibrant borough, my weekly Hoxton Radio show has a mission: To take listeners on this journey.
Recent shows have featured guest mixes from independent labels Upset The Rhythm and Fire Records and genuinely multi-International acts like Cairobi and Flamingods. I’ve talked non binary musical influences with Lower Dens, joked with White Lung about cliched interview questions asked women and found out how to find the best burger when you’re constantly touring with Palace Winter.
All the while, mixed into a soundtrack of brand new electronica, bedroom producers, psych, exotica, Alt R&B, Americana and the beyond.
Join me every Thursday 2-4pm, or listen back on mixcloud here
I swear I was one of the last people whose never dealt drugs to own an old Nokia. During working on Secret Cinema shows, they’d go and buy a bunch of what had become known as “Hanford phones” to give out as emergencies to the crew. It sounds ridiculous now to say, but getting my first Smart Phone was an Alice in Wonderland moment – that sudden switch into technicolor. That “Ah” moment.
I partnered with HTC on their #Creatography Project. A camera crew to follow me round on a typical day that began with recording a radio show, shopping for music, holding up with my laptop in an East London cafe and ended DJing at The Shacklewell Arms.
I met up with Ravioli Me Away on my Hoxton Radio show, literally hours before they boarded a boat that acted as both a literal and metaphorical album launch. A typical move from their label Upset The Rhythm.
Upset The Rhythm absolutely extoll punk ethics I love: the DIY spirit, the near pathological compulsion to promote the underground and, as they say themselves: “We like working with artists of all ages, nationalities, abilities and genders who gather loosely under the umbrella of ‘experimental music’, as this takes us closer to what makes music most transformative and inspiring.”
Upset The Rhythm put together a 30 minute mix for my Hoxton Radio show, featuring a stellar line up of their roster.
Upset The Rhythm Tracklisting
Bamboo – I’ll Never See You Again *
Ravioli Me Away – Wow! *
Vexx – Step Inside *
Normil Hawaiians – Piton De La Fournaise
Rattle – On Balance *
Sauna Youth – Taking A Walk
Deerhoof – Patrasche Come Back
Terry – In The Bin
Trash Kit – Cinema
The World – In Pieces
Dog Chocolate – Jono Filling Bin Bags
Not only does the enigmatic Elias Bender Ronnefelt looks like every eighteen year old’s dream boy crush, he also bought Copenhagen punk onto the world scene and is a veteran of five albums, still at a mere at the age of a mere 24 years of age. We met over a lunchtime drink on Broadway Market for Crack Magazine to talk Ice Age, his new Marching Church LP and early influences.
I met Beatie Wolfe to chat digital innovation in music over a coffee at the V&A. She was there to play at the You Say You Want A Revolution Exhibition. An artist whose pioneering digital approach to releasing music has seen her equally at home in the pages of Wired and the lecterns of TED as the world of Q and Mojo.
The exhibition is this big almighty gazump of artefacts, sound and images chronicling the revolutionary happenings in pop culture in the mid sixties. It left me grasping many parables of where we’re at now, and how this sense of freedom has somehow morphed into many aspects of the Start Up and Tech culture. Beatie interests me because she fuses them all together into one.
At the crossroads between Soho and the West End, Top Shop’s flagship Oxford Circus store is the biggest of its kind in Europe. I always think as I emerging out of the tube station that I’m entering a portal between fashion and high street, between all the corners of London, all the tribes and a tourist curiosity that covers the planet. And in this five story boutique, all these things do meet.
During a DJ set here, all of this life glides in front of me: last time a group of women in Burkas danced to a re-edit of Donna Summer; a small child broke into dance; a passing tourist has their camera out, filming this weird curiosity of a guy in a shop door playing loud disco music. All life. And as a DJ, these are the things that you get back, those little gifts – better than any bar tab or free taxi home.
I love David Byrne’s How Sound Works book, how the Talking Heads auteur transports the reader into understanding how the physical space around us plays an often uncredited starring role in our music. He talks of how in New York in the 70s – CBGBs, the drab, dry building itself, it’s lack of reverb, the piss on the toilet floor – helped form the punk sound.
Studying Music Culture at UEL opened my eyes to the different ways sound effects us. How the acoustics in a church can bring us closer to heaven, why its absolutely goddam essential for Bruce Springsteen to play in the biggest space imaginable.
I worked with Sennheiser recently, looking at how sound affects in different club spaces across the world.
Something utterly special happens when the sun sets across the giant stained glass windows at Air Studios. I mean, the history here, you can feel it in the atoms around you – a Grade II listed church, Sir George Martin’s baby, designed by Alfred Waterhouse (who designed the Natural History Museum). If you could bottle and sell this aura you could make a mint, which in a way is exactly what they do.
In May, I was invited to host Amazon Ticket’s Q&A with Tom Odell at Air Studios, performing his first UK show promoting the Wrong Crowd LP. He had jetlag and the band’s equipment had just been stolen following their Jimmy Fallon TV appearance, but this didn’t deter him from being an utterly charming gentleman. And what nuggets did I find out? Tom loves cats and the films of Fellini.
My recent DJ activity has included work for the British Film Institute, The Czech Republic Ministry Of Culture, Campari, TED Global, Bourne & Hollingsworth, Beyond Retro and London Fashion Week.
Secret Cinema is a genuine phenomena. I can’t discuss my work for the company – after all, their mantra is Tell No One. And this is the crucial point: it’s secret. The clause you sign at the beginning of working on a show prohibits you from even telling your loved ones what you’re doing.
So what can I safely, legally tell you? That at one point I may have been responsible for a 24 piece brass band marching through Edinburgh playing the alternative rock anthem “Atlas” by Battles. Another point in time, I may have curated a choir through a reworking of Steve Reich’s Desert Music in an abandoned hospital. Or a 1940s ballet troupe choreographed to Joy Division. These are all rumours, mind. And if you weren’t there, then that’s how they’ll stay.
Stepping onto the stage of The Groucho, you get this sense of history embedded in the walls. Brilliant minds pickled on whiskey tapping their heads together, drunk until dawn and the arrival of fresh bread in the bakeries, the intense whir of a unique district. Soho is that sketchy but charismatic Uncle who slyly brings you tobacco back from his travels. In Soho, you know bad things happen in dark corners, but somehow, if they were all smoothed away, we have no idea what damage this’d do to the universal balance of all life on the planet.
Speaking with music makers, finding out their thing. This is something I do. I was one once myself, Music maker, y’see, and I know that most artists don’t like to be poked and grilled. However, they may love to talk about a favourite recipe (see Michael in the Many Things video here, who in ten seconds will impart his invaluable wisdom regarding hot sauces on you).
So, it stands to reason that if you ask most music makers what that song they did was all about, why should they tell you when you can go figure it out yourself? However, if you’re down and open to someone’s frequency, you can get them to describe how it actually smelt the first time they discovered Twin Peaks.
How much of what we experience during a live show is heard? Naked Communications approached me to go and experience a show, Bianca Cassady in a pop-up Stoke Newington warehouse for ATP, but there was a catch.
With my ears bound in soundproof headphones, they asked me to experience the gig without hearing.
In a purely visual world, could I understand what was happening on the stage? Would I even know when a song ended? Would I get paranoid, thinking everyone was thinking: who is that idiot wearing those fuck off chunky headphones? All of these questions and more were kind of answered in the debut issue of their A_Magazine.
What inspired me about curating the music for the 11:55 screening of the film, Eden, was the music itself. This fictional take on the 90s French House scene bought back spine tingling memories of hearing Daft Punk for the first time. Even more evocative in my memory now since the venue, the legendary Shapes, in Hackney Wick, closed its doors for good this year.
I’ve also worked with 11:55 on a screening of the punk/horror hybrid movie Green Room.
2016 Showreel edited by Matt Nettlefold
“Beautiful things grow out of shit. Nobody ever believes that. Everyone thinks that Beethoven had his string quartets completely in his head—they somehow appeared there and formed in his head—and all he had to do was write them down and they would be manifest to the world. But what I think is so interesting, and would really be a lesson that everybody should learn, is that things come out of nothing. Things evolve out of nothing. You know, the tiniest seed in the right situation turns into the most beautiful forest. And then the most promising seed in the wrong situation turns into nothing. I think this would be important for people to understand, because it gives people confidence in their own lives to know that’s how things work. If you walk around with the idea that there are some people who are so gifted—they have these wonderful things in their head but and you’re not one of them, you’re just sort of a normal person, you could never do anything like that—then you live a different kind of life. You could have another kind of life where you could say, well, I know that things come from nothing very much, start from unpromising beginnings, and I’m an unpromising beginning, and I could start something.”
We live in cities that display the wares of the creative mind on every street, in every bar, every bank lobby, even down to the way our coffee reaches us. Everything we look at, see and hear has been at least partially facilitated to us through creativity. Yet living as a creative freelancer, without guaranteed income, is a minefield.
Better Living Through Music was a light hearted, irreverent through music and art can become a life changing experience and even a political statement.
I gave the first Better Living Through Music talk in Soho’s Library Club in January. It was born through the experiences of putting your faith in an artform and following where it can take you.
In 2010, Recovering from 6 months with CFS, I’d pick up my mending body and stroll to Wilton Way Coffee Shop. Even during winter, the sun shined over the little cafe, across the Tea Crates and little wooden tables, and by this window, I first noticed London Fields Radio. A tiny radio station right there in the window. Recovering, I felt I had been given a second chance. And, as always, Music was there.
On the London Fields Radio show, Imaginary Soundtracks, the format was kind of like a radio and coffee version of the 80s show Cheers, I took the Ted Danson role and a variety of guests – from Cornershop to Gwenno to Tom Vek, pulled up a stool and joined me for a coffee and a rummage through their influences, opening up about their influences, the passions and what makes them tick .
Bourne & Hollingsworth’s Blitz parties arrived out of the same immersive culture as Secret Cinema. I went to one, it was New Years Eve and I found myself suddenly in a densely recreated 1940s London. The period detail extended to the immaculate dress of the guests. All except this one guy in Nikes going around telling everyone he was sent from the future back to 1945.
Each time I’ve DJ’ed for them, wether involving horse drawn carriages like the 2015 NYE Ball, the bodypopping B-Boys of their 90s Playback Party at The Laundry in London Fields or the sexy, gothic decadence of their Halloween balls (2015-2016) it’s been an immersive high.
Creating the 90s playlist for BFI’s Clueless Night (as part of their Jane Ayre retrospective) was that most guilty pleasure – a chance to dive into my youth. It’s funny how songs at the time I’d dismissed as naff, like Mr Jones by Counting Crows or Steal My Sunshine by Len seem to find their own balance, like that school nob-head you run into whose actually kind of grown up alright, acquiring their own form of dignity with age.
I’ve previously worked with the BFI, when in 2011 I took my underground Dalston night, Tago Mago, to the London Film Festival
I always felt there was a gap between how I heard music and what it meant, something I couldn’t articulate but I just felt. Studying Music Culture at UEL taught me the answer.
As the DLR cut its windy path Beyond Canary Wharf, through the unloved terrain of Beckton, in a campus just across a strip of dockland from London City Airport, connections were being made, and without immediately knowing it, I became rewired. Hierarchical structures within Western classical music were questioned, the euphoria of disco treated with Academic seriousness, the importance of acoustics became a social issue. This experience, of learning how music feels, how it fits spaces, has guided my work ever since.
I have been invited back twice this year to talk with students about my experiences and give advice to those planning a life in music.
From Lord Kitchener’s optimistic Calypso stories of a Jamaican arriving into London in the 1950s through Ray Davies’ now-sentimental vistas of Waterloo Sunset, bang up to Kate Tempest’s Brockley, the musical geography of London is as varied, as full of different tempos, ethnicities and shapes and sizes as a walk down Kingsland Road.
But what binds it all together? What makes any piece of music, made in London, sound so distinctively… London? That’s a book in itself, but for this event, with award winning comedians Hayden Prowse and Jolyon Rubinstein, I created a playlist of London inspired through its rich musical history.
Confession: there is a part of me that is total indie kid. I can’t help it! It’s always been there – from Weezer to Pavement to Britpop.
The Shacklewell Arms in Dalston is like this scruffy magical playground where any day of the week you can turn up and catch a band on the brink of crossing over. I teamed up with pop minstrel and fellow indie kid Simon Love to host the club night POP! there for two years. He went and had a baby with his lovely wife Rosie and I felt like a change (plus my indie CDs got covered in Sailor Jerry’s Rum), but for two years, we’d blast out all of our indie guilty and non-guilty pleasures, often ending up doing that thing of checking my emails the next day to see what time the Uber dropped my wobbly bones home.
Two things have revolutionised my working day to day life: Wifi and the Australian way of making coffee. From the London Fields Radio show, recorded inside Wilton Way Cafe, onwards. I visited Berlin’s best freelance coffee spots for global art magazine ArtSlant. Amongst other subjects, I also wrote about Lynchian music and record sleeves.
I’ve also contributed to Wire Magazine, Dazed Digital, Amelia’s Magazine and Little White Lies.
My first festival was Reading 1992. Nirvana played, but I missed them. I saw Public Enemy however, and got covered in mud.
In recent years, I’ve DJ’ed at Latitude Festival, Reading and Leeds and Wilderness.
I stayed up into the small hours with Paper Cinema artist Nic Rawling drinking red wine as he hand painted the 500 unique sleeves that made up this Sancho single I wrote and produced. It reminds me now of time spent in the Dorset market town of Wimborne, strongly influenced by the natural surroundings – the fields, the church bell that would echo across the whole town and the silence at night.
After early musical attempts mainly consisting of wearing poet shirts, smoking skunk to The Doors and smashing up cheap guitars in small Dorset pubs like boymen have done since the dawn of recorded time, two close friends and I reached something of a breakthrough. Influenced by The Beta Band, Air and the emerging technology of easily available home recording, Brothers In Sound was what happened when three friends got together over a weekend with a four track, a piece of shit sampler and an old synthesiser. We made club music for people who never go to clubs, rock music for people who don’t like to rock, prog for punks.
We landed a record deal with Parlophone and over three years, released a handful of EPs and an LP collection, toured and got some really, really good reviews.
Ed Dowie, another third of Brothers In Sound, releases his beautiful debut solo album On Lost Maps Records in January.