Meet DJ Harvey. You may not have heard of him because he's been in a self-imposed exile in America for the past 10 years. I wrote about his return to the UK, Fabric's Thirteenth Birthday, Fleetmac Wood and Gypsy Hotel's Sixth Birthday for my first Metro column, which is uploaded below.
I'm shifting all of my favouritist old Time Out columns onto here before they end up in the Internet cemetery. First up: this feature from 2007 on the new wave of clubbing photographers snapping the fashion kidz in east London. It originally appeared in Time Out London in March 2007. Read it after the jump.Read More
A dressed-up clubber, as part of the Noughtie Nightlife exhibition © Antony PriceClubbing photography exhibition Noughtie Nightlife at Rich Mix launched this Thursday at Rich Mix. It features snaps from across the noughties of the capital's most creative, kaleidoscopic and fashionista clubbers from the likes of Billa Baldwin, We Know What You Did Last Night, Mega Mega Mega and Daniel Lismore. The types of club nights represented, from All You Can Eat and Nag Nag Nag to Kash Point and Caligula combined style, fashion and music tribes, using social networking and the internet to promote themselves and their nights.
You can read more in my launch party preview in this week's Time Out, which talks about this vivid representation of London's DIY style tribes. I've got loads of opinions in there and stuff. But this second, I am hungover, and don't have the brain capacity to write any more about how it's quite depressing that this recent scene of creative nightlife creatures ovah already.
Anyway, for pon da blog, I also interviewed curator Antony Price, a research lecturer at the London College of Fashhion, and you can read his exceedingly detailed explanation of the show after the jump.
Interview with Antony Price
The exhibition defines an era of clubbing that, as you put it, "captured a generation of clubbers who embraced the rapidly expanding world of digital technology and social networking and emerged as a hybrid mix ’n’ match style tribe, both in terms of music, fashion and cultural beliefs". Does this era of clubbing still exist, or is it over now?
"Yes, I certainly would say that it does still exist, however, in a much more aware, less edgy format. Many club nights use blogging, social networking and digital technology as their primary way to promote, document and disseminate there ideas. When social networking first started with Myspace and then Facebook, the people using it weren’t necessarily aware of how important or how all-consuming it would become. Young people just starting out in clubland had a brand new platform to easily share information and images. They started to promote themselves and their creativity without the need for an external PR or promoter in a truly underground, viral way.
"As digital technology and social networks have become commonplace, big brands and mainstream institutions have caught up and latched on to these new channels to access and communicate with a younger audience. Equally, club nights that started out as small, unique places have become brands themselves. So, in a way that era of clubbing is over, as it’s no longer something new and fresh: it is now a business which is targeted and well thought through.
"However, the current generation know no different: they have grown up tagging, sharing, linking and blogging. They understand the power of social networking and self-promotion and have seen it used effectively by the generation above to gain notoriety. In an era of ‘me, me, me’ marketing many of the fashion club kids of the last ten years have done very well for themselves by simply understanding the power of self-promotion and creative networking. Users are now far more savvy and almost blasé about their networks; we ignore most of the multitude of events we are invited to, we gloss over the number of friend requests we get, targeting only those we feel may be useful.
"It will be extremely interesting to see what effect this will have on our culture in years to come. As the CEO of Google states, "I don't believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time," warning that many will come to regret past indiscretions posted online. Perhaps this serves as a warning for just how much we choose to expose ourselves on the web, ushering in a new era of austerity and a considered awareness of online presence, not just in nightlife, but everywhere."
© We Know What You Did Last NightWhy are these particular kinds of club nights so important to a. fashion and b. London's nightlife?
"The club nights that Noughtie Nightlife focuses on were and are important in many ways to London’s nightlife and fashion scenes. They were places where different tribes came together – from art, fashion and music students, to the weird and wonderful dress-up kids, to the outcasts and the in-crowd – all in one place to meet, talk, network, dance and be creative and extravagant in what they wore, without the parameters of ‘normal’ club nights. While the big boys focus on music and branding to the mainstream clubber, nights like Trash, Kash Point, All You Can Eat and Anti-Social pushed a very different type of ethos, appealing to those who never felt comfortable in big clubs listening to mainstream ‘dance’ music.
"Although the music itself was central to the success of these nights, it wasn’t necessarily the main focus. Mad mash-ups of disparate sounds clashed together. Indie versus hip hop, electroclash and grime, techno with classic ’80s sounds all fused together – and not always in a perfect mix like the superstar DJs were doing. Ipod shuffle nights, your mate who just wants a go, one-off performance art and new unsigned bands were showcased and pushed the boundaries of what people expected from a night out, no holds barred and experimental in nature.
"They were rebellious and rallied against the 'norm' and the mainstream. Because of this, it spawned many of the big names in music, fashion and performance such as Erol Alkan, The Klaxons, Bloc Party, M.I.A., Gareth Pugh, Carri Cassette Playa, Namalee Bolle, Jodie Harsh and Scottee. They were all integral to the scene and many have crossed over to become big players in popular culture. The clubs also represented a wide spectrum of youth tribes of a wide ethnic, social and sexual orientation mix. They gave a home to London’s unusual and outlandish characters who simply wouldn’t fit into the general club scene. As with Blitz and Taboo in the ’80s, London’s fashion-orientated clubs of the noughties have given rise to a unique mix of hedonistic, extravagant and hybrid clubbers, who have used social networking and digital technology to spread the word and invite a multitude of new followers. From glamourous to grotty, the noughties were about blending the past and mixing and matching to suit your mood as well as express your personality."
Why is photography so integral to clubbing these days?
"Photography is a brilliant way of showing yourself and your creation or character to a mass audience. Where you were, who you were with and what you were wearing can be uploaded or downloaded, tagged and spread the very next day. Having your photo taken by the right photographer and at the right club can push you into a network, get you noticed and propel you up the club kid social ladder. An image can show you at your best and at your worst, but whichever, it’s often better to be seen than not to be noticed at all. Club kids of the noughties realised this power and used it to their advantage. Your photo appearing on Mega Mega Mega, We Know What You Did Last Night or Dirty Dirty Dancing was a badge of honour, a tip of the hat to your friends. Many club kids went just to be photographed, often leaving after they'd been snapped to go somewhere else. In a celebrity-fuelled ‘I want it all now’ culture, the image that you portray and sculpt is paramount to how you are seen online. That character you create is how you are viewed by your peers and by those you seek to impress. You may be a student, an artist or an accountant, but at the weekend, and on your Myspace or Facebook page, you can be a superstar.
"Many of the photographers involved in this exhibition have gone on to work in the fashion and music industries which shows the importance and power of nightlife photography. What may have started as a simple passion to document fun nights out became a career. Billa Baldwin shoots for Super Super magazine and backstage at London Fashion Week. Matthew Brindle of Mega Mega Mega is currently the photographer on 'Britain’s Next Top Model'. Rory DCS and Ellis Scott are up coming fashion photographers shooting editorial and advertising campaigns. Christopher James is sculpting his We Know What You Did Last Night website into a multi functional brand.
"From an educational and cultural perspective, archiving these images is incredibly important. Many of the images that will be displayed only exist in the ether of the internet. They have no physical home and are subject to server storage limits and could be deleted and lost so easily. As Youth culture is so multi-faceted with many disparate tribes appearing and disappearing so frequently, it’s crucial to record them as they happen. The medium of photography itself has become a beast to be reckoned with due to the advances of digital technology over the last ten years. Everyone and anyone can capture events as they unfold. This exhibition is a vehicle to capture, archive and critique the movements, the characters, the styles and the crazy antics that make the noughties unique."
He may look like your Bacardi Breezer-swilling 15-year-old bruv, but this is actually Geeneus, one of the firebrands behind legendary (and bloody brilliant) London underground radio station Rinse FM.
I don't know why I've got into the habit of interviewing sullen dance music nerdos lately, but there you have it. Maybe it's their musk.
Anyway, I talked to Geeneus about Rinse getting a legitimate broadcasting licence ahead of their 16th birthday, which they'll be celebrating in typically epic style at Fabric next Friday with a huge selection of show hosts and regular guests.
Read the feature in next week's Time Out. But for now, here's the interview in all it's full (yawn) glory.
Hello Geeneus. Congratulations on getting your official licence. What's the update? 'We’ve got the licence and we’re in the process of sorting out technical stuff to switch on. I think it’s going to happen in the next four to five weeks. Quite soon!'
Why has it taken such a long time to get one? 'It took us around five years to get the licence. It’s just the process. The first process was us asking, “Can we get a licence?” and them [Ofcom] saying no, and then us working a way around it. It took just over four years to get to the stage of them even letting us apply. It would take about three hours to tell you the process we went through.'
Why did they make it so difficult? 'It’s standard protocol. You ask a question and there’s an automatic answer that they’re meant to give. There’s not a thought process in it, it’s just what the systems tell ’em to do. So I think we had to shake up the system a bit.'
What does the future hold for the station? Is anything going to change? 'With regards to the programming an’ that, no. Hopefully, the only thing that will change is the DJs will now be on time. We’ve spent 16 years making the station: I’m not about to change it. The point of us getting a licence was so that we could be legal, not be something we ain’t. A lot of people ask me, "Ah you’re gonna be changing, you’re gonna be playing news" – and I say, "We’re gonna be playing no news! I don’t care about nufin’ like that. I don’t care about the weather: it’s is what it is." We’ll have adverts – we have them now – but we’re not going to be selling people car insurance or nufin’. It’ll be relevant. And there won’t be adverts during the sets neither – I’ll still let DJs have a two-hour show and then play the adverts when they finish.'
Have you got any new presenters lined up? 'Not really. Like I say, I’ve actually got everything I wanted and I’m really really fussy and always want to find something new. A lot of DJs and people have come from big radio stations, or people who were on big radio stations in the past, and thought that [us getting an official licence] is another opportunity for them, but it’s not. It’s more of an opportunity for someone new, not someone who has already been and done it. That’s not for me, thanks: we’re full up!'
How long is your waiting list? There’s normally around a year waiting list for a permanent show with about 80 people on it, but it’s been like that for the past 10 years.
Notably your station is male-dominated. Is there space for female DJs too? 'We’ve got two, I think [Flight and Jay Diamond]. But the thing is, I don’t care about girls or boys. I don’t give preference on gender, it just depends on whether they’re a good DJ or not.'
What advice would you give to budding DJs? 'Do what they think is right and try and get through with it and if you’re not very good, try and realise at an early point in your life.'
Charming. Do you have a permanent home now? 'Yeah, we’re based in east London and we’re hoping to stay where we are – we’ve been in the new place for about eight months.'
What’s the most interesting place you’ve broadcasted from? 'Probably in Slimzee’s mum’s house in his bedroom. He was one of the founders of the station. His parents didn’t know what was going on so we used to have to sneak the DJs past his mum and dad while they was in the front room and pretend it was just mates coming round. We rolled that one out for about four months. But they were cool with it; they knew that we loved doing it so they kind of supported it – when they realised that we weren’t going to give up anyway!'
Were you ever concerned that getting a legal licence would affect your credibility? 'Nah. I don’t see it as a big-massive thing. It’s just that now I don’t have to keep running away from someone and we can actually talk about our station like it’s a good thing. Some people’s perception is that it’s illegal so it’s bad and that is what we wanted to get rid of. I’ve been on the run from it for, like, 16 years and a few of our engineers an’ that have been ducking and diving and it’s just like, give us a break, we just wanna play music. Do ya know what I mean?'
How many people signed your petition? 'I didn’t even look. I saw the first batch and it was quite a lot and I was, like, "Wow", so after that I didn’t have a look. I really have no idea.'
When did you realised that Rinse had the potential to get so big? 'When Sarah Lockhart said to me, Rinse is actually bigger than you realise, and she said that she thought we could get a licence. Up until then we’d just switch on the station, play music, and I wouldn’t listen to a thing the outside world says. I didn’t used to speak to any kind of press, I just used to speak to the people on the station and that was that. I didn’t pay any attention to the world.'
Why has Rinse kept on going where so many pirate stations have only lasted a few years? 'Because I’m like a psychopath and I just won’t stop! I’ve got this thing in me where I just can’t give up and I can’t lose so I’ll keep going. I like new things otherwise I get bored very quickly, so I’m always searching for something new, whether it’s music, technology or anything else. I think that me and some of the people around me had the mentality of the younger generation early, so everything moves a lot quicker these days, but we felt like that before. But the other thing is that we keep refreshing the station every second, so instead of playing a specific type of music and then that grows and get old and we get old. There’s a DJ called A-Plus, who has been there since the first day we switched on, he had a little break in-between, and he’s the longest-running DJs apart from me, and then there’s Newham Generals, who have been on the second longest. But apart from that we keep changing the DJs an’ that all the time so it’s always current, so that just keeps it going for a long time.'
Has Rinse always been such a tightly run ship? 'I don’t know what a tightly run ship is, but what I can tell you is that when people come into our organisation and look at it they think it’s complete madness. But for me, it’s fine. People think it’s a tightly run ship and it does have some kind of structure, but we just freestyle and do what we like.'
What are your most memorable moments of the last 16 years? 'I have so many, but I am actually going to sit down with someone and they’re going to write it all out for me and I’ll explain it all. I’m going to do a little book on Rinse and all of its history and what it took to do and all of that. We’re just working it out now. It’s going to be a really long process but I have to sit down and get all the memories out. Then you can read the whole lot of it.'
Oh, right. Thanks… You must have one that you can tell me? 'I could tell you a story and you’d probably be on the floor laughing after one of them but it would take longer than I’ve got today. Off the top of my head, there’s a Wiley one where we’re doing the radio station in his bedroom and his dad was away and we ran out of electricity. So I wired up the electricity – illegally – bypassed the whole thing and got it working. Then Wiley went out on a motorbike and got arrested and the police brung ’im home and brung ’im into the bedroom where we was all DJing illegal radio and then police didn’t realise what was going on. They was moving some stuff around and it was going ‘KSSSSH’ and we were like “Yeah, that’s just the aerial” so they put it back all neat and tidy for us and everything. And then they looked in the cupboard and Wiley got arrested because I’d wired up his whole house. That was dodgy…'
When you started, you were more MC-based, right? 'When we started we were more focused on the MCs. We had 40-odd MCs and 10 DJs in the first days: that was the balance. It was just madness. There was some shows that would have 10 MCs chatting on it and one DJ. Target used to be the worst for it. It stayed like that for years and me personally, I like MCs quite a lot, so I’ve always been keen to get more in there. But, saying that, they’re the hardest people to control and it can get out of hand sometimes. Everyone else thought it was a disaster – jungle din’t like it; garage din’t like it – but we din’t care, we just do whatever. We liked it and we was kids so we just carried on with it.'
Like when Wiley started dissing an MC on air and then said MC came to the Rinse headquarters to start a fight with him? 'Yeah!'
Why is Rinse the most important radio station at the moment? 'I think because we try hard to keep bringing in something new. The world is based on moving forward and new things coming around and that’s what our human tendencies are like. Musically, we push that side of it a lot. With everything in life, people always ‘want’. They want something new – and that’s what we supply. We care about British underground music. We care about music that we can actually make: that is the point of it. We listen to music, we make it and we can turn it around quite quickly to play on the radio.'
How did Rinse become such an important cultural indicator? 'I don’t know how to answer that!'
Did going online have a lot to do with it? 'I think what the internet done for us is brung everything more local. The thing that we represent, the young thing, the new music thing, got branched out to other places and it connected with a lot of people and it kind of give us more of a ‘local’ feeling. So, at first were were based in east London and we felt like we represented in east London; then we represented the whole of London; now it’s like we represent a bigger thing. The whole music scene.'
Out of all the genres that you’ve supported, which has been the most important? 'They’ve all been important. They’re all one scene, it just keeps transforming and mutating. It’s like garage turning into grime, which also turned into dubstep, then turned into house and funky. It’s all from the same train of music. It’s part of something called the ‘hardcore continuum’ [which is much theorised by music journalist Simon Reynolds], I’ve read about it. The ongoing underground scene keeps moving and the names keep getting changed but it’s all the same thing over and over.'
What would have happened to dubstep and grime without Rinse? 'I think they would have existed. Rinse participated in getting it off the ground at an early stage. Rinse is just an empty thing, really: it gives everyone the ability to play the music to people.'
Why are the Rinse parties an important part of the station? 'It gives the public a place where they can connect more with the radio and feel it and see it. And it also gives those on the station a chance to show off and have face to face time with the people. FWD>> and Rinse come from the same angle – we own FWD>> – but FWD>> is weekly and small and underground and Rinse and FWD>> together is a much bigger thing. It is everything.'
What new sounds are exciting you right now? 'I’d say house. We’ve got an event called Yellow – that is the type of scene that I find interesting right now, but it’s quite small and it’s quite hard to say exactly what it is. Kismet, A-Plus, dem ones, they’re quite interesting.'
Rinse FM celebrates its 16th birthday at Fabric next Friday.
Drum ’n’ bass's brightest spark, Sub Focus, headlined Time Out Live's latest Nite Sessions club night at East Village last Friday. Needless to say, he tore the Shoreditch club a new earhole – albeit a very blokey, very bolshy earhole.
Since Ram Records boss Andy C tracked him down after being handed a demo tape with a phone number etched badly into the side, 27-year-old London native Sub Focus (né Nick Douwma) has trembled the Top 40 via solo work and productions for new pop talent, released a debut album last year to critical acclaim and headlined some of London’s biggest sell-out bashes with his epic sounding eclectic drum ’n’ bass hybrids. To top it all, he’s playing an incredibly intimate set at our next Nite Sessions club night at East Village on Friday with Burns, Emalkay and special guests, just before he jets off to the White Isle to close the Ibiza Rocks season.
But that’s not before he tells us about pouring wine over Goldie, what it's like to be part of the Ram Records family and, erm, making music with (whisper it) Sting’s offspring.
I interviewed him ahead of his set, a shorter version of which appeared in Issue 2089 of Time Out. Read on, you may as well, he's an alright chap n' all.
Interview with Sub Focus
Hello Sub Focus. What has life been like since you released your debut album? ‘Things have gone into overdrive! I’ve been touring a lot and helping with productions for other artists, like Example’s latest single, ‘Kickstarts’. I’ve also been working on a live show with an audiovisual element, a bit like Daft Punk and Deadmau5. I wanted to do it on a computer rather than get a band to play so I’ve been using a motion sensor, which is linked up to different synthesisers. I can just move my hands in the air to control the show. I don’t know if you remember Jean-Michel Jarre, a [French] composer, but he used to have a laser harp, which he controlled with his hands, and I’m quite keen to explore performing like that in a futuristic way.’
Can we expect any space-age outfits too? ‘I was looking at another controller that’s like a glove and you use it by opening and closing your fist, but at the moment I’m not wearing anything ‘spacey’ – pretty much just my normal clothes. But I was on tour with Pendulum recently and they’ve got this roadie that travels with them. He’s a real character, and he had these incredible light-up glasses, so I thought it would be amazing to have a pair of Wayfarers that light up in different colours – that would be incredible.’
You must have some crazy tour stories. I read that you once poured wine into Goldie’s pocket for a joke? ‘That was quite amusing! It was the first time I’d ever met him and we were touring Australia together. He was pouring vodka into people’s pockets, so I poured vodka into his pocket. Then he took it upon himself to pour orange juice into mine, which had my wages in it for the entire tour. Luckily, money’s made of plastic in Australia, so it was fine in the end. There’s a fair few stories like that…’
How has your sound changed since you signed to Ram? ‘It’s great working with [the Ram Records] guys, but more recently I’ve tried to show people that I’m not just all about D&B. I find D&B purism quite uninspiring. If you look on the Internet and on forums and took all the criticism to heart then you’d probably just make tunes that sound like they were made in 1997, because a lot of those D&B listeners are quite conservative. I’m really enjoying the new, more ‘eclectic sound’, because [it allows me to] play all kinds of stuff like house, dubstep and drum ’n’ bass. For me, though, it’s all one thing: it’s all dance music united by basslines. Before my album I felt a little bit wary of making other sorts of stuff because I wasn’t sure what my fans would think of it and a lot of producers worry about branching out and away from their underground credentials, but it’s really important to keep pushing to do something different so that things move forward.’
At the core of it all, though, you have this huge, stadium-filling sound. ‘Yeah, it felt like, back in 2005, guys like me and Pendulum really started a sound that very big and ‘in yer face’ and it had a certain crossover with the rock stuff as well. The first music I was into was rock and I played bass in a band, so I got into dance music through some of the acts that breached that gap, like Chemical Brothers and Prodigy. Pendulum are very much like that now – I think they’re a reason why a lot of people are into dance music, who were into rock music before.’
How have you seen the D&B scene develop over the past five years? ‘It has definitely gained a new popularity, which is [down to] the strength and depth of producers. Pendulum really helped to raise the bar and now D&B music stands up to the production standards of pop music. When I first started listening to drum ’n’ bass, it seemed very closed off, but now it has really opened up in terms of artists from other countries becoming popular and in terms of being able to really break into the DJ game by writing good music. There’s a lot of strong artists out there now whereas before there would only be a few artists, like Roni Size or Ed Rush and Optical, who carried the scene a bit. I certainly think that Radio 1 supporting D&B a lot has really helped to bring it forward. It feels less like something that’s unknown and underground now. D&B has been around for so long that people have grown up with it and it’s no longer considered ‘strange’ music.’
What was it like working with Coco Sumner on your new single, ‘Splash’? ‘It was good. I really like her voice. In my experience, a lot of singers sound quite generic, but she’s got a real sense of individuality. Her label approached me to do a remix of one of her tracks, but I was also into her voice so I approached her to see if she wanted to collaborate on a song. It was good too because it came together quickly. If you’re working on something together that takes ages it’s almost like you’re trying to force it, but we wrote the vocals and recorded it within a week. She’s a really nice girl as well, so hopefully we’ll work on some more stuff together.’
Is dubstep an area you’d like to move into a bit more? ‘Maybe, yeah. There’s one track on my album and a jungle track as well, which has got a lot of plays from the dubstep guys like Skream. There’s a lot of really good dubstep available at the moment, especially, guys like Benga and a lot of the Magnetic Man stuff as well is really strong. It’s really nice to see it doing well, especially now tracks like ‘I Need Air’ getting into the top 10. It’s great that what is essentially underground music getting into the charts without having to compromise too much of its style, so it’s definitely something I’d like to move into more.’
When you sit down to produce is it like the dancefloor is always at the forefront of your mind or is it consciously making tracks for the dancefloor? ‘It is to an extent. I’m trying to find a balance stuff to be detailed enough for home listening and to be effective enough for in a club. I really love tracks that work on those two levels, like "Coma Cat" by Tensnake, which works in all environments. I’m trying to aim for music that, while it’s heavy, has a lot of melody and stuff.’
What can we expect from your set at East Village? ‘A whole mix of stuff really: D&B, a whole load of dubstep, a bunch of house tunes – I really like to mix it up. I tend to try and keep it new stuff, maybe I’ll draw some stuff from old D&B tunes and maybe some old jungle, but it’s mostly contemporary music of different styles. I always write music for my sets that are special so that no one else has them, so there’ll no doubt be some special mixes of my tracks in there.’
You’re closing Ibiza Rocks next week – did you ever think that Ibiza would welcome D&B? ‘No, not at all. I’d been going there on holiday and listening to other types of music there for years and this summer’s the first time I’ve been to play. I’ve already been to play at Space and Eden this summer and both nights have been really good. Some of the more established nights have really taken it on and it’s really starting to work. Nights like Ibiza Rocks and Reclaim the Dancefloor, its sister club night, started as the alternatives to that stuff and there are plenty of people who go to Ibiza now that are into that more bassline-orientated music.’
You can get the abridged version of this interview in Time Out this week, but to read it in full, check it after the jump.
DJ History on the record player revolutionaries
Some DJs are more than just nerdy looking blokes flipping records on and off some decks. Or, these days, should we say: more than just over-gelled sunnies-clad types with fluorescent teeth who look like they’ve been duct-taped to the Playa d’en Bossa sands. Anyone may be able to DJ, but few are real musical revolutionaries of their time. Few are those responsible for the type of spaces we call nightclubs, the reason we groan when one BPM doesn’t flow seamlessly into the next during a set and why it’s perfectly acceptable to her hip hop jumbled up with electronic music. And fewer are worth interviewing about it.
According to this new book ‘The Record Players: DJ Revolutionaries’ from DJ History, some, like Danny Rampling, are even responsible for the way that we dance to dance music. It’s the latest compendium from dance music historians Frank Broughton and Bill Brewster, authors of ‘Last Night A DJ Saved My Life’. You can download a sampler here.
They’ve picked through some 250 interviews from the past decade to present the world’s most important selectors, among them John Peel, Fabio, Francis Grasso and, well, Jimmy Savile. It’s the kind of book that you imagine will sit on coffee tables in record label lobbies, but you hope will inspire mp3-hopping new jocks, as well as make similarly serious record collectors and dance nerds dribble.
Ahead its release into bookshops nationwide, we find out exactly who is on that list, from the technological innovators to the forgotten radicals.
How did you whittle down the list of influential DJs for the book? Frank: "It was really hard! Our rule of thumb was that it’s not just a great interview or a great DJ, it has to be someone who’s played a part in the history or represents something so that it’s not just a collection of interviews."
What’s your favourite anecdote from the book? Frank: "[New York DJ innovator] Francis Grasso’s, about him DJing in a club when Jimi Hendrix he walks in, walks into the men’s room and is completely dazed. And he’s forgot to put his dick back in his trousers. [Francis is] just standing there and he doesn’t really know what to do. I’m not sure that he tucked it back in for him, but I think he maybe said, you know, 'Aren’t you forgetting something there Jim?'"
Bill: "Francis Grasso had loads of great stories about getting blown in the DJ booth while he was playing. He dated Liza Minnelli, he lived with Jimi Hendrix – he was the original superstar DJ in New York a long time before we’d ever heard of superstar DJs and a very important person in terms of being the first person to mix records in a way that we recognise today."
Who is the most unexpected entry? Frank: "People are always surprised when we write about Jimmy Savile, as most people know him as a TV personality. But he is there because, more than anyone, he took the world from bands to DJs."
Bill: "When we were interviewing the early mod and ’50s DJs, a lot of them kept saying to us: “You’ve really got to talk to Jimmy Saville. He’s the person that started all of this.” And we were like, “Really? Are you sure?” but so many people said it that we had to take it seriously. He was certainly the first guy in the UK to do all of this. What he was doing with DJing was so popular that he used to pay bands not to play so that he could DJ because the musicians ruled in those days and there had to be a live band at a Mecca ballroom He introduced the idea of playing recorded music to an audience as, not an inferior alternative to hearing a live band, but [as] its own entity."
Why are there no women on the list? Frank: "It’s really just a matter of history. If only the DJs that have made a significant contribution to the craft of DJing or to club culture are going to make the cut, I don’t think there are any women. When dance music and club culture was being formed, a lot of it was in gay clubs in New York or in the Northern Soul clubs in Britain, which were very, very male[-dominated]."
Will the list surprise a lot of people? Bill: "I hope so. We’ve got everyone from Tiesto to Jimmy Saville – that’s a pretty broad range of people by anyone’s estimations."
Does the book reflect how clubbing has changed as well as DJing? Bill: "A little bit. I think the story of clubbing over the past 20 years has been more about marketing than it has about innovation. There have been a lot of technological innovations over the last 20 years but there are no fundamental differences between how people danced to records in 1971 in a New York disco to how they do now."
Why is the art of DJing still so important? Frank: "We’ll always need DJs because we’ll always need someone who knows more about music than us. The amount of work that people put in, in terms of sifting through crap records to find the good ones: that’s the real work of a DJ. It’s listening to a load of shit so everyone else doesn’t have to."
Bill: "It’s more important now in a lot of ways than it was 20 or 30 years ago, because these days, everybody has got access to so much music. When I was a kid, you had one crappy little record shop that you went to and they sold the Top 40 in Boots and that was it. Now, we’re saturated by media, so the role of the DJ is to really filter out all of that crap and present you with the five per cent of really good records."
What makes a truly legendary DJ? Bill: ‘Someone who has a unique and distinct path of their own. A really great example of that these days is Andrew Weatherall. He’ll play boshing techno to a load of Germans one day and then a load of rockabilly to some people in a pub in the East End the next night. He’s just a real polymath when it comes to music, like Larry Levan, Ron Hardy, Grandmaster Flash, who, not only was a great DJ, but changed music fundamentally with what he did with creating breaks and stitching them together. A really great DJ is someone who changes things, whether it’s Tom Moulton creating the 7-inch single and pioneering the remix or Frankie Knuckles, who was instrumental in creating house music."
Do DJs still have the power to change popular music? Bill: ‘They do, but when DJing and dance music was in the popular press a lot and [when it became] very big and very fashionable to be into it, a lot of people got it completely wrong and spent a lot of time going on about superclubs and superstar DJs. And that really wasn’t what it was about. That’s kind of like saying that Robbie Williams and N-Dubz are changing music. I think the people who change music aren’t necessarily massively in the public eye – a lot of them are forgotten figures and get left behind. Francis Grasso and Kool Herc, who started the idea of just playing breaks, are really good examples of that. Most people wouldn’t have a clue who they were."
'The Record Players: DJ Revolutionaries’ by DJ History is £16.95 via www.djhistory.com and all good bookshops nationwide from Monday August 30. Catch their night Secret Weapons at Horse & Groom on Aug 20.
DJ History's Top Five Revolutionaries
Francis Grasso: The groundbreaker ‘He was the first modern DJ, the first guy to realise that it was his [about] performance, his set, his sequencing, and not just the records. He dated Liza Minelli, spent more than his rent on drugs and went on three-day benders with Jimi Hendrix.’
David Mancus: Party messiah ‘Mancuso did more than anyone to create the kind of club environment we take for granted: where the music is central, where the dancefloor is the focus, where the soundsystem is loud and clear. Before him, nightclubbing was mostly society chit-chat.’
Grandmaster Flash: Scientist of the mix
‘Hip hop could not have existed without him. Before samplers, he worked out a way to be a
Danny Rampling: Acid house evangelist ‘Acid house was the most revolutionary thing to happen to British culture since the war. When house and ecstasy combined, the way we partied changed overnight forever. Danny understood it right away and led from the front. Even the way you dance comes from Danny.’
Jimmy Savile: Dance hall disrupter ‘He’s never owned a record, he didn’t really care about the music he played, he just knew that a disc jockey could deliver better music than a band for less money.’
Lovebox goes gay (kinda) for the day
Anyone who’s been to Lovebox – or Glastonbury, The Big Chill or any other musical mecca that’s been lucky enough to have a small army of trannies wearing seven-inch stilettos staggering through its swamps – will know that the NYC Downlow stage is the be-sequinned crown jewel of any festival.
NYC Downlow is a mix of fabulous set design (you party inside a bombed-out downtown late-’70s New York gay disco) and a battalion of the East End’s most alternative bearded ladies led by Jonny Woo, all shimmying to a vintage house and classic disco soundtrack. NYC Downlow has been taking over the UK’s summer festivals one false eyelash at a time for the last four years and has captured the spirit of London’s happening gender-bending east.
Lovebox returns to Victoria Park this weekend with a new look for Sunday: it’ll be painted pink. Dubbed ‘the gay day’, festival bosses Groove Armada and co have enlisted local club promoter James Bailie to give Sunday a cool, fashion-forward gay makeover. Cue a headline set from disco banshee Grace Jones, supported by Hot Chip, Peaches and Hercules & Love Affair, as well as the edgiest of electro-techno-disco DJs across a further five stages, including, of course, neo-re-edit titans Horse Meat Disco and Disco Bloodbath.
[caption id="attachment_585" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Jonny Woo © Ralf Obergfell"][/caption]
‘I think [a gay presence at festivals] is part of a much bigger trend,’ says Jonny Woo, who has been promoted to host the Lovebox main stage with a variety of dance and cabaret spectacles between the acts. ‘It’s definitely a culmination of the last five years of the alternative drag cabaret trend and how that scene has been embraced by fashion.’
Moreover, it’s the only entirely gay-orientated festival date in London this year, though sadly The Eagle pub-operated Milk in the Park in Vauxhall isn’t happening due to a lack of sponsorship (it will be back next summer). Consequently, it’s leading many to hail Lovebox Sunday as the new Pride. ‘That’s the word on the street,’ explains Bailie. ‘There are more than half a million gay people living in the capital and Sunday is a big day for them to go out, but no one was really doing anything good. I wanted to give the gay community something good – but, really, it’s for all genders.’
[caption id="attachment_586" align="aligncenter" width="430" caption="Clubbers at the NYC Downlow © Lovebox Official"][/caption]
The shortage of gay-friendly outdoor music events is bemoaned by gay music lovers. ‘There’s been a lack of funds [for such events], but I think that the Downlow has definitely helped to push gay cool on to the agenda,’ says Gideon Berger, co-founder of the Downlow. ‘There had never been a gay space before at UK festivals: I remember walking around Glastonbury aged 14 and thinking: Shit, am I the only one?.’ Lovebox Sunday, like Pride, is a party with a purpose. Organisers are partnering with Stonewall to raise awareness of their campaigns – in particular, ‘Education for All’, which tackles homophobic bullying in schools; Stonewall supporter Alan Carr will be outlining the campaign on stage.
Says Stonewall representative Gary Nunn: ‘London Pride is very much a march and then a rally, which is important because it reminds us of the political side of things. But festivals such as Lovebox are a chance for people to let their hair down and celebrate how far we’ve come. Sometimes, even if a festival feels safe, gay people never know who might protest. Lovebox is an opportunity for gay people to go into a very safe space and feel like they can really party.’
Becoming the new Pride wasn’t Lovebox’s intention, and it’s a festival for anyone of any gender who has a sense of fun and glittery hedonism. But it is a much better looking alternative. ‘It was just a natural extension of what we’ve been doing for the last five years,’ says Groove’s Tom Findlay,’ but I’m really proud that Lovebox has properly come out – the line-up is arguably the best we have ever had. I’ll be working the Downlow’s bar in full drag and a ’tache!’
So, it seems that the trannies – certainly the alternative kind – really do work festivals the best. ‘Of course we do it better!’ Woo exclaims. ‘We’re better dressed, we’ve got more staying power and we’re always up for a shag at the end of it. Even if you haven’t washed.’
Lovebox is at Victoria Park from Fri-Sun. Tickets from £45-£99 available in adv via timeout.com/tickets.
Like its name suggests, there are numerous complex elements that add up to create Glaswegian collective Numbers' scene-defining and widely-aped parties and quality record releases.
The hipster hook-up between the city's edgiest electronic club nights, musicians and labels has six people at its core (from left to right, Bobby Cleaver, Goodhand, Spencer, aka Calum Morton, Jackmaster, Richard and Nelson) but includes countless more coolsters who DJ their parties or release on their new label.
The latter was born out of three of their original imprints, Stuffrecords, Dress 2 Sweat and Wireblock, and is now home to such underground names as Deadboy, Lazer Sword and one of my local favourite DJs ('the new Diplo!') Offshore.
So, to celebrate being so freakin' awesome and to cheer on seven years of shaking up the UK's clubbing soundtrack, Numbers are kicking off a marathon week at Fabric tonight.
It’s more that just a birthday celebration for Fabric, however, who were recently pulled out of administration (hurrah!), helped by private investor Gary Kilbey, and continues business as usual with musical direction intact.
Here’s seven (well, it is their seventh birthday) reasons why you should like them a lot after the jump.
1 They’re not genre-driven ‘We’re not a house club or a techno club or a hip hop club or a dubstep club. It’s generally all electronic and really good for dancing to. That sounds like it could be a just a student night, but we have more of a sonic effect,’ says Numbers member Spencer (né Calum Morton), one that is created by their ‘rich and colourful’ journey through Detroit techno, Chicago house, UK garage, hip hop, R&B, boogie, funk and beyond. At its core? ‘I think it’s somewhere between hip hop and techno,’ says Spencer. ‘We’ve all been massively into hip hop, and then discovered Chicago house and Detroit techno a couple of years later.’ You can find its Los Angeles equivalent in the Low End Theory club nights and its London counterpart, Patchwork Pirates, one of whom coincidentally helps programme Fridays at Fabric.
2 But they are design-led.
The production values for their flyers and record releases are incredibly high – so far they’ve produced laser-etched vinyl, origami flyers and screen-printed sleeves. ‘Everything stems from our love of records; it has always been a sort of vinyl thing,’ says Spencer, ‘and sleeve art has been a really important part of our upbringing. I’m not even sure what a kids would do now – they would probably just have a wallpaper [on their phones]. I think one of the best fliers we’ve done was for a recent gig in Glasgow called ‘Pyramid of Doom’ with Flying Lotus and Rustie. We did a tetrahedron on the flier and you could fold it up to make a little pyramid. It took me about three-and-a-half minutes to make one, though!’
3 They’ve thrown some ridiculous parties In October 2006, the 450-capacity Sub Club in Glasgow was rammed out when hip hop legend and Wu Tang Clan member Ghostface Killah came to perform at a Numbers show there. 'It was organised with a week to go and it was the craziest atmosphere I'd ever seen – the owner of the club was even standing on top of the bar taking photos with his kids,' remembers Spencer.
4 Their success has been in great bookings – and taking risks Says Spencer: ‘We were doing clubs in very small, 100-capacity venues for a good three years, just booking people that we liked. When we booked Modeselektor, it was their second UK show and it was in a basement to about 80 people. Now they play shows for us to 600. The people who we’ve booked’s careers have grown naturally alongside ours. We’ve built our reputation through a lot of hard work and a lot of connections.’
4.5 They're not too 'blokey' 'We put on the minimal techno producer Robert Hood in Glasgow recently and the club was full of guys, so sometimes we do a bunch of "girls go free" nights too. The idea is just to try and take away some of that staleness you often find inside some techno clubs, when all you really need is just girls dancing,' says Spencer. 'It's like something you'd hear on pirate radio – "no hats, no hood, girls go free" – but we make a joke out of it. At our fifth birthday party, we made a pink poster!'
5 They launched Rustie and Hudson Mohawke Mohawke, along with Rusie, are considered Glasgow's finest musical exports of recent years – Numbers' former labels released their debut tracks (Hudson's was a collaboration with his own collective, LuckyMe). In fact, Spencer was the one to give both of their demos to Warp boss Steve Beckett, where they are now signed.
6 Glasgow is on fire! Numbers are the beating heart of Glasgow’s thriving electronic club music. ‘The Glaswegian scene has been going off for five years now and there’s exciting new stuff all the time,’ says Spencer. ‘We are regulars at club nights like Fortified and Ballers Social, both of which push amazing new music and always put on excellent guests like [dubstep pioneer] Mala or [queen of UK funky] Cooly G. Our frequent club collaborators Monox push the harder side of techno, while [nightspot Nice & Sleazy’s party] Wrong Island is always a great laugh. And if you are still standing on the Sunday then Optimo’s new night Hung Up is well worth a visit.’
7 They’re playing at Fabric on Friday – which is staying open! 'It's really nice that everything is back to business and back to normal [there]. The first thing I was thinking [when I heard the news of its administration] was not "Is the club night still going to happen?", it was, "Are all my mates still going to have jobs?". Their party on Friday stars UK Baltimore house old gun Karizma, who, they say, you can't just see every weekend in London.
7.5. They're freakin' cool. Oh, we already said that.
I'm not having the best of days: angry emails from jumped-up and ungrateful promoters; listings system crashing on deadline day, that sort of thing. But I'm really looking forward to sinking some serious Mojito-age at East Village tonight.
I've picked some DJs. We've put them on. And I think they're rather ruddy brilliant. So I hope that you all come and jiggle with me.
I interviewed headliner Riva Starr for the magazine this week, talking about his single rerelease on Postiva/Virgin, 'I Was Drunk', in August and being a smash in Ibiza. He makes quirky squelchy beats that make me want to do the Cotton Eyed Joe around the dancefloor.
Batty Bass mistress Hannah Holland is jetting in from Berlin to join him, as is bemasked dubstep voodooist SBTRKT. He's very scary – and so is his music. Upstairs, one of my fave ladies of ’lectro, Captain Magic, who runs Peanut Butter Jelly Time, will be guiding the bassy house ship with a host of guests and live acts, including recent Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs collaborator, Lulu and the Lampshades.
I hope I'm not dancing on my ownsome.
This is a rubbish scan. I blame Jimi Mistry - he's wot scanned it. But I wrote a piece on different DJs doing different nice green things for the environment in a recent issue of Time Out. We called them: eco DJs (oooooh, aaaah). It was up the front of the magazine, where real people can see it and everything. What will they think of next – pedal powered decks? Oh, wait: you can already get those.
For links to what they're all up to, if you can't read the text (which I can't):
Last Night A DJ Saved My Life (Jimi Mistry, Danny Rampling, who missed the shoot, Nancy Noise and Mark Wilkinson)
10:10 (Tom Middleton, red cap)
Shellac Sisters (vintage ladies with things on their heads)
I don't really 'do' football. I mean, I love to play and run around and kick people, but not many other people like it when I try. And so, in light of the World Cup starting this week, I thought I'd do a li'l swot up on something not-really-football-related in Time Out, but definitely related to its host: South Africa. The biggest scene there are the moment is African house, which sounds happy and driving (shove that in your tech-hole Hawtin) and some of my favourite LDN DJs, Radioclit and Sinden, told me all about it. Ah, in't that nice?
The whole darn thing is right on this link. And all Secousse pics have been taken by the fabulous snapper and writer Dave Swindells.
An edited version of this article appeared in Time Out, June 10-16 (Issue 2077)
As all eyes turn to South Africa this week for the football festivities, for many it’s the continuing aural delights of its township music scenes, buzzing with vibrant urban club beats, that are the main attraction.
Countless African styles have found an adopted home in hipster Western indie bands and electro acts, but this summer some of London’s savviest DJs are looking instead to South Africa’s exploding house movement for inspiration.
The one official compilation here that represents the sound, the recently released ‘Ayobaness! The Sound of South African House’, gives an overview (in that scene-defining Soul Jazz-led tradition) of just how enormous the music is there, having soaked up the domineering township club genre of the ’90s, kwaito. ‘The local house beat is a modern symbol for a country that has reinvented itself,’ says compiler George Milz in the introduction, while further down the sleeve notes, one of the biggest SA house names, DJ Cleo, talks of how you’ll hear African house at ‘election campaigns and government functions’.
In London, the genre is nowhere near as popular – we can’t see David Cameron entering a conference to the sound of Zulu rapping just yet – but it’s there and bubbling. You may remember DJ Mujava’s kwaito-infused track, ‘Township Funk’, which became a massive club hit in 2008 and is still the only real African house track to have a widespread release in the UK (he hasn’t had another single here since).
However, DJs like French-Swedish duo Radioclit (aka Etienne Tron and Johan Karlberg) and Kiss FM host Sinden – both of whom, coincidentally, remixed ‘Township Funk’ – are certainly bringing African house music to wider attention. Radioclit have been throwing monthly club night Secousse since 2008 and it’s still one of the only places in the capital to dance to the African house beat. Since then, though, some of the other parties at its home, Notting Hill Arts Club, such as Future World Funk, have also started to welcome the sound. What’s more, a few of the more well-known African house producers, such as Cleo and Black Coffee, are now visiting London sporadically too.
[caption id="attachment_481" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="The party at Secousse © Dave Swindells"][/caption]
Likewise for Sinden, African house has been infiltrating his sets for some time and, although his latest (World Cup) mix for Nike and Fader focuses on European talent, previous efforts have seen him mash-up tracks from African house producers like DJ Sdunkero.
So, if this is your first encounter with this exciting strain of house music, here’s our (and Radioclit and Sinden’s) guide. Post-World Cup, we hope you’ll be hearing it on the dancefloor a lot more.
What it sounds like
Sinden ‘African house takes US dance music like Chicago house, but puts its own traditional African influences on it, from its rhythms to the vocals, and comes up with something quite different. It’s [mostly] about sunshine and good times and it’s very uplifting – the chords progressions can be euphoric.’
Etienne, Radioclit ‘It’s the warmest of house music – they really love deep house – and so refreshing because it’s usually quite happy, like a lot of African music. It’s interesting because, 15 years ago, African house was very influenced by European music and now the opposite is happening: European house is badly in need of new influences and they’re looking to Africa. The biggest house music scene is definitely in South Africa in terms of audience and energy, but there are lots of dance music scenes in a lot of other places: Ivory Coast, Congo and Sierra Leone are all very lively.’ How you can hear it
Etienne, Radioclit ‘I found my first DJ Cleo record in Sterns Music [which used to be on Warren Street], which is only a website now. I am quite grateful to those guys, because it’s really hard to get African house mp3s or CDs. You can find a few videos on YouTube, but that’s about it. There aren’t any proper music blogs in Africa, because they used to have a really shit internet connection. But, as I understand, that’s going to be massively improved over the next two years, which is going to help the music invade America and Europe and, for DJs like me, it will be way easier to find a lot of the music.’
Sinden ‘The best place to get these mp3s legally is from one African music site, Afrodesia, but you have to trawl through it as they have all kinds of African music styles on it.’
Where to dance to it
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZ2LoeWJPGA&feature=related Etienne, Radioclit ‘We do a party called Secousse in London, which we have also started to do in Paris. We are also doing a series of compilations called “The Sound of Secousse”, the first volume of which I’m working on right now and it’s dedicated to African dance music. As far as I know, there is no [club] properly dedicated like Secousse [in London]. We realised that if you’re African, you most likely go to an African club night in your area, so the challenge with Secousse is to try to being people together, because nobody really mixes it up anymore.’ Other places to check out include deep Afro and house night Tribe and Afro-influenced venue Passing Clouds in Dalston.
The African DJs
Etienne, Radioclit ‘DJ Cleo is the biggest; he’s very famous. But one of my favourite producers is Mujava. He’s is probably seen as a one-hit wonder, but he’s just done an amazing remix of Rye Rye’s track “Bang” for MIA’s label. I’m trying to get it for my compilation.’
Sinden ‘In the last six months I’ve really gotten into a DJ called Sdunkero, who did an amazing track called “Tops Off”. It’s very stabby, like a Euro-house track, but the video is total “cruise style”, where they are just laying by a pool with girls in bikinis.’
The London DJs
Etienne, Radioclit ‘Our newest Secousse residents, DJ Mo-Laudi and DJ Mo, are both from South Africa and they’ve been pushing those sounds to us a lot. The UK funky scene in England has a really big African sound to it too; a lot of it has the same vibe.’
Sinden ‘A lot of new underground dance music at clubs like Night Slugs, especially funky, has those African patterns. It fits in really well with the new UK funky/post-dubstep-y/garage-y stuff. There's a group called Deep Teknologi, who have tracks like “Afrik”, which are like British versions of kwaito, but on that cold, rolling, dark funky dance tip.’
Radioclit’s ‘The Sound of Secousse: African Dance Music Anthems’ is out in September on Crammed. The next Secousse is July 2 at Notting Hill Arts Club. ‘Ayobaness! The Sound of South African House’ is out now on Out Here. Sinden’s Nike x Fader mix is available now and he plays at Get Me! x Nike (RED) at The Camp on Thur June 10. The next Tribe is at Corsica Studios on June 25.
Being a lesbian in the capital is a tough cop. Only because it's so ruddy hard to find out what's going on dans le nighttime in one place. On one concise list. I spent many a night tearing my hair out as I combed Facebook for London's best lesbian nights. And voila: an article came out! Apologies if it's not totally up-to-date but, well, it's pretty much the only guide there is.