My latest London clubbing round-up for Metro UK, originally published in the paper out on May 9.
My latest London clubbing round-up for Metro UK, originally published in the paper out on May 9.
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
East London is awash with 'micro radio stations' showcasing the best new DJs. Kate Hutchinson finds a few of them lurking at NTS Live, which celebrates its first birthday in April. Read the full article, which was originally published in Time Out, after the jump.Read More
Online video/radio broadcast The Boiler Room is so hot darn exciting it makes me feel funny in my ladyparts. They take some of the best cutting edge DJs from London and beyond, stick ’em in a south London warehouse in front of a webcam to spin their heart out and let lossa dubstep fanboy tweens slate them all on their live feed at the same time. Shazzam.
I did write a serious article about it, though, for Time Out all the way back in April. Do read it here or below.
By Kate Hutchinson. Posted: Mon Apr 18 2011
The biggest nightlife success of the past year blurs the line between an online club and a radio show. Time Out logs on
On a Tuesday night, here's what London's electronic music fraternity in their twenties are up to: they're sitting down on their sofas, firing up their laptops, pouring themselves a drink and tuning in to watch live DJ sets via a webcam hooked up to a warehouse space in Elephant & Castle. They're probably rapid-fire tweeting about it at the same time too. If you squint and don't mind the juddering connection, you can see James Blake at the turntables, or perhaps popstar-in-waiting Yasmin singing over a mix from Jamie XX. Welcome to cult club the Boiler Room.
Since its inception a year ago this month, the Boiler Room has become an internet and dance music - wait for it - phenomenon. It's not strictly a club, but a weekly online Ustream broadcast - the live video facility popularised by Wiley, who likes to use it to show how to make boiled eggs and soldiers, advertise instant noodles and, ditto Kanye West, hold press conferences - in a nightlife environment. Shot on just a 'little Logitech webcam', it is pure voyeurism and allows clubbers to have an uninterrupted view of their favourite DJs without the hollering, drunken moshers and cloudy sound you can get at club nights. And if you miss it, you can just download the podcast and catch up later.
Despite the DIY set-up, Boiler Room has captured the zeitgeist in the same way as Rinse FM; that is, dance music's demand for quality radio programming and futuristic underground beats. Consequently, it's the first place that innovative London record labels, like Young Turks, R&S, Numbers, Swamp81 and Hessle Audio, want their new DJs, performers and music to be seen and heard immediately.
The broadcast was started by notorious hipster Blaise Bellville, who heads up mouthy webzine Platform and used to put on the underage Way Out West gigs, and co-run by Brownswood employee Thristian Richards, who goes by the DJ name The bPm. It began life in a former 1930s boiler room in Hackney (of course!), but it has gotten so big in both virtual and physical terms that they've upsized to Corsica Studios so that they can host a larger live audience.
'We've gone from having 50 of our mates watching online to up to 15,000 or 25,000 people during our most popular shows like the James Blake and the Jamie XX ones,' says Bellville. 'And then there's 100,000 people and upwards reposting and replaying the podcast every month. The space has got bigger - there used to be about 30 people max in the room, and now our guestlist requests exceed 500 each time. It's invite-only, but there's still about 150 people there every week.'
The numbers are unbelievable - their Facebook page exceeds 9,000 fans and counting. Which is why if you're not on the list, you're not getting in. 'It was getting too much like a party for a while,' Bellville continues, 'but it's about getting the right kinds of people down there, people who are there for the music, so that the artists don't feel overwhelmed by it all.'
The artists are, after all, the sole attraction at Boiler Room: attendees are positioned behind the decks in a bedroom DJ style set-up so that the selector is always the main figure in view. Says Bellville: 'The Boiler Room's signature format is that the DJ is always playing with their back to the crowd and is always on the ground level, the same as all the people in the room. People bounce about a bit, but they're coming to watch the show. It's all over by 11 o'clock.'
DJs also embrace it as an opportunity to get more eclectic. 'Boiler Room plays an important part in the type of electronic music that's coming out at the moment, because it's somewhere in-between a radio show and a club night,' says Bellville. 'The DJs get to play music that they wouldn't normally play in a club, where they have to face the audience and make everyone dance.'
He views it as a successful alternative to the dominating radio stations. 'Live radio is in a pretty difficult place, I reckon, right now,' he argues. 'It thrives off its podcasts and you get very few people actually tuning in in comparison. And with Boiler Room, because of the video element, there's more reason to tune in. We've managed to get great people in to play who love that live radio element and the instant feedback that you get from people watching it in real-time, whether it's from Twitter or from the chatrooms.'
Of course, like every musical experiment these days, 'there's not strict genre ties', but you can expect to hear West Coast hip hop - a scene on which they plan to shoot a quarterly documentary in LA later this year - one week and the post-dubstepisms of SBTRKT, Sampha et al the next. Coming up? There's a special Diplo and Red Bull takeover on April 26, a day ahead of his Koko show, and the broadcast's first birthday celebrations this month, which in typical east London style, will be announced at the very last minute. They've also plans to take Boiler Room global - they filmed the Young Turks showcase at South by South West this year, and they'll be covering the Rush Hour stage at the Queen's Day Carnival in Amsterdam at the end of April.
It isn't quite a club night and it's not quite a radio show, but Boiler Room is one heck of a party for your ears - and, clearly, there's much to tune in for.
On the boil
'I was actually very nervous about playing the Boiler Room, because it was the first time I'd ever done a PA in a nightclub. And it's a very cool place. It's got this weird double dynamic of being on the internet and in front of an audience - physically, they're in opposite directions and as a singer, I found that quite tricky! What was brilliant is that it has an underground feel to it and a casualness, which is really enjoyable.'
Seb Chew, YoYo
'The spirit at the Boiler Room reminded me of dance energy from back in the day, ie taking music and the rave and giving it another dimension without spoiling the reason why you're there in the first place, which is for good new music, played on big speakers.'
'I find it unnerving DJing at Boiler Room, having people behind me. But it works for watching intently. I've just moved to south London so I go there quite a lot to hang out.'
Ever heard of Cheryl? It'll ruin your life, apparently. I caught up with one of the party's founders, Nick Schiarizzi, about Lady Gaga, crafting up your outfits and Anne Hathaway-in-tin-foil.
Read some more – go on, it's fun, after the jump. Or on Time Out, here.
The Big Apple's most outrageous party, Cheryl, is coming to London this weekend. It's been a huge success in Brooklyn, straddling the arty-party divide since 2008, and the Cheryl foursome, Destiny, Stina, Nick and Sarah, are known for their DIY attitude, wacky themes (from pizza to 'Sasquatch on Broadway') and glitter-splattered promotional videos, which give you an insight into the warped night ahead.
We're no strangers to after-dark nuttiness here, but Cheryl evokes a bewitching scene that's one part polysexual Gutterslut hedonism, three parts Duotard's Dance Party 3000 at Bethnal Green Working Men's Club, with a dusting of Jonny Woo-sized irony and a BoomBox soundtrack. And we simply can't resist a party that promises, as they do, that it will 'ruin your life'. Bring it on, New York!
We talk with Cheryl member Nick Schiarizzi, about what to expect.
Cheryl sounds like the kind of party that Lady Gaga would throw for her friends… 'Often people think that we're trying to be like the dress-up club creatures of the '90s in New York, or high fashion like Lady Gaga, but it's not like that. These groups are very creative, but, at the core of it, they're being very serious even if they look outrageous.'
Your videos are a cult thing now… 'Yeah, for our second party, we did an instructional dance video to teach people how to do “The Cheryl”, which is the dance we created. It's like "The Hustle" or a line dance: anybody can learn. Since then, every party has had a video before it to introduce each the theme. They've been screened in a bunch of museums.'
And you do those dance routines at your parties? 'Yeah, it'll be 'time to do “The Cheryl” and everyone will get on to the dancefloor to try to figure out how to do it. Destiny, one of the Cheryls, will be screaming at people to do “The Cheryl” through a megaphone.'
What's been your favourite theme? 'It was probably Nausea. It's the feeling of, as a kid, being stuck in the back of your mother's car while she's out doing errands and listening to her bad music. It's that complete lack of control. A lot of that was reflected in the aesthetic of the party, in its 1970s colour palette - there was lots of yellow, orange and brown - and its bland disco music. Everyone had on metallic orange facepaint too, to look like they had bad tans. We shot the video in an office block, where we threw a cocktail party and people we eating food and puking everywhere. We just pick the theme that makes us laugh the most. The last party we had was Europe-themed to kick off our tour this month in Lisbon, Barcelona, Berlin and, of course, London.'
Yes, you're coming to the Star of Bethnal Green. What's the theme for this night? 'We haven't been to Europe before, so the theme is just going to be Cheryl and will introduce its main elements, like the craft table. Early on we realised that it wasn't just about playing good music and showing off, but also about making the whole thing about the attendees and not about us. The craft table is essential because it lets them be creative and because people are willing to be uninhibited if they're wearing something that disguises them. It's about “how much stuff can I put on myself?” and “how funny can I make it?”.'
Have you had many celebrities rock up in a bin bag? 'Anne Hathaway came to one of the parties and she put some tin foil on her head! And my friend spotted Norah Jones at our Halloween party - 1,000 people showed up for it, so it was hard to see who was there.'
http://vimeo.com/9297468 What should people wear this time, then? 'The defining look of Cheryl is lots of glitter, shoulder pads, fake hair and fake blood. I always tell people that you should walk into the party like you escaped from an asylum and robbed a dollar store on your way. I llooked on Google Earth and there's a dollar store - what do you call it, a pound shop? - opposite the Star of Bethnal Green, so we'll go shopping in there before the night! It's about looking completely insane and using cheap stuff to make it happen.'
I'm Station Editor at London Fields Radio, where I present an after dark-orientated show 'Nite Bites', as well as help curate and run the radio station. We have create everything from local sport to cookery via storytelling podcasts, all with excellent music on top. It operates out of Wiltons Café in London Fields and we'll be relaunching with a brand new website early next year.
Join our radio revolution here:
You can listen to Nite Bites Vol.1 (May 2010) and Vol.2 (Nov 2010) here.
I talk about pop-up speakeasies with the darling Tony Hornecker from The Pale Blue Door.
DJ duo Disco Bloodbath join me to talk about starting out in a restaurant basement in Stoke Newington and the changing sound of the disco sound.
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.
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.
Nestled behind Bethnal Green tube station, right before the bridge (aka the pigeon poop-drop of doom), lies Ten Gales, a pop-up gallery, café, vintage/designer clothes and hair salon space in a disused railway arch. It's the kind of place that I wish I had: the design is kitsch (that's the toilet there, in the white cupboard); the curious modern art and photography displayed in the gallery walkway is hung by super-sized bull dog clips; and the hair salon is minimal and wonderfully cheap.
I stumbled across it last Sunday and took my salon-phobic self there today for a haircut.
It pains me to draw the comparison – because Ten Gales is a lot cooler – but the boutique-y hair area is like the bohemian version of Mr Toppers. Except it's probably cheaper. I have impossibly long hair and it cost £9 for quite a lengthy trim. And after the initial OHMYGODSHESGOINGTORUINMYHAIR panic that all women have (but I have the most), my Tokyo-born hairdresser, Mitsuki, did quite a good job.
There are no basins, so cuts are dry, but no snip will cost more than £15. They also offer a blow-dry service (again, no water) and have the same £5-£15 price range for up-dos, all depending on the length of your barnet. Too book and for more info, check their Facebook page.
Upstairs, the tone shifts from makeshift to slick with rails of uber chic designer clothes, jewellery and exquisite heels from the likes of Miu Miu, Chloe and Vivienne Westwood. Only the thundering rumble of the trains up above reminds me that I'm not in a Bond Street shop.
They've a wide range of poetry, music, cabaret and other such alternative events starting at Ten Gales in the next few weeks (they had the awesome Slumbarave there last week!). Check their Facebook page for their updates. Oh, and go and get a haircut.
28-year-old Saam Farahmand, a former Goldsmiths student, has directed ace music videos for Simian Mobile Disco (yes, that 'Hustler' one with all the Girlcore ladies going at it), Janet Jackson, New Young Pony Club and his mates Klaxons, for which he has won awards. Now signed to Partizan, there are big projects ahead. I caught up with him to chat about his love of New Cross, his heroes and how people need to "wake the fuck up".
(Interview conducted for Time Out magazine's 40th Anniversary London Heroes Issue, published 24 Sep 2008)Who are your heroes?
Erol Alkan's a massive hero of mine, when you look at what he'd done for London. He's been present the whole time I've been in London, he's a figurehead and as much a part of London as Big Ben. He's defined a part of culture in London with his club night Trash and what he's doing now with his production. He brought attitude, spirit and an 'anything goes' philosophy to dance music, which at the time nobody was doing. But he's never lost integrity and he's never stopped working. What he's done with The Long Blondes, Mystery Jets and Late of the Pier is incredible.
What's the biggest thing that's happened in your field in London in the last forty years?
The rise of Young British Art scene – Angus Fairhurst, Sarah Lucas, Damien Hirst – was the biggest thing for me and that was centred on Goldsmiths College. They took art into their own hands and created a scene, a movement, independently. At the time I was a teenager at school and it encouraged me to give up science, go to Goldsmiths and follow what I wanted to do. And then I was in Goldsmiths, in New Cross, and I was surrounded by all these amazing people. It was my entrance into London and my honey moon was in New Cross, which I still love to this day.
When I arrived in New Cross it was like the party had ended, and for the duration I was at Goldsmiths, the spirit of what had happened there ten years before was still in the air. Ultimately we were rave chasers at the end of the party, rooting through the empty cans for an unopened beer. But that in itself inspired countless people. There was an amazing time towards the end of my degree in 2002, and people were deciding to leave. But some of us stayed and started bands and record labels. Joe Daniel started Angular Recordings, which became a really important London label that gave birth to so many good bands. People started clothing shops and all these club nights and parties appeared and suddenly people started flocking to New Cross. It was like we brought it to life again.
What's your favourite place or thing in London?
It changes quite often, but right now it's this place called Mama Thai on Toynbee Street, which is a tiny little family-run place that serves massive heart-warming food for £3. It's the best Thai you can get in London and you're served by this 'Mama', literally the mama of this family, and she knows that you want and they give you so much it's ridiculous. It's the cutest little place ever and totally undiscovered. Before that I was obsessed with the IMAX and I was making all my friends go there.
What's your personal favourite moment in London? Where were you, and what was happening?
I went to see a Bruce Nauman show in the Hayward Gallery when I was a teenager around the time that the YBA art scene was booming and that inspired me and made me want to go to Goldsmiths and study art.
What's been your best London party?
There was one party my friends and I had at our flat on Heaps Road in New Cross and every was falling in love with each other and it was one of those magic nights that's so incredible that nobody wants to leave so it just goes on and on and on. We were all listening to DFA, which was just starting to come to life – or "New York cow bell music", as we used to call it – and was a massive thing for us. Output from London and DFA in America were the two labels and that was all we listened to in 2003.
What's the future for your field in London? What are your hopes, and what needs to happen?
At the moment there is less dependence on the people who have the power and the money to make things happen. People are able to make things happen themselves now, but for a real change to happen, the people who have power and money, who are making decisions and empowering creativity with their finance, need to look harder for the raw, real talent. If they can't then they should give the responsibility and the power to someone else. If London is going to truly progress as a creative city then it's up to those people who have the power to wake the fuck up. Otherwise everything is just going to happen slowly like it always has done. I just want to see people in film and record labels taking more risks, as they're not signing anyone, otherwise the whole city is just going to close up and go to shit because no one's taking a risk.