Chanctonbury Rings album by Justin Hopper, Sharron Kraus & The Belbury Poly

Chanct CD front The newest release from Ghost Box is another leftfield curveball, even for a label so esoteric. In a scene currently awash with acts sporting tenuous back stories to the origins of their material (usually involving Satanic rituals, fictitious B-movie composers or uncovered master tapes), GB has unearthed a tale deeply rooted in UK history. In the South of England lies Chanctonbury Ring, an ancient site that contains a hill-fort and a ring of beech trees said to be haunted or the site of weird visitations. Scour the web and you’ll find numerous accounts of incidents said to have taken place there at different times of year from unnatural acts to strange sightings.

Chanct CD insideJustin Hopper, an American writer based in the UK, takes us on a journey to the Rings where several occurrences make his trip more than a quiet ramble in the countryside. His soft American accent is in stark contrast to the very British history and myth he explores but it works and bears repeated listens. Accompanying him musically is Sharron Kraus, folk singer and multi-instrumentalist who has previously appeared on the final Other Channels 7″ release from the label. I can’t say I was a huge fan of that release personally so I approached this album with some trepidation but needn’t have worried as, aided by Belbury Poly aka Jim Jupp, she fleshes out Justin’s observations beautifully with just enough to evoke the scenes he’s witnessing.

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Much like the best examples of Mike Mignola‘s original Hellboy comics, where ancient local myths and locations are explored in silent panels before a big reveal, Chanctonbury Rings, weaves its tale over 16 short chapters/tracks that work best as a whole rather than singularly. Listened to in one continuous, seamless sitting it has some genuinely affecting moments and I wasn’t expecting to be so easily transported to the South Downs whilst sitting at a computer in my concrete residence in such a busy city. The album explores and unsettles as it unfolds and I imagine would be quite the companion in headphones on a walk through the countryside it describes. Top marks to all involved for pushing out of the usual comfort zone but still exploring the essence of the hauntology genre the label is known for.
Pre-order it here: LP/CD/DL
Chanct CD back

To launch the above album, Ghost Box and Trunk records are holding an incredible gig on June 21st in London, featuring Justin and Sharron performing live, Pye Corner Audio, The Soundcarriers soundtracking a Julian House film, Jonny Trunk and Robin The Fog playing original Basil Kirchin tapes, a Wisbey request set, DJ sets, T-shirt printing, food and an exhibition of Clay Pipe Music artwork.

GB Summer Solstice poster

Delaware Road festival updates

The Delaware Road event in August continues to ramp up the line up as word gets around about it with more announcements to come. This will be a truly unique event, the likes of which haven’t been seen on this scale before. Transplant yourself to a secluded army base in the middle of the Salisbury countryside for over 12 hours of sonic, audio visual and performance-based adventures in sight and sound with a who’s who of the current crop of leftfield electronic, weird, and experimental practitioners working on the margins today. Buried Treasure, the label who hosted the last two experiences, have put together a mix showcasing some of the acts playing.

Tickets are available for the event, including group and camping options and follow the Facebook event for updates and competitions to win tickets and packages of merch from some of the featured acts and labels.

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Flexi Record Store Day stuff

RSD19 haulJust so much going on at the moment, hard to keep track – Record Store Day was great fun, got a few releases (the Yage and Acid 88 releases are excellent, the Stone Tape less so). Played silly flexi discs at Audio Gold with Shane Quentin first thing, the shop was bustling and my Jonathan King ‘Lick A Smurpf For Christmas’ disc got a cheer. The staff generously treated us to pizza and drinks as well as pushing a couple of filthy flexi’s my way – thanks guys!

Kev@AudioGold Shane@AudioGold New Flexis

Excellent package of the day goes to the Kubrick 7″ from Silva Screen which is a delight on many levels even though it’s actually Wendy Carlos arrangements re-recorded by Mark Ayres and not quite what it was sold as on the original RSD info mail out. The Acid 88 design is also particularly tasteful with the label designs causing some excellent flickering motion when revolving.

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After this we headed down to Palace Vinyl in Crystal Palace for a bit of acid techno with the Downfall crew and a dig through their considerably stuffed crates – if you want any kind of secondhand electronic dance music from the last 30 years then this is the place to go although they mainly sell online. The new Corroded Circuits EP on their label is another winner.

Last stop was the Book & Record Bar in West Norwood where we nearly didn’t get in it was so packed for the showing of Shawn Lee‘s ‘The Library Music Film’, a 2 hr journey through the medium that had our legs aching as we had to stand the whole way through. Records were bought, played and beers consumed afterwards too and it rounded off a great day with friends and a set from King Michael that culminated in a shop-clearing Goblin tune.

Monday saw a private showing of Vickie Bennet‘s ‘Gone, Gone Beyond’ 360 degree film at Goldsmith’s College, a kind of fever-dream across multiple screens with surround sound that made me wonder if she was sane. Collage cross-referencing across multiple decades and genres was the order of the day with a particularly successful hall of mirrors sequence and crazed compression of what seemed like my 70’s childhood for a finalé. If you get the chance, go and see it but it’s only showable in a tiny amount of spaces due to the nature of the surround medium.

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Tuesday night saw Shane, myself and Jonny Trunk at Spiritland in Kings X for the Wobbly Sounds book launch, playing flexi discs on their mega sound system – it sounded awful! 😀 It didn’t matter though as the place was packed and everyone had a great time, especially the Four Corners Book publishers Elinor and Richard. I ended up chatting to actor Paul Putner (aka The Curious Orange from This Morning With Richard Not Judy among many other roles) who is a massive music fan who really knows his stuff.

Off to Bristol this Saturday for the second performance of my Kraftwerk: Klassics, Kovers & Kurios AV show at the Cube Cinema with DJ Cheeba, which is sold out! There are two mixes forthcoming this month too, one imminently and one on the 27th – both very different, more info soon.

Victor Vasarely retrospective at the Pompidou Centre, Paris

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The highlight of my recent trip to Paris to play at the Ping Pong 20th anniversary party was a trip to the Pompidou Centre to bask in the first major Victor Vasarely retrospective. A comprehensive overview of his work was on display, from earliest experiments through to his breakthrough op art achievements. Whilst a lot of his large scale work wasn’t present there were some 300 pieces to admire including paintings, sculpture, ceramics, prints, logos, textiles and more. The final room was particularly good with very low light and excellent lighting that picked out the paintings in a glow that seemed to make them radiate and become even more three dimensional. The level of skill and draughtsmanship on display was incredible and I’d highly recommend a day trip over before it finishes in May, the book shop at the end is something else too, take lots of money and a strong bag is all I can say!

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Sister Corita Kent exhibition, London

SCK 2The new Sister Corita Kent exhibition has been on at the House of Illustration in Kings X now for a month, expanded from the version shown in Ditchling last year. It’s still small but packed with lots of beautiful prints, books, posters and ephemera that she created during her lifetime both in and outside of the church. I urge you to go and see these beautiful prints in the flesh and pick up a free copy of her ‘rules’ taken from an art department classroom.

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20 years of Ping Pong, Paris

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I’m doing a special gig in Paris on March 15th – DJing on a mega line up to celebrate 20 years of Ping Pong, the promotion agency headed by Fred/Jais Elalouf aka DJ Oof of Cinemix fame who has worked with Ninja Tune for two decades now. Oof is also the collector and curator of the Psychedelic Art Centre and there will be an exhibition of works featured for six weeks to launch the special issue of Perfect Bliss, the new Graph Zine and review which comes with stereoscopic glasses for 3D.

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Pinball Number Count and Sesame St anniversary

According to Sesame Street, who celebrate their 50th anniversary this year, Walt Kramer‘s ‘Pinball Number Count’ (featuring the Pointer Sisters on vocals) debuted today 43 years ago in Season 8 of the show. To celebrate they’ve made an online pinball game version that you can play here.

Pinball game

Of course Ninja Tune were the first label to release the track on vinyl back in 2003, on the B side of the Larry Levan remix of ‘C Is For Cookie’, which I also had the pleasure of designing the sleeve for.
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RIP Ken Nordine

Ken Nordine autographI was very saddened to hear of Ken Nordine‘s passing today at the the age of nearly 100, my consolations go out to his family. I was first introduced to his amazing voice via a Rhino Records CD compilation of the best of his Word Jazz albums that Mixmaster Morris played me back in 1993 and I instantly became a fan. Finding his records and any info on him in the pre-internet / pre-eBay days was difficult but the excellent ‘Incredibly Strange Music vol. II‘ book held a fascinating interview with him about his career so far. Upon first traveling to the US in the mid 90s, his records were top of my wants list and I managed to find copies of most of his catalogue before hoovering up more in the early 00’s via eBay.

PC and I were privileged to record a version of his piece, ‘The Ageing Young Rebel’, with him back in 2000 for our album, ‘Kaleidoscope’ and it remains one of my favourite collaborations from that time. Over 20 years ago I interviewed him for Solid Steel at Coldcut‘s Ahead Of Our Time studios near London Bridge whilst he was in London playing the voice of God in a Laurie Anderson play – he was cast perfectly. During the interview he was funny, playful, humble and extremely on the ball, at one point striking up a dialogue with the squeaky chair he was sitting on. RIP Ken – you were unique, so glad we met. Listen to our interview below

Bluedot festival

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Very happy to announce that I’ll be playing my Boards of Canada-centric Audio Visual show, ‘O Is For Orange’ at the Bluedot festival this year, on Sunday 21st of July. Tickets go on sale this Thursday, just hope I’m not on at the same time as Kraftwerk! See these links for more details
Website – https://www.discoverthebluedot.com
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/bluedotfestival
Twitter – @bluedotfestival
Instagram – @bluedotfestival
Hashtag – #discoverthebluedot

2018 – a vintage year for new music

It’s the end of the year and reading down the list of sounds that have moved me most in 2018 I’m struck by how much new music there is after years of digging a lot of reissues over current styles. This may well be because the well is finally running dry on a lot of the stuff I’m interested in but more likely that the old adage of great music being made in times of great strife is coming home to roost again. There is no order to the lists below, no No.1 or ‘best’ of anything although they are mostly chronological as I write stuff down as I hear or see it.

Special mentions though for the Castles In Space label that continues to go from strength to strength, the Confidence Man album which got a lot of play despite me missing them live twice. Trevor Jackson‘s beautiful design for his ‘System’ CD and cassette, so good I bought it three times, The Advisory Circle‘s ‘Ways Of Seeing’ LP and the Tomorrow Syndicate‘s excellent ‘Future Tense’ album, complete with Nick Taylor artwork.

Supporting both The The (on several UK dates) and the Art Of Noise was the stuff of teenage dreams and the former’s biography by Neil Fraser is a fascinating read. The Karminsky Experience Inc.’s ‘See Inside’ VR single was a genuinely eye-opening experience and having them and Markey Funk down at Further was a treat. Walking into the House of Illustration‘s John Vernon Lord exhibition to be unexpectedly confronted with the original drawing of his 1966 masterpiece, ‘Beneath The Tree’, was the art high of the year and the People’s Vote march in October restored my faith in humanity for an afternoon. Electronic Sound magazine continues to excel and their first LP release, Jack Dangers‘ remix of Terry Riley‘s ‘In C’, was another disc that saw a lot of play this year.

On Dec 23rd I played a lot of my favourite releases of 2018 on WNBC‘s Out Of The Wood show which you can hear below, complete with mic. fluffs and wrong track listings.

As we go into 2019 I’m dreading the first three months, leading up to the Br*x*t deadline, hoping against hope for a last minute chance to reconsider but bracing for a fallout post 29/03/19 that could see chaos come to the UK. I hope that I’m writing a more positive missive this time next year, if not then at least the music will only get better and better…

Music 2Music / chat:
The Karminsky Experience Inc. – See Inside 7″ (Patterns of Behaviour)
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Gumboot Soup LP (Flightless)
Beautify Junkyards – The Invisible Worlds of LP (Ghost Box)
Basil Kirchin – I Start Counting LP (Trunk)
Bigmouth podcast (Audioboom)
The Turbans – Baba Ganooz 7″ (Mona Tone/Delights)
Cavern Of Anti-Matter – Hormone Lemonade LP (Duophonic)
The Advisory Circle – Ways Of Seeing LP (Ghost Box)
Janelle Monae – Make Me Feel (single) (Wondaland)
Confidence Man – Confident Music For Confident People LP (Heavenly)
Concretism – For Concrete & Country LP (Castles In Space)
Trevor Jackson – System CD (Pre_)
Tomorrow Syndicate – Future Tense LP (Polytechnic Youth)
Chaka Khan – Like Sugar (single) (Dairy)
Jonny Trunk – OST show (Resonance FM)
Regal Worm – Pig Views / Use And Ornament (Uranium Club)
Meat Beat Manifesto vs Terry Riley – In C (Electronic Sound)
Patrick R. Park – Library Sounds LP (Castles In Space)
David Shire – The Conversation LP (Trunk)
Amgala Temple – Invisible Airships LP (Pekula)
Adam Buxton podcast
Type 303 – The New Ravelution EP (Insult To Injury)
Luke Vibert – 165 303 – from the Gradients vol.2 LP (Astrophonica)
Luke Vibert presents Garave vol.1 LP (Hypercolour)
Kosmischer Laufer – Vol.4 LP (UCR)

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Packaging / design:
The Karminsky Experience Inc. – See Inside VR glasses (Patterns of Behaviour)
Chop – CDL 10″ (Drumetrics)
Concretism – For Concrete & Country LP (2nd edition) (Castles In Space)
Trevor Jackson – System 1st & 2nd edition CD + Cassette (Pre_)
Sculpture – Nearest Neighbour Cassette & comic (Tapebox)
Tomorrow Syndicate – Future Tense Regular + Ltd Ed. LP (Polytechnic Youth)
Spider Jazz – splatter vinyl edition LP (Trunk)
Spun Out Of Control vinyl + cassettes
Aver – River of Ice Cream 7″ promo flexi disc
Listening Centre 5″ lathe cut picture disc (Polytechnic Youth)

Packaging design

Books/Comics:
VS – Ivan Brandon / Eric Ribic (Image)
A Year In The Country ‘Wandering Through Spectral Fields’ – Stephen Prince
The Adventures of Jodelle – Guy Peellhaert (Fantagraphics)
Batman – White Knight  – Sean Murphy (DC)
Orla Kiely – A Life In Pattern (Octopus Books)
Electronic Sound magazine
Unusual Sounds: The Hidden History of Library Music – David Hollander (Anthology Editions)
House Industries – The Process Is The Inspiration (Watson-Guptill Publications)
Sculpture – Nearest Neighbour comic (Tapebox)
Proxima Centuri – Farel Dalrymple (Image)
Doomsday Clock – Geoff Johns / Gary Frank (DC)
Saga – Brian K. Vaughn / Fiona Staples (Image)
Long Shadows, High Hopes – Neil Fraser (Omnibus Press)
Judge Dredd – The Small House (Rob Williams & Henry Flint) (2000AD/Rebellion)
Lawless  – Dan Abnett / Phil Winslade (Judge Dredd Megazine/Rebellion)
Pete Fowler – Decades of Lead (Unbound)
Diary of a Bookseller – Shaun Bythell (Profile books)

Books + comics

Film/TV:
Inside No.9 series 4 + Halloween special
The Inertia Variations documentary
Flowers series 2
Avengers: Infinity War
Yellow Submarine 50th anniversary remaster
The Karminsky Experience Inc. – See Inside VR + packaging
Bobby Gillespie on Newsnight
The Clock – Christian Marclay, Tate Modern
Bros: After The Screaming Stops (BBC)

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Events / Gigs:
Art of Noise, British Library
‘O Is For Orange’ premiere Archspace, London
The The, Albert Hall, The Troxy, London, Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow
The Crystal Palace Festival afterparty @ The Paxton Pub, Gypsy Hill, London – one of those gigs where every track flows and lands just right.
The Indie Label Market, Spitalfields, London
The People’s Vote march in October
Jane Weaver at EArtH, London
The Soundcarriers, Gloria and Strange Majick @ The Victoria, London
Dirty Fan Male at the Bethnal Green Working Man’s Club, London

Gigs

Exhibitions:
Sister Corita Kent – Ditchling Art & Craft Museum
Orla Kiely – Fashion & Textile Museum, London
Aphex Twin posters – Elephant & Castle underground, London
The Shape of Light, Tate Modern, London
May The Toys Be With You – New Walk Museum, Leicester
John Vernon Lord – The House of Illustration, London
Peanuts – Somerset House, London
Daniel Mullen – Lisa Norris Gallery, London

Exhibitions 2018

“Another year over and what have I done?”
Designed Peshay‘s ‘Reflections’ LP for the De:Tuned label
Created a 3 minute spoken word collage for Penguin/Random House‘s Voices event at the London Palladium on World Book Day
Supported the Art Of Noise at The British Library
DJed multiple times at Secret Cinema presents Blade Runner
Opened for The The at several of their UK gigs including the Royal Albert Hall, Brixton Academy, Glasgow Barrowlands and Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Further at the Portico Gallery with Pete Williams, Markey Funk and the Karminsky Experience Inc.
Designed a nine disc set for De:tuned‘s forthcoming 10th anniversary releases
Mixes for Solid Steel, 45 Live, Brokers, Rat Records, Out Of The Wood, Diggers Dozen and radio show appearances for Resonance and Soho Radio
Overhauled my Openmindesign.uk website

DJ Food gigs

RIP: France Gall, Ken Dodd, Stephen Hawking, Matt Dike, Lovebug Starski, Jabo Starks, Tom Wolfe, Aretha Franklin, Orla Kiely shops, Carlos Ezquerra, Paul Allen, Stan ‘The Man’ Lee, HMV, June Whitfield.

Looking forward to: The Delaware Road 2019, Keith Haring retrospective at Tate Liverpool, the Wobbly Sounds book, Further at the Ace Hotel, Sister Corita Kent at the House of Illustration, De:tuned‘s monthly 10th anniversary 12″s, Avengers: Endgame

Happy New Year!

The Delaware Road 2019

Delaware Rd 2019Tickets are already on sale and the line up is being drip feed out over the Xmas period for The Delaware Road‘s third incarnation next August at a secret military base somewhere in Salisbury. This promises to be the biggest and most ambitious version yet, and those who were present at the first two will know that there is nothing quite like them. I’m very pleased to be asked to play for a second time and so far the whole line up is looking like a who’s who of the leftfield electronica/radiophonic/hauntology scene. Put August 17th in the diary and get in on the early bird tickets before they’re gone.

“A unique festival of music, theatre, film, sound & light inside a secret military base near Stonehenge.
Featuring an incredible line up of artists, DJs, video producers, sound designers, record labels, speakers, writers, illustrators & agitators. Gathered inside the austere military complex of New Zealand Farm near West Lavington, artists will perform work inspired by landscape, myth, broadcast propaganda & the transformative nature of sound. 
Performances start at 5pm Saturday evening & end at 3am Sunday morning. Licensed bar, food & merch stalls.
Overnight camping & parking. This event contains adult themes & strobing effects. Under 18s must be accompanied by a responsible adult.”

The line up so far:

THE SEANCE / FRONT & FOLLOW / KEMPER NORTON / THE SLOWEST LIFT / EMBLA QUICKBEAM / ARC SOUNDTRACKS / DJ FOOD \ SARAH ANGLISS / CLAY PIPE MUSIC / SIMON JAMES / REVBJELDE / CASTLES IN SPACE / THE TWELVE HOUR FOUNDATION  / CONCRETISM  / POLYPORES  / PSYCHE TROPES / SCULPTURE / HOWLROUND / MERKABA MACABRE / A’BEAR / DOUG SHIPTON / NICK TAYLOR / ALISON COTTON / IAN HELLIWELL / RADIONICS RADIO

Tickets : https://fixr.co/event/839412645
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Rammellzee show at Laz Inc. London

Ramm portrait

So, there’s a Rammellzee exhibition running right now in the middle of London at LazInc. until 10th November. Lots of 80’s and early 90s canvases from private collections, the likes of which have never been seen in the U.K. Overall (much like Basquiat) there’s never a full piece which I truly love but I love what Ramm stood for and all the stuff he strung together to make his world. Little details spring out and there were a couple of pieces with with his line drawings in that were nice (see further down).

Really though I went for the opportunity to actually see this stuff in the flesh, to see a largely hidden part of the more abstract end of graffiti that’s not really been documented. You can see him visually searching for things, he’s trying all sorts, even painting on a carpet at one point, and to see that was enough. Sadly no battle suits or letter racers but this is a pretty decent collection for free and I’m not holding my breath for the Red Bull Arts New York exhibition to come to these shores any time soon.
LazInc. Sackville, 29 Sackville Street, Mayfair, London, W1S 3DX

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Further 3 at the Portico Gallery – by Warm Glow Photo

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Many thanks to West Norwood local, Anna Hindocha of Warm Glow Photo for coming down at the last moment to shoot for us at on Sept 15th at the Portico Gallery. She managed to capture the ambience of the night in still form and convey the luminescence of the slides perfectly. Pictured below are Markey Funk, myself and The Karminsky Experience Inc. amongst the projections at various stages during the night.

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Further slides for Sep 15th

Fur3 slides close 2I’ve been so busy I’ve not had time to post all the great images collected after the recent Further event on September 15th with Markey Funk and The Karminsky Experience Inc. A fine time was had by all and here are just a few of the 200+ slides I painted and gelled the week before the gig.
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The Karminsky Experience Inc. See Inside VR glasses freebies at Further

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We’re really excited to be hosting The Karminsky Experience Inc. for a DJ set at Further on Sept 15th but got even more excited when they revealed that they’d be giving away some of these VR viewers to punters at the gig too. This pair of Cardboard VR glasses, beautifully illustrated by Dry British, lets you view their new 360 degree film to go with ‘See Inside’ from their last LP, ‘Beat’ which they should also have copies of on sale. I’m told this will be the first time you’ll be able to get your hands on these beauties but numbers will be limited.

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After extracting and assembling the glasses, you scan the QR code on the side with your phone or find the video on YouTube via the URL they provide – adjust the settings accordingly, press play and pop the phone into the viewer. From then on you’re taken into a Karminsky world whilst the music plays and you look around. Obviously it’s impossible to convey in writing, you really have to experience it first hand. Come along and maybe you can have a Karminsky Experience of your own.
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Tickets for Sept 15th w. The Karminsky’s, Markey Funk (Delights), Pete WIlliams and myself are available here.

Further 2 at the Portico Gallery, November 2017


Seeing as I never got round to posting these at the time (I moved house the week after) and with a new event upon us in a month’s time, here’s a quick look back at the last Further at the Portico Gallery, November 2017 with guests Sculpture and Simon James (The Simonsound). Photos by Martin LeSanto-Smith and myself

Simon James at the Buchla 200e Electric Music Box


Here’s a film of Simon’s performance by his brother, Curtis James

Simon James Buchla 200e performance at Further from Simon James on Vimeo.

The record and merch stall was kindly provided by Michael and Dorian from the local Book & Record Bar



Sculpture at soundcheck and during their performance

Tickets for the next one – Sept 15th, 2018 with myself, Pete WIlliams, The Karminsky Experience Inc. and Markey Funk (Delights) are available here.

It was 30 years ago today

PE Nation of Millions coverAnother anniversary post, this occasion being three decades ago that Public Enemy released their second LP, ‘It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back’. This post isn’t entirely about that though but about their debut London gig as part of the 87 Def Jam Tour, supporting LL Cool J at the Hammersmith Odeon, the November before. Also on the bill were Eric B & Rakim (notice the spelling below – and the upcoming Bad News live show posters) and the whole thing was being recorded by the BBC for their ‘Fresh Start To The Week’ rap show.

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Keen-eared listeners will of course know this from the opening lines of the album, MC’d by Fresh Start… host, Dave Pearce, “Hammersmith Odeon are you ready for the Def Jam Tour? Let me hear you make some noise!”. Parts of the gig were interspersed throughout ‘Nations…’ courtesy of The BBC who had already broadcast it by the time the album dropped the next year. Somewhere in among the hollering and whistling were my friends and I as well as many others I would later go on to meet along the way. But first some context:

This was PE’s first trip to the UK, their debut, ‘Yo, Bum Rush The Show’ had been out a while but they’d also released the iconic ‘Rebel Without A Pause’ on the B-side of their last single, ‘You Gonna Get Yours/Mi Uzi Weighs A Ton’. They were supporting LL Cool J on this trip alongside Eric B & Rakim (who were having their own hits like Paid In Full). PE rose up the ranks with incredible speed though. Their first single, ‘Time Bomb/Public Enemy No.1’ was a real oddity, the album dropped in February ’87 and was even weirder but was released on Def Jam so was given perhaps more time than an unknown. When they dropped ‘You Gonna Get Yours’ with the crazed Terminator X Getaway Mix and ‘Rebel…’ on the B side, it was a done deal.

‘Rebel’ was an instant classic – a summer anthem – and more of the same followed. In the autumn, ‘Bring the Noise’, (from the Less Than Zero soundtrack) proved they could do it again and once ‘Nation’ dropped to unanimous acclaim, they were premiere league. By the time they came back to the UK they were either headlining or co-headlining with Run DMC who were still riding off the back of their world-smashing ‘Raising Hell’ album and easily the biggest rap group in the world apart from the Beastie Boys, who still looked like a novelty at that point. But Run DMC’s star was fading and PE – arguably – replaced them.

Winding back to November ’87, they were still the new kids but they’d put quite a show together to make a good first impression. Before we even entered the venue, the unexpected happened, Chuck and Flav appeared outside – behind a barrier and escorted by S1Ws – and chatted with fans. At first they were hesitant but there was such a clamour that they embraced it for a bit, well, Flav did as you can see below.

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Kev + Flav London 1987

That’s me above on the left in the black Kangol hat, what you can’t see is the black body warmer I had on over my leather jacket with a hand-painted Public Enemy stencil logo on the back. This was back before the band even had merch for sale. Chuck was impressed. Below is the concert ticket with a message from Flav scribbled on my train ticket. In hindsight, I think they were perhaps a little overwhelmed at how the UK embraced them on that first tour (remember, ‘Yo, Bum Rush the Show’ was their current record, hence the faded intro on the opening segment on ‘Nation…’). But once the second album dropped, with its BBC recordings and copious thanks to DJs and artists from the UK alongside PE’s US peers, it seems that we made as big an impression as they did.

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Public Enemy were on first – the stage was packed, there were air raid sirens and the enormous PE logo. Terminator X flanked by two gun-toting, S1Ws on pedestals either side, Professor Griff stalking in the shadows with Chuck and Flav in bright white, bounding all over the place. It was a full on, high octane experience from start to very quick end (about half an hour I think), a scrappy, stop-start show that didn’t let up, and if it did then the whistle and foghorn posse just filled in the gaps as can be heard on the recording.

PE arriveChuck+Griff+S1WFlav+Griff+S1W+ChuckGriff + S1W S1W TerminatorX RocknRoll

Above is the ‘Terminator X!’ moment from ‘Rebel Without A Pause’ which the crowd went absolutely nuts for.
You can see actual footage of the gig on the DVD, ‘The First London Invasion 1987’.

In the middle we had Eric B & Rakim who seemed dwarfed by the huge stage with Eric B largely static, high up on his DJ pedestal and no backdrop graphic, leaving only Rakim to prowl the stage for visual entertainment. I’ve actually cropped more off these photos but wanted to show the enormity of the space they occupied. The sound was poor and Rakim called for more volume a few times.

Eric B + Rakim 2 Eric B + Rakim

After this slightly underwhelming middle act it was LL’s turn and at this point he was the bonafide star of the show. At the top of his golden era hip hop peak with his second album, ‘Bigger & Deffer’, out and the forumla-breaking but uneven ‘Walking With a Panther’ yet to come. His intro blew nearly everything before it to pieces. Set in a mocked up Farmer’s Boulevard street scene (his home, referenced on countless numbers of his rhymes), bookended by two DJ booths, a huge, flashing mothership of a boom box descended from the ceiling to the theme tune of ‘2001’ as his DJs, Cut Creator and Bobcat, scratched over the Original Concept’s ‘Can You Feel It’ until the ‘legend in leather’ walked onstage.

LL Boombox descends

Oozing youthful arrogance, you could see why there were a LOT of women in the audience there for him, here was your first young hip hop heartthrob, only just out of his teens. He was in amazing shape too (see bottom photo) and knew exactly how to work the crowd with a choreographed set involving both DJs (Bobcat even played hype man I seem to remember). His one misstep was to do ‘I Need Love’, the soppy, skip-it-please-ballad from the second album, and he was booed mercilessly for it by a large proportion of the crowd from where I was standing, eager to get back to the high-testosterone beats and cuts. At that point, love ballads had no place in hip hop such as this but the joke’s on all of us as LL and Def Jam had seen some sort of future where RnB would slowly blend with rap so as to become one. James Todd Smith can claim to be a pioneer of that scene, for good or bad, (he didn’t do too badly out of it).

LLCoolJ arrivesLL Cool J 1LLCoolJ 2LL Cool J shirt off