Norman Rockwell’s America

The Connoisseur (1962 - Norman Rockwell)I just went to see Norman Rockwell’s America at the East Dulwich Picture Gallery in London. Utterly stunning. It’s only on for another month and they have original paintings, studies and prints as well as over 350 framed covers of the Saturday Evening Post that he did. If you’ve been thinking of giving it a go, make the effort, you won’t see another collection like this in the UK again for a while I think. They even had the original of this April Fools painting below.

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Moebius exhibition in Paris

Moebius poster I was in Paris last Friday, playing at La Machine, but upon waiting for the Eurostar the next day I saw a poster for a Moebius Exhibition at the Foundation Cartier. Gutted not have known this was on earlier as I could have seen it before I left. The link above takes you to the exhibition site with a wealth of info, images, beautiful videos of Moebius drawing and mouth-watering merchandise, check the pencil sets below.

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Cage Against the Machine

51jwWocio4L._SL500_AA280_It’s that time – the race for the (UK) No.1 spot in the charts. This year I’m fully behind the Cage Against the Machine rework of John Cage’s 4’33”, the famous ‘silent’ piece. Here are links to buy the Cage single and a video of the rerecording made in London the other week.

Every purchase of 4’33 will now count towards the Christmas Chart – you must buy the ‘Cage Against the Machine version though – you can buy the original on it’s own or the full package of remixes, either will count as a purchase. Please keep spreading this and remember  proceeds go to various charities for the deaf or those with impaired hearing :-) For this to work we need to give this a really big push and now!!

Just Giving charity for the deaf

BUY Cage Against the Machine on iTunes

BUY Cage Against the Machine on Amazon (cheapest!)

BUY Cage Against the Machine on 7 Digital

BUY Cage Against the Machine on HMV Digital

BUY Cage Against the Machine on Play.com

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December gigs

Lots of gigs coming up in December (see full listing over on the right) The Ninja Tune XX celebrations travel to Brighton, London and Prague, Belgrade and Beinne this month.
Brighton 10th flyerKINGFLY(2)-2A2.indd First off is the big Bonobo gig after party in Brighton at the Concorde 2, the day after is King Cannibal’s ‘Way of the Ninja’ mix CD launch at the Rhythm Factory with free entry all night and goody bags for the first 100 in.

The next week sees me in Prague at the Palac Akropolois with Grasscut for a Ninja 20th AV set and then Belgrade the next day at the Tube.

Saturday 18th I have not one but two gigs in London, a Videocrash Solid Steel XXmas party with Hexstatic, DK, Cheeba and more down at the refurbished Electrowerkz. Before that though I’ll be spinning a guest slot down at Classic Material at C.A.M.P. in Old Street, with a vinyl only set of classic Hip Hop from the year 1989. in case you’ve not heard about this night, this is the third installment and each month sees a year celebrated from Hip Hop’s golden periods. DJ Format and Andy Smith have both stepped up and it’s my turn this time. Only records from ’89 will be played, special box sets will be available on the night of CD mixes and T shirts and Chris Read and co. (who run the night) will be in support.

New Years Eve sees DK and I see the year out in fine fashion in Bienne, Switzerland with a special 4 deck AV set.

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Hong Kong Clockenflap festival last weekend

Many thanks to all the people I met last weekend in Hong Kong for the Clockenflap festival (Craig, Jay, Mike, Kumiko, Clive, Justin, Andy, Phil etc…). Hong Kong is a long way to go for a 1 hour set and, luckily, they let me play longer. I was playing after some local bands and the also the Charlatans, who had flown in from Singapore I think, as part of their tour and the space was the 15th floor of a large warehouse-type building on one side of the island. (Picure of me playing above by Chris Lusher)

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I’ve only been to Hong Kong once before, 15 years previously, and other parts of China only one other time so it’s still new to me. The food is great, the architecture too and it has obvious elements of Eastern charm in the same way that Japan does but on a much more subdued level. I had some time off before the gig so I took the ferry from the Central part I was staying in over to Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) which seems to be much more flavoured towards your traditional tourist than the part I was in. As soon as you dock you seem to be bombarded with people trying to sell you Rolex watches, suits or weed on the streets next to massive department stores for all the top fashion houses. In the streets behind these though you’ll find smaller stores selling all sorts of knock offs and little indoor markets crammed with bootleg goods.

I wish I had more time there but it’s never the case these days, on the way back to the hotel I passed a tiny store crammed with robot toys, a street away from my hotel. If you’d have run across the equivalent in the US it would have been called a ‘mom & pop’ store. The couple inside were idly watching some sort of game show on a big TV on the wall while I persused the wall of Gundam, Ultraman, Macross and more figures and kits, some of which looked like they had been there for decades and had a layer of dust to match. I ended up buying this lovely kit which looks straight out of the 70’s, box dents and all, as well as a few bits for my boys, all for less than £10.

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Ninja Tune XX – Japan

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Japan, in contrast to the States the week before, was a fairly easy affair with not half as much packed in and just two dates in four days. This time the line up was myself and DK, Toddla T, Kid Koala, DJ Kentaro, Eskmo, Coldcut, Roots Manuva & Ricky Rankin and The Qemists – the full live band consisting of eight people. Also along for the ride were various other Ninjas including Mox and Pete Quicke on their chosen work jollies.

Japan still fascinates me as it is such a highly visual city, even in the everyday walking down the street, you can spot beautiful signs, logos or adverts as well as stickers and the odd but of ‘street art’. We had the first day off so I spent time in Shibuya, seeking out those strange little shops on the eleventh floor of some tower block that are filled with European library records at outrageous prices. It never ceases to amaze me, the obscurities from all over the world that turn up in Japanese shops, it just doesn’t happen in the same way anywhere else in the world.

It’s not all record shops though, I bumped into Jon More and then DK in the kitchen dept. of Tokyu Hands (a kind of condensed version of the larger Mark & Spencers stores), buying presents for the family. Japan wouldn’t be what it is without Manga, anime and toy robots so, after my customary visit to Mandarake, an underground shrine to all the above, I ventured out of my comfort zone in Shibuya to the Akihabara district via the train system. This is known as the Otaku area, ie: a place for nerds and collectors of anime, manga and video games to gather and shop. First stop was a look at the Gundam Café – basically a coffee shop with an interesting design concept and a place to buy waffles that look like robots. Second there was a 7 storey version of Mandarake selling everything from vintage toys to dodgy cosplay, manga porn and enough comics and DVDs to make your head spin. The rest of the time was spent just looking, looking, looking, although I could have spent a fortune on various things.

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Back in Shibuya, the gig was at Shibuya-O-East, a big, two room venue with a great sound system and a ton of sushi back stage :). DK and I were on second, after Eskmo but then had later sets in the smaller second room until the end of the night. This second room contained a large Ninja logo head with ‘X’s for eyes with coloured lasers shot through it and was a great way to stretch out without the need to incorporate video. DJ Kentaro and Beatink (our press and distributor in Japan) had made a special cake which was presented to Coldcut onstage and I arrived backstage after my second set to find it still uncut with the note “Please wait Kev! Don’t cut this cake” – they know me too well, I duly snapped a few pictures and then we all scoffed it. A 5am finish saw us trooping out into the early morning light and piling the gear into a van which would leave immediately for Osaka and the gig later that night, the Ninja head propped up against a back wall. Thankfully, we got to use the hotel and rose at a more suitable time to catch the bullet train en-mass, hungrily consuming bento boxes for breakfast.

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Osaka is a little more laid back than Tokyo it seems and we all had a little time to wander about after sound check, which I made use of, almost getting completely lost in the process. The club was a long, thin venue with a balcony and a VIP room above that looked down on the dance floor. Eskmo was on first again, this time with randomly screaming girl at the front, check the video below right, she was like this throughout his set, I don’t know how he managed to sing through it! We were up next but, because of the constraints of the stage size, had to play from the very back which made it hard to connect with the audience in any way, I think we did OK though. Unfortunately we had a 6am lobby call the next morning for flights back to Tokyo which then connected to London, a 20 hour journey home and I chose take the easy route and get some sleep rather than party as the jet lag was now out of control.

Posters in Osaka

Ninja Tune XX in the US, Part 1: NYC

Day 1: Wednesday – NYCWFMU, Coffee Break for Heroes & Villains

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We’re flying to the States for the next leg of Ninja Tune XX anniversary gigs, by we, I mean myself, DK and Tom Bell (Toddla T). We land at New York’s JFK airport and meet Jeff Waye – head of Ninja Tune N. America – and Steve Beatty – tour manager with his assistant Tamara. First stop is the Sohotel in downtown Manhattan where, one by one, Amon Tobin, Brendan Angelides (Eskmo), Eric San (Kid Koala) and DJ Kentaro and his brother Kotaro arrive. The first night is free so some of us go to eat and catch up, well it’s free for the others, but not for me. I’ve agreed to guest on Noah Uman‘s show on WFMU – the great alternative station based over the river in New Jersey – which kicks off at midnight!  So, whilst my body is telling me to go to bed I’m getting picked up and driven to the station with Noah and friends Egor and Greg, wondering how long I’ll last over the course of the three hour show.

I’ve only known Noah for about a year, he contacted me via the web to see if I would be interested in providing a brief quote for a reissue he is working on – Marshall McLuhan‘s ‘The Medium Is The Massage’ – not the book but the record. It’s one of my favourite cut & paste / spoken word pieces and even more amazing in that it actually lives up to the book’s legend. He’d clocked that I would be in town and asked if I would guest on his show which plays predominantly Hip Hop, albeit everything but the major label kind. We hit it off immediately and he took us to the library room where he proceeded to pull a few bits before we hit the studio. I had an inkling of what the station would be like given the material they display and I wasn’t disappointed. Customised record sleeves lined the walls, a huge rack of cassettes was still present, a corridor of strange paintings of public figures like Elvira, Elvis and Sarah Palin (!) all rendered in an odd style by a fan of the station were just some of the decorations. The toilet contained a framed book cover, ‘DJ’ this is THE big one that tells you about THAT man and THOSE people – bizarre sleeves abounded and downstairs was a huge cross made from melted records – ‘the Death of Vinyl’ – again provided by a fan.
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We kicked off and Noah and I were in our element, nerding out and chatting non stop about oddities and obscurities both on and off the air whilst I played a selection of old school favourites of the lesser-known kind, cover versions, cut ups from the UK and Japan and novelty records. I’d pulled out Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett’s 1981 single ‘Monster Rap’, essentially a rap retread of his ‘Monster Mash’ hit, and lo and behold so had Noah, only he’d found one with a picture sleeve. You know when you meet a kindred spirit, I felt at home straight away and before we knew it it was approaching 3am! Jesus, where did the time go? I got back to the hotel about 4am and bid my goodbyes, Greg was going back to LA the next day but I’d see Egor at the gig the next night. Even though I was flagging badly by now (having been awake for over 24 hours) I could hardly sleep as the room was so hot and the air con like a helicopter when turned on.

You can listen to the show and see the tracklist here

Day 2: Thursday – NYC Double Dee & Steinski, Matt Johnson and a last minute change of venue.

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Rising at 8.30am, DK and I looked for breakfast nearby, it was only on finishing and going to pay that I realised I’d lost my credit card. Great start to the tour! I quickly deduced that I’d had it in the airport and had probably forgotten to take it from a machine in my haste to board, anyway, had to cancel that with a no doubt expensive mobile call to the UK. The rest of the day was ours until a 4pm soundcheck and I’d arranged to hook up with Steinski for lunch who had texted to say that he was up at Double Dee‘s studio in Midtown. The sun was out and with 90 minutes to kill I decided to do the typical foreigner-in-town thing and walk it, checking out people, art, buildings and day to day stuff en route. I arrived at Douglas’ studio as he was finishing off cutting TV promo spots for ‘Meet The Fockers’ and we chatted for a bit before Stein and I jumped on the subway back downtown to the soundcheck.

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The venue – Santos Party House, owned by Andrew WK – had the most speakers I have ever seen in a club of its size, the stage was mounted on subs, rows lined the ceiling either side of the bar, tiny tweeters hung down in clusters above our heads and there was a huge cabinet at one side of the stage that you could have slept in quite easily. Set up was pretty painless even though we had five different performing configurations: DK and I have 4 decks and 3 mixers, Kentaro: 3 decks and 2 mixers, Koala: 3 decks, 1 mixer, Amon: 2 decks, 1 mixer and Eskmo: his own specific set up.

It was then that I realised my headphones were missing and that I’d probably left them in the radio station the night before in my jet-lagged state, second thing I’d lost in the space of a day! By this time Ghislain Poirier had joined us as well as several of the office staff from the UK, having all been given a lump sum each to go to an international gig of their choice. A huge dinner was planned shortly nearby for the staff and the distributors in NY but first I had another date.

I’d arranged to meet Matt Johnson, of The The, who was incidentally in town with his son on business, for a quick drink and chat which he would record and use on a later monthly podcast. Our cover version of his song ‘Giant’ is ongoing and we both agreed that it should be finished by the end of the year, me reworking my instrumental and him providing vocals in a new style. He was staying 2 blocks up from the party and after meeting we happened to walk by the club with soundcheck still booming out across the street. He took us to a bar he knew from his days living in the city, lamenting the closure of many of his favourite old haunts. Throughout the drinks I was getting ever increasing texts from Steinski: “were being invaded!”, “there are business people everywhere!”, “help!” so after a couple of beers I scooted off the the restaurant to find him and Double Dee literally surrounded by Ninja artists, staff and distributors, very few of whom they knew. The dinner descended into ordering mayhem with dishes arriving no one had ordered, people nicking other’s meals and a bill that seemed way over the odds.

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We crept back to the hotel to get some rest before the night began and I called Noah to see if my headphones were at the station. Whilst waiting for him to call back I got a text message from Nigel Peake (also in town on business): “I’ve just seen a squad of New York’s finest heading into the club, what have you been up to?” Thinking he was joking I texted back, “No idea but it’s going to be pretty loud in there tonight” – famous last words. Next thing my phone rang and I answer thinking it’s Noah calling back with news of my headphones, instead it’s Steve, “Come to the club right now, the police have shut down the party, we have to get the gear out, grab DK too”. Shit! Great start to the tour, credit card and headphones lost and now the first gig shut down before it’s even started. We raced down to the club, luckily there wasn’t too big a crowd yet and we managed to easily get inside without trouble and proceeded to rip down the gear as fast as we could.

Jeff, Steve and the promoter wanted a show of hands to see who was up for trying to do something elsewhere if we could find it and all were in agreement. By the time everything was packed a venue had been found on Bowery and we all jumped in cars and cabs (Egor came to my aid out of the blue) and made our way over to the new venue, Crash Mansion / BLVD to be greeted by a severely grumpy sound man. “These are my monitors, you don’t touch them unless I tell you to”, he stated, like some sort of whiny drill sergeant, fine, we were just glad of somewhere to play, we didn’t want to start messing with his speakers. He produced the most rickety tables I’ve ever seen, one of which he had to screw back together just so it could stand up and we soon realised that we would have to have a rotating pair of set ups, one act playing whilst the next one built their set-up. Just before midnight we were ready and a large crowd had got word and trekked over (the power of Twitter), forming a huge line round the block.

We’d managed to uproot the whole party in less than three hours and restart with only the loss of the video and a seriously compromised soundsystem. Downstairs was opened so that Poirier, Toddla T, Priest and M Sayeed from Anti-Pop could play but it didn’t quite work as either people didn’t realise it was on or were too captivated upstairs. I was flagging badly by this point and fell asleep backstage during Amon’s set (photo evidence by Melissa Phillips), DK and I were on last due to us having the largest set up and the gig finished at 4am. I really didn’t get very many good pictures due to low light and tiredness but the Hi-Fi Cartel site has some 150+ excellent ones. Everyone was relieved but exhausted and we hauled everything back to the hotel with only an hour until lobby call for the flight to San Francisco at 6am.

Read Part 2…

Ninja Tune XX in the US, Part 2: San Francisco

Day 3: Friday – San Francisco – White Walls Gallery, 5000 people and a pillow fight

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Half dead with jet lag and exhaustion we pile into the van for the airport, none have eaten but suddenly Jeff appears with a big bag. “I’ve got pie!” he exclaims and we remember that Melissa Phillips (aka Aeluv from the Ninja forum), who had been taking photos the night before, is an expert baker and had bought a couple of large apple pies with her. Saved from starvation, thanks Melissa. The flight to SF was six hours so we finally got a bit of sleep until we touched down and wound the clock back another three hours to west coast time. We had a short window until sound check and I’d done some homework before I left; Augustine Kofie was having a show at the White Walls Gallery ten blocks from our hotel and I really wanted to see it ‘in the flesh’ so to speak.

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It was well worth the effort, Kofie’s work is a masterclass in collage, construction and colour balance, each piece has as much woodworking in it as painting. He uses found objects, textures and images alongside a geometric constructivist style that springs, somewhere along the way, from graffiti, framing some of the pieces with printed wooden rulers that he finds on his travels. One corner of the gallery was a recreation of a hypothetical Kofie workspace, complete with table, lamp and cutting mat, the shelves piled with rusted spray cans, clipboards and storage boxes that he had customised. On the back wall he’d painted one of his signature style pieces, skewed circles and tightly controlled detail, some of his work reminds me of Syd Mead‘s organic technology designs.

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Soundcheck saw a huge line up of decks with Amon, Kentaro, Koala, DK and I all fitting across the stage for this one. Anticipation was high as this gig was a free party, paid for by Converse who had sponsored the tour. There had been over 6000 applications for tickets and, even though the club had 4 rooms, it was doubtful that everyone would get in (5000 ended up through the door apparently). I’d hoped to meet up with Michael Bartalos – the creator of the original Ninja logo – at Kofie’s show but he couldn’t make it, luckily he made the gig and appeared at the DJ booth 5 minutes before we were due to play. It was great to finally meet the man who had been the catalyst for my own versions and fitting that it was the 20th anniversary that had marked the occasion.

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The show was a great success, marked by the introduction of a pillow fight interlude in Kid Koala’s set where he took two pillows from the hotel and asked for volunteers from the audience. Two had to have a pillow fight, holding one arm behind their back whilst a third was asked to operate a small sampler onstage filled with foley sounds á la Loony Tunes cartoons to soundtrack the fight. This was a great success and rendered all the more bizarre because Eric was playing a version of ‘In The Mood’ called ‘Classical Cluck’ where the song is recreated by clucking and squawks. Upstairs after our set Jeff’s wife had arrived with their new baby who was sound asleep even though the bass from Amon Tobin’s set downstairs was making cups literally jump off tables nearby. SF Weekly has a nice review and a few pictures too.

Read part 3…

Ninja Tune XX in the US, Part 3: Los Angeles

Day 4: Saturday – LA – Echo/Echoplex

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Lobby call was a slightly kinder 10am this time and we were starting to acclimatise  to the time zone now. We were staying at the Standard downtown, which had a ping pong table and organ in the lobby as well as a curtain print in the room that matched the design on the walls. The shower wall was also clear glass so everything was on display if you were sharing rooms. Steve lucked out when he was given a huge top floor suite which included a bath that could hold six and a large, spongy foot in the middle of the floor(!). The show was at Echo/Echoplex, a two room venue in Echo Park, with Eskmo, special guest Cut Chemist, Toddla T, Amon and Kentaro downstairs whilst Jeff, Thavius Beck, Koala and DK and I had the smaller upstairs room. We all went to dinner nearby and were joined by Money Mark, publicist Trevor and several of the UK office staff who had chosen LA as their destination of choice. We got back to see the end of Cut’s set which was amazing, using one turntable and a foot pedal to loop and scratch African records over each other as with his Sound of the Police release. Plenty of people had come in costume as it was Halloween weekend including a taco, cavemen, telly tubbies, pimps and pnutz from the Ninja forum dressed as a Technics turntable, complete with 7″ hair accessory and Ninja record label on the deck. Highlight of the night was Koala’s crossfader breaking mid set and him seamlessly changing it live onstage whilst using the pillow fight routine to cover himself. DK and I had a great set and Jim Mahfood turned up with his posse and sweated his guts out dancing. Some great pictures of both players and costumes plus a review are here at Chinashop. We all ended up back in Steve’s suite for an after party but I was flagging badly and retired to bed early.

Day 5: Sunday – LA – Halloween, a visit to Augustine Kofie’s and the Boo-Over

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I was woken at midday by the phone, it was Augustine Kofie calling to see what my plans were so I packed, left all but my backpack at the hotel and headed over to his house. We’d agreed to meet up as I was picking up a piece of his I’d bought called ‘Constructive’, a gorgeous 12″ x 12″ collage which seemed tiny in comparison to the bigger pieces I’d seen at the gallery in San Francisco. His home looked similar to the constructions he’d built in the gallery too, neatly ordered stacks of paintings, paper, rulers, wooden boxes and other ephemera he’d picked up on his travels. We headed out to get some lunch and then on to a fancy dress store as I had to pick up a costume for the party I was secretly doing that afternoon – the last ever Do-Ever at Cranes in Hollywood, renamed the Boo-Over for the night, costume mandatory. I was at a loss for what to go in but after trying on several masks Kofie spotted the pizza slice costume which was a no-brainer for a DJ Food outfit.

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When we arrived at the spot, the line of costumed freaks was already down to the bottom of the block and it was only 4pm. There were some excellent choices too, Wolverine, plenty of Darth Vaders, a KanYe West bear, Ray Charles and a vampire Queen of the Damned with very realistic fangs who wanted to bite me all the time. I met up with Aloe Blacc and Jamie Strong who run the night in the back courtyard at the tiny venue (capacity about 250 although they must have fitted more in). I had the second set as I had to leave early to catch a plane at 10.30pm and got the party started nicely with some Halloween tunes. Later on Koala played and DESTROYED the place, his rock-heavy set going down a treat. Women were losing it big time in front of him, screaming, making heart signs, jogging the decks and pulling the ears on his bear suit.
(Note: some of these pictures were found online after the event, contact me if you have a problem or want credits added, most that weren’t by me are by RFeezy)

Kid Koala destroys the Boo-Over (web)

Jim Mahfood turned up again with Jane Dope in her Beat Bee costume, Money Mark was back, Kentaro and brother Kotaro arrived in pimp gear and as I was saying goodbye to Jamie he introduced me to Madlib who was standing next to us in a Friday 13th/Jason hockey mask. He mimed a friendly punch to my stomach and shook hands, saying he used to sample DJ Food way back when, the next thing I knew he was pulling me into a group photo of him and his friends. As I left to grab a cab to the airport I noticed the flashing lights of a police car outside and later found out six of them had come and shut the party down early. Seems like the tour began and ended with cops shutting down parties. I sped to the airport on a cloud it seemed, what a completely bizarre few days, meeting and playing with people from all over, some of them my peers, jumping from city to city in a Ninja XX shaped bubble. All so far removed from my regular life back in London and only two days until I flew on to Japan for more of the same…

Here are a couple of videos I found online after the event as well as one of my own
(from the DJ booth), easily one of my favourite gigs this year.

Augustine Kofie at White Walls Gallery

Really looking forward to checking this out when I’m in San Francisco next week, thanks to Remi the Rough for pointing it out.

A short time lapse documenting the pre-production and set up of my first solo art show in San Francisco, California at White Walls Gallery. All documented days before the public opening on October 9, 2010. Includes documentation of both a mural as well as the large triangular found object installation including drafting table.

Keepdrafting post here:

Music: Tail end of S. Maharba‘s ‘Organs’ mixing into 4x4Tracktor‘s ‘Organs Revised’ [Take Your Pleasure Seriously]. An excerpt from Kofie’s soundtrack for the show, available free to listen/download here:

Posted in Art, Design, Event. | 1 Comment |

Ninja Tune XX USA shows final line ups

So here are the final details of the up coming shows in the States, looking forward to these but not the lack of sleep I’m going to have doing them. The San Francisco show is RSVP only, check the details at the bottom of the flyer for entry. Also I’ll be guesting on Noah Uman’s show on WFMU in New York from midnight 27th/28th Oct. Don’t know what I’ll be playing or saying but it will probably involve Hip Hop somewhere in there.

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Posted in Event, Gigs, Ninja Tune. | No Comments |