I Love Acid Blech set

I played a special Blech set at I Love Acid on Saturday at Ginglik, under Shepherd’s Bush Green. It was an amalgam of the two mixes I did for Warp records’ 20th anniversary that you can hear on my Soundcloud page.

Photographer Martin LeSanto-Smith took some excellent photos with a promo Aphex mask I took down, one of my favourite nights out in London, even though the tube had shut down that weekend.

AFX collage

AFX Kev 650warp backAll photographs are property of and copyright to Martin LeSanto-Smith and not to be reproduced without permission.All Rights Reserved. Contact:- Tel: 07779 234104 or email:- toastyoneuk[at]o2.co.uk

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Warp 20 (London)

Warp 20

Had great fun last night at the Coronet for Warp’s 20th birthday bash. Nice to see lots of old faces (and T shirts) and be part of the label’s celebrations considering I’m not actually signed to them. The Blech 20 set seemed to go down well even though I’d had little time to prepare anything but I’ll be doing a proper recording this week which will pop up somewhere in time for Xmas.

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Strictly in Kiev and the DJ’s dilemma

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Sorry for the atrocious pun in the title but if I didn’t do it then someone else would have. I was in Kiev over the weekend and was overwhelmed by the sheer enthusiasm of the crowd there. As soon as I walked into the club I was asked for my signature including someone who had printed out the cover of the last EP on a sheet of paper for me to sign. The Ukrainians aren’t backwards in coming forward and I was passed many notes during my set as well as being asked to play tracks so I thought I’d show a few of them here.

I’ve been collecting these notes for years and plan to show more of them on here at some stage, they deserve their own little section really as some of them are brilliant. These show the different expectations of the crowd and also what they expect of ‘DJ Food’ – something I’m mindful of but which can change depending on territory and my mood. For instance, I don’t play much DJ Food material in my DJ sets, something I’ve been aware of for years and that will be rectified in 2010. But first on to the messages, the first one I got was:

IDM

Interesting take on what DJ Food is, I have nothing against IDM but I don’t play much of the genre unless the author is literally referring to it as Intelligent Dance Music – which could mean a number of things to many people. I started my set with some no-brainer breaks and beats to get things going without being too clever before I settled into a groove so I can take that one on the chin.

Next I got this from a girl who looked very exasperated when I told her ‘no’:

Kal

As much as I love the record (and I know others do) most of it just isn’t dancefloor material and the couple of tracks that are don’t have the sort of production that can compete with current music. I’m going to remix a couple of bits and beef up the production for my sets at some point though but I’ve played stuff before and it’s home listening headphone music for the most part. Tricky 3/4, 6/8 and 7/8 time signatures, spoken word and 80 bpm or lower tempos aren’t the kind of thing to set clubs on fire. I’ve always been a DJ before I’ve been a producer, subscribing to the Bambaataa, Flash, Double Dee & Steinski and Coldcut schools of DJing. This means mixing musical styles as well as beats, tempos and trying to add a twist of humour occasionally into the proceedings.

The more I play east of Europe I find that part of the audience is still expecting the DJ Food and Ninja sound of old in my sets -ie Trip Hop, breaks, Hip Hop and jazz-based sampled music. This forms a very small part of my sets at the moment as little of anything that falls into this category excites me and the bits that do are not always dancefloor friendly. I played very little electronic stuff in this set but maybe I should have tested the waters a bit more. Shortly after that I got this:

Hip hop

I really appreciate that people add please on the end, it really makes a world of difference. I got this just as I’d gone into drum and bass so I wasn’t about to about-face and revert to something else as jumping all over the place stylistically ruins the groove and pace of the night. So, the drum and bass went down pretty well with a portion of the crowd, especially with the obvious classics. Shortly after I finished with the d n b and the same guy pleaded with me again for Hip Hop, I got this note from him:

DnB

Well, he went home happy in the end but I suppose it looks like I’m not really playing what people expect! I chatted to several people after the set, who were all very complimentary, before heading off to the hotel for the night. The next day I had the opportunity to look around the city a little with my host Bogdan before heading off to Budapest. The bridge railings with all the padlocks and messages is a place lovers go to ‘secure’ their love for one another although apparently there have been several people jumping to their deaths as well! The house with the strange sculptures on the roof is the Secretary to the President’s house, originally built by an architect years before the revolution on land it was thought was un-buildable on.

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Happy Halloween

pumpkinzI know it’s a bit late but I wanted to share these two pumpkins I carved for the kids’ party.

Got back from Bristol Solid Steel where DK and I played with Hexstatic, King Cannibal, DJ Cheeba and Moneyshot as well as D.O.P. of course. The others all rocked it but we fell foul of some technical problems and just plain sloppy mixing in the middle of the set. We’d spent a week making up quite a complex video piece that we’d never tried before and it was a seat of our pants execution.

Saturday night was the Big Chill House alongside Cheebs again (who rocked it amazingly both nights) and Altern8 who sounded excellent up until I left. The city was full of freaks and ghouls, zombies being the big favourite it seems.

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Bestival

Took the bus, train, cab, ferry and bus down to Bestival on Saturday morning, left at 11am, was on site by 3.30. The weather was fantastic and one of the first things I saw on arrival was Lily Allen backstage, looking stunning in an open-backed  Barbarella-esque outfit with glitter across her eyes. She looked like the kind of girl the word ‘minx’ was created for. I stopped dribbling and got my wristband.

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The theme this year was outer space and this is one festival that exists for fancy dress. Every, and I mean every, permutation of space character, hero or villain, minor or major was represented. From the usual Darth’s, Stormtroopers, Boba’s, Leia’s and even a Millenium Falcon to Daleks, Thunderbirds, Trekkies and Transformers. People had gone to town and there was enough silver and baking foil to make a thousand spaceships. Amongst the less obvious characters were the Yip Yip aliens from Sesame Street, the Black Oblisk and Hal from 2001, the 3-eyed aliens from Toy Story, Clangers aplenty and quite a few Flash Gordon’s (the 80’s version though*).

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I was playing in the Bollywood tent, sandwiched between Ross Allen and Appleblim. When I arrived Ross has a posse of Stormtroopers getting down but the crowd were a difficult one and it was mid afternoon with the sun blazing outside. I went for a walk and immediately got pushed aside as a parade of costumed space cadets marched through the site. My favourties were a guy and his girlfriend dressed as a Scout Walker and Princess Leia respectively, some girls on amazing space bikes in the parade and a couple dressed as Roland TB-303’s made from foam – definitely the most original and creative I saw.

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Back in the tent for my set I decided to throw the usual one out the window and start with some funky bits before quickly winding into some stompy 4/4 electro/techno. Then into dubstep and breaks and finally a touch of drum n bass for the last 20 minutes. After a slow start with people standing and watching it worked a treat and I was surprised to see Diplo pop his head around the booth to say hello at one point.

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After a quick drink and chat with Ross it was back on the bus, ferry, cab, train and bus to London, arriving home at midnight. I’m currently in the middle of Bill Drummond’s book ’17’ which is gripping me with his mania like all his books do. I can relate to some of what he says – the main jist of the book is that music has run  it’s course – but that’s a blog for another day.

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*I have a particular affection for this version of Flash Gordon, my dad was bought up on the original and I was 10 when they did the remake so he took me to see it and I loved it. The soundtrack (on cassette) was the first album I ever bought with my own money, definitely seduced by the film connection and the great logo on the cover rather than any love of Queen. I liked some of their music but could only get into the faster guitar-driven tracks rather than the incidental, slow-paced stuff, although I’ve come to appreciate these over time.

What I also liked was that there was loads of dialogue from the film mixed into the music and the record ran in sequence with the events in the film. Freddie Mercury was sporting a Flash T-shirt on the inside cover and I wanted one so badly for years but those sort of merchandise spin-offs were the things of promo only back in those days. Years later I watched it round a mate’s house with the sound down and some terrible Mike Oldfield album as the soundtrack whilst coming down off acid. At one point some bagpipes kicked in and it ruined the whole thing, I had to get him to change the record.

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Brest fest

soundcheckDK and I just returned from the Astropolis festival in Brest, France – what a great festival! Located in the grounds of what looked like and old stately home with chapel it housed several tents and a smart selection of stalls with the grounds dressed up to add spice to the experience. This is the first time I’ve ever seen a ‘sex stall’ at a festival too – funny hat?, check, joss sticks?, check, herbal concoctions? check, dildo?, check. Maybe some people use them as glow sticks?

groundsmoules-frites

Anyway, we were looked after by the lovely Pauline, had a great bowl of Moules et Frites in a nearby restaurant and did a live interview for Radio Nova who should have broadcast some of the set too. The set was put back a bit as the Scratch Perverts didn’t make it (not sure why) so we had a better slot and we smashed it even if I say so myself. People were so out of it a few tried to climb up the tent pole in the middle of the tent, one guy making it to the top, maybe 30 feet up! You can just see one guy hanging on here, he’s more of a silhouette unfortunately because the camera on my phone is shite.

pole-climberpaulinered-ballsteasmaind

Saw Roni Size, Erol Alkan and Kid 606 at the airport on the way back who all commented favourably on our video set which was nice. Got a week of tying up loose ends and researching the Ninja book ahead, going into the warehouse to take some pictures tomorrow and I’ve been going through the archive to find stuff so more design section updates soon.

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Rain Stops Play (again)

nice-t-shirtnice-hi-hotelBack on the road again, suffering from a cold and I can think of worse places to go than the South of France. First off was Nice where I was playing at the Cross Over festival at Le Grand Cafe Des Arts next to the museum of Contemporary Art. 2 Many DJs, Miss Kitten and Brian Auger had already played on previous days and apparently Auger was at my gig later that night with his son. My brief stay was made all the more pleasant by the press officer Virginie and her friend Ollie who interviewed me for his webzine and took me sight seeing the next day. He picked me up at the Hi Hotel – a ‘concept hotel’ – which means it looks great and very ‘designer’ but sometimes form defeats function.

riviera-coastline

We went down to the Riviera on his scooter, hung out with his cousin at the beach, met Virginie for coffee and picked from the mind-boggling selection of ice creams in one of the squares. This is the first time I’ve ever seen rhubarb, beer, pesto, sun-dried tomato, coca cola and avocado ice cream flavours. Then it was off to Marseille on the TGV which is heaven – big seats that recline, leg room aplenty and a power point for the laptop. I was met by Alexandre at the station and found out that the gig was actually at a small bar terrace on the beach with food and an amazing sunset as we arrived.

marseille-coastlinemarseille-sunset

The atmosphere was vastly different to the usual club-based gigs I do as most people were seated and quietly enjoying an evening of socialising with a background soundtrack of classic funk and hip hop. There wouldn’t be much call for drum n bass or dubstep tonight which was refreshing as I got a chance to play a lot of downtempo things I hadn’t spun in ages. Over two and a half hours I slowly sped things up and the crowd got to their feet, pushed tables and chairs aside and were crammed into the corner space near the decks by the time the music got to the 120 bpm mark. The party was a great success with one particularly rabid Solid Steel fan hollering his head off mercilessly by the end and many pleading for it to continue after I’d been told it was time for the last song. The next day, before I departed for Montpelier and the Electromind festival, Alexandre took me up to the church on the hill high above Marseille to see the view over his city. It was breathtaking to say the least and a nice diversion before another train ride.

marseille-viewmarseille-churchmarseille-hilltop-view

Cut to midnight – as I type I’m supposed to be finishing up my set and handing over to Hexstatic on the Amazon stage but am actually back in the hotel, damp and demoralised. Earlier in the day, whilst soundchecking there were some high winds which had half unlatched the video screen on stage and some ominous clouds were gathering despite the baking hot sun. Around 10pm the first spatterings of rain started as I watched Afrika Bambaataa pay homage to Michael Jackson on the main stage. I had met his tour manager earlier by chance and been surprised when he said that Bam wanted to ask me about a record and could we meet up later? What? Me? A white boy from Surrey? Bambaataa is one of my original DJ inspirations – alongside Flash and D St. – and the antithesis of what Hip Hop DJing originally meant. His ethos of playing the good parts of all music together forms the foundation of how I play and have always played. I wish I could post a picture of us backstage with Bam throwing a Zulu Nation sign next to my pasty features but I was actually too nervous to turn up and introduce myself. Plus there was the rain.

bam-on-stage

I convinced myself that I really shouldn’t be ligging backstage when I had less than half an hour to get set up and the light drizzle was making me nervous. Using my laptop and mixer onstage, I really didn’t want them getting wet and there was no cover provided as they hadn’t expected rain, being that this was summer in the South of France. When I got to the stage there were technicians running about throwing tarpaulins over the DJ’s equipment and making mini makeshift tents onstage to house computers and decks. Mine had a cover thrown over them but not one I could have DJed with so I set about trying to construct something that would at least shelter the laptop, mixer and turntables. It was a thankless task as the rain got harder and the mess of wires onstage prevented anything easily standing upright to support a canopy. The tarpaulins were leaking here and there and pools of water were forming as we tried in vain to erect something that would keep the hardware dry. As the other DJs finished a CD was put on whilst we tried to switch everything round to accommodate my gear but it was hopeless and, fearing a waterlogged computer, mixer or even electrocution, I made my escape to shelter without played a note.

The crowd, amazingly, stayed put and chanted, sung and booed, mainly because there was music playing and for them it was the beginning of a long night (the festival was supposed to go on until 6am). Robin from Hexstatic turned up, laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation, and we watched from the under the canopy the VJs had had the foresight to erect backstage. The rain got worse, the crowd got even rowdier and the technicians tried to cover as much as possible before word came through that the organisers had made a decision to stop the festival.  By now everything was so waterlogged, it was too dangerous. I went to rescue my mixer, which was still onstage, albeit under cover but when I pulled it free water trickled out of one corner!

We trudged back to the main site office noticing that the crowd was getting increasingly rowdy. A large pack had clustered around the main bar in the middle of the site and were beating on anything they could find, making a frustrated cacophony of metallic sound – later we heard that they smashed it up. We waited anxiously with the Ed Banger crew for a ride back to the hotel as the sounds of the crowd got steadily more unnerving and people tried to get through fences to the backstage areas. Finally a ride turned up out of the confusion and we sped off, relieved that we hadn’t got caught up in anything but sorry for the promoters who had to sort out several thousand people geared up for the night.

For anyone reading who was there, I’m sorry that it ended as it did and I’ve never refused to play in this kind of situation before but it really was an accident waiting to happen and I’d rather not play a set with the risk of electrocution. I understand the festival promoters thinking that a storm was unlikely being the location but there were no provisions made for such an event and, at an open air festival, that is a big oversight. I’m just hoping my mixer still works when I turn it on next…

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In An English Country Garden

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Arriving at the Secret Garden Party festival is akin to having the air you breath spiked with LSD. I know people dress up for festivals but you’re in the minority if you dress normally at this one and you can forget fairy wings or silly jester hats, this is the really deal. I saw devils with triple jointed legs, cows, bananas, clowns, Fagin children and an all-black stormtrooper. Facepaint and wellies were almost de rigueur as were corsetry, stockings, false eyelashes and thongs – and that applies to both male and female. I saw one well proportioned lady in her late forties in a green dress, boobs out save for two well positioned leaves on the nipples, later on a band played a high speed acoustic set whilst suspended from branches of a tree and a guy dressed as an aristocrat rapper at high speed over 30’s music mixed with drum n bass. If the Secret Garden Party is anything it’s a freak magnet.

Its location is reputedly the back garden of some lord’s estate and what a garden he has. The main focus is a small lake on which the site centers but around this are all sorts of hills, dales and wooded areas, some connected by bridges over streams, that make it a trip to explore. It took me nearly 40 minutes to even find the tent DK and I were playing in as I was pointed in 3 different directions by various security staff or voluntary workers who didn’t have site maps or even a basic knowledge of how to use the radio they had been provided. It quickly became apparent that few people had any idea of what was going on after a bizarre encounter in the car park with an elderly ‘warden’ who couldn’t even remember the name of our tent 5 seconds after we’d told her let alone summon anyone on her radio to give directions. It didn’t help that the Remix vs Ninja Tune tent we were sharing with Eddy Temple-Morris and guests was only signposted as ‘BAR’ – something we tried in vain to rectify with little success all day.

sgp-1

To further compound matters, DK and I had been booked separately and had our individual technical riders supplied rather than our combined set up (4 decks, rather than 2) so they only had two turntables in the tent – and no video screens…  I’m not sure how we were supposed to do a video set without video screens and it turns out we were on when it was still light so that went out the window pretty sharpish. But this is festivals – you have to be adaptable. Anyone who has ever played one will know this, bands run late, or end early, or get squeezed on to the bill, or don’t even turn up. Equipment doesn’t work, or there’s the wrong equipment, or there’s no equipment at all. Somehow the great staff behind the scenes all make it work but it’s never straightforward, everyone needs something different and no one has probably looked at the technical rider until an hour before you arrive. Here’s a top tip for all DJs playing at festivals or in any kind of situation involving DJs, performers and live bands simultaneously – make friends with the sound engineer as soon as you arrive. He is the one person who can and will make you sound good and he is the most important person to you next to the lighting / VJ person, more important than the promoter, the hospitality or the person who will ultimately pay you. He (and it is nearly always a he) will save your neck if something goes wrong and it invariably will.

For some reason the running times as the Secret Garden were back to back which means they had allowed no down time between sets for any technical changeover. This is a little difficult to do when one artist is using an Allen & Heath mixer with CDJs only to be followed by another using Ableton, an MPC and assorted effects to then be followed by another using 4 decks, 2 mixers and so on. To perfect a seamless changeover you ideally need two tables in this situation, one that is being used and one off to the side to set up the next artist on that can then be wheeled on and plugged in in seconds rather than minutes. The SGP did not have this so we set up on the side of the main table whilst the band before played (was it Evil 9? I’m ashamed that I didn’t know). Trying my best not to disturb them as well as not unplug anything from the tangle of wires that had formed behind the mixer I managed to plug in one deck and a mixer to lead off after their set so as not to lose the considerable crowd they’d acquired. Whilst they packed down and made way for DK to set up I played some bass heavy dubstep before he took over and I could reposition my set up alongside him rather than play in profile to the crowd.

After this we were off, having just over an hour to do our thing so we flung everything we could into the mix and it was rocking. Another thing about playing at festivals – the change-over – be respectful of the artist you are changing over from. They are having their moment, it’s not all about you, give them a nice amount of space when they finish, don’t steam in with your set, let them get some applause (even applaud yourself maybe). Don’t knock their equipment whilst they’re playing as the guy after us did as we were playing some full on drum n bass, sending the needle jumping rudely to the end of the track from full flow. Luckily I was mixing in the next track and it carried the groove on and dropped back in nicely. Lastly always thank the sound man before you leave and the lighting guy if you can find him or her as their work goes largely unacknowledged and they make it all work ultimately.

I wouldn’t say the Secret Garden Party was unorganised but it was a little ramshackle, which, I suppose, is probably part of it’s charm too. It’s definitely a festival that is probably a hell of a trip if you’re inebriated too and, being sober the whole time, it took a while to aclimatise. It’s a shame we couldn’t stop for the King Cannibal silent disco, the lasers on the floating castle in the middle of the lake and Hexstatic without video screens but we had to hit the road. DK had bought his family and it was well past DK junior’s bedtime so we sped off and arrived back at Knott’s Landing just after midnight. In case you didn’t know (well, more for your information), staying at DK’s residence is second only to a night in a 5 star hotel. You get your own bedroom, bathroom, free wi-fi, homemade bread and a choice of fine wines and cheeses for breakfast whilst basking in the glory of their kitchen extension. This 8th Wonder of Marlow is a 180 degree glass wall that opens out onto the exquisitely manicured garden complete with water feature, colour co-ordinated wall and fauna that wouldn’t seem out of place in an episode of Grand Designs. In the words of Kevin McCloud, “IT’S A TRIUMPH!”.

truck-hospitalityWe spent some of the day working on a track for my next record before setting off for the Truck festival near Oxford, so called because the original stage was the back of a truck many years ago. They’ve progressed beyond that now although the backstage catering left a bit to be desired and it was a very different bill to the SGP. This was more indie, rock and folk orientated with a larger age range and a high count of people who brought their own seats to watch the bands on the main stage. Almost as soon as we arrived we bumped into Vez, ex-Ninja press legend from way back and informed her that there had been a request for a centrefold pull-out of her in the Ninja Tune book being published next year much to her amusement.

The Truck fest is a little more organised than than SGP in that they had a video screen and allotted a 10 minute turnaround time for us to set up after the band before us! It turned out the it took ten minutes for the band to pack down before we could even get the table onstage, then a further 5 minutes to set the table up. At 8.25pm we were ready and we rocked it in the Barn, even if I say so myself.

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Everyone was very eager and helpful and I think we took them a little by surprise with the drum n bass at the end but we had a great time and were back at chez DK before midnight due to him living about an hour away. Not bad for a weekend; two UK festivals, loads of socialising and a track for my next EP nearly finished – I’m writing this on the way back to London where I’m spending Sunday with the family, then it’s more work on the EP before France for three days at the end of the week.

P.S.
I arrived home to a nice package from Jim Thirlwell – a new Foetus compilation called ‘Limb’, of old audio experiments from 80-83 coupled with a DVD documentary about his career as well as his music to the cartoon The Venture brothers. This guy is a genius and it seems the world is finally taking notice after nearly 30 years.

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Living The Dream

Lots of things going on at the moment:

DK & DJ Food at the ICA, London

DK and I played the Ninja night at the ICA last Friday with Grasscut, Juice Aleem, Daedelus and King Cannibal, it was great to see so many familiar faces, including most of the Ninja staff, thanks for coming down. Saturday was headlining one of the tents at the Lounge On The Farm festival in Canterbury alongside Tom Middleton, Roots Manuva, The Dub Pistols and Mr Scruff.

Very busy with the next EP, a little behind but making progress, mixing what I have the first week of August.

Still waiting on a vocal from one of my musical heroes – very exciting and scary at the same time.

Natural Self is going to do a version of ‘The Illectrik Hoax’ in a very different style apparently.

Emailing Henry Flint about a possible future cover image.

Going through the archives for this site and another project.

Still got to send the King Cannibal CD off the the printer.

need more hours in the day or less sleep…

Grace Jones, DK & DJ Food at the ICA, London

(photos © Martin LeSanto-Smith 2009)

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It’s been a hectic week…

Not only did I have 3 artwork deadlines to finish by Friday, 2 gigs at the weekend and the usual family responsibilities but no sooner had one of my sons got over a bout of chicken pox than the other one caught it. Cue more sleepness nights, creams, medicines, doctors and eventually a visit to A&E and an eye doctor as the pox had clustered around his eyes and we feared infection. It turns out he is now out of the woods and is thrilled with his new Prowl Transformer toy (the Ninja Autobot no less).

KC_Promo_cropThe artwork deadlines were for promos for the new King Cannibal album and single on Ninja and The Herbaliser‘s Session 1 & 2 release on !K7 and I definitely bit off a bit more than I could chew with King Cannibal (no pun intended). The initial image idea had been to create a mass of intertwined bodies, all covered in latex, gas masks, bondage gear and the like (made for some interesting ‘research’). Whilst putting all this together I came to the conclusion that this needed something more and sitting at the table casually talking with my wife about seemingly unrelated events, I got a vision and knew how I could make the image better. Two outer rings of machines and photos of the earth from above would encircle the latex bodies like a darker, industrial take on Mati Klarwien‘s painting ‘A Grain of Sand’.

mati-grain-of-sand--1965I find I get a lot of ideas doing very mundane things (not that sitting talking to the missus is mundane you understand),  – making the tea, tidying up, going to the toilet – anything but sitting in front of a sketchbook or computer. I’ve not looked into it but there must be some subconscious brain activity churning around in the background whilst you take a break, your work is pushed to the background whilst you are forced to concentrate on a different matter at hand. Whilst it’s still there it can be seen in a new light and connections are made which are not immediately obvious when solely concentrating on the subject. I get similar things when conversing with other like-minded people on projects, there seems to be cerebral gameplay with some where the mind goes into a sort of idea-jamming one-upmanship. Thoughts get tossed around, built upon and discarded in quick succession and ideas you would never have had on your own are suddenly the basis for your next project.

But I digress, now that this vision had manifest itself in my mind the only thing to do was go back to the drawing board and start adding to the artwork at hand. I often find this happening, something is adequate but a flash of inspiration can make it better or even brilliant and I am helpless to ignore it and go for the easy option. A week later and I’m sitting at the computer at 3am, literally falling asleep at the mouse, with a 1.4GB image file comprised of 180 layers and the machine is seriously struggling to do what I’m asking it. I’m pretty happy with the end result, even though it’s still not quite finished, and you can see a portion of the image on the front cover of the first single from the new album ‘Let The Night Roar’Colder Still. Or it would have been Colder Still had Ninja not had a change of mind after I had submitted the artwork and changed it to So…Embrace The Minimum – gahhhh!

ZENCDS248P poshetteAnyway, all this at least gave me time to change little details on it whilst I got on with finishing The Herbaliser‘s artwork for Sessions 1 & 2. If you’re not familiar with the Session 1 album there is good reason as it was recorded nearly 10 years ago and not released on Ninja Tune but on the Herbs’ own Dept H which was distributed by the now defunct Beechwood Music. This was a live album of various cuts from their first three long players in the form they’d been playing as a full touring band and was fairly limited at the time, going on to command high prices. Now the band have recorded a follow up with material from the last three albums and !K7 are reissuing the first volume in a special double CD pack as well as the regular, singular Session 2.
Herbs_session_demos

Session 1 CD Disc on bodyHerbs_Session1&2Having done all their artwork since the first album with the exception of Session 1 and the last LP ‘Same As It Never Was’ (other work commitments) I was delighted to go back and fill a space in the catalogue. I completely redesigned the first volume and paired it with a new look for the second from an initial idea by Ollie Teeba – a simple but classic pair of sleeves focusing on large 1 and 2 numerals containing photos from various recording sessions. I ran with this and produced an array of designs in a kind of library music style with geometric number forms, some of which feature inside the booklets now as there were too many to use. I’ll post some soon in the gallery section. This all had to be finished by Friday and I got a mail to say that this was also the last day I could submit a digital booklet for my new EP release to iTunes – another thing to add to the list!

Well I got it in on time and headed off to Bristol with DK for the first night of Solid Steel‘s new residency with D.O.P. at the Thekla. The night was great with new Solid Steel recruit Cheeba playing to his home crowd and us doing the 4 deck video turntablism set followed by Eddy Temple-Morris. Saturday was off to Helsinki to play alongside Mark De Clive-Lowe and the lovely Alice Russell‘s live band at the Funky Elephant festival. I love Finnish design and there was time to shop at Marimeko and Iittala and grab some Moonmin bits for the kids. Check out the shop sign also – in case it’s not so clear it says ‘Ninja – for men’. This week will be tying up loose artwork and website ends before properly getting my head down on the next EP which is in various stages of completion…

Moonmin trollNinja - for Men
Alice Russell band on stage

Posted in Design, Gigs. | 2 Comments |

Scratching the Surface / Graffest / TV Stole My Soul

DavidValladeScratchingIt’s been a manic week, one my best friends, David Vallade, had the opening of his exhibition at Rat Records in Camberwell, South London and I spent the best part of Wednesday and Thursday helping him hang the work whilst trying not to rifle through the racks. The opening was a great success and loads of old friends showed up including PC, Chantal Passamonte (Mira Calix) Ollie Teeba and various old college mates. I also found out that the giant poster of Funki Porcini’s Fast Asleep cover that they have hanging behind the counter is the actual one from behind the decks in the film Shaun of the Dead – small world. The occasion was only slightly marred by the fact that one of my kids caught chicken pox earlier in the week so the whole family couldn’t be there, I was looking forward to taking the boys to their first record shop…

Graffest_logoGraffest_cranes2That was Thursday night, Friday I was off to Gdansk in Poland to play at the Graffest festival alongside Jamie Vex’d, Mike Slott, Bullion and others. The event was held in a decrepit shipyard where giant industrial cranes towered overhead like mechanical insects and half the buildings seemed to abandoned wrecks. Artists like Os Gemeos, Blu and Zedz were present, painting and displaying sculptures both inside and out. Blu had been and gone, apparently shooting 20 frames worth for a new film he’s working on, and by the time I arrived Zedz was already painting over his work whilst men welded a boats hull into place nearby.

Graffest_zedzGraffest_cranesA lot of the work was still very much in progress and I got to wander about the indoor exhibition space and see several pieces unfinished including a giant mock up Cadillac complete with artist asleep in the back seat.

Graffest_car2Graffest_car1If truth be told I was actually more in awe of the shipyard and took a great many snaps of various decaying exteriors and overhead pipes and scaffold work. There’s something quite beautiful about the elements reclaiming their place, paint blistering off old wooden doors, rusting metal and decaying tiles.

Graffest_powerGraffest_pipesThe outside wall of the place was also amazing, holding a good 20 to 30 pieces about the shipyard, all realised in giant stencil form, including the typography.

Graffest_wordsGraffest_wallGraffest_stencilSaturday was a return to the UK for a gig in Reading and Mike Slott and I had to evacuate the airport cafe after I spotted a kid’s bag left under a table. Turns out it was an innocent mistake and the mum came rushing up to get it but not before armed police had waved everyone away. The Reading gig looked like it was going to be a bit duff as I had problems with the video signal coming out all green which we traced back to the adaptor I was using finally.

The beginning of the set was marred by the failure of my 3rd track to load, something I can only put down to the file being corrupt possibly because it loaded the night before and ever other track was fine. Pretty galling to hear your track run out into silence as an expectant crowd gathers to hear and watch the beginning of your set as you struggle to work out what the problem is. Thanks to the quick intervention of Scott, the promoter, who put on some fill in music while I rebooted I quickly found the problem and the rest of the set went without any trouble, in fact it went quite well considering I’d been told it was an electro indie crowd who didn’t dance to drum n bass.

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If I knew you were coming I’d have baked a cake…

Special delivery at Twisted Pepper…and they did. I just played my first AV set in Ireland at Twisted Pepper in Dublin and local DJ Kormac and crew organised a special DJ Food cake for me. Props to him as he played a great set and passed on a mix for a forthcoming Solid Steel show. Also thanks to Mark Cantwell of ItIsOn, who is nearing completion on his ongoing Raiding the 20th Century, film for the photos.

It’s been an exhilarating and frustrating couple of weeks recently. I’d been having mysterious computer problems, random freezes, beach balls of doom and general start up problems with my main Mac Pro machine. I just managed to finish the artwork to my EP when it really went into meltdown and I spent days trying to find the source of the problem. Finally a random forum post pointed to a faulty batch of video cards shipped with my generation of Macs. Apple – to give them credit – agreed to replace the card without question or cost and the machine was shipped off to the nearest workshop for a week.

At the same time I got the proofs back to much ooh-ing and aaah-ing (see last post) and the mythical DJ Food website is under reconstruction (this is mk 2 – mk 1 in all it’s guises is officially laid to rest). I’m pretty confident that this incarnation will be operational within a couple of months minimum although it’s got a hell of a lot of content for me to upload.

I’ve spent the past week messing about in various situations with photographer Martin LeSanto-Smith trying to get some interesting press shots out of my horrendously unphotogenic form. We’ve got some pretty nice stuff but there’s still a lot of Photoshop work to be done on some so you’re spared for the moment. Got some pretty interesting shots by pointing two MacBook Pros at each other, ichatting via the video link and generating video feedback from the inbuilt cameras. Not sure if Ninja will go for them but I think they’re the best of the bunch so they’ll end up somewhere.

Promos of the EP should be going out this week to press, I’m in the middle of artwork for The Herbaliser’s ‘Session 1 & 2’ release(s) for !K7 and about to start the King Cannibal LP art which will possibly be the weirdest thing I’ve ever done. As soon as that’s finished work resumes on the next Food EP…

Posted in DJ Food, Gigs. | No Comments |