Ninja Tune XX gigs and events

Back from holiday and ready to kick off the Ninja Tune 20th autumn in fine style. The array of gigs, press, releases and events is staggering, there are now 20 different things happening over the next two or so months and plenty of magazine coverage to come shortly. Be on the look out for a 6 page feature on rare Ninja releases in Record Collector, a 6 page design feature in Blueprint, a 70-odd page tribute issue of Trax magazine from France and an 8 page pull out supplement from Clash magazine amongst many more. The ’20 Years of Beats & Pieces’ book by Stevie Chick is now out, the exhibition in London is on until September 16th and the run of dates in France, organised by Ping Pong, start next Friday, the 10th, in Paris.

Djouls and Grant Phabao – the Paris DJs – have been doing some excellent podcast mixes of rare, remixed and psychedelic Ninja Tunes from the past two decades and have contributed to the Trax magazine articles too, find more info here.

There are gigs being set up in the US and Japan for late October and early November plus a huge line up for the Bristol show on November 13th. This weekend I’ll be doing three shows in Russia, one in St Petersburg and two in Moscow – the Migz festival and a special show after at the Dome Bar between 1 and 3am.

At some point in the next week. the box set should arrive at the Ninja office along with the six 12″s and there’s still a mix CD and DVD to come after that. Keep checking here for more info, shots of the packaging and related material…
PrintFLYER ParisNINJA TUNE XX_ Bristol Ninja WebNINJAXX_Flyer14

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Street Heroes Festival, Bucharest

Sorry to everyone who came down to the festival and wanted to see a proper DJ Food set today, the police made several visits and sadly it was third time unlucky during my set. I managed about 20 minutes before they pulled the plug, they literally turned the sound system off on me. I wanted to do a full set, well, there was only 1 hour left because things overran, but didn’t even get that far. I feel sorry for the organisers as this was their first attempt and hope the rest of the festival goes off over the next 2 days.

Bucharest Sunset 12.08.10

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Big Chill igloo tent Solid Steel set times for Saturday:

festivalWe’re playing in a dome with 360 degree video, come and check us out, a few Ninja XX compilation exclusives in the set so far…

21.00- 21.15     Warm Up
21.15-22.45      JFB
22.45-23.45      DJ Woody Turntables In Technicolor
23.45-1 .15 am   DJ Food & DK
1.15 – 2.45 am   Hexstatic present Trailer Trax
2.45 – 4.00 am   Sampology’s Super Visual Smackdown

Montreal

On Adam Ant’s solo album from 1983, ‘Strip’, he has a song called ‘Montreal’. It was always my favourite track on what was a pretty patchy album and it shares its name with is one of my favourite cities in the world, second only to my hometown of London. I love it mainly for its unpretentious, multi-cultural, wildly artistic inhabitants and this last weekend I was there playing at the Jazz Festival on a bill with Spank Rock and The Slew in one of two Ninja Tune XX shows. It was a pretty laid back affair as I flew in on Friday, played Saturday night and flew out on Sunday evening, a rare treat in my usual touring schedule. The weather was perfect and I got to catch up with lots of friends from the North American Ninja office which is based there as well as catching tons of amazing art dotted around the downtown district where the venue, Metropolis, was.

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The gig was good, Spank Rock were nuts and the Slew were just amazing, virtually playing their 100% album in its entirety. British Airways managed to forget my mixer in London so there was a mild panic for a minute to source a duplicate – I can’t do my video set without the Rane 57 – but this seemed no problem. It eventually turned up 20 minutes before I finished playing, being brought on stage by the soundman much to my relief.

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On Sunday I visited the Museum of Fine Arts to check out the Miles Davis exhibition which was stunning and is on until the end of August, make the effort if you’re in the city. It is laid out immaculately, chronologically guiding you through his life and work room by room. The late 60’s and 70’s rooms were the ones I’d come for and I wasn’t disappointed as they had the Mati Klarwein originals of the Live/Evil LP cover, Corky McCoy sketches for On The Corner and Water Babies and some hilarious memos to record company staff from Teo Macero. One for Filles De Kilimanjaro ended, “Also Miles would like all the titles on the album translated into French. HELP!”. The whole thing was suberbly put together with original LPs, magazines, sheet music, stage wear, instruments and even some of Miles’ art amongst much more – highly recommended.

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After this I met up with ex-Ninja staff, Phillipa Klein and Pat Hamou and Eric San (Kid Koala) who took us to a great Chinese dumpling spot nearby the museum. It’s not widely known but Eric is the number one food stop diviner when on tour. If you’re in a strange city and you need to eat, Eric will know somewhere that will usually turn out to be exceptional. After stuffing our faces we went back to Eric’s with his wife and daughter and marveled at his studio, chock full of amazing kit, 3D models of miniature towns they’d built for a forthcoming project and his own, personalised record cutter. In the basement there was a full size robotron ‘costume’ made out of metal and his studio boasts a massive model of a swordfish sitting atop a bookcase. He played me a new track he’s just finished for the Ninja Tune XX compilation and revealed that he’s recording the first parts of a new Slew record next week in between tour dates.

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My time was up so we drove back to my hotel and said goodbyes, a great way to spend a weekend for sure, the flight back was overnight and the week ahead sees me tying up the last parts of the Ninja box set artwork, starting a 4 deck AV set for the 20th parties and finishing a track for the compilation.

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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.

Posted in DJ Food, Film, Gigs, Music. | 7 Comments |

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?

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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.

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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.

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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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