I spent the best part of my Easter weekend hunched over a light box with paintbrush in hand, hand colouring over 350 images on lith film for slide projection at the Orb gig this Friday and Further two weeks after that. Now to mount the buggers…
I was asked by the m.cast website to write some background history on a mix I did for Solid Steel with old friend Mario Aguera under the Openmind DJs name back in 1994 (this was before I became part of DJ Food or had been given the Strictly Kev moniker). Here’s a little slice of London ambient history as I remember it:
Openmind originated at 102 Tintagel Crecsent in East Dulwich, South East London around late 1992. The shared house spread across three floors above a shop, rented out by a local chemist specifically to students at a very reasonable £37 each per week, and the occupants came together by chance from different circumstances. Computer programmer Mario Aguera and 3rd year Camberwell School of Art students David Vallade and Kevin Foakes were later joined by Chantal Passamonte at some point in 1993. They frequented many of the clubs, gigs and underground parties of the time like Club Dog, Tribal Energy and Megatripolis but often found themselves enjoying the post-club comedown chill out sessions more than the actual clubs themselves.
After an incident with a synthesiser, a Rastafarian and a bowl of fish (see David Toop’s excellent ‘Ocean of Sound’ book for details) they formed a collective called Openmind and started a series of ambient parties under the name Telepathic Fish. Nearby neighbour Mixmaster Morris took them under his wing and introduced them to many of his contacts.
The first party was held in their house across two floors which held a rave room with strobe lighting and a chill out complete with tower of scavenged TV sets broadcasting trip videos, black lights and Morris DJing from decks on the next door kitchen counter. Advertised through word of mouth and a few posters at the college, the party drew 300 people and they realised that they had to find somewhere else to do the next one.
A squat in Tunstal Road, Brixton was located and a line up of Mixmaster Morris, Aphex Twin and the Openmind DJs (Mario and Kev) with Matt Black (Coldcut) on visuals played throughout a Sunday afternoon into the evening. A second gig was held at the same venue later that year (’93) which saw members of The Black Dog, Psychic Warriors Ov Gaia and The Future Sound of London checking out what was happening. Early flyers included shaped fish pendants and tea bags, hand-assembled using tracing and holographic paper.
After Matt Black’s initial revelatory experience at the Fish (his first ever VJ set) he invited Mario and Kev to guest on his and Jon More’s weekly KISS FM radio show, Solid Steel in the summer of ’93. They appeared a number of times (11.07.93 / 07.11.93 / 04. 03.94 / 15.07.94) and Matt and Morris continued to guest with music and visuals at the parties.
The venue then changed to the Cool Tan building in Brixton for a fourth excursion that included Matt Black on decks with PC (DJ Food), a pre-Leaf Tony Morley and visuals by Hex. Just before that party Mario and Kev were invited back onto Solid Steel on 26.09.94 and you can hear Matt giving the party a shout out in the mix. The sets played here are a pretty good indication of the sort of thing they played at the Telepathic Fish parties, sometimes pooling their then meagre record collections to fill out the nights.
There were more parties after this, usually as part of bigger events – Orbital’s Brixton Academy gig VIP room, Quirky, Megatripolis, a New Year’s Day party at the derelict Roundhouse and a Dutch excursion that saw them playing in a gas silo. They also produced four issues of an ambient fanzine called Mind Food which they sold at the parties, by mail or in various record shops in London.
Mario went on to join Hex for their early explorations into visuals and software and then headed up a team at a major video game developer. Chantal, David and Kev all worked at the Ambient Soho record shop in Berwick St. at certain points. Chantal went on to become Mira Calix and sign to Warp. David designed record sleeves for Warp, Ntone, Worm Interface, MLO and Reflective among others. Kev became part of DJ Food, carrying the Openmind name on as his design alias whilst shaping the look of the Ninja Tune label in the 90s and 00s.
You can down load this mix directly from the m.cast website here
First hour: Mario Aguera (Openmind/Telepathic Fish)
Coldcut – Autumn Leaves (Irresistible Force remix) (BMG)
UVX - Elevator (13th floor spectrum) (Magick Eye Records)
Frankfurt – Tokio Connection – Luminescent Avatar (Harthouse / Rising High)
Golden Girls – Kinetic (Morley’s Apollo mix) (R&S)
Psychic Warriors Ov Gaia – Obsidian (Deconstruction) (KK Records)
The Grid – Crystal Clear (The Orb remix) (Virgin)
Ongaku – Mihon 2 (Fax/Rising High)
UVX - Elevator (13th floor spectrum) (Magick Eye Records)
Deep Forest – Sweet Lullaby (Natural Trance Mix) (Columbia)
Peter Gabriel – At Night (Real World)
Amorphous Androgynous – Mountain Goat (Virgin)
System 7 – 7-7 Expansion (Double Edged Sword mix) (Big Life)
David Morley – Calibration (Apollo)
Second hour: Kevin Foakes (Openmind/Telepathic Fish – pre-DJ Food)
Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Warriors of the Wasteland (End) (ZTT)
Harold Budd & The Cocteau Twins – Memory Gongs (4AD) / S’Xpress – Coma (Record Mirror) No-Man – Days In The Trees (Reich) (One Little Indian)
KLF – What Time Is Love (Virtual Reality mix) (KLF Communications)
Jesus Jones – Zeroes & Ones (Aphex Twin Reconstruction 2 mix) (Food/EMI)
David Sylvian – Home (Virgin)
This Mortal Coil – Andialu (4AD)
B12 – Soundtrack of Space (Warp)
Spacetime Continuum – Fluorescence (Reflective)
Eurhythmics – The City Never Sleeps (Capitol)
Moody Boys – Free (XL)
Depth Charge – Depth Charge (Drum Death Version) (Vinyl Solution)
Material – Mantra (Praying Mantra mix) (Axiom)
Dub Syndicate – What Happened? (On-U Sound)
Moody Boys – Pumpin Dumpin (XL)
Plaid – Yamemm – (Warp)
unknown (Digidub or Moody Boys?)
Minnie Ripperton – Lovin’ You (Epic)
Earlier this year I reconnected with an old friend from the early Ninja Tune days, Shane Solanki, a writer and poet who was responsible for the original Ninja press releases and the lexicon inside the original Ninja Skinz packets. These freeform, punning, cut and paste definitions, profiles and prose helped define part of the aesthetic and thinking behind the label in the early years and gave voice to Coldcut and co.’s ideals. He’s currently constructing a hugely ambitious project involving a stage play, an album and a graphic novel based on a story he’s written called ‘Songs of Immigrants and Experience’.
I helped him visualize certain scenes for the play and put together a rough version of an extract from the novel to help present the complicated project to prospective publishers. Below you can see examples of the A4 handout at the last performance and shots from the show with some of the scenes as backdrops. For more info go to Lastmangoinparis.net
As you’ll be aware if you read this blog, I’ve designed the artwork for the new 6xLP ‘Brainbox’ compilation from Belgian label, De:Tuned. This was somewhat of a dream job in every sense as not only did I have multiple surfaces to play with but the design brief was an ideal one from the start. Ruben Boons, label manager, came to me over a year ago wanting something that jumped off from my work with Amon Tobin around the ‘Out From Out Where’ album sleeves which is one of my personal favourite designs and was exactly where my head was at this particular time. Using similar methods of assembly and composition I created a main image that everyone was happy with (which became the cover) and then remixed it mulitple times to form images for the rest of the compilation. Everything you see here stems from at least part of the cover image.
From the off it seemed that Ruben and I was on exactly the same page and any suggestions he made always bettered the designs and, as I’d been given pretty much free reign over what to produce, this made the whole process even more enjoyable. There’s nothing worse that presenting a client with multiple variations of a job and them picking the weakest one. From experience I try never to send any examples of prospective designs on a job that I ultimately wouldn’t be happy to see in print but there are always favourites. No such worries on this job, it was bliss from beginning to end and I couldn’t be happier with the final result. There are only 300 box sets out there (I know mine says 304 below, that’s part of a small overun for the artists involved) and each comes with a download code for those who like their music digital – there is no CD though, another godsend as one of the most boring parts of a job like this is reformatting a design down to a small version for a CD.
You can hear excerpts from it and more above in this Solid Steel mix I made and buy it from the many links below:
Juno: bit.ly/2eD3NzG Bleep: bit.ly/2dsrXzY Hardwax: bit.ly/2f51Tdr Rushhour: bit.ly/2eN9dsN
Norman: bit.ly/2errQmc Japhy: bit.ly/2eaHxOU Decks: bit.ly/2emIWni Deejay.de: bit.ly/2eN2VwO
NB: Each disc was given a subtitle as well as a number, referring to different parts of the brain: Frontal, Cerebellum, Parietal etc. also, the last image below is of a sticker that comes with the box.
You can now pre-order and listen to parts of all the tracks for the forthcoming ‘Brainbox’ compilation that I have provided the artwork for on De:tuned records from Belgium. The line up is immense and all the tracks are exclusive, this has taken a long time and a lot of care to put together. The box consists of 6 vinyl LPs, each in full colour inner sleeves with unique artwork and is limited to 300 copies. There is a digital DL version too but no CD, the box set also comes with a DL code and a sticker. The line up reads like a who’s who of 90s electronica: Plaid, As One, FSOL, Scanner, Meat Beat Manifesto, Speedy J, MuZiq, B12, Mike Dred, David Morley, Christian Vogel… and the quality of the content is very high. Pre-order here
I still get buzzed off the fact that my name is on the design credits of the recent reissues of this classic album which meant so much to me as a 14 year old and still means so much to me 32 years later. Not two years after the huge ‘Inside the Pleasuredome’ box set that I worked on with Philip Marshall comes a standalone vinyl reissue of the LP contained inside the set.
The music is the same but there are some slight differences to the packaging: mainly the actual vinyl itself which now has the original label designs with the F, G, T and H restored (I had to remake them from scratch) and white vinyl instead of black. Eagle-eyed collectors will also notice that the fig leaves have been restored on the back cover image to cover the animal’s modesty whilst in the midst of their orgy. Philip had to remake each one from scratch too.
This edition will be available exclusively, I’m told, from Sainsburys – that bastion of record emporiums where we all go when we need our fix of the black crack. Whether this is just the white vinyl version or whether there will be other colours available elsewhere, I do not know.
I do know that this is the nicest looking vinyl reissue since the box set version though; heavy card, full colour inner sleeves, coloured vinyl, different labels etc. Also, high quality images, not the anti-aliased, bitmapped, jpegged, over-saturated coloured version that the Music On Vinyl issue had some years back – quite possibly the worse reissue of any album I’ve ever seen, an insult to this album’s legacy and one of the only undamaged records I’ve ever thrown away.
A double dose of Kosmischer Debris round ups in this post – selections from the past month or so of experiments, works in progress or random graphics from my desktop – all self-generated and posted (nearly) daily on my Instagram
Above: details from a Circuit Bending Mandala and the full thing at a larger scale
Below: Top row: lights from my Rane mixer, Middle row: Circuit Bending, multiple logo tests for a band called Psyence, B&W Rane lights. Bottom row: Inkubation collab with Sarah Coleman, Circuit Bending + detail.
Two dates for your diaries: June 25th I’ll be DJing with Jonny Trunk at Camberwell’s finest used record emporium, Rat Records. They recently bought in a really good selection of soundtrack, electronic, library and weird records which we’ll be playing selections from before adding them to the racks for punters to buy. Let US try, before YOU buy.
But before that – this Saturday to be precise – I’ll be sitting in for Jonny on his OST radio show on Resonance 104.4 FM from 4.30-6.40pm. There’ll be a theme to the show and I’ll have special guest Jonny Cuba from Soundsci talking about library digs and soundtrack finds. Listen here this weekend
Things have been a bit quiet on here recently due to various changes happening in my life right now, 2016 is turning out to be quite a rollercoaster. I’ve been a little more active over on Instagram though, with almost daily postings of personal miscellania, record finds and the Kosmischer Debris series, but even that’s taken a hit this month.
Above – top row, some experiments that date back a fair few years now with manipulated audio waves put through a spectral visualiser. Middle row – left: collage detail, middle: ‘Circult Skull 1′ test, right: ‘weird jazz thing’ that was the unexpected result of an old Freehand file where I held down the wrong key. Bottom row – experiments with a flexible material and light reflections – more to come with that…
Another nine examples of the Kosmischer Debris floating around my computer: off cuts, try-outs, archive work, experiments and the like. Top left and right are distorted barcodes, middle top and bottom is a typeface called ‘Attention!’ that I created from a Soviet postmark I found. Middle left and right are two unused pieces from a recent project and the middle is a photo collage I did of a building in Osaka, Japan back in the late 90s. More, daily, on my Instagram.
Op-Art April continues daily over on Instagram
First 9 selections, I made over 60 different variations of these Op Art pieces one afternoon, currently sharing daily on Instagram
Throughout April I’ll be posting examples each day from an unseen series of Op Art pieces I made earlier this year under the Kosmischer Debris banner on my Instagram account, above is the first one.
Been a bit quiet on here of late, sorry for the lack of activity but there’s a lot going on behind the scenes, making some big changes this year. Just finished a fantastic graphic design project that I can show in full soon. Also I’ve been more active on Instagram this year than last so you can find quite a few things cropping up there daily.
The pieces above are some circular experiments with circuit boards (Circuit Mandalas), colour shift try-outs with recent collages and some digital trickery with an old photo collage I made in the late 90s of a 180 degree shot of a Tokyo street. In April I’m going to do a month’s worth of B&W Op Art designs I made one afternoon recently before launching into something a little different…
Some variations and tests for work in progress on a box set for the De:Tuned label in Belgium. More on my Instagram
I do like seeing animated versions of graphics I’ve designed. This was done by Elliot Seeds from the Ninja Tune office and here’s this week’s guest mix version.
You know the deal by now, the latest 9 daily experimental designs from my Instagram – these were made from miscellaneous photos of analogue kit I’ve had kicking about for years: a Russian reel to reel machine, Abbey Road desks, Sarm Studios patch bays and the like. I started with the central image, photos divided up and decreasing in size on themselves and then started putting mirror images together. Sometimes it’s amazing what forms itself when you place to edges together.
Here’s the last selection of the daily Kosmischer Debris image experiments from my Instagram. These were all made using various sections of different circuit boards and I’d like to return to them at some point but I’m working on multiples of nine for now before moving on so as not to get stuck on one thing. They point the way towards something I’m trying to develop that updates the original psychedelic practices and brings them into the electronic present without slavishly copying what went before.
Another round of Kosmischer Debris entries – these were from a series of experiments and tests I did for a Ninja Tune thing last summer that didn’t get used. A couple work for me and elements of them have since led down a different path – I recently created 60 different images from them in one day, yet to find a home. You see my daily postings from the hard drive on my Instagram along with other images shot whilst out and about, record finds, art and more.
The slipmat has long been a part of Ninja Tune‘s merch lines, alongside the T-shirt, record bag and Ninja Skinz. The last one I designed for them was back in 2007 for mine and DK‘s ‘Now, Listen Again’ Solid Steel comp. At the time sales of vinyl were seriously in freefall, Serato and Tractor were taking over and people were looking at digital as the way forward, slipmats weren’t exactly flying out the door.
By the end of the decade I don’t think the label even considered making any for their 20th anniversary, they just weren’t on the radar anymore. But things have a habit of coming back again and, nearly a decade on, here’s a new twist on an old design – available now from the Ninjashop.