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.

Happy Halloween at the Haunted House of Rock

Happy Halloween to everyone! By the time this is published, I should be in the US possibly playing an unannounced spot at the Do-Over Halloween party in LA, that’s if I can get out of bed after the marathon 3 days that preceded it on the Ninja XX mini-tour. Anyway, in preparation I was going through my collection in search of Halloween and Horror-themed tracks and I found this. Picked up years ago in a record shop in Exeter I believe, it’s the Jive UK issue of Whodini’s ‘The Haunted House of Rock’ which has a unique sleeve.

Whodini  frontWhodini  back

The cover illustration is by Graham Humphreys who many of my generation will recognise as the artist who provided the posters and covers for the UK releases of Evil Dead 1 & 2, Nightmare On Elm St 1,2 & 3, Creepers, Basket Case and more (not getting typecast or anything). That’s great enough but check out the (s)lime green vinyl and skull label, beautiful.

Whodini labelWhodini  disc

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

splashOff to the US Wednesday for a 4 day jaunt that will take in NYC, SF and LA and hopefully a lot of friends along the way… First major stop should be Noah Uman’s  Coffee Break For Heroes & Villains show on famed radio station WFMU. His show is on at midnight until 3am 27th/28th of October so lord knows what physical state I’ll be in at that hour.

It’s mainly Hip Hop with a bias towards old school and golden periods seemingly although he does play more contemporary stuff too. I’ve dug out some oldies and oddities to play and it’s pretty relaxed on air so I expect we’ll be talking Hip Hop shop too at some points. Oh yeah and it’s not a mix show so don’t expect any great blends.

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More info: wfmu.org/playlists/NU •   WFMU 91.1 fm & 90.1 fm •   www.coffeebreakradio.com

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Canterbury Carboot bargain

I played at the Farmhouse in Canterbury on Saturday and had an excellent night (thanks Sean, Victoria and James) – try the excellent food on the menu courtesy of chef Rob if you’re in the area.

On Sunday morning I went to a local carboot sale and found this gem for 20 English pence. Apart from the beautiful cover it features excellent Radiophonic Workshop pieces on the B side from John Baker and Delia Derbyshire, including ‘New World’, which is better known to a generation of 70’s school kids for it’s closing seconds which were used for the theme to John Craven’s Newsround.

MMM frontMMM back

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3rd Demdike Stare EP coming, mix CD and new podcast

demdike
artworks-000002581467-iqocss-originalEasily one of the most interesting acts out there at the moment, Demdike Stare have the third in their trilogy of EPs ready to drop soon. Apparently called ‘Voices of Dust’, containing 9 tracks and over 50 minutes long (!), it will be with us at the end of November inside another lovely Andy Votel sleeve. Not only that but there are plans to collect all three EPs onto CD, a new mix CD – Industrial Desert – was out last week (still waiting for mine) and a new-ish podcast is up on Unsound’s soundcloud page.

UP#13 Demdike Stare’s Unsounded Podcast by unsound

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Ninja Tune is 20!

At last the day is here, two decades old and a teenager no more. Ninja is 20 and we celebrate the date – and also the 200th post here – in style with two double CD sets, four 12″s and a lavish box set which is now sold out on the Ninjashop although stores will have it from today.

XXvol1XXvol2Slipcase with contents
The book, ‘Ninja Tune: 20 Years of Beats & Pieces’ has been in the shops a month now, 192 pages and over 1,200 images charting the history of the label from Coldcut’s late 80’s chart hits to today.

This week’s Solid Steel has been given over to celebrating the occasion with an anniversary mix of classics from all the labels by DK and a one hour interview with Coldcut and label manager Peter Quicke about where it all began and where it’s going.
Solid Steel Radio Show 17/9/2010 Part 1 + 2 – DK by Ninja Tune & Big Dada
Solid Steel Radio Show 17/9/2010 Part 3 + 4 – Interview with Coldcut & Peter Quicke by Ninja Tune & Big Dada

After that it’s shows around the world, Berlin, Paris, Brussels, NYC, San Francisco, LA, Tokyo and Osaka, King Cannibal’s ‘The Way Of The Ninja’ mix CD and Zen TV pt.2 on DVD.

XX 12″s 3-6

Some more (not very good) pictures of the XX 12″s – out Monday. 1 & 2 only available with a purchase code from the XX box set, 3-6 available for general sale. A mystery seventh 12″ with two remixes of a Ninja classic unavailable anywhere else, will creep into circulation shortly.
XX 1 coverXX 1 backXX 2 backXX 3 coverXX 4 coverXX 5 coverXX 5 backXX 6 cover

and a sneaky reason to own all six 12″s, when put together, the spines spell Ninja Tune XX
XX spines

Ninja Tune XX box set features on Hard Format

I’m very proud to announce my first design entry on the Hardformat blog. Run for three and a half years now, it’s a site dedicated to “reaching for the sublime in music design”, both past and present. One of the first things I think any designer finding the site would think is, “I wonder if I’m on here?”, the second would be, “I want to be featured here”, if they don’t find their work. The site already published the original mock up image of the set a few months back and we entered into a dialogue about it. That turned into me writing up a lengthy piece detailing some of the process involved in realising the gargantuan project.

www.hardformat.org/5200/ninja-tune-xx/

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DJ Shadow Handmade

Most of you will have heard, or at least heard about, the two new DJ Shadow tracks that officially came to light last week via his site, after being out and about, ripped from radio broadcasts for a bit. ‘Def Surrounds Us / I’ve Been Trying’ caused a stir last week which is no mean feat in this day and age from an artist who is approaching 20 years of official releases. In the digital age these things are easy to come by, not so easy is an actual hard copy, pressed onto vinyl, dark blue vinyl to be exact, with a unique handrawn front cover no less.

But they do exist and Shadow has been giving them away to DJs and fans via his site and posts on Twitter. There are rumoured to be only 100 copies at the moment, each with its own unique sleeve design and stamp bearing the legend ‘Handmade, because you’re worth it’ on the back. I was lucky enough to receive a copy earlier this week after a heads up from Joost over at the Sole Sides board and people have begun adding images of their copies to Discogs on the release’s entry page. Here’s mine but I have several other ‘handmade’ Shadow records I’ve collected over the years that I thought I’d share with you.

Def Surrounds UsHandmade stamp

This is my copy of the ‘Enuff (DJ Fresh remix)/This Time’ single, this was a regular white label copy that I’m pretty sure I customised with a sticker from elsewhere. There are 100 copies of a fully sprayed and stencilled Paul Insect version that were sold through DJ Shadow.com but alas I don’t have one of those.

This TimeEnuff label

In Tokyo a few years ago I stumbled across a pile of these in the Shibuya HMV, supposedly a limited edition for Japan with hand silk screened covers and an extended version of ‘Roy’s Theme’ from the KeepinTime compilation.

Roys ThemeRoys detailRoys theme detail 2Roys theme detail 3

Going even further back we have the ‘Monosyllabik’ promo 12″ that was sneaked out before the Private Press hit, confounding everyone. So much so that I found one in the local exchange for £1, some DJs obviously weren’t too hip to what it was or didn’t care and passed it on. I have three different copies of this: one I was sent as a promo, the other I found in the exchange and the third was from eBay. This is the best of the three, including as it does, all 10 stickers on the front (there were said to be 10 different sleeves designs out there at the time).

Mono 1Mono 2Mono 3

… and last but not least, my very own creation, one of five handmade (and mixed) CDRs of the ‘Press Cuttings’ sampler mix I made of selections from the Private Press in 2002. This aired on Solid Steel and I gave Shadow a copy after a gig which he was then kind enough to add to his official discography later. Each disc has a different image on it and the covers are all made up of graphics from old private press record booth sleeves. Hear it at the bottom of the page.
Press cuttingsPress cuttings backPress cuttings disc

Press Cuttings (The Private Press Compacted) by DJ Food

PS: a section of a Quietus interview with Shadow about the making of the Def Surrounds Us sleeve artwork:

“On the 12”s, all of the sleeves are one-offs. When it was conceived, it was the purest way I could think of to let the music out of my hands and into the chance environment of society… in the most pure and unfucked with way. It wasn’t coming from the label, it wasn’t coming laoded with information. And if I’d had my way originally, it wouldn’t even have had my name on it. It would have been totally anonymous… It would have just let time and people’s own research and ideas determine what it was. I guess in a certain sense cooler heads prevailed and it has come out as a compromise where when you first look at it you’re not going to know what it is or who it is by. But for people like you and me who look at records every day you’re just going to stop and go: “What the fuck is this?” Because it’s removing the art from its proper context. In most cases I would have my kids doodle something and then when they got bored with it I would add my own hyper detail to it. I’m not a great illustrator but I like to draw and my dad was a graphic designer. I like spending a lot of time on pointillism and detail. It doesn’t really matter what the image really is and in fact I try and keep myself from representing anything. In some of them I’ve even added a little note that says, “Please add to the artwork before you pass it along.” We’ve added stickers on some. I like the idea that the art is never quite finished. It was inspired by a lot of other covers that I’ve seen. Obviously this kind of thing has been done before in the DIY scene and the minimal synth scene of the early 80s, so I’m not claiming to have invented the process but I intended it as the most honest and pure delivery mechanism that I could think of. “

Posted in Art, Music, Records. | 11 Comments |

Process: The working practices of Barney Bubbles

So, Nigel Peake is in town, fresh from painting a mural and we’re wandering around Pimlico like a couple of tourists. Clutching an A-Z and an iPhone, we’re trying to find the Chelsea Space which is currently hosting the Barney Bubbles exhibition, Process.

Bubbles, born Colin Fulcher, sadly committed suicide in 1983 and has long been an unsung hero of British sleeve design but this has started to change in recent years after Paul Gorman’s book on his work, ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful’, was published in 2008. Quickly selling out and starting to command high prices on the web it’s now been updated and expanded in a new edition.

Possibly one of the reasons Bubbles isn’t as widely know as, say, Neville Brody, Malcolm,Garrett, Hipgnosis, Peter Saville or Jamie Reid is because his work spanned both both ends of the seventies and beyond – the hippy / prog / rock and the punk eras –  and never conceded to one house style for anyone. The two things he’s probably most known for – Hawkwind and Stiff Records – couldn’t be much further apart. Looking at one of his Hawkwind sleeves and then an Elvis Costello or Ian Dury from later you’d be hard-pressed to see any sort of stylistic link, yet he did them both.

After walking up and down the street way too many times, asking in the Tate to a bemused attendant and eventually finding the space via a round-the-houses route through the College of Art we realise we’d walked right past it. Failing to notice the sign outside the inconspicuous door set back from the main road, we should have stopped yakking and paid a bit more attention.

Anyway, once inside we were greeted by walls pasted with vintage music paper ads and posters of late 70’s vintage, a couple of old record players sporting various vinyl rarities, badges, stickers and a gorgeous rack of Ian Dury ‘Do It Yourself’ wallpaper-sleeved LPs. Right in, no messing about. Along the bottom of one wall were various publications all sporting BB covers including a John Cooper-Clark ‘Directory 1979’ an issue of the NME, Nova magazine and a Hawkwind programme.

A long, thin, tall corridor then stretches up before turning into the main exhibition room and one wall is covered with posters and record sleeves, the Hawkwind ones unfolded flat to show off their wares. Frustratingly the sharp viewing angle meant that the higher pieces were hard to see properly, further compounded by spot lighting which caused glare on anything in a PVC protective sleeve.

Into the main room, past a giant hanging Chuck Berry sculpture and here’s the good stuff. Cases of artifacts, portraits, sketchbooks, paintings, paste ups, reference books, even materials like Rotring pens he left behind. One wall is covered in original art paste up sheets, tracing paper with notes covering some of them, all hung with big bulldog clips which is a nice touch throughout. Another wall is full of beautifully presented black and white art, logos, layouts – a mixture of paint, pen, Letraset and whiteout – all of which would have blended into one under the camera later.

It must have been a difficult task for the curators to hang the work because it was so random, finding obvious themes and connections is almost impossible with Bubbles because each piece is so different from the next. Sure he has various tricks and techniques that he employs, his mixture of abstract and 3D shapes to make words for instance, but it’s as if he was always starting from scratch with each new piece. His foldout sleeves for Hawkwind and Elvis Costello are placed behind perspex but even they jut out at points, unable to be contained in such a space.

I’m no expert on Bubbles but this looks like a goldmine of his work for anyone remotely interested in him or the groups he designed for. Also this is a great reminder of how things were done decades ago, pre-digital, everything is hand drawn, painted, cut and pasted and it’s beautiful to see, especially all the whited out parts. Although by no means a complete overview – several pieces are conspicuous by their absence – the curators intend this to be more of a stepping stone to bigger things later and the new edition of the book should help this.

The exhibition is on now until October 23rd at Chelsea Space,

16 John Islip Street,

London, Sw1P 4JU
More details here

and visit Paul Gorman’s excellent blog on all things Barney Bubbles

and a good, quick overview of his work at feuilleton

Posted in Art, Books, Design, Event, Music, Records. | 2 Comments |

Paris XX

The Paris show on Friday was great fun, packed out, great to see Vadim and Yarah on a Ninja bill again too. During mine and DK’s set someone pulled the fire alarm and all the power went off on stage for more than 5 minutes. Unfortunately we were in the middle of a drum n bass section so that went down like a damp squib. Before the gig I went up to the Galerie Chappe to see the exhibition of Ninja art and sleeve design that had been put on, apparently 1,500 people turned out for the opening! Ping Pong, who have done promotion for Ninja for over a decade now under the leadership of Fred ‘DJ Oof’ Elalouf, did a great job of putting together a show which included original art, paste up sheets, sleeves, huge posters and specially made prints of selected covers. They also made exclusive T-shirts, seats and a huge banner for the gigs which greeted me when I walked into the venue.  See photos from the exhibition here (warning, this is a Facebook photo album), and it’s on until October 2nd. There are 4 more gigs coming up in Paris over the next few weeks including a huge, long sold out line up at La Machine and two gigs at the Pompidou Centre.

XX banner, ParisGalerie Chappe Ninja L'expo

Ninja Tune XX boxset is here finally

I was having a shitty day with nothing going right when this was hand-delivered from the Think Tank offices out of the blue this afternoon. Eight months of hard slog, revisions, deadlines, corrections, proofs, more revisions, changed constructions and over 50 GB of information went into this.

A slipcase containing 3 hardback books – ’20 Years of Beats & Pieces’ was actually started back in July 2009 and completed just under a year later with a solid six months spent on it and little else. The other two, containing 6 CDs, 6 45’s, 2 posters, a booklet and a sticker sheet (which should have been straight forward but I had no end of hassle with) took another 2 months at least with meetings and discussions as to how the packaging would work going on since March. I even managed to find time to write a new track to go on the damned thing which is on one of the exclusive CDs.

When I look back at 2010 and think what I did that year, this is what will sum most of it up. If you have one on the way then you’re in for a treat believe me, want one, didn’t get round to buying one yet or were maybe sitting on the fence then there are still some available to buy before the big release day on September 20th.

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Ninja Exhibition and Pop-up Shop this Saturday in London

Black Dog Publishing open their doors on a Saturday this weekend for people who haven’t been able to make it to the Ninja 20th exhibition in the week. Between 12 and 5pm they will be open and Ninja will have a special pop up shop there selling selected items. I’m not entirely sure what will be available yet but there might be some of the new Ninja Tune XX releases and you will be able to buy the 20 years of Beats & Pieces book for £15 which is a fiver cheaper than the shops. It’s free and at 10a Acton Street, London,WC1X 9NG. This is the last week of the exhibition so it’s now or never…

Pop up shop invite (web)

Ninja Tune Exhibition opens today

Well last night’s book launch at Black Dog’s gallery in Kings Cross was a lot of fun, a huge turn out of artists, staff, friends and family made it a massive success. Thanks to everyone at Black Dog for a supreme effort in turning the exhibition round in three days, also everyone who came down, there were a few old faces I’d not seen in years and some who I’d only known via email but never met in person. Photos by Martin LeSanto-Smith, on form as ever to capture the event.

Record wall

The exhibition is open to the public, free, between 12-5pm Monday-Friday until September 16th. It’s situated at 10a Acton St, London, WC1X 9NG, nearest tube is Kings Cross and then it’s a 5 minute walk, press the buzzer and you’ll be let in.