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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Spiderman / Venom custom

I have to hand it to one of my sons, Alex, he’s already caught the toy customising bug. He and his brother have a Spiderman figure each but Alex likes Venom more and this morning he announced he wanted to paint his Spiderman black so he resembled Venom more. So out came the acrylic paint and brushes and 5 minutes later he had a customised Spidey / Venom (I made sure the eyes stayed white).

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Alex is nearly 4 – that’s my boy. :)

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Whoops!

My original Les McCann ‘Layers’ LP fell off the record shelf and is now splintered across the first track on both sides.

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This was given to me by Bundy K Brown years ago. Luckily I also have a copy of the reissue which he wrote the sleevenotes for – weird.

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A few things on my mind

Been a bit quiet recently mostly on account of being on holiday with the family and knuckling down on the music.

The next EP is nearly in the bag, featuring a collaboration with DK – mixed by King Cannibal no less, a remix of ‘All Covered In Darkness’ by PC, a cover version and more artwork by the excellent Henry Flint. Mixdowns take place next week, mastering the week after, release should be Oct / Nov.

Kid Koala just sent me the new record he did with Dynomite D  – ‘The Slew’ and it is stunning, a mix of rock, blues and scratching, you won’t have heard much like this before. Download it for free here – don’t worry, I’m not into music piracy, this link comes direct from kid Koala himself with the message “Feel free to pass it on to anyone you think would enjoy this noise.  ;)”

DJ Moneyshot’s September Solid Steel mix is floating around on the web already, it’s a collection of all the tracks the Beastie Boys sampled on their ‘Check Your Head’ album and has been on constant rotation here since I got it.

I’ve raved about him before but I just finished ‘Totally Wired’ by Simon Reynolds, the companion to one of my books of the year in 2007 – ‘Rip It Up And Start Again’. Essentially a series of interviews made during research for the first book, it is fascinating reading for anyone interested in music circa ’78-84.

Ashley Wood has some great new robots out, just a shame I’m broke after the taxman reared his annual head.

This is the funniest thing I’ve seen in ages, Finnish guitarist StStanders strips the track’s audio and inserts his own, complete with off key music and silly lyrics.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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K4 Format 09 compilation from Slovenia

This arrived in the mail today completely unannounced and the packaging immediately made an impression. I recognised the designer as being the same Nina Vrhovec who designed this flyer for my last gig in Ljubljana. The cover image is actually a 3D construction if you look closely which is pretty impressive as it could easily have been made by computer. The CD is a compilation of unsigned Solvenian artists in conjunction with the Dept. of Culture with music ranging for IDM to breaks, even industrial rock on one track and has a high hit rate for music makers without a deal. More info here www.klubk4.org and listen and buy here

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Posted in Design, Music. | 3 Comments |

DJ Food – A Weird World Reader – 1 hour mix

A Weird World Reader by strictly
A trip through the new DJ Food EP ‘One Man’s Weird Is Another Man’s World’ featuring tracks, samples and influences that make it what it is.

DJ Food - A Weird World Reader preview

  1. Tracklist:
    DJ Food feat Natural Self – The Illectrik Hoax (Ninja Tune)
    Rare Bird – Hammerhead (ABC / Dunhill)
    The Black Keys – Have Love Will Travel (Alive)
    The Broken Keys – Razorblade (Tru Thoughts)
    Mr Chop – The Infinity Machine (Now Again)
    Oasis – Falling Down (Amorphous Androgynous Exploding Bubble remix) (Big Brother)
    DJ Food – extract from Stolen Moments (Ninja Tune)
    The Dragons – Soul Teacher (Rural Records)
    Ken Nordine – Manned Satellite (Dot)
    DJ Food – All Covered In Darkness (Ninja Tune)
    The The – Giant (Some Bizarre)
    Keno-1 and the Hermit – Heavy Heavy (Breakin Bread)
    Grace Jones – Corporate Cannibal (Wall of Sound)
    DJ Food – Tricky Little Ears (The Cheech Wizard Pays Respect To All Living Creatures Who Inhabit Dark Places remix by Bundy K Brown) (Ninja Tune)
    DJ Food – A Trick of The Ear (Ninja Tune)
    Grace Jones – Hurricane (Wall of Sound)
    Bundy K Brown – Soldier of Fortune (Thrill Jockey)
    Dr Rubberfunk – Sunset Breakdown (GPR)
    Paul Weller – Sunflower (Lynch Mob dub) (Go Discs)
    DJ Food – All Covered In Darkness Pt 2 (Ninja Tune)
    DJ Food – Colours Beyond Colours (Ninja Tune)

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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