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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.

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



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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New record, new website and new radio show

It’s here, you wait for ages and then three come along at once. Yes I finally got round to releasing another record and it’s out today, a 30 minute EP on Ninja Tune called ‘One Man’s Weird Is Another Man’s World’. It features the vocal talents of Natural Self (yes, I said vocal) on lead track ‘The Illectrik Hoax’ and the nifty drums of Dr. Rubberfunk alongside the sampled vocals of Ken Nordine and The Dragons on ‘All Covered In Darkness’. Bundy K Brown is behind the board for ‘A Trick of the Ear’ and an old collaboration with PC makes it’s first appearance in the form of ‘extract from Stolen Moments’. 2000ad artist Henry Flint graciously provided drawings for the cover art to make it something worth having and holding when it folds out to an A2 sized poster. It’s available in the form of a 5 track 12″ with poster cover and download code or a 6 track mp3 bundle.

You can hear selections from it on my Soundcloud and buy it from  iTunesDJ Download /   Play.comSpotifywe7Ninja shop HMV Digital Bleep / Tune Tribe 7 Digital / Juno / Boomkat
There’s an interview in the new Clash Music magazine including a free mp3 and a very nice review by Mark E on Ireallylovemusic

Not only is there a new record but the near mythical DJ Food site is finally ready, choc full of stuff from my Openmind alter ego design work past and present and a full DJ Food discography stretching back nearly 20 years. If you want to know anything about the records connected to this moniker over the years then it will be there along with gig dates, blogs, playlists and more. The site is divided into 4 sections: Diary, Design, Discography and Downloads and you can subscribe to the blog without going through myspace at last. It’s still a work in progress as there is so much to present, especially on the design side of things as most entries provide stories, alternate artwork and release info. A big thanks to Dean at Safe As Milk for all his hard work on making it what it is.

And finally, it’s a Solid Steel takeover this week with an hour long mix from myself based on the EP with tracks from all the contributors, some original sample sources and various things I that inspired the making of it. The second hour is a fantastic mix from The Broken Keys – aka Natural Self and Nostalgia 77 – called ‘Engine Oil and Elbow Grease’, stuffed to the brim with old funk, rock breaks and psyche. You can listen here.

Jim Mahfood and friends – Cafe 1001

I met up with Jim Mahfood, Scott Campbell and friends Saturday night at Cafe 1001 off Brick Lane on Saturday night in the midst of a live painting session. They had covered a corner of the cafe as well as several flattened cardboard boxes and seemed to be having a great time. I had feared that their trip over would be marred by the tube strike but it seems like the show opening on Thursday was packed and they sold nearly everything already. I’ve been a fan of his work for  a while now but this was the first time we had met and we hit it off immediately, resolving to collaborate on something in the future. Food One vs DJ Food, it has to be done…

Awesome Dude!

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It’s been a hectic week…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moonmin trollNinja - for Men
Alice Russell band on stage

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