Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Trash Comics Workshop at Rope Press

On Thursday last week I had the opportunity to attend a workshop at Rope Press. Rope Press is a book shop located in the Jubilee Centre in Birmingham. On my first visit I was blown away by what they had there. And they also specialise in risograph printing which is something I’m interested in. Sometime last year I purchased a comic from there entitled ‘Neon Noir’ which also contained a comic called ‘Dirt – The Debate’ which was written by Michael Kennedy. I thought that Dirt was unreal for a lot of different reasons, it felt fresh. It was Michael that was running this workshop on Thursday so I was pretty excited, but I can’t draw to save my life and I’ve never written a story since I was at school! Reece, that runs Rope Press with his partner Elyse, assured me that I didn’t need to have either of these skills.

There were a handful of us at the workshop, and I didn’t have a clue what to expect. I found out that we were going to be making ‘trash comics’. I’m not sure what the correct definition is of trash comics, but we were given books and magazines and told to cut out pictures and create 6 panels/frames for an A3 page. Then while we were half-way doing that, Michael took another book and ripped out a few pages and handed them out. Our instruction was to use words and sentences from the material he’d just provided. While participating in this, it felt very similar to making music (for me anyway). There were a lot of parallels, such as cutting pictures and sentences from a book or magazine is like sampling a piece of music to make something new. And even though the images when stuck together might look like they don’t work together, when it goes through a printing process it all seems to feel cohesive – and this is almost like the ‘mastering’ process for when you have finished making a piece of music. The workshop was a lot of fun and I would really encourage anyone interested to check it out. I wouldn’t say I was a creative person because I haven’t got those skills, but making the trash comic made me feel like it didn’t matter whether I was creative or not, because it’s all about experimenting and trying things out – the results of it almost feel unimportant because it’s the process of cutting and pasting which is the fun bit (again another parallel to making music). It was very inspiring and it is something I will definitely do in my own time.

Once we had arranged our panels onto the A3 paper, they got printed on the risograph in any colour we wanted. The results that all of us developed were pretty awesome, there was some really good stuff that came out of it all. When I got back home I was eager to put something together sonically to go with the trash comic I had created. I tried to stick to the same concepts in the workshop. I dusted off my trusty SP505 to chop up a few samples, recorded them onto my computer and then I added a few more sounds. Within a few hours I had put together 6 very short tracks (less than a minute) to go with the panels. So I decided to make a little video of it all, here it is:

Rope Press: https://www.facebook.com/ropepress
Michael Kennedy: http://memory-boi.tumblr.com    http://memory-boy.com
Trash Comics: http://trashcomicsworkshop.tumblr.com

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Don't Believe The Hype

Something incredible happened last week. Something for the history books.

An event took place on Friday night last week (June 5th 2015), ‘Listening Sessions presents Rupture Vs Skutta’. For the uninitiated out there: Listening Sessions is a night that started over a year ago – the focus of the night is on local (Birmingham and surrounding areas) producers playing their music to an audience that’s keen on keeping their ears to the ground when it comes to underground music; Rupture is a club night (based in London) that’s been going strong for nearly 10 years, something to be respected because it’s no easy feat. They are an outfit trusted for representing the forefront of Jungle/DnB and they have a loyal fan-base that will soldier to wherever the Rupture crew are doing their thing; last but not least is Skutta – a record label that has been releasing some excellent music, they have a regular show on Jungletrain where they play their perspective of cutting edge Jungle/DnB.

One thing I’ve realised about music events is that you can have the best line-up of artists/performers, but if the sound system isn’t up to scratch, if the venue isn’t right and people aren’t interested, then it’s not going to work. The venue for this event was PST in Digbeth, home to many Listening Sessions events. The key word in the last sentence is ‘home’ – that’s exactly what PST is for a lot of us. There’s a unique vibe to the club, and the people that run it are friendly and they look out for you to make sure you have a good time. The sound system was powered by ‘Creative Hertz’ – renowned for their earth shattering set-up, I can happily say I’ve never experienced tinnitus on any of their set-ups because they have an understanding of frequencies and which ones sound good at a high volume! Definitely one of the best sound systems I have ever experienced. The last and probably most important ingredient for this successful night was the crowd. People had travelled from all over the country for this night. The team involved in putting on the night had made a lot of effort and put in a lot of hard work promoting the event as much as possible, so it was inevitable that this was going to be an epic night.

There were two rooms, Rupture Vs Skutta in the main room and Listening Sessions on the rooftop. The line-up of DJs in both rooms was really good, and so I had a plan of hopping between the two rooms every half an hour so that I could catch most of them. My plan started off well, Slaine kicked things off in the main room. People were already moving on the dance floor and he played some really dirty grimey beats, he also played a few of his own productions which I know have been getting support from DJs like Ray Keith, it was good to hear them on a phat sound system. I then ventured upstairs to catch Onira for a bit. I always look forward to Onira’s sets because he plays a good variety of music and easily switches between the bpms. It’s a difficult job being one of the early DJs of the night because it’s too easy to get straight into it (i.e. playing bangers, anthems, crowd pleasers), that’s why I think Onira is a wicked DJ because he gradually lifted up the vibes – so much so that there was someone that wanted to grab the mic for parts of his set. Before he finished I nipped back down so that I could catch DAAT.

DAAT kicked things off by breaking it right down. No beats, no basslines, just some kind of sound. Then something which loosely resembled a beat faded in – Jason (one half of DAAT) really took his time, it was mesmerising and I was really into it, then before I knew it he played ‘Twitchy Droid Leg’ by Sileni – a personal favourite of mine. I remember looking at my cuz when it came it on, that typical look when you hear a wicked tune and look to a friend in appreciation of it haha. I remember he also played ‘Phytochrome’ which was released on Subtle Audio, it’s a really soothing track. Soon it was time for me to go upstairs to check Elkie who is one of the guys behind Listening Sessions. People were already moving to the music he played, it was an awesome selection and the crowd that was there was really feeling it – I know he played a few M:Pathy tracks which hit the spot. After him, Krytikal came on to the stage, he is a brilliant producer and has released music on a variety of labels including Area Recordings and Dubsalive. His set consisted of tracks that he made or collaborated on, they are very much on a dubstep tip – the basslines were heavy all the way, and to be honest I wouldn’t expect anything less from this guy. Next up was Goosensei who, alongside Elkie, run Listening Sessions. Goosensei played a top notch set full of lots of different grooves, he had Nature Ambassador on the mic.

I nipped down for a bit to check out LA Johnson & Baddesley, they played some good variety – the Footwork/Juke style tracks worked a treat, it’s something I’d like to hear more of. I ventured back up to catch the rest of Goosensei’s set and discovered that another MC had taken control of the mic, she goes by the name of Fedzilla – she worked the mic like a champion and people were lapping it all up.

I absolutely loved everything I was hearing upstairs. My plan to check all the DJs across the two rooms had failed because I ended up staying on the rooftop. I was gutted I missed out on Loxy, and I only caught about 15 minutes of Double O and Mantra. The music from the Listening Sessions cru on the roof top was magic, it felt like we were witnessing the evolution of something new and exciting. Especially when Wooda played THAT tune. Oh boy. I have no idea what it’s called but LORD HAVE MERCY, because the tune was something else, it was HOT. I was one of those annoying people that got my phone out to record it (but someone decided to talk to me while recording! Arghh! Said person has been forgiven and shall remain unnamed). I remember Elkie was by the CDJs and I said to him that the tune needed a rewind and thank god it was! People were making peacock sounds in appreciation – if there is a god out there I will be able to hear it again soon! Yilan played after him, it must’ve been difficult but he rocked it out, and he played a lot of his own selections – I’m a fan of his music, some of it was kind of hard grimey techno, totally banging and at times I would say it was almost brutal – even had Baddesley from Skutta come out of the sweaty main room to show some of his provocative dance moves! It’s a cliché, but if you weren’t there, you really missed something special, it was pure quality from start to finish. Everything I would want from a night out. Shortly after I went back to the main room so that I could hear HEADGEAR b2b with Threshold. Bare smashing of breakbeats to smithereens to say the least, couldn’t help but brock the hell out for a bit before I left.

It was a strange night because it wasn’t just a regular night out for me, the music I heard on the rooftop from the Listening Sessions crew, was the sound of Birmingham developing something new. Not a fad, or a trend, but the sounds of a community of musically minded misfits developing themselves and coming into their own. It reminded me of going to a Technicality all-nighter at Mass in Brixton (2006) – the line up in the main room was amazing (Breakage, Fracture & Neptune, Nookie, etc…) and in room 2 there was Loefah, someone I’d never heard of before playing Dubstep which was fresh to my ears and I remember having the same feeling then. I count myself fortunate that I was able to witness and experience a growing movement taking place. You might think I’m hyping this up like I’ve never been out before or something like that, maybe I am, but the next time there’s something like this going on, don’t believe the hype – come and check it out for yourself.

Photographs courtesy of B Harvey Photography

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Falty DL interview from Futurepast Zine #7

Falty DL is going to be in Birmingham this Saturday 13th June. And so I thought it would be nice for people to read an interview I did with him back in 2014 for issue 7 of the zine. Be sure to get down there early as a few of us will be DJing on the night too :)

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Interview with Yilan

I first heard Yilan's tracks at one of the Listening Sessions nights in Birmingham, and witnessed a memorable night where he tore the PST Rooftop (literally!) with a set that featured mostly his own music. At the time, I was putting together a project (Agents of Disruption) and I knew I needed a track off him. Also, he is playing a set this Friday (5th June 2015) at PST in Digbeth so come and shake a leg because that night is just gonna explode - seriously! Anyway, I think Yilan is one to watch, you may not know much about Yilan, so find out and check out his mix at the end of this interview…….

FPZ: How long have you been making music for and what got you into it in the first place?

Yilan: I started playing in a band when I was 13 (2005). Originally I was on vocals/guitar and we played Linkin Park and Blink 182 covers. I started getting into electronic music in about 2007/8 through dubstep which completely blew my mind and made me fall in love with bass music in general.

I decided to give producing a go when another band finished in my final year of uni (2012). By then I was already way more into a variety of stuff rather than just guitar music. I started going to Listening Sessions about a year ago which lead to me starting to DJ towards the end of 2014.

FPZ: I’ve noticed a change in your music that I’ve heard you play at Listening Sessions. Initially, your tracks covered a few genres (like footwork and breakbeat styles) whereas the recent tracks I’ve heard of yours are more ‘techno’ sounding. Especially when you played your first set at ‘Listening Sessions LIVE’, there were so many people vibing and I remember Hollow and me just kept saying that the tunes were on fire. I still remember the set now lol. Was it a conscious thing to change your music? If so, was there a reason behind it?

Yilan: Glad you enjoyed the set man! That was actually my first DJ set ever, so that sort of explains it really -  I just wanted to make stuff that would fit into the kind of DJ set I wanted to play. Before that I'd been getting more into dance floor based music through nights out but I was still mostly making whatever I wanted at home, a lot of chilled instrumental hip hop and ambient stuff. Then I went to Listening Sessions and heard my own tunes on a club sound system, which made me want to try more dance based stuff. I still make a variety of sounds depending on how I'm feeling, but I'll save some of it for some other projects (or probably just keep it on my hard drive).

Techno has definitely been an influence lately but I'll play anything that I really like and fits a set. Most of my own of tunes aren't four to floor anyway. Theres just a ton of quality stuff around that techno/house bpm thats coming out at the moment that doesn't quite fit those tags and I'm really keen to share it with people.

FPZ: You contributed a track, ‘Visibility’, for the ‘Agents of Disruption’ project I’m putting together. It’s a pretty noisy tune! How did the track come about?

Yilan: Thanks, the main lead sound came from messing around with a filter and distortion plugin over a tom tom. I added that distorted kick and built it around those 2 elements. It's definitely one of my noisier/harsher tunes.

FPZ: Have you worked with any other producers? I know that Krytikal did a wicked remix of one of your tracks. Have you got anymore things like that in the pipeline? Also, have you got any releases coming up?

Yilan: Krytikal did a great job remixing 'Contortion'. The original will be coming out on a compilation on Rawganics later this year.

I've worked with The Deviant on a hip hop track for his EP, and I've just finished a remix of Krytikal's track 'Illusions' (the original was released on the Futurepast 'Light of Day' compilation!). Apart from that I've got a few unfinished bits here and there, hoping to collaborate a lot more in the future.

(FPZ: No one told me about this remix!!! Lol. I need to hear this!)

FPZ: How did u hear about listening sessions?

Yilan: I was searching for some music production tips and tutorials online and found the 'Birmingham Producers Community' group. Someone posted the second Listening Sessions event in there and I thought I'd head down and check it out even though I knew literally no one there and I was by myself. Everyone was really friendly and it was great to talk to other people who were deep into their music too. The tunes that get played there are such a high standard and the vibe was great. I went a few times before I felt ready to bring some tunes down but 'Hoods Up' got a really good reaction and I was so surprised. Every time since then I've met more people making some really sick music. I cannot big up Listening Sessions enough!

FPZ: What's your influences and what music artists do you look up to or draw inspiration from?

Yilan: Anyone in any field who just does something a bit different. I like music with a focus on bass and a sense of space especially. Hodge is absolutely killing it at the moment. I love how Four Tet just plays whatever the hell he wants in a set. Mumdance, Objekt, Blawan, Gantz, Dyl all make crazy stuff. Away from the dance floor I'm really loving Fis recently and TCF. I also love post-rock bands like Explosions in the Sky and This Will Destroy You, that music is so cinematic. 

Burial will probably always be the most played thing on my iPod by far though.

FPZ: How do you approach making music?

Yilan: I just usually mess around with samples or maybe put some drums together, mashing different ideas, resampling. I want to get more into synthesis so I can create the sounds I want to hear more quickly. I try out whatever ideas I think of, but I've learnt to just let go of any ideas that don't work to just try and finish the tune in the past few months.

FPZ: Tell me a bit about the mix you put together.

Yilan: This mix has got some tribal sounds and a few of my own recent tunes too amongst ones from Troy Gunner, Hodge, Pearson Sound and Lurka. Things get a bit more spacey and weird at the end.

Finally, I just want to thank Rawtrachs from Futurepast Zine for doing this interview and hosting my mix, hope you enjoy it. A massive thanks to all the Listening Sessions family too!

FPZ: Check Yilan out! https://soundcloud.com/yilanmusic
Photographs of Yilan courtesy of B Harvey Photography
Come and get sweaty:

Monday, 1 June 2015

Interview with Headgear (Part 1)

I first met fellow Midlander, Alister (Headgear) at Listening Sessions (Birmingham, UK), and went on to find out that he has a pretty deep history in Jungle/DnB. From various chats and facebook posts I found out a lot more info about his involvement with music including the music he makes. This week, on 5th June, he and a few other peeps are putting on an incredible night at an incredible venue, so this seemed like a good time to be my nosey self....

FPZ: Who are you and how did your interest in music begin?
Headgear: My name is Alister Head I'm 37 and I'm from Birmingham. I'm a Drum and Bass / Jungle producer / DJ and go under the artist name HEADGEAR. In the 90's I went under the names Soundcraft (Tech Itch Recordings), T.I.C (Back 2 Basics), Threshold (Second Movement Recordings) and Logistics (Dubz).

My interest for music goes as far back as I can remember, I started learning the saxophone when I was 8 and picked it up pretty quickly. I knew then that music was something that I wanted in my life. Jazz was one of my early influences, Hip Hop was something I also loved as a kid and during the late 80s and into the early 90s dance music started becoming more accessible to me through pirate radio. Hearing stuff by Frankie Bones, Silver Bullet and Rebel MC drew my attention to sample based music. 

I was heavily into my gaming back then, I owned a Commodore Amiga and would get magazines with demo disks taped to the front. One of the disks had a demo of OctaMED, a clever piece of software that allowed me to sequence samples together using four channels of audio. Thankfully I gave it try and from that point on, I was hooked. 

FPZ: You mentioned Back2Basics which gets me excited because I used to go record shopping there, but before we get to that, can you give me the names of some tracks by the artists you mentioned like Rebel MC etc... that caught your ear at the time?
Headgear: Luckily I discovered the names of some of these tracks in my more recent years - gotta love the internet haha. I was 10-13 years old when I heard these tracks.
The 'Rebel MC' album 'Black Meaning Good' had 'Tribal Base','Wickedest Sound' & 'Comin on Strong' on it. All of them had a prototype jungle sound to them.

Looney Tunes EP Vol 1 (Frankie Bones & Lenny Dee) - Another Place Another Time

The Ragga Twins had some wicked tracks like 'Spliffhead', 'Hooligan 69' & 'Wipe The Needle'.

The 'Silver Bullet' album 'Bring Down the Walls No Limit Squad Returns' was one that I'm pretty sure I wore out the cassette from playing it so much.

Then you've got the first 'Bomb the Bass' album 'Into the Dragon' which I've not heard in years so not sure how it holds up now but as a kid I loved it.

FPZ: What pirate radio did you listen to? And were there specific DJs that you looked out for?
Headgear: Starlight FM was the one station that stuck in my mind from that period, unfortunately I can't remember any of the DJs.

FPZ: It's interesting that Jazz was one of the first types of music you listened to, sometimes people start with Hip Hop, House, Jungle etc.... and then get into Jazz via samples and crate digging. Is Jazz something that you still listen to and get influenced by? Are there any albums/tracks that you always reach for?
Headgear: My dad was into his Jazz when I was young so I got to hear a fair amount of stuff back then. I don't listen to Jazz now to be honest as I have limited time as it is to listen to the stuff I really want to hear. Some of the artists that stood out to me were Courtney Pine and Steve Williamson they were also part of the group Jazz Warriors which was co-founded by the vocalist Cleveland Watkiss. Years later Steve Williamson and Cleveland Watkiss featured on Goldie's album Timeless then Cleveland Watkiss went on to MC at the legendary Metalheadz Sunday Sessions held at Blue Note.

FPZ: You've mentioned how you started taking an interest in music, how did this progress into buying records? Where did you go record shopping?
Headgear: Well, being a kid I didn't have an income except for a bit of pocket money I was lucky enough to receive every other week. With this I'd make the journey into Birmingham town centre to Pure Records which was run by Lee Fisher and MC Lenni (think he just hung out there to be honest) who was one of the better known MC's on the rave circuit at the time. I'd heard of MC Lenni through a DJ SS mix tape that someone gave me in '92. You can find the mix on Youtube under the name 'Dj SS Mc's Lenni & Bassman - Dance Planet 1992'. The set was jokes due to the amount of technical issues and Lenni screwing at people on the stage. It's maybe difficult to listen to now, but I'll always remember the effect it had on my little impressionable mind at the time.

Anyway, back to the answer. As my craving for music grew I wanted to check out other places that I'd heard of and one of them was Bang-in Tunes in Coventry. Now this place had some serious history connected to it as well as being not far from the The Eclipse which held some of the best raves in the Midlands at the time. DJ Luke & Neil Trix (FBD Project) worked there so you'd know that what they stocked was always worth checking out. I pretty much tried to make that long ass bus journey to Coventry every weekend and I rarely came away disappointed.

FPZ: When I saw you last we chatted about record shopping at Don Christies in B'ham. And you said that you worked there, what period was that? And what was it like? I feel like record shopping is an important part of music culture.
Headgear: I was never a paid employee at Don Christies but I helped out occasionally around '95 when Shock C worked there. Ian (Shock C) was a mate of mine back then and he used to have a regular slot playing Jungle on Choice 102.2FM. He also put on a regular Wednesday night do at Marco Polo which I played some of my first DJ gigs at. Don Christies was one of the best reggae outlets in Birmingham and in the basement they sold Jungle, this is where I spent most of my time. Unfortunately the building no longer exists as it needed to make way for the new Bullring Markets. 

FPZ: I'm gonna skip a few questions now, as I'll save these for part 2 of the interview! There's a Rupture X Skutta Recs X Listening Sessions night happening on the 5th June, how did that come about?
Headgear: Well, back in 2011 I went to Rupture at Corsica Studios (London, UK) with my long time friend Ben (Rondema). He'd been on about this night for ages and said I needed to witness it first hand. Now for me, I'd not been doing any kind of production and had little interest in Drum & Bass for over ten years. Ben kept passing me CDs that he'd burnt from either Equinox's 'Scientific Wax' or Double 0 & Mantra's 'Rupture Sessions' show that are on Jungletrain.net. The sounds they were playing reminded me of what was missing from the music I used to love. The Amen break was being smashed all over the place and the basslines had weight that you could feel.
For me, going to Rupture was a life changer - I'd not witness such vibes and great music since the 90's. Everyone down there was so into the sounds being played, you had DJ's, producers, music lovers all going there to witness something special. No egos just love for the music. At that point I knew I wanted to get back on the beats and start contributing again to a sound that I once loved.

Being a Rupture regular and chatting with people online I started to develop friendships with many of the people involved with the night. Obviously Double 0 & Mantra are the heads that have been putting on these nights for nearly 9 years so getting to know them has been one of the factors in getting them to bring Rupture to Birmingham for the very first time.

I've known Anthony (Baddesley) from Skutta Records for many years and he's always wanted to put on a night here in Birmingham. I took him to Rupture a while back, I think he was a bit sceptical at first but that changed quickly. Like everyone that has been down there, he loved it. 

The final piece to the puzzle came about by going to the Listening Sessions nights held at PST (Birmingham, UK). Tom and Mat have been providing a platform for up and coming Birmingham producers to listen to their work on a real sound system. It's an opportunity to get their music heard by other producers and like-minded people. Listening Sessions, PST and all involved just seemed to create a unique vibe that you don't get anywhere else and for the first time in a long time Birmingham had something I could get excited about. So it didn't take long before we all started talking about bringing something special to Birmingham and that's how the night was first conceived. 

All these factors seemed to have converged at the right time along with the recently built sound-system that has had a number of showings at PST. Those Creative Hertz guys have built one serious sound system so it made sense to get them on-board. We want this night to be memorable for a lot of reasons and having a thunderous sound system always leaves a good impression.

FPZ: You're playing b2b with Threshold on that night. Will you be trying to 'out do' each other (in a friendly way of course)? What can the crowd expect from yourself?
Headgear: Threshold likes a good old fashioned sound clash and I know he'll be bringing some unreleased dubs for the night. This man has too many gems at his disposal so I'm just looking forward to hear what he brings. I've got a few bits he's yet to hear so I'm hoping to get a couple of 'what's this tune?' reactions from him. Let the battle commence.

Listening Sessions presents Rupture vs Skutta is going to be something unlike anything brought to Birmingham before. The wealth of talent across both rooms, the venue, the Creative Hertz sound system all need to be witnessed by as many people as possible. So, run go tell your friends, family and neighbours this night is not to be missed.


Look out for Part 2 of this interview as there is still a lot more history to dig into. Big up Alister Headgear! Check his music out here: https://soundcloud.com/h3adg3ar/tracks

PS: Another interview soon to come from another artist that will also be featuring on the night on 5th June :)