Look who's back

The Jump Off Monthly 2007 We Back Trailer

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The Jump Off is back by public demand after a lengthy sojourn. This is one of the few events that's in the UK and London, championing up and coming urban music talent, from rapppers (Pro Green) to producers (Mr Hudson) to dancers (Kimberley who starred in Nike's tv campaign and now works with Madonna). The new Jump Off also features comedy battles and pillow fighting. It's nights like this, that grow grassroots talent, that deserve support. So represent! This coming Monday (July 2), Mean Fiddler!

Stones Throw touches down in Toon

A piece that I did from yesterday's Newcastle Metro. It's all about the DIY ethos, and networking in the real world - how about applying the myspace and facebook approach in day to day real life? I can guarantee it will reap more rewards than the virtual world.

Ghetto Method

‘It’s been 18 months since we’ve been doing events but they have mainly been about networking between promoters, artists, illustrators, designers, bands, DJs, producers and MCs,’ says Dave Guy, promoter and brains behind Ghetto Method.

Ghetto Method enters the formal club arena with two intriguing nights this summer: tomorrow’s debut features guests from globally revered independent hip-hop imprint, Stone’s Throw, including founder Peanut Butter Wolf and hip hop-disco-punk-pop blurring Baron Zen, with support from Ghetto Method’s Dr B and Notorious D.A.V.E. Next month’s July’s Ghetto Method hosts a Black Affair gig, the mysterious electro-pop outfit from ex-Beta Band front man Steve Mason.

Ironically in this frenzied age of online social networking (Myspace, Facebook), Ghetto Method is not only connecting the North East’s creative community, it’s providing support, encouragement and a platform to showcase talents, all in the real world.

‘Ghetto Method came from me having the same conversation with various creative people in the city that I got to know over the last ten years and saying, ‘Have you spoken to so and so?’’ explains Guy. ‘There are an awful lot of creative people around the city who aren’t aware of what each other do.’

‘So we began hooking up artists without a space to show what they do with club promoters and using their work in clubs, or a producer like Steve Bird who needs artwork for his releases – we’re here to push local artists, and raise their profile,’ continues Guy. ‘With these two gigs it’s time for us to stick our head above the parapet and tell people we’re here and this is what we do, gel a few things together and up our game.’

To date, Ghetto Method’s informal events include a painting weekend in the Cumbrian Moors, a graffiti installation at Ayrshire’s Kelburn Castle, as well as a couple of forest, beach and basement parties. And you can get a taste of Ghetto Method’s ‘culture jams’ on Saturday, at the Star & Shadow cinema.

‘We’ll be decorating skirting boards, putting up bigger boards for larger scale pieces and free drawing with different pieces blurring into one another,’ reveals Guy. ‘We’ll use filp charts with everyone using a page each, drawing on overhead projectors and showing films.’

Ghetto Method’s gone back to the old school in two senses: firstly in establishing and nurturing a tangible family of like-minded creative people, and secondly it’s eschewed current hip hop’s entrepreneurial hustler mentality and obsession with money, instead drawing on the genre’s founding principals.

‘Ghetto Method’s based on the original hip-hop ethos, that everyone has got something to contribute to a party or gathering, whether you’re an artist with pens, or a poet and MC or a dancer or a musician,’ concludes Guy. ‘Ghetto Method is not a hip-hop collective but it is hip hop in terms of a DIY ethic, personal expression, everyone having something to contribute and being given a platform.’

Tonight, Ghetto Method, The Venue, Market Street NE1, 10pm til late, £8 adv, £9 door. Tel: 0191 232 111.

Sat, Art Jam, Star and Shadow cinema, Stepney Bank NE1, noon to 7pm, £1, free to members. Tel: 0191 261 0066



Q Tip teaser

It's far too brief, but hey it's Q Tip freestyling on the mic at Yoyo NYC last week.
A Tribe Called Quest reformed last year for a 15 date US tour in support of a basketball video game (!) - if that's not a sign of the times I don't know what is.

Q Tip remains one of my fave MCs of all time, and ATCQ, probably my favourite ever band. So naturally I'm excited by any Q Tip or ATCQ moves. What I will say though, is I much prefer Q Tip's Kamaal The Abstract guise/LP (think pyschedelic soul a la Andre 3000, Ceee-Lo, but this is from 2001) to his pimpin playa character that emerged on Amplified in the immediate post ATCQ era.

The inside 'ledge is that his label thought Kamaal The Abstract was too far out there. And within two years Outkast blew up with exactly that sort of sound. Major record label short sightedness and conservatism strikes, again. If anyone has Kamaal The Abstract on vinyl, let me know, I would be willing to do all manner of silly things to get hold of it. Hat tip to Aaron Lacrate for the link/headz up.


The Kitchen Diaries

Now this is what I'm talking about: beatboxer Beardyman's used the vehicle of reality tv cookery programmes to get across what he's all about: a vocal percussionist of the highest order, with a sense of humour to boot! We need more of this kind of lateral thinking to spread the word of decent music and up and coming artists. It's had over 1m views on youtube with largely favourable comments. You couldn't buy marketing like that even if you were signed to a major label. You can bet every person that's seen this now knows who Beardyman is.

I was lucky enough to see Beardyman at the Human Beatbox Convention - check out the Shlomo post - and he is funny as fuck. He started with some four four house grooves, gurning as he went. cheeky genius.


Dancing in silence

Dancing in silence. Seems bizarre but it's not quite what it seems so read on. There are some very interesting implications of our love of clubs and live music: 30% of 18-40 year olds have diminished hearing and as a result EU legislation is coming in to ban PAs over a certain volume (the equivalent of four people talking). Which will make for very bizarre/quiet/unsatisfying gig/festival/club experiences! This didn't make the Metro story, as it's kind of dry, but this is the backstory to the silent disco concept. Nico Silent Disco is going to save our hearing! Can you imagine a future where you rave with headphones on, and there's no smoking. It seems like a furistic vision, but it's not that far away is it?? This was appeared in metro last week.


Silent Disco

Silent Disco is the solution for the perennial festival quandary: what to do when the stages and arenas have powered down for the night (usually around 11pm or midnight), and you still want to party? Before Silent Disco you might have followed your ears and stumbled across a battery-powered sound system or a guitar/bongo jam around a fire, or wandered the site until your party mojo waned.

Silent Disco made its UK debut at Glastonbury 2005, and proved a panacea for the clash between locals and festivalgoers wanting to sleep, and nocturnal hedonists. On entering the Silent Disco tent every person is given a set of headphones, each broadcasting the same DJ mixing. From the outside it looks like a 'silent disco', but with the headphones on you’re part of a thousand-strong dancefloor getting down to the same music (supplied by Silent Disco’s No DJ or DJ OD).

Silent Disco will be at many of this summer’s festivals (Glastonbury, T In The Park, Edinburgh Festival and Carling Weekender), but you can also experience it with No DJ at Royal Festival Hall's 48-hour launch, tomorrow and Saturday (June 1 & 2).

'The Royal Festival Hall will be different to the festivals because it's a dedicated party, so we will refer to the famous open air dances at the South Bank in 1951 when it was reopened after World War II,' explains Silent Disco co-founder Nico Okkerse (DJ No). 'We will broadcast actual footage of these on huge screens, so it will look and spectacular.'

Dancing in silence, while wearing headphones seems insular, individual and at odds with the idea of listening to music in public as a social, interactive experience. 'If you take your iPOD and put the headphones in then you have an individual experience,' explains Okkerse. 'At Silent Disco you will be one of several hundred listening and reacting to the same music - you can dance, make eye contact and hear the music better than in a gig or club. You're able to take out a headphone out start a philosophical debate, which is difficult in a club, so it’s very social.'

Okkerse believes Silent Disco offers an alternative way of experiencing music in public, and the human interaction that follows, with mind-boggling potential: for example, a Silent Disco broadcasting different soundtracks simultaneously.

'At last year’s Lowlands festival in Holland we had Nellie Mckay a singer-songwriter from New York playing at on one channel, while on another channel we had house DJ, Monica Electronica,' explains Okkerse. '15% of the audience preferred house and were jumping around, but the vast majority just stood there dreaming away to Nellie McKay. Nobody had a problem with it and in that sense I see a big future with different social groups listening to different music.'

'There are so many new possibilities, Silent Disco may take another decade to be accepted as an alternative way of listening to music in public.'

Silent Disco will be at the Edinburgh Festival, Glastonbury, T In The Park and Reading/Leeds.


Uh oh Akon

Shocking stuff. Pick on someone your own size Akon. Or was it a plant? Fanks to Anealla for the forward.


Exit: A must goto festival

Travel feature on Exit festival, published in Metro on Friday June 1st. I can't recommend this festival highly enough. The vibe is second to none. No jaded cynicism, been there done that, I saw this band two years ago, blah, blah, blah.


What makes a good festival? Most of us would probably say location, music, people, atmosphere, cost and weather, but not necessarily in that order. And in these terms you would be very hard pushed to beat Serbia’s four-day Exit festival.

Firstly the setting is beyond spectacular: Exit takes place in a sprawling 17th/18th century citadel – or a tiered, walled city – on the banks of the green-blue River Danube. The Petrovaradin Fortress, which took nearly 90 years to build and cost the lives of around 1,000 slaves, thieves and murderers, houses 25 stages and welcomes 150,000-festival-goers over four nights.

You could quite easily disregard the music and spend your time wandering and exploring the Fortress and its nooks, crannies and alcoves. Or mesmerized and humbled by the purple-crimson sunsets over the Danube, looking down on thousands of revellers streaming towards the Fortress over the Varadinski Bridge in ant-like procession.

The breathtaking sunsets are matched by sunrise over Exit’s second largest arena, the open-air dance stage in the Fortress’ moat. As you tumble down the levels of the citadel the dull thud of repetitive beats becomes more crisp and as another scorching day begins to break you’re presented with a biblical scene: a vertiginous drop and a moat crammed with 20,000 people worshipping at the altar of the DJ booth.

Exit’s programming is weird (last year Morrissey followed Dizzee Rascal on the main stage), and wonderful (Scissor Sisters following the Pet Shop Boys). Its line-ups combine an emphasis on classic rock acts (last year - Billy Idol, The Cardigans, The Cult) to draw older Serbians, with hip bands (Franz Ferdinand, Scissor Sisters) and world renowned DJs (Derrick May, Jeff Mills, Dave Clarke) to entice young people.

Beyond recognisable big names, it’s well worth checking out stages dedicated to traditional Balkan folk music, Serbian hip-hop and death metal, reggae and Latin music (blasting out reggaeton and providing dancing lessons). Considering this year’s line up so far includes Beastie Boys, Basement Jaxx, CSS, Lauryn Hill, Wu Tang Clan and Robert Plant, and DJs including Danny Tenaglia, Richie Hawtin, Roger Sanchez and Eric Prydz, there’s enough to sate the most diverse of palates.

Exit’s atmosphere is as unique as its line ups, and that’s down to the festival’s origins as a student protest gathering against Slobodan Milosevic’s dictatorship in 2000. Milosevic’s reign ended a few weeks after the inaugural Exit, and consequently the festival’s come to symbolise a new beginning for Serbia, celebrating what we often take for granted: freedom and self expression.

Novi Sad locals – starved of tourism for two decades until the early noughties - couldn’t be more hospitable, treating you as if you’re being welcomed into their homes. And although for us Exit’s cheap (£54 for the entire four days), for Serbians the €78 ticket price is the equivalent of 1/4 and 1/3 of a monthly salary. So Serbians share a pass between friends, each choosing a night to attend and ensuring they get the most of their hard earned cash.

All these factors contribute to an overwhelmingly positive vibe and intoxicating, excitable atmosphere that has to be experienced to be believed.

This year’s Exit takes place from Jul 12-15 www.exitfest.org


Metro Music Extra: Dubstep

A round of current dubstep LPs/mixes I compiled for Metro. Published in last Friday's paper, nationally.

Soul Jazz Records has championed dubstep since 2006, and Box Of Dub is its first compilation celebrating the British-born sound that draws heavily on electronic dub pioneers such as King Tubby, yet is equally shaped by rave, jungle, drum’n’bass, UK garage, hip hop and techno. Box Of… represents the dubstep’s myriad shades including Digital Mystikz’s eerily sparse yet warm, rootsy soundscapes, Skream’s swinging, bouncing avalanches of sub bass suffused with pure rave energy via Kode 9 seemingly harnessing the energy and toughness of a modern metropolis and Burial’s razor-sharp, piano and vocal-led, chilling twostep. Also featuring American producers Haze & Ho’s dissonant, militancy, Box Of Dub is not only a snapshot of dubstep in 2007, but also captures its weird and wonderful possibilities.

Dubstep’s sometimes derided as ‘sleepy’ because of its tempo (it sounds slow next to 99.9% of dance music) and big, lumbering basslines. That’s half the beauty of it, but it’s not an accusation that could be ever be levelled at Rinse FM DJ, N-Type’s Dubstep All Stars Volume 5 (Tempa), mix that features 38 tracks in 73minutes. It doesn’t take a genius to do the maths: you get approximately two minutes of each record before N-Type slams in the next. Dubstep’s biggest names are here, and N Type generally batters the dancefloor with dark dubstep, occasionally leavening the intense dancefloor pressure with a moment of lightness (such as Fat Freddy’s Drop or birds chirruping). It’s a dizzying, noisy experience, where production details are lost in the cacophony, but the fact it’s fast, furious, and ravey makes it perfect for the attention-deficit iPOD generation.

Plastician’s debut LP, Beg To Differ, is a dynamic, bristling affair that successfully navigates a path between dubstep and grime. Intensive Snare, with Skepta’s bullish hype-the-rave MCing, celebrates the stinging snare drum that’s a foundation of dubstep. Real Things with five rowdy MCs, is a sharp reminder of how annoying gobby MCs spouting inane lyrics can be (You’re a badboy MC? Why do we care?). Nevertheless Beg To Differ is a triumph, with crunky dark garage (Vio-lent), rotating, metronomic rhythms evoking the coming of the four horsemen of the apocalypse (Shallow Groove), and particularly the discomfiting dislocated sub bass of I Can’t Believe, that feels as if it’s outside tapping on your windows.

Cyrus’s LP From The Shadows (Tectonic) is an album to immerse your self in (like Burial and Kode9). It’s visual music, with a storytelling quality thanks to its innate depth, time and space that coaxes and allows your imagination to run wild: for example, the lumbering Mind Games is the sound of the zombies on the march. It’s also emotive, variously triggering feelings of claustrophobia, suspense, loneliness, melancholy, dread, and calm. So it’s no surprise that dubstep’s already made the jump to film scores, and featured prominently on the soundtrack to Oscar-nominated sci-fi thriller Children Of Men. From The Shadows is such an unsettling, tense experience, that Cyrus seems like the dubstep equivalent of Alfred Hitchock