Robbie Wojciechowski
Writer | Researcher | Press

Student turned storyteller. Writer on music, youth, education, anthropology, socio-economics and protest. Sometime project manager, PR, consultant and researcher.

Previous work inc: The Guardian, BBC, Evening Standard, NME, VICE, Nike, Glastonbury Festival and Cable London.

robbie.wojciechowski @gmail.com
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The Musical Linkup - July

Amidst the haze of Glastonbury, British Summer Time and a few namelessly brilliant gigs - I’ve been away from a desk for the last month so. But I’m back - this time, with a fresh selection of names to get your teeth stuck into. 

This week:

tonstartssbandht

Jacob Allen

Cellar Door

Sumochief 

Lazy Jack

Peace

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Shangri La, Glastonbury: Bred from of the British squat movement, born into utopian idealism

Originally published by Noisey (June, 2014) -http://noisey.vice.com/en_uk/blog/shangri-la-this-year-is-a-realisation-that-were-really-really-fucked-glastonbury-2014?utm_source=noiseyfbuk

The original transcript, with photos from Tim Boddy (2013) - on Shangri La, it’s inception, the British squat movement, new age travellers, and why we can’t just live in utopian idealism -

The car is on fire, and there’s no driver at the wheel
And the sewers are all muddied with a thousand lonely suicides
And a dark wind blows
The government is corrupt
And we’re on so many drugs
With the radio on and the curtains drawn

So goes ‘The Dead Flag Blues’ by Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Those post-apocalyptic visions, of dust tracks and dirty wastelands, chemical erosion and corrupt governments are an image shared by the creators of the notorious South East corner of the Glastonbury site.

Having established itself in 2009, Shangri La, has very quickly become Worthy Farm’s most notorious field. For some, it’s the idea of your every worst nightmare – a town of crony idealism, far removed from the Babylonian world of the main stages. Blending cutting edge street theatre, with three decades of dance music heritage – Shangri La grasps a very unique British surrealism. Landmarked by the counter-cultural movement of new-age travellers, the South East corner has arguably saved Glastonbury from remaining just another over-sized rock festival. Instead, turning it into a site in which ideas of utopia, politics, power and civilization can be brought to question through a manner of different lenses.

While the Green Fields beliefs might be in peddling sacred stones, naked saunas and relaxing massages – Shangri La is almost it’s complete opposite. Meshing steel and metal with sweeping challenges of corporate idealism, Shangri La is both a space to party and a political forum. In the one sense, the great, fuck off projections and ridiculous sound systems pedal a deep, ketamine fuelled party that lasts deep into the night, while the surroundings bring the madcap ambitions of a team of 1500 illustrators, artists, riggers and designers alive to pull together one of the most visually-stunning fields I’ve ever seen on a festival site.

Each year is built off a different theme. While last year saw us enter the afterlife, after a great communist invasion, and virus-ridden post-apocalyptic party to end all parties, this year sees the team explore the new age of capital. As corporations and profit take over – Shangri La looks at the fictitious values behind the profiteering elite, and the sacrifices we all make as part of it – exploring how this is leering us all towards a sense of escapism and denial.

We caught up with Deborah Armstrong, creative director of Shangri La, to talk about the history of Shangri La, and to talk us through this year’s theme.

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Robbie Wojciechowski: Shangri La in is a sort new-age circus – where the touring pantomimes of our childhood have slipped away, and been replaced by Angela Carter style daydreams – how would you best describe what Shangri La does?

I think fundamentally Shangri La is about creating a world that people come to as an experience – there’s one aspect of it where it’s kind of this immersive world of insanity, but in another sense, it’s a response to a theme, something that interests and inspires us, and communicates our thinking on the world. The topic always has to be interesting and inspiring – something that will engage the artists we work with. In one sense Shangri La is a huge installation, in another, it’s a creative playground, where we’re exhibiting to a completely open audience.

How much is it a innovation of your own – and that of other peoples?

It’s a little bit of both. For example, this year, we’ve got loads of visual artists, like Ron English, Shepherd Ferry, Mark Jenkins. With some of them, we’re looking for certain pieces of work. We send off the brief, and they’ll send back pieces of work that they think either fit the brief, or new work they’ve created off the back of it. Often it’s a mix of both. It’s a completely collaborative project. Glastonbury is notoriously always poorly paid, and always a ball ache – but the crew, the people all make it, it just has to be really worth it, because it’s an incredibly interesting creative experience, developing artists, students and their work. This year’s been a lot tighter on the creative process – we’ve always invited people to come and participate and for people to enter their work. New people always come and work with us every year.

Tell us about Lost Vagueness – and give us an outline of where it all began

I was a relative latecomer – I got involved in Lost Vagueness in 2002, and that was the first year it had expanded from the days of just being a tent. It was the first year Roy, my old business partner, couldn’t be there, so everything was pretty much left up to me. There were 5 of us – in an extraordinary situation, with no toilets, no nothing – so we made up these fake passes to blag all the provisions and people we needed. On Sunday, we made it all up and realised we didn’t really have a party – so I had to beg Phil, the guy who has always run the diner, to help me out. It ended up being the most wonderful party. Joe Strummer ended up playing this wonderfully debauched set. And through that night, through that moment, Phil is now my husband. You end up in intense, ridiculous situations, with over work, with every situation, that you really, really bond with people.

Everybody that does Shangri La also does other stuff – it’s like herding cats, trying to get everyone together can be manic. Everyone’s got other projects, or they all live in the country. Chris Tofu, Continental Drifts – crucial in developing underground talent, Robin runs a bar, Andy builds, Kaye works at Boomtown and I run a production company Strong and Co.

For me, Shangri La is a ‘very English surrealism’ – do you think theatre of this kind can only really exist in the UK?

It’s funny, I remember going to Burning Man a few years ago, and really, really missing it. I saw one person there that got it bang on. Obviously the work there is incredible, but I just saw one guy, rolling around with a briefcase taking the piss out of the silent discos that really, really captured it for me. It’s our sense and spirit for being creative and cynical that really nails it in the UK, I think. The surrealist thing is just always about having a twist on an idea. We call it shangrilising something. It’s really British I think.  

I guess that’s been marked by years of influence from different counter cultural movements – at one end of the scale you’ve got Tim Burton’s work, at the other end, every single bit of youth culture from the last 50 years – and the mystic origins, the spiritual side of things that comes inherent with Glastonbury. 

Exactly – the whole mythic side, with Avalon, the permaculturists, the Green Fields that have always brought those links together.  Everyone here has all chosen very alternative ways of going about their business – there’s a definite family of people that are all quite wrong, but in a very special kind of way. Wrong in the right way. So insane that they’re sane. It’s all family now. Literally, they are people I’ve been working with for 15 years of my life. 

I had the same experience – I first went to Glastonbury when I was 15, and at the time I remember it feeling like a tipping point. From now on, this was my strange, abandoned community – my spiritual home, and my family away from home. 

I think it gives people a sense of everything, of security I think too. I definitely feel like we’ve got our corner now – for me, it feels like home, there’s family looking out for everyone everywhere, it’s the place I let my kids run completely free.

How about you personally, what led you to Glastonbury?

I went to art school, Central St Martins, and I studied installation under Brian Shaw. Then I found my health in a difficult situation, so I ran away to travel the world for two years, then realised what the doctors told me had been wrong, but it left me with a sense of needing to do something precious with my time. So through that, I started doing squat parties, installations, bigger places, during the late 90’s. Then I did this massive party by Battersea airport, in this huge three building complex we’d squatted, and it’s through that, that I met Roy and Lost Vagueness and got him to throw a massive casino, which he’d been running at the time, at this party.

There’s a unique moment in history – an abandonment that linked squatters and massive hives of creative culture. People were working with each other in new ways, living completely boundless lives where they felt like they could do anything. 

Completely, I always wonder what people are going to do nowadays. For me, everything sort of came from there. Today it’s never quite as maverick, today everyone’s a lot more together to get it, and that does have its positives. Today you have to be so much more on top of your shit. It’s not like when we were able to just kick the doors down, enter a space, break open all the gates, pull the trucks round, secure it. The whole process of securing space, sorting out the squat, organising your shit, dealing with the community and its politics, taught us everything. Like most people, I grew through it and out of it, but it’s still the beacon by which I found everyone. We all still work together, and we all create together.  A lot of the reason for us still doing what we do now is because we love working together.

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There’s still a core fundamental experience to it – and that’s kind of what makes Shangri La

Yeah, it’s always grown out the free party, traveller scene, and that sense of lets just smash open the gates, drive onto the queens woodlands, have a massive party, clean it up and fuck off home. It’s that DIY culture – to take back the power, and take things into our own hands.

It’s almost as if the new-age travelling movement, the 90’s free-party ethos and reintegrating your environment into new spaces, is integral to why Glastonbury is still going, and the core of the spirit behind Shangri La. Do you think all this in a way is what saved Glastonbury from demise into just another rock festival? 

Michael never had to take any of this on – he met Roy, gave us all a field and embraced the entire ethos of the thing. He’s in many ways, been really the only person who’s done that, and the incredible result he gets at the end of the day from investing in those artists and people – has led to them growing up, having been given an opportunity, and they’ve developed into the most incredible crews, riggers and illustrators around.

The Southeast corner is all a reference to that. Everyone that runs an area here, all used to be part of the crew from Lost Vagueness – from the boys in décor, right through to all the old production crew. Roy, the founder, had an unfortunate habit of falling out with people – and one after another, things broke down a little, but out of the ashes raised Shangri La. And that was back in 2008. And Michael gave us the go. 

It’s funny – if you look at an oral history of Glastonbury, you realise the entire South East Corner emerged as a place for new theatre, new arts and new ideas, out of the late 90’s industrial experience. It’s at this point; there was a strange urbanisation of Worthy Farm? 

We’ve thought about that for years – just why us old city muckers go to a field in Somerset for a few weeks and make everything really metal and industrial and so far removed from the idyllic countryside – and then want to fuck off at the end of it. 

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Glastonbury blends a rejection of the anti-establishment – but still keeps a very respected reputation within the sphere of music, culture and entertainment worldwide. It’s always embraced people it probably otherwise shouldn’t, and instead of being scared of counter-culture movements, embraced them.

I think it’s always just been a unique experience – something sort of untouchable. Obviously, the other side of the festival, the big bands still get the press, but I think there’s been a long lineage of Glastonbury embracing things where others don’t, letting us run wild with ideas, and putting faith in people that would otherwise be forgotten about.

What about the theme for this year – tell us a little bit about this year’s theme, and how they come into being?

So, the alleyways of days past have been bulldozed by the evil Shangri-Hell Corporation, everyone has been evicted, and in return they’ve built a shiny new headquarters, where they can celebrate all their success from. In the corporation, there is a divide between a numbers of separate departments; you’ve got the IT department, HR. This year, Shangri-Hell is all about the office nightmare, a cataclysmic demand to pull you to your senses, and question life back home away from Worthy.

Can you explain a little bit more about this year’s theme?

This is a realisation that we’re really, really fucked. The colonial empire building has transferred the idea of a corporate empire building – hell’s behind the profiteering, evil doing of big business, and heaven’s trying really hard to counter it, but not doing well.

During our research for this year, the whole thing just became incredibly depressing – but that’s where Heaven comes in, it’s all about exquisite escapism, and every great value we can hold.

It’s an interesting move – given Shangri La has always been associated with the dystopian future –

Well this is the problem; this is the reality of the profiteering elite. Heaven on the outside is about escapism and denial, fuck it, and let’s remove ourselves from it, on another level.

In one sense; we’re breaking down the idea of corporatism, on the other side, we’re trying to reference the greater problems within that world, and the real moral conditions. 

Cool – what can we expect to see?

Last year we dealt with the very contemporary sins – bankers, corporations – and this year, we’re going deeper into corporate hell. Heaven hasn’t been doing well – the idealism is running out. Hell’s succeeding, so Heaven’s come up with a new accessibility initiative, this year we’re bringing an open door policy. On one side there’s windows and doors into dark worlds – on the other, we’ve got a massive new heaven arena. Everything’s been turned inside out. We’ve got a huge hanging installation made by the permaculture teams, Doug Foster making a massive projection called Pyschotron infinity mandala that’ll be stretched across the field, sitar players, a massive birdsong installation of the dawn chorus at Glastonbury that’ll kick in once the music switches off. The dome behind the arena is where we’re most excited about though.

We’ve got Utopian talks, in the dome all weekend, talking about the proposition of fixing shit. Constantine will be talking about setting up ethical operations; there are permaculture talks on changing the natural world through planting – incredible, innovation in ethics and morals about our lives. The main arena might be a fluffy-bunny MDMA party, but this year we want the dome is where we want to make the real point.

There’s a series of small installations we’re going to scatter the field – each there own way an attribute to corporatism. So, the shock boardroom setting, the CEO’s office – shocking extraditions that make us look at the gross world of corporate capital. There’s Pluto’s PR firm, the IT department, and the department of culture, representing the Sabbath, and the department of apathy, an overgrown computer world. Snakepit has been expelled from Heaven, and now has a completely new aesthetic, based around a clinic, and LOVEBULLETS are getting involved too. There’ll be karaoke, a massive leisure centre to get your Zen on. As always, there’ll be massive billboards with huge incredible bits of artwork we’ve had specially commissioned on the themes everywhere.

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It’s 20 years since the criminal justice and public order act (1994) – do you think for a modern decade of creators, there’s a somewhat stunted sense of what’s possible now? 

I think the real killer wasn’t the public order act; it was the confiscating of rigs, and the complete banning of squatting. I remember I used to be able to call the police my friends in some ways – and there would always be negotiation. Nowadays, there’s none of that. I think what stopped me from squatting was the longevity of working a squat – finding, fixing, the legal side, and then sitting in court trying to protect the whole case. Too much of my energy was going into lots of this. Lost Vagueness almost only got developed once I’d left all that. It wasn’t ever quite right at the time – it was always frustrating. Squats were the facilitator, but it does leave me to wonder what my kids are going to do now. Today’s work is utter brutalism. I’ve seen people ruined by that world – ruined by people being forced down the throat of people, just because it there was only option at finding mutual contact. And the thing is, life on the outside isn’t easy easier.

Exactly – I think we’ve both felt that. I left school when I was 16, and went straight into the activist community because of it. But you realise it’s a darker world, as well as a hive of insane, flamboyant possibility.

It’s an addictive environment – you can get lost within it. I think we, all, now, have managed to get ourselves out – and to a point where we can all work creatively while still supporting ourselves. I think it teaches you what happens to the human spirit when you push it through a lot? It’s required to be incredibly resourceful. Need pushes people to do things that they would never do. A removal resources helps us realise what we really need – essences of community, comfort and light. The removal of that very human spirit behind our system is the saddest thing of all, I think, which I guess is what I want us to question in part. Maybe you spend your entire life working for something awful – maybe this’ll be the trigger to someone realising that and wanting to change his or her own personal state. This year, is just about raising lots of questions, we think. 

Photos courtesy of Tim Boddy - cargocollective.com/Timboddy

The Mission

onesummersoundtrack:

Last Sunday - while the sun blazed across the mid-day sky, I came across the wonderful Guardian Music writers’ own 'soundtracks to the summer'. As a concept, it was simple - their writers, telling the stories behind their favourite summer tunes, in short, snappy nostalgic accounts. 

From stories of first-love, to childhood holidays, each one was a poignant, personal and provocative account of the memories we all have of past-summers, and the tunes that we remember them by. 

This blog is about continuing that idea, and extending it to some of Britain’s best loved writers, musicians, and new talent - as well as the people who make the music industry tick. 

The format is simple.

One story, five tunes. Real life memories, lived experiences and nostalgic trips into the past - tell us the story of your own summer playlist.

Your task is set.

It’s time to get sharing. 

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Weekly Music Linkup 01/06 - 08/06

I’ve been away for a few weeks - writing, spending time on beaches in Barcelona, and digging my way through a pile of great new music. But I’m back - so here’s 5 things you should get your ears into for this week.

This week:

MF Jew

ER The Future

Emily King (via Taylor McFerrin) 

O Chapman (returns)

Stefan Colakovic 

Peace 

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Soundtracking The British Summer

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As part of the Soundtracks To The Summer project, over here - http://onesummersoundtrack.tumblr.com/

Inspired by The Guardian music writers’ summer soundtracks –this is my own nostalgic summer soundtrack. Like theirs, each one has it’s own story – caught in memories of wishy-washy nostalgia, past relationships and a million summer sunsets. 

Sticky sleepless nights, sun-blushed picnics and road trips bind together my memories of summer days. From carnivals to carousels, warehouses, to nights sleeping in marinas on the South Coast, every tentative summer joy has been embellished with it’s own soundtrack.

Last summer I was in love for the first time in my life – and as it goes when you’re with someone; nothing in the world ever seemed to quite matter. So while I grew distant from home and started sharing experiences with someone new - our musical playlists started to sync. One July evening, carried by the hot heavy brush of dusty air in Hyde Park we watched Ray Davies.  For days later – our heads caught in the romance of London in the summer. ‘Waterloo Sunset’ became our little anthem – the tune we’d whisper in each other’s ear every time things got difficult. By summers’ end we’d parted ways – and as the swing of the autumn sun drew the nights closer – that one summer started to feel like a faded memory. ‘Waterloo Sunset’ might be the faded memory of a broken relationship, but it was still the anthem of a great summer.

I remember the long road trips to campsites as a kid – and the even longer journeys in an old beat up stuffy Renault estate, as we passed field after field of nothingness. My mums’ ever hungry lust to switch off the raucous of my dads’ passion for 80’s guitar music, and the howling vocals that used to erupt from my mum as I stack on the one R&B CD we had. Nowadays, car journeys seem all the more surreal – the turn of the ignition can bode the start for a weekend of new musical discoveries. One tune can be the key to an ever-changing road trip.

For me, it’s these five songs that have been the anthem of my summers – from every camping trip, to every party, to Notting Hill and Glastonbury, to every football match, bike ride and BBQ. As more entries come in - slowly but surely, we’ll build a soundtrack to the perfect summer, as told through your own experiences.

Robbie’s Top 5

Ray Davies – Waterloo Sunset

LCD Soundsystem – All My Friends

Amy Winehouse  - He Can Only Hold Her

Marlena Shaw – California Soul

Oasis – Don’t Look Back In Anger

Now I want to turn this into a thing. Lets get a collection of summer memories, stories and soundtracks, let’s share and share and share, and help me build one collective, authored archive of the perfect summer. http://onesummersoundtrack.tumblr.com

If you’d like to contribute, email me – robbie.wojciechowski@gmail.com

Primavera Sound: A tale of two cities

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Written for Clash Magazine, June 2014 

http://www.clashmusic.com/reviews/live-reports-primavera-sound-2014-barcelona

The night I arrive in Barcelona, riots riff across the city. A 5000-strong group have taken to the main boulevards, leaving a trail of anti-capitalist graffiti in their wake. Last week, the local police force closed down one of the huge squats supporting the local community here. The site, near Sants Estacio, was a beacon for local people – giving them a creative space to explore culture, to meet their neighbours, and share the burdens and responsibilities of local issues. All over the city, messages are littered with the mood of social discomfort – “GUERRA SOCIAL” (“social war”) screams one.

Over the other side of the city, hundreds of music press are just arriving for Primavera – the festival, now in it’s 14th year, sees over 70,000 rush through it’s gates over the space of the weekend. Primavera, like many of the new enterprises emerging across Barcelona, has found it’s audience in a new creative elite amongst the Spanish locale. Full of hip fashionista, with new money, the festival site blooms with aspiration – a far contrast from the destitute state of the people I witnessed on that evening. 

The festival itself is set in a bay, right by the best beaches in the city. Attracting a crowd mainly tourists - branching from American to Scandinavian - Primavera is very much the ATP of the Mediterranean: a festival that mixes hugely eclectic bookings, with engaged people, in a hugely interesting space.

A few years ago, the site used to be in an old Franco built town – a town built to celebrate the iconography of the Spanish empire. But having since moved to the Parc Del Forum, it’s new home is a great machine of metal girders and high concrete walkways, set amongst huge suburban tower blocks that litter the skyline. Just two minutes from the seafront - most of the main stages overlook the sea, paired alongside it’s late programming policy, and lack of neighbours - it means Primavera, unique to many festivals, could go on 24hr a day if it wanted to.

The Primavera line-up is like no other this summer. Using the very best moments of the day, Primavera gives you a chance to explore the city, before hitting the site at 4 o’clock to bask in the last swathes of summer heat, before descending into a long night of hopping between sound systems and DJ’s across the site.

One of the highlights of the site are the gigs set in the remarkable Auditori Rockdelux – a Barbican-style concert hall, hidden at one end of the site. The 3,000 capacity hall hosts some of the most astonishing bookings of the weekend. Sun Ra Arkestra, a 15-strong crew of incredible jazz musicians, brings the music of the late composer to life – receiving huge standing ovations on numerous occasions throughout their set. Erased Tapes signees, A Winged Victory For The Sullen, also bring a hugely mellow vibe to the festival, astonishing the packed Auditori with incredible, soft compositions.

Remarkable too, is the sheer number of bands playing one-off slots at this weekend, too. Slowdive, on the Sony stage on Friday afternoon, are playing one of very few international live dates booked in recent years. Likewise, Dr John seems more than spritely to be playing an-irregular European date, as he casts his great nostalgic blues music out as the sun sets.

To fully describe to you the sheer immense experience of swapping between bands as you do at Primavera, I’d have to outline a standard evening. On Thursday, for example, within a three-hour slot, I watched an outstanding Neutral Milk Hotel, a rare performance from alt-punk band Shellac, and a blinding headline slot from Arcade Fire. Whilst the first of those three got a huge audience singing just about every word back, as if the Spanish natives had English as their first language, Shellac on the other hand stood their bitterly sarcastic lyrics to a super-dedicated audience, who’d side-lined anyone else to see them perform. Arcade Fire pull one of the biggest crowds of the weekend. Dressed in neon and white, Win and co run through five records worth of material – from Funeral to Reflektor, every single song has the entire audience crying their words back to them. Arcade Fire sound better than they’ve ever done before – it’s the first time, in four, where I’ve seen them fully step up to the plate as headliners.

At Primavera, evenings roll into entire nights out – on into beautiful mornings, and sweaty cab rides home to apartments on the other side of the city. 

Bowers and Wilkins’ collaboration with the Boiler Room becomes another crucial Primavera haunt. Built around a complete 360-degree dome, the sweet point in the centre of the complex projects a sound like no other sound system I’ve ever heard. Dirty beats, thumping techno and indie classics, become the soundtrack to the evenings of Primavera. John Talabut’s appearances across the weekend are crucial viewing. As is the closing set, by DJ Coco, out in the open air Rayban arena. Taking to the stage at 4:35 on Sunday morning, DJ Coco closes the festival with classics from Talking Heads, Michael Jackson and Arcade Fire. It’s full on cheese – but it’s still the most incredible indie disco sets I’ve ever experienced.

Primavera, in many ways, is the most stunning festival experience you’ll have all summer. The bands are remarkable, and the music selection is constantly exciting. But there are great downsides. Just as the Catalan government make movements to shut down the local squats on the other side of the city, they’ve pumped huge amounts of money into Primavera to attract an extended tourist season. Outside the Parc, huge great swathes of hagglers can be seen selling on beers at 1 euro a pop, but it’s sad when you come to realise this is their entire livelihood. Across Spain, there are huge, great swathing problems - 53% youth unemployment means a new generation of young Spaniards will ever get to experience anything like Primavera. This is no longer the festival it once was, for the local people, but a tourist’s retreat, where huge money is played with.

Gigs here feel more like massive shows that intimate moments. Where British festivals are intricate in every way, culture here, is almost non-existent. For once, yes, it’s nice to relax into a grown-up weekend, where an apartment replaces a shitty plastic tent, but the whole attitude of the place feels corporate and cold. And you can tell that lack of charisma to it has a huge effect on many of the bands. Many sound better, playing huge festival slots to massive open audiences, but Foals, for instance, play the one their flattest performances in five years. Likewise, Connan Mockasin, is plagued with leak from the stage next door, and fails to stand out without the confines of a tent to bring his music together.

Contrary to that though, if Glastonbury just isn’t your thing then Primavera could be the place for you. As a festival, it’s as an abject an experience I’ve ever had at a festival – but the music is outstanding, the city is beautiful, and for once in my life, it felt quite comfortable being a tourist here. But the price paid in return for it, well, I’m not sure. Primavera isn’t cracking itself with the right audience. Celebrating this culture with the local people seems like it would be a better move. Spain has always had an incredible, historic history, and the Catalans, no less, are hugely inspiring and creative people. So, lets celebrate them, and not just shroud the whole thing in huge corporate sponsorship. 

King Krule, and South London’s suburban music scene

Originally published via Noisey (Oct 2013)

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Amane, the latest signing to Rinse FM’s label, is staring out the window of a flat in South London. He looks out on to a concrete emporium, cement and steel meshed tightly together in a labyrinth of tiny roads that buzz with the sound of Oyster card bleeps, police sirens and arguments. It may not seem like much, but for the musicians of Southwark, Lambeth and Lewisham, this is a fertile habitat.

Ever since 19-year-old Archy Marshall, aka King Krule, became internet famous, he’s been giving a leg-up to his friends and schoolmates with small appearances, side projects and collaborations. Archy has helped build a scene of sub-urban brooding producers centered around the grey streets of South-East London.

Amane moved to London when he was only 16. He spent his days combing the back streets of the West End with a pair of headphones for company. Soon, he started writing music to accompany him on his city wanderings. “It’s quite lonely living here, particularly on your own,” he says, twitching his fingers as he sits on his bed.

Amane has played in King Krule’s band on occasion and is also a main figure of Jamie Isaac’s live set-up, lending his hand to sax and keyboards when needed. But his focus is on his own forthcoming EP, his first release with Rinse.

Amane is just the latest King Krule collaborator to start making music on the terrace-house-lined roads of Peckham. He lives just a few streets down from another former Krule band member turned solo artist, Jacob Read.

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I meet Jacob, AKA Jerkcurb, in his student dig in Surbiton. He’s just moved here from East Dulwich to study an art degree at Kingston. Sitting down inside his small homemade studio space-cum-bedroom – he sticks on a playlist of fine-tuned musical oddities – music that helps him concentrate and think at the same time, he says. From Oscar Peterson to Blossom Dearie – much of Jacob’s music taste is unrecognisable, but as it soundtracks our interview I start to see why he finds it so fascinating.

He starts out by talking about life back in South London, two years ago, where films became a monologue for his life. “I’ve always liked to make music that doesn’t sound like it would come from me,” Jacob says. “I wanted to distance myself. What I like about films is that they capture something that’s different from what I see every day.” Writing his own contemporary soundtracks for cult films like Lost In Translation, Jacob played as he watched, recording anything he played. It’s these weird soundtracks, and minor chords that formed a major part of Krule’s breakthrough single, “Out Getting Ribs”.

“I’ve always wanted to make music that isolates the audience,” Jacob tells me, stuttering as I ask him why. “There’s a lot of ego that comes with a band, and I think a lot of the time you see that, rather than see the music. I’d rather people heard my music in the background.”

When King Krule first played to him he felt something very different. “I first saw Archy perform when he was like 14. But his music seemed much older. When I first saw Filthy Boy [another of Archy’s side projects] perform, they were 16 and sounded like a bunch of 40 year olds from Texas. I guess that was what attracted me to them – the fact that they were from the same area as me but sounded like they weren’t, they contradicted the sort of teenager stereotype in their music – that element of escapism.”

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Jamie Isaac, another young South London resident and bedroom producer, is also an established character of the scene. His first EP, “I Will Be Cold Soon”, was a cold, distant mix of electronic music influenced by the likes of Mount Kimbie and Paul Desmond. “I kind of like the idea of pretending to be happy, but feeling shit. It’s a bit arty-farty, maybe it’s a cliché of being a 17-year-old boy, I don’t know. But I love the idea of having a sense of uncertainty, and still being quite uncomfortable.” His uncertainty feels very similar to that of Jacob’s.

“I first started writing this music in September 2011, a series of events seemed to lead me towards it,” says Jamie. “I kind of had this other kind of music that I tried, more guitar-based stuff with really ambient beats and I was really into it at the time. But in the back of my mind I could sense I wasn’t feeling it. I got angry, and thought I better calm down, so I took a year out of song writing. And then in September, I thought of Jamie Isaac.”

Jamie’s recording space is dramatically different from his peers. Looking out onto the garden of his family home in Bromley, it doesn’t seem to fit the intensely urbanised image you get from his music. Instead, he gets his inspiration elsewhere. “I always take a picture of places that look really strange, on nights out, or when I’m just travelling, then I’ll bring [the photo] home, put it up and write metaphors about it.” Many of these photos are drunken camera phone shots of New Cross, the Amersham Arms, office blocks and scenes from long train journeys around the city.

“There’s a romance to the bleakness and isolation of this city. It comes from that sort of isolated feeling you get from growing up in South London, being in a place so loud and in your face,” says Jacob. 

“Take Elephant and Castle shopping centre,” says Ojan, the frontman to Haraket – a South London band with a big taste for jazzy influences and heavy electronica. “I remember back to the 90s as a kid, it being bleak but beautiful. When I listen to Aphex Twin, it takes me to that same state. I want people to feel affected in the same way I am by Aphex. I want people to be transcended into a weird place. I want history to repeat itself.”

Prospects seem bright for this young collective – but it’s difficult to say whether it’ll just be another winter fling like the world of dubstep. Krule’s great new record proves it works in long format – but time will tell if the others can maintain the same passion for the genre. After all, everyone I spoke to for this piece was under the age of 20 and most seem to loathe being in the limelight.  

This music could only be made by this generation, at this point in time. With the digital world taking over, it seems to recount the naivety of a childhood without the Internet – and how the over-exposure to media has created the feeling of being subdued in information, lost and alone in a city with 20 million other people. “We’re not all that different from any other 18-year old who’s been through some stupid down state,” says Jamie. And he’s probably right. But no one else is making music like they are in South London right now.

For more brilliant, brilliant work on this - check out Ryan Bassil’s piece on the new independent British music scene - http://noisey.vice.com/en_uk/blog/the-music-scene-in-britain-is-amazing-youre-just-looking-in-the-wrong-place

Link up the dots, come holla at Steez this Saturday 

Weekly Music Linkup 07/05 - 14/05

This week’s mix is a supreme selection of talent from the Goldsmiths bed of artists. There’s a long-awaited track by Alice Barlow, final mix downs from the formidable Nomad Soul Collective, who really, really, really should be signed to Ninjatune, and music from one-no-name trip-hop artist who works from a bedroom in Brockley creating trip-hop music that sounds like it’s straight out of 1994. Enjoy, support, share.

This week:

Nomad Soul 

Alice Barlow

Tara Jane O’Neill

A House In The Trees

O Chapman

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Weekly Music Linkup 29/04 - 06/05

So, last week I experienced something pretty inspiring. Whilst in the midst of a busy Friday night, in the back of a South London pub I watched 100 18-24 year-olds sit in absolute silence listening to a raga on a bansuri for twenty minutes straight. There’s something wonderful in watching people form completely alternate backgrounds coming together to experience something obscure that they’d never normally encounter - and the single, incredible effect it can have on people.

Learnings:

1. Book a bansuri player for every gig.

2. Every club night should have an artist in residence.

3. If you aren’t listening to Josie Long’s ‘Shortcuts’ podcasts, trust me, you’re missing out on something quite, quite brilliant. 

This week’s finds are all fire, beat and bass, and they’re some of the best, best, best, best things I’ve come across over the last few weeks. Seriously they’re sensational.

This week:

Bruised Skies

Before Most Had Awakened 

Miriam Simmons

London Afrobeat Collective

Southpaw

And while you’re at it, jump on Ben Hauke’s latest EP, out via Melodica Recordings https://bleep.com/release/50973-ben-hauke-wari-ep

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Weekly Music Linkup - 21/04 - 28/04

YO,

So while I distract myself from the utter gluttony that this week has been - here’s 5 really, really wonderful things you should be keeping tabs on.

Learnings:

1. With the right meetings you can hear about/do some really cool shit.

2. Any band can reform - don’t bother with rumours. 

3. Damon is king.

This week: 

Jacob Allen

Juliet Piper

Ben Hauke 

Tobias Hugo

Aquilo

Get on it - this week’s are all just INCREDIBLE

And join us for STEEZ tonight if you’re about 

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Weekly Music Linkup 15/04 - 20/04

YO.

Boys and girls, it’s Easter time - so while you ram your face full of mumma’s roast, here’s a brief musical update to take you on a on a little discovery mission during the bank holiday.

Learnings:

1. Warehouse parties in Hackney Wick ARE INSANE

2. Warehouses are great.

3. Fuck yeah, warehouses. 

Adult Jazz

Laura Perkins

Racquet 

Parshmaune 

Hot Feet

And Steez returns for Steez for Freedom iII