INTERVIEW: James Ghareeb

INTERVIEW:

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 James Ghareeb

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I have been speaking with James Ghareeb about…

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his latest track, Do It with Luv. The single’s artwork depicts the songwriter slumped on a sofa – on a lawn - surrounded by debris. I wondered whether that image tied to the song’s themes and, indeed, what the song was about. I ask how his music has developed since 2015’s Hanging from the Stars and whether his time posting to Vine – an eclectic selection of cover versions – strengthened him as an artist.

Ghareeb reveals his gig plans and the music he is inspired by; what the Chicago-raised musician is up to later in the year – and what the local scene is like where he is based in Peoria.

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Hi, James. How are you? How has your week been?

Hey, I’ve been great.

Just got back to Chicago from rehearsal - for my next gig out in Peoria.

For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?

I am a Pop singer from Chicago. I am relocating to Los Angeles. I have an awesome band that plays with me that give Reggae and sexy vibes.

Do It with Luv is the new single. What can you reveal about its inception and was it based on a particular girl/event?

Surprisingly, it was not about a girl: it was more about life today and the struggles that the world is going through. It’s about spreading love and appreciating the goodness in the world - rather than letting negativity take over.

The artwork sees you slumped on a lawn, surrounded by the remnants of a living room. Is that a predicament you’ve faced and has love, in the past, left you a bit uprooted and shut out?

Not necessarily.

It’s more about the goofiness of the video and how to have more fun in life - it’s meant to inspire people to be more carefree.

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PHOTO CREDIT: @joshuaburch

Your road into music was when you uploaded short clips to Vine. What was the reason for this and can you remember the first video you posted?!

L.o.L. I don’t remember the first video I posted...

Vine was a great way to share original and covers. I connected to a lot of people from it and actually made a few great friends from it. 

Many of the songs you tackled were by mainstream Pop artists. Is that where a lot of your current inspiration comes from – or do you find yourself taking influence from various other areas?

To be honest, I don’t find much inspiration in Pop artists' work - except for John Mayer, of course. A lot of my inspiration stems from Folk. For a long time, I’ve gone to Ben Howard, Bon Iver and JP Cooper for my inspiration.

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How would you say your music has developed since 2015’s Hanging from the Stars? Have you grown more confident as a performer?

I have definitely grown as a performer and a musician.

My work now sounds a lot more professional and structured - with many more diverse sounds and instruments.

Your sophomore release is approaching. Can you tell me how you came to work with Tony Ghantous and what tracks will be on the new E.P.?

I’ve been working with Tony for a couple years and I am very blessed to have him and his experience. I, unfortunately, can’t give away much detail - but a couple of my favourites are Colours and Get the Whole World High.

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Peoria, Illinois is where you were raised. (It seems pretty bitching). What is it like for an aspiring musician and how has the landscape and people inspired you?

To be honest...Peoria is not the best place to follow your dream.              

But, if you truly believe in yourself, others will start to believe in you. With that being said; I began to be inspired by the emptiness I felt. Watching people start to believe in me made me stride so much further to what I truly want.

Also...the silent cornfields do kinda help sometimes. L.o.L.

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What kind of music did you grow up listening to? How important are periods like 1990s’ R&B to your current sounds?

If we are being honest, there was definitely a time where I put on a jean-jacket and sang Usher in the mirror.

I, of course, love my NSYNC and Backstreet Boys.

Your fanbase is loyal and large. What message would you send to them right now?

I would first off say, from the bottom of my heart, thank you...

Second of all; I would say if you have a dream; make sure you are doing everything in your power to make it come to life.

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What tour dates are coming up? Any plans with regards coming to the U.K.?

I have a very big show with Matt Nathanson, coming up this October, and I also have a few in Chicago.

As for the U.K.; I hope I make it out there after the album drops (for a European tour).

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IN THIS PHOTO: Dermot Kennedy

Who are new acts you recommend we check out?

Hands down Dermot Kennedy and Tom Walker.

If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?

Every Kingdom by Ben Howard

It helped me through very low times.

How to Save a Life by The Fray

The 1975’s first album (The 1975)

It helped me to not care about what people thought. Matty is a true inspiration.

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What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?

Keep grinding: if you want something bad enough, you will get it.

Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).

Play Deep the Water by Lewis Watson

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INTERVIEW: AFFAIRS

INTERVIEW:

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 AFFAIRS

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ANY Manchester band excites me but there is something…

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about AFFAIRS that stands out. I speak with vocalist James Robinson who talks about future gigs – the band plays on Friday 27th October at Café INDIEpendent; on Saturday 4th November at Night & Day Café, Manchester. The band have released the video for the new track, Gracious World, and reveal what they have planned for the year ahead. I ask Robinson about the AFFAIRS' start and what the music scene is like in Manchester.

He provides me an opportunity to get to know a rare force who have already gained support from a range of great radio stations – D.J.s like Chris Hawkins are among fans of the group.

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Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?

Good, thanks.

Busy as usual working on new material – which, we hope, you can hear very soon. We’re also rehearsing for our next Manchester headline show on Saturday 4th November at Night & Day Café (Manchester) which, of course, we can’t wait for.

For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?

We’re AFFAIRS; a Manchester-based five-piece made up of Liam (Guitar/Vocals), Dan (Guitar/Synth); Jack (Bass), Michael (Drums) and James (vocals).

Our sound has probably best been described as Doom-Pop. 

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What is the derivation of the name, ‘AFFAIRS’? Are there any scandalous and sneaky affairs you guys have had – or is it something less naughty?

Too many to mention, to be honest – we’re all complete scoundrels, though that’s purely coincidental. I think Liam came up with the name originally – we liked the connotations of the word but also how it doesn’t really give much away about what we sound like.

Gracious World is your new one. What is the story behind the song?

It’s basically all about rejecting the idea of being tied down to a mundane, nine-five existence – sticking two fingers up at that philosophy and going out and seeing all the world has to offer. There’s a lot of sh*t going on - but the world still has a lot of beautiful things in it if you go out and look for them. 

The video, of the band playing the song, looks like it was a good shoot. Where did that take place and what was it like filming the video?

We filmed the video in Brunswick Mill in Manchester; a couple of floors above where we used to rehearse. We had fun filming it, though it got very warm up there. It was actually filmed by a very talented friend of ours, Matt Cochrane of Little Motel – check out his stuff!

It seems, in everything you do, you challenge the mundane. Would that be fair to say?

It’s certainly a compliment.

I think we just enjoy doing our thing and expressing ourselves in our own way. If that’s challenging the mundane, I’m happy with that.

Can you remember how the band got together? Did you know, when you starting jamming, you would have all this success?

The band started at Hull University and we bonded over our tastes in music and the desire to create it ourselves.  I don’t know if we knew how things would turn out when we started - but we’ve always believed in what we’re doing.

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Your songs resonate with taste-makers. What does it feel like getting big love from D.J.s like Chris Hawkins and John Kennedy?

It’s definitely great to have their support – always nice when people dig what you do, especially when they then play it on national radio!

Looking down the list of stations that have played your music; your catchment area is massive. Why do you think your music translates so readily and widely?

We have an excellent P.R. team.

Seriously, though; l I don’t think our music has a particular regional sound to it which could explain a wider appeal. We also get about a fair bit and have played shows all over the place - so I guess people have got to know us.

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How is Manchester’s music scene shaping-up at present? Is it quite a fruitful and exciting time being a Manchester band?

I’d say it’s always a fruitful and exciting time to be in a Manchester band as I don’t think the city has ever stopped producing quality music. There are definitely some big movements going on at the moment though.

I would recommend keeping an eye on Scruff of the Neck Records - who are working with some of the best.

What is it about the city that attracts so many people in?

The people here are some of the best in the world, and the city is just a constant hive of art and activity – there’s literally always something going on.

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Is there going to be an E.P. or album down the line? Do you feel, as a band, you have enough material for a really solid L.P.?

We’ve got a few ideas in the pipeline and I definitely think the material’s there - but you’ll have to wait and see for that one.

Can you talk about the live dates you have approaching? What can one expect when coming to an AFFAIRS show?

We’re headlining Night & Day in Manchester on Saturday 4th November with three other great bands – Indigo Velvet, WEEKEND WARS and TUSCAN SUN – and it promises to be a big one. With any AFFAIRS show, we can promise energy, emotion and an immersive experience.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Larkins

Who are new acts you recommend we check out?

...the three I mentioned previously who we’re playing with in November....

We’re also digging Holy Oysters, Cassia; Larkins and Swim Mountain at the moment.

If you each had to select the one album that means the most to you; which would they be and why?

It’s fair to say that FoalsTotal Life Forever is an album that was hugely influential on Dan and Liam (as songwriters and musicians).

Two Dancers by Wild Beasts will always be special to me – it’s a great album but was also the first time I listened to their music. Hayden Thorpe’s beautifully unique vocal was like nothing else I’d heard and, as a singer (though my voice is nothing alike), it gave me encouragement that a unique vocal style fronting a band could be a success.

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What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?

It’s a bit of a cliché but be true to yourselves; believe in what you’re doing and, most of all, enjoy it – because if you don’t, you can’t expect anyone else to.

Finally, and for being good sports; you can each name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).

Cheers! All of these can be found on our Autumn Spotify playlist:

toniteLCD Soundsystem

Wait for Me Swim Mountain

Lupo Cairobi

Lure Holy Oysters

Day I DayThe National

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INTERVIEW: Erin & The Wildfire

INTERVIEW:

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 Erin & The Wildfire

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THE intrepid and pioneering clan of Erin & The Wildfire

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is led by the soulfulness and beguiling allure of Erin Lunsford. The band is based out of Charlottesville, Virginia – an area which, for the wrong reasons, has been in the news lately. I ask the guys about the recent terrorist/hate attack and what their response is. I was more eager to know about their new album, Thirst – and what we can expect from it. The latest single, Great Love, has a fascinating backstory – one Lunsford describes with great clarity and richness of language!

The band selects songs and albums that mean a lot to them and I get a great window into a group that both unique and relatable – and ask where their music will take them in the next couple of months.

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Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been? 

Our week has been v. productive so far.

We had a vocal sectional practice and a horn sectional last night. We’ve got three shows later this week that are part of our album release tour - and we are enjoying the September weather in Virginia!

For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please? 

Hello, Music Lovers! Erin & The Wildfire is an energetic, goofy; Funk/Soul band from Charlottesville, Virginia - and we cannot wait for you to listen to our first full-length album!

How did you all come together? The band has a great chemistry. Was that an instant thing? 

Nick, Matt; Ryan and I met in 2011 at UVA in a student recording group called ORecords, and the musical chemistry was there from the start. I was the President at the time and I had to pick people to play on various songs we performed at the end-of-semester showcases. We jelled from the beginning and all had a shared passion for performance (and dad jokes).

Saxophonist and pianist Garen Dorsey joined the band in 2016 after we played together in a Jazz-Opera in Charlottesville - written by local trumpet prodigy, John D'Earth.

The most recent addition is the magnificent trumpet player, background vocalist; flautist and pianist Austin - who we heard would be a great addition through the grapevine. 

 

Great Love is your new track. What is the song all about and can you reveal a bit about its creation? 

Great Love was the last tune we wrote before recording the album - but it has one of the oldest origin stories.

When I was a fourth year at UVA, I got dumped…hard. It was devastating and unexpected and everything you might find after a first love heartbreak. At the time, I was doing an independent music study at the time with my favorite professor/teacher (ever), Dr. Ted Coffey. I confided in him/ugly-cried through our meeting about my hurting heart - and he shared a story with me about one of his breakups. He said he'd been dumped on Christmas Day by the person he saw his entire future with and that he felt like he'd never love again in the same way. BUT, he said he never knew the greatness a love could have until his most recent relationship: "The love I have now is a Great love."

I have held those words in my heart since then and call on them when I've felt hopeless about romance. Dr. Coffey also told me in the same meeting that this would not be my last serious heartbreak (L.o.L.). #wisdom.

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It is taken from the forthcoming album, Thirst. What kind of themes and experienced inspired the tracks? Was it an easy album to put together?! 

Thirst is about my quest for love: but this leg of the journey turned up all misses; the epitome of unrequited love. I'd say a quarter of the songs are about one person in particular who I chased for a couple/few years. The song, Thirsty, was the first in the series of longing songs followed by Nothing Drowns You Out; Meant for Me, One Woman Show and, finally, Great Love. Longing turns to obsession turns to insecurity - turns to anger turns, in the end, to a surrender of sorts with Great Love.

This album wasn’t exactly easy to put together - it took us several years. The last recording we put out was in 2014 - and we have been mulling over our songs and writing new things since then.

Is there a song from the album that is particularly memorable and important? 

Every song is special in a unique way to us: from the backstory to its evolution into a fully developed piece of music; but there are some really fun moments on the records beyond the songs themselves. Top-three for me are: 1) Nick’s laugh at the end of Hot Slice - because it’s so authentic and I think it’s a nice snapshot of our mood during recording (silly). 2) My dad’s voicemail from 2007 hidden somewhere in the album… oooooooo. It’s very sentimental for me and I hope other people relate to having memorable dad voicemails on your phone from ten-plus years ago? 3) Rodell Toliver’s funky voiceover in Every Single Song on My CD Is Gonna Be a Hit Pt. 1. (Yes, that’s the full title). Rodell is a talented guy and he made that song complete when he added his voiceover. Took him two tries?! He’s the man.

Not to mention he had the stomach flu while he recorded it!

How does Erin & The Wildfire write the songs? Do you all pitch in or will each member take a different song? 

Our songwriting process usually starts with me - I generate the melody, chords and lyrics for a song and then we arrange and fill in the song as a group. It’s a challenging but fulfilling process. I usually find inspiration when I'm on long drives. I have a huge 'note' in my phone that I keep adding lyrics to as they come - but I mostly record on my phone voice memo app. I can't say it's the safest process - I'm usually driving 75 M.P.H. on the interstate when a hook hits me and I have to get to voice memos on my phone - before it's gone from my brain forever.

Recently, we’ve been doing sectionals for horns and vocals to try to write and practice more carefully - and it’s going swimmingly!

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PHOTO CREDIT: G. Milo Farineau

It is quite a long and ambitious track. Was it hard putting it all together or did it flow quite naturally? 

I assume you’re talking about our single, Great Love, that we just dropped. This tune was definitely out of our comfort-zone when we first tried it out but, at the same time, it was one of the most intuitive writing sessions we’ve had recently.

The thick rhythm change at the end of the tune was a new idea for us but it came together easily - and it’s one of the most fun moments of our live set for me. 

Charlottesville is where you are based. What is the music scene like there? Are there a lot of opportunities and cool places to play? 

Charlottesville, VA is great and the music scene is lovely here. It's home. But, dang, the dating-pool is small! (see: One Woman Show, Great Love).  Charlottesville has some excellent venues including The Ante Room, The Southern (our personal favourite) and a couple larger venues we’ve been lucky enough to play a few times each – The Jefferson Theater and The Pavilion.  

Charlottesville’s scene is growing and we are excited to be a part of it!

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How did the band react after the riots that took place in Charlottesville a few weeks back? Was that a shocking thing for you all to see?  

A12 was an incredibly sad day for all of us...

Unfortunately, we had a show about four-hours away from home with almost no cell reception - so we were frantically trying to get in touch with our friends and family who were on the ground at the terrorist attack (and our van broke down that same day so we were scrambling to get home/find a mechanic/be near wifi to make calls etc.).

It was shocking and upsetting for us but we cannot imagine the distress and the heartbreak that the black community of Charlottesville must feel after such an ugly display of racism by Nazis and K.K.K. in their own backyard. However, we are especially proud of the resilience and grace with which our fellow C-villians and Charlottesville musicians have handled the trauma.

One week after the attack, I participated in a Come Together Charlottesville Concert that was put together by Charlottesville all-star musicians Jay Pun and Jamal Milner - hosted by The Jefferson Theater. The concert featured local musicians from a variety of genres and backgrounds and even one of the A12 victims, Micah Washington, who was brave enough to share her voice on the stage that night. We raised $7000 for the victims of the terrorist attacks but more money is needed to help get these people back on their feet.

You can donate and learn more here.

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What tour dates do you have coming up? Where can we come and see you play? 

Oooooh girl; we got some shows comin’ - and more to be announced soon: 

9/21: The Camel, Richmond, VA

9/22: Chiles Peach Orchard, Crozet, VA

9/23: Starr Hill Brewery, Roanoke, VA

10/1: Jibberjazz Fest, Summit Station, PA

10/12: 622 North, Blacksburg, VA

10/13: The Southern, Charlottesville, VA

10/14: Boone Saloon, Boone, N.C.

10/20: Velvet Lounge, Washington D.C.

11/24: Rives Theater, Martinsville, VA

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PHOTO CREDIT: Rick Krajnyak

Are there any plans coming to the U.K.? Have you played over here before? 

WE WISH!!!! ALL CAPS, O.M.G.

We would love to do a European tour and come to the U.K.! I’ve done a radio interview for a station there in London - when we released our last recording in 2014. Can we hang out with you guys if we tour over there?!

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IN THIS PHOTO: Illiterate Light/PHOTO CREDITPhoto JoeJoey Wharton

Who are new acts you recommend we check out? 

We’ve been really enjoying Illiterate Light, Theo Katzman; Midnight Snack, Shagwuf; Anna Ash and Joey Dosik.

We could go on forever…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Anna Ash/PHOTO CREDITBrandon Jones

If you each had to select the album that means the most to you; which would they be and why?

Ryan: Strange Mercy by St. Vincent

It pulled me out of a rut of appreciating only older music and revitalized my interest in trying new things - especially with guitar tones and technique.

Garen: Voodoo by D'Angelo

The album is flawless. The vocals, the instrumentation; the horn arrangements and the production.... absolutely nothing on the record is out of place - and the grooves are, somehow, ahead of and behind the beat at the same time. Never been out of my rotation for longer than a few weeks.  

Nick: Mine's Brother, Sister by MewithoutYou

It was the first time I realized how powerful a coherent record could be. Each song goes perfectly into the next and there’s a consistent sound without anything feeling like the same song. Listening to the drums on that album was also the first time I realized you don’t need crazy chops to have a powerful sound.

MattOutkast's The Love Below (one-half of a double-album: the other record is Speaxerboxxx)

It's a masterclass in thematic unity. Few albums that I know of do as good a job of exploring/employing such a wide range of styles and influences while still maintaining complete artistic cohesion throughout the work.

Austin: Earth Wind & Fire - Greatest Hits

Because catchy leads equally good backups.

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Erin: Little Sparrow by Dolly Parton

It still brings tears to my eyes and reminds me of my first experiences with music. This album was my first glimpse into the soul of a truly masterful songwriter - and an expressive and unique singer. Dolly Parton's spirit inspires me to spread joy. Little Sparrow was the first album I really studied and learned with my mom growing up. The first tune I ever learned by myself for voice and guitar at age eleven was Marry Me

What advice would you give to artists coming through right now? 

I’d say just keep swimming.

We’ve been at it for six years now and it’s tiring, not gonna lie. Music performance is a constant series of highs and lows but, if you dig it, you dig it. I feel at my most alive when I’m performing with my friends and connecting with an audience - I crave it, actually. I’d tell them Fame is not the goal: being in the moment is the goal.

I’d also tell them: don’t listen to me because I’m a nobody - go ask someone more successful who knows what they’re doing. 

Finally, and for being good sports; you can each name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that). 

We have been using this playlist to keep track of some of our favs recently. (Thanks so much for talking with us!).

• Something - Lalah Hathaway & Snarky Puppy

• Atomic BombWilliam Onyeabor

• Don’t Huzzle for Love - The Apostles

• In My Room - Jacob Collier

• Pray for Rain - Pure Bathing Culture

• Only Girl (In the World) – Rihanna

• I TryMacy Gray

• What’s Up4 Non Blondes

• Sunday Morning - No Doubt

• Back Pocket – Vulfpeck

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INTERVIEW: Cherryade

INTERVIEW:

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 Cherryade

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ELLA and Alex are the bodies, souls and brains behind Cherryade and talk to…

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me about their new single, Blah Blah. They are a fresh and colourful Pop act that looks set to make big footprints in 2018. I ask them about their future plans and how they got the duo together. The guys discuss the combinations and sounds that inspire their own music and how their songs come together – whether it is a natural thing or takes a lot of time to get together.

Alex and Ella tell me about the albums and legends that have moulded them; why their music has such a rich and instant chemistry; why they have worked with a range of different producers – and those new names we need to open our eyes to.

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Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?

Ella: Good thanks. I just got back from Rome!

Alex: Busy!

For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?

We're a new Pop duo from London.

Ella: Popping cherries everywhere!

Blah Blah is the new song. It sounds quite dismissive and has a definite attitude. What provoked the song and how did you make it sound so addictive?!

Alex: Haha, thank you! We always use our music as a way of venting - so the attitude and general bitchiness is something that just comes naturally to us.

Ella: We’re nice in real life, we promise.

How does a song like that come to be? Do you both work on lyrics and write music separately? What is the process for the duo?

With this song, we were working with an amazing producer/songwriter called Dillistone and we all just sat down together drinking tea and bouncing ideas around. He was looking after a really cute sausage dog at the time - which I think helped a lot!

What was it like working with Dillistone on the track? Did you feel safe being with such a talented producer?

Alex: I genuinely think he's one of the most talented people we’ve worked with so far. He was just full of ideas and a nice guy.

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It seems, even this early, you have cemented a desirable and instant sound. Is that because of the chemistry with Cherryade?

Ella: Well we've been drinking the stuff for a long time - so I think that’s bound to of had some kind of weird, chemical effect on us...

Alex: It's the additives!

Ella and Alex. Can you remember when you met? How did you discover you had similar music tastes?

Ella: We've been best friends since school!

I used to bully Alex for being ginger in the playground till I realised he had all the new C.D.s I wanted. So, we became friends and I got him to burn me copies of everything. It was great!

Alex: We also both hated that Catholic school and, once we got a bit older, started venting our thoughts into GarageBand demos - whilst getting drunk on cherryade and vodka before nights out.

Hence the name. Haha!

In terms of other musicians; who are the artists you are inspired by?

Ella: Lil’ Kim was my childhood hero! I think Grimes is awesome too.

Alex: Definitely MIA. I think that was the first gig we went to together.

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Cherryade have worked with a range of different producers. Is this because you don’t want to repeat yourself - or do you feel you are free to experiment with different names?

We just love working and collaborating with different people. It’s important to us to always develop our sound and switch things up.

Ella: I think this is the best way to develop. You have to branch out and try new things and we learn something new with every song we make.

Is there more material coming? What can we expect as we head into 2018?

Alex: Yes!

Ella: We’re really going to up our game 2018: lots of stuff to come.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Baby Tap

Who are new acts you recommend we check out?

There's a guy called Baby Tap who's really fun and crazy. He's got a song called Hillary Duff - which is amazing.

Alex: Dominique is great as well. I’ve had her song, Use Me, on repeat.

Ella: There's a girl from Norwich called Ginny Dix as well - who has an AMAZING voice.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Ginny Dix

If you each had to select the album that means the most to you; which would they be and why?

Lil Kim’s Hardcore

I got it when I was eight and I had no idea what it was about - but it was pink and my favourite thing.

Alex: Ahhh, this is so tricky… I absolutely love Britney’s (Spears) Blackout album so let's go with that.

It was just really unexpected and genius Pop. I want us to make an album with Danja!

What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?

Ella: Make spreadsheets and email everyone…

Alex: …literally…everyone.

Finally, and for being good sports; you can each name a song and I’ll play it here.

Ella: Baby Tap - Hillary Duff

Alex: Dominique - Use Me

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INTERVIEW: Pale Honey

INTERVIEW:

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 Pale Honey

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IT has been a joy speaking with Pale Honey.

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The Swedish-based twosome, alongside Anders Lagerfors, create stunning and emotive music. They talk about how artists like Josh Homme and Radiohead are influential; what the music scene in Sweden is like and how they came to meet one another. The guys discuss their favourite albums and their new album, Devotion. Get These Things Out of My Head is the current single from it – they talk about its origins and history.

I ask them about tour dates and whether we will see them play the U.K. They reveal how they have evolved (in two years) since their E.P., Fiction, and what themes are explored on their new album; a great new act we should check out – and how their week has shaped up.

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Hi, girls. How are you? How has your week been?

Hello there! We’re just great.

One of us is in Art School and the other is studying so, we have been keeping ourselves busy; planning for the album release - and tried the D.J.ing career at a Foo Fighters show in Stockholm.

All good, in other words.

For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?

We are Pale Honey; a Swedish band with Tuva Lodmark (on guitar and song) and Nelly Daltrey (on drums).

We enjoy beer and making music together.

Can I ask about the name, ‘Pale Honey’? Is there a particular source of inspiration for that choice?

Unfortunately, there is no epic tale of adventures behind the name: we simply decided on it because we thought it sounded good. ‘Honey’ was a particularly beautiful word to begin with but we had to add at least one word more – and, after some thinking, we decided on ‘Pale’.

Smash them together and you’ve got ‘Pale Honey’.

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The album, Devotion, is out on 13th October. What can you tell us about the themes and ideas expressed on the album? What was it like recording and creating the music for it?

Besides being released on a dangerous date: the album sums up about two years of work that we started with after the release of our debut album.

It has been written between tour dates; at home and in the studio - and we’ve been very open about the songs and have been sure to give them and ourselves time to grow during this period. The overall theme is interaction, relationships between people or the relationship to yourself. However, we are open with interpretation and if a song reminds you of something entirely else than what we sing about - then that is correct too.

We were sure to give each other time to reflect and encouraged each other to try out whatever was on our minds – and, so, it was a very recreational album to record; especially since some things that are in the final mixes are taken straight from the demos.

It seems, looking at track-names like Why Do I Always Feel This Way? there are regrets and anxieties. Was it a particularly tough and transitioning time for the both of you – in terms of relationship and self-doubt?

It is a continuous process to get to know yourself and how you relate yourself to others.

In some way, yes, it was a tough time but it was tough back when we recorded the first album as well. It all comes in waves and by creating music we can put the feelings into context. It can be frustrating wanting to write ‘the perfect song, but in the end, we’re proud of what we put out.

This time around we really worked on supporting each other and as all songs are connected to us, personally. We worked on bringing forth what we really wanted to express. Even though some songs might seem to have a very set theme; we’ve worked with being open to interpretation and how we as a band could relate differently to certain situations or themes. The lyrics are all taken from our own lives, thoughts and feelings – and, if that is not a tough thing to do, then why even bother.

It’s all about expression and exploration.

What was it like working with Anders Lagerfors on the album? What did he bring to the record?

Anders has been working with us since we recorded Fiction E.P. a few years ago. Back then, he was the cool, sound technician ready to take on work as a producer – and, after some time, he decided to join us for a tour in a combi-car filled with three others and full backline… and we’ve been kind of stuck together since. Live, he rocks the guitar and sampler; filling out the roles that neither of us other two can physically do - while playing our own instruments. In the studio, he’s back to being the producer and has great ideas that we weave together into the songs.

It is a very open collaboration where we just dig into ideas and record whatever comes up.

Get These Things Out of My Head is out. Can you explain a bit about the song and where that originates from?

It is - and we are very happy about it!

The song started as a dark demo with a tonewheel organ just rolling out the melody and the pumping drums and, from there, we kept building on it. Tuva does the song melodies and, with this particular song building into something energetic but menacing, we decided to go all in for the desperation. The lyrics ended up being about O.C.D. and the frustration surrounding the state - not being in control or unable to break free from something, swapped from another; calmer demo song.

It has been two years since your eponymous debut. Do you think you have become more discerning and precise since the debut? What are the main differences one will hear on Devotion?

We do think so!

Some of the songs on our debut album we wrote as part of learning our instruments. Being on tour really made us shape up and practice by doing. For Devotion, the only older song is Golden - which was a candidate for the first album but didn’t really come together until the second album. We’ve put a lot of work into the songs of Devotion and left some candidates out - as we wanted the songs to fit together as well as they could. While not necessarily calling it discerning, we’ve simply moved on from the first album and the experiences and created a new one. Some would call it a more ‘mature’ album and we’re definitely not disagreeing - since the debut has songs collected from when we were teenagers and stressed with finishing the album.

Devotion is more well-thought-out and personal in the way that we let everything take its time and tried; rewrote and rearranged things until they sounded as we wanted. The lyrics are a real upgrade from the debut - where we didn’t have the courage to change whatever came into our minds when recording the demos.

That is something that, hopefully, people will notice the most.

Tuva and Nelly. How did you both, and Pale Honey, come together? What was it about one another that led to the formation of a duo?

We met at the start of the eighth-grade of high-school and played different instruments together as we got to know each other. It expanded to playing outside of school too and, after trying to play with others who had ideas too different from our own, we decided to get a fresh start by being just the two of us. That is probably where the duo feeling comes from but we consider ourselves to be a band - no matter how many or few we would create music with.

The roles are fluid when writing, recording and everything else that involves us. But, live, you will see us mostly playing our respective instruments.

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Gothenburg is your base. It seems there is a lot of great music coming out of Sweden. Why do you think that is and is there a big scene where you are based?

Ah, the wonders of the socialistic Sweden.

We’ve wondered about this before and we would like to start off by saying that we are very lucky to have the time and opportunity to create and explore. For us, it was about finding each other and crossing paths with passionate people that kept encouraging us to make music. If more people are excited about music, it becomes contagious. Forget about the asshole musicians who brag about themselves and bring down others: the ones that support each other are the ones that are worth remembering and that have a blast together. In the end, we think, or at least hope, that music for us Swedes is all about having fun or having some way of expressing yourself.

We’ve got it pretty good here and, so, most of the Swedes could find the time to create and play music without it having a negative effect on their lives.

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Who are the musicians you both grew up on – and inspired you to get into music? Do you both share similar music tastes?

When we met in high-school, we kind of flirted with each other showing each other cool bands we enjoyed listening to. Nelly showed Tuva Queens of the Stone Age and Eagles of Death Metal. Tuva introduced Radiohead and Jimi Hendrix (yeah, Nelly was the cooler one). So, Josh Homme has always been a great inspiration - whatever he has done has been perfect.

Nowadays, we have pretty similar music taste but we both are drawn in different directions - and that makes our creative process fun and enriching! Everyone gets a veto when we are out on tour and blasting music in the car.

What tour dates are coming up? Any plans with regards coming to the U.K.?

Yeah, we’ll do London (The Old Blue Last) the 7th November. We’re looking so much forward to that - the best burger we’ve had on tour was in England as well, and so, we really are the lucky ones to have been booked. The previous gigs we did in London have been fantastic and, as the 7th is the only date we have set in the U.K. so far for the tour, there are no excuses for showing up! Even our cowbell will be there.

The tour dates so far are the ones below, and more are currently being added and awaiting to be announced:

05/10 Linköping, SE @ John Doe; 27/10 Aalborg, DK @ 1000 Fryd; 28/10 Copenhagen, DK @Ideal Bar; 02/11 Reykjavik, IS @ Iceland Airwaves; 03/11 Malmö, SE @ Plan B; 04/11 Jönköping, SE @ Hush Hush Club; 07/11 London, U.K. @The Old Blue Last; 11/11 Tollered, SE @ Smedjan; 15/11 Uppsala, SE @ Katalin; 16/11 Bollnäs, SE @ Bollnäs Konserthus; 17/11 Gothenburg, SE @Pustervik; 24/11 Oslo, NO @ Ingensteds;29/11 Stockholm, SE @ Debaser Strand

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IN THIS PHOTO: ShitKid/PHOTO CREDITArvid Sjöö

Who are new acts you would recommend we check out?

One day, we’ll find all the cool kids before everyone else does but, until then, we are enjoying ShitKid.

We have to let out the not-so-secret fact that we are still exploring already well-established bands ourselves - so keeping up with the unpolished gems is hard.

If you each had to select the one album that means the most to you; which would it be and why?

Tuva: In Rainbows by Radiohead

Because that’s the best album that’s ever been written.

Nelly: In Rainbows is a masterpiece - but I’ll go with Kashmir’s E.A.R

I listened to it a lot at a certain point in my life.

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What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?

Keep having fun; get to know others and be kind.

Finally, and for being good sports; you can each name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).

What a nice opportunity! Nelly thinks the world needs more cowbell - so let’s go for Do You Wanna Rock by Danko Jones

For Tuva; the song is Drone by Chastity Belt!

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Follow Pale Honey

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FEATURE: Madonna: For One, For All, For Everybody

FEATURE:

 

Madonna:

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 Madonna: For One, For All, For Everybody

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THERE are few who can argue against the notion…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Madonna (in 1983) during 'The Lollipop Session' shoot/PHOTO CREDIT: Deborah Feingold

Madonna helped transform music upon her arrival. The reason I am focused on her is that, on 6th October, it will be thirty-five years since her single, Everybody, was released. That was the lead-off track from Madonna's eponymous debut album and a song that helped kick-start a legendary and enduring career. Holiday would arrive a year later but one cannot underestimate the importance of Everybody. The album, Madonna, was well-received by critics and gained a huge number of fans. In 1982, aged twenty-four, Madonna was living in New York and trying to establish a music career. Her then-boyfriend Steve Bray, whom she was living with, became the drummer in her band - and, between them, they changed styles in an attempt to find their niche. Madonna had a rough tape with three songs on it including Everybody – and, after splitting with Bray and being dropped by Gotham Records (Madonna was signed to them but dropped as they were unhappy with her direction), she took matters into her own hand. Frequenting the Danceteria nightclub in New York; she convinced D.J. Mark Kamins to play the song, Everybody. The song went down well and from there Kamins decided he would get Madonna a record deal. Taking it to the boss of Island Records, Chris Blackwell – on the understanding Kamins would get to produce it – it was rejected.

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They went to Sire Records who offered Madonna a deal and $5,000 in advance - $10,000 in royalties for every song she wrote. The twelve-inch single of Everybody was produced by Mark Kamins at Blank Tapes Studios, New York, and recorded and their own cost (Madonna helping foot the bill). Madonna and Kamins had misunderstandings during the sessions: each differed in regards what they wanted from the song and the direction it would take. It was, despite the uncertainty, released and became a big Dance hit. It was the start of a fantastic career and, whilst not her finest single, was the introduction of a stunning and iconic talent. Madonna was offered an L.P. deal following Everybody’s success and the incredible album, Madonna, was released. She was influenced by Dance-Pop and Post-Disco at the time but struggled to shake Disco – some of the album’s songs dated and using equipment that came off as dated. Madonna looks back at the album as a missed opportunity. She hoped she would have dispensed with the Disco obsession and added a bit more variety in there. It is a bit harsh from someone who, whether she knew it or not, had created a fantastic debut album. Everything was the song that started it and showed what a talent we had in our midst.

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By July of 1983 – when her eponymous debut was released – her name was well-known and she began to rise the charts and minds – touted as a future star and someone to watch closely. If reviews, in some quarters, were mixed then it would not be long until she gained the sort of praise and adulation she warranted. Her debut was a success but Madonna wanted to take control for her follow-up, Like a Virgin. The label was not ready to give her that freedom so drafted in Nile Rodgers – not bad if you need a producer to help make a hit record! That ambition and determination from Madonna was impressive to see. In an age where we see many of our mainstream stars keen to employ a multitude of people to make their music pop and shine – it is worth remembering one of music’s most iconic talents was eager to steer her music from an early stage. Steve Bray and Madonna co-wrote five songs – Madonna writing a further one herself – on the album and it is a big step from her debut album - in terms of confidence and production. There is a lot more variation and more standout songs. Into the Groove, included for the 1985 re-issue (issued outside North America) and Like a Virgin resonated with her young audience. Her knack for producing a timeless and instant Pop classic meant, upon its release, Like a Virgin saw teenagers queuing the block to get their hands on the album.

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The same way teenagers queued for The Beatles’ records in the 1960s: there were masses hustling and bustling to purchase Like a Virgin. The confidence from someone so young gave many, including a lot of female fans, inspiration and guidance. Material Girl, the album’s lead-off track (and second single), is one of the most recognisable songs of the era. If some felt the irony in the song did not match the social and political climate of the time; other recognised it as a song that perfectly highlighted Madonna’s situation and rare talents. She claimed, like many, how materialism plays a big role and she had that zeal for possessions and success. The kind of men who would have been around her wanted the same things – the more meaningful aspects of life not as important. In a time when the Reagan/Thatcher era reigned: Material Girl is the antithesis of all they were promoting. Material Girl remains an iconic song and one that influenced so many people. Like a Virgin, another huge smash, had tease and sensuality. Madonna, not a virgin at the time, liked how the words did not quite make sense – how can anyone be like a virgin?! – but had a huge amount of fun playing with it. Although the biggest songs from that album did not have Madonna as a writer – she understood how the lyrics connected to her and what they meant. Madonna was a hit and that rare breed: the street-smart singer who had the glamour of Marilyn Monroe. Witty, teasing and strident: few artists could claim to have that same pedigree and variation.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Madonna in 1984

Few female artists were exerting their sexuality in the mid-1980s – it was the male artists who were the most ‘confident’ and accepted in this sense. Like a Virgin opened the door for an artist who did not want to be a girl and commercial puppet – different from the controlled Pop stars that were projecting a sweet and twee image at the time. True Blue was released shortly after Like a Virgin. The prolificacy of Madonna was incredible at the time. This sense of expeditiousness did not lead to sloppy and hurried material. True Blue was a different beast to what had come before. Madonna became bolder and more confident at this time. She addresses issues like teen pregnancy and the ups-and-downs of life. Married to Sean Penn at the time; she produced the album with Stephen Bray and Patrick Leonard. There was more incorporation of Classical music in order to attract older listeners – who were jaded and sceptical of her past work. That mix of youthful and mature meant it became a hugely influential work in the vanguard of late-1980s/early-1990s Pop. The global success of the album meant Madonna’s celebrity rose. The album spent thirty-four consecutive weeks at the top of the European Top 100 Albums chart and was the top-selling album of 1986. Like a Prayer and Erotica capitalised on True Blue and saw her gain the acclaim she had been craving. Unlike her early career; Like a Prayer was released after a three-year gap.

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Madonna worked with Stephen Bray, Patrick Leonard and Prince on the album and took a more involved role than at any other time – co-producing and co-writing all the songs. Like a Prayer, as the title might suggest, is a more introspective work and dealt with subjects like her mother’s death – she died when Madonna was young – and familial bonds. The album was a turning-point that saw the superstar change from the colourful and cute girl of Madonna to the adult and accomplished woman of Like a Prayer. Such a transformation over the years meant critics referred to Madonna as an ‘artist’ – as opposed to a Popstar. 1992’s Erotica was the sound of Madonna embracing something she had denounced for years – a calculated and cold figure. The album tackled sex and romance through the guise of her alter ego, Mistress Dita (inspired by actress Dita Parlo). A couple of songs address AIDS – Madonna had two close friends who were affected by the disease - but, for the most part, Erotica tackled sex and physicality. Madonna set up her own Maverick Records and released the album on the label – showing how keen she was for autonomy and control of her own vision. It was another big step and a surprising turn from an artist impossible to predict. The artists who, only an album or two earlier, has been talking about sex and satisfaction was discussing love and relationships.

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IN THIS PHOTO: The cover-art for the Erotica track, Rain

Madonna was in her thirties at this time so it might have seemed inappropriate to project the same persona as the Madonna-era sweetheart. That said, it would have been as easy to produce something safe and commercial – as she was the biggest music star on the planet at the time. Bedtime Stories, released in 1994, took Madonna into ballad territory and saw the complete change from sexy and vixen-like Pop artist. 1994 was a year when huge albums from Oasis (Definitely Maybe), Green Day (Dookie) and Portishead (Dummy) defined the times. It would have been a huge misstep recording an album that eschewed that and continued her 1980s sound. Madonna needed to move with the changing times and tastes and, in Bedtime Stories, produced an album that ably slotted into a fantastic year for music. Another four years past but, the difference between her previous gaps and this was the fact 1998’s Ray of Light was the biggest transformation and evolution of Madonna’s career. Released by Maverick and Warner Bros. Records; its recording began after the birth of Madonna’s first child. Babyface, Patrick Leonard and William Orbit assisted with production and it was Orbit’s inclusion that defined the album. The English producer took Madonna’s music in a more Dance-orientated direction. There were hardware issues – recording halted until equipment could be fixed – but, once it was all running, the Electronica, Techno-Pop fusions (with Trip-Hop and House) were worth the wait.

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Vocally, Madonna showed greater breadth and depth than ever before: lyrics more spiritual and deeper than previous records. Mysticism and spirituality played a big role with Hinduism, Kabbalah and Buddhism guides for Madonna. I love Madonna 1980s work but feel Ray of Light is her finest track. Few artists have the same durability as her so it would have understood were Ray of Light to be a final fling too far. As it stands; the album is deemed one of the best of the decade – one of the best from the legendary U.S. artist. Madonna’s name can be found on every track and it continued her desire to see her work projected and represented the way she wanted it to be. The adventurousness and maturity from Ray of Light impressed critics – the album scored massive reviews and won four Grammy Awards. The album reached number-one in many critics and the blend of softer Pop numbers and deep, immersive Electro numbers demonstrated what variation Madonna had in her arsenal. Ray of Light helped bring Electronic music into the mainstream. To that point, aside from one or two artists putting out similar albums, Electronic music was reserved to raves and underground parties. Madonna solidified and visualised a wonderful movement that was allowed to breathe and evolve. It seems everyday and unremarkable today but, back in 1998, Ray of Light was a hugely vital work.

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It brought Electronic music to new audiences and got it out of the basement. Other important breakthroughs – spiritualism and meditation brought into mainstream music; Indian fashions (which one can see in the video for Frozen) assimilated – meant the always-influential musician continued to break ground and push boundaries. Songs such as Frozen and Ray of Light showed the polemic nature of the album. The former is a rushing and heady smash that talked about the changes – fast and consistent – that shaped Madonna’s life. Motherhood, spirituality and creative shift all reflected in a song that became a huge hit when it was released in May (1998). Frozen talks about cold and emotionless humans and was deemed a masterpiece by many critics. Such a difference from what one was accustomed to: the song stunned many and showed what a chameleon-like presence Madonna remains. Frozen has simple themes/lyrics but is a grand statement and one of the finest songs from Madonna’s catalogue. Six albums have been released since Ray of Light and, whilst none have equalled the majesty of Ray of Light, they have shown Madonna is someone in no mood to slow and resist – 2000’s Music was a perfect start to the decade and another incredible release. That record stepped away from pure Electronic and brought in new genres like Country and Folk. The need to remain agile and moving meant it gained critical acclaim and was another big-selling release.

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Standouts Don’t Tell Me, Music and What It Feels Like for a Girl became radio staples and brought Madonna’s music to new audiences. American Life, released in 2003, did not receive massive applause but many noted it confrontational style and need to move forward – taking another step in terms of creativity and style and pushing her music forward. Confessions on a Dance Floor was a more successful release and, out in 2005, was the tenth studio album from Madonna. 1970s Disco meant it was a completely different album to American Life and brought in Stuart Price as a co-conspirator. Critics lauded the return-to-form for the Queen of Pop and returned her music to the core audience and original discovery – the 1980s, when her early albums embraced Disco and the clubs. Maybe the fact it was her tenth album – and over twenty years since her debut – but there was a pleasing circulatory about Confessions on a Dance Floor. In many ways; the albums that followed mirrored Madonna’s early-career trajectory. From the Madonna/Like a Virgin dance and discovery of Confessions on a Dance Floor came the more charged and revealing Like a Prayer/Erotica themes of Hard Candy. Admittedly, as the title shows, it is a more middle-aged version of that but no less saucy and provocative. Collaborators like Pharrell Williams and Justin Timberlake ensured Madonna remained current and contemporary: Hard Candy was a move towards R&B (something not explored in previous released).

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IN THIS PHOTO: Madonna during the Music photoshoot

The songs are not as controversial and boundary-pushing as Erotica and Like a Prayer but are autobiographical and reflective. Madonna, on Hard Candy, mixed sweetness and boldness without offending and shocking – remaining focused and solid. MDNA, referencing the drug MDMA (ecstasy), brought in a number of producers and, compared to her previous few albums, was a messier and less impressive work. There were highlights but showed defiance and attack. This was the first post-Guy Ritchie record and saw the divorced Madonna in a different headspace to, say, Music. 2015’s Rebel Heart found Madonna returning to the peak days of the mid-1980s and early-2000s. The songs are sturdier and less scattershot. The quality, whilst not to her high standard, is more noticeable than it was on MDNA and critics found Rebel Heart a more satisfying and consistent body of work. Who knows when the next Madonna album will appear but one is unlikely to predict what it will contain. The astonishing talent, since her debut, has not stopped or stood still for a moment. Everybody is almost thirty-five but remains that spark that lit the fuse – and the explosion that followed. I am excited to see what comes next but felt compelled to look back and chart the amazing music career of Madonna. I have not mentioned her epic stage shows but her sense of performance, theatrics and show(wo)manship is undeniable. A staggering icon who has changed music – let’s hope this continues for many years to come! On 6th October, when Everybody celebrates that anniversary, it provides everyone with a chance to look back on the career of Madonna and see just how far she has come. Many have tried to emulate her but, since that 1982-introduction, there has been nobody in music…

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QUITE like her.

INTERVIEW: The Kondoors

INTERVIEW:

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 The Kondoors

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JESS and Gavin are a wonderful duo that makes up The Kondoors.

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I have known them for a while and can appreciate what a solid and impressive force they are – a married couple of the same musical soul and mind. I wanted to talk to them about their upcoming single, Mr Rain. It is out on 6th October and talks about the resolution of love; the light at the end of the tunnel. I quiz the duo on their musical background and how they met; whether we are going to see any more material later this year and what they have planned.

They discuss the artists who have helped mould them and the people influential to them; how their careers have evolved and how their paths intertwined and merged.  

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Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been? 

Hi! Yeah, we're good thanks.

It's been incredibly busy few weeks for us. We just came back from Wales recording our album!

For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?

Yes. We are The Kondoors, A.K.A. Jess Greenfield and Gavin Conder. We are married - despite our different surnames. Haha! 

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Mr Rain is your forthcoming single. What can you tell me about the song and how it came to life? 

That song came about after Gav was playing around with the first few chords when I was making dinner one night.

It was really catchy and knew he was on to something. It took a while to write it as we'd keep coming back to it adding bits and scrapping them. The idea behind it really was that we wanted to write a positive uplifting song that reflected the positive shift in our relationship.

We had been through so much sh*t and it felt like we had turned a corner. 

Jess and Gav. You are a couple. Were you in a duo together before embarking on a relationship – or was it the other way around? 

No. We met nearly fourteen years ago through a mutual friend who was running a band.

Gav was fronting it and they were looking for a female singer. That's when we first sung together (then). Once we became a couple (not long after), we thought we'd do some stuff together - just singing covers to earn money. It was only recently really that we wanted to make a real go of things, musically - doing what we wanted and putting our heart and soul into it.

Does being in a relationship make songwriting easier? How much of your relationship and experiences with love enforce your music? 

It is basically the crux of everything we write about, to be honest.

It is not easy to write together initially as we argue but then we somehow stumble on an idea or lyric and then it flows.

Sometimes, the songs pull on so many experiences and feelings that they are hard to sing. 

Can we expect an E.P. or album from you guys in the coming months? 

Yes, both!

Our E.P. will be out at the end of the year and we have just finished our album - and that will be out next year. We did the album at Monnow Valley in Wales live with a nine-piece band and co-produced it with Paul Stacey (Oasis/Black Crowes).

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Tell me how you both got into music. Did you both start out coverings or were you part of bands? 

Gav: I guess I got into music initially for the Rock and Roll aspect of it. I didn't start singing till I was about seventeen and I managed to get into a Soul covers band - and I realised that I could make a living out of it. I had always written songs though and always knew I wanted to be an artist. I began to meet really great musicians who introduced me to other great musicians and so on.

That's, in the end, how I met Jess. I always loved 1970s Soul and Rock - so it feels great to be writing and performing music of a similar style.

Jess: I was always around music from a very early age. My dad is a musician and I spent a lot of my childhood going around music shops and watching his gigs. I remember first going to Ronnie Scott’s aged (about) three or four! I realised I could sing aged fifteen and, after that, there was nothing else I wanted to do. I started off in covers bands and then doing lots of sessions etc. (same as Gavin).

Our lives have been incredibly parallel with each other. It's weird!

Who are the musicians that influenced you both, growing up? How important are your early experiences with music? 

Jess: Well; number-one is my dad. He not only taught me about great music but great feel and a strong work ethic. All the music he and my mum played have shaped who I am a musician. I grew up listening to lots of Latin and Soul; Funk and Rock - George Benson, Miami Sound Machine; Donny Hathaway, Stevie and so many more (from my dad) - and lots of World music and, of course, artists like The Beatles and Paul Simon from my mum.

Gav: I always loved bands like Pearl Jam and Metallica growing up. My parents were into Rock and then I heard Stevie Wonder - and my eyes were opened. 

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I can see you guys have performed some great gigs lately. Which dates stick in the mind and what have your recent gigs been like? 

Probably the Meraki Festival in St. Albans.

It was our first time on a main stage and it felt amazing. Our most recent gig was at Pizza Express in Holborn and it went down really well. We sold it out too, so that was good!

The Kondoors have so many fans and get a lot of love on social media. How much does that mean to you and what message would you give to them? 

It means everything to us. Really.

To know that people like what we do and tell their friends about it is incredible. We would like to say the biggest thank you - and to keep supporting us as that's what keeps us going.

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Have you got any plans for later this year? Will you get much chance to spend with family at all? 

Jess: I am doing a tour with John Illsley from Dire Straits for a couple of weeks, so that will be fun. Mainly though, we will be getting finishing touches done on the album.

What tour dates do you guys have coming up? 

We don't have any tour dates yet. I think next year we will do more live stuff.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Rider

Who are new acts you recommend we check out?

Yes; our friend Rider. She's incredible, both vocally and as a producer. She writes the most epic, heartfelt Pop.

Also; Vivienne Chi. Such an original artist with a really distinctive sound and voice.

If you each had to select the album that means the most to you; which would they be and why? 

Jess: Probably Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morisette

What an amazing album. I think I had felt every emotion listening to that album. I think it helped me get through my teenage years, to be honest -  amazing songwriting and vocals.

Gav: Hard question. Probably Voodoo by D'Angelo. The playing on it is incredible - and he's like the modern-day James Brown.

What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?

It's a tough world to get into. Keep your eyes on what you want and don't be scared to do stuff yourself. Don't ever wait for anyone. If you believe in what you do and do it; someone will step in and help you with your journey.

Be nice and know what you want.

Finally, and for being good sports; you can each name a song and I’ll play it here.

Jess: I Believe (When I Fall in Love) - Stevie Wonder

We walked down the aisle to that song after we said our vows on our wedding day.

Gav: Circles by Vinegar Joe

It's just a great song. 

INTERVIEW: Sarah Hiltz

INTERVIEW:

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PHOTO CREDIT: Jordan Michaelis 

Sarah Hiltz

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CANADIAN artist Sarah Hiltz talks to me…

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about her new track, Without You. She is a singular talent whose voice is very much her own. A blend of different genres; she has echoes of greats like Billie Holiday and Joni Mitchell. I chat to her about the new single, Without You, and what we can expect from her forthcoming album, Beauty in the Blue. I find out about Hiltz’s musical past and the artists she is inspired by; what subjects inspire her music - and whether she is coming to the U.K. anytime soon.

Hiltz talks about long-term collaborators, Jordan Michaelis and David Puzak, and what the Canadian music scene is like; why her new album returns to a Folk sound – and which memories of the year stick in her mind.

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Hi, Sarah. How are you? How has your week been?

Busy, busy! (And a little sad).

I always feel a bit melancholy and nostalgic when September rolls around.

For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?

Yeah! I’m an independent Canadian musician, based in Toronto.

I draw mostly from Folk and Jazz influences. Most of my songwriting focuses on finding a way to communicate the complexities of human relationships.

Without You is your new track. What can you reveal about its background and inspiration

Without You came after a long period of watching someone close to me struggle with severe depression. I’m kind of a slow processor, so it took me a long time to realize how much I was also affected by proximity. I think most of us don’t want our own pain to negatively affect the people close to us - but love doesn’t work that way. It hurts to see someone you love suffering; their pain doesn’t stop with themselves.

So, the song is kind of my way of saying, ‘hey, I’m on this road with you and we either fight or we fail together’.

It seems, from listening to the track, there is that difficulty balancing the effects of depression and maintaining a contented relationship. Was it quite hard putting that onto the page?

Yeah. It took a long time for me to be able to find the right way to describe my internal thoughts.

I spent a lot of time focusing outward; trying to tell myself ‘this isn’t about me’ - which is maybe true, in some way - but you can’t live life close together and not be deeply affected by each others’ pain. I think for me to be a better source of support - it was important for me to recognize that. But, also, important to find a way to communicate that in a way that, hopefully, doesn’t sound like blame.

I was going more for solidarity.  

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The album, Beauty in the Blue, is approaching. Can you tell me the stories and influences on the record? How much of your travels – and time as a travelling musician – go into the album?

It plays a big part, I think...

In Canada, there’s a program for artists to perform onboard our cross-country train in exchange for travel. I’ve done that trip several times and quite a few songs on the album are a direct result of that. Some of them are inspired by people I met: some are made of lyrics that I wrote while on the train… aside from all the strangers you meet and get to know on the train; it’s also really inspiring to see Canada that way.

There’s a lot of built-in time for reflection with nowhere to go and little in the way of distractions - which helps me to focus in on writing lyrics.

On it, you work with long-term collaborators Jordan Michaelis and David Puzak. What was it like working with the guys on the record?

Oh man, so great.

I love playing with them both - they sense so well where I’m going and what I’m trying to do. I’m so grateful I was able to have them in the studio with me. More than just laying down parts; they helped me express something beyond what I could capture alone - it wouldn’t be the same record without them.

It’s also the first time I’ve produced a recording that sounds like what I’m feeling or thinking - and that has a lot to do not only with Jordan and Dave and Kevin (Engineer and Co-Producer); but with everyone who worked on the album being willing to engage with the central message or theme of each song.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Jo Elis

The L.P. sees a return to Folk-driven sounds. Was this a conscious decision or did the experiences you went through demand a more contemplative and emotive direction?

In a way, it was a conscious decision.

Before we started recording, Jordan, Dave and I had been playing as a Folk-trio for a couple years. After a bunch of shows around Toronto - and a tour in Ireland and the U.K. - we had developed a certain energy - and I wanted to capture that dynamic in the studio. Most of the beds for each track are the three of us playing live in the studio.

After that, I wanted to fill in the gaps with whatever felt most natural and, usually, that was something that fell inside of a modern-Folk kind of sound. 

Is there a particular song on the album that encapsulates the entire spirit (of the record) – the one that has a particularly strong connection?!

I feel a pretty strong connection to them all.

They all seem to take turns being the thing that best expresses where I’m currently at - show-to-show, day-to-day. But, I do think of I Took a Risk as the sort of thesis statement for the record as a whole. It talks about a need to do things for myself, in my own way, and the sometimes-paralyzing self-doubt I experience after making a decision to do just that.

It’s the song that expresses my desire for clarity - and all the songs that follow are examples of me trying to find it in a particular situation.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Jo Elis

You are based in Toronto. What is the music scene like there and is it a part of the world, you think, more eyes should be trained on?

In terms of creators, I think it’s a really special place.

Toronto is home to such a wide variety of people from all over the world so the scope of music is really diverse and unique. It’s so interesting to hear where different genres and traditions meet and overlap. In terms of the industry, it’s a challenging place to survive as an independent musician: the city being as expensive as it is (the rent here, I tell ya!)

Who are the artists that compelled you to get into music? Can you remember the first musician that stuck in the mind and struck the heart?

Haha, yes. But I was really young, okay?

I think the first female musician I became aware of was Amy Grant. I remember my parents playing one of her cassettes at home and I was in the living-room and listening to it thinking, ‘I want to do what she’s doing when I grow up.’ She was just so cool with her leopard-print jacket and long, curly hair! I was three-years-old then and that was the moment I decided I wanted to sing.

I also have very early recollections of Neil Young and, having grown up an hour from Detroit, a lot of Motown artists (Martha and the Vandellas; early-Stevie Wonder) that have dug into my subconscious.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Tammy Foster

What tour dates do you have coming up? Any plans playing the U.K. this/next year?

I have a release-show on November 7th in Toronto and some dates in Western Canada later this year. I’m considering a return to the U.K. next fall but it’s unconfirmed at this point - still exploring to find the right venues and see if it will be feasible or not.

This year is nearing its end. Which memories have stuck out as being particularly special?

One really special night was the beginning of this year: I rang in the New Year on a train somewhere close to Edmonton, Alberta with a group of travellers from all over the world. As the night got later, and people started heading to bed, I was up in the dome car (where the roof and walls are all windows) with a just a few people.

Eventually, one of the staff came up and handed us the last open bottle of champagne - and said he was going to bed. We polished it off and sat watching fireworks over the city from a distance - and talked about the people we love and about music.

That night definitely stands out.

Who are new acts you recommend we check out?

Some of my favourite Toronto artists - Running Red Lights, Megan Bonnell and Abigail Lapell.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Running Red Lights

If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?

Birth of the Cool by Miles Davis

This was the first record I heard by Miles Davis - and it was like nothing I’d ever heard before. I love the vibe, the arrangements and the melodies. You can really feel the energy of the group…even after all this time.

Wrecking Ball by Emmylou Harris

I never get tired of this album. Her voice is so unique. I love the songwriting and storytelling but, also I love, love, love the production by Daniel Lanois. It’s a Folk/Country album - but isn’t overly earthy or rootsy.

There’s something mysterious about it.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Jordan Michaelis

Emily’s D+Evolution by Esperanza Spalding

I heard the first single off this record – One - and was just floored by the melody. Esperanza Spalding is constantly pushing musical boundaries: every record she makes has its own special thing. I can hear the Joni Mitchell influence on this one and, as a fan of them both, it’s really interesting to hear that influence through Spalding’s lens. It’s also encouraging to hear someone as established as her make a record so outside-the-box.

It really defies categorization.   

What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?

Create as much as you can. Don’t let perfectionism stop you from completing something and moving on.

I’m still trying to learn that lesson - but I can see where it’s held me back.   

Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).

New Jerusalem by Cam Maclean!

Cam and I met as teens in our hometown - we took guitar lessons from the same teacher. I’ve always loved his songwriting - but this new recording may be my favourite-ever of his.

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INTERVIEW: HIGHLIVES

INTERVIEW:

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 HIGHLIVES

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IF a band can accrue a large following on social media…

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they are in a good position of authority. That may seem axiomatic but HIGHLIVES’ credibility and popularity stems from the strength of their sound – not some shallow sense of fame and looks. The boys are, admittedly, not ugly but they trade on quality music. I talk to the guys about their new single, Nothing Left, and what the song is about; whether there will be an E.P. following and what their tour diary is looking like.

I ask about how they connect emotions and relationships to their music and how their new music differs to the 2015-released E.P., Misguided Youth; how they all got together at the start – and what the origin of that unique band-name is.

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For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please? 

Ben: Hey. We are HIGHLIVES: a Pop-Punk band based in Bristol, U.K.

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What is the origin of that band-name, ‘HIGHLIVES’?

Liam: The name was decided before the band was fully-formed - we just thought it sounded cool.

Tell me about the single, Nothing Left. What compelled it and can you remember the moment it was written? 

Ben: Liam came over to my house with the lyrics finished and within half an hour we had the majority of the song written. After that, we went to Jordan’s to record a demo and came up with some lead guitar - and over time; James came up with the bass and Steve wrote the drums.

How connected to personal realisations/experiences is the song?

From my own interpretation of the song; I feel that it is about giving it your all in a relationship and it all falling apart anyway – which, I think, a lot of people can relate to.

It has been premiered here and the U.S. Is it flattering having American sources backing your music? 

I think it’s crazy how people in other countries are listening to our music - let alone media outlets working with us.

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Is this single going to lead to a new E.P. or album? 

We don't have any plans set in stone yet but we are always writing new material - so there may be something coming soon.

How does your new material differ, it at all, to your 2015-E.P., Misguided Youth

Liam: Nothing Left, in particular, is a lot more Pop-y than most of our previous stuff. We've never really stuck to one sound though - so it's difficult to compare them as each song we put out tends to be very different to the last.

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Can you tell me how you all got together? Was it an instant chemistry in the HIGHLIVES camp? 

We all met through friends or friends of friends...

It took some time to learn how to work best with each other- but, now, ideas bounce quite easily off of each other. We often stick to particular ways of doing things like songwriting and organising shows - because we've figured out what works best for us as a collective and makes us most productive.

Did you all share a love of the same acts (when you met)? Who are the artists you all grew up listening to?

Ben: We all like different bands. Growing up, I always loved Sum 41, The Offspring; Blink-182 and Good Charlotte. The first C.D. I ever owned myself was Blink's self-titled album.

Who are new acts you recommend we check out? 

Better than Never: best band ever!

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If you had to select the one album that means the most to you; which would it be and why? 

All Killer No Filler by Sum 41. My dad has owned the album for as long as I can remember and I've always loved it.

Finally, and for being good sports, you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that) 

Learning to Swim by Better than Never

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INTERVIEW: Michael Oakley

INTERVIEW:

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 Michael Oakley

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ONE cannot begrudge the excellent Michael Oakley for…

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slightly delaying sending back my interview. He was, rather selfishly, getting married and moving to Canada. I speak to the Scottish-born musician about his new video, Turn Back Time, and what it was like to shoot. Oakley chats about the concept and the stories within his E.P. He is a fan of 1980s music and has a real passion for the synthesiser. I ask him about the artists he grew up with and what it is about the 1980s that strikes him.

Oakley reflects on recent changes in his life and what the future holds; whether there will be new tour dates – and what advice he would offer any new musicians emerging.

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Hi, Michael. How are you? How has your week been?

Hey…well, funny you should ask... my week has been totally crazy!

I just got married to my amazing, beautiful wife in Canada - and we have spent the past week with my family and her family (which has been really nice).

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For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?

I'm a singer/songwriter from Glasgow, Scotland and I love writing and producing retro-sounding, 1980s-inspired Electronic music.

What can you tell me about the song, Turn Back Time? What is the inspiration behind it?

Turn Back Time was written at the end of 2016 when I was seeing a girl I used to know from high-school - and we were getting on great…or so I thought. She cut me off and started seeing someone else without telling me - and I found out from one of her friends that it was because she didn't think I was all that interested in her…which I was totally surprised by. I was left with an overwhelming feeling of wishing I had made more of an effort and not been so cautious - maybe things would have been different if I had.

So; that was definitely the starting point for the concept of the song and, while writing it, I thought a lot about how, when you break up with someone and move on, you still sometimes have those moments of remembering how you felt when you were with them - when things were good and wishing you could be back in that moment; even just for a little while to feel the way you used to feel and remember what it felt like when they loved you. 

Musically, I wanted the song to have a John Hughes movie soundtrack feel to it - so, I started playing with those kinds of sounds to build the emotional backdrop for the lyrics.

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It seems to, appropriately, hark back to the 1980s. What is about the decade, and Electro music, that appeals to your creative sensibilities?

Well, for me, the 1980s is the greatest decade for music…

It's a time when everything was really vibrant, colourful and larger-than-life. It's the decade which has always emotionally moved me the most - and hit me in the feels - and made me feel warm and fuzzy inside for sure - as well as sparking my lifelong love for synthesisers. 

The video looked like it was awesome to shoot. Where was it filmed and whose concept was it?

Yeah. I had the most amazing time shooting my video!

It was filmed in Long Beach, California with my great friend Brad Kinnan and Joshua Paul Millar. When Brad and I met to talk about it, we didn't really know initially what the concept of the video was going to be - other than getting a DeLorean car and revolving it around that! I then had an idea of the video revolving around a happy relationship but, at the end, you find out the girl is really dead - and what you were watching was my memories. I liked the idea of that being a sort of metaphor for what it feels like when someone you love walks out of your life...

Certainly, the person you knew and shared your life with no longer exists: the way you knew them and all you're left with is memories. It was Brad's girlfriend Madison who suggested we make the video mostly first-person perspective; from me having the memories and focus on the girl in the video, Camille Prior - who was absolutely fantastic as my dead girlfriend.

She brought a wonderful charm and melancholy to the video that was perfect. The DeLorean was great because I'm a HUGE Back to the Future fan, but for me, Camille is the centrepiece that really made the video incredibly special.

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Looking at the video and it seems you have a future as a bit of an actor. Has going into T.V. and film, as an actor or composer, ever appealed to you?

Haha! Well you know I felt quite at home being filmed, believe it or not. I thought I would get all self-conscious and flaky when the camera started rolling - but I managed to slip into character and, luckily, it translated back well on scree…so, phew!

I don't know if I'll be making a cameo appearance in Game of Thrones anytime soon, though.

Is it true your sister got you into the synth. music of the 1980s? Do you give her royalties for that great tip – or tell yourself you would have discovered the music without her help?

Well... I had to wait till she went to work first before I could sneak in and listen to it!

Then, make sure I had dusted my fingerprints off all the L.P.'s and put everything back EXACTLY how she left it when I was finished. L.o.L. 

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IMAGE CREDITTony Skeor

Who are the artists from that time that first struck your ears?

New Order, Pet Shop Boys; Depeche Mode, Erasure; Duran Duran and Tears for Fears were definitely the first artists that I got obsessively into.

I still love them now just as much as when I first heard them.

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How instrumental was the music you were brought up to where you are now? Do you think music peaked in the 1980s – or is there something about the decade that stands out to you?

I would say that, contrary to what a lot of people I know, think; I really believe this is a great time for new music right now. We live in the recycled generation where, creatively-speaking, we're taking the most beloved elements from past decades; fusing them together to make something completely new - but with modern production techniques.

I also think it's great that anyone can now buy a laptop and start making music easily - and have access to the kind of creative studio tools which weren't easily available and affordable ten or twenty years ago.

Everyone has a level platform to express themselves with, musically - and that, in itself, is amazing.

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IMAGE CREDITTony Skeor

How much of your E.P. deals with personal events and romantic fall-out? Was there a time, when everything was going wrong - and you felt that music was the best way to make sense of things?

Yes, absolutely.

I started writing California shortly after a very painful break-up with someone I was in a long-term relationship with. I was completely lost in every way - emotionally and spiritually. The one good thing that came from that was that I started writing again after a long period of not doing so. I felt I had something to say and needed a place to channel my despair - and writing music was my kind of cathartic way of processing everything going on in my life.

Every song on the E.P. is a love song in all the different shades you can have: a love lost, a love found and a love you're trying to find. I didn't intend to write music again for anyone else to hear except me - which I think is why it's so retro-sounding. I decided to make the kind of music I loved listening to when I was a kid just for me - and I was shocked and overwhelmed at how well my music been received so far. 

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California is the name of the E.P. You took a trip there to see John Glenn Kunkel from The New Division. How did you two spark up a friendship and how important is his friendship to your life?

Well. Apart from being a massive fan of The New Division; I had also heard and loved John's solo-work on other projects; so I contacted him in the middle of 2016 and, from that, we started talking - and I asked if he would help me with my album which, thankfully, he agreed to do!

John is one of the most talented guys I've ever met and it was a real honour for me watching him work in the studio. He's the melodic master when it comes to getting detail on a track and finding what parts melodically complement each other - and changing parts that don't so that the music flows and builds naturally.

I think I drove him crazy towards the end of the sessions with my overly-obsessive ways when I'm in a studio working! But John is one of only a few people I trust enough to just sit back and let him take complete creative control on my songs - when I feel I have taken them as far as I can and need direction to get me back in ‘the zone’.

I'm heading back to Los Angeles in a few weeks’ time so it will be great to hang out with John and my fellow bro-ducers who helped me on the album - but this time, in a non-musical capacity but, knowing us, we'll probably end up working on something one of us has started! 

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IMAGE CREDITTony Skeor

What was it like recording in California? Did it provide some reflection and was it the perfect place to rebuild and find some peace?

California, for me, is the most beautiful place in the world. I travelled over 6000 miles to record my album there, in Los Angeles, with some of the most amazing musicians I've ever met - and to have a life-changing experience.

It's definitely the best thing I've ever done and was great to step outside my normal life back home; to finish what I started but, you know, I went there thinking all I was doing was recording an album and having an extended holiday - when really what I was doing was making some great new friendships - and meeting and falling in love with my now-wife. 

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IMAGE CREDITTony Skeor

How did it feel heading home after that time? Were you in a better space or was there a lot to sort out?

When I returned home, I was initially elated from my trip but quickly I felt frustrated and unhappy.

I think I thought I would go away and do what I wanted to do: have a holiday and come back to my old life refreshed and ready to carry on as normal. In reality, my experiences had changed me and I couldn't continue with my old life.

I connected with my true calling again and fell back in love with writing music - and I guess with life, also. I had met someone wonderful that I wanted to be with permanently who lived half the world away.

So, yeah, that was hard to deal with because I felt trapped - and it took a few months to slowly transition away from that and leave Scotland.

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Glasgow is your home. What is the city like for a musician such as yourself? Are there a lot of artists who play the same kind of music?

I'm now living in Canada with my wife but Glasgow will always be my homeland: I just haven't had enough time to miss it yet.

I think there are a lot of musicians living in Glasgow but opportunities to be successful and break out are very limited. You can try to build a fanbase online independently however, depending on what style of music you make, it can be almost impossible to break through without any help and outside support. I was lucky that I was in the right place at the right time when I started writing again. I sent the first song I finished, Rabbit in the Headlights, to online music station New Retro Wave and, to my surprise, they loved it and put it up on their station.

The reaction I got from that was unlike anything I have ever experienced - and I think the video is now sitting at 150,000 plays…which is insane. 

What tour dates are coming up? Where can we come and see you play?

I can't wait to play live but, as yet, I haven't got any plans to tour until 2018 - so watch this space…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Ulrich Schnauss

Who are new acts you recommend we check out?

Artists I've been listening to recently are Ulrich Schnauss, The New Division; Missing Words, FM-84; The Midnight, Talamanca and deadmau5.

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PHOTO CREDITBrad A. Kinnan Photo + Video

If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would it be and why?

Ulrich SchnaussGoodbye

For me, Ulrich Schnauss is the king of Electronic music. I don't think anyone makes a synthesizer talk as expressively and emotionally as he does. It's hard for me to pick one favourite Ulrich album but, if I was pushed, it would be this. Goodbye is a hauntingly beautiful album. 

Jimmy Webb - Ten Easy Pieces

Although I love Electronic music and retro-sounding stuff; I also have a love for Acoustic singer-songwriters. Jimmy Webb is one of those songwriters from the golden-era who wrote for Frank Sinatra and Glen Campbell. He never took the centre-stage and always wrote songs for other artists. On his fiftieth birthday; he decided to record himself singing his ten most-popular songs - just him on the piano…and it's one of the most beautiful albums ever recorded. 

Depeche ModeViolator

This is the band and album that changed my life. When I first heard Enjoy the Silence, as an eight-year-old kid, I knew immediately that electronic music and synthesizers were my future as a musician. If The Beatles spawned a whole generation of kids in the 1960S - to want to pick up a guitar - then Depeche Mode are the band that spawned a generation of kids in the 1980s - to want to pick up a synthesiser. I love this album so much that I have the rose from the album cover tattooed on my arm. 

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What advice would you give to artists coming through right now? 

Always keep your music and artistic expression pure.

Don't get side-tracked, mentally, with making money from your music - or how other people are going to respond to your music. You're making music for the love of doing it and for you and no-one else. You then sell that love you have for it more than the actual music itself. It doesn't matter if you aren't talented enough or don't have the right equipment - or if you don't really know what kind of music you want to make and lack direction. All that will come in time as you develop but, right now, make a decision to be creative with what you have - and keep moving forward.

I used to be in bands before writing and singing my songs which, looking back, weren't great but it was all part of my developmental journey. I still don't think I have reached that point yet where I feel accomplished or anywhere near as good a writer as the people I listen to and respect – which, I think, is a good thing.

There’s always room to grow - no matter what level you're at.

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Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).

John Waite - Missing You

This is one of my all-time favourite songs. I'm a sucker for a power-ballad…

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Follow Michael Oakley

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INTERVIEW: Ali Tommis

INTERVIEW:

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 Ali Tommis

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THERE is no doubting Ali Tommis is a busy man right now…

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what with the video for Leave It All Behind fresh in the ether – it was released on Sunday. He talks about the E.P. of the same name and the kind of music he grew up listening to. I ask him about his E.P. and what it was like recording it; why it has a piano-driven feel and the sort of events that compelled its best moments. He discusses his musical progression and how he transformed from a hopeful young artist to someone who is gaining a lot of attention.

Tommis looks ahead to tour dates and reflects on the time that has passed – and recommends a musical name worth keeping our eyes out for.

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Hi, Ali. How are you? How has your week been?

Good, thanks.

Got rained on a lot but it was good to get a great magazine feature this week - and a lovely blog review. Also, have been getting things ready for the Leave It All Behind video premiere this Sunday (17th September).

For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?

Sure.

I’m Ali. I’m twenty-five and I write my own music, sing - and plonk away on a piano. Apparently, I began playing the piano when I was three but, to be honest, I don’t remember.

Can you tell me about the upcoming E.P., Leave It All Behind? What stories and events inspired the songs?

I think it was more my situation that inspired the songs rather than particular events or stories. I wanted to be a musician at seventeen but went to university and did a degree in Business - as a ‘back-up plan.’ When I graduated at twenty-one, I was like ‘ok; now, music.’ I was naïve about how difficult that would be. I love music and I love writing and making music - and trying to forge a career out of it has been the hardest thing I have ever attempted to do.

I think Leave It All Behind is about finding the strength to leave your old life in order to strive to live a life of your dreams - and the struggle of doing that.

There is an accompanying video shot in Portmeirion. It is home to Festival No. 6 and was where Supergrass filmed (the video for) Alright. What was it like filming there?

Amazing!

An incredible place to film and I never expected them to say ‘yes’ when I asked! Huge thanks to the location manager Meurig Jones who, not only allowed us to roll around on pedal go-karts, but escorted myself, my mates and the film crew around all day on a golf-buggy…absolute star! Incidentally, the golf-buggy has a guest starring role at the end of the video.

Joshua Leo Dorfman directed it and he and his film crew were really in tune with my ideas - and a great bunch of lads. The final edit that Josh produced is amazing and really shows the passion he has for filmmaking.

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Also, two of my best mates from uni, Ed and Jamie, made the mammoth journey from Aylesbury (in England) to appear as the people chasing me in the video. I was really humbled by so many people coming together to help me make this video - and am still filled with such enormous gratitude to everyone that helped!

Is there a track on the E.P. that especially resonated and means a lot to you?

Ooh…that’s tricky. They all mean a lot to me and my favourites change all the time...

At the moment, I would say the ones that resonate the most are Leave It All Behind and The Fear.

Leave It All Behind as it really captures the moment I’m in now: a real drive to make music my career; but also something that many twenty-somethings can hopefully relate to: as in the line “Wearing a brand new look to see the same old view, guess you miss what you never even knew.”

The Fear (too) as it is a song about battling self-doubt and fear - something we all face and that, as a musician, I have faced a lot. Someone told me the other day that the song really resonated with them so that meant a lot to me - as I always want to make music that connects with people.

It is piano-driven and relies on a huge musicality and sense of feel. How early did music come to you and what compelled you to start performing?

Well. My dad is a guitarist and my mum a pianist - so I was born into a very musical household. I was always doodling on the piano at a young age - though a real interest and passion for music didn’t begin to develop till I was about fifteen when I found an old Crossroads: Best of Bon Jovi album - and discovered I could play the piano parts.

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Do you remember the artists you grew up listening to and heard around the house?

I remember my parents listening to things like Sting and Chris Rea - Sting is amazing.

My own taste began with the Best of Bon Jovi album when I was fifteen: I realised that’s probably the least-cool band going. Those choruses were so big and unapologetically anthemic that it was just exciting. I was thinking ‘what is this’? The fact that my dad didn’t like them made me listen to them more: good old teenage rebellion. That evolved into Coldplay, OneRepublic; Thirty Seconds to Mars, John Mayer and Stevie Wonder.

I played their songs on the piano and really became obsessed with how songs were made; what chord progressions were being used; what key was the song in; what was the highest note the vocalist was singing.

I became such a music nerd (and haven’t stopped).

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You began songwriting aged seventeen. Eight years on; how do you think your music has changed and evolved?

I think when I started songwriting, I hadn’t developed my own style - so I was imitating the people I was listening to a lot more. Now, I like to think that, hopefully, it’s more me that you’re hearing rather than somebody else.

How does music drive and move you as a person? What does it mean to you, personally?

It’s hard not to sound like an X Factor contestant here...

It’s what I feel the most at home doing. I feel, when I’m writing and playing music, I’m being true to myself. I think nothing has the power to move people like music doe: it’s the most powerful medium in the world. I don’t know what I’d do without it (Hopefully, that wasn’t too cheesy).

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What tour dates do you have coming up?

I’d love to say I had a sell-out tour coming soon but, at the moment, I’m playing local venues around the North Wales area. Hopefully, this E.P. can be a catalyst for playing bigger venues - and going further afield for gigs.

Your fanbase is growing and show you a lot of love. Is it important having that support and how does it affect you?

Absolutely!

It’s the fuel to keep going. In music, there are no guarantees no matter how much work you put into something. It is daunting. So, when one of my songs gets played on the radio - or when people say they can’t stop listening to one of my songs - or that a song struck a chord with them...

It inspires me to keep working.

How does the rest of 2017 look? How will you be spending the next few months?

I’m looking forward to releasing the video on the 17th - and the E.P. on the 22nd. I’ve had great feedback so far so off the back of the release. I hope to start gigging further afield and really getting this music out there as much as possible.

Towards the end of this year, I’ll be working on new material (as well).

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IN THIS PHOTO: Quarterlights/PHOTO CREDIT: Natasha Barrett

Who are new acts you recommend we check out?

There’s this new band from London area called Quarterlights that’s fronted by my friend, Ollie Clark.

He’s a phenomenal musician and plays pretty much every instrument going. For Quarterlights, he plays the keys and sings. Their songs are fantastic and they’ve got a new video out for their track Why Don’t You Like Me? Catch it here.

If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?

Tough question….

I have to say that James Bay’s 2015-album, Chaos and the Calm has to be one my favourites

Such a classic, authentic sound - and phenomenal songwriting. His voice and guitar-playing are next-level - so definitely that’s got to be up there.

John Mayer: Where the Light Is (is) such a fantastic live album

His guitar-playing is, in my opinion, the best of his generation. He does three sets - acoustic, trio and full-band - that are all amazing. I lived off that album in university!

Finally; I’d say the 2009 album, This is War, by Thirty Seconds to Mars

Insane vocals and choruses. I remember seeing them at the Big Weekend in 2010 and thinking that they wouldn’t be able to play the songs well live - because of the vocal difficulty. I was very, very wrong! (The fact that they were being sued $30 million by EMI at the time makes it all the more impressive).

What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?

Not sure I’m in the best position to answer that question but I’d say just keep working and believing in your music!  

Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).

Ah, great!

It’s gotta be Closer to the Edge by Thirty Seconds to Mars

That drumming and those crazy vocals! Never gets old! Thanks for having me!  

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Follow Ali Tommis

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FEATURE: Gemma Louise Doyle: Reason

FEATURE:

 

Gemma Louise Doyle

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 Reason

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LATER in the week...

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I will look at acts to watch right now; a bit on Marc Bolan and forty since his passing – fashion in music and how that has evolved through the years. Right now; a look at someone whose life has been saved by music – in a semi-literal and real way. I have interviewed Gemma Louise Doyle before and, in lieu of reviewing her new track, a chance to promote a song/artist who dedicates her all to music. I have listened to her music in the past and always find myself drawn to the power and magnetism of the voice. Gemma Louise Doyle has a multi-octave voice and has performed all around the world – she speaks multiple languages and is a cross-genre artist who can apply her unique and flexible voice to anything. There is a biography later in the piece – for those who want more – that shows where she has come from and how her career has progressed. Doyle almost died when she was younger and told she only had hours to live.

Coming back from that would scar many and cause them to retreat a lot. Instead; the talented and curious singer used her recovery as a chance to embrace music. Her previous work – like the album, Inspire – show what a passion there is in her heart. One listens to her music and feels the full effect of that four-octave voice: an itinerant imagination and huge soul that manages to take the listener somewhere special and eradicate any stresses and problems. It is a magnetic and emotional experience. Reason is the story of Gemma Louise Doyle’s survival and subsequent pursuit of music. It has taken a while to write the song but it is dedicated to her fans and followers – who have stuck by her and been rewarded with words of compassion and inspiration. Reason (and its creation) is explained by Gemma Louise Doyle:

Co-written with former member of Iron Maiden, the song is based upon the true story of how music saved my life. For the first time, I've got the single on iTunes, Spotify and hundreds of platforms. I will have more music distributed soon”.

Here's the iTunes pre-order link: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/reason-single/id1280959733

There's also a preview on her website: www.gemma-doyle.com

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About Gemma Louise Doyle:

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PHOTO CREDITDebbie McGregor Photography

Gemma Louise Doyle is a unique, international music artist, who says that music saved her life.

Gemma believes that we all have significant talents & abilities in our lives, which are our purpose, to share and help people, making the World a better place. 

Having once spent nearly 5 years recovering from a life-threatening illness, Gemma discovered that her voice could uplift people, inspiring them to make a change, and be happier. 
As she began to sing from a hospital bed, Gemma started receiving messages of praise & gratitude from other patients, which gave her the strength and courage to fulfil her dream of singing on stage and inspire many other people across the World.

A determined young talent, Gemma has spent the past eight years performing for audiences, live in Las Vegas, London, and across the globe. 

Today, Gemma commits all of her time, travelling to events, creating music, videos & positive messages for her followers.

Gemma has focused the past few months into developing her new record, called Reason, which she is about to release. The song was created & recorded in London, with a close friend, a former member of World famous bands; Iron Maiden and Cutting Crew, who Gemma met through mutual friends in New York. 

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The single is written, based upon multiple sources. One of which is Gemma's experiences, how her musical talent gave her a reason & motivation to live. She says that the song is also for her supporters and audiences, who continue Gemma's belief & determination to achieve her dream.

Having a versatile 4-octave singing range, despite being a tiny frame, the song and power of her voice, surprises listeners, incorporating elements of Pop, Rock & Inspirational Crossover music.

You can pre-order the single now, by visiting Gemma's official website www.gemma-doyle.com, where you can also hear more of Gemma's music, and find out where you can see her appearing live.

You can also follow Gemma's journey, receive updates of new music and watch videos online, at Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and many of your favourite social media platforms. 
All of these links to follow, can be found at Gemma Louise Doyle's website www.gemma-doyle.com

Contact Details:

www.gemma-doyle.com

gemmalouisedoyleint@gmail.com

07757 216112

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Follow Gemma Louise Doyle

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FEATURE: Later…with Jools Holland at Twenty-Five

FEATURE:

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 Later…with Jools Holland at Twenty-Five

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AN established and legendary music show is on its fifty-first series….

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and will take to the stage of the Royal Albert Hall in a few days. If one goes to the website of the Royal Albert Hall they can find out how to get a ticket and the acts that are involved that night. If you are a bit lazy, or want a general overview; they bottle it down to this:

Jools Holland brings his iconic music television show to the Royal Albert Hall to celebrate 25 years, 50 series and over 360 programmes on BBC Two.

Featuring a typically eclectic blend of signature artists including major stars, legends, artists of the moment and brand new talents across genres from rock ‘n’ roll to jazz and all points in between, this multi-artist show will be filmed in the round, filling the Hall’s main stage and floor with artists in the style of the Later… studio as seen on TV.

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IN THIS PHOTO: The artists who will perform at the twenty-fifth anniversary of the show

See the Later… experience as normally enjoyed only by a few in the television studio now laid bare in the bowl of the Royal Albert Hall. For one night only, this magical musical mystery tour, with a special line-up, will celebrate Later… with Jools Hollands’ commitment to all manner of musicians and musics that matter!

The show will feature old friends of the show and some new ones – Foo FightersPaul WellerVan MorrisonDizzee RascalKT TunstallGregory PorterKali UchisCamilleSonghoy Blues and Jorja Smith.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Jorja Smith, who will be among the musicians celebrating Later...with Jools Holland at the Royal Albert Hall

The xx and Royal Blood were among the artists that helped bring the fiftieth series to a rousing conclusion. Two days ago, there was an A-Z of Later…with Jools Holland on BBC 2 - and it was a wonderful chance to see musicians brought together to provide their views on the long-lasting series. Many compared Jools Holland’s show to a cordial battle-of-the-bands. There is no competition or rivalry: more a group (of) of-the-moment musicians performing at the top of their game. Before I come to my views and what makes the show so special; a look (via Wikipedia) at the show’s origins and development:

Later... with Jools Holland (previously known as ...Later with Jools Holland) is a contemporary British music television show hosted by Jools Holland. A spin-off of The Late Show, it has been running in short series since 1992 and is a part of BBC Two's late-night line-up, usually at around 11 pm to 12 midnight. The day of transmission has varied, but currently it is usually recorded on a Tuesday for Friday broadcast[1] and features a mixture of both established and new musical artists, from solo performers to bands and larger ensembles.

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  The show is considered an institution, having notched up millions of fans around the world.[2] It is currently broadcast in America on MTV Live (formerly known as Palladia); previously it had been shown on OvationBBC AmericaFuse, and Dave. The Ovation and Fuse broadcasts leave out several performances (and usually one or two performers entirely) to air commercials within a one-hour timeslot. It is also shown in Australia on the UKTV channel and ABC2, in Canada on HIFI and AUX TV, in Germany on ZDFkultur, in Spain on Canal+ Xtra, in Croatia on HRT 2, in Latin America on Film&Arts and in Belgium, France, PortugalSwitzerland, and the United Arab Emirates on iConcerts HD.

The 200th programme was broadcast on 1 February 2008.[3] The 250th edition was broadcast in September 2010.

In 2008, the head rock and pop critic of The GuardianAlexis Petridis, claimed the programme featured a "distinct lack of spontaneity" and was failing to showcase enough dance music, pop, hip-hop, experimental music or present R&B artists. He also argued "all the artists it breaks are essentially the same: MOR singer-songwriters".[6]

In 2010, Joe Elliott, lead singer of rock band Def Leppard, criticised the programme for excluding the band from appearing on it, claiming "Jools Holland won't have us on his show because we're not cool enough."[7] Executive producer Mark Cooper responded to this comment in 2013, claiming: "The aim is to put together the best mix from various genres. We’re not thinking, 'Oh no, we’ve never had Def Leppard on, we owe them one'." Cooper acknowledged that the series had "not had much metal" but denied accusations that it was "snobby" about pop acts”.[8]

It is easy to argue against critics who say Later… is an elitist and snobbish format. It does not exclude artists and is one of the most all-inclusive and varied shows I know. There is a camp that says it does not feature enough Dance and Pop artists but is designed to feature the best and brightest acts. Not many ‘classic’ artists are featured if they do not have new material out. Maybe there is a sense of ‘cool’ and contemporary about the show but it does not shut its door to music’s variegated and broad spectrum. On 26th of this month; Liam Gallagher, Benjamin Clementine and Nadia Reid will join LCD Soundsystem, Jorja Smith and Jimmy Webb. That line-up is of-the-moment and cool but there is no difference to the ethos and structure of Later… and stations like BBC Radio 6 Music. Nobody criticises the station for not including a lot of Thrash and mainstream Pop. Each show or station has its own dynamic and breakdown. Later… has featured Pop in the past and is a broad-church that is not keen to exclude. There are limits and cut-offs but looking at the series fifty-one opener and there is a range of genres and tastes among the cut. The show’s helm and frontman has been interviewing to promote the big anniversary. Some of the most-recent series have brought together everyone from Kano and Paul Simon through to Ed Sheeran and Haley Bonar.

I cannot understand anyone who claims the show is snobbish and restricted. It takes from music of the moment but casts its net over a huge range of sounds. I agree there are very few mainstream Pop artists and Country acts but the show has always been keen to focus on quality and currency – if it opens the doors to anyone then it loses appeal and the quality goes down.  Older, established bands/artists have been on Later… so the likes of, say, Def Leppard making complaints, is a little strange – the fact a band like that would not be included is down to a lack of quality and potency rather than them being prejudiced. The same goes for a lot of Pop in the charts. That music has its audience but it lacks the allure and pull that warrants a place on Later… The show is a not a drop-off for any artist promoting a song: it is for the best artists around who can get the audiences hooked and make a real impact. There is no sense of pushing people away or limiting the type of artists that are featured. Later… is intended to put the best music on the screen and that, in an age where there are so few music shows, is why it continues to thrive. Consider past years when we have had the likes of Top of the Pops on our screens. Music is because more digitalised and insular – in terms of promotion – and the wealth of music T.V. is down to this one show.

The reason Jools Holland’s show has survived so long is for a number of reasons. The magnitude, passion and likeability of the host, yes, is why so many people tune in. Holland is an enthusiast who has the desire to put all kinds of musicians into the studio. It is rare and almost alien-like finding a T.V. show with a live audience that has no gimmicks – it is musicians performing tracks and that, is essentially, it. Little chat and brainless promotion; you do not get the drawn-out interviews you might hear on radio. It is all about the music and keeps things pure and simple. That battle-of-the-bands-style format is a tried and true thing. The fact Top of the Pops died is because it lost an edge and sense of purpose. It seemed dated and was a bit old and creaky as we moved into the streaming-age. Later…with Jools Holland has never relied on bright lights, chart acts and anything cheap. It is a pure and unchanged show that continues to bring us the best music around. One of the reasons I love it is because there is that mixture of cultures, styles and ages. One can find an older/established act like Robert Plant or PJ Harvey. You have the newcomers and underground acts on the same bill as legends and titans. There are no egos and reservations at all: any musician who can put in a great performance is welcomed on the show. Each episode has a great blend of sounds and never relies solely on Rock, Alternative or Soul.

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IN THIS PHOTO: M83 and Mai Lan performing on Later...

These days; survival and durability is a dying pleasure. So few people can maintain successful and evolving careers; T.V. shows never last that long and the only way music-lovers can hear true and quality musicians is through the radio. I am a devotee of stations like BBC Radio 6 Music but want the chance to see their kind of musician perform on stage. The live music scene is dwindling and threatened so it is always good finding a show that puts the prominence and focus on the live performance. One can argue shows like Later…with Jools Holland is responsible for inspiring people to go to gigs and embrace venues. It is always great seeing Holland join a guest and play piano: he gets involved and loves to be a part of the mix. He is a great interviewer and has that charming and down-to-earth conversational style. Seeing musicians relax and causally chat to Holland is contrasted by their electric and stunning performances. Over the years, and through the series, we have witnessed amazing performances that stay in the mind.

It is great to see a show that has seven-eight guests and does not feel the need to adapt and evolve to fit with the digital age. Imagine if it booked its guests on the strength of Spotify figures and what was trending. That would be ghastly and galling! Later… is all about quality and the true spirit of music. Anyone who dares strike against such ethics and morals has no right to call themselves music fans. Take a look at the fifty series of Later… and one will find so many genres and artists on the list. That will continue for many years to come and remain the sole source of T.V. music. The twenty-fifth-anniversary show at the Royal Albert Hall is a worthy celebration of a show that continues to amaze, compel and inspire. Jools Holland is the ever-enthusiastic curator and amazes me with that constant verve and energy. Long may the show continue and bring the people the best and boldest musicians from around the world. I have found so many artists and new discoveries through later. Jools Holland’s show is a tastemaker in the same way John Peel was at his peak. The formats are different but one is allowed the chance to unearth brilliant new acts on Later… It is not only about the mainstream and what is hot at the moment. Who knows how far the show can go but, in an age of disposability, seeing something survive and grow is truly inspiring and rewarding. If you cannot get to the Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday; make sure you tune into the opening edition of the fifty-first series and see some awesome musicians captivate and enthral. Raise a glass to Jools Holland and an amazing BBC dynasty. It is Later… but there are plenty more great years…

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Sonnghoy Blues, who are among the musicians who kick-start the next series

IN this incredible show (sorry for the poor time-related/’later’ pun!)

FEATURE: Festifeel 2017

FEATURE:

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 Festifeel 2017

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HOSTED by CoppaFeel!; the annual...

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IN THIS PHOTO: Anna Jones (@we_are_food)

Festifeel festival is a unique event that puts boobs at the forefront – in the sense that it encourages young women to check their breasts. It is a way of making breast cancer more visible and less frightening/lonely – a way of taking any hesitation and stigma out of it and raising awareness. The event is not only a change for women to come together. Co-founder Kristin Hallenga, when talking about the ethos of the festival, explained it in these terms:

"I want everyone to know that cancer doesn’t conform to the over-40s rule we try to impose on it; and that getting to know your boobs from a young age, and making checking them regularly a habit of a lifetime you could save your life one day."

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IN THIS PHOTO: CoppaFeel! founders, Maren and Kristin Hallenga

CoppaFeel! was founded in 2009 and twin sisters Kristin and Maren Hallenga started the movement following Kristin’s breast cancer diagnosis at twenty-three. Due to her late diagnosis; CoppaFeel! C.E.O. Kristin lives with stage-four breast cancer. Last year; she explained why she was stepping down from helming CoppaFeel!

In fact, at the moment I am not just looking at the more recent months, but my past eight years running CoppaFeel! Why? Because I have decided to step down as CEO of the charity.

This is in no way linked to my health – in fact, I feel better than ever. And I’d rather step away when I am well than on my last legs.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Kristin Hallenga

I never wanted to be in a panic about the future of the charity. I feel so very lucky then, to be in the position to step away when both me AND the charity are feeling strong.

CoppaFeel! is at its peak, it is saving lives and has a kick-ass team leading it to even greater things.

Honestly, I never wanted to be a CEO. I am not a natural leader, just very passionate, and my passion has got us to this stage.

Now it’s time for a new pair of eyes and fresher leadership to take it even further.

I recently read an article about Founder’s Syndrome, and how founders of charities often don’t know when to relinquish their powers – to the detriment of the charity. I never want to be in that position.

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The fact doctors, when she was concerned she had breast cancer, dismissed her concerns as irrational and hormonal – it shows, as recently as a few years ago, how much ignorance there was. It seems insane there would be such cavalier disregard and dismissal of anyone fearful of their health. The fact Kristin was right – and faced the most devastating news possible – does not make her (correct) instinct satisfying. Out of the horrible and bleak situation came the desire and dream to make breast cancer a less misunderstood and overlooked illness. The aim is to reduce the rates of death and ensure there is more early-stage detection and greater conversation. There is a stigma and sense of trepidation when it comes to men and checking for testicular cancer. The fact they are reluctant to check themselves is one barrier: going to a doctor and revealing something embarrassing is another hurdle. The fact is, like breast cancer, it is serious and should not be seen as embarrassing.

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CoppaFeel! has the mandate that urges women to check their breasts and notice any abnormalities or changes. The Ambassadors of CoppaFeel! are called ‘the Boobettes’ – women who were diagnosed at a young age. I shall mention this year’s Festifeel but, before then, a little Wikipedia overview of CoppaFeel! and how it has grown:

In summer 2014 they launched their ‘What Normal Feels Like’ campaign, which seeks to reclaim the language and imagery associated with breasts.[13] Hundreds of women have submitted pictures of their breasts, along with a descriptive word such as “wibbly” or “springy”, which have been used in a series of advertisements designed to normalise and desexualise female breasts.[14] According to The Daily Mail, the ‘What Normal Feels Like’ billboards had to be placed away from roadsides for fear of distracting drivers with images of naked breasts.[15]

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In the same year The Sun newspaper started working with CoppaFeel! on ‘Check ‘Em Tuesday’, a bold campaign that features Page 3 models encouraging readers to check their breasts for signs of cancer every Tuesday.[16] CoppaFeel! founder Kristin Hallenga presently works as a columnist for The Sun, expanding on the important of ‘Check ‘Em Tuesday’ by regularly writing about her own experiences with cancer.[16] The campaign has been criticized by No More Page 3, who feel that the promotion “sexualised images of young women to highlight breast cancer”.[17] CoppaFeel! responded to the criticism by highlighting the importance of early stage diagnoses for the disease.[18] ‘Check ‘Em Tuesday’ has received support from several celebrities including motorcycle racer Maria Costello,[19] and actress Helen Flanagan.[20]

CoppaFeel! have also run a ‘Cheknominate’ campaign, which was their “healthier” take on the Neknominate craze.[21] Cheknominate encouraged people to record themselves checking their breasts before nominating a friend to do the same. The Huffington Post were supportive of the campaign, and encouraged their readers to try to get the hashtag #Cheknominate trending on social media”.[22]

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IN THIS PHOTO: Russell Howard

CoppaFeel! and Festifeel have gained celebrity support from the likes of Fearne Cotton, Russell Howard and Danni Minogue. Radio presenters such as Dermot O’ Leary have thrown their support behind it – O’Leary and Greg James run the Bath Half-Marathon in 2013 – and raised a lot of awareness/funds. It is important, as Chris O’Dowd stated in a vital video, men check themselves too. There is this assumption men cannot get breast cancer because they do not have breasts. Everyone has breasts in the same everyone has an Adam’s apple (a misnomer and confusion) – unlike an Adam’s apple: breasts are less prominent in males.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Fearne Cotton

We need to check ourselves and ensure we perform regular inspection and maintenance of our bodies. The same way it is important for women to get men to check their testicles for cancer: men should - and have - urge young women to check their breasts for possible irregularities. Make sure you go to this year’s Festifeel and check Facebook for details. The official website provides links to tickets - and check the latest Twitter happenings here. It is a wonderful cause whose annual festival gains more traction and patronage by the year.

This year’s is going to be a huge gathering and a wonderful day – not only intended to raise awareness and support for breast cancer/detection but provide wonderful music/talent...

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HOUSE OF VANS

Arches 228 - 232 Station Approach Road, London SE1 8SW

Busted // Pixie Lott // Denai Moore // The Staves // Fleur East // Basement Jaxx (DJ Set) // Lauren Laverne (host) // Mystery Jets (DJ) // Goldierocks (DJ) // Abbie McCarthy (Radio1) DJ // Bear Grooves (DJ)

Welcome to Festifeel, an annual festival organised by, and raising funds for, the charity CoppaFeel!, who work tirelessly to raise awareness of breast cancer, in order to stamp out the late detection of the disease.

Heading into its eighth year, it’s known for its incredible and eclectic line up that switches from the best new bands to some of music’s biggest stars with DJs, comedy poetry hour with Laurie Bolger, graffiti workshops, boob chat, glitter, nail art and so much more, held in one of London’s most epic music venues.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Festifeel host, Lauren Laverne

With a music line up curated by Fearne Cotton, you’re guaranteed to be in for a treat. Last year's line-up featured the Mercury nominated Laura Mvula, Rae Morris, Flyte, the legendary Stereophonics, + DJ sets from Goldierocks to Gok Wan and a comedy stage curated by Russell Howard.

October 14th is set to be a special day, and all for a pretty brilliant cause.

Presented by Festifeel.

Under 16s must be accompanied by an adult.

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IN THIS PHOTO: The Staves

LINE UP

1pm Doors open

- Busted

- Pixie Lott

- Denai Moore

- The Staves

- Fleur East

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IN THIS PHOTO: Basement Jaxx

- Basement Jaxx (DJ Set)

- Lauren Laverne (host)

- Mystery Jets (DJ)

- Goldierocks (DJ)

- Abbie McCarthy (Radio1)

- DJ Bear Grooves (DJ)

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IN THIS PHOTO: Pixie Lott

FEATURE: It Ain’t Over Until the Fat Lady Sings: The Best Album-Closing Songs

FEATURE:

 

It Ain’t Over Until the Fat Lady Sings: 

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PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash 

The Best Album-Closing Songs

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AN album can succeed or fail simply because of the order…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Nirvana in 1993

the tracks are placed. I have heard great records top-loaded and too eager to please: others end with their best songs and rely on a lot of patience for the listener to get that far. Programming and correct assortment is a vital – and very difficult – discipline to conquer. Of course, if you have an album with great material throughout, there is a golden rule: end with the best track and start with one of the better ones – sprinkle the rest in an order that will keep the listener hooked and guessing.

I take a look at albums that end with a real bang: those unexpected treasures that give you that last-gasp burst of brilliance.

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The BeatlesA Day in the Life

Album: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Year of Release: 1967

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MuseKnights of Cydonia

Album: Black Holes and Revelations

Year of Release: 2004

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BjörkPlay Dead

Album: Debut

Year of Release: 1993 (Reissued Version)

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Joni MitchellThe Last Time I Saw Richard

Album: Blue

Year of Release: 1971

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The Jimi Hendrix ExperienceVoodoo Child (Slight Return)

Album: Electric Ladyland

Year of Release: 1968

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GlassjawConvectuoso

Album: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Silence

Year of Release: 2009 (Remastered Version)

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Radiohead Street Spirit (Fade Out)

Album: The Bends

Year of Release: 1995

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The Jam Down in the Tube Station at Midnight

Album: All Mod Cons

Year of Release: 1978

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Kate Bush A Sea of Honey

Album: Aerial

Year of Release: 2005 (Re-release)

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Oasis Champagne Supernova

Album: (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?

Year of Release: 1995

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Dire Straits Brothers in Arms

Album: Brothers in Arms

Year of Release: 1985

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Beyoncé Formation

Album: Lemonade

Year of Release: 2016

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David BowieRock ‘n’ Roll Suicide

Album: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

Year of Release: 1972

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Bob DylanDesolation Row

Album: Highway 61 Revisited

Year of Release: 1965

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Pink FloydEclipse

Album: The Dark Side of the Moon

Year of Release: 1973

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PJ HarveyWe Float

Album: Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea

Year of Release: 2000

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NirvanaAll Apologies

Album: In Utero

Year of Release: 1993

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Fiona AppleHot Knife

Album: The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

Year of Release: 2012

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Sufjan Stevens – Impossible Soul

Album: The Age of Adz 

Year of Release: 2010

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Joy Division – Decades

Album: Closer 

Year of Release: 1980

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Fleetwood Mac – Gold Dust Woman

Album: Rumours

Year of Release: 1977

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Prince and The Revolution – Purple Rain

Album: Purple Rain

Year of Release: 1984

FEATURE: Sticks and Stones: Incredible Drum Performances

FEATURE:

 

Sticks and Stones:

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PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash

Incredible Drum Performances

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THE drummer is a part of the band…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Led Zeppelin's John Bonham

that often gets overlooked. The focus is on the singer and it is not often the percussionists get a chance to stand in the spotlight! Often, a meaty or energetic piece of sticks-work can elevate a track to transcendent levels. I am seeing a greater number of people take up drumming: a lot more women are playing with fellow women/men and showing they can mix it with the very best of them. It is encouraging seeing more female musician taking up drums – I am hearing so many fantastic drummers who will be future stars. I have been urged to seek out some of the finest drumming performances of all time - to show why an epic piece of percussion can raise a track to the heavens.

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Queens of the Stone AgeNo One Knows

Drummer: Dave Grohl

Album: Songs for the Deaf

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The BeatlesThe End

Drummer: Ringo Starr

Album: Abbey Road

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Led ZeppelinMoby Dick

Drummer: John Bonham

Album: Led Zeppelin II

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Fleetwood MacThe Chain

Drummer: Mick Fleetwood

Album: Rumours

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Blondie – Atomic

Drummer: Clem Burke

Album: Eat to the Beat

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Steely Dan Aja

Drummer: Steve Gadd

Album: Aja

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The Velvet Underground Heroin

Drummer: Moe Tucker

Album: The Velvet Underground & Nico

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The WhoMy Generation

Drummer: Keith Moon

Album: My Generation

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King Crimson21st Century Schizoid Man

Drummer: Michael Giles

Album: In the Court of the Crimson King

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The White StripesSeven Nation Army

Drummer: Meg White

Album: Elephant

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The BeatlesTicket to Ride

Drummer: Ringo Starr

Album: Single Release/Help!

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Led ZeppelinWhen the Levee Breaks

Drummer: John Bonham

Album: Led Zeppelin IV

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The Jimi Hendrix ExperienceFire

Drummer: Mitch Mitchell

Album: Are You Experienced

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The WhoA Quick One, While He’s Away

Drummer: Keith Moon

Album: The Kids Are Alright

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SoundgardenJesus Christ Pose

Drummer: Matt Cameron

Album: Badmotorfinger

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Benny Goodman and His OrchestraSing, Sing Sing (With a Swing) (Pt. 1 & 2)

Drummer: Gene Krupa

Album: Single Release

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SlipknotPsychosocial

Drummers: Joey Jordison/Chris Fehn/Shawn Crahan

Album: All Hope Is Gone

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Cream I Feel Free

Drummer: Ginger Baker

Album: Fresh Cream (U.S. Version)

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Miles Davis Miles Runs the Voodoo Down

Drummers: Don Alias/Jack DeJohnette

Album: Bitches Brew

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The Who Won’t Get Fooled Again

Drummers: Keith Moon

Album: Who’s Next

FEATURE: Freddie Mercury: Why His Magic and Magnetism Lives On

FEATURE:

 

Freddie Mercury:

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 Why His Magic and Magnetism Lives On

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A certain legend is back in the news…

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PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

and with good reason. On 5th September, it would have been Freddie Mercury’s seventy-first birthday. I get it still IS but it makes me wonder, were he still with us, what he would make of music. I guess he would have got involved with the talent shows. I don’t think he would have objected and, if anything, might have been keen to be a judge. He would have been great cutting bad singers to size and inspiring the genuinely promising. Something bigger would play on Mercury’s mind: the tepid barometer and lukewarm temperature of modern singers. There are a few big voices on the scene but they come along so rarely. We have just seen a new single from Björk and, although it is not a hugely bombastic song – it shows what an intricate and nuanced voice she has. In terms of those dramatic and semi-operatic singers – one wonders where they are these days. Florence Welch, I understand is preparing new Florence and the Machine material.

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She is someone who always brings a sense of theatre and captivation to her tracks. In terms of male examples, the mind does struggle for answers. I guess Freddie Mercury remains that unique and unbeatable performer. That is why I love him so much: he is a performer above all else. You get the sense, with so many singers, they are going through the motions and unable to fully articulate the complexities and heights music can provide. Their songs are relatively simplistic and, if they demand an extended histrionic range, many struggle to come up to the mark. Mercury, when faced with any material, would kick the hell out of it! Before I come to look at Mercury’s singularity and influence; we have all been hearing about the upcoming Queen biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody. Named for their best-known song, it features Rami Malek stepping into Mercury’s shoes. Many might recognise the actor from the series, Mr. Robot but, for the most part, he remains unknown to many.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Rami Malek/PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Mann

Pictures and clips are capturing the actor immersing himself in the guise of the departed legend. It seems he is a natural adopter of Mercury’s tics, mannerisms and movements - able to project the same gusto, imagination and electricity. This is pleasing because, as we know too, there have been problems with the production. Sasha Baron Cohen was due to play Mercury – and is perfect in appearance and stature – but was not happy with the way the script looked (such diva-like behaviour hardly befitting of Freddie Mercury film!). Maybe they were concentrating too much on various areas and aspects of Mercury’s life – Baron Cohen feeling uneasy with the concept and representation. There wasn’t complete faith from the other members of Queen so it might not have been the most conducive and harmonious set. Malek seems like a better fit and prepared to castigate any doubts and artistic differences and embrace Mercury’s spirit. I am not sure whether Malek is tackling vocals himself but it will be interesting to see what he does in the role.

I am a bit sceptical about biopics because they fail to truly and authentically represent an artist – and can seem rather glossy and fake. I know many have been hankering for a Freddie Mercury biopic but there will be nerves seeing where the focus is and whether Malek fully embodies the complexities and physicality of Freddie Mercury. The best thing about the film is it revives some classic Queen songs and puts the spotlight on an artist who, nearly twenty-six years after his death, still enthrals and captivates. His AIDS-related death shocked the world and many were surprised he deteriorated so rapidly. The fact he announced the disease a few hours before his death was always going to create a shock. He would not have wanted speculation and tabloids surrounding his bed. He was sick and knew he was going to die. Exposing the intimate and upsetting details to the public was not right and, rightfully, Mercury did not mention his disease to the world. Maybe the ignorance and lack of AIDS awareness means Mercury’s death was not wholly unexpected.

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There is more awareness now and, whereas AIDS is not a death sentence; it does still exist and it can be argued Mercury’s case put the disease into the forefront – more people aware of its dangers because of his death. It is tragic what happened and how Mercury’s life ended. That said; he was living each day as fully as possible and promiscuity, a sense of recklessness and abandon was part of his personality. It is interesting – as interviews show – Mercury was quite a reserved and shy figure away from the stage. His extravagance and flair was part of his stage personality: away from that, he was grounded, private and enigmatic. There was a sharpness and catchiness at time but plenty of cheekiness, fun and quotability. His humour and honesty was refreshing back then: today, it would be the subject of daily tabloid scrutiny. It is rare finding a true personality anywhere in music right now. Mercury seemed less of a nonpareil back then and would be alien in today’s climate.

Assuming he would be making music in his seventies; how would the world react to a creature as beguiling and counterculture as Mercury?! His voice, one speculates, would be more mature and calm; powerful and extraordinary but less broad and powerful as once was. There are so many memories that stick in my mind when thinking of Freddie Mercury. My earliest, when I was very small, would have been his set at Live Aid in 1985. When Queen took to the stage; they were in front of thousands – televised to a T.V. audience of millions. That kind of event would be unlikely in today to have such a huge-scale concert take place but, back then, the sense of expectation and nerves would have been immense. Not that one would notice from Mercury who, in typical fashion, provided a dazzling, audience-uniting set.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Richard E. Aaron/Redferns

Listening to him singing Radio Gaga - when he got the crowd to engage in a mass call-and-response – shows what a hugely innovative and towering performer he was. No fear or nerves that day: a man taking to the stage and holding the world in his palms. The set was so huge and memorable it threatened to undermine and overshadow every other performer that day. The fact Live Aid was the chance to bring the biggest stars together and raise awareness of poverty in the Third World. It was not about one act but, such was the gravitas and immensity of Freddie Mercury’s performance, it remains in the memory longer than anything else. That set was typical of a man who was born to take to the stage. Most artists like Mercury – a free-flowing bird who was at his finest in front of an audience – would feel caged and constrained when in the confines of the studio.

Even though there were disciplinary restrictions in that environment; Mercury was able to extol some control and theatricality in the room. I remember watching a video when the band was recording One Vision. The lyrics went through various machinations and the overriding takeaway was Mercury being involved in every stage of the process. Each take had different nuances and qualities and the lyrics, whilst a little trite and faux-philosophical, allowed Mercury to indulge his full range. It would be good to see every Queen song filmed and documented as it would have provided historians and music-lovers the chance to unveil a superb talent and how his performances assembled themselves. A few magazines have run features that isolated Mercury’s vocal on Under Pressure. The fact he was going toe-to-toe with David Bowie – and HIS is the vocal celebrated and elevated – shows what an artist he was. He was not trying to outshine Bowie (nor was he given more time and lines) but he attacked the song in such a manner it stunned people.

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PHOTO CREDIT: George Wilkes/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

I have always found it hard to bond with Queen songs because they are not the sort you come back to time again. There is campiness to them but that is never an issue. To me, the lyrics lacked depth and there was not a lot of real substance. Many people are off-put by Queen because they got all the attention they did and, to many, did not warrant it – magazines like Rolling Stone, for instance, hated the band for long periods. Some see them as throwaway but one cannot deny the fact the reason for their success is down to Mercury. Not only did he pen some of their biggest hits – including Bohemian Rhapsody – but he brought a new sensation to every song. So many singers repeat themselves and seem rushed when releasing music. Even the titanic voices of today get into the habit of repeating themselves. Amy Winehouse was the last truly big voice who could bring something fresh to every song she delivered. Adele, one of our biggest stars, seems to be treading water and leaves me rather cold.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Freddie Mercury with Montserrat Caballé

How many modern singers could/or would tackle a song like Barcelona and make it stick?! Montserrat Caballé and Mercury traded vocals and created a rapturous and spellbinding duet. The fact Mercury could legitimately and bravely perform an operatic song – and make it sound real and easy – shows what a talent he was. It is the variation and daring of Freddie Mercury that means his legacy endures and he enjoyed such a varied career. Every Queen album provided something different and, whether on his solo album or performing with other artists, showed he was a singer that could handle anything. Mercury is an anomaly in music that has seen nobody get close to his talent. Every world-class singer sees a host of artists try and match their grandeur and majesty. From Aretha Franklin and Robert Plant to Kate Bush – they all have contemporaries who infuse some of their colours into their music. I hear some big-voiced singers but none who remind me of Freddie Mercury.

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Maybe there are no bands like Queen who have that same pomp, camp and originality. The modern music press would not take too well to a modern-day Queen. They were a bit of an oddity in their day but did have a career that spanned three decades. From their eponymous debut in 1973 to their finale in 1995 – Innuendo, in 1991, was the last album that featured Mercury (Made in Heaven, in 1995, was released after Mercury’s death). There were some truly great albums – Sheer Heart Attack A Night at the Opera – in the early-mid-1970s and an ill-fated embrace of Disco. The band’s greatest hits collections show they made some truly excellent music but they were very much of their time. Music has changed so much that we cannot have another Queen in our midst. A ‘new Freddie Mercury’ would need a band support and, one feels, they would need to be Glam-Rock.

That genre is not exactly thriving so one wonders whether we can ever breed someone like him? I think the reason we will not see another Freddie Mercury is a lot simpler: he was a one-of-a-kind that left a huge mark on music. Go watch Bohemian Rhapsody when it is out because it will show where Mercury came from and what he was like behind the scenes – and how he brought people to life when he was in his element (on the stage). I hope the flick does Mercury justice and has been worth the wait. My greatest hope is the film rekindles an interest in his music and tremendous voice.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Freddie Mercury is one of those brave, incredible and mysterious figures the music industry desperately needs. Perhaps we have come too far to have unique characters and titans in our midst. Everything is marketed, rushed and meticulously planned. Imagine Freddie Mercury being made to go on Spotify or see his songs tortured and drip-fed to the point of exsanguination?! He would have rebelled against that and been ostracised from critical approval. The fact he died in the early-1990s is a tragedy but his legacy and music will never die. Who knows, though? Maybe, when people see the film and hear Mercury’s name back in the media; that will compel them to overcome fears and follow in his footsteps. Music requires that and, if we do see a singer compelled to reach Mercury’s heights, that would be…

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TRULY wonderful.

TRACK REVIEW: MissDefiant - You Can’t Sit with Us

TRACK REVIEW:

 

MissDefiant

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 You Can’t Sit with Us

 

9.4/10

 

 

You Can’t Sit with Us is available via:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/missdefiant/id1273159288

GENRES:

Pop; Electro

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

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The album, Missdefiant, is available at:

https://open.spotify.com/album/5pqRehKPl33Bq1HUUwVnUN

____________

I suppose I am breaking some of my reviewing…

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PHOTO CREDITMichaela Efford Photography 

cardinal rules because, in a brief side-step, I am looking at a duo I have assessed before. I will look at their new album – and a song from it – but I wanted to explain why I follow certain acts and come back to ones I reviewed. After that, I will have a peek into Pop and variations on the market; putting fun and energy back into music; artists who dig deeper and defy expectations – a bit about artists who have exceptional social media links and make it very easy to discover their music. I am pleased to be back with MissDefiant as I have been following their career for a little while now. When I last reviewed them, it would have been for their latest single release and, before that, the single that preceded that. It is interesting charting an act and how they can develop over the months/years. In terms of MissDefiant; I am pleased they have continued to grow and develop. That may sound condescending but a lot of artists in these times do not ensure and impress as much as they have. It is a tough industry and can be very hard when performing Pop/Electro. There is such a proliferation and promotion of the mainstream: artists who perform outside of that have to struggle a lot and work that much harder to get recognition. For Jordan Cather and Emily Rose Adams, there is a sisterly bond that touches me. They have a deep connection and understanding of one another. A lot of times; duos are together to sell records and because of some marketing plan. You can tell when they are together to make music – there is no personal connection and understanding. I find duos, actually, are more solid than bands. You can get a lot of unpredictablness with bands because there are often four/five members and tensions can arise through the years. Because of that, one finds some groups – you thought were brilliant and solid – that break-up without warning.

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PHOTO CREDITMichaela Efford Photography

Duos are usually comprised of great friends or those in relationships. MissDefiant spend a lot of time together so can’t exist as a distant and detached unit. The songwriting, performing and promotion is the two of them – if they did not get along then you would notice and they would not survive long. Cather and Adams have a great friendship and have a lot in common. I do not get the same feel from other acts as I do from them. One can tell they are meant to be together and have a great compassion for one another. It is not only their relationship that impresses me: the music they produce continues to evolve and improve. Their earliest songs are brilliant but I find, with every new release, they get stronger and more confident. I think the touring they do – and the people they meet – has pushed that. Each gig pushes love their way and they, in turn, have the confidence to grow their music. It is encouraging seeing the girls grow as a duo. Their debut album – semi-eponymous (‘Missdefiant rather than ‘MissDefiant’) is a collection of all their past material; combined with their new songs in a fourteen-track bonanza. I can follow their career and periods through each song. Those earliest numbers – Robot, Venus & Mars, for example – seem effortless against newer tracks like Robot and You Can’t Sit with Us. Another reason MissDefiant have made me stick with them is the way they continue to put their music to new crowds. They do not sit back and let marketing people do all the work for them. Keen to play to crowds and ensure their songs get to as many hearts as possible – a fantastic duo that persevere and campaign harder than most. Who knows how far MissDefiant can go but, the fact they have been together for years suggests they are in no mood to quit anytime soon. In fact; I feel they could go on for many more years and record a few more albums at least. I will talk about touring later but, for now, a time to move on.

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PHOTO CREDITMichaela Efford Photography

I wrote a piece yesterday – after a very stressful and fraught day – about how much has been split between North and South. It seems there is a division between the areas and the media puts too much emphasis on London. The fact I am reviewing a London duo does not undercut my point but I am keen to focus on acts outside the capital going forward. I think London will always have its place and is vital in regards modern music. I feel there are too few media sources looking further north and the great acts emerging there. I will do my best but what I wanted to talk about is the snobbery still afforded Pop music. We often get the idea all Pop formations and sounds will be commercial and off-putting. I agree there are so many unappealing and weak examples performing in music right now. I am not a huge Pop fan because, a lot of my exposure to it, consists chart performers and something rather hollow. When it comes to acts like MissDefiant; they have a fantastic sound that matches intelligent and wise lyrics with deep and nuanced sounds. They do not go for the marketable looks and sounds so many artists do. They have their own identities and songwriting – they do not have a huge team controlling everything and telling them what to do. Naturally, like most artists of the moment, there are people helping produce and write but, in the most part, it is the girls’ personalities that come through. That sense of personality is what brings the music to life. One gets a real identity to their music. A lot of performers sing and release music but you never get a sense of who is behind the music and what they are about. Every track reveals a bit about MissDefiant’s twosome. Each member has their own dynamic so it is never a case of Adams and Cather blending together and an indistinguishable whole.

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PHOTO CREDITMichaela Efford Photography

There are many things that impress me about MissDefiant but it is the way they evolve and subvert that sticks. They do not perform the same style of music that everyone else does or want to be celebrated in the mainstream. By that, the duo does not compromise and write music that sacrifices substance and distinction. Their music has a populist edge – in so much as it can be taken to heart by the masses – but it does not rely on gimmicks, cheapness and aimlessness. What we get are songs that have spirits, physicality and memorability; tied to lyrics that make you think and ponder – vocals that have so many different aspects and colours. The girls have worked hard to craft that sound and are always developing what they do. I know they will release new material next year but, for now, their debut album is out and turning heads. It would be a risk compiling an album that has songs from the start of their career to now. Some do it but there can be a sense of incompatibility. Some of the tracks sound older and they struggle to gel with the new songs. Also; many people have already heard (most of the) singles and it creates a familiar-yet-unexpected listening experience. Most new artists release albums and then put out four or five singles before the record gets to us. It gives us a chance to discover what’s on the record but it can get quite tiring – do we need THAT many tracks out beforehand?! MissDefiant are different because they released their singles not sure whether they would release an album. The demand came in and reception received. The fans want to hear their older songs but some new ones from MissDefiant. We get a nice and easy mix of the heard and fresh from the London duo – it all sounds perfect together and flows as a whole. It is the way MissDefiant add something new into Pop and Electro that means their music is timeless and always warranted.

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One other reason I love MissDefiant is, because, they inject fun and energy into music. I find the industry is becoming too serious. You either have artists that are too po-faced and emotive or the acts that try to be loose and fun but sound very forced and limited. Of course, there are artists that can lift the spirits and body but, for the most part, we are being fed those artists that could do with a bit of a kick. I am all for musicians that document something serious but I always look to detach once in a while and have my mood elevated. MissDefiant are not your average and fluffy Pop act that throw all the beats, electronics and production layers into the mix and bamboozle the listener with force and intensity. It can create a hypoxia and weariness that one looks to remedy. MissDefiant are different in the sense they write music that gets into the head but makes the body move with it. I know Cather and Adams have been working together for a while and they have researched the market. When I look at duos, I always investigate why they formed and how they differ from the rest of the music out there. In a way; being in a duo can be tough and easy. The relationship is solid and there are few extra bodies but they do not have the options of a band – to make something fuller – or the chance to be as intimate as a solo act. It is tricky so, for that reason, duos tend to play in particular genres. You get few Rock/Alternative options: more Pop, Electro and Folk brands. MissDefiant know this but do not limit their imaginations because of their restrictions. From their very first single, the girls struck away from their contemporaries and ensured they would do something original. Fun and involvement is at the forefront of everything they do. They want people to move and bond with the music.

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The U.S.P. of MissDefiant is their lyrics: addressing themes and subjects that many of us can relate to but are not often spoken about by the more popular artists. By this, I mean we hear about the dangers of clubbing – drinks being spiked – and gender inequality; the differences in love and problems in society. MissDefiant do not merely talk of love and all the problems one has in relationships. That is common stock and, because of that, they are more concerned with talking about things that many of their peers do not. Their music appeals to everyone but they do not feel the need to talk down to anyone. We get the impression Pop artists are going to focus on narrow themes and denigrate music by presenting immature and shallow lyrics. That is not the case with every act and, if one looks around, you can find acts that put intelligence and wisdom into their words. I have heard songs from MissDefiant and been made aware of areas of society I was foreign to. It is good when music educates you and, in the case of MissDefiant, I am more aware of things they face in their everyday lives. Music should be about educating and informing people. So few artists take the time to write about what is around them and stronger issues in society. There would be some that assume, because Adams and Cather and beautiful and stylish, they would sing about love and relationships in a very ordinary way. This stereotype, in fact, does not apply to most Pop/Electro acts but the girls do address relationships in their music – they would alienate listeners were they to neglect that vital commodity. It is hard pleasing everyone but I am impressed with artists that do not follow everyone else and decide to talk about something important and serious. MissDefiant never abandon their sense of physicality and fun and have that intoxicating brew.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Rob Gardner

I will move on and come to the music soon but, before then, a look at social media and how important that is when it comes to new artists. There are so many who still labour under the assumption they can ignore imagery and information and let the music do all the work. This is ground I tread commonly but I still see too many artists committing ignorance and naivety with little embarrassment. MissDefiant, I challenge, would not be as popular as they are if they were to overlook social media and be as prolific. Their music is solid and excellent but the way it gets to people is through social media. I see so many acts that have great songs but put very few photos out there. They might provide status updates once in a while but forget to keep the pressure on and do anything proactive. MissDefiant are keen to get in front of the camera and produce various shoots. They have a great look and sense of fashion and that comes out in their images. Music is not a fashion show, I know, but one needs to see the artist and have images available. For people like me, it can be rather depressing if there are a few half-decent photos and nothing else. It makes articles look bare and shows laziness on behalf of the musician. These days, anyone can take a photo of themselves and there is no point being ‘mysterious’. Music has power but not so much it can elevate an artist that chooses not to put their face out there. This kind of arrogance is leading journalists and fans to look elsewhere. Music and social media are visual mediums and, as such, this is a side of the industry many need to think about. MissDefiant are prolific with their photos and always update fans about goings-on and gigs. This means they feel more connected to their follows and, in turn, bring people in.

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Consider looking at an artist’s Facebook page and seeing a few scratchy images and very little information. They might have a new track out but, psychologically, one is less likely to investigate because the rest of the profile is unattractive and sparse. It is a worrying trend but I am concerned few artists are doing anything to counteract this. I would not have bonded so hard with MissDefiant is they ignored photos and information because it would be hard to know where they came from and what they are about. The songs are the personality of an artist but it is good having visibility and something aesthetic to tie together. Music is a marketing tool as much as anything and a business. Success is down to talent but one cannot underestimate how pivotal social media is. Streaming figures and exposure arrives when artists put themselves out there and promote their work. People only pick up on an act when they think there is something intrigue and appealing about them. It is vital having a full package and profile. I bring back the dating analogy when one sees a profile that has great photos but the profile consists of a single line – normally asking someone to email them to find out more. If it is the other way – no images but lots of information – then you are not going to be enticed. The way to attract relies on revelation and visibility. One cannot be guarded in one area and expect people to be allured and hooked. The same goes for music. Those who succeed have every aspect of their music figured and active. MissDefiant are always busy and ensure they keep their profile fresh and mobile. It is a reason I remain with them and I can say that about many other people. What Adams and Cather do is engage with their followers and bring them into their world. There is no sense of the listener being a separate and intangible entity – they are drawn into the music and an integral part of MissDefiant.

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PHOTO CREDIT: @robgardnerphotography 

There is a sense of the 1980s when one gets the first whiff of You Can’t Sit with Us. I was thinking about an early-career Madonna. Wordless vocals come in and the song gets off to a rushing and effusive start. A smooth and rushing horn sit with funky beats in a carnival-style jam where anything is possible. When the vocals come in we hear about club-life and being excluded. Our heroine approaches a group of girls and, when asking if she can sit with them, they turn their noses. I feel it is a situation many are familiar with. That desire to be communal and sociable is rejected by those who feel enjoying their company is a privilege. I am not sure whether MissDefiant are addressing the seedy and salacious girls that try and hang with them – the type that exposes themselves and bring a sense of shame to proceedings. I feel it is the former and that snotty kind who gives rudeness to everyone they met. “Hey girl/what’s that look for?” and “Hey girl/don’t start a catwalk” suggests a group of women who stare and glower at those who try and approach them. Maybe there is that vanity and exclusivity that means only the most fashionable and hip are allowed into the club. Social life should be about connecting with everyone and, listening to the song, you get a sense of division and oppression. How much MissDefiant have experience is hard to say but I imagine they have encountered that kind of hostility. Maybe it refers to a balance of clubs and cafes. Throughout London, there is a split between the everyday and common and the cliques. The posher areas are filled with the types who refute and criticise anyone they believe is not to their level. I guess this extends to all areas of the world but it seems pronounced in the capital.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Anna Urik 

The song’s intoxicating and alluring combinations contrast the seriousness and strictness one finds in the lyrics. Even though the lyrics profess a sense of exclusion; the wording is conversational, fun and loose. You feel like you are alongside them in the club and the jabber and nonsense these snobby girls project. MissDefiant have always been great at talking about serious matters but providing an accessible narrative for the listener. The chorus repeats the song’s title and is punctuated by vocals of “Hey, hey!”. One feels like they are in the setting and following the course of events. Like all MissDefiant choruses; they are big and bright and will lodge in the head for a while. You Can’t Sit with Us is a Pop song that is not reserved for those who are fans of the genre. It has an amenable and flexible manner that means anyone can hear it and bond. I have heard it a few times and every listen reveals something new. Aside from the big chorus, it is the production that shines through. It has gloss and polished but is never too shiny and gleaming. There is room for a rawer club sensibility to come through so you get a mix of 1980s Pop and modern-day Dance. The resultant brew attracts the senses and makes the head swim. Our heroines ask whether it is their lack of Prada that means they are being shunned. The vacuous and air-headed clan have their expensive clothes and taking endless snaps of themselves. Our girls are not bothered they are being shunned but kind of glad they do not have to stoop to that level. Giggles, sarcasm and cutting jabs mean the song is always vivid, candid and real. It makes you smile and side with MissDefiant as they navigate a labyrinth of conversational nonsense, arrogance and cheap values.

 

The girls are not with their honies and not draped in diamonds. The fact they are not bejewelled and blinged-up mean they are not worthy of time with the ‘cool’ crowd. Many MissDefiant songs look inside the clubs and the social scenes they encounter. Adams and Cather, in various guises, have been around these types of people. Working in modelling, acting and fashion would have given them an insight into the rather regrettable sort they have to be around – radio reporting and interviewing does that too. One can call MissDefiant fashionable and cool but they bring people into their world. They never exclude and thing they are above other people. It is difficult knowing whether the duo want to be part of that inner-circle but one feels the song is a dismissal of those who shut themselves away and think they are better than anyone else. One feels this song, ironically, might be played during an episode of Made in Chelsea. You can, if you have the inclination, encounter the kind of scenes and snobbery (on the show) one hears in the song – they do it without irony. Maybe there are certain areas that have such a mass of bitchy and arrogant people but you can encounter it wherever you go. You Can’t Sit with Us is the second track from Missdefiant and a blast of energy and attack. The girls are cheeky throughout and expert when it comes to cutting the lesser sort down. A brilliant track that could get the clubs bouncing and, let’s hope, shame those who are being addressed throughout You Can’t Sit with Us.

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IN THIS PHOTO: MissDefiant a Thousand Island

I will finish things very soon but wanted to talk about MissDefiant’s touring, future and album. They launched the album at Thousand Island in London and gained a huge reaction. The girls are bonded to London and have played in many different venues. They are comfortable at a place like Thousand Island (Highbury) as they are in Hoxton. They have a sound that is as fresh, colourful and varied as the city. This year is the biggest one for MissDefiant and this month especially. They have released the album and will want to get Missdefiant to the people. Because of that; I hope they have more London gigs coming up. There is a lot of love for them in the city and people are reacting to their unique brand. I know they have had a whirlwind last few months and will want a time to relax before the end of 2017. It has been great seeing them play at various venues this year and get a big reception. The people of London love them and the girls and getting more fans flocking their way. I wonder how much of the U.K. they have seen. I talked about the North-South divide in music there is a reciprocal issue arising. Many artists outside of London stay where they are because they cannot afford to come down here. The media does not often feature them and assume they are being distant – the fact is they are not allowed a fanbase because they get little attention. Those in London who have a fanbase here do not often travel further afield – either to secure their popularity in the capital or think all the great venues and crowds are down here. I can see MissDefiant going down a storm in other parts of the U.K. They could stamp a real impression further north and get some fans up there. I know they have an international following but there is a chance for them to make an impact further up the country. Manchester is a city that spring to mind and they could easily get dates here.

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I would like to see them, in 2018, think about the country and where they would like to form. Their music is terrific and it is being consumed by so many people. Many are waiting out there so I hope the girls get a chance to explore more options. The same goes for international areas. I think MissDefiant could go down well in the U.S. and North America. I am not hearing many like them in America and feel there is a desire for their music and what they provide. One can say the same of parts of Asia and Australia. I know Australia would be hospitable and there are cities MissDefiant could conquer. Perhaps finance and budget are factors that will limit their horizons but their popularity is worldwide. They are keen to get London talking about their music but I hope they think larger next year. I know there is a lot of love for them in other parts of the world so it would be great to see that exploited. MissDefiant are fans of acts like Lady Gaga and Little Mix but, in a way, they surpass them. I find those artists – Little Mix for certain – to be too mainstream and not as engaging as one would hope. They are concerned with getting fans in and the way to do that is repeat what other artists say – appealing to the pre-teen market with lyrics that are easy to understand and common to them. Lady Gaga is not as limited but still does not dig as deep as MissDefiant. It is great seeing the London-duo rise and succeed. I feel they will be in the mainstream in due time and able to exert influence. They will bring their compelling and engaging music to the masses and be able to make some real changes.

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The girls, through their social media strengths and awareness, have secured a contract with MAC Cosmetics and, between them, have enjoyed careers in acting, radio and modelling. They have played at some great venues in London and worked with amazing producers. Missdefiant is an album that has already gained some great reviews. It unites all their music and their earliest moment to some new songs. The songs are not chronological so there is that nice and unexpected mix. One might hear something from a year back and a song you have not encountered before. For new fans; it is a chance to see how the duo has evolved and the range of their music. I know Emily Rose Adams and Jordan Cather will be pleased to see the positivity flowing and will want to increase that. I feel their music will reach even more people and they have the potential to take their album worldwide. I am looking at their social media feed and seeing the reaction people have afforded the album. It is wonderfully produced and the running order is perfect. The songs all fit together and it is equally weighted so the best tracks are either end of the album. Every song is strong but you are never bored or feel the need to skip tracks. They do not throw all the bangers near the top or keep them for the end. It is evenly distributed so the listener gets a great hit of energy right through the album. By the end, you want more and will go back and repeat certain songs. I wanted to look at You Can’t Sit with Us because it is a new song and one the duo are keen to promote. It is one of their most confident and bold songs and is destined to be a big radio hit. I know many stations have played their music but they are not an act that are resigned and confined to London stations. I shall end this but would urge everyone to have a listen to Missdefiant and check out You Can’t Sit with Us. I have followed the duo since 2015 and am impressed by the fact they grow stronger by the year. They are at their peak but one feels they can actually improve and grow from here. It is an exciting time for MissDefiant and proof they are…

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AMONG the finest duos out there.

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INTERVIEW: Speak, Brother

INTERVIEW:

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 Speak, Brother

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THEY boast a powerful Indie-Folk sound…

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and differ to any other band out there. Imbued with subtle Gospel tomes and hymnal strands – their storytelling abilities have been compared to the likes of Fleet Foxes. I catch up with Speak, Brother about their new single, Magnificent, and what it is all about. The guys have played throughout the U.K. and been featured on BBC Radio 2. The Midlands band are preparing for a U.K. tour in November that will see them build hype and tease ahead of the album, Young & Brave – expected sometime in spring of next year.

The boys talk about their formation and who their idols are; what they get up to in their spare time – and how it feels knowing their music is being championed and applauded around the country.

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Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?

Hi. Cracking, thank you!

For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?

We're a group of five friends based in the Midlands.

Can I ask why the band is called ‘Speak, Brother’? Is there a special meaning/story behind that?

Many of our songs are story-based with an inclusive message that communicates value. The name, I guess, comes from desire to connect and share these stories (and hear yours).

Magnificent is the new single. What is the tale behind the song? How did the track come about?

Have you seen the recent film, Fences, with Denzel Washington? 

Well, without giving away too many spoilers, right at the end of the film – it shows the main character's daughter whose birth came in a dark place. You couldn't help but feel compassion, hope and love for that girl. That, even though three generations of pain, hurt and mistrust came before her - there was a beauty and innocence in her eyes.

It's like looking at the pure unadulterated beauty of a new-born baby. So small and fragile, yet so full of potential and purpose - and completely unaware of its own Magnificence.

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There are Gospel and harmonic touches that recall Fleet Foxes. Are bands like that – Kodaline and Of Monsters, too – important to you?

For sure.

Others (also) like Elbow, Bon Iver; Kate Rusby and Peter Gabriel inspire us consistently too.

Young & Brave, your upcoming album, is out next year. What can you tell us about the L.P. and the kind of songs we will see?

It's our debut-album for which we've worked a long, long time on. It's stretched us creatively, musically and how we work as a band together - and for that, I'm really proud.

The album will feature a wide range of styles and dynamics: from Gospel/Soul vibes to Rock energy to stripped-back Folk storytelling.

It explores themes like the innocence and wild tendencies of childhood that are beaten out of us - along with stories of love; value, brotherhood and togetherness.

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Are you excited knowing the album will be out in a few months? Has it been quite tough recording or was it quite a learning-curve?

We can't wait!

It's been a MASSIVE learning-curve. It all felt like a process of letting go of what felt comfortable; to just exploring new things and jumping in with two-feet-first. At times, it was so hard leaving the safe and familiar of where we were before.

From the off, we knew we didn't want it to sound like any other Indie-Folk band: we wanted it to be us. Gavin Monaghan, who produced it along with his partner-in-crime Joe Murray, helped us leave…or rather, pushed us off the edge! 

Are there going to be more singles from the album – before the official release?

Yep.

We have another single in November and another in February - just before its release in April.

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Stations like BBC Radio 2 are fans of your work. Is that kind of backing encouraging to the band? Does that give you the drive to keep recording and pushing high?

We're so honoured for our music to have reached national airplay.

It’s the purpose of any song to be heard, so we're thrilled. Although, regardless of who plays our songs, it'd be our hope to never stop writing music.

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What tour dates do you have coming up? Where can we come and see you play?

We have a tour coming up in November for which tickets are now available:

03/11 - Big Comfy Bookshop, Coventry

04/11 - The Globe, Hay-on-Wye

05/11 - Costa Coffee, Barrow-in-Furness

08/11 - Hare and Hounds, Birmingham

09/11 - The Cavendish Arms, London

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Can you explain what touring is like for you guys? How much of a kick do you get seeing the fans react to your music? How important is it taking music to the people?

We all seek to connect, right? It's in our D.N.A.

When we achieve a real connection at gigs with people, it really sticks with us for a while. It's so fun and you learn a little more about the world and the people within it.

How do all of you spend time away from music? Do you all have hobbies or spend your downtime taking it easy?

We all have jobs still so most spare time goes to music! Other than that, it's reading, walking; seeing family and friends. 

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IN THIS PHOTO: Wildwood Kin

Who are new acts you recommend we check out?

We'd certainly recommend our friends Wildwood Kin.

If you each had to select the album that means the most to you; which would they be and why?

I don't think there is a single album, but....

Awkward Annie - Kate Rusby

Enema of the StateBlink-182

Bon Iver - Bon Iver

Joy of Nothing - Foy Vance

To Pimp a Butterfly - Kendrick Lamar

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What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?

Try your best to not compare yourself to another - it really doesn't help. 

Finally, and for being good sports; you can each name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).

Ah brilliant! Any song? How about:

Matt: Strangest Thing - The War on Drugs

James: Lost Worker BeeElbow

Dan: Kids - OneRepublic

Sam: Burden - Foy Vance

Nath: Lionhearted - Billie Marten

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FEATURE: London Ruling: The North-South Divide in Music

FEATURE:

 

London Ruling:

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 The North-South Divide in Music

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I am buzzing Sampha walked away with the Mercury Music Prize…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Sampha

on Thursday – as it showed the faith and love people have for his debut album, Process. It is encouraging seeing the panel recognise a work that stems from painful memories and exudes such emotion – the effort and work that goes into Process deserves an award, for sure. I listened to Sampha’s acceptance speech and, whilst I was thrilled he as honoured, it got me thinking about the Shortlist. Five of the twelve acts nominated were from South London. It is a fertile bed of innovation right now. Kate Tempest, who I thought would win the Mercury Music Prize, is from there and proves there is diversity in the area. Sampha’s soulful and hugely evocative songs contrast Tempest’s direct and to-the-brain missiles – a songwriter articulating the reality of modern life and the struggles we are going through. It is important London gets recognition but I wonder whether there is a send of ‘trend’ and ‘cool’ nominating artists from this part of the world. Of the dozen assorted Mercury names, something startling revealed itself: so few are from the North. Ed Sheeran was born in Halifax, Yorkshire (but lives in London) alt-J are from Leeds (another Yorkshire act) whilst Blossoms come from Greater Manchester.

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IN THIS IMAGE: The album cover for Ed Sheeran's %

One would imagine, when representing the spread and best of British music, one would expect greater northern representation. Maybe one can look at the critics’ favourites from 2017 (and later in 2016) and claim most of the British best are from the South. That might be true but one can also claim little attention is paid to the North. Music still has a London-centric attitude and mindset. This is not a shock but I worry too much of the focus is put on London and what is happening here. I cannot remember the last time there was an equal distribution when it came to our musicians. Most of the new artists I see proffered seem to hail from these parts.

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IN THIS PHOTO: King Street, Townhouse (Manchester)

I know for a fact there are so many greater bands/artists from north of London. Scotland and Wales (the former especially) is a wonderful area for music – Glasgow among the finest cities for new music. I have a lot of love for Yorkshire and was pleased to see some of the county’s artists included in the Shortlist on Thursday. Manchester, and the explosion of talent stemming from there, was distilled to Blossoms. The Stockport-based band was the only act from the North West - and that is something that worries me a lot. There are few parts of the U.K. as hip and happening as the capital. This is where most of the record labels are: the majority of the big newspapers are here and some of the most-established studios. Although a lot of the big businesses and organisations are rooted in London; this does not mean anything north of London is worth ignoring. It is easy to say the reason why events like the Mercury Music Prize featured so many Londoners on the Shortlist was the faith and backing their music was given.

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Jane Weaver, born in Liverpool, was expected to get a nomination at the Mercury Music Prize. Her album, Modern Kosmology, deserved a nod. The same could be said of Bristol’s IDLES. Brutalism is one of the most intense and addictive records from any new bands. I know Bristol is hardly northern but it is outside London and another part of the U.K. that warrants acclaim. The only way we are going to gain a full appreciation and knowledge of Britain’s best is when the media gets out of its London mindset. The last time there was a real wave and exposure of northern band was during the 1990s. When Britpop was in full-swing; bands like The Stone Roses, Oasis and Pulp were at the forefront. The rivalry with southern groups like Blur and Suede not only showed the contrasts but it provided a platform for both halves of the U.K. to shine. That was true in the 1980s when northern bands like The Smiths - famed for their observations of everyday life and unique lyrical bent - were favourites with critics.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Manchester legends, The Smiths

There was not the same division as we have today. Back then, there were the great working-class bands that voiced the forgotten and overlooked – penning songs about the country and what was happening. Although we have some wonderful artists now; there are so few talking about anything real and relevant. Many would argue the fact, back in the 1990s when Britpop saw North and South tussle, that highlighted rivalry and divisions. I disagree because it was never a case of showing the differences and splits between the two regions: it was about promoting the distinct sounds of North and South; the quality one could find throughout the U.K. Now, there is so much profiling and love given to London – other parts of Britain do not get a good look-in. I will carry on but, before then, an article from a few years back showed, back then, the issue was as evident and troublesome.

The last high-profile north-south musical tussle took place in the mid-90s when Oasis and Blur went head-to-head in the singles charts during the highly orchestrated, "Battle of Britpop". But nearly 20 years later, relations between regions remain strained.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Bristol's finest, IDLES

"Hull is great for live music, there is a really good local band scene here, lots of activity, and any band who plays this city always enjoys it," says Paul Jackson, owner of the New Adelphi Club. "The thing about Hull, though, is it gets a lot of very bad publicity."

Jackson cites the case of the Paddingtons, a Hull act who were under pressure from the industry to airbrush the city from their background when they started creating what the music business is fond of calling 'a buzz'”.

I have heard a lot of bands saying they are from London – because people are looking for artists from here. It is as though, if one says they are from any other part of the nation, they would get blank stares. Maybe this is true when it comes to international. How many people in other nations are aware of the breadth of the U.K.?! Do they know the smaller towns and other cites?!

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IN THIS PHOTO: A stunning view of Hull (it was named the 2017 City of Culture and has an active music scene)

I feel the only way for people to gain awareness of these areas is for the media to stop obsessing about London. The fact musicians have to class themselves as Londoners – even when they are from other parts – is a desperate attempt to gain acknowledgement and popularity. I long for the day when we can have that competitive tussle between North and South. The nation needs a ‘new Britpop’ and chance for the working-class bands best to go toe-to-toe with the more conservative and middle-class options. Right now, there is a dominance of London and the middle-class. I know Hip-Hop/Rap stars like Kate Tempest and Loyle Carner are, despite being London-based, working-class but there are downsides celebrating certain ‘scenes’. Good news South London is hot right now: what about Manchester, Leeds or Bristol?! A few years ago, when Bastille (from the South) and Sheffield’s Arctic Monkeys were the most-popular artists in the U.K. – streaming figures showed where each act was at their peak. Rather unsurprisingly; Bastille stormed things. They dominated the South and claimed much of the Midlands. Arctic Monkey’s success came in the North – very few victories further down the country. It showed a real division and, with Bastille winning an overall majority, how preferred and celebrated southern acts are.

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IN THIS PHOTO: The Sheffield band, Arctic Monkeys

In terms of quality; Arctic Monkeys are superior but, because they are from outside London, they are not seen as fashionable, glamorous and worthy. Every phase of the musical moon reveals the splits there are between the North and South of the U.K. I was listening to Idris Elba talking about the artists nominated when he made a bit of a gaffe: he was quick to acknowledge how many great ‘English’ artists are on the list. Maybe he was right to point out the lack of Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish names on the list – I am not sure that was his attention. In addition to their being this regional divide – it seems there is a lack of recognition when it comes to non-English musicians.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash

How do political and current developments exacerbate the issues right now? London was one of the few parts of Britain that voted to remain in the E.U. Maybe the fact they are more international/European conscious makes them a more attractive proposition to put out to the world. Most parts of the U.K. voted to leave the E.U. but it is more pronounced in the North. Perhaps they see northern areas as unwilling to assimilate and embrace their European counterparts. It is hard seeing a political divide in the country but, alongside it, musicians are being compartmentalised and torn apart from one another. London is still seen as the wealthy elite and the heart of everything musical. We have this expectation and ideal anything from the North is poverty-prone, grubby and unspectacular. How many people will investigate a band from Sheffield or Middlesbrough?! Those areas are not as glamorous and there’s this perception there is nothing going on there.

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The poverty of expectation is scaring new artists away. Many relocate to London to make sure they are visible and conscious. So many venues further up the country and closing and, with it, their musicians are fleeing. Many are remaining but have to work harder to get their names heard. I love areas like Manchester and feel the city is no weaker than it was a couple of decades ago. The sounds and ideals might have changed but there is immense quality there right now. Perhaps this is the feeling, because most of the bigger venues are in London, artists are not willing to travel down here. Locality problems and proximity concerns mean fewer artists have the budget to traipse to London for a single gig. The media is much keener promoting the capital’s musicians because they are able to perform locally a lot more frequently. I fear class plays into this sense of separation. There are far fewer working-class bands/artists making their way into the mainstream. I have mentioned Britpop and how many great working-class acts were on the scene.

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Now, maybe tied to a lack of working-class journalists, there are far fewer artists who talk about the country in a real and relatable way. Not that every southern artist is middle-class but one normally looks to the North for those proletariat prophets. I am concerned it is becoming acceptable for any artist north of London to be seen as ‘Londoners’. Just because an area is not commercial or has not produced AS MANY great artists as London: does this mean we should overlook them and assume nothing good is going on there?! There is a desperate need for Rock heroes/heroines and something real in music. Wolf Alice, whilst based down this way is a great act who will go far, there are people looking up to the North for those who can push Rock and Indie forward – that is where the best and sharpest have resided, traditionally. Even if it were the case the best Rock artists are based in the South (which it isn’t); it is giving undue and disproportionate attention to one part of the country. There are fantastic clans and sounds coming from Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Kate Tempest

The Mercury Music Prize showed the panel were aware of the need to include multiple genres and sounds – they forgot to include many artists north of the capital. Blossoms, alt-J and Ed Sheeran were, I think, the only northern-born acts – I know Sheeran is based in London these days. There is a definite division and it isn’t a binary conflict, either. The Midlands, Wales and Scotland are worthy and fully-stocked. In fact; take away London and you’d still have an absolute army of incredible music – this is not being covered in the media as much as it should be. There is a definite need – in the same way we want racial and gender equality – to show parity regarding geography. As much as I love the sounds coming from London: there is no denying artists based outside the capital are…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Mercury Music Prize-nominated band, Blossoms

WAITING to have their voices heard!