Pass me the lusophone

Taking poetic license with Portguese speaking hip-hop

Published in 2014’s VUzine although Leo Almeida has the byline here this article was translated with a poetic licence from Google translated Q&A.

Village Underground Lisbon launched this year and only a few months after they opened its gates, the cultural hub attracted a range of national and international creative businesses. True to Village Underground London, they’ve also hosted some gigs, screenings and club nights. Like its London “sister”, this has made the venue an inspiring place to work and play and inevitably ideas that have grown in crossover and collaboration.

One business that has benefitted from Village Underground’s cultural fertility is Sensemedia who needed a Lisbon base to put together a documentary on the burgeoning Portuguese speaking (or “Lusophone”) hip-hop scene pioneered by Brazillian rap ambassador Vinicius Terra. Director Leo Almeida explains a bit more how his mutual appreciation of hip-hop has made a film and spurred a movement.


I met Vinicius Terra at Madureira, a Brazilian neighbourhood, in 2004. He was a lone MC on stage, rolling out smart Portuguese rap whilst a DJ laid down some beats away from the spotlight. Not the most game changing set up, admittedly but there was something different about his flow. Vinicius was more than just a guy with a microphone he was potentially a man who could front a movement.

In the following decade we’ve become real friends and wanted to find different visual ways to best represent his rap. But this story is bigger than the two of us.

We came up with the idea of getting the rap word out in all the lusophone (Portuguese speaking) countries over a beer but this was an idea that came from the classroom. Vinicius Terra’s thesis was one of the first essays I had read about how urban environment was shaping the speech and verse of rappers in Brazil. I was fascinated and I believed it wasn’t just happening in Brazil but further afield in every urbanized Portuguese speaking neighbourhood throughout the world. I was fired up by the spread of my native language across the globe but more than this, I believed that the world needed to get the message.


In 2006, I started a TV show which featured live music performances by other lusophonic acts. Vinicius Terra wrote “Programa Na Rua”, the music for the opening credits of the show. Together we planned some interviews with Terra as the interviewer. More musical link-ups were made with his own tracks marrying with other talented lusophones on the rap scene.

This year I quit my job as AV director in a marketing agency to pursue this project full time. Now strapped for cash, we had to think about how we could further spread the word with next to no budget. My own plans to live in Canada and study 3D Visual Effects quickly morphed into three airplane tickets to Lisboa. When we landed in Portugal though my documentary “Versos que Atravessam” came out of the shadows and into the light.

We suddenly had the help of more creative bodies on the ground. When Daniel Medeiros, Art Director and rap fan said to me “I’m in”, we became more powerful than ever. Raphael Peres came to the crew as First Assistant, and Frederick Bernas took a flight from London with a camera in his hand luggage and a load of photography contacts on his smartphone.


Even though we were penniless we had a shared passion to do the best job on something we loved, which was priceless. Everyone in Lisbon that we’ve mentioned the film to thinks it’s a good story worth telling.

The first extended Lisbon contacts we had were Mariana and Gustavo from Village Underground. They loved the idea of a lusophony documentary a lot, and when we needed a location to shoot our interviews and performances it was natural to do it against the backdrop of VU. It became the spiritual home of the project and it felt like we were always supposed to have been there. This was our spot.

This synchronicity of life provided us with the best contacts in town. And for one crazy insatiable month, Daniel’s artistic vision led us further into some very cool and places and unique situations. Portugal fed off the Brazilian’s hip-hop artists’ happiness – and the idiosyncrasies and in-jokes from a shared language was a link that brought us together across continents. We had fun pointing out how the language had been translated with different accents and differing dialects changing the meaning when spoken, even if they look the same written down.


Sam the Kid was the first person we filmed. He walked with us in Chelas, on the streets where he started his rap game. His first a cappela hit us hard and it was the sign to keep on. Then, we met José Mariño, an important journalist that promoted the Lisbon rap when spoken in the mother tongue. Other names like General D, Dama Bete, Eva Rap Diva, Dealema, BPM, DJ Alfaiate, Mundo Segundo, Maze, and Expião shaped the documentary in a way that I never imagined. I threw my script away and start to live the spoken history. Now I talk to them not as a director, but as a friend and an intent listener.


Off the back of this documentary we’ve formed the first lusphonic rap group called BPM (Brazil and Portugal Mixed). On October 8th we travelled through Portugal playing in cities across the country. Today, (20 days later) we’re beginning to think that the handful of dates that BPM performed weren’t enough. We’ve discovered a new underground history, we’ve found a world community of Portuguese rappers and now we have a bigger “cenarium” to research.


The link between Brazil and Portugal is only one line in the Portuguese and rap diaspora. Next we’re going to look for connections in Africa and Asia. But for now, we’re heading back to Brazil with a lot of unpublished material. The most important names of Portugal’s hip-hop scene, and a history to tell. A history that begins with two friends talking of a bigger dream, that is very much a reality.

“Porquê sempre e adiante do princípio é o verbo”.

For more information about co-working in Lisbon please visit or e-mail [email protected].

Brazillian hip-hop pioneer Criolo plays Village Underground London on 22nd January tickets available from £15.

Herbert: the building blocks of dance

For Convergence, Matthew debuted his first Herbert album in 8 years. In an interview with Dan Davies, Matthew reflects on his 30-year-career and rebuilding his first project without repeating the beat.

It comes as no surprise when discussing The Lego Movie, that Matthew Herbert looks beyond the paradoxical success of the Oscar nominated song.

“The thing that really annoys me about that song, and about that movie a bit – is that they didn’t come up with a musical counter to ‘Everything Is Awesome’. There’s a counter visually, constructively, philosophically and socially to everything else in the film but they didn’t come up with ‘Ghost Town’ by the Specials or ‘What’s Going On’ by Marvin Gaye. That would have been so much better for young kids. Instead of singing ‘everything is awesome’, and having to talk about irony with four-year-olds, it would be so much greater if they came up with ‘Everything is Fucked’ or whatever the young version of that is. They didn’t come up with a catchy counter-culture tune.”

Matthew came to prominence as the dancefloor-orientated Herbert, creating vocal lead deep house tracks with verve. But even at its most perceptibly commercial, his music was counter-cultural. Constructing shiny, safe, plastic music was never on the agenda. In Lego-lingo, Matthew Herbert is a “maker” and he threw away the instructions when building his Herbert tracks.

“It’s very hard for me to separate musical software and the ways computers are set up now, from the political system which we’re in,” says Matthew. “They both encourage us to not question things, to just consume. Effectively, it’s like musical shopping now, you know –  ‘I’ll have a bit of 909 and a little bit of some sort of Abbey Road funk horns’ and it’s just – as Jamie Lidell described it, like Lego. There’s a certain uncomfortable predetermination about it all.”

In the radio documentary ‘The Art of the Loop’, Matthew Herbert talks to Lidell and others about his approach to making dance music. For Matthew, the sampler is the instrument that can break away from predestination and pre-programmed patches. Samplers bring randomness, chaos and glitches (in the truest sense) into music. This is what makes the electronic, human.

Herbert’s output was always like this. The 1998 Herbert debut album All Around The House was a house music album but it also twisted domestic noises from toasters to toothbrushes. The follow up, Bodily Functions in 2001 incorporated skin, hair, bones and the contents of Herbert’s main vocalist Dani Siciliano’s handbag. Around the same time Matthew developed his “Personal contract for the composition of music” (PCCOM). This further underlined the process he would employ – whichever project he worked on or name he worked under.

Moving between monikers such as Doktor Rockit, Wishmountain and Radio Boy allowed Matthew to transition from the dancefloor tendencies of Herbert. The pseudonyms also allowed Matthew to push his work conceptually and philosophically. Radioboy became his most overtly political as McDonald’s food produce and Gap clothes were sampled for ‘The Mechanics of Destruction’. Released as Matthew Herbert, 2013’s  ‘The End Of Silence’ used a sample of a pro-Gaddafi fighter plane dropping a bomb on a market place and re-looped and sampled the sound over 60 minutes.

Matthew Herbert’s performances also became more outré and heavily political. For example, ‘One Pig’ sampled the 24-week lifespan of a pig. Matthew’s performance acted as an elegy of sorts. In conjunction with electronic samples, discarded parts of the pig were also turned into musical instruments. With bacon sandwiches cooked and eaten by the audience for an encore.

In recent years, ambitious musical projects stretched the limits of Matthew’s musical range, from collaborating with the Royal Opera House and the National Theatre – to reconstructing and interpreting classical music. But these projects became too much of a strain with major arts institutions and established traditions bearing down on him.

The re-emergence of Herbert the project arises from a desire to loop back to the beginning and start enjoying music again.

“I did all sorts of things – music for film, music for TV, music for radio, installations. It actually got a bit much last year… I felt I really needed to go back to something that I knew, and felt confident in, and understood the rules of. Basically, even if I wasn’t super keen on following those rules, at least I knew what they were, and could sort of navigate them with a lightness of touch.”

The ‘rebooted Herbert’ continued with the Parts EP series that he started in 1995, with two new vocalists: Rahel and Ade Omotayo. Last summer Matthew Herbert began working on his fifth studio album (31 in his catalogue), The Shakes.

“It was recorded in a church, so it’s got this amazing big church organ sound on it. This was sort of the big revelation for me this time.”

Far from being an attack on the concept of organised religion, or a molecular deconstruction of the church organ, the instrument give songs texture and lift, almost a religious experience at the altar of dance music.

The organ is most prominent on ‘Bed’ and the closing track ‘Peak’, an almost 10 minute opus which is lifted skyward by the instrument in the break. ‘Strong’ might have some hammered pipes in amongst the panel-bashing beat – but the track is galvanised by Ade Omotayo. Herbert is still a vocal led project, the other signature sound being celebratory parping horns, which suggest Matthew is enjoying making music again.

“The one thing that I hadn’t really done, is I hadn’t really made music for pleasure, just for my own pleasure. I guess I wanted to reclaim and experience that for myself – just to make music, just because it sounds nice or because it does something to you, and there being no great conceit or desire behind it to bring down the government or change the world. With this one I’m like – breathe out. There’s been a lot of breathing in but I’m just kind of trying to create something with joy. ”

The Shakes debuted at Village Underground on 17th March it was Herbert’s first live performance in almost a decade.

“It’s quite mad actually, because I started writing the setlist and looking back – a few things have happened. DJ Koze did a remix of It’s Only which was quite a big record, and suddenly that track’s got a whole new lease of life in it. There’s a whole new generation of people getting into the 90s stuff and deep house. I just looked at an old track I did called ‘I Hadn’t Known, I’d Only Heard’ which was a B2 track on a CD single and it’s got 350,000 hits on YouTube. There’s these funny little pockets, you know, as digital has collapsed the chronology of everything, so you get these little moments. Then you suddenly realise, actually I’ve been doing this for quite a long time.”

Matthew is keen to point out that his performance won’t be a nostalgic note perfect regurgitation of “the hits”. Like in his early days of performance Herbert will work with the crowd. Although the song The Audience will almost certain get an airing, Matthew will be re-sampling the assembled masses and working them into the music. This is almost a Brechtian technique that engages the crowd by initially estranging them then raises their enjoyment.

“You can’t have too much pleasure, it’s got to be tempered with a sharp jab to one of the eyes.”

It’s time for the audience to meet “the maker”.

Kate Tempest, flushed with success on a mission that is ongoing, obsessed

Originally published in the second edition of the VUzine. This was on the last page and I really think it helped tie the edition up.


You can curse and call it typical

You can welcome the inevitable

But we missed the boat

Our ship had sailed

When Tempest stormed the critical.


It’s been ten years in port

But far from docked, she’s more than caught


She’s held court, spoke forth

Waving, drowning, craving, storming, sailing.


As long as they’ve listened, they’ve heard her

As long as they came, she’d be there

Jumping genre fences at festivals

Being drunk on rhyme and rum, in bars and cafes

Ranting late night in kebab takeaways

The beat, her heart, her own, inaudible, invisible.

Go back

Way back, before that

Kate Tempest spat

before she spoke

Drummed out her words

In school cloakrooms

The rhythm of being in the womb

Hip hop, the wet nurse

Cries full of hunger and meaning

Giving voice to the wounded, alone, stranded, abandoned.


Writing plays for tomorrow and today

Softening the life of the hard living


Whether whittling words or treading boards

Stirring souls, portraying passion, long rounds of applause

Crowds fired up, become molten and been forged into awards.


So let the broadsheets bang on about background and beginning

Before being shredded and forgotten.

Let Jon Humphries get back round to pillaring politicians

Rather than hastily constructing pedestals of jauntiness (and Jim Naughtiness)

Let the bookies stop taking bets on fake measures of success.

Because after the fawning journos, the fakers,

After the flamers and slayers have taken their potshots

After the Gogglebox gogglers and the blank switch off.


Leave the musicians and the makers,

Leave those who hear more with repeated listens

Standing in the wings being lifted up with words

Or pushing to the front

Pinned against the band,

The following, the follower,

the fanzine and the fans.

Tempest’s reply (sort of)

Kate Tempest played Village Underground on 11th November check out these amazing pictures of her performance taken by Abi Dainton

Suuns are back and “It feels like a crazy slap in the face”

This was published on Village Underground’s VUzine, which I edit. Although Ava Hapgood pulled together the final article, I’m very pleased with the format. The article is possibly the most Blowbackian format since Blowback.

Let’s set the scene: It’s four in the afternoon in London, eleven in the morning in Montreal. Dan is sat in a recycled Jubilee line tube train on top of Village Underground in Shoreditch, amid the sounds of computer keys and answering messages for the venue’s office. Around 3,243 miles away, Joe, guitarist, bassist and founding member of Suuns, can be found in his home just a few blocks from Montreal’s Breakglass Studios, where their second album, Images Du Futur, came into being.

Throughout the interview, life is condensed and pushed across the Atlantic – traffic grinds by as car horns congregate, children goad for attention and the phone buttons are accidentally pressed, the signal drops, echoes and distorts. These bursts disrupt the conversation like Suuns music: the drone and hum of technology of modern living with surprising sounds taking them in new directions. Breaking forms, reshuffling order.

Almost two years since their first show at VU, Suuns will return to Shoreditch this September with a new album for a new stage- an eigen pun that serves to highlight just how much has evolved for a band previously named after nothing.

D: Hi Joe- we thought we’d grab a little interview with you ahead of your performance at VU. Last time you played here was two years ago and you were on our smaller stage setup underneath the arches. This time you’ll be in the main space, a move which you must see happening a lot for the second album run of tours and gigging. Do you think playing to larger audiences affects the atmosphere on stage?

Picture by Josh Holiday
Picture by Josh Holliday for Dots and Dashes

J: Yes I do remember that gig- and I think in general we are just a different band, so I think it will be a different show than it was almost two years ago. I think that will affect it more than the space but who knows I mean, it kinda seemed more like a warehouse vibe back then…

D: Yep it’s still very much got that vibe! Is there a danger as you become more popular that you lose that intimacy and response from a small audience? Do you think there’s a risk that something gets lost when you scale up?

J: I think that someone can always find a reason to claim it’s not as intimate- which is totally understandable- but I guess naturally it would happen if you were playing a bigger venue and by definition be less intimate. But we take that into consideration- all that’s changed really is the venue itself and that we’re a better band, so hopefully we can create an intimate space.

In what sounds like the outer edges of the conversation, rain begins to pound onto the roof of VU’s offices, reverberating off onto the EC2 pavement below and taking over the long-distance phone call at hand. Joe’s voice is almost totally obscured by the now very noisy, classic end-of British summertime fanfare.

D: Sorry about the rain interference by the way, we’re up on the roof, so when it rains we really hear it.

J: That’s awesome!

D: So I guess-  [Shouting over the angry rain] – I guess a lot of people when they talk about your music focus on it sounding violent or aggressive- do you identify with that at all? Or is it more of a kind of raw energy?

J: I can see why people think that, but it’s definitely not where these things are coming from. It just happens that a lot of the time our songs end up that way, and it’s good, it makes the show a lot more intriguing and we don’t really have too many pop elements that are ‘happy’. I don’t really know how it happened – I know bands that use the same sort of set ups as us and it’s not at all the same so – a lot of it has to do with the vocals I’m sure- especially live- when we use a lot of harsh elements.

[Rain continues]

D: Yeah I think there is a visceral element- it’s that approach that hits home- it’s about the energy really rather than being outwardly aggressive or setting out to make ‘angry music’ as such.

J: It’s not like we’re trying to do any hardcore music- we’re definitely just trying to take it to a different place.

[The rain fades into the distance, Dan is able to hear himself speak again.]

D: Going back to your first album- what did you feel you’ve learnt from that and how did it affect your approach to Images Du Futur?

J: The first one was a very different record, we were completely independent, and we definitely made that record on our own time, a hundred per cent. The downside to that was we didn’t have much money or that much time to do it. We had been playing those songs for the better part of two years, and it’s kind of like we rushed in, played most of them live and then did a few overdubs. Luckily we had a few days to mix them, and that was it. We chose ten songs we thought would make a great album and then we got signed basically immediately and then started touring.

Images was really songs that were written in a short period of time in early 2012, and sound and cohesion-wise, the songs are a lot better, in respect that it sounds more like an album that came from a certain period. But that had its challenges as well- a lot of songs were not tested live, so we were just sort of working on them in the studio and we had no idea if they would really do well live before we started recording them. I hope it’s not a case where each record will be the magnetic opposite of the previous ones- but I don’t think so.

[In the background now in Montreal, a child demands attention]


J: I think there’s a lot –


J: There’s a lot we’ve taken from –


J: Sorry, hold on, my son’s here. Just go with Mommy for two minutes- [child is led/ carried away] he gets jealous that I’m in another room. Anyway. Back to that- there’s so much we’ve taken from both experiences that we can remember and apply for the next one- which is basically happening very soon.


D: You’ve named your album after the Images Du Futur exhibitions in Montreal, and you’ve all lived there for at least ten years- do you think the album in a way celebrates that legacy of Montreal?

J: There’s a definite lifestyle to this city and it’s especially good to musicians. It’s cheap to live here, everything is very close and compact- I walk five minutes to my studio and so does every other member of our band. Everything we kind of do is in some way an homage to this place just because it’s been such an influence on us- this band would not have started. It means we’ve been able to put a lot of work into the band because we don’t need to put a lot of work into surviving. It frees us up to be really devoted to do what we want to do, which is priceless, really.

D: Looking “to the future” now- do you view it as being essentially dystopic, is that the kind of future we’re going towards, or are we headed to a cleaner, brighter, better future?

J: Every time I think of the future it’s like a fake future to me. I always think of when I was six years old and I thought about the future and there’s those 80s movies where it’s always dark and smoke everywhere- but living in the age we live in, I don’t think [the future] is necessarily good but I don’t think it will be dystopic. If anything it will hopefully be positive. I gotta believe that.

D: In a way that’s why the Image Du Futur [formally an annual festival in Montreal] was so interesting, because it was about celebrating the possibilities of the future rather than thinking we’re all doomed.

J: Definitely. And it was a take on how we used to view the future- it’s like this retro view of the future, which is awesome. It’s great to see predictions come true, and what didn’t come true. So it’s kind of about realising that you make that happen, slowly. It sounds so cheesy and the name of the record can be so cheesy, but that’s exactly it. It can be exactly what you make of it.

Suuns are back at Village Undeground on 29th September supported by Grumbling Fur – last few remaining tickets here.

WOMAD 2014: ‘The friendliest and most open event anyone could wish to attend’

Review originally published on Virtual Festivals

Since its creation by the prog-rock primate playing Peter Gabriel, it’s often wrongly assumed that WOMAD Festival’s rosta follows similar narrowly defined white lines. In fact, it can be the friendliest and most open event anyone could wish to attend. This mix of goodwill, genuine enthusiasm and passion spills from the organisers down to the artists and audience.


WOMAD is unique as it brings the world to the festival goer – artists and bands from 42 different countries played at this year’s sold-out festival, the first time WOMAD has sold out since the event moved from its Reading site in 2007. Musicians are given the power to push beyond cultural and language barriers to really thrill and surprise onlookers. Often first-timers walk around this festival, discovering new, unheard of artists, leading them to say: “Why isn’t this artist bigger than Beyoncé?”


One artist who could certainly out-booty Beyoncé would be Eno Williams from Ibibio Sound Machine (9). Williams gives a wonderful performance, embodying a female Fela Kuti with added dancehall attitude. Her guitarist, Alfred “Kari” Bannerman – who played many early WOMADs as part of Peter Gabriel’s band – adds extra rockstar cred and sheer dexterity to the eight-strong band. One other new discovery is Daka Brakha (10), a Ukrainian band distinguished by their tall hats, akin to Horse Guards’ Busbys. Although their dress might be traditional, their sound certainly isn’t. During their Siam Tent set there’s a rapping cellist, touches of techno and a guitarist who could stand in for Jonzi from Sigur Ros.


The BBC Radio 3 Stage moved from the Arboretum into the main arena this year, and continues to champion interesting artists. From the trip-hop folk of the Welsh singing 9Bach (9) through to Amira Kheir (8), a Sudanese-Italian artist whose opening song sounds like ‘Thali’. An unfortunate reminder to rumbling stomachs, because the voluntary run Madras Cafe next door don’t start serving their unbeatable thalis until after 12:30pm.

There are headliners of course. New Zealand’s Fat Freddy’s Drop (7) swing by as part of the UK summer festival tour and work the audience with their irresistible dub tracks with sweet soulful vocals. The legendary Richard Thompson (8) at his ripe age continues to prove himself more adept than ever with one acoustic guitar – although it sounds like three. And Sinead O’ Connor’s (7) voice remains as clear as cut glass and she’s still fighting (well, boxing) fit, dedicating her set to the late Bobby Womack who had been booked to headline the festival.


On an equal billing are world music superstars such as Mulatu Astatke (7) whose Ethiopian vibraphone Jazz is continually referenced and sampled as pointed out by his version of “Yègellé Tezeta” which enters into Nas and Damian Marley’s version. The divine Mali diva Fatoumata Diawara teamed up with Havana pianist Roberto Fonseca and the combination of exquisite voice and deft Latino groove is another winner (8). And Songhoy Blues (9) the biggest thrill of Africa Express have a mournful indie quality made all the more poignant when reacting to real conflict in Timbuktu rather than the usual British bedsit blues.

Another main attraction this year is the addition of the Society of Sound Tent which uses a Bowers and Wilkins speaker system of Abbey Road studio fame. David Holmes (7) utilises the quadrophonic surround speakers to play rare Northern Soul records as crackling vinyl ricochets around the four banks on Friday. The next day, Peter Gabriel spends a morning talking about the importance of hi-fidelity but the sound is so smartly directional that from outside the tent it’s virtually inaudible. Ashley Beedle (8) brings up the bottom end on Saturday with some disco and finger-pointing house. On Sunday, the real test of the system is when the stage is filled with old electronic equipment as The Radiophonic Workshop (8) bring their backroom boffin skills to the fore. The sound of many a geeky 1970’s Beeb show are audibly panned to full effect and given a bit of pep by The Prodigy’s former live drummer. Obviously, The Doctor Who theme wig-out finale is what everyone is waiting for.


Some of the best highlights this year were off the sun-beaten track in the Arboretum, sat appropriately under a tree by the solar-powered Ecotricity stage. Sans (8) music is mix of hypnotic Finnish mythological tales given a dramatic bite. Imed Alibi’s (9) percussive Tunisian beats make a sweltered hot audience dance with the kind of swirling arm gesturing movements that you only see at this festival. It’s here, as the smell of honeysuckle wafts from the trees and as Taste of Womad serves up another delightful dish concocted by the band playing on stage, it truly feels like you’re at the core of the festival.


Continuing to approach Nude in new ways

My article originally published on Run Riot

Jamie McDermott is late for his interview because he’s just confirmed a wedding booking. Whereas with other bands this largely involves covering The Commitments to a room that’s too busy getting drunk to give a toss, for Jamie it might just be the highlight of his career. At the end of the month The Irrepressibles will play the first gay wedding in the UK.
“I think it’s going be one of most beautiful evenings of my life, it will be incredible,” says Jamie,“We’re going to be playing Two Men In Love, as they get married.”

For two albums and three recent EPs his band have flitted between musical styles like a cultured yet populist iPod on permanent shuffle but one thing has remained constant: enduring love and the belief that everyone has a right to it. It feels odd that in the 21st century that this is still an issue. I ask Jamie whether he thinks we have gone backwards rather than forwards in recent years, particularly when we look at arcane laws that Russia and other countries enforce.

“We were over in Russia recently and were able to see the situation first hand. In many ways they are far freer than under the communist regime. Really now the problem is that it’s ruled by a religious dictator who got into his position via his relationship with the Russian orthodox church. In terms of ex-colonial countries, there’s very much a legacy from the British missionaries, it’s still very active and that’s not going to be affected by Western politics. And of course, there is much more of a systematic hard line in the way they deliver the penalty.”

The Irrepressibles performed a free concert in Gorky Park, Moscow last year. As a band with openly gay members who unashamedly confront this with their music, this was an extremely brave decision and not one that Jamie took lightly.

“It was terrifying, I cried on the train on the way there, more for the band than myself because they were so steady and determined to do it. And a lot of them are straight, including the two drummers at the back of the band but they were so behind it. So much so actually, that when the Russian technical staff refused to play our video, one of the drummers threw his sticks at them!”

This wasn’t a video that reached Frankie Goes To Hollywood levels of Bacchanalian excess, it featured gay male couples kissing. Controversial in Russia perhaps, but it is also an idea so “abhorrent” that it frequently gets their beautiful, honest and affectionate videos banned on social networks. Jamie’s response isn’t to tone this down, it’s to coerce more couples into kissing, and filming that. The aforementioned video for Two Men In Love features a crescendo of canoodling couples and last week the video of their forthcoming release The Edge of Now saw their fans recreating the “restricted” Arrow video of two men wrestling with their emotions, and each other. I ask Jamie about his relationship with his audience.

“In some respects I’m not really a traditional pop star in the way that I don’t really have much of a guard. I’ve performed in different garbs and have taken to different ways of performing. It’s quite funny actually, I met some guys at one point and they thought I’d be really haughty and arrogant and I guess that’s sometimes the way we appear on stage but we don’t have that attitude really. The important thing for me is trying to say something about a time that is honest. It’s about telling a story about something that’s real when it communicates properly that’s a wonderful thing. It’s always really scary when I bring out new work because I worry that others might not like it. Making videos about a group of people saying something is a really wonderful thing.”

Nude is the name of The Irrepressibles last album and the recent three EPs were also Nude variants. Nude:Viscera the most recent EP saw the band (pun intended) stripped down to the bare essentials of guitar and light orchestration. It’s hugely impactful – nothing is dressed up or obscured, just a raw soaring vocal coming straight from the heart, as nature intended.

“Nude originally was an album that I made before I was signed,” says Jamie “the idea was to perform the songs on a guitar in one go. Then when we looked at mixing the album with The Irrepressibles I wanted to make something that was broader… that also represented the time that the songs were written in. When I finished the record there were songs that didn’t fit the main record. They weren’t any less songs but they were too raw and mine. These songs needed to be released in some way so the idea was to do a second part, but they didn’t fit on one record. So the idea was to inhabit three different worlds with three different EPs.”

The Irrepressibles performance at Village Underground will be stripped down, Jamie explains the set up in more detail.

“The set-up is a five piece rock band, with a grunge exotica feel. We’ve got piano, viola, cello and guitar – it’s a really wonderful sound. It’s quite exciting for me because we usually have something that’s very set or electronic, it’s good to have movement. The musicians are wonderful. There’s no chance of a big spectacle with this, it’s about the energy of playing punchy loud rock music.”

We wonder if Jamie will be stage-diving?

“I don’t think so,” he says with a little laugh.
The Irrepressibles play Nude:Viscera at Village Underground on 26th March, tickets here

Trip to Interzone: a Burroughsian interview with Guerilla Zoo’s James Elphick

Originally published on Run Riot

On Friday (7 Feb 2014) an undisclosed part of London will slide into the realms of Interzone. You’re invited to join the “misfits, terrorists, traffickers of delusion, tribes, deviants, delinquents, corrupt officials, Beatniks, Mugwumps, government agents, re-occurring dream characters, lady boys, drag kings, cannibals, merchants of sex, time travellers, practitioners of the Dark Arts, people who aren’t allowed on planes, gypsies, Egyptian Gods, Arabian royalty, Sufi dervishes and Moroccan hawkers” for a night inside the lucid and fully realised mind of William S Burroughs. This promenade performance and party of excess will mark what would be the writer’s 100th birthday.

Burroughs merged with the infinite in 1997 but his literary legacy and cultural prominence still stands firm and proud. As one of key inquisitors of the Beat movement, Old Bull Lee (a pseudonym that he and his peers used) presided over the Beatniks with a bloodshot but steel-eyed stare. He was both brutally honest about his “junk” dependency yet took fantastical cut up creative kicks. Interzone was the netherworld which he conjured and inhabited – partly 1950s Tangier in Morocco and partly the world that he slipped into when he was dreaming or hallucinating.

Guerilla Zoo have incited Interzone before, the immersive performance with music, film and art thrown together to create an exploded Burroughs bubble, that has the blessing of his estate. After listening to Burroughs’ distinctive hardboiled drawl in spoken word readings all morning, I interviewed James Elphick. Apologies if some of Bull Lee has worked its way into the interrogation, it’s a habit that’s near impossible to kick…


Dan Davies: People tend to come to Burroughs through the back channels how did you become acquainted with him?

James Elphick: My first taste of Burroughs was reading Naked Lunch. I’d never read anything quite like it before; a nightmarish world of lucid precision taking the lurid and profane with a sprinkling of dark comedy. A bustling, whirling, unwinding, universe of previously un-uttered perversions and stark naked realities hit me off centre, knocked my thoughts off their feet and into uncharted territories. I explored his Naropa Lectures and the many mind machines he mentioned (such as the Dreamachine) and found a man who somehow through all of the events his life brought, really knew what was going on.

Dan Davies: What first appealed to you about the way he flipped the script?

James Elphick: Burroughs saw the world with a highly educated un-nerving lucidity. His experiences across his long life had many highs and lows, despite this he remained on top of his game and even into his last years was highly productive and creative. His books, his collaborations (especially with Brion Gysin), his artworks, his methods, really broke down the walls of freedom and expression and manifested new ways of creating.

Dan Davies: Why do you think he was such a supreme hit for people yet remained a permanent fix through time and space?

James Elphick: Burroughs’ writings are a right of passage for many younger readers. He’s talent for routing out the relevant and making it stand strong with the parallels of today, which make his work extremely relevant now. He touched on subjects way back that have only now been making headlines such as Julian Assange’s Wikileaks and Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations.

He was very well read, looked deep into historical, religious, political references, current press media and trends, and his own minds eye.  He was informed by a lifetime of dialogue with provocative and penetrating thinkers. Often these interactions sparked new directions in writing, film, sound, and visual art. Notable collaborators include Antony Balch, Ian Sommerville, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Keith Haring, Robert Wilson, Tom Waits, Kurt Cobain, John Giorno and Terry Southern. His works have inspired countless people especially musicians including, David Bowie, The Beatles, Thurston Moore and The Klaxons, to name but a few.

Dan Davies: You’ve ventured to Interzone before, what’s happening? What gives?  

James Elphick: Here’s a quote – “Hipsters with smooth copper-colored faces lounge in doorways twisting shrunk heads on gold chains, their faces blank with an insect’s unseeing calm. Behind them, through open doors, tables and booths and bars, and kitchens and baths, copulating couples on rows of brass beds, crisscross of a thousand hammocks, junkies tying up for a shot, opium smokers, hashish smokers, people eating talking bathing back into a haze of smoke and steam. The City is visited by epidemics of violence, and the untended dead are eaten by vultures in the streets… A place where the unknown past and the emergent future meet in a vibrating soundless hum. Larval entities waiting for a Live One .” – Edited extract from Naked Lunch.

Interzone - Polstar Photography (4)

Burroughs’ stateless city of Interzone is a vast visual realm of inspiration. It was a perfect opportunity to bring something very special together. In 2008 Guerrilla Zoo did our previousInterzone event, which was picked up by the papers and was a great success. I’m not kidding, it has been cited by many as “best night out in London ever. Ever!” So with this being Burroughs’ centenary year I thought for one night only, to open the doors to the city once more. This is an experiential event on many levels but also a party to celebrate Burroughs 100th birthday. Buy your ticket to travel. Pack your Passport. Step into a microcosm of all the world by moonlight.

Dan Davies: How do you get your audience to loosen up and lose themselves and their minds?

James Elphick: They have free reign to move through the space, they can engage and discover moments to get lost in or they can be passive observers, it depends how far down the rabbit hole they are willing to go.

Dan Davies: Will Old Bull Lee be your guide through Interzone or is it every man woman and child for themselves in there?


James Elphick: There will be some recognisable characters from his books to engage with, but Interzone is for you to explore, there are no guides here, it is all about your own self discovery.

Interzone - Polstar Photography (5)

Dan Davies: How do you induce the atmosphere of Interzone?

James Elphick: One example would be working with Gorilla Perfume, who are providing special scents, which is a powerful play on the audience’s subconscious to pick up on.  One in particular is a sort of paranoid inducing smell called ‘The Bug‘ for some of the more tense scenarios.

Dan Davies: Burroughs work can often be filmic in written delivery and dialogue yet impossible to fully realise off the page how do you approach this contradiction?

James Elphick: I’m not adapting word for word like a play, Interzone is an interpretation, inspired by the many universes of Burroughs writings. Much like how David Cronenberg’s adaptation ofNaked Lunch was part novel, part biographical, part Cronenbergian dreamworld!

Dan Davies: What do you think interested the executors of his estate in your general demeanour?

James Elphick: I want to introduce Burroughs works to a new generation and bring his legacy to new eyes. Interzone is just one way of connecting people to hear about him and to encourage them to pick up one of his brilliant books. I also co run, which is the official Burroughs website, full of articles, exclusive features, rare material and listings for many events happening around the world.

Dan Davies: Can you give us an insight into the musical accompaniment for the evening?

James Elphick: We have an eclectic varied line up of genres from Sufi trance inducing sounds, jazz music of the era, to cut-up inspired performances, busking musicians, to underground dance music to get the party going.

Dan Davies: Do you have any words of advice for young people?

James Elphick: I think Burroughs put’s it best in this Youtube clip:


Secret Location

07 Feb 2014
20:00 – 03:00
Buy your ticket to travel here


Creating responsive news stories with Webflow

This browser based application which allows you to visually design responsive websites came out of Beta in August this year. Instead of having to know HTML or rely on a desktop based webdesign software such as Dreamweaver, Webflow allows you to drag and drop the main elements of a website into a canvas area and then preview the website in different formats, such as tablet and smartphone or portrait and landscapes. This means that no matter what device you’re viewing on you can customize the appearance quickly and easily.

In practice

I made two websites to test how easy this application was to use. Firstly, I very quickly knocked together a website ahead of an editorial meeting for a fanzine I’m working on. I based this site on a pre-designed template which already had a clear structure and just customized the text within the containers. Secondly I started to reproduce a web story from scratch, which I had previously created using Scrollkit, the Webflow version can be found here. The latter required more adaption and an understanding of how Webflow worked and although support videos exist on how to quickly put together storefront style websites, there’s no guidance on how to create scrolling news stories. Having said this once I’d got my head round the various web containers, margins and padding it achieved a much clearer and legible mobile site.
Life in Lake Vostok on Webflow

How it helps you

The key really here is speed, to be able to bring together some visual ideas and even put together a microsite quickly is really exciting. And for that to be readable across devices without having to constantly test the website is brilliant. Particularly when designing scrolling news stories, it’s all too easy to get the measurements wrong and lose half your audience. Also whilst you still need to understand the principles of webdesign, you no longer have to write badly formed HTML. Once you’ve published the website, it can be outputted as easy to install zip folders with perfect HTML and CSS.


As with Scrollkit (which I also wrote about on a previous Tech Tuesday), this application comes unstuck when you start embedding multimedia into it. Compared to Scrollkit the embed is much easier, although you can’t preview an embed that isn’t iframe based without publishing. The hardest thing to embed was YouTube video, using the video embed it created it within a small window on the canvas. As an iframe embed it previewed fine then in the final viewing shot into the middle of the page. I could probably work out how to stop this with more time but it is frustrating. Also there’s no CMS (content management system) powering these websites, so creating something that can be easily added to is problematic.


Another incredibly flexible web-based application which gives desktop software a run for its money, but needs a bit more time to mature.


Mid-North Western Alt.Country Boys

Tim Burgess with special guests Lambchop, 23rd June, Barbican.

The Charlatans were once billed as the world’s longest surviving rock band. This may have been tied up in record company rhetoric and the tragic circumstances that surrounded the making of Tellin’ Stories but there were other reasons for their longevity.

Tim Burgess

Feeding into the band was a pudding bowl of musical influences. Although their haircuts and swagger cashed in on Madchester, they were essentially outside the city. As Burgess’ autobiography affectionately details (new updated edition out July 4th) they stirred in elements of The Byrds and The Meters from the very beginning. Additional remixes by the fledgling Chemical Brothers created a unique blend.

As the band rose, and Burgess broadened his lyrical palate, bits of Dylan and Gutherie crept into Tellin’ Stories. Then as Burgess expanded his vocal scale there was even a touch of Curtis Mayfield mixed with mid-western slide guitars and occasional gospel choirs joining the congregation on Us And Us Only.

Burgess’ involvement with Lambchop followed after he went to see them at a gig in Manchester then helped lead singer Kurt Wagner load his van. Burgess asked him whether he’d like to work with them to which Wagner replied, “you write the music, I’ll write the lyrics”.

Tonight, Wagner tells us that when he first met Tim he wasn’t quite sure who he was. He’s also distracted by Tim’s hair when he comes on to duet during Lambchop’s set quipping “what happened? when I met him he looked normal you know quite preppy, is it because he’s gone vegetarian?” Wagner’s easy humour is a contrast to his gentle yet lyrically dense tales that have a soporific effect on a warm Sunday evening.

To be fair, Tim’s pudding bowl haircut bears a striking resemblance to his early years, cut when he was writing the chart-topping Weirdo and perhaps the new straw coloured thatch is a nod toward his roots?

When Lambchop is replaced by Burgess’ band after the interval, the influence is clear and the lush sound, similarly interchangeable. Wagner stood by his word and worked with Burgess on his most recent solo album Oh No I Love You, Tim still reverts to a trademark pimp shuffle when he delivers Wagner’s lyrics and the songs have a bit more bounce to them than a standard Lambchop tale but it’s an authentic take rather than a pale Northern imitation. Or what Tim calls “Mid North-Western”.

Obviously the biggest ripples of recognition are with the key-changed Charlatans songs. Starting with The Only One I Know then bringing on a string quartet for White and the already country hued A Man Needs To Be Told is taken to new heights. Wagner partners up for Weirdo and it’s at this point that you release that he is as much an outsider to country as Burgess. As Burgess’ set increases, so do the number of Lambchop members until finally there’s a full ensemble performance of the closest Wagner ever had to a cross over bouncy chart hit, Up With People.

As the recent remix album of Oh No I Love You highlighted, it’s also refreshing to see an artist who won’t settle into a trend and solely chug out the back catalogue. Unlike rock dinosaurs headlining Glastonbury this weekend, Tim Burgess refuses to be stuck in a musical rut or, indeed, framed by a (Jesus) hairdo.

Using Clipping Magic – deleting picture backgrounds without being tricky

It’s in no doubt that the Adobe suite of software is still the market leader when it comes to image manipulation. However, because they’re so powerful it can be heavy, taking a long time to load the software. A simple job such such as cutting out an image can take forever and with all the tools and options on offer, it’s difficult to remember how to do it. Clipping Magic is an browser based solution for this specific problem, currently free in Alpha.

In practice

I quickly made a logo transparent for a video that I’d been working on. The interface is very easy to use, you simply mark green on the area you wish to keep and red on the area you want removed.

Screen shot 2013-06-18 at 11.10.50 AM

Unlike Photoshop or Illustrator you can be pretty rough and ready with the area you want to remove. On an image as clear as this, the interface works out what you wish to do. Black background added below to distinguish difference.


I then tried something a bit more challenging for last week’s Tech review slide and a black and white picture of Damo Suzuki.

leopardtyping_clipped_cropped_rev_1   Damo Suzuki Village Underground_clipped_cropped

There are more tools to help you refine or blur the edges, this was particularly useful when trying the make the coat look normal on the leopard and Damo’s hair not look too “bob-ish”, as Clipping Magic calls it.

Screen shot 2013-06-18 at 2.03.46 PM

Screen shot 2013-06-18 at 2.04.48 PM

With these images you need to help the algorithm out a bit more, but it’s considerably easier than the magnetic lasso and wand tools in Adobe. The refinement tools are also simple.

How it helps you

Time is often of the essence and using this tool prevents the need to load Photoshop or Illustrator for a simple task. It also means you can cut out photos on any computer without the cost and time spent installing the Adobe suite.


According to the website this application is free whilst still in Alpha, hopefully the cost won’t be too prohibitive and a paywall doesn’t impede the speed of access to this tool. If you did want to do a professional crop – something that would be used in print, it would always be better in Adobe.


A quick and easy cutting out tool, much more magic than Adobe’s wand.