The Big Chill SoundSystem UK Tour
I look back at this tour with fondness. After all, let face it – driving around the country in your campervan with a group of friends is always going to be great fun. Lol Hammond, Pete Lawrence, Laura B, John Rixon, Adam Seaman, Marc Everett and myself played a variety of venues to mixed audiences and we all enjoyed ourselves to the max!
Pete and Lol were the tour DJ’s, Laura and myself were playing live sets and the other guys were providing the visual accompaniment – always stylish. There were obviously more memorable nights en route, and the ones that spring to kind are Reading, Leeds, Manchester and Aberdeen… all for different reasons.
On the first night of the tour, we played at ‘The Talking Heads’ in Southampton. The venue’s resident sound engineer, Shaggy, looked after us brilliantly! Pete played a 1 hour set, I played for 45 mins, then Pete played a further 45 mins, until Laura came on for about 40 mins. Finally, Lol came on. Visually, there was one large screen on stage, 2 hanging nets in the middle facing each other and loads of slide projections.
Next we played Birmingham. We played The Custard Factory alongside The Bays and the Different Drummer SoundSystem. In terms of the running order, Pete played first – he seemed to enjoy himself but apparantly felt very disengaged. I played my own stuff off cd, including some really old material and Adam’s visuals were very in tune with my music. Laura played a great set and really enjoyed it, great monitors. Then The Bays played; I thought their set was a bit too brutal and fierce. But hey; that’s just me.
Next up, we were on our way to Reading to play a venue called Po Na Na. The promoter was a very friendly guy called Rob who proclaimed it to be their “best night ever”. There were tea stalls on standby all night, and a group of friends from Wycombe turned up to see me play. It was also great to bump into Reading resident Phil Newcombe, who I hadn’t seen for ages. He slipped me a card before he left, with a printed message proclaiming ‘Safe Journey’. Lol’s set was too banging and formulaic for my liking. Laura, who by this stage of the tour was pretty knackered delivered a sublime set. Pete played a mid- tempo funky set with Warren from Breaking Even on percussion. I had a really great time here, playing right across the board. The venue was very hot, too – like a sauna in fact. The most unlikely fan came in the form of a chap with a mohican.
Next up was Sheffield. Here. we attracted a smallish crowd who turned out to watch us perform. A friend of mine called John Booth had a local shop called FORM (interior design). Around the time of this gig, he’d bought an AO print of my EP01 cover picture to promote his new shop! As far as the schedule went; well, from 9 Lol played for an hour then I played from 10 until around 11- I didn’t really get into it, though. It was great to catch up with Anne Garner, who improvised on her flute, and also Bill Bevan guested on the decks earlier on.
Next, we played The Band on the Wall in Manchester. Ironically it turned out to be the worst attended date of the whole tour even though we were treated to a wicked venue and superb sound system. We chose to jam and interact instead of playing sets. Laura and I sang with Pete as he Dj’d. A full on party live on stage! Then, once the place had shut, Pete and Lol went to bed, so Laura and I played for another couple of hours, jamming around. Neil Patterson also turned up – lovely to see a friendly face!
The following weekend saw us tackling Bristol – we played at a lovely waterside bar. Friendly staff allowed us carte blanche to do whatever we wanted with the venue, so we transformed it adding netting, screens and all manner of decor everywhere, branding it up with the Big Chill logo. The gig went smoothly enough, although I had that classic case of wondering half way through the gig what I was doing up there – once that mindset is engaged, there’s not much that you can do to change it. Still a goodie, though.
The last date of the tour happened about a week after the rest of the dates – for the Aberdeen gig, we flew up and stayed in a hotel. We played at the Lemon Tree, the main venue in the City. Aberdeen is an amazing place, really imposing with its granite architecture. I think this was my personal favourite; a really attentive crew, fantastic venue and a performance highlight from me, too. OK, so the attendance was pretty bad – the audience probably numbered around 40 at most, but the vibes were wicked.
A great experience all in all!
Ulrich Schnauss | alucidnation live
I learned through Pete Lawrence that Ulrich Schnauss; the consummate Berlin producer, was playing some dates in the UK prior to the festival season, and he suggested that I DJ at his London performance.
I, however, was keen to play live, so play live I did. It was a well-attended night at Cargo – Ulrich’s music was seriously on the ascent, and even back then he had a reasonable following in the UK. For some reason, everything was running a bit behind schedule, so I started at the time he’s been advertised at!
The audience seemed to appreciate what I was doing, because numerous people came up to me after the gig and thanked me for what I’d done.
Ulrich played a superb set; this time the amplification at Cargo was spot on.
Big Chill Spring / Summer @ Cargo
What with the acquisition of half of the Big Chill branding by Chris Greenwood and Nigel Foster, who also owned the Cargo chain of venues, it was only a matter of time before Cargo in Shoreditch started to get used for regular Big Chill parties.
We did two during 2003 that I was involved with; the Spring Chill on the 30th March, which featured numerous live acts in the shape of Fragile State, who appeared to be being touted as the ‘next Zero 7′. This was hardly surprising, as one half of Fragile State was Neil Cowley, who just happened to be the keyboard player for Zero 7. Their albums were, and still are, sublime listening – check ’em out. Next up we had The Echo String Quartet, comprising four extremely attractive females playing cellos, Hint, aka Jonathan James, who’d just been signed to Ninja Tune, and last but not least, a Russian act called EU.
I was drafted in to DJ alongside Pete Lawrence, Gilles Petersen [BBC Radio 1], Nick Luscombe [XFM] and John Tye [Lo Recordings], quite an iilustrious lineup, I’m sure you’ll agree.
For the Summer Chill party, which took place on June 1st, I played live alongside Laura B, a supremely chilled act from Copenhagen called Flipside [really top blokes], and also another band on the ascent at the time, Chungking, who were getting played all over BBC radio.
Also, around this time, I was designing all the branding for the Big Chill. Consequently, all of the literature, flyers, tickets, photography and pretty much everything Big Chill related came out of my home studio! Good times.
Big Chill Festival, Eastnor
The Big Chill returned to this lovely setting for a second time, having sold out two weeks prior to the start of the event, which bode well for all concerned.
The weather was absolutely superb – in some respects it was almost too hot, but everyone that came along had a cracking time.
I was quite a busy boy at this festival. My main alucidnation gig took place on the Saturday evening at 7.15pm and for this, I’d recruited Dave Noble to accompany on guitar with his new FX pedal, and Ollie Wakeford on flute. Both contributed something special, although I have to say the sound front of house was pretty poor. I also played alongside Laura B as ‘Survival of the Slowest’ in the mixed media tent on the Saturday night, veering away from the purely ambient set that we’d played at Naxos in 2002… we came on after CassetteBoy, who’d whipped the crowd up into a mad frenzy – playing ambient after this was going to be a tricky one. So we dipped in and out of a variety of styles – it must have worked well, because the feedback for this gig was awesome.
And then I played the radio station on the Sunday night… a night of complete debauchery, the cabin was filled with Bickertons of all shapes and sizes, and a lot of fun was had by all. It was left to Morris to close the proceedings, which he did in (usual) fine style.
August 26th – 29th
This short tour was organised off the back of the collaborations between myself, Laura B and Takashi Okumura that happened at the Big Chill Eastnor and Naxos 2002 events. Takashi was sufficiently vibed to book Laura and myself to go over to Tokyo for a week and do a few gigs at venues in the city. What an adventure!
Laura and I met at Heathrow on the afternoon of the 24th August, both looking forward to the trip. We chatted in the departure lounge, smoked a few ciggies and drank a coffee or two before boarding the flight to take us non-stop to Tokyo Narita.
The flight was a long one – about 11 and a half hours in all, but we spent the time constructively enough by having a few drinks. Laura managed to get some shut-eye en route, so was reasonably refreshed by the time we landed the next day in Japan. They’re eight hours ahead over there, so it was late morning when we landed. We were greeted by Takashi, Keshu and Akira’s smiling faces at gate. They’d driven the two hours out of Tokyo to meet us! It was great to see Takashi again, not having seen him for about eleven months. We posed for a few piccies and then hit the road. Tokyo is a very big city; we travelled at a steady pace until we’d crossed the Rainbow Bridge into the centre of the city, and then the traffic became rather heavy, to say the least.
It took us a further hour to get to our hotel, which was probably only about seven miles as the crow flies! Not to worry – the journey was accompanised by some great music, courtesy of Akira.
Our hotel was right in the centre of town, in a place called Shinjuku; apparantly it’s the equivalent of staying on Oxford Street in London. It certainly was close to all amenities, so we settled in nicely. Every room had an optical broadband connection, so staying in touch with the UK wasn’t a problem.. I even managed to get Radio 2 streaming fine, so I didn’t miss my Terry Wogan breakfast show fix, albeit in the afternoon!
Takashi had organised a meal out for us all that night, so at about 7pm, we made our way out into the warm night air to walk a few blocks towards a huge skyscraper where we ascended to the 43rd floor to eat at a traditional Japanese restaurant. The views from the top were properly breathtaking. The food was ‘different’ – I thought it was OK, although Laura expressed some reservations – I dread to think what the MSG content was! We met Daisake, the other promoter of the tour, and a few others, including Shion, Akira’s girlfriend and also Ebe, a photographer and the designer of the artwork that accompanied the tour. What a lovely bunch of folks… But by this time, we were both a bit knackered, so we went home and crawled into bed.
The following day was the day of our first gig, so we went to the venue at about 8pm to set up. I’ve got to be honest, it didn’t appear too promising – a sprawling underground club with one big main room where we were going to play and a couple of rooms upstairs which were to house more live acts, including Akira’s project. After a reasonably long set-up and sound check, the party got underway, and we got tucked into the beers.. by the time we went on, it was about 2am, and we supposed to play a ‘dance set’. This was never going to happen to be honest, even though the previous DJ had been playing some pretty sublime tech-house. I started by playing things that I thought I should be playing for the first 50 mins or so, and then Laura just said to me “why don’t you play what YOU want to”. So I did, starting with Steve Millers’ ‘Fly Like an Eagle’ – from there on I was in my element. Laura, however, didn’t feel very well, so had to retire early. I carried on and by the end of the gig, I had people sitting down, which I guess was the intention… I finished with a couple of vocal alucidnation tracks and then we packed up and went home.
We then had a couple of days to do a bit of sightseeing and chill out. We didn’t really do that much sightseeing, unless you can call visiting electronics shops and record stores sightseeing, which I suppose you could. Laura and I both bought our first digital cameras – the deals out there were too good to miss; and without them, you wouldn’t be able to see the photos that are included on this page… It was also Daisake’s birthday (his 21st) so we were invited round to Takashi’s flat to help him celebrate it. Takashi has a 25sq metre living space, which is typical of the design of most single peoples flats in Tokyo. There’s enough room to house a bed, his studio and computer, and not a lot else. But it was a great night, we all had a few drinks and once the others disappeared, Laura, Takashi and I watched some of his video work that he’d shot out in Greece at the Naxos party. It was a late one, but some good memories were relived…
Out next gig was at a place called Sputnik Low at Core, a pleasant district with upmarket eateries and a good vibe. We’d been over here a couple of nights previous to meet Masaki, who ran the bar. I took an immediate liking to Masaki – a decent bloke, and a hard worker too. I personally had a really good feeling about this gig, and I know that Laura did too. The evening started mellow enough – we all went over the road for a bite to eat and chilled to some great sounds at Sputnik, but as the night wore on, the music began to get progressively more beat-orientated. This caught me off balance, so again our set (I think) got off to a weird start, although everyone else seemed to be enkoying themselves. Just me, probably. Ah well. Towards the end of our set, I got more and more into it, until the end, where I was just playing chords on Laura synth over sound FX.
Which just leaves the final party, which turned out to be the best of the lot! It took place on a beach about two and half hours outside of Tokyo. The vibe was perfect… both Laura and I had managed to get some rest in the car on the way there, so we were both up for a party. This beach party had been a regular occurance for the last five or so years, and there was a really diverse mixture of people of all nationalities. Two sound systems, a geodesic dome which contained a skate rink, a huge communal fire and just a fantastic vibe made sure that everyone had a great time.
We came on at about 9.15pm and we’d decided beforehand to just play exclusively our own material, which we did, I started with one of Laura’s and then played one of my own and it just carried on like that really. The response was wicked! The highlight for me personally was Laura rusing up to the Dj booth and insisting that I come down to the beach to check the action out down there. To stand in the middle of a big crowd of people freaking out to something that you’ve produced in a beautiful space is unlike any other buzz I’ve experienced. A fantastic party, which unfortunately we had to leave early to get to the airport on time to get our flight back to the UK the following day…
All in all, a most enjoyable tripster.
October 8th – 17th
iChill Countrywide Tour
Ralph Myerz and the Jack Herren Band (Live)
Pete Lawrence (DJ)
The Ombudsman (VJ)
This was another UK tour, this time to promote the new Big Chill compilation on Big Chill Recordings. This time, we had a couple of other bands along for the ride; Ralph Myerz and the Jack Herren Band, an outfit from Norway, with a fantastic live show, and Jonathan James, aka Hint both playing live at each venue. Pete and I played records. It was a great experience, even though some of the dates weren’t particularly well-attended!
This time, we had our own tour bus, which was a right crack! Here’s my take on proceedings…
Date One: London
Predictably busy. Touring with Ralph Myerz was always going to guarantee reasonable sized audiences; their reputation preceeded them. I hadn’t caught their live act before, and was pretty blown away by it. Ralph himself (Erland) was pretty low key, situated right at the back, with the two drummers flanking him on either side of the smallish stage. It was an explosive gig, a great start to the tour proper. People went mad for them, understandably. The drummers added an almost theatrical element to the gig, standing on their kits and whipping the crowd into a frenzy!
Jonathan James (Hint) had kicked off the night with his soothing grooves and had gone down well, although a lot of the crowd hadn’t arrived by that time. Pete Lawrence played some lovely tunage as usual; I was due on last. I found the decision as to what record to play first after Ralph Myerz pretty un-nerving, and I must have changed my mind numerous times. In the end, I decided on Prince’s ‘Uptown’, which seemed to go down pretty well with the crowd.. As the audience thinned out as people started to leave to catch their last trains, I decided to play exclusively my own material, which everyone (including me) enjoyed!
A nice start to the tour, all in all.
Date Two: Nottingham Rescue Rooms
The start of the tour ‘proper’. The tour bus wasn’t booked until the following day, so Adam (the ombudsman) met me at my house and we travelled up to Nottingham together in his motor. John Rixon (Amukidi) got a train up there, which proved to be a rather stressful trip for him, poor lad. Pete turned up independently as did the RM Band with their entourage. Hint had decided to do the whole tour on his own, rather than brave the excesses of the tour bus. Probably a wise move in hindsight!
The gig itself was pretty well attended, I opted to take the first slot, and I must have DJ’d for about two hours playing a selection of mellow tunes mainly off my laptop, during which time the room started to fill up nicely. Hint came on after me, playing live tracks off his LP ‘Portakabin Fever’ on Ninja Tune. Then the RM Band came on to rapturous applause and again blew the roof off – the crowd loved them. I have to say that I never tired of watching them play – every night was different and it didn’t seem to matter how large the audience was – they always gave it 110 percent. Last on was Pete, who rounded things off nicely with a selection of songs from his collection.
Adam and I were debating going on to a party, but I got cold feet – my mood was a little strange by the end of the night, so we ended up blatting down the M1 back home to Harrow for a decent (if short) nights sleep.
Date Three: Liverpool Academy
We met up at Golders Green bus station to board our TOUR BUS! It was an impressive affair – a two storey Volvo with two lounges, 12 berths and a kitchenette. Fucking rock and Roll, man! Our driver was an enormous lad who was only going to be with us for the initial leg of the journey. Pete sat in the rear lounge reading the paper and being quietly contemplative. This time we had a tour/road manager in the shape of Jon Wilks, who proved to be a right bloody scream throughout our time on the road, livening things up no end…
By the time we arrived in Liverpool, it was about seven in the evening and we had just enough time to set up and start playing. It was a rather relaxed affair – i can’t actually remember the order in which we performed, but the thirty people (!!) who turned up to watch seemed to like what they saw. The reason for the low attendance? The gig hadn’t been advertised at all, which we were a bit pissed off about, understandably.
By the time we’d packed up at the end of the night, I was the worse for wear due to alcohol consumption, but managed to play a nice selection of tunes as we were driven south for the Brighton leg of the tour. We were all looking forward to playing Brighton…
Date Four: Brighton Concorde 2
Upon arriving at Brighton mid morning, hunger got the better of us, so we wandered into the town centre to find the same cafe that I’d discovered the last time I was there on the previous tour. It took a bit of finding, but it was worth the wait. We enjoyed a traditional English fry up before heading down the the venue to set up all the equipment.
Later in the afternoon, I met up with Warren Smith from Breakin’ Even, who I learned was now living in Brighton and had arranged to play live percussion with Pete later that night. We found a suitable hostelry and I enjoyed a few ales before heading back to the Concorde for more beers.
As we predicted, the Brighton date was probably the most enjoyable – certainly one of the highest attendances. Everyone played storming sets, including myself – mainly dancefloor friendly tracks to keep everyone moving. Jonathan didn’t have far to travel to this gig, as he only lives up the road. The Hint fanclub was there in force, giving him some great support on the night.
It all ended up getting pretty messy – well it did for me anyway. Laura B had turned up from London to see us play, and we had a extended stay in Brighton that night, eating at a late-night cafe, and drinking yet more booze.. After that, we all boarded the bus which took us on our merry way to Warwick for the date up there.
Date Five: Warwick University
Not the finest night of the tour. Although the venue was really cool with the most efficient and friendly crew that I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with, the general feel of the night just wasn’t ‘doing it’. Before we’d even stepped foot in the place, Jon Wilks had made sure that we were all pretty spaced out – in fact, my recollections of the whole gig are a little sketchy..
After we’d set up the equipment on the spacious stage, we retired to the eatery where we ate our fill and drank copious quantities of the booze that they’d supplied. Of all the dates, the rider was adhered to, so we got more bottled beer than we needed, and also The Ralph Myerz Band got the Lego kit that they’d specified (!!), so everyone was more than happy!
However, the audience were a little subdued, and for some reason, a beat-heavy party had been programmed in the adjacent room, causing a fair amount of sound spill, which meant that an ambient set couldn’t be played. Pete was pretty upset about this, as I was. What was irritating was that the room we were playing in provided a walkthrough to the other event, so people were walking through the room during our sets to get to what was going on next door -some kind of R&B night. Every time the door opened, you’d get this massive amount of soundspill, which was a shame.
I think we were all agreed that Warwick wasn’t the highlight of the i-chill tour. That didn’t stop us from enjoying the end of the night, whereby we all got horribly drunk and ended up doing an earth pipe (a hollow made in soft earth whereby dope-smoke is inhaled through the ground) on the central reservation of the A34 of all places!
Date Six: Birmingham Medicine Bar
After a deep nights sleep on the bus, we emerged into bright October sunlight – it was a beautiful day in Birmingham. By this point, my body was so saturated with booze, that I hit the pub at 11am. Not good. It was a kind of a ‘hair of the dog’ scenario, but it seemed to do the job.. Tonight we were guesting at the Different Drummer night in the Medicine Bar, where we’d played earlier on in 2003 with the Bays.
It turned out to be a great night, although the stage was a little small. This meant that the DJ table had to be situated by the side wall, which wasn’t ideal, but hey. We all rocked it, Pete playing a very dubby set early on, and then me playing a dance-floor friendly set at the end of the night. The RM Band were excellent – probably playing their best set of the tour. They ended up trashing their drum kits, which I’d been looking forward to all the tour.
All that needed to be done now was to get back down to London to unload the kit and get back to normality, which was just what my body needed after the excesses of this particular tour.