Highlights from a busy year
The Crawdaddy, Dublin
I’ve always wanted to play a gig out in Ireland. For a start, I’ve got family over there – my wife Nina is of Irish descent. But it’s the music that seems to eminate from the coutry that I find appealing – there’s a diversity of tastes that shines through when you listen to the radio for instance…
Anyway, for this gig we were playing at a venue in the centre of Dublin called the Pod. It’s an older venue – in fact it has a lot of history and Crawdaddy is just another reincarnation. The minute I walked in to do the soundcheck, I was overawed by the vibe of the space – a lovely low balcony and a great soundsystem. Perfect for the kind of gig that I’d intended to play there.
The gig had been organised by a friend of mine called Cal, alongside Keith Downey from Psychonavigation Records. We were playing alongside a guy called Sean Quinn, who’s signed to Keith’s label, plus the inimitable Mixmaster Morris. In fact, Morris was headlining and the press for the gig had been great.
So we were all expecting a good crowd! The only downside to the night was that we had to draw proceedings to a close pretty early – 11pm. The timing was quite important – hence Cal went on to play some music at about 8.20, Sean played a live set from about 9ish which meant I went on at about 9.35. It didn’t really leave me enough time to play the full set that I’d intended to perform, but hey – Morris had to get on and spin…
However, due to the weather that night, the turnout was pretty abysmal. The audience numbered about fifty or sixty; half of which were my Irish relatives who’d turned up in force to give me some much needed moral support, God bless ’em!
A great night, and a great weekend. Nina and Ed came along for the trip from the UK, and we did the sights and drank plenty of the black stuff…
The End, London
Well this was strange! The Big Chill SoundSystem at the End; a notoriously heavy-duty London club with a Grade-A rig…
We were guests of Chew the Fat, a breaks night who were doing the main room, while we were invited to look after the lounge. It was an enjoyable venue to play for purely novelty value – I think everyone did a sterling job considering what was going on in the next room – Evil Nine and the Dummatic Twins were in full flow and we had to play harder to even be heard above the main room…
Guy Morley (Yam Yam) played first, then Pete Lawrence, then Paul Gathercole (AGK), then me, then Murray (Leggo Beast) and Lol Hammond brought proceedings to a close with his trademark set.
Big Chill Bar : alucidnation Day
This was an all day event, celebrating the launch of my debut album on Big Chill Recordings that I was asked to programme and co-ordinate, supplying a raft of DJs that I felt have assisted and supported me throughout my musical career to date.
It was a long day – I was there for twelve hours; I’d decided to play between DJ sets from other people, thereby ensuring that whatever time punters turned up, they’d be able to catch some of what I was playing. I’d decided against playing anything live – the bar doesn’t really lend itself to live performance, but hey – it was REALLY busy there all through the day – in fact one of the busiest days since the opening nearly a year ago…
Sets were supplied by Laura B, Stuart Nisbet, Pete Lawrence, Tom Middleton, Kate and Keiran plus Mixmaster Morris, who wrapped the whole event up with style.
An evening showcasing bands signed to Big Chill Recordings in Brighton. A perfect venue and an attentive audience ensured that this was going to be a winner – seated guests were treated to great live sets from me, Eva and AGK throughout the evening.
Eva played first; a stunning set featuring tracks from her debut album ‘Shadow Gazing’ showcasing her lovely voice – it always sounds better live as opposed to the record. Guy Morley (Yam Yam) span some tunes while I set up my gear. I played a set of tunes that mainly consisted of vocal-heavy numbers. The audience seemed to approve – I’ve had some really positive responses from various folk who attended.
After I’d finished, AGK graced the stage and played a winning set of tracks from their soon-to-be-released LP ‘The Liking of Things’ – they have real stage presence I think…
After that, it was left to Murray to wind the evening up with a typically eclectic set of new and old records – he played a great track by Francois Kevorkian featuring U-Roy!
It was great to catch up with a a few old Brighton buddies too – a big thanks to Eugenie Arrowsmith for making this gig happen.
Future Music | Computer Music
Future Music editor in chief, Andy Jones has always been a big fan of alucidnation. The magazine gave my debut LP glowing reviews in this issue.
Computer Music ran a quick page-long article about my working methodologies and a big up for the new LP.
Big Chill play Nottingham & Manchester
Nottingham Date 23rd July
An evening showcasing bands signed to Big Chill Recordings in Nottingham. What struck me upon walking into the Malt Cross was the glass vaulted ceiling that covered the venue; absolutely stunning. The stage was quite elevated, allowing you to look down onto your audience; in hindsight I’m not sure whether I completely grooved on this, but it was different!
Lol performed tracks from his forthcoming EP on Big Chill Recordings, playing solo piano first. Eva took to the stage next and again blew me away with the beauty of her songs and her stunning voice. I was up next and played a half-hearted set that didn’t set either me or the audience alight. Then AGK [minus a couple of band members] played a live set. They’ve acquired a drummer who added a real character to their set; Ben was on fine form as usual.
Then it was up to Lol and Murray to get the crowd up and jigging about, which they managed to do rather well, Lol playing pretty much the same set as he’d played numerous times before…
Manchester Date 24th July
After the gig in Nottingham the night before, I was determined to have a goody at this one in Manchester. After all, it was Manchester where I’d really enjoyed playing on one of the previous tours with a completely inpromptu freeform gig alongside Laura B, Pete Lawrence etc.
A great venue – small and smelly, but it had a good feel about it. Whereas in Nottingham I’d set up virtually a whole mobile studio to perform, I decided to keep things stripped back and simple for this one, and crucially, give my vocals to the engineer to deal with – usually I like to have control over my voice, but it was a useful experiment – rather than using headphones for monitoring my vocal, I used a proper monitor – like what the professionals use! Consequently I really enjoyed myself; as did everyone else – my cousin Jake and his girlfriend Sam were in the audience and said that my voice was on top form.
A similar lineup to the previous night; a couple of additions to the AGK lineup; worthy of note was the guitarist, who added a BlueNile-esque quality to the already excellent tunes. Ally Fogg played some nice records too.
A top night!!
Big Chill Festival, Eastnor
Nottingham Date 23rd July
The fourth year that the Big Chill have held their increasingly successful festival at this lovely location in the Malverns.
This year, the crowd numbered some 30,000 people, and the weather smiled down on everyone all weekend, apart from some pretty heavy showers on the Thursday evening.
Now, let me think… we took a leisurely drive over to the Malverns from North Devon, where we’d been celebrating the wedding of Karen and Simon. So we arrived on the Thursday late afternoon to family and friends who were already there; we’d managed to secure our usual spot in quiet camping, which was pretty cool. After we’d arrived, there seemed to be a steady flow of mates turning up, most of whom seem to have acquired campervans. so we formed a neat little community in no time at all! Keiran and Kate have kindly donated an awning to attach to the side of our campervan, so we erected that before it started pissing it down later that evening.
Again, Thursday night was my only night ‘off’, so I made good use of it; getting drunk, probably.
So, the Friday. I gave an exclusive interview to Kate and Kieran at Big Chill FM in the morning, chatting about what I’d been up to over the previous twelve months. This was also the day where I’d organised an afternoon and early evening in the Finlandia Cocktail bar. Basically, the coup was that all the artists signed to Big Chill Recordings were given an alloted time slot of around five hours to programme pretty much what they wanted. I decided to get my family in to play some records! First up, we had Stuart Nisbet kicking things off in style with some nice mellow disco grooves. He warmed up for my Mum and Dad, who bucked the usual DJing trend and announced what they were playing at the start of each record – in each instance giving a potted history of why they’d chosen each particular track. It was a fascinating and quite emotional set – I ended up getting a bit tearful for some reason… Anyway, after they’d finished, I played some stuff for about twenty minutes before Jake Bickerton made his DJ debut with a storming selection of tracks which quite surprised me – I was assuming that Jake would choose some acoustic ‘songs’, but he played upbeat and really got into the whole ‘DJ performance’ thing too, something which his brother Patrick is very good at!
So, after Jake, my wife Nina and sisters Julie and Claire (heavily pregnant with first child) made their appearance playing an eighties soul revival set which was hugely appreciated by the crowd which had swelled to quite a large number by this point. It’s fair to say that Nina assumed the role of DJ while Julie provided the ‘performance’ and Claire bopped around behind the decks pressing the odd button here and there. A fantastic set! It was left to Patrick (aka Peepshow Paddy) to round the evening’s entertainment off, which he did in his inimitable style, playing a great D&B set with some of the smoothest mixing I’d heard. The crowd loved it, as did he! Gotta say that for me, this day was the highlight of the entire weekend.
Considering my initial sceptisism (and a few others too) I’m convinced that it was a riproaring success!
The Saturday kicked off with Pete Lawrence and myself doing the breakfast show on Big Chill FM. After a rather slow start, we got into the swing of things with some great music, some silly things like Karaoke and a revealing interview with Jez from the Swingle Singers.
The Saturday night was when I was doing my main alucidnation gig on the Sanctuary stage; mixed feelings at the time, but looking back on it, it was a great gig. I had a full tent; about 1500 people grooving to a more upbeat selection than I’m usually known for. Ed did a sterling job debuting on the visuals, considering that the equipment that he’d been promised didn’t turn up…
On the Sunday night, I was supposed to be playing my traditional slot on Big Chill FM, very late, just before Mixmaster Morris, but instead I had an early night, and failed to wake up in time to do the show…
Yeah, it was a great weekend, but all in all, a bit too big for me in order to thoroughly enjoy myself.
DJ Magazine Interview
I was interviewed at the Big Chill’s 2005 Eastnor extravaganza by Paul Clarke; here’s the article..
In the summer of 1995 a few hundred friends, hippies and general hangers around gathered in the Black Mountains in Wales for a weekend that has since gone down in clubland legend. Many of them had met the year before at a gig in London’s Union Chapel where the ambient soundtrack melted the heart and knees like an ice-cream which perfectly suited the name The Big Chill. And as they slumped out under the stars around the single stage one of the records that tickled their ears was 76:14 by the then little-known duo of Tom Middleton and Mark Pritchard trading under the name of Global Communication.
Fast-forward ten years and across the border into Herefordshire and the crystalline sounds of ‚76:14‚ are ringing out again. The thing is there’s now only about twenty people around to hear it this time. But that’s not because The Big Chill has dwindled down to a handful of hardened slackers who’ve spent so long horizontal that they’ve actually fossilised. For in the fields all around that original few hundred has expanded into nearly thirty thousand people who are dancing, drinking and dilly-dallying around the nine other stages – and when you’ve got a choice between Alice Russell’s downhome soul and Afincianado’s Balearic beats amongst other choices at the same time then two blokes simply playing a remastered copy of their album have got their competition cut out.
Possibly none of us would be here without 76:14‚ but whilst you’ve got to respect the roots The Big Chill‚ it seems, has grown out of all control.
‘It’s enormous now,’ understates Bruce Bickerton. ‘The first one was so secretive and word of mouth but now they’ve sold out thousands of tickets months in advance. But I think although its got bigger the vibe has stayed pretty similar. It’s not like the music is secondary but the best thing about it is just catching up with old mates.’
A veteran of the first Welsh Mountains gala, Bruce claims The Big Chill has been a life-changing experience with the wide eyes of a born-again believer. And in his case that’s undoubtedly true, for not only did he first ‘make it’ with his future wife there but it also inspired the sound of his own musical project Alucidnation, who recently released the Induction album on Big Chill Recordings.
‘I still love things like The Orb and although myself and The Big Chill have moved on we’ve always been about good horizontal listening music‚’ he explains.
Of course, if there’s one man who knows about that then it’s The Orb’s own head honcho Alex Paterson. The name of his most famous band might crop up in conversations and be emblazoned on T-shirts all around the site but this is actually his first visit to the festival which – as one of the original architects of ambient house – he’s played a pivotal role in building the scene for.
‘I don’t really think of myself as influential but when I hear things like The Blue Room‚ on the radio and see things like this I suppose I am,’ Alex demurs. ‘I don’t touch Glastonbury these days and most other festivals are just full of acid casualties but this is much more my cup of tea.’
And the reception afforded Alex’s new band Transit Kings as they play their first full English gig on the main stage on Saturday shows that he’s just The Big Chill’s cup of fairtrade chai as well. All the elements you loved about the Orb are there in the bubbling synths and cheeky samples but there’s much tougher breakbeats behind tracks like ‘Japanese Cars’ which get the entire field pogoing in celebration. ‘They absolutely loved it!’ enthuses Alex, after the constant cheers for ‘one more!’ are unfortunately cut short by pressures of time. ‘It’s important to prove that we’ve progressed further.’
As has The Big Chill itself since those early days of an ambient-only diet. OK, there’s still plenty of soporific soundscapes‚ undulating over the crowd in the Sanctuary Tent although as people congregate to come down in there when the main stages finish at 2am it’s ironically the least relaxed place on the site after hours as the gnashing teeth of everyone who can’t face bed yet almost forms a beat to the otherwise slo-mo soundtrack. But as the numbers have expanded over the years so has the choice of music, meaning that on Saturday alone DJ Mag gets to hear the Afrobeat of Libyan refugees Tinariwen, Slovakian folktronica from Dlhe Diely and best of all the Kiwi dub of Fat Freddy’s Drop. Undoubtedly the musical highlight of the whole shebang, Fat Freddys work their way through only five tunes in 90 minutes but keep everyone utterly enraptured as tunes like Ernie and Hope swell like a far more pleasant version of the belches DJ mag gets as the bass frequencies disagree with all the organic stew we’ve just shovelled into our stomachs.
In fact, as night falls, it’s the big rather than the chilled aspect of the festival that takes over as everyone who has spent the afternoon supine in the sunshine suddenly snaps awake. Whereas previously the club tent was pretty much empty during the day as everyone chose to relax in the open air this year the decision to only open it at 8pm means its packed with people up for it from the very start. Which works especially well for Underground Resistance on Friday. Rather than cruising through the dull terrain of most techno the Detroit figureheads climb up ever-steeper peaks of intensity – which admittedly makes it an uphill struggle for some. Not that there’s much respite to be found at either Idjut Boys‚ or Different Drummer’s sets elsewhere that evening as the former drop everything from The Rolling Stones to Van Halen amidst their disco staples and the latter seriously endanger the structural stability of the Strongbow tent with their deep house and weighty dub.
Come Sunday in fact and it’s going to take a pretty irresistible beat to shake DJ mag out of the stupor brought on by two days of too much dancing, not enough sleep and having our heads scrambled by conversations with the random but all unfailingly well-meaning loons we seem to have attracted as the festival wears on. Luckily that beat is exactly what Gilles Peterson provides as he spins an energetic set of old favourites like ‘A Message To You, Rudy’ crossed with fresh and fearsome dancefloor tracks and enlivened with Earl Zinger’s patter. Then it’s a choice between his protégé Benji B proving that he’s not just Gilles junior with a toughly funky house and broken beats set in the cocktail bar and neo-soul group The Rebirth on the main stage. Benji wins out largely because of great tracks like ‘The Journey In’ and The Rebirth’s on-stage proclamations makes them sound like they’ve been beamed in direct from The God Channel. Which finds us sipping our cocktails, gazing out at the sun sinking over the hills and wondering whether we’ve got a good case for Trade Descriptions here. After all, how can a festival billed as The Big Chill leave us feeling this knackered?
De La Warr Pavillion, East Sussex
I was billed to play this event alongside other Big Chill Recordings artists, namely AGK (who were kind of launching their LP ‘the liking of things’ here) and Eva Abraham. Chris Coco and Ben Osbourne were also DJing and performing some kind of AV thing. The two day event was to provide a relaunch for the facelifted De La Warr Pavillion, a fantastic art deco building dating from the early 1930’s.
I was due to play live, but I have to be honest and say that the space didn’t inspire me – the system was positioned in quite an odd space, almost a walkthrough. Eva had told me that earlier on in the day, while she’d been performing, people had been walking past her with their fingers in their ears! So I decided on a laptop set comprising all of my own material.
Played pretty much across the board – some rather heavy rain set in during the start of my set; consequently I had quite a bit of an audience. Towards the end of my set, I began to play ambient, to reflect the view of the sea and the overall greyness of the impending evening. It was whilst I was playing ‘Sunny Daze’ that the sun burst through a break in the clouds and provided us all with one of the most vivid rainbows that I’ve ever experienced!
I think I provided a really gentle aural accompaniment to the wonderous natural visuals – it must have sounded good – I shifted a fair few copies of my LP!