Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Bullshit the media blames on the working classes: #1 Racism.

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Occasionally you come face to face with an argument that riles you in its offensive stupidity before you can quite pinpoint exactly why. This particular argument comes up a lot, in one form or another: “immigration is rough on working class people; rich people like having nannies and gardeners and cheap food, but working class people are pissed off that the foreigners took their jobs. I’m personally not one of those nasty intolerant people, but won’t someone think of the poor working class people, it’s a lot for them to cope with.”
We see it from both sides of the political divide; we see it in the way the EDL are mocked more for their bad spelling and bad haircuts than for their fascism. We see it in the constant assertions from the media that there’s some innate conflict for the Labour party over immigration; the liberal bisexual hippy woman Guardian reader in Islington versus the traditional working class white man on a council estate dichotomy. (There are clearly no bisexuals, women, non-white people or hippies in council estates. Nor are there any racists in Islington. Media fact for you.)
Julia Hartley-Brewer from the Daily Express came out it with again on Question Time last month, but it’s not even her comment that’s triggered this post, really. It’s only because she put it in such honest language that the full offensive absurdity of it hit me. I’ve been feeling my skin crawl when people on the left and the right have implied the very same things for a long time.
We need to stop accepting the simplistic assumption that racism and xenophobia are somehow working class phenomena when in fact these things are top down evils. There’s plenty of both among journalists and media owners, many with salaries north of £100,000 a year, wealthy MPs, and even the very pinnacle of the British class system – the Royal Family.
It’s also the narrow dismissal of what immigrants bring to the country – indeed, the implicit conditionality of a migrant’s humanity being founded in what they “bring” to the country, for “our” benefit – that irks me. The insinuation that you’d only be pro-immigration if you had an immigrant as a gardener, but not if you had immigrants in your class at school or in your local A&E or living in your street is saying that immigrant communities are great at making exotic food and make lovely nannies, but they’re not so jolly to actually live alongside. That is a profoundly unpleasant thing to say. Maybe your best friend at school is an immigrant, or the child of an immigrant. Maybe your neighbour who feeds your cat when you’re away is an immigrant. Maybe your partner is an immigrant. But these experiences are all erased by that kind of rhetoric.
It reminds me of Richard Littlejohn’s sneering assertion that Jack Monroe couldn’t possibly be working class or be making cheap simple recipes that are useful to people without much money because poor people “don’t eat pasta, they eat spaghetti out of tins.” In other words, if you don’t fit the stereotype of what an extremely rich journalist, who mostly lives in a different country anyway, thinks a poor British person must live like, then you’re clearly some kind of fraud. That is a very special level of arrogance.
I am tired of seeing rich people project their own xenophobia and racism on to working class people. Can’t they at least take responsibility for it?
Are there racist working class people? Obviously. To say nothing of the fact that people have complex, nuanced views about things. People may think immigration is too high in some areas but low in others. People may think immigration should be recorded better but not necessarily cut. People may think immigration would be fine if minimum wage regulations were always enforced but find it hard to believe that is a reality that will ever materialise. But racism is top down, and it always has been. Is racism and xenophobia uniquely working class, or even disproportionately working class? No.
We might instead ask: does immigration disproportionately have a negative impact on working class people and poorer communities? Yes, it probably does. In fact, it would be surprising if it didn’t because pretty much everything else does. Of course working class people aren’t sharing equally in the economic benefits that immigration brings. That’s hardly a problem with immigration. It’s a problem with economics.
Perhaps that’s the thing that’s really enraging to me. The fact that a whole class of people can notice how immigration impacts the guy living on a council estate much more harshly than a wealthy lady living in Kensington, then identify the problem as immigration, not the differences in the lives and opportunities between those two individuals.
After all, if you took away all the immigration from Britain, those two hypothetical lives would still be grossly unequal. But if you tackled the inequalities between them, you might just mitigate some of these so-called “problems” with immigration at the same time. Radical I know, but maybe that is where our anger should be directed.

Till next time.
Big love. Mark. X

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Thoughts On Love Smoking Podcast #15. Robert Bergman (Rush Hour/Dekmantel)

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Robert Bergman is your favourite DJ’s favourite DJ, or so his tongue in cheek biography reads. But all jokes aside, it’s not far off the mark at least in Amsterdam . A mainstay of the cities vibrant club culture, Robert brings a huge amount of experience to the (turn)table. A local lad and lynchpin at one of Amsterdam's (as well as Europe's) premier record shops, Rush Hour and member of the Dekmantel line up since 2013, Robert has also been a regular guest playing at the likes of Trouw and De School, raising eyebrows and carving out something of the reputation as one of the scene's more forward looking selectors.

Growing up as a music obsessed kid in Holland and finding himself spending an unhealthy amount of time in Rush Hour refusing to leave their store, he ended up becoming something of a protege of the label's Amsterdam shop – so much so that they eventually gave him a job. Since then Robert has continued to feed his insatiable thirst for music in all shapes and forms, becoming an incredibly knowledgeable crate-digger and well-respected DJ in the process. He regularly plays at clubs and festivals all over the world with the Rush Hour crew and recently, after releasing on cult labels like Trilogy Tapes, Dog In The Night and Clone he's been stepping up his work in the studio too launching a new imprint 'Brew' to house his weird and wonderful analogue techno with the first couple of releases coming from Bergman himself. Crucially, his sets always push the boundaries of what is considered club music. A skill he acquired while collecting insane amounts of music.
Robert's life really is music. He produces, collects, DJs and studies music and he is opinionated; the guy actually graduated in musicology while partying at ADE. There are no restrictions in what he loves, as long as it is good. He's just constantly making a noise that he wants you to love and this passion is more than apparent in the wonderful cosmic journey around the sci-fi tinged corners of his record collection which he's put together with this utterly sublime mix for us.

Simply press play and blow your mind. X

Due to Soundcloud being a dick, you can now download the mix, as well as all our previous podcasts, from our HearThis.at page below. X

Till next time.
Big love. Mark. X

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Wilkins/Smagghe/Channeling/World Domination/Tea/Biscuits/Etc.

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I’m not a fan of radio. Anyone will tell yer! They’ll say….”Phyllis, he doesn’t like the radio”, pointing in my direction and jabbing to make the point stick. I’ll nod, pull up a chair, and sit on it backwards, telling them why. I don’t like people talking over music. I don’t like most music. And I don’t like the public, at least the public who phone in to talk about their boring lives and try to win a day off with Sam Sparrow. I don’t know what that means really.
I’d like radio more if it was presented in a style I liked and appreciated. As in, deranged, cruel, dark, horrifying.
“That was the barking dogs hour – 60 minutes of the best barking dog noises, all hour. Uninterrupted mate, uninterrupted. That particular hour contained doberman, daschunds, German Sheperds, all of ’em. All of ’em. I’m Benny Chipotle, and you’re listening to Flap FM.
Coming up! Your shit phonecalls, wasted time and effort for nothing. Call in and tell me what you’re doing and I’ll pretend to care, which I don’t. Here’s a new one; it’s four minutes of a dot matrix printer printing out a nude picture of a woman. Fuck off."
If radio was more like that I'd likely be an avid listener. With that in mind, one of the only broadcasts that I do deign to spend my incredibly precious time listening are Wilkins & Smagghe's twice monthly excursions into audio self indulgence on NTS 'Channeling'. As such, my interest levels were suitably piqued when this brace of beauties popped up pon di old Mixcloud platform this morning complete with a few words of explanation from the lad Wilkins himself. Regardez ci-dessous vos imb├ęciles...

"A few years ago, Ivan Smagghe and myself had ambition... We wanted to rule the world, or at least get out of bed. Hence an idea that no one had before: "why don't we make a double CD mixed compilation that will show our eclectic tastes to the world, like a beacon of light in a sea of "cheeky tech house". But then we went for a walk, bought some shoes or something, and forgot. Rest assured, the compilation project is still being worked on but it's a tough world out there. So we decided to give out those two "snapshot of an era" mixes as our tastes are ever changing. This was the first year of Channeling, Hawkwind obsession, Vladimir and Yugoslavian influences, The Family of God and others, a couple of edits. We hope you enjoy the time machine trip..."

Till next time.
Big love. Mark. X

Monday, 3 April 2017


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Here this, hear this! A flash call out from our friends at the Tyneside Sounds Society to any producers, musicians, artists from the North East of England/Tyneside and beyond to make something new for broadcast! If you weren't aware of the group of what they do, well it was set up initialy to see if there was an interest in establishing a network of people in Tyneside dedicated to Phonography, Field Recording and the aural environment in the Tyneside and North East areas. The network has have an emphasis on exploring both the current environment of Tyneside (also North East in general) and its sound heritage (or ‘lost’ sounds), with the objective of the group being to establish a grass roots network of individuals irrespective of age, gender, knowledge or experience who have an interest and to share knowledge, promote and organise events, activities and contribute recordings. Now blossomed into an informal, loose and open network and after their debut live event last month they're now planning an exciting foray into radio. For the first Tyneside Sounds Society Resonance Extra broadcast they're dedicating it to a single bit of audio - a 2 minute long, 1928 gramophone recording made in the Shipley Art Gallery in Newcastle of King George V speaking to a crowd for the opening of the Tyne Bridge and they're looking for contributions from YOU!!

THE BRIEF: Make something. Call it a track, piece, techno, ambient, pop, experimental, sound art, whatever. It doesn't matter, just make something new!

RULES: No drum machines, synths, guitars or presets etc like Matthew Herbert's 'Manifesto' says - 'no sounds that exist already'. They're asking you to make something new and ONLY use this audio as the source. Exception to this rule is you can use your voice and sampling/re-sampling of that is fine but must incorporate the source audio in what you make. Also, don't forget tell them how you made it, what you used and who you are .

Where can I find the audio to sample? You can download the audio by clicking here.

Can I use effects/pedals etc? Yes

Can I use a sampler? Yes

Can I use a DAW?
Of course just don't stick a soft synth Robert Miles preset String over the top of it and call it an ambient remix. No preset synthesis. (Remember you can make a drum kit/synth from any sound).

Can I use an acoustic drum kit? No

Can I use a Rhodes Piano or Grand Piano? No (then again it depends how you are using it - if you are just going to play Erik Satie's big hits over the top then no).

But what if I was to play the sound into a rehearsal room where we are all playing on synths and drums and do a room recording? Well, that's interesting and very clever and conceptual but how will you have tested yourself?

Can I use a microwave oven?
Yes but use the audio in someway with it. Don't try and get round it and be clever- set yourself the rules and see what happens! Granular Synthesis is fine. Just use only the audio they've asked as a start point.

Can I re-record the audio on a small dictaphone then record the dictaphone playing inside an old microwave oven as I turn it on?
Yes but remember to be safe and make sure you have permission of the microwave oven owner, also remember to send a digital audio file no less than 320k mp3.

LENGTH: As long/short as you want but remember show is only 1 hour long and they might have to edit things down.

 Send what you make in no less than 320k mp3 format via Wetransfer to tynesidesounds@gmail.com by midnight 19th April. Broadcast is on Sunday 23rd April at 10pm.

Be creative, be quick, don’t think about it too much, have some fun, there are no expectations other than you have to follow the rules above. They may not be able to play all contributions but there'll b a playlist of all audio sent to them and put it on soundcloud/mixcloud for people to listen to. So if you feel as though you're up to the challenge, don't hang about and get ya dictaphones out sharpish!

Follow Tyneside Sounds Society on Facebook, here.
Follow Tyneside Sounds Society on Soundcloud, here.

Till next time.
Big love. Mark. X

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

'Watch The Ride' revisited.

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I've been having a bit of a trawl back through my record and CD collection looking for some overlooked gems recently. As such, this definitely doesn't fall into that category but is most definitely worth revisiting if you've not had a listen for a while!
Famous for it's laissez faire attitude towards mixes and following a run of breaks, house and three straight drum 'n' bass volumes, Weatherall's installment of the 'Watch The Ride' series, released back in 2008, was always going to be something a bit different. Taking in rock, disco, indie and a smattering of electronics it came as something of a shock to those who were expecting a straight up techno/electro mix when it landed. Right from the very start with the moody ambiance of  Ray Montgomery's 'London is swinging by his neck' monologue, WTR set it's stall out as something clearly a bit different. Steering us through now famous names such as Simian Mobile Disco, Alloy Mental and a sublimely unsettling rearrangement of Siouxsie’s 'Into A Swan'. The churning, spaghetti-dub, punk joyride reaches a heavenly peak with Saturn 5’s 'Oscillation' and Silver Apples’ 'I Have Known Love' it is as close to the sound of England after dark as it got in 2008, in reality or otherwise. More than any other British DJ, Weatherall has consistently produced mixes that managed to reflect the mood and feel of a country while still being able to champion the diverse as well as making you dance! His most enduring and endearing trait has always been the element of surprise, from production to DJing and the 'Cut the Crap' mix in the mid 90's had all the energy, but most importantly the snap and crackle, of a vibrant dance scene, whilst his journeys into rockabilly and dub where more reflective as a youth scene grappled with post ecstatic adjustment. But for me this piece best captures the mood of the late noughties in British music culture. It's the sonic equivalent of a Martin Amis or Will Self novel from the same time, moving from bedsits in Victorian mansions to crazy clubs, onto haunting early morning streets and the inevitable mad encounter on the way home. Ending in such a jaunty fashion is proof that in the ears of anyone who's ears are as open as their mind, good music is good music, whatever the genre, and here he’s simply letting fly with a killer selection of dance music, showing his uncanny knack for presenting the right records in the most toupee-whisking fashion.
The challenge is to blend it so beautifully into an hour long piece. As always, the best judge of a mix is how it sounds after a lengthy lay off. Having played this today for the first time in a good 4 or 5 years, it felt like the first time I'd ever heard it and as good it did when new.

Till next time.
Big love. Mark. X

Monday, 20 March 2017

Help save Cobalt! Crowdfunder.

Without sinking too deeply into the bog of misty eyed nepotism, it's safe to say that we're big fans of Cobalt Studios in The Ouseburn. Situated about as far away as possible, both physically and culturally, from the cliched glitz and fake glamour of Newcastles 'Diamond Strip' and 'Bigg Market' areas, it's part of our favourite little nook of Newcastle and sits pride of place in the middle of a busy little creative hub which includes a number of our favourite bars and venues. We were so taken by it we even threw our first party as 'Bodytalk' there with Nathan Wilkins and Ivan Smagghe.
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The story of how the space we all know as Cobalt Studios came about is really quite spectacular, as it was a mere 18 months ago that Mark and Kate turned what was a wood work shop into a low key arts venue that they wanted to run by way of research, to see what felt right in the space. To find what people wanted and what worked. Use of the space since has been diverse, ranging from storytelling to student art exhibitions to workshops, networking, film events, live music and DJ nights. They have taken part in The Hidden Civil War Project, our own Bodytalk party, Evo Emerging, Open Studios, The Late Shows … entry has been free on many occasions and when they have charged they've always tried to keep the cost as low as possible. Any profits made have gone straight back into improving the space with additional equipment, more lighting etc.

Feedback has been incredibly positive and they are now clear about how they want to run the space; it won’t open all the time but each time it does open it will be filled with something unique and often unseen in Newcastle. They want to search far and wide, nationally and internationally, for performance and music and bring it to you in an intimate, colourful and carefully cared for space. They also want to facilitate local talent and say yes to some of the brightest creatives in this city with ideas they would like to showcase.
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However, a noise complaint has been made against the venue and despite the dozens of messages of support for them that the council and licensing authorities received it's now been stated by those departments that without significant building work to contain noise they won’t be granted a permanent or even temporary licence.
Unfortunately, with these noise complaints they have hit an unexpected obstacle and in order to be allowed to continue they must prevent noise escaping and have also had to get a licensing lawyer to represent them. Legal bills are not cheap.
They don’t have a secret stash of money in place to achieve this and the time scale is especially challenging, but if you are willing to support them so that they can make this happen they will repay you many years of colourful cultural events and there are lots of rewards too !
Its not always easy to run independent and alternative spaces and your help and support is really appreciated.
They need to soundproof cobalt studios venue space and are asking for all of our help!! In return they have dreamt up some great incentives and can promise many years of colourful music, dancing and events. Without soundproofing they simply won’t be allowed to continue putting on great live music, DJ’s, performance and other stuff on at Cobalt Studios.

THIS IS ALL OR NOTHING AT ALL FOLKS! If they don't hit their target you get it all back and they will return the space to a woodwork shop or a studio. If they manage to fund this it will allow them to add some magical touches and also to get the floor poured on the top floor as the start of an open studio space. If you're interested in getting involved and went to see what the incentives on offer are and how much you can pledge then get yourself across to the soundproof Cobalt crowdfunder page by clicking here.

Follow Cobalt Studios on Twitter, here.
Follow Cobalt Studios on Facebook, here.
Check out the Cobalt Studios website here.

Till next time.
Big love. Mark. X

Monday, 13 March 2017

Mozhgan * Hugo Ball/Daphne podcast.

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The Hugo Ball mixes are always a highlight for us here at TOLAS and this one is of particular note, not least as this installment was put together by one of our earliest podcast contributors, rapaciously talented San Francisco selector, Mozhgan Shariat. A DJ who definitely goes many places and touches on many genres, she's been draining the fevered sweat from San Frans' underbelly since 2011 alongside Jason Greer and Solar as part of the We Are Monsters crew and has crafted a truly cosmic perspective on sound tapping into a wider spectrum of influences than most. Comfortable throwing together sets which touch base with everything from dub, disco, afro, techno, rock and industrial sounds, it's these ideas that mark Mozhgan out as a truly great selector and the reason we're always excited to hear her work. For a long time now she's been described as a 'best kept secret' of sorts, a tag now however that is becoming wholly inappropriate given her current rise.
This mix comes as part of Hugo Ball's contribution to Smart Bar's Daphne series, which celebrates the marginalized women and non binary voices in electronic music presents a month long series that focuses on some of our favorite artists currently working in the trenches.
Dive in.

Follow Mozhgan on Soundcloud, here.

Till next time.
Big love. Mark. X