An interview I did with label founder and DJ Brian Shimkovitz, whose blog Awesome Tapes From Africa has a huge cult following. Published in the 20th anniversary issue of Dazed & Confused in November 2011, it coincided with Awesome Tapes From Africa’s first release as a label in October 2011.
Check out the Awesome Tapes From Africa blog if you don’t yet know it, it actually is awesome. I’d like to transcribe and post up the entire interview with Brian Shimkovitz at some point soon, as we had a great natter that really didn’t fit in to this word limit. This piece isn’t available online, so check it out here:
You might have heard me wittering on about Lyrix Organix for a while now on this blog and Twitter, ever since discovering this little gem last year. I asked Lyrix founder Dan Tsu to give me a bit more background info on the not-for-profit live music/spoken word project. Read More
As close to an interview with a portrait as I’ll ever get with my phone camera.
Michael Kiwanuka has his first EP Tell Me a Tale out on Communion (produced by Paul Butler of The Bees, available on iTunes), recently finished opening for Adele on her European tour, and with support from the likes of Gilles Peterson, reviewers haven’t held back from comparing him to Bill Withers, Terry Callier, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding and Donnie Hathaway. His current EP has a bigger soul sound to it than the stripped down folky live sets I’ve seen. But it’s when you see him live that you appreciate both the undeniable legitimacy of the comparisons and, equally, that they might just take away from his authenticity and desire to simply be himself. I’ve just seen him play again at the Great Escape Festival in Brighton. Read More
Friday night, Brighton Beach. We don’t get this kind of stuff in London.
Breezy sunny Brighton days wandering between whatever good gigs we could catch, lush hangover-busting breakfasts at Bill’s, and drunken evenings and nights dancing to great new DJs followed by falling over onto the beach and trying to eat pebbles whilst heckling skinny dippers. This is the most succinct way to describe the Great Escape Festival 2011, self-proclaimed ‘Europe’s biggest festival of new music’, and basically an almost-SXSW in the UK. A combination of being hung-over and not organized enough, way too much going on simultaneously, very long queues for some venues, prioritizing friends’ bands and a strong tendency to get distracted, meant I didn’t get to go to all the gigs I wanted to. However, most of the reviews I’ve read all mention just a few totally different artists, so I imagine my experience of not being able to see enough wasn’t unique. I tried to track down the new electronic and dance music on offer, while my soul sister Cat, a musician in her own right, led me to all the right bands and singer songwriters, but we were both hampered by the aforementioned ‘issues’. These are a few of the results:
Drum and Bass DJ-turned-Breakbeat producer-turned-eclectic experimental electronica man Stephen Baxter / Beatoven has just had his latest EP, She Said She Would, released on very new electronica label eVive Records. I’ve been drawing and writing to both his previous (much more instrumental) Fully Baked EP and this one a lot lately, and his mixes have also introduced me to some brilliant artists and music. He kindly agreed to answer a few short questions so I could find out a tiny bit more.
What is Beatoven’s musical history?
I started playing the Clarinet when I was 9 (after being refused a drum kit then guitar then saxophone), which I wasn’t that into at the time but looking back, it gave me a decent grounding in musical theory and musicality. I got heavily into rock/punk/hardcore music at the age of 14 so washed cars and begged my parents until I could get a bass guitar to distort up and thrash around. I formed a band called Convulsive with a couple of mates from school basically influenced by people like Rage Against the Machine, Pantera, Biohazard, Prong, Metallica, Sick of it All, Extra Hot Sauce and Sepultura and just tried to be as obnoxious as possible really.
Electronic music took over when I was taken to a warehouse rave in the mid 90′s. I started DJ-ing DnB and then Breakbeat, playing on a local pirate radio station StormFM and eventually started getting gigs up and down the UK. I guess the natural progression was from DJ-ing to production. Over the last 10 years I’ve been producing Breakbeat as one half of duo Diverted, with quite a few releases on labels such as Rennie Pilgrem’s TCR and Ali B’s Air Recordings. Luckily we got a lot of support from people like Eddie Temple Morris, Annie Nightingale, The Plump DJs and Meat Katie and ended up touring across countries like Australia, Spain, Russia, Hungary and the US as well as getting a long running monthly residency with the Diverted Live electronic band at Cargo in Shoreditch. Hungry for a more eclectic output, I started writing stuff under the name Beatoven, initially just for fun, in early 2008. But encouragement (some might say pressure) from mates, mainly Amy Hiller (who is an extremely talented musician) and Luis Casquero (from the equally awesome band Fira Fem), led me to take it a bit more seriously and push it a bit more. My first Beatoven release was a 6 track EP “the Fully Baked” EP on net label Mine, All Mine! Records in 2009. It is free to download right here: mamrecords.com/download/mam102-beatoven-fully-baked-ep/
My latest release, the “She Said She Would” EP has just come out on new electronica label eVive Records that has just been set up by Steve Lawler. I’m excited to be part of a new label helping the building from the ground up and hopefully things will continue getting bigger and better.
How would you describe your current sound to people who haven’t heard your music yet, and are there any directions you’d like to take with it/explore/re-explore?
That’s a difficult one that because it’s so varied and draws from so many different influences. I guess with a broad brush stroke I’d simply call it electronica, and depending on what mood I’m in it sometimes has hints of folk, hip-hop, post-rock, jazz or dance. I quite like this quote from Rhys in Wild Dogs In Winter:
“Sheets of synth noise and great washes of string sections simmer away below vulnerable guitar lines and restless bass figures, threatening to boil over with each decaying pause. Beatoven creates extraordinarily fertile sound fields from a varied pallet of time and instrumentation, which burst and circle each other like the ever shifting mosaics of a kaleidoscope. If you are looking for music which reaches the parts of your body other music cannot, this could just be it. Constantly experimental and deeply affecting.”
I started out playing musical instruments in bands, then flipped almost over-night into DJ-ing and writing electronic music and now I try to mix the two together. Sometimes the music is more influenced by instruments like my last EP, and sometimes, like with this new EP, it’s mainly influenced by synthesizers and heavily processed sounds. I never really set out with a specific sound in mind and never try to force anything because things can end up sounding quite stale whenever I do. I’m happy with the direction I’m going at the moment but you never know when the next fork in the road will appear. In terms of re-exploring – The other day I was listening to some old tape recordings of a hardcore punk band I was in. That is definitely something I’d like to do again in the future – just for the jokes of it – a bit of a thrash out!!! [Awesome, look forward to this!!]
What are some of the current artists you’re listening to, and what artists have influenced you over time?
I’m really, really into Jon Hopkins at the moment. Can’t stop listening to his Insides album, it’s amazing! The combination of the lush textures – almost classical with glitchy, scratchy atmospheres and the tough beats and bass send me into a frenzy! The mood it creates and the sonic quality are second to none! (for me at the moment anyway). Other artists I’m loving at the moment include (amongst many others) Flying Lotus, Lukid, Modeselektor, Moderat, The Death Set, Son Lux, Micromattic, Siriusmo, Tokimonsta, Baths, Mire Kay, Vessels, Dorian Concept, Lorn, Dosh and Heralds of Change.
Man, the list of artists that have influenced me over time could go on forever! Earlier influences include people like Technotronic, The Prodigy, DJ Shadow, David Holmes, Portishead, Beastie Boys, The Roots, Steve Reich, Moon Dog, Ministry, Pitchshifter, Sick of it All, LFO, early rave music and the more ‘beat-led’ DnB from people like Paradox, Fracture and Neptune, Breakage, Equinox, Senses, Alpha Omega and Goldie. More recently (last sort of 8 Years) I’ve been influenced by people like Si Begg, Aphex Twin, Clarke, Four Tet, Hood, Tortoise, The Remote Viewer, Radiohead, Mouse on Mars, Telefon Tel Aviv, Unkle, Jaga Jazzist, DNTEL, Luke Vibert, Tipper, Prefuse 73, Do Make Say Think, Tunng, A Grape Dope and Apparat. Like I said, this list could go on and on, this is but a mere half a bean of inspiration in a bumper can of beans!
Any other musical/creative projects?
Yes, I joined Wild Dogs in Winter in 2009. They were trying to get away from the stereotypical two guitars, a bass and drums post-rock sound, so I came in to add atmosphere, glitchy noises, electronic beats and sub bass. It’s still quite lo-fi and sparse though, leading to huge tidal waves of sound. It’s great fun to play just because of the huge range of dynamics and emotions…it can get quite intense!
Where can we see/hear you next?
I’m currently working on putting a live show together based around a drum machine, a couple of synths and some loop pedals. Keeping it simple at the moment but hoping to get some drums and guitar involved too if I can rope some other people in to help me. So, if any promoters want me to DJ or do a live show they can hit me up on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Beatoven/135173339836224