FEATURE: 2017: The Year of Rock?





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IN THIS PHOTO: The Amazons


The Year of Rock?


IN the past couple of weeks…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age)

I have questioned whether Rock is dead – and whether there are any signs of a resurgence. Depending who you speak to depends on what they say: maybe there are fewer great Rock bands or perhaps music is undergoing some shifts and taste changes. To me, I feel the regency of Rock happened in the 1970s and sort of came back in the 1990s: the Britpop era and American bands like Pavement and Nirvana really helped put guitar music firmly in the public precipice. Over the last decade-or-so there has been the odd band that has excited me but I feel this year is the most-promising we have seen in a long time. The Amazons are one of my favourite new bands and have shown they are capable of producing crowd-uniting anthems and presenting that instantly-appealing Rock sound – their debut album is out on 2nd June. They are bountiful with their riffs and have the chemistry and connection to ensure any song gets straight into the forebrain. Outlets like BBC have lauded them and tipped for success: they are one of those groups who has not got the attention they deserve. There is still a feeling other genres and obsessing critical minds. I understand why there is still attention paid to Pop stars and the finest of the genre. I feel some of the mainstream-approved are rather weak and commercial. If you look at the more credible options on the market – Zara Larsson, Lorde and Louisa Johnson, for instance – you have a trio of names who can provide some beautiful and thought-provoking music. They have long careers ahead and show you do not need to shred it to get respect and attention. I have mentioned Folk artists like Billie Marten: there are so many great young (mainly female) artists providing something proper and pure to the Pop charts. Of course, it is the majority of the charts that are causing me to yearn for something hard and gritty. There are so many new artists who produce boring, marketable music that is directed to teenagers and those whose musical collection doesn’t go further back than One Direction. Newcomers like The Amazons were brought up on a mix of classic Rock bands and the best of the new breed.

Through the touring circuit, they have sharpened their performance skills and on-stage chat: they can banter and hold the crowd in their palms. What I have noticed, from the live performances I have seen online, is how they have grown in confidence and assurance. They are never cocky or swaggering: professional and completely in-control of what they are doing. That seems to be a common thread bonding the brightest and boldest Rock acts at the moment. Of course, there is nothing quite as simple as ‘Rock’. There is all sort of sub-genres and complexities that mean two bands who, on the surface, seem alike might play two different genres – one might be Alternative whilst the other is Indie. To be fair, last year was not the most productive for truly great Rock albums. There has been a bit of a shortage the last couple of years. Of course, unsigned acts have been keeping busy but what of the established order? 2016 was very much a bumper year for Urban artists and black artists coming through strong – career-high records from Beyoncé and Chance the Rapper stealing much of the spotlight. I will put a little playlist at the end of this feature – something that collates songs from all the new acts; a few songs from artists I am expecting to define the mainstream best this year. Goat Girl is a South London band whose debut singles Scum and Country Sleaze have been compared with Fat White Family. They put their debut L.P. out this year and are one of the most talked-about bands in London at the moment. Cabbage, like The Amazons, were spotted by BBC and evoke the baggy, psychedelic spirit of Stone Roses with the rawness and Punk clatter of The Clash. Put Estrons into the mix and you have a group that puts you in mind of Wolf Alice. There is that comparable explosion and animalistic bite: they have aggressive drums and punch-drunk tracks; angst-ridden vocals that will thrill the Festival Republic stage at this year’s Reading Festival. The Molochs have a 1960s-vibe to them and remind you of The Rolling Stones with even more sybaritic swing and lip-smacking sexuality. It is groovy and cool; beckoning and hypnotic. Expect them to go far and make a big impact on the mainstream very soon.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Goat Girl; PHOTO CREDIT: Holly Whitaker Photography

That is just a collection of bands that show there is plenty of genuine Rock talent waiting in the wings. The mainstream is proffering and promising some big albums at the moment – few epic Rock albums are among them. We have already seen phenomenal efforts from Laura Marling, Elbow and Stormzy. In the coming months, there will tantalising treats from Fleet Foxes and Gorillaz. It seems like it is a year for big returns – more on that later. It will be great seeing Gorillaz showcase a new album – their last was 2011’s The Fall. They recently premiered four new tracks and proof that they have lost none of their game. The sound of songs Andromeda and Hallelujah Money seems like they are mixing their eponymous album with Plastic Beach. It will be interesting to see how the album, Humanz, resonates and what sort of subjects are covered. London Grammar are preparing their sophomore album, Truth Is a Beautiful Thing. The London-based trio have showcased new tracks like Rooting for You and are adding their special touch to the music of 2017. Aside from that, we have some rumoured albums and other big releases but, as you can see, there is more Electronic and Pop/Soul sounds than all-out Rock. It is a great year for music and carries on from 2016’s incredible legacy. I am seeing so much variation and potential for the remaining months. Apart from the fact there are some excellent Pop/Soul/Folk/Experimental albums afoot: what can we expect when it comes to the arenas of Rock and Alternative? Those new artists are likely to cause some commotion in the underground but not in the position to make a huge impact on the mainstream in the coming months. To be fair, you do not need to have an acclaimed, visible album to prove you are a force to be reckoned with. It is clear Rock is going strong and given birth to some sensational acts. What I am desperate to see if the charts – the obnoxious Pop acts and awful offerings – given a real shaking. Where will those earthquake rumbles emerge from?

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Luckily, and without any fully-formed songs coming to light, two of the world’s premier guitar-owning acts have come to light. Royal Blood have been all quiet and secretive since their debut back in 2014. A year after they formed (in Brighton) they brought us that incredible, instant eponymous album. As soon as that arrived, critics went crazy for the incredible riffs and teeth-snarling cuts. Songs ripped through the speakers: the drums were punchy and big whilst the guitar (a bass guitar made to sound like an electric guitar) caused all sort of excitement. Although Royal Blood wore its influences heavily on its sleeve – The White Stripes, Led Zeppelin and Rage Against the Machine among them – you could not fault the sheer excitement and rush you got when listening to the music. It was a solid and proper British band (duo) producing a world-class Rock album. Many had pined for that for years and got their wish. Touring demands meant the fabulous duo were a little tied-up and itinerant. That being said, you would expect something between 2014 and now, right? The guys have left a three-year gap. I was worried they had burned-out or disappeared off the face of the planet. Fortunately, they have found time to get into the studio and lay down some tunes. They are being sneaky and only disclosed a very brief video – a snatch of a song from the as-yet-untitled album. To me, their forthcoming album will send the necessary shockwaves through the music world that will inspire the underground bands to band together and charge. There are a lot of great acts in the mainstream but few who rock quite as hard as Royal Blood. There is going to be a lot of buzz around the album and just what it will contain. I am expecting something similar to their debut: songs about love and daily slices of life set around buzz-saw riffs and avalanche-huge drums. It is a simple recipe that recalls The White Stripes on full attack. There is no shame employing that sound at all. So many people, who had strayed away from a rather tepid and intermittent Rock scene, have been coaxed back by Royal Blood.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Cherry Glazerr (a band set to ignite 2017); PHOTO CREDIT: Janell Shirtcliff http://janellshirtcliff.com/

I hope the boys’ absence has not turned people away but guarantee they will flock back is something suitably meaty and substantial is delivered. I have little doubt that will be the case: Royal Blood bringing a healthy dose of Rock into contemporary music. Another one of Royal Blood’s influences is Queens of the Stone Age. A few days ago, it was revealed (leaked more like) the Californian band were adding the final touches to their new album. With big-hitters like Fleet Foxes readying new material, Queens of the Stone Age are likely to give them some healthy competition. …Like Clockwork was their last album and was, like Royal Blood, recorded a few years ago. 2013, in fact, was the last taste of Queens’. The circumstances of both acts is rather different. Royal Blood had that demand off the debut that meant touring duties ensured studio time was rather limited. Queens of the Stone Age put a lot of soul and tears into …Like Clockwork. It came out of a black period for their leader, Josh Homme. Suffering deep depression – he almost died after botched surgery on a back injury – and was incapacitated for a long time. The songs and sounds on that album reflect anger, darkens and doubt. If previous Queens’ albums have been them in the desert with the convertible roaring: …Like Clockwork was the scorpion flicking its tale against the cold chill of the night breeze. Some more upbeat, ‘traditional’ Queens’ songs were on the album – My God Is the Sun and Smooth Sailing providing epic choruses and incredible shredding – but there was an abiding sense of introspection and openness. We have heard no new Queens of the Stone Age material from the forthcoming album. They will release more information in time; but you just know they have created a thunderbolt of a record! Given the political and social division in America right now: might we see an album that reflects that turbulence and disgust? I think we will, and what’s more, Homme has been honing his skills whilst working with Iggy Pop – he was on-board for his album, Post Pop Depression.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Promotional Image from Queens of the Stone Age’s …Like Clockwork

You know Josh Homme and his crew – maybe some collaborators appearing on the album? – will bring the good. Having Royal Blood and Queens of the Stone Age preparing new albums gives a lot of hope for modern Rock. The albums might not completely make up for a lack of standout Rock albums the last couple of years but go to show Rock is, most certainly, not dead. It might be a bit limp and not as productive as it once was. Like Mick Jagger has shown: age is no barrier when it comes to productivity and fertility – still able to ‘produce’ into his dotage. We cannot truly return to the glory-days of the 1990s or 1970s. Modern music is defined by its variation and eclecticism. So many promising Rock artists are coming through that suggests a solid wave is about the hit the mainstream shores. I am really curious seeing what the rest of this year provides us. I am encouraged to see some genuinely original and hungry Rock bands touring hard and setting their sights on longevity and success. I have little time for people who say Rock is extinct and relying on its past glories. If your standards are THAT high – and you expect the kind of scene we were seeing in the early-mid-‘90s – then you will go away disappointed. The fact things aren’t as strong and busy as past years does not mean there is little to recommend. Queens of the Stone Age and Royal Blood are just two acts that are going to unveil big and purposeful Rock albums. The Amazons should be ready to bring their debut out – so many of their contemporaries are thinking of releasing L.P.s. There is hardly a shortage of brilliant Rock bands to get your teeth into. There are some smug media types sitting around laughing at themselves: where have all those great Rock bands gone to? Pop and mainstream tastes are taking over and threatening to overshadow all the wonderful albums already released this year – the likes of Laura Marling and Dutch Uncles, for example. Fear not because all we need are a couple of albums to drop that show what brilliant Rock music can do. Whether Queens of the Stone Age are bringing their album out this year or next – the fact a single can’t be too far away is more than enough. Same goes with Royal Blood but one imagines their new album is mere weeks away. Once the seismic calculations are figured and digested, that will give the po-faced critics imperative proof Rock is waking up and in unforgiving mood. After a rough few months for us all, we need the sort of motivation and kick only Rock can deliver. Prepare for some big arrivals that will give music the dinosaur-tail-swipe it needs. The preening and sneering doubters…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Royal Blood

WON’T know what hit them!




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THE latest E.P. from Ruben features three upbeat tracks that…

look at a man engulfed by his own desires. Deal with the Devil is a look inside a human conflicted by lusts, disciplines and release. In a way, the three-track release is a concept of resisting desires, succumbing to them and then assessing the aftermath – knowing it is okay to be flawed. Ruben talks about his music: he is someone often compared to songwriting heavyweights such as Neil Tennant. He mentions his affection for Pet Shop Boys and how songwriters like John Grant have helped him through some uncertain periods. I was eager to know how his future was being mapped – I learn Reuben has just got a place in London – and how Deal with the Devil compared with his previous E.P., Only the Young. Ruben lets me into his creative process and offers up some wise words for any new artists coming through.


Hi, Ruben. How are you? How has your week been? 

Hi, Sam. I’ve been good, thanks. It’s been a busy week as I’ve been performing my new material around London – but it’s been satisfying.

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please? 

Sure. I am a Synthpop artist that writes and produces my own material. My music is up-tempo (well, most of it) and may make you want to dance. But, if you listen to the lyrics, I’m often channelling a very sad or disturbing story or theme.

Deal with the Devil is your new E.P. What can you tell us about the new release and the significance of that title? 

This E.P. is a story set across the three tracks.

I recently turned twenty-five and decided it was time to confront aspects of my personality that I was never very comfortable with.

The idea of “making a deal with the Devil” is really a metaphor for accepting the flawed traits in yourself – that’s the significance behind the track name. However, when I wrote it, I did imagine myself in a smoky Texas bar having a whisky with the man himself – but my intention for the song is it to have more of a metaphorical meaning.

As the E.P. continues on, the story documents a man’s fall into his dark desires and he ends up becoming engulfed by them.  It’s a social commentary on the way we live our lives too: eating too much, swiping left or right to find a lover. Everything is so instant and quick and we have way too much, so I wanted to comment on that. Eventually, he comes out the other end with a better understanding of himself and he realises that no one is either a “saint or a sinner” – but that we all live in that grey area in-between.

That’s the conclusion I came to within myself and it helped me be more comfortable with the character that I am. It’s called being human and that’s ok. The production is up-tempo Synthpop with stomping beats. My intention was to get people dancing. I love how catchy and direct the title is (which is why I used it).

It seems like a bolder and more developed work than Only the Young. What, would you say, are the main differences between the two E.P.s? 

Yes, I agree. With Only the Young (my first EP), I had written those songs over the course of a year. They were strands of different ideas and themes that I had in my head which I put together to create that body of work. However, with Deal with the Devil, once I had written the title track, all the other songs came to me as well. It was as if that whole theme of facing your fears had already formed – so I just kept writing and the tracks came to me very quickly. I think because I was more clear and concise with my overall message; the music became more developed and clear. I didn’t want to do a ballad like my last E.P. so I was adamant that it would all be up-tempo too.

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I like – in Deal with the Devil – songs Cocaine Cowboy and Saints & Sinners. They sound like pretty raw tracks. What is the inspiration behind both? 

With Cocaine Cowboy, I caught the end of a documentary which had that title in it. It instantly struck me. I liked the alliteration; it was catchy. So, I ran to my piano and started hammering out some ideas. I knew I wanted to write about this stereotypical macho-type: one that has all the woman, who’s a man about town – but he’s drowning in his own desires, too.

With Saints & Sinners, I wanted a track that embodied the question “Who are we?‘. I wanted a title that was alluring and would get people engaged. So, Saints & Sinners came to me. This is the only song on the E.P. that took a long time to get right. The lyrics and melodies for the others came very quickly. But with this one, I kept coming back to it and changing everything.

The themes that run in it are about my ability to never be satisfied with decisions I make (head and heart have always told me different things) and it’s also me questioning life and my morality (speed with me through empty streets at 3 A.M. just to see how quickly real life feels pretend).

I believe the tracks are a bit autobiographical. You said you wanted to represent the worst sides of yourself in the E.P. What compelled that decision to be so open and revealing? 

I suppose you could say I’ve developed a style of writing where I am super-honest and raw with what I’m saying but I package it in a way where people don’t instantly get it. I know some people don’t really ‘listen’ when they listen to music. But, if you ‘listen’ to what I’m saying there’s a lot of truth and a lot of autobiographical accounts in there. I was compelled, to be honest, because music is therapy for me – and I need to put my emotions into something constructive. This stops me from feeling like a victim to my problems. I also encourage anyone out there who has similar problems to turn their hand to some sort of art form be it painting, making music; dancing. Anything to help you channel that frustrating energy can make a big difference.

On Deal with the Devil, you worked with Matt Knight at Greystoke Studios. What was it like having him mix and master the E.P.? 

Simply put: Matt is a genius. He engineered my last E.P. too. When I bring him a produced track he takes one listen and then instantly starts getting ideas on how to ‘polish it off’. His brain works at a million-miles-an-hour and it’s fascinating to watch. We clicked pretty much the second we met and I knew my music was in good hands with him.

Your music has a real sense of emotion and passion. It is rare to find an artist, away from the mainstream, that sounds as strong and intriguing. How did you get into music and when did it all start for you? 

Thanks. I appreciate that. You could say I was always a vocal kid but an introverted-extrovert, I think. When I was at Primary School, I’d make plays during lunchtime with my friends and then show them to the class before home time. When I was at secondary school, I used my dad’s old camcorder and made ‘horror’ movies. At university, I took a Film degree but it wasn’t until 2015 that I was itching to try something new. So, in March of that year, I knocked on my dad’s door and asked him to teach me piano – he’s really good.

From there, I wrote pretty much every day for a year and taught myself what I needed to know. I’m just a storyteller trying to find the best medium to express myself and music has definitely done that for me.

The music you play is Electro.-Pop but seems to straddle decades in terms of influence. I hear bits of John Grant in your new material. Is he someone you’re influenced in? 

John Grant is a huge inspiration for me. The Queen of Denmark is such a spectacular record with so much character and charm. I wish all mainstream music could carry such powerful messages.

Grant has a way with lyrics: they’re cunning and funny too but he also knows how to hit you in the gut and make you cry. I brought all of his albums just before Christmas and drove around the countryside listening to them. I wouldn’t say I’m influenced by him in the sense that I don’t want to copy his style of work. But I would say he inspires me to write clever lyrics that has wit to them.

Who are the artists and musicians you grew up listening to? 

I remember being eleven: my mum was hoovering and she put on a retro Top of the Pops episode. That was the first time I saw Kate Bush dancing around on stage to Wuthering Heights and I was sold! She became this otherworldly figure for me: she helped me escape being bullied at school for being gay and having to worry about all the social pressures that came with teen life. She helped a lot.

My mum really shaped the performer I am today because she was the one who got me into the New Romantic era. So, growing up, I listened to Adam and the Ants, Duran Duran; Depeche Mode and the Pet Shop Boys. Neil and Chris were and still are a huge inspiration to me. They were flamboyant, they were honest and they made music that made me want to dance. I owe them a lot.

You live just outside London. What is the music scene like where you are and is it difficult getting opportunities to perform in such a competitive industry? 

It’s been really hard living in the country for so long – especially when you have a yearning to be where lights and noises and people are. I’ve often felt quite isolated and this has definitely come out in my music. I have tonnes of demos. that are super-super-depressing and talk about living in the middle of nowhere but no one’s ever going to hear those.

I’m lucky enough to be able to move so, as of April, I will be a Londoner!

I’m very excited. I’d say the hardest thing I’ve encountered so far is doing ‘Synthpop’. A lot of open-mic. establishments either don’t allow you to use a backing track or you get rolling eyes from musicians who think you aren’t a ‘real artist’. If I write every word and make all the music: surely you can’t discount me?! That’s been hard but you just have to have a strong sense of self and remember that you’re doing this because you love it – and because you have something to say.

Looking ahead, can we see you perform anywhere through 2017? 

For sure. My week-long run of performing each night is just about to come to an end but I am very vocal on social media about where I’m going to be performing. So, if you follow me on those various platforms you’ll be sure to know where I’ll be. If you come, say “hi” after.

I like meeting new people.

If you had to select the three albums that have meant the most to you; which would they be and why? 

Queen of DenmarkJohn Grant

I had this record (and especially the track, Marz) on repeat when I moved out for the first time. It was a bittersweet experience for me and I felt like Grant’s music understood that. It was fragile and calm when I needed it and then it was more aggressive and confrontational in other parts. It summed my life up. Superb work!

FrootMarina and the Diamonds

Marina has a way with words that few others have. She wrote Froot alone and her lyrics about morality and asking the bigger questions have really resonated with me. Immortal came out a day before New Year’s Day but was the first song I heard of that New Year. It made me cry so much. She managed to cut right through to that really intimate area of my heart that’s scared of death and the part that makes me wonder “What will I leave behind?”. That whole album is epic!

Lionheart Kate Bush

I remember playing this for the first time on vinyl and being completely blown away from start to finish. The voice, the imagery; the song content.

It felt like the music has grabbed my top and pulled me into the record player – with her and we were flying through this multicoloured world of magic and illusion.

This record (like the previous two) I could never get bored of. I just keep on coming back to it.

Who are the new artists you recommend we investigate? 

Ciara Vizzard is an incredible talent! She has a golden voice that will hypnotise you. Go listen to her.

Have you any advice for songwriters coming through at the moment? 

Yes. I’d say stick to your guns – metaphorically, of course. If you don’t stand for anything you will fall for everything. Be true to what you want to say and say it.

Finally, and for being a good sport, you can select any song you like and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).

For its poetic and whimsical nature but also it’s beautiful and painful melodies: I’m going for John Grant’s Marz. Enjoy!


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FEATURE: The Shaun Keaveny Breakfast Show at Ten: Keep Up the… Work



The Shaun Keaveny Breakfast Show at Ten:


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Keep Up the… Work


STRANGELY, when I type the words ‘The Shaun Keaveny Breakfast…’ into…

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a search engine, it comes up with the word ‘salary’ as one of its options. I didn’t even know the man got paid: look at those clothes and the increasing facial hair and you’d imagine he was doing it all for the love of it! I jest, of course, because I would never think of his breakfast show as a money-making, high-revenue affair. In fact, what the boffins at Google should be adding to their search words glossary are words like ‘awesome’ and ‘uplifting’. Shaun Keaveny may come across as a rather sunken soul in a sea of luxury yachts but is one of the most inspiring D.J.s I have ever heard. The reason for this piece, as I did recently with my feature on BBC Radio 6 Music’s fifteenth anniversary, was commemorate a fantastic D.J. who has brought the nation sunshine, great music and comedy for the past decade. On Sunday, it will be the official tenth anniversary of the show – the station are running celebrations and marking the day fully the Friday following. I used to be a follower and loyal listener of Christian O’Connell but defected to ‘6 Music after hearing Keaveny’s show. I found Absolute Radio’s music too predictable and repetitive. Every hour, you could guarantee Foo Fighters would get a spin – not sure if they were being blackmailed by Dave Grohl or something?! – and mainstream songs. It was a soul-sapping experience that sucked most of the quality from a great breakfast show. What you get with Keaveny’s breakfast show is sensational music that crosses genres, time periods and boundaries – not a whiff of Ed Sheeran in sight!  I know my little feature is going to rank as one of the most-minor baubles on the birthday tree but wanted to pay affection to a show that not only wakes me up but gets the day off the best way possible.

Shaun Keaveny played in student band Mosque between 1987 and 1993 before joining the BBC in 2000. He fronted the Good Morning Britain Breakfast show – where he warmed up for Anne Diamond – and went on to host the afternoon show later. Not only that, he presented the breakfast show on XFM London up until 2006. There are details on his Wikipedia page that might be a bit fictitious – like the fact he appeared as himself on The Bill in 2005 – but you can tell he has a long and varied career in the media. He is a consummate and popular voiceover artist; someone who has made numerous T.V. appearances and remains one of radio’s hard-working elite. His morning show (7 – 10 A.M.; Monday to Friday) is one of the most-popular on British radio and regularly wakes up hundreds of thousands. It may seem like a minor landmark, reaching ten years, but think about an average show. Not only does he need to wake up at a ludicrous hour of the morning but sound professional, funny and engaged with it. Most of us, at that time, are either waking up wearily or still asleep. Having that kind of energy and concentration so early deserves a big reward. Sure, there are many other breakfast shows but I find the presenters either too energised and nauseating – like they have just consumed an alarming amount of crystal meth right before going on air – or boring and computerised. There is personality and a very honest human presenting BBC Radio 6 Music’s breakfast slot. You do not get a festival of clichés and noxious peppiness. Keaveny is a man who does not fake anything and radiates a very relatable and everyman personality. There is the odd (read: frequent) grumble and moment of dead air: some fumbled links and incorrect jingles. That makes you laugh and all goes into a show that has that inimitable blend of error and perfection. Look at his show page – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0072l9k – to see what is happening and back at the archives; if you are not already tuned in, you are missing something special.

Why I love the show so much is because of Keaveny’s cordial manner and humour. He is someone who can light up your mood and put a smile on your face. I find rival D.J.s don’t have that same quick-wit and friendlessness. You feel a personal attachment to Keaveny and really root for him. I know there are some great D.J.s on ‘6 Music but, to me, Keaveny has that extra-special-something. He is flawed and exceptional but always find myself glued to his show. The badinage and banter between him and music news presenter Matt Everitt. There is a very obvious affection and respect between the two presenters. On some shows, you know the D.J.s/presenters have animosity or are rather unconcerned. Everitt is a former musician and (current) journalist who brings us the daily news from the world of music. His spots on the show are standouts because of the to-and-fro between him and Keaveny. Despite the repeated horse references – Everitt a slightly long-faced chap; don’t agree myself that he is that equine – everything is taken in good spirit. The entire show from Keaveney packs in so many different emotions, highs and, yes, lows. There are audible sighs and a man who is very open with his listeners. There are no fake smiles and feverish gushing: the man is who he is and always determined to show you there is little blur between Shaun Keaveny the D.J. and the man away from the microphone. Of course, you get great music on the show and that consistent quality. It is Keaveny’s energy (yes, I do mean that) that really compels me. He is almost an air traffic controller who has to think fast and keep his wits – the fact he is not exhausted and bedraggled at the end of a week is deeply impressive.

I wanted to be (one of the) first to put in my congratulations and help mark the show’s tenth anniversary. Tomorrow, listen in if you can, there will be announcements made – how the station are marking the special day. I am a loyal and dedicated listener who will never go to any other station. BBC Radio 6 Music has that vast array of exceptional D.J.s who make a daily binge of ‘6 Music an essential companion. Shaun Keaveny is someone who has had a busy and eclectic career but seems to have found his home at the station – despite some protestations he will be on his merry way/fired very soon. I am excited to see just what events and celebrations are going to take place: hopefully, the listeners will be able to get involved; maybe a street party or something happening around London. Whatever does come, it will be richly-deserved. It is challenging hosting a breakfast show. The sheer will to get out of bed at an ungodly hour each (weekday) morning is a challenge all on its own. From there, you have to keep the listeners entertained and not collapse on the microphone. Not only does Shaun Keaveny keep going strong but shows no signs of tiring. I hope he remains at the station – maybe at a different slot as he gets a little ‘tender’ in years – and brings his unique blend of comedy and northern pathos to the station. We all need that and we all need him. Any kudos and plaudits coming his way will be the least we can give to a D.J. who defines discerning listeners’ breakfasts every weekday morning. I hope him, Matt Everitt and the fantastic guests, reporters and people he has around him keep the breakfast show strong and sailing forth. Ten years is a long time in any industry: in radio, there is something especially impressive about lasting a decade. As I said, there is no end in sight right now. Shaun Keaveny might knock his skills and appeal; constantly dig the show and wonder why anyone would listen. That is modesty from a man who should be very proud of a decade in the breakfast slot. From me, and everyone that listens to his show from 7 A.M.: keep looking ahead and sincerest thanks for…

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ALL the great work.

INTERVIEW: Dead Lavender



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Dead Lavender


MANY musicians would protest when faced with the…

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proposition of recording a music video on Christmas Day. Luckily, Dead Lavender’s V. and Oliver were in L.A. and not big fans of the festive day. All that sunshine and quietness boded well for a visual documentation of their single, Seasons Change. It is a lush and adventurous track that suggests so many different scenes and visualisations. It is the physicality and dreaminess of the song that will reflect differently in each listener. I ask them about the shoot in L.A. and whether new singles will follow. They talk about their music and whether the fact they are largely anonymous (in terms of photos online) helps – how important it is for the music to speak for itself. The London-based duo discusses the reaction their music has been getting and some of the new artists we should be aware of.


Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?

Oliver: Hello! Great, thanks. We heard our song on the radio a few times which was pretty cool.

For those new to your music, can you introduce yourself, please?

We are Dead Lavender: a new London-based Synth-Pop duo. We write and produce our own stuff. We like synths a lot.

Seasons Change is your new single. What can you reveal about the origins of the song?

The song actually came about pretty quickly. We sort of had a beat going in the studio and then the opening “oh na na” just came out of my mouth!

From there onwards, it was smooth sailing and the lyrics didn’t actually get altered from the original writing session.

Its cover art is quite striking – depicting dead lavender hanging from two guns. Who came up with that concept and what does it symbolise to you?

V: We took the shot whilst in L.A. over Christmas and were both instantly like, “that’s the one!

Oliver: Funnily enough, we took the picture unsuspectingly in a friend’s house; it’s a china vase shaped like two guns.

V: It was with the help of artist Sarah Reuter that we took the image into another dimension… literally! She’s a photographer who embellishes her work with needlework.

Really cool stuff.

The video for Seasons Change was shot in L.A. using V.C.R. filters and 1990s’ colour-grading. What was it like using those older technologies for the video? Was it a fun shoot?

Oliver: It was a lot of fun to experiment with. I feel like, nowadays, everybody is craving that high-definition, over-polished look.

It’s amazing what cameras can do these days. The extreme clarity of modern video tends to kill the atmosphere a bit for me.

That’s not to say we are planning on doing every video in this style but it’s certainly a refreshing risk to take.

…and, yes, I consider releasing a standard-definition video a risk in 2017… Haha.

You shot the video last Christmas Day. Was it a bit odd filming a music video whilst others were unwrapping gifts?

V: I think I’m right in speaking for both of us when I say that we’re not huge fans of Christmas. To us, it was just another day of great L.A. light and an ideal opportunity to get our work done – whilst everyone else was huddled around their Christmas trees!

There is a sense of anonymity and mystery to you guys – very few images online. Is that intended to create mystery or let the music speak for itself?

It’s really important to us to allow our music to speak for itself as it makes its entrance. We want people to be picking it up for all the right reasons.

We’re not sure whether this will be a forever thing but for now, it’s definitely the right thing for us. I certainly find that I can write more freely knowing that no one knows it’s my work: I wouldn’t like for that to change anytime soon.

What has the reaction been like to your music so far? Has it been quite positive for the most part?

V: We’re both blown away by the success of this first release. You can never tell how these things are going to go down. So far, so good!

How did you guys meet in the first place and what was it that forged that musical bond?

We’ve been friends for over a decade: in the spirit of anonymity, that’s all you’re gonna get! We’ve been mucking about making music together for almost as long – more seriously in the last couple of years – working on various creative projects.

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Seasons Change mixes House, chilled-Electronica and Dance. What kind of music did you two grow up listening to?

Our musical backgrounds could not be more different! I’m a Led. Zep., (The) Rolling Stones: anything-with-a-filthy-Blues-riff-kinda-girl. Oliver tends to be more drawn to Electronic and Hip-Hop. We did both, however, spend a lot of time listening to Martha Wainwright during our teenage years.

We both love Lemonade!

Can we expect any more music from Dead Lavender in the coming months? Any tour dates?


We’ve been working hard to get the next track ready for release.

We’ve plenty more where that came from.

London is where you are based. How important is the city in regards your musical inspiration and creativity?

Oliver: Being in a city is so inspiring – especially a fast-paced one like London.

There’s something almost electric about the air in London (and we both feed off that).

Which albums have meant the most to you as a musician?

V: It’s impossible for me to pin down single albums – especially since the music we make is so different to the music that I listen to. I do, however, credit a varied musical background for helping me be open-minded to new sounds.

In your view, who are the new artists you recommend we connect with?

Ider are really cool. I used to see them touring pubs when I was at uni. and fell in love with them then. So happy to see them making it big in the city!

Oliver: EZA: Such a great sound.

Have you any advice for new songwriters emerging at the moment?

Don’t be too precious with it; think less; just let it happen.

Finally, and for being good sports, you can each select a song and I’ll play it here (not one of your own as I’ll do that).

Oliver: I’m going to go with Metal Boy by Charity

V: Emotions and MathMargaret Glaspy

Thanks so much for having us!

Oliver: Thank you!


Follow Dead Lavender

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FEATURE: The Single Voice Festival: A New, All-Female Music Event



The Single Voice Festival:


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IN THIS PHOTO: Bat for Lashes; PHOTO CREDIT: Jackie Dewe Mathews


A New, All-Female Music Event


I know that name, ‘The Single Voice’, is something I have attached to a…

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lot of different ideas. In a way, it (The Single Voice) is a project or a movement: something that has been bubbling around for a bit but will take shape in various different forms. Before going on to the details and components of my proposed idea: it has been a bit of a bugger trying to think of a name for the festival. I tried searching for all the Roman/Egyptian/Greek goddesses of music/equality/power – seeing as the festival will be an al-female event (bar backing musicians, perhaps). They have all been taken so it was hard coming up with something. I dabbled with the prospect of calling it ‘The XX Festival’ – worried people might think it is a festival organised by the London band; shorten it to ‘XX Festival’ and it is borderline-dirty. The name is not the most important thing but it is important to choose something original and memorable. I understand in name and concept there will be some cynical and contradictory tongues. Many might say calling something ‘The Single Voice Festival’ implies exclusion and division: the fact is, it represents a shared desire for unity and equality. True, an all-female festival can be seen as sexist but it is the opposite: a chance to have them shine in a festival circuit that is largely male. There are few who would deny the fact there is inequality and sexism in the way festivals acts are chosen. There are other U.K. events that promote female music: never, to my knowledge, has there been an (I hope) annual festival in the U.K. that brings together mainstream, established acts with those new and unsigned. Men are welcome to attend – as is everyone – but the artists are going to be female/female-fronted. If you have a problem with a sense of exclusion then take a look at all the major festivals this year – how many of them have as many women on the bill as men? There will not be many, I can guarantee you that! We have come to a stage where we’re having to fight for equal rights in music. It is galling having to experience that in society but music is meant to be a fairer and more unified field.

It seems there is that boys’-club dynamic that has been rigidly in place for decades now. You cannot say the festival bookings are the results of quality over gender. As I will speculate in an upcoming review: you could easily put one or two female headliners on the bill at Glastonbury or Reading and Leeds. Whilst there are some festivals looking to break boundaries and include more female artists, it seems more could be doing their part. The Single Voice Festival, as I will explain, looks to promote black and minority artists and various genres – making the title both ironic and pretty apt. If title causes any controversy or issues – not that I really care – you cannot fault the ethos and aim of the festival. I’ll get down to the stages, artists and particulars of the festivals but, before I do, wanted to look at location and timing. It would be wise having the first-annual (again, ambitious with its durability) event held in London. It would be good having The Single Voice Festival as a boutique occurrence: surrounded by a lake, greenery or idyllic view – it would have to be in a very particular spot in London. The idea is to spread the festival over a few locations: maybe part would be in Regent’s Park whilst another bit would be at St. Pancras Old Church; a few events happening at Shoreditch. The city is the important thing; ensuring there is enough space and capacity for the artists and punters. In London, there are quite a few good festivals already ongoing: Raw Power, We Are FSTVL; Camden Rocks and Field Day are just a selection. The idea is to have it relocate to other cities in subsequent years. Bristol, Manchester and Brighton; Leeds, Liverpool and Glasgow are just a selection of possibilities – Manchester and Glasgow are definite aims. To begin, I envisage it in London, pretty central; at a great venue(s) that can hold some of the best female musicians in the country.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Nina Kraviz

In terms of the stages at the festival, there would be a main stage (The Headline Stage) and The Kate Bush Stage (for minor or newer acts); a Residency Stage for non-musical performers and artists. The stage name might change but, essentially, there will be the three. In a lot of ways, there will be similarities with most festivals: the number of stages and mixes of genres; the fact there are all sorts of events happening over the event. In terms of the number of days, it will run: it seems like a two-day festival would be sufficient; running from morning to evening. That way, perhaps at a weekend, if gives many a chance to attend and see the full extent of acts on the bill. For many reasons – weather and timing among them – it seems logical to have the festival taking place in summer (possibly August). Not only does that give the weather a chance to warm up but it is right in the middle of the festival calendar – hopefully not clashing with any other event. In the same way Meltdown Festival has a curator; The Single Voice Festival would have someone helming and putting everything together. My part would be establishing it and making suggestions: acting as an executive producer rather than the director of the festival. My dream curator for the London-leg would be Laura Marling. Not only is she an act, dream of dreams, that would be perfect for headlining; she has a passion or women’s rights and giving opportunities to female musicians. She could collate some extraordinary, diverse musicians and bring together art, literature and film. There are some great locations around London that would provide a platform for terrific artists. I would aim to have genres as diverse as Folk and Drum ‘n’ Bass playing the festival – the former would suit somewhere like St. Pancras’ whereas the latter might prefer the open of a park, say.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Billie Marten

I have mentioned how it would be a two-day event so, mathematically, there would be two headliners. I have acts like Billie Marten and Bat for Lashes near the top of my list. I know the reality of getting legends on board is going to be farfetched but they will be involved – I shall come to that later. On The Headline Stage, there would be the headliner but five-six other, big acts. By that, I mean thy will be established and not necessarily of-the-moment artists. The idea is not to have solely white female artists and cause another problem of inequality. The aim is to celebrate black and minority artists. In terms of quality and potential, Laura Mvula is someone I am keen to snare. The ambitions of Neneh Cherry and Beyoncé might seem a world-away but I am keen to include international talent in the festival – acts from the U.S., Australia and beyond. The fact the festival brings new artists together with mainstream means there is a multi-layer dynamic. Of the ‘big acts’ I am hoping, the likes of Honeyblood, Warpaint and Laura Marling are up there; London Grammar too (I know there are two men in the group but Hannah Reid is the lead). Of course, it is up to the curator to decide the actual line-up – whether it is Marling or somebody else. Giving spotlight to newer, unsigned acts is very important. So many festivals rely on bigger names and almost exclude those coming through. In terms of initial problems, finance and profitability are causes for investigation. I have seen festivals fail very soon after inception because they are unable to finance themselves or see any profit. The fact The Single Voice Festival is a multimedia happening that links with local venues and businesses mean that should not be an issue. It would be wonderful combing with P.R. companies and record labels: not only using some of their artists but ensuring the event is provided as much publicity as possible.

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I’ll discuss the way new and older music will unite but, like most festivals, it is not just about music. There are some fantastic female poets, speakers and writers in this country. There will be poetry readings and platform giving to rappers too – RAY BLK and many upcoming Urban artists would do well in small spaces I feel. Across smaller locations in the city, maybe cafes, small-capacity venues and charming spots, you can see some fantastic poetry, art and literature unfold. There is an emphasis on public participation and involvement. We would have teaching and interactive events where one can actively take part in events across the weekend/two days. Not taking it too far away from music but there is that blanket of creativity and art. D.J.s would be welcomed to play sets and show what fantastic female disc-jockeys are performing all around the world. Nina Kraviz is someone I am eager to approach and lead a stage/event. If you look at something like Meltdown Festival, that is what I am talking about – only it will be women having their voices put at the forefront. Not only will performers from the U.K. come together: sourcing creatives from all around the world is a key consideration. Throughout the festival, there will be talks and workshops that encourage people to think more about gender in music. We know there are fewer women in studios and music jobs; less emphasis when it comes to festival headliners. Throughout the two-day events, there will be talks, I hope, from women in music jobs; those who can exact influence and fight for better rights. It is not meant to hector but get people thinking; the younger generation inspired to take part. Similarly, there will be lectures and talks about women in music through time; how they have managed to shape and change the face of music as we know it.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Laura Mvula

That brings me to the point of inter-generational music and sporting the best from all time. I know it is not possible to get Kate Bush, Carole King and Björk on the bill but that is not to say they will be omitted. Interactivity and archiving classic female-made music is going to be a future. Maybe having music rooms that act like a studio/music café. You would get information/interviews with female musicians; listening stations and soundtracks from some of the greatest acts of all time. Not only can you flick through vinyl and access thousands of songs: a bespoke station/room where one can, at their fingertips, have access to the information/work of all the wonderful female musicians we have ever seen. It is important having musicians like Nina Simone, Patti Smith and Billie Holiday sitting alongside the best and brightest from today. The Single Voice Festival would have that desire and intuition: music from the 1930s through to present-day. Female D.J.s and presenters would be included – podcasts and broadcasts from them available. I am keen to have a charity/fundraising element come into the festival. Raising money and awareness is as important as the music itself. There would be fundraising around the site(s) that would work with a number of charities and causes. Among them would be women’s rights and issues around the world – helping those less fortunate or, otherwise, might be ignored. Education and awareness are vital when creating evolution imperative and abating apathy – a mission statement for The Single Voice Festival.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Honeyblood

Of course, these words are a hollow sucker to a man who dreams too big. If there are logistic and financial constraints then it might not happen at all. I mentioned apathy: that does not just extend to men who feel unconcerned with the gender-imbalance in music. If the public feel there are too many cooks in the festival kitchen, they might forgo another festival. Creating a niche and genuine originality is an important selling-point. Great music and wonderful female artists are the skin and core of a festival that not only gives women a chance to headline – we want to effect change and bring about genuine progression. If The Single Voice Festival does just that, then it could go on for years. I return to my earlier point and whether (having such an event) s sending a negative message. The aim is not to exclude men or cast aspersions. The majority of festivals have a majority of men on the bill: in a way, this is just trying to redress the balance. I am not sure If Marling would be interested in being involved in any way but can only hope – she is someone at the forefront of women’s rights in music. Whatever the outcome of that pitch, the festival is something I want to get started and see if it is viable. I shall keep people informed but if it gets the go-ahead, and it is a fundable festival, I feel it can genuinely…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Laura Marling

START to make a change.




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The Vex


I get to review and interview a lot of bands…

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with all of them offering something a little bit deferent. The Vex are a very different proposition. The boys release their eponymous E.P. on 21st April but have given us a taste glimpse in the form of Living In The. Being a pedant and obsessive; I wondered what that title meant – and whether there should be another word following ‘The’. The guys explain the inspiration behind the song and what it is like living just outside of London. They discuss how they all got together and the significance of Moscow. I was keen to look into the future: we get a first-hand account of plans for the rest of the year. The band are renowned for their dirty beats and big riffs: they provide intelligent lyrics and songs that get listeners hooked and thinking. I was interested to know about the inflicted of their latest single and whether it looks at technology’s hold over the people – whether are too reliant on phones and computers to provide information and company. The Vex are one of the best and biggest bands on the U.K. circuit. I ask whether they are touring this year and whether, after their E.P. is out, they are planning any more music.


Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?

Good evening. We’re split across the world right now as Jack and Andrew are on a spiritual journey in Peru whilst Josh and Josh are holding the fort in the U.K. Our latest single, Living in The, has just been released and the vinyl for our upcoming E.P. is in the pressing plant. As of next week, we will start rehearsing for our headlining gig at The Finsbury (London) on April 22nd – so, collectively, it’s been a great week for us as individuals and a group.

Thanks for asking!

For those new to your music, can you introduce yourself, please?

We play heavy ‘Rocksteady’ music that could also be described as boxing-music. It’s heavy music that could be the soundtrack for the production line of every individual’s definition of ‘cool.

You are based on the outskirts of London. What is the music scene like where you are and how important is London to all of you?

We’ve had loads of great times putting on nights in Lewisham and Deptford; the crowds want to stay out all night which creates a lovely drunken unity. But, we’ve had a lot of venues close down and none open. S.E. London is lacking a killer venue right now which means everyone’s heading North or East to put on nights. I’ve recently moved to Gravesend in Kent. The potential is huge: there’s quite a few musicians living on my street and living is cheaper down here so people have got space to create.

But we need a few more bands to get a scene going, everyone! Move to Gravesend! It’d be great! The pub covers-band-circuit is strong, though. Beergut 100, Scam 69; Modraphenia – all the classics.

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I believe you all got together, oddly, in Moscow. Can you tell the story of how the band got together and when it all sort of clicked?

We were playing in a band before. We were doing pretty well; we bumped into Adam Ant in Camden, approached him; became friends, toured together and he ended up wanting to manage us.

He’s been a very famous performer since he was young which means he was pretty out-of-touch with how to manage and break a guitar band in 2013 – so his management proposition wasn’t ideal. He drafted some ludicrous proposition that would dictate the band’s wardrobe, take all our money; be extended indefinitely at will, those kinda things. This caused a divide in the band between those that wanted to go with this and those that didn’t. We were booked to play at Blastfest in Moscow, and we’d got to a point where the band couldn’t continue. So, in one evening we got together, formed The Vex and called Moscow to tell them that’d we’d still be coming. Three days later we played our first gig as The Vex at Blastfest and it was wicked. Thanks, Adam! 

Your music has roots of Jamaican rhythms and British-Rock. That is quite a rare blend. What is the reason behind mixing these nations and sounds?

Well. It’s like how Pete Seeger says in Turn! Turn! Turn! that there is a time for everything. We feel there is a time for big heavy riffs and that there is a time for huge Reggae rhythms – and we mostly feel that their time is at the same time. We all grew up listening to Punk music and Jamaican music and we simply love those sounds.

Talk to me about Living in The. It seems like there should be an ellipsis there – Living in TheModern World/City? What are the inspirations behind the E.P.?

There’s no time for an ellipsis when you’re living in the present. No time for such literary suspense.

It’s about living now, feeling things now and enjoying that; being satisfied with that, feeling wholesome; celebrating the lack of focus on the what-ifs and the could-haves.

Again, there is a time for everything and a lot of the time you’ve gotta get some dirty guitars on the go. Get your kick-drum going four-to-the-floor and just shake it!

It seems like it addresses modern technology and how disconnected we are becoming. Do you feel there is a need for people to dispense of their phones and get back into the world?

So many humans in this country are addicted to their mobile phones to a point of lunacy. Not only do they dominate every spare moment that people could have – as we log in so we don’t have to think our own thoughts – but people, now, cross roads whilst looking at their phones (and it’s absolutely insane). Living in The is an attempt to prevent the human race from looking at their phones whilst skydiving. Look up and see the cherry blossom.

The music has a vibe of The Clash’s best and most righteous albums. Are they are a big influence for all of you?

Yeah. We’re fans of The Clash: they had edge and style; the real deal.

The Vex is your new E.P. How does it differ from your previous two and what kind of topics are discussed on the E.P.?

This one differs because we’re putting it out ourselves – hence it being a self-titled. It’s very satisfying to be free to do what we want with this one. Musically it’s more upbeat than our last one, Heavy Rocksteady, so grab a partner.

Lyrically, this time we’re taking on freedom of speech, freedom to be educated; freedom to eat your words and accepting the fact that you are going to die.

There’s definitely some stuff to sing along to!

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You worked with Jim Riley (he engineered it) on the E.P. What was that experience like?

Working with Jim is great. If you’re in a band and you want your record to sound like you do live, go to Ranscombe Studios. Jim gives you the space to play it your way and the know-how and the top vintage gear to make it rock.

Any plans for more music in the pipeline?

Yeah, we’re not wasting any time. We’re writing the next E.P. right now. We’re all back in the same country soon so we’ll start putting ideas together and we’re gonna (sic.) record in July. This time around we’re renting a warehouse space and, with our friend Pete, we’re gonna turn it into a studio for the week and record there. We’ve not done it this way before so we’re looking forward to exploring the unknown.

The Vex play The Finsbury on 22nd April. Any more gigs coming up? Do you guys love getting on the road and reaching the people?

The Finsbury gig is gonna be our big headliner before we focus on writing the next record and then recording it. In the past, we used to gig non-stop and rarely record which meant we rarely released anything. Whereas now we’re really focused on recording and releasing, so that’s taking a priority over touring.

But touring has made us who we are: it’s only from hitting it so hard live that we feel ready and confident enough to take a more studio approach. It also gives us freedom to have our own lives as well.

Jack has been travelling South America this year; Josh had a daughter last year. Andrew is getting quite serious with his cycling and both Joshs are studying. Those things could never have happened if we were still trying to spend our lives on the road. We’re at a point where we’re comfortable enough to do what we want to do and make the band work around that, which is great.

Which albums have meant the most to you as musicians?

RefusedThe Shape of Punk to Come

The CongosHeart of the Congos

Bob DylanBringing It All Back Home

The BeatlesBeatles for Sale

Yabby YouBeware Dub

In your view, who are the new artists you recommend we connect with?

We’re the ones who need to connect with new artists: please tell us!

Have you any advice for new songwriters emerging at the moment?

Listen to The Kinks.

Finally, and for being good sports, you can each select a song and I’ll play it here (not one of your own as I’ll do that).

Thanks very much. Let’s have…

Conquering Lion – Yabby You

The Kinks Afternoon Tea

The Dubliners School Days Over

Metallica – ManUNKind


Follow The Vex 

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COPENHAGEN-BASED artist Eivør has recently shared the video for…

the sensational Into the Mist. It is the first track to emerge from the forthcoming album, Slør. Very soon, she will play a sold-out show in London at The Islington (2nd June). Whilst composing the interview answers, Eivør was back in Copenhagen: as we speak, she has just played London and is here in the U.K. On 26th May, we will get to hear that incredible album and one of the most startling voices in the modern scene. As Slør‘s second single (Surrender) has just been released on Spotify; I ask her about the record and what we can expect to discover from it. She talks about the Faroe Islands – where she is from – and whether she plans on returning there. I ask about the music scene in Copenhagen and how it differs to other parts of the world. Eivør chats about the upcoming Nordic Matters festival and scoring the BBC/Netflix series, The Last Kingdom. Her songs have been used on Game of Thrones and Homeland; employed by video game makers – where it has connected with so many different people. I get a glimpse of a truly unique talent making her way through music.


Hi, Eivør. How are you? How has your week been?

Hello, there. I am fine, thank you. It’s been a good and busy week of touring and I am finally home in my apartment in Copenhagen again – and have a few days to recharge before the next round of touring.

For those new to you and your music, can you introduce yourself, please?

I am Eivør and I am a musician from the Faroe Islands. Music has been my passion for as long as I can remember. In my music, I like to find simplicity in the very complicated and advanced – and to find the peace in the storm and chaos. I am always curious to combine elements from different music worlds – such as the sound of my folky roots from the Islands with more experimental and electronic sounds.


I come from a place where the landscape is filled with contrast: the softness of green mountains and the harshness of stormy seas surrounding the Islands. I like to express these contrasts through my music as well. It´s like my inner landscape. My recent album, SLØR, is on the doorstep to be released in the U.K. It´s my first U.K. release EVER so I am feeling very excited about that.

I am interested in your heritage. You are Copenhagen-based but started life in the Faroe Islands. What compelled the move to Denmark and what are the main differences in terms of the people?

I grew up in a small village in the Faroe Islands called Gøta. I moved to Iceland when I was seventeen to study Classical Singing, and later on, when I was twenty-one, I moved to Denmark where my career had started to unfold. I like the vibe of Copenhagen but I also need my dose of mountains and weather every now and then. So, I travel to the Faroe Islands whenever I get the chance.

I like the vibe of Copenhagen but I also need my dose of mountains and weather every now and then. So, I travel to the Faroe Islands whenever I get the chance.

I think the main difference between the Faroese and Danish people is that Faroe Islanders tend to never say more than they feel is necessary, and also, time seems to be something that can be stretched out more, somehow. In Copenhagen, people talk and explain more – and are always on time.

Is there a huge music scene in Copenhagen? What kind of music can one find there?

I think Denmark is best known for its rich Jazz scene but you can find any kind of music here. I have collaborated with great musicians here in Denmark over the past years. In the Faroe Islands the music scene is blooming. There are so many great artists and bands doing great things at the moment.

Slør is your first U.K. release. What can you tell us about the album and the inspiration behind it?

This album was originally written in Faroese and it has elements from my Faroese roots. At the same time, it has an Urban vibe to it.

Nature and weather is a metaphor that goes through the whole album and I feel it has the melancholy and softness of the foggy landscapes; the wildness of the stormy seas that surround the place I come from.

When I started working on this album, I was curious to combine the very ancient/organic and the electronic-robotic kind of thing. The whole album is built upon melody lines and beats. Most of the beats are sampled from my old shamanic frame-drum.

This is an English-translated re-imagining of the Faroese-sung 2015 album release of the same name. What was the idea being reworking the original album?

I was curious to know how this album would sound in English. I kept thinking about it and decided I wanted to give it a go. I nearly gave up at one point because it´s very challenging to translate some of the metaphors. But then, I got in contact with poet Randi Ward who was very keen and excited about this idea and we dived into the process of rendering this album into English. It took us eight months to finalise it and I couldn’t have done it without her. She is someone I really respect and I tried to give her space to interpret the poems so they would feel as authentic as possible without losing their original meaning.

Into the Mist is your latest video and is hugely evocative. The video was shot in the Faroe Islands. Was it good being back and whose concept was it?

It was a great experience working on that video – although it was cold as hell (laughs). It was directed by my longtime collaborator, Heidrik A. Heygum – who has done several videos with me before. There were so many great creative forces involved in creating this video such as Miriam & Janus – who designed the costume and did the styling. Laila and Barbara did the body-paint. I felt I was just surrounded by great artists and good friends whilst shooting this video. It was a blast.

What it like being someone as remote as that? Is there a lot to do or is the landscape itself inspirational and beautiful enough to hold attention?

Not sure what this question means but I will give it a go:

I don’t think a beautiful landscape is enough when creating a music video unless you have a very specific idea about what the images should be saying. I have always been careful that my music videos: don’t look too much like a tourist film or nature documentary.

The most important thing for me when shooting videos is that the idea itself is strong enough. The landscape and the scenery is supposed to make the idea stronger. I feel the same way about songwriting.

You have this idea for a song and you spend a lot of time writing it. Later, the production becomes the landscape you decide to set it in – but the landscape won’t fix it if it’s a crappy song.

Could you ever see yourself going back to the Faroe Islands permanently or does your heart belong to Copenhagen?

I like Copenhagen but I will definitely move back to the Faroe Islands one day. That’s where my heart is.

Your music has appeared in Martin Scorsese’s Silence and T.V. drama Game of Thrones. How did that come about and what it is like hearing your music up on the screen?

It was a very cool and also strange feeling hearing my music on a Game of Thrones trailer. I had never heard my music in a film before. It was like the sounds and the lyrics got another dimension to them. Very cool. I am lucky to be working with talented and dedicated people building my film and T.V. music career. I’ve been to L.A. twice last year and worked with U.S. composers such as Lucas Vidal, Cato; Hidden Citizens, Bear McCreary and Tyler Bates!

You co-wrote the soundtrack fort the BBC/Netflix series, The Last Kingdom. Was it quite nerve-wracking given that task and what did you learn about yourself and music?

Yes being part of that has been one of the coolest most inspiring musical experiences. John Lunn (composer) contacted me after hearing one of my songs on YouTube. I flew over to London where I was supposed to lay some vocals on top of a soundscape he had put together (on one of the battle scenes).  We found out that we had a great workflow and ended up doing lots more than planned. We continued working together after that and it’s been the most amazing journey for me.

Over the past sixteen years or so you have worked on a range of projects, soundtracks and video games. Is it quite hard coming up with new, different material? Where do you find that energy to keep going and remain so prolific?

I think it’s my curiosity and my passion for music that drives me. It’s like a never-ending investigation for me.

I feel there are so many things I would like to do; so much music to explore and so many songs to write –  yet so little time.

I try to carefully pick the side projects I do parallel to my own projects because it´s easy to wear yourself out. I have been on the edge a few times. Every time I finish an album or a song, it takes me to the next one. It’s like stepping-stones or something: one thing leads to another.

Any other plans for the rest of this year? Can we expect even more music, perhaps? You worked with producer Tróndur Bogason on the album. Any plans to work with him again?

This year, touring the Slør music will be my main focus. It´s always some kind of relief for me to play live after spending such a long time in the studio finalising an album. The real magic happens for me when I play my songs to my audience.

I have slowly started writing new songs already and I would like to set some time aside later in the year to dig deeper into the songwriting and to see where it wants to go. I absolutely love working with Tróndur Bogason and I hope we will do more music together in the future.

I know you’re coming over here later in the year for your first headline tour and will play as part of this year’s Nordic Matters festival. Are you excited about playing at Southbank Centre and coming to the U.K.?

Yes. I can’t wait to tour the U.K.! My first U.K. tour starts off in London on 31st May at St. Pancras Old Church; then on to Bristol, Manchester and Glasgow.

Then I’m back in November as part of the Nordic Matters festival which I’m very excited to be part of – and coming to the U.K. for live performances twice this year! Yay.

I hear a little bit of M.I.A. and Björk in your work but have a very distinct sound. Who are the artists and musicians who have inspired you?

Many artists have inspired me along the way. I have always felt drawn to artists that have a melancholy in their sound such as Billie Holiday, Björk; Jeff Buckley and Leonard Cohen.

Mari Boine and Yma Sumac taught me so much about the power of the voice. Portishead changed the way I thought of music when I was a teenager.

So, as you see: it’s a wide range of different artists that have touched my soul.

If you each had to select the one album that means the most to you, what would it be and why?

I think picking only one is almost impossible. But I think I would pick Joni Mitchell’s Ladies of the Canyon.

At least today I would – tomorrow it might be another one.

Is there any advice you’d offer upcoming songwriters?

I would advise them to never give up. Trust your own judgement but don’t be scared of taking advice from others.

Keep on digging deeper – although it can hurt sometimes.

Who are the new artists you recommend we check out?

I love Konni Kass, Marius; Orka and the Swedish band, Amason.

Finally, and for being a good sport, you can select any song you like and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).

This song sets the mood of the day: Duvan by Amason.


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Tim Kasher


IT seems odd interviewing a Nebraska-based artist…

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who, a few days ago, was half-a-mile away from me. I did not know he was touring down here. The fact he is in the U.K. was a bit of a surprise. Tim Kasher is in Leeds’ The Brudenell (tonight) before heading to Studio 2 in Liverpool tomorrow. At the end of the month, Kasher will leave us but, as the interview shows, is shocked by the (rare) sunny weather in the U.K. Not that he can get used to that because he is leaving and it is spring – the sun will disappear before he does! Before he departs us, I was keen to know what his new album No Resolution was all about. Kasher talks about the process and inspiration on the album; what it is like balancing solo work with Cursive and The Good Life duties – he is singer and guitarist for both. Also, Kasher talks about his current U.K. tour (he was heading to Glasgow’s King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut the evening he wrote these answers) and follow-up plans for this year. I asked what the mood was like in the U.S. with Trump as President; a couple of bands he would recommend to us and how he got into music in the first place.


Hi, Tim. How are you? How has week been?

The week has been good thanks – great, even. Rare nice, sunny weather in the U.K. – which I wasn’t expecting for this time of year. I probably just jinxed it, huh?

For those new to your music, can you introduce yourself, please?

Sure. I’m Tim Kasher: singer/songwriter for both Cursive and The Good Life: both bands hailing from Nebraska. I’ve also been releasing albums under my own name since 2010.

No Resolution is the new album. What can you tell us about the ideas and types of songs on the record?

It’s a bit sad, even for me, as it delves deeper into what feels like real characters – struggling to find that middle ground necessary to make lasting relationships work.

Along with that comes a heavy dose of existentialism that can crush one’s ability to move forward – also debilitating our relationships with others (and oneself).

You are the singer/guitarist for Rock legends Cursive and The Good Life. Are you still active with those bands or taking a break? What compelled you to go solo in the first place?

Yes. Both are still active, though I tend to have a keener focus on one specific project at a time these days. I starting recording under my own name as it simply felt like the right time to start doing so. I enjoy all these monikers but working under my own name brings a different approach than working with a group.

No Resolution is your third album. Would you say it is your strongest work and how does it differ from your previous two?

Sure. I’ll say that, why not.

I think it’s (more fully) a sad, orchestrated album – whereas The Game of Monogamy was sort of ‘half’-orchestrated; Adult Film was more of a Rock-band record.

It is quite cinematic and sweeping. Was there a reason to shift sound and style or is it part of your evolving musicianship?

Mostly just what I felt like doing at the time!

Would you say the album, as a whole, is a concept-piece or is it more about everyday emotions and occurrences we all face?

The latter sounds more appropriate, though.

I do hope it works well as a complete listen as that’s my intention with every record.

The stories do revolve around similar characters throughout – which can lean more to the thematic.

No Resolution is released on 15 Passenger. What can you tell me about the label and why it was established?

15 Passenger is a new label started by the Cursive members: Ted Stevens, Matt Maginn and myself.

It was initially started as a means to release the Cursive back-catalogue but we got excited about the venture and decided to try some releases out as well.

No Resolution will also be released on blue-and-white splatter-pattern vinyl for a limited run of one-thousand. It is quite a cool touch. Do you think more artists and bands should do this as vinyl is very much coming back into fashion?


Simply put: they are cool looking and it is fun!

I believe you are touring the E.U. and the U.K. How far into the tour are you and where are you heading in the coming days?

We’ve managed to put about seventeen shows behind us already and have seven more to go. I think that’s the correct math? We’re heading to Glasgow this evening (King Tut’s’: such a great venue and people!) and then south toward Leeds, Liverpool; Cambridge, Brighton. After that, we head over for shows in Nijmegen and Hamburg (where we will be flying out).

What is the mood like in the U.S. at the moment, with Trump in office? Does that influence your music or do you remain detached from the political turmoil?

Everyone is in great moods now that we have the great Donald Trump in office – to make us healthy and wealthy.


Can you tell me how you got into music? Was there a particular artist or moment that lit that fuse?

At a young age, I could feel the need to create and tell stories. Like, really, really had to – by any means necessary.

We had a guitar laying around the house (oddly, no-one played) so I feverishly learned how to play. Simon and Garfunkel and Cat Stevens were important at a very young age. Then it was The Cure and Violent Femmes that kept the torch lit.

Which albums have meant the most to you as a musician?

In recent years it has been Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love and Portishead’s Third.

Who are the new artists you recommend we connect with?

Meat Wave and Campdogzz!

Have you any advice for new songwriters emerging at the moment?

Sure. Do it because you love it; because it makes you feel good about who you are and what you do.

Do it in an attempt to connect to a few other people but don’t plan on success nor seek it out as a means for happiness – because it won’t make you happy anyway. The former things I mentioned will make you feel good about what you do.

Hopefully, the end result will be your true, honest self coming through the music. That’s what others will recognise, respect and relate to.

Finally, and for being a good sport, you can select a song and I’ll play it here (not one of your own as I’ll do that).

The Well by Campdogzz – thanks!


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ZAFLON is a producer and songwriter who is quickly…

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gaining praise for his production techniques and incredible songwriting. He has produced his own music since the age of sixteen and is keen to use live instrumentation to create a very real and human sound. Recent recordings have used field-recordings and oldskool breakbeats; some great samples and something wonderful evocative. I talk to him about that and latest track, Sincerity. Zaflon is putting a track out a month and is keen to keep production. I quiz him about that decision and what he hopes to achieve this year. Music, to him, is about the reflection of his life and the people met along the way. That said, I was curious to know about his music origins and the artists that have resonated with him; whether we can see an album at some point and what it feels like being compared with some Trip-Hop heavyweights like Massive Attack. In addition, Zaflon selects three albums that have meant the most to him and the new artists he is tipping for success.


Hi, Zaflon. How are you? How has your week been?

Yeah, wicked, man. Been working on some new sounds; turning photos into audio

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?

My name’s Dan Clarke (A.K.A. Zaflon). I’m a composer/producer from South West London making wavy tunes for people on headphone commutes.

Sincerity is your new track. What can you tell us about the new single and the inspiration behind it?

It’s a dark, quasi-political Trip-Hop tune with a classic ‘90s flex. The inspiration was people of power feigning sincerity to get what they want.

The track is a collaboration with Gilan and Lefty. What was it like working with them and what do they add to the track, do you think?

Gilan brings the dark poetry and haunting melodies every time – she’s great to work with because she likes to push herself and doesn’t get precious about ideas when they don’t fit. I always start with a concept and pen it out on a spider-diagram first. At this stage, the instrumental is quite embryonic but carries the song enough to write to. Lefty, I was actually over at his studio in Chiswick working on some of his stuff when I played him the Sincerity demo. He immediately got inspired, and before I knew it, had written and recorded bars for the tune. I got back home, mixed it down and it fitted so perfectly. I almost couldn’t imagine the song without it now.

I am interested in the video. It is quite Lynch-ian and dark – suiting the mood of the song. Whose concept was the video and what was it like shooting it?

It was a cold February Friday night. Kingston has that that cold capitalist veneer with a soft and vulnerable core. The concept was (really just) get out there with some friends and shoot a wavy video. All the locations were places I’ve walked past a lot and thought ‘that would make a wavy video’. The concept is really just the reality of modern day London suburbia. In a way, the video depicts scenes of unrest beneath a civilised city.

Is it, consciously or not, a nod to the post-Brexit Britain and the sort of division we are seeing today?


Yeah, that’s the world we’re living in, with new divisions all over the place, but music and art are bringing us closer together.

Many people are dreading post-Brexit Britain – but I really think it’s time to face the reality; be brave and lead by example. Treat others with respect and kindness and they will do the same.

I believe you are putting out a new piece every month. What was the idea behind this and can you reveal anything about the next song?

The idea is to stay prolific and motivated in this age of distractions. I’ve been inspired a lot by a few people I’ve met recently and it’s time to get the revs up. The next song is coming out pretty soon: it’s a dark Hip-Hop track featuring a very talented young rapper/poet from Surbiton.

Do you see all these songs going onto an album at some point?

I think a lot of these songs will go on to an album but some of them will end up as just singles or part of smaller E.P.s. I’m also producing and mixing a lot of stuff outside these monthly releases.

A lot of reviewers have seen traces of Portishead and Massive Attack in your work. Would it be fair to say they are influences? Who were the artists you grew up listening to?

I finally got the chance to see Portishead when they headlined Latitude festival and they totally blew my mind. Thom Yorke from Radiohead joined them on-stage to sing a duet of The Rip (with Beth Gibbons). It pretty much made my summer.

Massive Attack have always been masters of the art. Mezzanine was one of the albums that drew me into music productions in the first place. Other notable influences growing up include Wu Tang, DJ Shadow; Radiohead, anything off WARP; Mo Wax or Ninja Tunes; radio presenters like Mary Anne Hobbs and Eddy Temple Morris.

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You have been playing in bands and on your own since you were a teenager. What is the main difference being solo (compared with a band) and does it give you more freedom?

Bands are great fun but they’re a rollercoaster ride. I miss playing in bands and will no-doubt put a band together at some point around the Zaflon project.

I do, however, find that working autonomously give you the greatest level of artistic freedom and feel I am at my truest and most honest when doing it.

I know you’ve said, in regards collaborating with people, it is much more real working with people you chance along the way. What did you mean by this and have you any new collaborations in the pipeline?

I have friends who are signed to major publishing deals who always have artists thrown their way. I think it’s cool for people in the industry to cross-pollinate their talents but I think it’s cooler still to work with people you meet in your life, as you ramble through your own existence – whether that is someone who found you on SoundCloud (like Mina Fedora) or someone you met at an event (like Lefty). It’s just more real. These people haven’t been thrown into a room with me: they are people who I’ve genuinely crossed paths with and are genuinely talented. As for future collaborations, they’re coming thick and fast. London is pretty much a volcano of new talent.

I have asked about acts like Massive Attack. There seem to be fewer Trip-Hop/Electronic pioneers in modern music. Do you think there are fewer opportunities in the mainstream?

To be honest, I don’t really pay much mind to the mainstream. I work on music that makes me feel inspired and that changes all the time.

If I end up going mainstream, it will be because the music I make that happens to get popular – but I ain’t about to suck up to no trendsetters just to broaden the appeal of my music.

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It seems like, with newcomers like HEZEN coming through, there is a big demand for modern-cum-1990s Hip-Hop and Electronica. Why do you think there is this demand and what does this form of music offer that, say, mainstream Pop doesn’t?

Some people just need it deep and dark. It’s not always about the party, the rave and the woohoo. Music is a reflection of your soul and Pop just doesn’t touch a lot of people and never will.

If you had to select the three albums that have meant the most to you; which would they be and why?

At the Drive-InRelationship of Command

Guitar work, production; lyrics, energy; Ross Robinson on the desk; a feature by Iggy Pop… unreal This band almost single-handedly revived Rock’n’Roll for me. A cherished record

RadioheadOK Computer

This is where it all started. I got this album when I was fourteen and have been a super-fan ever since. Every single member of that band (and producer Nigel Godrich) are genius in their own right. This is the first album where I became aware of a Rock band forging a new sound technically and artistically – by working with a producer for four years. I know it was a painful one for them to make, but what an incredible piece of culture.

Earl SweatshirtDoris

‘Sweatshirt reached new levels of lyrical genius with his solo material. I always liked Odd Future, but ‘Sweatshirt really killed it with this album. After the first two months of downloading it, I literally hadn’t listened to anything else. Every time I listened, I would discover new layers of meaning and sophisticated tricks in his wordplay that I hadn’t noticed before.

Who are the new artists you recommend we investigate?

Royce Wood JuniorIan Woods (A.K.A. Psychologist)Nathalia Bruno (A.K.A. Drift)LeftyLGND.C.KaseShoxStarBenOfficial

Have you any advice for songwriters coming through at the moment?

Get on your grind, keep it real; keep it one-hundred. Always work on improving your craft. Don’t get down-heartened by lack of recognition at the early stages of your journey.

Enjoy the highs: don’t dwell on the lows. Put music into the world that you want to hear.

Finally, and for being a good sport, you can select any song you like and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).

ShoXstar (ft. Kat E.S.T.) High Off Life



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IN THIS PHOTO: Roots Manuva




OVER the course of several features…

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IN THIS PHOTO: Basement Jaxx

I am looking at years in music that produced some truly sensational albums. I have looked at 1994 and 1979: today, I am intrigued by the year 1999. Not just because it ended the best decade for music but gave such inspiration and kick the new millennium. This is all prompted by the endless affection I have for Basement Jaxx’s debut, Remedy. That album practically scored my final year at school. I remember happy (and miserable) memories of their standout hit, Red Alert. It seemed like an act reflecting what Dance music should be about: bringing the masses together, regardless of colour, race and religion. It was an all-embracing house of colour and togetherness. Not only did that one album – alongside 1999 contemporaries like Play – herald bold new territory for Dance music – it part of a year that showed so much variation and quality. In recognition of that, I look at the ten finest albums from the year (and a key track from each).


BeckMidnite Vultures (November 23rd)

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The fourth album from Beck (studio album, anyway; seventh overall) was a full-on exploration of sounds and styles – so much of his finest work defined by that sense of adventure and daring. Whilst Midnite Vultures did not achieve the same recognition and critical acclaim as the breakthrough album, Odelay; it did gather impassioned reviews. A hedonistic, libido-satisfying thrill-ride that brims with cinematic crispness, fantastically eclectic album that threw everything from banjo hoedowns to electronic breakbeats into an album of terrific scope. Perhaps not quite as expansive and ambitious as Odelay; many felt it as a more immediate and accessible album. Whatever your viewpoint, it proved Beck was one of those artists capable of surprising audiences and remaining impressively consistent and strong. Later albums would tread more into subtle and emotive territory but here it was Beck playing the maverick, scattershot inventor that made albums like Midnite Vultures such a success.

EminemThe Slim Shady LP (23rd February)

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Eminem’s second studio album was the major-label debut from the influential rapper. Released by Interscope Records and Aftermath Entertainment (Dr. Dre’s label), there is production guidance from Dr. Dre, the Bass Brothers and Eminem. Perhaps the first introduction to Eminem’s Slim Shady alter ego; it brings in this foul-mouthed character bringing the listener into a strange, magic and often violent world. What makes the album so enduring is the broad lexicon and imagination from Eminem. The Slim Shady LP bursts with stunning lines and the utmost command. It is outrageous and candid but never sounds too crass or juvenile. Eminem, even then, showed he was capable of incredible wit, intelligence and vision. One of the reasons for doing this feature was to show how many forward-thinking, genre-changing albums came through in 1999. In a way, The Slim Shady LP changed Hip-Hop and brought new elements into it. The album is funny and rude but has so much charm and skill. Eminem showcases his mad-crazy delivery and language skills – sometimes the production does not do it true justice. Eighteen years down the line, it remains a stunning work from one of music’s true innovators.

TLC FanMail (23rd February)

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Quite a week for music back then: both Eminem and TLC releasing near-career-best records on the same day! For U.S. girl group TLC, it was a five-year gap between the legendary CrazySexyCool and FanMail. If the former boasted their finest hits – Creep and Waterfalls among them – there was no shortage of awesome material here. No Scrubs and Unpretty are, perhaps, the two songs we associate with the album. FanMail is street-bitch death-stare and heart-melting sweetness: the sister capable of bitch-slapping you to the sidewalk and picking you up and taking you for a coffee. It is a zen-seeking spirit of the Earth and a self-obsessed G: a kind-spirited, strong-willed album wrapped up in contradictions and contrasts. FanMail debuted atop the U.S. Billboard 200 and spent five non-consecutive weeks in that position. The success of songs like No Scrubs catapulted TLC to new heights and reached new listeners. I have seen so many new girl groups and singers inspired by that album and the sheer confidence that comes through. The girls are tight and harmonious throughout; the songs instant and nuanced whilst the production is crisp and clean – raw enough to let songs such as I’m Good at Being Bad shine. There were behind-the-scenes issues, delays and problems – making it a less-than-smooth transition – and a host of collaborators brought in – hope to reproduce the sound and success of CrazySexyCool. Whilst FanMail does not quite achieve this, it does provide one of the year’s finest albums and a reminder TLC were a force to be reckoned with.

Rage Against the MachineThe Battle of Los Angeles (November 2nd)

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It may seem like this rundown is a list of not-quite-as-epic follow-ups – Beck, TLC and now R.A.t.M. – but, really, it is a chance to step away from expectations and outline some fantastic records. Rage Against the Machine amazed with their eponymous debut: a furious and mesmeric album that remains one of Hard-Rock’s greatest achievements. Despite the expectations on The Battle of Los Angeles – Evil Empire was released in 1996 – this does not disappoint. Testify is an emphatic opener that shows the boys in crude health – taut, focused and relevant. In a year where many Nu-Metal bands were producing utter tripe; here there was an album that put the revolution right in the forefront. Tom Morello’s guitar genius was at its best whilst Zach de la Rocha sharpened his pen looked at the disaffection and anger bubbling beneath the city surfaces. If his lyrics did struggle when looking away from political vitriol, it is compensated by an incredible backing band. The group are in-tune and defiant throughout – creating blistering attacks and some of the most invigorating sonic assaults of the decade. If songs like Guerilla Radio and Calm Like a Bomb don’t get the body moving then you need your hearing checked.

Mos DefBlack on Both Sides (October 12th)

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If Hip-Hop was being given a new spit of shine by Eminem; Mos Def ensured he was not going to be overlooked. His stunning debut features live instrumentation and socially aware lyrics. The album went Gold the following year and put the U.S. rapper in the spotlight. Black on Both Sides blends classic bravado and confidence with new-found poetry – a terrific decades-fusion that sat sick and slick with something boisterous and bolshie. Mos Def shows his skills across the album and helped create one of the most impressive debuts of the 1990s. Whether tackling love and relations; sex and the physical; the world around him – he is always gripping and authoritative. Pollution, fear and fat ladies (never in a gross or sexist way) are all included in a biblical entrancing album of immense proportions.

Basement JaxxRemedy (10th May)

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The astonishing debut from Basement Jaxx is what motivated me to put pen to paper. Dance music in the U.K. before 1999 was often defined by a rigidity and predictability. Too commercial and close-minded to ever connect: step forward Brixton boys Basement Jaxx. Felix Buxton and Adam Radcliffe, as the album title suggests, was the antidote to the staid and placid Dance of that era. Remedy is that elixir that brings everywhere together through a kaleidoscope of colour and energy. Red Alert is that huge banger of the time: stridulating electronics and immense vocals; a chorus that lodges in the head and a composition that gets tight into the bloodstream. Critics at the time compared it to Kraftwerk’s debut and the effect that had on music. Surely, Remedy changed British music and showed it could be fun, free and unifying. It has instant and sharp songs like Rendez-Vu and Yo-Yo; smoother, less heavy moments such as Jazzalude and Don’t Give Up. It showed the duo were capable of taking the beats down and going into more chilled, romantic territory. That mix of sounds and ideas might, on paper, sound unfocused and too ambitious yet Basement Jaxx managed to pull it off in emphatic style.

Roots ManuvaBrand New Second Hand (22nd March)

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In a year where U.S. Rap was overtaking British equivalents; it was down to Roots Manuva to bring a sense of national pride to the genre. In fact, British Rap/Hip-Hop was a largely spent and null force in 1999. We had the occasional option – none spring to mind – but it was the Americans making the most intriguing and impactful music. Roots Manuva brought in dark production sounds with a distinguished style that uses Ragga to make its point – never leaning too heavily on it but placing it underneath songs that look at the world at large (Strange Behaviour) and religious upbringing (Baptism). The low and subtle beats and bass-heavy songs are delivered with a sense of London patois but never sounds too cliché and stereotyped. Among the geezers and chances employing those London vowels: Roots Maunva was a much more developed, broad and refined voice. The way he delivers his words seduced critics and resonated with listeners. Looking beyond predictable themes of sex and pimps: Roots Manuva uses his talents to talk about racial inequalities, society before him and subvert expectations – at a time when Rap and Hip-Hop was synonymous with sexualisation and needless bragging rights.

Missy ElliottDa Real World

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Back in the U.S. and Missy Elliott laid down her incredible second album, Da Real World. A tougher and grittier offering than her debut: the word ‘bitch’ is employed throughout the album and, in a way, the catch-word of the record. The confidence and leap forward that did suffer some setbacks. Lil’ Kim featured on the album: her career was on a downward trajectory after the death of her mentor, The Notorious B.I.G. Danja Mowf, Elliott’s protégée, was omitted from the album and replaced by Redman. Timbaland’s smart and futuristic—breakbeat production helps emphasise and polish songs that look at the battle of the sexes. For someone who says she does not rely on profanities to sell albums: there was quite a bit of it’s on Da Real World. She’s a Bitch and All n My Grill are classics from Elliott and proof she was one of the fiercest and most exceptional female artists of the time.

Blur13 (15th March)

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The sixth album from Blur was one of the final ones to feature the talents of guitarist Graham Coxon. It was quite a transitional time for the band. Stephen Street, their long-time producer, was jettisoned and replaced by William Orbit. Blur brought together their mix of Indie-Rock, Alternative and Rock together with Experimental, Electronic and Psychedelia – perhaps owing to Orbit’s influence. A darker and more introspective album than previous efforts; this is perhaps inspired by Damon Albarn and his break-up with long-term girlfriend Justine Frischmann. Some of the songs do not reach the heights the band was accustomed to – B.L.U.R.E.M.I. and Swamp Song, for example – but in Tender, Coffee + TV and No Distance Left to Run they created three of their finest numbers. Whether you consider it their greatest work or not; it is certainly a vital and impressive work. Coxon would not be long for the band and felt Blur were starting to head into dangerous musical territory – he wanted to keep the sound heard on their eponymous album. 13 is a more diverse creation but one that connects and inspires so many years down the tracks.

MobyPlay (17th May)

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If Basement Jaxx were reinfusing British Dance music: Moby was given new inspiration to U.S. Electronica. Moby, on his fifth album, wanted to return to his electronic roots – having stepped aside from that during 1996’s Animal Rights. Recording in his home studio over in Manhattan; Play spawned a string of hits and featured on many film and T.V. scores. Small wonder when you consider the incredible range of sounds, grooves and vocal samples on the record. If you had an album of vocal samples on their own they would not register: neither would a Moby album without them. It was that expert coming-together that turned Play into the biggest-selling Electronica album ever (selling over twelve-million copies worldwide). Play is a messy album but one strangely focused and attentive. It never loses its sense of quality and economy: every song gets into the head and provides something different. It is an extraordinary collection of music that took older, antiquated songs/samples and gave them fresh relevance. If the digital age is destroying the purity and authenticity of music: Play is a demonstration of how you can create something soulful, engaging and human (with electronics).