The Heatwave: Showtime DVD out now!

Apparently some of you ignored my advice earlier this year to get to the Showtime event. It was one of those legendary evenings that I can now taunt you about for the rest of your lives. But all is not lost – you can now shock out to its ridiculous line up in the privacy of your own home.

The footage of hype MCs is interspersed with some great interviews.

Rollo Jackson has excelled himself this year with this and Tape Crackers (also now available on DVD from TTT) – both films documenting UK soundsystem / ‘ardkore continumm music in their own sweet way.

Showtime is a fantastic calling card for The Heatwave, who have taken things to another level in 2011. Check the trailer and then order from here.

‘The Heatwave presents… SHOWTIME’ (trailer) from Rollo Jackson on Vimeo.

London Bashment 2011 – an old git writes

Madd Raff was a blast the other night. It was an absolute pleasure to play an eighties revival set with Cool Hand Luke, alongside Benjamin Heatwave on mic duties. The venue was a little basement bar off Great Portland Street, very close to my first ever DJ gigs at the students’ union of the Polytechnic of Central London in the late eighties.

Twenty years later and I’m there playing records to people twenty years younger than me. Which means that some of my tunes came out before they were born. I’ve laid it on a bit thick about being the oldest raver in town this year, but I’m quite relaxed about that. I go to ska and rocksteady nights where music from the early sixties get played, often by people old enough to be my parents.

As Steve Barrow points out in the Dub Echoes DVD – capitalism always promotes the new thing as being the best thing, and tries to divide the young and the old. There’s a resurgence of “generational resentment” at the moment in the UK. One reading of the UK riots was old peoples’ fear of “feral youth”, which is the latest instalment of a long line of subcultural moral panics starting with teddy boys and going right through to hoodies.

I think what’s new is young peoples’ resentment of the old, though. For the first time living memory, this generation of school/college leavers will be significantly worse off than the previous one. Lower incomes, longer working lives, less secure jobs and little prospect of owning property look like being the norm.

Music can’t really patch up these economic differences, but I guess it can show that people have more in common than they thought. Each new generation finds a way to briefly escape hardship in darkened rooms as the bassline drops. Each new wave of dancehall builds on the foundation of the music. But sometimes dancehall mutations become so radioactive that more mature heads find it difficult to recognise them.

I guess it’s obvious that over the last few years I’ve been less and less obsessed by current grime, (post)dubstep and even dancehall. Hence all the reviews on here of weird electronic stuff made by men of a certain age, and the retro mixes.

Unlike some of my contemporaries, I have no vested interest in remaining an “expert” on dance (or any) music – as all this has been a hobby rather than a career. So I can be relaxed about it and enjoy the ride. On Wednesday night Luke and I were followed by Heatwave’s Dan Bean, who flung down some 2011 bashment anthems. At least I assumed they were anthems, as everyone went mental. I had no idea what most of the tunes were, and had a chuckle to myself about my lack of desire to find out. It felt quite liberating just enjoying being a room full of people going mad to JA music without mentally filing every tune away in my Bumper Trainspotter’s Book of Music.

Photo courtesy of The Heatwave

I remember trying to sneak a few current bashment riddims into reggae sets in the early noughties. It never worked – I even managed to clear the floor on a couple of occasions. Now it seems like a corner has been turned – for clubbers, my old man’s music has been restored to its rightful place as a warm up or chill out selection. What people really come out for is the new fangled music, which is how it should be really. I saw a girl running down the stairs at Dancehall Jamboree a few weeks back, so she could get on the floor and skank out to the Liquid riddim.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that there’s a bit of hype about bashment at the moment when you consider the alternatives. JA music has all the colour, character and vibes that are missing from most dance music right now. But it’s also testament to the sheer hard graft put in by people like The Heatwave and newer crews like the bewildering nexus of Hipsters Don’t Dance / Physically Fit / Shimmy Shimmy / Style and Swagger.

All this intrigues me. I like having a broad overview of Jamaican music since the 1950s, although if truth be told you’ll mainly find me listening to stuff from the last century. But unlike some of the old guard, you won’t find me wringing my hands about the terrible state of JA tunes nowadays.

I like Steve Barrow’s ideas about unifying the young and old under one b-line. But I’m also quite pleased that bashment ravers can still annoy the old gits and purists.


Agit Disco has just been published by Mute Books, compiled by Stefan Szczelkun, edited by Anthony Iles  The launch takes place on 8th December 2011, 6.30pm – 9.00pm at The Showroom, 63 Penfold Street, London, NW8 8PQ.

‘Agit Disco collects the playlists of its 23 writers to tell the story of how music has politically influenced and inspired them. The book provides a multi-genre survey of political musics, from a wide range of viewpoints, that goes beyond protest songs into the darker hinterlands of musical meaning. Each playlist is annotated and illustrated.

The collection grew organically with an exchange of homemade CDs and images. These images, with their DIY graphics, are used to give the playlists a visual materiality. Almost everyone makes selections of music to play to themselves and friends. Agit Disco intends to show the importance of this creative activity and its place in our formation as political beings. This activity is at odds with to the usual process of selection by the mainstream media – in which the most potent musical agents of change are, whenever possible, erased from the public airwaves. Agit Disco Selectors: Sian Addicott, Louise Carolin, Peter Conlin, Mel Croucher, Martin Dixon, John Eden, Sarah Falloon, Simon Ford, Peter Haining, Stewart Home, Tom Jennings, DJ Krautpleaser, Roger McKinley, Micheline Mason, Tracey Moberly, Luca Paci, Room 13 – Lochyside Scotland, Howard Slater, Johnny Spencer, Stefan Szczelkun, Andy T, Neil Transpontine, Tom Vague’.

You can now order the book direct from Mute Books.

The audio for my contribution is now available here:


1. X/O/Dus – English Black Boys (Factory Records, 1980)
2. Audrey – English Girl (Ariwa, 1982)
3. Lion Youth – Three Million On The Dole (Virgo Stomach, 1982)
4. Steel Pulse – Handsworth Revolution (Island, 1978)
5. Maxi Priest – Love In The Ghetto (Level Vibes, 1984)
6. Papa Levi – In A Mi Yard (Level Vibes, 1984)
7. Papa Benjie – Fare Dodger (Fashion, 1985)
8. Laurel and Hardy – Video Traffickin’ (Upright, 1983)
9. Macka B – Bean and Egg (Ariwa, 1986)
10. Pato Banton – Gwarn (Ariwa, 1985)
11. Leslie Lyrics – Pull Back Your Truncheon (UK Bubblers, 1985)
12. Ranking Ann – Kill The Police Bill (GLC, 1984)
13. Raymond Naptali – On My Way (Fatman)
14. Lorna Gee – Three Week Gone (Ariwa, 1985)
15. Horseman – Horsemove (Raiders, 1985)
16. Daddy Colonel – Take A Tip From Me (UK Bubblers, 1985)
17. Tippa Irie – Complain Neighbour (UK Bubblers, 1985)
18. Demon Rocka – Hard Drugs (Unity, 1988)

Things I have been listening to but not had time to review properly because I’ve been moving house and all my records and decks were packed away and then it’s all been a bit crazy changing the locks and plumbing in a washing machine and fixing a TV aerial to the wall whilst dangling precariously from a ladder and generally figuring out where to put everything

Psychedelic orbits of a carpet system related to a flat

We’ve been in the new place for over a month now and I’m still catching up with myself. Although actually I’ve not been on top of things for ages, come to think of it. Lots of work to do here, but more space to do it in. My desk is now on a landing instead of in a cupboard, for instance.

Still skint, but still sustained by great people sending me their music (see below) and blagging me into their gigs (thanks especially to Ekoplekz, Nochexxx and Mr Mugwump).

Ekoclef – Tape Swap (Magic + Dreams mp3s)

Ekoclef = Ekoplekz + Bass Clef in full collaborative “all star jam” style.

“We each agreed to record some musical ideas onto the first track of a four-track cassette tape, and then post the tapes to each other. We would then overdub some more ideas onto track 2, then send it back, continuing the process until all four tracks were filled. This may seem a rather out-moded and laborious method of composition, but actually it was a lot of fun and I think the results have a certain sound and feeling to them that would otherwise be hard to achieve in the digital domain.”

Mr Plekz described this to me as “a whole other vibe again…more like children at play…but keepin the shit lo-fi and spontaneous as always…”. That makes it sound a bit unfocussed, which is very far from the case. Certainly many of the tracks are abstract and atmospheric, with Ekoplekz’ shady murk given a bit more twinkly light in the process of collaboration.

But there also some gloriously melodic moments. “Lens Flare Oh Yeah” and “Royal Mail” sound like Suicide meeting Joe Meek on the Holloway Road. The usual lo-fi scuzz is accompanied by some beautifully fragile tunes peaking over the horizon.

“M4 Endless” retains Kraftwerks’ modernism (albeit with flashes of UK motorway service station concrete) but adds rain lashing against the windscreen, on the way back from somewhere on a Sunday afternoon. Musical instruments are added, sparsely, to the electronics.

I saw Ekoclef live at Cafe OTO and loved what they did. I sat on my arse drinking nice beer next to my man Mandrew B, who has adeptly written it up for The Liminal – so I don’t have to. (I’ve been to Cafe OTO dozens of times over the last couple of years and have made a pact with myself to just enjoy it without worrying about verbalising my experience online. So you have all been saved from my wittering about Peter Brotzmann, The Ex, Sunburned Hand of The Man, Geese, Stephen O’Malley, Wu-Ming, The A-Band and many more. Suffice to say it’s an amazing venue.)

Mandrew B also takes photos with a proper camera rather than my hastily snapped phone shots:


Some Truths aka Bassclef



Ekoclef at Cafe OTO

I love the scrapiness of this music. The set at the Cafe OTO included a bit of faffing about which I thoroughly enjoyed because it gave some stark contrast to the bits which were transfixing in their brilliance. Ekoclef are hurling ideas around for the sheer hell of it and then going “ooh!” when they hit the target. This is great to watch live and I’m sure it will also be great to listen to as new recordings emerge that document their continued adventures.

Tape Swap is available as a Cassette from Magic and Dreams. It comes with an mp3 download code. My cassette deck is getting more action this year than it has since the millennium.

I got given a free Cosef Jonrad CDR at the gig. I think this must also be a Bass Clef pseudonym? It’s a compilation of stuff on Magic + Dreams cassettes and has some great screwed and chopped droney bits which use chunks of old pop records. I have washed up to it a lot.

Pete UM – Can’t Get Started (GRIST 10″)

Another recent gig was the Cambridge Freakz/Exotic Pylon lash up, and bloody great it was too. Pete UM has been around Dissensus for yonks but I’d not really checked his stuff out. So it was very nice of him to travel to a few bus stops away from my new flat and perform for me with a bunch of his mates.

UM does odd little poems/songs/spoken word pieces over electronic backing. They are all short and not like anything else I am aware of. Very “characterful” (I’m resisting saying “quirky” because it’s all very deadpan rather than [ugh!] wacky – and quite right too). Live, he seems very accomplished and at home with his material, whilst being completely ill at ease with the rest of the world. I like that.

I got this 17 track 10″ EP off him at the end of the gig. There was an awkward moment where he wanted to hand it over and I wanted to give him some money. But neither of us is loaded, so what we really wanted was tainted by capitalist relations. Don’t you hate it when that happens?

This is a lovely DIY release with lots of inserts including pink one which describes the unfortunate tale of the project’s creation. Even after that woeful episode had been completed, half of the pressing was lost by the courier en route to UM Towers.

On the pink insert it says “Don’t buy vinyl to support the industry, or the artist. Buy it because you fucking love it”. That’s almost what happened between us that night at The Vortex.

Pete is all over the net but I have yet to find any clue as to how you would get hold of this record. Maybe start here.

Dome 1-4+5 (Editions Mego mp3s)

Intimidating 5 album set, which Mr Rehberg has wisely entrusted to me in virtual rather than vinyl form. I remember him talking about Dome in the eighties, but I don’t think I ever heard them then. Wire were never my main thing, let alone the various offshoot projects.

This is great though. On “1” and “2” abstract songs nestle up against more soundtracky/ambient pieces. Electronics collide with angular guitars and oblique lyrics. I’ve been trying to listen to a Dome album a week on the way to work and they seem to sit well with the journey’s anticipation of the slightly off kilter psychological landscapes I have to deal with in my office at the moment.

I’m increasingly drawn to music which doesn’t tackle the emotional intensity of love, or hideous injustice, or man’s inhumanity to man. Dome are much more about a general unease.

“3” almost veers into Talking Heads territory in places, but still retains the downbeat air of 1&2.

I will tackle 4 next week and 5 the week after. In the age of instant gratification, it’s nice to have some things to look forward to.

Mark Fell – Periodic orbits of a dynamic system related to a knot (Editions Mego LP)

I like this more than his recent 12″ collaboration but not quite as much as the two LPs from earlier this year. In fact I think bits of this are out-takes from those LPs – there are certainly some common refrains coming out. “Periodic Orbits” seems slightly more human in places, there are nods in the sleevenotes to actual musical instruments being used as source material. Some of the tones on side two recall early house and techno tunes, albeit in a ghostlike, skeletal, mathematical way.

The cover shot is a photograph of gardening-related injuries sustained by Fell’s other half whilst preparing to move house. Having mashed up my hand changing a mortice lock in our new place, this is something I can empathise with.

It’s tempting to imagine Mark tinkering with his immersive-yet-clinical sonic landscape whilst his partner is outside doing all the graft in the garden. I’m sure that’s not what happened though. It certainly wouldn’t in my place.

Eastman Connection

Uncle Dugs on Rinse FM with a blazing 1991 selection.

But even better than that, he gets Kool FM founder Eastman in for an extended interview. (interview commences at about 1:37:00)

Some proper history, covering North London reggae soundsystem, early raves, Jungle Fever, and the full story of Kool FM.

An amazing bit of oral history, loads of details and tales of scrapes. If you liked “Tape Crackers”, this is the side of the story told by the station crew rather than the listeners/punters.

Kool FM is about to celebrate 20 years in the business.

Thanks to Mikus for the tip off!

Saturday: Dancehall Jamboree – FREE


Stupidly good line up, brought to you by the Voltron-like Style & Swagger / Hipsters Don’t Dance / Physically Fit camp. Who are interviewed and bigged up in fine style by Time Out.

Especially gratifying to see both Curtis “Necessary Mayhem” Lynch and Wrongtom on the bill, the latter showcasing productions for his next album after “Duppy Writer” alongside the man like Deemas, who I had the pleasure of meeting a few weeks ago when we all failed to get into the Lovers Rock film. But it’s all good, frankly.

The last bash by this lot (or some of them at least) I went to at the Big Chill House was the day after the David Starkey debacle. I’d spent the afternoon doing my bit on the North London Unity March and got a bit teary on the roof as Saxon unleashed an awesome set and everyone seemed blissfully unbothered about whether or not the “whites had become black” or whatever.

Anyway, I shall keep a stiff upper lip this time, I promise. Plus it’ll be inside.

Crazy promo multimedia bits:

Fight Cuts: Save ON THE WIRE

Many of you may have heard of BBC Lancashire’s “On The Wire” show already because you’re in the area and tune in. Others may be avid readers of presenter Steve Barker’s reggae reviews for (the unrelated but similarly named) Wire magazine.

Uncarved readers may recall the mix that Paul Meme and I did for the show’s 21st anniversary episode.

Or maybe you’re aware of the numerous tie-ins with people like Lee Perry or the On-U Sound crew.

On The Wire - archive flyer

For me On The Wire is the BBC’s only remaining manifestation of the true spirit of underground eclecticism once also exhibited by John Peel. I’ve heard a ton of the shows as podcasts and downloads over the years. The reggae and dub specials are amazing, but the shows where Steve and the crew shove everything in the bag are even better. Shackleton and King Midas Sound rub up against The Ceramic Hobs and LA Vampires. Raw blues cuts mix with slinky african business. All with impeccable wry northern commentary.

So yeah.

I was greatly saddened to be sent this email by Steve at the weekend:

The Future of On the Wire


Everyone has heard about the cuts that are about to be made by the BBC in the “Drive for Quality” initiative. What is not so well known is how these cuts will impact the specialist shows hosted by local radio.

Effectively there will be no “local radio” after seven o’clock in the evening. Shows will be shared between groups of stations. In the North West this group will be the Lancashire, Manchester and Merseyside stations. At this stage it is understood that BBC Radio Lancashire will only be responsible for shared programming on a Sunday afternoon. The high probability is that any output in this slot will be in an “easy listening” format. Therefore. sometime between now and April 2013, by which time all the agreed changes will be implemented, On the Wire will disappear from the airwaves after over twenty eight years of continuous broadcasting.

The proposals are subject to public consultation by the BBC Trust – so you can have your say and, hopefully, make a difference. Go to and look for the “consultation” button or write to Lord Patten, Chairman, BBC Trust, 180 Great Portland Street, London W1W 5QZ. You could also write to your MP and local paper.

Failing all this being successful, we will be aiming for On the Wire to continue one way or another, preferably still within the BBC where the programme was identified as a unique BBC product by the BBC Board back in November 1991 when the show was last under threat.

Thanks for your support

The On the Wire team of Steve Barker, Jim Ingham and Michael Fenton


My letter is in the post, but I think communications from people in Lancs will count for more.

Check out previous shows here.

Read about the history of the show here.