Friday, 20 August 2010

Forensics Interview















Krystian Taylor, AKA Forensics, is best known for his work in dubstep, both as a left-of-spectrum producer, and tireless champion of the scene through his imaginative (and generously circulated) mixes. He's also the man behind the slowburn indie-electronica of A Bridge Far Away. Blood Red Sounds caught up with him to talk about Forensics' "retirement", his new project The Divided Circle, and what on earth he means by the "111 Movement".

BRS: You were involved in the dubstep scene early on and were pretty evangelical about it. How did you get involved?

Krystian Taylor: The first dubstep records I bought were DMZ001 & DMZ002. I’d say Horrorshow by Loefah was the track that began my transition from onlooker to consumer and participant. Seeing Plasticman (now Plastician) play at the first Subloaded in Bristol also had a big impact. I started recording mixes, posting on the dubplate.net forum, and running a club night - Ruffnek Diskotek – with a friend (Dub Boy).

BRS: Dubstep has fragmented a lot since going global in 2006-7. Do you still feel a strong connection with it?

KT: I still feel connected, although my finger's a long way from the pulse when it comes to the commercial end of things. I just ignore the things I don’t like, and keep pushing those I do through my mixes.

BRS: Is Forensics still a going concern? You announced that you’d retired the project a while back but you keep posting mixes, and new tracks have appeared from time to time. What’s going on?

KT: I retired Forensics about a year ago, and then picked it back up around six months later - mainly in a DJ-ing capacity. I did record a few tracks, which have since been released on Methodology Recordings – the ‘In Shadow’ mini-album & ‘Lament’ on a compilation. I’ve also done a few remixes more recently, but Forensics is definitely more of a DJ entity now.

BRS: One of your recent tracks is an unofficial remix of Alex Reece’s ‘Pulp Fiction’. Was jungle / drum & bass a big influence on you?

KT: I was into jungle for a fair while. It was the first form of electronic music I took a real interest in, having only really been into ‘guitar music’ prior to that. I’d say early, minimal drum & bass has influenced my productions.

BRS: A Bridge Far Away seemed to evolve out of Forensics’ collaborations with vocalists, like Indi Kaur. Did you consciously re-brand your music to distance it from straight up "dance" music?

KT: Not sure I’ve ever made straight up dance music, but anyway!

BRS: That's true, but the Forensics stuff fits well in your your dubstep mixes. Dubstep is still typically designed for club systems rather than home listening isn’t it?

KT: A Bridge Far Away is an outlet for my non-140bpm stuff. I guess it was born of an urge to collaborate more, and to get back to making ‘proper music’. I'm not claiming to have achieved that, but the urge was there!

BRS: There's an implication there, however tongue in cheek, that dubstep isn't as "proper" as some other music.

KT: It's just how I've viewed things. I started off writing songs, and then went on to view electronic music as an escape from the emotions associated with songwriting, which resulted in me making a lot of completely soulless music for a while! I've been slowly heading back in the other direction since realising my mistake. A major turning point was recording Forensics' 'All to waste' with [Pinch collaborator] Indi Kaur. It definitely put the idea of writing songs firmly back into my head.


I'm not saying dubstep can't be 'proper music', but as you've said, it's principally dance/club music - which perhaps isn't something I have in me production-wise. I've always been on the margins of dubstep, and never made tracks with a dancefloor in mind. I enjoy DJ-ing a lot more now that I'm not really producing dubstep - I can play a set more as a consumer, and enjoy it as such.

BRS. Your new project The Divided Circle is described as a '111 band'. What does that mean?

KT. 111 is a new music/art project, info on which can be found at one11bpm.com. It essentially means that our tracks are recorded at 111bpm, for the time being at least. We’re actually the first 111 band, most 111 music has been electronic so far, so we’re pioneers or something! The Divided Circle is definitely my main focus at the moment. It's really good to be writing songs, and working with my good friend Jon Rees [of The Sky Is Blue / Dusk Ensemble] again.

BRS. Is there an aesthetic to 111, or is it just a good tempo to work with? The manifesto on the one11bpm site suggests there's more to it but doesn't give any specifics.

KT. We call it "the divine tempo" - it's great to work with! 111 is a particularly vibrant movement because it covers such a range of styles: anything goes in terms of genre. The constraints come into play in terms of approach - a large emphasis is placed on meaning and artistic value. The "Rules of engagement", which spell things out in detail, are also on the website.There's more to it than music - it's also art, photography, film, words...111 is going through a bit of a rebirth at the moment, so watch this space!

BRS. If A Bridge Far Away is a natural progression from what you were doing with Forensics, this new project looks like a radical change of direction - the brooding atmospherics are more at the service of the song than before. I can hear Joy Division and Eno in there, but what are the key influences?

KT: I suppose it's quite a radical shift. I'm back to where I started really, writing songs with Jon. And what's coming out isn't all that different to what we were doing as youngsters. We're both fans of downbeat indie music - people like Sparklehorse, Low, early Grandaddy, the various Mark Kozelek projects...I wouldn't say we have any key influences as such, though. We're not writing with anyone else in mind.

Forensics plays at
Subharmony in Riga on 10th September, and Knowledge Magazine's night at Fluid, London EC1 on 1st October. His 'In Shadow' mini-album is out now on Methodology Recordings. There's a free limited download of the original instrumental version of killer Forensics track 'All To Waste' here.

Here's a mix he recently recorded for Dub Concepts Radio, which stresses the unity of UK bass music, bringing together the deep, atmospheric dubstep of his 'Pulp Fiction' remix, the Mancunian rudeness of Virus Syndicate, and Smith & Mighty's classic 2-step inspired 'B-Line Fi Blow' (2002). I LOVE this.

There are no plans for Bridge Far Away gigs, but you can download the
very lovely 'Killer Bees' here. The second ABFA album 'Reverence' is out now, also on Methodology.

The Divided Circle will release their debut EP shortly on new label Lonely City, with live performances to follow. Listen to them
here.

For more on the 111 movement, see
one11bpm.com.

Government cuts - an exclusive preview


[Above] A government spokesman

A Whitehall memo including advance details of public sector cuts has been leaked exclusively to Blood Red Sounds. It includes a raft of cost-cutting reforms to be included in the autumn spending review. Some of them are very sensitive, but I'm at liberty to share a few of the less worrying ones with you.

A radical approach to taxation. VAT will be increased to £95% on all purchases, while children's clothing and baby food will be subject to an additional levy of 50% to discourage feckless reproduction. The top rate of income tax will be abolished on the grounds it's "practically unworkable".

A “two strikes and you’re out” policy on crime. The Conservative manifesto recommended “three strikes”, but one of the strikes is to be removed for being unnecessarily bureaucratic.

Taking waste out of the education system. "Mickey Mouse" qualifications will become a thing of the past, as the government removes everything from the national curriculum except maths, cricket and military history.

"Health & Safety nonsense etc." to be abolished. In what will no doubt be seen as a populist move, the government plans to boost enterprise by revoking any previous legislation that promotes safe working conditions, trading standards, equal opportunities or basic common decency.

"Pest control revolution". Huge savings to both agriculture and social housing are expected from a move to put pest control "in the hands of communities". However, Liberal Democrat backbenchers will be pleased to hear that participation in money-saving blood sports will be "actively encouraged" rather than "compulsory".

This is pretty exciting stuff, I think you'll agree. I'll post more as soon as I've finished filling out this visa application.

Silence In Court: Could the Bristol Community Festival ever return?

Here's a recent article I wrote for Venue magazine, looking at Bristol's much mourned Ashton Court Festival and whether anything like it could ever happen again.



















For 33 years, the Bristol Community Festival - as it was known for most of them – was the centrepiece of the Bristol hedonist’s year. Everybody went, it never rained (well, almost never) and most of the acts performed for nothing because, like us, they wouldn’t have missed it for the world. For a long time the entrance fee was whatever loose change you had in your pocket as you walked up that tease of a hill.

Growing purely by word of mouth, the festival was drawing around 60,000 people by 1998, the year Portishead and Spiritualized played and everyone agreed they’d had the best time ever. Then, three years ago, disaster struck. The site became waterlogged and the event was cancelled halfway through, immediately scuppering hopes of recouping losses from previous years. It never came back.

Not least because of its beautiful location, it’s been held up as an ideal ever since - the “bring back Ashton Court music festival” Facebook group claimed 20,000 members in 48 hours. Could it be revived? “I’d never say never”, says Jennifer Crook, who co-managed the festival in its last four years.“I really hope it will be back, as does everyone who was ever involved”.

The Ashton Court Estate remains the venue for big events like the Balloon Fiesta and Kite Festival, and there have also been some smaller attempts to bring music back to the site. Last year's bijou Summer Fayre, which celebrated the Estate's 50 years in the public domain, was true to the spirit of the Community Festival with sets from local talent like Get The Blessing, Rose Kemp and Health and Safety At Work Act from 1974", (the year of the first Community Festival). Since then, "there have been clarifications and minor amendments", but the main thing that’s changed is public opinion, fuelled by disasters like Hillsborough and the death of two fans at the 1988 Donnington festival. "It’s easy to rage against a ‘safety culture’”, Tim adds, “but if people died against the pit barrier the press would demand to know why nothing was done" - a fact made all the more unavoidable by the horrific events at this year’s Love Parade.

The law can be ambiguous, though. “The 2003 Licensing Act was really designed for pubs and clubs, not outdoor events, which is why so much can come down to local interpretation”, says Jennifer Crook. “It’s a very vague piece of legislation”. An extreme example is that of the 2008 Moonfest, which lost its licence after police cited the Act, claiming that Pete Doherty could cause a "whirlpool effect in the crowd". Less surreally, "licensing complications" were recently blamed for the cancellation of the 'Summer Nights' concerts at Ashton Court. The 2003 Act’s call for "adequate security personnel" is also open to interpretation. "It's common to find quirky and illogical licence conditions which may stem from inexperienced local government officers", says Tim Roberts, adding, "I DO NOT suggest Bristol City Council are guilty of this".

Will David Cameron much trumpeted “war on red tape” help? Ben Hardy thinks not. “There aren’t any signs that the new government will change anything – other than the fact that local authorities will be subject to further budget cuts.” He also points out that the current climate tends to make things even tougher for would be promoters: “there are less sponsorship purses available and members of the public have less disposable income”, he says, “with less money being spent, smaller traders and caterers tend to be fewer on the ground which affects the revenue that an event can generate.” Not, perhaps, the news that shoestring Eavises want to hear.

Despite these obstacles, the sprawling, carnivalesque Bristol Festival shows that community events can still thrive in the city centre. Poppy Stephenson, its formidable co-ordinator, says it would cost five times as much to hold at Ashton Court. “It’s the remote location”, she says, “There’s no street lighting, water or power points, and expensive metal tracks are required so that emergency services can reach all areas.” To make things worse, a quirk of geography means that promoters need licences from two local authorities.

Now in its third year, the renamed Brisfest is a community festival in all but name - the product of thousands of hours of unpaid work by a 77-strong volunteer force. “The reason we got involved in the first place was to save Ashton Court and that is what we've been trying to do”, says Poppy, “with local acts, reasonable prices and true Bristol style”. Sensitive to the public’s aversion to concrete, the team will consider moving to a greener space if this year’s festival is a big enough success. “We would love it to be in a beautiful park”, she adds. “Next year, who knows!” As if to prove their commitment, they plan to turf part of the site for Brisfest 2010. There will also be nine outdoor stages, a casino bus, beer garden and something called a “recursive function dome with 360 degree visuals”. Factor in five hundred performances, club nights, boat parties, a ton of workshops and zero council funding and it’s hard to believe it can be done for a fiver a day.

It’s a huge task. In the run up to to the first festival in 2008, Poppy slept for an average of 3-4 hours a night for the best part of a year. It’s got slightly easier as new volunteers have joined the team - each of them putting in between three and ten hours a week. “We’ve had several people splitting up with partners and actual hair loss”, she says. “You lie awake worrying about disasters, worst case scenarios and emergency situations”. Then there’s the money, a tightrope walk between value for festival-goers and making ends meet - “There was just a couple of per cent in it last year”. Poppy’s research suggests that people are simply not ready to pay the £18 or £20 per day it would cost to stage the festival at Ashton Court.

The issue of what people are prepared to pay for their entertainment is clearly decisive . “We struggled hugely with the legacy of being a free event when we had to increase charges”, says Jennifer Crook. “In Bristol, we are spoilt for choice with free events. It’s one of the city’s selling points but it raises expectations”. Tim Roberts agrees, saying that Ashton Court’s biggest challenge was “massive popularity, coupled with a strong desire on the part of the public to get it for nowt. If punters had stumped up £10 a head then we’d probably still all be trekking up that hill”.

With that in mind, whether ‘Ashton Court’ has a future depends on what people want from it, and how much they’re prepated to pay for the privelege. “As we always used to say, it’s not 1974 anymore”, says Jennifer Crook. “Is a community event one which thousands of people from all across Bristol can go to, or one with little or no entry price that fewer people can attend?” In the current climate, it looks increasingly like a two way choice between a commercial festival with a big name lineup and a truly local one built on the talent and passion of the city. If it’s the second option we want, we already have Brisfest and it’s getting stronger each year.

If the stress, risk and sheer hard graft involved in organising a community festival sounds a little daunting, it’s refreshing to hear how upbeat the organisers themselves are about the experience. “It’s so rewarding when you see it all come together” says Poppy, “and think 'Wow! this is what can be created when everyone pulls together’”. “It was exhausting and it took over my life for four years”, says Jennifer, “but when it ended I felt like my best friend had died. If I could bring it back to life this minute, I would. It was the best job I ever had”.

Brisfest 2010 takes place from 24th - 26th September. For more information, see www.brisfest.co.uk

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

David Wrench & Black Sheep - 'Spades & Hoes & Plows' (Invada Records)

























Stretching four songs over 65 minutes, this album is guaranteed to provoke a reaction.

Casting aside the synthpop mischief of his last record, Welsh maverick Wrench turns to radical folk, with its cast of clubbed peasants, lynched priests and mutilated strikebreakers. His sleevenotes are worth the asking price alone.

Backed by Black Sheep – a mob of musico-political subversives marshalled by Julian Cope - Wrench tackles revolutionary ballads with an irreverence that’s perversely sympathetic. War drums march funereally beside blasted guitars, while Wurlitzers and Mellotrons summon ancient melodies to eerie half-life.

At their best – as on the gripping ‘The Blackleg Miner’ - the group’s outsider theatrics force the listener to confront the Otherness of political struggle. Through them, we glimpse a world in which collective action means “freedom and blood on our bread”, not a Rick Astley singalong in a public space.

Blood Red Sounds rating 8/10
This review originally appeared in Venue.
See Head Heritage for further information.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

It's My Property

















The image above shows a typical group of young British users. The high is written all over their faces, but the long term effects of "property" can be devastating.

I don’t make a habit of linking to F.T articles but this one is well worth a read. It’s the clearest explanation I’ve read of the UK's addiction to property speculation, and how a Land Value Tax could prevent it from damaging the economy again.

Land taxes shift the balance of taxation from wages to assets, so this is basically required reading for lefties.

More fun stuff soon, I promise.

In the meantime, here are Mooz with a brilliant song about property.