Monday, 30 April 2012

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Friday, 27 April 2012

DIGITAL WORDS / Interview with Flux Pavilion

Find the original interview HERE


After a quick cigarette break from a busy day of press and promotional duties, Joshua Steele, the young dubstep star who is otherwise known as Flux Pavilion and the electronic brains behind the hits “Bass Cannon,” “Superbad” and the Jay-Z and Kanye West sampled “I Can’t Stop,” has a chat with IDOL about his musical upbringing, his dream collaboration and his favourite TV box sets.

HI JOSH – HOW ARE YOU AND WHAT ARE YOU UP TO TODAY?

I’ve just been doing a bunch of interviews and sorting out the future down at Atlantic Records, and I’ve been eating pizza and nuts, which is cool.

HOW ARE YOU FINDING ALL THE NEW PROMOTIONAL RESPONSIBILITES YOU HAVE NOW AS A BURGEONING ARTIST?

It’s pretty cool and an opportunity to talk about music. As far as interviews go, it’s just me talking about being me, which is the one subject I know most about. So it’s not too bad.

YOUR BIOGRAPHY PORTRAYS YOU AS SOMETHING OF A YOUNG MUSICAL PRODIGY; APPARENTLY YOU CAN PLAY VARIOUS INSTRUMENTS. WHAT INSTRUMENTS CAN YOU PLAY?

Well, I started on guitar and then played drums. And then I just got into buying instruments. I’ve just bought myself a saxophone, a mandolin and a clarinet. I’m learning to play keys as well, so I went and bought a piano. So it’s like I can’t play any of them to a level that seems like I can actually play the instrument, but if I work out a line that I want in a track then I can teach myself it, pretty much. It’s pretty fun. I’ve got a trumpet as well but I’ve got no idea how to use it.

WHAT WAS IT THAT TRIGGERED YOUR INITAL INTEREST IN MUSIC WHEN YOU WERE YOUNG?

I think it was that my parents were really into music, so I was brought up having to endure massive Frank Zappa marathon sessions on Saturday afternoons and stuff like that. And The Stranglers, and Roxy Music, and The Beatles and stuff like that. I had a really wicked musical upbringing. But it’s quite strange, you’ve just made me think of it; my dad played me a track called “Sebastian” by Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, and it was really emotional. I couldn’t stop listening to it just because of how emotional it was. I still love that track now, and I think it kind of made me just really listen to the music and get completely involved in it. I was quite young. I must have only been about ten or eleven. From that point on I got a lot more interested in music and I wanted to start writing it.

WOULD YOU SAY THAT YOU HAVE AN ANALYTIC EAR WHEN YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC?

I think I’m quite lucky as a musician because I don’t get that really. I just listen to music and see how it makes me feel. The music I prefer to listen to is all kind of The Cinematic Orchestra and Sigur Rós, and I’m well into Bon Iver at the minute. Brian Eno, when he did “Music For Airports” and kind of musical landscapes, because they can be perceived in so many different ways and make you feel so many different things. I think that’s the best thing about music, when you’re in a really good mood a sad song can have a kind of euphoric capability to it. Or then when you’re in a really bad mood it can encapsulate just how bad you’re feeling at the time, even though it’s the same song.

THE ARTISTS YOU’VE MENTIONED THERE ARE QUITE SURPRISING BECAUSE WHEN PEOPLE HEAR YOUR MUSIC, THEY’LL HEAR MOST PRODOMINANTLY INFLUENCES LIKE THE PRODIGY AND RUSKO...

Yeah, I’ve got all The Prodigy albums and Chemical Brothers, and as far as dance music goes it was Fatboy Slim and Basement Jaxx. More like electronic music but done from an artist’s point of view rather than to cater for a scene, if you see what I mean. Electronic music for me was never about being part of a dance or club scene, or trying to get a dance floor anthem or anything like that. It was just music. I had never even really considered it electronic music until now that I have been making electronic music.

IT SEEMS LIKE MUSIC HAS ALWAYS BEEN AROUND YOU AND IT WAS A PRETTY NATURAL CAREER PATH TO TAKE. BUT LET’S PRETEND FOR A SECOND THAT WASN’T THE CASE, DID YOU HAVE ANY OTHER CAREER ASPIRATIONS?

When I was a little kid I wanted to be an actor. I’m not sure why now because now when I have to do photo shoots and the photographer is like, “Look shocked,” I can only do one face, I find it really hard to do. So I wouldn’t be very good as an actor. I think I just told myself that I liked drama at school. I didn’t even study music at school.

REALLY?

Yeah, I only got into the idea of it as something that I wanted to do when I went to college. It just seemed like something fun to do. I never had an aspiration to be a big, successful artist. I love it, I’ve always just wanted to have my music out there but I only went to university so that I could have the qualification to be a teacher because I had given up any hope at 18 years old thinking that I was never going to make it, which was quite a strange thing to think, looking back on it now.

THAT’S QUITE AN EARLY AGE TO BE GIVING UP HOPE!

Yeah! Definitely! Music for me was just about the love of doing it and how fun it is, rather than trying to get commercial success, being popular or selling records.

BUT YOU ARE RATHER POPULAR AND YOU ARE SELLING A LOT OF RECORDS. THE PAST YEAR HAS BEEN A VERY SUCCESSFUL TIME FOR YOU, LIKE MAKING THE BBC SOUND OF 2012. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY HAVE BEEN THE MILESTONES OF YOUR CAREER SO FAR?

I think when I first went over to tour the States because when I play in the UK it’s mainly that promoters will book you and put you on a line-up, and you just turn up and there will be like another eight acts playing. You do your set and it’s wicked - good fun. But then when we went over to the States it was all like hard ticket shows, which is what it’s like when you normally go and see an artist. I had just never seen myself as an artist before. But it was me and Dr P when we were over there, we played Chicago and it was sold out, I think it was about 4000 people who had just bought tickets to come and see us! I remember walking out on that stage and I had no idea it would be that many people. It was absolutely mental.

DO YOU GET NERVOUS WHEN YOU FIND YOURSELF IN FRONT OF THESE GROWING CROWDS?

I get more nervous at my own shows because people have come to see me specifically. So I just really want to perform for them. It’s not that I get scared about performing; it’s that I get scared about being able to give them the best show and give them a really wicked night that they’ve been looking forward to.

HAVE YOU EVER HAS ANY HOSTILE CROWDS THAT YOU’VE HAD TO DEAL WITH?

I must have come across a few but I was probably too drunk to notice. There was one show that Dr P did, and he had just had his big track Sweet Shop, which was a massive departure from anything that was going on in dubstep. I remember standing at the show, he was playing and some guy pushed his way to the front, help up his phone and said, “I hate you. You ruined dubstep. Fuck you.” And he held his middle finger up in Dr P’s face. I think that’s hostile! But he paid to get in! And everybody else was enjoying it.

SO YOU AND DR P SET UP CIRCUS RECORDS TOGETHER, YOU WORK TOGETHER A LOT AND YOU’VE BEEN FRIENDS FOR A LONG TIME, RIGHT?

Yeah, we pretty much started working together when I was about 12 or 13. There’s this guy called Trolley Snatcha who’s a dubstep producer as well, and he lived a few doors down from me, so we were friends all through school. And I remember Shaun, Dr P, used to walk home from school and we would stand behind him because he had a massive afro, and we would just be shouting stuff about his big afro. He turned around to tell us to leave his afro alone, and we were like, “Yeah, alright – what’s your name?” And we just got talking to him and it turned out that he was well into music as well, so we started writing tunes together. We formed a band called Goo Lip, but strangely enough, when we formed that band we wrote down five or six band names on a guitar and then chose one at random. One those band names was Flux Pavilion, so that’s how I got my name and I think it’s worked out alright.

DO YOU REMEMBER THE OTHER BAND NAMES YOU CAME UP WITH?

Well Goo Lip was one of them, and I’m not sure if we thought that was a good name or not. I don’t know what we thought about Flux Pavilion either. There was The Dip Smiths and The Blowfish, but I can’t remember the others.

YOU DEFINITELY PICKED THE RIGHT ONE! SO WHAT IS YOUR ROLE AT CIRCUS RECORDS?

My involvement now is essentially looking after artists, looking for and signing new music – just making sure that everyone is alright, and we all got out and do loads of shows together. It’s such an amazing opportunity to run a label and sign artists and now have anyone telling us what to do. You can make a track, and it can be the weirdest song in the world, and everyone from every record label can say “no – that’s not going to work, it’s a rubbish track,” but if we liked it then we can put it out and it can end up being a hit.

YOUR TRACK WITH EXAMPLE, “DAYDREAMER,” IS A BIG HIT – IT’S ALL OVER THE RADIO AT THE MOMENT. ARE THERE ANY OTHER ARTISTS YOU HOPE TO COLLABORATE WITH IN THE FUTURE?

I would love to do something with Julian Casablancas from The Strokes. That would be insane. I’m trying to finish my album so I wouldn’t want to start trying to get it together now because I think I would just give up on everything just so that I could go into the studio with him. His solo album was so good and I like that he kind of used a lot of electronic works within that, and I thought that him singing over semi-electronic music it was just... I reckon we could do something really good. It would be an epic, emotional track with him singing on it. It would make my life. I could probably quit after that.

BUT FOR THE TIME BEING, YOU WORK AS A SOLO ARTIST, A PRODUCER, YOU DO REMIXES AND SET UP YOUR OWN RECORD LABEL – WHEN YOU DO HAVE SPARE TIME, WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO?

Umm, well, I like to music, to be honest. Making music and playing music, that’s my hobby, but I guess that comes in under the umbrella of what you just said. So other than that it’s just sleep and eat! Although I’ve been getting well into TV; it’s really strange touring because you think you’re going to be really busy, but the time you have on planes and in hotels waiting for shows, I can end up getting through “The Wire.” I got through all seasons of “The Wire” in about four weeks! So I just watch loads of TV. I’ve just started watching “Game of Thrones.” I started watching it three days ago and I’ve just finished the first season, and they’re all hour long episodes. I am really busy but I literally have no idea where the time comes from. My iTunes bill is so high; I don’t want to look at it.

FINALLY, WHO ARE YOUR IDOLS?

Frank Zappa is my most significant idol because his idealistic view of how to write music is the most amazing thing ever. He is pretty much a god to me in the way that he thinks about things. David Bowie as well because it’s like, it’s so interesting being an artist, like when you’re doing all the press and promotion there’s loads of attention directed towards you as a person, and that’s not really what I’m all about, I just love the music, it’s the most important thing for me. But what Bowie did with Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke was to create these characters that people could pay attention to, learn about and stare at pictures of them but then when it actually came back to David Bowie, it’s just him talking about the music because that’s what he was. He created a pin-up for all that attention to go towards and when it came back to him as a human being he could keep it exactly to what he was passionate about, which I think is an amazing thing to do. It’s what I try to do as well. I try to look as ridiculous as I can and have Flux Pavilion as separate thing to me as a person.

Written for IDOL

Friday, 13 April 2012

DIGITAL WORDS / Nicki Minaj "Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded"

Find my review of Nicki Minaj's Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded HERE

Tenacious, amusing and, above all, “the best” - make no mistake, with Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, Nicki Minaj is here to reaffirm her rap territory and aims to carve out her place in music history.      

It’s official. Nicki Minaj is the biggest female music artist in the world right now. The evidence is piling up and it’s impossible to refute. Although her participation in Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime show felt like she was one of many hired hands put in place to try and make Madonna feel relevant, it did put her in front of an audience of over 111 million, thus making sure that anyone on planet Earth who had failed to take notice of Minaj were initiated. Her exorcism-based performance art at The Grammy’s this year was by all accounts baffling but it was by far the most daring and unexpected appearance of the night. And if rumour is to be believed, Minaj has been recruited as the newest face to promote Pepsi – a lucrative endorsement which in the past has been taken up by the three of the biggest names in pop music history; Michael Jackson, Madonna and Britney Spears. Hell, the New York Times just came right out with it recently and published an article that crowned Nicki Minaj “the most influential female rapper of all time.”

But why are we bothering to recount Nicki Minaj’s seismic successes? A sizeable proportion of her sophomore album, 'Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded', is dedicated to this exact cause. She frankly informs listeners, “When you see me on Ellen, just admit that I’m winnin’,” “Do a show for Versace, they request me by name” and “When I’m sitting with Anna, I’m really sitting with Anna, Ain’t a metaphor punch line, I’m really sitting with Anna” on 'Come on a Cone', a track on which Minaj makes her presence in and influence over mass media ice clear. Bravado can, of course, be grating but when Minaj boasts of her achievements, it’s less hot air and more vehement pride, as she previously stated, she’s “fightin’ for the girls that thought they could never win” ('I’m The Best'), which makes you only want to become part of her Barbie revolution even more.

However, this is not an album all about constructing a welcoming female community. Minaj addresses the plethora of young, feisty female rappers that have emerged since she paved the way for them with her crossover, mainstream success. In no uncertain terms on 'I Am Your Leader' she simultaneously gives a warning to her inferior, musical offspring and cautions her detractors. It’s confrontational tracks like 'I Am Your Leader', 'Roman Reloaded', 'HOV Lane', 'Beez in the Trap' and 'Stupid Hoe' where Minaj is at her best, throwing around blunt, witty, threatening putdowns that only a fool would try to hit back at. *Cough* Lil’ Kim.

One of the most noticeable leaps forward from 2010’s 'Pink Friday' is the curtail put on the frequency of intrusive A-list cameo appearances. Don’t get us wrong, there is still a whole host of featured artists (including Drake, Lil Wayne and Rick Ross amongst others), but the incorporation of Minaj’s contemporaries feel like suitable supplements rather than irritating distractions from the woman of the hour, which was the irksome glitch on her preceding LP. The second advancement is the way in which Nicki embraces the consolidated position of a mainstream starlet, which 'Super Bass' brought her. She can do mass-appeal radio hits as well as the triumvirate of her colourful competitors, made up of Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Rihanna, if not better. She parades the dance-pop hybrid torch on 'Pound The Alarm', 'Whip It' and 'Automatic', with the beach rave of 'Starships' being the most compelling confirmation of her destiny to eat pop culture alive.

Written for IDOL

Thursday, 12 April 2012

I Hate... Revision / "Come flame of the sky, pierce through my head!"

It's that time of year again, when everything you like about life has to be put on hold and replaced with hours of solitude, forcing facts and quotations into your skull, and hoping that an anonymous exam marker will deem you and your brain worthy of existence. Love it.

This is so totally what I look like when I'm working

Sunday, 8 April 2012

DIGITAL WORDS / "Trapped: Michael Jackson and the Crossover Dream" Review

Find my review of Trapped: Michael Jackson and the Crossover Dream by Dave Marsh HERE


Before getting down to the business of reviewing Trapped: Michael Jackson and the Crossover Dream please allow me to give you a quick briefing on the availability of the book. Printed in 1985, American music critic, Dave Marsh’s lean two hundred and fifty plus pages on Michael, is not widely available in 2012. I purchased my copy second-hand from an independent seller on Amazon and at the time of writing there were just ten more copies available via this source, and just one American seller on Ebay offering the title for a reasonable price. My point being, if this review triggers your interest order the book pronto because, unfortunately, it’s circulation is limited.

The structure of Trapped: Michael Jackson and the Crossover Dream is the defining characteristic which differentiates this publication from any other Jackson title. Marsh varies between alternate chapters of objective factual information and subjective interpretive readings with the latter presented in the form of open letters directly addressed to Michael. For readers who are looking for a straightforward chronology of facts, this arrangement may seem digressive, but for those who consider themselves well versed with the timeline of Michael’s life (up to 1985, of course) this should prove to be a potently thought-provoking read. For devoted Michael fans, this is not an ideal read; Dave Marsh’s readings of the worth of Thriller and Michael’s relationship with and loyalty to his black fans are particular topics which may make you wince with discomfort or seethe with anger. However, there are many other facets to this text which anyone with more than passing interest in Michael will appreciate.

At times, there are eerily prophetic qualities to Trapped… such as Marsh’s musings on Elvis Presley’s death and the prime cause of it being his isolation from the real world, rather than any of his injurious lifestyle choices and isolation being an equally corrosive impediment on Michael’s public relations as his stardom soared to unknown heights. What Marsh makes of the scarcity of Michael interviews and public interaction post 1985, one can only wonder. At other times, his predictions are humorously off target; the forecast that press and general interest in Michael after Thriller mania had quelled, would wane and that “newer pop stars” and “scandals” would replace gossip about Michael in the realm of throwaway popular culture. For the reader, hindsight is, as ever, a wonderful thing and in the light of the tabloid fever that only grew with each phase of Michael’s career we can chortle at this blunder, but the majority of Trapped… is anything but dismissible. The mapping out of the social history of Gary, Indiana makes plain the life the Jackson’s were able to escape through the pursuit of their musical dreams, the vivid description of the manmade (or is that Michael-made?) paradise of the family’s Encino home comes saturated with colourful details, and Marsh’s interpretation of the difficulties placed on Michael by his Jehovah Witness membership all make for vital, enlightening reading and as scathing as Marsh’s review of the Victory tour as a whole may be, you are not going to find a clearer explanation of the complex and multifarious business and promotional issues that plagued the tour anywhere else.

For fans, this book may well be a challenging, if not confrontational, read, but rewarding it is too. Plus surely we can all appreciate the efforts of a music critic (one who plainly declares his appreciation for Michael’s music, F.Y.I.) who tried to decipher who Michael Jackson was whilst within the eye of the storm.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

I Hate... Lies / “Hi, I’m [insert name here] the new intern”

Made in Chelsea is of course not representative of reality in any way. In fact it barely resembles what most humans refer to as “life.” The London that the Chelsea crew populate is, bafflingly, forever bathed in sunshine, each week is structured around launch parties (in the past two series there have been “launch parties” for a blog (WTF), a line of home printed t-shirts (WTF) and even the inception of a book idea, not a book itself, but just someone’s desire to write one, I repeat, WTF) and days are long enough to accommodate the luxury of painstakingly analysing every insipid conversation that has been had in the last week or so.

But above all of these warped images of human existence, there was one violation of real life in Monday’s episode (the first of season three – watch it HERE, if you have an hour of your being to waste) that I cannot let pass by unaddressed. It was the portrayal of the magazine intern.

The new story line for Millie Mackintosh, girlfriend of mockney rapper Professor Green and awakward posh totty of choice for FHM, is her role as an intern at Glamour magazine. Please now allow me, as someone who has been a magazine intern on 10+ occasions, to now decimate the Made in Chelsea interpretation of the internship.


 (Timings taken from the 4OD link, above)

13:55 – Your identity
Ms Mackintosh starts her internship by stating, via intercom, “Hi, its Millie the new intern.” First things first, no one cares what your name is. No matter how many people you have spoken to in order to set up this internship (without the help of an E4 TV crew) your name will not ring any bells. All that matters is that you are the intern. Secondly, she is swiftly buzzed into the building. Again, totally misleading as getting into publishing houses, generally, is as arduous as getting through airport security; phone calls need to be made, security passes need to be issued, health and safety regulations and procedures need to be covered. You can’t just breeze in and out, Millie.

14:10 – Your desk
Millie is warmly welcomed and shown to her desk. Warm welcomes are a rarity for interns, I’ve been lucky enough to have a few but I’ve also had my fair share of haughty glances and cold, blank stares. Desks too are an uncertainty for interns. On one placement, not only was there not a desk space for me, there wasn’t a chair either. I had to store my personal belongings next to a bin and either work cross legged on the floor or shut away in a poorly ventilated cupboard (I preferred the cupboard FYI). Whilst on another occasion, so frequently was I moved from workspace to workspace in order to accommodate the friends and drifters of editorial staff who, like, really needed to check their email, that I felt like I was playing an office version of musical chairs. I disappeared from the vicinity for two hours, and upon my return I was awarded with a semi-permanent work station.

17:15 – The desk (again)
Holy crap - look at the quality of Millie’s desk! A working computer, paper, pens, a stapler and she tops it all off with a chair! If you are lucky enough to be granted a desk it will not be tidy like this one. The intern’s desk is where previous interns leave their refuse and the place where anyone and everyone else will dump unimportant paperwork, documents, empty mugs and duff electrical equipment. It’s also the place reserved for computers that are not fully functional (i.e. no internet and not hooked up to a printer).

17:25 – Security (again)
Wait! Now Millie’s BFF Caggie has subverted the strenuous security system too! And she’s brought a bottle of champers to congratulate her friend on being a “working girl”? Does she not realise Millie is not making any money here? And how BLOODY UNPROFESSIONAL this is making her friend look?

17:55 – Lunch
Okay, this part is true: the nervous anticipation over when to go for lunch. Do you wait for other people to start making lunchtime plans? Do you wait for someone else to invite you to join them since you don’t know another human being in this building and eating alone makes you self-conscious, which gives you a dry throat and makes it difficult to swallow your sandwich? Do you go to the in-house canteen? Do you venture out of the building? Do you bring something to eat back to your desk (if you have one)? Wait, who am I waiting for to extend this invite to me? I’ll just wait until my commute home and eat a carb-orific snack on the go in order to make up for the lunch break I missed whilst milling over all this anxiety.

I cannot wait to see what other nuggets of fact and (mostly) fiction will be woven into Millie’s sham of an internship in the coming episodes.  

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

DIGITAL WORDS / IDOL TOP 5: TRACKS OF THE WEEK

Original blog post can be found HERE

Florence and the Machine - Never Let Me Go (Clams Casino Remix)
From the sublime Ceremonials comes Florence and the Machine’s next single, Never Let Me Go, and amplifying the haunting magnificence of the track is the Clams Casino remix which employs clanging church bells and a powerful rush of euphoria around the 2.47 mark (approximately).


Best Coast - The Only Place
What with the British sunshine going to all of our heads lately it seems that Best Coast have perfectly timed the unveiling of the first single from their forthcoming second LP which sees Bethany Cosentino and co. serenading the serotonin highs of carefree, California living.


HAIM - Better Off
Este, Danielle and Alana Haim are the sister trio hailing from Los Angeles who have emerged as one of the most talked about bands of SXSW with their unique and unlikely melding of folk-rock and R&B. Better Off is taken from their debut Forever EP which is available as a free download from their website right now.


Ren Harvieu - Open Up Your Arms
Open Up Your Arms is the perfect introduction to twenty-one year old Ren Harvieu for those who are yet to become acquainted with her string-laden, 60s pop indebted sound. For more warming, Dusty Springfield-esque tones you can catch Harvieu on her UK tour this week.


The Hives - Go Right Ahead
Although it’s been five long years since The Hives have released any new material, IDOL first heard this track being aired when the Swedish garage-rock five piece played a whirlwind set at last year’s Wireless festival. It’s the same old, same old with The Hives, big, bold, brash hooks and vocals, and we wouldn’t want it any other way. This single should be enough to get you as excited as we are about the June release of the band’s fifth album, Lex Hives.


Written for IDOL

Sunday, 1 April 2012

I Like... Shopping / Essentials

Just a quick shopping list I compiled after looking through what's on offer at Gotta Have Rock and Roll

1) A plaster cast of Michael Jackson's face, as used during the making of the Thriller video

2) A children's turtle train coaster taken from the grounds of Neverland

3) A small sample of Michael Jackson's hair