ROSINA KAZI INTERVIEW: LAL, UNIT 2 & COMMUNITY WORK

by Ananya Wilson-Bhattacharya

The Canadian electronic music scene is relatively little-known internationally, not least its radical activist elements. But LAL, the Toronto-based electronic duo, never sought widespread international recognition. Instead, the self-identified ‘semi-anarchist’ couple – singer-songwriter/manager Rosina Kazi, and producer-instrumentalist Nicholas Murray – have embraced their position outside the mainstream by fostering a literal and metaphorical space for alternative musicians and poets. They produce their own unique sounds, inspired by both European electronic and fusion bands. They’re also influenced by both the Canadian, and the global socio-political landscapes. I sat down with Rosina in a downtown Toronto coffee shop to discuss the band’s history, potential move to Europe, and their community performance space, Unit 2.

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TO BE A FEMALE PERFORMER – ABUSE AND HARASSMENT IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY

by Tom McGhie

Content warning: sexual harassment, sexual abuse, misogyny

There are few greater feelings than when an artist connects with their audience at a gig, something more than just applause and guitar chords. Most people have, at some point in their lives, attended a gig which has stuck in their memory because of that very exchange between performer and public. This visceral communication is what propels music as one of the most important art forms; it brings people together in an ever-dividing societal sphere.

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“WE’RE FIGHTING A DOUBLE BATTLE IN THIS WHITE-DOMINATED WORLD” – AN INTERVIEW WITH THE TUTS

by Chris Jarvis

2016 will be the year of the Tut. After a crowdfunding campaign that achieved double its original target, The Tuts are set to release their debut album – Update Your Brain – in September. The all-woman three piece from Hayes have nurtured a loyal and growing fan base in their first few years, with tours alongside UK veterans Kate Nash, The Selecter and Sonic Boom Six helping to build a wide creoss-genre appeal.Continue Reading

THE LOUD SILENCE OF WHITE ARTISTS ON #BLACKLIVESMATTER

by Mike Vinti

This week, racial tensions in America have been reignited by the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castle and five members of the Dallas police. The response from the the majority of people of all races has been one of shock and sadness, with many black musicians and artists using their platforms to voice their solidarity with the victims and their support for the BlackLivesMatter movement.

Beyoncé and husband Jay-Z both released statements following the attacks, with Jay-Z even releasing his first new song – Spiritual – in years to support the BLM movement. UK rappers Stormzy and Novelist, two increasingly political artists in their own right, have spoken out, highlighting the issue of police violence in the UK as well as the US. RnB icon Miguel has recorded a song listing the names of black Americans killed by police with plans to update it every week. These are just some of the interventions made by high profile musicians in the last week. Continue Reading

SKEPTA, CHANCE THE RAPPER AND RAP’S DIY REVOLUTION

by Mike Vinti

The last week or so has seen the release of two of the most anticipated projects in recent musical history; Skepta’s fourth album Konnichiwa and Chance the Rapper’s third mixtape Coloring Book.

With both MCs having made a name for themselves over the past couple of years as being pioneers in their respective fields of rap music, the release of their full length efforts has served to cement their reputations and effectively crown them as kings of their respective sides of the Atlantic. However, while both projects are excellent musically speaking, what’s most interesting about the hype surrounding both Chance and Skepta is that they’re both totally independent artists.Continue Reading

BEYONCÉ, HILLSBOROUGH AND UNITY THROUGH SONG

by Mike Vinti

It’s been a pretty big couple of weeks in the pop world. Prince died, Beyoncé pulled a well, a Beyoncé, and today (Friday April 29th) Drake has released his new album VIEWS. If ever there was a week to remind us of popular music’s impact on society and culture, this is the one.

While each of these moments are significant in their own right and worthy of articles of their own, of which there have been many, together they’ve demonstrated the power of music to unite people. Be it through, grief, shock or pure unadulterated hype, the three most significant cultural moments of the past eight days have used music to bring people together and for a few days at least, forget about those intent on tearing us apart.Continue Reading

THE CORPORATE UNDERGROUND

by Mike Vinti

The lines between the underground and mainstream music worlds have been blurring for a while now. As with the majority of issues facing the music industry these days, this is largely because of the internet. While it’s been an undeniably positive force on music itself, allowing fans and artists to connect more easily as well as opening whole new worlds of music to potential fans, it’s also made underground music more marketable.

This may not sound like a bad thing, and to a large extent it isn’t. While it would be great if musicians could live off credibility alone, in the ruthless world of capitalism in which we live, you need to be stacking that P if you want to survive. Where this increased marketability becomes less positive however is when corporations start getting involved.Continue Reading

VOICES OF HOPE COMING OUT OF THE DARKNESS – AN INTERVIEW WITH JOHNNY DOOM OF POLICE BASTARD

by Chris Jarvis

For anyone of my generation who group up in the Midlands with a taste for alternative music, Johnny Doom is something of an icon. Tuning into Kerrang Radio (when it was still broadcast on FM), it was the dulcet tones of this Brummie legend that would really excite, much more so than even the anarchic Tim Shaw or the esoteric Nick Margerisson. Unsurprisingly, he has won accolades for his wry radio conversations, being named Brummie of the Year in 2008.

But Johnny has a long history within music outside of his radio work. Becoming active initially in the late 1980s in the influential Crust Punk band Doom, Johnny went on to form the less acclaimed, but equally important Police Bastard, who fuse a raw and brutal aggression with thrash metal riffs and hardcore compositions. Encapsulated within that sound is an anti-authoritarian politics which is evident even from the band’s name. Because of this, we decided to talk to Johnny Doom about his politics and the role it plays in his music as part of our series Music That Matters.

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DON’T CALL IT A COMEBACK

by Mike Vinti

We’re barely a month into 2016 yet it’s becoming plain to see the musical trend that’s going to dominate the next twelve months: comebacks.

For as a long as there’s been a history of popular music there have been comebacks, it’s a natural part of the scene. The bands and musicians you idolise as a child and throughout your teenage years hold a special place in your heart and that’s always going to translate into a desire for more music and more shows form those artists; nostalgia is a powerful force.

Of, course, where there’s nostalgia, there’s money. Artists that have been around for longer can charge more for tickets, command larger production budgets and utilise the demand from fans to open doors not available to their more contemporary peers. This is doubly true for those than have been away and come back again. From Blur to Black Sabbath, Take That to Jay-Z, the combination of die-hard fans and risk averse record label execs sets the stage perfectly for a comeback if you’ve been officially out the scene for more than five years. Money and nostalgia, it seems as simple as that, right?Continue Reading

A NEW WAVE: FEMINIST PUNK

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by Mike Vinti

Feminism has been in the news a lot recently. Whether it’s Femen’s brand of topless demonstrations, protests at the premier of the film Suffragette or straw-man attacks on the movement in the Spectator, for a movement that’s been active for some decades now, its seems that 2015 was the year the cause really broke into mainstream circles.

Pop music in particular has been significantly influenced  by feminism this year. Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj established themselves as sex positive feminists and two of the biggest musicians on the planet, bands like Catfish & the Bottlemen are publicly derided for the kind of indie-lad-band antics that would have been celebrated in the NME five years ago and Whirr pretty much just wrecked their career by slinging misogynistic insults at the trans-fronted, feminist punk band G.L.O.S.S on Twitter. Two years ago we had ‘Blurred Lines’ – now we have clearly defined boundaries of consent.

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NEVER MIND THE SEX PISTOLS

by Mike Vinti

Earlier this week it was announced that Virgin Money will be putting out a series of credit cards bearing classic Sex Pistols iconography. The reaction to this has been pretty much universally horrified, as well it should — but really, what did everyone expect?

From the start the Sex Pistols were more about the image than integrity, they swapped Glen Matlock, the band’s only songwriter, for Sid Vicious because Matlock wasn’t punk enough; they let Malcolm McLaren run the show so long as they got paid, and last time anyone even thought about Johnny Rotten was when he did those fucking butter adverts. Virgin Records was the home of the ‘Pistols following their split from EMI and released the bands only studio album to date, the only thing shocking about the new credit cards is the fact it took them 30 years to come up with the idea.

Now this isn’t to say that the Sex Pistols are without merit. Or that you shouldn’t be disgusted by the prospect of some yuppie Richard-Branson-wannabe popping into his local branch of ‘Champagne and Fromage’ to buy some brie with his new ‘Anarchy for the UK’ credit card. But can we please let go of the idea that punk begins and ends with Johnny Rotten and co?Continue Reading

POP POWER

by Mike Vinti

It has been three weeks now since David Cameron Inc. and things haven’t exactly started smoothly — there have been protests up and down the country, the SNP are already pissing off half of Westminster, and the new Cabinet is somehow worse than the old one.

Hanging over it all is the question of what the left is going to look like over the next five years and how best to fight the newly upgraded conservative government and their inept, yet terrifying, policies for the new parliament.

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HOME GROWN PART 2: GRIME

by Mike Vinti

Last time round we focused on the explosion of hip hop taking place across the UK, this week we focus on the UK Rap scene’s mainstay: Grime.

Grime initially took off in the early 2000s thanks to pioneering production and vocal stylings of artists like Skepta and Wiley, whose invention of ‘Eski-beat’ birthed grime as we know it. Characterised by double-time rapping and generally sticking around 140 bpm, grime is hip hop’s faster, louder, and often far more hype cousin. Unfortunately, I was eight years old in 2002 and subsequently missed out on a lot of ‘OG’ grime. In better news however, after a lull in which the closest thing to grime you’d find on the radio was Wiley’s rather ill-considered attempts at pop, grime is back. With it comes a wealth of fresh, young, talent, raised on the genre’s roots and unafraid to experiment.

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COMMON PEOPLE

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by Jack Brindelli

May 2015 is a landmark in modern British culture, and it just so happens to coincide with a general election where, more and more, being seen as ‘one of us’ is adjudged more important than actually helping us. Next month, it will have two whole decades since the original release of Pulp’s tragically timeless ‘Common People’. The song — which is broadly recognised as one of the defining anthems of Britpop, reached number 2 in the charts 20 years ago — was kept from the supposedly prestigious top spot by the caterwauling Robson-and-bloody-Jerome.

But while Unchained Melody limped on for another 5 years thanks to a cringing Gareth Gates cover, only Pulp’s music can truly be said to have stood the test of time; misinterpreted as it is to this very day by the crowd of preening, self-obsessed hipsters who regularly grace St Benedict’s Street on a Saturday night. And I have to ask before I get bogged down in polemic, if any of our readers might happen to be amongst the number whooping and prancing about in the Birdcage to this, how can you not see that this song is a howling stab of rage directed at poverty tourists like you?

Have you quaffed so much craft ale that the world is just a tweed-patterned blur at this stage, or is your fashionably unkempt lumberjack beard just growing upwards into your brain?Continue Reading

HOME GROWN PART 1: UK HIP HOP

by Mike Vinti

For the past few years, hidden away from the mainstream media, and even much of the music press, British Rap has been flourishing. Rap in the UK comes in two major forms; Grime and UK Hip Hop. The Grime Renaissance of 2014/5 has seen the genre reinvigorated, keeping the best elements of its mid-2000s domination and pushing its boundaries both in terms of lyricism and production. On the UK Hip Hop side of things, labels like High Focus and Blah! Records have been slowly gaining more and more of a following, carving out a fresh faced, DIY oriented scene and shrugging off the ‘crusty’ aspersions that have come with the genre for so long.

Due to the frankly immense volume of rap music coming out the UK right now, this article will be in two halves, each dealing with one side of Britain’s rap world ­­— this week, UK Hip Hop!Continue Reading

SMASH THE CHARTS – POP, POLITICS, AND PUSSY RIOT

by Mike Vinti

It often seems today that everything exists in its own sphere — music in one box, politics in another, and visual art in another still. This is self-evident when you take a look at a lot of popular culture. For example, the rise of TV shows and films, such as The Interview, that use politics as backdrop for their plot, yet fail to engage in any substantial political critique.

The same thing has been taking place in music for the past twenty years, and musicians who have attempted to rectify this have either been relegated from their illustrious chart positions, or left to the underground.

This separation has made it harder for writers and artists of all stripes to experiment with the boundaries of their medium, and there’s been a death of explicitly political works of culture which make into the mainstream because of this. Of course, challenging the dominant perception of your chosen field always creates a stir. However it seems now, more than ever, musicians aren’t even being afforded the chance to do that.

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HIP-HOP, HUH?

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by Mike Vinti

Local festival Boom-Bap announced its line-up last week to considerable hype from Facebook’s ‘heads and a somewhat more muted response from the Norwich/ Norfolk public at large. Boom Bap, as the name suggests, is a hip-hop festival —  this year it’s taking place in the Suffolk countryside from 5th-7th June. It’s been running for a few years now and is part of an expanding hip-hop and rap scene in Norwich and the surrounding marsh-land between here and Yarmouth. So far they’ve announced Odd Future’s kid wonder Earl Sweatshirt and Skepta collaborating New York group RATKING as headliners, with cult legends Jehru the Damaja and Homeboy Sandman taking high slots on the bill as well. If you were to visit the corner of the internet where rap nerds meet, you’d find thread after thread of discussion and hype surrounding each of these artists, but talk to most people in Norwich or even at the youthful bubble that is the University of East Anglia and they won’t have a clue who you’re talking about.

This is no slight on those people, music is subjective, there’s a lot of it, blah blah blah, but I couldn’t help but wonder why in particular so few people, outside of those who are borderline obsessed, know about Hip-Hop in the UK?

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MUSIC: THE CLASS PROBLEM

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by Mike Vinti

Debate has been raging in the US over issues of cultural appropriation in hip-hop and popular music, particularly with regard to the roles of white artists in a traditionally black genre. This debate is a vital one and has highlighted many of the inequalities present between black and white musicians, actors, and other cultural figures. British culture faces its own issues around appropriation and representation, not just of race but of class. The relationship between class and culture in the UK has always been a complex one. From tales of working class hardship by the likes of Charles Dickens and Alan Bennett, to the idolisation of that landed gentry life by the likes of Mumford and Sons and the plague of imitation artists that followed their break into the mainstream, class undercuts British culture as much as it does day to day life.

In the past decade or so however, the evolutions in music and culture driven by the working class have been side-lined in favour of sanitised replicas, stripped of any comment or reflection on the socioeconomic factors that bore them.

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WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT MUSIC

by Mike Vinti.

If 2014 was the year of anything it was the year popular music started to be taken seriously. Services such as Spotify, and the dawn of Smartphones, means that music is more a part of our lives than ever before; a trend that’s influencing the way we engage with it both in terms of platform and as an art-form. It’s easy to view music as a compliment to life, a melodic enhancer to otherwise mundane activities and there’s nothing particularly wrong with treating it as such — I can’t force you to like Death Grips. Music can and should bring pleasure, but as we listen to more and more of it, its messages and intentions are being ignored.

For years now, debate has raged about the messages and politics in TV, Cinema and in Literature, hell, even music videos have had their fifteen minutes of ‘long read’ blog coverage, yet music itself has gone largely ignored. The reason for this, as a friend of mine noted recently, is because of music’s ubiquity — it’s everywhere, all the time. It soundtracks our walks home and our work, our free time and our periods of most intense concentration — as I write this, I am, totally unsurprisingly, listening to music.

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