Tuesday, 25 October 2011

John Peel day - some memories.

Seven years ago today I received a text from my friend Kerrie telling me John Peel had passed away. I didn’t believe her at first – It was literally unthinkable to me that such a thing could have happened, but then TV, the radio, and the newspapers confirmed it. John was no more.

I was inconsolable for weeks - and gradually I discovered I was far from the only one, which came as something of a surprise, due to Peel’s perceived outsider status. I only knew one other person obsessed with his show as I was, after all – But then it started to make sense – Peel had been around since the birth of pop radio, after all, since the days of psychedelic pirate radio, he had reached into teenage bedrooms and transformed lives for years, not counting his radio 4 appearances, which had endeared him to a whole other kind of audience.

Anyway, let’s flashback a few years.

1993, and my 14 year old self had been devouring the stranger aspects of the top 40 (in the days when independent releases peppered the hit parade like buckshot from the underground), I had started buying music magazines with my then-heroes on the cover – Bjork, De La Soul, The Orb, Suede, etc. In amongst the pages of these magazines I started reading about bands and artists I’d never heard on Bruno Brookes’ chart countdown, but who sounded utterly fascinating – The Aphex Twin and King Tubby – names which sounded exotic, descriptions of music that defied everything I had heard thus far. It would be very hard to describe to those who grew up in an internet age how distant and mysterious that music you heard never actually heard could be – But there you go. Imagine it if you can.

Then one day I remember well, I was at an antique/collector’s fair in mid-Wales, helping out my parents on their stall, and the hippy couple who I had an affinity with had the radio on – This was Sunday afternoon if I remember rightly. Suddenly I heard this echoing, massive bassline – It sounded like the skinhead reggae I had grown up with listening to (my brother-in-law had been a DJ in Bristol in the late seventies) , only broken to bits and reconstructed in the most psychedelic way imaginable. I was transfixed! Then a deep voice came on and announced I had just been listening to the late, great King Tubby! So THIS was what King Tubby sounded like! And on the RADIO? Well...Soon afterwards I learnt that this was John Peel’s show, and, although most of the rest of the show puzzled me beyond belief, I was hooked.

A few weeks later was my 15th birthday, and me and a friend had stayed up late playing Atari ST games in the front room, when I decided to put the radio on – more crazy music, this time Aphex Twin, John Peel again!

In time I listened to every show, utilising blank tapes and the pause button to it’s best effect – At the start I would maybe collect 4 or 5 tunes from each show onto tape – mostly dub reggae and the then-emergent sound of jungle, but eventually I would be getting a side of tape per show, as my tastes gradually widened to include obscure American punk tunes, old country and African music – the show was a real goldmine.

A few years later I had the fortune to meet Peel’s Radio One colleague Steve Lamacq when he played a show in Aberystwyth. I had a really nice long chat with him and he told me lots of anecdotes about Peel, which made me feel even closer to the man himself.

A few years after that I was living in London, and I met Gaz, a fellow Peel obsessive. With the advent of e-mail and text messaging we were able to actually contact John during his shows, and ‘Fuzz’ and ‘Gazcloud’ became regular names read out – One particular time I remember answering a query from another listener regarding a metal record that used songs from the Wizard Of Oz (‘Oz on 45’ by The Squirrels) that Peel had played in the 80’s. I remember stated that I wasn’t sure if he had played it in the 80’s but he had certainly played it in 1995. “how the hell did you remember that, Fuzz?”, John asked on air. A rhetorical question, I imagine – I did, of course, have it on one of the hundreds of off-air recordings that I would listen to when Peel’s show wasn’t on...

During that period I was fortunate enough to attend several of the live Peel sessions at Maida Vale - I remember Herman Dune, Melt Banana and Dreadzone as particular favourites (Dreadzone especially as the band were very friendly and I got to shake the hand of reggae legend Earl 16). During the Herman Dune session I got to meet the man himself for the first time...

I cannot tell you how nervous I was! I was never the most confident of people in my early twenties, and this was John Peel! The man who had unknowingly soundtracked my years of teenage heartbreak and struggle, who had brought me so much joy and so many tunes to weep along with, who had widened my horizons far beyond the biggest selling records, who had changed me for life. The walk into the sound-proofed DJ booth (around 6 feet), seemed like the longest walk of my life – heightened by the fact that the corridor in was pitch black, and the booth beyond was bathed in a brilliant white glow. And in the middle of the glow was John, alone. The people I was with had come bearing gifts for him, which was a great way to hang back, let them do the talking – I had no idea what I was going to say. Anyway, for some reason the conversation had gotten on to bands with rude names – and I got my opportunity – “I remember the first time you said ‘f*ck’ on the radio actually” (this was in relation to the band with the same name, who Peel had previously referred to either as ‘The band with a name like ‘duck’’, or, latterly ‘Feck’). “I know”, John replied, beaming, “I actually kept looking around expecting the ground to swallow me up”.

There were other times too – later were his Fabric appearances (I didn’t miss any of those), where he would play everything from African hi-life to hardcore nosebleed techno, where the crowd kept chanting 'John Peel' for some ten mins into the next DJ's set, and were some of the most fun nights of my life (especially when Louise the producer sat down and had beer with us prior), but I’ll still remember John oddly dwarfed by the womb-like studio, unprepossessing, shuffling about a little shy and nervous, but coming to life when playing and discussing the music he passionately loved.

I still miss you most days now John, and I really can’t thank you enough.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Triple Dip delights

Hello, and welcome again to Dellamorte’s triple-dip! The occasional series wherein I share three tracks (or sometimes DJ mixes) which have been tickling my aural pleasure receptors over the last fortnight. In some unshocking business-as-usual news, they’re a pretty varied selection, so let’s kick off!

Those who know a little bit about the frankly awful state of American pop post rock ‘n’ roll and pre Motown & British Invasion (basically 1960-1962) may well be aware of “Love Letters” by Ketty Lester – a gloopy piece of schmaltz if ever there was one. However, Ketty’s career post hit was pretty interesting – she later starred in blaxploitation films such as Uptight and the rather wonderful Blacula, and she was, in 1964 behind this record, which has since become highly prized by the Northern Soul community – a record warning about digging too deep into the past of your partner, which I find rather sweet.

(I usually pick up songs I have never heard before for this feature, but in this case this is a record I used to play way way back in time, when I was learning my DJ chops in mid-Wales as a resident at funk & soul night Superstition. For some reason I hadn’t heard it in....ooh, almost ten years, until I came across a random compilation last weekend, and this, along with various other tracks, took me right back to the DJ booth at the now-closed Bay Hotel in Aberystwyth)

Now Breakage is someone I’ve been aware of in the drum & bass world for close on a decade now, but in the last year or so he’s fully embraced the sounds of dubstep, and made what I consider to be by far his strongest work, from the epic, widescreen remixes of Plan B’s ‘Prayin’’ and Clare Maguire’s ‘Ain’t Nobody’ to the jaw dropping minimal forward thrust of Fighting Fire (ft Jess Mills). Here he remixes something from the new album by Roots Manuva (which is in itself well worth checking out), and turns into some old-skool 1993 rave breakbeat deliciousness. Dust masks at the ready!

Roots Manuva - Get the Get (Breakage Remix) by Arsène

(If you’re loving these rave sounds, remember you can go over to my own Soundcloud page and download my two ‘Haunt Of Togetherness’ mixes)

Now over to Australia’s Sneaky Sound System for some much needed light and positivity after Breakage’d dark out! These guys are a duo I’ve been aware of since the Riot In Belgium remix of their ‘I Love It’ was one of my favourite records of 2006 – since then they’ve raised their profile by recording with Tiesto and releasing lots of ace pop records –and they have a new album out. This is my current favourite from it , and it’s romantic, positive disco pop that you really cannot argue with.

Friday, 7 October 2011


Hey kids,

I have a show over at Spirtplants radio this weekend – It goes out at 9.45pm GMT on Saturday night (considerably earlier than usual!) and then repeated at 11am GMT Sunday morning – One of my most varied shows yet ,actually, from disco to indie to northern soul to ska to dubstep and drum & bass. I’ll be manning the chatroom on the Sunday morning repeat also, so do come say hi!

However, if you’re in the London vicinity on Saturday then come to the Hobgoblin in Angel, where I’ll be playing a 2 hour set from 11pm-1am of total party tunes (indie, Motown, funk, reggae, maybe even some classic pop if you’re lucky) in my own inimitable style (EG I’ll probably be jumping around). It’s free, so come join in the fun!

See you at the weekend!


Thursday, 6 October 2011

Triple Dip Number 2!

Hello, and welcome to the second edition of Dellamorte’s triple-dip, in which I list three random tunes which have been blowing my tiny mind in the past couple of weeks.

First up is Katy B – everyone likes a bit of Katy B and her dubstep/pop crossover, don’t they? Certainly helps that she seems like a very likeable, normal and down-to-earth young lady. Anyway, I digress! I should be here to talk about the music! Well, first off her tune Lights On (featuring the evergreen Ms Dynamite) was a rather catchy number in its original form, but props to remixer and Minneapolis resident Gigamesh, who gave me something I had no idea that I wanted – a proper old-skool electro (as in ‘New York Street Sounds’ electro) re-rub of it. And it’s awesome – Have a listen!

Katy B - Lights On (Gigamesh Remix) [DL link in info section] by GIGAMESH

Next out of the gate is a remix that’s been around for ages of a tune that’s been around for even longer, but a few weeks ago I heard this dropped at XOYO, and got so over-excited I nearly put my back out. It inspired quite an outbreak of singing along and silly dancing, as well, and it makes me smile every time I hear it – so without further ado, the genius re-edit of Fleetwood Mac’s Everywhere by Psychemagik.

Fleetwood Mac Everywhere (Psychemagik Edit) by Psychemagik

Finally, you may or may not have heard either of my Haunt Of Togetherness mixes (listen or download over at my own Soundcloud page), but they both pick a zig-zag path through all kinds of recent rave music, and as such, there’s quite a lot of dubstep involved. Now, there is an awful lot of dubstep around these days, as you may have gathered, and much of it is, frankly, just noise (as my father used to say), so it’s nice to hear a new dubstep tune which has something of the depth and darkness of the earlier days of Skream and Benga – This is one of those tracks.

That’s me out, anyway. See you for another dip in a couple of weeks!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Film Review - The Witches (1966)

The Witches (1966)

Now, if you’re anything like myself, you’ll find a Hammer horror film irresistible – From undisputed classics such as The Devil Rides Out or The Curse Of Frankenstein, to their lesser fare such as Dracula AD 1972 or even the godawful Ralph Bates starrer Horror Of Frankenstein, I can’t get enough of their low-budget-but-always-professional outings, and I for one was overjoyed when the recently resurrected company came back with such strong material as Let Me In and the astoundingly good Wake Wood.
The Witches concerns a woman (Joan Fontaine) who suffered some kind of traumatic experience whilst working for a mission in Africa – something about witchdoctors forcing an uprising, although it’s never really gone into in any detail. To recover from her mental breakdown she takes a job as headmistress at a private school in the country, which at first seems idyllic, until she gradually realises darker forces are at work in the village (I’ll give you a clue here – Read the title of the film again). When she is about to expose the village’s elderly witch for what she believes is murder, she suddenly suffers another breakdown and her memory is wiped...will she recover enough to expose the conspiracy of witchcraft?
The Witches at first seems an atypical outing – It’s a Joan Fontaine vehicle for one, which she co-produced (stories abound of her being very dissatisfied with her working conditions and of possibly being upstaged by her co-star Kay Walsh), and features none of Hammer’s regular stock of actors, although the ones who appear (Leonard Rossiter as a suspicious doctor, Michele Dotrice aka Betty from Some Mothers Do ‘Ave Em as a young housekeeper) are of top quality – are excellent, with special merit being given to Kay Walsh as a provoctative newspaper columnist and Alec McCowan as her obviously rather unhinged brother (we first see him dressed as a priest, but it soon transpires he wears the collar ‘for comfort’). Also of merit is the script by the late, great, ever-reliable Nigel Kneale, which touches on British folklore and Pagan traditions several years before The Wicker Man appeared – In fact, there are many parallels to that film here. In its first half the film is actually quite brilliant – with an air of mystery gradually unfolding, and some great humorous touches and a very intelligent, adult feel to the whole thing. Unfortunately, whether to do with what was allowed on-screen at the time, or by a massive mis-step by director Cyril Frankel (mostly known for directing episodes of every cool TV series from the 70’s), the entire film is deflated by a ludicrous final sequence – It probably won’t be too much of a spoiler to tell you that there is a black mass, but the way it’s portrayed looks frankly like a bunch of posh stage school actors in ripped clothes improvising a voodoo dance, which, well, is probably what it is, and it’s utterly laughable.
I’d watched most of the film genuinely excited that I’d discovered a lost classic of British horror in fact, and remarked such at the time. Unfortunately, when the credits rolled, my opinion had changed to ‘oh’. My advice would be to watch it up until the scene where the cat is (literally) let out of the bag (actually quite disturbing, this bit!), and then attempt to forgive the last 15 minutes. Or watch something else instead. C’est la vie!

Film Review - The Silent House (2010)

Firstly, I haven’t seen an awful lot of films from Uruguay. In fact, The Silent House is the only one (yes, I did do my homework and go through a list of Uruguayan films just to check. There really aren’t that many).

Secondly, I haven’t seen an awful lot of films that purport to be in ‘real time’ either – especially not that take pains to look as if they were filmed in one take as well. In fact, errr...I’ve still not see one of those.

So, yes, Silent House doesn’t really deliver on it’s initial promise of one-take real-time terror – There are camera edits (although well hidden), and the coda takes place the next day, but such technical criticism seems rather churlish, as the film should stand on the merits of its story and atmosphere, right?


The plot (what little of it exists) goes like this – Handyman and his young daughter go to clear out an abandoned old house which the owner is selling. They arrive at night and are to sleep there until the next day. The father soon falls asleep and the girl starts to hear some strange and rather disturbing noises. Then her father wakes and goes to investigate, until he turns up bound and dead....

That’s literally all the plot I can give away without spoilering. Unfortunately I rather wish I could be more spoilerific with this review, because A) Most of my negative reaction to this film comes with the ending and B) You’d be less likely to want to see it.

To be fair, for the most part the film does what I expected it to do – It puts you at unease with the feel of the real time, single take, where there is a lot of darkness and not much happening, and then steadily amps up the scares – most of which are of the very effective ‘unexplained scary noise’ variety, until the dead father turns up, and things get stranger.

Unfortunately, it’s the aforementioned ‘twist’ ending that breaks it apart. On the first watch I was a little confused, so I attempted it again, and got even more confused. Obviously, in a reviewer, this is generally not a good look, so I went and read all the spoilery reviews I could find in an attempt to make sense. Where am I now? Well, I’m still just as confused, if I’m honest - whether it was the film maker’s intention to have this as deliberately vague as it comes across, or whether it was a result of bad writing/story telling I’m not sure, but it will leave the average viewer scratching their heads and shrugging (sorry, I could go into specifics, but, again, spoilers).

So all in all I cannot really recommend The Silent House – which is a shame, as for the first 40 minutes or so I was impressed by the naturalistic acting and setting and the slow-burn tension – But slow burn is useless without release, and that just doesn’t happen here.