Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The "Blow Out" Mixtape from 1987

This is one of the oldest mixtapes I still possess. 1987. It was done for the stoners that lived in the Tweedy Road student houses in Bromley. We had many many crazy and wonderful times there. This tape was a popular play for a while. This is side 2. Side 1 has dated more to be honest. In those days I had no decks of my own, but I did have two cassette decks and a very simple 4 into 2 line mixer. So I mixed using that with a Wem Copycat echo plumbed in. At the time, even when I DJ'd live I would overdub recordings of adverts, news broadcasts and kids TV from cassettes I had recorded (wem fans click here).

At the Tweedy Road house we were very passionate about environmental politics and putting the world to rights. Ahem.. Lots of daft stoned ideas were hatched (like "Freak-Doobry Land" at Glastonbury, which I still have a poster for) and some better ones too (the beginnings of the South East London Permaculture group), but mainly we just enjoyed getting very, very wrecked together and this is an example of the soundtrack.

The TV clips talk about terrorist attacks, stocks and shares and Russian girls having cold showers, there is some Dangermouse too, Bob Geldof.. and Keith Chegwin.

There are some great tracks here: Sonic Youth's album "Sister" had just come out, The Fall were on top of their game again (what a brilliant track! "Australians in Europe think 'why did my Great Grandad ever leave?' He was consigned to a boat for using a huge great cleeee-vvv-ahhhhh" M.E.S, you genius!), and we were just about to be consumed by acid house.. (you can hear it in the Cabaret Voltaire track).

The David Byrne track comes from his album of the musical score for "The Catherine Wheel" and features Brian Eno and Adrian Belew. My personal favourite re-discovery here, besides The Fall track.

For hillbilly fans the Tex Isley track comes from an album called "North Carolina Boys", recorded in 1972 by Janet Kerr. This is followed by a truly wondrous Mikey Dread track from the brilliant "World War III" album. I had a big pair of speakers in my student hole and this track would shake the walls on a regular basis. I love this kind of minimal dub "watch out now Rasta!". I miss Mikey Dread a great deal. "Style, Style". 

Obviously, the quality is not the best it could be, but to be honest I find it amazing how good it still sounds after nearly 25 years.

Oh, and the intro and outro is cobbled together from some recording I was doing at the time for my duo with Carl Smith (R.I.P.) called "Fruittrees".

Hope you like it..

Simon x

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

A funky mix from the Larmer Tree 2000.

The Larmer Tree Festival is based near Salisbury in South England. Hard to believe this was back in the year 2000.. I had been invited to DJ for the Larmer Tree Festival's annual party after success at the Festival that year. This was back before Club Larmer had really started at the festival, and was just an idea. Before Club Larmer was established, live bands used to come and play impromptu sets in the cafe area after having played on the larger stages, or we would have experimental acts filling empty slots. We would have to cobble together enough kit by blagging gear from the other stages.This gig happened with the most minimal and basic equipment, so the mixing is a bit wobbly (but to be honest, my sets often are!).

I like this set, as it includes some brilliant tunes like Curtis Mayfield's "We Gotta Have Peace", and some unusual choices: "Handa Wanda" (if you have not heard of The Wild Magnolias before, check them out; they were from New Orleans, dressed like red Indians and played a special brand of Mardi Gras funk), Dick Hyman's mad version of James Brown's "Give It Up Or Turn It Loose" and Sir Joe Quarterman's "Find Yourself" (I have always loved his more well-known track "So Much Trouble In My Mind" which I will dust off for my next gig as it suits the current finanical climate so well), plus Ray Barretto's Latin-style cover of Stevie Wonder's "Pastime Paradise".

The back of The Wild Magnolias' LP sleeve

This was a good party and led to us setting up the Club Larmer proper, which got better equipped and more popular at the festival over the years. It was (and still is as far as I know) the late night DJ/dance area of the festival. I enjoyed some great funk and disco sessions there with some fabulous enthusiastic audiences and great collaborators. As far as I remember, I DJ'd there each year from 2000-2007 (even though I am not always mentioned on the Larmer Tree's website listings).

I didn't have my own set of decks at the time all this was going on, so I arranged to borrow some for one of the Larmer Tree Festivals. I asked a fellow DJ if he had a set of Technics 1210s I could borrow. "Yes mate", so, on the day of the gig I went round to pick them up. It turns out that they weren't 1210s at all, and he was lending me two ancient 1970's hi-fi turntables (the ones that were driven by a rubber band and had an automatic disc loader that would drop the needle on the record for you). Needless to say, DJing with these was a challenge. I got myself some decks fairly quickly after that..

I hope you enjoy this mix, rough as it is..

Simon x

Monday, 17 October 2011

Quote of the week

"music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything"
Plato. T
Sent from my iPhone

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Flight: Long Delay Mix

X-Amount - Flight (Long Delay Mix) by X-Amt

Another remix from "Degraded". This one took a couple of days before I was happy with it. Often I will get the whole thing done in a day, I like to work fast on a remix, as it is easy to lose sight of what you are doing when you become over-familiar with something. I have spent hours on these tracks. It's the same as when an artist creates a painting. You get so involved in all the tiny details and technicalities that you can easily lose sight of what the thing looks like to your audience, or you can forget what it was that you set out to do in the first place.

I had intended to produce an extended version of "Flight" (or "Short Flight" as it is known on the album version), firstly because it is one of my personal favourites and secondly, because I wanted a version that I could DJ with.

As I began re-arranging the track and stripping away the sounds, I had ideas for additional parts, so I created a short reference mix and imported it into Logic. Then I dusted off my guitar and recorded the rhythm guitar part. It did not sound quite as tight as I wanted (partly because I had lost my box of plectrums and had played it in using a home-made one cut out from a business card), but it seemed to work ok.

The synth part I had in mind I thought would suit the Pulse, so I set about programming. This can be a very difficult process. It feels like walking along a tightrope to me. The Pulse sounds so lush, and each time you try something like adjusting the filters, you get inspired to go with what occurs, so its easy to get distracted and seduced by its versatility. You can lose what was in your head in the first place.

All the same, I managed to stay focussed and created a new loop. Once I heard it against the track though, it was not quite working, so I dumped it and, after some experimentation, created it using Logic's ES1 synth.

After that, it was back to Ableton and into the remix. I got the arrangement in place and added some dub effects, which reminded me of days when I did a lot of live dub with bands like Back To The Planet. I added the dubs live just like I would have done in analogue days by throwing echos and reverb smashes at the drums mostly. Doing it live keeps an organic nature to the track.

Eventually, after re-organising some parts and balancing levels until I felt they were correct I decided that it was finished.

Being "finished" is another area of mixing and production which is the same as painting (or writing, or other arts) which is crucial and tricky to get exactly right. You can easily over-work something, or miss something vital, or lose sight of the big picture.

I reckon its ok. I often get a bit of a buzz when I am working that tells me "this could be a good one" and I got one this time round.

So.. there are now 4 remixed tracks from the "Degraded" sessions. That might be it. Andi and I will begin work on new material soon. Also, sadly I think, there has been a rather apathetic reaction to my requests for others to remix us (and to the album to be honest - a few loved it, mind), so we may move on.

We still want to put the live show together, but it could well take time as the practical aspects of the project are proving difficult to sort out.

You can hear all 4 remixes here:

X-Amount: "Degraded" Remixes by X-Amt

Please let us know what you think..

Simon x

Monday, 10 October 2011

Quote of the week

"all good music resembles something. Good music stirs by it's mysterious resemblance to objects and feelings which motivated it"
Jean Cocteau.

Sent from my iPhone

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Rowing: Gimp Seat Remix

X-Amount - Rowing (Gimp Seat mix) by X-Amt

Squeaking metal gates, petrol station fuel pumps, rowers on the river Thames, 1950's-style robot beeping noises.. What more could you want?

This is the bonus track that you get (along with other extras) when you download the "Degraded" album from:http://x-amount.bandcamp.com
The idea was to create a more DJ-friendly version, so it is a little minimal in comparison with the original album mix.
It also appears on the X-Amount: Degraded Mixtape, which you can stream here:

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Self Indulgence: DJ mix 2004

"Self Indulgence" was a night I put on at The Winchester Gate in Salisbury from 2003 to 2004. It was billed as"an eclectic mix of all kinds of stuff for twisted unhealthy minds". The idea was to play something that was different to anything else going on. There was plenty of music that I loved that never (or at least rarely) got a public airing. The night would begin with fairly chilled electronica, experimental stuff, old school house and techno, krautrock and psychedelia then as the booze was consumed it would regress into absolute madness with punk, noise and silly stuff from past and present. It was great fun. This is from the early part of one evening, and makes good listening I believe. Many thanks go to Nicki and Dorothy for letting me do it in the first place, and also to Cat (who encouraged me from behind the bar and kept me going when I had no audience) and of course those that supported the evenings. After I while we had guest DJs in too, which added to the lunacy. It was a wonderful time with wonderful noises, more pubs and clubs should allow this kind of thing, I reckon.

This is a live recording, you can hear the vinyl jump a couple of times as it did when someone jumped too close to the decks. You may notice one edit that I needed to do to cut it to a small enough size to fit MixCloud and retain audio quality.

Simon x

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Quote of the week

"Any good music must be an innovation"
Les Baxter

Sent from my iPhone