Sunday, 26 October 2008


There's a fantastic monthly (Italo) disco clubnight in Nottingham called
Exalt Exalt. Apart from having some pretty brilliant resident DJ's there's also been sets from the likes of Friend, Love Saves The Day and Listen & Learn to name but a few.

This month it was host to a set by Gothenburg's finest producer, musician and part-time animal rights accountant
Johan Agebjorn, most famous for the part he plays in modern day Italo-Disco stalwarts Sally Shapiro.

I met up with the club promoters and Johan at a restaurant before the night kicked off and we talked about Veganism, Alcoholism,
Swedish Pop Music and the joys Saturday night television, but none of that made any sense on tape.

-How was last night then ? (Johan DJed in London on the 24th)

Oh it was great! People were dancing and I enjoyed playing, it was pretty far from the city Hackney, in a pub.

-So what are you expecting from tonight exactly in Nottingham?

A better sound system than yesterday (everyone laughs).

-What do you think of Nottingham so far then, how long have you been here exactly?

Well I've only been here for a few hours (everyone laughs, again).

-So you've seen Squeek (the restaurant) basically?

Yeah and that's a really nice place. I like it (the UK), I've been here a lot of times, but my first time now as a DJ.

-So what were doing here before?

Like a tourist and meeting friends and on school trips and I've always been record shopping loads, in England.

-Any record shops that you like?

Yesterday I was in
Phonica, I like that one. But that didn't exist when I was here last time, that was about 7 years ago. So I remember Selectadisc and a lot of second hand stores, I used to be a KLF collecter...

-Didn't KLF try and destroy a lot of their back catalogue?

Yeah! So it was difficult but fun, it was a challenge. Today it is not a challenge, you can find everything on the Internet, but it wasn't like that 10 years ago, 5 years ago.

-So how did you do it,
to find out collections, was it just through record shops and zines and things like that?

I was actually quite active on the Internet. But there wasn't eBay, there was just mailing lists so you still had to search quite a lot. And it was different, you didn't listen to MP3s ten years ago, there was no iTunes and stuff like that.

-So is coming to the UK for just DJing, is that quite odd to experience?

Yeah it's very... it's a like a dream, I wanted to be a DJ when I was a kid, so I mean to be able to do this is fantastic. And that people want to come and see you, and hear you play is fantastic. Selecting the music, it's pretty much about selecting the music... it's some kind of freedom.

-So you said that you always wanted to be a DJ, what were those first tracks, in terms of strictly dance music, that took you away from the standard pop model and thought it was something you wanted to explore more

It was a class mate who recorded a tape with 'Italio Disco' as we called it, and we both thought it was a band! We didn't understand it was a genre. And there some songs, USSR etc. Yeah, those were my first electronic music experiences. And we had like discos in school, the DJs played MaxMix mixes, those were really inspiring in terms of mixes.

-So what took you onto music production and songwriting, creating music? Is it just something that you do to pass the time

It's difficult to say exactly when I started because I was probably already composing when I was 5 or 6 years old on the piano, even though it wasn't serious. So it came gradually and I think when I was 14 years old I had a keyboard and I made tracks that I sent to the local student radio.

A few years later I bought myself an Atari sampler when I was 16 years old and yeah I started sending tapes to record labels when I was 17 but I didn't get anything.

Then just 4 or 5 years ago, when I was 26/27, then I bought myself a good computer, it happened sometime around the millennium and I still think it's so fantastic that you can do such a lot with it and it's so cheap, the equipment, compared to what it cost in the 80's and the 90's.

Sally Shapiro - 'Jackie Jackie' Official Music Video

-So you do you spend a lot of sleepless nights in your studio?

I used to do it a few years ago, now I have a child, and I also make some money on it, so I have more like a part time job today. A few years ago it was more like a hobby.

-You seem to be quite prolific and industrious in your output, obviously you find less time when you have children, do you always think you'll be doing music, DJing and things like that?

I don't think I will do it all the time, because I had a break between '97 and 2003 when I didn't do anything... that might happen again. But I think I will always revert to it, in some form or another. Though I'm not sure that I will be able to make good music, I'm always very pessimistic about the future and I always think I've already done my best work.

-So you think currently, with Sally Shapiro, and your ambient work, you've hit your peak?

Yeah I would think that, but sometimes, I have been proven wrong, so I hope I will still be able to make good music.

-Is it exciting then, to be releasing your ambient work? Your album's been out in America, is there any element of competition with that and your Sally Shapiro work?

Erm, what I like about it is that it's more personal and somehow its good to release something that's more personal too. Sally Shapiro, I mean I stand for it, but its also packaged in a humorous way and I don't want all my music to be packaged in a humourous way because it doesn't reflect the way I am. I have more sides than one side, and I don't want people to think I am only about cheesy 80's disco.

-It is a good part of you, though.

Yeah yeah, it's a big part!

-With Sally Shapiro, are you disappointed that she's not here with you tonight (Sally was initially meant to be DJing with Johan, but pulled out) or is it something that you can understand?

I understand it and I'm a bit sad about the fact that she doesn't enjoy it, but I wouldn't want her to be here because she wouldn't enjoy it.
She doesn't like standing on stage and I really respect that, I mean, people are different.

-So that's obviously something that you're comfortable with, that shes not kind of person. Does that ever effect the style of recording or making music at all?

In the beginning it was difficult because she had very bad self-confidence and sometimes it took hours or days for me to convince her to sing on some track. That's easier today, for her to sing, but I'm still not allowed to be in the same room.

-Is anyone?

No, no one.

-So have what have you got actually planned with Sally Shapiro, what are you working on at the moment?

We're working on the new album, we've done more than half of it and yeah that's the main project at the moment.

Johan and Sally DJing in New York

-In terms of creating your second album, do you ever worry how it might compare, popularity wise, do you worry about things like second album syndrome? Is there more pressure on you?

Yeah. Because when we made the first album we thought maybe a few hundred would listen to it, and that's a lot of people, I think. But it's still very different, that you know that thousands of people or maybe tens or hundreds of thousands of people will listen to. I mean, you think that you can't make any mistake anywhere.

I'm happy if I can do something that I can stand for myself, I mean it's so much about trends and hypes, I mean maybe the Italo-Disco hype will be over when the record is released, And if that's true then that's the way it goes and I don't worry about it as long as I'm happy about it myself.

It took a long time before we started to record our second album and that was because of some hard pressure on yourself. But once we got started, It's been pretty good and it's been feeling better, and we made one song, which we thought was very good when I made it. Then we got to hear it and mixed something together and the next song sounded better and next song sounded better, so it's been a very good feel the last half year.

-So how long will you think it'll take (the album) to create?

I think it will be finished, at the least, next year.

-Are you looking with record labels to release it with at the moment?

Yeah, we're looking around to see. In North America we'll be released on Paper Bag Records.

-Do you expect to do more promotion with the next album as well, perhaps a few more music videos/adverts on Internet sites, is that something that you're interested in, is that's important to you or do you just think that if its out there, people will find it?

I think it's up to the record label to take those decisions, because if I did it myself I probably would not invest so much in promotion because I'm not a business man that way, but I think it's difficult to invest in promotion. I mean take
Cloetta Paris, for example, I think it's one of the best albums of this year.
But they didn't send any promos, and I think I've read only one review of that album and I think it's bad of all reviewers in the world to ignore it just because they don't get free copies of it, but that's the way it works.

-I know it's somewhat of a stereotype, but there's something about Swedish musicians, who are just exceptionally good at doing pop music, is this stereotype justified? Is there just something about the culture that creates melodic music? Because its not like most other European countries have such a proficiency with pop music.

I think one reason might be that we have state-subsidised music schools for children, so almost everyone plays some type of instrument from a young age, also it's quite easy to be unemployed in Sweden and get money from the state, so you can do that and spend most of your time making music. I started the Sally Shapiro project when i was unemployed, so that's a good example.

I think, compared to for example France or Spain, people speak quite good English in Sweden so it's quite easy to make pop music in English.

-Do you think you're adeptness with English, helps you to create songs, do you always create music in English, is it important to you? Or is preserving Swedish something that's important as well?

No, it's not important to me (laughs), most artists in Sweden sing in English. I think its because somehow it sounds... it sounds pathetic often, it's very difficult to make good lyrics in Swedish for some reason.

Sweden's a very Anglo-Americanised country, compared to Germany or France. I mean we consume more English and American culture than Continental Europe, so maybe that's a reason why we make music which often is exported to UK and USA more than it is exported to Germany etc.

-Do you feel like you have any musical peers, in Sweden or Gothenburg?

The people from Cloetta Paris and the producer of that project, Rodger, we're thinking much along the same lines. And he's been quite involved in writing songs for the new Sally Shapiro album, I have a lot of contact with him.

-So what's Gothenburg like to live in, in terms of clubnights and going to gigs, is it quite active?

There's a lot of bands in Gothenburg, but Stockholm is better, probably in terms of clubs and stuff. We have one 80's club in Gothenburg, called School Disco, which I got to, but otherwise there's mostly rock or techy clubs.

-Does it feel odd, going to clubs and staying out late at your age, when you have children?

Yeah, I am actually quite happy that, we having the same clubbing hours here as in Sweden. When I was in belgium, they expected me to play between 3 and 5, or something like that. and when i was done i was quite tired and I went home, and the other people thought I went home becuase I was bored.

Exalt Exalt itself was superb by the way, Johan played basically every Italo song that you like including not just one but two Fancy songs. Had it not been for my stomach's unanticipated attempt to try and leap up and out of me via my mouth, I would have stayed for the full duration of the night. (which, by the way, lasted till about quarter to 4 in the morning, including an extra disco hour for daylight saving).

-Johan Agebjorn's website (w/ free MP3s)
Sally Shapiro's Myspace
Johan's 'Crying on the Dancefloor' Christmas mix for Pitchfork

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Friday, 24 October 2008

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Fixed Gear

Operating under the pseudonym her own surname and recently signed with Love Pump United, the eloquently titled Angel Deradoorian is a lush and intricate lo-fi musician from New York City and also a member of New York State art-rock band Dirty Projectors. She politely and rapidly answered some questions of mine, over myspace of all things.

-Firstly I guess, who are you banking with at the moment? that may seem like a facetious question but i'm quite interested in how people are feeling about the whole global financial situation. Coupling that with the fast approaching US election it must feel like an exciting, and perhaps unnerving time, to be in america right now, how do you feel about this current political climate?

I have Bank of America. I think they're the bank that didn't get fucked in all of this.

The political stir around here is big. People are getting real psycho about who to vote for and other people's opinions. It's fun, but can be tiring. I'm trying to keep up as well as I can on the campaigns, but sometimes it crowds my mind too much and I think I'll go crazy if I get more involved.

-There are a few other solo female artists who like yourself create textured, dreamy, vocal soaked music around at the moment, grouper/inca ore to name-drop a couple. Do you identify with these acts, can you see any similarities with them and your own work?

Honestly, I feel like my music is nothing new and different. I think there are lots of people doing what I do. Identifying with people like Grouper, I don't realllly feel like I do. I think she makes cool music, but it's her music. My music is what I am capable of feeling, creating, whatever, it's as far as my mind can take me. I usually feel very inhibited in my writing, therefore I feel I can't take it farther out. I find it very difficult to write.

-How do you find being a female in this business called 'show'? Has gender ever been an issue for you?

Being a female in a male dominated business is interesting. I have been doing this since I was 16 now, so I guess 6 years, and it gets easier and easier every year. People don't assume I'm the merch girl all the time now, so that's nice. At times, I do feel I need to prove myself to show that women are capable of doing more than tinker around on tiny instruments and sing sweet parts (not that there's anything wrong with that, I've done that), but I do want to show people I'm capable of achieving difficult musical challenges and that not only men can think on complex levels like that. Then again, men and women's mind sets are completely different and I feel like they just create differently because of their hormones and roles in society. That might sound crazy. Ehhhh.

-You've just recently signed up to release an ep on Love Pump United (HEALTH, Aids Wolf), why did you decide to go with them, how did the process come about? Is going through a label still something thats necessary for a recording artist?

I decided to work with LovePump because I know the guys who run the label and they're really wonderful people. They fully believe in what I do and I haven't been convinced of other people in the past who've offered their services to me. Going through a label hasn't completely lost it's worth. I think that they can help with distribution and promotion, things that I don't have connections to. I'm also lazy.

With Dirty Projectors

-How does your live act work? Do you incorporate a backing band/laptop when performing? Is it something that you consider important?

Live shows barely happen for me. I play about 6 times a year. The live act is always different. Sometimes I have a band, sometimes I'm alone, sometimes one other person. I play guitar at times, or keyboard. Considering playing bass now and singing. I'm not a big fan of playing solo shows. I get really stressed out when I have one to the point of it making me physically ill at times.

-Most people would be aware of you from your involvement in Dirty Projectors, how did you first come to be a member with them?

The meeting of me and Dirty Projectors is a long story. I will just say that I met Dave at his house in Brooklyn when I first moved to New York and he invited me to be a part of his project.

I did sneek in a few more questions about Dirty Projectors, but to no reply. Who knows, perhaps she just wasn't feeling the vibes. Listen to her Myspace here.

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Saturday, 18 October 2008

Diss Diss Diss

Toby Price has much been documenting virtually every worthwhile gig, event, clubnight or house party that's happened in Nottingham over the past two or three years and has had his work featured in Dazed and Confused, Vice and Drowned In Sound to name but a few, all whilst completing some shockingly complex PhD on Hydrogen Storage. I asked him a few questions about his photography, he of course obliged because he's (genuienly such) a hero like that. (Pictured above is the lead singer of Chrome Hoof from Supersonic festival 14/7/07 - as before just click on the picture to take a closer look)

-Let's start with the basics; what setup do you use? filters/flash/camera. And more importantly why use these things? what edge, for lack of a better word, do they give you?

TP 350D – Probably a little outdated, but up the task until I can afford more

Canon 50mm F1.4 - Best prime bar the F1.2 for low light, allows shallow depth of field.

Sigma 30mm F1.4 - Equivalent to a "normal" 50mm when taking into account camera crop factor (lens x1.6 over actual focal length) also has shallow DOF and allows low light shooting

50-150mm F2.8 Sigma - Festivals

Canon 430ex flash – Not as nice as the 580ex but cheaper, can be triggered off camera when I can upgrade.

Kit lens – good in conjunction with flash for wide photos

-What's your background in the medium, obviously everyone's used a camera before but what first got you seriously thinking you could had some aptitude at this? Any specific photographers, or even, photographs that inspired you?

No inspiring photographers, I learnt through trying to achieve the most from cameras I’ve owned (and first borrowed a finepix point and shoot) then used A60 canon point and shoot, then a Olympus 5050 and finally the DSLR. I always try to capture the mood with the light/equipment I have. I don’t think I thought any more about it than using a tool to reach an objective, as I reached the limitations of the tool I upgraded (until I ran out of money).

-You're work's been featured in several publications and internet sites, how did you manage to make the jump from one of the glut of amateur photographers to having published work?

It’s really only about how accessible you make your photos (don’t watermark photos) and how they compete with other peoples shots from the same event... if there’s been a review and no one took photos but you, then they’ll use a camera phone shot... if you supply it.

Lovvers @ The Chameleon (Notts-10/10/08)

-Do you regulate who you allow to use your work? Or is any exposure, good exposure? (excuse the horrific pun)

I would complain if it was tagged on to something I disagreed with, but for the moment The Mail haven’t asked to use any photos.

-Have you ever been commissioned to do a promo photo or gig and simply not got the results you've specifically wanted? Is photography quite liberating in that respect, in that you've always got something to show for a nights work?

Yes, I have, I did a shoot for Jack Daniels and due to a very short set, and the lighting guy having a smoke outside I didn’t get good enough shots. It’s not liberating when you need a certain type of shot, and regularly your commission will demand a specific shot..

-In a live situation, do you find it difficult to sometimes get the shots that you want, getting the correct angles/being in the right place at the right time?

Sometimes, but if you have the time to work around the conditions (lighting position etc) then you should be able to achieve what you want, obviously often you’ll be unable to get a certain shot… which is when you lust after more kit... also when you know you’ve got a good shot but your equipment fails that can be the most frustrating.

Tomb Crew @ Stealth (Notts 02/10/08)

-On Sun Kil Moon's recent tour, Mark Kozelek asked for no photography to be used during his show, others such as Bjork share similar rhetoric, though to less an extent. Are these attitudes frustrating for you, or do you understand where they're coming from?

I quite understand, we generally work to 3 songs no flash at larger events, even first song no flash, sometimes we have to stay seated for film cameras to shoot over crowd… there are often constraints… you just learn to work around them.

-Do you ever find yourself so captivated by a performance that you end up putting your camera down or do you feel that the two aren't mutually exclusive?

I do, certainly find my head violently nodding to some great bands, but when I see a shot then I phase it out and the objective of achieving it becomes all consuming.

-Who's been your favourite person to photograph?

Monotonix at Rose of England– because I couldn’t put the camera down there was so much to shoot

Monotonix @ The Rose of England (Notts -01/06/08)

-You're a Nottingham resident, how has the city affected your work?

Nottinghams venues have decided my style (flash in some, positions and angles etc) and the people in it have allowed me to shoot in some fun ways, on top of stepladders over ballpits, standing on the bar in the Social, climbing walls around the Angel. etc

-Would you ever consider hopping onto any other branches of the tree of photography, fashion/documentary etc? Do these things appeal to you?

I’ve done some fashion photography, and some event shooting and it has a similar feel in that I strive to achieve something and get a kick when I do, but I respect musicians so much more that I feel more value in presenting their works visually than yet another company merger…

-You're an amateur photographer at the moment, will this always be the case? With a career elsewhere, do you always find time for this hobby of yours?

I’m paid for photography fairly regularly, but I wouldn’t want a fulltime job out of it… I don’t get as much out of it as academic stuff… I’m not an artist, I can achieve technically good photography and really enjoy every moment.. but I’m not creating in the way fine art photographers do. I’m documenting.

Boris @ ATP Nightmare Before Christmas (07-9/12/07)

Toby's Portfolio Proper, yo -

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A Gigantic Monster

Apart from being the world's loveliest man, Bristol-dweller Ben Newman also happens to have a remarkable gift for churning out brilliant and intricate illustrations at a stupidly fast rate. He was one of the first people that I knew I wanted to speak to when creating this blog, so I hope you enjoy. Pictured above is 'Shitakiri Susume' - 'The Sparrow Who Was Tongue Was Cut Out' - click on an image to expand it.

-For anyone uninitiated with you and your work, could you describe your background? What first drove you towards illustration, how did you become involved in art?

When I was little I would get treated to a comic once a week either the Beano or the amazing Spider-man. I used to try and copy the pictures and this was one of the only things that I would sit quietly doing for hours, usually I ran around the house with my sister making lots of noise resulting in one of us getting hurt. I realized quite early on in life that I was not very academic.

I studied my illustration degree in Bristol, after graduating I returned home for a period to help save money to go traveling around Asia. On my return I moved back to Bristol and decided to try and make a career out of illustration.
I would describe my work as a pile of multi coloured shapes stacked up to resemble a really anal game of Tetris.

-You've been commissioned to do pieces for several different music magazines, acts and promoters: Plan B, Lovvers, and Sunburned Hand of the Man etc. What governs your selection process for these requests, is there one? Or do you try and produce something regardless of whether or not you enjoy the content?

Content is definitely important to me and I’m very lucky that my work attracts bands; music magazines and gig promoters who are doing things that interest me. I’ve turned a couple of things down because I wasn’t comfortable with my work sitting alongside something that I didn’t feel excited about.

Plan B magazine allows you to have creative freedom over the outcome of your illustration, so you can do whatever you like to fit the brief whilst discovering different bands and albums. I illustrated a review of an album called ‘Wavy Gravy’ where I had to draw a bunch of B-movie monsters, which I don’t really consider to be work as I would be most likely doing this in my spare time anyhow.

-How hard is it for an illustrator to break onto 'the scene'', to get your work out there and be recognised?

Working from home in my little bubble means that I really don’t feel that I’m part of any ‘scene’. I think the Internet has made it easy for work to be viewed by a vast audience but it has also made it easy for everyone to show their work, which means that there is a wealth of illustrators appearing on people’s radars. This is great but means that you can really get lost in the crowd and have to work harder to stand out.

-A city can be an incredibly inspiring place, especially one as culturally prolific as Bristol, how has is it helped you?

Bristol is like a giant fish bowl, it’s impossible go anywhere without somebody knowing someone that you know too and I love that about the city. There is a treasure trove of exciting and creative things happening but you need to dig for it, once you find it though it’s overwhelming. Bristol has an amazing local music scene and places such as the Here gallery, SNAP studios, Soma, Wonky Animation and Compass Film International (to name just a couple) make Bristol such an inspiring place.

'My Dad Vs Your Dad'

-You mention a fondness for pulp fiction on your website, and you work belies a real fascination with classic comic book, Americana and post-war Japan, what attracts to the cultural output of these times? Or do you just like the superheroes, gigantic monsters and robots?

Both really, I think they go hand in hand. Gigantic monsters and robots spawned from the atomic age and most of the really famous super heroes either came from space or were products of radiation, these themes were very popular in America and Japan post world war two.

What I love most about Americana, the pulp sci-fi and silver age comics is the surface naivety. The best example I can think of are the Superman and Batman comics from the 50’s and 60’s, the stories are so insane and ridiculous but are drawn so beautifully. There is a real craftsmanship to them but most of all a sense of innocence and fun, plus after fifty years in a box the faded colours make me giddy with excitement.

-Tim Biskup's work and yours bare a striking similarity to each other: the animals, the bold colours, the absence of outlines, are you aware of his drawings? Is he an influence on you?

Towards the end of my degree I had moved away from black ink line drawings and started painting my characters in gouache using only shapes. I mainly used primary colours until my partner Laura bought Tim Biskup’s ‘100 paintings’. I think Tim’s biggest influences on me have been his brave use on colour and his ability to relentlessly produce a vast quantity of high quality work.

-You're a very productive artist, how long does a piece usually take to come together? How easy do you find it to project what's in your head onto a page?

The idea and composition stage can take as long as a piece of string depending on the client or the complexity of the job. The creation of the final image usually takes about a day or two. I feel it’s best to work with what you doodle because having a clear image in mind makes you try to live up to your imagination rather than play with it.


-Your blog is updated regularly, is this to keep fans/clients involved and interested with what you're doing or simply because you just happen to enjoy keeping things contemporary?

Yes to both. It acts as a diary for myself and if fans/clients are interested in my progress then I’m flattered and pleased that individuals think that my work is worth checking in on.

-You've been exhibiting your work in shows, including several solo ones for a few years now, how important are these to artists such as yourself? Is there a demand for exhibitions in the 21st century?

I think exhibitions are really important and there is a big demand for them in the 21st century. Too much of our everyday life is becoming increasingly digital so physical showcases of work will always be popular. Seeing an image or print beats staring at a screen, I think the aura of a physical object creates a far more exciting feeling in the viewer or audience and always will.

-Would you mind dishing the dirt/slanderously exposing/advertising /bragging about any forthcoming projects or events that you're excited about?

Ah shameless plugging! Well in November I’ll be exhibiting in a group show called ‘RUSSIANS’ in Germany. It’s being organized by Rotopol and will feature around 50 international illustrators.
There is also the Xmas show at the
Here Galleryin Bristol where I’ll be selling a bunch of affordable prints and doing some wall painting with the very talented Stuart Kolakovic.

In December, Beasts Vol 2 published by Fantagraphics should hit the shops and features my illustration of the mythical beast ‘Stiniki’, which I’m super excited about.

Currently I’m working on a comic book called ‘Eyes Eyes Afar’ with my friends Scott Donaldson and Sam Butler. It will be a collection of short stories written by both Scott and Sam and silent comic strips drawn by myself. I want to present the comic like the annuals that I would get for Christmas when I was a child, where you would have both an illustrative narrative and a written story. I’m hoping to have this available online and in a few shops and galleries by next year, fingers crossed.


For more ridiculously good content see:

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