NoWayBack – Fully Exploring The Ever Entwining And Inextricable Link Between  Music And Fashion:

We are all culture junkies, just by the fact that you are reading this indicates that there’s a fair to middling chance that you are a keen lover of both music and fashion.  

I personally am a fully fledged tee shirt addict, I live my life in the things, I’ve got literally hundreds of them.   For me there are a few basic staple ingredients of what makes a top notch tee:

Longevity 

Well made

Durable and comfortable fabric

Great cut

Looks and feels good 

Mix all of the above with collaborations of some of the most forefront and influential artists in today’s electronic music scene with one of the finest tee shirt manufacturers around and you can only be onto a good thing.

I was lucky enough recently to put my inquisitive ruminations to Helen Dukes, co owner and founder of the effervescent online tee shirt proprietors NoWayBack;

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So H, where did it all begin?

We basically started NoWayBack after Chris & I realised between us we had all the elements to set up the brand and do something we were both really passionate about. Chris is a graphic designer / web designer / artist & had the vision for the brand. I have worked in retail for most of my working career – in fashion, then music retail.

Why NoWayBack?

The name NoWayBack came from the classic Adonis track and a track that we both love. Chris played with the logo one night and it all just seemed right. And here we are! What started as an enjoyable hobby is now a business but we intend to keep it all about quality, limited edition, hand printed and eco-friendly merchandise. We spent a long time sourcing the right t-shirts to use as we desperately wanted to avoid the poor quality often associated with music t-shirts.

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The electronic music crossover is obviously key to the brand, where did your love of this music stem from?

We both have a real passion for house music and where it’s come from and how it’s made, its a real pleasure to be working with people we admire and a scene we love.  Chris has always had a real interest in making music and is constantly working on a new track up in his home studio & I was DJ’ing through the 90’s with a big love of vinyl. I was resident at Wobble in Birmingham  and guested around the UK & Europe.

Sounds like you had some great experiences!  Any in particular that stand out?

I started DJing back in the early 90s when I was a student in Liverpool spending most of my my student loan on 12”s from 3Beat records on Bold St.  I was hearing all these great records at the clubs I was going to – Back to Basics, Quadrant Park, LuvDup nights in Manchester & Monroes in Blackburn.  Then when I was home down South during the holidays going to the Milk Bar, Sign of the times & The Gardening Club in London when I returned from Polytechnic.  I had some great times in these clubs and I wanted to share all the records I was buying at the time and play them all out in a club myself.

I bumped into Phil Gifford at a party around this time and he was looking for a new resident to play at his all-nighter club Wobble. I played there on a weekly basis alongside the likes of Derrick Carter, Andrew Weatherall, Justin Robertson, Jon Dasilva to name but a few.  That lead to me guesting at other clubs around the country.

And then the infamous ‘Wobble’ trip to Ibiza where Phil & Si put on  Wobble night with Josh Wink & Dimitri (Delite) which we all went over for. A very memorable trip in many ways! 

I’m a massive fan of vinyl –  I much prefer my monthly vinyl orders to a download of files. I buy all sorts now probably more down tempo stuff and tracks which I somehow missed along the way on Discogs. With social media and the amount of good new music that’s out there it’s a constant battle to get hold of everything I’m after. My ‘want list’ gets bigger not smaller.

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Where do the ideas/collaborations come from?

We started the brand with our own designs which we still add to alongside the collaborations which has become a big part of the business. We approached DJ Pierre to see if he’d like one of our t-shirts – as a lot of the design influences were based around the Roland 303 & 808 drum machines and other early acid house stuff. He was keen to partner up and launch his own range of t-shirts with us as he respected what we were doing.  

Later that year Mark E got in touch and asked if we’d do a MERC t-shirt with him for his label. We’d not met Mark even though a fellow Brummie. After that collaboration, one thing led to another and we’re now releasing our own designs alongside collaborations with DJ’s & labels we love. 

It must be great to work with such seminal artists, anything exciting in the pipeline?

We have been privileged to work with Junior Boys Own, Greg Wilson, Kelvin & Mike’s ‘Down to the Sea & Back’, Dicky Trisco – Disco Deviance, Secret Squirrels & most recently Brighton’s SKINT label for their 20th anniversary.

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Where is your target market based?

We now sell our T’s to customers all over the world and have a range in Phonica London.

There are bound to be comparisons drawn between you and other retailers such as the inimitable Millionhands, what is it that sets NoWayBack apart from the completion and how do you think you differ? 

I guess the emphasis is on limited editions with us. We have never printed more than 200 t-shirts of one design. We like being small at the moment and our market is quite niche so it suits that. We also take a lot of pride in the shopping experience for the customer, because we are small they almost certainly deal with me if they have any questions or feedback, its always a nice feeling for a customer knowing they are not dealing with a faceless robot!

We really admire what Millionhands do, but we are very different and mostly catering for a different and often older market.

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What are your plans for the future?

We aim to keep the balance between producing our own designs and working with DJ’s labels we like. Autumn and winter will see some sweatshirts / hoodies again & after the limited JBO patches we did ( Terry Farley’s idea) we’d like to do something like that again as it was really nice to offer that bit extra to our customers.

The brand has grown and grown over the last 2 years since we launched and its taken us in unexpected directions, we would like to grow of course and offer a wider range of garments but at the moment we are very happy to be working with some key figures of the scene who we admire greatly in fact we’ve just had a  DJ / label that we’d love to work with approach us this week – but that’s all I can say for now.

For some seriously good threads please check out http://www.nowaybackstore.co.uk/ at your earliest convenience.

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Review: Brighter Day by Horixon Featuring Robert Owens

Yawn…yet another poor Robert Owens re-edit released….. Or so I thought.  When flicking through the glut of promos that land in my inbox I came across; “Brighter Day” by Horixon Featuring Robert Owens. 

Expecting the worst imagine my surprise when not only was I treated to a completely fresh production it was actually VERY good indeed!

I’ll hold my hands up and say in shame that I have never heard of Horixon before today.  A London based collective, Andrew Armstrong & Joe Sambrooke who “fell” into producing through no more than a pure love for music and wanting to have some fun with music production.

This really shows in the music and as it turns out (in my humble opinion) they have created one of the best original tracks of recent memory featuring the legendary voice of Mr Robert Owens.  With a release date; 22/09/2014 these chaps are ones to watch!

8/10

Caribou – Can’t Do Without You

Have you ever heard a piece of music that has simply stopped you in your tracks?

I was and still am a regular listener to the stellar monthly www.residentadvisor.net podcast.

In February 2011 I witnessed simply one of the most amazing expressions of music that I have ever heard on an RA podcast and have not heard it bettered since.

Aside from the fact that it is my best friend’s wife’s favourite word, or that it has anything to do with Father Christmas, or reindeer; Caribou – or Dan Snaith is a Canadian artist with a complete and utter bona fide talent.  Having been glued to the album “Swim” since its release in 2010, I was even more chuffed to be able to get my hands on a double gatefold vinyl edition.

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When the equally incredible Midland got his hands on “Sun” my initial reaction was to shudder at the thought of a remix, however, Harry worked his amazing magic and true to form, here we are left with (in my honest humble opinion) a truly great re-work of an already future classic, and a free download to boot!

And now here we have Mr Snaith’s latest offering which leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination, hold onto your hats, Caribou is back and out to capture those summer vibes;

Enjoy

M 🙂

Discogs, Vinyl and My Bank Balance:

It was four years ago, my wife told me my mid life crisis had officially begun when I finally at thirty seven years of age, after spending most of my adult life yearning for, purchased a set of Technic’s 1210’s and a mixer.  I had a very mixed bag of vinyl that I had picked up at various points along my lengthy career of partying, which started way back in 1988 when I was at the tender age of just fifteen.  It was a real mixture of tunes that I simply had to buy at the time for when I finally did tip my toe in the water and get myself a set.  

My obsession with House music has never left me.  Years ago there were literally packs of friends, club gangs if you like that would frequent various parties, clubs in London and around the country and of course Ibiza.  Over the years we all grew up, got married, had kids (me included) and most of my friends moved on with their lives and hung up their raving shoes for good.  But as I was reaching my forties I discovered that my obsession with electronic music was, if anything, growing exponentially.

With the rise of the internet music had become so much more accessible to me, it was much easier to find “that” elusive track you had been after, and with platforms like soundcloud, I could now follow the producers I loved and get snippets of new material as they release it.  I was like a kid in a sweet shop.

I had been listening to Reboot’s Resident Advisor podcast and was obsessed with finding the name of track nine and buying it on vinyl.  After much wailing and gnashing of teeth I managed to track it down; Scarlett Meets Recloose – Moveology.  I scoured Juno, decks.de and Beatport relentlessly, but to no avail.

So I popped into those wonderfully helpful and highly knowledgeable fellows in Phonica Records in Poland Street and spoke to the ever charming Vangelis, who had incidentally never heard of the track.  He tapped the track name into the computer on the desk  and spun it around for me to see;

“if it’s not on here, it’s more than likely unreleased, keep trying back”  I checked the website name on the screen; www.discogs.com I knew that I had heard the name before, when I had been digging recently in Gary Dennis’s wonderful Crazy Beat in Upminster.  I thanked Vangelis and blissfully unaware of the financial ruin I was facing toddled off home to look into the wonderful world of Discogs.

I signed up and was immediately sucked in.  Here it was in all its glory, a huge treasure trove of all of the tracks that I had tried so hard over the years to track down. After so many years of trawling through Hard To Find Records less than easy to navigate website for these elusive slabs of black stuff I had given up.  Imagine my sheer delight in not only finding them ALL here and in plentiful abundance, but cheap too, that was it, I was up to my neck in it already and didn’t even notice.

Slowly but surely a steady stream of flat square parcels started to arrive at my door, I was in heaven!  However the missus did not miss this either.  “Is that more records?”  She would enquire, “errrr yes darling”, I would mutter beating a hasty retreat to my man room.  My wife was approaching her fortieth birthday and we were having a party at home at which I was DJing, this was the perfect excuse to buy up every piece of vinyl I had ever wanted, which I did.

Now I find myself four years later and now a Discogs veteran, it is a love and hate relationship, love the fact that I can find and buy pretty much anything I want but hate not having the money to buy it all!  With amazing sellers out there like the wonderful Ed Davies, who’s brown, square, manilla covered packages always arrive inscribed on the back with permanent marker “with love” you can really tell that not only does this man know and love good music, he also takes pride in his work.  Now a Facebook friend, his constant posts of delights arriving at Davies HQ are almost too much to bear.

Discogs a truly wonderful tool for the vinyl enthusiast, just whatever you do, don’t go on when you’re pissed, it can work out VERY expensive.

www.discogs.com

http://www.discogs.com/seller/daviesed

Butter – dirtyblackdisco and The Mixtape Club

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Two years ago I happened across a website that musically and aesthetically ticked all my boxes, a very simple concept; one quality track a day with an extremely slick yet very simple interface with an archive facility to hear previous days postings.

www.dirtyblackdisco.com

The more I searched through the archive section the more I realised that whoever was responsible for producing the site not only had clearly excellent taste in music, but also wanted the music to speak for itself.

Having got in contact I then discovered yet another musically intriguing project from the same stable;

www.themixtapeclub.org

An equally simple idea; each session comprises of ten people selected for their unique taste in music and their selection of ten tracks to make up their perfect mixtape.

Now two years on I now get the chance to share these websites with you and also get a chance to interview the creator and curator of this musical phenomenon.

Butter (Brian Thomas) * is a graphic designer by trade and this is quite plain in his crafting of the HTML for both sites, having lived in the states, Brazil and now living in Australia it took a while but I managed to tie him down for a short time to ask him some questions about both sites;

So lets start at the beginning; where did you grow up and what were your earliest musical influences?

I grew up in Northern California, in San Jose, a city an hour or so drive south of San Francisco. A place where having a car is essential and the radio was always on. My parents listened to lots of soul and r&b from the 70’s and 80’s. Motown. Maze & Frankie Beverly, Luther Vandross, Marvin Gaye, Bee Gees, Earth, Wind & Fire and so on. It remains at the root of my musical influence as I continue discovering. There is usually some connection between it and the things I am interested in today, even in the slightest way.

When did your love affair with House begin?

My friends in high school were DJs and and throwing parties playing house. Once I found out about this DJing business I became involved. I didn’t know about house until then. I started buying records even before I convinced my parents to buy me turntables. This was in 1997.

When and why did you move to Brazil?

I first visited Brazil in 2006 and have been attached ever since. Over several visits I learned the language, played some records and made some invaluable friends. I was living in New York before relocating and wanted a change, something outside of America and something different. Brazil is a visually beautiful country rich in a vibrant and friendly culture with deep roots in music. Brazil was where I wanted to be for a while so I made it reality in early 2012.

When did you start The Mixtape Club* and dirtyblackdisco* projects and why?

The Mixtape Club began nearly 4 years ago. My friend Micah Panama headed an analog version in design school and I pitched the idea of creating a digital platform. I wanted a place for people to share and discover unfamiliar music of all types while maintaining a strong connection to the artwork. Something very simple and very honest.

dirtyblackdisco came after in 2011. It kind of just happened. I wanted an outlet for the music I played as a DJ. On one random night I developed an idea for a brand, created a logo, programmed a website and started uploading music.

Now you are based in Australia, what was the reason behind the move?

I am a nomad I suppose.

I understand that there have already been some rather legendary Dirty Black Disco parties in Brazil, is this something you will continue to do in Australia?  

Who knows really. Those parties were some of the most memorable and rewarding experiences of my life. Brazil has given me so much over the years. The country is somewhat disconnected musically from what is happening in the northern hemisphere and I saw it as an opportunity to give something back. It was a struggle. Beyond the troubles of simply being a foreigner, the beaches and babes were not tempting enough for foreign artists. The country is geographically far and not appealing for artists since South America as a whole is generally into a different kind of dance music. I managed to bring HNNY, El_Txef_A and Brennan Green over the series of parties and ended it all with an epic boat party with two of my best mates playing with me.

Being a foreign brand in Brazil is due some credit. I brought something new to Rio de Janeiro and thankfully had some critical friends who helped along the way. Australia is also far from the core electronic music scene but isn’t as behind. Artists are coming and competition is heavy. I don’t really know anyone here so it will be challenging. But its worth a shot when the time is right.

You mention competition, I know in recent years there has been a marked increase in Australia in the popularity of electronic music with some quality projects appearing like Future Classic, do you think Australia is a good place to be right now creatively?

There is some quality production coming from this country. Tornado Wallace, Mike Callandar, Softwar, Untzz 12″. And considering its distance a good amount of artists come here to play. It all seems fairly accessible and with a plethora of opportunity.

How many parties have there been so far?

One in New York. Five in Rio de Janeiro and one in São Paulo.

Would you ever consider bringing the party to London?

The idea has developed as a traveling party. I’d love to do parties in London and wherever else there is an audience ready to dance.

Who would be your dream booking to play a Dirty Black Disco night?

Kuniyuki, Motor City Drum Ensemble and Actress with Peven Everett on vocals. Or Moodymann, Floating Points and Gilles Peterson back to back. Guest appearance by Fatima.

What’s next?

Dinner

Please check out at your earliest convienence;

www.dirtyblackdisco.com

www.themixtapeclub.org

Off Sonar Parties – Barcelona – Spain 11th – 12th June 2014

It was my second trip to this great and beautiful city for off Sonar week.  I came for the first time with my wife Ericka in 2013 for my fortieth birthday celebrations, after which we were both decidedly hooked and immediately made the decision then and there to make it an annual event.

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On our arrival at Barcelona airport we are greeted by an all out taxi strike which was not ideal, but the city’s exemplary bus service certainly saved the day (all day and night long!).

Our first port of call was the long awaited Maeve Showcase sell out at El Monasterio of El Poble Espanyol.

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The Maeve imprint was launched in 2013 by Mano Le Tough and The Drifter, childhood friends, Irish expats and Berlin residents.  The name Maeve is Gaelic and translates as “the cause of great joy” or “she who intoxicates”.  

When we arrived at the venue initially there was some confusion.  We were admitted and our names crossed off the list and given wristbands as per, however when we entered the venue it was like walking back in time.  We were surrounded by a full and open Spanish courtyard, many bars were open and tourists were walking freely around enjoying the culture.  Not your usual destination for a rave!

El Monasterio of El Poble Espanyol is actually an Architectural Museum and was built in 1929.  From its initial conception it was intended to be a true representation of a Iberian village with over 117 buildings, streets and squares from all over Spain faithfully reproduced in scale to bring together all the traditional architectural characteristics.  Wandering through these cobbled courtyards and sunlight dappled squares really was an amazing pre-party journey.

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After some time of weaving our way through the meandering lanes we came upon the grand entrance.  We walked through a high ornate stone gate and up a gravelled path, tucked at the foot of a high sandstone wall, set about by tall trees which gave some welcome shade from the hot Barcelona afternoon sun.  Small fountains tinkled gently on the ear, the water sparkling in the sunlight.  Then, as we moved further up the hill slowly but surely came the instantly recognisable sound of four four beat could just be heard in the distance.

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We arrived in a shaded courtyard and made our way up a further winding iron staircase only to be presented with some of the finest views over the entire city.

The relentless pounding of the music was now unmistakeable as we made our way up a slightly sloping hill  into the main area of the party

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We had arrived at 2pm, the very start of the party and even though we were early, already a crowd was forming.  Easing us into the proceedings was Maeve co-founder; The Drifter.  The sound system was already of a decent volume and The Drifter effortlessly set the mood for the days proceedings.  Next up was the mysterious Baikal, spoken “bai kyul” = “rich lake”  the deepest and oldest lake in the world.  Already familiar with most of his productions including the absolutely outstanding remix work done for Ian Pooley on Innversions last year;

I was eager to hear his set which very quickly upped the ante and more than lived up to all of my expectations.

Next up was the legend that is Matthew Jonson, this is something I had been waiting a very long time for.  The last time I had heard Mr Jonson play it was at DC10 back in 2006, so you can imagine my deep and utter joy when he played his track Typerope:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JS4_YuWQbQw

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This really set the standard for the evening’s entertainment, the crowd absolutely soaked up his set, which whipped us all into a frenzy for the man himself, Mano Le Tough.

The über talented Irishman has made tsunami sized waves over the last few years, seeing his debut album “Changing Days” reach dizzy heights with critical acclaim from around the globe.  As is said; the proof of the pudding is in the eating, I can honestly say I have had this album on repeat ever since its release date.  With his own haunting vocals on most of the tracks its quite clear that we are witnessing a real raw talent.  I’ve not heard an album so prolific since Underworld’s “Dubnobasswithmyheadman” back in 1994.

As to be expected Mano Le Tough took us all on a journey, one which I personally did not want to end, leaving me hungry for more.

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Then seeing us out we have the inimitable Tale Of Us;  the two Italian born Berliners are completely unstoppable at the moment.  Having remixed Thugfucker’s “Disco Gnome” back in 2010 things have gone from strength to strength for the duo and they are in seriously high demand.  After last year’s remix of Mano Le Tough’s “Primitive People” and success in their own right with tracks like “Another Earth” amongst others made them the perfect bedfellows to finish off the evening’s roller coaster ride

They saw us out and played a completely textbook Tale Of Us set, a night to remember!

We’ll be 100% back for Maeve’s off Sonar next year for sure!

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https://www.facebook.com/MaeveRecords

Bright and (not too early) the next morning we awake, raring to see what else this amazing city has in store for us.

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And after a spot of breakfast and a stroll down Las Ramblas to the beach, we find a place to grab a bit of lunch, then we make our way to Parc Del Forum for the One Illusion party.

One Illusion being the off Sonar party for Illusion recordings, an imprint which has enjoyed unparalleled success in recent years, releasing some quality material from the fantastic Volta Cab – Don’t Give Up Trus’me remix, to the huge Bicep championed dance floor slammer NY Stomp – The NY House track.  Given the fact that Illusion Recordings had been set up and run by two industry mainstays Tom Craven and James Cotterill we knew this was a going to be a party to raise the roof.

Both Craven and Cotterill have been involved in House music for the long haul. Craven was bitten by the bug back when he was just 16 at the legendary Hacienda in Manchester.  He moved to Leeds and became immersed in the current burgeoning scene, Back To Basics and Hard Times were both nights that were riding high at the time and went onto to achieve cult status.  With that he went onto become a DJ and worked four crazy summers in Ibiza culminating in a residency at We Love at Space.  A chance meeting with label partner James Cotterill in Ibiza in 2003 formed a long term friendship between the pair eventually culminating in Illusion Recordings as it exists today, an exciting underground imprint with an impressive roster; Trus’me, Mic Newman (Fantastic Man) and Garry Todd to name but a few.

Parc Del Forum itself, although impressive at first glance, on a closer inspection seems to have seen better days.  I guess that the root cause being the long lasting financial blight over the global economy of recent years, but in this case I believe the overgrown concrete, with life sprouting up through the paved cracks all around lent a certain something to this party; a chaotic throng of hedonistic revellers amongst the backdrop of Spanish urban decay.

An intimate affair but nonetheless less potent for it with some amazing DJ’s booked, the likes of Craig Richards, Norm Talley and Below Birmingham residents Subb-an and Adam Shelton the party went from strength to strength.  A twelve hour affair, but not a slow builder, we are thrown into the throng early and the quality and energy of the tracks being played increases exponentially.  Busy but never uncomfortably rammed gave us all an amazing experience, the highlight of which for me was hearing DJ Gregory’s Elle as the sun went down…

Even though we were situated in an outside venue the sound did not suffer in the slightest and was second to none all day long.  Such was the vibe that when we hit midnight left the crowd were left gobsmacked and begging for more.  A truly special day/night.

http://illusionrecordings.com

https://www.facebook.com/illusionrecordings

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