The inimitable Gruff Rhys:
"I was approached by National Theatre Wales recently to write a song for their NHS70 festival, which launches today.
In most of my songs I mostly deal in lyrical abstraction, but as the NHS has had such a profound effect on every aspect of my life since birth, this was a commission that I felt duty bound to throw myself into out of respect for everything it’s given me.
The title ‘No profit in pain’ is an attempt to counter the mentality of ‘No Pain no gain’ and ‘tough love’ which keep being peddled about by zealous free marketeers.
The NHS is something that we can too easily take for granted. But the NHS has been there for me throughout my life and has also saved many of my family members lives. In that sense it means more than anything I could ever hope to convey in a melodramatic synth pop power ballad like this one, so for the song I’ve focused on the battle to keep the NHS as a free service in public ownership. There’s loads of swearing in it. Privatisation is creeping in and signifies a death knell for the NHS we all love and cherish if we are not vigilant.
As a devolved issue in Wales, and as an idea that was born here, the idea of a free health service for all is something that serves as a beacon of what we can achieve as a nation and is something we must pass on intact to future generations.
The song will be available on most streaming services and I’ll perform it today in Cardiff.
A van has been hired to advertise the song. I researched hiring a brexit style red bus but it was too expensive, so in the end I just went for a repurposed bog standard home office style ‘go home’ scare vehicle. We’ve only got it for 2 days, I’m using it for my performance today and designer and profound thinker, Mark James shot the video yesterday as we decorated it, ready for today’s release. Kliph Scurlock plays the drums and Llion Robertson produced it. All proceeds will go to NHS charities in Wales.
No Profit In Pain is available now: http://bit.ly/NoProfitInPain
William Kelley (November 1, 1937 – February 1, 2017) was an African-American novelist and short-story writer. He is perhaps best known for his debut novel, A Different Drummer and is considered quite rightly by Kathryn Schulz as a lost giant of American Literature.
Read her account of his life and work here: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/01/29/the-lost-giant-of-american-literature
Kanye West may be trending, but he’s also actively regressing. This week in an interview for The New York Times, West addressed his struggle with mental health, his support of President Donald Trump and that whole “slavery was a choice” comment from last month. He failed, though, to comment on or even recognize how his fame has warped his moral compass. And that is dangerous for anyone, but for a black male artist in Trump’s America, it signals a certain kind of delusion and atrophy.
Provocative quotes peppered the interview —provocative in the sense that West hopes they will sound like original thinking, but really just sound like anti-thinking — but the one that gave me the most pause was West’s thoughts on what privileges an artist should be afforded: “We need to be able to be in situations where you can be irresponsible. That’s one of the great privileges of an artist. An artist should be irresponsible in a way — a 3-year-old.”
My first read of this was that it falls squarely in line with the “I’m not black, I’m Kanye” bromide, which has come across the transom in both implicit and explicit ways over the past couple of years. But then I thought, wait, who is the “we” here, and also, in what situations are we talking about being irresponsible? Because if there was ever a situation to not be irresponsible, it’s the one we’re in right now.
Many black artists, including Ava DuVernay, Jesse Williams and Lena Waithe, currently feel legitimately concerned about the state of America, because of the steep increase in hate crimes and emboldened racial violence, the sick and unconscionable immigration policies that have ripped children from their parents, and the list goes on. And so they are using their platforms across genres to take a moral stand against what is pretty clearly shaping up to be a fascist regime. Among those artists is Mike Ladd, the Paris-based American hip-hop artist who has been bending the genre to showcase his own form of moral consciousness for 20 years.
Ladd is the obverse of West. He's been in the business just as long, but instead of West's ethic of impulsivity, he's embraced an ethic of responsibility. His seminal album, Welcome to the Afterfuture, recorded around the time that Amadou Diallo was shot and killed by police in New York, is, sadly, still relevant today. He returns to the subject of police violence this week as part of a collaborative performance at The Kitchen, commissioned by composer Vijay Iyer for The Racial Imaginary Institute.
I spoke with Ladd on WNYC on Wednesday, and was struck when he said, “You can't avoid morality. You know, it's like oxygen. You know it's still going to be there.” Especially because I couldn’t imagine Kanye West —- who has a much higher profile and so a much greater influence —- ever doing the equivalent.
Ladd says that he is creating socially-responsible work not out of a sense of obligation, or even necessarily as a form of political activism, but as a reflection of how he chooses to live his life. Other artists are doing the same. In this context, what does West’s credo on irresponsibility as an artist say about how he’s living his life? And at what cost? West doesn’t need to be a role model or a beacon of morality. But to say that because he is an artist he shouldn’t be responsible for what he puts out into the world is not a privilege, it’s a fallacy. Privilege is living in a bubble of wealth and celebrity and adulation that allows you to redefine words and concepts to justify a lack of political literacy.
No one but Kanye West knows what’s in the mind of Kanye West, but he and we are witnessing an era when it feels like the entire country’s moral compass is being distorted. For West to absolve himself from responsibility is to be complicit in that distortion.
Hear Rebel on WNYC—Rebecca Carroll’s conversation with Mike Ladd on the moral responsibility of black artists is below.
CHICKEN ORIENTAL, SAY GOODBYE TO THE CONTINENTAL...
Your chance to commemorate one of our generations biggest blunders; the potential disaster and infamous omnishambles that is Brexit.
The EU Commemorative (otherwise known as the 'plus ça change') t-shirt is the first in an ongoing, affordable series of designs by two powerhouses of (someone else's) game, Va Va Records and TRY Industries. Limited runs, get em before the world gets em.
We are happy to say that we were given the job of tidying up some extremely rare audio commentary by Rammellzee courtesy of our man Keith K. Hopewell (Part 2/New Flesh) who has lent the piece to accompany a new exhibition called Racing For Thunder documenting art, thoughts and music from a true "ikonoklast".
To celebrate, below, you can read an article from The New Yorker that draws on the philology, astrophysics, and medieval history, Rammellzee channelled the chaos of seventies New York through his art and music.
Rammellzee channelled the city’s chaos into a spectacular personal mythology. Photograph by Waring Abbott / Getty
The Spectacular Personal Mythology of Rammellzee
By Hua Hsu
In the late nineteen-seventies, the sociologist Nathan Glazer had grown weary of riding New York’s graffiti-covered subways. The names of young vandals, who identified themselves as “writers” rather than as artists, were everywhere—inside, outside, sometimes stretching across multiple train cars. Glazer didn’t know who these writers were, or whether their transgressive spirit ever manifested itself in violent crimes, but that didn’t matter. The daily confrontation with graffiti suggested a city under siege. “The signs of official failure are everywhere,” he wrote in an influential 1979 essay. Graffiti, with its casual anarchy and cryptic syntax, offered glimpses into a “world of uncontrollable predators.” In the nineties, Glazer’s essay would help inspire the concept of “broken windows” policing—a theory that preserving the appearance of calm, orderly neighborhoods can foster peace and civility.
Graffiti has always had this kind of metaphorical power. It is somehow more than art or destruction (even though it is both), and it prompts awe or dread, depending on your tolerance for disorder. For every Glazer, there were romantics like Norman Mailer, who had written the text for a book of photographs elevating graffiti to the status of “faith.” From his perspective, graffiti forced the upper crust to reckon with the names and the fugitive dreams of a forgotten underclass: “You hit your name and maybe something in the whole scheme of the system gives a death rattle.”
Few people understood and internalized this power as deeply as the artist, rapper, and theoretician Rammellzee (which he styled as The RAMM:ELL:ZEE). He believed that his time in the train yards and the tunnels of New York gave him a vision for how to destroy and rebuild our world. He was born in 1960 and grew up in Far Rockaway, Queens. His birth name is a closely guarded secret; he legally changed it to his artistic tag in 1979. (He also insisted that The RAMM:ELL:ZEE was an “equation,” not a name.) Little is known about his youth, aside from passing aspirations to study dentistry (he was good with his hands) and to be a model (in a 1980 catalogue, he is identified as Mcrammellzee).
Ramm—as he became known—believed that language enforced discipline, and that whoever controlled it could steer people’s thoughts and imaginations. His hope wasn’t to replace English; he wanted to annihilate it from the inside out. His generation grew up after urban flight had devastated New York’s finances and infrastructure. Ramm channelled the chaos into a spectacular personal mythology, drawn from philology, astrophysics, and medieval history. He was obsessed with a story of Gothic monks whose lettering grew so ornate that the bishops found it unreadable and banned the technique. The monks’ work wasn’t so different from the increasingly abstract styles of graffiti writing, which turned a name into something mysterious and unrecognizable. Ramm developed a philosophy, Gothic Futurism, and an artistic approach that he called Ikonoklast Panzerism: “Ikonoklast” because he was a “symbol destroyer,” abolishing age-old standards of language and meaning; “Panzer” because this symbolic warfare involved arming all the letters of the alphabet, so that they might liberate themselves. He lived these ideas through his art and his music, and by being part of the hip-hop scene during its infancy.
In 1983, Rammellzee and a rapper named K-Rob went to visit the painter Jean-Michel Basquiat. Though Ramm and Basquiat were friends, they were also rivals. Ramm would later say that Basquiat wasn’t a “dream artist”—he didn’t so much radiate visions outward as take things in like a “sponge,” learning about genius from books. He and Ramm once bet on who could most convincingly parody the other’s work. (Ramm claimed not only that he won but that Basquiat’s art dealer, who wasn’t in on their ruse, told Basquiat that “his” work was the best he had ever done.)
That night, Basquiat invited Ramm and K-Rob to record a song he’d written. Ramm, who had rapped in the movie “Wild Style,” was already known for his unique nasal sneer. (He called it his “gangster duck” style.) The two men looked at Basquiat’s elementary rhymes, laughed, and tossed them in the trash. Instead, they made up their own lyrics—a brilliant, surreal tale of a kid (the earnest, bemused K-Rob) who’s on his way home and a hectoring pimp (Ramm) who tries to tempt him toward the dark side. Basquiat called the song “Beat Bop,” and paid for it to be produced; he painted the vinyl single’s cover art himself. The song was murky and strange, like a spiky funk jam slowed to a sinister crawl. In the background, someone tunes a violin. There’s so much echo and reverb on the track that it sounds like an attempt at time travel.
In the eighties, graffiti gained acceptance in the art world. Despite Ramm’s charisma, the intensity of his work and his stubborn, erratic personality kept him on the movement’s fringes. Where Basquiat and Keith Haring seemed shy showmen, Ramm came across as a nutty professor. His early paintings took inspiration from the psychedelia of comic books and science fantasy, with mazy train tracks running across cosmic reliefs. His palette was attuned to the era’s anxieties about nuclear war and nuclear waste. The colors were bright and garish, suggesting a box of neon highlighters run amok.
Rammellzee created and wore full-body suits of armor that he called “Garbage Gods.” Photograph by Mari Horiuchi / courtesy Red Bull Arts New York and the Rammellzee Estate
In the mid-eighties, he began rendering these ideas in 3-D. He made sculptures that evoked the fossilized remains of twentieth-century life: newspaper clippings, key rings, chain links, and other junk, floating in an epoxy ooze. The most remarkable works were his “Garbage Gods,” full-body suits of armor, some of which weighed more than a hundred pounds. They look like junk-yard Transformers doing samurai cosplay. His most famous character, the Gasholeer, was outfitted with a small flamethrower.
Ramm’s art, thought, and music are the subject of the exhibition “RAMM∑LLZ∑∑: Racing for Thunder,” at Red Bull Arts New York. Befitting the popular drink’s own sense of iconoclasm, “Racing” bathes in Ramm’s frenzied, free-associative, and occasionally overwhelming energy. There are his early canvases and sculptures, along with flyers, business cards, manifestos, and patent applications. A small theatre screens previously unseen videos of Ramm rapping at night clubs. The most impressive part of the survey is a floor devoted to his “Garbage Gods” and “Letter Racers”—skateboards representing each letter of the alphabet, armed with makeshift rockets, screwdrivers, and blades.
Throughout the exhibition, you can hear moments from Ramm’s lectures on Gothic Futurism—a thrilling jumble of street-corner hustling and technical language, all “parsecs,” “integers,” “aerodynamics.” As I was examining a collection of hand-painted watches, I kept hearing Ramm pause as he reached the end of a long disquisition on ecological catastrophe and graffiti-as-warfare, and then bark, “Next slide!”
In early May, the Red Bull Music Festival staged a Ramm-inspired concert to mark the opening of the art show. Ramm had continued to make music after “Beat Bop,” never wavering from his philosophies, just declaring them against increasingly turbulent, industrial-sounding backdrops. The eclecticism of the bill spoke to his wandering ear, and ranged from the terse hardcore of Show Me the Body to the wise-ass raps of Wiki. K-Rob, wearing a T-shirt featuring a mushroom and the words “I’m a Fun Guy,” reprised his verse from “Beat Bop,” grinning the whole way through. Gio Escobar, the leader of the deft punk-jazz band Standing on the Corner, dedicated a song to a late friend. The departed are everywhere around us, he said, as a groove emerged from the band’s dubbed-out chaos. “And they’re waiting.”
As hip-hop and art changed, as graffiti vanished from New York’s trains and walls, Ramm delved further into his own private cosmos—namely, the enormous loft in Tribeca where he lived, which he called the Battle Station. His obscurity wasn’t a choice. In the early eighties, he offered to send the U.S. military some of the intelligence he had gathered for national defense. (It declined.) In 1985, he wrote an opera, “The Requiem of Gothic Futurism.” In the nineties, he tried to promote his ideas by producing a comic book and a board game. He thought that toy manufacturers might want to mass-produce his “Garbage Gods” models. He was the first artist to collaborate with the streetwear brand Supreme. There was a series of infomercial-like videos to seed interest in “Alpha’s Bet,” an epic movie that he hoped would finally resolve the narrative arc of his extended universe.
By the time Rammellzee died, in 2010, after a long illness, New York City had been completely remade by mayoral administrations that took broken-windows policing as gospel. The Battle Station became condos. The Internet has made it easy to take what the culture provides you and rearrange it in some novel, cheeky way. It’s much more difficult to build an entirely new world—to abide by an ethical vision with a ferocity that requires you to break all the rules. I was surprised by how moved I felt standing underneath Ramm’s “Letter Racers” and studying the textures of the “Garbage Gods.” To see their meticulous handiwork up close was to believe that Ramm’s far-flung theories, his mashup of quantum physics and “slanguage,” made sense as an outsider’s survival strategy. I noticed all the discarded fragments of city life—bulbs and screws, a billiard ball, a doll’s head, old fan blades and turn-signal signs, visors stacked to look like pill bugs. His commitment was total. These are works of devotion.
This is where Ramm wanted to live—at the edge of comprehensibility, but in a way that invited others to wonder. Cities are filled with strangers who possess an unnerving energy, who hail us with stories, songs, and poems. Ramm was one of these. In an interview filmed in the aughts, Ramm sheds light on his everyday life. Sometimes, he says, he’ll be walking down the street or sitting at a bar, and people will just look at him. And sometimes they’ll come up to him and ask, “Who are you?” He’s explaining all this while wearing one of his “Garbage God” masks. You notice his paunch, the warm crackle of his voice at rest. “I’m just an average Joe,” he says, and he sounds like he believes it. ♦
This article appears in the print edition of the May 28, 2018, issue, with the headline “Graffiti Prophet.”
We meant to post this a few weeks back and things got in the way. Jimothy is blessed, he loves this lifestyle.
Words from The Director, Dougal Thomson:
"I was asked to make a video for the music 'Yellow and Violet in the North' which was inspired by impressionism. I did some research and found that Impressionism was partly due to the advent of pure colour paint production from the world of science. This new colour pallet inspired some artists to leave the comfort of the cities and travel north to the freedom of the outdoors for a new challenge with the self belief of producing something original, a rebirth.
Armed with this new tool (pure colour paints) the artists ask the question, "does the mind see the same as the eye?". They would try to answer and measure this through painting the colour of a scene exactly. Breaking painting tradition by forgoing the detailed brush work in order to capture the transient nature of light with free brush strokes of pure brilliant colour to form impressions of the landscape.
Impressionism's lack of detail in the brush work evokes an isolating effect in the viewer. Artistically challenging, Impressionism took ten years to be considered art. This new, less detailed and free approach carries more space for the viewers to create their own reality and freedom. So the film is more about what the viewer sees in the pictures and music than about painting as such. Perhaps the film shows how science would use art to measure music’s effects on us, asking the question, do we feel the same things when we see and hear? How do the senses come together to make a tangible, yet untouchable feeling?
It's a map made from the control of science and the freedom of art and music a fine equilibrium of soon to be, good friends. It's a new road, the old rules don’t work for rebirth, destroy to create.
P.S. I wonder why Noir is so hopeful?"
After a heady 4 years since 'I'll Drive You Pray', A La Fu has at last taken time out to complete E.P. No.2. titled 'Critical Hailstones.'
This collection begins with the spontaneous recording 'Gucci Bamboo' with Sandra Melody (Big Dada/Diplo/Lotek Hi Fi/Roots Manuva) in fine off the top/freestyle mode after hearing A La Fu's somewhat bewildering idea for a chorus and subject matter. 'Avoid Television' advises us to do just that, at all costs and that the stakes are now too high for us to stay home with our heads glued to television screens and smart phones, 'Synthetic Nite Owl' celebrates and laments late night/early morning recording sessions and lastly 'Yellow & Violet In The North' is a spacious ode to Aberdeen, Scotland the city of the artists birth.
All these compositions are nurtured in A La Fu's own inimitable style of refusing to be any one thing in particular and further cements his place in the upper echelons of obscurity.
Critical Hailstones will be available via our site soon and released via all good outlets on 13th April 2018.
Calling all cars (or at least self releasing artists), Traxploitation is a new service that provides information on the business side of the recording industry so you can focus on what you do best, creating music. Traxploitation was formed by our great friend, fellow artist, producer, engineer and cohort Wayne “Lotek” Bennett and offers one to one advice and consulting on the music business, royalty collection, label services, and workshops aimed at helping artists understand the industry.
For those who may not know, Wayne started in the music industry in 1993 as a “tape operator”, first at Motown UK’s East London studio and then Rollover Studios in West London, where he assisted in many recordings sessions for a wide variety of artists from Leftfield to Seal.
By 1997 he was the engineer for independent UK hip hop label, Sound Of Money records, where he helped shaped the sound of a young Rodney Smith, AKA Roots Manuva.
In 1999 Roots Manuva signed to Ninjatune’s newly formed Big Dada label and Lotek was enlisted to produce tracks for the first 2 albums (“Brand New Second Hand”, and the Mercury Prize nominated “Run Come Save Me”). He also directed the Run Come Save Me UK and European tours.
In 2003 Wayne signed to Big Dada as an artist in his own right and released 2 albums under the name Lotek Hi-Fi. He also produced the 2009 Mercury prize winning album “Speech Therapy” by Speech Debelle, who pipped artists such as Florence and the Machine, La Roux and Bat for Lashes to take home the prize.
In 2016 Wayne began working for PPL (Phonographic Performance Ltd), in the member services team helping artists and record labels get paid for their recordings.
It was while working at PPL that he realised how many artists and musicians there were who were missing out on royalties and other revenue from their music. It was also apparent that there was no reliable source of information to guide people through the process of collecting the revenue due to them.
Get in touch today to find out how Traxploition can help you, your first consultation is FREE.
Willis Ellmore’s annual, end of year turntable workout of favourites and purchased music in 2017. 50 tracks of electric gear just in time for your New Year party and beyond, background or foreground, press play, sit back and you’re in for 3 hours of the years finest.
Includes tracks from Move D & Thomas Meinecke, Lee Gamble, Dbridge, Equiknoxx, Clap Clap, Errorsmith, Reginald Omas, Erskine Lynas, Tafi All Stars, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Shabazz Palaces, Joe, Teklife, A La Fu, The Jams, Actress, Paleman, Todd Terje, Prostitutes and Willis Ellmore among others.
Download link: https://we.tl/cxlTZMLWcI
I Am You - Haramia Tapes
Babylon Correction - Deadbeat
Norfolk - Move D & Thomas Meinecke
Keep That High - Paul and Michael
The Nile - P Jam ft. Terror Danjah
Warning - Trunx
World A - DJ Sports
Ghost - Lee Gamble
Dot Hot - Dbridge
Way You Move - DJ Manny ft. DJ Chap
Silver Light - M.Sayyid of Antipop Consortium
Behind You Back - Shit And Shine
Lung Dart - Tuvalu (8Ball Remix)
A Rabbit Spoke To Me When I Woke Up
Centripetal - Clap Clap
Fly Away ft. Alozade & Gavsborg - Equiknoxx Music
Tunnel Snakes (Red Axes and Naduve Remix) - Last Waltz
Errorsmith - Retired Low-level Internal Server
Wake Up - Reginald Omas Mamode IV
Lexus Riddim - Rahhh
Craiger Caught the Sleeper - Erskine Lynas
Soul Crush (Manie Sans Délire Revision) - Digital Poodle
Gormedzedze - Tafi All Stars
An Intention - Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
A2D - Shigeto feat. ZeelooperZ & Silas Green
Moon Whip Qu##z - Shabazz Palaces ft. Quazarz and Darrius
Quiet Flash - 7FO
Shudder - Bambooman
Tail Lift - Joe
Construire Un Igloo - Fantastic Twins
Ice Cream - Teklife ft. DJ Chap
A La Fu Joins The Jams - A La Fu Live at Burn The Shard Nov 23rd 2017
Audio Track 5 - Actress x London Contemporary Orchestra
I Will Make Room for You (Four Tet Remix) - Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith -
Animus - Paleman
Jungelknugen - Todd Terje
Prey - Prostitutes
99% Ft.Haji - M.Sayyid of Antipop Consortium
I’m Interesting Cheerful Sociable - Errorsmith
Control Myself - Not Waving
Eye Contact - The Other People Place
Perpetuum Mobile - Mikrovolt
Untitled A2 - SW
A1 - Dresvn
M-80 - FLØRIST presents V. ROSSO
Deuce And A 1-4 - Seldom Seen
Todays Video Is For You - Willis Ellmore
Wednesday - Reece West
A La Fu Joins The Jams 2 - A La Fu Live at Burn The Shard Nov 23rd 2017
The Guardian newspaper have compiled their defining images of 2017 which includes the above photograph that captures a festival-goer in front of our man Keith K. Hopewell's stunning piece painted in Notting Hill. The photograph was taken by Matt Stuart at carnival on 27 August during J’ouvert.
Guardian's best photographs of 2017: http://bit.ly/2CfRZj5
New Keith K. Hopewell coming 2018.
All recorded by label head honcho A La Fu at our newly christened Studio 23 and available here: http://bit.ly/2iXgppa
“Do you have a name for the studio?” - Bill Drummond
“No, too busy with building the thing.” - A La Fu
“How about Studio 23?” - Jimmy Cauty
And so it goes.
After many months of meticulous planning and impatience, Va Va Records are pleased to announce the first project recorded and edited at our new studio headquarters with would you adam and eve it, pop music’s greatest provocateurs Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, aka The Jams, aka The KLF, aka The Timelords (to name but a few handles).
Our man A La Fu has been working with Bill Drummond on a handful of projects over the past few years and after being asked to perform at the closing of Drummonds 'The 25 Paintings' exhibition they even duetted together with a version of ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow?’ by The Shirelles, naturally.
As you may know Cauty and Drummond have completed their 23 year moratorium this year and returned as The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu. To celebrate they have written a book titled ‘2023’, a trilogy described by the governors as a “utopian costume drama, set in the near future, written in the recent past”.
It is the audio version of the book that has been recorded and edited by A La Fu and narrated by Daisy Campbell in the brand new Cauty christened, Studio 23.
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