‘Life has surface noise’

“Somebody was trying to tell me that CDs are better than vinyl because they don’t have any surface noise. I said, ‘Listen, mate, life has surface noise.”

John Peel

Daily Prompt: Record


Rough around the edges


Things are more interesting and potentially more truthful around the edges. This applies to anyone, from politicians to musicians.

Politicians that speak the truth become outsiders. But politicians who abuse the ‘outsider’ status to pander to populist voters squander their authenticity. They can be as thoughtful as Bernie Sanders or as morally corrupt and downright offensive as Trump.

The artist also treads a fine line between a unique creative process to one that can become manufactured. Take the case of MIA; the Internet made her a star and removed her underground status along with it. Another case and point: Diplo, once a revered beat-smith from Florida, now produces hits for Justin Bieber.

The challenge for politicians and artists alike or companies like Apple, therefore, seems to be retaining their edginess despite a growth in popularity. Radiohead may be the paragon of balancing mainstream success while maintaining outsider status. By changing up their sound on each album, they’re able to appear credible to both the experimental listener and the person seeking the wisdom of crowds.

So how does a politician or artists push the boundaries without manipulating their uniqueness to the point of appearing fake? It depends on how honest they are in their approach. If the work is worth talking about, it’ll spread along with its originality.

How reggae and punk influenced each other and passed the torch to grime

stormy grime reggae punk

“Punk was never about nihilism. It was about empowerment, freedom, and individuality.” – Don Letts, filmmaker

So too was reggae, which influenced punk’s rallying cry against Britain’s right-wing politics. Both subcultures became known for their rebelliousness. The two genres were forever linked:

“It’s obvious what punk got from reggae. They liked the anti-establishment vibe, they liked the musical reportage quality of the lyrics. What reggae got out of it was exposure.”

Legendary rock DJ John Peel championed the emergence of both reggae and punk on his radio show, helping the UK “rock against racism”. Meanwhile, Bob Marley legitimized the interplay of both movements with his track “Punky Reggae Party.”

Fast-forward three decades later and Punk is now considered a “marketing device” for UK tourism, making Grime its radical substitute. Most people think of Grime as the UK’s answer to hip-hop. However, grime is more spontaneous and feisty like outsider punk.

“Grime is like the poetry of pain. It’s a really intelligent use of slang.” – Olivia Rose, ‘This is Grime’

Like punk, Grime lyrics highlight Britain’s inequality, a continuation of Sex Pistol’s who sung “There is no future in England’s dreaming.” Grime unites all those looking for hope, especially in the post-Brexit era. One of the game’s pioneers, Dizzee Rascal, pushes people to find common ground. In a recent interview with Pharrell he said:

“What happens when you shout and scream at the world and then they listen, agree with you. ‘Yeah, we like that too.’ You’ve got to find something in common with people. That’s the way to get on in life.”

The future of England echoes through grime music, even cross-pollinating with pop music on the charts with acts like Skepta. Given the evolution of new music styles out of the UK, it is going to be interesting to hear what comes next.

> Listen in on the BBC’s ‘Punk’s Legacy’

Tick tock you don’t stop ⏲

“This is a unique object”

“It glows. It seems to be getting brighter. It’s also running backwards, it’s not so much keeping time but, counting down to something. And look at the back it’s..it fits into something. It’s like a key” — Lara Croft Tomb Raider

Everybody’s fixated on the clock. It’s what we use to countdown to the weekend. It’s what professional sports uses to determine a winner. Clocks constrict time when them as points of reference.

Jeff Bezos built a clock that will keep time for the next 10,000 years. It demonstrates Bezos’ vision for long-term thinking.

Coldplay created a hit song called “Clocks” in 2002. More importantly, it’s also the name of a track from Elementz of Sound that appeared on John Peel’s FabricLive 07.

Did you know that 2016 will be one-second longer? Says science author Dan Falk:

“If you don’t insert a leap second, eventually time based on those atomic clocks will be out of whack with solar time.”

Clock in, clock out. Everybody’s got the same amount of time on Earth. It’s what you do with it that matters.

Written for the Daily Prompt: Clock ⏲

The Art of Curation: Remembering John Peel

john peel record collection

Curation is the difference between what you think people will like versus what you know they’ll like.

John Peel said something like this once. It’s one skill to discover art, another to educate people about it.

Peel mastered curation by using his radio shows to expose the world to all forms of music, including reggae and punk when they were underground genres.

Peel challenged us all to share our good taste and get over the smugness in finding something first. After all, mass adoption is a vindication of visionaries.

Be happy when the world embraces your style; keep pushing until they get it.

Peel discovered, shared, and blossomed. He remains the greatest rock DJ to this day.


Brian Eno takes a trip around the John Peel Archive

Digitizing John Peel’s Record Collection

John Peel was the greatest DJ of all time. He introduced reggae to the UK and tempted his listeners with what he thought people would like rather than playing the sure hits.

The BBC and the English Arts council announced that they are digitizing his record collection, spanning 40,000 vinyl singles and 25,000 vinyl LPs.

Even though the actual music won’t be digitized, we’ll still be able to google away at his collection. I’m sure half is his collection can’t be heard or found. Peel went that deep into music.

One of the last records Peel made was a mix for Fabric, the progressive London night club. It might be the most educational record you’ll ever hear, combining rock, reggae, drum n bass, and commentary from Peel’s favorite football club Liverpool.

I miss Peel. I made a poster of him after he died. It reminds me to keep discovering.