A sound salvation…

Thursday, November 23rd, 2006

As mentioned in a previous post, Tim (aka Instamatic, aka DJ No No) from Radio Clash and I conducted an interview following my session at the Web 2.0 Summit – Pleased to say that it’s now up on his site as part of Radio Clash episode 99 (K Bit starts 41m in, but take time to listen to the whole show if you can!).

We cover the usual range of bootlegging topics, and if we sound somewhat relaxed, it’s wholly due to the amount of wine we’d consumed at the Summit closing reception prior to the interview (although not as much as some folks…)! However, the relaxed situ did mean that there was a fair bit of talk about what may be happening next in K-Land too, so if you want the gen, head over and have a listen.

(Thanks as always to Tim for his exemplary podcasting and editing skills).

Oh and sorry about the picture. Applications for the (suddenly now vacant) post of Kleptones stylist welcome.

This must be the place

Thursday, November 16th, 2006

I feel numb, burn with a weak heart
Guess I must be having fun,
The less we say about it the better
Make it up as we go along…

I spend Friday chilling gettly, first downtown, and then over in Berkeley having lunch and continuing a chat from the CC Salon with the forever entertaining and thoughtful Victor Stone, before heading off to the aforementioned summit.

Behold the Great Mashup Meal of 2006.

Yes, A&D again excel themselves by bringing together more transatlantic mashup artists and remixers in one room than you can shake a dodgy copy of Acid at. I’m scared to list everyone in case I miss anyone out but (deep breath) we got A & D, Earworm, Party Ben, Dada, Phil & Dog, Radio Clash Tim (in his Instamatic guise), Ian Fondue, Supercollider, Juxtaposeur and The Overhope Organisation!

Add a few honarary guests and the scene was set for large amounts of beer and seafood to vanish surprisingly quickly. For me, a particularly great time, as I’d not met many of the attendees before, even the UK ones (I know the place is small, but we don’t all know each other, k?).

So after running up a pretty impressive bill, most of the assembled head over to the Rickshaw Stop for more beer and some of that ol’ time electro dance music until the early hours. This time, there’s nothing to get up for the next morning, so I take full advantage. A lovely feeling.

Saturday dawns gently, and with the day to myself, I head up to Golden Gate Park, stopping off on Haight for some breakfast supplies alongside a couple of free papers from Amoeba Records, thus unintentionally completing the Amoeba triangle (having visited both the LA branch the week before, and the Berkeley one the day before).

I could hear the records crying out to me. Honest I could.

Fortified, sanctified and feeling chock full of chilled Haight shopping vibes, it’s finally time for the big one. The unstoppable. The insurmountable. Yup. It’s Bootie SF.

Surveying the DNA Lounge as it gets set up and covered in hundreds of skull & crossbones logos makes me a little more nervous than LA, so I watch the UK contingent make themselves at home by filling their room with signs and posters and firing off messages to GYBO from one of the many Linux terminals that dot the club. Truly a home from home in more ways than one. Soon the doors are open, and the place is filling fast. Both rooms are starting to jump, with Dada and then Instamatic doing the honours in one room, and the Bastard UK collective chopping and changing in the other. It’s truly a sight to see, as the dancefloor grows and the crowd start cheering each section of a tune as it comes in. In the meantime people are stretching their heads in the Bastard room to a great drum’n’bass mix of “Uptown Top Ranking”.

Soon it’s time for Smash Up Derby (in their own words, “The world’s only Mashup Rock’n’Roll Band”) to get their groove on. Adrian and Trixxie circle the stage draped in union jack capes, pushing the band through a set of UK themed mashes. It’s pretty fuckin’ impressive, and the crowd, well familiar with this brand of insanity, obviously think so too. I get my tech together while the stage is filled with a truly deranged pirate hat fashion show, and then it’s blue touch paper time again…

Feet on the ground, head in the sky,
It’s okay, I know nothing’s wrong… Nothing’s wrong.

This was an awesomely fun set – not as tight as the one in LA, but in terms of pure enjoyment, as good as it gets, even when I freaked out my little Faderfox mixer, leaving a verse and a chorus hanging in mid-air almost completely acapella as I frantically tried to figure out what had gone wrong. The crowd just sang along, Party Ben stared at my frantic tweakings thinking it was part of the act, and Adrian later accused me good-naturedly of teasing his crowd. Definitely the mark of a good set when even the fuck-ups work! I’m that pleased, I finish the set with “War Of Confusion”, gleefully blending Dubya’s closing comments on the track with Cypress Hill’s “Insane In The Brain” acapella…

So everyone decamps to (After-)Party Ben’s to do the traditional afterclub business until the end of the night. Well, almost. I manage to wring the last few drops of goodness out of my trip stopping off at A & D’s for one last hurrah, before finally admitting that we’d sucked every last bit of fun out of the town and it was definitely time to crash. I float back through town, zig-zagging blocks in the early morning sun, pause in the hotel lobby to shame-facedly grab some muffins and coffee from the breakfast buffet while my fellow guests try not to stare, then fall in to my room and a deep, long sleep.

There’s not time to do much else the next day before the flight but take a quick wander through Chinatown and a browse in City Lights Bookstore, before it’s time to bid farewell to California, thank it profusely for the good times and ready myself for a good few hours of insomnia on the flight home.

Er.. which is where we came in, isn’t it? Well, the jetlag’s gone, and I’m yawning and ready for bed.

Time for one last huge thank you to everyone who made the trip such a memorable one (esp. John Battelle, A & D, Party Ben, Tim BC & Victor Stone), and apologies to everyone Stateside that I didn’t get to make it to this time. It won’t be too long before the next one, I promise!

And who the hell was it that asked me to write this trip up, anyway? I forget…

Night all.

Home is where I want to be,
But I guess I’m already there.

Get closer to be far away…

Thursday, November 16th, 2006

I wake up and wonder, what was the place, what was the name?
We wanna wait, but here we go again…

Yeah. That’s right. I had to stay sober. Oops.

My alarm finally pokes through the low-lying clouds of sleep and I wake up late on Thursday morning with a crunching hangover, bleary eyes and an impending sense of “Oh Shit”. It takes a long shower and several swift doses of Berocca / Paracetamol cocktail before I’m feeling better, then it’s off to grab a breakfast croissant and several strong coffees, before heading down to the Speaker’s Lounge at the summit…

It’s always showtime, here at the edge of the stage…

The green room is calm as I meet up with David Munns, Vice-Chairman of EMI, who has taken over the role of “the suit” in the discussion from Chairman Eric Nicoli. David is suffering from a cold, so I feel we’re matched in the foggy-head stakes. We chat briefly before John Battelle shows up to talk us through the intro. In no time we’re off to face the crowd, and the discussion begins. I’m going to save my thoughts on that for another post, but until the official podcast arrives, if you’re curious you can check out a recording of the discussion on EMI’s site (thanks to Adam Grossberg from EMI for the recording and for making it available so quick), or read a great summary at Lawgarithms.

For now, I’ll say now that it was a very enjoyable discussion, and although I thought John did far more of the interrogation than myself, I really enjoyed his questions! Nice one, John, and thank you for inviting me.

Why, why, why, why start it over?
Nothing is lost, everything’s free
I don’t care how impossible it seems…

So, the day’s duty completed, nothing remained but to enjoy the closing reception and indulge in a few more rounds of highly-energised chats. By the end of the reception, I’m starting to wish that there were several more days to go, but so it goes. A very enjoyable experience all round, and a quick round of hello’s to everyone that stopped to chat during the summit – It was great to meet you all.

Still, there’s always more to look forward to, so after stopping off for a quick chat to Tim for a future Radio Clash (good luck with editing that one, Tim – but please make sure you *do* edit it, okay? hehe…) we have an end of night drink and ponder over the next night, which brings a summit of a wholly different kind…

…and nothing is better than this, is it?

Nothing can come between us, nothing gets you down…

Thursday, November 16th, 2006

Somebody is waiting in the hallway
Somebody is falling down the stairs

Head buzzing full of ideas, I move off for a quick lunch in my room. Back out into the conference for the afternoon and the whole thing has accelerated into overdrive. There’s people everywhere – talking on phones, talking on headsets, talking to others, talking to themselves and the hubub is backed up by the sound of a thousand laptops tip-tapping down the echoing corridors, aided, no doubt, by the hotel’s decision to charge $17 a day for internet access in the rooms. Hmf. Naturally, the W2 Summit (I’m going to start using that term, as they have officially changed the name, so gotta get used to it) have got AOL to shill for wireless access for the main areas, but the cost of room-net has pushed many cost-conscious attendees into every available corridor and chair to do their online work. (Expense account? Moi?)

If this were a club, you’d say it was peaking right now. This is the corporate equivalent of hands-in-the-air time. Familiar faces and nametags move here and there. Unfamiliar faces with big ideas eye the traffic with unconcealed intent. The temptation to eavesdrop is considerable. I resist, and pop into the launchpad session to see some new companies demo their wares and ideas briefly before cleaning up and heading off into the San Franciscan night, grabbing a freshly arrived Tim from Radio Clash on the way to do something exceptionally English – Go see The Pet Shop Boys!

Snap into position, Bounce till you ache…

And, as always, they don’t disappoint. Backed up with two dancers and three singers, their show is a masterpiece of non-bandsmanship, with a beautifully designed stageset that is continually manipulated by a couple of boilersuit clad stagehands into a variety of different positions, acting as both stage platforms and frames for the dancers and surfaces for video projections. It’s a fine set, carefully balancing new tunes with old show-stoppers. Mash and mix fans, it should be noted, would be delighted with their conceptual arrangement skills, which saw the two “spell-the word-out” tunes (“Minimal” and “Shopping”) blending into one another, and a fine segue between “Se A Vida Es” and “Domino Dancing”. Although they did miss a trick as Tim pointed out the similarity between “The Sodom And Gomorrah Show” and “Yesterday When I Was Mad” (sadly not in the set). The crowd get highly emotional, with tons of hugging and kissing inbetween the dancing. It’s great to feel such a warm vibe, especially in a huge place.

Suitably enlivened, we bounce out of the auditorium and head down to Trannyshack at The Stud, where Adrian from Bootie is performing in a cast of hundreds (well, probably not, but it felt like it!) drag tribute to, ahem, the majesty of Freddie Mercury and Queen. Highly appropriate really, dontchathink?

It’s another wonderful show, taking in many lesser known Queen tracks (including personal favourites “Spread Your Wings” and “Let Me Entertain You”) with the obligatory classics. These gals certainly know how to make the most out of the tiny stage with a combination of excellent costumes, demented acting and endless bravado, and the packed club cheers them on every step of the way.

However the freshly-arrived Tim is not looking so fresh any more, and goes off to deal with his jetlag, With me, more than half-cut, following suit soon after. I make a pit stop on the way back for a tub of bedtime ice-cream (Chocolate Fudge Brownie) at the 7-11, and am charmed by the guy on the till, who, even at this late hour, asks me if I want a spoon. Bless him.

Makin’ flippy floppy, tryin to do my best…

Wednesday sees the conference, sorry, summit keeping the energy levels up, although I see less of the action, as I’m doing a little prep for my evening’s appearence at the Creative Commons Salon at Shine. Not wanting to play the higher energy Bootie set in an early-evening bar setting, I take a few chances and buff up some more downtempo works-in-progress, alongside a few, hopefully more familiar tunes.

The Salon has a wonderfully friendly, relaxed vibe, and I get to try out a few experiments in between checking out people’s ideas, particularly the very impressive Splice – an online audio remix and mashup tool. Naturally an online flash sequencer is going to have some limitations, but these guys have done what I think is the best job yet of taking the essential elements and making them very easy to use. Combine that with a growing sample base and community, and there’s a lot of fun to be had.

Sadly there’s never enough time to chat, but I’m delighted to finally make the aquaintances of both TradeMark from The Evolution Control Committee, and Victor Stone (creator of fine music as fourstones.net, and also the backbone of CCMixter) amongst others. Frenzied conversation and trading of numbers results, before I remind myself I have to try to get an early night before my own little piece of the Web 2 Summit the next day.

Unfortunately the night is still young, and the city very inviting, so D from Bootie zooms me off to meet up with Tim again, who is across town checking out the wonderfully jovial and occasionally outspoken DJ Jay-R. Everyone is in great spirits and many beers are sunk, but as I quaff, quaff again and quaff some more, I have an unsettling feeling calling from deep in my brain of something that I’d forgotten to do…

Bring me a doctor, I have a hole in my head…

We’re on the road to paradise, here we go, here we go…

Wednesday, November 15th, 2006

Well we know where we’re goin’
but we don’t know where we’ve been.
And we know what we’re knowing’
but we can’t say what we’ve seen.
And we’re not little children
and we know what we want.
And the future is certain
give us time to work it out.

And yes, it’s a different world. Not my usual one, as you would expect, but again, surprisingly easy to slide into, especially with such a fine program of panels, workshops and discussions, and more interesting breakfast and lunch discussions than you can shake a 4GB memory stick at.

The vibe is positively relaxed during the first morning, with many attendees catching up on aquaintances, sipping coffee and surreptuously checking out other people’s nametags, giving me a chance to check out a great panel on the Future (i.e post-YouTube) Of Video. Nice to see that the assembled bods attacked the copyright issue first-off, but the mentality still seems to follow the “if it’s successful, we’re sure something will be sorted out” line. Not sure where this leaves the 14-year-old with the copyright infringing animation soundtrack though.

The online video zone seems to be right on the edge of a turf-war, as competing teams start battling for good niches following the GooTube announcement. For me, naturally, JumpCut has the edge on the first batch, but there seems to be a fair amount of quality round two brainwaves that should ensure this will be the most innovative area of online media for a good while to come.

This slice of brainfood is immediately followed by the very charming Don Tapscott’s workshop on “The Net Generation”, which does a fine job of summarizing and enlarging on the coming generations (Tapscott’s def is roughly 14-29, the “Net Generation”) attitude towards the net. For me, this generation gap is neatly defined by the pro / anti MySpace line. So many first-gen webheads don’t get, or just plain don’t like MySpace, for whatever reasons – clunky back-end, geek snobbery etc… whereas many kids use it for almost exactly the same reasons. It wasn’t designed specifically for geeks or snobs, although it’s wonderful to see so many kids getting their first taste of hacking and coding through customising their pages. Whodathought?

This last point is something that is brought home in Tapscott’s research (slides here – definitely worth a look), in which he finds that 52% of N-Geners polled say they want to be able to customise the products that they consume and want to be able to develop relationships with suppliers in the same manner. Some large corps are already taking advantage of this more marketable side of remix culture, but it’s reassuring to see that the peeps polled clearly state that this freedom of choice is one of the most influencial factors on many of their online decisions, purchasing and otherwise. The remix ethos is now not only a buzz factor, it’s actually become ingrained in the decision-making process. “Does it come in Red?” has now been replaced with “How can I personalise it?”, “What are my options?”- In effect, “How can I remix it?”

Also great to hear Tapscott briefly echo one of my own thoughts about music disctribution during the Q & A. I always thought (with the benefit of just a little hindsight, natch) that it was a great shame that the connection speeds available during the time of the Napster Wars didn’t allow for easier direct streaming of good quality media (for a small subscription) – for me this would have been the smartest major-label response to their peer-to-peer problems at the time. All content, always available, all the time. Incorporate intelligent playlisting, a last.fm style community base and a Pandora-style recommendation system and no-one would ever need to illigally download the same content! (unless, ahem, say, they wanted to remix it?, ahem. But more on that one later…)

Okay, so you’d still want to get it to play on your iPod, or in your car, but once the shackles come off mobile devices (and they *will*, very soon), you’ll be able to stream content to any decent device. So why bother with owning the actual file?

As David Bowie quipped in 2002, “music will soon become like running water”. Turn the tap on. Have a drink. Have another one. No need to keep big buckets of the stuff around, just pay your water charges.

Okay, sure this doesn’t cover *all* the content (speaking as someone who only went on Napster in the first place to find the Beach Boys “Smile” sessions) but it’s a large chunk of it, and, lets face it, as time goes on, more and more music is being made available to stream for free from artists sites anyway (particularly savvy indie ones), so why use it just as an incentive to purchase DRM-ed downloads? Arse about face or what?

Unfortunately, now that most developed nations have deleveloped decent high-speed networks, the labels have already insisted on, invested in and converted to an online shop system, which is far easier for them to adapt to, as it mirrors the standard “record shop”. However, more and more industry people keep calling for the subscription model to be adopted as time goes on, so there’s some hope. Just please don’t call it a levy. Or a “Music Tax”.

(Jetlag interruption… fingers slipping off keys, although that might be the duty-free… “EK in the USA” continues right after this…. zzz)

Would you like to come along, you can help me sing this song
and it’s all right, baby, it’s all right.
They can tell you what to do, but they’ll make a fool of you…


Memories can’t wait

Wednesday, November 15th, 2006

Everything is very quiet, Everyone has gone to sleep.

I’m wide awake on memories, These memories can’t wait.

Yup. Jetlag. Wide awake, drinking duty free bourbon… and it’s morning. Serious attempts to sleep (“Take the blue pill”) sadly failed on the flight back, so a pile of in-flight movies numbed my floating brain instead. Despite that, had a lovely chat with my seat neighbor, the American soprano, Marnie Breckenridge, who was on her way out to perform Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide” in Prague. It’s always fascinating discussing what we do with performers and musicians from different genres – hope you liked the CDs, Marnie!

There’s a party in my mind…And I hope it never stops

There’s a party up there all the time…They’re gonna party till they drop

Bootie LA was a dynamite experience – there was definitely a little apprehension in the air at first, as although Adrian, Deirdre and Paul V are into what we do, they had yet to hear the proof of the DJ pudding. Suffice to say I was a little nervous for likewise reasons, but a swift blast of a couple of new tunes during the soundcheck put all minds at rest. Feeling a little more confident, I chilled in the outside zone of the club (what is that called anyway, a smoking patio?), chatting to a few fine people, including Buck from The Mutaytor, who, once we’ve got the requisite Ableton chat out of the way, regales me with tales of jamming with Mickey Hart and Baaba Maal. I’d advise you to check their site, especially if you’re not from the US, as you won’t have seen nada like this before – and admittedly neither as yet have I, as we were both sadly playing on the same night in SF! Next time, next time… And muchos good luck with getting the ‘taytors over to Europe soon, Buck…

Still, time flies, and it’s soon time to cross all extremities and patch in. It’s a little freaky at first, but the crowd are grinning and shimmying, and soon the couple of aces up my sleeve actually *feel* like aces. The set zooms by, highlighted by one wonderful moment when I could see several people right in front of me almost doubled-up laughing their asses off yet dancing madly at the same time (anyone at the shows can hazard a fairly accurate guess to which tune *that* was), and then suddenly I’m back in the fresh air breathing releif and nicotine as the hosts wrap the night up. A few after-beer beers and then I’m a straight to bed good boy for the flight to SF the next day.

Take a walk through the land of shadows, Take a walk through the peaceful meadows

Try not to look so disappointed, It isn’t what you hoped for, is it?

Los Angeles, I have to say, I found very, very disorientating, as I hinted before. To the small-land mentality of an Englishman, LA just does not compute. The sprawl suggests that it must be tough for peeps to keep new community culture locked in place amongst it all, and it’s mighty tough to get a quick reading through the streetlife, as everyone is in a damn car most of the time! But I was reassured by many folks that it’s worthwhile, so looking forward to going back and digging a little deeper, for sure.

San Francisco, on the other hand, has much that immediately resonates with the English (and more to the point, Brighton-toned) psyche. The Speakers Corner meets Leicester Square chaos that lives at the base of Powell Street felt rather reassuring, as I lugged my case past the militant vegetarians, street performers, panhandlers and god-botherers towards The Palace Hotel for the Web 2.0 conference.

I’m stuck here in this seat… I might not stand up…

Into the blue again…

Monday, November 6th, 2006

And you may find yourself, living in a shotgun shack…

Well I don’t know if I could really call the Comfort Inn on West Sunset a shotgun shack. Wouldn’t really be fair, although a little bit of me wishes it was, so I could take one of them there shotguns and force someone to fix their poorly internet connection NOW so I can find out where the hell I am…

And you may find yourself, in another part of the world…

Yup. LA. Looks like two totally different places, depending on whether you’re looking from the air, or the carpark of the aforementioned Comfort Inn. I know which one I prefer.

Even in the outskirts, there are concerns here that have signs that are larger than their actual premises. And they rotate. I figure one day everyone is going to wake up here to find they’ve been completely hemmed in by advertising overnight, and can no longer get out of their houses. But there will be no fighting back, merely acceptance of another occupational hazard of LA life.

And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile…

Ah. No. LA without internet is not easy. LA without a car, a map, or internet is just one more thing to shock and amaze natives and fellow travellers. It’s a lot of fun, kinda like pinball, but with pit stops. It’s a good test of faith too. Travel long enough on a bus, anywhere, and you will eventually go past a Virgin record store, a cafe with internet access, or even the Remix Hotel LA. You just have to be patient. And listen carefully to the announcements.

And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife…

Hmm. There are some beautiful houses here. And some beautiful wives. But I sadly don’t have time to find myself within them.

And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?

Only if I was on a philiosophical tip following a fair dose of quality malt. I’m more interested in why I’m here, which is to DJ at Bootie LA. And have a damn fine time doing it, playing some crazy new tracks, getting people to dance and smile and hopefully making the acquaintance of some good people along the way.

Actually, maybe this has already happened.

Maybe then I’ll get to travel up to San Francisco, attend the Web 2.0 Conference, have a public discussion with the Chairman of EMI and then play a couple more shows, maybe one for the CC folks, and another Bootie?

Maybe this is yet to come. The sun is coming up.

Same as it ever was, same as it ever was…