[FEATURE] MENTAL HEALTH IS NOT A MEME

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Mental illness is not exactly uncommon. According to the Mental Health Foundation, one in four people will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime and mental illness makes up 28% of all diseases in the world – the biggest by far. Going by this, several people you know will have suffered with a mental illness. It could be your mother, your brother, your cousin or your best friend. It could even be you. So why are we so insensitive when it comes to celebrities and mental health?

Recently, Kanye West announced he had cancelled an upcoming tour for undisclosed reasons – undisclosed until it was reported he’d been rushed into hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. Since then, more details have emerged: a combination of sleep deprivation and a robbery involving his wife Kim Kardashian in Paris a month previous has left him ‘shaken and paranoid’.

It’s a serious matter, but some reactions to the entire situation are disgusting. First, we need to look at the Paris robbery: why do people think this is funny? The Kardashians are not the public’s favourite family, granted, but this doesn’t change the fact that Kim Kardashian is a mother, a daughter, a sister and a wife. Nobody deserves to be held at gunpoint. ‘But she flaunts her wealth!’ you cry. Yes, her life revolves around social media and marketing herself, but I’ve seen sixteen year olds from small towns flaunting their new Pandora ring or brag about their iPhone upgrade on Snapchat too many times to count. Pot, kettle, anyone?

A gunpoint robbery is a traumatic experience for anyone. It’s not about the jewellery that was stolen, or the amount of money received from insurance. A robbery takes material items, but it gives you something too: pure fear and a need to look over your shoulder constantly. Imagine if that happened to someone you loved, if it was your wife that was threatened. Would you laugh it off, say she deserved it? Or would you say that it’s okay, because she can afford it anyway? No, you’d be angry, you’d be terrified and you’d feel guilty and that’s probably how West is feeling right now.

So why should we act like his mental problems are a joke? A meme is currently doing the rounds on Facebook, comparing West to the late Lemmy:

so-39-year-old-kanye-west-has-cancelled-a-tour-7321276

You’ve probably seen it. You probably read it, agreed and laughed it off, because this doesn’t tell you the true extent of West’s problems. And anyway, since when is it acceptable to one up each other using health issues? I personally don’t think these two situations are even comparable – mental health and physical health are two vastly different worlds with their own consequences, and everyone uses a different coping mechanism with their own issues so why do we feel the need to judge others?

But it’s not just Kanye West that has publicly faced mental health problems. At the start of the year, Justin Bieber controversially cancelled all booked meet and greets, with a statement on Instagram claiming that he feels “mentally and emotionally exhausted to the point of depression” after meeting fans. In this statement, he also addresses the exhaustion of having to meet people’s expectations. It’s all very valid, and fans seemed to agree with most comments showing nothing but support for the singer. But most negative comments seemed to come from those who aren’t even a fan – people claiming that he owes it to his followers, and once again comparing him to other celebrities.

Justin Bieber is well known, that much is obvious. He has a massive following, which is made up mostly of young girls who look up to him. He’s something of a role model, and to have to play that act on the days you’re feeling a bit off must be tiring to say the least. There’s also the reports that fans have previously pulled his hair, torn his clothes and purposely made him ill, so it’s clear that it’s not worth risking his safety, let alone his health.

And then there’s Zayn Malik, one time member of boyband One Direction. In September, he announced that he would be pulling out of a concert in Dubai due to “extreme anxiety around major live solo performances”. Once again, this is very valid but fans were left fuming. It’s a totally different process, playing a show by yourself vs. with a group, and more so because Malik is used to performing with four other men. In an interview with ES magazine, he said “I speak about [my anxiety] so that people don’t understand it doesn’t matter what level of success you have, where you’re from, what sex you are, what you do”.

It’s important that celebrities address these issues. Not only does it bring a better sense of understanding to mental illness, but it also removes the stigma surrounding it one person at a time. Mental health is not a joke, it’s not something to be mocked or laughed at. You wouldn’t make cancer the punch line, so why make it depression?

This is the way I see it: fans are not entitled to anything. They’re not entitled to a tour or a meet and greet because they bought an album. And when they say, ‘well, this artist shared their music with the world, they know what was going to happen’, I say you didn’t have to buy the album, you don’t have to listen to that music. The public does not dictate a celebrities’ life, and we seem to forget that those in the limelight are human too. They all have feelings and friends and family, and they deserve their rights to good health and wellbeing as much as the rest of us do.

Artists should not be stripped of their human rights because they shared their art. They didn’t have to, but they did, and because of that we get to enjoy it so we should all, at the very least, be thankful for that.

 

Words by Lucy Wenham

[FEATURE] Why is there a struggle with small venues when live music is booming?

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“If small and independent venues were to disappear completely, where would new bands come from? How will we find the new big thing?”

Sometimes it is down to location, other times it is lack of public interest and other times it is down to the rise in council rent. All along the country independent music venues are closing down, yet live music itself is booming around the country. So, what is it that is making venues close? It’s no secret that independent music venues are struggling to how they were even ten years ago, but a lot of that is down to the economy, smoking bans and the increase of home entertainment and social media. But venues should always remain relevant to the industry as these are the breeding grounds for scenes, and help build creative communities.

Mark Davyd, co-owner of The Tunbridge Wells Forum told The Guardian “The valuation of the Forum as a music venue is about £375,000. If we sell it to be flats, it’s worth about £1.2m.” It’s no surprise that due to gentrification that venue owners are selling up and you can’t blame them for it, however it is what is becoming the death of the independent venues.

In 2014 Leeds saw the closure of one of its longest running independent venues, The Cockpit, due to an inability to afford its upkeep, BBC wrote at the time of the venue’s closure that is was due to a “changed industry” according to Colin Oliver of the venues promotion company, Future Sound. Two years on since the closure of Cockpit, things haven’t really changed for small venues and still venues across the country are having to close and although the UK music industry grosses £3.8 billion a year, the origins of it is being taken away from us.

Although UK live music has been increasing in popularity in recent years, it is mainly commercialism of music venues which is keeping the music industry a billion-pound contribution to the UK economy. The 02 Arena in London, the SSE Arena in Glasgow and the Phones 4U Arena in Manchester are three of the best-selling arenas globally. Most cities within the United Kingdom have an 02 Academy venue, all of which get bookings from international bands which most of the time manage to sell out capacities of 4,500 people or more. Looking at the vast audiences that these venues get and the international reputation that they give our live music industry, how are we meant to look at these venues? As a commercial monster, which is destroying what live music venues once meant? or as pioneers with the money to keep live music venues going strong. London alone has three Academies, one of which is Brixton academy. Although it is not a small venue, it is an historic venue with the 02 franchise being a lifeline, it has kept the venue open and kept live music coming to the borough of Brixton. “I believe the academies provide a substantial amount of live music that cater for a wide range of audiences, and I think they have kept famous venues such as Brixton up and running.”a spokesperson from Brixton 02. “I think the [02] Academies are good for cities, Yes, the reason is down to the consistent array of gigs and club nights. London has three [Academies] located all around the city meaning there are events almost every night of the week accessible to almost the whole of London”.

An average ticket price for an O2 Academy venue ticket can be over £60 for a standard stalls ticket – take RnB star Ne-Yo’s Brixton show. Tickets are priced at £63 for a standard, no frills entry ticket, with VIP tickets costing almost £180. Now this seems ridiculous in comparison to smaller independent venues which charge half this price. For example, Koko in Camden also sees RnB acts such as Bryson Tiller and Snakehips, without breaking the banks of their fans.

But both the artist and venues are responsible for these high ticket prices. Although Academies tend to price most of their tickets between £20-£40, the odd triple digit price will pop up. However, for independent venues, a ticket priced £20 is seen as expensive. Keeping ticket prices low is what makes independent venues stand out from commercialised venues, but these low ticket prices often means they are unable to book the more popular acts or be able to put on acts every night of the week unlike the 02 academies. “Small venues have always been the grassroots for local artists” states small venue/club owner Mark Page. “In this sense any ticket over £10 is expensive for local music. If small venues can’t charge any more than so [£10] for a ticket, and only have a capacity of no more than 200 people they’re not going to be able to make as much money as an Academy venue which has a capacity of over 4000 and are charging £20 or more for a ticket. With the pressures of the rise of rent, it’s no surprise really that smaller venues are struggling or closing.”

348sIt’s no doubt that the digital age has altered the music industry. The increase of social media users has created a platform that musicians could have only dreamed of before the access of the internet providing a worldwide audience. “Online presence is as important [as performing live], but not more so” says venue owner, promotor and booking agent Mark Page. “Online of course is the greatest marketing tool of the 21st century to performers, but bands still need to play live to hone their skills, and learn their craft. Playing in front of live audiences breeds confidence and can give artists so much more feedback than a like on a Facebook post. If an artist is happy to only hide behind their computer, success can still be achieved but their art becomes too one dimensional.” As much as this may be the case, more and more bands are gaining further popularity using social media rather than playing live. Hertfordshire The Hunna for example managed to get themselves thousands of followers on their social media before they had released any music. By the time they put out their album in October 2015, as terrible as it was, they managed to sell out a UK tour and their album made it into the UK charts. If The Hunna can achieve this without using the support of their local venue, with the music industry one of the hardest to break through in, maybe other bands will do the same and although the quality of music will drop and perhaps this is how the industry will be in the not so distant future.

Perhaps it’s just an end of an era for small venues and we, as a music community, are holding on to what we remember of our first gigs at a small city venue and we don’t want future generations to miss out on what we remember so fondly. If The Hunna are anything to go off the quality of music will drop and will there be anything worth going to see live left? To say the least without small inner city venues the UK music industry would be a shamble, it would be bread without the yeast, a country without a working class, it simply would not work. You can stop this however, get out and go to your local venues, go see local music and if you’re dubious or sceptical you will be pleasantly surprised. If you don’t want to see your local venue die off, do your best to support it. Creativity is what makes cities and without venues it is taking chances away from people. There is a lot of good music that you’ve never heard of out there and some of it will be at your very doorstep. you just have to go find it.

Words By Jonny Page

London’s Impending Drug Culture Revolution

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Three months after the drug related deaths of teenage boys Ryan Browne and Jack Crossley saw the nightclub lose its license for good, the doors of Fabric are open once again. Following a newfound agreement with the Islington council, the world famous venue will start hosting events from early 2017, a decision that sparked huge celebrations amongst all those who had supported the ‘save our culture’ campaign, which received over £300,000 in donations.

However, the decision to allow Fabric to reopen comes at a cost. During the court hearing that resulted in the council’s verdict to reissue the nightclub’s license, a 155-page document was presented by Fabric owners Keith Reilly and Cameron Leslie, detailing the extensive new security features that would be put in place to ensure a complete crackdown on the venues supposed ‘culture of drug use’.  CCTV cameras are to be placed throughout the club, ID scanners are to be installed at the door and sniffer dogs will patrol the queue outside, not to mention that the venue will now ban all under 19s from entry.

These are only a few of the new measures that will be in place once the venue reopens. Fabric now resembles a party at airport security more than it does a nightclub. Strict new licencing conditions such as these paint a bleak image of the future of London’s nightlife, with those in positions of power choosing to implement repressive measures that do more to intimidate nightclub goers than they do protect. Ever-tightening security teams will ultimately result in the joy of clubbing being lost, the flash of strobe lights and the incessant beat of dance music being replaced with the uncomfortable awareness that your every shuffle is being watched intently by a mountain-sized bouncer stood just over your shoulder. Once this becomes a reality it’ll only be a matter of time before attendances at these events plummets and once again club goers will find themselves facing yet another battle to save their culture.

This doesn’t have to be the case. Conversation in the UK is beginning to shift away from what security measures can be implemented. Instead, people are now focusing on what we can do to educate and protect nightclub goers from the potential dangers of drug taking. The relationship between dance music and drug taking will endure and fans will undoubtedly find ways of consuming and smuggling them inside venues no matter the security. Teaching people what they can do to ensure their own safety therefore makes far more sense than putting up a couple of CCTV cameras or adding an ID scanner at the door. Festivals like the Secret Garden Party are giving this notion genuine hope.

The Cambridgeshire festival, founded by Freddie Fellowes in 2004 pioneered a new approach to drug safety this year. Attendees were able to bring their drugs to an on-site testing facility where they were given a short health and safety talk whilst their illegal substances were checked for any dangerous contents, before being returned to their owners who were then free to go and enjoy their festival experience. The service was provided by drug charity The Loop, a non-profit organization whose mission statement is to ‘Promote health and minimalize harm in nightclubs, bars and festivals’ an aim they intend to achieve by providing ‘information, outreach and interventions by trained and experienced staff about alcohol, drugs and sexual health.’

The service was a major success, with over 80 dangerous drugs whose contents has been misrepresented handed in on the first day of the festival alone. By offering information and education rather than opting for a wall of snarling sniffer dogs to navigate on entrance, festival goers were more capable of keeping themselves safe from drug-related incidents and learn the countless list of often toxic ingredients that went in to making their drugs. Steve Rolles, a senior analyst for the Transformation Drug Policy Foundation, was a key figure in the agreement reached between The Loop and the local authorities and revealed that ‘around a quarter of people who brought in their drugs then asked us to dispose of them when they discovered that they had been mis-sold or were duds’.

Unsurprisingly, no drug-related deaths were reported at the festival across the weekend, evidence that progressive and innovative services such as these really do work. If an increasing number of festivals and nightclubs are able to get on board with revolutionary drug safety ideas such as these, events will inevitably become much safer places for music fans. Roelles is understanding however that for now the future of drug testing services lies in the hands of local councils and police forces, saying: ‘Until the laws are reformed, testing and encouraging safer drug use is the least we can do. We hope this ground-breaking service becomes the norm for all such events. It is now up to others to follow, to protect the health and safety of their customers. In truth it would be negligent for them not to.’

Berlin’s world famous nightlife follows a similar ideology, choosing to remain relaxed and take a more liberal approach to drug consumption in the cities venues rather than resorting to the now outdated ‘war on drugs’ approach. Speaking to the Morgenpost newspaper, narcotics commissioner Christine Kohler-Azara said: ‘We want to be pragmatic, our experience has shown that it’s not a good strategy to create too much hysteria,’ going on to detail their approach to drug culture in the city: ‘provide scientific information, that’s much more successful than a simple policy of ‘say no to drugs’.

The benefit of this liberal thinking towards drug consumption in nightclubs is the protection and increased safety it offers to those who attend these venues. Door policies throughout Berlin are relaxed and there is even the rumour that some clubs allow drug dealers to operate inside their venues in order to steer attendees away from purchasing dangerous street drugs that are far more likely to contain life-threateningly toxic ingredients.

Nottingham based club-goer Daniel Pearce thinks Berlin’s model is one that should be followed worldwide: ‘It really confuses me that there are groups of people that don’t want to listen to scientific facts about drugs that are by and large safe when used properly and not stupidly abused’. The idea of introducing drug-testing tables like those used so successfully at The Secret Garden to clubs throughout London is yet another prospect that appears to be popular amongst fans of the scene. Harry Tinker, a regular attendee of nightclub TANK said: ‘I think that kind of idea could work in clubs, although I think quite a fair few people would be scared to use it with the amount of bouncers about in that kind of environment.’

This is where the key issue of the matter lies. Club owners need to take a forward-thinking step and replace their armies of security guards with one piece of simple equipment that can do far more to protect the safety of their crowds than any security official could ever offer. With the Secret Garden Party and Berlin as its models, London’s nightlife must surely be set for a drug-culture overhaul that will see venues such as Fabric re-think their approach and what they can do to ensure crowds are able to enjoy themselves without having to put their health at risk.

(Written by Joe Austin)

[FEATURE] MUSIC IN LEGOS – VICELAND PREMIERE

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Last week I attended a screening of Noisey’s VICELAND documentary in Kamio, Hoxton. The documentary was based on aspiring artists in the Nigerian city of Legos, perhaps most popular in today’s music culture for producing Wizkid, who featured on Drake’s chart topper – and absolute bop – ‘One Dance’.

After queuing for 20 minutes followed by absolutely blagging my way in (and making my way to the bar for unlimited free beer) I made my way down to the lower level of the warehouse space for the screening. The place was buzzing, with noticeably a lot of young Nigerians hyped up for the show (“Any Nigerians in the place tonight?” Vice man said, “YEAAAAAH” screamed apparently everybody but me). After some brief info about the documentary and some expected technical difficulties, the projector lit up the cellar like space and everyone fell silent. I’ve always enjoyed a good music documentary so I was full of expectation for this one, and it didn’t disappoint.

Legos, has a population of an estimated 22 million, we are told. Vice’s Zach Goldbaum meets Wizkid’s producer Mo Dogg in an area which is clearly poverty stricken – rubbish and dirt covers the floor, and children run wild. This is a place that kids pick up periwinkles (shells) off of the streets to sell. This documentary is loosely built around the meeting of Wizkid, and sets out to explore the world of Afropop and work it back to its roots. Any mention of Wizkid, all the children surrounding them start rapping his songs in their native language – rather than any of his more recent English based songs. What’s most uplifting is perhaps the influence he’s had on the local community. There are young boys on the streets showing off their rapping talents to the cameras, and when even the older locals are asked about Wizkid, they reply “He’s our own. He’s the neighborhood’s son”.

The whole documentary had a very bittersweet feel to it. It introduces you to various different afropop artists, like Yemi, who is a beautiful, amazing young singer who has a habit of singing everything that exits her mouth which was endearing to see. She doesn’t know if she will see the money that her album makes. She goes on to talk about how “the infrastructure doesn’t favour the artists”. But strangely when she is talking about this clearly very saddening fact about the music scene in Africa, she oddly doesn’t seem bummed out at all – either a show for the cameras or an understanding that unfortunately that’s how it goes out there.

Another interesting character comes in the form of ICE PRINCE, one of Lagos’ highest paid artists who is signed to Jay Z’s Roc Nation. His lyrics surround women, money and partying. Nothing new there. Over 60% of Nigerians live in extreme poverty, so it’s interesting that all of his songs are about clubbing and luxury. When he is asked about the government there he seems uninterested, and only briefly stating that he believes in the Government and then swiftly moving on. Again, all very interesting.

All in all, without giving too much away, the documentary is definitely worth a watch. It’s very well made, and it’s Vice so of course there were times where the crowd were roaring with laughter. A touching documentary and Noisey have done well to give it the focus it deserves. Hardly anyone in the room were chatting among themselves, everyone was watching and waiting for the next scene. It’s a nice feeling of community even in such a bustling western world city which maybe loses focus of some of its people’s roots. These evenings are what makes the London community so special. Give it a watch over on Viceland, Noisey season 2 premiers Thursday 16th Feb.

Words by Laura Copley

[FEATURE] THE SCUM KIDS: HOW RATBOY AND GRIME CHANGED YOUTH CULTURE

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It was mid 2014 when Rat Boy first came about, and the kids haven’t looked back since. For those of you who weren’t quite old enough to quite fit into the Jamie T era, here’s your answer. But enough of the patronising – what is it about Rat Boy fans that separate them from all the other groupies? Since when did identifying as ‘scum’ become cool? From their grunge attire to their boisterous attitudes, I investigate what it’s all about.

First off, it’s impossible to look and these kids and not make comparisons to past trends. Whether the Scum Kids are as ‘iconic’ as those, remains up for debate – but you can’t look at all those piercings, dyed hair and Pro Corbyn badges and not be reminded of the Punk years; a collective of angry teens from quiet towns who are pissed off for being ignored. The ‘Scum Kids’ want nothing more than to be on the nitty-gritty streets of London without actually recognising that they are completely defined by their suburbanism, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Let’s take it back to the days of Punk: the ultimate era of “I don’t give a fuck” whilst proceeding to smash up a bass guitar. It was not only their safety-pinned nostrils and 5 foot mohawks that caught the eye of the country, but also their ability to take a political stance in a way the Hippies never could – through anger. There was nothing more in-your-face than a Punk on Politics, and it appears Rat Boy has been taking note. Though in comparison Rat Boy is pretty PG, his lyrics are nearly always making a comment on society. In his B-side track Wasteman he chants “Well oh well the government gambles, the tower’s in shambles, a bankrupt queen, or so it would seem”. It’s always difficult for a youth culture to emerge when it clearly takes so much influence from many era’s, but I think it’s fair to say the message is a pretty positive one. 

Being a teenager in 2016 is like watching sinking ship in slow motion. You recognise what’s happening around you – yep, that’s right old man, we do have brains – yet there is nothing you can do about it. Jamie T created it the provocative spoken-word, Indie, Hip-Hop mash-up, and now Rat Boy is continuing it: the genre has been named many things (Indie rock, Alternative rock, British hip hop, Alternative hip hop, Post-punk revival), but no matter what you call it, there’s nothing quite like hearing someone celebrate a lifestyle that you entirely identify with. Whether it’s getting pissed up in a Wetherspoons, getting caught with a Fake ID or having no money, it’s something that most British teenagers have experienced. I mean, if you’ve got nothing going for you, you can always give yourself a pat on the back for being a bum.

In all seriousness, there is no better time for a young person’s voice to be heard. With post-Brexit Britain and America’s monumental downfall (thanks Donald Trump), it’s up to the youth to keep fighting for what’s right; and lest we forget, the majority of Hillary’s votes were people under the age of 25. It’s no question that we as the youth want to be heard, it’s just in our current climate we have to be creative with how we achieve it. It seems fans of Rat Boy (who will most likely also relate to Jamie T) feel as if because of their backgrounds, will not have a chance at anything in life, but it is this exact reason why they succeed –they use their circumstances as an advantage, and in turn create a crowd of supporters who feel like they too have to put up with a lot of shit.

Bands like Rat Boy are not only celebrating being young, but also being of a lower class. By almost mocking the stereotype of being from a dead-end town and not having money, it brings like to the issues we face economically. It almost creates a sense of community, and makes us feel as if we are all fighting for the same cause. “It won’t be long before I sign on, is it right or is it wrong, I’ve got no money it’s all gone” sings Rat Boy – he gets it.

I spoke with some actual real life young people of London to hear what they thought about Rat Boy and what they believe his message to be. It was a wide variety of responses, some of which I’m not sure I could even write down, but here goes:

So to begin with I asked a couple of people I knew about the lead man himself: “Rat Boy? Yeah, I guess I can understand what he’s trying to do. It’s really hard these days for artists to not come across as posers, and more so for him I guess as he’s so similar to Jamie T.” Good point I thought, but later he re-addresses, and suggests that “you have to bear in mind that Jamie T was the first to come out with this kind of stuff. He’s so genuine and real, but I admire Rat Boy for trying to keep that going”.

I also managed to catch a glimpse of someone around Brick Lane wearing one of their T Shirts: It was striped, and said simply ‘Scum’ in a small print. I asked her what she thought it meant to be truly a ‘Scum’ kid, and though she seemed slightly offended at first, she eventually realised what I was getting at. “The whole Scum thing is trying to make us feel proud for not being perfect.” She then added that “There’s many fucking rich white kids trying to impose this idea of perfection when actually, a lot of us are trash, but that doesn’t mean we don’t know what we’re talking about”.

I was taken back by the honesty of these answers, despite the fact that I wasn’t sure if I, myself identified as ‘Scum’. It’s an interesting ideology; despite the culture being renowned for promoting underage drinking, drugs and profanity, there still seems to be this gleaming ‘message’ that shines through The Scum Kids. If we are going to assume that they are all similar, I can say they all have a lot to say, and don’t seem to care who they’re saying it to. Some may call that an issue with authority, but mainly it highlights an age-old issue between the young and the old, which is a lack of understanding. Sometimes it’s hard to categorise as the same species.

It’s not only the Indie Spoken-Word that’s giving youth its drive; the rise in UK Grime over the past 10 years has been colossal, and again gives young people from lower class backgrounds the chance to speak their minds and make people aware of the troubles and efforts they have faced not only as artists, but as young people who without the genre, would have no way out. Artists such as JME and Skepta have put grime on the map whilst also raising awareness for the youth in low-income, black communities. They have validated their field to such an extent that it is considered one of the most widely accomplished genres of 2016.

Skepta won the Mercury prize back in September and if anything, it was a huge recognition from the BBC to the astounding accomplishments of not only Skepta but Grime itself. It’s wins like this that give the power back to the people, and give people who wouldn’t usually be able to succeed the chance to do something big, despite all the odds.

Whilst in Camden I noticed a guy selling CD’s for 10p in Camden. Upon buying one, I noticed he was a Grime artist, so I took the opportunity to ask him a few questions on what Grime has done for young people, particularly in London. “Grime gives me the chance to express myself without feeling judged. It’s so hard around here, I’d have nothing if it wasn’t for my music.” “It’s not even about making money for me either, it’s like feeling a part of something”.

It’s no question as to whether Grime and the Scum Kids have integrity, but more so how much integrity is necessary to really make a difference. With all that is happening in the world, its acts like these who give the young people the opportunity to, as the Camden Grime artist stated, “be a part of something”.

Words by Eve Davis

[FEATURE] THE DEVOLUTION OF METAL

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2017, it’s the start of a brand new year. For most, it’s the time to crack on with those new years resolutions, but for some, it’s the anticipation of festival announcements. It’s hard to avoid them right now – Download, Bloodstock and Reading and Leeds have all announced at least one headliner, and with that comes the onslaught of the serial moaners, and metal fans are by far the worst.

 

If you ask the fans, metal has always been a controversial subject. It was a British thing, mostly, fronted by veterans Black Sabbath, but the genre was only really when Judas Priest burst onto the scene in 1979. And by the time Motörhead had dominated the charts, the music press had finally started to take notice – it was coined ‘The New Wave of British Heavy Metal’.

 

You’d expect it to be all plain sailing from there – new genre, new scene, exciting new bands – but the arrival of Californian rockers Van Halen in the 80s shook things up a bit. All of a sudden, metal had changed. Now it was all about it the image – sex, drugs and rock and roll. Hair metal evolved, and the scene was nothing short of promiscuous. Fans of the new wave were angry – their scene had become something purely about image, and very little of it seemed to be about the music.

 

But this, obviously, was not the last controversy in the metal scene. The genre evolves with each decade: the 90s brought grunge, the 00s brought nu metal and the 10s brought metalcore. And all of these periods have brought the same thing – elitism.

 

If you’re a part of the scene, it’s pretty hard to miss. You’ll probably experience it first hand. I did: I was fourteen and had a questionable set of friends, and their unspoken motto was “if you listen to anything other than metal, you’re not one of us”. That was a difficult situation for me, considering I listen to everything (except country music, no offense to those fans). And while I attend Download festival yearly and been to metal gigs more times than I can count, I’ve attend Slam Dunk yearly and I’ve seen Robbie Williams live – and enjoyed it, too. I was young and impressionable, I wanted to fit in and it sounds stupid to say it now, but it was suffocating. Imagine having to click ‘private session’ every time you wanted to listen to a bit of pick me up pop – no thanks.

 

So is elitism the reason the scene doesn’t seem to be evolving? Look at it this way: festival headliners never change. Take Download festival, for example – 2017’s headliners are System Of A Down, Biffy Clyro and Aerosmith. Only one of those bands haven’t headlined before, and yes, you guessed it, it’s Biffy Clyro. System Of A Down headlined in 2005 and 2011. Aerosmith headlined in 2010 and 2014. Granted, both bands have only headlined twice before but the fact is they still have.

 

There are worse examples, obviously – take 2013 (Slipknot, Iron Maiden and Rammstein) and 2016 (Rammstein, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden). These two line ups were virtually the same. And from what I’ve seen, fans who go to Download festival tend to go every year, so why would you want to go to a festival that is almost identical to the one three years earlier? That’s how you lose attendees.

 

But it’s not just Download. Sonisphere, although it may not be around anymore, was the same. Metallica, arguably the biggest metal band in the world, headlined three years in a row. Fair play to their fans who do want to see them that often, but what about those who go for the festival experience? Do they really want to see the same bands?

 

So why are festivals constantly booking the same headliners? Is it metal fans not welcoming new bands? Or is it too difficult to become headliner material these days? Because most of these big bands had their time in the 70s, 80s and 90s – basically any time before 2000. Is the Internet killing the metal scene or is it something else? It must effect all aspects of the scene – promoters, unsigned bands and fans alike. So what do they have to say about it?

 

Northamptonshire promoter Kane Campion says that while “there are areas where the local metal scene is thriving, it’s becoming increasingly difficult in finding bands to come and play in a town they’ve never heard of”. Maybe that’s the problem – maybe bands simply can’t be bothered to put the effort in anymore, seeing as everything is digital.

 

He also claims that the elitism has spread to the behind the scenes crew too. “It’s such a huge competition with promoters – “who can get the biggest numbers at a show? Who can get the best venue?’” he says. “Companies are so obsessed with being the best that they forget that the main reason promoters exist is to give local music a chance to grow and thrive.” And then he makes a point that we all seem to forget sometimes: “Every huge band started small. We could be responsible for the next Iron Maiden!”

 

And then you come to the forefront of the scene: the fans. Metal wouldn’t exist without fans, that’s certain, but are they the ones killing their own scene? Metal fans are some of the harshest critics, but do they really have the right to complain about festival and tour line ups when they’re the ones slating all recent metal bands? It’s not just recent bands, though – the comments on a Facebook post about Korn and nu metal in general all seem to include the words “shit”, “has beens” and “past their prime”. Considering that Korn are a generally well-liked band, what hope does that give an upcoming musician?

 

Metal fan Adam Lancaster claims that some of his worst experiences were at metal shows: “I’ve been threatened more than once at gigs,” he says. “And that’s an issue I’ve never experienced at a dance or pop gig.” He also says the only people to ever judge him on his music taste are metalheads, and that he’s often berated for his lack of band merch – in his words, “they said I couldn’t be a proper metalhead or music fan because I didn’t own any [merch]!”

 

It is a ridiculous prospect, judging someone on the fact they’re not wearing a band t-shirt. You scoff and think, “I’d never do that!” But what if you are? What if you’re doing it without realising, like when you look at a teenage girl and raise an eyebrow because she’s wearing a Little Mix t-shirt or carrying a Taylor Swift bag? That’s elitism. It’s across different scenes, sure, but it’s still elitism.

 

“People live their own lives,” Fan Marc Johnson says. It’s their choice to listen to everything or nothing. A little ribbing, maybe, but to judge them for living the way they want to? No.” He also brings up certain bands in regards to being victims of elitism: BABYMETAL and Nickelback.

 

Many bands have publically been mocked ­– sometimes it’s worse. The perfect example of abuse towards musicians is My Chemical Romance, however. They were bottled at Reading festival in 2006 during the peak of their fame, but continued to finish the set before branding it a victory. The next year, however, they were bottled during their Download festival headline slot. Why on earth would you bottle a headliner?

 

But its not just metal fans that have noticed – bands have too. Metalcore band Whitechapel have dedicated a track to it, surprisingly called ‘Elitist Ones’. Vocalist Phil Bozeman accompanied the song by saying, “Metal is one of the most criticized genres – it’s one of the most judgemental genres you can be in. Because if you’re not this type of metal, you’re not true [but] there are just so many subgenres of metal that it’s almost like a fashion contest at this point,” He concluded this statement by saying something that should be glaringly obvious. “You should like music just for the way it sounds, not because of who it’s associated with.”

 

Asking Alexandria guitarist Ben Bruce also has a few words for metal elitists. In an interview with Metal Wani, he said, “You can sit and complain as much as you want but we’re flying the flag for metal. Maybe we are a little more commercially acceptable […] it means we’re getting more radio play, and we’re opening people’s eyes to metal. If you’re going to be a bitch and argue, no one is going to discover metal. There are elitists going “why are there no new metal bands for me to listen to?” It’s because you’re a fucking asshole and ruined it.” And really, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

 

So you need to ask yourself this: do you really want your scene to implode? Because that’s looking likely right now. The only people that can fix this are the fans – you have to stop being elitists. I’m not saying you can’t dislike music, I’m just saying that you don’t have to be so shitty about it. I’m saying at least try to broaden your horizons. I’m saying at least try to go see bands you’ve never heard of. I’m saying at least try to support your local scene, and then maybe, just maybe, we’ll finally get somewhere.

 

Words by Lucy Wenham

[INTERVIEW] SISTERAY – A BAND FOR THE TIMES

Features, Interviews

In 2016 we found ourselves in strange and scary times, music and politics have always gone hand in hand so someone needs to be soundtracking this nightmare. From Pussy Riot to the Fat White Family, there are acts making noise. However it can feel at times as though artists are shunning their duty to be vocal. It hasn’t always been this way though and past events such as Rock Against Racism that began in the 70’s  show there is an alternative to silence and apathy. Rock Against Racism brought together black and white bands as a united voice against fascism. One band singing and standing proud are London four-piece Sisteray. Whether it’s supporting Jeremy Corbyn at charity gigs or singing about the rapid rate at which London is being gentrified, they are a band for the times – and they are making all the right noises.

Music should reflect the landscape it is born in and from and this has been the case for years ,however recently things have changed. From the likes of Faris Badwan claiming he didn’t vote to a range of other bands being completely silent it seems these artists that have a responsibility to be vocal. The statistics of the last general election and Brexit didn’t lie with it being estimated that only 36 % of people in the 18-24 year old category voted in the EU referendum. and young people missed the opportunity to use their vote. Surely then is it not time the artists whom these young people adore and give so much for returned the favour? On the other hand however it could also be argued that for artists to be more vocal us as listeners need to be more accepting of their views even if we disagree. Take for example when Kanye West recently revealed on stage that he didn’t vote but would have voted for Trump. Should we not be encouraging a platform in which all people can feel safe and not be chastised for expressing their views? I wanted to gain a better knowledge of what motivates a band like Sisteray to use their voices in a time when so few fellow musicians are.

I meet guitarist of Sisteray Dan Connolly in the cafe adjacent to Rough Trade and we both joke that Pete Doherty had of course not turned up to perform at his album launch. We sit and discuss the early beginnings of the band. “I started the band with my little brother who used to be the drummer. Basically I’d been writing songs for a few years and couldn’t really play guitar and he was a brilliant musician. I just really wanted to start a band and then I met Niall at the front row of a thrash metal gig at 12 bar club, it’s not there anymore but yeah it was just random. We came together through a love of live music. I like to throw myself in at the deep end so before we’d even had a rehearsal I booked us a gig for like three weeks time. We were camping for Mike’s birthday and and he only barely played guitar and we was lie “have you find a bass player yet?” and i was like “nah, do you wanna do it?” and he said “I’ll give it a go”. So he turns up to rehearsal with an electric guitar and played his bass lines on the guitar and the first ever time he hit a bass guitar was at our first ever gig cuts a friend leant him one. A pretty random coming together, funny old story.”. Dan goes on to describe his four piece as “Four Charlatans who can’t really play guitar that well but we’ve decided to get our stufft together and start a band and make our feelings known”.

Sisteray (1).jpg

Sisteray feel like a band on the edge of brilliance and new track ‘The Queen’s English’ could be the one to help the hit big. “This song was born out of those feeling and having discussions with the band over those sorta things. We’d come up with a line from what a politician would say or something. It all came from the Queen’s line in her speech when she sat on her golden throne and told us all we had to “live within our means”. That’s a line we’ve actually put in the song so the song kinda grew from that.”.

Whilst researching Sisteray I came across an incredible invention of theirs, The Sisteray Street Army. It’s essentially a group of willing devotees that share Facebook posts and help share flyers and posters, Dan describes it as “enhancing the power of people”. In a time where finances aren’t readily available to upstarting bands for big promotions the value of people can’t be valued enough. Dan sums it up best in his own words “They do a lot for us and we do a lot for them. It’s definitely a mutual affection there.”. Along with Guerilla gigs the Street Army shows Sisteray doing it for themselves and showing a true punk attitude to promoting themselves. I spoke to Liam Brown of the Sisteray Street Army who said he was a member because “The knowledge needs to be spread across the fens of the shires”.

One of the key issues affecting where myself and Sisteray call home is Gentrification, bit by bit the city of London is becoming unrecognisable. This has hit home for the guys and they took to writing a song after the venue they first started out in was knocked down to make way for a Primark. Dan makes the interesting point that venues being closed on a seemingly weekly basis will take it’s toll on the industry. “You’ll see the charts being more and more diluted the more and more venues shut down cus there’s clearly a connection. There’s nowhere for bands to learn their craft, there’s nowhere for bands to rehearse, there’s nowhere for bands to record.”. Another issue we discuss is the class divide within music and the fact that when Sisteray played their first major festival at Isle Of Wight they travelled via megabus and car whilst many of the bands they were dropped off in parents Range Rovers. It would appear the working classes voice is being silenced within the world of music be it through increasing rents or lack of opportunity.

Sisteray themselves draw inspiration from life experience and people rather than other bands. Dan tells me “ It’s in everything we do. Especially when we get asked in interviews “Who are your inspirations? Do you like the Arctic Monkeys?” and all that generic who do you like questions but I always say life growing up on a council estates in East London and the stuff we all go through and the people you meet and the experiences. The level we write a song, that’s the centre point”.

I go on to ask Dan if he thinks enough bands are being vocal about political issues “No, there are a lot but they’re not in the mainstream. I mean as popular as Fat White Family are they’re not a mainstream band. They’re the ones that are shouting. You hear the odd person speak about the odd topic but it’s never enough. I mean what Lily Allen did with the Refugees in Calais was great, going there seeing first hand experiences and standing up for herself when she got rubbished by The Daily Mail. Play the gig with us, help us sell fifty-thousand tickets at a stadium somewhere for small music venues and then plough that money back into the scene, if you care that much. “

There is some hope though it would seem, I recently attended the Bands For Refugees gig. The gig curated by lead singer of Wolf Alice Ellie Rowsell and I was blown away by the love and positivity in the room. Members from bands including The Vaccines and Spector came together for three shows to perform covers and raise money for charity.

Bands like Sisteray, organisations like the Music Venue Trust and of course us as young people are all leading the fightback. Throughout my investigation I concluded that we need more voices singing as loud as they can. Find your own community be it with friends in a music scene or people who enjoy going to the came cinema as you. Come together and stand strong as a united force. Pick up a guitar or sing a song and keep hope alive and vote, please use your vote at the next opportunity.

Words by Jack Winstanley

[FEATURE] TRAINSPOTTING: T2 OR NOT T2?

Features

For starters I’d like you to take a second out to admire my very clever title and maybe give me a small applause.

It’s always questionable when we hear that beloved, ingenious films are set up for round two. “Who needs more money and why are they trying to ruin something beautiful” are always the questions floating through my mind. Surely neither Danny Boyle or Ewan McGregor are strapped for cash? So you’re just trying to ruin a good thing for the sake of it? Got it.

This is really going to be a hit or miss. Trainspotting was a true homage to the grit and reality of the 90’s, authentic and not shying away from the brutal results of addiction (cue dead baby climbing on the ceiling). It was one of those rare times that the film did the book justice. And I’m very grateful for the film because I’ve always wanted to read the book, but could never make it passed the first few pages because I could never fucking understand it. So anyway, here are some of the reasons I think Danny should’ve left well alone.

In general, Boyle’s films are truly hit or miss. The Beach was an amazing book but by god was that film terrible. And yes I will sing from the top of my lungs everytime I hear Pure Shores by All Saints but way to go and make an absolute joke out of a stellar book. Slumdog Millionaire, also not as great as everyone says it was. And again with the shitty track that you’ve picked to accompany the movie, once more making the whole thing a total joke. At least Wolf Alice feature in the new T2 trailer, and hold it together pretty well.

..Leading on to my next point. I don’t know about everyone else but I don’t want Trainspotting to be engulfed by the future. Fair one that the actual sequel Porno IS set 10 years into the future still following the foursome’s lives, 10 years would still make it the noughties, which is also now vintage. The past. History. You may be thinking “Oh I dunno sprucing up the film’s main tagline and filling it with social media references is soo up to date and needed!” But it’s not and you’re wrong. We are totally aware about Facebook and Twitter, they fucking consume our everyday lives, why can’t it leave Trainspotting alone? Nice, innocent, unaware Trainspotting. Not burdened by social media. Only life altering and deadly drug addiction.

Point three. How much do we trust McGregor to pull this off? Ewan better pull out all the acting stops for this one and by god make me believe he is Renton once again. He’s so damn famous now than what he was when he first said yes to the dress – I’ll be looking at him and picturing Obi Wan and that boring old man he played in a movie to do with fish and a big lake. Although I’d quite like to see a Scottish coke-fueled rendition of the Elephant Love Song Medley.

My final and maybe most important point, is that I don’t think my emotions can take a second. Because of course I’m going to watch it, there is absolutely no escaping. Props to Boyle though because I suppose the trailer is actually very well done. But I sense something purely terrible is going to happen in this film and I guarantee I will not be the only one in the cinema crying. The others will probably be 40 year olds taking the time to reflect on the past 20 years and realising they’ve done jack shit with their lives.

But anyway, don’t just listen to me, watch the trailer and have your own existential crisis.

T2 Trailer

Words by Laura Copley