Kruder and Dorfmeister Sessions

The highlight of the day came early in the morning. I only found out about the gig a week ago, and I’ve bought four tickets for Kruder & Dorfmeister, at the Roundhouse in Camden on October 5th. They’ve only ever played in the UK once before, eight years ago. The tickets are for me, Luke, Graeme and Neil, and we’re all deep devoted fans of their music.

K&D are a big life soundtrack for me. I remember the day I was introduced to them, while I was still a young one-dimensional drum ‘n’ bass junkie. It happened while I was working at a cabling firm, around 1999, where I used to play drum ‘n’ bass tapes on the workshop music hi-fi, much to most people’s annoyance.

One day, an engineer called Steve walked in. He was tall and thin, sported slim glasses and had shoulder-length curly hair that piled up around his workman’s polo t-shirt. He immediately liked the music, which made me happy. Everyone pointed their fingers at me for the music, which set off a hearty chat about underground music. He asked if I’d heard of Kruder and Dorfmeister, and told me about a remix they’d done for Heroes by Roni Size, and Speechless by Count Basic. The latter of which was a no-turning-back moment peek into a new style of d’n’b – dark and brooding but exotic (the trumpet section is pure cinema) with a greater sense of musicianship. That put me in touch with the remix album they did, The K & D Sessions, which opened up my ears like a pair of sinkholes.

Fast forward a couple of years, which brings Sarah into the mix. She had an ear for them too, and bought an unofficial copy while travelling through South East Asia. I still remember the low resolution photocopied inlay card and printed disc sticker. With my music tastes expanding, and with Sarah there to enjoy all the music with me, I started buying vinyl like it was crack. I found many of the records I wanted either through ebay or htfr.com, but The Sessions was as rare as rocking horse shit. I couldn’t find it anywhere except for Discogs where it was obvious that the demand was high, thus commanding a hefty price tag from somewhere on the other side of the planet.

The feel I get from listening to the album transports me to when Sarah was studying in Brighton. I used to travel down to her halls of residence at the weekend and for about a year we experienced the pulse of that city together. The atmospheres and characters we saw in cafes, jazz clubs, night clubs, around the beach and nights on campus seemed to connect with the feel of each song on The Sessions.

During that first year of her degree, someone else moved down to Brighton – Steve the engineer. Steve hadn’t met Sarah, and I hadn’t met Steve’s girlfriend, but somehow we all connected and had a funny boozy night in the city centre. This was a few years after leaving that cabling firm, and Steve had just returned from travelling. I remember talking about the K & D wild goose chase that he’d unwittingly sent me on. He vaguely remembered the conversation, but loved how enthused I’d become by their music.

All that talk of d’n’b lead to us finding out about a Valve Soundsystem (I found the flyer!) night at the Concorde 2 later that evening. It was mine and Sarah’s first rave together.

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(I can’t believe that flyer exists still!)

Anyway. I was determined to find that original Sessions pressing, and for three years, if not more,  I would check online pretty much every other day, at home or at work but usually both. It was perversely compulsive. I never even came close to finding a copy, but still I continued to engage in this obsessive quest. In the meantime, I bought the singles to that album whenever they appeared, as well as the tunes on their seminal DJ Kicks mix compilation (put that on one summer and I dare you not to go to a fuzzy place).

After winning an ebay auction for the delightfully jazzy In Too Deep by JMJ and Flytronix, I received a message from the seller. He told me he was leaving the country to go travelling, and had a tonne of records like these he quickly needed to shift to raise funds. I told him fairly bleakly that I was looking for The Sessions on vinyl, to which he replied that he was pretty sure he had it, and that he just needed to check.

Gulp. That was the closest I’d ever got. Is this it? Is this how it happens? I never imagined a day going by when I wouldn’t be tapping “kruder and dorfmeister sessions vinyl” into the search field of Alta Vista.

The next day, the seller messaged me. That message is long gone, but I remember the words – “yeah, it’s here, do you still want it? £20 and it’s yours?” I tried to imagine him being so nonchalant about selling this record to me. I faked coolness but undeniably I was on the verge of kissing my computer.

Man, when that package landed on my doorstep, my throat went dry. I took it up to my room. No other record has come close in terms of impact, in the sense that my knees were trembling and my hands shaking as the vinyl came sliding out of the cardboard.

So I got it, in the end. A pristine copy of the original 1998 pressing, four slabs of vinyl in that beautiful folding album. Ironically it’s my most unplayed album. I daren’t take it out of its case, let alone to a gig. It’s got pride of place in the K7 and G-Stoned section of my collection.

I’ve bought the album (CD version) for at least ten people as a gift. I still introduce it to people now. There is one track on there that will continue to floor people, including myself, and it’s right there on Sarah’s Playlist. I played it on my first DJ gig of the year, I played it at the bar. It’s worth playing on this day, the day that I booked tickets to see these geniuses at work for the first time in my life.

Lyrics

No one said it would be easy
Did anyone tell you the road would be straight and long
Relax your mind and give it all to me
‘Cause you know and I know our love is strong enough
To weather the rain
To weather the snow
To weather the storm
To weather the rain
To weather the snow
To weather the storm

Often I see fear in your eyes
And sometimes I know, your heart is full of little arrows
But trust in me and no one can do you wrong
‘Cause I know and you know our love is strong enough

To weather the rain
To weather the snow
To weather the storm
To weather the rain
To weather the snow
To weather the storm

To weather the rain
To weather the snow
To weather the storm
To weather the rain
To weather the snow
To weather the storm

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The work of Peter Kruder and Richard Dorfmeister on Sessions is indelibly embedded in the fabric of me. It never grows old. It’s as timeless as time itself.

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Home Start, Home Run

Another wrap! Bar a minor re-shoot, Homestart’s filming is now complete. It was a trickier day than the others, and being outside I found that my ability to stay focused and patient within myself was burning up quickly under the midday sun. I kept it together grace a la our wonderful troop of talented and thoughtful teenage cast who made the day.

The story behind today’s movie took place in the mind of Henry the Bear as he daydreams on a bench about how one person becoming kind could turn everybody kind. People appear around him as he ponders the path to universal kindness, with warm smiles, as if to support him in his quest. Eventually, the place is filled with a kind but riotous bunch, raucously celebrating the realisation that kindness begins within but spreads around like wildfire.

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Henry The Bear

Along the way, we captured isolated footage of the group, in their natural habitat, outside of the movie. There were a good handful of musicians who played ukuleles and guitars to accompany their singer friends. They all had talents, and I felt honoured that they let me record them. I felt inspired by their pure approach to expression and creativity; in between takes they just created an atmosphere of their own wherever they sat down.  A singular act of creativity is a thousand acts of kindness, so their footage will be used as an idea to stimulate the masses – sing to someone, make music with someone, share music with someone, and spread that kindness.

After clearing up after the epic finale scene with party poppers, party horns and banners, we went back up to the office where the group were being debriefed. As they sat on the floor soaking up the words of their mentor, I stole their attention for a moment, and I thanked them for being the greatest cast I’ve ever worked with. I offered them all the help I could give with regards to making videos, and in light of the acting, singing and musicianship that they’ve blessed the whole Kindness Project with, I hope they all find themselves in a beautiful film of their own one day.

I’ll share the finished series once it’s official, and for anyone who wants to understand the whole Homestart Kindness Project outside of my movie-making ramblings, here’s what it’s all about:

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http://home-startwatford.org.uk/

Thank you to all the staff, and especially those delighful spirits, without whom this series would just not have been possible.

I’m also just totally made up that this what I get to write about on my 200th post for Sarah. A home run indeed.

x

From a Wrap to A Rap

I wrapped up the last shooting day with Haider today. We shot his trailer scene for the whole series in the park near my house. This episode will air first, and will introduce his audience to the series. It felt strangely subdued – there wasn’t the buzz of me meeting anyone new. Just me, him and the camera that had captured everything. I felt a deeper sense of a connection to the project without the distraction of a third party. In this scene, Haider explained why he wanted to bring the stories of young entrepreneurs to the masses – in case his story was the one story someone needed to hear to stimulate them into realising their potential. It’s a noble vision on Haider’s part. I wish him and the series (once I’ve edited it) a wonderful journey.

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It was an unexpectedly busy morning. I had to get all the editing requirements agreed with Haider, which we did over a cup of tea and baklava. I dropped him back home, then went headfirst into figuring out how I was going to make this digital video flyer for Kanda Bongo Man. My angle was to play it safe a little with a short, sharp and informative script, a well-known song of Mr. Kanda, and bright bold colours with text.

I wrote the script which was harder than expected. The target running time was about thirty seconds, during which I wanted to get concise info across, but in an entertaining way. I had to swap the lines around a few times, which became a bit maddening. Not as maddening as recording myself saying it. There were probably about a hundred takes. I did most of these in my larder, which is barely big enough for me to get inside, let alone drag a microphone and laptop in after me. This space had the most neutral acoustic characteristics, but in the end, it sounded like I was trapped in a coffin. I tried splashing some software reverb and delay on the dry recording, but it still sounded like I was trapped in a wooden box. I eventually found a better spot after testing out a few rooms, in a boomy corner by some noise-dampening curtains.

I spent much of the afternoon and evening creating banks of vivid and vibrant graphics to accompany my voiceover recording. Once I’d constructed a draft, I tested its effectiveness on Razi to see how much info he would retain. Woah. He remembered everything after just one watch, even the box office telephone number. I sent  the first draft to David – who I’m pleased to report was very happy with it. I hadn’t envisioned it, but as per the Plan, learning some graphic design was a goal, but to have an advert out there promoting a legendary music icon and being my own voiceover artist was well beyond my expectations. I’ll publish the finished product once it’s official, but here’s a preview:

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Razi and I did some last minute preparation ahead of tomorrow’s final day of shooting with Home Start. My brain was pretty fried at this point. I was trying to figure out the most efficient schedule for shooting but my brain was just speaking backwards to me. We have a big budget finale (by our standards at least) which undoubtedly has got me excited and nervous at the same time. Tomorrow we have extras, props, special effects. A camera that could fail right at the key moment. Directing and shooting falls down to just the two Mustr boys on the day. More on that tomorrow.

 

Stars in The Streets

I’ve been involved in a secret mission – I’ve been asking Mum for photographs of Mauritius, which she has been sending to me, which I’ve been sharing without telling on Instagram. It’s totally aligned to what I want my account to show – the beauty of the island but in its rawest form – and she’s been getting a lot of support for her photography.

We had a great day shooting for Home Start. We were shooting a scripted film that would serve as the introduction to the 25 Acts of Kindness campaign. It should come in at about two minutes long. It was shot in one of Home Start’s charity shops, using their mascot Henry as a lead character. Ironically, the shop is somewhere I sometimes pick up second hand Levi’s to resell, and in a bigger twist, I met a friend of the shop who had a job lot of vintage Levi’s for sale. He even owned a pair of 1940’s Big E 501s. We swapped numbers.

A group of teenagers on a school holiday scheme were also with us to help. They were our extras, but in many ways, our stars. One scene was to illustrate how reaching out to someone who looks miserable could be an act of kindness worth sponsoring. I asked Razi to ask two of the teenagers to act the scene out: on a bench, a man is upset, lonely, anxious. A girl sits down next to him and offers up a supportive chat.

The two youngsters came over, smiling and ready to go. What ensued as a performance was so dramatic that I became totally lost in the moment. I was not recording audio, so I was able to direct both subjects in a stream of commands. They translated my words so wonderfully into action, completely on the fly, with no rehearsals. They racked up a huge range of emotion, subtle hesitations, almost tears at one point. They interpreted my vision so perfectly. I felt like I’d directed a scene I’d always wanted to do. Just a fifteen second shot but it encapsulated so much.

Here they are, that wonderful bunch. They rejoin us in a couple of days for the final big shoot that will wrap the filming up.

King of the Congo

I got the go ahead from David on the Kanda Bongo Man project. A quick recap – David and the Association of Kenyans in Hertfordshire have booked Kanda Bongo Man to perform in a local concert venue. All that’s needed now is some social media advertising to help bring in more ticket sales. I proposed a “digital video flyer” and also a short video with the man himself to release nearer the date. This means I’ll actually get to meet the man himself, someone I’m now well aware is nothing short of a legend in music.

I’d had a shoot cancelled today, so I had plenty of time to work out how to make the things I’d promised to David. It reminded me of that day I spent working out how to make websites. These “digital video flyers” were a bit trickier. In my head I’d envisioned kinetic typography, bold colourful graphics and a catchy voiceover in a similar style to a radio jingle. All the tools are at my disposal, but I’m still doing things in a bit of a lo-fi way, meaning hopping to and from different apps to achieve the result I want. I’m starting to see clear requirements in my work that will eventually justify investing in the proper suite of creative design tools.

I felt OK with the slow progress, running into walls and dead ends, overcoming restrictions with my apps. Not as drained as how I felt after learning about Wix; as the day came to an end, I felt like I’d figured out what my limitations were, and how to work with them. I plan to have a first draft for David on Wednesday evening, and a full release on Friday. Hopefully my work will help draw in the crowds to come and see this legend of a musician play.

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An early mock-up title card for the video flyer

 

 

Hot Spots, Penalty Spots, and Spotify

I decided to keep my Spotify subscription. It’s not a luxury I can really justify right now – so I reframed it as necessity. On two counts – one, if I’m to continue DJing it’s a massive help. Two – how comforting it is to have music inside my head all day long. It’s pure therapy.

It’s been several years since I had a paid account. The last time was in 2015, and I remembered how much of a friend it was that year. I had became really ill, dealing with a brain infection that caused my brain to swell, then closely followed by an eye infection which reduced my vision for a few weeks, and then a stomach infection after that. After a short stint in hospital, I was housebound and blurry-eyed for about eight weeks, and so I spent a lot of time listening to music. I couldn’t see much or walk very far, but I managed to keep playlists of everything I listened to. I was able to play them back now, and think about the time that had passed since last listening.

Soundtracked by the likes of Boards of Canada and Machinehead, I went to meet Bijan in what seems to be becoming a regular spot – Merchant Square near Edgware Road. We got some good seats in the Draft House where we watched France beat Croatia 4-2 in the final of the World Cup. Strange that it was exactly 20 years ago that they first won it, and I can remember watching that too when they beat Brazil 3-0. Today’s game seemed a little hard on Croatia. France were given a stinger of an own goal and also penalty, but the Croatians didn’t lose heart. Well played, everyone. Well played the bar staff too, who were now down to 10% of their normal bar offerings owing to the CO2 shortages.

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French football fans

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Champions

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Hard to capture the whole scene, but this is Merchant Square. 

Too much beer and then too much pizza and then laying in the sun on the turf battered all the energy out of me. After leaving Bijan, I plugged into Aphex’s more recent releases – Cheetah EP and Orphaned DJ Selek. Cheetah sounded like a cousin of Syro, but ODJS was a good charge through his expert acid work. I left it playing even though I was mostly asleep within minutes of sitting down on the train.

I stopped at the supermarket and picked up a pack of Warburtons crumpets and a jar of Bonne Maman Strawberry jam for a last minute munch before bedtime.

 

Greek Salad

Well and truly tired today. It was nice to just mope around, lying on the sofa in the empty house grazing on food, or sitting in the garden with cups of tea and Spotify feeding me the music I want to hear.

The highlight of the day was this Greek salad I made. Greek salads have always reminded me of Sarah. I think my first one was actually with Sarah, in Greece. We were looking at the menu, seated at a restaurant terrace table in one of the fishing towns in Kefalonia, when she clearly said “I think I’m going to have a Greek salad”. I first pinched a crunchy mouthful from her, then deconstructed the ingredients with forensic precision, and have proudly made them ever since.

My recipe for a big bowlful that you can pick at over a day: one cucumber, three plump tomatoes, a quarter of a red onion, one green pepper, and a block of feta cheese. Dress with olive oil, season with black pepper and sprinkle with dried oregano. Serve with hot pitta and taramosolata on the side, and for the full Sarah snacking experience – a cup of tea with some milk chocolate Choco Leibniz for afters.

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