30 March 2016

Goodbye To The Music Exchange

Goodbye To The Music Exchange
Snapshot of the article I wrote for LeftLion on the closing of The Music Exchange
It was with a heavy heart that we had to say goodbye to the Nottingham record store The Music Exchange earlier this month

Opening in 2009 just as Selectadisc had closed its doors and coinciding with the recent resurgence in vinyl sales, the Music Exchange quickly became a hub for the Nottingham music community. Set up as a social enterprise by the charity Framework to raise additional money, not only was it a record store, it was also a place where adults could gain valuable work experience to enable them to gain employment. 

All the staff and volunteers at The Music Exchange did a wonderful job making truly great place to buy records. 

It was always a pleasure to be asked to help them out, whether that was DJing at various events, writing about the store in LeftLion, assisting with events, or helping to plug their various events and causes. 

They had a farewell party on the last day on the shop on Saturday 19 March at The Bodega featuring live performances from Deadbeat At Dawn, Rattle and Crosa Rosa. With an afterparty featuring lots of drunk dancing later on in the night at The Broadway. It was a bittersweet way to say goodbye to the shop. 

More on my thoughts about the closing of The Music Exchange can be found in this article that I wrote for the LeftLion website.

The Music Exchange on Facebook 
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28 February 2016

Be: One - The Soundtrack Written For Wolfgang Buttress' Beehive Installation

Be: One article for LeftLion magazine
Be: One article for LeftLion magazine
At the start of January I was lucky enough to interview the main creative minds behind Be: One, the soundtrack that was written specifically for Wolfgang Buttress' beehive installation that he designed for the UK Pavilion at last year's World Expo in Milan. 

The email came in at the last minute and following a couple of days of hasty organising,  the following weekend on a crisp and bright Sunday morning I found myself on the outskirts of Nottingham city centre getting ready to interview the artist Wolfgang Buttress, his daughter and vocalist Camille Buttress, and the musicians and Spiritualized members Tony Foster (aka Doggen) and Kev Bales. Wolfgang had known Tony and Kev for a few years as he used to have a studio close to where Tony's is. It is at Tony's studio where they have all agreed to speak to me. 

Speaking to all of them together was far-and-away one of the most enjoyable experiences I have had during my time writing for LeftLion. They couldn't have been any more welcoming and talkative. And it was really interesting being sat in a room with them hearing them discuss the creative process about how they created the soundtrack. I could have happily chatted to them for the rest of the day. It was really obvious that they were all pleased with how the soundtrack came out. 

Weirdly, after years of trying to interview Tony Foster / Doggen and never getting anywhere, I have now interviewed him twice in less than 12 months. It's funny how things somtimes work out.

As I was overseas with work a couple of days immediately after doing the interview, I found myself typing up my copy in various Starbucks around Seoul. It's not often that I can say this, but I am quite pleased with how the finished article came out. The article, as it appears in the above photograph, was published in LeftLion Magazine #75

The online version of my Be: One article can be read here

The collective premiered their soundtrack over two sold-out nights at Nottingham Arts Theatre on 18 and 19 February. I was fortunate enough to go the first night and you can read what I thought about it here

Wolfgang's hive installation has been shipped back to the UK from Italy and will be at Kew Gardens from June with the collective planning on performing their soundtrack live when it opens.

More about Be: One on Wolfgang Buttress' website 
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23 January 2016

I Was At David Bowie's Last Evert Concert

David Bowie Hurricane Festival
On Monday 11 January I was getting my stuff together ready to leave the house for work and listening to the Today Show on BBC Radio 4 as usual, when it was mentioned on the 7am news that they were getting early reports that David Bowie had died. 

I was devastated and it left me in a strange mood for the rest of the day. 

The outpouring of grief exemplified just how important he was too so many people and how far and deep his influence reached. He always seemed to be present, even when he actually wasn't like in his later days, because his work is woven deep in to the fabric of our culture - he has helped to shape and define so much of it. He is our Elvis, our Frank Sinatra, our John Lennon. 

Bowie was ground-zero for a lot of the music I got in to while growing up in the 90s. Bands like The Cure, REM, and Smashing Pumpkins all cited him as an influence. He even tipped his hat to two of those bands when he invited Robert Smith and Billy Corgan to join him at his 50th Birthday Concert in New York in 1997.

Although he had kept a low-profile during the last few years of his life, and there had been rumours of ill-health for a while ever since his heart attack in 2004, he had been going through a period of productivity and creativity that started with the surprise release of The Next Day in 2013. 

Bowie was always there. You never thought of him not being around, it didn't seem possible. The news of his cancer was a closely guarded secret, we didn't know he was seriously ill. Only days before he had released Blackstar on his 69th birthday and receiving some of the best reviews of his career. The news of his death came out of the blue and probably hit harder because of it, we didn't have time to prepare. 

I'm still gutted to think that Bowie is no longer around. Although he has left a legacy that will live on forever. His music will always be with us. On the day that Blackstar was released I posted on my Facebook that I was at his (to date) last ever concert. He made a couple of one-off appearances after that, but it was his final full David Bowie headline show. 

It was at the 2004 Hurricane Festival in Schee├čel, Germany. He was one of the headliners of the festival along with The Cure. I had gone there with my friends Ben and Marc. I had just finished university that summer and we were all skint students and made our way to the festival in the cheapest possible way - by coach from Nottingham. The journey took 24 hours and was awful, but the festival was good fun, sunny with lots of cheap beer and great music. 

Bowie headlined the second night of the festival. It was part if his A Reality Tour, his longest series of shows for a few years. I wish I could say that my memories of his set are crystal clear, but they're not, sullied by beer and time with it being 11 and a half years ago. I do recall that I missed the first few songs because I was watching Mogwai finish-up on the second stage, but got to Bowie to see the majority of his hit-packed, career-spanning set. I definitely remember China Girl with Earl Slick's gloriously over-the-top interpretation of that songs main riff, so I must have been there from at least that song onwards. 
As this Rolling Stone article states, and if you look back at the videos of his performance, dressed in a hoodie (although it should be noted that he was suited and booted earlier in the set), he doesn't look great, and his previous show had been cut short. But from what I recall he was very talkative in between the songs and gave his all when performing. You couldn't tell from being in the crowd that anything was wrong with him. It's strange to think that he was actually having a heart attack up on that stage, but he gave a fully committed performance until the very end. A true and dedicated performer.

It's weird and sad to think that it was the last time those magnificent songs would be sung by the great man responsible for writing them. I'm just honoured that I got to see him and I was there to witness it. 

RIP David Bowie.  

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9 January 2016

Up Close & Personal With Paul Gascoigne Left Me Feeling Bummed Out

Up Close and Personal with Paul Gascoigne

As the title says. 

Tonight I went to Up Close & Personal with Paul Gascoigne at the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham. 

The scheduled start of 19:30 was pushed back to 20:00 making for a few restless people queuing up to get in to the auditorium. Once everyone was finally able to seat it was obvious that the event hadn't sold very well with most of the stalls full, but the first tier noticeably sparse and the upper-tier not used at all. It must be said that I didn't actually see any adverts for tonight, I only found out about it as I was bought a ticket. 

The evening was split in to two halves. Like a throwback to a cabaret event, the opening act was a comedian who had apparently been on Britain's Got Talent. I won't write his name as he wasn't very good. In fact, it was some of the laziest comedy I have ever seen. It felt like being transported back to the 1970s. I thought so-called comedy like this had died out, but I'm sadly wrong. There were fat jokes, sexists jokes, an oddly insensitive moment (and let me reiterate, un-funny) considering the headline act, were he tried to shame an audience member who went to the toilet by saying they had been taking cocaine. And not forgetting the rather meta section that was essentially a comedian doing impressions of far better and much more successful comedians. It was really depressing to think that these kind of outdated 'jokes' are still considered funny by some people.

In the interval the audience had the opportunity to buy signed shirts and have a short meet-and-greet with Gazza for £250 or buy a signed print that looked like something you would find in a dusty corner of a discounted store for £150. It had the air of money grabbing vultures rinsing money out of honest football fans. I'm sure it's a great way of making some additional income, especially if the tickets aren't selling too well, but it didn't sit well with me and felt kid of cheap despite the prices being touted.
Paul Gascoigne was out in the second half for an hour of chat about his career that took the form of a on-stage interview. 

It generally stuck to his footballing career; from his time starting out with Newcastle, signing for Tottenham, playing for England at Italia '90 and Euro '96, through to his time in Scotland at Rangers. His stints at Lazio and Middlesborough were only briefly mentioned. Although there was time for his short-lived spell at Boston United,  but I think this was shoehorned in as it sets up a story about how in his drunken stupor he thought he was signing for a club in the USA. There's nothing about his time at Everton. 

It's obvious that his time pulling on the Three Lions and playing for England was a career highlight and meant the world to him. He doesn't have much time for the current crop of England players apart from Wayne Rooney. 

He didn't talk about anything that has happened to him since hanging up his boots. Perhaps to gloss over how much his career and personal life took such a nose-dive after drink and drugs took hold. This means we hear nothing about the 2010 Raoul Moat incident where her turned up at the stand-off scene with chicken and beers hoping to talk to the murderer who was on the run from the police - Which is weird because earlier in this run of shows he did speak about this. It obviously generated too many negative headlines in the tabloid press and had been pulled.

Looking at Paul Gascoigne's mannerisms on stage it is obvious that he is not a well man. Swarming with nervous tics, constantly twitching and shuffling in his seat, his speech slurred and muddled to the point where it could be hard working out what he was saying. Someone who at his footballing peak looked so free on the pitch now seems trapped within himself. 

On the surface his many anecdotes were funny and played up to the idea of him as a bit of a lad, a bit of a wild, but harmless character who liked having a laugh. But they pointed to someone who was clearly very selfish individual who didn't think about the consequences his outlandish actions might have on others. Sure, joyriding a tractor at your first training session at Spurs might have been a funny thing to do. But crashing it in to the training block isn't as it's going to cost someone time and money to repair the damage. Likewise, when he decided to take the brand new Middlesborough team bus for a short spin and ended up crashing it. These are the actions of an individual with flaws and issues that run deep, and it's surprising as well as sad that no one in football tried to help him before it was far too late. 

I grew up on football in the 90s. One of my earliest football memories is of Italia '90 and England reaching the semi-final. Gazza's crying Spitting Image puppet. Throughout the majority of that decade Paul Gascoigne was this talismanic and highly gifted England midfielder, the kind of footballer that only comes along once in a generation. I imagine that dealing with current day Paul Gascoigne and all of the demons and issues that brings with it has got to be a complex situation, so hats off to the people currently trying to help him out. I'm sure they have good intentions, but dragging him around half empty theatres and flogging overpriced tat to hard-working football fans probably isn't the way to do it. It left me feeling sad for that man on stage.
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21 December 2015

Paper Lace: The Musical Is A Rip-Roaring Success

Paper Lace The Musical
Paper Lace: The Musical?

Some nonsense that I wrote for possible inclusion in an article we ran in the December / January 2016 issue of LeftLion. It didn't get used.

The musical based on the hits of 1970s rockers Paper Lace has been a re-sounding success with a run of sold-out performances at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal.

Titled Billy Don’t Be A Hero after the band’s 1974 smash-hit and penned by Notts-scribe Billy Ivory (Made in Dagenham),  it sees the former Opportunity Knocks stars back catalogue re-worked in to a story about a young boy who attempts to ride every ride at the 1977 Goose Fair with a belly full of mushy peas and cocks on a stick.

This late-flush of success for the band is owed to recent Nottingham-breakthrough acts including Indiana, Sleaford Mods, and Jake Bugg all name-checking Paper Lace as massive inspirations and thanking the band in paving the way and laying the foundations for future generations of musicians to make it big outside of the city.

Jason Willamson from Sleaford Mods who teamed up with Paper Lace to write a brand new song for the musical titled #SillyBilly said, “Paper Lace are real icons in my eyes, up there with Badfinger and Mungo Jerry for me. The real deal.”

Philip Wright from the band, “I never really thought I would see the day when our music would come back like this. I had Cliff Richard on the blower asking if we could collaborate as he’s looking to kick-start his career. I had to let him down gently. You’ve got to be careful haven’t you? All those allegations. We don’t want to be tarred with the same brush. Not when it’s going so well for us again”.

While Jake Bugg says of the effect Paper Lace’s music had on his formative years,” I first heard We've Got The Whole World In Our Hands by accident. It was so irritating I couldn’t get it out of my head for days.”
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22 November 2015

Record Shopping in Osaka - Part 1

Tower Records in Osaka
Tower Records in Osaka
Osaka is a city that I have only visited once before back in March as part of a business trip. I flew in to Osaka for two days before getting the Shinkansen to Tokyo – I have written about this trip, including visiting the mega Tower Records in Namba, in a previous post. 

This time around, Osaka was the last leg of my journey following a visit to Tokyo (which you can read about here). My flight back to the UK (via a tedious stop-over in Dubai) wasn’t until late at night giving me a few hours to myself during the day. 

The sign at the entrance to the building where Newtone, Afro Juice and Rootdown are in Osaka
The sign at the entrance to the building where Newtone, Afro Juice and Rootdown are in Osaka
Afro Juice records in Osaka
Afro Juice records in Osaka
I don’t really know Osaka as well as Tokyo and not wanting to be trekking all around the city, I decided to stick to an area close to my hotel. A quick search online told me that an area to west of the Dontobori shopping area and just south of Shinsaibashi Station called Nishishinsaibashi would be worth hitting up.  

The entrance to the building where Newtone, Afro Juice and Rootdown are
The entrance to the building where Newtone, Afro Juice and Rootdown are
Nishishinsaibashi is a hipster enclave of small alleyways and streets littered with interesting looking independent shops and cafes, and populated by lots of trendy looking people. It was a bustling little area, and felt less manic than other areas of Osaka I’d been too. It reminded me a bit of the Northern Quarter in Manchester. The area sits like an island flanked by two highways, one of which separates Nishishinsaibashi from the tourist trap of the roofed Dontobori shopping area and is full of high end, eye-wateringly expensive shops. I had made a note of a small selection of records stores that I wanted to visit, but other than that I was more interested in having a stroll and taking in the sights. 

Newtone Records in Osaka
Newtone Records in Osaka
One of the first stores I wanted to try and find was Newtone Records. After walking around a few times around the block where Google Maps had taken I was sure it wasn’t there. Just as I was about to give up I spotted a sign outside the building. Not only was Newtone here, but the same building also house two other record stores – Afro Juice Records and Rootdown Records. I didn’t go in to these so I’m not sure what they’re like, but if you are reading this hopefully I have given you a good idea where they are so you don’t make multiple laps of the same block much to the amusement of suited salarymen like I did.

I did head up the stairs and pop in to Newtone Records for a little nosey around. It was a compact, yet well stocked and organised store. Their main focus seemed to be on a lot of house, dance, electronic stuff, with both new and used vinyl. There was a small section towards the front of the shop with a few rows of more rock and indie-orientated releases, but overall Newtone Records’ speciality was cutting-edge electronic and dance stuff. 

The building where Voxmusic is
The building where Voxmusic is
Voxmusic was another store in this area that I had read was worth visiting. Consulting my map I headed towards where it was and soon spotted the sign on the side of building. Entering the lift to go up to the 5th floor, as the doors began to close a man started to say something in Japanese to me, but before I knew it the lift had closed and deposited me at the top of the building. When I got there Voxmusic was nowhere to be seen. The only shop unit was closed and looked empty. When I got back to the bottom of the building the man was stood there waiting for me. Asking if I was looking for Voxmusic, he kindly told me that it had moved and pointed me in the direction of where it now is. How nice of him. It did make me wonder why they still kept the sign up outside the building though…

The entrance to the building where Voxmusic is
The entrance to the building where Voxmusic is
It was starting to get late in the afternoon by this point, but I did find the building where Voxmusic now is, but didn’t have time to go in as I was on a mission to track down King Kong Music. But first a little detour to Flake Records as it was sort out on the way, but sort of on the way. 

Flake Records in Osaka
Flake Records in Osaka
Outside Flake Records
Outside Flake Records
Records display in Flake Records
Records display inside Flake Records
Situated on the very edge of this area across one of the busy roads is Flake Records. Another store that was hard to find and I was about to give up after numerous walks up and down the same road until I eventually spotted a on the street pointing me in the correct direction. I really liked Flake Records. A narrow shop with racks taking up the majority of floor space, tidy display shelves on the walls, and the counter running along most of the back wall. The shop mainly stocked new releases on both CD and vinyl with an emphasis on modern pop, hip hop and indie-rock - the kind of stuff Pitchfork reviews. If I lived in Osaka I could see myself shopping here for new releases. 

Ishizue Music Osaka
Ishizue Music Osaka
Around the corner from King Kong Music I passed Ishizue Music – another record store squeezed in to this relatively tiny area of Osaka. It’s remarkable how a city like Osaka can sustain numerous record stores, but it does mean that the options for music lovers feels endless. 
King King Music in Osaka
King King Music in Osaka
King Kong Music is easy to spot with its pink columns and bargain bins stacked on the streets outside. Going down the stairs you are met by a huge room that’s probably similar in size to Recofan in Shibuya. In fact, King Kong Records reminded me a lot of Recofan – wall-to-wall second hand vinyl piled from floor to ceiling, a real crate-diggers paradise. 

Inside King Kong Records
Inside King Kong Records
Inside King Kong Records
Inside King Kong Records
There was all sorts here and all neatly organised in to sections and genres, from rock, pop, hip hop, through to jazz and classical. There was also an impressive CD section and loads of LazerDiscs including some expensive Beatles ones. They also had a decent sized section of old Japanese music. Result I thought, they’ve got to have the elusive Takeshi Terauchi Rashomon album here. Although they did have a few of his records, it wasn’t to be. I even asked the man behind the counter who confirmed my suspicions. Much like Recofan, not only was in rammed with a gargantuan amount of viny, everything seemed fairly priced to boot. If I’m ever in Osaka again and I’ve got a bit more time and money I’ll definitely be going back to King Kong Music

The entrance to Time Bomb Records in Osaka
The entrance to Time Bomb Records in Osaka
Making my way back to my hotel, I accidentally found myself walking past Time Bomb Records. A store that I had seen mentioned on a couple of blogs, but didn’t really have any intention of going in. Curiosity took the better of me though and I thought I would go in for a quick nosey. It was a large open plan store divided by a partition going down the middle separating it in to two halves. The shop mainly stocked rock n’ roll, rockabilly and punk, while at the back I spotted a few racks of indie rock and krautrock; although it was definitely the former styles of music they obviously specialised in.

As I was leaving I saw a western looking man mysteriously being escorted out of a side door. Was he one of the elite record collectors that travel the world snapping up the rarest of the rare vinyl?

So no records for me this time in Osaka, but I did enjoy having a little wander around and discovering an area of the city that I hadn’t been to before. If you have stumbled across this post while searching about record stores in Osaka then at least I hope that it will act as a helpful little guide. 

Read my previous posts about Record Store shopping in Japan below: 
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31 October 2015

Record Shopping in Tokyo - Part 3

Record Shopping in Tokyo
Records bought on this trip by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and Takeshi Terauchi
This month I was back in Japan on a business trip. I was fortunate enough again to visit both Tokyo and Osaka. As with previous work trips to Japan, I had a little bit of time between appointments to be able to visit a few record stores. 
My time in Tokyo was very limited this time meaning I didn't have the opportunity to hunt out any new stores out of the 400-plus record stores that are in Tokyo. I used my time to visit two that I have been too previously, one of which is probably one of the best records that I have ever been to. 

Recofan in Shibuya
Recofan in Shibuya
I managed to pay a couple of visits to Recofan in Shibuya. The first my time was very limited so after taking the lift up to the 4th floor of the Shibuya Beam building I immediately shot to the left and made my way where I remembered the Takeshi Terauchi records are. The selection was a bit more diverse than previously and I picked up an interesting looking record of his I hadn’t seen anywhere else before. It had a greying image of a married couple and Terry sitting on the steps below them with his guitar. My initial thought was that it was the elusive Rashomon LP, especially as the colours of the cover are very similar. It turns out the record is from a year later, 1974 and feels very much like it is part of a similar period. It has some seriously heavy jams on it and when I get a minute I will probably write a few words about it.   

As I usual when I visit Tokyo I was staying in Shinjuku. I hadn’t really had much success previously of visiting the many record stores in this area. Either due to time constraints, or due to iffy directions and Google Maps not being 100% accurate with Japanese address conventions, I have instead spent a lot of time walking up and down alleyways craning my neck with my eyes fixed upwards trying to find stores that apparently should have been there but just weren't. I did previously pop in to the Shinjuku branch of Disc Union which was just as impressive and well-stocked as its Shibuya counterpart.

This time I had read (I frustratingly can’t find the link now) that there was a record store on a road I was familiar with as I had stayed on a couple of hotels on it previously. So I marked on my paper map where the store was supposed to be according to the blog and Google Maps and took a stroll out to it. I ended up walking from Shinjuku to Yoyogi Station and back again along the road keeping my eyes out, but I was unable to find it. Tokyo has buildings on top of buildings and it’s easy to miss places especially if they’re small units and not well sign-posted. If you happen to be reading this post and know the store that I am on about, do let me know where it is

Disc Union in Shibuya
Disc Union in Shibuya
The following day was a Saturday and I had a couple of hours in the morning to myself after catching up with a few emails and so took the JR to Shibuya. In Shibuya, both Disc Union and Recofan are a couple of minutes’ walk from each other - very handy when time is limited.

I made my way up the stairs in Disc Union to the floor that has the second-hand vinyl. As with all of the record stores that I have visited in Japan they use their space well. Shelves and bins are stacked high and all usable space is utilised. The amount of stock is always impressive if a little overwhelming at times, and the lack of floorspace can make navigating around the shop floors a little cumbersome at times, especially when they are busy, as was this case on this Saturday morning. 

Popol Vuh records in Shibuya branch of Disc Union
Popol Vuh record in Shibuya branch of Disc Union
Disc Union had had a little shuffle around of their stock since my last visit, although as they label their sections in English as well as Japanese, it was soon easy enough to get my bearings. I didn’t really have anything in mind that I wanted to buy, I just went for a browse more than anything.

I know Japan is known as a collectors market, but the sheer wealth of stuff they had was ridiculous. Loads of ‘classic rock’ stuff including insane amounts of records by the like of Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Beach Boys, Rolling Stones. In fact, British rock from the 60s, 70s, and even the 80s, seems to be something a lot of the second hand record stores specialise in. As a Krautrock fan it was exciting to see first pressings of stuff by the likes of Can, Neu!, Kraftwerk, Amon Dull II, records that I had only ever seen listed on eBay or Discogs or in limited amounts in second-hand stores. 

If you are looking to pick up some Japanese artists on vinyl Disc Union probably isn’t the place. Or I should say, its selection is much smaller than in other record stores that I have visited. Although they did come good this time and they had all of the just issued Kyary Pamyu Pamyu albums on vinyl. Part of me wanted to pick them all up, but I went for Namba Collection in the end. They also had this interesting looking Moomins record that I now regret not picking up. 

Moomins record in Shibuya branch of Disc Union
Moomins record in Shibuya branch of Disc Union
After Disc Union I headed up to road to Recofan. The store is more like a warehouse with endless aisles of records and CD’s. I even found their LaserDisc stash this time around. They were all listed at 100 Yen each and even though I don’t have anything to play them on I do kind of regret not picking some up at that price. You never know, I could have used the opportunity to start up a LaserDisc film club in Nottingham. 

LazerDiscs in Recofan
LazerDiscs in Recofan
The store is sort of split in to two sections: As you go in, on the left is the Japanese-related stock, Classical, and bargain bins; while the much larger right-hand side houses the new releases, CDs, and various genres such as hip-hop, 60s/70s/80s, pop. And there’s loads with much of it very reasonably priced, and from what I could tell and from previous experience, most is in pretty decent condition too. I spent a bit more time looking around this section on the right hand side than I have done on previous visits and if I was up for a good old crate dig I would have had a field day. As it was, time was limited (as was money and space in my suitcase) so I just had a little stroll among the aisles having a flick through the racks every now and again. 

Recofan in Shibuya
Recofan in Shibuya
I did end up picking up a couple more Takeshi Terauchi records for my friend back home. I should also add that the store had a sale on and those bargain bins were busy with shoppers studiously going through every record in every bin. That’s dedication.

The staff have always appeared very friendly in Recofan (as well as all the other stores that I’ve visited in Japan I hasten to add) and even with my lack of Japanese and their lack of English I have been able to get by. At the till they always offer if you want to get the record out of the sleeve and take a look before handing over your money. They also always throw in those plastic record sleeve protectors too. I also spied a little section tucked away at the back where they had a couple of turntables set up with brushes attached to the arms instead of needles, and they were using these to clean the records. Impressive. 

Recofan in Shibuya
Recofan in Shibuya

Although I was able to pick up a few records and hit up a couple of decent stores, I’m still a bit gutted that I didn’t have time to hunt down a couple of record stores in Tokyo that I haven’t had chance to visit yet. 

I went to Osaka after Tokyo on this trip to Japan. I have written a post about visiting a handful of record stores in Osaka here

Read my previous posts about Record Store shopping in Japan below: 
Record Shopping in Tokyo - Part 1 
Record Shopping in Tokyo - Part 2

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1 September 2015

The Quietus Review of Urth By Kagoule

Following on from my review of Colossal Downer by Grey Hairs, the kind people at The Quietus were nice enough to let me have another opportunity to write for them. Again, I got to review a debut album by one of my favourite bands to come out of Nottingham (or anywhere to be honest), Kagoule. Urth is out now via the legendary Earache Records and my review can be read at the following link: http://thequietus.com/articles/18670-kagoule-urth-review

I also got to sit down with Cai from the band and interview him for a double-page spread in LeftLion. The above image is a photo of the page as it looked in the August issue of the magazine. I think this was the third time that I have interviewed the band. The first was when they played a gig for LeftLion that I put on at Nottingham Contemporary for Record Store Day in 2012. Then later in the same year, I spoke to Cai and Lucy for the band's first feature in the magazine. The online version of my most recent Kagoule interview can be read here: http://www.leftlion.co.uk/articles.cfm/title/kagoule/id/7623

 Urth by Kagoule can be bought direct from the band's webstore

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29 July 2015

Doggen Interview

This was one of those rare things, an interview that was actually enjoyable and fun to do. Totally worth the five years it took to sort out.

I think due to his long association with Julian Cope I was expecting some kind of acid-fried, speed freak, militant anarchist pagan with hippy tendencies. Instead he was nothing but charming, friendly, and accommodating. At one point he even asked the band he was recording at the time to stay out of the studio for a while longer so he could carry on talking to me.

This is a much longer version of the interview that's in LeftLion Magazine #69.

Doggen is the guitarist in Spirtualized, played with Julian Cope for a long time, (maybe, if Axl is reading) helped to write a few of the songs on Use Your Illusion 1 & 2 with members of Guns N' Roses, and has played on more Top 10 hits than he even cares to remember.

He has so many stories I could have listened to him talk for much longer than the hour and a half I sat down with him for. This was honestly one of my favourite, if not the favourite, thing that I’ve done for the magazine. Definitely worth the wait. 

He's proper Notts too.

Click here to read my extended interview with Doggen for LeftLion 

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14 June 2015

BBC Radio Nottingham Breakfast Show (8 June 2015)

BBC Radio Nottingham

I was invited on to the breakfast show on BBC Radio Nottingham last Monday morning in my guise as LeftLion Music Editor to discuss whether popular musical acts should always play their most famous songs live. I was on at around 7.15am and was still wiping the sleet from my eyes. 

Anyway, it's always nice to be asked to do these things and it was a fun, albeit short, discussion. The show can be heard at the following link. I'm on at roughly 1 hour and 15 minutes in: http://bbc.in/1dXsmqn
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1 May 2015

The Quietus Review of Colossal Downer by Grey Hairs

Grey Hairs Colossal Downer review for The Quietus

In the middle of last month Grey Hairs released their debut album Colossal Downer. Its 12 tracks of grizzled garage rock that their cues from the American underground of the 80s and early 90s, mixed with copious amounts of cans of Red Stripe and the general disappointment and kind of inert anger you get from working a day job from nine-to-five, Monday to Friday.

It's easily one of my favourite records of the year and I was well chuffed when The Quietus, one of my favourite websites, agreed to publish my review of Colossal Downer. You can read my review at the following URL: http://thequietus.com/articles/17677-grey-hairs-colossal-downer-review

You can listen to and buy Colossal Downer via the Grey Hairs Bandcamp page. 
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19 April 2015

Record Shopping in Tokyo - Part 2

Disc Union Shibuya

Last October I wrote a post about my experience of record shopping in Tokyo for the first time. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to to visit Japan at the end of March and in between some work appointments I managed to find a little bit of time to visit a couple of stores one afternoon.

I was in Shibuya on the afternoon that I was free and decided to stay in that area. The first store I visited was the large Recofan, a shop that I went to on my previous visit. I cannot stress enough how large this place is. It’s vast. With racks upon racks containing new and used vinyl, CDs and DVDs. The vinyl section probably accounts for a quarter of the store. I could spend all day going through the rows of records, and as appears to be the case in the record stores that I’ve visited before in Japan, it’s all very well organised. Although they don’t sort their records like they do in the West in an obvious A-Z fashion, once you have got your head around how they do it, it’s becomes pretty easy finding the sections you want.

Recofan, Shibuya

Recofan Shibuya
As in all of the Japanese record stores that I have been to even though language may be a barrier the staff are always friendly and very helpful. Staff members have gone out their way to try and find a particular record or artist for me, and this time around in Recofan the assistant behind the till even threw in some plastic record sleeve protectors free of charge with my purchases. The stores also ask you if you want to check the condition of the vinyl before you buy, which is a nice little touch. But as with all of the records I’ve bought in Japan the vinyl is always in very good condition if not almost mint if we are going to use record collector lingo. They appear to know how to look after their records. Recofan has quickly become one of my all-time favourite record stores. 

I headed straight to the Takeshi Terauchi section and picked up the following. Note another purchase of Let's Go - Eleki Bushi, which seems to have had about three separate releases. Thanks to my friend Stephen for assisting in translating the following album titles. 

Takeshi Terauchi & The Blue Jeans - The Appeal of Country Guitar
Takeshi Terauchi & The Blue Jeans - The Appeal of Country Guitar (1975)
Takeshi Terauchi & Blue Jeans - Complete Collection of Electric Folk Songs
Takeshi Terauchi & Blue Jeans - Complete Collection of Electric Folk Songs (1969)
Takeshi Terauchi & The Bunnys  - Golden Concert
Takeshi Terauchi & The Bunnys  - Golden Concert (1968)
Takeshi Terauchi & Blue Jeans - Let's Go Eleki-Bushi
Takeshi Terauchi & Blue Jeans - Let's Go Eleki-Bushi (re-release, 1978)
Takeshi Terauchi & Blue Jeans - Live In Moscow
Takeshi Terauchi & Blue Jeans - Live In Moscow (1977)
Disk Union, Shibuya
Disck Union Shibuya
Just down the road from Recofan in Shibuya is Disk Union. Disk Union is a large chain of record stores in Tokyo, possibly the largest, with various stores specialising in a particular style or genre of music; you get stores specialising in rock and pop, metal, jazz, classic, vinyl and so on.

The store in Shibuya was split over multiple floors with each floor focusing on a different style of music. I headed for the top floor which is where the rock and pop vinyl was stocked. Much like their store in Shinjuku that I visited previously, the selection here was much smaller than in Recofan and the majority of the stock appeared to be made up of Western music, both Japanese and US / European versions, rather than Japanese music, which Recofan had much more of. I didn’t see any new vinyl either, just second hand stuff, but that’s not to say that they don’t do new vinyl, I just didn’t come across any in the section of the store that I was in. Compared to their Shinjuku branch I much preferred this particular store.

After having a good rummage around and not really seeing much that caught my eye, I eventually stumbled across an amazing picture disc of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s recent album Pika Pika Fantajin. I’m a big fan of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and have written about her before on this blog. In fact, this visit to Japan was almost exactly a year to the day I visited in March 2014 when I was first introduced to her music. I liked that coincidence and took it as a sign that I should buy the album - even though I previously bought the CD version from Tower Records. I’m not a huge fan of picture discs but I enjoy the grotesque humour in this one and I think the image nicely sums of the oft-overlooked satirical nature in Kyary’s music. 

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu - Pika Pika Fantajin Picture Disc
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu - Pika Pika Fantajin Picture Disc (2014)
What always surprises me is how cheap the Takeshi Terauchi records are. They all ranged in price between £4 to £10 at the most. The Takeshi Terauchi records that I bought on this visit cost the the same price in total as just that one Kyary Pamyu Pamyu picture disc, roughly £18. It could be that no one knows who he is and there isn’t a demand for his records or perhaps in Japan there is just an abundance of them. The Takeshi Terauchi records that I am interested in buying are his 1960s to mid 70s records - from what I’ve heard the later one’s lack the excitement of those early records and suffer from rather ropey ‘period’ production like horrible synths. Despite there being numerous records of his, Rashomon still remains elusive.

It’s a shame that I didn’t have much time to visit other stores or to spend longer in the two that I did visit, but I am happy with my purchases. Also, if I had more time I probably would’ve bought more and my suitcase would have been dangerously overweight - it’s easy to forget how heavy vinyl records are. 

Tokyo really is a vinyl lovers paradise - the wealth of shops is overwhelming, not to mention the vast amount of records available. I would love to have had more time to really explore the city's multiple record stores.

Bonus Track:

Tower Records, Namba, Osaka
I also visited Osaka for the first time during this particular trip to Japan. I was only there for two very busy days and didn't have any free time at all. There was however a Tower Records very close to my hotel and even though I didn't have any intention of buying any records while in Osaka, I thought that it would have been rude to pass it without at least popping it. I had a wander around, and much like the one in Shibuya, Tokyo, it was huge, spread over multiple floors each dedicated to a particular style of music. Below is a photo I took of their Taylor Swift display on one of the aisles. 

Taylor Swift display in Tower Records Osaka
Taylor Swift display in Tower Records Osaka, March 2015
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