Hello everyone and welcome back to the Electronic Music Alliance September 2020 Newsletter - your monthly update on the latest goings on from the EMAlien Mothership!
We send our well wishes to everyone in regard to the global Coronavirus pandemic and want to say thank you to everyone caring for the sick and the more vulnerable - you are all legends! Keep looking after each other won't you?
Thanks to everyone for getting involved with EMA and sharing all the good vibes on our Twitter page! We've been keeping busy with more releases on the community run Electronic Alliance Records label, along with launching our new look playlist format that has been warmly received by the community.
And the cherry on top, we take an in depth look at this month's Featured Artist, Gribbles! Alright, enough of the jibber jabber, let's crack open this newsletter and see what's going on under the hood of the Mothership!
As always, a very warm welcome to all you new followers and members and thanks to everyone who continues to follow our EMA and EAR Twitter! Here's a quick summary of how things are looking for EMA and EAR:
We continually need to upgrade our mothership to accommodate all you awesome folks but it's well worth it, especially when we celebrate another couple of milestones of reaching 3,000 followers on our label account on Twitter and over 200 releases on EAR! As always a big thanks to our EMAliens on the Mothership making it a fun place to be!
With the changes to our playlist structure, we are focusing more on the stories behind the tunes shared by the EMAliens. If you missed this season's Spotify Playlist and the tales of the tracks, then you can catch up on the blog here. The playlist features 19 melodic beats of various genres in electronic music from this talented lot and it's well worth re-sharing the glory in our Featured Playlist section this month!
EMA DJ Mixes
We have continued the cool vibes from the EMA DJ Mix Series each week thanks to Radio Dark Tunnel. Our 1 hour slot is on Friday evenings from 19:00-20:00 UTC for the time being, where our EMAliens showcase their mixing talents along with a host of electronic music ranging from downtempo to house to drum and bass. Feel free to stream the latest mixes from our Mixcloud page below:
Electronic Alliance Records
Our community run label Electronic Alliance Records continues to grow this month from our EMAliens who have been beaming their beats down from the Mothership! Make sure you follow us on our Beatport page for the latest releases. Wrap your EARs around these:
Featured Artist - Gribbles
Each month the "Featured Artist" section of our newsletter gives us a chance to find out more about one of our EMAliens and this time round, we're going to be shining the spotlight on the "Wordsmith" Mr Gribbles! We digitally sent Nicky Havey over to find out more about this fine young specimen and this is what happened!
Hey hey Mr Gribbles! I've been looking forward to this all month as you're a bit of a blogger like me! So, in less than 2,000 words, can you tell us a bit more about yourself and how you got involved with music?!
Well, I’m 53 years old. So we can go back to the 70’s in terms of how music found me. I hope you’re sitting comfortably - we’ve about 40 years to cover… ?
But I’ll not do that to you. Let’s just pick up on a few bits and bobs from the gumbo of gribblyhistory. Some random musical touchpoints/memories in how I got here from there.
My early musical awakenings
I can remember the effect some music had on me in the early/mid 70s. There were tunes that just seemed to grab me - stuff that connected with me somehow, and made me feel…well, different I guess. I can remember recognising that these songs - more often then not heard on the radio - did things that nothing else did. If I hear these songs now, I still get a strong Proustian rush from them that whisks me back. I did a Spotify playlist of them a while back if anyone is interested.
My first purchase
So, from an early age music was a thing for me. Then in 1978 I was shopping in Scunthorpe with my Mum. We were in Woolworths, and she gave me enough money to buy a single. I chose what was Number 1 at the time. Abba - Take A Chance On Me. Now, for anyone who may be sniggering at the back, firstly - I was 10 or 11 and excited to be able to buy a record of my own (I haven’t mentioned the suitcase of old records my parents had and the old radiogram. 78’s, 45’s and how I enjoyed the label designs. I can still remember the smell of the rubber mat on the Garrard deck. But I’ll maybe save that for a blog post before it gets too weird). Anyway - back to Abba. Check out the b-side, I’m A Marionette - a cracking tune. (OK, I may have rationalised the latter after the fact - but it’s a tune. Really must sample that bass.)
My first obsession
A massive watershed for me came in the following year. I know it’s a bit of a hackneyed cliche, but I do remember watching Top Of The Pops in mid 1979 and being mesmerised by Are Friends Electric by Tubeway Army. I’d enjoyed some synth tracks - the usual suspects that did the rounds in the 70s - Oxygene, Fanfare for the Common Man - but this was something else. And the start of a lifelong love of Gary Numan’s music. I was in the fan club. Number 1066.
My first purchase redux (using my own money)
The first album I bought with money I had earned myself was Telekon by Gary Numan. I’d been out bush beating all day (hated it), and got home clutching the £5.50 I’d been paid in a little brown envelope. Didn’t wait to get changed - I jumped on my bike and pedalled fast I could get into town just before The Music Centre closed, and slapped down my £4.50, then pedalled madly home - I can remember the anticipation of playing the record was almost overwhelming. My Dad couldn’t understand why I had to spend my wages as soon as I got them.
Not that it was all about synths. My other big obsession of the late 70s and into the 80s was The Stranglers. Although they always were a heavily keyboard led band. But yeah - Numan and the Stranglers. They were my thing.
Of course, it being the 80s, there was plenty of awesome stuff appearing every week it seemed. I got caught up in the whole Crass punk scene, but still fell for mainstream 80s synth-pop hard, served my time with NWOBHM (still partial to a bit of Def Leppard from before America catapulted them into the stratosphere), post punk and indie left it’s mark - I just soaked up loads of stuff. And I learnt early that I liked what I like. Never was bothered about tribes and genres - couldn’t be bothered. There was too much good music floating about.
(Although I must admit to playing up the punk part. Donkey Jacket, skin tight jeans and Doc Marten boots. Somewhere there are photos. As there is of me with a perm, black shirt with white skinny tie and trench coat from a few years later. Thankfully all are lost to the ether, I think…I hope…)
Pre internet info sources…
I was an avid Melody Maker and Smash Hits reader. Actually, that places me quite well. Serious music and pretentiousness in MM, and pop culture and silliness in SH. But I loved it all. I was as taken with the journalists and their writing styles as much as the musicians sometimes. I remember seeing The Sisters of Mercy in Leeds and being as pleased to see Everett True up on the balcony as Eldritch & co doing their thing. Or at least I thought it was Everett True - and in a way that’s all that mattered. And I still have a massive soft spot for Mark Ellen & David Hepworth, nurtured through their writing in various organs over the years…
Too many to list
I’ll not do a dull ‘travelogue’ of bands that I liked/loved - there are many. So many. Music has been pretty much THE mainstay in my life (alongside video gaming, but that’s faded in recent years). But of course, there are key tracks that either got me into a new band or signposted a new direction for me to take - I may do another playlist…
Musical training (Ha! As if!)
Let's jump sideways into playing music. I’d taken piano lessons when I was at primary school, but never made it as far as taking my Grade 1. Played flute in secondary - but again not for long (though I’ve had a hankering recently to have another go. Weird). But my first love was bass guitar. This was entirely JJ Burnel of the Stranglers fault. The Stranglers bassist was a huge early influence. My parents bought me a no-name bass, and big chunky guitar amp (they weren’t to know - and neither did I at that point). I set to learning the bass line to Peaches, and the lovely descending intro to Goodbye Toulouse. Bass slung low in my room in front of the mirror. God I looked cool. To me, anyway
My first band
But, strangely, the first band I was in I didn’t play bass. I sang. This would be around ’85. I was part of a Methodist Christian Youth Fellowship (which I actually later went on to lead), and we got a band together. One of the chaps in that band became a long time friend and musical collaborator - we ended up doing the quiddity stuff many years later if anyone knows of that. Anyway, as is usual for first bands we did a mix of covers (Tainted Love, Hanging Around) and our own originals.
We were - er - inexperienced, naive and full of ourselves. Of course. But we had fun. And it certainly gave me a taste for playing in a band
My first proper band
After 70x7 (for that was what we were called) I dabbled with some local covers bands that didn’t really do anything, then got the chance to audition for a new band that were looking for a keyboard player.
Bearing in mind I hadn’t played keyboards in anger for quite a while (I had a couple of home keyboards and a little DX100 that I played about with), I turned up not expecting much. All the guys were older than me, and they just said that they would bash out a tune and I should just jump in. I’d never jammed in a band in my life.
Anyway, in for a penny, in for a pound. I can’t remember much about the actual music - but I must have done something right as I got in. There and then. And so, I became a member of The Guild of Thieves.
And, by God, we got good. I mean, proper good. We had a cracking songwriter in Paul Brittain, who led the group - and the band could play. I found out that they’d been playing pubs and clubs doing covers for the previous year - over 200 Gigs. You get good when you do that. And that made me stretch myself and get good too. I loved being in that band. That’s where I leaned my chops.
But we were based in a small market town in Lincolnshire. We chucked tapes out as was de-rigour in the late 80s/early 90s (and a rejection from Factory records got pride of place in the rehearsal room), played local gigs and did a couple of showcase gigs in various cities. We got compared favourably to big name bands in local press, and we spoke around the subject of maybe moving to London/Manchester/Liverpool for a bit to have a proper try. But we never really discussed it seriously and we sort of fizzled. Families happened, jobs came up out of town - and that was that. I still think it’s a shame.
And that’s really where I was at for the next 15 years or so. I moved away, started a family - still an avid gig-goer and music lover, but playing live just…stopped.
I have seen the light!
In that time, though, there was another revelation. Me and one of the chaps from 70x7 had stayed in touch, and still went gigging together. He’d got into EDM and its ilk, which I liked (it was synths, after all…) but didn’t grok it in the way that he did, despite him sending me mixtapes and stuff to try to get me understand.
Then, along came Reading ’96. Thanks to the Stone Ross being abject sh*te on the Saturday night, I found myself in the Big Top tent. I was quite looking forward to seeing the band that was headlining, as they’d garnered some interest with their last single and had caught the attention of many folk, not least of which because it was a key track in a popular film. The tent was heaving. I elbowed my way to the middle with Dan, and noticed someone climbing one of the big central scaffolds. They got close to the top, and unfurled a banner. “Underworld”. Then the next couple of hours or so was like the church scene in The Blues Brothers for me. I saw the light. Lordy. It was special. We both spent most of the night with big sh*t-eating grins on our faces. Rez/Cowgirl from that night remains one of my favourite live moments ever.
That got me dabbling in making music again.
Crikey - I seem to have written so much, but missed out tons.
That's alright, you kept under 2,000 words as the original request (1,845 if anyone wants to go back and check) ? But wow! It seems like you've had a rich and varied upbringing from this detailed account of how you ended up where you are now and I'm glad the Underworld experience helped you see the light! Would have loved to have been there for the epiphany! You mentioned your band and influences here, how has that shaped the kind of music you make now?
In the main, I guess, a sort of laid back electronica. I’ve always loved synths and synth music (though not exclusively - as I think I’ve mentioned, I like what I like. See here . So, I’m happiest when surfing presets in real or virtual synths and seeing what lands and where it takes me.
I am rubbish at putting what I do into genres. No idea where I fit - if indeed I do and my stuff jumps about a bit. I can easily tag some of my tracks as ambient. But others - just dunno. I don’t really know what makes a techno track different from trance, don’t know my EDMs from my IDMs - I just make the music that bubbles up out of me. And there’s plenty of conscious and subconscious influences from the last 40-odd years to bounce around as I write.
I’ve been making music solo ‘properly’ since about 1999. Underworld gave me a kick, but that’s a handy narrative to hang off me starting to writing music again - In truth, I’d never really stopped dabbling. Whether playing my guitar, bibbling on my PC or whatever - making music one way or another has always been at least background radiation in my life.
At the back end of the 90s, I ...ahem... acquired a copy of Acid Pro, and started to dabble with it. The result of that was the ‘found sample' mashup album that is Version 0.1beta. It was very Skint/BRA. I was particularly pleased with this - still am of parts of it - but I didn’t really do anything with it. Just passed it around friends. It’s here if you fancy a giggle! (The last track - Amb0 - is actually a live piece played on a Roland SP808 using samples I didn’t use on the album. It weirdly had a bit of a resurgence on Spotify recently…)
A little later, I had a phase with recording as quiddity with my mate Dan (who was in that first band with me). This was long distance recording - I was in Halifax, he was in Hull. So we swapped stuff online with the occasional trip down the M62. The stuff we did was squarely in the EDM mode (so we were told) - closest I can think of in terms of sound is maybe The Black Dog - but we did get one rather pleasing comparison - “Underworld and Fluke have a Warpy face-off’. Yeah. Nice. See what you think here.
We also had a couple of cool videos done for us by Elizabeth S. of Eyeless in Gaza. After a couple of albums and a handful of EPs, quiddity got hard to sustain (life again…), and I reverted back to solo stuff. Which is sort of the track I’m still on now.
Like a lot of my contemporaries, I write what I write. I find it tricky to write to a style - things just seems to wriggle into the shape they want to be. Though I recently cracked out a couple of reasonable psytrance tracks for inclusion in Llamasoft’s latest game, Moose Life.
But I wander all over - from minimalist ambience, through chill out, with a nod to old skool synth tunes and along into more upbeat dancey stuff. There’s little anomalies like Kinsque - a theme to a lost kids show. And my last release was pretty much a synth pop song about unrequited love between two flowers. I do sometimes wonder what my muse has been drinking.
But I do like to think that I can nail a reasonable tune now and again?
Nicely done man! That's quite a feat to have your tunes on a game and it sounds like you should just create your own genre called Gribbles! Sounds like you can hold your head up high there and you're creating more than just reasonable tunes, flowery or otherwise! Maybe you can tell us a bit more about some of your latest releases?
I tend to release singles or EPs - I’m comfortable with that, but do have a hankering to record a longer form project. I keep coming back to doing an album of tunes loosely inspired by my childhood in Gainsborough. Be nice to try something in a hauntology/Boards of Canada sound. But it won’t turn out like that.
So there’s a fair lump of stuff in my ‘back catalogue’ - but recent releases from the last month or so have been a mini-album of the tunes used in Llamasoft’s Moose Life game - both my solo stuff and some old bangers from quiddity. Jeff from Llamasoft was listening to a lot of psytrance when writing the game, and the mad particle filled psychedelic onslaught reflect this. I wrote a couple of tracks specifically for the game, and I think they turned out well.
My last release was ‘Apple Jack & Rosemary Brock’. Verging on synth pop territory here. It's a song about the unrequited love between two flowers. I know. But you have to go where the muse leads you! It came about from a note I made while in Regents Park a few years back. I was down there for one of Frank Turner's Lost Evenings festivals in Camden, and me and my lad had decided to have a little Sunday morning head clearing stroll.
Whilst wandering through the gardens in Regents Park, I noticed that the names of a couple of flowers on either side of the path sounded like people - so I scribbled a note down in my notebook.
Earlier this year, I had a nice little tune brewing, and I thought that it could do with some words. It's not often I add my own words and sing in my songs, so was a little stuck for inspiration. I started flicking though my notebook, and came across the names. That got me thinking and in a few minutes, the story of Apple Jack and Rosemary Brock was written .
My next release will probably be out by the time this piece goes up - it’s called ‘I Was’. This song sprung from a short acoustic guitar riff my son sent me one day. I popped it into my computer, started to work with it and this turned into one of those times when the song just appeared. I didn't so much feel I was writing it as just guiding it into existence. A downtempo, trip-hop feel with melancholy soft synth lines aligned with the forlorn "I was a fool" sample gives this chilled track a sad air, but initial feedback had been very positive. I’m looking forward to this coming out.
Also looking forward to the release after that. One of my most popular tracks is one of my early ones. Existence sits firmly in the chilled bracket, with a super sample from Bertrand Russell. It’s been picked up by the awesome Stick Up Boys and ‘evolved’. They’ve done something wonderful with it - again, can’t wait for folk to hear it.
Awesome stuff mate, we'll keep a look out for those upcoming releases with eager anticipation! As always, we love finding out how those in EMA found out and got involved with us so how did you come across the community?
I became aware of some of the movers and shakers behind EMA from being on Choon. Followed a couple of folk, and I think I sort of remember EMA starting up on there - but didn’t do much about it because - well - to be honest I didn’t think I was in their league. Choon imploded, and then I remember seeing EMA pop up in my Twitter feed. I loved the idea of the community - and I must admit the tweets and threads felt a lot more honest and human to me than most groups that pop up.
I can’t be doing with the usual hyperbole and BS that infects many music communities. I eventually just thought ‘in for a penny, info a pound’ and reached out. Best. Decision. Ever. Immediately welcoming, constructively supportive, generous with opportunities and just a thoroughly nice bunch of folk. It was invigorating - I’ve got to know some great musicians, been able to do some cool collaborations and I definitely think my music - and the ‘project’ that is gribbles in general - is the better for it. I genuinely feel lucky to have found them.
Ah thanks for the kind words and we're really glad you took the step to get involved and have benefitted from being a part of it all! That's exactly what we set EMA up for - to bring like minded producers together and have a place where epic collaborations can flourish! Keep making the most out of it my friend and thanks for sharing your journey with us in this month's Newsletter!
You can follow Gribbles on the sites by clicking here.
We hope you have enjoyed this month’s newsletter, let us know in the comments below and catch you soon for the next one!
(Bufinjer, DaveyHub & Nicky Havey)
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