Birmingham and beyond. Issue one Spring 2016
Bab Mag. Gent48 Tom Bird DarkCircle The Lurkers Goldie Tabula Rasa Zoot And More
Image: Tabula Rasa
PROTECTION REDEFINED LIQUIPROOF.CO.UK
John Bryan - Editor in Chief Callum Barnes - Art Director Joe Miles - Art & Lifestyle Editor Holly Eldridge - Arts Editor Jack Parker - Music Editor Lap-Fai Lee - Food Editor
www.babmag.co.uk facebook.com/babmaguk twitter.com/babmaguk intagram/babmag
Whereâ€™s the Jerk?
Contribution Andy Pilsbury, Ben Evans, Clifford Joseph Price, Danny Fisher, Dan Griffin Hayes, Ernest Otoo, George Davis, Joshua Billingham, Jim Kerr, Kealan Nedrick, Morgan Tedd, Martin Jones, Nina Baillie, Tom Bird & Vicky Grout
104-108 Floodgate Street Digbeth Birmingham B5 5SR
Many of the manuscripts, visuals and promotional materials shown in this publication are sent to us anonymously and they are used only for the purposes of documentation. The views expressed in BabMag are those of the respective contributors and not necessarily those of the staff or the brand.
SATURDAY 30TH JULY 2016
Storming into its third year, MADE Birmingham has quickly become the jewel in the Midlandâ€™s summer festival crown. A dynamic showcase of the cityâ€™s creative future, juxtaposed against the inner-city remains of its industrial revolution past.
MADE Festival is an all day event that features seven stages of music, street food curated by Digbeth Dining Club, live graffiti and art, performers and much much more. Watch our for further weekend announcements including MADE... My Night.
80+ MORE ACTS TO BE ANNOUNCED
MIDDAY TO MIDNIGHT
... MY NIGHT 11PM TO 6AM
TICKETS - MADEBIRMINGHAM.COM
you alrigh bab?
Welcome to issue one.
ht Birmingham has never been as loud or brash as our southern friends in London; we try to keep things underground and cloak and dagger for fear of the scenes and subcultures we nurture being diluted by popular culture and gentrification. A platform for all things creative and underground has never really been present in Birmingham culture of past. However, one thing Birmingham doesn’t lack is independents, artists and creatives looking to showcase what they do and gain exposure. After viewing this void in the Midlands infrastructure for many years, the solution seemed simple: BabMag. BabMag is a lifestyle and culture magazine produced by local creatives providing a unique platform to champion local talent, document subcultures and explore the second city’s heritage. Our years spent living and working in the city’s independent and cultural hotspots have helped us to gain insight into how the city operates and thrives.
For issue one we have worked with creatives that we have known for many years and putting their work to print has been a great honour. We welcome to the BabMag fam the likes of Gent48 and Zoot, who both reside just a stone’s throw away from us. We have also been able to approach hugely respected artists with decades of knowledge, such as Goldie, who has stood as an icon for many years to us, as well as discovering the rawest new talent to come out of the region. Works from featured artists will be available to view and buy at the new Pop-Up Cafe in The Custard Factory, Digbeth. We will also be hosting a room at the Midlands No1 lifestyle festival sneaks&peaks in April. Over the next three months, on the build up to issue two, we will be adding more content to www.BabMag.co.uk with an already talented group of contributors. We will be delivering a constant stream of news, reviews and thought provoking content. We hope you enjoy.
The BabMag Team. 007
Gent48 Known for his character based murals, Gent48 is a mixed media artist who has painted around the world and picked up awards in multiple continents. Having known of Gent now for about 10 years and having known him personally for around 5, I’ve been lucky enough to become pretty good friends with him and as an artist and I’ve learnt a lot through watching and painting with him. In my opinion he’s one of the top character artists in the world and as we’re lucky enough to have him born and bred in Birmingham, it seemed like a bit of a no brainier to do our first interview with him.
Words: Joe Miles
Images: Callum Barnes
Right, shall we start with the boring shit, what do you write? Well, I write Gent 48, but then I used to write AGENT didn’t I, so depending on when people met me, some still call me AGENT. Yeah, the majority of people I know still call you AGENT, infact the majority of Birmingham call you AGENT. When did you get in to graffiti? I don’t know what year, I’m 32 now, and I probably got in to it when I was 14, sketching letters, and trying to do graffiti characters. Every interview I do I mention my brother, because he used to do it back in the 80s, so more I grew up with it around me from a early age, they all used to skateboard, tag on shit, his whole bedroom was covered in tags, so I grew up knowing what it was from probably 4 years old. So would you say you got in to it because of your brother? Yeah, but I was always drawing as a kid, it’s because... ha! its because I was a bit odd when I was a kid. I was a bit naughty, I’d have behavioural problems and dyslexia, shit like that. When I was drawing I wasn’t getting in to trouble, so that lead to me being encouraged to draw as much as
possible. Graffiti was just a next step of creativity for me. Yeah, I was also a naughty kid, I think a lot of artists were, I guess it’s kind of an outlet. I went to a junior Catholic school man, being like the naughty kid of the school, from up till the start till I left. There was just this one teacher, Mr Mathews, he sort of encouraged you to draw, and he’s the only one I remember. We had another teacher called Mr Regan and he kicked my chair away from under me and I smashed my head off the desk haha, if I ever see him again I’d throw a table at him. So we was saying before that we grew up on drawing cartoons some of your older stuff reminded me of Disney, was that an influence? I think as a kid we were really poor, so I never had Disney, Disney videos were like £30 or something back in the 80s and shit. I’d always get Beanos or any other comic books, and just you know, try and draw them, and then change them, from like an early age instead of completely copying them. I’d take parts of the character, draw their eyes, draw their nose from someone then try and make up my own kind of piece.
Is that the way you would say to go about it, especially young kids? Yeah, I think so. It’s always good to have a starting point, some sort of reference to inspire you if you’re new to it. When you’re copying comic book characters you’re sort of learning how things work, how to draw different parts of characters. There’s a lot of copying, biting, people don’t realise when you’re doing it, but people will see it.
I think always in graffiti, people have copied like famous comic books and I don’t really think it’s biting; it’s always been that way ennit. I think it depends if you’re interested in making up your own, it’s always good, even now when I’m doing illustrations and shit, I use references. Do you enjoy doing the illustration jobs, that’s your main income right? Yeah, graffiti commissions, and illustrations and any kinda drawing.
Do you think that kinda takes the fun out of it? Yeah a little bit, I think it can sometimes when constantly doing stuff to brief, but it depends on the brief. It’s alright if they want it in your style or like your ideas, but like when they’ve got a firm idea of what they want with no room to be creative it’s not so fun. But sometimes you’re lucky. Like Original Patty Men, using that as an example, that must have been pretty good, do what ever you like, but have it burger orientated?
Yeah it was good to have free rein, plus becuase they’re mates of mine, so it was just good doing drawings for your mates. I painted a mural on their wall too. I didn’t even charge them. Free burgers? I don’t even eat meat, I got a few free mushroom burgers, that’s what they gave me. Best mushroom burger I ever had though, from what I hear every burger they do is amazing like. Best burgers in Brum.
Most of your stuff is character based right? I used to do letters, growing up I thought it was important, looking at like the JEPSY book I think had not long come out, and then seeing people who had done letters and characters, to me I thought it was quite important. I’ve kind of spent my graff career watching you, so I’ve seen your style evolve from doing like proper graff characters to what it is today. Yeah yeah, I just think your interests change, stuff that you look at and especially going
to uni, they didn’t really teach me anything technically, when I got there I was a mature student, and all the other kids had done foundation courses, and had actually been shown different techniques and how to use certain materials. I think what I got out of it was how to look at how I create images and why.
Tell us about your dog? You’ve always done pictures of animals, and when you said you had a dog, I knew exactly what kinda dog you was going to get. Yeah, a boston terrier, I’ve wanted one for about 5 years, his called Winston, after Winston Churchill. There’s probably a lot of people who don’t like Winston Churchill, but I dunno, I like them both. He poos a lot, and sleeps which is good, kinda like me. So what about influences, and influential artists, anybody that sticks out?
I think the more I look at Etam Cru, SAINER and that BEZT, they bring concepts and reasons to why they do a lot with their murals, just by like giving them a title. I think sometimes where the murals are located affects what they paint. I like that approach, it gives them a reason to be, other than just to look good. They paint quite large as well, is that something you want to strive to do? Yeah I’d love to.
So tell us about your little run in with the law recently, how’s that? Yeah, loverly. Bit shit for a legal writer... I know yeah, I was just painting in this factory in Digbeth wasn’t I, and apparently network rail own the property, so it was the BTP that turned up, but then as soon as they saw me, I was expecting them, that’s why I never ran away because I thought they would be like ah your just painting some shitty old factory, just clean up your shit and go away. Instead they arrested me for burglary, kept me in the back of the car until they got a warrant, drove me to New Street station to get evidence bags and then drove to my house, and yeah just raided my house and took all the stuff I needed to make a living from. My computer, my paint, my camera, and my phone. Fucking bullshit. Yeah, but it turned out alright in the end, I think it’s how you deal with the police can go in your favour, no one likes the police, and they’re not your friends as much as they pretend they are, but if you’re civil with them and just talk to them in a normal way without incriminating yourself then they will react to that, but if you’re being a cunt to them, then they’ll go out their way to just be fucking horrible to you. Easier said than done! right think that’s it, anything else you’d like to say? What like words of wisdom? No ha. Got anything to say to the young aspiring artists out there? Yeah, stop doing shit paintings where I can see them. Also don’t sell yourself short. If people ask you to do a job for them, but then say they cant pay you what you’ve asked and say “but it will be great exposure for you” or something similar, fuck them off because they don’t respect you or what you do. And try to be humble as much as possible, remember that you’ve always got something to learn and try to push yourself as much as possible. There’s no such thing as a perfect piece, but it’s the constant pursuit that will help you progress. Just try to have fun, which is also easier said than done. Don’t trust whitey!
Tom Bird Tom Bird is a visual photographer, taking on commissioned projects as well photographing immersive spaces in Birmingham and beyond. Through his company, Infinity Project, Tom creates high-end professional photography covering design, lifestyle, portraiture, architecture, landscape and documentation. The works have strong compositions, often making something very ordinary look extraordinary. The colour palate is beautiful too; somewhat monochromatic as well as akin to Pantoneâ€™s colour of the year. We asked Tom a few questions about his process and projects heâ€™s been involved with.
Words: Holly Eldridge
Luminous Tower Block
Your photographs have amazing tones and compositions; is this a pre-meditated approach? I wouldn’t say it was a pre-meditated approach; everything you see is natural and created in camera. All of my work is spontaneous with nothing more than a potential location to set it off. What’s your favourite part of the creative process? For commissioned work, it would be the reception; a pleased client makes me happy! With my personal work, it is all very spontaneous, so it would be the cognitive instinct from when I see a shot, looking down the lens and taking the photo already knowing the end result. Occasionally, I will have a preconceived idea - for example the gas holders which are no longer there off the M6. I read an article on the BBC news that they were coming down, 2 hours later I was standing underneath them, so here the concept was the enjoyable bit, but also knowing how I would execute the photos too. What other cities or places inspire you? Any city, any place can inspire me - it is what you are able to pick out and visualise within a space that inspires me. If you could photograph anywhere/anything what would it be? Chernobyl or Tokyo You capture a sense of stillness and calm in the series, is this hard to achieve in such a lively city? I do enjoy photographing people, but photos like these are better without them - less descriptive. Most of these photos are taken in the middle of the night so there are less people about but also the locations themselves along with framing keep people out the way. You did a series of photos for the Hidden Spaces project in Birmingham; did you feel like you were uncovering lost history? Hidden Spaces is a great project and something I have really enjoyed being a part of in 2015 and yes seeing Birmingham’s history. When I was younger I used to go into derelict warehouses and buildings with friends so it feels like a more serious version of that really. Where’s the best place you have explored in Birmingham? When I was around 18, there was a warehouse at the back of Selly Oak that was demolished for a through road to the QE (hospital). This place was special; I think it was 5 floors with an open roof covered with some unreal graffiti. Well, art really, seriously good work in there - it was like Berlin in Birmingham. One of the floors had a tap that was constantly leaking leaving a film of water giving the entire floor a mirror which was quite cool as a young enthusiast.
Gas Holderâ€™s Mouth
Describe Infinity Project to us. How did you set this up? Well after leaving my last job on a Monday morning, I was sat on the sofa brain storming for a domain name. I wasnâ€™t keen on using my own name and Infinity Project just came to me with the idea that it is a never-ending project consisting of many smaller ones. Eventually, I would like to house other creatives under it and offer a broader service. As I have grown up, design has been very much of interest to me and without building a brand, it was important to build a vision and something with longevity. Tell us about your next project? The Site Office on Water St is undergoing a refurb and once completed I will be taking some photos of that along with some other projects on the way with Javelin Block. I would also classify my website as a project; I have a lot of work to go on it. Other than general work that flows in for me, this year is about getting myself known on a creative level in the city and hopefully get an exhibition on the go and make my mark. As for personal projects I will be getting the pen and paper out to see what I come up with! Concrete Skeleton
Hard To Be Humble basic Tee
DarkCircle With back-to-back solid collection releases, Birmingham based DarkCircle are a leading influencer on the streetwear scene. Their crafted garments incorporate bold graphics alongside cut n sew designs and have been seen on the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$ and Chance The Rapper. Kings of the collab since their inception back in 2008, these guys like to put themselves out there and have worked alongside fellow Midlands based entrepreneurs and hustlers, including Folsom Barbers Club and Hip Hop selectas; Moschino Hoe Versace Hottie. We passed through Dark HQ to catch up with Aaron Dezonie, the companyâ€™s Creative Director and founder to understand what drives this forward thinking streetwear/lifestyle brand.
What’s the story of DarkCircle? The idea was simply to create something interesting. To produce a well made product that people would appreciate, but at the same time relate to. DarkCircle is all about social commentary, local, national and international. We take a look at what’s happening now around us and how that impacts everyone. This allows us to constantly explore and express ourselves in different ways that many other “fashion” brands can’t. DarkCircle is not a fashion brand; in the studio we don’t use the F word. Fashion is all about trend, what’s hot now or next, what people want, what the market is dictating. In DarkCircle we just do us. We do what we want, how we want, when we want. This just gives us a freedom that brands in the fashion world don’t get. We make this the key focus to our business, always and only doing what we want on our terms. It’s not a conventional business model by any means but it’s what makes DarkCircle that something different and interesting. One thing we pride ourselves on is not shying away from the controversial or politically correct. DarkCircle is an expression of self. It’s a flag for others who share similar values and ideas to stand under together. What are the pros and cons of building a brand out of Birmingham? There has been many pros and cons, it really depends on specific elements of the business. On the pro side being in Birmingham has given us space to concentrate on us. Birmingham moves a little slower than bigger cities like London or New York so this has helped us find our feet without trying to keep up with everything around us. The more laid back mentality of Birmingham and the people here suits us and the current growth of our business. Birmingham is also home for us and a huge source of inspiration, we’re comfortable here, we can be ourselves. As good as all of these elements are, staying in Birmingham has had its negative effects on the business too. The biggest down side is the networking; in regards to our industry sector, the number of people here in the city to connect with on a business level is still very small. If I had to say one thing about this city that holds it back from being that next special place to London is the Council. There is some real talent here in Birmingham and so much of it goes unnoticed, not for lack of trying but the constant barriers the Council love to put up. The Council’s clear distaste for independent
Upper Hand Long Sleeve Tee
business is probably the biggest negative of it all; as soon as they sort that out, there could be an exciting future for everyone. We have seen many collabs coming out of DarkCircle HQ; is there one that stands out as your greatest accomplishment? We have been real fortunate to work with some great brands and some great businesses, each bringing that something different to our table. For us each collab opportunity has been fun and a learning experience. There are a number of projects that we are currently working on with some special people and brands that we hope to release later this year, which will easy be our greatest accomplishments to date. Even getting them to the stage we have so far feels unreal. Like being catapulted 2 years into the business’s future, just talking with these other businesses, but we will need to keep those under our hat for now. Just watch this space. Kendrick, Mac Miller, Joey Bada$$, Chance The Rapper, Schoolboy Q, Isaiah Rashad, Nas, Raekwon have all been seeing flexing in Dark, how does that feel? It feels good. Like, REALLY GOOD! It’s a sense of accomplishment when we see someone we love choosing to wear our product. When we hand over product to people we never expect them to wear it, it’s a bonus if they do. For us it’s more like a thank you. Every artist we have had the pleasure of meeting and passing the product to are individuals that we as a team all enjoy. They are all artists that we listen to on a daily basis in the studio when working so seeing them on stage or at an event wearing something we made whilst listening to their music just feels good. For us, we are passing product onto these people as a thank you for the hard work they have done that keeps us motivated at work. A thank you for years of giving us great music (that we don’t always pay for), giving them some of our products in exchange seems like such a minor thing to do. I think that resonates with a lot of the artists mentioned, they all put in their hard work over the years and appreciate the sentiment. I believe that is why a lot of these named artists choose to wear our product and continue to wear it today. Who’s that one hero of yours that you would like to see rep DarkCircle? That’s a tough question. That one hero? There could easily be a list of people we would love to see rep Dark, but if I could choose just one I think it would have to be Pharrell Williams. There’s still something special about that guy and what he has done for the streetwear culture. I think it’s fair to say that Pharrell has had an influence on DarkCircle since it was just a scribbled idea on a college notepad back in 03. Before Pharrell, I think it was hard for people like myself to see a future or career in and around hip hop 031
DarkCircle Brand Hoodie DarkCircle Brand Tee
HTBH Beanie Uniform Bomber Jacket - Black
culture. Before Pharrell’s takeover of the industry, it was all about super baggy jeans, XXXL t-shirt and gang life; something I personally couldn’t relate to, despite how much I loved hearing Jay-Z or Nas talking about that street life. It still wasn’t authentic to me and Pharrell changed that. Never had I seen a light skinned dude, with a bum fluff moustache, rocking a trucker cap and a Metallica t-shirt whilst riding a BMX or skateboard and still being the coolest guy in a rap video. It made me say for the first time whilst watching a rap video, I’m like that guy. I ride a BMX, I ride a skateboard, I look like that. That, I think, was a big part of my journey into this business. So, I think it would be that real personal achievement to see Pharrell one day rocking DarkCircle. You have recently launched your NOTHINGHERE space, can you tell us more about this venture? NOTHINGHERE is a multi function space we have created in our DarkCircle HQ. It’s main function is acting as a showroom space for our latest products and collections. The name I came up with after the 3rd time of being broken into in 12 months. They would break in and just mess up the place and take some of the most random things like a couple of t-shirts and a hat, maybe a phone charger. So I saw the funny side in the name and just putting a sign outside that says NOTHINGHERE to save them the time of breaking in next time. The main reason we built the space was because we were so frustrated with Birmingham City Council and landlords in and around the city. Month after month, year after year we were trying to find a spot in the city centre for pop-up events, parties, product launches and even our own flagship store, but to no joy. Birmingham’s Council are yet to see the world trend of pop-up businesses and how they breathe new life and money into the dying high street. So we gave up trying
Words: John Bryan
to work with them and just thought let’s do it ourselves. Our studio is a little out of the way with zero passing trade, but we thought if we can make something people want, people will come. So over a 12 month period we renovated a section of our studio and converted it into what we called NOTHINGHERE SPACE. Since opening it in December we’ve had a number of parties, launched our latest collection there and most recently held a Super Bowl showing. For the future of the space, we are looking to make it an open retail space and stock other brands and products. Currently, visiting the space is by appointment only. Check out our website for more details about how you can book your appointment. The turn of the year saw your debut womenswear collection, do you see streetwear becoming a more unisex fashion trend? I think streetwear, at its core, has always been unisex, I just think streetwear now has become so much more mainstream, it’s become more recognised as unisex. This is exactly why we decided to create the women’s collection. I think as the streetwear culture grows and becomes more mainstream, it will be accepted even more as unisex. For us, this is a great thing. We love anyone wearing our product if they appreciate the design and the aesthetic we work crazy hard to achieve. So men or women, as long as they like it as much as we do then we’re happy. This increased interest in our product ultimately lead to us creating the womenswear collection in the first place. The number of emails we would get asking if we would ever do it like this or that; would it ever be available in extra small? Would we ever do it in this colour? It all started adding up. We were getting pictures on Instagram with us tagged in with girls altering one of our products to fit them better, it just felt like this was a natural move to make for us right now.
Images: Vicky Grout, Morgan Tedd & George Davies
D Ballcap Dark Circle Brand Hoodie Stand For Something Trench Coat
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Tarlabaşı, Istanbul, 2015
keep lurking The Lurkers are a collective of conceptual artists and lifestyle documenters. Creating platforms for content, which focus on the often over-looked or neglected aspects of our planet through graffiti, photography, exploration, storytelling, fashion, film and animation. We take a moment with them during their travels around the world ‘lurking’ to talk about their recent projects.
What ignited The Lurkers? Where did it all begin? A London wide art project we were working on came to an end and we found ourselves with various keys that could access housing estate rooftops around London which we would regularly visit with no clear aim so we were essentially loitering in strange lift machine rooms and pissy stairwells around town. It was from these strange, hidden spaces that the concept of The Lurkers was spawned as we began to use these locations for creative content. Since then we have refined the formula but constantly refer back to our somewhat delinquent beginnings. What attracts you to the neglected, derelict and disused? We have an appreciation of the unseen or overlooked elements of life. In today’s digital climate lots of sub-cultures become slightly over-exposed and the scene can become saturated with similar approaches to making creative content which we do our best to avoid partly through the use of focusing on slightly abstract locations from era’s gone by, amongst other things. Is a no entry sign more like a invitation for you guys? Depends really, we’d definitely take advice from a no entry sign on the door of an abandoned, bubonic plague hospital ward or something. What makes a lurker? Can you pinpoint what attributes make these people? I mean we can only speak for ourselves really. It’s not an all inclusive lifestyle choice, you either are or you aren’t. Your expeditions have seen you travel far and wide, where would you rate as your highlight? Hard to say to be honest... Sarajevo, Tokyo, Istanbul, Llanberis, Sheffiled, Romania are all great places for various different reasons. Fair to say Tokyo was something special though. What’s on the agenda for the lurkers in 2016 Probably massively sell out and buy houses across Eastern Europe or something. If you know any Multi-millionaire wankers who’d like to buy our whole concept off us and ruin it for a tidy sum then please forward our details to them.
Foka Wolf: Lollipop Man
Foka Wolf won Secret Walls Birmingham in 2014, knocking out the likes of robot and boob loving Obit, canvas regular Wilson and finalist Setdebelleza on his way to claim his crown. His latest works consists of pen and ink on retro adult entertainers with his signature bold lined illustrations over their flesh. He brings us our first BabMag comic strip with Paddy Ashtray and his transformation to Lollipop Man.
NEW LOCATION: 119 FLOODGATE STREET DIGBETH, BIRMINGHAM, B5 5SR
W W W. S N E A K S A N D P E A K S . C O M instagram sneakspeaks
Introducing Jorja Smith OG Horse
Jorja Smith Think about the West Midlands town Walsall and what springs to mind? For me, it’s the fact that the bus station looks closer to an alien U.F.O than it does a bus station. But for most Walsall is simply another unremarkable place surrounded by unremarkable places. It’s in these places, however, that some of the most remarkable music ends up being made out of pure boredom, frustration or a mixture of the two. Walsall has recently found itself a hot topic of conversation on the lips of musicians, bloggers, radio DJs and music fans across the UK. Why Walsall? Well, a certain native of the town has recently broke out from the confines of small town living and her name is Jorja Smith. Jorja Smith introduced her music to the world via a low-key Soundcloud drop of ‘Blue Lights’; a track that managed to showcase her pristine vocal stylings, show off her sing-song rapping style, tell an engaging story and sample Dizzee Rascal, all at the same time. It was a breath of fresh air; coming on strong as an alternative to the love-lorn, relationship-obsessed lyrical content of modern R’N’B. Jorja Smith choosing instead to cry out about what she used to be surrounded by and reach out to young people in the same situation. A true call to arms. The word spread about ‘Blue Lights’ faster than even Jorja herself thought it would. Her Twitter reads as a list of humble thank-you’s to the people showing her music love. The buzz around ‘Blue Lights’ seemed to come about simply from word of mouth; or at least as close to word of mouth as we can get in the internet age. Not only did ‘Blue Lights’ find its way onto almost every blog worth perusing; it found its way into the ears of rising Grime star Stormzy and super-star EDM DJ Skrillex. Despite currently residing in London, Jorja Smith has well and truly put Walsall on the map or at least on the blogs. She proudly states her geographical location as WS1 on her Soundcloud and states that ‘Blue Lights’ was written from inspiration gained from her WS1 surroundings. Some day journalists won’t write about musicians being originally from the West Midlands with such a surprised tone to their words. So what’s next for Jorja Smith? Who knows. That’s what is so exciting about this 18 year old songbird from Walsall; she has started as she means to go on; low-key.
Words: Jack Parker
OG Horse Usually the veil is lifted on any artist attempting to master the art of the low key. However, for the past five years, the gang known as OG Horse have been using one hand to stick a musical middle finger up to the world and the other hand to press upload on their Soundcloud page. Based both in and out of the West Midlands; the group of rappers, producers, singers, designers and photographers have managed to distill their juices into a creatively condensed output of jawdropping tracks and trippy music videos. They do all of this whilst side-stepping the usual palaver that accompanies other artistic careers; the barrage of promotion, the countless interviews and the staggeringly exaggerated amount of selfbelief.
But who on earth are they? They are rule breakers. They have a nonchalant attitude towards genre conventions; choosing instead to warp and mutate familiar sounds from the world of hip hop to bring out the eerie and the surreal elements and magnify them. The closer you listen to their lyricism; the more certain words and rhymes start to jump out at you like piranhas out of water. Their rhyming is a dense tapestry woven together by slang, surrealism and vivid imagery of late night activity. The production complements their playful way with words; shifting and shuffling in the background with plenty of miniature details. It feels as though OG Horse were dissatisfied with the world around them so set about building their own to block everything and everyone else out. The tracks they do share with the outside world are few and far between but the amount of quality control that goes on in the OG lair means that each release is killer. Their cult following arenâ€™t just talking about them when a new release drops either; they are talking all year round about the legends and the myths surrounding the group. One rumour that did the rounds was that a major label tried to sign them, a few of the members turned up to the meeting and ignored everything the label had to say; opting instead to play their Gameboy consoles without saying a word. Is it true? Is it a laugh? These things matter not. People are building a myth around OG Horse; leaving them to concentrate on making music. Which it seems is all they wanted to do in the first place. Who are they? OG Horse. Where are they from? Straight from the 0121. 051
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10PM TILL ? LAB11 | TRENT ST. DIGBETH. Bâ€™HAM . B5 5NL WWW.TRMNL.CO.UK
10 mins outside the city centre of Birmingham, far from the Footlockers, JD’s and Size? Birmingham’s only independent sneaker store resides. Swap the shiny discs of Selfridges for the free Palestine murals of Small Heath; tucked away on a side street off the diverse high street you will find Wear? We caught up with owner & OG sneaker head Joseph.
Air Jordan 6 OG Black – Infrared
Let’s start at the beginning. Kicks, sneakers, trainers call them what you like. How did it all start for you? I got into sneakers back in 93 when I use to travel to New York. Even though I had always been into sneakers, I couldn’t really afford my passion until around 91-92. Sneaker culture of then and now is worlds apart, how do you rate the scene today? Today’s sneaker head can generally consist of every walk of life. Where in my day it was more connected to street culture, football and music. There were very limited releases in those days (early 80s) whereas, releases now are every week. The scene these days is no longer about style but more about fashion.
Whatâ€™s the story with the shop? The shop was opened in 2012. I just really wanted to make my mark in UK sneaker history to be honest. Up and down the UK there may have been 3-5 independent sneaker stores; most were in London. I wanted to put Birmingham on the map as well as cementing myself in UK sneaker scene. I have been selling sneakers since 93 so I could have opened a store much sooner but the scene was not truly established until about 2011 to be honest.
There have been some iconic silhouettes released over the past 3 decades from the Air Max 95, to the Jordan 1, whatâ€™s your preferred silhouette? For me the Nike Air Max 95 and 97, the shape of both these two were revolutionary and the utilisation of the air bubble was to innovative. The pattern on both took the whole Nike sneaker to another level. As an example the swoosh became tiny unlike all the
Air Jordan 5 Retro Deep Burgundy-Light-Silver
The big question Nike/Adidas? Adidas are much more cooler that Nike with regards to casual dressing. But Nike rules all round no doubt. In the 80s Nike had nothing over Adidas but from 87 (Air Max 1) they started giving Adidas a beating, but from 95 (110s), Nike took the lead with no doubt. To be honest, if Adidas could put an air bubble in their sneaker they would have done so back in 87.
previous Air Max releases. This made the air bubble the focus of the sneaker itself. The OG 95 (neon) & 97 (silver bullet) being my favourite colour ways.
Images: Callum Barnes
Air Max 97 Premium NRG “Silver Bullet”
Words: John Bryan
Give us a breakdown of your top five sneakers. 1. Nike Air Max 95 Dave White 2. Air Jordan 6 OG Black – Infrared 3. Air Max 97 Premium NRG "Silver Bullet" 4. Air Jordan 5 Retro Deep Burgundy-LIght -Silver 5. Nike Air Jordan 7 Black/True Red
HEAD TURNING PROTECTION
Seven9Signs. Birmingham and beyond
Goldie For issue one we decided to approach an artist who is a true icon of ours and a pioneer of the culture of which that represent. Goldie, British electronic music artist, disc jockey, visual artist & hero of urban/ underground culture. Goldie has just found himself on the 2016 New Yearâ€™s honours list for his services to music and young people. Our conversation is accompanied by a series of photos by Martin Jones that document the birth of hip hop subcultures, from the high rises of Heath Town to the skyscrapers of New York City.
Words: John Bryan
Images: Martin Jones
Goldie in the window of the room he stayed in at the Chelsea Hotel, New York. He met the pioneers of Hip Hop, including graffiti artists Lee, Seen, TKid, Brim and Bio, as well as Ken Swift of Rock Steady Crew and the father of Hip Hop Afrika Bambaataa. It was arranged by graffiti photographer Henry Chalfant and Goldie and his friend Birdie also did filming for the Channel 4 documentary Bombinâ€™ by Dick Fontaine and Gus Coral.
Firstly, congratulations on your MBE. Was that a Metalheadz base empire? It’s good, you know, some people don’t really understand the worth in it to be honest, but where I come from it stands for a lot. An appreciation for what you’ve been doing over the years. I think so, unless you are Benjamin Zephaniah you’d disagree with it, do you know what I mean? If you disagree with it that much, why are you in this country? I think change starts from the inside out really, to be honest. I mean, Idris Elba, summed it up you know, it’s the same thing in Hollywood, “I went to Hollywood to make myself an actor, what am I supposed to do? The fact that they don’t let us in, keep fighting the war?” It’s a great example. He’s one of those guys, he’s been there, he’s played a main role, Nelson Mandela, the whole thing, the guy still DJs, he goes out there and does what he’s doing, he understands what it’s like to fight from the inside out. 30 years now in the game, what keeps you hungry? What keeps you fighting for it? Look, even my wife said yesterday “You know what, why are you always fighting the creativity?” You know, if I was making Banksy money, do you think I’d still be doing this? Those kids were the people who were sitting, watching us doing graffiti, sitting there cross legged, watching us doing graffiti workshops in Bristol, we were all very young, The Chrome Angelz, me, MODE 2. I love Robin Banks and I love the work that he’s done, but think about it, they started as graffiti writers, trying to make it right, they found something else that something else is a different version to what we are doing with graffiti. Graffiti is still the bastard child, like drum n bass music, If you think that Rudimental are the answer to us all, that they are the answer to me and the Andy C dream, then they are not really, they are just a gentrification to what we do. Is it a populous to what we do? Yes. Is it what we would play? - There is a big difference. I really respect writers that can actually write it as it is. I’ve got no disrespect or any harmful words towards Rudimental or what they’ve done,
they’ve taken something which is essentially the “stuff their dad listened to.” Would I play a Rudimental record? No, I’ll leave it up to the people in pop, pop hipsters. Would I play a good remix by an artist that I rate? Probably yes. No disrespect to what they are doing, it’s a fact of what they’ve actually grown up on. What we’ve grown up on is Photec, Dillanager, Grooverider and Fabio. I’m not going to knock [DJ] Fresh for making a number one tune with Rita Ora, he was here with me a week ago in the studio downstairs, fucking rolling one out, he understands the difference between the cross over and what making real music is. Does real music make us any money? Ask Miles Davis, ask Dandridge, ask Charles Mingus, ask Basement Jaxx, they spent a long time making underground music finally to go on tour and actually do all right. The MC was from Birmingham, they crossed over with that tune in their artillery that was the tune Red Alert, and do they still do a great live show? Yes, and they are learning as artists in their own right. If I wanted to be laid back and lazy about what I’ve contributed to music, I could sit here and start shouting MBE. MBE means nothing to me except Metalheadz base empire, nothing else. What it does mean is recognition for something that I was pulled out of people’s offices for, I sat there with Pete Tong, he made a bet, he missed out on Soul II Soul and he thought I’m not gong to do it again, he missed out on Jazzy B and Soul II Soul thing. He went “I’ll sign Goldie for two albums firm.” He and I both knew and everyone else in his office. The film “Kill your friends” I love that fella, John Niven is a great writer. “Kill your friends” is based on a melt down of PolyGram records. Niven signed All Saints, it’s a true story, he signed All Saints on a cassette tape from his drug dealer, he had to call this guy every week to get whatever he was scoring, every week this guy got a cassette tape from this group he knew was hanging around, and he went “Just fucking listen to this cassette.” And the cassette was All Saints. He signed All Saints on the back of this guy who was sorting him out. That film is based on All Saints, based on the melt down. In the book it’s DJ Rage. It’s like this guy and on my second album Pete Tong, all the guys the big wigs, when Pete Tong had to sit back,
Goldie and Birdie in Park Village, Wolverhampton, wearing Kangol hats and Goose-Downers. Goldie and Birdie at the Colonnade between Wolverhampton Low and High Level Stations in 1985. Wolverhamptonâ€™s first graffiti was done there.
Goldieâ€™s wild criminals on the run in Heath Town precinct, Wolverhampton
there were all the big boys, he went “Not familiar with this kid, what’s he got for us? Let’s pay him for his second album, because he’s got two albums firm.” Back then he couldn’t sign an album for two albums firm, it was unheard of. When you sign an album, especially as an electronic artist, two albums firm with your lawyer that means that whatever he makes after this could be a pile of shit. Tell us about working with the legend David Bowie? I always remember what David Bowie said “No matter what you do after you’ve had this album, even if you make a pile of shit, they’re are going to have to swallow it.” And I was like “You’ve got a point there.” Now, that second album was about Mother, right? No one could even get their head around Mother, furthermore no one could get their head around the Bowie track. Bowie’s own words “Listen, people will expect us to do a drum and bass record.” I went to the studio, I made this record with him and it was a ballad. He went “Mate, I thought we were going to make a drum and base track, but do you know what? I love the lyrics, I get it, that’s what you want to do, I want to back you.” And he backed me and no one, no one would have even thought about that. Even after I made that album, Bowie’s own personal album was very inspired by drum and bass, everyone knows that. But the fact is, that we never did a drum and bass record. Truth is a very big statement, the point that I’m making is that this guy does Lazarus, does his Blackstar album, he knows he’s on his way out and he is an artist who is doing all these albums, his final masterstroke, he actually knows he is on his way out, swears everyone to secrecy and does Lazarus, if he does that, he knows he is on his way out and Bowie for me, the biggest thing that Bowie always said to me is “Listen, when I was in my pop years I hated it, they made me into a commercial monster, I absolutely hated it.” But he came back and did a Low album, eventually he actually bought all his publishing back, so he went back to old record companies and he said to me “The best time that I ever had was with the whole Iggy thing in Berlin.” He had best time doing what he believed in and those words to me reiterate:
20 years later Mary Anne Hobbs is saying “I can’t believe that you wrote this track for him and I’m going to play it on this show.” That’s all that matters to me. When he turned around to me and said “What’s that line, sunshine?” and I said sorrow lies in sculpture? Leonardo Da Vinci did sculpture…” He said, “Do you know that a sculpture already exists inside the marble, all you’ve got to do as an artist is blow the dust off.” Just keep the water clean that you are using at the time with a mallet. Sounds like he had a big impact on you? What other artist could tell me that? I can’t say the same…I can tell an artist like DepBoy, who we just signed, a few anecdotes or can tell him something to believe in, but as far as Bowie is concerned, it has an impact in your life, this is a guy we all grew up with, not everyone grew up on my music, but this is a guy, the consensus of British music is all grown up on. And for him to say that to me was a massive thing. Going back to your point, what does it really mean to me. What matters to me is the label. Yeah, definitely. Tell us more about Metalheadz, how do you keep the label current? I would say from 2001 to 2006 wasn’t the greatest time for Metalheadz because people forget that we actually have to wait for a generation to grow up, because our generation went away and had kids, the new generation hadn’t found dubstep yet. So when that finally starts happening, you’ve got all these kids growing up on music thinking “My dad used to listen to this.” Are you listening to your dad’s iPod or your dad’s record collection? There is a big difference. Anthony is probably the strongest label manager I’ve ever had. Anthony came in, his old label Dispatch is based on a Metalheadz label release, I’d employed various people before to look after it while I was away and I made some wrong choices. My wife said the same thing to me, “You always choose people that you have massive expectations for and kind of fall short a little bit”, but it’s my process, that’s the way that I grew up. You give people opportunities, in a modern world of business that doesn’t really translate. It was a learning curve for me because that was my own doing, but Anthony came and said “Look, this is a business for you, I know you are passionate about it, but
Wolverhampton B Boys at the Lifestyle 85 exhibition at the NEC wearing Kappa tracksuits.
whatever you do, just do what you believe in. So, we are doing this track, I wrote that track for him, there’s not a lot of artists that I know, if you can name five on your hand, apart from band members at the time that actually wrote for Bowie, especially post Bowie, the Bowie that we know. The post Bowie that was searching for artists, searching for inspiration. There is not a lot of people that wrote for him, they might have done a backing music, but not lyrically, so for me to do that thing for me was a massive…at my lowest point like a massive wake up call for me, it was almost a very spiritual moment.
there are better ways for your label to be productive in a really respectful way.” And since he’s been here, he changed the whole perception of how people look at us as a label. I would generally say that we are in a kind of MoTown era now, because people respect us for how we’ve been sounding and what we’ve been doing. I think that the output in the last three years has been phenomenal from my point of view, because like I said, 2001 to 20016 was like a desert. Now new artists have come about: DLR, Mikelle, Hologenix, you look at Lenzman spearheaded the new movement, new kids recognise their music more than they recognise mine to be fair. I think the drum n bass community spurs new champions and those guys were recognised on the underground and Anthony said “These guys are doing shit and they respect you for what you are doing. Let’s sign them, let’s get them, what you are good at is making a project for these guys, give them a theme and let’s see what they come back with.” And before we knew it they all have themes now, they were doing 3 or 4 track EP’s and redelivering an actually story line as opposed to just rollers.
There are some big names you’ve mentioned, David Bowie, Dillanger, Fabio and icons like that, back in the 80s when you was cutting your teeth in the industry, who would you pin point as your inspiration? I think for me, growing up at that particular time, of course Wild Style came about, hip hop thing is a movement, but before that, pre-when I finally got those kind of attributes via Beatamax video tape, Rock Steady Crew, Malcolm Mclaren, the usual, before that, for me my world was The Stranglers, it was the Stranglers’ Rattus Norvegicus, it was Public Image Limited, you know the Pistols, when I was growing up, the Pistols were like… the uncle that shouted and you can’t quite understand what he’s saying, but you grew up on the kid that was listening to the Public Image Limited, Buzzcocks, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Ian Dury, The Human League. Adam Ant came later; The Jam came just about in between, when you think about that, when you think about Paul Wellar, they were reflecting the stuff that was happening in the late sixties. For me, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Public Image Limited, The 069
The B Boys meet Afrika Bambaata Shaw Theatre, 1985
Buzzcocks, and then came The Specials, Madness, that was kinda the British fall out of the music, whereas we were looking at a way of generating music from Europe, like Sven Vath or whatever else he brought from New York. In the UK we were looking at Groove like that: Fabio, Colin Dale, Carl Cox and they were playing those different types of music.
Yeah, if we get back on to modern music, it’s in a bit of sorry state at a minute and certain aspects of it, such as the God Like status for EDM artists, and the rise of the laptop DJ. Do you think DJs and producers are in it for the wrong reasons now? Yeah, but I’m going to play devil’s advocate, is that just a generation from old, on old equipment saying that or is it an old generation that’s lamenting for the past? I’m going to play a real devil’s advocate. There is a big difference here, in the last ten years technology has completely quadrupled, so when you look at what techno has built on for a long time, it was built on sample technology was MPC, so it’s a different thing and hip hop was built on MPC from the beginning, like the drum machine 808. The MPC started moving into southern and Detroit and it went north America into Detroit, so it was a little bit different, so we fast forward, it’s in a sorry state, is that purely because of technology? There is nothing really changed apart from Ableton, record box, Serato, so there
Goldie’s eponymous mural in Hawthorne House where he lived in Heath Town.
Yeah. Different sounds and cultures being integrated in to UK dance floors Because no one really translates this the right way, when you think about it like that, we were going out on the back of the European sound that’s being played by these guys, but European music sounded much better amongst British break beat music that were being championed by the likes of Groove, Trevor Fung and those kind of guys and that’s the difference. So in terms of heroes, what decade are you talking about for me? Because at the beginning it was from Ian Dury and the Blockheads, all way through to Eric Clapton, Elvis Costello a little bit and then you fast-forward it by about seven years and you get Heaven 17, you get the crossover to what was happening ten years later. Lisa Stansfield stood out because she was like the funk, she had that midriff, that was turning into funk. Duran Duran were on the edge of it, ABC started coming out, there was the new romantic thing was probably the bridge between the two, but I never knew it because of the age that I was. And then as soon as you heard Blondie Breaking Glass, you saw the needle connection, you saw that whole thing, and even later on, I didn’t hear Step into my World with KRS and the whole Blondie thing way later, so you think “Shit, when did they collaborate?” So I think the timeline was very misleading, but the main thing for me was that those guys were on the edge of something.
is a point to what I’m saying. It’s moved towards the cuteness of the DJ syndrome, so it’s moved from the production lab into the DJs who are playing and they are the huge superstar. So why would I choose record box over Serato? Because record box, if you are a DJ and you’ve got a tune in your head and you are making a transition, you know your
music, record box allowed you to remember your music for what you’ve got it for, whereas Serato allows you to see the encyclopedia of it and puts it together in BPM and F sharp, D minor, in terms of tuning, both programs retune stuff, but record box doesn’t necessarily base itself on tuning, whereas Serato, Traktor is kind of like that, but I think the DJ aspect has taken a massive chunk out of that, because the producer is now taking a back seat. My daughter’s attention span is most definitely very rapid. I’ve been in a car with her on a journey for half an hour and
she played me like 12 to 15 different tunes and she stops the tune half way through and plays another one. So there is almost like Seratonian release that needs to be fed, whereas what we grew up on, we were kind of playing the drops of a tune to listed to it, maybe not the entirety but we get the points of what you are playing, so there was a different reward in what we were playing. We were listening to two tunes in the mix
and we’ve got tune A, we are listening to it for a little bit and then tune B is coming in, but we were about what A and B mixing to make C, so we were listening to the mix of those two tunes with a DJ and the artistry of that, because you just changed A and you changed B into something different. So maybe we fell on our swords with that, but I do think the DJ culture gave us a lot of ideas, but it also gave us too many fucking DJs.
We spoke a lot about music, but I’d like to touch on art. Would one overshadow the other, did they come hand in hand or was it always music first? Well, they are the same, the way that I work is in layers, I mean my music is layered. So, that’s down to the attributes of painting, if I never painted graff, I would never make music that I make, no fucking way. Because they are all pretty elaborate compositions really, so let’s forget about Terminator, let’s forget about Inner City, think about things like Dragonfly or things like Sometime Sad Day. When you think about things like Sensual it’s built in a different way, I mean Mother is a composition, 60 minutes, it’s a different fucking beast, because it’s built on layering and layering and that’s down to outline the concepts you have in the beginning, they were completed, they are hand in hand, what I will say is that if I never painted, if I wasn’t a graff writer, there is no way I’d make the music I’m making. No way. Do you still follow the graffiti scene or is it past its time now? I was in New York 6 months ago, on Garrison Ave, we do a wall there every year, me, CRASH, DAZE, BIO we do a fucking wall there every year, I go there, when we go there we paint, that’s what we do, we arrange it, we go and we paint. The next question is it legal or is it illegal? Does it fucking matter now? If you go “Yeah, but it’s not illegal anymore.” Excuse me, you are the person that was fucking talking about shit when you were still fucking sucking breasts. There is a lot of people that are really anti…it’s not illegal anymore, when we were illegal, where the fuck were you? If we were to knock on you door, would you have come with us? No. I think that most things in street art are kind of semi-legal to begin with, Shoreditch is covered. Are most of those walls legal? It’s probably people who own the leasehold for the building that allow you to paint on, does the council allow you to do that? What are the council properties now? And most of those places that council own is hoarding, they are temporary and it’s making the city look good. Furthermore, in answer to your question, if you were to remove the graffiti on your way to work, no matter how mundane or fucking awful you think it looks, if you were to erase it from your memory and you go to
work, somewhere in your daytime you think “Something is missing today, I don’t know what it is, but there’s something missing.” Because that’s the whole point of a graffiti, it’s fleeting, you know about the app, right? Yeah, I’ve seen few things about it, what’s the deal with it? We built ARTA and people have said to me “Well, yeah, but it’s very digital” I’m like “Guys, it’s the fucking digital world.” I go on there, upload a few pictures on there, upload a few things that I’ve done, it’s a fucking hobby, it’s not like the be all and end all of the graff scene, the graff scene is a very, very intense scene out there already and Flickr exists and so does Instagram, so all we are doing is saying here is another platform for you guys to upload your work to that you’ve got out there anyway. It was built by graffiti writers, for graffiti writers, I know a hundred websites for graffiti that I could name that most people wouldn’t go and look for, because they haven’t got the fucking time to go and look for it. Whereas ARTA is something you put on your desktop, all you are looking at is current work that people are uploading, fleeting, going by you, you haven’t even got a flick, it’s going by you, because we are allowing it to go by you on a very good device. All we have is a great device, ARTA is built it on the nostalgia of New York graffiti. So it’s moving subway trains that are going by you and on a iPad screen, you look at the image, it’s gone. You press rolling stock and you get a dropdown of like 50 trains that’ve gone by you. You can look at them, you can press your finger and you can get it back and look at it and go “What’s this piece? Okay it was KOYO it was done in Brazil.” And it takes you to their website. So it’s kind of like a Pinterest of graff writers, that’s what it is, really. It’s nothing more, nothing less. We will be reviewing ARTA on our online media chanel at: www.babmag.co.uk very soon.
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THE ILLUSTRATED LIFESTYLE
Where’s the jerk? There’s a corner of my mind that is always thinking about eating jerk chicken. Hot from the jerk pan; smokey, spicy, sweet, juicy, crispy and nice. It’s next to the corner of my mind that houses sub-bass soundsystems and good time vibes. Grilled chicken is the universal language of good food. If you can grill chicken then you’ve got good eats. Yakitori, tandoori, poulet roti, schwarma, gai yang; it’s the original streetfood. Jerk is the Caribbean way of doing it, heavy with the spices and flavours of those Islands. Smoked and grilled in converted oil drums called jerk pans over pimento branches to give it a heady aroma. The perfect jerk chicken maybe the global king of all grilled chicken streetfood dishes.
Words: Lap-Fai Lee
Images: Lap-Fai Lee
Let’s get to the contenders. From the roof terrace of The Church Inn in the Jewellery Quarter, you can sometimes smell the jerk pan from Portland Lagoon. On a late Wednesday afternoon however the jerk is a little tired, the texture a bit soft and wooley but the taste is good. I suspect it’s not as fresh as it could be. ‘The pink ring’
So Brum, where’s the good jerk at? In every neighbourhood there’s a Caribbean takeaway, but here’s the rub; jerk chicken is the hardest thing to get right. To do it properly someone has to light a jerk pan, stand over it, turn the meat and occasionally spray it with Red Stripe. Fine in the summer but who’s seriously doing it on a damp Friday in January? Let me tell you, not many. Even if you see a jerk pan outside the shop, it’s worth knowing what day they light it. You can be sure that if they can get away with lighting it once a week they will. Good jerk is fresh jerk, the rest of the week bad jerk is reheated jerk. Firstly, let’s clear the boards of the imitators. When is jerk not jerk? Well, in my book if it hasn’t been cooked in a jerk pan then I’m not really interested. It’s got to have that deep smokey flavour. Yes, Carib Grill in Moseley and Turtle Bay in the City Centre has some nice juicy chargrilled chicken but they both bake it then finish on a grill. Basically, the same as Nandos. I like Nandos but jerk is jerk. There are others, Russells in Lozells and Blue Marlin in Digbeth both chickens have no grilled or smoke flavour at all. It’s nice chicken, juicy but just drowned in sweet gravy so it tastes just like brown stew chicken. I doubt if any of it has seen the inside of a jerk pan. It’s easy to tell by looking, if there’s no pink tinge just below the skin then it hasn’t been jerked. It’s the same pink ring you get with American style BBQ.
Ken’s Diner on Birchfield Road, Aston is a prime example of fresh is best. If you ask for jerk at the start of week Ken will say no way come back Friday or Saturday. So I come back at 1pm on a rainy Friday just when the chicken is being lifted off the grill. It couldn’t be fresher, two legs chopped sitting atop perfectly cooked rice and peas. A really generous portion. The chicken has a subtle spicing and sweet smokey flavour. I’ve had more flavourful jerk but I can appreciate the nicely cooked chicken. Ken’s is worth checking out if you ever find yourself driving out of the city along that main road.
Mish Mash on Dudley Road, like Ken’s, has its jerk pan right in front of the shop. A sign that good things are going on. Mish Mash light theirs most days. I try it late in the afternoon when it’s been microwaved back to temperature. It loses a little in texture but I like the seasoning here a lot.
Further down the road is Chris’s Restaurant, which from the high street just looks like a door between two shops. Follow the winding corridor back to the knackered looking extension and the counter. I can’t see any sign of food and of all the places I’ve been to the kitchen here is the most hidden. The lady insists Chris cooks the jerk fresh everyday. I can’t argue, the sun hits the perfectly cooked chicken leg as I open the box. The skin glistens, still crispy and the meat is the best seasoned of all. I don’t usually order the jerk here because the curry goat is the best I’ve eaten in Brum. Now I’ll be torn about what to choose next time I visit.
Chris’s Restaurant, hands down had the best jerk in this little roundup. But you know, it got me thinking about how random jerk can be in the winter. If you don’t know when to go to these places then you might as well stick to the curry goat. In summer, at festivals or at outdoor markets where you can see the jerk pans smoking there’s no doubt, just queue up and enjoy. I like Sharians or The Jerk Hut or any number of stalls at the Simmer Down Festival in Handsworth, where you have to roll me off the grass after I’ve eaten so much Caribbean food. Best of all is to cook it at home and with my recipe you can. Invite your friends and get them to bring the sides. You don’t need a jerk pan, any covered BBQ will do. At a push just roast it in an oven and finish it over hot coals. But you know it won’t be the same. And yes, Malibu! Once you’ve had it you won’t go back to ordinary jerk!
Coconut Rum Jerk Enough for 2-4 chicken legs depending on size 50g spring onion mostly whites 15g garlic 15g ginger 15g scotch bonnet chili, deseeded About one chilli. Leave the seeds in if you want your jerk hot hot
4g thyme 3g allspice 35g dark brown sugar 1 lime (1g zest, 25g juice) 20g coconut rum (malibu) 10g soy sauce 5g salt
Blend all this together. Marinate the chicken overnight. Slash the legs down to the bone to help them cook faster and for flavour penetration. Light a jerk pan or BBQ and rake the coals. Plonk a chunk of your favourite smoking wood at the side of the coals and place the grill rack so that it’s about 10 inches away from the coals, not too close. Place the chicken skin side down first and cook directly over the coals. Close the jerk pan but maintain good airflow for about 40mins turning occasionally. It’s not low and slow nor hot and fast. It’s just somewhere nicely in the middle. It’s done when it’s done, don’t rush it. Make sure the skin is nicely cooked. As an optional extra you can replicate the aroma of pimento branches by laying down a bed of dried bay leaves that have been soaking in water. Put them on the grill rack before putting the chicken directly on them. They smoulder and smoke giving out an aroma that might make your neighbours think about calling the police but will trigger that good time corner of your noggin. Serve with jerk sauce, hot sauce, whatever sauce you like. If it’s good and fresh you don’t need any sauce on your jerk chicken. 083
Mama Roux’s was born from a love for New Orleans and Deep South America. It is Digbeth’s brand new venue and the home of Digbeth Dining Club. On the night of Saturday 5th March we are extremely excited to be launching Mama Roux’s exuberant weekly Saturday night event. This vivacious New Orleans themed venue and weekly show is Digbeth’s new Saturday night party for all featuring Mama Roux’s DJ Collective along with special performances each week featuring well selected live bands, Burlesque shows, carnival dancers, actors and entertainers.
Aimed at all of those looking for somewhere lively to go after their pre-bar drinks, this weekly event will indeed provide a great place for you to hang out and drink with your friends in a warm entertaining environment along with a great selection of drinks on offer and plenty of comfortable seating throughout including booths for hire and Mama Roux’s Voodoo Lounge. So come and find out what Mama Roux’s is all about: Weekly Saturdays from 11pm Unit 3 Lower Trinity St, Digbeth, Birmingham.
Boxxed, Digbeth, hosted its first creative art exhibition by Tabula Rasa in December. A multifaceted art project combining high-speed photography, moving image and ethereal soundscapes to create surreal flourishing landscapes. Essentially the project is a voyeuristic look at the hypnotic behaviour of different coloured paints in water.
Tabula Rasa by definition is a ‘blank slate’, the human mind at birth without the presence of innate ideas. At first glance these creations seem to follow this definition with unconscious patterns created with an absence of preconceived ideas or predetermined goals, but look closer and each piece is carefully thought out to form a reel of consciousness, blooming in water. Tabula Rasa is like stepping into a nebula in outer space; the works have a depth to them, revealing a hypnotic, kaleidoscopic result. The immersive body of work is accented within the black walls, exposed brickwork and low lighting of Boxxed, re-defining the clinical white space of your generic art gallery. The work transcends its own definition, it is a blank slate, but one that the viewer can apply their own meaning to. The works created are contemporary and unpretentious but also bear comparison to the dense complexity of a Rococo painting or the intangible mood of a Cy Twombly. It is through this abstract representation that Tabula Rasa gives meaning to our own inner landscape, in an approach that doesn’t need an ‘innate’ explanation. Through the use of Helix© as a multi-media platform; viewers are able to select a still frame to create an individual limited edition print from the Tabula Rasa film projection. The 30 minute film adds another facet to the collection, one that can be taken home as a snapshot of the Tabula Rasa experience. Utilising this media, Plume have re-defined how we view, experience and consume visual art.
The exhibition featured further collaborative works by artists inspired by this theme of paint and water: Conceptual layered glass installation: â€œMind Patternâ€? by Mikey Brain & Jay C Khan Distressed celluloid projection by Sarah Walden Painting & Sculptures by Ije Kaleidoscopic triptych by Wild Ilk Painting by Phill Blake Bespoke sofa by Andrew Holland
Tabula Rasa has been the creation of Andy Pilsbury and Ernest Otoo who form the art collective Plume. The work was recently chosen and featured as Best in Book for Creative Review and the project continues with further exhibitions in 2016. We asked Plume how their creative journey is progressing:
How did the project come to be? Around 5 or 6 years ago. We worked together at a job, which should (on paper) have allowed us to be really creative, but was in fact stifling in a lot of ways. After a while we began to get itchy feet and both really just wanted a release for some creativity. We also spent some of the time at work trawling the internet or through design/art mags for inspiration as a form of escapism. Those 2 things combined led to us stumbling on ink in water as a medium for creating some vivid & colourful photographs.
again. Usually we’ve got a rough idea of which colours we’ll be working with and throughout the day we’ll get to a point where we’re either too knackered, the university (where we use the dark room to do this) is kicking us out or we’ve got enough photographs to work with. Final stage involves vetting the images to select what we want for a collection then some slight re-touching to enhance the images and bring out colours & vibrancy.
Can you tell us about the process you used to create the works? The process starts with getting all the lighting set up around the fish-tank. After cleaning to make sure we don’t pick up any blemishes, it’s filled with water. Then Ernest drops the inks in and builds a composition whilst Andy starts shooting (if we’re taking stills that particular shoot - for moving image, Matt operates the camera). Once the water gets too murky to continue we clean up and start
We’re fortunate enough to have good friends who inspire us. So we approached a range of artists who work in different formats which we admire and showed them images from our most recent shoot in order to see how they’d interpret our work. It was really exciting to see what others would do with the photographs we provided.
How did you go about getting other artists to collaborate?
Why did you feel Boxxed was the right place to showcase the collection? We were working in conjunction with Danny from Boxxed who sponsored the event, so Boxxed was a natural choice. But also the rawness of the space gave strong juxtaposition between the work we were showcasing and the surroundings. We also felt that the rawness made it less clinical than perhaps a conventional gallery space and thus, more accessible to people who may find that setting a little intimidating. How have people responded so far to selecting limited editions through the Helix platform? Generally, people are really excited about the exclusivity of the prints & the fact that it truly is a one-off print. Prints are of course a great way to have work from artists you’re into & although a “1 of 100” really appeals to people for the exclusivity, being able to own an affordable piece of work, you appreciate, which is completely a one-off is can honestly be defined as “exclusive”; because of this we’ve had a really positive response to the platform. What’s next for Plume/Tabula Rasa? For Tabula Rasa there are potentially a couple of shows next year, one of which will be in London so that’s really exciting and we’re just seeing how we can take what we did in Birmingham and build on that for a show in London. As for Plume, this project has been instrumental to really cementing the roles within the collective and also bringing more people on-board. So after a break from everything to give it all some space, inevitably we all want to come together and move things forward with new projects!
Tabula Rasa was held at Boxxed on December 4th 2015. The film can be viewed and prints purchased from: www.tabularasaart.co.uk
Words: Holly Eldridge
Zoot From casual lettering to gold gilded windows, you would have to walk around Birmingham with your eyes closed to not see some of Zootâ€™s work. from his 20ft eyes outside new street station, to the many shop fronts of Digbeth bearing his mark. Once anarchist street rebel, now Birminghamâ€™s sign writer extraordinaire, we caught up with him at seven9signs HQ.
When did you first start putting paint on walls of the derelict warehouses and disused buildings, and what triggered it? I guess when I first moved to Birmingham really so around 98-99. I’d played around with markers and put up goofy tags when I was a kid but when I first moved here was when the bug really bit me. I don’t really know what triggered it. It just kind of started. I loved the buzz of getting away with it and seeing something up that I’d painted, I think it felt like a good way to interact with a new city, you know? It’s a good way to discover and explore the architecture of an unfamiliar place and there’s something comforting about seeing your name up, like you’ve taken a bit of ownership. How did the transition from artist to skilled tradesmen come about? Typography had always been an important component of my art and when creating pieces I found myself trying to find fonts for use that simply didn’t exist because they were “lettering styles” not stock fonts you can just download and type out but styles of lettering specifically created for and with a brush. I decided to try and learn how to do it so I could incorporate lettering in my artwork. I found a retired old sign painter who was willing to give me a little instruction, so I practiced like mad (and I still do). I researched online, read books and just hunted out any information on hand lettering and sign painting that I could find. Before long I realised I’d lost all interest in this becoming a part of my art, I wanted it to BE my art. My entire focus was and still is on lettering and I wanted to paint signs. Fast-forward a few more years of learning and practising and I launched Seven9Signs in the summer of 2014. It just made sense. During that time of study my son was born and that further crystallised that I was on the right path to provide a stable environment for my family whilst still maintaining a creative output.
Was seven9signs always part of the master plan or more a light bulb moment? 79 has always been my number and I’m thankful of the path that lead me to where I am now, so I wanted to incorporate that. To me it’s important to acknowledge where you’re from and by using that as the business name was a way of holding on to my heritage. Traditional sign writing is a dying trade and a forgotten art. Years ago before the digital takeover, sign writers were as common as chimney sweeps, but now few and far between. Do you see a resurgence in the trade? I think that a lot more people are tuning in to the traditional crafts again. You can’t beat a hand painted sign; vinyl looks naff and tatty after a very short space of time where as hand painted signs have much more longevity. Sign painting is an exercise in managing the imperfections of the human hand and as a result a hand painted sign has a much warmer, honest appearance versus something that was just printed out and stuck up. When I first started, I was hunting out work, now the work is hunting me out, the majority of my clients are independent businesses who have a clear vision of what they are about and feel that ethos should extend to their signage as well. Your signage tells your customers what to expect from your store and having a hand painted sign tells them you care about quality, it’s as simple as that. I’ve done work for multi-million pound apartments to small independent pop-ups and the one thing they’ve all had in common is an appreciation of quality, craft and heritage. I think there is a real resurgence in the scene with a lot of people having a go and that’s nothing but a good thing. It’s harder these days as there are no real courses or apprenticeships available but if you really want to learn and are passionate about the craft you’ll find a way.
There are a huge number of techniques that go in to traditional sign writing not just lettering but brushwork, gilding, etching etc; what has been the most rewarding to learn? Totally, there’s a vast amount of skills that fall into the bracket “sign painting”, I love all aspects of the trade but for me gilding is what really excites me. The first time I had a play around with gold leaf I knew that’s where I wanted to specialise. It’s a skill that encompasses most aspects of sign painting; there are loads of processes and variables to get right so it’s forced me to learn a lot of focus and patience. Once you’ve got it right the results are stunning and the possibilities are endless, as well as all the different types of leaf you can also add mother of pearl, abalone, cut glass edges and a whole host of other aspects to keep pushing yourself and the craft further. What are working on at the moment? Any interesting projects coming up? There’s plenty on the horizon for Seven9Signs in 2016. The sign shop is as busy as ever working with lots of new and established independent businesses. We’re really lucky to have the sign shop in a complex full of other creative companies and are working on a clothing collaboration with our stable mates DarkCircle, they have a great ethos and are doing some big things so it’s a real honor to get to work along side them on this. We are also working on an experimental project with our other stable mates Dirty Heard, they’re a highly skilled screen printing company with years of experience and well worth checking out if you have any screen printing requirements.
Words: Ben Evans
A brief history of the art crime The world of train painting is a complex and strange one, a legendary world within worlds whose core practices and atmosphere are known only to those indoctrinated within the culture it has spawned. Despite graffiti’s visual aesthetic reaching widespread mainstream appropriation and appearing on everything from handbags, TV show backdrops and…. leggings, this acclaimed apex of what was previously ‘outsider art’ formed the foundation to an artform that has slowly but surely taken over the world since it’s relatively humble ‘beginnings’ in what is widely believed to be the early 70s. Whilst we can trace two distinct tangents of train writing in that of the historic marking of freights with chalk to depict their carriage weight or departure time and the subsequent artistic takes that came from it or of the modern, Bronx public transport evolved strain – it is certainly the latter that has found its permanent place within postwar modern art movements, and the one whom I’ll be providing a brief subjective analysis of. As with documenting the history of any subculture, I recognise that citing an objective history is always going to be tricky and would implore readers to do their own research.
A young “short Greek-American” kid whose marker scrawled moniker of TAKI 183 is largely attributed with the beginning of what has become to be known as graffiti today (‘TAKI’ being a shortening of ‘Demetaki’, a Greek alternative to his birth name of Demetrius). Working as a courier in New York City TAKI would write his nickname on surfaces he came across – including trains - his bold and legible output more akin to commonplace childish statements and messages than the elaborate and calligraphic markings we know of graffiti writers today. However, it wasn’t until he was spurred to unsuspecting stardom after an article covering his work appeared in the NY Times in 1971 entitled “Taki 183 Spawns Pen Pals” that his work became the true catalyst for others that it had been slowly been inspiring before. Away from any political or vengeful motive for this actions, Taki 183 stated recently, when recounting his past actions that the origin for his actions, were infact that “because there was nothing else to do, and it was easy to do it. We were just killing time.” and mirroring the tactics of the election posters and stickers he had seen across New York in 1970 and Julio 204 – a little known predecessor to Taki. From 1983 to 1984 two materials were released that would indelibly change the history of modern graffiti forever with Henry Chalfant & Martha Cooper co-releasing what are now considered dual bibles of the art form with documentary ‘Style Wars’ and book ‘Subway Art’ – (both being still widely available and as revered as they were on their release). Within these early 80’s formative years train painting over wall work was the method for the message of graffiti, birthing the process of creative letterplay known as ‘Wild Style’ along with a host of other subcultural lexicon and characteristics. There the tradition of train painting being sacrosanct to graffiti became entrenched. The book and film showed pioneers such as Dondi, Seen, Lee and Skeme creating pieces, styles and productions on trains whose influence to letterform development cannot be understated whilst the world would become enamored with Kase 2’s inspiring determination and colourful language. Futura 2000 took it a step further and removed these forms back to pure abstraction, producing his legendary abstract whole car, his work would later find residence under an archway in London on a brief visit to the capital.
In England, these years of ’82 – ’87 saw pioneers such as The Chrome Angelz crew (led by Zaki Dee), Krash 151, Kis 42 and Set 3 begin their explorations on the rail network in London and bring a new flavour the country. The early work of Set 3, Kis 42, Coma and Tilt in ’85 being some of the first to run on the big Metropolitan line producing simple designs similar to those found before Wild Style emerged. ’86 saw Kast, Cazbee and Mise rocked some serious all colour burners on tubes and Drax met Robbo, forming a friendship with a writer who would go down in history as one of the greatest. Just as the stylistic traditions of modern American graffiti were created due to constraints of painting on trains, so too was what has come to be termed ‘London style’. With the now legendary DDS crew being formed in 1991 by Shu2 and Sub One the cities rail network saw the solidification of a style that acts a defining characteristic of the capitals writers worldwide. A far cry from the colourful and ‘flowery’ work of The Chrome Angelz that saw their work appear on The Lenny Henry Show London style is simple, aggressive, predominantly legible and defined by its use of chrome and black paint, being epitomized by writers like Diet, Teach, Fume and the unmistakable Zomby. During 1991, Paris saw the release of a book that Sowat DMV cites as as influential to Parisian artists of that generation as Subway Art was – ‘Paris Tonkar’. Collecting the development of graffiti in the French capital between 1987 and 1991 it provides an insight into the beginnings of what is now hailed as one of the most innovative and progressive scenes on the planet. Styles on the Metro during this time were reminiscent of Subway Art-era pioneers with DEA and STEM popping up respectively throughout the Metro sections alongside worked from TCA member MODE 2 whilst Nasty continually changed up names.
However, the dark side of an art form, which by tradition, has used and grown from transgressive methods has meant heavy handing sentencing and public cases continue to be the revenge the system takes. The very public case of UK crew DPM in which Vamp and Neas were given jail time and the 27-month stretch handed to TOX in 2011 being two lengthy reminders that our world does not go unpunished, however beautifully separate we may imagine our actions are.
Despite this contemporary style train writing still stays true to its roots with mainland Europe having a huge and desirable scene where train writing still plays a huge part in the culture. This repetition does not mean stagnation though, with German ‘duo’ Taps & Moses (primarily known for their work on trains) now developing a distinct contemporary practice more suited to the art world than graffiti, where obstructive installations within carriages (‘The Wall’) play on the intrusive
and antagonistic attitudes that graffiti thrives on. This playfulness and willingness to push traditional conceptual boundaries is matched in Paris’ famous PAL crew and the bizarre work of Swiss-Solvenian artist duo Veli and Amos who – unable to find a parallel to what has pictured in ‘Style Wars’ in their rural city of Maribor, simply wholeheartedly recreated them with whatever materials they had to hand – including local trains. This culminating in the release of ‘Style Wars 2’, a self funded, entirely unofficial sequel. Waiting patiently on your platform amidst the daily grind remember that someone, somewhere see’s these mechanical behemoths and the environment around them as opportunities, possibilities un-ending into an existence so full with colour, vibrancy and danger that no prison can hold it. Join in.
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BabMag is a lifestyle and culture magazine produced by local creatives providing a unique platform to champion local talent, document subcul...
Published on Mar 1, 2016
BabMag is a lifestyle and culture magazine produced by local creatives providing a unique platform to champion local talent, document subcul...