An evening with Tim Lawrence

In the December of 2008 I sent an email to a contact I was meeting at work to let him know that I wasn't going to be able to make the meeting we had both set on a Thursday afternoon as I was booking annual leave. He replied with the same response advising that it was OK as he needed to book leave that day too. We cancelled, and rearranged with no further thought afterwards. That same Thursday morning I got on a flight to Berlin and through a strange set of circumstances, I was sat next to the person I had cancelled the meeting with. He looked at me, I looked at him and we both responded with the usual cliches of it being a bit odd and how small the world was. 

Stranger still, we were both heading to Berlin for a weekend of partying and there was joint agreement of making plans for him, our friends and I to head to the Watergate and Berghain club. As we flew to Germany he introduced me to a book he was reading, it was ‘Love Saves The Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970-1979’ and how he had also been heading to The Lucky Cloud Sound System parties in London to hear David Mancuso play music. He was deeply evangelical about the quality of music selections, the parties and how the sound through the Klipschorn speaker system at Lucky Cloud was the best he had ever heard. I was interested in his stories but admittedly more so caught up at the time in the bass and kick drums of House and Techno music of that period.

I had been familiarised to David Mancuso through reading Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton's Last Night a DJ Saved My Life where I had been captivated by the stories of The Loft in NYC and how Mancuso had sort and found what seemed to be a true immersive dance floor experience through his dedicated efforts in working tirelessly to construct gatherings of people who found themselves collected through music, togetherness and dancing. 

I got back to Birmingham after that weekend and purchased Love Saves The Day due to the recommendation and in doing so fell quickly into a Pandora's box type novel of nocturnal musical journeys through DJ's, dancers, outsiders, believers, night freaks and forward thinkers. Tim set out shop and provided a detailed examination of the era by weaving these moments in time through providing accounts, analysis, photos and interviews including lengthy discographies of how this culture had become Disco amongst other things.

Ten years later, last year whilst scanning social media, I noticed Tim was doing a book tour for his book 'Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 1980-83' which was his sequel to Love Saves The Day. I innocently asked him if he was interested in coming to Birmingham after noticing that he had been in Glasgow talking about the book. Tim kindly came back to me and said that he was keen to come to Birmingham and offer the same talk on his books which also includes his official biography of Arthur Russell - 'Hold On to Your Dreams: Arthur Russell and the Downtown Music Scene, 1973-92'.  For all of it's hindrances with social media, the ease of contacting someone had been very useful and thus the below evening was born: 

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Through hearing about about a book on a flight to Berlin it is incredible how things just work out. So, with the support of my friend Steve Thornton and our friends at Cafe Artum, next week we shall be hosting an evening with Tim Lawrence where he will come to Birmingham to talk about his books and again weave his stories and research together.

The evening will be licensed for drinks, Local DJ and personal favourite DJ Rob J will also be sharing the brilliant music from this period of time.

Anyone passing through Birmingham that weekend or coming in through the city, do come to Cafe Artum on the 28th. It’ll be great to see everyone there.


Drifting Boogie in August

The third Drifting Boogie will be happening on August the 26th at The Ruin. This time Christy Lakeman from Cafe Artum will be coming to the DB party to share his own music. Christy has a wide and beautiful taste in music and has now set up a brilliant culture space and cafe/record store in Birmingham. On the day he will be sharing his love of deep and immersive cosmic, disco, boogie, psychedelic, house and soul, it's going to be a good one I feel. Weather permitting it will be outside in the courtyard from the afternoon into the evening. There will be the usual garden lights, places to kick back, places to dance and a welcoming atmosphere. Kids can come till 7. All are welcome. 

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Also, Drifting Boogie heads to The Lord Clifden for an early evening till late session with top mukka Steve Thornton on the evening of August the 10th. It's been a busy Summer of music at the pub with the likes of Dean 'Sunshine' Smith, Sean Taylor, Lee McBride and others playing throughout the weekend, I am looking forward to playing some music in the back garden. 

Let's get together soon. 


Getting to know The Devil's Jukebox

We can all appreciate the design for club nights, parties and social gatherings; Peter Saville for the Hacienda and the bags of flyers you would get at 6am outside of a night club which were then stuffed into your sweating hands and destined for roach cards, fast chats on the sofa and plans for next week, if you have the cash. The good ones, if they looked cool enough, sometimes went on the wall at home, destined to be stock artefacts for going out. Good flyer and poster design usually doesn't have the moody shot of the DJ looking to the left or right of the frame. Aesthetically, it's fairly boring and although the hook of the DJ is to catch attention, the posters remain redundant afterwards, fading on shutters and empty shop windows slowly melting into the other promotional hopes and dreams in a city. 

The Devil's Jukebox in Manchester are doing things differently. Not just with their design work, albeit that is what first caught my attention (which I guess is the point) but by providing nights of musical soundtracks of deep digging delights by hosting top class music selectors local to the city of Manchester, but also further afield. Each Devil's Jukebox session, residents Chris Maude and Fritz Lake put together a home-made zine with charts from the guest DJ but also words and art work that tell stories about their guests and the time of the year they arrive to play their music, it's seasonal but not in the Waitrose kind of way.

Both Fritz and I got talking on social media a few months back where I was again providing respect to their next flyer design. I thought as a result it would be great to have them on Half-Lights to shoot the breeze and talk about music, design, charts and how they run their night.

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I thought I'd open up the interview with asking you to talk about the start of The Devil's Jukebox. Why did you decide to start a night of your own?

FL - Well, I was doing a gig at The Ladybarn, about thirteen years ago and I couldn’t commit to every Saturday as I was playing a club night in town  called Funkademia  - I knew Chris, and he wasn’t a DJ but he had some nice tunes and it was an excuse to have a night out with him every now and then and spin some old 7”, hence the name, The Devil’s Jukebox.

CM - I’d not long had a kid and I’d disappeared from Manchester night life so Fritz called me up to ensure that I had a couple of nights a month out at least! And the rest is history.

For a new visitor, how would you describe the party?

FL - Organic! 

CM - Come with an open mind and you’re right, organic, it will be rare to hear a drum machine at The Jukebox. 

FL - Everyone starts really slow and it just builds up through the night. 

CM - We start by getting the heads nodding, the shoulders shuffling, the feet a’tappin’ until the body’s moving… 

FL - And then we’re all dancin’ ‘til the end!

Going further back now, where did music start for you both?

CM - Singing Roy Orbison numbers on a beach in Wales with a tennis racket guitar. 

FL -  “Love Will Tear Us Apart” - Joy Division.

Some of the music you are sharing online and through the tracklists you put up ranges from soft rock, country, blues, soul, funk and jazz but a lot of it is well away from the more well known routes - is this something that you purposefully do?

FL - We’re just two devils who spend the whole, long day diggin’ deep in our mine down in Old Ohoopee River Bottomland, searching for the black gold. We both just love finding things as we jump down the rabbit hole… like the whole Muscle Shoals rhythm section - those guys and all that they played on - that took a whole heap o’ time, digging, just there!

CM - There are a whole load of DJs out there playing the same songs and we wanted a point of difference. Our guests and regulars at The Jukebox are all music lovers and collectors and we’re here to share the love.

I can imagine you both know each others record collections quite well, when you play out together is it off the cuff?

FL - No, we really plan it out. We spend each and every month talking it through - what we’re packing, what we’ve bought, where our heads are at - we’re really seasonal and the mix and the guest always reflect the season: more moody and contemplative in autumn, more sunkissed and starry in summer. I track my mix - slow to funky - and pack my bag first to last track; Chris orders his bag with tempo and styles in mind - we plan in threes and nines. 

CM - Working as a pair, it creates that little bit of competition and pushes us both to keep exploring new sounds to add to the night which is what moves The Jukebox forward, really.

You dip in and out of genres - is there any particular labels, or artists that you buy on sight? 

CM - No. 

FL - Only the ‘Home Grown’ series from San Diego’s KGB radio station. Oh, and Margie Joseph when she was on Atlantic. 

Buying records can be overwhelming at times in record stores. I sometimes enter a store and I am limited on time and money. What do you do to make sure you are finding the music you are looking for? 

CM - We always keep a look-out for the different players on an album and if I hear a great track on the internet or at another night - I’ll sneak a photo and create a list. 

FL - Great big long lists are your friend and salvation in most music emporia!

Going onto The Devil's Jukebox now, your aesthetic in your flyer designs, for me, is massively impressive. Tell us a little about the creative process with your design and the posters you make?

FL - Over to Chris… 

CM - Just like the guests each month and the record choices, the images and colours are also quite seasonal: from found images to photos taken by myself and friends, and, on occasion, from day-time doodles. My brain is already converting each image into colour blocks and clean lines. Due to lack of ICT skills, I decided I’d be best using ancient skills and technology [scalpel, scissors and card] to create our posters. 

FL - We also complete each poster by positioning logos, dates and guests in the hope that each one might be mistaken for a cool European, second hand and forgotten paperback.

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I particularly liked the designs you did for Ole Smokey and Jason Boardman - why did you decide to use these images?

CM - The Jason Boardman one came from a photo I took and it suited the time of year, end of summer and the coming of autumn… and it suited Jason’s music. The Ole Smokey one is a rooftop scene from a town in Italy. A friend of mine, on holiday, took it and when I saw it, I asked could I turn it into a piece. The original papercut hangs in her home in France as a thank you.

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Alongside the posters are your individual zines for each night, why did you decide to start a zine?

FL - Well, this is wrapped in a whole load of stuff. One, we never thought we would be ever big enough a night to warrant a flyer. It was like, we’re not ‘Aficionado’, we can’t have a flyer. Two, I love writing and had done a few little ‘zines over the years [Manchester, early nineties and there was loads of little fanzines flying around and I wrote for quite a few of them, including the early Electrik ‘zine]. Three, it’s The Jukebox ethic - it’s all organic - there’s an image by Chris, words by me and a chart from the DJs - each month, every time, for nearly ten years, now. 

CM - That’s why it works. Fritz’ words and me on pictures. Teamwork!

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What guests have been highlights for you, any stories that are particularly memorable ? 

CM - Too many. 

FL - We’ve asked each and every one to come and play just at the time we think they’ll enjoy it the most and when we think their style and sounds will just go off with the crowd. 

CM - It’s a real honour having so many DJs we used to go out and dance to, playing The Devil’s Jukebox. Jason Boardman. Moonboots. James Holroyd. Neil Diablo. Woody. Martin Brew. Martin Moscrop. Rob Bright. Nick Acid Tree [the first person to have me playing records out at Harter St. Lounge]. 

FL - Each guest gets ten songs in the chart and gets to play an hour set of their choice, and then we devils get our payback. It says something about the character of each of our guests that, for the last ninety minutes or so, we always go back-to-back with the guests and play ones each until the end. And every single guest, so far, has held their own as honorary devils! It’s back to those ideas of the seasons and who’s the best fit. Each guest fits each month’s Jukebox.

What are you up to for the rest of the year?

FL - Through the summer until autumn we’re doing the now legendary Blackjack Brewtap the last Friday of each month. Playing outside, at a beach bar, outside a brewery, in the post-apocalyptic wasteland of Angel Meadows, just past Manchester’s Northern Quarter. 

CM - We’ve a visit planned to the Outlaws Yacht Club, Leeds, in the autumn, to play Andy Pye’s Balearic Social. 

FL - We’ll be tormenting David Pickering on his [award winning] One Million Sunsets show on Manchester’s Reform Radio, over the summer and for the rest of the year. 

CM - I still have my residency at Refuge [third Saturday 3pm, before The Jukebox] and I will be playing in the bar at Lunar festival, again, at the end of the month. 

FL- ......and The Devil’s Jukebox, every third Saturday at Dulcimer, Chorlton-cum-Hardy. We’ve got Nick Acid Tree and ACR’s Martin Moscrop lined up over the next few months.

Any recent books, music, films that you would recommend people checking out? 

FL - Any recommends, Chris? 

CM - Naah! 

FL Chris, tell the kids to all watch “Big Wednesday” and read “Boy Wonder”. It is summer, after all! 

CM - What he said. 

The Devil’s Jukebox 'absolute all time heart breakers' Half Lights Chart

  • No Lie - John Makin & Friends
  • O Galho Da Roseira (The Branches of the Rose) - Airto Moreira
  • Sylvia - Arthur Verocai
  • Aqua Marine - Santana
  • Zajedno Srećni - Boban Petrović
  • My Boss - Linda Di Franco
  • Pusti Neka Stvari Teku Svojim Tokom - Sladana Miloševic
  • Black Sheep - Jan Hammer
  • Prljavi Jezek - Avtomobili
  • Jesus Christo - Claudia
  • Look Our Love Over - Tim Hardin
  • Here To Stay - Boz Scaggs
  • For You (I’d Undo Anything) - Dave Plaehn
  • Fool In Line - Starbuck
  • Give Me The Sunshine - Leo’s Sunshipp 
  • Golden Ring - American Gypsy
  • Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love - Odyssey
  • Birth Is Love - James McKenzie
  • Who’s The Captain Of Your Ship Of Dreams - Marlin Greene
  • Thunder In The Afternoon - Bobbie Gentry
  • Time For Love - Barrabas
  • Sun Down - Lani Hall
  • So Close To You - Arthur
  • Sing To Me - Ned Doheny
  • Tell Me - April Fulladosa
  • You Can’t Turn Me Away - Sylvia Striplin
  • It’s Your Love - Ethel Beatty
  • Sweet Power Your Embrace - James Mason
  • Life On Mars - Dexter Wansel
  • Mountain Range - The Ozark Mountain Daredevils 

The Devils Jukebox Facebook is regularly updated and worth following/liking. Chris and Fritz also went on previous Half-Lights guest Dave Pickering's brilliant One Million Sunsets radio show on Reform Radio. 

Big up's to Chris and Fritz for the interview and sharing their world, it was a pleasure to have them on. 

Bjørn Torske - First Movement

Welcome back Bjørn Torske. Back in the groove of making far out percussive workouts with his new album 'Byen'. The album opens with 'First Movement' a track that has the ghost of Ray Manzarek's keys drift over loose drum patterns that open up to spiritual ambient jazz synth washes, crashing waves and seagulls.

I see Timothy Leary, who would have played this music at the Californian School of Medicine guiding his students through the doors of perception, into their own personal first movements and groovin' into their own happy beyond. 

Byen is available to purchase now via Bandcamp and all the usual download stores.