A veteran of all things mellow, David Pickering is well disciplined in the art of playing music. Having been involved at a range of nights across the UK and further afield, it is a great pleasure to have him be part of the Half-Lights mix series. David has a deep appreciation of chill-music where he illustrates this passion through his bi-monthly One Million Sunsets radio show on Manchester's Reform Radio. Listeners can hear world music, ambient, jazz, balearic and obscurities blended with care, love and attention. We chatted about where his interests came from, Manchester, Twin Peaks, records, what he is up to at the moment and his love of radio.
- Bugge Wesseltoft - Locked out of heaven
- Angelo Badalamenti - Heartbreaking
- Chris Coco - Something Everything
- Alice Coltrane - Om Shanti
- The Swan and the Lake - Soft Brainfreeze (Ambient mix)
- Nordso and Theill - Good Morning
- Troels Hammer - Sunrise at Beira Beach
- Gaussian Curve - Four for you
- Blank and Jones - Glow
- Tommy Awards - Ursa Minor
- Ruf Dug - Mangrove Dub (Tropical Hi-Fi Mangrove City Version)
Firstly, what you have been up to lately?
I've spent what seems like a month celebrating my 50th birthday which probably hit peak with a trip to Ibiza to see Primal Scream play live. I have also just started providing a monthly mix for Music for Dreams Radio in Denmark so I've been working on stuff for that. Along with trying to work out and understand the new series of Twin Peaks.
You broadly label yourself as an ambient/chill out DJ, how does this sit with you? Does it feel restrictive or are you comfortable with that label?
I don't actually label myself as anything, it's for other people to put labels on you. Yes, I do find all labels restrictive. I play everything across the board from New Age to Jazz to House but I suppose I've become mainly known for the radio show which is downtempo in the main.
Having listened in to your shows, I am always struck with how different your approach to playing music is. Your style of music is really dream like at times. How do you source music like this and how does it attract your attention when searching for it ?
A lot of the music that I play on the show reflects the amount of time I spend daydreaming and half asleep lost in my own little world. These are the sounds I hear when drifting in and out of consciousness, my mixes are for daydreaming and sleeping to. I source the music I play by spending far too long listening to bad records to find the good 1 in 100 that fits the mood. Also, YouTube and Spotify wormholes, listening to other radio shows and DJ mixes and then going off exploring the artists that they have played that I'm unaware of. What attracts my attention? Usually something that I am unaware of others playing. As is the way today, most people are aware of the big new releases and any DJ with half an ear will pick up on them, don't get me wrong I will still play some but I have tried to go one step further and find the less obvious but equally good sounds.
Are you a more of a Discogs/online purchaser or do you still go to record stores?
Both, I've started to use Bandcamp a lot now as well. Record shop wise - Piccadilly Records, Vinyl Exchange, Vinyl Resting Place and King Bee in Manchester along with all the charity shops. Online I will source stuff from Juno, Mr Bongo, Love Vinyl and from Ed Davies at Disque 72.
You're well associated with being a Manchester DJ, old and new - how has the city made an impression on you throughout the years ?
I've lived here for 18 years now and its made a massive impression. The sheer variety of music available to listen, watch and dance to is unbelievable. I'd never been a DJ before until moving to Manchester and despite hailing from Liverpool I've never actually played out there. A lot of people actually assume that I am from Manchester until they meet me and hear me speak.
Having played at Spiritland, can you tell us what was the gig like?
I'm back there again on Sunday 8th october for the third time, it's an amazing place to play as they like to keep the music at decent levels so you can actually hear whats being played. The sound, as most people are aware is crystal clear, picking out many parts in many records that I never knew existed. I treat it as a challenge by refusing to play the same records twice, so that each time I play it is 5 hours of stuff that I have not before played there. I also listen to a lot of the live mixes that they put on MixCloud so that I don't play things that have already been played many times before.
Where are you DJing at the moment, where do you like to play out ?
I have a monthly Sunday night (2nd Sunday of the month) at Dulcimer in Chorlton from 6 til midnight which starts off quite horizontal but gets progressively livelier as the night goes on. From October I am about to start a monthly saturday nighter (4th Saturday) at the BlackJack Taphouse. I also guest at a few other nights such as Aficionado, Balearic Social, The Devils Jukebox and I am over in Prestwich on Saturday night (30th Sept) at All the Shapes. I also do an irregular double-header in London playing at Merchants Tavern in Shoreditch on the Saturday and then Spiritland on the Sunday afternoon.
Any special gigs come to mind?
Playing in an old Communist underground nuclear bunker in Prague immediately springs to mind. Also playing under the enormous telescopes at this years Bluedot festival was a bit special. Anytime I get asked to play at Aficionado is always a bit special as well, I think I've played at three now.
What labels, radio shows, blogs and producers are doing it for you at the moment ?
Aficionado, Music for Dreams, Growing Bin, Claremont/Leng/Spacetalk, Universal Cave, Is it Balearic?. For the older labels it's ECM, Blue Note, Black Jazz Records, Impulse, all the old Jazz labels in fact. Radio show wise it's Gilles Peterson on 6music, Chris Coco on Melodica, Music for Dreams Radio, Steve Kiw, Jim Lister and Tim Rivers on Brighton FM, Balearic Social Radio of a Sunday morning, New Seeds on MyHouseYourHouse which is a monthly electronica show that I recorded a mix for last month hosted by AMC and the BBC's Test match Special. Im a bit of a radio bore really, it always has and always will be more important to me than TV.
Blog wise its always BanBantonTon, Test Pressing and probably my favourite King Sunny Ade P's old 'Jottings from the Jazz Rig' which morphed into 'One Million Sunsets' upon where I nicked the name for the radio show ! It was brilliant, clever, funny and surreal writing from a top bloke and one of the most interesting characters I have ever met.
Producers and mixers - anything Phil Mison and Carwyn Ellis put their hands to always gets my ears raised. From the classics it probably has to be David Axelrod and Quincy Jones along with the Mizell Brothers.
Running a radio show involves dedication and time - what got you involved in radio ?
Being an only child, I spent a lot of my youth alone listening to the radio and it became my friend when I was home alone. My mum and dad were also massive radio listeners and I suppose it was their influence as well as much as anything. The show is fortnightly and it realistically takes me that long to programme it after to listening to all the records new and old I've bought along with any promos that have been sent my way. I also try not to play anything twice so as the show is nearly 2 years old it's getting longer and longer to organise. Having some brilliant guest mixes and studio guests has certainly eased the burden.
Can you tell us a little about the mix, where it was recorded and what music is on it?
The mix was recorded at home in my music room which can only be described as in a state of looking like Del Boys Lockup. It was recorded live using two Technics turntables and 1 CDJ with no editing at all (as you can probably tell). It includes a couple of forthcoming tracks from the new Bugge Wesseltoft and Chris Coco albums plus a bunch of tracks that I have played a lot during the Summer months. It's fairly laid back, similar in style to the first hour of the radio show and I hope people enjoy it.
Lastly, outside of music, what else are you interested in - films, books, TV shows?
Most of my time outside music is taken up with family time with my wife Lisa , 7-year-old son Elliot and our 2 new kittens Hank and Cooper. Thankfully Elliot is old enough now to appreciate watching football matches so we spend a lot of time doing this and playing FIFA on the Xbox. I've also managed to take him to a couple of games now at Goodison so he is fully indoctrinated in all things Everton now. Twin peaks is a massive part of my cultural life along with all things David Lynch but I am also partial to bingeing on Miami Vice box sets.