While I was back in the cradle of civilization (i.e. London) this summer, I ventured over to the east of the city one evening on the advice of a friend to check out what seemed to be a nascent local DIY electronics scene occurring over there. The location for observation was Power Lunches, a former cafe in Dalston that housed a fairly makeshift concert space in the basement below.
Despite Power Lunches looking like a bomb had hit it repeatedly in the face, the place had a nice crumpled charm to it. They only sold cans at 3 quid a pop, while the shelves were full of vinyl for the DJs to play whatever they wanted. The reason for being there was to attend inaugural club night of new DIY label of KIT RECORDS. Titled Kit club, it was the latest offshoot in a growing venture that included a radio show on London’s NTS radio, a printed local zine, online mixes, as well a record label.
Although there were some first night nerves, the night itself went down really well. I ended up speaking to pretty much who’s who in this local scene. As well as seeing such acts as oMMM (Who bizarrely has played in Iceland before, back in 2008. Mundi – He wants his synths back!) and Alien Jams, I also got to meet my old friend Jonny (Mugwump, he of Exotic Pylon records), as well a catch some time with the likes of Anthony Chalmers (Promoter to power Lunches, Robot Elephant Records honcho, and was also DJ’ing there) and one of the guys who runs Dramatic Records, I also managed to spend some time speaking the two fine peeps who run Kit Records, Richard Greenan and Sarah Jones. They were more than accommodating to this lumpen out-of-towner who found himself repeatedly knocking things over and getting stuck in the incredibly tiny seated booths upstairs.
When I eventually got back to Iceland, I decided to get in touch with Richard and Sarah to ask them a few questions to find out a bit more about what it is that they’re getting up to over at KIT…..
So to start off, we should probably back from when I met you both in London, to the beginning. Tell us a bit about yourselves as sentient humans. What are your backgrounds, and how did you both first meet up?
Sarah: We both grew up in seaside towns of varying decrepitude on the south coast. We went to different universities but we’d bump into each other now and then as we shared the same group of friends – hanging out in pubs, house parties or at not-very-good Art College exhibitions. We didn’t really speak much – though I did once congratulate Richard on a DJ set he was doing at a party, so clearly our shared musical taste was apparent even then.
Things got more interesting when the dust settled in everyone’s lives after uni and we all found ourselves living in London. We’d all meet to have dinner at Richard’s amazing condemned Brutalist ’70s housing estate in Whitechapel. And he and I found that we had loads in common. The rest, as they say, is like the ending of Jurassic Park – helicoptering madly away from a terrible island awash with dinosaurs.
After you two get together, somewhere along the road the idea of KIT comes to life. Where did the idea of KIT come from? What came first. the radio show, or the record label?
Sarah: Well, then the time came for us to move down to Brighton. We lived in a little top floor flat, you could see the sea from the window. It was a pretty bleak winter, the kind in which seaside towns become particularly redundant. But we were always coming up with ideas, playing records, and reading about music. It was like a glowing jewel in this salty, cold landscape. We realised that, despite Brighton being a cultural melting pot, we tried, and to an extent failed, to find a proper music scene. I mean, there are bits and bobs, sure – but nothing really that dedicated or conspicuous, just loads of BIMM students and half-arsed anarchist noise-bands.
I’d been to uni in Edinburgh and got to know, and be inspired by, Fence Records, who created a cult following in a quite remote corner of Scotland. We realised that we wanted to do the same thing in Sussex – to bring creative people together, have an aesthetic, and put on all-day gigs, release music, form a community. And to write about music. We know there are a million and one music websites on the Internet, but we wanted ours to quietly give our perspective. It’s not all-singing, all-dancing, or obnoxious – it’s simple, well designed and interesting (we think).
I’m a drummer and that had a bearing on the naming of Kit. Also we felt we were putting something together, building it, which is what a kit is for. And it’s easy to spell, easy to say, and neat as a pin so it fits well.
Ric has been doing his radio show since well before we became a couple, so that’s been a constant. I brought my plans to the table, plans I’d had for many years, to create a music and art project, with a community and live music aspect to it. We moved back to London for work reasons, and that’s ended up being a massive boost for Kit. We’ve realised that London is a great equaliser – people have arrived here from all over the place, so it’s a good place to start for us.
And for that matter what is the main ethos/aesthetic behind KIT? Is there a plan behind the show/label/zine/club night or has it been a case of taking advantage of opportunities when they arise?
Sarah: I’m a freelance illustrator and I usually work with ink, and that goes into the Kit ‘look’. Richard’s got a great visual style too, he could be an art director, he sources images and puts them together really well. We don’t take it too seriously, but we do want to make it interesting and meaningful.
We’ve been given the great good fortune of getting to know Anthony Chalmers through NTS, and he’s the promoter for Power Lunches, in Dalston, so we hold Kit Club there. It’s been a really great venue – there’s an upstairs, for hanging out and drinking, and a downstairs, for watching live music and sweating away 57% of your body weight. It works well.
The zine is a collation of our favourite interviews and articles since the last Kit Club – there have been some corkers. For example, there’s an Ethiopian nun who has spent a lifetime making music and has never written it down. This nun lives an austere existence in Tel Aviv but has an incredible inner life, full of music. We interviewed the lady who’s transposing it for her – a complete labour of love. That went into the zine. But that’ll be next to an article about a tape label we discovered during a weekend in Galway, or a mix from one of our favourite artists. Next time there’s going to be a comic strip by the genius Matt Layzell. No two pages are the same!
One thing I noticed when I attended the first KIT CLUB back in June was that there seemed to be some sense of a “community” or scene among the people that were there, people who were interested in creating and curating small DIY music labels and producing interesting . Is there actually such a community or was I just imagining it? If there is a concerted scene going on, can you give us a short primer on what is going on in terms of labels/artists/venues, etc.
Sarah: Thanks, that means a lot to us. We’ve been continuously surprised and delighted by the warmth of the people we’ve met through Kit Club. People have kept coming back, too. We think it’s because we ask interesting, offbeat musicians to come and play, and this inevitably leads to learning things from them, making friends, and quite often getting a bit wankered. It’s easy to make friends with these kinds of people. People are good, really. It’s certainly not a concerted scene – It´s all still nebulous and new. But some people are in scenes already, across London and the UK, so we’ve dipped our toes in a few of them. There’s so much creativity out there, and you learn about it by getting to know people. Simple.
You’re in the process of releasing your first record, an album by a mysterious person known only as THE NAGS HEAD. Can you shed some light on this person and why they decided to name themselves after the pub in Only Fools And Horses?
Sarah: The Nag’s Head is something of a mystery. He creates amazing beats obscured amongst found sounds; joyous dancing rhythms swathed in the melancholia of crisp packets on the Isle of Dogs. He lives in Brighton, but we can’t tell you more than that. You really have to listen his music, to discover and re-discover things within it. He’s very nice, too. We became a bit obsessed with his album, Live from Concrete Island, and we think that tape is the right way to present it to one’s ears. Actually, when the tape first came back from the factory, we took turns to listen to it via a walkman. It was amazing. After years of MP3s and YouTube, tape sounds like nothing else. Really rich and full. Like a good Sunday roast. Ears need a Sunday roast now and then, not just endless bags of popcorn.
So now things are starting to take off a bit with KIT. What is on the horizons for yourselves in the near future? More releases? Bigger and better nights? What are your ambitions?
We want to take things on the road, to meet more people, to keep the quality of Kit Club at a reliable and fascinating standard. Eventually we hope to put on all-day gigs. We’ll release more tapes, eventually we’ll move on to Vinyl LPs, which is surely the best way to listen to music. Richard is writing away all the time, and sourcing new acts for Kit Club. I’ve started playing live as Synaesthete, and I’m working on an EP. In fact, as I write this, I’ve just given up my soul-sucking desk job in order to focus on being creative. Right now, we don’t want to be weighed down by an agenda. We just want to try our best and have fun, natural fun.
Can you tell us a little bit more about your band Synaesthete. I take it from the name that you are ale to see sounds or words as colours, is that correct? and with regards to playing, how have the live experiences been so far, and how has the reception been for you?
I do have synaesthesia. I see numbers and letters in colour in my head. I named my musical project after it because I like the idea of combining two experiences, or skills – as a singer as well as a drummer; as a musician as well as an illustrator.
I’ve only played one gig – Kit Club 2! – so it’s still in its early days. I’ve got a background of being in bands, but this is a solo project. It’s all about rhythm and vocals, so i use two tom drums, and a 606 drum machine, drum sampler pad, a loop pedal, and a vocal pedal. I build up the rhythm piece by piece, then sing over it, loop my singing, and add things to the mix – plus, there are melodies and basslines. I’m going to be recording soon so I’ll keep you posted! It went really well live, I got some lovely support. I can’t wait to play live again.
Thanks for that Sarah! But wait! That’s not the end for as well as gracing us with their words, Richard has gone and put together a special mixtape for Reykjavik Sex Farm for your listening pleasure. This is what he tell us about the mix itself….
“The mix contains songs from B£AMS and Sebastian Palomar, who will both be performing at Kit Club 3 on Sept 7. B£AMS will also form half of Kit Rec 002, a vinyl split with mysterious doctor / sonic explorer TESLA (also featured on the mix).”
If you this mix to your liking, then you can download an mp3 copy HERE. For more information about upcoming releases from The Nags Head, B£AMS, and TESLA, or to read interviews and features, or to hear more mixes and broadcasts on NTS, then head on over to kitrecords.com
Dur Dur Band – Intro
Vicki Sue Robinson – Turn the Beat Around
John Holt – Ali Baba
B£AMS – Peep East
The Nag’s Head – Jumbo Mixed Grill
TESLA – She’s Deep Seated / Luxsic
Sebastian Palomar – Benefits Escapological
Orange Juice – Rip it Up
The Honeycombs – Have I the Right
Unknown – Glass Bowl Music
Moondog – Pastoral
Unknown- If You Want to Sing Out
Kate Bush – This Woman’s Work