MIA’s Previously Caged Diplo-Produced Single “Bird Song” Has Finally Been Freed

M.I.A. (photo via Wikimedia Commons) and Diplo (photo courtesy of artist)

What the people want, the people get. After calling out her label, Interscope, for keeping a Diplo-produced version of her new single “Bird Song”off her upcoming album AIMfrom being released, M.I.A. announced (via Periscope from the label boardroom, no less) that the track’s been cleared and is now live.

Newcomers to Diplo may only know him as half of the Jack masterminds behind the Justin Bieber-featuring pop hit “Where R Now,” but “Bird Song” sees him slip back comfortably into his hip-hop roots, providing a slow-thumping tune chirping with wonky, whistling, birdcall-like accents and crunchy percussion that slinks low to the ground beneath M.I.A’s drone-like, bird-referencing lyrics.

The track is the pair’s first project together since M.I.A.’s 2010 Vicki Leekx mixtape, though perhaps their most famous team-up is M.I.A.’s Grammy-nominated single from 2007, “Paper Planes.” They even dated briefly, and though harsh words were exchanged in the years following, they seem to have made up and clearly can get back into things without missing a beat. Listen below.

AIM is scheduled for released on September 9, and features a Blaqstarr-produced version of “Bird Song” alongside Diplo’s, according to a tracklist posted earlier today by M.I.A. on Instagram. The album also features a collaboration with Diplo’s Jack partner Skrillex, “Go Off.”

I Went To A Rave For British Olympians At A Castle In Rio De Janeiro

The palace at Parque Lage/Photo by the author

The arrival of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro has brought with it something akin to an eviction notice for many parts of the city. More schools, cultural centers, and even landmark historic buildings than I care to count that have stopped their usual activities and given up their spaces for foreign countries to house themselves in during the games. Inside these “official residences,” the main focus isat least according to the official spielthe promotion of each country’s culture to a global audience. As for the kinds of cultural activities you can expect, there’s everything from distinguished beer tastings at Casa Austria to mermaid (huh?) and drag queen pageants at Casa Denmark.

The British, perhaps owing to their attachment to royal castles, made a point of finding a most regal home in Rio de Janeiro: Parque Lage’s palace. Gently set back from the hustle and bustle of the beaches and miles away from the Olympic Park, it’s essentially a castle surrounded by a dense forest. The 19th century Portuguese military figure Rodrigo de Freitas Mello built the postcard-worthy home in 1811, and in the 1920s it was sold by the current owner to industrial magnate Henrique Lage, who remodeled the place as a gift to his wife. Since 1975 the space has hosted Rio’s prestigious School of Visual Arts. Its eclectic yet sober stylemixing Roman columns with dark marble details all aroundmakes it feel like a real life version of the tropical paradise clich that Rio evokes in the international imagination, but with a distinctly English flavor, including a garden designed by a British landscape architect.

Last Sunday, August 14, the so-called “British House” opened its doors to the public for the first time during this year’s Olympic Gamesthough, “opened its doors” may be a slight exaggeration. For the occasiona dance party ostensibly headlined by the floaty drum and bass-inspired sounds of the UK duo Chase & Statusthey decided to let in a select group of outsiders to enjoy the party alongside the British athletes, who are currently second in the Olympic medal table. From what I could glean from the crowd there, the guest list consisted primarily of people who either had at least some kind of contact with someone on the inside, worked for the government, or were merely deemed important enough. Although I didn’t really fit any of these categories, I managed to secure an invitation through a Brazilian friend of mine.

I arrived around 8 PM, and any hope of a smooth entrance was swiftly foiled by a long and slowly moving queue. In Rio, a big smile and an enthusiastic handshake is usually all it takes to gain entrance to an event like this, but the English had decided to ID and photograph every single guestwhich seemed a very British take on the usually highly informal “carioca” (a local term for Rio-born people) party scene. Once inside, I saw no sign of the art school that usually occupies the space. For the duration of the Games, the institution has had to up and move to some far-removed corner of the city, though I imagine they will benefit from the exorbitant sums of money that the British government is rumored to be paying to rent the space.

A classroom turned tennis viewing room/Photo by the author

The British had also very clearly spent some additional money upgrading their surroundings. The house’s natural stone swimming pool, a popular destination for tourists in Rio, was turned into a dancefloor with a large pane of glass and illuminated with LED lighting. The classrooms had been transformed into TV rooms, fitted out with giant screens and monitors showing all the Olympic competitions in real time. Bars offering every type of alcohol imaginable have been set up in each corner of the building. At the door, English women warned guests to exercise caution during the undoubtedly wild night ahead: “Don’t forget to drink water, otherwise you can get really dizzy because of the heat.”

Inside the main hall, about 90 percent of those present seemed to be whispering nervously amongst themselves, wondering where the awe-inspiring Team GB was, as if waiting for a Hollywood starlet at a film premiere. “They’re stuck in traffic,” one of the organizers explained to me. No surprise there for a carioca like myselftraffic in Rio has never been worse than over the past few weeks, thanks to the insane regulations required by the games and put in place by the wildly unpopular mayor, Eduardo Paes.

A seemingly random set of house and pop music was emanating from the sound systema pleasant enough soundtrack for the early arrivers to begin getting a little tipsy. Suddenly, a communal sigh of relief swept over the room, leaving no doubt that the athletes had entered the castle. They’d stepped off a couple buses that had brought them here from the other side of the city, their faces stamped with grins that seemed to ask, “Is this where the party’s at?” One question of universal interest that has arisen over the course of these Olympic games concerns the party habits of the athletes, who hold a mythical status in the public imagination. Is it acceptable for them to get blind drunk and dance till dawn during an international competition of this ilk?

The assembled revelers/Photo by Nina Pennick.

I decided to walk up to one of them and ask for myself. “Forget that notion,” said Louis Smith, silver medalist in gymnastics’ pommel horse competition. “I’m done, so I can party. I try to prepare for 4 to 6 weeks before a competition, but when it’s done I can do whatever I want.” No one appeared particularly ashamed when faced by the curious gazes that were doing the rounds of the party. Eight-time Olympic medal winner, cyclist Sir Bradley Wiggins, seemed completely at ease sporting metallic lens sunglasses and enjoying the night like there was no tomorrow, interspersing his dance moves with fan-appeasing selfies.

Around 11 PM, Will Kennard of Chase & Status emerged from the room the Brits had labeled as “VVIP” to mingle at what seemed to be the athletes’ bar of choice, hidden in one of the remoter corners of the mansion. Will, however, was lost in a sea of selfie requests coming thick and fast from both the athletes and the local invitees. Sophie Hall, Will’s wife and manager of MTA Records (the label founded by the group back in 2009), told me that Saul Milton”Chase” in the duowas not actually here, but off in some corner of Europe doing another show.

Will Kennard takes the stage/Photo by Nina Pennick

All it took was for the producer to step onto the stage at the far end of the swimming pool for the real craziness to set in. Some of the athleteswho until that point had been sticking to the tamer drinksbegan to knock back shots of vodka and cachaa (Brazil’s most popular spirit, a liquor distilled from fermented sugarcane) liberally distributed by the bartenders. By this time, there was no shadow of a doubt that we were in for a party. Chase & Status’ mannered sound might have seemed too bass-heavy for the Cariocas to get excited yet, but it was bumping enough for the athletes to be able to let go of all their pent-up tension from months of unrelenting training and competition.

But it wasn’t until the German-born hardcore producer MC Rage hopped on the stage during Status’s set that the athletes hit the dance floor en masse, shaking their booties to the floor in a world-class demonstration of their newly acquired Brazilian-style dance moves. The rugby boys proved by far the most raucous group on the dancefloor, patting each other on the back and palling around like real house lads.

The green color of the athletes’ lanyards was the only thing that singled them out from the rest of the crowd, and as blood alcohol levels increased amongst the athletes, their official accreditations began to disappear, in an apparent attempt to be a bit more anonymous. “I don’t want to be exposed,” deadpanned one athlete. “I’m already exposed,” he added with a friendly laugh, returning to his circle of friends. Olly Robinson, from the same team, shot me a helpless expression as he witnessed the swift retreat of the majority of the athletes at my sluggish approach, as soon as I presented myself as an on-duty reporter.

Further celebrations of Britain’s great cultural exports/Photo by Nina Pennick

I realized that journalists’ prying eyes weren’t really welcome on the dancefloor anymore, so I escaped to the bar and bumped into one of the English cyclists, who asked that she not be named for this piece. We spent some time discussing the press’s obsession with digging up dirt on the Olympic athletes, with journalists desperate to pin a sex scandal or epic drinking binge on them somehow. She mentions the recent tragic episode of a reporter from The Daily Beast who endangered a half dozen gay athletes for the sake of an article about the use of Grindr in the Olympic Village. I tell her the incident left most journalist with integrity around the planet ashamed. She nods her head in relief as I explain that my objectives that night are far from his.

It turns out athletes enjoying a party are exactly like…normal people enjoying a party. Yes, there’s no denying that the performance by the English duo practically brought the house down and the athletes were going crazy for it. There was drinking of biblical proportions, flirting, make-out sessions, and a high-octane atmosphere fueling an electric dancefloor. But that’s just like any decent party in full swing.

Around 2 AM, the organizers from the British committee made it known that the night needed to come to an end due to the time limits of the venue. But the energy levels of some of the guests wouldn’t let them retire to their Olympic bunks just yet. “Do you know about any other parties still going on around here?” one of the athletes asks me. I gave her a few pointers about one or two after-parties that should still be happening in Rio. She called an Uber and nobly carried on, a true Olympic nightlife champion.

Arthur Russell, Herbie Hancock, And A Jazzy Deep House DJ Walked Into A Bar And Out Came Uffe's New Album On Tartelet

Photo courtesy of the artist.

Tartelet Records and Uffe are a match made in heavenfor starters, they both are based in Copenhagen, and through their separate musical outputs have long set their sights on the more off-beat shades of dance music. After his 2015 album debut on the label, Radio Days, Uffe is returning home to Tartelet with a new full-length entitled No!, out October 14. While we promised we wouldn’t share too much about the LP’s inner awesomeness, we can tell you that like many releases associated with the labelcheck out Max Graef’s 2014 album Rivers of The Red Planet for referenceit’s a wondrous voyage through the interconnected realms of soul, hip-hop, and smooth jazzy house. Check out the first track from the album, the deep house bumper “Jump Into,” exclusively streaming below.

Pre-order No! here.

Ballroom Is America's Most Slept-On Subculture. MikeQ Wants To Open Our Eyes.

Photos by Cait Oppermann.

MikeQ is weaving down Central Avenue in a pale gold SUV, trying to catch rare Pokemon on Pokemon Go. As we drive into East Orange, New Jerseycruising past chain stores and a park that’s deserted despite the mid-July heathe aims his phone at a brick building on our right. “That’s my elementary school,” he notes. “And right next to it is a Pokestop.”

When he picked me up from the Newark Path Train station moments before, I noticed that the car’s license plate read CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST. Dressed in a grey T-shirt, denim shorts, and black Puma sliders, he apologized to me as soon as I hopped in. “Sorry, the air-conditioning is broken,” he said. “It’s my grandmother’s car.”

MikeQ, born Michael Cox, is the soft-spoken ambassador of America’s flashiest subculture, ballroom. There is no party in the worldno velvet-roped VIP club, no grime-covered warehousethat can compare to a ball. On any given evening, if you know where to look, you’ll see drag queens, butch queens, trans women, and other queer people of color flocking to clubs or rental venues, decked out in everything from head-to-toe Ferragamo, to an LED-lit corset, to trash bags stitched into a gown. The night unfolds as a series of battles for cash prizes and glory, some dancers twisting their bodies into spine-snapping drops to the floor, others swanning around like Naomi Campbell on a Parisian runway.

Even though ballroom dates back to the 60s, the scene has largely flown under the radarnot only of mainstream America, but of the gay community itself. “Stop 20 gay men, and ask them about the icons in the ballroom scene,” ballroom veteran Power Infiniti lamented to the Miami New Times in 2014. “Most of them wouldn’t even know.”

In recent years, however, this oversight is being slowly rectified thanks to prominent advocates like MikeQ, a 30-year-old DJ and producer who has dedicated his decade-long career to championing ballroom’s allureand its commercial viability. He’s toured cities where local ballroom scenes are sprouting up, like Tokyo, Moscow, Paris, Mexico, and Seoul. He’s invaded living rooms across the globe with his live-streamed Boiler Room sets, and seduced the heads by linking up with the Fade to Mind label and GHE20G0TH1K partyboth bulwarks of the experimental avant-garde. Even Missy Elliott slid into his DMs once, hitting up Mike in 2013 to collaborate on a ballroom track.

In some ways, my visit to Mike’s suburban hometown couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient time. He’s just flown home from a gig in LA. Later this week, he’ll DJ at a party called Vogue Knights and attend the Latex Ball, an annual ballroom extravaganza co-founded by the Gay Men’s Health Crisis nonprofit at the height of the 80s AIDS epidemic to spread awareness of HIV prevention in the scene. He’s also preparing for the August 12 release of his label Qween Beat’s first album, an 11-track compilation of ballroom-affiliated artists that Mike thinks deserve more shine. On top of everything, he’s in the middle of moving out of the home where he’s lived with his family since 1990, and into his longtime boyfriend’s apartment a few blocks down the street.

The house where Mike grew up is three stories tall, with curved white walls and windows with navy blue trim. A beaten-up box of toys lies on the spacious front porch, and more boxes line the entrance hallway. Two calendars of the Obama familyfor the same yearare pinned to the bright yellow wall by the door.

Stepping over a hamburger recipe book, I follow Mike up the creaky wooden stairs and come face-to-face with his 83-year-old grandmother, who is perched in a chair on the second-floor landing. Smiling sweetly, she grasps my hand with a trembling grip, mumbling a greeting I can’t quite catch. Mike tells me his mother and grandfather used to live here but moved out a few years ago, leaving him and his grandmother to support his aunt and her two young kids, who also reside with them. “That’s why I hadn’t moved out soonerI wanted to be here helping with this house,” he says.

Up on the top floor, Mike’s room is nearly empty save for his bed, his studio gear, and mountains of Nike boxes. Taking a seat at his desk next to two large computer screens, he swivels his black office chair to gaze around the room. “I get sad on and off about it,” he says. “Sometime next week, I’ll probably never be able to come in here. But it’s time for change.”

Mike was born in Hackensack, New Jersey and moved to the house here in East Orange when he was four. His dad lives fifteen minutes away, in Paterson”the same town where Fetty Wap is from,” Mike notesand they would hang out on the weekends when he was growing up. Mike says he’s been the “quiet, geeky nerdy type” since childhood, and sang in the choir in elementary school.

“I didn’t dress nice,” he says about his adolescence. “I never had a haircut. I wasn’t loud and out-and-about.” But he also had a rebellious streak. On the first day of middle school, he erased the name of the school his mother had written on his enrollment form because the building was “so dingy and ghetto,” replacing it with one he liked better. Somehow, he never got into trouble. In high school, Mike started smoking weed and skipping class, which got him held back a year. Still, he excelled at his job as a manager at Domino’s Pizza. “Work was more important to me,” Mike says, “It wasn’t that I was stupidI just got over school in a way.”

Mike’s life changed when he first walked into The Globe, a no-frills club that was the throbbing heart of Newark’s gay scene in early to mid-2000s. “I was scared to go thereI have always been who I am but never in a public space,” he says, hinting at how suburban New Jersey isn’t the most friendly environment for black gay kids like him.

But one Friday night when he was 17 years old, Mike mustered his courage and hit the club with a friend. Walking onto the The Globe’s black-and-white checkered floor, Mike recognized the familiar staccato chants and taut bass wallops of Jersey club, a hip-hop-influenced genre from Newark that Mike had often heard at local block parties and family barbeques growing up. But at the end of the night, the DJ started playing a he’d never heard before, full of cut-up vocal samples peppered over thunderous crash cymbals and tribal drumming. “All these drag queens came out and started doing this dance,” Mike recalls. ” with me,” Mike says.

From the way he talks about the label, I can sense that Mike has a complicated relationship with the spotlight.He tells me that Qween Beat’s first release only features one of his tracksa collab with the late Daft Punk collaborator Romanthonybecause he doesn’t want the focus to be on him. “Everybody can’t get signed to Fade to Mind the same way I was,” he says. “That’s what Qween Beat is for.” But in the same breath, he confesses that managing the egos and resolving conflicts of the ever-growing Qween Beat family can have its toll. “Sometimes I get discouraged and want to end it, because I could just be doing MikeQwhich not everybody understands,” he says. But he’s determined to soldier on. “I’m not gonna stop. Ballroom was a place for me to find myself and take those talents outside,” he says. “I think that should be the goal for everyone in ballroom.”

Even as the most prominent member of the Qween Beat roster, achieving that goal hasn’t always been straightforward for Mike. For one thing, the support he receives inside the scene doesn’t necessarily translate beyond the ballroom floor. “It’s really hard to get ballroom people to support anything outside of ballroom,” Mike says, explaining that many people in the community don’t even knowor carewho the DJ is. “At a ball, your name can barely even get on a flyer. A lot of people don’t really know what I look like.”

Mike’s stature in the ballroom scene doesn’t necessarily translate to success in the wider music industry, either. On a rainy Tuesday night in July, he plays at a show at Baby’s Alright that is part of Red Bull Sound Selects, a program that uses bigger acts to draw attention to its roster of emerging artists. Tonight’s event was put together by Sound Select artist Cakes da Killa, who asked Big Freedia to play as the headliner and put Mike, his friend, at the end of the night. Unfortunately for Mike, most of the crowd ends up filing out after Big Freedia’s set, leaving him to open his set playing Byrell the Great’s “Legendary Children”the opening track off Qweendomto a nearly empty room, scattered with a handful of sweaty dancers.

After the show, hanging around outside the venue waiting to get paid, his frustration is clear. “Big Freedia ruined my set!,” he says to Cakes, loud enough for the dozen or so friends clustered around them to hear. “Next time, don’t book Freedia. You coulda booked Qween Beat!” He proceeds to rattle off names of his artists, telling Cakes they could have used the opportunity to fly out the ones living outside of New York. Cakes contritely asks if they can all just hang out now that the show is over, but Mike says he has to pack for a trip to Toronto the next day.

In 2013, Mike almost had a breakout moment when Missy Elliott hit him up to work on a ballroom track for her protg Sharayawho grew up going to balls in New York City. Mike says she ended up going with another producer named DJ Jayhood who makes Jersey Cluba genre he thinks Missy felt had broader appeal. (The song ended up being Sharaya’s hit single, “Banji.”)

As a gesture of friendship, Missy recorded a secret ballroom track for Mike where she tries her hand at ballroom-style rapping, throwing in its choice slang terms like “cunt!” along with her own trademark “BRRRR!” Although the song was never released, Mike says he played it at one of his Boiler Room sets and it immediately went viral, after a fan ripped the song off the stream and posted it online. In some ways, the track feels like a symbol of ballroom’s position in the pop culture world: instantly appealing with plenty of commercial potential, but lacking in institutional support.

In many ways, Mike reflects the tensions within ballroom culture at largeeager to break out into the mainstream but fiercely loyal to the scene and its traditions, frustrated with the lack of outside recognition by unwilling to give up where he came from in order to get there. After all, voguing is both a fantasy and an act of defiancethe dancers know they will probably never end up on the cover of Vogue, but engage in a performance of upward-mobility in the face of systematic injustice, reclaiming feminine beauty from rich white women. For better or worse, despite the waves of press declaring ballroom’s imminent breakout into the mainstream, and all of its celebrity endorsements, ballroom has remained stubbornly underground.

But if there’s one aspect of the culture that can transcend above its insular customs and appeal to a broad range of people of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds, it’s the musicand if there’s one person who can be trusted to bring this music to a wider audience without watering it down, it’s MikeQ.

For his part, Mike says doesn’t need to actively participate in ball culture to stay connected to the scene. “I don’t really go to house meetings and I don’t travel for balls. Especially because I don’t enjoy being out in public much,” he says, calling his job as a DJ who travels everywhere for gigs is “ironic.” “I’m more of a smoker,” he says with a deep inhale of the blunt we shared in his room. “I’d rather just be in the house chilling.”

Mike is a study in contradictionsa shy introvert who found himself in an extremely extroverted scene that’s all about peacocking. Maybe this is why he turned to DJing, which allowed him to engage with a culture that took him out of suburban New Jersey and into the thriving gay, black underground of New York City, without having to be at the center of attention.

Still, when I meet him to the Latex Ball, I find him surrounded by his Qween Beat fam at the end of the runway, cheering on the dancers on stage. Suddenly, a fight breaks out between a dancer and a judge over a perceived slight. The dancer leaps onto the judges’ table, sending drinks spilling everywhere. She gets dragged offstage by security, kicking and punching, but two seconds later she’s back, spitting water at her target. 3,000 people on the dancefloor and hanging off the balconies erupt into hoots over the spilled bloodor in this case, spilled tequila sodaand Mike takes a Snapchat of the chaos. Then he shakes his head. “This is embarrassing,” he says to me in a low voice, like a father whose child is throwing a tantrum at church.

Near the end of the night, he goes to pay his respects to Vjuan Allure, who DJs the ball every year. Sitting on stage with his arms splayed across two CDJs, Vjuan cuts a striking figure, wearing a glittery cap that says “READ” and wiggling his hefty frame in his chair to the music. Every few minutes, Vjuanwho also dances at ballscan’t help himself from breaking into vogue hands when playing a particularly hot track. His exuberance is a total contrast to Mike, who stands next to him reverently, like a statue. Before he leaves to catch his train, Mike slips a CD of the Qween Beat compilation to Vjuan.

At the end of our day in New Jersey together, Mike drives me back to the PATH station in Newark. In contrast to our sunny drive to his house, the lengthening shadows imbue the streets of the city with an air of danger, and at one traffic light, Mike casually mentions that he was once shot at while waiting at the same intersection. A few minutes later, he points to a street crawling with rugged men, calling it the “weed and xanax corner.”

As we approach the train station, the towering blue glass windows of a flashy stadium called the Prudential Center come into view. “I saw Rihanna there,” Mike tells me, explaining that many northern New Jersey residents have come to view the multi-million-dollar venue a bubble of privilege in the middle of Newark. “They only built up the city until where the stadium is, and put a train station right next it so visitors don’t have to interact with the locals.” Despite this, Mike is clearly proud of where he comes from. Coasting down the streets he knows well enough to drive blind, he rattles off all the celebrities who’ve come out of Newark: Ice-T, Queen Latifah, Faith Evans, Paul Simon, Whitney Houston…” He stops catching Pokemon and smiles into the distance: “MikeQ.”

Michelle Lhooq is THUMP’s Features Editor. She walks the runway of Twitter.

I Threw A Music Festival In My Backyard And My House Burned Down

All photos by Michael C. Pressey unless otherwise stated.

For the last 14 years, Belmont, Maine resident Rick Kidson has hosted an electronic festival called BelTek on the sprawling property behind his rural residence. Kidson, who DJs under the name Psydways, has been heavily involved in Maine’s electronic scene since the early 00s when he was going to illegal raves in the White Mountains, but grew frustrated that they always ended up getting shut down. In 2003, while he was working for a local radio station, he decided to throw an above-board festival on his land.

Over the years BelTek has grown from its humble beginnings in a tiny, countryside town and has become an annual pilgrimage for New England’s underground electronic music fans. Frankie Bones, the iconic New York DJ heralded as responsible for transplanting rave culture to the US, played one year; renowned drum and bass act DB & Dara, and eclectic Boston trio Hot Pink Delorean have also graced the grassroots party. But during this year’s festival, tragedy struck. Kidson explains what happened that day.Anna Codrea-Rado

We were well into the second day of BelTek Festival on Saturday August 6 and everything had been going great. The Friday night with British drum and bass crew EZ Rollers headlining was excellentthere were no noise complaints, no police or ambulances, and nobody getting hurt.

It’s an old New England-style home, nothing too fancy. The main house is a story-and-a-half, with newels in the bedrooms upstairs. The old barn has cedar shingles that are pretty weathered, and a green metal roof with a couple of chimneys sticking out. The town of Belmont, has a population of about 1200. I have one neighbor effectively. It’s cosy and comfortable and it’s very peaceful out here.

During the event I’m usually running myself ragged, wearing a walkie-talkie. But this year I stayed closer to the house. I just had my cellphone if anyone really needed me. I cooked for our guests and kept the place tidy for them. That’s really what I like to do anyway; putter around like Bilbo Baggins. Just keep all the cakes and ale coming and keep things tidy, and answer questions when it’s necessary.

It was 4 PM on Saturday and it was my time slot, so I went down to the field where I was meant to play a drum and bass set. I live on 18 acres of mostly pasture, some woods and a little pond. There’s a little bowled out area cornered off by forestlike a little amphitheaterwhere we set everything up for the event. It’s maybe 1000 feet from the house.

I was hitting my stride around 4:30 PM, when my friend Gus came tearing down to the bottom of the field, hollering: “Shut everything off!” I thought he was trying to tell me that the cops were there, but then he said: “No, your barn is on fire.” We clambered into a golf cart and got up to the barn and sure enough, there’s smoke coming out the side wall. It’s a 120-year-old house and barnall one rambling structure.

In my mind’s eye, I can see us riding up, screaming at people to get out of the way because we’re going as fast as the golf cart will take us. I saw the flames coming out. I thought that I could go to my truck and grab a fire extinguisher, but it was just a little tiny thing. I tried to spray it through the window and the garage door, but it’s doing nothing.

“Get the birds out! Get the birds out!” That was my next thought.

I keep 13 pet birds inside the barn. Eight diamond doves from Australia; two black-masked lovebirds from Tanzania, two white-faced cockatiels from Australia, and one green cheek conure from Brazil. Several people helped get the barn door open, and we managed to get the birdies out.

Homer, one of Kidson’s 13 pet birds that survived the fire. Photo courtesy of Rachel Benner

I looked over and saw my daughter tugging on a hose, and somebody trying to turn it but to no availI later found out it was kinked. People were running around trying to grab fire extinguishers that we had around the event. There were people trying to drag buckets of water up the field. The immediate thoughts weren’t that this was going to be complete destruction, but it was more about what needs to be done right now to save what we can without getting hurt.

We had DJ Sage from Ireland who was staying with us for the weekend. She was in the first floor room; she’d gone back to the house to freshen up. She had walked out of her room and saw the smoke. She had to crawl out of the open front doors. I hadn’t realized she was in there.

Security was camping right in front of the house on a little lawn. One of them had brought her tent right up close to the house to get some shade so she could have a nap. She was woken up by screaming and yelling and smoke. She made it out there fast enough fortunately.

I smashed my finger in something. It didn’t really do damage, but I cut it up and bruised it pretty bad. Other than that, though, there were no injuries at all.

Then we turned our attention to moving cars away from the building because the flames were already starting to come out of the barn windows. We got those moved across the street. My whole structure is about 12 feet long, and by now it’s engulfed about halfway. It’s gone well past the barn and into the woodshop and kitchen area.

I have a metal roof on one of the buildings and that created a wood stove scenario. A ten mile-an-hour wind coming out of the south was just fanning the flames and pushing it towards the house. And it had just been so dry; we had one of the driest summers this year. We did everything we could. It just went up like a box of matches.

We have a volunteer fire department here in Belmont, but the chief was on holiday with his kids that weekend. The first responders were the next town over, in Belfast, and it easily took 10-15 minutes for the trucks to arrive.

I’m in a rural area and there’s no place to connect water, so when the first responders got here, they set up these monstrous swimming pools with the water they had on their trucks. Eight towns responded. There were two of those giant bathtubs set up with two pumper trucks and dozens of firemen.

At the same time we had the festival in full swing. There were about 400 people there when it happened and lots were able to help in the immediate aftermath. One buddy was helping me get the vehicles out of the way. Another guy was barking orders: “Get them out of there!” It was quite a thing. We were all working pretty fast.

BelTek 2012, photo courtesy of festival.

We managed to get some important things out of the house, and that was about it. Then we just went across the street to the neighbour’s house and watched the fire department go at it for probably at least four hours before they were finally able to put the flames out. It burned out about 75 percent of the structure in the end, and what’s left is heavily smoke and water damaged.

The cause of the fire was undetermined by two different investigators because the destruction is so immense that there’s nothing to tell what could of started it. It’s going to be a teardown, but I’m planning on rebuilding. I’m picturing a new energy-efficient home and a steel building for the barn, and a beautiful single story breezeway that connects the two of them. I’m insured fortunately, so I’m waiting to see what they say about the dwelling.

But the festival is on. It will be the first full weekend in August 2017. I don’t see any reason not to do it.

There is a GoFundMe campaign for donations to help Kidson rebuild his home.

Rave Into Oblivion With Skrillex And Mr. Oizo’s Joyous Collaboration “End Of The World”

Mr. Oizo and Skrillex (photos courtesy of the artists)

Earlier this summer, Quentin Dupieux, the French producer, DJ, director, and Ed Banger affiliate known as Mr. Oizo, announced his upcoming sixth album, All Wet. Today, Oizo has shared one of its tracks, “End of the World,” featuring Skrillex.

Apparently in Skrillex and Oizo’s twistedly quirky realm, the soundtrack to the end of times is a joyous one where people don’t watch the world burn so much as rave among the flames. The track, filled with breaks that jingle like pocket change and soaring electro synth stabs, has its requisite moments of creepiness with vocals that sound like they came out of Flat Eric himself.

Dupieux said of the collaboration: “I could spend a month watching Sonny making beats on his laptop, he simply is the best of this new EDM generation. Since I’m the best of the old electro dudes, we had to do this tune together.”

“If you told the kid Sonny ten years ago ‘You’d make a track with Mr Oizo in the future’ I wouldn’t believe you,” said Skrillex, who added that Oizo was one of his main influences starting out. “Being able to sit next to him and absorb his mind was a priceless experience for me.”

Listen to “End of the World” below. All Wet, scheduled to arrive on September 30,looks to be a heavily collaborative affair with features including Charli XCX, Peaches, Handbraekes partner Boys Noize, and more.

Listen To The Vintage Funk-Inspired Single Off Soul Clap’s New Self-Titled LP

Artwork courtesy of label

Massachusetts duo Soul Clap announced the upcoming release of their second, self-titled LP today. Soul Clap will be released on !K7 recordswhich boasts a gargantuan roster including Paul Van Dyk and Psychic TVand through smaller Brooklyn collective Crew Love. This record is their first full length in four years, following 2012’s EFUNK (an abbreviation for Everybody’s Freaky Under Nature’s Kingdom).

A single titled “Shine (This is It)” featuring seasoned funk vocalist Non Hendryx accompanies the announcement. Hendryx is best known as a founding member of Labelle, the 1970s all-girl group responsible for the titillating dance floor classic, “Lady Marmalade.” On “Shine,” Soul Clap lays down infectious synth and horn riffs but forfeits most of the attention to Hendryx’s soaring vocals. It’s a refreshing reminder of electronic music’s roots in disco and funk.

Soul Clap comes out on October 14. Listen to “Shine (This is It)” below and read about how Eli, one half of Soul Clap, lost his virginity.

Boiler Room To Divide Broadcasts Into Four Genre-Specific Channels

Photo via YouTube

Changes are underway at Boiler Room. The popular live video broadcasting service, which recently announced its intention to better police its comments section and be more inclusive in its talent bookings, is dividing its video offerings into four channels determined by genre, according to Trax Mag.

Since its founding in 2010, Boiler Room has hosted hundreds of artists running the gamut of electronic music and beyond, including Disclosure, Skepta, Grimes, Anklepants, and The Black Madonna B2B Mike Servito. (A Guardian profile from 2015 cites stats upwards of 3.5 billion minutes’ worth of uploaded music.) “I think we got to a point where we cover so many different music genres and there are so many people following us that we need to make distinctions in what we broadcast,” lead programmer Gabriel Szatan told Trax Mag.

According to Boiler Room staffer Ahad Elley (aka Ahadadream), each channel will have a designated head. Channel 1, hosted by Elley, will focus on UK bass and grime; Channel 2, hosted by programmer and From Them Depths label boss Charles Drakeford, will lean more towards house and techno; Channel 3, hosted by editor-in-chief Errol Anderson, will be dedicated to hip-hop; and Channel 4, led by Szatan, will be an experimental mixed bag of rock, jazz, ambient, funk, and other styles that, in Elley’s words, “do not really have their place in a club.” Periodically, each channel leader will also host a round-up where they play records and discuss the goings-on in their assigned music realm.

“We want to act as guides, like when you listen to Benji B’s shows for electronic music, Gilles Perterson’s ones for the new world music and jazz, or Mary Anne Hobbs for bass music,” Szatan tells Trax Mag. “What made Boiler Room so unique at first when Tristan, Bradley and Nic introduced the performancebesides them having the best DJs in the world coming to performwas that it was just a group of friends with a camera who were MCs for their own shows. It was enjoyable and we want to keep that aspect as much as possible. For that reason we try to put forward the faces of the Boiler Room team.”

Updates are soon to come on the official website, but the change has already taken place on YouTube, though it’s not too drastic: the account itself will stay singular, and the channel number will be included in the video title. For example, watch a Channel 4 roundup with Szatan and Project Pablo below.

Arca, James Blake, And Sampha All Contributed To Frank Ocean's Visual Album, 'Endless'

A Still from Endless.

Tonight, Frank Ocean took the internet by surprise by streaming a 45-minute visual album on his website via an Apple Music stream, and releasing it via iTunes. On top of that, a representative from Apple Music confirmed to Rolling Stone that this was not the album Ocean had promised, but a different record called Endless, and that Boys Don’t Cry, his long awaited sophomore album, would be released this weekend.

What surprised us most of all, however, were the album credits for Endless, which abound with THUMP favorites: Arca has a programming credit on a track called “Mine,” as does Michael Uzowuru on “Rushes To”; Sampha has a feature on “Alabama,” and James Blake makes a cameo on Ocean’s cover of The Isley Brothers’ “At Your Best (You Are Love),” alongside Om’Mas Keith and The London Contemporary Orchestra. We also counted four guitar credits for the charmingly scrappy Philly singer-songwriter Alex G; his music isn’t exactly THUMP’s in area of expertise, though we’re happy for the dude nonetheless.

We’ll have to wait to see how many of them are featured on Boys Don’t Cry, but for now, you can enjoy some beautiful music and carpentry here, and view the full credits for Endless below.

How Remixing Became The Most Important Art Form In Contemporary Culture

Remixing has a long and arguably checkered history. From soundsystems in Jamaica cutting “dubs” to win over audiences, to early hip-hop producers pioneering the use of sampling, to New York’s early 80s disco producers creating extended versions of tracks, and the eventual rise in the early 2000s of crude and cheesy mashups. Remixing, as a technique for processing content, has taken over every cultural space and now millennials especially interact with the world in this fashionquickly switching between social media platforms, apps, videos and articles, while producing gifs and memes to create new meaning. Remixing is the pervasive thread connecting all different types of music and culture made for this generation.

But what does all that mean for the inherent quality of music? Back in 1936 Walter Benjamin argued that when a singular spectator becomes a mass spectator art loses its aura. But we are now living in an age of constant mass spectatorship, where music comes with an orchestra of instant opinion, so much so that the professional album review is more or less obsolete. For Benjamin, even the most perfect reproduction lacked the original’s presence in time and spaceits unique existence at the moment it was made. However, music these days is not only consumed differently, but it also comes from scenes which are diasporic, with tracks created from stems made across different places and time zones. An “aura” in Benjamin’s understanding is a relic of past it is unlikely we’ll ever see again.

Kahn, via Discogs.

Today remixers play a vital role in an artist’s navigation of the attention economy, often producing something with more cultural kudos than the original, thus allowing for a lengthier promotional rollout and ensuring mainstream music still reaches the underground. Therefore the rising importance of remixes can be seen as a sign that the periphery can not only resist the mainstream’s power, but also penetrate it on its own terms. Does this then mean that the remixer is now the most important type of musician? I spoke to one half of two remixing duos who started out in different decades and in different countries, Richard Dorfmeister of Viennese musicians Kruder & Dorfmeister, who came to prominence in the early 1990s and are best known for downtempo-dub remixes of pop, hip-hop and drum and bass tracks, and Kahn, of Bristol grime kings Kahn & Neek, to try find out.

Brian Eno argues that genius springs from a collective scenius, which would suggest that the remixer is a big part of any movement within music, but remixing wasn’t always such a big part of the music industry. This was partly down to musicians earning more than they do now, so feeling less pressure to maintain several strands of revenue. But this was also down to logistical issues. “To produce music was always connected to renting a studio,” Dorfmeister tells me. “Paying an engineer and finding the studio rent. It was not the ideal place to produce music just due to the time-pressure and the uncomfortable circumstances. So when the home studio revolution started and the tools for making music at home became somehow more affordable, that’s where it all began.”

Kahn’s love for remixing came much earlier. “Some of my earliest experiments with production software when I was a teenager were using samples and vocals from other songs,” he remembers. “I would set up camp in the music block more or less every lunchtime at school, trying to get my head around a sequencer program called Cubase. I’d burn CDs at home and bring in clippings of sounds and songs I liked and just spend ages cutting them up, looping little samples and trying to add my own ideas on top.” This excitement, he tells me, never left him. “Since those days I’ve always enjoyed making my own versions of things, I still find I work most efficiently in the studio when I’m remixing something.”

Richard Dorfmeister, via Facebook.

The remixing revolution as surmised by Dorfmeister is according to Kahn what democratised the music industry. Rather than seeking “approval from some record label in order to get heard” artists could “connect with an audience directly.” This capacity to connect with an audience online has created a vortex wherein musicians can kickstart their careers, but this isn’t without pitfalls. “The vast amount of content online nowadays naturally has pros and cons,” Kahn asserts. “It’s easier than ever to find out about new music, but at the same time movements in music can fall victim to saturation at such an increased speed that there’s a danger of subcultures burning out before they’ve even achieved their creative potential.”

Dorfmeister also cautions about the possible decrease in the value of a remix, saying that they “used to be on 12″ only and normally limited and hard to get. You had to dig hard and definitely spend a lot of time and money in record storessince it’s all online the exclusivity is gone and it’s now more about having the right information.”

This importance on the right information is not lost on Kahn. “I really love working with vocal stems and structuring musical ideas around them, changing the mood of the original song,” he explains. “My major focus when remixing a song with vocals is to give the vocal space and let it really come through in the mix, often meaning I strip away most of the musical source material in order to essentially start from nothing and build the piece back up using my own ideas and sounds.”

Indeed, these unique ideas and sounds are what gives producers like Kahn, or contemporaries such as Murlo, their distinct flavor, which no doubt has helped to propel them to the status they’ve achieved. And when Dorfmeister was first getting into remixing it too was about “treating the remix track as if it would be the original.” Nowadays though, Kahn warns, “remixing can certainly become very predictable, especially in the mainstream. You have people being commissioned to do a ‘dubstep remix’ of this, ‘deep house version’ of that…it gets pretty tiresome.” He hasn’t lost faith in it as a culture though. “I do still believe that remixing culture can be subversive, it’s all down to the imagination of the artist that’s doing the remix.” Dorfmeister concurs, but also adds it’s usually a task that “takes more energy and effort to make it worthwhile” with a “process that takes time and goes through several stages of production.”

In a broader context, remixing can also be understood as cultural blending. In the wake of the Brexit result, and the rise in racist and xenophobic attacks across Britain, communities are under threat. In the lead up to the referendum, many musicians voiced their support for Remain and afterwards, haven’t shied away from expressing their dismay with the majority choosing Leave. Perhaps now then the time is ripe for musicians to once again roll up their sleeves, and rather than through Twitter, make political statements through music. With remixing as a symbol of cultural blending it’s particularly important to uphold in an increasingly divided world.

Kamila is on Twitter.

Here's What Happened When We Went To Dreamland Theme Park With Artwork

The author, the UK’s leading theme park and dance music combo journalist.

I have been a fully fledged theme park enthusiasta person practicing and exhibiting particular enthusiasm for the world of theme parks, also including amusement parks, funfairs, the London Dungeons, but in my case, not mini golffor nearly twenty five years. Indeed, before I’d ever taken a pilgrimage to Fabric, the first club I ever got into was the European Coaster Club, which it’s fair to say, is unlikely to have its license revoked for a drugs based investigation anytime soon.

However, despite having ridden over three hundred roller coasters worldwidesmall change in the sphere of theme park enthusiasm, let me assure youI have never ridden the Scenic Railway at Margate’s Dreamland amusement park, which, as the oldest coaster in the UK, is something of a landmark. As the UK’s leading theme park and dance music combo journalist, when Bugged Out! announced they were throwing an all day rave at the recently refurbished Dreamland, it was inevitable I’d have to drop by for a visit in order to preview the event. It was also inevitable that the Scenic Railway would be closed all day when I visited. “Awaiting a part” and breaking my heart.

Such sad news was foretold to me by Bugged Out resident and programmer, Lemmy Ashton, one of only two grown men I’ve met with a less than ironic appreciation of the theme park biz since I stopped attending forum meets. The revelation that the two of us had more in common than abusing the ‘filter’ function on a DJ mixer was a genuinely magical moment. I was excited to spend the day with Lemmy in our natural environment, especially since we hadn’t had the opportunity since our visit to Thorpe Park, a whole four days earlier.

Recognizing we needed a fresh pair of less than jaded eyes while on park, we also invited Artwork along, before he plays the festival himself. The journey by rail from London Kings Cross to Margate takes just under an hour, and having seen that hilarious viral video in which Artwork successfully orders a pizza to a train, I was hoping that this particular Tuesday morning would result in similarly massive banter. However, as we sped through hot food delivery hotspots such as Ashford, Gravesend and Whitstable, he disappointingly only ate a breakfast pastry and spent some time rearranging a flight.

So, here’s the deal with Dreamland; it’s a retro, vintage amusement park, but in a pleasing way. The park has actually been around in some form or another since the 1860s, and just five years ago, it was beginning to look it. Unusually, the park was eventually purchased by the council, and after 18 million was found in public funding to restore the Scenic Railway, the park has been reworked to be “old fashioned, yet oh-so-fashionable,” courtesy of acclaimed designers Hemingway. It’s also lovingly rooted in music; even the racing slide is named after Underworld’s timeless rave hit, “Born Slippy”.

We began on the dodgemsjust one of the outright classic rides at Dreamland. Each car is named after a legendary musical artist. I unwittingly scored “The Beatles,” Lemmy shed a fresh tear in “Prince,” whereas Artwork went for, er, “Cher.” An honestly sensational time was had by all to the driving soundtrack of Blur’s “Song 2.” Artwork ended up in one corner, spinning his vehicle round repeatedly until the operator killed the power. Was he making an incisive comment on the chaos of contemporary DJing? Was he just stuck? Only he has the answers.

Vomit Caution Rating: 2

Moving on, another star attraction that you might wish to try before you start heavily drinking, is the infamous “Rotor.” Inconspicuously designed as a small, thatched house, inside you’ll find an uncompromising challenge to the human body and a true taste of NASA in Margate. Those standing inside the human sized bowl (in this case, myself and Lemmy, while Artwork shook his head in response to this twisted piece of vintage technology), are gradually spun so fast that they cling to the wall by gravity alone, while a man named Ian enthusiastically lowers the floor, leaving your limbs pinned for several minutesas you wonder whether you’ll make it through to see Jackmaster.

Vomit Caution Rating: 4

In need of some self actualization after the threat of The Phantom Expressa ghost train so terrifying that I can’t even bring myself to revisit itit was nice to get back to nature in the surprise hit of the day. Dreamland’s very own animal house. Unfortunately, I suspect this attraction might be closed on the day itself, given that part of its appeal is the option to wear a massive snake around your neck, an activity I graciously declined, leaving Artwork to get stuck in as if he were a 1980s Vegas showgirl.

Vomit Caution Rating: 2 or 3 (dependent on how well you receive snakes)

The true ray of sunshine during our drizzly day at Dreamland was undoubtedly an unexpected appearance from Musical Ruth, the infamous singing Nun best known for riding around on a hybrid mobility scooter and bright white piano, armed with a library of jungle breaks and Chaka Khan samples. Currently based in Blackpool, Ruth has been a fixture of the theme park industry since the heyday of Chessington World of Adventures in the 1990s.

“I like house, nice, loud, jolly, happy house,” Ruth, otherwise known as Matthew Hunt, tells us, citing 1994’s “You Sure Do” by Strike as his all time favorite record. “For dance, that was my time, 1989 until 1996, when I lived in Brighton.”

Indeed, before his complete immersion as Musical Ruth for an agreed fee, Hunt even produced his own club banger. “I did produce as a hobby,” he reveals. “I had a single outHotbox, “Too Spicy.” It had a sample taken from the Peperami ‘Too Spicy For You’ advert. I got a deal with Telstar Records. And the day before they were due to release it, they pulled it. Peperami were behind the whole thing, but they had Ant and Dec on their label at the time and their record sold really badly, so they pulled everything.”

Despite decades of unfortunate decline, Margate is an up and coming town, and is regularly touted these days as an increasingly trendy alternative to London living. You’ll therefore be able to think back fondly to the time you saw The Martinez Brothers when inevitably you end up visiting in ten years to see somebody’s new conservatory. If you decide to take the train to Margate, give yourself a few extra hours to appreciate the psychedelic ‘Shell Grotto’ further down the promenade, not to mention the Only Fools and Horses exhibit, dedicated to the classic “Jolly Boy’s Outing” episode set in the townrather than say, the one where Del and Rodders meet that illegal immigrant who can only say “Gary”.

Personally, while I won’t be able to attend this personally definitive fusion of vintage coaster + Ben UFO set, you do have my full blessing and approval to have a good time. That said, please vomit discreetly and responsibly.

John Thorp is on Twitter.

Tickets for Bugged Out! in Dreamland are available here.

Christian Löffler’s “Haul” Is A Dip Into A Dark, Placid Lake

Photo courtesy of the artist

Living near the Baltic Sea, producer Christian Lffler makes music that sounds how a large body of water looks: vast, fluid, and brimming with wonder while possessing a murkiness and deep-down feeling of isolation. “All my music is connected by a gloomy spirit,” he states in his bio.

Lffler’s balance of musical warmth and melancholy will again be on full display come October 7, when he releases his second album Mare on his own Ki Records. He made the LP while sequestering himself in a cabin by the Baltic Sea in Darss, Germany. Straying from the sample-based approach he took with his 2012 debut album, A Forest, Mare was inspired largely of organic field recordings he took while living in that cabin.

Today, THUMP is premiering one of Mare‘s tracks, “Haul,” featuring Lffler’s longtime collaborator Mohna. The track is serene yet eerie, calmly rippling at the surface while swirling with complex layers underneath. Bring in Mohna’s smoky vocals and crooning harmonies, and it’s like wading into a placid lake at dusk.

“The meaning was not intended to be essentially different to A Forest,” Lffler says, “but where the first album sometimes still felt to just be on the surface of what I can say with this project, it now feels like that I’ve come closer to the core of what I want to express.”