Eclectic music : A Model
I am so excited to be finally publishing this post. This has got to be one of the best ever interviews with someone who’s prepared to Just Do It, someone who’s open and brave enough to try anything that feels right.
If you’ve ever held back for fear that no one would share your vision, take heart now.
Your idea is important and your idea can become something real that touches other people. Perfection isn’t the point. Being brave enough to do something is all that matters.
Introducing the ultimate interview with Neil Phillips, Eclectic Hero.
I’ve known Neil ever since I first walked into Peoples Vinyl Collective, a Wednesday night eclectic music DJ slot at The Ironworks in Oswestry, England, where track listings are tweeted out live as the needle touches the record, a World first I believe.
Neil’s personality is deceptive in a good way: you couldn’t meet a quieter, more unassuming guy with such a huge well of creativity.
And now Neil Phillips is about to get the exposure he deserves, right here on Bootstrap Cafe.
Eclectic – a platform for local diversity
ab – So I’m here with Neil Phillips, this is the historic interview finally happening! Neil, you’re a local hero even though you wouldn’t admit it yourself. You’ve certainly had a huge impact on the local music and culture scene in Oswestry. What’s inspired you to do the array of projects?
np – I think music has always been there that inspires people. I’ve always enjoyed listening to all sorts of music and I’ve always enjoyed creating music and visuals. That’s my main inspiration, music and creativity.
I started PVC, the People’s Vinyl Collective, and Eclectic events because, having built up a big collection of music, I wanted to share the sounds I was listening to at home and create a new outlet for alternative music in Oswestry.
I just needed to find the right format. Ten years ago, the music scene in Oswestry was fairly mainstream with dance nights like Delicious at The Vic (Victoria Rooms). I decided to do something alternative in the Vic, naively I suppose, trying to bring something different. We now have The Ironworks which offers a lot more scope to do something different.
ab – How is it different?
np – There was a lot of music not being played in Oswestry at the time, like hip hop and early drum and bass, indie and reggae. That’s why I set up the Eclectic events so that people could enjoy music for the sound as opposed to being limited to one genre.
Then I started up Eclectic live band nights at Gibson’s and they really took off. I was getting involved with local musicians and encouraging young bands to play. It didn’t need to be polished. It was more about getting their music out there and having a go.
ab – yes a lot of younger people are braver and more ready to give their ideas a go, just for the hell of it.
np – I also started forging links with bands in Wrexham and Shrewsbury, and got some over to play. Wrexham in particular had a good scene, but it was sometimes hard to get them over here.
ab – maybe a bit tribal?
np – maybe, but I did get a few in and they really appreciated it. I managed to get them working
together without the town rivalry thing going on.
‘Battle of the bands’ events were quite popular, competing to see who was the best.
But when I put things together I didn’t really care about who’s top or bottom of the bill, or who’s supposedly the best. Normally, bands would play in a pecking order according to how good they are. I wanted to do things differently. You can get a sense of where in the order a band should be just
because of their style and not because of anything else.
Ab not because of status.
np yeah. I have always tried to have the attitude that everyone is the same in that if you’re getting up and playing on the stage, you’re as good as everyone else, and that’s been appreciated over the years.
From there I developed a renewed interest in producing my own music again.
Also, I think that a mix of ages, new and more established bands performing works well. Young people bring a lot of energy and are open to influences, and gain from being brought together with more mature musicians that are doing interesting things. Last year, Michael Fairfax, who is an artist and musician, came and played ambient electronic music at an Eclectic night using a Mac. It attracted an interesting blend of people in the audience and playing on stage.
Ab yes it’s good to shatter preconceptions, break down barriers and maybe create a new movement?
np Eclectic has brought about some interesting collaborations. I’ve got a project called Adorable Liar which is electronic pop sung in French. A few years ago I did some different versions of the songs in collaboration with local musicians, Luke Turner and Jonathan Tratt on lead guitar, and Kester Davies on bass guitar who normally played drums for a local band called the Well Reads. We performed a few Adorable Liar songs as a proper band which led to other collaborations and more reworkings of existing songs, taking it in a whole new direction.
ab – it’s good not to be afraid to throw all your ideas into a pot and see what happens. I’m glad that
we’re fostering that culture here in Oswestry. There are certain places in the world that are known
for launching brave new ideas and I hope we’re starting be perceived as an innovative town.
Any other projects you’d like to mention?
np – Art and visuals are also a big part of Eclectic. As well as working with local musicians, I’ve
tied up with a number of visual artists like Lucy Howarth who is currently studying for an art masters in Wrexham. She started to design publicity and fashion the look of Eclectic a couple of years ago, and went on to produce the posters, CD cover design and videos for ‘Appendectomy’, an album I brought out in 2010. She used the work as part of the final year of her degree.
Her friend Ollie, who works under the name mnstr, also got involved. He created remixes for the ‘Appendectomy’ album and also produced posters and the sleeve design for a 12 inch EP released last year by rock project, Awesome Zombie Ants.
Kinokulture, the independent film makers and alternative film promoters, have been collaborating as well, bringing some really interesting visuals to events.
There’s going to be a continuing involvement from Kinokulture in 2012 as an element to the
Eclectic nights. They’re screening some really interesting independent films in Oswestry, like ‘Sound It Out’, a documentary style film about the last remaining independent record shop in Teeside. They’ve also produced videos for tracks off ‘Supermarket’, another album project which I released last October.
Working with people from other cultures has also been important. I’ve worked with Polish rappers and even played a session on BBC Radio Shropshire. We performed some live hip hop with Luke Turner and Will Stokes from Inzaghi, a funk cross rock band from Oswestry, plus we had Jackosaurus Dex, who now lives in Spain, on the decks with Polish rappers mc YNS and mc Mario, along with some backing music that I created.
We performed on their Friday local band night called The Gerbil, before it became more ‘polished’. It’s now called BBC Introducing, but at the time they were more open to whatever.
I then started working with Leona from Slovakia – she’s in Spain at the moment – plus Imad from Morocco and formed a project called Les Enfants de Glaneurs, mixing folk/North African and Eastern European sounds. That project is still going in collaboration with local musicians, Rob Lawton and Rachel, with a similar folky/world music sound based around ukulele, clarinet and flute.
I have also started working with a number of Bengali musicians, so there’s more to come.
Ab How has all this shaped Eclectic?
Np Eclectic is evolving in three ways, I suppose – live events, recording projects, and visual/ art collaborations.
As I’ve mentioned, it encompasses music events, usually at the Ironworks in Oswestry with a combination of visuals, live performance and DJing. I usually showcase a new artist, or possibly someone that’s played in a band and is trying out some solo or alternative music.
On a typical night , you might get a traditional Chinese musician like Yang Yang (surname) or someone like Michael Fairfax playing ambient electronic sounds, plus an acoustic singer/songwriter, and maybe a rock band. In between the acts, there will be DJing of interesting tracks and sometimes People’s Vinyl Collective DJs might play vinyl although PVC is an event in its own right which takes place Wednesdays at the Ironworks.
Then there’s the art and visual side of Eclectic providing opportunities for artists to create installations and moving image to showcase and enhance the live events. Lucy Howarth produced video and overhead projector visuals for ‘Appendectomy’ performances. Jilly Hartshorn of Oswestry has devised art pieces, such as a robot she built using shopping baskets with Dave, Linda and Nick, for the live debut of ‘Supermarket’, my latest concept album.
All in all, we’ve really made a ‘brand’ out of Eclectic without being overtly commercial.
Ab tell me more about Supermarket? It seems like music combined with a political message or philosophy?
Np Yes. There’s some political elements in the lyrics, opinions about how the big supermarkets have taken over our lives and culture.
Ab but we’ve let them. Parallels with how we’ve let our lives be overrun by the Marketers. I’ll admit
that, even though I’m a Marketer myself.
Np – yes definitely. This autumn we are planning an open air event based around the Supermarket songs which will be staged on the Bailey Head. Kinokulture will be helping to curate a series of films and videos which will be projected as a backdrop and we have some more ideas based around art and performance. We are also networking with other towns around the country that have action groups fighting against supermarket developments who will be invited to come along.
The album looks at some wider social issues that are being fuelled by the retail power of the big supermarkets.There’s a song called ‘Alcohol’ about people drinking cheap booze at home, alone. It’s sad. You’re better off going out and having a drink in a bar or pub, being social. Talking to people.
Ab There are elements of social breakdown. People are stuck in front of computers on Facebook
when they could be speaking face to face to their friends a lot more of the time. Breakdown of
Np if you still have one!! Supermarket is still very much an evolving project.
Ab – as opposed to being a polished campaign?
Np Yeah, there’s videos in the pipeline and the project from the beginning has been partly intended as a vehicle for showcasing the creativity and individuality of Oswestry the things that communities need to draw on when superstores are invading their space.
The album and website have involved local artists and musicians almost in a collective effort.The artwork in the album booklet includes contributions from people like:
Here’s a lyric from one of the tracks, ‘Every little helps’, which sums up some of the sentiment…
“Take a slice of your town centre, add it to our profit ledger
Lay some paving, plant some shrubs
Throw in a five-screen and shuttle bus
In town, out of town, bit by bit, we’re making ground
Big shed builders moving in, every little helps .”
ab What else is happening ?
Np The album Appendectomy is still growing. ‘Shropdoc’ and ‘Oswestry Anaesthetists’ are still popular, people are still talking about those songs and they prompted a really interesting off-shoot. Appendectomy was originally an electronic music album, but Adam Riley from Bike Works approached me with an idea. He’s into rock music and suggested a few riffs that could go with the songs to make rock versions. We talked about it for a few months and then we ran through a couple of songs and ended up producing the Awesome Zombie Ants (AZA) EP. It has three rock-based versions of some the Appendectomy tracks but keeping the electronic framework and my vocals. Plus there is an original track we composed as AZA.
Ab – a crossover album then?
Np – yes and now we’ve got with vinyl pressings in red and green and have gone on to write some other new rock – led songs. We’re now working on rock versions of some of the Supermarket songs and attracting quite a following.
Np groupies, yeah! When AZA played at Eclectic one night a guy came up to me and said that he
was part of an actual group called the Oswestry Anaesthetists who were on a night out downstairs in The Ironworks! One of their party realised we were performing a song upstairs about them.
They thought it was a TV wind-up or something, but then realised it was for real. I had a chat
with them and they went away with a vinyl EP and an original Appendectomy album (click link to buy it) on CD.
So maybe there’s scope for performing in the Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital!
Ab – I’m sure everyone reading this is wondering how the hell do you manage to fit everything in?
Np- it can be quite difficult especially with a family and a full time job! I’m already committed to
every Wednesday night with PVC and Saturday nights DJing at The Ironworks, so things can get a
bit hectic! But it’s fun to do.
Ab I guess that when something doesn’t feel like ‘work’ it’s not such a problem?
Np inspiration keeps you going really.
Ab yes I set up this Bootstrap Cafe blog to encourage that DIY culture without the big budgets,
taking what you’ve got on your doorstep and making someting of consequence happen, whether
that’s great art, a cultural movement or an innovative business idea.
Np yes if you look around your own area there’s no reason why you can’t create something locally
and enjoy it.
Ab It doesn’t have to be something that goes viral on the Internet either, so long as you get personal
satisfaction from it, that’s often reward enough.
Np The Eclectic nights are a good example. It would be nice to get more people through the door, but those who do come really enjoy them.
Ab events like yours act as a platform for creativity. They inspire other people to start their own
projects as well, just like PVC was a part of what motivated me to start this blog. The message is,
you can do it! Don’t be afraid to launch your ideas, because your ideas matter, they have value if
you dare to put them out there. I was talking with Jilly Hartshorn recently at PVC and we both
agreed that amazing well known artists aren’t really that different from the average person, it’s just
that they give their ideas a go, again and again, until they make something extraordinary.
So take the attitude that you do Neil and don’t be afraid. Just give it a go !! It’s so easy to get word
out using the Internet. Sure, because I know about marketing online I could help you, but the main
thing is to do something first and the power of that idea can go a long way, all by itself.
Np –Eclectic’s latest project, ‘A t-shirt for every day of the year’ or ‘366 T-shirts’ embraces that attitude. I’m wearing a different t-shirt with a different slogan for every day of 2012. It was a very obscure and bizarre idea but we went with our instincts to produce it rather than shelve it. The shirts are released each day on the website – 366t-shirts.co.uk- as well as via Facebook and Twitter. We’re just letting it pick up momentum on its own, by word of mouth and the social media. We plan to exhibit the t-shirts next year – it seems a bit ambitious, but it’s an idea we’re going to running with. We recommend everyone give a chance to silly ideas. I expect that’s how Julien Hirst and Galileo got started.
So there’s one awesome interview, finally released.
I’d like to thank Neil for the opportunity to tell his story so far here at Bootstrap Cafe. I definitely feel privileged and I really think this interview deserves your comments.
We all agree that people like Neil deserve more exposure – and that could also apply to you if you’ve got something really innovative going on. So if you think you’ve got something special and want to be featured on Bootstrap Cafe, comment below.
Finally, you should really check out Neil’s work at Eclectic. Truly inspirational.