Photography – In Focus with Nigel King

With a long-standing love of photography, Nigel King’s portfolio covers a wonderfully diverse range of subjects. Here, he gives us a glimpse into his world in pictures…

‘I live in Nottingham in the East Midlands. I’ve always had a camera since I was about 8 or 9, starting with a Boots own brand 110mm model, a 1950’s West German rangefinder and also a Zenit EM. Today, I mostly use a Canon 80D and a Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II. The shots here were taken with those two with the assistance of Adobe Lightroom. My aim with my photography is just to keep gradually improving and for as many people as possible to view my work.

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No collection of my work would be complete without including at least one of Brix Smith Start (here with Brix & the Extricated). She is my absolute favourite person to photograph, the power and the intensity of her (and the band’s) performances are always astonishing, though I caught her here in a more serene moment.

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The header image above of the lady in pearls and the one here on the left were taken at a 1940’s theme day at the Framework Knitters’ Museum in Ruddington, Nottinghamshire. The museum is run by volunteers and I helped them out by recording the day’s events for them. These are just two of the shots from the day, I think they particularly capture the personality of the subjects.

A new event at the museum was their Steampunk Day which included a parade through the village and a ‘tea duelling’ competition. The picture on the right shows just one of the many fine costumes worn that day.

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Live music and event photography is about capturing the moment that defines the show. Live music shoots tend to be mostly shots of the artists, I like to try and get shots of the audience reaction as well. This was a special moment at a Balaam and the Angel gig at The Rescue Rooms in Nottingham.

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In the last couple of years I’ve been very fortunate to work with LeftLion Magazine in Nottingham. It is the local arts, music, culture and listings magazine. This has given me a chance to shoot at different types of events. These two photos are from a poetry night to celebrate the Windrush 70th Anniversary this year, which included Jamaican poet Kei Miller and Georgina Wilding (the current Nottingham Young Poet Laureate). Poetry is big in Nottingham.

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The Nottingham Caribbean Carnival is one of the highlights of the summer. The carnival is in three parts; the parade, where I met the Luton Revellers, followed by a group dance competition on the main stage and then a music festival with four stages into the evening where I found many other revellers.

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This is Sophie Barkerwood from the band Haiku Salut, it was taken at a show at the Rough Trade shop in Nottingham but it is essentially a profile portrait shot of Sophie.

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The Owl Man – I was down by the River Trent for the ‘Nottingham Mile’, a series of mile races along the riverside as part of the Robin Hood Half Marathon weekend. As a race set off, I noticed this man leaning against the barrier in front of me with an owl on his shoulder. I thought I’d better quickly ask him if I could take a photograph, which he agreed to.

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The Robin Hood Marathon events were over two days this year. On the Saturday was a series of mile races where, in addition to the Owl Man, I met these lovely people and their dog. On the Sunday was the the main Half Marathon – as well as shooting the start and the race itself my favourite part was meeting some of the 9000 runners just after they had finished. The second photo is of three from a large contingent of the Notts Women Runners club taking part in the race.

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Nottingham is where I do most of my photography and I’m very proud of my city. I’m always looking for shots when I’m out with my camera. The classic photograph (which I often do) of the Council House is closer than this with the fountains and reflective pond in the foreground. This shot is from 100m further back. The sun came out and illuminated the white Portland stone facade and I found it was framed by the trees.

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2018 has been my best ever year for live music photography. This is one of my favourites of the year – Izzy B Phillips of the band Black Honey. Like Brix, I’ve caught her in a more reflective moment here.’

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All photos are taken and copyrighted by Nigel. If you’d like to see more of his work, or book him to cover an event, you can make contact via Nigel’s website or catch up with him on Twitter and Instagram.

29th November 2018

Live – Mogwai at Brighton Dome

Mogwai / The Twilight Sad / Academy of the Sun, Brighton Dome, 25th Nov 2018

It seems a little implausible that Mogwai have been captivating audiences for over 20 years now but, be that as it may, their newer material and performances are every bit as good at stopping you in your tracks as ever they were. Sunday night’s show at Brighton Dome was a triumph from start to finish.

Opening proceedings, local collective The Academy Of Sun pulled in a good crowd, particularly considering that they were on so close to doors opening. With a brooding dystopian undercurrent, the music gives a nod towards early 70’s Bowie with a vocal touching on Brett Anderson on a mournful day, notably on last year’s release Some Boys Like Thunder. A shrewd booking for first support, The Academy Of Sun set the scene nicely for the acts to follow. With new music in the making, keep an eye out for more to come.

Seasoned purveyors of indie melancholy, The Twilight Sad were up next, proving that sad songs can make people really, really happy. From the poignant There’s A Girl In The Corner to the more upbeat Don’t Move it was clear that, if the crowd weren’t fans of the band before the show, they likely were by the end. Including what’s become something of a regular item in their live shows, a cover of Frightened Rabbit’s Keep Yourself Warm paid fitting tribute and received a huge response. A band to savour in all their glory.

Much anticipation later, Mogwai arrived on stage with an air of understatement that completely belies their abilities. It’s hard to describe Mogwai without fawning over how ridiculously talented they are; watching them play is not unlike being immersed into an epic film soundtrack with lightshow to match. The band played effortlessly through a plethora of songs spanning their career, tracks from their last album Every Country’s Sun staking their place amongst a setlist that ensured something for everyone. Echoing the band’s merch message, a brief crowd chant of ‘Brexit is shite’ provided a lighter moment.

Those hoping for some classics were not left disappointed as the band closed with the heavyweight trio of Like Herod, Mogwai Fear Satan and Helicon 1. Scotland really does produce some beautifully forceful music and Mogwai are, and continue to be, deservedly entrenched in that tradition.

For details of new releases, live dates and more, check out Mogwai, The Twilight Sad and The Academy Of Sun

Words and photos by Siobhan

27th November 2018

Interview – Softer Still

Surrey’s Softer Still have combined their musical talents and influences to create an album filled with laid back tracks packed with hazy guitars and reflective escapism.

We asked them how it all came together and what’s next on the horizon…

Your debut album Nuances has just been released – how would you describe it to someone who’s never heard you before?

Lyrically it’s an exploration of the deepest aspects of connection between two people, at times melancholy and others optimistic, with stylistic nods to the very best of 80’s and 90’s guitar / synth music with a few interesting twists.

Musically this album is the expression of everything that’s influenced us for as long as we’ve been listening to music. We were never trying to create anything specific, there wasn’t a goal in mind or a particular sound or style we were trying to create, we simply felt we had a perspective we wanted to express and, of course, were hoping it would be a perspective potential listeners would find meaningful and connect with.

How long did it take to put together and who else was involved who deserves a mention?

Time permitting we could have finished this album a lot sooner but, as is often the case for an unsigned band self recording and producing their debut album, it took a while – around one year for the newest tracks. We included some of our best tracks from our previous EPs but, at the time of writing and recording these, we weren’t working with the single goal of creating an album.

The one person who without a doubt deserves a mention is our manager Chris, he’s always believed in us since day one, it’s difficult to express how important this is for overly self reflective and self critical musicians. Also a crucial part of the way we’ve ended up writing our music is the fact that we do it in our own studio, at our own pace. When we started we didn’t think we were good enough to record and produce everything ourselves but Chris always encouraged us to stick with that. Now the album is complete, it’s clear to see that we wouldn’t have been able to articulate our vision as clearly as we might have had we been burdened with the financial and time constraints that come with recording in a conventional studio.

How do you decide which tracks become singles – is it something you all agree on?

We’re democratic in our decisions as a band, so it always comes to a group vote. We’re all more or less on the same page creatively which means the votes on decisions like this are almost always unanimous. Honestly though with the last few singles we released, it was very much hand to mouth – as soon as we’d written something new it was time to release a single, so that’s what went out.

What’s on your favourite albums of 2018 list?

We’re a little behind, I guess we’re still working our way through the decades, there’s just so much good music to get through! One notable mention from 2018 would be The Daysleepers – Creation. Other mentions in terms of albums that influenced this album (sorry 2018, we’ll get to you soon) would be Choir Boy – Passive With Desire, Celebrine – Happy Tears, Espen Kraft – Those Days, ‘Til Tuesday – Voices Carry, Joni Mitchell – Dog Eat Dog and Icehouse – Measure for Measure.

You have some live dates coming up – what’s the best and worst thing about touring/playing live?

The best thing is the sense of completion it brings to a very long process. Specifically though it’s getting to meet fans and hearing that the work we did meant something to them. It’s one thing to see the plays going up on streaming but something else to feel someone’s reaction in person.

I wouldn’t say there’s any one ‘worst’ thing, just a whole lot of little inconveniences that are necessary to get on to the stage with everything in its right place. Musicians are notoriously disorganised and putting on a gig that goes smoothly requires a lot of organisation leading up to and on the day of a show. But in all seriousness none of that stuff matters, it’s all a part of the build up to the show, almost like a ritual. It’s a great feeling when you pull it all off and get up on stage and everything is in its right place. It’s an honour and a privilege to be on stage and share our creation with the world. The hard work makes the reward just that little bit sweeter.

Plans and aspirations for Softer Still for 2019?

We want to focus on playing shows. We’re hungry to share the album with audiences in a live setting again and, after spending so long on the album, the itch to get back out on the road is strong! Hopefully the album will be well received and we’ll get some opportunities to support artists we love whose audiences we feel would enjoy our music, such as Drab Majesty, Ice Choir, Lost Children, Moscow Club and Chain Wallet, to name just a few.

You can catch Softer Still on the following UK dates, starting tonight so don’t hang around – remaining tickets available here

21st Nov – The Horn, St Albans
22nd Nov – Sebright Arms, London
29th Nov – The Crofters Rights, Bristol
1st Dec – Think Tank Underground, Newcastle upon Tyne
26th Jan – The Soundhouse, Leicester

Stay updated with what’s happening for Softer Still over the coming months

Listen to / purchase Nuances on multiple platforms now

Photos via Lucid Online PR

21st November 2018

Live – Shame at Portsmouth Pyramids

Shame / HMLTD / Fontaines DC, Portsmouth Pyramids, 16th Nov 2018

Just returned from selling out dates across the US and Asia, Shame have hit a warm welcome home for the UK leg of their tour with debut Songs of Praise named as Rough Trade’s album of the year. Friday night’s stop off at Portsmouth Pyramids leaves no doubt that everything that’s going right for them is more than justified.

Opening act for the evening is Dublin’s Fontaines DC, currently creating a huge buzz of their own and it’s pretty easy to see why.

Their presence on stage is full of angst and slightly unnerving energy; dark hints of Joy Division alongside contagious guitar tunes layered with a commentary that sounds like Mark E Smith might have if he had an Irish accent, notably on opening track Chequeless Reckless. Their eight song set feels all too short – one thing’s for sure, if you’re looking for intensity and authenticity you won’t go far wrong with Fontaines DC – look out for extensive upcoming tour dates.

Next on, HMLTD continue in their quest to be the next generation Blitz Kids. There’s no denying that they put on a show, though at times the costumery and faux American accent make it feel more like musical theatre for the disillusioned than a gig. Highlight of the set proves to be last year’s spaghetti western infused pop release To The Door.

With no need for props, Shame storm onto the stage heading straight into Dust On Trial and Concrete, the crowd completely immersed from the start. There’s a rush of vitality that never lets up; the band have firmly mastered the art of balancing angry, visceral punk with a welcome element of humour. There’s no down time throughout their set, new and old songs played and received with equal enthusiasm.

A great atmosphere and a mesmerising performance ending with Donk, a track they describe as nonsensical. What Shame have achieved so far may or may not make sense but they are undoubtedly one of the best live bands around right now, songs of  praise indeed.

Check with the latest news and pending tour dates for Shame, Fontaines DC and HMLTD

Words and photos by Siobhan

17th November 2018

Interview – Sonic Jesus

Formed in Italy in 2012, Sonic Jesus achieved early critical acclaim through recordings with Fuzz Club Records, a split single with The Black Angels and sharing stages with the likes of Damo Suzuki and Singapore Sling. Due for release on 30th November, new album Memories offers a perspective on the story so far and presents a collection of subtly psych-laden tracks full of experiment and atmosphere. Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Tiziano Veronese told us how the album evolved and hinted at things to come…

Your new album Memories is due for release at the end of November – how long has it taken to put together and what can everyone expect?

Memories is an album of demo songs collected between 2010 and 2015, it has been 5 years of writing that led to 45 demos of which only 14 were taken into consideration.

It is a real collection of rarities which show the real truth behind the creation of a song. There is nothing more beautiful than to make people know, especially to fans, what’s been the leading path in building the sound of Sonic Jesus.

Each song contains some of the most important moments in my life where I explored sonorities, elaborating all the joints between instruments I was playing for the first time. I was really looking at something totally new to me, looking for my own sound.

Tell us about your lead single from the album – The Klas

I wrote The Klas the very same day my red Farfisa was delivered. Drums, bass guitar, organ, all the other guitars and of course the voice, all that you hear was played by me. I’m a loner, I’ve never asked anyone to help me dealing with the composition and recording. I rely a lot on other musicians to play my music live and trust them to bring out the best version of it on stage.

Which other artists have you been listening to or seen live lately?

Lately I attended the concerts of Ennio Morricone, Devendra Banhart and Timber Timbre, who are all artists I dig. I actually listen to many different kinds of music, especially folk and electronic.

You’re setting out to play across Europe shortly – is there a difference in how crowds react to you in different countries?

Yes, there is a big difference, such as the way the stage is set and the connection that arises with the audience. Generally speaking the small-medium venues are the ones that excite me more as people are closer to you and you can really get the warmest vibes. It is very important for me to get out of the studio and look at how the people react while listening to my songs… I get their emotions and sometimes it’s such a thrill, food for the soul.

What do you do when you’re not making music?

Apart from music, I practise Tai-Chi, a discipline that is fundamental to get body and mind synchronised. I read and often I escape from the city by taking long walks in the woods or very isolated mountain places. I love being alone.

And what are your plans and hopes for 2019?

I moved to Sheffield a few months ago and since I arrived I immediately started writing. Some of this music will flow into Sonic Jesus’ new album, that’s for sure, but I can’t hide that another project is on its way… can’t say more!

Sonic Jesus will be playing live at The Shacklewell Arms in London on 30th November and at Manchester’s Night and Day Cafe on 2nd December prior to a string of European dates. You can listen to The Klas now  and pre-order Memories on vinyl here.

Photos via Cabin Fever Collective PR

12th November 2018

Live – The Voidz at Concorde 2

The Voidz / Promiseland, Concorde 2 Brighton, 6th Nov 2018

It must be difficult to shake the tag of being Julian Casablancas’ new band but it’s now 4 years since their debut album and The Voidz have very much shaped into their own persona.  Taking their new offering Virtue to a few select venues in the UK, the band stopped off at Brighton’s Concorde 2 last night, playing to a very appreciative if surprisingly small crowd.

Support came from another act signed to Casablancas’ label Cult Records in the form of Promiseland, aka Johann Rashid. Over half an hour after the scheduled set time, we were starting to wonder if we’d see him at all but, as it turned out, pretty much everyone in the venue saw him up close as he repeatedly jumped the barrier and ran around the crowd. If anyone thought they could skip the support act by having a quiet drink in the bar they were wrong as he was in there too, still singing, still jumping around like a whirlwind with its foot firmly on the accelerator…and that’s a reserved description. A performance full of energy and a pulsing metal techno soundtrack, this is not a guy to miss if you get the chance; he probably won’t be anywhere near the stage though.

Hard to follow but The Voidz filled the stage with the confidence and comfort that suggests this is very much a group project that is heading exactly where it wants to go, whatever the expectations. They kicked off with One For The Ones with its distinct Iggy Pop-esque undertones, followed by recent single QYURRYUS – unmistakably recognisable vocals over an eastern dance track bringing a whole new sound to the table.

With the eloquence only found in the YouTube comments section, I saw an appraisal of the band that said ‘The Strokes are back with some weird new haircuts’. The comparisons may always be made but you should listen to The Voidz on their own merit, sludgy punk with an avant-garde edge that you might just like for itself rather than its past.

You can find more information about The Voidz and Promiseland on the Cult Records site

Words and photos by Siobhan

7th November 2018

Willowfest – Make A Wish

Creating a festival with a difference, Mary Long took us behind the scenes at Willowfest to see how a wish became a reality…

‘I have been to a fair number of festivals in my time. I love the sense of freedom, letting the children roam around ‘free-range’ making friends and enjoying the elements, knowing that there is a huge group of like-minded people in the camp-site surrounding us. Our kids joke that there are normal household rules and then there are ‘festival rules’ where everything moves to a different beat and life is just on the whole much more relaxing. Who cares if you have to wait 57 minutes for a halloumi burger, or if you tripped and got covered head to foot in gooey mud, or if you stay awake till 4am then sleep the next day until lunchtime!? It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I really sat down and contemplated how fortunate I am to be able to spend time at festivals with my children in this way.

My friend Viv sent me a message around the beginning of September to say that Willow, her eldest daughter, had been granted a Wish by the Make-A-Wish Foundation to have her own bespoke festival created in order to celebrate her 16th birthday. Willow is living with Aicardi Syndrome, a rare genetic condition, meaning that her everyday life is a series of multiple seizures, some of which can unexpectedly cause Willow to drop to the ground. Willow is also mainly non-verbal but lights up when listening to her favourite tunes. Viv tried taking Willow to a nearby festival a couple of years ago, but the crowds meant that it all became too much and navigating through to different areas with Willow in her wheelchair was tough going. Viv knew how much Willow would have loved the experience if it could have been more tailored to her needs and this was where the idea for Willowfest was born.

When I saw that message from Viv a few weeks ago it was with a mixture of delight for Willow and nervous trepidation that there was only a time-frame of 6 weeks until the date of the festival. As well as me being a seasoned festival attendee, I also have a number of friends within the business, all of whom metaphorically (and probably literally) ‘spat out their tea’ when I told them that Viv and her Make-A-Wish co-ordinator were going to put on a one day festival for about 200 people … in less than a month and a half’s time.

So from that moment, a frantic scramble towards the festival finish line began. Every bit of respect to Viv, who seemed to unflappably know that it would all come together on the day and that she would be able to provide her eldest daughter with the special, one-of-a-kind, magical experience that she deserved. Viv clearly had a vision of how this was going to work and she stopped at nothing to ensure that all of the festival must-haves were covered. From hand-making (with a little help from some friends) what seemed like miles and miles of gorgeous bunting, to finding the perfect location, to sourcing the best types of festival food and snacks, booking the bands and entertainment and organising set-up and post-festival break-down teams, Make-A-Wish and Viv worked tirelessly to make it happen.

The day before the festival was beautifully bright and sunny and I went across to the venue, a glorious old barn on a country estate usually used for wedding celebrations. When we arrived it looked as if the place was set up for some kind of business conference but again, with Viv’s vision, and lots of helping hands all pulling together, it was soon transformed into the wonderland of Willowfest. A huge main barn, all quirkily and uniquely decorated, 2 quiet/low arousal teepees further away from the main barn for those who might need a break from the hustle and bustle, flags, signposts, a comfy chill-out zone within the main barn. If I didn’t know, I would have said that this was a culmination of at least 6 months’ preparation, not the 6 weeks that had elapsed!

Unfortunately, on the morning of Willowfest, the good spell of weather broke and the forecast for the day ahead looked to be constant, heavy rain. Like every decent festival, the weather certainly didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits and arriving at the festival just after the start time of 2pm, it was clear that there had been a whole lot more preparing going on that morning! Food stalls, a craft marquee (making a miniature model of Willowfest using recycled materials), unlimited candy-floss, popcorn, ice-cream and sweets (‘festival rules’ time for the children – and the adults!), a huge illuminated ‘W’, a dressing up/festival makeover station, glitter stall and so much more, all coming together to create a truly authentic and bespoke festival for Willow.

The birthday girl arrived in style in a stretch limo before coming into the main barn area, rocking her festival style of turquoise faux-fur jacket and gold boots with flashing lights. Initially, Willow looked a little reserved and unsure of what exactly was going on, but once she settled into proceedings and took VIP position front middle of the stage there were smiles and use of sign language to sign ‘party’ and give everything the ‘thumbs up’. As soon as the bands started Willow was lost within the melodies and beats, dancing in her wheelchair non-stop alongside a group of her friends and family. Some of the bands covered a few of Willow’s favourite songs which her sister Ember had been compiling in preparation, playing a selection of songs for Willow to listen to – if it got Willow dancing it made the playlist!

Each of the bands and performers did their best to play their most memorable and crowd-pleasing festival sets. From the opening threesome Alice, Jessica and Kara through to Willowfest headliners Magpie, it was plain to hear that all had given lots of thought and consideration for Willow’s musical preferences. The two solo performers Sheya Lilly and Nye both gave their own spin to a few of Willow’s particular favourites such as George Ezra and Ed Sheeran. Sour Kix (with a 13 year old frontwoman with the poise and confidence of someone twice her age) nailed their set, bringing gifts of cuddly monkey toys for Willow and her friends, and handing out egg-shakers so that everyone could join in when they played Parklife (or as they announced it “one for the parents”). Magpie’s closing set was a resounding, celebratory explosion of a mix of original material and perfectly picked covers. I particularly enjoyed their take on Alice Merton’s No Roots and the moment during their final song Pain by War on Drugs when a silk-fan dancer sprung out of nowhere to gasps of delight. I don’t know whether Willow or the band were more surprised!

At the end of the evening, after an emotional thank you speech from Viv, there were more helping hands all working together to pack this amazing one day wonder away. For me, the stand out moments were the joy of seeing Willow dancing all afternoon long and feeling the love and support pouring out into that space. It’s amazing what friends and family can do for each other, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation enabled everybody to donate time, services and love to make this a truly magical and memorable day. Through Willowfest I learnt that the power of togetherness can achieve amazing results, I learnt never to take for granted all of the things that I am able to do with my children and that at Willowfest, the queue for battered halloumi was a mere 9 minutes.

There are many more children, with similar stories to Willow, whose wishes could be granted through donations to Make-A-Wish. Willow’s story is here where you can still donate to help other wishes come true.’

Words by Mary Long, photos by tonyjupp.com and a big thank you to Viv for letting us share Willow’s story

5th November 2018