Since I first met the Leeds-born Bradley Phillip at Phonica in London last January, I’ve been waiting for a mix from him for the show. Know to viewers of the Boiler Room as one of the hosts/organizers, and fresh from hosting BR’s Australian dates, Bradley is also a killer selector with a knowledge and feel for groove and sound. His Rhythm Section night, in Peckham, takes over a billiards hall into an intimate venue with a communal feel, with such notable names as Rick Wilhite, Andy Blake, Beautiful Swimmers, Floating Points, DMX Krew, and Horse Meat Disco all having done a turn there. Along with his excellent mix, I emailed Bradley with a few questions about growing up in Leeds, how Rhythm Section and Boiler Room came about, and his thoughts on the state of nights out.
Interview with Bradley Zero
To start with the basic intro questions, what was it like growing up in Leeds, and what was your first exposure to electronic music?
I think growing up in Leeds affords you the best country/city balance possible in England. It’s a major urban centre, the cultural and academic hub of the north and it has been a hotbed for electronic music for far longer than I’ve been alive. Still, you drive for 10/15 minutes in any direction and you’re in the countryside. Proper countryside mind you – deers, grouse, farmers, that kind of thing. Growing up in and around Leeds I worked in a lot of bars – underage actually, so I won’t name name – but being a relative youngster in this student/nightlife atmosphere I was exposed to a lot of house. Dub was a big thing back then, but everybody loved house music. I remember moving down to London in 2006 when D&B, dubstep, electroclash and indie-pop where the sounds du jour, while house was seen as a bit cheesy. Obviously house music never went anywhere but it was definitely not at the forefront of London club culture as it is now – whereas Leeds has always been a house city.
What drew you to move to London and (eventually) start work with Phonica?
I moved down to London in 2006 to study Fine Art, which I did for 4 years at The Slade, graduating in 2010.
I spent most of that time playing in bands, DJing, throwing parties, partying and hosting radio shows. I was making art too, but got a bit tied up by the idea of what is and isn’t art. In hindsight all these things are art, I just had to get out of the institution to realise! I never actually worked at Phonica I interned there for free, for the best part of a year, one day a week. It was a great education in music – listening for 8 hours non stop each day. I got to know a lot of nice people and great Dj’s (Nick Williams, Brian Morrison etc. ) and you get to know the heads who come in and buy records. There’s is a nice little community of people passionate about music based around London’s independent records stores.
How did Rhythm Section get its start? Did you ever expect it to become what it is today?
Well, it started as a radio show on Peckham’s South City Radio with my good friend Rose. As we both had a lot of work to do around the time of graduating, the collective lay more or less dormant for a year, at least. Rose went on to record cello led chamber pop under the name Rhosyn, while I got more and more involved in DJing. When I came across Canavan’s (Rhythm Section’s venue) and wanted to throw a party there, Rhythm Section was the obvious choice for a name. Ironically the collective noun ‘Rhythm Section’ is synonymous with a 2 man outfit, [and now it] has become just me.
Rhythm Section hasn’t really changed much since it has settled in its current format. It’s a simple formula of not too many DJ’s playing good records on a nice sound-system on a regular basis. With no set times. This is exactly what i dreamt of when I set out to provide Peckham with a regular, solid dance party. The way in which it has been received and the great people who come every 2 or 3 weeks in such numbers have far exceeded my hopes for the night. I find it so invigorating and exciting and generally reassuring in terms of the current state of dance music. We’re in a really exciting time where anything goes and really it comes down to the people who turn up to dance, not knowing what to expect.
Rhythm Section HQ in Peckham, South London
Do you have any producers or DJs that you admire, or feel are under-rated?
Ruf Dug – representing Ruf Kutz in Manchester. he’s put out 7 records on his label and I could play for hours with them alone. His own productions are unfathomably effective, made by a man who definitely knows how to work a dance-floor. Every time I play one of his tracks, at least 1 person will ask ‘what’s this?’ – and more often than not they’ve never heard of him! Ruffy is the man.
Brian Morrison – works underground at Phonica. Encyclopaedic knowledge and very hard to please but MY GOD the man knows how to DJ. He’s recently started his own label, Going Good Records – check that shit out. Brian actually played with Ruf Dug in what might have been the best Rhythm Section night ever (stiff competition). Having Brian speak highly of his Rhythm Section experience meant a lot to me. The Brian Seal of Approval is a good thing to have.
What’s your take on the whole brand of warehouse club culture that has seemingly enveloped London clublife? Your Rhythm Section nights are basically the antidote to that – do you see more nights like it emerging in opposition?
I think there’s a time and a place for this kind of event but the main drawback is that it’s not a scene that’s going to foster any sense of community. Antidote is perhaps a bit strong but what I do is most definitely an alternative. Every now and again I definitely do want to be in a big room with a monstrous soundsystem, 10 strobes, lasers, fog machines and podiums. However, I feel much more at home going to a local spot where I’ve got to know the door lady, recognise all the security, can have a chat with the bar staff and still listen to the kind of music that might be played in a more typical club, but not at decibel levels that will leave my ears ringing for days!
No warehouse parties on the horizon then?
Not for Rhythm Section. As a DJ, I’m not against these kind of things and would enjoy it from time to time, but Rhythm Section is about the vibe, and that vibe doesn’t translate to such a big, impersonal, industrial space. Some things do though.
How did you get involved with Boiler Room? What do you make of the way that it has exploded and helped to define its own niche of nightlife?
I used to go to the shows all the time before I was involved, when the broadcast happened in South London. I’d invited Thristian to come and play at a couple of Rhythm Section parties south of the river, and I guess I was on his radar when they needed to get more people involved. Bear in mind at this time Thristian was solely hosting and doing the majority of programming in Berlin, LA and London! They needed more help, and I was roped in, firstly on a trial basis, but this quickly became a full time position as things steadily stepped up. There’s a surprising amount of work that goes into the shows (not all prancing around in front of a camera!) but it’s basically the best job ever.
I don’t think it has defined it’s own niche of nightlife at all. You have to remember the shows are only attended by about 60 people max (we have a tiny space!) and they finish at 11pm. It really is about the broadcast. What Boiler Room has done is put forward a new model for broadcasting; something that is both alternative, intimate and interactive but on a scale that appeals to hundreds of thousands of people. It’s good for the artists and it’s good for the viewers, many of whom are in isolated situations where they may not have the chance to go see such acts in real life.
Boiler Room night in Sydney, January 2013
Are there any other future plans on the horizon?
I try not to plan too far ahead, things keep changing too fast! I like to think of Rhythm Section as my anchor – a solid immutable powerhouse of good vibes. I have no aspirations to grow it into something else, or expand in the typical sense. Boiler Room’s rise to prominence has been somewhat meteoric, as is the nature of any internet based sensation who’s audience literally has no limit. It’s all very exciting and we will be popping up all over the place in the coming months, but the core (Tuesday nights in Hackney) remains unchanged. As for myself as a DJ, I really look forward to collaborating with like minded people with a similar outlook around the world. (Waiting on the invitations, guys!)
What can you tell us about the mix you’ve made?
It’s quite a simple explanation here. I never like to plan mixes, but I often start of really well then struggle to find the right track to play next out of the vast piles of vinyl. The night before this mix was made I had arranged my collection into genre defined categories, with a separate box for new acquisitions. I woke up after a good nights sleep, admired my newly organised collection and just began to mix…the wonders of categorisation resulted in a satisfying journey! No effects, no corrections, and 2 tracks were digital, but the rest were vinyl. Enjoy the imperfections.