Letter #70

Good morning / afternoon / evening,

I hope you’re well. Prepare yourself, for this week I’ve got something special for you! Let me explain…

Last Friday night, after a busy week, I decided that rather than spend the evening sorting and resorting records, I needed something a bit less strenuous. So I had a look through the stuff we had saved on Netflix, and found a documentary to watch. For the next 124 minutes, I sat totally enthralled. The documentary was Quincy, and I urge you to watch it.

I suppose it’s difficult to not know the name ‘Quincy Jones’. He’s had a high profile career that’s spanned seven decades (yep, you heard me), but I didn’t truly appreciate the impact that he’d had on culture until I watched the documentary. Alongside producing some of the greatest music of all time, developing some of the greatest artists of all time, and altering the course of musical history, he’s also one of only a handful of people to have won an ‘EGOT‘. On top of that, he’s responsible for a number of humanitarian and philanthropic projects that are making a huge difference to the world. Basically, to borrow Quincy’s parlance, he’s a ‘cool motherfucker’.

So this week’s letter is dedicated to Quincy Jones. The mixtape is filled with music he’s created, produced, or heavily influenced. Scan down the mixtape and you’ll see amazing music from Jones himself, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Donna Summer, Michael Jackson, and George Benson, as you’d expect. You’ll also see music from some unlikely artists that cite a direct influence from Jones (and the songs included contain samples from Jones’ productions). The TL;DR section is made up of content featuring or focused on Jones and his impact on culture, and the rambling notes contain some of the many incredible thoughts I’ve collected / stolen from Jones over the years.

BIG LOVE ❤️

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🌪 TL;DR section 🌪
Interesting things this week:
  1. Probably one of the best (and one of the longest!) interviews I’ve ever read was with Jones on Vulture – the gossip is next level
  2. There’s a brilliant feature on his early life in an old copy of the Smithsonian magazine (available online here) that charts his childhood and the start of his career as a trumpet player with Count Basie and Sinatra (really)
  3. Last year Jones did an interview with Rolling Stone and discussed at length his experience of working with Michael Jackson – with some salacious stories too, no less
  4. A few years ago there was a Quincy Jones tribute at the BBC Proms, and this particular track has always stayed with me (although stick with the first minute or so, as it takes a little while to get going)
  5. There was an interesting moment in this feature on Nightmares on Wax when talking about getting clearance of samples from Jones – he had to write a two page letter explaining the usage and the purpose before he could get clearance
  6. This clip from the 1984 documentary I Love Quincy is brilliant – watch Herbie Hancock and Jones jamming on a new synthesiser
  7. You may remember Jones had some pretty audacious stories (and opinions) about the Beatles, so it’s interesting to get McCartney’s response (and hear his own stories about Jones!) here in this GQ interview
  8. Weirdly, Jones once attended a memorial service to commemorate his own death. Totally true.
  9. The absolute motherlode of all interviews, however, is this interview from earlier this year with Quincy and GQ – it’s bursting with amazing anecdotes and behind the scenes stories. Give it a read.
  10. If you want even more then get this autobiography on order – I have
📚 The notes 📚

After reading, listening to, and watching everything I can about Jones this week, it feels a bit daft to try and write something new and insightful. So instead, I wanted to share what I’d pulled from all of those places – the thoughts and words that really resonated with me, and hopefully will mean something to you (as well as a couple of juicy stories too, of course).

On what drives great creatives:
“It’s an attitude they have – I want to know how everything works. Curiosity. Sinatra had it too.”

The advice Jones snr. gave Quincy on committing:
“Once a task is just begun, never leave it till it’s done. Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all.”

On facing adversity:
“Well, listen, anger doesn’t get anything done, so you have to find out: How do you make it work? That’s why I was always maniacal about transforming every problem into a puzzle which I can solve. I can solve a puzzle—a problem just stresses me out.”

On Michael Jackson’s insane attention to detail:
“He had a perspective on details that was unmatched. His idols are Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, James Brown, all of that. And he paid attention, and that’s what you’re supposed to do. That’s the only way you can be great, you know, is pay attention to the best guys who ever did it.”

Watching Prince make a fool of himself in front of James Brown and Michael Jackson:
“Prince told Michael he’d kill him if he showed it to anybody,” Jones explains, but one way or another, time-coded raw footage of what took place that night eventually surfaced. First Brown invites Jackson to the stage. Jackson sings a few phrases, spins, moonwalks, then embraces Brown and can be seen whispering to him. Brown then calls for Prince. After a delay, Prince gets onstage, takes a guitar, jams a little, then strips off his shirt. He does some mic-stand tomfoolery, dances a little more, then nearly tumbles into the audience trying to pull down an oversize streetlamp prop. It was a superstar face-off that has often been seen as a triumph for Michael Jackson, and a rare humiliation for Prince.”

On a brilliant introduction to Picasso:
“We had lunch with him. He was a character, man. He was fucked-up with absinthe all the time. We both ordered sole meunière, which is one of my favourite dishes of all time from Paris, and after he’d finish he’d take the bones and push it out in the sun and let the sun parch the bones, and he’d take out these three colors, orange and blue and red, and when the waiter would say, ‘L’addition, s’il vous plaît,’ Picasso would push that. And you look all across the walls, his bones with his writing on them. That’s how he paid his bills. He was a bad motherfucker, man.”

On capturing the attention of an audience:
“If one producer does a record, the sequencing is the most important thing, keep it moving all the way through. In 15 seconds, if it doesn’t engage, the ear goes to sleep. They want ear candy. It’s amazing what engages the ear in a great song. Not too many of them going on today – a lot of champagne-selling noises. But I love Kendrick Lamar, the Weekend, Drake.”

On his preferred way of working:
“All his life, Jones has relished that moment around midnight when something new begins. “The muses come out at midnight,” he says. “No e-mails, no faxes, no calls.” And when the rest of the city is fully asleep, that’s when Quincy Jones, three months short of his 85th birthday, will really get to work.”

On advice Jones was given for soaking up new cultures:
“When he was getting ready to take his first trip to Europe with Hampton, in 1953, the veteran sax player Ben Webster sat him down. “Eat the food, listen to the music and learn 30 to 40 words in every language,” Webster said. Jones listened: “It’s like a code to enter another culture. If you open up your mind, it’s like music.”

On Jones’ enduring impact on culture:
“Quincy Jones was right up there with George Gershwin, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong as one of the cornerstones of American music,” says Gerald Early, an English and African-American studies scholar at Washington University in St. Louis. “He’s influenced American culture and had a presence that few other musicians have had.”

On his eternal sense of groove:
“He never loses the melody and he has the pulse of jazz, which is the pulse of life, in everything he does.”

On what drives his work:
“Just make music that gives you goosebumps”

Amen, and preach to the king, Quincy Jones.

As always, if you’ve read to here, thanks for indulging me ❤️.

See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

Letter #69

Good morning / afternoon / evening,

I hope you’ve had a lovely week, and you’re ready to start the weekend. Big thanks to Ben for last week’s guest letter – and thanks to everyone who sent in fan mail too 😍. You’re a cute bunch. This week it’s back to boring old me, but I reckon I’ve got a treat for you.

There’s a lot of musical variety on the tape this week (and even some Hall & Oates). I’d also say that it follows the Mancuso Bardos more than usual, so I’d recommend getting yourself a little drink of something nice and sitting down to listen – but expect to be kitchen dancing before you know it.

BIG LOVE ❤️

💥 If you enjoy this weekly letter (like I know you do), then please take a second to forward this email, or share this link with a short recommendation on Facebook or Twitter 💥
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🌪 TL;DR section 🌪
Interesting things this week:
  1. First things first, one of our crew (Matt Everitt) has got a new book coming out – The First Time – get it pre-ordered!
  2. This is a brilliant profile on Robyn and her impact on pop music over the last two decades from Laura Snapes of the Guardian
  3. It’s neurologically true – jazz musicians are wired different from classical musicians
  4. The Saatchi Gallery has a new exhibition that looks great – Black Mirror: Art as Social Satire – part of which is the Ray’s A Laugh photo-series that shows what the midlands was like in the 90s (it looks about right to me)
  5. There’s a new free jazz documentary from Tom Surgal coming soon that sounds absolutely amazing
  6. Head down to the Tate Modern to see Kode9’s contribution to an installation by Tania Bruguera in the turbine hall (spoiler: it’s a 40,000 watt sub bass rig)
  7. There’s a nice interview with Jon Phonics on his alternative history of Detroit soul on Stamp The Wax
  8. Stephen Titmus from RA has published the latest in the Art of DJingseries – this one with genuine legend Louie Vega (from Masters at Work, of course)
  9. There’s a new Netflix documentary series coming called ReMastered – eight episodes, each exploring a different major moment in music culture
  10. Finally, have a read of this interview with Chilly Gonzales in Huck, I knew very little about him, but I’m going to go looking for more now
📚 The notes 📚
The notes this week are a little brief, as I’m working on a bigger idea that I want to give proper time to rather than rushing it. However, I had a few things I wanted to share. I finally finished the Dave Haslam book this week, and I cannot recommend it enough – I can honestly say it’s one of the best books I’ve read in ages, not just for the musical history of Manchester (and the Hacienda), not just for the bands and DJs featured, or even for the way he talks about culture, but for Dave himself. He’s an astounding human, and he looks at the world like we do. There’s a line near the end of the book that I wanted to share, as it captured so perfectly how I (and I think we) feel, and the very reason for Love Will l Save the Day; “I’m just a guy who believes the project of being human should be fuelled by talking, connecting, positivity and love. And music, of course”.

As I’ve been reading, it’s sparked so many thoughts on my own exploration of culture and music. Something that’s always felt so natural and organic, but still occasionally needs a bit of a check up. I think I find it easy to slip into a cultural bubble. To read the same sort of books, to buy the same set of magazines, visit the same record shops, where I look in the same genre sections, and pull from the same set of sources for new music. It’s easy to get trapped in a loop, and often I find two things pull me into that loop; time, and routine. Time is hard, because I have a wonderful family that I desperately try to spend as much time with as I can, and a dream job that means I pour what’s left of my time into that. This project is so intensely important to me, but it can be tempting to cut corners, to churn something out without really thinking just to say that I’ve done it. Tick. Done. You deserve better.

The second challenge is definitely routine (which is definitely connected to time too). I’m a horrendous creature of habit. My job can be unpredictable, so I crave structure in other ways. I wear similar clothes, eat similar foods, and have little crutches that provide routine. I never, ever want music or exploring culture to become routine, so I have to keep a check on where I explore, and force myself to break routines and habits.

The risk is falling down an ever decreasingly narrow hole, and missing the bigger picture. I always want to have one foot in popular culture, and many other feet at the many other edges of culture. So it’s important to pop that bubble. In fact, last weekend the bubble was popped for me, without me knowing it. About a year ago a new record shop opened up in Southend, called Two Twelve Tensand despite knowing the owner, last weekend was my first visit. Along with being busy, I thought that because the shop specialises in drum’n’bass, there wouldn’t be anything for me. I had a couple of hours free, so decided to pop down and see how it was going. The shop stock is mostly built from second hand collections bought in bulk, so I decided to have a dig through on the off-chance I’d find a couple of records I wanted. Two hours later I finished the last crate, and ended up bringing home 20+ records. There was so much killer music, most of which I don’t think I’d have ever found from my usual sources, and definitely wouldn’t have found from my routine record shops. Quite a few of the tracks are on this week’s mixtape – I’d be intrigued if you can spot which ones.

Last week I was talking with Phil Hilton (founder of Shortlist magazine), and given he’s spent more than two decades shaping and reflecting UK popular culture, I asked how he kept up? He said that he consumes everything that he can, and never stops asking questions and looking for more. Which felt like half validation, and half warning shot to never stop looking. Anyway, I’m rambling, but I suppose my point is that there’s so much amazing stuff to experience and find, it’s important to keep the desire burning and never give up trying to find the edges.

As always, if you’ve read to here, thanks for indulging me ❤️.

See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

Letter #68

Good morning / afternoon / evening,

I hope you’ve had great week. If you’re new here, then this is how this works. I’ve been away all week at a work thing, so you’ve got the treat of a guest letter from Ben Isley.

I’ve never actually met Ben, but he joined our crew off the back of another brilliant guest letter (thanks Matt H!) forty letters ago or so. After a few letters he emailed to chat through some of the tracks and share some of his own thoughts and music suggestions. He shared some songs I’d never heard, but immediately loved, so naturally I asked him to put a guest letter together. He was travelling through South America at the time, and I think you can hear that in the mixtape – not in the genres, but in the mood and the tone. Beachy. Sunset. A few beers.

It’s glorious, and I know you’re going to love it.

BIG LOVE ❤️

PS Go buy the latest edition of The Move mag too.

💥 If you enjoy this weekly letter (like I know you do), then please take a second to forward this email, or share this link with a short recommendation on Facebook or Twitter 💥
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🌪 TL;DR section 🌪
Interesting things this week:
  1. The Gilles Peterson x Safaplace pop-up Look Up finishes this weekend – so get yourself booked in!
  2. On its ten year anniversary, read the amazing backstory of The Quietus
  3. Nick Cave is reportedly working on a new album 🌚
  4. Learn about what ecstasy does to an octopus (it’s science, honestly)
  5. There’s a new Basquiat documentary coming soon from the BBC
  6. The Beeb also recently put out a documentary on house music in the UK (of questionable quality, but everyone’s talking about it)
  7. Watch the trailer for the upcoming Yayoi Kusama documentary; Kusama – Infinity
  8. Listen to my new favourite album, from Noname
  9. Andy Warhol once shot a screen test for Bob Dylan. It’s as you’d expect
  10. Finally, Ben suggested I read The Untethered Soul, so that’s just moved to the top of my reading list
📚 The notes 📚

I’d like to thank Jed firstly for putting such an organic sharing platform such as this together, and inspiring many of us by being that catalyst through which we explore beyond what we all may otherwise. And secondly for being patient with my request to do one of these great things. The letters leading to this one have reignited times in my own musical journey, triggered me to listen to full albums that I likely wouldn’t have come across & generally enhanced my listening to music. With big boots to fill, here I am…

My main source of musical influence from a young age was my older brother, Sam. Skate films & Dr Fox’s Weekly Rundown definitely did its bit, but he was my source of new music. I remember hearing Eminem Stan at the bottom of our stairs in 2000 and my mind front flipping out of my cranium. He was, and still is, a ruthless filter and a tough nut to crack… He’ll appreciate the irony there!

I remember my first cassette being Robert Miles’ Children, and Daft Punk’s One More Time being my first CD bought with my own money – both were seen as ‘waaay too dancey’ amongst my 11 year old peers, busy slow dancing awkwardly to Destiny’s Child. But I stuck with it anyway. My main influences and I guess where I continue to draw inspiration are definitely the likes of OutKast, producers like SBTRKT & Four Tet as well as respected broadcasters like Mary-Anne Hobbs & Gilles Peterson.

As I’m sure like all guest letters prior to this one, the list has been through countless edits over a length of time. But one thread remained throughout… A wholesome challenge to myself to include a varied amount of styles that flow somewhat. Hopefully I’ve achieved that. It’s so difficult when it comes to selecting as there is so much out there worth sharing.

I hope by sharing some of ‘mine’ , I can somewhat repay the hundreds of ‘yours’ I’ve taken and loved from previous Love Will Save the Day letters. 😁

As always, if you’ve read to here, thanks for indulging me ❤️.

See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

Letter #67

Good morning / afternoon / evening,

I hope you’ve had a bloody glorious week. I’ve had a brilliant week, filled with interesting ideas and conversations, loads of great music, and some great work news 💙.

This week’s mixtape is filled with songs with a real funk to them, the TL;DRsection has got some absolute gems in it, and the letter is filled with thoughts I’ve stolen shamelessly 😜.

BIG LOVE ❤️

💥 If you enjoy this weekly letter (like I know you do), then please take a second to forward this email, or share this link with a short recommendation on Facebook or Twitter 💥
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🌪 TL;DR section 🌪
Interesting things this week:
  1. Fantastic Man has an in-depth interview with Tyler, the Creator that perfectly demonstrates his position as modern iconoclast
  2. Watch this epic documentary on the birth of Berlin’s hugely influential electronica culture
  3. There’s an interview with MIA and Steve Loveridge in the Guardian that gives the backstory to the upcoming documentary Matangi / Maya / MIA
  4. If you haven’t already, then listen to the world exclusive mix from Burial and Kode9 on 6 Music this week
  5. Watch Charles Limb’s excellent TED talk on trying to understanding the neurological phenomenon that occurs when world class jazz players improvise
  6. I’ve found a new source of culture stuff – have a look at Drugstore Culturemagazine
  7. Brett Anderson’s (off of Suede) featured in The Quietus’ Bakers Dozenfeature this week
  8. This is a bit left field, but I really enjoyed reading the story behind John Kaag’s book on Nietzsche and his attempts to emulate him in order to understand his raw form of stoicism
  9. The latest in Resident Advisor’s brilliant series The Art of DJing is from James Zabiela, so obviously worth a read
  10. This enormous GQ cover feature on Paul McCartney has some wonderful anecdotes and trivia in it (trust me)
Bonus read; I included something on the science of sleep that seemed to strike a chord, so I’m following it up with this piece in the Guardian on a new form of treatment to insomnia.
📚 The notes 📚
I’m reading a lot again, which is good. Alongside doing more exercise, and writing more, I think reading is a huge part of what helps me to make more sense of the world. I’ve had a few book recommendations over the past few months (thank you), and I’m on the verge of starting to read Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. Fiction is a surprisingly big step for me, as I don’t think I’ve read any fiction for probably a decade. This is partly due to the fact that I have a long list of non-fiction I want to read, and partly because I studied English Literature at university – and reading three (fiction) books a week, every week, for three years kind of ruined fiction for me. However, I’m rambling, and before I start High Fidelity, I need to finish Dave Haslam’s excellent Sonic Youth Slept on My Floor.

The book tracks Haslam’s involvement in culture, the hyper-influential music scene emerging from Manchester in the late 70s, and his own continued influence on broader music culture. It’s brilliant, and I can highly recommend it. I think I’ve probably highlighted more passages and paragraphs in this book than any other before, there are just so many gems. So many so, that I wanted to share a few with you.

On the pursuit of trying to understand culture:
“In one way I wanted nothing much: I was happy adventuring in music and the world of ideas. But on another level, I wanted everything. In 1985 I believed if you read lots, went to see as many arthouse films as you could, listened to John Peel and spent your days and nights listening to music, thinking and writing, you could eventually make sense of the world. I really thought that. I really did.”

On Tony Wilson:
“Among Tony’s ambitions for the club was for it to make a significant contribution to Manchester, and not just to its music scene, but to its sense of identity and self-worth too. He explained that one of its aims was ‘to restore a sense of place’. It was always about more than music; it was about ideas, art, fashion, cities, communities, life.”

Referencing a beautiful quote from Maya Angelou:
“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.”

On understanding our personal evolution through culture:
“In The Falling, one of Carol Morley’s films, one of the characters declares; ‘We are all three people. The person we think we are. The person other people see. And the person we really are.’ That might be right, but these things are fluid. If we are three people, all these identities change, grow, develop or regress. There’s a relationship between who I am now and the twenty-three-year-old me. Perhaps one day I’ll work out exactly what it is.”

On finding your tribe:
“When you grow up in a city or move to another city, the biggest adventure and the most valuable reward is to find your tribe. We search for the places that draw the people we share interests with, or feel comfortable with, or attracted to, or inspired by. Tim Burgess of the Charlatans, in his book about hunting for vinyl in record shops, says a great record shop is like ‘a refuge’. The same can be true of a club, an arthouse cinema, a particular pub, a café-bar, a boutique, a bookshop or, as Tracey Donnelly and I found, a hairdressing salon in a nightclub basement.”

And finally, something incredibly close to my heart. On Debris, Haslam’s self-published fanzine:
“Debris had become a kind of mission. Mostly I was trying to uncover music, films and books that were worth celebrating and sharing, but also I realised that there are huge parts of our lives that are under-documented. So, I also wrote about what I thought of as ‘real-life stuff’.”

If you’ve read this far, then here’s a little treat. There’s an excellent interview (of sorts) with Rei Kawakubo (founder of COMME des GARÇONS) in the Guardianthat you absolutely must read. My favourite two quotes are; “the only way to hope to make something new is not to be satisfied”, and “when things are too easy, you don’t think and you don’t make progress”. As I get older, this idea of absolute commitment and unassailable energy and drive to improve things becomes far more prominent than it’s ever been to me. “Commitment has to be on extreme.” 

To steal a final quote from Haslam, who was in turn stealing a quote from Walter Pater; “To burn always with this hard, gem-like flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life.”

Amen.

As always, if you’ve read to here, thanks for indulging me ❤️.

See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

Letter #66

Good morning / afternoon / evening,

I hope you’ve had a wonderful week. Huge thank you to Becca for last week’s guest letter. I love writing this letter each week, but it’s nice to have a break sometimes too. I’ve got a few more guest letters ready to go over the next few months, but if you’d like to write one (or write another one), then please let me know. I’m always keen to find fresh perspectives.

This week’s letter is loosely themed around the piano. That doesn’t mean it’s melancholic (although it kicks off that way – but stick with it), it just felt like this week the piano had punched out of the music I’d been listening to more than usual. There are definitely some unexpected moments. And a few classics have crept on this week. I often think these playlists follow my mood over the week – like a journal, in a weird way, I suppose. This week this is especially true.

Anyway, I’m rambling. Here it is, and I hope you love it.

PLAY
🌪 TL;DR section 🌪
Interesting things this week: 

  1. Listen to Mr Scruff playing an incredible and eclectic selection of recordsfor Mixmag from 2014
  2. When you sleep, your brain does some amazing things
  3. Trawl through this playlist of classic hip-hop tracks that sample Roy Ayers
  4. Cult producer Matthew Herbert has published a book that’s actually an album that’s actually a book
  5. Watch Raf Simmons prepare for his first ever show for Dior in the fantastic Dior and I on Netflix
  6. Listen to the new album from Yves Tumor (and read this slightly OTT, but good-all-the-same review)
  7. Read this interview with Lewis Heriz, the artist behind the Strut-issued cover work re-releases of Sun Ra records
  8. Listen to a new track from Makaya McCraven’s forthcoming album
  9. Watch Novelist talk about his Mercury nomination and what drives him
  10. That’s just one of the things Bill Cunningham gave the world: his delight in the possibility of you

I’ve made the decision to include only ten links each week from now on. I’ve been uploading some old letters to the archives and sometimes there were as many as 20 links! So to drive a higher quality, and stronger consistency (and less laziness), I’m going to limit myself to ten from now on.

📚 The notes 📚
This week the notes are short, partly because I’ve been busy, partly because I’m thinking about how I keep this letter fresh, and partly because I’ve been thinking about death and the obsession in arts we have with the ‘tragic romantic’ character.

Mac Miller died this week. He was 26, and his early work showed acres of promise. Such an incredibly sad loss. He was nearly at that age when we romanticise the death of the rising star (the “27 club“). Our collective fascination with the premature deaths of those with talent is a strange one – and when they don’t pass away, we (the royal we) spend our time asking why not. This felt especially pertinent a few weeks ago when Peter Doherty was spotted eating an enormous (like, 4,000 calories enormous) breakfast. The collective gasp at his visible ill health was palpable. “How was he still alive?”. When we think about the impact on culture people within that ’27 club’ had, that Mac Miller had (and promised even more), and that even Doherty had – why do we virtually celebrate their demise?

There was an almost premonitory plea from influential hip-hop blog DJBooth back in March on Mac Miller and artists putting themselves through torture for stories; “don’t lose sight of the light while swimming with the sharks, and don’t self-destruct just so they can view the fireworks”.

Lot’s to think about.

This might be a weird thing to say, but if you ever need someone to talk to, I’m always here.

As always, if you’ve read to here, thanks for indulging me ❤️.

See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

Letter #65

Good morning / afternoon / evening,

I hope you’re well. This week we’re really lucky to have a guest editor. It’s been ages since we’ve had a guest, and I’ve got five or six waiting to go – but I’ve been holding them back for the perfect moment. This week, that perfect moment arrived for our guest letter from Becca Sawyer.

Becca and I met a few years ago when we were working at the same agency and bonded over music. She now works at the Guardian, and has been one of the biggest supporters of Love Will Save the Day since the early days. Her letter is a wonderful tribute, and the mixtape is stunning – it feels and sounds like London and all the influences within it, and the way Becca has put the tracks together make it the perfect accompaniment to the earlier sunsets, but still balmy evenings.

Big thanks for Becca, and I know you’re going to love it ❤️

PLAY
🌪 TL;DR section 🌪
Stuff to do: 
📚 The notes 📚
What a terrifying privilege to be asked to contribute to Love Will Save The Day. I’ve been listening and loving the selections and new music I’ve discovered through being part of this community, so I hope you like my contribution.

My mixtape isn’t so much a coherent exploration of any specific genre or era, but w hat it became through edit after edit is a reflection of the influences and offshoots of my love of music centred loosely on the influence of my Dad – Mick Sawyer.

I grew up in a noisy house. There was (and still is to this day) music playing at most times of the day or night – particularly when my parents had people over to eat or party with us. My Dad worked in music television in the 80s, travelled a lot to film in far flung places like Jamaica and Nigeria, and as a result the sound of my house was a bit different from most houses. I heard music from all over the world such as the opening track from Orchestra Baobab, dub and reggae, jazz from the 1960s (my father’s love of Miles Davis is well known to friends and family), funk, pop, psychedelic folk, and even hip hop made appearances and schooled me melodically, often without my noticing.

This list is a tribute to the genres and artists he played me – such as Nahawa Doumbia, and Talking Heads, and the music he bought me personally – Roni Size, Gil Scott-Heron, Leftfield. There are artists included I’ve given him in return such as the incredible Goat. The list is also a testament to where I’ve taken his influences now I don’t live at home or at least where I think I can hear them – for example the experimental electronics and house I love (STL, DJ Seinfeld, Rhythm & Sound, Red Snapper) because of his love of dub, soul and disco like Evelyn Champagne King. There are also some tracks I won’t explain – they are just wicked and I hope you agree.

Anyway – I’ve waffled enough. Hopefully you’ll find something here you like. Also big up Mick Sawyer for a young lifetime of amazing music. I love you ❤️

See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

Letter #64

Good morning / afternoon / evening,

I hope you’re well. Autumn is nearly upon us, and that means that there’s been an influx of new music released this week (August is always a quiet month for new music). My musical education, like most, is filled with influences, but there are a handful of people who’ve had a significant impact on me. David Mancuso, John Peel, and Theo Parrish are three of my musical idols. All three feel particularly pertinent this week, as it would have Peel’s birthday, there’s a new in depth interview on Mancuso and NY nightlife (part onepart two), and also an oral history of Parrish’s Sound Signature record label – so this week is dedicated to them.

In true tribute, the mixtape is uncompromising. You’re going to love it ❤️.

PLAY
🌪 TL;DR section 🌪
Stuff to do: 
📚 The notes 📚
It’s been a busy week, so the notes are short this week. However, I’d like to draw your attention to a few books I’m reading at the moment; the first is John Peel biography Margrave of the Marshes (which I’m reading for the third time), the two absolutely brilliant Matt Haig books – Notes on a Nervous Planet, and Reasons to Stay Alive, and the brilliant book on Basquiat that my dad bought me (thanks dad).

I wanted to share a few short notes too. There’s a feature on the NY Times on pop music that seems to have been shared loads this week, if you haven’t read it already, then I’d recommend it, but expect to be frustrated (at least that’s how I felt. The writer seems to have a completely binary view of the ‘mainstream’ and the edges. I think it totally fails to grasp that the critic, the curator, and the artist’s job is to draw lines between different parts of the cultural map – they all very literally help us navigate the new and understand the old, by making it more comprehensible and pointing out the connections.

I wouldn’t usually share something that I felt so negative about, but I really feel that this type of snobbish bullshit causes more damage than it fixes. It creates a them and us, and forces people to pick a side. It lacks sophistication and understanding that the world isn’t two different colours, but shades on a spectrum, and in doing so it loses the nuance of what makes art beautiful. There is something for everyone.

As always, if you’ve read to here, thanks for indulging me ♥️.

See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

Letter #63

Good morning / afternoon / evening,

I hope you’re well. This week is a Bank Holiday special, and hopefully the mixtape will provide the perfect soundtrack to your long weekend, and since my working week was relatively normal this week, the rambling notes are back! 🎉

If you’re new here, then this explains everything. The basics are that there’s a playlist if you click the red button below, some links to interesting stuff below that, and some rambling notes below that.

The mixtape this week was one of my favourite to put together. Massive soulful, sunshine vibes.

PLAY
🌪 TL;DR section 🌪
Stuff to do: 
📚 The notes 📚
There’s a long running joke with my family and friends that the only music that I dislike is “comedy music”. Music that is cringingly novelty, or comedians singing songs. There’s such a small pool of music that I actively dislike, but “comedy music” makes me feel like I’m physically turning inside out. I’ll give you an example, as much as it pains me; Tenacious D. Even finding that link hurt. I love good comedy, I love good music, but put them together and my insides can’t take it. The most frequent accusation that gets levelled at me is; “you just don’t like music to be fun, you bloody goth”. Which I think is pretty unfair. You all know about my love of upbeat disco, I love a little kitsch pop music, and I wouldn’t say I had even the vaguest elitist tendencies. I love music. Just not comedy music (or most country and western, while I’m in the mood for a confession).

I don’t think this is about me taking music too seriously. As I mentioned last week, what I really enjoyed about Sylvia Patterson’s book (I’m Not With the Band) was the unbridled sense of joy she takes in music. She never takes music too seriously, but equally I think if she clicked that Tenacious D link above, she’d puke. The more I’ve thought about it over the years, the more I’ve realised my distaste is because I want music to mean something. To say something, and for the artists to hold beliefs and views that they’re trying to communicate through their music. To me, songs like the one above aren’t cultural critiques, they’re send ups and the musical equivalent of sour Haribo. Tasty for about five minutes, then your tongue is burnt. Maybe that analogy doesn’t work.

Anyway, on meaning in music (or lack of), there’s an excellent moment in Patterson’s book where she’s interviewing Mumford and Sons, and Marcus (the lead singer) says “We’re not into being influential in culture, I don’t want people to listen to what I say, really. I don’t think it’s important. If they listen to our music, cool, but I didn’t sign up to be some sort of cultural leader or inspiration or … spokesman for a generation, fuck that!”. Much like Patterson, this sent shivers down my spine (and not in a good way). Mumford and Sons have / had an enormous platform – whether they (or I) like it, they are part of culture, and as such have a responsibility to create or say something of meaning. Some of our greatest pop artists understood this, and have used their platform to say something meaningful. i-D put together a collection of the five most culturally significant VMA performances – and even Brittney and Christina knew of their cultural responsibility.

This doesn’t mean that music cannot and should not be fun, and it’s equally important that music can provide us with an escape. Music (and art more broadly) doesn’t have to be worthy, but it should have some meaning, otherwise why does it exist? For me, the role of art within culture and society is to communicate ideas – and art has been a vehicle for meaning since before even language existed. If there aren’ any ideas behind the art, is it still art? Or is it just well-dressed attention bait? A shiny product parading as art in order to part people with their attention or money. This comes back to something I’ve written about before – which is the idea that the line between ‘art’ and ‘product’ is blurred the second that the ‘art’ isn’t from the culture it purports to be from, but is instead is a collection of signals that are deployed to suggest authenticity.

This idea of ‘fauxthenticity’ is something that is becoming a white hot conversation in electronic music at the moment. The (re)emerging label of DJ as ‘selector’ is creating a cottage industry of ‘DJs’ who are more focused on buying up the rarest records to act as sort of ‘trophies’. This echoes back to the Northern Soul scene on blank cover stickers on labels, and it’s not a knew phenomena, however the difference now is that the ‘digging’ aspect has been largely removed, and now the route to rarities isn’t the search, but the bank balance. When almost everything is available to anyone, anyone with enough money can buy into the game. This has lead to an emerging breed of people who are treating music as a Panini sticker book collection, rather than finding new music to share with people. In the latest edition of The Vinyl Factory’sexcellent Crate Diggers series, Red Greg talks about his motivations around collecting music and playing it out rather than hoarding it at home; “it’s very macho and competitive, which I really don’t like”. When the focus moves from finding new music to share with people, to finding rare records to tell people you own them, feels like big game hunting, rather than setting up an animal sanctuary.

The positive side of everything being available (for the right price) is that there’s more music to search through than every before. DJs like Red Greg, Gilles P, Theo Parrish, Bradley Zero have an even greater abundance of music to dig through and share with an audience. I was reading an article on the present state of museum curation (as seen through the lens of the Smithsonian), and was struck by the following quote “curators are custodians of the past, but they must also collect the present in anticipation of the future. They grab hold of ideas, and attempt to illustrate them with physical objects”. When we think of dedicated DJs like those mentioned above, the idea that they’re custodians and the past and the future feels really powerful, and bang on the money. They build their reputation (and therefore authenticity) by sharing what they’ve found, and presenting it in a way that makes total sense in the moment – providing both an escape, and an introduction to new ideas. In the book Diaghilev and Friends, one of the worlds most respected and revered curators Han Ulrich Obrist talks about J.G. Ballard calling the best curation ‘junction-making’ – and Obrist himself sees curation as being “a patchwork of fragments”. As I was reading that I couldn’t help but remember hearing Theo Parrish playing free jazz next to a Terrence Parker classic – and thinking, for me, that’s threading together fragments, to make something bigger, to create something meaningful, and ultimately, to create a moment that matters.

As always, if you’ve read to here, thanks for indulging me ♥️.

See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

Letter #62

Good morning / afternoon / evening,

I hope you’ve had a lovely week. I had a cracking few days in the Alps last weekend (and ok, maybe there was a little lamp post tying), then back to work with a bang. The music this week is built around a bunch of insanely soulful songs I’ve found this week; Bill Withers, The Emotions, Sade, the new Lovefingers remix of LCD Soundsystem, Mndsgn, Hugo LX, and an absolute pearl by our dearest and sadly departed Aretha ❤️.

It’s got some serious soul to it, so dig in, and ease yourself into the weekend.

PLAY
🌪 TL;DR section 🌪
Stuff to do: 
📚 The notes 📚
After what feels like months of long old hours, things are easing up a little at work, and over the course of the next few weeks I want to put together a few letters that dig into some of the topics and ideas that I’ve either nodded to in the letters I’ve sent over the last few months, or things that’ve been whirring around my head.

After finishing the Sylvia Patterson book, one thing that felt prevalent throughout is her constant sense of fun in music. Not necessarily in the music itself, but her boundless energy and enthusiasm. Not taking anything too seriously, but equally respecting the art of music. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot. I’d like to explore it more.

I also want to think more about the role that ‘tastemakers’ (I hate that phrase) play in the role of culture. I think there’s a lot to explore in the often misused idea of the ‘selector’ and ‘curator’. If we take the original concepts, do those things still apply to a DJ with a rotary mixer and Discogs account? Or should they mean more.

I’d also look more into the impact of anonymity and mythology in music and culture. MF Doom, Burial, Bjork. These people create worlds that either totally hide or partly obfuscate their own identity. What does it mean to be totally hidden? Does it create a vacuum for misattribution of influence? Does that even matter.

Finally, I’ve been thinking a lot about finding meaning in music, and escapism (both together, and alone) through music. This is something that I’ve got a lot of thoughts on – but all of them tangled.

Anyway, I should do a bit more thinking and a lot more writing, and you’ll be getting both barrels over the course of the next few weeks.

As always, if you’ve read to here, thanks for indulging me ♥️.

See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

Letter #61

Good morning / afternoon / evening,

I hope you’re well. As you read this, I’m most probably in the middle of the French Alps on a stag party – think more ‘civilised swimming in lakes’ than ‘tying friends to lamp posts’ 😂.

This meant I had to start prepping the letter and mixtape a bit earlier this week, and I did, but then the unthinkable happened… The draft playlist I’d spent ages pulling together vanished. No back ups. Start all over again. GAH! So I decided that instead of trying to rebuild the original, I’d take the handful of tracks I remembered and build out from those and see where that took me. Hopefully you’ll love it.

Before you begin, I have a favour to ask. If you like this letter and mixtape, then please share a recommendation on Twitter and Facebook (this is the link to share – www.lwstd.co.uk/letter)! I want to keep growing this thing of ours and continue bring in more and more interesting people just like you ❤️.

PLAY
🌪 TL;DR section 🌪
Stuff to do: 
📚 The notes 📚
As I spent so much time rebuilding the mixtape, I’ve not had loads of time to write the letter. I did, however, stumble upon something brilliant this week. BoingBoing published a memo from John Cage to students and teachers, which was a set of rules for creativity (originally written by Sister Corita Kent). I wanted to share them, as 1) I think they’re excellent, and 2) there are lots of echoes of thoughts from the last 60+ letters – from commitment, to trust, to testing thoughts, and through to taking everything in. Rules for life, I reckon

Rule 1: Find a place you trust, and then, try trusting it for awhile.
Rule 2: (General Duties of a Student) Pull everything out of your teacher. Pull everything out of your fellow students.
Rule 3: (General Duties of a Teacher) Pull everything out of your students.
Rule 4: Consider everything an experiment.
Rule 5: Be Self Disciplined. This means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self disciplined is to follow in a better way.
Rule 6: Follow the leader. Nothing is a mistake. There is no win and no fail. There is only make.
Rule 7: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It is the people who do all the work all the time who eventually catch onto things. You can fool the fans–but not the players.
Rule 8: Do not try to create and analyze at the same time. They are different processes.
Rule 9: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It is lighter than you think.
Rule 10: We are breaking all the rules, even our own rules and how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for “x” quantities.

Helpful Hints:
Always Be Around.
Come or go to everything.
Always go to classes.
Read everything you can get your hands on.
Look at movies carefully and often.
SAVE EVERYTHING. It might come in handy later.

As always, if you’ve read to here, thanks for indulging me ♥️.

See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day