Mixtape Monday, Vol 4

DJ Skeet Skeet aka Yung Skeeter – Yacht Rock Mix 2009

https://www.thefuture.fm/mixes/29112/yungskeeter/yacht-rock-mix-2009

 I’m taking on a new occasional residency this month at Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, and part of the musical palette I’ll be picking from includes Yacht Rock, a genre which for a while baffled me with its name (which was originally meant as a pejorative term, but has been embraced by fans), but is actually strangely apt.

This is one of my favourite mixes of the style, and one of my favourite aspects of this particular niche is spotting the many samples which have been dug out of the genre. So mix yourselves a cocktail, pop on a Hawaiian shirt, short-shorts and some aviators, and turn your heating up to the maximum setting to enjoy this one.

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Deeney’s Haggis Toasties

Haggis. Its not something I ever thought I’d actively seek out to eat, even after several years of living with a man whose name could only have been more Scottish if it was Jock McSporran, and who forced Haggis, Tatties and Neeps on me every Burns Night. But, incredibly, a street food stall that lands on Broadway Market in East London every Saturday has me a confirmed Haggis-head (which I assume is the proper name?).

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Deeney’s are to be found on the main strip of Broadway Market on Saturdays, about halfway along (as well as Chatsworth Road on Sundays, St Katharine’s Docks on Fridays, or all week in Leyton at their own cafe). They do a variety of different toasties, but in truth I’ve only ever had the same one each time – The Hamish Macbeth. Consisting of 2 thick slices of granary bread, filled pretty generously with Macsween Haggis, Scottish Cheddar, smoked bacon, caramelised onions, mustard and rocket. These are combined and then toasted on a flat grill with large iron weights pressing them together, the cheese melting through the sandwich to bond and combine the ingredients and flavours in a wonderful way.

The sandwich itself is probably a bit of a crowd-splitter – haggis has a very distinctive taste which, in spite of the sharp cheddar flavour and ample mustard, dominates proceedings here. For those who’ve never had haggis, it’s a little tricky to describe. It varies depending on where you are getting it from, from spicy to peppery to oaty, and the meat aspect is obviously carrying an offally flavour and texture to it – that to me is something I would never have tried had it not been pretty much forced on me, but in these toasties it actually is a really pleasant part of a great combination. The other ingredients are bold enough to fight their corners, meaning that each mouthful is a real explosion of flavours, as well as the various contrasting textures from the crispy toast edges and bacon through to the melted cheese (with the nice crispy burnt bits at the edges), and soft, crumbly hot haggis throughout. It’s definite comfort-food material, excellent in helping with hangovers and easily enough to get you through an afternoon, at a very reasonable price by London street food standards.

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I know a lot of people are very wary of haggis because of its dubious reputation surrounding what it is actually made of, but anyone interested in trying a flavour they’ve almost certainly not had before, I would really strongly recommend giving this a whirl. It really is a bit special, and always near the top of my hit list when I go to Broadway Market.

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Photo from London Street Journal

Mixtape Monday, Vol 3

Global Underground Vol 10: Athens, by Danny Tenaglia

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It’s hard to imagine dance music without certain figures – Danny Tenaglia is, for me, certainly one of those people. His influence over house music is huge, even if now he is more likely to throw down techno at the sets he plays all over the world. I was introduced to Tenaglia very early on in my musical education by my oldest brother, who had spent a couple of summers in New York and 3 years in Manchester at the height of the Hacienda, and picked up an enviable vinyl collection over those spells.

It was through many of these records that I picked up on a simple idea which I have found often sums up the very best in dance music – “Hard & Soul”. This was the name Tenaglia gave to his 1995 LP on Tribal (a label who’s artwork had so intrigued me when I saw my brother’s record bag, doubly so as my house was stuffed full of various tribal sculptures and artifacts that my dad is so fond of collecting).

It seems pretty obvious really – hard, driving, pounding beats given an extra layer of life by soulful vocals, instrumentation, soulful tracks which rather than finishing at pop song length veer off for 5 minutes of stripped-back, syncopated rhythm tracks. Tenaglia made this something of a signature style, able to walk the tightrope between arenas that most acts would keep separate, able to bring light and shade to dancefloors at will in his legendarily long sets. His 2 CD Athens mix for Global Underground showcases this understanding of the emotions, tensions and dynamics of DJing fantastically well.

Tenaglia cut his teeth early on in his career playing all sorts of music at roller discos in Brooklyn in the late 70s and early 80s, while regularly visiting the legendary Paradise Garage nightclub, before in 1985 moving for some years to Miami, taking a residency at Cheers Nightclub playing Chicago & New York House. This long apprenticeship means that, far more than most well known producer/DJs, Tenaglia is a real DJ’s DJ – that is, he is someone who can happily play for hours on end, multiple genres, work a crowd, adapt his set, and generally call on a skillset that is sadly such a rarity in the world of the modern superstar DJ, which often seems to be more about a few big tracks getting the profile up, and cramming as many 1-hour sets in a night as an agent can book.

The first time I saw him was on one of Carl Cox‘s Tuesdays at Space, in 2005. The two men shared pretty much the entire night across the club, with a mix of solo and B2B sets, taking in the full spectrum from soulful, tribal, latin-infused house through to pretty much heads down techno, without it jarring at any point, and he genuinely seemed to be having the time of his life. Another favourite was a Sunday evening at Sankey’s in Manchester after he’d played the whole night before then came back to round the weekend off, playing from about 6.30pm til the small hours – I particularly enjoyed his little explanation at the start, of the journey he was going to take us on, culminating in a devilishly amused “… and at the end we’re gonna get reeeeal dirrrty hahaa!”

One thing to note about DT is that he is one of the good guys in the industry, I’ve never heard anyone speak ill of him or his professionalism. I highly recommend listening to his fascinating Resident Advisor Exchange podcast about his extensive career. And I’ll finish with a little anecdote about him that shows how unusual he is in the stratosphere of legendary DJs that he occupies.

Over a decade ago, when the internet was in its relative infancy and forums were still the main way people congregated online (pre-Twitter and Facebook that was the norm, my main haunts were the Erol Alkan Forum and Diplo’s Hollerboard), my oldest brother’s 30th birthday was approaching. Unbeknownst to me, my younger brother had pinged a message to Tenaglia via his forum, explaining what a huge fan our sibling is, and that it was his birthday soon, this is his address, etc etc. Incredibly, he found the time in his hectic schedule to write a card, sign a few flyers, and post it all to my brother – including phone number, email and address, with an open invitation to come hang if he found himself in New York any time, and even emailed to let my brother know about a loft-party he was throwing in case he was stateside! This is all obviously in pride of place framed at my brother’s house, so I can independently verify it (although I’m not sharing a pic of these here as I think Tenaglia still lives at that address!). So yeah, one in a million both in talent and general good-dude-ness.

Some songs on a Saturday

I’m on a train en route to a friend’s wedding celebrations, and my iTunes shuffle is absolutely coming up trumps. Here’s the highlights for anyone looking for some musical inpiration. Always get vivid flashbacks of playing SNES Legend of Zelda when I listen to Dare-era Human League.

 

 

8 days into plastic free lent – my observations

As I posted last week, pretty much on a whim I decided to challenge myself to go as plastic-free for Lent as I possibly could. Even while writing the initial piece I started to realise the scale of the challenge ahead. Now, after about 8 days, I am panicking a bit – partly over my ability to do this challenge, and partly over how this issue can ever be overcome when plastic is so utterly ubiquitous.

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The obvious issue is food. In an instant, the vast majority of food (especially convenient, on-the-go foods) became off-limits. Goodbye Haribo, I miss you. But what shocked me was the absolute monopoly plastic packaging has even on fruit and veg. Sure, you can buy loose apples and carrots and onions, but try finding an outlet that doesn’t shrink-wrap cucumbers. This reminded me of a quote from a Frenchman who came in to oversee Tesco in the UK, bemoaning how Brits simply wouldn’t consider buying a cucumber that had been shrinkwrapped, yet are entirely comfortable with courgettes being loose. Go figure. Celery, kale, green beans and all manner of other items are pretty much impossible to find without some plastic packaging, be it supermarket or greengrocer. Just now I was at the supermarket and noticed that its 99p for 3 bell peppers in plastic packaging, yet 60p for a single loose one!

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Good luck getting something healthy to eat on the go without plastic packaging that isn’t an apple or a banana

Canned foods offer some respite from the pessimism my stomach has made its default setting this week. Yet even then problems persist – looking to save money by buying multipacks of sweetcorn or baked beans? Wrapped in plastic, tough shit. Although not true of canned tomatoes for some reason, which have carboard 4-packs. I’m yet to work out why this discrepancy exists.

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Nuts

Stepping away from food for a second, you have the reality of toiletries. Nobody wants to smell bad. Even people that smell bad don’t want to be that way (I assume), they just have defective noses and cowardly friends. Pretty much everything involved with the bathroom involves plastic – even bars of soap are usually packaged in some sort of plastic, particularly multi-packs. Toothpaste, deodorant, moisturiser, shaving gel, the list goes on. I am a keen runner, and one of the uncomfortable realities of running longer distances is jogger’s nipple – I assuaged this in the past with Vaseline, then graduated to Body Glide, both of which are in plastic containers. I guess I could use plasters, but is that any more environmentally friendly really? Plus they’d come off within a few km on a sweaty mess like my torso. I bought myself some cycling shorts the other week, before realising that I’d forgotten to bring a bag, so I had to stuff them in my pocket to take home, and then realised they have a little plastic tag in them with pricing/sizing info etc. Every little aspect of human existence in the modern Western world seems to come wrapped in plastic.

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I heard you like plastic cases so I put yo pill in a plastic case with 13 other plastic cases then put all those in a plastic case

This whole issue is replicated in virtually every product and industry that I’ve encountered in this first week or so. I am someone who routinely stores a lot in my cupboards, and so it hasn’t seriously impacted me yet. But its starting too. If I forget to prepare a packed lunch or snacks for trips away DJing, I am basically left with a choice of apples or Greggs pasties. Water is an issue, I have a metal Klean Kanteen I bought a few years ago, but the lid on that seems to have a habit of leaking, which is problematic if it’s in a bag with several thousand quid’s worth of electronic equipment! On the bright side I’m losing weight. I imagine I’m saving some money in the short term too, as its stopped a good handful of impulse purchases that involve plastic.

However, in practice this challenge is demonstrating to me the futility of my efforts. It’s inconvenient to such a point that no normal, busy working person could possibly be expected to do this off their own bat and succeed 100%. There are ways for me to source certain things without plastic, but they involve planning, travelling and expense far beyond the logical boundaries of modern life. I want to eat cheese. Of course I want to eat cheese. Cheese is delicious. But do I want to have to traipse to some artisanal market stall on a specific day of the week to first ask how they wrap their cheese (can’t be having accidental plastic incidents), and then pay £17.43 for 100g of cave-aged ewe’s milk fusion cheddarlydale to grate on to my beans on toast?

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I may have exaggerated the cost of fancy cheese. Incidentally, Picos Blue, otherwise known as Picos de Euopa, is the greatest cheese in the world

My solution to this dilemna is basically to do my best, and not beat myself up when that’s not perfect. I really, really want peanut butter in my life, even more so now that I basically can’t have nuts or seeds as a snack because of their packaging. I am not about to start making peanut butter, and even if I was there is more plastic in the wrapping of a bag of peanuts than there is in the weird little bit of cellophane around the top of the peanut butter jar I bought tonight (small admission, I bought 7 jars. I shouldn’t shop when I’m hungry.).

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Lovely Peanut Butter. Pretty sure that the plastic on these is superfluous, if they are air-tight then the middle bit of the lid can’t be pressed down, right?

I bought Body Glide, but the biggest available one to mitigate the fact that its completely against the purpose of this whole exercise. I may be a hypocrite, but I’m a hypocrite that doesn’t have blood coming out of his nipples. I’m carefully making sure I take a shopping bag everywhere, and packing up food in tupperware for when I’m away for a day or two (that may seem a bit contradictory for Plastic Free Lent, but re-usable containers that I already own are fair game to use). I’m confident that my plastic use will be less than 10% of what it normally is in any given period before now, and that’s a big change.

But where real change can come is only through legislation and efforts from industry to minimise the use of plastic, and once alternatives are more widely available, the public acting on that and using spending power to cement that change. How the hell we get there, I have no idea. I’ve never really been massively involved in campaigning for anything, much less against a billion-dollar industry like plastics and the many different areas that currently depend on plastic to wrap things up. Efforts to change the way we wrap our foods have to come from us, telling the industries involved that we want at the very least some alternative options. It’d be instructive to hear some of the economics involved – do peppers that are in plastic last so much longer than loose ones that they can be that much cheaper, or is the pricing a structural tactic to encourage a bigger purchase?

But for now I’ll keep on trucking, and if any of you have suggestions and information for places where I can buy everyday items with minimal or no plastic, then PLEASE comment for me, as I’m gonna be living off sweet potato, broccoli and canned beans if I’m not careful.

Dirty Burger, Shoreditch

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Despite Dirty Burger being one of the more established players on the London burger scene, I had somehow inexplicably never actually been until a few short weeks ago, when a friend insisted I join him there for lunch, with the promise that it would blow my mind. Seeing as this one is walking distance from where I live (I don’t mind walking long distances), it seemed a sensible way to spend a lunch time.

So on a bright winter’s day we met around 1pm and grabbed a bench inside. Its not exactly a restaurant – much like the Patty & Bun at Liverpool Street it has a few seats if you want, but really seems to be aimed at a grab-n-go clientele. I ordered my standard order for when testing somewhere out (cheeseburger and chips/fries) and sat down to catch up with my mate. The food was ready very quickly, and so to business.

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The prices were an interesting mix of very reasonable and sort of expensive feeling. £6 for a cheeseburger is very decent in one of the new-wave fancy-pants burger joints. At Meat Mission that’s £8, which is closer to typical than the price at Dirty Burger. But then by comparison, £3.50 for fries suddenly seemed rather expensive, even though £3-4 is about standard for a side like that in most places I frequent. I guess this is all perception though, and less than a tenner for a good quality cheeseburger and fries is a decent price, especially in a location like this (right opposite Boxpark in Shoreditch in The Tea Building, home of Shoreditch House, the same people who apparently are also behind Dirty Burger).

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But I’m getting ahead of myself – was this a decent quality burger? Well, the fries were very good I thought – nice and fluffy inside, crispy outside, and well seasoned. Would happily accept those at any place, and you’d be amazed how many places do poor quality sides that seem to be a complete afterthought. These were a very good example, even if £3.50 for some cooked potato vs £6 for a cheeseburger seems a bit lopsided.

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The burger though… sadly I can’t be so kind. I won’t say it was overdone, as I didn’t think to ask how they routinely do them. What I can say is that by the standards of the competition it seemed overdone. The pic below makes it look a lot pinker than it was, and the patty, despite being in a very messy, somewhat greasy setting, was a fraction dry and heavy. Compared to the likes of Patty & Bun or Bleecker Street Burger, it was a pale imitation of the glorious heights a juicy beef burger can reach. Of course, whether it was done to the level intended depends hugely on what mince they were using, whether they prepare it on-site from their own cuts or whatever – as I understand it legal requirements for the cooking of burgers are slightly different depending on how the beef patty is prepared. All this is speculation, I refer you to my “About” section and the fact I am not a professional food reviewer – hopefully I’ll get better at this and remember to ask these questions in future!

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Another disappointing aspect is that a reasonable sized corner of the bun was stale – maybe less than a quarter, but noticeable nonetheless. In terms of taste, it was a decent burger patty, nice savoury beef flavour and seasoned to the right level, and I enjoyed the messy, somewhat mustardy sauce in the sandwich. But I found the texture a little on the heavy side compared to my personal preference, presumably as a result of it being well-done. The bun held together very well despite the saucy mess, and wasn’t intrusive to the flavour of its contents

My friend concurred that it wasn’t a fantastic experience, and this is something that has happened to me before – big somewhere up, take a mate, they serve up a plate of disappointment, feel foolish for being so bold about what they were going to eat. Really I should have asked about the burger and mentioned about the bun while I was there – I’m not the sort of Englishman that quietly chunters about these things, I’ll happily send things back in a restaurant if I’m unhappy, but for whatever reason the thought didn’t occur here. Maybe was because its more of a canteen/grab-n-go vibe, maybe because I was conscious of aiming to review it. I expect I’ll try them again – £6 and local to me is a heady combination of factors, and it certainly wasn’t a bad burger, just a bit of a let-down and not really pushing the buttons I feel need pushing to be a genuinely good one.

6/10

Mixtape Monday, Vol 2

Up this week is a new one I only listened to last night, but how apt it is for this blog… Legendary mixtape don, and all round top bloke, DJ Yoda brings to the table a perfectly seasoned portion of funk, soul and hip hop (amongst other delights), mixed and blended in his own inimitable cut & paste way, in the form of Lunch Breaks.

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Few people are as good at assembling an interesting and musically on-point mix as DJ Yoda, and this one really goes back to the roots of his sound, old skool funk & soul breaks abound amongst the trademark movie dialogue snippets and hip hop flavours. I was delighted to hear Manzel – Midnight Theme in there, it’s one of my all time favourites, a track I still play occasionally, and there are an awful lot of tracks in there that I will be studiously shazamming this week to add to my collection!

So tuck in, there’s plenty here for everyone to get their fill. Also, someone send over some ribs, that artwork has got me hungry.