Sep 30, 2009

The radio bungle: an update

Remember that whole radio thing? Sorry for the lack of updates over the past two weeks, but I'm not the kind of person to dwell on this kind of shennanigans.

But there is something to tell you. I've been written about by Pink News, which is Europe's largest gay news service and not a publication written by Rainbow's painfully jovial hippo George.

The worst thing about the article is you, my dear reader, get to know my real name. How shocking and unbloglike. Have a read here.

It's a fair description of things from my point of view. It's a shame Refresh FM couldn't be contacted, but I do believe they tried everything they could to get hold of them.

Incidentally, Refresh FM would disagree with the whole premise of my original article on this blog. I was not dismissed for being gay, because they have no problems with anyone's orientation: it's acting on that orientation that is the problem. That's a fairly typical evangelical argument, and I disagree with it.

I also know evangelicals who genuinely struggle with their received opinion on homosexuality and would never have made the decision Refresh did. Thank you to my evangelical friends who have had the guts to be honest with me about their struggles with this, and to everyone for your kind comments on my original blog post: this is what blogging is all about.

Edit: there is an update on this blog here. Thank you everyone for your support.

Sep 25, 2009

Suspended puppies: an absolutely genuine review of Warp20 Sheffield

What kind of skrunk-flapped piffoon would profess to run a blog on electronica then not bother to go to the most important electronica night in the history of the bleepiverse?

At the weekend, Warp Records celebrated its 20th anniversary with an absolute doozer of night. Warp20 Sheffield (logo pictured) featured smash-n-bassmaster Squarepusher and a hatful of classic Warp artists.

Because I couldn't go (and my diary clash really was unavoidable, like trying to walk past a pedestrian who's swallowed a house), I'm going to have to make up a fictitious review. Here goes...

Harmonic 313 came on before anyone had arrived; he was only playing to one man and an ill horse. To be honest, this took the pizzazz out of his set, and all he did was whip his keyboards with a wet towel. A disappointment all round.

Hudson Mohawke didn't begin his set because Kanye West stormed on stage and told everyone how he loved Beyonce. HudMo was later spotted crying in the corner sobbing his way through the lyrics of Single Ladies. Instead, Nightmares On Wax filled in with a unique set of tracks alternating between bland soundtrack chill-out and gabba nosebleed techno.

It is difficult to describe Squarepusher's set without using the following words:

- slap;
- krunk;
- Ogden Nash;
- visible beard growth;
- suspended puppies;
- Middle East peace process;
- Celine.

Then came Clark, who took his cue from old Top Of The Pops and performed all his song titles literally. So Totems Flare had him setting fire to things dressed as a Native American and he wore a bear suit for Ted. He went too far with that operation he did on an audience member during Empty The Bones Of You, but at least it was different.

After Andrew Weatherall's DJ set, which was mainly him shouting "does anyone remember me, I used to be important", it was time for Forgemasters.

Everyone who knows about the history of Warp Records will know about Forgemasters. They invented music back in the caves of 70,000 BC and if their music ever stops being played, the Earth will die.

So it was a delightful surprise when they closed Sheffield's Warp20 with a gushing rendition of Somewhere Over The Rainbow. Everyone simpered; it was lovely.

Shame it was spoilt by Clark who, now horrifically drunk, stumbled onto the stage as Tinman and crashed sideways into their keyboards. That really upset Hudson Mohawke, who forgot the lyrics to Independent Women. Bastard.

Sep 21, 2009

Orbital, Manchester 2009: please miss, can I go to the toilet?

The crowd at this weekend's Orbital gig were so up for it, it made the regulars at Sankey's Soap look like a bunch of depressed accountants.

It was a thrill to see the techno kings return to live performance, but I didn't expect the gig to be such an incredible, uplifting, spiritual experience. Then again, after the week I've had, I'd have danced to a farting donkey.

There were many highlights between the opening mid-tempo salvos from their introspective phase (In Sides) to the delirious crowd-pleasing Doctor? (which, to be honest, tested the Academy's sound system beyond its limit). Halcyon's heavenly vocals became a predictable 1980s cheese fest, while those keyboard lines in Chime and Impact (The Earth Is Burning) had everyone reaching for the roof.

Here are some fuzzy pictures where, if you look hard enough, you may be able to see the Orbital brothers' trademark double headlamps. No, everyone wasn't constantly asking to go to the toilet.

Welcome back, boys.

Sep 18, 2009

Refresh FM Manchester: how I was stopped from presenting because I was gay

On Monday, my six-year tenure as a voluntary radio presenter and producer with Refresh FM came to an end. It was not my decision. In this blog post, I will do my best to explain why I was dropped from presenting.

I cannot fully represent the views of Refresh FM in this piece, nor can I represent the views of my co-presenter and my producer. I can only explain things as I see them, and I'll write about other people's opinions and motives as fairly as I can.

I was not stopped from being a radio presenter because I was turning up drunk. I was not stopped from being a radio presenter because I was saying offensive things on air. I wish it was that clear cut, because Ofcom have clear guidelines on that.

I was stopped from being a radio presenter because I am homosexual.

To understand where I am now, you need to know how this all began.

Brief history

Refresh FM is an RSL, which basically means it broadcasts for 28 days a year on a limited frequency to south and central Manchester. It is run by Victoria Park Fellowship (previously known as Victoria Park Christian Fellowship), a fairly active independent evangelical church in Manchester. You can google the links. The congregation finance and volunteer their time to run the station, along with an increasing number of 'outsiders' from other churches (like me).

I have never been a member of that church, but I would identify myself as a Christian. I joined Refresh when it began in 2003. I don't think any of them knew I was gay then: we would work together fairly intensely for one month a year, and we were much more concerned about questions of broadcast quality, guest booking, programme timing and playlist compiling than questions of sexuality.

The programme I presented was Theatre Of Noise, a light-hearted magazine-style evening show which was roughly half music and half talk (scripted and unscripted funny bits - and at least, I hope it was funny!). The show was not popular with more traditional Christians because we did silly things like destroy CDs with power tools, but it certainly stood as an odd-shaped jewel in Refresh's crown and attracted listeners they wouldn't normally get. We took it seriously and my co-presenter and I worked hard to improve the programme from year to year. Believe me, planning and presenting 20 two-hour shows in one month is a lot of hard work.

Overwhelmingly positive

The fact that Refresh FM found out I was gay was almost incidental. Almost, but not quite. Although my relationship with Refresh was overwhelmingly positive for all six years (until Monday), they sensed I was slightly distant when I was in the studio. They were perceptive: I was indeed troubled. I had wanted to tell them about my sexuality, as anyone who has been "in" for any length of time will understand. It's not about waving a gay flag: it's about being honest and totally yourself. I wanted to be honest with Refresh.

So I told them of my unease that they didn't seem to know I was gay, and I realised, as an evangelical organisation, this might be a problem for them.

I didn't realise how much of a problem.

Refresh FM convened a meeting with me on Monday. I was told early on in the meeting that I couldn't present any more. (They did say I might be able to take up other responsibilities with the station, but this seemed like a hollow offer at the time.) The reasons I was given, if I remember rightly, were (in no particular order):

1) a presenter for Refresh is a mouthpiece for the mission of Victoria Park Fellowship. I accept this; it's a natural position for a church to take. Church radio stations hold a tension between being missional and being great radio. But being a "practising homosexual" is living in a state of active sin and is inconsistent with the mission of the church;

2) if a gay person presented shows, the church would find it difficult to raise money for the station from their inevitably offended congregation;

3) they don't want to upset the Muslims in the area, although this reason was not expounded upon. I'm not sure how much they actually believe this.


I should point out that my friendship with Refresh FM was one of trust and love, and it enlightened my life considerably. I am profoundly grateful for the experience Refresh has given me. It wasn't a shock to discover they held a traditional view of homosexuality, but their recalcitrance of their stance on Monday was devastating and hurtful.

They seem to like me, but they just can't get past the "gay thing".

I do not want to get into Biblical arguments on homosexuality here; I don't want the comments below to be filled with YouTube-style diatribe. I believe God loves me because I'm gay and that She / He has no problem with gay relationships. Some Christians divide "being" and "doing" gay, and they love the sinner but hate the sin. I can understand Refresh FM taking the latter view (each to their own), but the fact they're willing to devastate someone because of those principles seems incredible - and ill at ease with the Christ I understand from the beatitudes in Matthew 5.

And yes, I am devastated. I am reeling. I am fragile, hurt and angry.


The 'Christian' element of this blog post may put you off. You may think I was stupid for expecting Christians to like gay people. You're wrong. I would take a Dawkinsesque punt and reckon that most Christians have no problem with gay people. Jesus certainly didn't.

I understand it was a painful decision for Refresh FM to take - it's not easy giving what they probably see as 'tough love' to people they care about. But their insistence in the meeting that this isn't personal, that it isn't about me, is based on an incorrect understanding that sexuality is something to be separated from our true being. Our sexuality is woven into us. Even Jesus had a sexuality. He would have expressed that sexuality in some way - if he didn't, then the gospels are a lie and God was not truly made flesh.

And so to today. I hope the Theatre Of Noise ends up on a station 20 times the size. I did the right thing by telling Refresh FM I am homosexual. My integrity is intact and I have tried hard to act with grace. I think Refresh FM's decision cheapens them; it's a disappointment because I expected better from friends that I love. I will go back to Refresh tomorrow if they change their hearts and minds about homosexuality, but I don't think that will happen in a hurry.

What next? I don't know. I have spoken to Ofcom and also to the Citizen's Advice Bureau, and I was shocked to find out it is perfectly legal (and Ofcom-safe) for radio DJs who are voluntary, rather than paid, to be sacked because of their sexuality. I can see the logic when the law is there to protect livelihoods, not hobbies, but if what I have been told is true, this law needs changing.

Gritted teeth

You may feel the need to protest or campaign after reading this piece. You can talk with me further at dj (at) Whatever you do and to whomever you speak, please show the same grace that I have tried my hardest to show throughout all of this (often through gritted teeth or teared eyes!). You will not change minds by shouting at people: start from their point of view and work from there.

I have to leave the dust to settle to some extent because my (straight) co-presenter, who has been immensely supportive in all of this, needs to make a difficult decision about his future with the station. I also need to discuss things more with our producer, who expressed his annoyance at the decision in a brief text conversation the day after the meeting. I will speak to more people, to organisations, to those that understand.

A wrong has been done and I need to stop this happening to other people.

And to Refresh FM, if you're reading this... the Bible calls us to love our enemies. I'm not sure if you're an enemy - I don't know what you are any more because I am still reeling from Monday - but I think I still love you despite your stupid, stupid decision.

Edit: there are updates on this blog here and here, and here is the Guardian's coverage and the Pink news coverage. Thank you everyone for your support.

Sep 15, 2009

Boycott Kanye West

Following Kanye West's outburst during the acceptance speech of a mind-dribblingly bland country singer at a ceremony about which no-one gives a flying puppy, I would like to call my blog readers to take direct action.

It's time to boycott Kanye West.

That UK#22 single Heard 'Em Say with dog-faced Maroon 5 crooner Adam Levine? Put it in the bin right away. I know you've been listening to it. Stop it.

You know Can't Tell Me Nothing? Remember? It reached #107 in the charts in 2007? Stop listening to that right now. Boycott it. Never listen to it again.

I know as a faithful Fat Roland On Electronica reader, you've been following Kanye's production career with great interest. Well, it's time to do some boycotting. If he's twiddled the knobs, in the bin it goes.

That means no more listening to:

- Cam'ron
- Mariah Carey;
- Trina and Tamara;
- Jin (that must be the dog from Britain's Got Talent);
- Beanie Sigel;
- Mashonda.

I know what you're thinking. Is there any music left? Shockingly, I haven't finished.

You should also boycott Roc-A-Fella Records, where he cut his production teeth. That means no more Alicia Keys singles. Hear that Alicia Keys warble trinkling out of your i-pod speakers right now? Stop that. You can cut out Keys, thank you very much.

That'll teach the pound-shop-spectacled one to mangle Daft Punk records. Together, we can bring down the music industry one drunken blog post at a time.

Next week: boycott Timmy Mallett.

Edit: Kanye, um, answers me back here.

Sep 11, 2009

Mixin' ma tunesies: Flying Lotus, Rustie and The Black Dog

I've had a strange mixture of two songs stabbing my eardrums all day. The first is Getting Away With It, the melancholic Pet Shop Boys-sprinkled pop song from Electronic. The second is My Humps, the paean to road calming measures by the Black Eyed Peas.

The result is an insistent and disturbing image of Johnny Marr rubbing me all over with his strangely misshapen mammaries. Like being tickled with rubber bags full of gerbils, only in a bad way.

All of which is distracting me from some important record releases about which you, my newly disturbed reader, should know. Each of these feature remixes and are 47% more successful than anything offered by an Electronic / Peas combo.

Last year, Flying Lotus was basking in the glory of his album Los Angeles when he offered us a 12" of strange remixes. If you're quick, you can still pick up copies of Shhhh! It includes, among others, a dirty snare-smacking version of Mr Oizo's Stunts ($tunt$ is the most immediate track here), a drastic scratch mix of J Dilla's Lightwork and a seriously widescreen bass-wobbling Promiscuous Girl by queenzilla of the perfect pout Nelly Furtado.

Rustie's Bad Science EP (Rustie pictured above) is further evidence this young whipperbleeper should be a lot more famous than he is. Bad Science offers up bubbly 8-bit hip hop mentalism, including a reconfiguration of one of the best tracks of 2008, Zig Zag, while still being breathy and prowling like a robot stalker. The whole thing pretty much sounds like Zig Zag, so if you've got that, get this.

And finally, there's an EP from The Black Dog called We Are Sheffield which pours remixes over your speakers until you'll be mopping up massive basslines, glitch techno and warm mellowness from your newly shampooed carpet. It's worth it alone (sadly alone, if I'm honest) for the epic yet moody Autechre remix.

Sep 6, 2009

I can't believe it's finally Butter

Edit: This album is mentioned in my top ten electronica albums of 2009

I'm about to get back into my blogging rhythm after a couple of weeks lazing under a beetle-infested rock.

But in the meantimewhile, here's a message from Whitney Houston:

Turntablist destroying aqua crunk producer Hudson Mohawke's hugely anticipated debut album Butter is out in October. This, people, is going to be massiver than a horse explosion.