James Holden: "Music is an activity, not a product

Why Holden’s early years – and his desire for delivery from donk domination – is important today, though, is because it feeds directly into the music he’s just made. He describes his new record, the trip-off-your-tongue Imagine This Is a High-Dimensional Space of All Possibilities, as “the record the teenage me wanted to make”. It’s full of that wide-eyed utopian–anarchist naivety and exhilaration he found at the community centre raves and, crucially, deliberately lacking much in the way of a dr

Emma Jean-Thackray: ray of Light

A couple of hours into a conversation that has already covered Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Parliament-Funkadelic, Emma-Jean Thackray brings up Marcelo Bielsa, the eccentric manager of Leeds United FC. Bielsa is not a musician. Indeed, Thackray says that “he presents as someone who’s never even heard a record”. Yet his oddball, obsessive persona feels not unlike artists like Aphex Twin or Prince; the kind of character to which outlandish stories and bizzaro folklore cling with ease.

Isolation made Leafcutter John engage with society again

From the comfort of a thatched birdwatching hide perched just above north Norfolk’s endlessly flat Cley Marshes and gazing out beyond the empty fenland into the North Sea, “Leafcutter” John Burton – electronica auteur, noisenik contributor to experimental jazzers Polar Bear, builder of boutique microphones – interrupts his own story of playing guerrilla punk gigs while at art school, and gestures towards the horizon.

Chaka Khan – the legendary soul singer on life, musical abstinence and modern politics

I just sing. It’s what I do for a living. I sing in a studio, I sing live on stage, I don’t mind where. I just like to sing, period. I like to sing good stuff, okay? I don’t care if it’s for an audience of one, or none, or a million. If I’m going to sing, I want to sing stuff that I love to sing. In the past, I’ve had to sing stuff that, shall we say, I didn’t love. I didn’t love ‘I Feel For You’, but it’s not just that one. There are 25 or 30 songs that I feel like that about. I didn’t pick it

Kelly Moran – How to make a piano do more

In the summer before she went to the University of Michigan to study music performance and composition, while in a practice room at the Manhattan School of Music, Kelly Moran had a moment of clarity. “I could hear someone next door practicing the exact same piece, and they sounded so much better than I did,” she recalls of her pre-college preparation. “It was really disheartening, and I just thought ‘ugh, I don’t want to do this’. I want to do something that makes me stand out.” Up to this poin

Everything Is Recorded - Richard Russell’s collaborative project exists as part of London’s multicultural heritage

It’s difficult to pin down why Richard Russell is famous. Ask someone who, like him, came of age in the late ’80s and they might remind you that he was one half of Kicks Like A Mule, the rave one-hit wonders whose track ‘The Bouncer’ – with its “your name’s not down, you’re not coming in” catchphrase – crash landed in the top ten in 1992, leaving Russell briefly as one of the poster boys for a scene that was deemed by John Major’s Conservative government as the most dangerous since punk.

Viv Albertine on a life of nonconformity: 'I’m not a legend, but I do feel like a survivor'

“The big question in the new book is what on earth made me that girl who picked up a guitar in 1976” I was working class and had no culture at home, so I have to trace it back to the way my mother brought me up. She was so determined, as I think a lot of women of that generation were, that her daughter wouldn’t live the constrained life that she did – so that generation of mothers after the war bore a generation of feminist, militant girls. She encouraged me to take risks all the time, which gi

Jessy Lanza: The pop writer who isn’t a pop star, the cool kid who isn’t a hipster

Viewed from one angle, Jessy Lanza is a pop star. She sings short, melodious songs full of sass and bubblegum, hook and counterhook, the kind that are hummable in the shower by the tone deaf, and tappable to on the car steering wheel by even the most arrhythmic of music fans. She appears on her album covers looking alternatively moody and glamorous, and gives carefully choreographed live performances that mimic as closely as possible the recorded versions of her songs.

Oliver Coates: The cellist that became obsessed with the sound of early ’90s pirate radio

Oliver Coates recently adopted a kitten. He’s named it Alanis – after Morissette, of course – but not out of admiration for her musical exploits. Instead, he explains, it’s in homage to the Canadian singer’s recent and unexpected rejuvenation as an agony aunt in the Saturday Guardian. “That’s actually quite ironic,” I suggest, mischievously, to the concert cellist-turned-electronic producer as he’s being photographed.

Anna Meredith: "Music writing brings out the most confident, no-fucks-given version of myself"

The first note of music Anna Meredith ever wrote was for her Scottish Standard Grade music coursework. It was a composition for those beige, plastic, single-finger keyboards that were a fixture in every early-90s school music department – the ones where each key produced an entire chord in a variety of synthesised instruments that were selected via a bank of buttons along the top. Her piece was called ‘Relfections’ (she misspelled ‘Reflections’ on the cover sheet), and the quirk was that the performer was required to change the instrument’s sounds throughout using his or her nose.
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