Talking to people feels like something that’s dying out
Erica McKoy — The Elektrik Cave founder, blogger, and DJ — on the power of podcasts, and championing experimental sounds.
My favourite question to start an interview
I really like to ask, “What’s the purpose of music?”, which is obviously a very difficult question as it means different things to different people. It can also throw people off sometimes. If I start with this question then the rest feels really easy, and they will hopefully give me some really good answers.
The purpose of music?
I don’t know, I don’t know. I wish I knew! I wish there was one definitive answer. I guess for me it’s definitely medicinal and it’s one of the best things ever. I love listening to all sorts of music and finding new music. I collect records as well, I like going to record shops and feeling the records, and putting them on. When you hear a really nice piece of music, it does something to you. Something out of this world. I don’t think it’s an experience just for the body, it’s extraordinary.
What I’ve learnt from running The Elektrik Cave
An understanding of the purpose of music and of people. We’re all living in quite a digital world. Holding actual conversations sometimes feels like such a rarity — it’s sad. Talking to people about something they’re passionate about is so incredibly powerful and is something that I really enjoy. You really get to understand someone when you talk to them about their passions.
We’re living in such a crazy, busy world, where people are constantly doing things, and they hardly get any time to actually sit down, talk about their loves, unpick it for a bit, and get to grips with their passion themselves.
Why radio is my main medium
For me, at the moment, radio is such an intimate thing. Unlike TV, it’s right in your ear, if you decide to have it there. There is no way of getting the sound out of your ear once it’s there. I like sound for that reason — it’s powerful. Also, the way people can connect to audio, the stories you can build, and the imagination it requires you to use. With radio, people have to create the picture with the sounds they’re given.
The interview that sticks out in my mind
I’ve been fortunate to interview some of the best musicians, who are incredibly famous for their craft but my favourite has got to be the one with a band called Myriad Forest. Mainly for the tenderness of the day I spent with them. Also, I go through stages when I hear music that changes my path and my ears. Myriad Forest as a group — and individually a few of the members — have done that for me. One of their members, David Turay, passed away in November 2014. He was a brilliant saxophonist, and he got me into a new wave of contemporary UK jazz about five years ago.
A memory that stands out when I think of David is of when I first came across him, on the Southbank about five years ago. He was playing with a band called Psylus. I just remember dancing with a group of friends to this amazing jazz music. After the band had finished playing I stopped and we were walking off when David shouted, “Follow us on Facebook!”. We liked their page, they added us, and then a couple of years later we came back into contact through mutual friends.
I didn’t get jazz before. How the music can make no sense, but Psylus playing on the Southbank made me think “I really like this”.
A few months before David passed away it was my birthday. I had cooked for some friends at my house and David and I were in my kitchen, sitting on the floor. I brought in a turntable and was playing some new jazz. It was actually old jazz, but he hadn’t heard it before, and it was a really nice moment where I experienced someone else experiencing the brilliance of music, which is often such a personal thing.
It was a weird time when he passed away, so many people respected him and I don’t know if he ever knew that. He was the type of musician where music completely ran through him.
Sometimes he’d struggle to communicate in words but he’d pick up the saxophone and you’d get a full conversation from him.
So the interview that sticks out is the Myriad Forest interview. I got to record a bit of the rehearsal and there’s a really nice bit where you hear David and the band interacting and everyone is testing new ideas and randomly playing under the conversation. It’s beautiful.
My experimental music playlist
- I would definitely suggest you listen to Austin Peralta. He was making something so beyond his time.
- Tanya Wells, UK based, English singer, but she also sings in Hindi and Urdu. She also has a twin sister called Nicky Wells, who sings in a similar style.
- I’d then tell you to check out some Mongolian jazz. There’s a band called Arga Bileg, they use classic Mongolian instruments.
- I suggest you listen to some hip hop to calm the mood a little bit. SumoChief are based in South London, they all went to a music school there, I think it’s called Trinity. They’re cool, they’re making really interesting stuff at the moment.
- Von D, French producer, making bass music. He’s always doing something very interesting with music too.
- Daymé Arocena — 23 year old, Cuban singer — absolute depth in her voice. If you’re into Jazz and ‘Cuban Neo-Soul’, then she is amazing to listen to.
- Another one I have recently fallen in love with for his amazing productions is Simbad, a french producer and DJ based in London. He’s one of those producers who is incredibly skilled, and has a very open ear to new sounds, so his sound is always dynamic and changing.
Here’s a little playlist of tracks (based around my most recent radio show):
1. Mark de Clive — Lowe — Nova Roda (Myele Manzanza Remix)
2. Dayme — Madres
3. Afronaught — Golpe Calinda (Simbad Remix)
4. St Germain — Sitting Here
5. WOKE — The Ravishments of Light Looking
6. Henry Wu — Back to Brukka
7. Bembe Segue — Stop Trying
8. Hiatus Kaiyote — Fingerprints
9. Kriswontwo — Love, Need You (ft Omar)
10. Bembe Seque — D Rinse
11. Silhouette Brown — Stawberries in Vinegar
12. Bugz in the Attic — Once Twice
The interview that stood out for listeners
The Jamie Isaac one. He works quite a lot with King Krule, an artist from South London. Some of his fans are really quite strange. He used to be in an angelic-sounding choir, and he picked up loads of fans from touring. They were contacting me before and after for ages saying, “Tell me more about him? What was he like? What did he smell like?”. Although sweet, it was kind of strange.
Music can influence our behaviour
Music has a big impact on how you interact with people. There’s an artist called Austin Peralta, who did a lot of jazz stuff on a label called Brainfeeder. I really associate his music with a trip I had to Toronto. We drove out to North Kawatha and I was swimming in the lake, and I had been listening to his album all day. Lying on the lake and thinking of a song called Renaissance Bubbles was such an ethereal moment. Music can change your feelings and emotions.
My background in music
My dad was a musician and he was in reggae and he would make Lovers Rock, but music wasn’t a massive part of me growing up. My dad wouldn’t play his records and my mum isn’t massively into music either. I found music myself through a process of eliminating the rubbish that I didn’t want to listen to anymore.
I started off listening to R&B and then moved into alternative indie and through that I started listening to more classic rock stuff (Jimi Hendrix, The Beetles, that sort of stuff) This was a really nice foundation for the stuff I now listen to, which is more jazz and more international/world sounding stuff.
‘World music’ is not really a term I like using, but it’s difficult. People normally talk about American or UK based stuff, but I like listening to Brazilian, Japanese, and music from different places around Africa.
“Why the term ‘world music is bullshit’” — it’s hard to find an alternative
I’m constantly trying to figure out something better to call it. It’s like with any sort of music, people like to attach a genre to it. They need to categorise it, as it makes it easier to describe and easier to sell. Maybe you can categorise by the country… it’s hard to find an alternative.
What I’ve been listening to today
Today has been a musical day. I did an interview with a French guy, so I’ve been listening to his new album. He worked in a castle for three months creating music. Also, I was listening to quite a lot of Hip Hop earlier, Tupac and J Dilla, hip hoppy jazzy stuff.
It’s a very fluid thing. I can flip from listening to a jazzy track, to a very obvious American-style jazz, to French base music, to Japanese jazz, or something by Fela Kuti. I can quite easily flip and change, but at the same time I have to be feeling it.
Why I decided to focus on new and experimental music
When I was setting up the blog I was going to a lot of gigs and hearing experimental music. I thought it was such a shame that, apart from the people in the room, it wasn’t getting out much farther than that. Also, the type of people going there weren’t taking pictures, it wasn’t that sort of crowd. So, I thought I had to talk about these new bands, these new people.
Running my radio show
I started at Roundhouse Radio when I was at secondary school. I would leave school, catch the northern line to Chalk Farm, go straight to The Roundhouse, set up my show, and work there. Straight after Sixth Form, I worked at Sky News for a year whilst still doing my show at the Roundhouse. After that, I decided to take a second year out, freelancing as a voice over artist, content producer and DJ as well as studying. In that year I worked a lot. I’m now studying Philosophy at university, whilst running The Elektrik Cave from CSRfm and Roundhouse Radio.