Sunday, 18 January 2015

A love letter to RAY QUAN: The restaurant on the Railway.

In Hanoi, there exists a place that couldn't be conceived of in the West. It's a restaurant which involves one walking over functioning railway tracks to enter. And that's the only entrance.

My favourite of all nights to go there is a Sunday night. There exists a kind of reckless abandon of the upcoming week: "to HELL with Monday!" we say, gulping another shot of artichoke rice wine while a train bellows past us.

Tonight was special. It was a friend's birthday. I was late. I arrived into a cacophony of girls gyrating to female pop stars, while the young Vietnamese male waiters wore an expression of utter befuddlement, filming the whole thing in disbelief on their phones.

We danced for the next couple of hours, on tables, waving, clapping. More girls joined us. Boys sat on the sidelines. Two small kids stood nervously near, we invited them to join in, and they proceeded to out do us all with their dance skills, with knee-dives on the floor, swirls and shimmying galore.

I left and the party was still continuing, and as I looked across at Ray Quan from the other side of the tracks, I took a photo to remember this night forever.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

riding through electro-village in hanoi

today myself and Brett went on a mission to buy some new cables in Hanoi.

this task involved finding electronics street, which we knew the vague area of.

what we didn't anticipate was that nearby electronics street is electro-village (motorbikes and bicycles can pass through here - only).

as we blazed through electro-village I became overwhelmed with the feeling that I was trapped inside a computer game motorbike race where my task was to find cable shop.

we whizzed past other shops selling LEDs, disco balls, feather-lights, electronic buddhas, battery stalls... each selling endlessly similar products and being overwhelmed with very few customers.

I was thinking - if you landed in Hanoi, on this street, from a spacecraft, you would think that Hanoi was a techno-party-city-central capital of Asia. what I'd really like to know is, when do people go to these crazy parties in this city which calls for the purchasing of all this neon gear?

anyway we eventually made it to the other side of the cramped village, and scored 10 points for our team. WINWIN.

Sunday, 4 January 2015


so after a huge hiatus of not ever writing or blogging, i've come back to the world of online self-revelation.

this is because:
a) i'm inspired by - it's such a good blog, and he always talks about how much he's learnt and how opportunities have come to him just through starting a blog.

b) i want to get better at writing.

c) i want to remember my time in hanoi better - it's been 2 years already which have slipped by without much reflection.

d) i like my old budapest-blog, and that was just 6 months of time! it has helped a lot for me to describe experiences of living there just because i kept a record of it through the blog.


so Hanoi. I can't explain what has happened in 2 years, and with the adaptation to living here, it's hard to even remember what things I felt when I first came, so I will just talk about things that are happening now and in the present.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Heightened nature of Jazz...

So according to some evolutionary psychologists, making music can be explained as a function for attracting mates. This graph shows the ages of the creators of famous jazz albums- it corresponds directly to their sexual capacities as it peaks at the age males are most fertile.

Incidentally, this also directly relates to the fact that there is a higher proportion of women in the front row of the audience, as all that testosterone makes us go crazy.

So now you know!

Thursday, 1 April 2010


A few weeks a go I got a place interning for the radio team at the Red Bull Music Academy in LDN. After a mind-blowingly brilliant time, I can now pass on what it's all about...

Every year since 1999 Red Bull have hosted a music academy in a different city in the world. This is a place for emerging musicians, producers or DJs to spend two weeks with the best equipment they can imagine, lectures from inspirational people in the music world, and opportunities to play at the most exciting nights the city has to offer. If you get a place, of which it is exceptionally difficult, you are bound for an exposure you could never make up yourself.

Talking to the participants chosen, of whom there are 60 in total, it seems to be that the most important part of the academy is the collaborations that take place. Purposely, there are less studios than there are participants, so they join up, make songs, remix songs, and of course, stay in touch after. For an idea of the results, past participants have included the now legendary flying lotus, who's lush track 'tea leaf dancers' came directly out of the academy with Andrea Triana, Kanye's sidekick mr. hudson, Glasgow's finest hudson mohawke, dorian concept, cosminTRG, xxxchange, and teebs.

Such a lot. So that's the past, the future of the Academy is this year's participants, and my oh my has the world got it coming. I was there in the 'second term' i.e. last two weeks, so my coverage may be biased, but here it is anyway.

Who to look out for...

To start, Juan Son: Despite rhyming with handsome, this male is effeminately beautiful. He already has a Latin-American grammy nomination and is basically one of the most wonderful people you could hope to come across. His vocals are transparently womanly and affected, giving him the aura of another world, reflecting his whole persona which, ultimately, belongs in Avatar: HERE

Next is Illum Sphere: AKA Ryan Hunn from Manchester, an emerging 'mutant' producer. As well as making his own music (in which every release gets better) he is also remixing for Warp signings, releasing on Martyn's new label 3024, and running one of the most successful and foward-thinking nights in the North of England, Hoya:Hoya. With a sly feature on Thom Yorke's infamous playlist, the only way is foward now- via many dates on the calender... ILLUM

Others who impressed were- from Poland monosylabikk, Washington (and only 19!) 00Genisis, Leeds' Kid Kanevil and NZ Electric Wire Hustle, of whom the drummer Manzilla attended the academy.


Friday, 6 November 2009

beerpires and wolves in romania

Back from a whirlwind weekend of bus-journeys and Dracula fettishing. To explain: we had the idea a while back to visit Translyvania, this idea merged with needing something to do on Halloween- and of course the two go together more perfectly than pumpkins in your window and we had organised a full-blown trip by Thursday. Full-blown as in, actually will blow people’s faces off by the effort it took to get there: 12 hours each way, and believe me, no matter how comfy the seats are it is impossible to sleep properly. As Katherine put it today- we need a holiday after the holiday.

So we went on the bus overnight and got into Translyvania sleep-deprived but slapped in the face by the cold wind from the surrounding mountains. Got to the lovely Rolling Stone hostel (with not one hint of a Keith Richards picture), got a place in the attic dorm and headed out to look around Brasov (one of the biggest towns in Trannyland). This consisted of wondering into a few graveyards, sussing out the most Halloween-inflicted bars for the evening, and climbing the hill to the watch-tower to get a stunning view over the town. I had to admit, crossing a wolf roaming through the town earlier in the day- (and I am sure it was a wolf as no wild dog would have a growl quite as scary), I was a little anxious that we would cross into some wolves and bears in the hills, but we were lucky enough to avoid them.

That night we started drinking at six in the first bar with pumpkin lanterns and American indie music, the next one which blurred into the first, the jazz bar with Jon Bon Jovi blaring out, and ending in a Jamaican Bar dedicated to the master Bob M. At this stage of course we were all completely out of it, it being about 5 hours after the first pint and little sleep, but after Katherine and I had made the eye at some Romanian boy dressed in archaic Priest wear he invited us all to a house party, and we would be losers to turn the offer down. So we followed the Priest to a dingy basement with one euro entrance fee. It was an exceptionally cool party with video projections and talented Dub DJs and I was so awed by the fact we had managed to enter such a place, in Romania, on Haloween, that we didn’t leave until about half-four. Of course by this point we were as half-dead as the vampires we were pretending to be, and beds were the only way forward.

The next day we were shoved out the hostel and went to Bran; the town containing the infamous castle of Vlad the Impaler- more commonly known as Dracula. The ride there was just as entertaining as the town itself. Driving through barren mountains, overtaking horses trundling gypsies in carts and being persuaded to enter the “Vampire Camping” site and “Wolf Supermarket” advertised on either side, it could not have fitted my conception of what Translyvania would look like more. Walking up to the castle was a sight- its looming gothic spikes and grey walls suited this particular weekend only, and the pathway up was littered with tack-shops selling ridiculous Dracula mugs, which I of course purchased. Inside wasn’t at all scary, and the poor translations of English were more laughable than moving- for example, Stoker died of the stroke. Being opulently Western we got taxis back to the hostel, and being not rich, we had to prepare ourselves for twelve disastrous hours on the coach.

sex shops and slot bars in belgrade.

So Friday afternoon I had the travel itch. There was a long weekend ahead, so many places called out to be visited and were only a 20 euro train ride away (never mind the time length). After reading about Belgrade’s esteemable night life I rested on that one and it was sorted for Saturday.

An uneventful and remarkly flat train ride later and Belgrade was at our door step. When we walked off the train, ten minutes out of the centre, we were confronted with hoards of rubbish made up in corpses, covered over with white sheets. It took a scrutinising eye to discern whether or not they actually were corpses. Oh I forget- on the train ride when we passed the Serbian border there was a strong stench of burning that lasted quite a way in- and almost as if a circular story- before we got on the train to return just now there was a an absent fire among the same piles of rubbish I described, completely unattended, again providing that burning stench. How strange!

So, as we had gotten into a smaller station there was no cash point in sight so no chance of a taxi. We were a little stuck and a little more panicked, surrounded by unfamiliar communist-looming buildings, a landscape of rubbish and an incomprehensible language and alphabet covering street signs. Coming to our rescue, thank god, were two similar aged Serbian lads. One could speak no Enlgish, the other only disjointed sentences usually containing “strange” “bad English” and “Alan Shearer!” (after finding out we were from N.castle). These friendly folk made sure we got a tram in the right direction and assured us there would be “no security” so no pay.

I was taken aback by the difference in architecture and feeling in this city to any other I had visited in Europe, marked by the safe symbol of the EU and funding. Buildings were in the process of demolishment, but could have been that way forever, traffic lights broken, zebra crossings unused, few Western shops or even English writing. The bridge into “old town” was unimpressive, as was old town itself- the romantic name not laying claim to any majestic-ness or beauty. There seemed a general lack of any of the Western tourist rinsing we were so used to. In fact it felt more like people were honoured you had come to visit them. Like when you make the effort to visit a friend who is lonely lives far away, Belgrade welcomed us as such. The “square” we got off at was more a roundabout with a dilapidated statue in the middle, surrounded by buildings covered from head to toe in obscenely sexy advertising.

Our hostel was a modest, exceptionally clean flat. Again, there was no sense of them working on a competitive basis: they provided good service but it was no atmosphere conducive to fun. After relaxing from a bread-baby-belly dilemma (too much one journey) we headed onto the Belgrade streets, opting for a fun Irish bar as the recommended places seemed too pretentious. Three cocktails later and we were trollied, and decided to go in search of a club. With no idea where to go we were tempted by a racket of cheesy music protruding from a flat a few strories up on thr main street. We no invitation we walked straight in and danced like we were bezzies with the birthday boy. Craving more liquour, (but definitely not needing it) we inspected what was displayed on the table. In my stupor I subconsciously pretended to wear mittens and knocked wine bottles and glasses over as soon as I tried holding them. It resulted unsuccessfully and we became entirely dispirited with the party so next stop bakery then bed.

The extra hour due to winter time changeover was a welcome relief next morning when my pounding head gravitated me to the comfort. A downing of cold water and a hot shower later, we were back on the streets, this time in daylight and with an eye for sightseeing. Well Belgrade does not fall short of interesting sights, well away from the tourist gaze. Beautiful is a word saved for Budapest, but it was marvellous all the same. I was actually constantly awed with the vulgarity of the buildings and general lack of any attempt to hide or change this. Grey was the only colour palate they took from- as if the lack of money produced in Serbia provides a black and white vision to with it. We saw the fortress (bland) the main street (Grey Street Newcastle) the market (Soviet kitsch) and oh, the Bohemian Quarter- which was kind of wholly redeemable for all of Belgrade.