An Interview with Next Stop New York

In the run up to Future|Journeys on 21st May, we thought we’d do some quick takes with the various artists and hackers who will be joining the event. Hailing from Liverpool, Next Stop New York are a wickedly talented gang of musicians and performers who will be headlining the Future|Journeys afterparty! Read on to find out about their inspirations and what’s happening in the Liverpool music scene…

 

AfroFutures_UK: Greetings! Let’s start with telling us about yourselves, who you are, how you started…

Next Stop New York: Hi. We are Rich Pontefract and Dave McTague.  We arrived in Liverpool in 2000, became immersed in its music, arts and community, and along the way developed a deeper fascination of the city’s musical history.

The Next Stop New York project started in early 2015 as an exploration – a journey, really – looking at the ways in which Black American Music found it’s way to Liverpool, and what happened when it arrived!  Whilst this is a relatively new project, it’s become an all encompassing beast – a series of events, including talks, discussions, exhibitions, parties and the research that informs them, all inspired by this beguiling subject.  We’ve always been involved in music and arts projects here, having worked with Africa Oye for over a decade, and between us have been involved in numerous clubnights and live music shows, we also DJ and play at a number of venues across the city. At the moment, as well as NSNY we currently also do other events under the Mellowtone and Beaten Tracks banners.

AF: One of the things you’re interested in is demonstrating how Black American music influenced the Liverpool scene – what do you think are the best examples/how has this continued through to today (if it has). Do you think Black American music still has a major influence or is it more reciprocal now?

NSNY: Well, one band to mention would be the Beatles!  But, I suppose that was part of the reason why we started the project –  to get underneath these bigger, more oft-repeated stories, and to speak with people who were around and involved in Liverpool’s rich tapestry … a fabric of clubs and bars, bands, musicians, songwriters, promoters, hustlers, gangsters …  an oral history I suppose.  It seems like everyone but the people of Liverpool 8 get a mention in the history of the biggest band in the world, yet when you scratch under the surface, this was the fertile ground from which they came and took much inspiration.

The impact of post-war music – r ’n’ b , blues, soul, funk – can’t be underestimated, but it’s certainly reciprocated – just look at the impact The Real Thing had on the American charts – and one can’t deny the more recent cross-pollination caused by the Internet.  Our project mainly focused on the physical movement of music and records … everything influences everything now!

AF: Who would you say are your main inspirations?

NSNY: Dave – too many to name individually!  I’m inspired by people who just do their own thing …  artists, musicians, record labels, promoters, DJs, mavericks, free thinkers… those who make things happen.  Some may be people I have read about, others people I know; contemporaries, friends, family… I’m inspired by so many things really.  I have always had a fascination with the social culture around music and art movements, and how they evolved.  Of course, I am a huge music lover, so this is what keeps the wheels turning I suppose.

Rich – I think for me it began with reading Bill Brewster’s history of the DJ, Last Night A DJ Saved My Life, and realising that something so apparently recent had a real history to it. This sparked a particular interest in Liverpool’s DJ history, having met such local legends as Bernie Connor and Chris McBride, and naturally broadened out to include the clubnights, parties, venues and people instrumental to its development.

Both – thinking more recently, on this particular project Greg Wilson has been a wonderful support and help throughout, a mentor if you will – and the work he has done previously in these areas has certainly been a real inspiration, as well as a solid foundation to build on.  But there have been many others who have looked at these subjects before, we’re trying to connect these stories with a wider audience, and ensure they don’t vanish forever. We’re already at a point where many of the key oral histories are no longer around, and we want to capture as much of this as possible.

AF: As the event is particularly focused on Afrofuturism and the way it’s been a part of music and art and literature, would you say that the afrofuturism of Sun Ra, George Clinton, Erykah Badou, Janelle Monae etc. etc. has influenced similar movements in Liverpool?

NSNY: Not really “movements” as such, so perhaps you can’t see it directly …  but its influence undoubtedly permeates.  There are parallels with people like Eugene Lange and the things that Jayne Casey and Ambrose were doing in the early 80s, Zulu Records …  things like that.  Sun Ra played here … and the Last Poets had a residency in Liverpool at that time too, so there is a definite lineage that can be traced there.

What we’ve found with our own explorations of AfroFuturism, is that it means so many different things to different people. It’s really about interpretation, and how it’s central tenets impact an individuals own experiences. So there are many exponents of Afrofuturist ideology currently practising in the city, but it’s incredibly disparate and comes under numerous different guises.

I think there’s also work that is undoubtedly influenced by the Afrofuturist pioneers being created in the city, but without an aim of channeling this directly, and in many cases not knowingly referencing it.

More recently, there have been shows on more directly lifting from the themes around this – such as some of the things Paddy Steer has been doing, the “Part Time Heliocentric Cosmo After School Drama Club”.  They originate from Saturn Lancashire…   Some of the work Writing on the Wall have been doing, Rebel Soul, the Afro Supa Hero exhibition at the museum… and Blue Saint, playing the after party for Future|Journeys.

AF: What would you say is unique about the music scene in Liverpool? For example, do you think it has become more inclusive? 

NSNY: I don’t know – that’s a tough question.  It’s certainly steeped in history, and from the people we have spoken to it certainly seems in some ways more inclusive, but then there is also a yearning for the some of the truly multicultural events … some of the things that were left after the demise of many of the Liverpol 8 social clubs, shebeens and blues.

With what we are looking at, a huge focus became Liverpol 8, which has its own musical history that intertwines with that of the city centre whilst taking it’s inspiration from across the globe. The city centre ebbs and flows, but Liverpool 8 remains a beacon of inclusivity and tolerance.

There does still seem to be a hidden line. …   for example, a reggae show in the city centre has a much more “white ” audience than the ones closer to Liverpool 8.  But here are always clubs and nights going that are really mixed …   you just have to look !

AF: OK so now for the big question. If I were a total newbie to Liverpool, where would you suggest I go for the best night out, music wise?

NSNY: Ooh,  what are you looking for?  Haha…

Africa-Oye-2014-credit-Mark-McNulty-7
And should it happen to be the weekend of 18 & 19th June … there’s nowhere else to be but Sefton Park for Africa Oye ! The UK’s largest celebration of music and culture from Africa & the diaspora. 24 Kitchen Street has a range of great parties and clubnights, lots of reggae and other Afro-centric things on …  Ital Fresh have just opened at the back of DISTRICT, some of the stuff the Kazimier crew are working on at the Invisible Wind Factory looks fantastic, and FACT

have a great show on at the moment .. not strictly music but it’s pretty impressive … an immersive experience, sound and visuals … all made from data relating to the birth of stars!

INVISIBLE WIND FACTORY – Kickstarter from Invisible Wind Factory on Vimeo.

The guys behind No Fakin, Madnice, Hot Plate and Bam Bam Bam have – and continue to – bring some of the most exciting and legendary performers to the city all year round.

AF: Ace! Thanks for the recommendations 😃

Tell us more about the projects you’re currently working on? Anything we should look out for?

NSNY: As well at the Future|Journeys event with Writing on the Wall and yourselves, we are also working on a project for this year’s LIMF.  It’s a live music performance reimagining works by some of the forgotten Black pioneers of Merseybeat – backed by a soul band,  a range of current soul performers will reinterpret these largely unknown works.  Later on in 2016 we are working towards an exhibition, with archive photography from two Cunard Yanks later in 2016.

AF: What do you look forward to the most about Future|Journeys? What can we look forward to for the afterparty?

NSNY: To be honest – we’re looking forward to the whole day – its such a varied programme. The keynote will be really interesting, a great panel… and given Liverpool’s role in the 18th Century Slave trade, “The Second Coming” that’s looking at inherited memory should be fascinating, if somewhat sobering.

For the afterparty  … well …  Jerry Dammers for a start!  He shouldn’t need an introduction, but just in case .. the Specials, Two Tone Records, The Spatial AKA orchestra. Oh, and we hope you like the artwork … a few specially screen printed editions will be there on the night.  We’re looking forward to seeing those!

 

Next Stop New York will be hosting the Future|Journeys afterparty tomorrow from 7pm. A massive thank you for their hard work and seriously good vibes. We’re looking forward to it and hope to see you there!

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