Ed’s… Highlights – July ’10

The Summer solstice has passed. VW’s are leaving Salisbury Hill and flip flop sales are fighting recession. It can only mean one thing… FESTIVAL SEASON!!!!! I don’t usually endorse exclaimation marks but with promoters risking millions it’s the least I can do. That and give the big local three a push.

Global Gathering / July 30th & 31st – The angel of dance returns to Long Marston, celebrating it’s 10th birthday and being the only UK dance music festival still alive and kicking. Headliners Faithless and Dizee Rascal join pretty much every DJ under the sun for the Godskitchen spawned weekender – www.globalgathering.com

The Big Chill / August 5th to 8th – Born from 700 people on the Black Mountains, The Big Chill is now a firm festival contender. Too eclectic to explain, this year sees a bevy of artists from Massive Attack to DJ Derek scaring the deer at Eastnor Castle. You might even blag a Mr Scruff cuppa – www.bigchill.net

Shambala / August 27th to 30th – Moseley born and bred, this increasingly respected festie needs no local introduction. Not giving a lot away online, the Jibbering boys promise a ‘hailstorm of creative madness’ over the last weekend of summer. Tickets are expected to sell out fast – www.shambalafestival.org

Enjoy x

Follow Ed King at www.twitter.com/edking2210

INTERVIEW: Ozzy Osborne

Ozzy Osborne interview - 26.06.10 / Paul Ward
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Words by Ed King / Pics by Paul Ward

Everybody’s waiting. The media in a corridor upstairs, the fans against the railings downstairs. Gargantuan pillars of security standing stoic in the middle. We were all told to ‘be here by 1pm sharp’ but there’s been queues on the street for over 36 hours. Why? Ozzy Osbourne of course. Birmingham’s infamous bat Ozzy Osborne signing - 26.06.10 / Paul Wardbiter is in back town and it seems half the city has turned out to meet him.

“I was here a few months ago,” says Ozzy,“promoting my new book (I Am Ozzy). Lots of things have changed, new buildings and that. I mean, what’s with that big golf ball in the centre? It’s changed amazingly,” a strong accent blows all stardust from the room, “I mean, I used to get lost when I lived here. But it’s always good to be back in Birmingham. I’d consider moving back here but Sharon likes it over in America.”

Modern Birmingham’s constantly under construction, but how does Ozzy feel about the city he grew up in? “Coming into Birmingham just now I was reflecting back on what it used to be like when I lived at No14 Rose Road (The Birmingham Observer cannot confirm this address),” I think I’ve just worked out why there’s been a delay, “I was sitting there thinking, such a lot has happened in my life. I just could not have planned this. It’s unbelievable.” A fair description of over 18 albums selling millions worldwide. Ozzy grins, “42 years later and I’m still playing the Town Hall.”Ozzy Osborne signing - 26.06.10 / Paul Ward

Ozzy is back on the road promoting his 10th solo studio album, Scream, released in April this year. 18 months long and internationally wide, Scream tours across Europe, America and Japan. During a year and half of globetrotting performances how does Ozzy plan to stay sane?

“Not by drinking that’s for sure,” Ozzy is very candid about his alcoholism and recovery, “I haven’t drunk for a long time now, about 7-8 years. If I was drinking I don’t think I’d make it a week.” Judging by the hype surrounding today I’m not sure Ozzy’s management team will make it 18 months without. “I’m quite a straight laced guy nowadays.”

So with no bats on stage what can we expect from the Scream album and tour? “Heavy. Very heavy. You know, real Rock. It reminds me of my Sabbath days,” many reviews echo the same, “and some of my early solo stuff. But it was unintentional, you know, not a conscious decision.”

Conscious or not it’s been three years since his last album, Black Rain. Is Ozzy happy with his latest release? “I’m never happy. About a week after Scream got released I’m thinking why did I put that there? Why didn’t I change Ozzy Osborne interview - 26.06.10 / Paul Wardthat track?” So the artist still struggles even four decades on, doesn’t Ozzy feel good enough yet? ”That’s for the fans to tell me. What I’m good at is making an album and then demolishing it, you know. If I get a good review I kind of raise one eyebrow. What I have to do now is let go.”

Scream is the first Ozzy solo release since the mid eighties without longstanding guitarist Zack Wylde, cited as the most ‘endearing’ replacement since Ozzy’s original guitarist Randy Rhoades was killed in a plane accident in 1982. How does Ozzy find working with the new line up?

“Great. Gus is really, really good,” Gus G, aka Kostas Karamitroudis from Greek power metal band Firewind, “I’ve got high hopes for him. I mean, guitarists can be great but then you’ve got to find out if you can live with them.” A final grin as Ozzy’s publicist points to his watch, “we’re on the road for 18 months… I’m sure he’ll be fine.”

Scream, Ozzy Osbourne’s 10th studio solo album, was released in April 2010. For more information about the album and worldwide tour visit www.ozzy.com

OPINION: Changes in the airwaves – Robin Valk

Ex BRMB presenter (Rockin' Robin) and founder of www.radiotogo.com

For this column, the Birmingham Review asked me some thoughts on radio.

Hmmm. Tricky.

The radio industry is still full of talent, from community level up to national networks. Listening is holding up. But I’m worried.

Cuts continue at the BBC; it’s going to get worse. The commercial sector continues to ramp up automation and networking: this week, 200 jobs went as Global rationalised 18 stations out of existence. And despite great work and some sparkling talent at community level, many stations worry about the future.

The Digital Economy Bill will oversee the change from Analog (AM/FM) to Digital. The scheduled date for this is 2015, but that depends on digital listener numbers. Right now 2015 looks unlikely.

Why? Well, analog AM/FM radios are everywhere. They’re on your phone, your stereo, your iPod/MP3 player, in your car. Analog radios are cheap to make and easy to use. Digital takeup is slow. Britain’s iffy digital tech standards are not used elsewhere, making UK sets pricey. I’ve got a digital radio; I keep having to reboot the thing. There’s a wider choice on digital, but many services are contemptibly bad, with no effort to engage the audience. They’re cheapo placeholders, only there to protect future market share.

And the BBC wants to close 6 Music. This is insane on so many levels, especially strategically. 6 delivers dirt cheap passionate programming. It’s meant to attract listeners to Digital.

To sweeten the commercial sector towards Digital, concessions have been made that allow co-location, reductions in local hours, and the abandonment of local output in some cases. That spells continuing job cuts: there’s been a fifteen year retreat from localism in favour of branded national programming delivered from London or Leeds

Take a look at the audience graphs for any commercial station on www.mediauk.com

It’s not pretty. Fifteen years ago commercial radio led the BBC, with mainly local output. Now, heavily networked with national brands, the BBC beats it with 60% of the market.

And the upside?

Production tools have never been cheaper. Building your library has never been easier.  Local Music has never been better, Good local radio and the right local music are a marriage made in heaven. Many community stations have cottoned on to this.

Barriers to production have gone. If the kind of radio you want isn’t there, go create it. You can audioblog, podcast, and upload to SoundCloud to showcase your work.  So this means you can practice and polish while waiting for the one good aspect of the Digital Economy bill: this allows, after the switchover, for the FM band to be turned over to small-scale and community stations, available on those many, many FM radios you have in your house and your car. You will be doing it for love, in every sense of the word.

As they retreat to their glossy digital network centres in London, the commercial boys have left the field WIDE open. I can’t wait to see what local wonders step forward.

Robin Valk has worked in Radio for over 40 years, notably as Rockin’ Robin on BRMB. He now runs Radio To Go, an independent broadcast advisory and analysis agency www.radiotogo.com

NEWS: All change in Digbeth as Factory Club refocuses

Simon Jones - MD Factory Club

During the early hours of June 13th four people were wounded as shots were fired inside the Space 2 Warehouse, The Factory Club’s main arena on the Custard Factory complex in Digbeth. No one was killed but the unforeseen attack sent shockwaves round the city. The Birmingham Review secured the first newspaper interview with Factory Events MD Simon Jones since the shootings took place.

“It’s been a hard week to be honest,” says Jones, “you can’t underestimate the gravity of what happened. It really shook people.” The man who has been at the centre of a citywide blame game appears tired, “thankfully no one was more seriously hurt but it has traumatised the city.”

In the days following June 13th international news agencies and regional media alike looked for someone culpable. Reports of slow police response time made the front page, but with officers stationed around the city for the England Vs USA football match resources were stretched. As operator of the venue Simon Jones was soon in the media limelight.

“It felt a little like we were being hung out to dry”, says Jones, following a continued focus from media without official requests for comment. “The Factory Club hired out the Space 2 Warehouse to Harmony Promotions, we were not the event promoters, but when something like this happens it’s ultimately our responsibility. I wanted to sent the right message out and effectively try and clear our name, and the name of the Custard Factory.”

Harmony Promotions who organised the Urban Music Gathering 2010, the all night music event at which the shootings took place, remain unable to comment.

But what immediate steps has The Factory Club taken to ensure safety on site? “We’ve voluntarily closed for one event whilst we upgrade our CCTV systems,” A request made by the Licensing committee at a summary review after the shootings. Is The Factory Club increasing other security measures such as door supervision? “These occurrences are a city wide problem. The guidelines for security staff is 1 per 100 people, we had double that at the Urban Music Gathering event.”

How about the event itself, will there be anymore Urban Music Gatherings planned? “No, although we’ve had the promoters here a few times without incident. However The Factory Club are no longer booking any commercial Urban music events. The only way I could comfortably host one would be with airport security and police sweeps of the area, akin to the security measures for visiting dignitaries. I don’t want to put on shows where that’s necessary.”

But Jones has spent the past decade nurturing Digbeth’s nightlife, with plans to move away from the contentions of clubland what role will The Factory Club play in the area?

“What I’m good at is shifting people into Digbeth. But now I want to concentrate on daytime trade, retail and live music events,” Jones has talked about a organising a Spitalfields style market in Digbeth for several years, “maybe what happened is the kick start I needed to refocus my energies. I hate to think of all the hard work we’ve put into this area going to waste.”

Digbeth now holds a collection of high profile venues. Large scale events are regularly held, with a combined possible capacity between sites of up to around 35,000 people. Yet despite public declarations from Birmingham City Council, the Eastside Regeneration as outlined in the Big City Plan has not materialised.

“Digbeth is a prominent cultural quarter of the city, but it’s not policed like other areas with vibrant nightlife,” says Jones, “Its often left to the independent operators to secure their own surroundings. If we want Digbeth to actually become what everyone has been talking about it’s not going to happen organically, it needs a push.”

With a full review on July 12th the future of The Factory Club still hangs in the balance, and as with much of the rhetoric in Eastside the proof remains in the pudding. But as Jones himself confesses, “I want to go back to the roots of why we’re down here, to create a community and enjoy it again.”

REPORT: Global Gathering’s decade dissection

Global Gathering 2009 - courtesy of AMG

A decade of Global Gatherings has seen everything from the red arrows to a parachuting hamster land at Long Marston. Celebrating double figures this July, headline acts Dizzee Rascal and Faithless join the world’s DJ fraternity for another round with the UK’s dance music festival heavyweight. Now twice as long and three times as big, the Birmingham Review caught up with the original GG promoters to see what life was like when it was all nothing but fields…

“When we decided to do Global Gathering a lot of the other festivals didn’t understand their punters,” says Chris Griffin, co-founder of Godskitchen, the Birmingham based superclub that spawned Global Gathering. “It was all about booking the biggest headliner and who’s got the biggest cheque book. We were better at knowing what people wanted back then.” 25,000 people agreed, selling out Global’s 2001 debut amidst an onslaught of bad industry omens.

“When we started everyone said you won’t pull it off, you won’t get the license,” says GK’s other half Tyrone De Savery, “DJs refused to play. They thought we’re not getting behind it, there’s three festivals already.” GG launched the same year a well known London club held a festival at Knebworth, “our first Global went head to head with the Ministry of Sound,” says Chris, “I think they ended up losing about a million quid”.

Originally promoted as a ‘pure DJ event’, Global Gathering was supported by the (frankly) fanatical Godskitchen fanbase, but it takes more than an army of angel tattoos to fill a festival. “In 2001 we distributed 1million promotional booklets,” says Ryan Matthews, Global’s original head of promotions, “and 1.5million the second year. We put a flyer on every car window and a poster on every lamppost in the country. We absolutely hammered it.”

And 10 years young Global’s legacy continues, albeit a more mature mash up than it’s “ravers in a field” original. But will it last? “Global should go from strength to strength,” say’s Ryan,” as long as they don’t pick stupid artists and charge too much money”.

Well that’s alright then, Happy Birthday Global Gathering. Hand me that flyer again..?