Chipmusic • Interviews

Interview with calmdownkidder

[editors note: hey.. its a user submission!]

James Bentley is one of the great promotional forces of the UK chipmusic scene with his label calmdownkidder, his ChipFest gigs and his radio show The Chipmusic Hour. James was kind enough to take the time to answer my questions.

Your first upload to the calmdownkidder YouTube account was a video of Combat Dave performing in St. Johns Gardens in 2008 to one fan and about thirty nonplussed bystanders. Do you think the perception of chipmusic has changed in Liverpool since then?

That wasn’t even a fan, it was a friend of mine who tagged along to help me and Dave hand out flyers! I would probably argue that, to the average bystander, the perception hasn’t changed all that much, I think a similar busking event would yield an equally nonplussed reaction, sadly! After the first event, the venue closed down and I couldn’t find an inexpensive all-ages/16+ venue, hence alienating a potential massive market! The people still coming to the gigs are the familar faces (with a few new faces popping up now and then, naturally).

Is CDK 050 the reason why you’re not accepting demos right now? Could you say a little bit about this release for people who aren’t in the know.

I’m not accepting demos right now because I’m far too busy to run it alone at the moment! A full time job, part-time degree course as well as the radio show and various other activities means I can’t be 100% into listening to every demo – I ended up not replying to a few artists, which felt really shitty on my part so I decided to temporarily halt accepting demos – I still ask artists for releases though, so if you’re good enough, check your inbox sometime! CDK050 was originally going to be a CD release [the 30-second compilation featuring 101 artists, Micro Music For Micro People], but I’m not sure on that at the moment – a recession/lack of money on my part/not willing to ask for charity to raise money for the CD to sell means it’s still on hold for the time being.

After 48 releases featuring the likes of little-scale, Bit Shifter, 8 Bit Weapon and Goto80, are there any artists that you are still looking to put out their releases?

It greatly honours me that the artists you’ve mentioned, and many more, have for the most part chosen to be released on CDKr. As well as that, it really excites me that all these great new artists are just starting out (or have been around for a while, but just started to be recognised by the chipscene). I’d rather not mention names of artists I ‘want’ for a CDKr – for the most part they know – I’m constantly harassing them via whatever social network I can think of! Sorry for the generic answer, but some of the artists I ‘want’ shall hopefully be releasing on CDKr very soon, and I don’t want to mention their names as a jinx. Earlier on in CDKr history I once started the promotional trail for a release which wasn’t 100% certain. The artist then released on another netlabel without mentioning it to me beforehand; an unprofessional act on both our parts, I guess. I would like to get more worldwide musicians on CDKr, I’m loving the Australian and Indonesian scenes especially at the moment! I’ve hosted African, European, North American and Oceanic (or is it Australasian? I’m not sure!) releases – getting the other continents would be an awesome achievement, but not unless the tunes are awesome!

You seem to have a love/hate relationship with your ChipFest gigs. Every time I’ve seen one announced you’ve referred to it as being the last one. What is it that continually encourages you to put on more shows?

I’m a glutton for punishment, I guess. I hate how venues are never rammed with sweaty punters partying as hard as they possibly can, but I love seeing and hearing live chipmusic! I always threaten that it’s ‘the last one’ until I hear news of overseas artists are coming to the UK, then if I can it’s ChipFest time! I’d like a promo team to really give ChipFest the promotional boost it so sorely deserves, but any local folk I’ve tried to deal with ultimately flake out, and it’s hard having people not as 100% passionate as myself that have my back, so I have to do it alone! I’m not trying to make myself out as some martyr here, I would absolutely love some people helping out or co-organising if they so desired! All the successful nights have a crack team to help each other out/give each other boosts when they start to flag, and I think this would massively help a semi/regular night of this non-mainstream nature.

Probably the best thing I witnessed (in person!) this year with chipmusic was your now legendary busking set in Haymarket, Edinburgh where you were practically assaulted by pensioners who disapproved of your music. Has this sort of thing happened to you before?

I’ve never been busking before, so at least my first time was a memorable one! I guess the type of music I tend to make is noisy and/or horrible, so that mixed with a loudspeaker and plucky members of the public was sure to provide an exciting mix! I still don’t think the woman arguing was an official, she had an unprofessional attitude – the ‘official’ steward (who was off-camera for the video) was much more professional and understanding. Ultimately whilst they have the right to disagree, doing so in the manner they did (especially ripping Edward Shallow’s cable from his amp, potentially causing £££s of damage – in my opinion, the most illegal act of the video duration) was not the right way to go about things.

In one form or another (your label, your gigs, your radio show) you’ve contributed a lot more than your average person to chipmusic in the UK. Do you see that as an apathetic approach from UK-based artists to promotion, or would you say that there are more people like you out there?

I’m not sure if apathetic is the right word. I guess some people just don’t thrive on the ‘business’ (I say business, I’ve lost far more money than I’ve made) side of music as much as others do! I enjoy non-chip music, especially punk/hardcore type music, and aside from going to gigs/buying merch and the like, I don’t really contribute to the ‘scene’ as a whole. I’m not sure if that would make me apathetic though! Ultimately it’s just finding what you enjoy, and what you’re good at, and just going for it! In the UK at least, a lot of chip people tend to be students, and don’t have the financial resources to put on a gig/travel to as many gigs as they may like, that doubled with the crappy transport system we have means it’s harder for the spread-out community of chipfans to meet up, whereas in a place like New York they have a cheap, 24/7, mostly effective public transport system which makes it much easier for like-minded folk to meet up!

Given your relentless promotion of chipmusic, you said in an interview with the Liverpool Echo newspaper in 2008 when asked about whether chipmusic could go mainstream that “it’s only a matter of time before a big song gets into the charts”. Is this something that you still believe?

I’m not sure if I said that directly, there was some misquoting of the telephone conversation the journalist and I had! I’d say an outright straight ‘chipmusic’ track making a major chart impact is unlikely, but I think chip mixed with a more mainstream sound (such as Anamanaguchi, or Sabrepulse’s later tracks) could easily make a big impact on the radio/TV stations – it’s not like the charts matter that much anymore anyway! Thanks to the internet, anyone into non-mainstream music can set up their own netlabels and put on gigs and advertise to like-minded people, people are free to make their own musical tastes up nowadays, which I hope is here to stay. If the internet will be censored on a massive scale/more obstructive copyright restrictions come into place, we’ll have have to drive it underground like it originally was!

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, James. Anything else to add?

Not really. Don’t get stuck in a rut, listen to as much music as you can, have FUN!

jamesbentley1.jpg (107 KB)

jamesbentley1.jpg (107 KB)

This post was submitted by Garry Lee.

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