Juno Plus Podcast 108: Bradley Zero

The Rhythm Section man comes correct with an hour long mix filled with unreleased and exclusive material. 

Bradley Zero should be a face familiar to anyone that has spent some time consumed with the increasingly sprawling online platform that is Boiler Room, undoubtedly one of their hosts with the most boundless sense of enthusiasm, It’s to the proud Yorkshireman’s favour that he’s now equally well known for his stewardship of Rhythm Section, which has grown from humble beginnings in a Peckham pool hall to a highlight of London’s perma-shitfting club scene. How so? There is a broad music policy played by some interesting guest selectors – Fett Burger, Wolf Müller, Pender Street Steppers and Beautiful Swimmers have all graced the Rhythm Section decks in the past six months – and the lack of set times veers away from the general overcooked line-up tactics that beset London these days.

To the outsider, last year’s expansion into running the Rhythm Section International record label seemed like a logical step, though Zero tells us it was “more an actual necessity” and it’s been a success so far. Al Dobson Jr’s wonderful album of sorts Rye Lane Volume One set the tone and Rhythm Section International has gone on to work with Rüf Dug, The Very Polish Cut-Outs pair Ptaki, and Melbourne newcomer Prequel. All these records seem to represent the musical flavour of Rhythm Section in their own way and it will be intriguing to see where the label goes next.

Which makes now quite an appropriate time to get a mix from Bradley Zero for our podcast series, laid down in Amsterdam’s Redlight Radio during off-broadcast hours and rife with new and unreleased material. What to expect? Rhythm of course! And cuts from the likes of Al Dobson Jr, Rüf Dug, Local Artist, Henry Wu, and Zanzibar Chanel. Bradley was also kind enough to answer a whole host of questions on his party, label, favourite warm up DJs, and current lip follicle developments.

Hi Bradley, how are you doing?

Very well, just landed in Glasgow for a gig at the Art School tonight with Al Dobson Jr. and going through some emails ahead of the gig.

We can’t help but notice you have been cultivating quite a moustache, how is that going?

It’s gone! The moustache was merely an experiment, putting my upper lip follicles to the test. They passed the test.

Thanks a lot for doing this mix, was there an over riding theme behind the selection?

Rhythm.

I believe it was laid down at Redlight Radio in Amsterdam, what took you to the city?

Now, that would be telling…..

Did you get a chance to go digging in the nearby Redlight Records? Pick up any gems?

I had to steer clear this visit actually! Redlight Records is truly one of the best record stores in the world with the most friendly, helpful staff who will happily keep topping me up with recommendations until there’s no more room at the listening booth. Last time I not only spent most of my money, but had far too many records to fit in my hand luggage, and every one was pure fire from Dutch Indonesian fusion to Surinamese reggae and Antillean funk via some Afro-disco and post punk German dancefloor experiments. To be honest, I’m still getting to know the last batch of Red Light discoveries. It’s easy to get too many records at once and end up never really giving them a proper listen, so next time I’m in Amsterdam (Disco Dolly – 25th March) I think I’ll be ready for a proper dig.

What goes into a perfect Rhythm Section night for you?

Preparation is key, whenever I’m underprepared or in a rush the vibe is affected negatively. I like to get an early night the day before and spend the whole afternoon sifting through records and putting a bag together that I feel will work well with the guest, then head down before the sun sets to set up shop in the pool hall. Once the guest arrives, a good #romanticdjdinner is key and it’s getting a lot easier with the number of new, top class eateries opening in Peckham.

Once well fed, we move on to the warm up; a key part of the experience and always a duty shared with the guest selector. A principle of Rhythm Section is NO SET TIMES, and if I did the warm up alone every time I’m sure there would be a lot less variety in the music from week to week – I only have so many records, and allowing a guest to be part of the warm up really opens up the musical possibilities for the night and paves the way for us to explore exciting new territories together as the night unfolds.

It obviously has quite a distinct atmosphere, but have you had any nights selecting elsewhere that you would say were comparable to Rhythm Section?

Dancer Wanted in Manchester with Rüf Dug – to be honest Ruffy’s approach to selection, mixing and overall attitude to music has been a singular influence on myself and Rhythm Section as a dance-party so when I got to play as guest up in Manchester last week, I felt right at home. Cosmic Slop in Leeds shares a similar approach in terms of open music policy and no frills delivery, but executes it through the most incredible high end custom soundsystem I’ve ever heard. Special shouts to Mike and Tom for keeping it real as fuck and creating a really special atmosphere. I’d love to be able to step things up to their level of audio superiority but operating in an overcrowded mega city (London) comes with its limitations; that said, what they have going in Leeds is a huge inspiration and has that family vibe that is SO important to a club.

Last but not least is my home away from home in Cairo – VENT! These guys have created a boutique club purveying left of centre sounds on a daily basis in the most unexpected of places. Sitting just of the corner of Tahir Square, my first visit (which coincided with a holiday to Sharm El Sheik) was on the eve of the anniversary of the revolution. All the roads where shut down, three tanks blocked the entrance to the square, with cannons pointing towards the entrance of the club – not your regular welcome shall we say – but what happened inside was remarkable: a mixed crowd of young people with a thirst for new sounds and an appreciation for the boundaries being pushed, united together as outsiders and as receptive, open minded and welcoming as any crowd I’ve ever played to. After this Vent became the first International RS residency.

Can you shout out any lesser known DJs that have really impressed you on your travels?

Ahmed Samy, a vinyl only resident at the aforementioned Vent in Cairo.
Yogo & Egozy, Hecktick and Turtle in Tel Aviv.
Rui Varga & André Cascais, Lux Lisbon.
Edd Fisher, Melbourne
Eddy Ramich, Croatia
Simon Caldwell, Sydney

How are those Principals nights going with Messrs Drakeford and Tasker?

Being a DJ can get a bit lonely at the best of times and I guess Principals is our boyband coping mechanism! There’s nothing quite like feeling that you’re in it together and this triumvirate allows us to do some really fun things as a team. The nice thing is that we’re all quite busy with our own projects; myself with Rhythm Section, Tasker with Whities and Charles with FTD, which makes it even more of a pleasure to get together and find the thread that unites our varied tastes. It seems we all have a little bit of each other within ourselves, but we all seem to excel in a certain niche – Nic goes hard, Charles goes weird and I go……

We’ve got a few interesting things coming up, including a trip to Lyon for the Nuits Sonores festival and our second room 3 residency at Fabric this March.

Who came up with that pun?

That would be me, and I appreciate that you spelt it correctly, Tony – so many people are writing ‘principles’!

You started the label last year which seemed like quite a logical step, how long had you been considering this move?

It was less of a logical step and more of an actual necessity – you can only sit on so much good new music for so long before having to do something about it. I had over 400 tracks from Al Dobson Jr. for the best part of a year, and it took about that long to whittle them down to the final selection, and then the label was born.

What’s been the best and worst thing about running a label?

The best would be the following.

Product: Having a physical manifestation of a lot of years of dedication and hard work

Recognition: Finally getting feedback, reviews, marks. Coming from an art school background which revolves around constant criticisim, discussion and feedback into this ‘music business’ which is a lot less deconstructive took a bit of getting used to, but creating a product and entering into an artistic dialogue, opening myself up for criticism is refreshing, often scary and so often I feel completely out of my depth, but this keeps me on my toes.

Winning (well almost): Being nominated for Label of the year at Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide awards was a big moment.

Travelling: A party is constrained by its location and can only reach so many people, which is great and I am all about fostering a local community, but with the label I wanted to spread this message further afield. Whilst Rhythm Section is about touching people very directly and somewhat transiently – revelling in the moment and leaving no trace, Rhythm Section International is about exporting this energy on a global level and allowing anyone to enjoy it and own it. Spread this message far and wide enough for long enough and eventually people will want to experience it for real, which means I get to visit nice places and do my thing, which is a blessing!

The worst.

Emails: Oh so many emails. Emails, emails, emails every day. A bottomless inbox that is slowly becoming the bane of my life. Sorry to everyone who I never replied to, I tried.

Business: I struggle enormously with the more legitimate, financial and legal obligations of running a label, PPL, PRS, MCPS, Publishing, Licensing, Sync, Royalties, Contracts, Copyright, Payment Terms, Invoices, Outvoices….I secretly understand none of these words but luckily my team mate and label assistant Morell does!

Waiting: Anyone who has ever dealt with our outdated and obsolete medium of choice will know there is a lot of waiting, from pre-masters to masters to lacquers, to TPs via Inserts, Promos and proofs, there is a lot of waiting and it can be frustrating and definitely late. But it’s all worth it in the end I swear!

You must be happy with the reception to those first three records right?

Absolutely! Rye Lane Volume one was definitely an odd debut, an 11-track EP ( or mini album?) of none dancefloor, varied tempo sketches that generally clock in at under two minutes each?? R U MADD!? But I had faith in the depth of musicality and truth behind the beats and it turns out other people felt it too – this sold out super quick and was followed by an equally odd release – a remix EP with two songs that weren’t on the first record and hard almost nothing in common with the originals, but it worked again!

And then there’s Prequel – my brother over in Sydney who sent me the most luscious mix of contemporary jazz, orchestral bass music and beatdown house that somehow sits together perfectly though his exquisite sampling skills. Gilles picked this one up and the reception was crazy, certainly for an unknown artist from halfway across the world. (PS He’s coming over in summer so hit me up if you want him to play your party!)

Who would be the dream artist to have on the label?

No dream artist, it’s all about the music – I could never imagine commissioning someone to provide a record– I’m a quite ‘hands on’ label boss, really earning my credit as executive producer. In one sense this means each release is kind of a shared vision between selector (me) and producer (artist) but it also probably means I’ve annoyed a lot of people by veto-ing tracks and demanding edits and changes before accepting anything for the label, but I think this attention to detail pays off, and being part of the process is important to me, however frustrating this may actually be!

What’s next for Bradley Zero and Rhythm Section?

I mastered five EPs in the last two weeks, so that will take us up until the end of summer in terms of releases – there’s a mix of local and international artists, some logical progressions from previous records and some rather unexpected collaborations and more immersive projects with bands, video directors and artists….

As for Bradley Zero aka Zeer aka B Zero I’m really looking forward to embodying the Rhythm Section ethos around the globe and collaborating with friends in different places. For me, the inter-personal aspect of DJing is the most important element and making good friends along the way is the greatest reward. As well as being personally fulfilling, there really is nothing more exciting than playing records for people with a good mate and this energy is absolutely infectious in a club environment, and is one of the few elements of DJing that can’t be faked or learnt. Music is Love, and through togetherness we can experience life at its best.

Tracklisting:

1. Intro (Rhythm & Rice)*
2. HVL – Lucky Star Of High Minded
3. Contours – Technician*
4. Ruf Dug – Chatsubo Special
5. NIAGARA – Falcao
6. Al Dobson Jr – Peru Timing Pt. 2*
7. FYI Chris – Need I Say More?*
8. Chaos in the CBD – Trust is Key*
9. Local Artist – Feelings (Digital Dub)*
10. Zanzibar Chanel – Killer*
11. MBM (Babicka & Mic Mills) – Write A Luv Song*
12. Zaki Ibrahim, Kid Fonque & DJ Whisky – 2Sides (Original Mix)
13. Thomas King – Guan Guanco 7*
14. Henry Wu – Croydon Depot

*denotes XCLUSIV/unreleased