Ahead of his first gig on 11th December as part of a new quarterly residency at Vent, we get to know the founder of Rhythm Section and Boiler Room host, Bradley Zero.
Photo courtesy of SMilliganPhotography
Following an intimate gig at Vent earlier in the year, the Leeds born producer's name (Zero is quite brilliantly his actual middle name) was on everyone's lips as one of the best sets the Downtown underground utopia had heard, bringing in his delicate House vibes born from eclectic yet consanguine beats and an ability to inspire that innate cadence between heart beats and musical rhythm... all spun on vinyl. He brought his visceral sound to Vent once again in September, this time to a packed house that was, as he puts it "the best clubbing experience I've ever had."
The Boiler Room host is now taking his Rhythm Section label's fortnightly East London parties to Cairo and Vent for a quarterly residency that, as cliché as it sounds, is not to be missed, starting off with the first on 11th December that'll also feature a closing set by Ahmed Samy. We catch up with Zero ahead of the gig to find out more about what to expect...
So where are you right now, can you describe the setting?
I am on a plane (a setting I'm getting more and more used to) window seat (always) travelling from Cancun, Mexico to Miami Florida, where I've been on an actual holiday with my sister. Mexico is kinda like Egypt - lots of people, lots of pyramids!
What's your story, how did Bradley Phillip become Bradley Zero become Rhythm Section?
Well, Zero is my middle name so I was always Bradley Zero Phillip, I just lost the last bit as it's not quite as catchy! I first used 'Bradley Zero' when I began to DJ out in clubs back in 2007, and someone asked the inevitable question.
Rhythm Section itself was born in 2009 when I started a radio show on a local station with a friend, we needed to think of a name, and outside of the radio show, she played bass and I played drums so Rhythm Section seemed natural.
Who were your major musical influences growing up?
Legendary figures like Michael Jackson, James Brown, Bob Marley and the Beatles. Folk heroes like Joni Mitchel, Simon and Garfunkel and Jeff Buckley. Unashamedly, Metal/Nu Metal bands like Metallica, Pantera, Rage Against the Machine, Incubus and System of a Down. And presenters like Gilles Peterson and John Peel.
Around the time I left home and moved to London to study, I began to really delve into obscure music from all over the world, especially the Congo, west and east Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and the Caribbean. I'd get obsessed with these niche genres and consume everything I could. I think this thirst for new sounds has really helped create my own musical palette and this is why I admire selectors like Gilles Peterson, Thristian, lefto, Ruf Dug, Young Marco etc. who can dig into such a rich musical history and have a definitive style without ever feeling restricted by genre.
In terms of electronic music, this is a world I became fascinated with around the age of 17, when I remember being terribly excited by a whole new world of sound, shielded from the mainstream, decidedly underground. Leeds was and still is a big House city, so having grown up there I was able to begin my explorations into this world and 10 years on I'm just as excited about finding discovering music new and old.
How would you define the vibe of a Rhythm Section party?
It's very hard to define a vibe in a few words but essentially it's a DANCE - a celebration, the coming together of a community that has no church. At best it's a spiritual communion of people who believe in the power of music and at other times it's simply a release, a moment outside of the normal world where you can forget your problems for a few hours and rejoice in music and unity.
Aside from the fact that records maintain sound quality from studio to decks, what is it about vinyl culture that you feel the need to keep alive?
I don't feel a responsibility, as such, but I do think the culture is a complex and beautiful thing that I want to be a part of. Building up a collection of records is such a different thing from having a hard drive full of music. It demands commitment, serious investment and numerous side effects (from angry girlfriends to fed up housemates, even lower back problems!), but the rewards are being part of a global secret society of amazing nerds and eventually having a formidable and completely unique set of sonic instruments.
So you've played two gigs in Cairo, first impressions of the city? How did you feel the gigs went?
Well, first off, if anyone told a year ago that I would have played Cairo three times in 2014 I would have laughed at them. Before my first visit, I really didn't know much about the city, especially not the music scene, but each visit has been such a huge inspiration in that it's really changed my whole approach to how underground music can exist on a global platform.
My first impressions where, BIG, DUSTY and VIBRANT! I had a great feeling about the city immediately, but all my expectations where blown to pieces when I went into the club. This wasn't just a good club 'for Egypt' this was one of the best clubbing experiences I had had full stop.
Is this the first Rhythm Section residency you've taken up outside of the UK? Why Vent and Cairo?
Well Egypt isn't exactly known to be a big player in the electronic music scene, certainly not from a European perspective, but what I found on my previous two visits was a crowd hungry for new sounds, willing to be challenged and a team of promoters and club owners who really wanted to push the limits, book challenging acts and serious musicians and DJs who were absolutely not going to provide anything else that exists in the city, or play it safe by booking room filling but mind numbing EDM garbage.
With such an impassioned approach, the audience is definitely narrowed down; this music isn't for everyone, but it seems that the guys at Vent have made a strong statement and got their point across to the point where they have created an amazing community of outsiders and enthusiasts and they are slowly but surely preaching the gospel of good music to a whole new generation of Egyptians who've never heard such sounds and definitely have never had a place to enjoy them as intended.
All this makes it a very exciting time to be involved in the scene, nobody's jaded, everyone is open minded and excited and for all these reasons the crowd is an absolute delight to play for.
What can we expect from you from your upcoming gigs at Vent? We heard you'll be bringing some fresh faces along with you, care to hint who?
Well as of 2015 I'm going to be bringing over a DJ with me every quarter: some friends, some Rhythm Section family and some RS international affiliates. I'm not at liberty to spill the beans quite yet but there'll be some Canadians, some Australians, definitely some northerners and a number of the Peckham Strong on the list.
It's 3AM, everyone's really getting into the groove of things, eyes are closed, panties are thrown, hands are in the air... what track do you put on to take things up a notch...
Zanzibar Chanel - Killer (dubplate)
So you're a regular host at Boiler Room, how do you feel that has influenced your own music and, secondly, do you think Cairo has the potential to start hosting regular Boiler Room parties?
We did shows before in Istanbul, Marrakech and Tel Aviv but who's to say Cairo can't be the forth?! But on a more serious note, I don't think there's any rush, the scene in Cairo is relatively young, but with the moves being made at Vent and the inclusion of Bosaina in RBMA this year, things bode well... it only takes a small group of people to set off a movement.
Boiler room opened my eyes to so much music and allowed me to meet so many of my heroes. Working with the likes of Thristian, Drakeford, Tasker and Skinny is a constant source of inspiration and an inbox constantly full of new surprises.
Finally, what dream would you cut your dreadlocks for?
Haha, so far that has not been necessary and in ticking of the boxes without having to resort to such drastic measures!
Bradley Zero on Facebook
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