Thursday, 16 August 2012


(This is the unabridged version of an article that appears in Issue 3 of TBC Magazine:


With just basic equipment, recording snippets of songs from the radio on a tape deck and then splicing them together, this was something many of us of a certain generation did in our youth, how we compiled our birthing music collection. There was of course no internet back then, and even if one could afford to buy a single from Woolworths each week, it would hardly go towards to amassing a large collection of tunes. This was how it was done back in the day, by being creative. Some, like Mista Pierre, took that creativity to a whole other level.
Like any true and great connoisseur of music Pierre wasn’t limited in his tastes to one genre, he embraced everything from classic to pop, the musical understanding of each giving him a solid and lasting foundation. However, as a young kid growing up in Peckham, it was the cultural explosion of hip hop that took predominant hold, and so set him on a direct path through and out of South London and to a wider world.

Once a wealthy village and hunting ground of Kings, with the arrival of the Industrial Revolution and the rapid expansion of the capital, trains saw Peckham became accessible to those working in the City and the docks, and the area grew rapidly. Heavily redeveloped in the 1960s, with high-rise flats built to house people from still existing slums in other areas, this initial high quality and modern standing of living, had, by the late 70s/early 80s fully entered a decline that turned it into one of the hardest residential areas, an archetypal London sink estate. It was here Pierre spent his youth, an area that seemed to hold little prospects: “There were triads and yardies” he says, “it was all gangs and drugs and within that you had no choice but to take your role.” There seemed very few, if any, ways out.

Music was therefore, undeniably Pierre’s escape, and without over-glamourising, his salvation. From a young age he dreamt of being a conductor. But how on earth could a young lad growing up in South London enter that far away world of classical music? Instead, he looked at what was around him, the hip hop culture and its four elements of rapping, DJing, dance and graffiti. He picked up an old turntable, repaired it, and with the few records he had in his possession, taking inspiration from Grandmaster Flash, he began to teach himself how to scratch. Someone heard him, was impressed, and the next thing he knew he was, at the age of just 14, placed alongside and pitted against those far more established in the Reggae Dance Hall in Peckham. It was competition, it was bravado, and despite the darker aspects it was still about team and community spirit. His talent swiftly assured him his place, and so gave him his accepted ‘role’, meaning that he didn’t have to take another within the gangs or drug-dealing. With just two small crates of records he had to learn how to make them work in a new way; every track had been heard before, so he had to ensure they had never been heard in quite the same way. It is well-established that, at its best, hip hop has given a voice to the voiceless, particularly in inner cities and neighbourhoods suffering from urban blight, and showcased their artistic ingenuity and talent on a global scale. Here is no exception, and so in the young Pierre a DJ was indeed born.

As time went on, wishing to see him removed from the still-troubled area, he was sent to stay with relatives in New York. Here was a young man with the knowledge already his now becoming immersed in all that was new and bold across the Atlantic. He played in the clubs of Brooklyn, and picked up extensively used samples blending the sounds of classic disco, the Chicago sound, and elements of hip-hop from the likes of the legendary Todd Terry and Def Jam. This lead to him achieving the highly-impressive stance of supporting ‘A Tribe Called Quest’ as DJ on their US Tour, an accolade few could match. For the next four or five years he travelled back and forth from New York to London, bridging the two and giving him a freshness to everything he played, wherever he played.

So it has been ever since, playing across the globe. With his early start, also being an accomplished exponent in break dance and pop lock, he soon learned how music can make people dance differently, and how as a DJ you can move them to a new mood. “Hip hop gave me the courage to experiment, to know how to take people on a journey with music.” says Pierre. “Real DJs know it is not about them, it is about the journey they take the crowd on, embracing their physicality and how music influences that”. Talking with him brings a realisation as to the true and real craft of a DJ. “You have to gauge the crowd. You have to study them, closely observe, so you know where to take them.”

Once a hip hop purist (never particularly piqued by the Acid electronica) and then onto house (as well as delving back further to all its origins) his music tastes are understandably all-encompassing. Hip hop being a genre that follows in the footsteps of earlier ones such as blues, jazz, and rock and roll with additional inspiration from soul, funk, and rhythm and blues would undoubtedly ensure this, leading one to look further back and dig deeper. And as Pierre himself acknowledges his ability to scratch way back then was born, in part, from the change in tempo found in his early passion for classical music.

Asked what the first ever record he owned was the answer that comes is perhaps unexpected. Adam and The Ants – ‘Ant Music’. “It begins with 8 bars of [drum] rim shots at the start, and I just used to play those on constant repeat”. Assuredly then, Pierre’s music repertoire is of not just the origins of his youth or subsequent years but that of a man with decades of music at his fingertips. Accessibility to all kinds of music has become readily available for us all, and so, even more so now “a DJ has to think and work. They no longer have the exclusivity of tunes as they did in the days of vinyl, now they have to be even more creative with their choices – a melange”. Many accomplished DJs have subsequently fallen by the wayside in this shift, just as many more (albeit less gifted ones) have arisen; it takes far more than just putting one track after another with a bit of beat matching to make a true DJ. As Mista Pierre proves.

With that then he now brings us the podcast you can enjoy with this issue. “I wanted something funky, soulful, and distinctly edgy London, bridging gay, straight, black, white.” Because isn’t that what music does, cross boundaries and break down barriers? It can alter who we are, change where we are. It travels, and it transports us. 

“I’m a maverick. I didn’t get out of one ghetto to be put in another.” Mista Pierre says. What really compels him? Ultimately, his reward is to make people feel good, to see happiness coming back to him as he plays. That is surely the true mark of a DJ.


Giles Addison

Monday, 13 August 2012


It will not last. Nothing does. That is the very nature of life. But today, Monday the 13th of August 2012, let me mark one of several quotes. That of Boris Johnson, Mayor of London: “London this morning to me really does feel like the capital of the world. Over 17 days we have shown the world that if we put our mind to it there is nothing this city and this country cannot do.”

In a constant deluge of double-dip recession, corruption and all other negative aspects of life both home and abroad, the crimes of humanity seemingly ever growing rather than diminishing as they should in a more enlightened age, hasn’t it been good to focus elsewhere for a while and have a city, a United Kingdom and indeed much of the globe look somewhere else entirely.

An oft used quote, and with good reason, is that of the chap who gave us the first dictionary (Dr.Samuel Johnson): “When (one) is tired of London, (one) is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”

So true then as is now. Living here, being a Londoner, be it born and breed, long or shortly adopted, can take its toll. We know this. As with every relationship in life, there is good and bad in all that which we hold dear. But hold it dear we nonetheless do, and for a myriad of reasons.

One of them, where London is concerned, whether we consciously recognise it or not, is that we live in what is, undeniably, the richest city on the planet, in the sense of history, culture and unparalleled cosmopolitan wealth. (This isn’t entirely London-centric either – I believe the essence of what I express here permeates throughout our four nations upon two isles.)

I don’t know how many friends you have from different nations, but I doubt it surpasses the 300 + different languages that speak in this metropolis each day (even linguistically this is the most diverse city in the world). I don’t know what unexpected wonder, discovery and delight you have been educated and enlightened with, entirely free, but it must be (or else, you should strive more for it to become) considerable.

For all its faults, its weaknesses, errors and expense – London holds and offers much. I could wax lyrical on that alone, but it is, now, mid-2012 I write of here.

So they came, the Olympics 2012. I will freely admit, I gave it little care or joy. In truth, I was more concerned with the huge expense and the inexhaustible and shameful greed of corporate sponsorship (two things that must not be forgotten entirely – not out of pessimism but awareness that we can/must fight for rightful change). I’d also been led to think there was a going to be a crippling disruption of our capital, and well, to be honest, I really had little interest in these sports. Yes, I’d enjoyed sporadic moments with each Olympics over the years, but not with more than a passing enthusiasm. These Olympics would come, they’d be noted, but with little care or impact to me if I could help it.

I was, of course, wrong. Very wrong. All too soon I was returning from work and catching up on the day – the action and the commentary my only interests. (Note: BBC surpassed themselves). I openly wept, I cheered loudly, bounced on my sofa, crushed cushions fiercely and punched the air in acclaimed joy - As I wrote on my facebook upon the closing night:

“The joy of effort is more important than the thrill of victory.”
-Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic movement (1894)

But what victory we have witnessed these past two weeks! Not just the great Team GB, but from the showmen of Jamaica and all over the world. I really didn't think I'd get much Olympic fever - how wrong I was. Thrilling, moving, inspiring - bravo Great Britain, bravo the World - it is a good thing to celebrate the goodness of human spirit and endeavour.

It truly was.

There is enough darkness present in humanity as a whole, and yes, we must continually strive to rectify that, even if it takes a millennia.

But amongst that darkness, there is such brilliance to, and how it was shown to us through the Olympics 2012. Here were individuals who sacrificed much, pushed their bodies beyond the norm, to achieve a marvellous majesty that most of us could only dream of doing. Many of them also showed a huge humility in doing so, and even those showmen who more embraced their understandable  elevation akin to demi-god still did so with grace too, loved not only because they still fulfilled and surpassed promise, but because how we adore those with a deserved swagger – rock stars would not be so without it.

Team GB – there was/are many names that will now be etched on our memories for ever. Ennis, Hoy, Trott, Rutherford to name but a few. We loved their stories too, such as how Anthony Joshua (winning the Men’s Super Heavyweight with Team GB's 29th gold) at just 22 had only taken up the sport four years previously after his cousin took him to Finchley Amateur Boxing Club – one of many tales illustrating the tenacity within us all, the ability to achieve the unexpected. I can’t for a moment say most of us we will ever hit such heights, or how many future Olympians have now seen a spark within them flame, but nonetheless inspiration to many has been given.

As a nation we have been gripped by magnificence. Let us not forget that in Atlanta 1996, Team GB won a solitary gold – and that now in 2012 there were 29, with 65 in total, only pipped on the leader board by the super-states USA and China.

Of course, one strength we have (and let us embrace this rather than brush it aside) is that our country, when best, has always been everyman (and woman). Mo Farah (double Olympic Champion with gold on both the 5,000m and 10,000m) may hail from Somalia, but yes, he is British as British is. This is his home, where he found direction, love… greatness.

We are a people of many creed. One of the most powerful aspects of the Olympian tradition is the birth of the idea that it transcends the bounds of nationality, but in that we must also embrace that this land has always, and continues to be, a land made up of all. In the best sense, One Nation made of many, all (when best) under one groove.

As my friend Trojan put: “It is truly amazing to see so many people from different countries, religions and colours are together, in peace and having fun. Pity it can't be like everyday.” True. How good to see it though, even if for a while.

Yes, we revelled in the flag and spirit of heralding our own. But we also embraced the greatness of others. The strength and charisma of Usain Bolt for example will be legendary across generations, to name just one true star of these games.

I must also say, that as with this surprise of how much the Games themselves held such impact, I also did not see Sebastian Coe as a Statesman. In the closing moments (I pass singers miming et al – and acclaim a tragedy-struck Gary Barlow for not - though as a whole the show wasn’t bad) he proved he was:

“On the first day of these Games I said we were determined to do it right. I said that these Games would see the best of us… On this last day I can conclude with these words: When our time came - Britain we did it right. Thank you!... We lit the flame and lit up the world.”

With a global unity unparalleled thus aiding us, yes, indeed we did. We were that fire. The somewhat criticized NBC proclaimed the London Olympics the most-watched television event in the whole of U.S. history, whilst our own (and much acclaimed) BBC coverage was watched by 90% of UK population, not to mention the billions more worldwide.

This was monumental, this was history made, undeniably one of the greatest times of our modern age. Yes, there will be fault found, critique cast – that is how things are in this world. But right now, here, I mark simply what was good.

For, in amongst the agony and ecstasy of such pinnacles in sportsmanship, through all that engaged and made us feel such passion, it was no small joy to hear that by far the loudest and longest magnificent accolades of applause during the speech of Lord Coe came when he spoke of those 40,000 volunteers who had tirelessly played their part, individually tiny but collectively huge. It said not only appreciation of what they had done, but showed acknowledgement that the best in humanity comes from strength in comradeship, done selflessly, without personal gain, towards a common good.

Imagine that more often.

As Felix Sanchez (of the Dominican Republic) said: “It was heaven.” Something about it certainly was. For it showed greatness in human achievement. And so I hope all of us who got something from these past few weeks, be it large or small, can continue to hold some of that spirit within us.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Just... er... lovely.


You sometimes need one of these. I sure did. They are rare, but that is what makes them so memorable, as you escape the day to day humdrum and live – for a few hours at least – a rather starry existence, glimmering gold and, though overwhelmed, also utterly ready to happily embrace.

Did I feel rather ‘Barrie’ Bradshaw tonight or what! Not as in he that doesn’t wobble anymore – an obscure 80s Weight Watchers ad reference, though with a 3 stone loss this year I’m glad to say I don’t now (much) - but in the oh so very SATC sense. J

First a perfect Dirty Martini (prepared and presented with attuned knowledge rather than by request) at my old place of work, welcomingly imbibed in conjunction with many lovely hello smiles and hugs.

Then on to a magazine launch party, as a guest but predominately as a writer for it, held in a glamorous venue in the heart of the most cosmopolitan metropolis in the world with a glamorous cosmopolitan mix of people… Great known company, beautiful hosts, warm new acquaintances, along with super cocktails, music and dance et al.

Never had strangers ask for me to have a picture taken with them (aside from the one time at the theatre when a whole school group thought I was from ‘The Lion King’ and despite my protests to the contrary the teacher with some vehemence angrily accused me of lying and insisted I followed the requests.)

As it turns out, apparently my ‘look’ was on point. Not that I follow fashion (yes, I like to ‘dress’ but it is my ‘dress’ not a dictate). However, according to one Amazonian Stylista I was perfectly ‘Formasual’. And this was after she found out I wasn’t batting for her team (I do wish I didn’t confuse the ladies, I’m always sorry I do).

What is funny on this style front is that I incidentally only happened to be wearing the bow tie with my outfit upon arrival as I came across it errantly stuffed in my jacket pocket en route. Which either makes a mockery of fashion, or proves that leaders are organic – I jest on the latter.

In all – or rather, to sum up this self-grandoising ramble – I had the most fantastic night. One of the best ever. Hence why I had to write this, as a record of the fact (lest I forget in darker times). And my most humble and grateful thanks to each and all that made me feel so AGLOW!

Plus I got the last tube home! J

NB: Formasual - “Gone are the days when dressing had set rules that must be obeyed... now, the best dressed people know how to mix tuxedo trimmings with weekender relaxation (denim) and carry it off with effortless class.”