SMILEfest 2017: Annie Nightingale, ‘Turning up to a gig when it’s raining.. that’s what makes the culture.’

Annie Nightingale is best known as Britain’s first female DJ on Radio 1 and is now the station’s longest serving broadcaster. She remains the only female DJ in the world to have been honoured with an MBE by The Queen.

Annie brought her irreverent humour to the show at exactly the time of the punk revolution. She has always played and enthused about underground and new music, and through her championing of breakbeat, she is now known as Queen Of Breaks.

Her career has been a fantastical musical journey beginning with hanging out with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who, becoming a journalist and TV presenter, and being a co-owner of a chain of fashion boutiques. Having cracked the all-male preserve of DJs at Radio 1, she began a long career in broadcasting, always choosing her own music and championing dozens of artists who later became world-wide successes.

We were extremely lucky to have Annie come down to our annual SMILEfest music and media conference this year. Annie was interviewed by our BA (Hons) Popular Music Journalism lecturer Fiona Sturges.

Photos by Rosalyn Amy Boder.

Sunglasses donned and hair coiffed – hope we all look this good at future interviews


Talking about getting started, Annie says, „I wasn’t at all ambitious, it was just good fun. I went to university across the road from the BBC building and it never crossed my mind to work there. It always seemed like a stuffy establishment. I worked at a record shop but I didn’t like to reorder things. People would request things and I’d told them it had sold out!

I actually came to Southampton’s BBC South to do a TV reporter audition when I first started. I ended up not taking the job, but I did a programme for a local BBC station and thought, ’This feels right.’

„I was kind of against the whole idea of Radio 1 and the BBC establishment.“

I never actually felt I was very good at journalism. I thought you needed natural talent to succeed in the creative areas, but it’s the people that work very hard that get by. A lot of people don’t have natural talent and you can succeed and achieve what you want to do without it, too.“

„I thought you needed natural talent to succeed in the creative areas, but it’s the people that work very hard that get by.“



„I was kind of against the whole idea of Radio 1 and the BBC establishment. The people who first worked at Radio 1 had no experience at all and had an engineering background rather than a  musical one. Until then DJs didn’t exist, Radio 1 turned DJs glamorous and famous. I approached them saying that I wanted to be a DJ but they said no, ’But you’re a woman!’“

„Until then DJs didn’t exist, Radio 1 turned DJs glamorous and famous.“

„I thought once I’d got in there, there’d be a lot more women coming, but there wasn’t another woman for 12 years. On my first show I stopped the record, there was 8 seconds of dead air. I thought I’d blown it, but they let me carry on.”


When Fiona admired the list of musicians Annie has interviewed, she said, „No, I haven’t interviewed everyone. I haven’t interviewed Eminem! I really want to.“ She has, though, interviewed a number of legends including Bowie, The Beatles and Mick Jagger to name a few.


What’s Annie’s method of getting people to talk?

„Never ask questions that can be answered with ’yes’ or ’no’. If that does happens, you go ’why’. If someone’s a very cold person and gives nothing of themselves, you must get the person to trust you and realise that you’re a human too. They’re possibly a bit wary of you. Ask questions that aren’t obvious. If you ask an obvious question, you’ll get an obvious answer. People like being asked about their childhood. If you’ve got a nasty question, save it for the end. If you’re doing it for broadcast, you’ve got to shut up, don’t go ’mm’ ’yes’ ’yeah’ ’okay’ ’that’s good’.  You learn to nod.“

„If you’re doing it for broadcast, you’ve got to shut up. You learn to nod.“



What’s Annie’s advice on how to get into it nowadays?

„In London there are spaces like Radar – it’s a matter of volunteering. You’ve got a lot of advantages. They want people with technical ability. There aren’t that many jobs in Radio 1 anymore, you’re either presenter, producer or assistant producer. A lot of bright producers are taken away to Apple, Amazon, Spotify an others. It’s being tenacious, it’s not impossible.

I work at an independent company that makes my show for Radio 1. There are many of those. The indies can be people like yourself. Everyone’s a freelancer. It’s not huge money, but what is great about media broadcasting, is that it opens doors for you. It won’t make you very rich but it’ll make you very rich in experience, which has always mattered to me.“

„It won’t make you very rich but it’ll make you very rich in experience, which has always mattered to me.“


„Think of radio as a phone call – you’re speaking to one person at a time. When you’re on the radio people are doing different things. They’re listening on their own, so you never adress people in plural, you speak to one person. If you like, have a friend in mind, that can help. Avoid the co-hosting thing, it’s much more complicated. I did it once and it turned out the guy I did it with was quite resentful, but I didn’t know it at the time.“

„Think of radio as a phone call – you’re speaking to one person at a time.“

What’s Annie’s favourite part of her career?

„I like what’s going on now. I don’t go on about the past, nobody can go back so make now fantastic. Turning up to a gig when it’s raining and you don’t have money.. that’s what makes the culture. Never take ’no’ for an answer, don’t give up. While you’re going towards A, you find out about B and keep heading in the direction you want.“

“Turning up to a gig when it’s raining and you don’t have money.. that’s what makes the culture.”


Listen to Annie’s Radio 1 show here:

Lucy Wood (Latitude Festival)

Lucy Wood is the music booker for Latitude Festival, a 35,000 capacity arts and music festival in Suffolk. Prior to this, she worked at London live music promoters Eat Your Own Ears for seven years on the programme and production of gigs, Field Day festival, and other cross-arts cultural events. Lucy has worked in the music industry for 15 years, with earlier roles including stints at Warp Records and 19 Entertainment.

Lucy is a budding social scientist, and recently completed a research project on audience behaviours as part of an MSc in the Sociology of Culture at London School of Economics.

Lucy also a part-time mentor on range of projects helping young people participate in culture.

SMILEfest 2017 Getting in and getting on: Building a sustainable music career

Recap of SMILEfest 2017 second panel Getting in and getting on: Building a sustainable music career.


Jen Long – Writer, broadcaster and DJ with Dice, NME and Radio 1

Flora Ward – Grants & Learning Officer at Youth Music and campaigner for gender equality in the music industries

Jon Davies – Director of Music Partnerships at Shazam

Lucy Wood – Music Talent Buyer for Latitude Festival

Chaired by James Hannam
Photos by Rosalyn Amy Boder


From left: Flora, Lucy, Jen and Jon


What did you study at University?

Flora, ’I studies art history but did a lot of extra curriculum music stuff.’

Lucy, ’Very similarly, I also did art history and then worked at the student radio and had a part-time role in mail and postage at Warp Records.’

Jen, ’I studied journalism, but the course was very theory-based and quite boring, so I also worked at the  student paper and radio. I joined every society out there from cheerleading to drama and was on the University’s music team where I interviewed bands.
It’s great to do student media where you can and are allowed to make mistakes. I then became station manager of the student radio, got some work experience at XFM and Radio 1. Me and Jon actually know each other from doing the same course at University.’

Jon, ’I agree, it was quite an academic course. I also did radio and journalism and wrote a lot of reviews for student media. I built my skill set and in my final year, I co-edited the music section at University. It was a lot of work but I got more off that than my actual degree. I also did some DJ’ing.’


“It’s great to do student media where you can and are allowed to make mistakes.”



What kind of work experience did you do after graduating?

Lucy, ’I was lucky enough to go straight from the mail and postage role at Warp into paid work. I decided to move to america and volunteered to work at New York. Few weeks turned into a full-time job for 2,5 years. I then met a woman from 19 Entertainment (Victoria Beckham, Spice Girls, Annie Lennox) and worked with them in London. After that, I went to work with Eat Your Own Ears promotions company who also do Field Day festival. I worked with them for 7 years before I got offered the role at Latitude Festival.’

Jen, ’I started off DJ’ing and making money with that. I also wrote for a local magazine Kruger, whose then editor is now the editor of NME. I got some work experience at XFM through student radio, too. If you go into a work experience role and you’re proactive, engage with people and you’re that piece they’ve been missing, they’ll keep you on and bring you back. I then worked in a rehearsal space, tour managed a band.. I just did a lot. You need the mentality of being able and willing to do different things. I still work for free when it’s something that I think is worth it. Work experience is a mentality you can carry throughout your career.’

“Work experience is a mentality you can carry throughout your career.”

Jon,  ’I also made money with DJ’ing and writing for magazines. I worked at the Welsh Assembly, HMV, Virgin and was in a band. Two years after graduation, I had enough contacts to do something music-related and so I moved to London and chucked myself in the deep end by not having a plan and sleeping on a couch.’


Lucy went on to do a Master’s in Sociology..

Lucy , ’The degree gave me a massive confidence boost. I found a niche for myself and had expertise that some other people don’t. Although, I don’t think my employer even knew I did the degree.’

Jen, ’Music is such a small industry and so much will rely on who you know.’


What are some of your networking tips?

Jen, ’Stop calling it networking. It’s just making friends with people.’

Lucy , ’Enthusiasm is really attractive. Or having something constructive to say. Peolpe who are nice optimistic and cheery stand out.’

“Enthusiasm is really attractive.”

Jen, ’When I lost my job Radio 1, I thought it was the end of the world. Then I went to a meeting with a guy from a start-up called DICE, which evolved into a full-time role.’

Jon, ’I’ve worked at Shazam for nine years now. When I moved to London, a Shazam role came up. The office was really small and the only reason I chose the role at Shazam was the money. I started off as a music encoder, which is basically data entry. Six months into the job, the iPhone launched and Shazam was one of 25 apps that launched with it, so it got great press. Our users increased by 1 million overnight. Now I lead strategies with label partners, artist promos, marketing campaigns and work with brands.’

Flora, ’Adding to this, I think all internships should be made paid to make it more accessible to everyone.’



When asked about female headliners at festivals,

Jen says, ’Instead of complaining about it, you need to consider that festivals are businesses and they need to sell tickets to make money and there just aren’t that many female headliners out there. If we keep saying it’s really difficult for women, we’re just going to put women off.’

“If we keep saying it’s really difficult for women, we’re just going to put women off.”


What kind of advice can you give to the students here who want to get into the industry?

Jon, ’Meet people, expand your skill set and take advantage of your contacts. I was focused on working in labels but fell into another job where I’ve been for nearly 10 years. Loosen your goals –  you can work your way up from another place. Whatever chances you can get, take them and do as much as you can with them.’

“Loosen your goals –  you can work your way up from another place.”



Lucy , ’Listen to music, read and become an expert in the music you care about. People further up the chain may not have the energy to go out to gigs. So use your passion and turn it into expertise.’

Flora, ’Volunteer and use your time wisely. Internships are often also helpful in showing you what you don’t want to do. You can stumble onto things you wouldn’t expect.’

Jen, ’Don’t be afraid of failure. You learn from your mistakes. If you fail, people will help you pick up the pieces.’

“Don’t be afraid of failure.”

SMILEfest 2017: Speech Debelle, ‘I prefer to be overwhelmed by my own black magic.’

Speech Debelle is a rapper and musician from South London who came down to the University for SMILEfest 2017. Her debut album “Speech Therapy” (2009)  won her the Mercury Music Prize beating albums by artists like Kasabian, Florence and the Machine, Bat for Lashes and The Horrors. Speech was interviewed by our BA (Hons) Popular Music Journalism lecturer Fiona Sturges.

Speech talked about the highs and lows of being a musician and the music business, how she manages without a manager, her DIY approach, and being able to overcome bad experiences while still loving what you do.

On how she got started in music, Speech says, „For me, music started  off as writing. Writing was a place of solace for me. Back in the day there were a lot more studios than now, so I chilled out in studios, watched everything, took mental notes and  at one point I just said that I could rap and asked to record something.“

„The first time I rapped I as 13 years old in a school bus. The whole bus whooed!“

Talking about her troubled teenage years, „I always wanted to experience things, which made me see some dark sides of London and things that were troubling.“

Before her rise to success Speech says she made the classic mistake of signing a label deal without a lawyer. „I was very naive. I didn’t think I would get a deal but then it happened, so I showed it to my mom and my family and that was it. I did look at how much lawyers cost but it seemed like too much. When I signed the deal, everybody was happy and no one from the label asked where my lawyer was. I found out later that if you can’t afford a lawyer, the label should provide one.“

„ one from the label asked where my lawyer was.“

Photo by Isha Shah

Coming back to the Mercury Prize, Speech says, ’“The best thing about it was that the room itself was filled with the biggest artists and music people and we just came in and made the album with £3000 budget. That made it important. It also meant that the industry needed to shift.“

Speech was signed for three albums but got dropped after the second one. After many bad experiences in the music industry, Speech took a much-needed break in 2013. She helped curate arts programmes for prisoners at the Southbank Centre, set up a food truck in Brick Lane and went on Celebrity MasterChef. She has also been politically and socially active with a number of charities and movements, and hosted the BBC documentary Hidden Homeless.

Her other adventures helped her realised that she needed to make music and somehow keep loving it. That’s how Speech decided do go DIY and realised she could produce music as well as write.

Speech’s third album tantil before i breathe. was released on March 17th and accompanied by a cookbook and a memoir about the highs and lows of her journey through life and the music business. Speech’s new music is about not being overly polished and is inspired by Kojey Radical, Mahalia, Little Simz, and Loyle Carner .

„It can be difficult to look at yourself and say, ’I know what I’m doing. I can do it.’“

Photo by Rosalyn Amy Boder

„If I was able to have the confidence I have now, I would’ve been able to move in the business differently.“

The advantages of going DIY  are clearly visible when Speech talks about a video shoot some years ago, „There was a music video shoot that I couldn’t be creatively involved in. I had a stylist and heels and didn’t feel comfortable at all. Since that video I’ve always made sure that even if it’s not my idea, I need to work with the director and understand their vision as well as make them understand mine.“

When asked about her thoughts on the music industry essentially being run by white men, Speech says, „Every now and then something shakes the industry and grime is doing it now. It comes with youth and new generations. It isn’t better until it’s a questions that doesn’t have to be asked. I prefer to be overwhelmed by my own black magic.“

„Every now and then something shakes the industry and grime is doing it now.”

Speech’s best advice is, „There’s going to be some kind of fear at some point along the line. You’ll always have fears and anxieties but you have to take that leap and do it.“ She also strongly advises artists to get a lawyer.

Photo by Isha Shah

„It’s okay to believe in yourself.“

She also advises artists to look into publishing deal, which she says are a lot better and more lucrative than record deals.

When asked about the advantages of going into the business via education, Speech says, „There are absolutely some advantages. You already know things that took someone a long time to learn, but then again you do learn through your mistakes, too. It’s also easier if you  have friends on different courses and a network of people.“

„Sometimes I do get afraid because it’s not a ’real job’ and I worry about things like pension. I did a 9-5 job when recording my first album.“

Speech doesn’t have a manager, so how does she manage?

„I’m not that stressed and I can go to all the meetings. With my grandmother and mother coming from Jamaica and making a life for themselves here, I have a ’I’mma handle it’ vibe. I’ve been learning the whole time and I can now make decisions for myself.“

„I’m able to delegate. People don’t appreciate a woman being concrete and saying people to  handle something, but that’s how I handle things.“

Speech Debelle Facebook | Website

SMILEfest 2017 Demo Surgery feedback, ‘This is brilliant!’

Solent Music’s Demo Surgery 2017 highlighted some of the best music created by Southampton Solent University’s music students.

The Demo Surgery was hosted by Dr Chris Anderton, the director of Solent Music and course leader for BA (Hons) Music Promotion and BA (Hons) Music Management, and the panel featured the following music industry guests:

Rob da Bank (Bestival, Camp Bestival)
Alan Pell (former director of A&R at EMI, music industry consultant)
Olivier Behzadi (former director of A&R at Columbia/Sony, Sassy Films)
Amanda Maxwell (Boiler Room, She Said So)

The panel started off by dissecting the meaning of A&R. A&R people are often perceived as the gatekeepers in labels and according to the panellists the former have got to play nice with everyone because you never know what who’s going to become. That mentality, however, can give artists wrong impressions, so it’s important to keep a clear head.

Photos by Rosalyn Amy Boder


Amanda, ’A&R is also going to be that backbone and someone you can rely on throughout your career.’

Here’s the feedback for the tracks that got played at the Demo Surgery panel. Those whose tracks couldn’t fit into the limited time frame, had the opportunity to chat to the panellists personally for feedback.

You can find the whole playlist of this year’s submissions on our SoundCloud account here.


Mbrace – WANS


Rob da Bank, ‘I spend all day listening to demos and I usually make up my decision within the first 20 seconds. I loved the beginning, it’s spacey and moody. The only thing I’d say is that you knew when the break was going to come in – you could expect it.
People like James Blake and Calvin Harris have got really good at doing unexpected things. Dropping every four bars is what everyone does, so you could definitely be more experimental and change the structure. But I loved the general vibe.’

Alan Pell, ‘Nice vibe, sounded great. It would be great to listen to in a club really loudly. It ticks all the right boxes and DJs could mix it really easily. But you should also think about the end game. Where do you want to take it? If it’s a record deal, I would suggest doing something more different like Rob said. But again, it’s fantastic to get some DJ mixes and remixes done.’

Olivier Behzadi, ‘You have to be cautious in dance music. Production-wise it sounded very interesting but but became generic. I agree with everyone else, drop things in where you don’t think they should go and push the envelope a little bit. Look for your own feel.’

Amanda Maxwell, ‘I was mind-blown, I could never make something like that. Amazing, well done! I do see the moment where it can be generic but if you can experiment a bit further, establish what you want to do, and if you work out your sound, you’ve definitely got the making of being a good producer.’

Mbrace SoundCloud


Miles Hobbs – Green People


Alan, ‘Really liked this, it was pretty cool. I loved the biog: ’I’m a songwriting bassist from Essex with a Lego addiction..’ – It’s really quirky and original. If you heard that, you would know that it’s Miles Hobbs, it stuck out. Would the whole album work? I don’t know, but I’d like to hear some other stuff. It’s one of those where it depend on what the other material is like. Like The Kinks – they had quirky songs and some rock. Also, They Might Be Giants had some great stuff, like the song on Malcolm in the Middle.’

Olivier, ‘I also liked it. The only wisdom I can offer is that the vocal levels are a wee bit low and you might want to compress the acoustic guitar. But it’s nice and quirky, you can hear The Kinks in there. I really enjoyed it. This has so many hooks and earworms that it would be great for TV commercials – I might even consider it.

Amanda, ‘I wondered if it was part of an album. When I first heard it, I thought it would be great for an advert, too, a nice, bright, sunny one. Flora maybe? You can definitely consider different outlets for it.’

Rob, ‘I share the opinions. It’s very ’60s, like a high-sugar-orange-drink-for-kids advert.’

Miles Hobbs Facebook 


Vita Jazz – Into Your Dreams


Amanda, ‘I really liked it. I would rather have more bass. I could also see somebody like Paloma Faith or Pixie Lott playing around with it, being sultry and sexy. I’d just like a little bit more ‘oomph’.’

Rob, ‘I love ’90s trip hop and that loop was like that, the oriental flavour. I think it needed a bit less of that brass part, the loop is great and the vocal is great. Less is more. Like post-electronic where it’s okay to have two sounds and the vocals. But yeah, the voice is great.’

Alan, ‘I thought it started off really well, but I was waiting for it to change into the chorus and go up but it didn’t, the loop kept going on. The flute bit and the vibe were great but I kept waiting for the chorus to kick in.’

Olivier, ‘The lick starts off like, ’Wtf is this, this is great!’ I really liked your vocals, but from the production perspective there’s a little bit too much reverb. The Chinese lick wears itself out and starts fighting with the vocals. In the chorus you need to drop it or change it up. I loved your vocal and the harmonies, really great.’

Vita Jazz Facebook


COSTIA – So Say It


Alan, ‘It goes back to the end game, what’s the end game? This is a rock band, they’re going to have to go out, gig and build up a following. The way rock bands build up following is to play fantastic gigs and it comes down to the songs. This jumped around too much and tried to be everything. You can get experimental once you’ve got your fans with you. Have a listen to The Breeders ‘Cannonball’.

Rob da Bank, ‘I actually really love the drops in it. It sounded a bit disconnected between the vocalist and the producer and the loud drum sound. But I really liked the chorus, it was a good point.’

Olivier, ‘It’s got some art rock elements in it, but for me there wasn’t enough vocal production.’

Amanda, ‘I think people would like it as change-y, I like that about it. I visualised where I’d be, and I could imagine being at a gig with people singing a long, but I did want the chorus to go a bit further.’

COSTIA Facebook


BASEMENT83 – Growing Pains


Rob, ‘You could see the toes were tapping and heads nodding. Electronic music is hard to make different because there’s so much of it out there, but I think it’s a good old-fashioned reggae sounding tune, vibrant and melodic. You could even see the camera man vibing to it.’

Amanda, ‘I loved it, it took me back to when I was 17 and driving around in my white Corsa. It’s waking up at a festival on a Sunday when you’re not feeling great and you have another pint and go on with another day at a festival. That’s what you want to hear when dancing in the sun. It had all the elements that made it come together.’

Alan, ‘I really loved it, fantastic. Coming back to the point of the end game? Why are you a band and what do you want to do. This is an area not many bands are around and there aren’t many great bands that can get a crowd up and jumping. I think you could do really well on this. My thumbs up.’

Olivier, ‘I really enjoyed it as well. For a while now there was a moment when reggae was a thing and it hasn’t been for a really long time, so it was nice to hear it. It sounded pretty authentic sonically, too, it didn’t feel compromised at all.’
BASEMENT83 Facebook


Jade Cocoon – Chemicals


Amanda, ‘I loved it, really loved it. It took me back to the ’90s and American pop videos where everyone dances around having fun. American Pie sort of vibe almost. Really catchy, I really enjoyed it. Well done!’

Alan, ‘I really liked it as well, it was really cool. I liked the South-African guitar bit and that it wasn’t just a simple pattern. Loved the lyrics, very clever and quirky. It was really good, loads of things I.’ liked

Olivier, ‘Me too. I got a bit of Everything Everything out of it. Interesting drum programming and the staccato was well-handled. It’s hard having it so syncopated from a drum and vocal perspective. Guitar was interlaced too. It was lacking a bit of bottom end in the mix, get a bass player in. Reminded me of Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ meets Vampire Weekend.’

Rob, ‘Phoenix as well and the ’90s Justice, French vibe. I love one-man bands that can do all of those sounds in the studio. I’d love to see it live. It sounds like something that could be on the radio, I thought I’d heard it before.’
Jade Cocoon Facebook


Evelina Karasjova – Paralised


Rob, ‘I love Sade and soul. The drums weren’t the best, but the bass sounded excellent. Vocals sound great, too, and it all comes together as a proper song.’

Olivier, ‘You want to get together with Mr Jade Cocoon to play drums for you. Just to compliment what you’re doing. As a first effort of writing, producing and performing, it’s really good.’

Amanda, ‘It took me back to listening to Sade. The drums had an ’80s feel but I’d like a bit more from them. Otherwise, it was great! Nice and smooth.’

Alan, ‘Personally, I’m less worried about the production, they are demos. It’s one of those songs where you’ve got a really good idea for a loop and build a song around it. I was waiting for the chorus to come in. Don’t be afraid to experiment.’
Evelina Karasjova SoundCloud


Dub Soldier – I AM THE HUNTER


Alan, ‘It started off great and the loop is great, but it didn’t go anywhere for me.’

Amanda, ‘I considered it in another light. It’s something I would have as a warm up act or maybe in an advert – a car advert. It’s important to not necessarily think about it as playing at clubs, but consider other good outlets too.’

Rob, ‘It’s quite cinematic, really ’90s and I love retro music. It’s a tiny bit repetitive but I totally agree, I could see it in an ad. I could also hear it booming in South France.’

Olivier, ‘For me, it started off as one thing and developed into something else. Started off feeling like a production and developed into a song. It didn’t have enough finesse and could be more polished, but it was certainly very interesting.’


¥eti – Please Be My Po’ Boy


Rob, ‘It stood out for me. It doesn’t sound like anything I’ve heard today. I listen to a lot of different styles and it’s unique, fresh, technically interesting. Really interesting. I imagine it for an album and to perform live as well. Great piece of music!’

Olivier, ‘I like it even more now as you say the project for fun. It’s indulgent. Music should be for fun first and foremost. It’s good!’

Alan, ‘I agree, it’s an interesting track.’

Amanda, ‘At Boiler Room we have ’In Stereo’ where we see live bands come together. It would be interesting to see how something you’ve produced could work.’
¥eti SoundCloud


Carl Mann – The Launch


Amanda, ‘Reminds me of  Glastonbury and Arcadia when they did a massive dramatic opening ceremony. Maybe even Shangri La. Really interesting.’

Alan, ‘It’s great for a DJ and remixing or at 3am at a festival. It took me back to watching a Star Wars geezer walking to a club off his face.’

Olivier, ‘For me, it was kind of generic and didn’t develop a sense of self, didn’t become ’it’ for me. With dance music, you need a foot in on what’s being played but you also need a niche, different stuff for yourself.’

Rob, ‘Some of my favourite tracks are one beat repeated for 9 minutes. I can see what he’s doing, it’s very well accomplished. It may not be for everyone’s taste but I’m sure it’ll have its fan base.’
Carl Mann SoundCloud


SVGA – Memory (Prod. by Sammy)


Alan, ‘I thought it was really good actually. I see they have a gig in London just around the corner from my place. I might actually go.’

Olivier, ‘The intro was too long but once the song started to develop, it had really well-handled vocals. The production and melodies were pretty good too. It has my thumbs up.’

Amanda, ‘I can see it being on the radio, I really enjoyed it. It was very poppy and nice. I can see myself humming to it.’

Rob, ‘I’d be pleased if this came on when my kids turned on Capital FM. It kept me on my toes and kept moving on. Like the shiny bits that came in, very interesting.’
SVGA Facebook


Reveries – Forest Of Calithian


Rob, ‘It’s really well made, especially the vocals. And melodically, it was something I could hear played at a rock show, sounds like you’re a live band. Really good.’

Alan, ‘You’re very good in that rock band genre. To build your fan base, you need to tour, connect with the audience and build yourself up. Keep going!’

Olivier, ‘I really enjoyed it, really nice harmonies. You’re making an effort to write a song, which is a good thing in your genre. Bands like Bring Me The Horizon, who are the Coldplay of metalcore, have given you an outlet now. There’s more of it played on the radio, but you shouldn’t alienate the proper fans, you need to be fantastic live and maybe drop your tuning.’

Amanda, ‘If you know the labels, festivals and the people you’d like to be affiliated with, reach out to them. You’ve got to put yourself on the line. I enjoyed it and I definitely think it could work.’
Reveries Facebook


H.O.P.E. – This Love


Olivier, ‘Really enjoyed it and I actually listened to it many times. I liked that you didn’t have drums. The only thing is you just push your voice a wee bit too often. Good job, great arrangement. The vocal pushing is alright and don’t go all soft and mellow just don’t do it all the time.’

Alan, ‘It was rough and the lyrics sounded like you were struggling.  It’s nice that it didn’t go into some mad sunshine-y chorus but came back to the original chords. Very listenable, I really got into it.’

Amanda, ‘I found it tasteful and raw. It’s important to visualise music, so it reminded me the setup of Later with Jools Holland and having the quiet attention paid to it.’

Rob, ‘I enjoyed it. Keep getting hungover is the best advice I can give you [Freddie, the lead singer, said he spent the night before at a wild party].

SMILEfest 2017: Simon Raymonde talks Cocteau Twins, Bella Union and his new venture Lost Horizons

Simon Raymonde is a former ’twin’ of Cocteau Twins and the head honcho of independent label Bella Union. The label’s roster includes Father John Misty, Ezra Furman, The Flaming Lips, and Emmy the Great. Simon came to SMILEfest 2017 to talk about his days in the legendary band and about starting a label after the band collapsed.

Photos by Rosalyn Amy Boder



Simon comes from a musical family and his entry point to music was through punk rock and bands like Sex Pistols. He worked in a record shop and it happened that the label 4AD was above it. „Those people became my family and that’s how I ended up in Cocteau Twins.“ The band signed to 4AD but after awhile changed to a major label. Simon says, „We were great friends with 4AD boss but we fell out because of money. We lived on £50 when we sold 100 000 copies so we thought we needed people to work on a business level, so we signed.“

„It was hideous, absolutely hideous. We really were naive and foolish. The contract we signed was giving us incredible control, but the control means absolutely nothing when the people who are working on your album hate you. We got the creative control, but when our chosen single was released, it didn’t get any support from the label. We definitely slipped on a banana skin signing that deal.“

“We definitely slipped on a banana skin signing that deal.“

Talking about Cocteau Twins, Simon says, „We were really into technology when recording and we were one of the first bands to have a website.“

Soon enough they realised the band was falling apart. „Everyone in the room will have watched movies about bands with drug problems. It affected our band in a very negative way. Our band was like a couple and me. The couple had a baby and the male had a terrible drug addiction. It made the core between the three of us complex. Sometimes the only sane moments were when we recorded music. The best bits were when we pressed ’record’“.


„Sometimes the only sane moments were when we recorded music.“

Talking about Cocteau Twins’ singer, „Elizabeth was a very unusual singer. She would stretch words over many notes to make it almost sound incomprehensable but the content was still there.  That’s why some people don’t like the last record: a) us being signed to a major label, and b) unintelligible lyrics.“

Simon talks about starting a label, „We decided to start a label but then Liz didn’t want to do the band anymore so I was in a really weird situation. I was left with a label but no band. I had to learn very fast and I hated labels, I couldn’t stand them. But I carried on. We had lots of downs, publishing companies going bust and owing us thousand of pounds. But then, after 11 years since starting the label, we had huge success with Fleet foxes. I was told by a friend that stick it in for 11 years and you’ll have success.“

“I had to learn very fast and I hated labels, I couldn’t stand them. But I carried on.”

Simon reveals that he is once again making music, „I shut down emotionally and as a musician when the band broke up. Recently, I felt like there was something missing. Although I’d been doing the label for 20 years and everything was great, I realised that I wasn’t making music.“


Simon spent four days jamming with Richard Thomas, the former drummer with the 1980’s post-punk band Dif Juz. The duo are called Lost Horizons and their double album is out in October.

„I love great drummers and this guy was the best. I thought I’d like to make music with him.“

Simon’s label Bella Union also opened their own record shop Bella Union Vinyl Shop in Brighton where they have band appearances. „It’s like the size of a bathroom, but we love it here. It’s a lovely thing to have. They alleyway is a really scummy one and it’s a bit grim but I quite like that.“

Talking about bands at Bella Union, „I’m always looking for something I’ve never heard before. I’m looking for the moment when you hear something and go ’what the f’. I want to prove that you can run a record label and not be all about sales. I want to prove that you can be friendly with managers and artists and everyone else.“

„My dream was to put out a Patti Smith record and last year we did! Your dreams can come true if you work hard enough. And I’m not a dick, there’s no need to be one. It gets you absolutely nowhere.“

“Your dreams can come true if you work hard enough.”

Lost Horizons Facebook

SMILEfest 2017 programme announced

Find SMILEfest 2017 event & full schedule here


Performance: Courtney Gray

Courtney Gray is on BA (Hons) Popular Music Performance




Speech Debelle


Mercury Prize winning rapper, Speech has just released her third record Tantil Before I Breathe.



Panel – Getting in and getting on: building a sustainable music career



Jen Long – Writer, broadcaster and DJ with Dice, NME and Radio 1

Flora WardGrants & Learning Officer at Youth Music and campaigner for gender equality in the music industries

Jon Davies – director of music partnerships Shazam

Lucy Woodbooker / programmer for Latitude Festival



Annie Nightingale

BBC Radio 1’s first female DJ, legendary broadcaster and Queen of breaks.

Find Annie’s programme here.


Ian Easton & The Widowmakers

(“Led Zeppelin meets Simon and Garfunkel – 4/5” – Q Magazine)

Find the band on Facebook.


Simon Raymonde

Head honcho at Bella Union records and bassist/co-songwriter with the Cocteau Twins.

Bella Union’s roster includes: Father John Misty, Fleet Foxes, The Flaming Lips, Arc Iris & many others.


Performance: Serrah Sillah (SVGA)

Serrah‘s is on BA (Hons) Popular Music Performance



Demo Surgery

Solent’s musicians and producers get their music critiqued by a wide ranging panel of music industries experts.


Rob da Bank: DJ, author and co-owner of Sunday Best, Bestival, Camp Bestival and Common People

Olivier Behzadi: Head of Digital Production for Sassy Films, former head of A&R at Sony

Alan Pell: Music industries consultant and former head of A&R at EMI


Annie Nightingale (BBC Radio 1)

Annie is best known as Britain’s first female DJ on Radio 1 and is now the station’s longest serving broadcaster. She remains the only female DJ in the world to have been honoured with an MBE by The Queen.

Her career has been a fantastical musical journey beginning with hanging out with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who, becoming a journalist and TV presenter, and being a co-owner of a chain of fashion boutiques. Having cracked the all-male preserve of DJs at Radio 1, she began a long career in broadcasting, always choosing her own music and championing dozens of artists who later became world-wide successes.

Then a second career in television began when she took over as solo presenter of BBC TV’s legendary series The Old Grey Whistle Test, recently voted top music programme in The 100 Best TV Shows of all time.

Annie brought her irreverent humour to the show at exactly the time of the punk revolution. She has always played and enthused about underground and new music, and through her championing of breakbeat, she is now known as Queen Of Breaks. She DJs at clubs and festivals all over the world, with concomitant scrapes and adventures. She has been bugged in Russia, drugged in Iraq and mugged in Cuba, the last with nearly fatal consequences.

Annie now introduces you to the weekend, every Friday morning 3-5am.


Simon Raymonde (Bella Union, Cocteau Twins)

Simon Raymonde is head honcho of Bella Union, one of the UK’s finest record labels, which is celebrating 20 years of releasing quality music by artists including John Grant, Father John Misty, Midlake and the Flaming Lips.

Besides the label, Simon is best known as bassist and co-songwriter in legendary band the Cocteau Twins and musical director/ songwriter for This Mortal Coil. Simon has worked sporadically with his own musical ventures including a solo record Blame Someone Else in 1997 and the Snowbird album Moon in 2014 – both on Bella Union. He will be releasing the first output by his latest venture Lost Horizons on Bella Union in 2017.

Raymonde has also produced a number of artists including the Czarz, the Autumns, Lift to Experience, and Rothko, as well as the late Billy Mackenzie.

Bella Union was awarded Best Independent Label of the Year awards by Association of Independent Music (AIM) in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016, as voted by all of the UK’s indie retailers. In 2012 AIM also awarded Simon the Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

For more info:


Rob da Bank (Bestival)

Legendary DJ, promoter and Solent University teaching fellow Rob da Bank was born in in Portsmouth and grew up in Warsash. He is now an Internationally respected music festival owner, radio DJ and music industries innovator. He has been a music journalist, record label owner, radio and club DJ and co-founder of music festivals Bestival on the Isle of Wight and in Canada, and Camp Bestival in Lulworth, Dorset. He is also a partner in music media syndications company Earworm and the main force behind the launch of the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF).

This year sees Bestival take up its new residency at the stunning Lulworth Castke site in Dorset. To celebrate Rob is making a long overdue return to SMILEfest.