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Troika #30: 85–87

02 Aug 2017
Troika #30: 85–87

A lot of Troika episodes are auto-biographical, and this one is no exception. This time, I want to revisit the years 85, 86 and 87, when I was a fan of three bands, all roughly linked in a family tree.

Big Audio Dynamite – ‘Bottom Line’

In 1985 I was 13. I hadn’t even heard of the Clash when I got into Mick Jones’ new band, Big Audio Dynamite (B.A.D). After listening to the single ‘E=Mc2’ on the radio I tracked down the album, which in those days meant borrowing the tape from the local library. I didn’t have a lot of money to buy music back then, and you could, ahem, play it in a tape to tape machine.

BAD were one of the first bands in the UK to use non-musical samples, such as dialogue from films, which they mixed with punk, rock, reggae, hip hop and funk. I hadn’t heard anything like it, it was fresh and exciting. ‘Bottom Line’ is may favourite from the first album, although ‘No 10 Upping St’ was my favourite. That however, was 1986, and there was another band that I wanted to play…

Sigue Sigue Sputnik – ‘Atari Baby’

Mick Jones was friends was Tony James from Generation X. While Jones was busy forming B.A.D, James was forming his new band Sigue Sigue Sputnik. It was Tony that suggested to Mick that he hook up with Don Letts, and the Sputnik keyboard player Yana YaYa came up the the name, ‘Big Audio Dynamite’.

Sputnik were probably the first band I was really, really into, in the-posters-on-wall, and must-collect-everything-they-release kind of way. B.A.D aside, I found a lot of music in 1986 bland, banal and dull. There was great stuff out there of course, I was just too young to understand the genius of The Smiths or Cure, and I wasn’t aware of The Cocteau Twins or Jesus and Mary Chain. All bands I would come to love in years to come, but in 1986 they weren’t on my radar.

Then along comes a new band, that were into the things I was into: Sci-fi like Blade Runner and Terminator, Japanese Robots and they looked like nothing else I’d even seen before. They were futuristic and exciting, and I particularly loved the style of guitarist Neal X. He was the epitome of cool when I was 14.

Now looking back, their first album wasn’t exactly a musical masterpiece. It was a mish mash of random lyrics, synth drums, movie samples, explosions, two-note dub bass lines and Rock N Roll guitar riffs. In fact, I know of no one else (then or now) who liked them, and everyone seemed to hate them. Nevertheless, 1986 was the year that I played this particular track, Atari Baby, to death. (Literally, it was on tape and the tape just wore out).

Westworld – Joy Rider

Now onto 1987! Bob ‘Derwood’ Andrews started his music career guitarist for Generation X. Tony James went on to form Sigue Sigue Sputnik, play bass for the Sisters of Mercy and team up with long term pal Mick Jones to form Carbon Silicon. Billy Idol did very well for himself as a solo singer and wedding organiser.

Derwood met up with American singer, Elizabeth Westwood, and formed Westworld, (named after the Yul Brynner film, now a very popular HBO series) and focused more on updating a 50s guitar sound for the 80s: ‘Beatbox Rock n’ Roll’ they called it. Their first single ‘Sonic Boom Boy’ was a big hit, but subsequent singles failed to match it’s success. At the time it felt like a more socially acceptable band to be into

This last track from their first album is just under 2 minutes, and aside from ballads like ‘Silver Mac’ is one of their best songs. It encapsulates their sound, has a good time, but doesn’t outstay it’s welcome. Boom!

How to get this episode

Listen using the player above, download Troika #30: 85–87 as an mp3, Subscribe to Troika with an RSS reader or via iTunes.

All music featured is the copyright of the respective artists.


Troika #29 - 10 Months Later

24 Apr 2017
Troika #29 - 10 Months Later

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve got around to making an episode of Troika, 10 months in fact, and a lots been happening since then. So for this episode, I’ve chosen three tracks that represent what’s happened since the last one!

The last episode was released on the night before the UK voted in the EU referendum, and I guess you could say its all been downhill since then. The shock of waking up that morning to hear that such a narrow majority had meant us giving up on everything that we’ve achieved together. Yes, I’m a remainer for sure.

Then I also got the news that my long running relationship with Opera Software was coming to an end. They were closing all the remote teams and focussing on having everyone in one office., which floored me completely. I’d been working part time as a consultant for 5 years and then full-time as a Design Team lead for them for almost another 2 years. It wasn’t an easy job – in fact it was extremely challenging for a few reasons, but at the end of the day I worked with a fantastic team of people on a product I believed in. It was great, and I miss it a lot.

‘Through City Lights’ is a sombre-sounding song from The Amazing’s 2016 album ‘Ambulance’ which was very much in my head as my tenure came to and end. It felt very sad at the time, but now I can listen to it and feel positive. It’s taken on a new persona thankfully!

So after Opera, It really felt like starting from scratch again, building up the business. After being unavailable for so long, the work enquiries had pretty much dried up and I had to do the thing I’d never had to do (consciously) before – self-promote. One thing I’d forgotten about freelance work, was how you could talk to lots of enthusiastic people about possible work, and yet never hear from them again. You have to keep so many irons in so many fires, and hope that enough works out. It isn’t easy, and I miss the teamwork.

Since October (when I got a PS4 for my birthday) I’ve been playing a lot of No Mans Sky. It’s been slated by the press and gamers alike, but I really took to this chilled space exploration game, and over the coming months out in quite a few hours on it. I found it really relaxing to play. One of my favourite features is ‘Photo Mode’ where you can art direct the perfect screenshot of gameplay. The cover for this episode is shot of my starship on some god forsaken but colourful toxic-raining planet.

I think I’ve finally had enough the game now, as every planet and its inhabitants look the same, and the constant resource hunting mechanics of the game are feeling tedious. However the soundtrack, created by 65daysofstatic, is something I’ll never tire of. I’ve chosen the final track ‘End of the World Sun’.

I share an office in Witney with several other freelancers. It’s something I’ve been doing since the Rissington days – finding others to co-work with. We’d been in our current one for 6 years, but in November, our landlord told us he wanted to develop them into flats to sell on, so we had find somewhere new to work. Where we live isn’t easy to find decent work spaces – its not London, Bristol or Brighton. You either find squalid cold rooms, or large out of town business parks for mid-large companies. A decent space for 5 is hard to find, but we thankfully found somewhere.

So as of mid-February, we’ve all moved into our new place, and its been great. Apart from getting modern amenities like heating, double glazing and hot water, it’s a nice change of scenery. The last song on this episode is one that I associate with this period. It’s from Rogue Wave’s 2016 album ‘Delusions of Grand Fur’, and one that I’ve played to death in the office, ‘California Bride’. The general sound sums up where I am now – positive, hopeful and enjoying the new variety of work coming in.

How to get this episode

Listen using the player above, download Troika #29 - 10 Months Later as an mp3, Subscribe to Troika with an RSS reader or via iTunes.

All music featured is the copyright of the respective artists.


Troika #28: DJ Derek

23 Jun 2016
Troika #28: DJ Derek

I’ve never been into reggae. Ska I can at least listen to, but I’ve always found reggae harder work. It’s always felt sluggish, overly-repetitive and irrelevant – music for another culture that wasn’t meant for me.

Earlier this year I discovered DJ Derek, sadly because of his death, but have since been looking more into this fascinating character. Derek Serpell-Morris was an accountant who grew up in Bristol, who left his career behind to follow his passion of playing reggae, ska and rocksteady. Even into his 70s, he would travel the country with his record collection, DJing clubs and pubs, MCing in Jamaican Patois.

Daddy G of Massive Attack had this to say about him:

He’s a testament to the power of music to change individuals and, in so doing, change the idea of what it means to be British.

On a day when Britain is voting whether to leave the EU, a move which seems to be driven solely by intolerance, patriotism and xenophobia, his story seems apt. If this man could find relevance and connection with the music, then the least I could do is listen to playlists of his favourite records and try and pick three for a Troika. So that’s what I’ve done! The process hasn’t converted me, but at least I’ve found some songs that I’m happy to listen to…

  1. ‘Police and Thieves’ by Junior Murvin
  2. ‘I Chase the Devil’ by Max Romeo and the Upsetters
  3. ‘One love’ by Bob Marley and the Wailers

Excerpts were also taken from the excellent video interview DJ Derek Pt. 1 on Vimeo.

How to get this episode

Listen using the player above, download Troika #28: DJ Derek as an mp3, Subscribe to Troika with an RSS reader or via iTunes.

All music featured is the copyright of the respective artists.


Troika #27: Cuppa Tino

24 May 2016
Troika #27: Cuppa Tino

Oooh, I love a cuppa. I have a special large mug which gives me nearly a pint of the lovely brown fluids. Thats all fine and dandy when I’m at home, but finding somewhere to get a decent cuppa when I’m out an about is jolly hard. You can get coffee from various degrees of mediocre to excellent, but tea only seems to come in awful. And all because they don’t know how to put fresh water in a kettle. Rant, rant, rant.

Anyway, enough whingeing. Here are three songs all about tea!

  1. ‘Cup of Brown Joy’ by Professor Elemental
    When I say ‘OOO!’ you say ‘LONG!’
  2. ‘Drink tea (For the love of God)’ by Kula Shaker
    Featuring the words of George Orwell’s monologue on tea
  3. ‘Tea in the Sahara’ by The Police
    A very mellow track, ideal for a tea break

Finally, here’s a picture of my favourite tea mug, its the ‘Cat in the Hat’ mug from Universal Studios in Orlando…

I have two of these now in case one breaks, but they’re very hard to get hold of! By the way, the title of this episode is a bastardisation of ‘Cupertino’, that there place where Apple lives…

How to get this episode

Listen using the player above, download Troika #27: Cuppa Tino as an mp3, Subscribe to Troika with an RSS reader or via iTunes.

All music featured is the copyright of the respective artists.


Troika #26: Windermere

13 Apr 2016
Troika #26: Windermere

Its been a fair few weeks since the last Troika as its all got so busy recently, but here we go!

I studied Natural History Illustration at College in Blackpool, but it wasn’t my favourite place in the world to be. I met some great people there, but I never felt at home. However, in my second year I was given the opportunity to have a work placement for the Lake District National Park for a year and I loved it. Not only was it a great job, the Lakes in autumn is a beautiful place to be. The colour is gorgeous and it became one of my favourite places in the world.

Here’s where I worked, Brockhole Visitor Centre on the shores of Lake Windermere (the design studio was in the attic)…

And this me at my swanky hydraulic drawing board…

I learned the basics of graphic design while I was working here, and painted many illustrations for them. Some of the work I did back then (1992–93) is actually still in use on interpretation boards around Bassenthwaite Lake, which cheers me up no end. All in all, it was a great time!

So I’ve chosen three songs that are intrinsically linked the Lake District for me:

  1. ‘The New Physics’ by The Lost Dogs
    Taken from ‘Scenic Routes’ the debut release by the US band The Lost Dogs, a supergroup made from various Christian alternative artists.
  2. ‘Virgin and Child’ by Iona
    Iona’s second album was a concept record, based on the Book of Kells. This track in particular was always in my head as I sat by Windermere in my lunch hour.
  3. ‘Animal Nitrate’ by Suede
    Sadly, I had to go back to college for my third year, and this single came out near the end of my time in the Lakes.

How to get this episode

Listen using the player above, download Troika #26: Windermere as an mp3, Subscribe to Troika with an RSS reader or via iTunes.

All music featured is the copyright of the respective artists.


Troika #24: Dearly Departed

11 Feb 2016
Troika #24: Dearly Departed

A bit of a delay in getting to this episode. I’ve hesitated over whether to do a full-on Bowie tribute as there are so many brilliant tributes already. It almost felt like jumping on the bandwagon. Instead I’ve bided my time, and its now evolved into a tribute to three people who’ve died too early in 2016: Lemmy Kilmister, David Bowie and Terry Wogan.

  1. ‘Shake Your Blood’ – Probot (Dave Grohl & Lemmy Kilmister)
    In 2004, Dave Grohl did a one-off project called ‘Probot’ where he wrote and performed with his musical heroes. The song he wrote with Lemmy could easily be Motorhead. “I wrote the lyrics in about ten minutes. . . It’s rock & roll, you know. It’s not one of those complicated things”
  2. ‘Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)’ – David Bowie
    I’d been listening to ‘Blackstar’, the latest (and sadly last) Bowie album for three days when the news broke. Blackstar sounded like someone still at the top of their game, with more than plenty of creativity and verve left. A great legacy, but perhaps there was still more ideas to come (he had in fact been working on a new album before his death).
  3. ‘T-WOG$ Pirate Radio’ – Peter Serafinowicz
    Instead of The Floral Dance, I’ve chosen this homage by comedian Peter Serafinowicz. What if after his Breakfast Radio Show he went off and did a secret show on Pirate Radio? I like to believe that this isn’t Serafinowicz, and is actually Terry. It’s the kind of thing he’d do. The rascal.

How to get this episode

Listen using the player above, download Troika #24: Dearly Departed as an mp3, Subscribe to Troika with an RSS reader or via iTunes.

All music featured is the copyright of the respective artists.


Troika #23: Best of 2015

05 Jan 2016
Troika #23: Best of 2015

Its an end of year list! Only shorter! This threesome won’t take long to read or listen to, but it took me a very long time to choose just three from so much wonderful music in 2015. To make it easier, I excluded any music that has already featured in Troika, so without further ado, my three most-played are…

  1. ‘Satellites’ by Mew
    Mew’s ‘+/-’ is my album of the year, another epic from the Danish group.
  2. ‘Repetition’ by Purity Ring
    The Canadian two-piece’s second album is a stunner, and this is my favourite from ‘Another Eternity’ (I mistakenly call it ‘Beyond Eternity’ in the podcast – ouch!)
  3. ‘Winter Dress’ by The Amazing
    A slightly mournful track, but it really is gorgeous! I naturally gravitate towards the last tracks of albums, and this is why. A Troika on ‘closing tracks’ is planned for future…

The full Hickensian Playlist of 2015, can be found on Spotify, as well as embedded below for the javascript enabled…

The cover image is from Bring Me the Horizon’s gig at Alexandra Palace back in November, which I have to say, rocked.

How to get this episode

Listen using the player above, download Troika #23: Best of 2015 as an mp3, Subscribe to Troika with an RSS reader or via iTunes.

All music featured is the copyright of the respective artists.


Troika #22: A Hickensian Christmas II

15 Dec 2015
Troika #22: A Hickensian Christmas II

Ho Ho Ho, Part 2!

Here we have another episode of Chrimbo tunes, this time with traditional songs covered by modern bands. These sound a bit more atmospheric compared last weeks more jaunty tunes!

  1. ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ – Sufjan Stevens
    My favourite carol, performed in a plinky-plonky piano style by Sufjan Stevens (again!). Achingly beautiful
  2. ‘Little Drummer Boy’ – Low
    Low specialise in a genre called ‘Slowcore’, and their ‘Christmas’ album from 2000 is a mix of upbeat ditties like ‘Just like Christmas’ to the really rather dark ‘Long Way Around the Sea’. This cover of the traditional favourite is somewhere in the middle.
  3. ‘The First Noel’ – Over the Rhine
    I first saw Ohio’s finest back in 1992 and immediately became a fan. This is taken from their first Christmas album ‘The Darkest Night of the Year’ from 1996, but they recently released a second called ‘Blood Oranges in the Snow’. This is probably my favourite piece of Christmas music – one for Christmas Eve by the fire.

Intro music is ‘Adultery at Christmas’ by Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer

This weeks cover star is our very own Golden Retriever, Olive, named after the Christmas film Olive, the other Reindeer. Next time, I’ll be choosing my three favourite songs of 2015, but until then…

Have a very Happy Christmas!

How to get this episode

Listen using the player above, download Troika #22: A Hickensian Christmas II as an mp3, Subscribe to Troika with an RSS reader or via iTunes.

All music featured is the copyright of the respective artists.


Troika #21: A Hickensian Christmas

11 Dec 2015
Troika #21: A Hickensian Christmas

There’s so many decent Christmas songs, that one Troika isn’t going to be enough! So I’ve split them over two episodes – maybe more if I pull my finger out!

  1. ‘Oh Santa!’ – Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer
    While not strictly ‘explicit’ (there’s no swearing), it is a rather rum tale that minors may find disturbing. Mr B is the inventor of ‘Chap Hop’, a delightful blend of hip hop and chapness.
  2. ‘Get behind me Santa!’ – Sufjan Stevens
    Sufjan is the King of the Christmas song, if you need a good Christmas music that isn’t cheesy (at least unintentionally) you can’t go wrong with his many covers of traditional songs and original Xmas tunes. This one is a conversation between an Anti-Santa curmudgeon, and Santa himself.

    I don’t care about what you say, Santa Claus
    You’re a bad brother breaking into people’s garage

  3. ‘A Snowflake Fell (and it felt like a kiss)’ – Glasvegas
    After two songs played for chuckles, this Troika ends with a more serious tone from Glasgows’ Glasvegas. This is the title track from the Christmas EP, and I love this song, but I particularly put it here as its one of Leigh’s favourites!

More crimbo musicality next week!

(The intro music is ‘Winter Wonderland’ by Lew Stone & His Band)

How to get this episode

Listen using the player above, download Troika #21: A Hickensian Christmas as an mp3, Subscribe to Troika with an RSS reader or via iTunes.

All music featured is the copyright of the respective artists.


Troika #20: Take it Slow

19 Nov 2015
Troika #20: Take it Slow

This time its all about taking it slow. Songs or pieces of music that either sound better, or take on a new form, when slowed down.

  1. ‘Feel it all Around’ by Washed Out
    Ernest Greenes’ project ‘Washed Out’ take the backing from Gary Low’s 1983 single I Want You and slows it to nice laid back pace, creating this lovely slurry sound. I’m told this is also the theme to the TV Series Portlandia, but I haven’t seen that yet.
  2. ‘How do I make you’ by The Chipmunks
    To record Chipmunks versions of songs, they have to be sung at a slower pace, so that when sped up, both the pitch and length is correct. So what happens when you slow the whole back down to the pace of the original vocal? Sludgepop! There’s loads more on Soundcloud. Check out ‘My Sharona in particular – I just felt it was a bit long for this episode,especially when you see how long the last track is…
  3. The Jurassic Park Theme – 1000% slower
    Drawn out to almost an hour, John Williams’ theme to Jurassic Park is a beautiful ambient drone epic! It does start quiet, but the volume builds towards the end! (Original Source on Soundcloud Jurassic Park Theme 1000% slower)

In this episode I also mention about how Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack for Inception was inspired by the slowed down version of Edith Piafs’ “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien”, a musical motif used throughout the story. More on that here.

How to get this episode

Listen using the player above, download Troika #20: Take it Slow as an mp3, Subscribe to Troika with an RSS reader or via iTunes.

All music featured is the copyright of the respective artists.


Troika #19: Bleeps

05 Nov 2015
Troika #19: Bleeps

In the early eighties I was really into artists like Jean Michel Jarre, Depeche Mode and Howard Jones. I loved synths! After about ’86 I moved away to more guitar-based music, Metal and then a wee folky phase in the early nineties.

During my last year at college in 94 I started rediscovering electronic music. As well as purveyors of ambience like Aphex Twin and The Orb, I also got into the slightly more ‘dancey’ end of the spectrum, even though I wasn’t a fan of dancing or nightclubs. I kind of just nodded my head along ;)

So, without interruption, here’s the three tracks I’ve chosen from : Leftfield, Future Sound of London and The Chemical Brothers. Enjoy!

  1. ‘Storm 3000’ – Leftfield
  2. ‘Dead Skin Cells’ – Future Sound of London
  3. ‘One Too Many Mornings’ – The Chemical Brothers
    This one is an all time favourite. Pure bliss!

How to get this episode

Listen using the player above, download Troika #19: Bleeps as an mp3, Subscribe to Troika with an RSS reader or via iTunes.

All music featured is the copyright of the respective artists.


Troika #18: Randoms

22 Oct 2015
Troika #18: Randoms

Troika number 18 is a straightforward simpler episode! The only thematic link this time is tracks that I’ve discovered either by shuffle or playback glitches. Random songs! (Maybe a little bit of swearing too)

  1. ‘Cissy Strut’ – Butch Cassidy Sound System
    Butch Cassidy Sound System is a pseudonym Michael Hunter, who composed music for Grand Theft Auto.
  2. ‘Auditorium’ – Mos Def feat. Slick Rick
    From 2009’s album ‘Ecstatic’
  3. ‘Babe you turn me on’ – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
    Listen out for the bit where Nick Cave compares ‘Babe’ to an atom bomb, followed by an impression. In all seriousness, its a beautiful song

How to get this episode

Listen using the player above, download Troika #18: Randoms as an mp3, Subscribe to Troika with an RSS reader or via iTunes.

All music featured is the copyright of the respective artists.


Troika #16: Diddly-dum! Diddly-dum!…

18 Sep 2015
Troika #16: Diddly-dum! Diddly-dum!…

With the new series of Dr Who starting this weekend, I decided it was time for a Troika on the iconic TV theme! There has been a lot of ‘official’ versions and many more covers (including a terrible disco-ified one by Mankind in 1979), but here is the original, along with my two favourite unofficial versions!

  1. Doctor Who (1963 original theme) – Ron Grainer & Delia Derbyshire
    Ron Grainer wrote the score, but it was Delia Derbyshire at the BBC Radiophonic workshop that brought it to life, using techniques that she and Dick Mills invented as they went along. It was revolutionary, and their work continues to inspire electronica today, especially in bands like Stereolab
  2. ‘Dr Qui’ – Bill Bailey
    Bill Bailey is the first artist to be featured again on Troika, and this time it’s for his Belgian Jazz (with french lyrics) version of the theme. (He also appeared in the show as Droxil in ‘The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe’ fact fans).
  3. ‘Dr Who’ – Orbital (live at Glastonbury)
    The men with laser beams for eyes regularly perform this lively EDM version in their live set. This one is taken from the 2004 Glastonbury Festival. They came back in 2010, and performed it with the then Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith. Not sure how much he actually did – maybe just twiddled a few knobs?

P.S – sorry for the abrupt ending, thats how the last track finishes! Tsk…

How to get this episode

Listen using the player above, download Troika #16: Diddly-dum! Diddly-dum!… as an mp3, Subscribe to Troika with an RSS reader or via iTunes.

All music featured is the copyright of the respective artists.


Troika #15: Sub Dove Rivers

10 Sep 2015
Troika #15: Sub Dove Rivers

Troika number fifteen is all about twins from Manchester called Andy and Jez Williams. They started off recording in the 1980s as Static Mist before forming Sub Sub with bassist Jimi Goodwin in 1988. Their earliest single was ‘Spaceface’ but it wasn’t until 1994 that they had their first big commercial hit with “Ain’t no love (ain’t no use)” with Melanie Williams. The video for that song is great, as Melanie gets a studio to herself, while (initially at least) the band have to sit on the plumbing at the back:

A few years later, Jimi and the Williams twins ended Sub Sub, but stayed together and changed direction into an Indie Rock band on as Doves. According to Wikipedia), “the band’s studio caught fire and burned down, leading the band members to abandon their previous dance-oriented style and start afresh as alternative rock band Doves in 1998. On the band’s change of direction, Jez Williams said: “We were faced with a really black and white decision: throw the towel in or carry on. And if you’re going to carry on, you’ve got to put everything into it to justify it, because before that you’ve lost everything. That was quite a liberating feeling, actually.”

When Doves played live they often played old Sub Sub tunes (check out Spaceface, at one of their last gigs at the Eden Project). They went on hiatus in 2010, and now the Williams brothers are recording without Jimi Goodwin, under their new name ‘Black Rivers’. We finish with my favourite track off their self-titled debut album, ‘Voyager1’.

  1. ‘Ain’t no love (ain’t no use)’ – Sub Sub feat. Melanie Williams
  2. ‘Pounding’ – Doves
  3. ‘Voyager 1’ – Black Rivers

How to get this episode

Listen using the player above, download Troika #15: Sub Dove Rivers as an mp3, Subscribe to Troika with an RSS reader or via iTunes.

All music featured is the copyright of the respective artists.


Troika #14: Reading Festival

02 Sep 2015
Troika #14: Reading Festival

Welcome back to Troika after a lovely summer break! Hope you all had a good one too.

Last weekend, Family Hicks went to the Reading Festival for a day. Now that the children are 12 and 14, we’ve been doing a few gigs with them, and thought it was time to try a proper festival, and the Saturday Reading line-up had something for all of us.

I was looking forward to seeing bands I knew well like Metallica, Royal Blood and Baroness, but I thought for this Troika that I would cover the bands that I ‘discovered’ at Reading.

  1. ‘Happy Song’ – Bring me the Horizon (contains sweary swears)
    Sheffields’ Bring me the Horizon are one of my daughters favourite bands, not to mention fashion label (lead singer Ollie Sykes runs Drop Dead clothing). Up until Reading, I’d never heard anything of theirs that I really enjoyed, and despite some choice comments that Ollie made to the crowd, this opening number was so gutsy it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It was that good! Nothing to with the fact that all their new album artwork is based on Pictograms…
  2. ‘All the Sad Young Men’ – Spector
    This song turned up on my first ever Spotify Discover playlist, and at the time I thought Frederick Macpherson’s vocals sound very much like Tom Smith from the band Editors. Spector played the NME/Radio 1 tent mid afternoon and having seen them live I moved away from the Editors comparison. Very clever lyrically, and a visually a very different band!
  3. ‘Tryer, you’ – And So I Watch You From Afar
    As I arrived early to get a good position to see Baroness, I caught the very last song of ‘And So I Watch From Afar’s set. They’re a four-piece from Belfast who occupy a space not a million miles away from Explosions in the Sky, in the sense that they do mainly guitar-based instrumentals. They were definitely a good live band, and kicked myself for not seeing the whole set.

There were of course, lots of bands that I missed that day, so perhaps I’ll do a ‘best bands I didn’t see at Reading 2015’ one day?

How to get this episode

Listen using the player above, download Troika #14: Reading Festival as an mp3, Subscribe to Troika with an RSS reader or via iTunes.

All music featured is the copyright of the respective artists.


Troika #13: Oooph!

13 Jul 2015
Troika #13: Oooph!

Graham Fellows has already appeared on Troika in his ‘Brian Appleton’ guise, but he’s most known for the Yahama-driven genius of versatile singer-songwriter John Shuttleworth from Sheffield, South Yorkshire. You may have heard classics like ‘Pigeons in Flight’ and ‘Y Reg’, but if you’ve never come across him before, here’s your first taster!

Graham came up with this character while working for Chappell Music in the 80s. Some demo tapes were sent in that inspired the music style, and the voice and mannerisms were based on people he knew in Sheffield. As well touring and recording as John, he has a Radio 4 show ‘The Shuttleworths’, on which he performs all the voices: his Wife Mary and her friend Joan Chitty, daughter Karen and son Darren, and not forgetting next door neighbour and sole agent Ken Worthington.

There’s a lovely innocence to the character and the humour is very gentle – the rudest he’s ever been is a song called ‘Eggs and Gammon’, which is about flatulence. I’m sure Mr Fellows will get sick of doing John (he may already be at the point) but I’ll always be a big fan!

  1. Mutiny over the Bounty
    Mars of Slough! You’ve really done it now! John was so horrified when they stopped putting a cardboard tray in the Bounty, losing vital protection. John’s finest protest song.
  2. Two Margarines
    We’ve all been there – two tubs of margarine (or low fat spread) in the fridge, one should be the ‘current’ and the other is the ‘backup’. But what happens when both are open? Two on the go?! It’s a nightmare scenario!
  3. I can’t go back to savoury now
    A melancholy ballad about starting to eat pudding, and then realising that there is still main course available. You can’t go back! This is one I regularly sing to the family. In fact, its my ringtone.

For more information on John Shuttleworth, visit his official website

How to get this episode

Listen using the player above, download Troika #13: Oooph! as an mp3, Subscribe to Troika with an RSS reader or via iTunes.

All music featured is the copyright of the respective artists.


Troika #12: Le Tour!

03 Jul 2015
Troika #12: Le Tour!

I had planned a different Troika for #12, but I was so late getting it ready, I was going to miss the fact that the Tour de France starts this weekend! So that will become #13, and here is my rather hurried tribute to the annual cycling pantomime that is the Tour!

  1. ‘Tour de France’ by Alexis Roche
    This one is apparently a bit rude, but it’s in French.
  2. ‘Tour de France’ by Benôit Charest
    From the fantastic Belleville Rendezvous soundtrack.
  3. ‘Tour de France’ by Señor Coconut
    As I’ve mentioned before, I can’t abide Kraftwerks’ ‘Tour de France’, but this is a cover version I can really get behind!

How to get this episode

Listen using the player above, download Troika #12: Le Tour! as an mp3, Subscribe to Troika with an RSS reader or via iTunes.

All music featured is the copyright of the respective artists.


Troika #11: All about the Bassists

15 Jun 2015
Troika #11: All about the Bassists

Hello peoples! This Troika is all about the bassists!

Squarepusher (real name Tom Jenkinson) is mad multi-instrumentalist as well as mentalist. His music swerves from smooth electronica jazz to drum and bass, to (quite frankly) an unlistenable avant-garde load of bobbins. Mostly its somewhere in the middle! There is even an album ‘Solo Electric Bass’ that does what it says on the tin, but it’s in tracks like Hello Meow that I really enjoy his bass playing. Particularly that bass solo!

Les Claypool of Primus is one of those musicians that took the bass into weirder territory. I’d thought all slap bass sounded like Level 42 until I heard him play. He made sounds with that bass that I never thought possible, and raised it from being a ‘hidden at the side’ role in a band to the main instrument. So much so, he was the one that really inspired to want to be a bassist. I never stuck at it, but I still like Primus.

I couldn’t do this list without Flea, and while I could’ve played something lesser known like Atoms for Peace (a collaboration with Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich), I’ve gone for an overplayed, you’ve heard it jillions of times already Red Hot Chilli Peppers song, By the Way. Because its great.

  1. ‘Hello Meow’ – Squarepusher
  2. ‘Jerry was a race car driver’ – Primus
  3. ‘By the Way’ – Red Hot Chilli Peppers

This was one of the hardest Troika’s to do, in terms of all the ones I left out. I could’ve included Jaco Pastorius, Paul McCartney, Melissa Auf de Maur, Steve Lawson to name but a few. They may be on future podcasts though :)

How to get this episode

Listen using the player above, download Troika #11: All about the Bassists as an mp3, Subscribe to Troika with an RSS reader or via iTunes.

All music featured is the copyright of the respective artists.


Troika #10: For Leigh

21 May 2015
Troika #10: For Leigh

Eighteen years ago, I sold my car! It was a bright yellow early 70’s VW Beetle with Empi5 alloy rims (that might mean something to some people). I loved that car, but the long commute I was doing convinced me that I needed something that used less fuel, and went wrong less.

I was working for a charity in Leicester at the time, and through a colleague I heard that an ex-employee called Leigh was looking for a beetle. She was living in Oxford, and I was in Leamington Spa. Leigh came up to see it, and when she drove it away I realised I was sad, but not for losing the beetle. I had to see her again. Friends joked at the time I “just wanted my old car back”, but I’d met someone really special, and was bowled over. We married before a year was out :)

This Troika is all about songs that evoke that special time – May 1997. Meeting Leigh and those first few dates in Oxford.

  1. ‘Step into my World’ – Hurricane #1
    A week before I met Leigh, ‘Step into my World’ was being played a lot on Radio 1. Hurricane #1 was a new band formed by Andy Bell from Ride, who had split the previous year. I loved this single, especially the last half which is just Andy’s guitar, and played it to death. Then, on my first date with Leigh, she asked if I’d heard of Hurricane #1. Turns out she was good friends with Andys parents who lived around the corner! We got to meet Andy not long after, and I was typically star struck and didn’t have much to say for myself, and Richard and Rachel are the most lovely people you could ever hope to meet.
  2. ‘Don’t Whiz on the Electric Fence’ – Ren and Stimpy
    When I talked with Leigh about which songs remind her when we met, the first and last choices here were the obvious ones. The other one could’ve been Prefab Sprout (we were both fans), something from the Romeo and Juliet soundtrack (like the cute ‘Little Star’ by Stina Nordenstam). However one of the first things that came to mind was the answerphone message I had at the time, which is this little warning ditty from Ren and Stimpy.
  3. ‘No Surprises’ – Radiohead
    We were together just two weeks when Radiohead’s seminal ‘OK Computer’ was released. I remember the Headington roundabout had a huge vinyl banner advert with Stanley Donwood’s album art on it, and I was desperate to steal it! I’m sure many of you will have heard this song a jillion times, but like ‘Step into World’ it evokes a very particular, and special time in my life.

This one’s for you Leigh!

How to get this episode

Listen using the player above, download Troika #10: For Leigh as an mp3, Subscribe to Troika with an RSS reader or via iTunes.

All music featured is the copyright of the respective artists.


Troika #8: Misson Control

29 Apr 2015
Troika #8: Misson Control

Headcold has gone, so back to having the speaky bit this week! This episode of Troika is a collection of music that uses NASA samples. A few years NASA released these online for free, but surprisingly few artists have used them, but here’s three of my favourites!

The first track is “Space Walk” by Lemon Jelly, which samples Ed White’s reaction to the first ever space walk on the Gemini 4 mission in 1965. He floated tethered to the Gemini for 23 minutes and enjoyed it so much, he described the order to end the walk it was the “saddest moment” of his life.

Then we have “V1 | 130” by Geremia Vinattieri. This was released as part of the Space Songs EP from Bad Panda records. The EP itself is free to download from Soundcloud too, and its all made from NASA samples. Apart from a short snippet of dialogue at the start, this one is all about the sounds. While there is no actual sound in space, everything vibrates and emits frequencies that can be translated into sound, and in this case they come from the Voyager 1 mission (hence the ‘V1’) that launched in 1977.

The final track, called simply ‘Go’, comes from Public Service Broadcasting’s second brilliant album ‘Race for Space’. It uses samples of the hubbub of Mission Control, the various checks that need to be made. I’m sure it sounds like one of the checks is for ‘Ginseng’ though?

Other space-sampled music

I could’ve included tracks like ‘Contact’ by Daft Punk, but the amount of sample used is very small, and it only appears at the start. There are other artists that combine sounds of space with music, notably The Kronos Quartet’s Sun Rings which uses sounds from NASA, including recordings of plasma wave sounds by the Voyager probe. It was just a bit long for what intends to be a short podcast!

How to get this episode

Listen using the player above, download Troika #8: Misson Control as an mp3, Subscribe to Troika with an RSS reader or via iTunes.

All music featured is the copyright of the respective artists.


Troika #7: Donuts

21 Apr 2015
Troika #7: Donuts

I discovered the music of J Dilla (aka James Dewitt Yancey or Jay Dee) by going backwards. I’m a big fan of the band Phantogram, and when they mentioned their sound uses ‘J Dilla beats’ I looked back on his extensive back catalog and found his influence everywhere. He’s one of hip hop’s most influential producers and artists, but his career was cut short at just 32 after battling the incurable blood disease, lupus. He’s produced for people like Tribe Called Quest, Q-Tip, Busta Rhymes and Pharcyde but was a prolific artist in his own right. I’ve got a lot to catching up to do.

The three tracks I’ve chosen represent his range – one he produced, one of his own, and one that was a homage. As Erykah Badu says in the last track “This one’s for Dilla“…

  1. ‘Let’s Ride’ – Q Tip (produced by, and with beats from, J Dilla)
  2. ‘So Far to Go’ (Instrumental) – J Dilla
  3. ‘The Healer’ – Erykah Badu

There’s no narration this week, as I’ve got a stinking cold, so just enjoy the music without any waffle from me! If you want to learn more about J Dilla, a good starting point is the documentary Still Shining on Vimeo.

How to get this episode

Listen using the player above, download Troika #7: Donuts as an mp3, Subscribe to Troika with an RSS reader or via iTunes.

All music featured is the copyright of the respective artists.


Troika #6: My Turn to be Poorly

06 Apr 2015
Troika #6: My Turn to be Poorly

The theme for this Troika is a little more esoteric than normal – it’s comedians, singing parody songs, in the style of other artists. Weird Al Yankovic has made a whole career out of this, but these are maybe slightly less well known…

  1. ‘My Turn to be Poorly’ – Brian Appleton
    Brian Appleton is Graham Fellows, also known as John Shuttleworth, Jilted John, Dave Tordoff and host of other comic creations. Here his media-studies lecturer persona attempts to show that a song he wrote when he was ill was the inspiration for the nasal, whiney style of The Smiths. The man is a genius, and a Troika on John Shuttleworth’s music alone is due.
  2. ‘Unisex Chipshop’ – Bill Bailey
    In a tribute to Billy Bragg, Bill sings about the oppression of the girl that works in the chippy, and the “sexual fascism that was lurking, round the gherkins”.
  3. ‘Rodeohead’ – Hard’n Phirm
    A medley of Radiohead songs by LA Comedy Duo Hard’n Phirm, performed in a bluegrass style!

Also, I’ve now made my own RSS feed for Troika, as well as submitted it to iTunes. See the new links below!

How to get this episode

Listen using the player above, download Troika #6: My Turn to be Poorly as an mp3, Subscribe to Troika with an RSS reader or via iTunes.

All music featured is the copyright of the respective artists.


Troika #5: New Gaze

02 Apr 2015
Troika #5: New Gaze

Back in the mid-90’s the British Music Press had decided that Shoegaze music was finished, and that if you weren’t Britpop or Grunge you deserved to be mocked. Bands like Slowdive disbanded and explored other genres, but it had left enough quality work to inspire the next generation of bands, nastily called ‘Nu gaze’.

We start with ‘Blackout’ by Amusement parks on fire, a great one for the ‘wall of sound’ guitars. The next one is a little different, more poppy perhaps. Alcest are a french band that I’ve recently come across, and they started life as a Black Metal band. They then mixed in elements of Shoegaze and invented yet another sub-genre called ‘Deathgaze’ that spawned bands like Deafhaven. By their last album all traces of Black Metal had gone, and the result is a rather uplifting pop song. Its one that I’ve had on constant loop since I discovered it.

To finish we’ll have The Cheatahs, and a track from their new Sunne EP called ‘Controller’. Happy Easter everyone!

  1. ‘Blackout’ – Amusement Parks on Fire
  2. ‘Opale’ – Alcest
  3. ‘Controller’ – Cheetahs

How to get this episode

Listen using the player above, download Troika #5: New Gaze as an mp3, Subscribe to Troika with an RSS reader or via iTunes.

All music featured is the copyright of the respective artists.


Troika #4: Light Music

19 Mar 2015
Troika #4: Light Music

So welcome to Troika Episode 4! This one is all about a genre called ‘Light Music’, a form of orchestral music that was at its height in the 1950s and 60s. These were shorter, lighter, more whimsical pieces of music, often used in the soundtracks of films and Pathe News reels. That opening music was ‘Puffin Billy’ by Edward White, and is probably the most widely known of the genre. Even if you don’t what it is, you’ve probably heard it. Pixar used it in one of their early ‘shorts’ Tin Toy. It says picnics and ginger beer to me.

It has a certain ‘British’ feel, but wasn’t a ‘British’ scene exclusively, as the second example shows. It’s from French composer Roger Roger (Rogeur Rogeur?) who created the BBC test card music that was used in the 70s! He was also an electronic music pioneer, and developed Moog synth music under the alias of Cecil Leuter. You can hear this crazy work on YouTube. It sounds like Squarepusher from the 1960s! Anyway here he is with ‘Place de Clichy’ which is kind of the soundtrack in my head when I’m walking around town.

The last piece is from Dennis Berry (who is featured on the cover of this episode, at the top of the group) called ‘Bright Lights’. His themes cover quite long period, and can be heard in places as diverse as Little Britain and Spongebob Squarepants, and also collaborated with Roger Roger.

Till next time, pip pip!

  1. ‘Puffin Billy’ – Edward White
  2. ‘Place de Clichy’ – Roger Roger
  3. ‘Bright Lights’ – Dennis Berry

How to get this episode

Listen using the player above, download Troika #4: Light Music as an mp3, Subscribe to Troika with an RSS reader or via iTunes.

All music featured is the copyright of the respective artists.


Troika #3: Music for Cycling

16 Mar 2015
Troika #3: Music for Cycling

I’m not a fan of Kraftwerk at the best of times. I have friends who adore them, but they leave me cold. I was listening to one last week that was all about using a ‘Pocket Calculator’ – “adding… and subtracting”. Gripping stuff eh? In particular, when there is a Cycling related programme on telly, the likelihood is that they will end up using their ‘Tour De France’. Its feels about as far removed from the experience of cycling as I can think of. I love electronic music, but for me it doesn’t have the right feel.

I think Rapha have got it spot on. They’re a high-end cycling clothes brand, but to promote their range they regularly publish videos of their rides. If you were cynical, you’d say these are just big adverts, which they are in part, but they’re also very inspirational. It was watching these videos that made we want to get a proper road bike and head out into the countryside. Maybe they’ve twisted my view of what ‘music to cycle to’ should be, but these are the sounds in my head when I’m riding.

Here are the three tracks, with links to the videos they were used in:

  1. ’The Climb’ – Keegan DeWitt (Rapha Continental Tour of California)
  2. ‘Stokkseyri’ – Jonsi and Alex (Rapha Continental Movie)
  3. ‘Mighty Rio Grande’ – This Will Destroy You (Rapha Rides Little Switzerland)

How to get this episode

Listen using the player above, download Troika #3: Music for Cycling as an mp3, Subscribe to Troika with an RSS reader or via iTunes.

All music featured is the copyright of the respective artists.


Troika #2: (not so) Guilty Pleasures

09 Mar 2015
Troika #2: (not so) Guilty Pleasures

I heard an interview with Jarvis Cocker (he of PULP fame) where he was asked about ‘guilty pleasures’. His response was “There’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure. If it’s music, and you like it, why feel guilty about it?”. Quite right – there’s too much music snobbery. Somehow there’s this rule that certain types of music are to be embarrassed about.

With that in mind, I want to present three songs on a similar ‘power ballad/rawk’ arena that all come from the 80s/ early 90s. They’re not the kind that get repeated ad-infinitum on commercial radio though.

  1. ‘Green Tinted Sixties Mind’ – Mr Big
    I still have the 12” picture vinyl of this single, and while I never really took to their other music, I absolutely loved this. Even though I was at the start of my ‘crusty folk phase’ having just seen the Levellers play in Nottingham. Great chorus, get ready to powergrab!
  2. ‘Rough Boy’ – ZZ Top
    ZZ Tops’ Afterburner was one of those summer-y records that helped me pretend I was American for a few minutes. Rough Boy had the added cool of a video with Hot Rod Space Shuttle.
  3. ‘Take my Hand’ – Toto
    When the David Lynch version of Dune hit the cinema, my friends and I took up a whole row at our local. I didn’t remember Return of the Jedi getting such a good turn out, but there we all were. I particularly loved the soundtrack by Toto, and with the closing credits was this plinky-plonky piano instrumental called “Take my Hand”…

How to get this episode

Listen using the player above, download Troika #2: (not so) Guilty Pleasures as an mp3, Subscribe to Troika with an RSS reader or via iTunes.

All music featured is the copyright of the respective artists.


Troika #1: Music for Stars

03 Mar 2015
Troika #1: Music for Stars

Photo by Nick Mearly (CC)

This first edition of Troika is about ambient music. Not the bleepy,beaty, dancy kind, but the more soothing ‘neo-classical’ or drone style of Ambient. Music for watching the stars (amongst other things).

These tracks are all connected by Adam Wiltzie from Stars of the Lid. We start with Christina Vantzou (who Wiltzie worked with on ‘The Dead Texan’ project), then Stars of the Lid themselves, and finish with A Winged Victory for the Sullen (Wiltzies’ current collaboration with composer Dustin O’Halloran).

  1. ‘Homemade Mountains’ – Christina Vantzou
  2. ‘Don’t bother they’re here’ – Stars of the Lid
  3. ‘Steep Hills of Vicodin Tears’ – A Winged Victory for the Sullen

Stars of the Lid were named after the lightshow you see with your eyes closed, literally ‘stars of the eyelids’. So lie back, pop your headphones on and lets see where the music takes us!…

How to get this episode

Listen using the player above, download Troika #1: Music for Stars as an mp3, Subscribe to Troika with an RSS reader or via iTunes.

All music featured is the copyright of the respective artists.


Troika - a new music podcast

28 Feb 2015

Hello, peoples of the internets! Troika* is a new, low-key, music podcast from Hicksdesign.

The idea is that I’ll present a set of just three songs, connected by some sort of link – either by genre, artist, songs that were important to a particular time in my life or just some other odd notion that happens to take my fancy. Sometimes I might have guests on board to choose their trio of music. Talking from me will be minimal – just a short introduction, and then the music! I have several episodes planned, and the first one is recorded and ready for listening.

I won’t be making a seperate website for Troika, or setting up its own Twitter/Facebook/whatever page as that would only add more work for me to upkeep, and I want to keep this low-friction as possible and a part of the Journal. So episodes will be posted here, and you can subscribe to Troika via RSS in whatever podcast app you prefer.

*The name comes from a Russian word that describes a configuration of three horses abreast, usually pulling a sleigh. Like so…


Instagram Hickstagram

  • 22 Oct 2018

    Inktober Day 22. Well, @hicksmade left me with a toughie to follow. Here’s my attempt at Dali taking his pet anteater for a walk. #inktober #inktober2018 #leighandjondoinktober #dali

  • 21 Oct 2018

    Inktober Day 21, another bird (sorry @hicksmade)! This is the Snipe that I watched from the hide at Rusty Common on Friday. Lovely birds with beaks that defy the body they’re attached to. #inktober #inktober2018 #leighandjondoinktober #snipe

  • 21 Oct 2018

    Common Darter Dragonfly

  • 20 Oct 2018

    Inktober Day 20: quick doodle without planning in pencil or looking at reference, which is usually a bad idea. Your turn @hicksmade! #inktober #inktober2018 #leighandjondoinktober

  • 20 Oct 2018

    Morning dog walk. Even the wheelie bins looked good in this light

  • 20 Oct 2018

    Inktober Day 19. Following @hicksmade’s marshmallows with more marshmallows 🤪 #inktober #inktober2018 #leighandjondoinktober #ghostbusters #staypuft

  • 18 Oct 2018

    Inktober Day 18. When @hicksmade did a prawn I was sure she was setting me up to do cocktails! #inktober #inktober2018 #leighandjondoinktober #cocktails

  • 18 Oct 2018

  • 18 Oct 2018

  • 18 Oct 2018

    Inktober day 17 . @hicksmade’s pen led me onto squid and their ink shooting abilities. I also found out that a part of the squids anatomy is called a ‘pen’. #inktober #inktober2018 #ink #leighandjondoinktober

Contact us

Call Jon on +44 (0)7917 391536, email or tweet @hicksdesign.

Alternatively, pop in for tea and cake at the studio…

Hicks
Wenrisc House
Meadow Court
Witney, OX28 6ER
United Kingdom