Southbank Centre’s Ether festival is back with us and, as usual, the focal point is innovation, technology and experimentation. In previous years the festival saw cross-genre and cross-artform events from the likes of Thom Yorke, Lou Reed, David Byrne, Brian Eno, Gil Scott-Heron and esteemed composer Thomas Adès. This month’s extravaganza includes, among others, the first performance in the UK by Swedish audiovisual masters iamamiwhoami, alongside what organisers describe as “a mix of electronics, classical music, visual arts, dance and a celebration of John Cage’s centenary”.
Fresh from his performance with Philip Glass at All Tomorrow’s Parties’ I’ll Be Your Mirror festival in New York last month, composer and Battles co-founder Tyondai Braxton performs his 2009 long-player, Central Market, with London Sinfonietta and New York-based Wordless Music Orchestra on 9 October. John Cale will be back at Royal Festival Hall on 13 October with songs from his new album, Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood, which is out this month.
Other festival highlights include the world premiere of a new work by Julia Wolfe, whose percussion concerto, commissioned by BBC Radio 3 for Southbank Centre Artist in Residence Colin Currie, will be performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra. Jonathan Harvey’s latest project, Weltethos, will receive its London premiere with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, narrated by actor, Sam West. Elsewhere, London-based hip-hop singer and producer Ghostpoet joins forces with Soap&Skin, a 22 year-old Austrian producer (real name Anja Plaschg), for an event on Saturday night (6 October).
Less poltergeist and more Caspar the Friendly Ghost, 29 year-old Obaro Ejimiwe, a.k.a Ghostpoet, is adamant that he is not a rapper. Garnering a Mercury nomination last year as well as much hype from industry “In The Know”s, his show with Plaschg this weekend promises to be a night to remember. We interrupted his rehearsals for the performance to ask a few questions about his background, his music and the Ether experience.
You are originally from South London — where were you born and what are your memories of growing up there?
I was born in Tooting, everything seemed so large as a kid and difficult to understand because I wasn’t really allowed out much socially. I had to focus on my education.
And now you’re based in Dalston. How, for you, does East London compare to South London?
I guess East is more of a creative enclave, it has a wild grimy party side but it also has its stunningly beautiful and tranquil side, an intriguing area for sure.
Do you consider London to be a major influence on your work? If so, is there a particular song which encapsulates this for you?
It’s a definite subconscious influence on my work as I live here but I wouldn’t say major. It’s in the mix of things, so to speak. I couldn’t choose a particular song, I’m trying to make music for everyone not just a city.
Having previously been nominated for the Mercury Prize, what do you make of this year’s nominee list?
It’s great, a nice mix of people. I still don’t think it’s about “winning” the Mercury Prize but I would like either Alt-J, Jessie Ware, Lianne La Havas or Michael Kiwanuka to be chosen.
You’re a tattoos man — how many do you have and which one is your favourite?
I do like me a tattoo for sure! I have 13 now but I couldn’t choose a favourite…they’re all my babies!
What’s your involvement with Run Dem Crew?
Run Dem Crew is a running community that runs under the cover of darkness around London city, it’s full of such inspirational and positive people, I find it a joy just being around them, let alone running with them.
For those who have not seen you perform live, yet, what is the Ghostpoet live experience like?
It’s purposefully different from listening to the album because the live arena involves different emotions, needs, etc. I play with my live band and it’s an experimental, lively and interesting experience. Well, I hope so, at least!
Will your Ether Festival performance be any different to your usual live shows?
I’ll be joined by a large string section, brass section, an experimental choir and a special guest or two.
Which of the other Ether performers are you looking forward to checking out?
Brand Brauer Frick, Apparat, the Resident Advisor curated night, Tyondai Braxton & The London Sinfonietta, The BBC Radio Workshop in Public and Eska. There’s so much to see!
Ether Festival starts this weekend. Full listings and Tickets are available here.