Review: Divine Comedy | London Palladium | February 21 2017

Who pulls the strings?
Who makes the deals?
Stands five foot three in Cuban heels?

Who gets all the girls
Then wakes up again?
Who will rule the world?
Who will make them scream his name?

Napoleon Complex


A rather small, middle-aged man appears on stage and is greeted by a full hall of mostly middle-aged people. After 2 hours straight of what I can somehow describe as English fine art music I was asked what I thought of the experience, to which I said: “I don’t exactly know yet”.

It took me a few weeks to digest the entire experience and to see what amazing music and theatre I had had the pleasure of witnessing.the_divine_comedy_lj_170516
To someone who doesn’t know ‘The Divine Comedy’, it is difficult to explain what kind of music this band plays. It is a mixture of bombastic Schlager, folk, blues, rock and pure genius. The man responsible for this is Neil Hannon, who started this group back in 1989 in Northern Ireland and who remains the only constant member of the group. The group has released 11 studio albums and nine of their singles have made the UK Top 40.

Set-ups range from an intimate quintet to a full-blown philharmonic band but to be honest, the musicality remains the same even if the set up changes; the colours, intimacy and somehow morbid sense of humour this music has remain intact. You see, it’s about the lyrics. The stories. As a songwriter I know it can be incredibly difficult to not fall back on traditional patterns and endless hooks. Neil Hannon is one of the only songwriters I know who is able to avoid most of these patterns. As any musician or listener knows, a song needs a certain ‘hook’ to be remembered. The thing is, hooks come in many different shapes and forms, and Neil Hannon knows all of them, and more.

The lyrics of this artist have me baffled. Even a non-lyricist or a non-musician would notice the purity and beauty of them. The man on the stage dressed in a Napoleon-like outfit is a linguistic genius. I truly believe the Divine Comedy frontman would be able to write any kind of genre and any kind of song. He has written songs with everything a modern song needs, and has written lyrics that make me cry of sadness yet also cry with laughter. He has the rare talent to incorporate humour into his songs, and not an obvious humour; sometimes sarcasm, sometimes a morbid sense of self-loathing.

Once I got over the experience that are his lyrics, I was able to admire other aspects of his music. The arrangements are beautifully written and the instrumentation very well thought-out. His stage presence is (unlike his physical presence) enormous. The turns the music takes are – harmonically speaking – genius, and sometimes even crazy.


I could go on and on about him. Instead I want to urge all songwriters to dedicate a few hours of their time to listening to his music. It will well and truly inspire you. For the composers among us: this music takes many different forms and could be used for many different ends, and I think it is ever so enjoyable.

For those of us who are truly dedicated to their instruments: there are so many wicked baselines, drum fills and so on that I am sure you will learn a lot from this group.

Neil Hannon is a genius, and even if you don’t like his music (there’s always that possibility) you will hopefully still be able to be immensely inspired by him.

Michael J McEvoy: Scoring for TV/screen and my life in the creative industry

Michael J McEvoy: Scoring for TV/screen and my life in the creative industry

Michael J McEvoy is an arranger, composer, self taught multi-instrumentalist, producer and teacher who studied at the Centre for Young Musicians, Leeds College of Music and the Royal College of Music in London, receiving a Masters in Music, as well as being awarded the Joseph Horovitz Prize in Composition for Screen.

He started out as many others do in a band with friends he met in school and from there on worked his way up to the established professional he is today. Michael is currently juggling being a teacher at London College of Creative Media and working on a new album as well as being in the process of writing for the film Finding Your Feet.

Over the years Michael has had the pleasure of performing and recording with major artists such as Sting, The Bee Gees, Mark Morrison, Steven Winwood and many others. His first break came aged 20 when Ian Dury hired Michael to co-write and arrange his album Four Thousand Weeks’ Holiday that led to work with Scritti Pollitti and Orange Juice. Following this, Michael wrote and performed with leading pop acts including teenybop idols Curiosity Killed the Cat and R’n’B legends MV5BMTQ5NzI0NDE1OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODk5NzY5Mg@@._V1_SX640_SY720_Soul II Soul.

Michael had his first taste of writing for film in 1988 for Beeban Kidron’s debut feature Vroom and has since done over 20 documentaries, however his best known work is his jazz score to Richard Linklater’s Me and Orson Welles.

Throughout his career, Michael has picked up an extensive collection of knowledge across all genres and styles of music, making him an invaluable person to learn from. When talking to him you can immediately identify his passion for music, but I will warn you that his extensive knowledge and experience can sometimes result in endless yet interesting detours.

If you would like to end up scoring projects like Michael did, it might be worth checking out the Audio Visual Synchronisation course at LCCM. It has a wide-reaching curriculum that is designed to teach you dark-angel-itvabout all the major aspects of sync work, including the pressure of industry deadlines. I can personally say that doing the AV-sync course in my final year may be the most valuable thing I’ve done whilst studying at LCCM.

LCCM is currently working on AV-sync modules for years 1-3 to have a longer and more detailed exposure to sync work available for students. So if you are in year 1 or 2 or even a prospective LCCM student, taking part in the AV-sync modules will teach you valuable lessons about consistency and dedication and I would highly recommend that if you have any aspirations of writing for screen you check it out.

LCCM Choir in the finals of the UGCY 2017

LCCM Choir in the finals of the UGCY 2017

The LCCM Choir are one of the finalists at the UGCY (University Gospel Choir of the Year) 2017!

Prior to applying for the competition, during our rehearsal towards the reading week of term 1, we had a discussion about what we want to gain from the choir and how we can take things up to the next level. In doing so, our choir leader Nadine suggested that we enter for a competition.

The next few weeks passed by so quickly as we prepared and filmed our audition video of “Total Praise” by Richard Smallwood. In the meantime, we created our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages then prepared for our end of term gig on the last week of term before the Christmas holidays. Whilst all this was happening, UGCY sent us an email stating that they were looking for male singers to join their choir to perform at the X Factor live finals in the Wembley Arena. We were pleased that Sam Pearce participated in this awesome opportunity!

Uni recommenced, we got stuck into learning our song for the competition, but not yet knowing the result until the 16th January, we got a phone call stating that we’d made it through to the finals! We were ecstatic and continued to power through our preparations.

We were given the opportunity to talk and sing on the UK top-leading gospel radio station: Premier Gospel. You can catch the recording here (1:20:00 onwards). We were also on Colourful Radio, voted Best Radio of 2015, and you can catch us in action here:

We were also privileged enough to have guests help us prepare such as Israel J Allen, currently on The Voice UK in Team JHud (Jennifer Hudson’s team)! A number of us seized the opportunity (supplied by UGCY) to be part of the choir on The Voice UK for the one and only Jennifer Hudson! See the performance here:

Anu Omideyi gave us intense, worthy vocal training and passed down her 30 years of valuable expertise as well as reigniting our excitement and determination leading up to the competition.

So come down, buy tickets and support us on Saturday 18th March at the Hippodrome in Golders Green. Doors open at 6:30pm.

We’re definitely gonna bring it!

Gracias A La Vida

Gracias A La Vida

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 12: Recording artist Adele, winner of Album of the Year for '25,' speaks onstage during The 59th GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on February 12, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Boy, the Grammy’s this year were eventful to say the least. The heartfelt broken grammy, the tributes, Rihanna’s side-eye and Katy Perry’s shaved-head reference; the list goes on.

One thing is sure though, an event like this not only celebrates music but also celebrates the people who support it. To be an artist means so many different things, and it says so many more about who you are as a person.

It is my belief that we are artists for a reason. The reason being the love for expression. We need to express ourselves, in whatever way we find most satisfying or most effective. But I do think we can’t do this on our own. We need inspiration, companionship, love, and support. These things come in many forms. They might be in the form of a role model,in the form of people who teach us, guide us, a book that we read and gives us courage. It might even be that treat you award yourself after having completed an important task.

It’s important to feel thankful for all of these things. But I think we are forgetting the biggest one, and that is life itself.

Life is beautiful but it can be pretty hard too. I would not be where I am today if it was not for all the black keys of the piano that is my life. Thing is, we need to talk.

It’s no secret that mental health is still a taboo. The words ‘mental health’ make it even more difficult to talk about; because they imply that if you are not feeling well that makes you unhealthy – which I disagree with. We all, at some time or another, have to deal with tough situations. You decide what ‘tough’ means to you. Nobody can decide for you what hurts you and what doesn’t. We don’t all have to be raped or abused to be allowed to talk about emotions.


Here we are looking up to all these amazing musicians, for many reasons. But we have to see who’s behind them as well. Because there is one important lesson to be learned from people like Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Billie Holiday. You can not do this on your own. Of course, nobody is going to live your life for you, but there is people who are going to live your life with you.

For me, my biggest rock has always been my mother. She used to sing a song to me when I was little and felt frightened. It’s called ‘gracias a la vida’ and was written by Violeta Parra
One of the verses will illustrate my point wonderfully well.


Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto                                   Thanks to life for it has given me so much

Me ha dado la risa y me ha dado el llanto                               It gave me laughter and it gave me tears

Así yo distingo dicha de quebranto                                           This makes me set joy apart from brokenness

Los dos materiales que forman mi canto                                 The two materials that make up my song


We need both joy and pain to make our lives complete, so why do we only talk about joy?

Start talking.

Review: Jacob Collier | Brooklyn Bowl | November 12 2016

Defying the Definition of a One Man Band

It’s Saturday evening, my friend Alessandro and I have gotten last minute tickets to go see Jacob Collier at the Brooklyn Bowl in the O2. Having arrived an hour early because neither of us had ever been there we wandered around for a bit before joining the growing queue to enter the Brooklyn Bowl, which turned out to be a medium sized hall with a bowling course.The first thing to grab our attention was the diversity of people. All ages, all types (hippies, hipsters, businessmen, elderly couples, families) which made us praise Jacob Collier even before we’d seen him play. Because – surely – when you are only 22 and you have the ability to reach so many different people, that is a sign of true artistic value. Having listened to many a youtube video of this fascinating persona I had yet to discover how he would come off live. Because is it not true that sometimes people are amazing on recordings but lack the personality and stage presence?


For those of you who don’t know him (yet) Jacob Collier is a young London-born artist whose signature harmonisations, feel and ridiculous ability to play every instrument like a pro have led him to already collaborating with such names as Quincy Jones and Stevie Wonder. Any teacher at a music school will tell you to listen to new music as much as you can, but if you only have 5 minutes this week to do so please devote them to immersing yourself in the beautiful world of Jacob Collier. Not because he is an up and come’er (young talents are overrated in my opinion) but because his music is truly and utterly astonishing.

It is 19:45, and the Brooklyn Bowl is packed. The stage is filled with a grand piano, an electric double bass, a bass guitar, a guitar, a harmoniser, a keyboard, different percussion instruments of which I admit to not knowing the name, a full drumkit, and some more trinkets. Sound engineers walk up and down plugging in cables changing lines and doing other sound-engineery stuff. Ale and I are sitting on the side next to a lovely Scottish couple that travelled to London for the soul reason of seeing Jacob. Having finished our first beer I go to get us a second round when on the way back Jacob casually walks on stage and without saying a word burst into full, rich harmonies which makes me (other than loosing half of my beer) feel like I am taking a bath in a bathtub full of music. After the first song Jacob smiles crookedly and continues to talk to the audience in a way so comfortable that it seems almost unlikely that he is aware of the effect he has on people. He uses a device called a harmoniser, custom-made for him by the kind people of M.I.T., it samples his voice and harmonises it. Also the videoscreen behind him is connected to it in some way, if he plays multiple notes, there’s multiple little images of his face (live) singing on the screen. It’s hard to describe how a performance with so much technology still feels so personal; I think that’s one of the things that makes this guy so special. On stage he is a superhuman, but then he talks and he is so… normal.

He continues to play his original song ‘Hideaway’ using everything there is on stage; comically switching between instruments and I am sure at some point I saw him soloing on both guitar and grand piano at the same time. He plays for two hours, and three encores. I can’t explain with words what went on on that stage. I don’t think I can describe it using any thing really. Just look him up.

Review: Jordan Rakei | Bussey Building | November 16th 2016

Review: Jordan Rakei | Bussey Building | November 16th 2016

If you were waiting for a refreshing new school neo-soul album, a very colourful concept will capture your attention to drag you into Jordan Rakei’s room.

“Cloack”’s Europe tour has been sold out in every single major city; quite a successful outcome for an artist that made it all the way from Australia.

I must admit that Jordan Rakei is one of my favourite artists at the moment and that its discovery was a sparkle of light in favour of all the independent artist out there, that are trying to make an impact on today’s music scene.

The “Light” that is also one of the hottest hits of his latest album, together with “Blame it on the youth” and “Midnight Mischief”.

I enjoyed every single bit of the concert, singing out loud, dancing along the beat, also amazed by the fact that two LCCM alumni were taking part on the show, as former band’s members.

It was a perfect balance between the groove of the early albums (“The Groove Curse” and “Franklin’s Room) and the spacey, fresh, powerful “Clock”, which shows a new development in Jordan Rakei’s music, openly embracing jazz in its frenetic shades, well captured, in my opinion on the eccentric album cover!

I can’t wait for the next level…cause this guy is really taking off!

Review: Robert Glasper | Koko | November 14th/15th 2016

Review: Robert Glasper | Koko | November 14th/15th 2016

The Robert Glasper Experiment at the Koko club fell somewhat short of my expectations. That is partly my fault, as I was aware that there is a distinction between the Robert Glasper ‘Trio’ and the ‘experiment’, however I wasn’t prepared for how different the two are.

The first 20/25 minutes of the show felt like a soundcheck, where they were playing one groove and signalling to the sound guy what they needed more/less of.  That being said, there were moments of magic, including Robert himself singing a tune from his new album entitled “Thinking Bout you” and a special guest appearance from Lianne La Havas. Besides “ah yeah” the set consisted largely of songs from his new “Artscience” album, which was amazing, however I did get the feeling that at some point people really wanted to hear more familiar favourites. If the show had any shortcomings, it’s a matter of my own musical preferences.

That said, I can’t at all fault the amazing instrumental skills of everyone in the band, each of them delivered amazing performances, especially Robert of course. I’d go again, given they do a more thorough soundcheck next time!

Esmeralda Conde Ruiz: Contemporary Musical Direction and creating your own job in the music industry

Earlier this year we had a chance to host Esmeralda Conde Ruiz, internationally acclaimed composer, musical director and choir leader. In a lengthy interview that covered different aspects of being an MD, we discussed her career, vision of creative artistry and recent commitments; this included The Bridge-Choral Piece for Tate Modern that was premiered in June 2016 at the opening of the new Tate Modern with participation from LCCM students.

screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-2-56-57-pmEsmeralda took us back to her childhood, a time when she preferred art over music. An important turning point was accidentally joining a choir led by Stephan Berg, who became her life long mentor and inspiration. Later she continued her music education and specialised in voice studies. Despite of being a successful session singer, she felt she didn’t really fit anywhere and that her passion lay in creating, writing and managing. Without knowing what it meant at the time, she went on to become an enthusiastic choir leader herself.

“In music our paths are never really clear, which is, when you’re young, horrible. I want something to hold on to but actually you never have. I felt the happiest in my thirties so it took forever… My nature forces me to grow, I want to learn more and I want to do more. I need challenges and  I’m hungry for that. It took me a long time to understand what I need to be happy.”

How did you cope in those years when you were still feeling underwhelmed with your professional progress, how do you keep saying to yourself: No, I’ve got to stick with it?

Well you don’t. You’re young, have no idea and you suffer. I was really lucky to have older friends that knew where I was coming from as they’d been there before. They gave me advice on which book to read, movie to watch or event to attend. They also insisted that it was extremely important for me to always have a project to work on. The best thing to have is good, creative environment even if you have no idea what you’re doing and where you’re going. Don’t push too much, just follow the flow and listen.

How do you first approach an artist while working on a collaborative project?

I always start with finding a language. Artists sometimes have strong ideas but no idea of music, that’s where I come in. I always try to make them feel comfortable and not to get involved too much as a musician. You can completely forget about your ego in this field of work! The best thing to start with is a mood board of songs that are close to the sound that the artist wants. This requires a lot of communication but it pays off, as the music normally tells me much more than the client does. After that I compose ‘skeletons’ or short compositions that appeal to the artist as they give them the control and option to add all the necessary colours afterwards.

Recently you won several awards for your soundtrack on the short film Cusp; how did you first get interested in composition for film?

I remember sitting in a composition masterclass by Gabriel Jarred in which he expressed the need to talk first, rather than start with the music. I always try to organise an initial meeting before the shooting begins, where I ask loads of questions. In the process some things might change but you always need some kind of an anchor to cling on to. Remember to stay open to whatever the piece or client wants!

Which aspects of your work do you find challenging?

When I meet someone and tell them what I do, they might think I spend my days smoking cigarettes on a balcony and being creative but actually, 50% of my work is spent in an office. That means sitting down, doing Excel sheets, calls, notes,… No one ever told me it was going to be like that!

“All you have to do in the market is find your niche, make yourself visible and go for it. There’s no right or wrong, you just have to find your corner and keep in touch with people all the time. It’s not a copy-paste thing or something like a Tesco newsletter, there has to be a genuine relationship between you and your client. Every email is personal and that’s how the projects get bigger… It’s all about building trust.”

What is the key to taking command as an musical director?

Preparation: rehearsal goes as well as you prepare it, it’s down to knowing exactly what you want. And remember, if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing you shouldn’t do it in the first place.

I encourage you all to listen to the full interview as it really give a great look into Esmeralda’s simple yet effective way of understanding musical direction and management. You can also visit her website or follow her on social media for more updates and info about current projects.

Twitter: @ESMERALDAmusic

Listen in full here:

New release: I Talk To Strangers EP

New release: I Talk To Strangers EP

London based alternative pop duo “I Talk To Strangers” released their self titled EP earlier this year in February with a warm reception from publications such as Musically Fresh and TOXIC online, who described the EP as “Gloriously fiendish”.

The opening track, “Welcome to Life (Where Anything Is possible),” consists of a magnitude of influences and well crafted musical moments, both dynamically and melodically. The blend of catchy guitar lines soaked in distortion combined with a powerhouse rhythm section drives the song, reminding me of bands such as Biffy Clyro, the recent Slash records or even The Cult. Within the first minute of this track, I Talk To Strangers seem to establish their style and attitude, brimming with confidence with interesting vocal interplay between the male and female singers. A special mention must also go to the drummer who seems to be in the driving seat for the duration of the song, whilst the guitars and vocals build on this strong foundation.

It is often suggested that music within the sphere of alt-rock has a tendency to be predictable at times with breakdowns and song form being slightly overplayed. I Talk To Strangers manage to avoid this by embracing a typical alt-rock breakdown section that pulls the track back, almost like the calm before the storm, before launching the listener into an unexpected but highly satisfying, hard-hitting instrumental.  

Listen to I Talk To Strangers in Episode 2 of the Music Box Podcast: