Truancy Volume 43: Charles Drakeford

For the 43rd installation of our Truancy Volume series we’re proud to present a deep, kinetic mix from Charles Drakeford, editor of the Boiler Room website and host of the fantastic weekly show “From The Depths” on NTS Radio. We had the pleasure of chatting with the tastemaking DJ about his experiences with NTS and Boiler Room, the lasting legacy of Plastic People, and the bottom line regarding the vinyl vs. digital debate. Read his insightful commentary and stream the exclusive mix below:

Hi Charles! How have you been? Can you tell us a little bit about yourself for the uninitiated? “I’ve been stressing but on the whole I’m all good. I’m 23, I live in London, I go to uni, I do a weekly radio show and work for Boiler Room. I like to make out like I have no time, but really I’m just lazy and it allows me to spend a lot of time laying around.”

Your weekly “From The Depths” show on NTS Radio is definitely one of our unmissable shows of a standard Truants week. When did you first get into DJing and how did your relationship with NTS come about? “I was into DJing before I actually started DJing if that makes sense. I used to listen to radio shows religiously, combing over them to figure out what the sounds I was listening to related to in terms of actions. I always knew I’d get into it at some point, so I started buying records before I owned turntables. There was just a pile of records I couldn’t listen to in the corner of my room for a couple of years. I’ve been mixing in a physical way for about 3 years now, it’s fun. It eats away at any prospects of savings you ever had… and you’ll never own enough records. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

I had never done a radio show before NTS, and I’d hardly ever recorded myself mixing… so it’s been a massive learning curve. It all started from wanting to start a podcast though. I used to listen to Thristian’s Hold Box Flat podcasts, and had an idea to do something similar. Then I saw on the Nonsense/ Nuts To Soup blog that they were starting a radio station – which seemed perfect! So I borrowed a decent mixer from work, recorded a mix over Christmas and sent it off. Then Femi, who runs NTS, got back to me saying ‘let’s meet up’ which I was pretty freaked out about. I’d been to a couple of Nonsense parties and they blew my mind. Plastic People is the club that taught me the solid truths of a good party, and I’ll always hold a special place in my heart for that club (even when my kids don’t care). Just that idea of a party where everyone is there just to have good time, regardless of who is playing because the resident’s more than good enough. Now I’ve gone on a massive tangent though… so I met up with Femi and he’s probably the nicest guy you’ll ever meet so he gave me a slot.”

How do you usually go about your shows, is it usually more of a spontaneous decisions on the spot or do you go in well prepared? Is there a difference between how you approach your From The Depths shows as opposed to playing out? “I did a pilot where I had the whole show planned out and it was a complete failure. Every little mistake throws you off just that little bit more. Thankfully it never got posted anywhere. So I never approached a show in that way again. Since then I just turn up with some records and see what happens. Then I listen back and lol at my own voice. It’s so bloody deep. I guess it kinda sounds like I’m speaking From The Depths though eh? HAHA.

When I play out, I approach it in much the same way. Though I have to say I’m a little less bothered about playing out now, because I know I’ve got somewhere to go and play records once a week anyway. It’s essentially just having a reason to take the records out the house.”

Can you tell us a little bit on your involvement with the Boiler Room? Have you been with the initiative from the start and what is your role in the team? “I’ve not been involved since the start, but Femi has so I kind of like the link there and be involved in both things. Not that I filled his shoes or anything, it’s just nice to help keep the link there – even though Thristian and Blaise are still great friends with Femi and work together on stuff.

I’m the editor of the Boiler Room site, so I write stuff for the site and keep it updated with news. We just like to get sent forthcoming stuff to keep an eye on what’s out there and in the process give the artists that have played and artists we like a bit of promo. I’m not going to lie, I use it to get new stuff to play on radio too. Only because it’s good and should be heard though. It’s still a small team behind it though, so you kind of get involved in everything.”

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned — personally or professionally — from your experience with the Boiler Room in the short year since it launched? “I think that would probably be that you shouldn’t get too wrapped up in your own idea of what good music is. People are so quick to turn their back on what they thought was good music, to a point where it gets ridiculous. Like unless someone puts out two amazing records right after one another, they just don’t give a crap what they’re doing anymore.

I guess also I’ve learnt not to be quite so bothered about whether people play records. If anything it’s taught me to look away from the booth oddly. If someone is killing it with their selection, that’s all that REALLY matters. Although if you can apply skill on top of that, obviously that’s the delicious icing on the cake. The only thing that’s for certain though is the longer you discuss the importance of vinyl or sound quality or WAVs, the more likely you are to end up in a very boring room or a very strange forum. The people having a good time left a long time ago.”

Tell us a little bit about this mix you did for Truants! What’s the inspiration behind the tracklisting? What’s the perfect occasion/setting to blast it to? “I just kind of put together a bag of records I’ve been feeling and headed to the RBMA studios to record it. The people there take a lot more care of their equipment than I do. It’s a great little spot – after they did RBMA London they just kept the spot running as a place musicians can go and use.

I listen to a lot of stuff whilst cycling around, so I’d probably say that’s the time to listen to it. I totally get that Kraftwerk link of cycling and electronic music. You know, it’s not like “a 4×4 beat and an endless strip of tarmac is my passion” or anything. It’s just a good distraction from the lorries and impending doom that cycling around a busy city involves. If this leads to a lawsuit though I’ll be pretty bummed out.”

A lot of the tracks in this mix are difficult to place time-wise — they could just as easily be new releases or rare cuts from the early 90s. Does the tracklisting lean more towards older or more current selections? Are you a vinyl junkie or do you incorporate digital components into your process? “It’s a mixture really, although I would say I buy a lot more old stuff than new stuff nowadays. It’s just more fun to walk into a second hand store and have no idea what they’ll have in stock. Plus it’s amazing what you can get for £2! Most of the time I play vinyl, because I can get my head around it. I’m not very technical really and setting up Serato in a club terrifies me. I used it in this mix a little though, and I’m not one of those folks who gets annoyed by other using it. Whatever works!”

Complete this sentence: at heart I’m just a frustrated… “I’m not frustrated, I’m totes chill...”

Truancy Volume 43: Charles Drakeford by TRUANTS

Sam Billetdeaux

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