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Tramlines – Saturday Evening: The Ruby Kid (Interview), Renegade Brass Band, Jehst & Micall Parknsun

July 25, 2010

Louise Gold. Photo by sweetkomal

So – Saturday! Komal’s already posted from her little meet up with The Chosen Family, which was done whilst we were at the Tramlines BBQ in the Sheffield Uni gardens – a great little place to drink on a weekend when Interval is open, especially out of term time!

The line up in Bar One, was hip hop centred, though within that the range of styles was both pretty eclectic and fantastically balanced.

Heather Shaw and Louise Gold of the Black Jacobins. Photo by sweetkomal

Starting up the evening was The Ruby Kid, with band the Black Jacobins. Despite battling against the notoriously bad sound in the venue, the band rocked the corner of Bar One, at the start of an evening becoming more promising with each track.

Drawing influence from across the musical spectrum – everything from jazz to trad Irish folk to New York hip hop – this band never fails to suprise with its addictive combination of layered harmonies, top notch musicianship, and Dan Randall’s intelligent lyrics and impressive skills as a rapper. The fact that the band are all good mates as well as sharing the stage really shows through – their rapport on stage puts the crowd at ease and shows through in the tight arrangements. The reworking of several songs since their earlier shows is a great addition, and my highlight of the gig was definitely the sweeping and soulful Sunset on the City Scape. Heather and Louise’s vocal parts in this really shine through and compliment the instrumental parts perfectly, with Dan’s lyrics gelling really well – never becoming too dominant over the rest of the band – a sign of musicians who really understand and enjoy working with each other.

Christina McKechnie of the Renegade Brass Band. Photo by sweetkomal

After the Ruby Kid came the Renegade Brass Band. I’d been looking forward to seeing this band for ages, after almost booking them back in December and then only seeing one song at Peace in the Park, as a fan of their tracks on Myspace and of bands like the Youngblood Brass Band, I knew this was going to be a fantastic set. I wasn’t disappointed; how could you not dance to this? The humidity in the venue surely at 10 (I think that’s how the measuring goes), noone seemed to care in the crowd as we danced to the Renegade Brass Band’s infectious rhythms. Hip hop, ska and and all sorts of other crazy shit collide in this fantastic Sheffield act’s set. Forget what you know about brass bands – this as about as far from the Salvation Army as Lady Gaga. As if it wasn’t enough fun, the band later bring on their resident MC, Vex, who I can vouch for being fantastic in spite of the criminal sound engineering that meant his microphone wasn’t switched on for the entirety of the set! Highlights for me were the cover of Gangsta’s Paradise, and the later tracks in the set which showed off scratch DJ Baron von Badd’s wicked turntable skills. To be honest, if you wanted to know how the set went down you could have just looked at any of the audience’s faces – all grinning with the sweaty party vibe.

Micall Parknsun. Photo by sweetkomal

Jehst. Photo by sweetkomal

Last up was Jehst and Micall Parknsun. Suddenly loads more kids, all looking a lot more like hardcore hip hop fans (that, and a lot younger) piled in through the doors and filled up the tiny Bar One space. The guys started up and the crowd went pretty wild, clearly there were a lot of dedicated fans in the audience. Aside from completely owning the room, hey brought on guest act Joker Starr and the crowd lapped it up. It was a fantastic show, and for somebody who doesn’t watch much live hip hop I felt a really good vibe and really enjoyed it. I also felt kind of old (at 23!) so they must be doing something right to get the ‘kids’ on board. I je(h)st – these guys are a pretty big deal, and they’re massive in the UK hip hop scene. I interviewed the lot of them later on (up soon, a good friend has kindly volunteered to transcribed them) and whilst we were sitting on the park bench outside the Octagon where we chatted, a girl in the (rapidly growing) snaking queue went all fangirl on us and I realised I was speaking to some pretty big names. Nevertheless I couldn’t have met a nicer bunch of guys and they were all really pumped at the Sheffield response. We did tell them the north was friendlier!

The Jehst et al interview will be up later, but for now here’s what happened when I caught up with Dan Randall aka The Ruby Kid after the gig:

The Ruby Kid

So any fans or avid listeners of your music will hear a lot of left wing Socialist references in your tracks. How does this go down in general, and do you ever get into any interesting conversations after gigs or anything?

Dan: Yeah all the time, and I think one of the things that’s a benefit of having political content is that it gives me access to, well I play a lot of benefit gigs, and a lot of gigs in the activist scene which is great and it allows me to put left wing activists up on hip hop, but also when I play a hip hop show like tonight, folk who might not be into activist politics will hear some the lyrics and come up to me and say ‘I heard this lyric about that, tell me more’. And there are some people I’ve met through music who have subsequently got involved in political activism which is obviously a compliment of sorts. I’ve never had a hostile reaction as such, I’ve had people who’ve come up to me and said ‘I don’t agree with your politics but the music’s dope, and I’m not particularly interested in getting into mad arguments with those people.

Dan Randall aka The Ruby Kid. Photo by sweetkomal

Politics are clearly a big part of your music, but have you ever felt misrepresented by any write ups or blurbs on programmes or anything?

DR: I often tagged as a ‘conscious rapper’, or ‘political rapper’ or ‘socialist rapper’ or whatever and I kind of resent any label of any kind really. I understand their use and why music journalists and music critics use them, but I find it quite cosseting, and‘Marxist rapper’ just sounds like a terrible gimmick. I want people to appreciate the music on its own terms, rather than approaching it with a prejudice.

Obviously you work with your band the Black Jacobins, now that you’ve moved to London and the band is based in Sheffield, has that changed your relationship with the band?

DR: Yeah it has hugely, we don’t have nearly as much time to rehearse as we’d like. That’s just a logistical question about when we’re all free and when I can come up to Sheffield. It has meant that I do a lot more gigs on my own now which I didn’t do so much of in the past which is either spoken word or just me and some beats, which is a challenge for me ‘cos it’s a different experience from having a live backing band, but it’s an experience I’m enjoying. I’d like as long as it’s possible to continue to balance both the solo stuff and the work with the band.

So does it feel different being on your own on the stage?

DR: Yeah it does feel different, but not in a negative way necessarily, it’s a different vibe and I’ve got more freedom to interact with the crowd which I wouldn’t have if there was five other people on stage with me, because I don’t want to be too domineering in terms of the stage presence when I’m sharing it with other people. So it gives me opportunities. But then there’s things that are better with the band – there’s more energy, musically it’s better, they’re obviously very talented musicians so it brings an extra element to the live show, so there’s pros and cons to both formats and I enjoy them equally.

What do you reckon is the best gig you’ve ever done?

DR:Well the first show that we were supposed to be doing with Wiley, and then Wiley didn’t turn up, that was a pretty good show, because it was a crowd of both grime fans and then young kids who’d bought Wiley’s single Rolex, and we were a bit nervous as to how our slightly esoteric brand of indie-hip hop was gonna go down with these people, but we really won them over and it was good to see a club full of teenyboppers vibing off what we were doing, so that was a cool show. And there are plenty more I could name, and all for different reasons, I mean some tiny little gig I’ve done in the basement of a squat somewhere could have a really good vibe, and then doing a big festival show is a different experience again so yknow, I like different gigs for different reasons.

Have you seen much at Tramlines this weekend? What have enjoyed so far and what are you looking forward to?

DR: Well today was fantastic, I really enjoyed my set, Renegade Brass band who played after me were fantastic and then obviously Joker [Starr] and the boys were just everything you might have expected they would be – fantastic. It’s brilliant to see top quality hip hop, including some local hip hop on a festival bill, so today’s been great. Last night I did a guest spot with someone else so I only got to see the bands that were on that bill, but that was great fun and I;ve been wandering through town just soaking up the atmosphere which is half the fun of a festival. It ain’t even just about seeing music; it’s about getting involved with the ambience.

Last of all, if you could collaborate with anyone from any genre – because obviously you do draw from a lot of different genres in your music, especially with the band – who would it be?

DR: Well if I had to choose any rapper, it would be either Aesop Rock or Slug from Atmosphere. If I had to choose anyone from outside of hip hop, I’m gonna be really obvious and clichéd and say Dylan.

Current Dylan?

DR: Well ok, Dylan in 65, but to be able to say that I was the rapper that collaborated with Dylan – I could die happy.

Cheers Dan!


What can I say? We had a great time. Look out for reviews of the clubnights we went to and the interview with the Jehst crew from Saturday night – both up soon.

Rosie @ Lovesheffield

4 Comments leave one →
  1. S. McCoy permalink
    July 29, 2010 10:24 pm

    Having been at the gig and knowing a bit about the technology that goes into making the gig happen I would like to point out that the section, “As if it wasn’t enough fun, the band later bring on their resident MC, Vex, who I can vouch for being fantastic in spite of the criminal sound engineering that meant his microphone wasn’t switched on for the entirety of the set!” is incorrect. The MC’s mic was on for the whole set, however due to the way the venue is built and the way the speaker system is built there are sadly areas where vocals (for the most part) are almost lost amongst the mix – this is especially true if you’re up close to the stage as the stage right rig points directly at the bar of all places!! Great gig none-the-less!


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