Since 1998, Gilles Peterson’s presence on BBC radio has continually forged new paths, spotlighting a dizzying mix of jazz, soul, hip hop, funk, electronica and anything else that takes his fancy.
As well as his electrifying DJ sets, he’s known for bringing new sounds from around the world to UK airwaves, whether it’s South African gqom or new rhythms from South America. It’s fair to say that globe-hopping Manchester nights like So Flute and Banana Hill might not exist without Peterson’s influence on club culture.
Over the last two years, Gilles has been working on a new project called Future Bubblers, an Arts Council-funded initiative to find and nurture new talent outside London, equipping up-and-coming musicians with the industry skills and expertise they need to get their sounds to appreciative audiences.
In its first year, the project focused on grassroots music from Nottingham and Salford. Now Gilles and his team of mentors are turning their attention to Hull and Sheffield. We caught up with him to find out more about the project.
What’s the ethos behind Future Bubblers?
Future Bubblers is all about helping young musicians in England develop their potential. Especially outside of London, there’s loads of young people doing interesting things who might not get many chances to get their music heard. By linking them up with mentors, putting on showcases and doing shows in our focus cities, we’re trying give them a little boost. It’s about making it easier for independent artists to get their music out there.
What links the musicians that you’re searching for?
There’s a big spectrum of sounds which we get coming through. The one thing really connecting it all is an independent spirit. We like people who aren’t afraid to take it a little ‘left’.
With your famously diverse knowledge of music, have any new genres entered your musical taste due to the project?
I don’t know if it’s been about finding anything totally new, but we’ve had people pushing things forward in their different scenes. We’ve got one of our year one Bubblers, Snowy, who’s getting a lot of attention now for the grime scene he’s helping build up in Nottingham.
When starting off in the industry, how do you think a project like this would have helped you get your foot in the door?
It’s hard to say, as everything was so different when I was starting out in the 80s. Back then, it was all about pirate radio for me, which is where a lot of underground music came through. Now there’s endless opportunities to connect music with people with online, but it’s hard to cut through. Future Bubblers helps these new acts to stand out above everything else that’s going on.
Recognising the dozens of different music schemes throughout the UK, what do you think is special about Future Bubbles for the Arts Council to become so heavily involved?
I think maybe the connections we have to the wider underground music scene helps us support the artists to develop.
The selections on your 6Music show are always globally focused. What role do DJs and the kind of musicians you champion have to play in a society that seems to be turning towards insular nationalism?
It’s always good to see artists that do engage with what’s going on right now. I think at the moment, a lot of people in music are starting to realise again that what we do isn’t separate from what’s going on in the world. And with my label, Brownswood, we’re going to start trying to work with other labels to be more active in that.