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A Magazine for Sheffield

Singing Knives: Sheffield's experimental bastion

In Now Then #29, I said Singing Knives Records "specialise in folk, jazz and noise with a weird tribal junkyard edge". Well, try as I might, I can't think of a better way of describing the music they release. 'Leftfield' just doesn't cut it. I spoke to co-founder Jon about the label and its intentions. How and when did Singing Knives get started? Singing Knives started when Fiona and me moved down to Sheffield from Leeds six years ago enthused by the DIY gig community of LS6, loosely constellated around the Cops & Robbers fanzine and the Brudenell Social Club. We were keen to see something similar burgeon in Sheffield, although with slightly fewer comedy math rock bands. What has been your best experience of promoting nights here? Putting on a wild night featuring Sunburned Hand Of The Man, Corsano-Flower and, then local favourites, Chora at the gone-but-never-forgotten Matilda Social Centre in 2006. So many people were flooding in that the manager of Gatecrasher came down to see what was going on. But then again, many of our best nights have been witnessed by less than a dozen enthralled people in a squat, micro-gallery or cutlery workshop. Do you see yourself as part of a wider network of people pushing "experimental" music in the UK? Within every genre of music I'd hope you'll find people challenging boundaries and definitions in their own way but, yeah, if we're talking about stuff that's genuinely unpredictable, led by chance and intuition rather than occasionally deviating from an authoritative script - the Chora/Haimenfeldman boys in Peckham, the Helhesten/ Psykick Dancehall team in Glasgow, the Blood Stereo/Chocolate Monk doofs in Brighton, the Goldenlab lovestream in Manchester... What is Sheffield's best venue? We like new environments, so hopefully the next one. If anyone knows of a place free of profit-focused managers and tasteless beer/decor that would be willing to host us then please get in touch. What is unique about Sheffield's music scene? The number of former industrial spaces available for cheap/free use for music, and a sizeable student population that only seem to develop an aesthetic appetite and the courage to leave Ecclesall Road once they've graduated. Which local acts should our readers be looking out for? Can they tell us? Since that six-page Sound of Sheffield article was written about us in The Wire magazine last year, we've been trying to locate the local hotbed of like minded musicians they enthused about. Although, Blue Yodel's Carry On Habiting set was amazing at the Graves Art Gallery last year and Ross Parfitt's aleatory microtonal experiments always get us in the mood. What is on the cards for Singing Knives in 2011? To continue trying to loosen up some of the frankly perverted conceptions of music most people seem to have from 1,000 years of having the composer perched on the pedestal and 100 years of the commercial product being hoiked up there to join it. Creating music socially without an exam certificate, some impressive chops you can imitate from an embarrassing 70s rock star or a commodity image droves of people will buy into is not self-indulgent or pretentious, despite this being the stock line. It's something all humans have the capacity to do and if it's something that interests them then they should do it. Speaking of which, I'd recommend the monthly Noise Upstairs event at the Riverside. Free entry, just turn up, put your name in a hat if you feel like participating and, as they say on their website, "names are pulled out, ensembles formed and hearts broken". There are a couple of regulars that improvise with a capital 'I', but there's an egalitarian vibe so I'm sure you could mic up your forehead, slap it in free time and there would be a couple of new friends lost in that sound world with you. )

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