An interview w/ Chris Knight aka Cervo: Inside Banana hill, the local scene and music

It’s always good to catch up with the purveyors of the left-field  and subcultural music scene to find out what’s happening in and around our town and this guy plays a hand in  pushing music of the world around the northwest and beyond. In a couple of week’s he’ll be gracing the Ask My Bull Ep launch with his vinyl collection, so we thought we’d get to know him that little bit more ahead of this.
So Chris (aka Cervo), what can you tell us about your music events career so far?
Well we started very small doing live music & trying to DJ in a tiny bar in Sheffield, and sort of developed it from there. It doesn’t really feel like career as such, more of a thing that we like to do in our spare time! None of us rely on it as an income so it gives us a bit of freedom to do interesting stuff without worrying about profit margins and things like that. We certainly didn’t set out with any notions of being able to run big warehouse parties in different cities and flying artists in from all over the world but somehow it’s turned out like that.
Any you DJ too? What kind of music styles
Yes, it took me a long time to learn the basics (shouts to everyone who came to early Banana Hill parties and endured the countless clangers) but it has become a big passion of mine. I really enjoy being able to develop different styles so it’s constantly changing but is broadly pinned down by a love of classic & contemporary African & Latin American music of varying styles, combined with soul, hip hop, disco, house & electronic music.
chrisknight
 
When and how did you start getting into music as something that you do in the public eye?
I was in a band for a few years from when I was around 16, so I guess it started around then that I began to ‘perform’ in front of other people and music became a big part of my life.
 
What can you tell us about Banana Hill? 
So Banana Hill was originally a music blog set up by Jack (JVC), named after a small grass verge near his house in South Manchester. We met in the first week of university in Sheffield, instantly found common ground with a lot of music and ended up doing a weekly show together on the student radio station – initially a pretty odd combination of both our tastes, ranging from hip hop, grime and bass music to post punk, garage rock and disco. The nights followed this pattern, so were at that time a little bit haphazard in terms of direction – which was totally fine, but it was during our 2nd year that we discovered what it was that we both felt massively passionate about and that kind of set out where Banana Hill has gone since then.
We were helping with a fundraiser club night for a hospital in the DRC, and set about finding Congolese music to play on the night – which is amazing it it’s own right – and this opened up doors to a load of music we’d never heard before. The stuff that caught our ears initially was the high tempo kuduro coming from Angola  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWr-sJDXbDghttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpzzWukSNYw), afro-house and the crossover styles of producers such as Batida.
We started learning all we could & pushing those sounds, along with a whole load of other African music styles on the blog, in our DJ sets and at our parties, and that’s kind of carried on until now.  Alongside this we got heavily into the warehouse party scene in Sheffield that I feel is more prevalent than a lot of cities due to a huge number of disused industrial spaces – we wanted to combine those settings and the house & techno that you’d tend to find there with more wide-ranging sounds from around the globe.
bananahill
 
Who’s been integral to your progression in the events and music scene?
As with a lot of art & music scenes, the community that you become part of is so important. Sheffield is such a good place for that, and venues such as The Harley and the people working for them were really helpful and are still ace to work with. There’s a network of promoters, DJs and artists there that all help each other out – sharing advice is essential for events in particular, dealing with booking agents, what to do when stuff goes wrong etc. In Manchester working with Soup Kitchen has been amazing, and we’ve started to find a great set of people to work with over here.
 
Who’s been you favourite act that you’ve booked?
This is tricky…I don’t want to single anyone out as we have been lucky enough to meet so many artists who have become good friends. If I can dodge the question like a highly skilled politician, I can say the most interesting act (both in terms of music and looking after them) has to be Nozinja (Shangaan Electro) and his dancers. ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHgBZ-60i7k)
 
Any one out there you’d like to virtually salute on their efforts in the scene?
Sorry if this a bit of a long list…
In Sheffield – The Harley, Hope Works, Bungalows & Bears, promoters & people like Lunar, Thrillhouse, NLR, Pretty Pretty Good, No Uniform, Bunga Bunga, Tramlines, Semi Detached, Huddle, TTC, SoulJam, Don’t Look Now, Funk Drunk etc.
In Manchester – Soup Kitchen & Dan Hampson, Hidden, promoters & people like So Flute, Heads Up, Hi Ku, Inside Out, John Loveless, Meat Free, Reform Radio, Zutekh, Contours & Werkha etc, and of course M20 Collective.
On a wider scale the crews who are doing amazing stuff include Mawimbi in Paris, No Globe in Glasgow, Samedia Shebeen in Edinburgh, Fiesta Bombarda, Kitchen Street, Africa Oye, No Fakin & Abandon Silence in Liverpool, Brotherhood Sound, Butter Side Up & KMAH Radio in Leeds, Highlife, Huntleys & Palmers, Wormfood, Turf, Tessellate, Lunatick Records and loads more in London. Sorry for everyone I’ve inevitably missed.
 
How do you think the visual arts and music scene can come together?
I think it is and will continue to do so – the two complement eachother so well. There are some artists such as Lone who insist on touring with a visual artist which I really like. We work with an artist called Bethany Porteous who does our poster art and decor on some of the bigger shows, and we’re currently looking at doing more projects to bring both elements together.
bethany.jpg
Above: Artwork by Bethany Porteous
What would you do next if you could do anything, either in the local community or for yourself?
Closer to home, I think something that everyone has noticed over the past year is the amount of homeless people on the streets in the UK – this stems from a whole host of cutbacks across social care and public services that are massively starting to bite. So I guess it would be to make everyone think about other people a bit more – particularly that waxy-faced bastard who calls the shots these days.
 
Anything exciting coming up?
We’ll be working with Thristian from the Boiler Room a lot more closely this year, and I have my first release coming in June. And plenty of shows in Manchester, Sheffield and London 🙂
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