Cultural Scenes by Sophia Macpherson

Finding Soul with Touching Bass

@touching_bass

"I wanted to create a space where we would have the freedom to listen and dance to soulful music of all kinds with people who were down to experience music in that way. Still feels just as good now as it did during those first few gatherings."

The music and nightlife scene is a hard industry to distinguish your own voice in. It can almost be likened to that moment when you lose your mates in a crowd; struggling to be heard above the overwhelming noise, hoping your tune will be picked up by those special few. The tune that Touching Bass sings, rings well and has gathered a solid group of music-lovers, so strongly held together that they’re better known as a community.

Fronted by Errol and Alex, Touching Bass started from a love for finding soul, and by that they mean ‘whatever you vibe to’. This leaves much room for creativity, which is exactly what a set by these two is: wild, unexpected and just plain fun. Although the duo started out by doing events, of which guests would be told by text, Touching Bass is much more than that. It’s a movement towards indulging in what makes you happy, in a safe, open-minded space with like-minded people. A simple formula sure to do well in a world of uncertainties. It’s also a curatorial platform, concert series, record label and bi-weekly NTS Radio residency… just to keep the list short.

To find out more behind this feel-good community, we sat down with Errol to talk about his inspiration, his source of creativity and his thoughts on London’s ever changing nature…

Photos by: Bonnie Ophelia
Photos by: Bonnie Ophelia

Hey Errol, how are you? Where in the world are you right now?

What’s good? I’m bless, currently out in Tokyo on a three-month tour across Australia, New Zealand and Japan, so it’s been pretty mad. Me and Alex have been so grateful to have the opportunity to travel across the globe more often to share music. The more I do it, the more I realise how addictive travelling can be too.

Photo by: Bonnie Ophelia

That sounds so fun and sounds like you’ve had a mad journey to get here today. How did this all start? And were you always involved in events?

Touching Bass actually started as a mix/interview series of the same name for Noisey/VICE, where I was working at the time as a journalist. I would do it every week just for fun but it paused when I left the job. It came to life again when a bredrin asked me about it and encouraged me to get it up and running again. I saw that as a sign to get the ball rolling and really flesh it out into something bigger. So, Touching Bass (in its current form) was born in December 2014.

I initially got into doing events when I was 21. Me and Tiffany Calver hosted Sango, Iman Omari, Little Simz and Ego Ella May in Dalston and I remember the feeling I got from doing it. From then on, I had the bug.

I spent a lot of my mid-20s hosting and putting on shows at Boiler Room. That’s actually how I met Alex - on the dancefloor of a Boiler Room I hosted with London broken beat legends, Co-Op.

What did you feel you wanted to bring to London’s music scene?

Well, it started as an alternative to all of the club nights I was experiencing in the city at the time. I wanted to create a space where we would have the freedom to listen and dance to soulful music of all kinds with people who were down to experience music in that way. Still feels just as good now as it did during those first few gatherings.

What made you decide to share it via text only? Were you not worried about how many people would turn up?

Of course. It was like that feeling you get when you do a house party for the first time and think no one is going to show up. But then you realise you’re just tripping and eventually you put all of that to the side. Most of the people that came to those first few parties are some of my best friends now.

When you start out in the nightlife/events industry, there is always that worry of ‘how will I sustain?’ But the whole reason we started the night was to prioritise the feel-good and allow people to drown out the unnecessary noise and anxiety, even just for a while. We needed to do things our way, and this meant growing a community whose minds were aligned. The best way to do this was to build it organically and with longevity in mind. It has really allowed us to build a strong foundation, along with mutual trust with our community members. It’s really working for us at the moment and has helped us establish ourselves as novel.

Soul singers/collectives/groups in London’s music scene that you are particularly excited about?

Too too many. The NTS Show is a good barometer.

As someone well-versed in London’s music scene, what are your favourite areas?

There are a few musical areas I love, but South London has been my favourite for a while; loads of experimentation, collaboration and excitement in the ends. It’s why I moved down here. It’s a vibrant community of a variety of music that acts as fertile ground for multiculturalism and all sorts of music, from post-punk to garage. It really amazes me everyday. Beyond London, I also need to give a shout out to our growing intercontinental network of talented friends expanding what soul music can mean: Mandarin Dreams in Melbourne, Dolfin Records in Texas, Mutual Intentions in Norway, homies in LA, New York, Detroit, Japan and beyond.

How have you seen South London evolve over the years?

Well, this is always a tricky topic, as there is always good and bad in everything. In neighbourhoods like Brixton, it was strange to see it change from a no-go to a place where everyone was and things were popping up everywhere. Brixton still has a strong personality, but it has become diluted and there is this overcast feeling of gentrification, which is sad and unfortunate, especially for long-time locals. The attention has also been good in spotlighting local businesses, cultures and artists, but I think it’s important we prioritise them and their needs, as this is their home.

I agree. It’s a tricky topic to navigate, but locals definitely need to be prioritised, and at least be included in major conversations. In relation to Touching Bass, does that have a physical home?

Apart from the dance/events, we’ve been trying to manifest the idea of a Touching Bass HQ since we started. Last year, it became a reality thanks to two inspirational bruddas: drummer/musical director, Kwake Bass (Kate Tempest, MF Doom, Sampha), and producer/badman/TB resident, Wu-Lu, who have tirelessly built up a complex now christened as ‘The Room Studios’. It’s a common space for our community in Hither Green, near Lewisham and they kindly gave us a spot to call our office. We didn’t wanna rush it because we were allowing it to grow at its own pace alongside our other new ventures, like our record label and developing our radio show. The space would only act as a touch point for all our different community members to come together and collaborate or just work individually. All these different avenues have been crucial in building our brand and reach around the world - especially radio.

What are your hopes for Touching Bass and how do you think music can heal us in this uneasy time?

I think that using this time to dive deeper into ourselves is going to be important; not just with music but in all other productive aspects — whether that be learning a new skill, finding out more about ourselves or our loved ones or just slowing things down.

I used to make music when I was younger but stopped in my early 20s because I had a really low self-esteem. I’ve decided to set myself a challenge to make a new beat/musical idea every day just to rekindle that feeling you get from making something yourself. Album pending.

As for Touching Bass, I just want us to further establish ourselves as a platform for the people and things we’re really into. Building out the record label and merchandise are top priority in my mind alongside some other exciting ideas that are in the works.

One of them is restarting our non-alcoholic interview/concert series, ‘Speaking In Sound’, with the help of some incredible partners. Stay tuned for more on that soon.

Header image by: Adama Jalloh

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