For this month’s Carhartt WIP Radio show, our host is Tabitha Thorlu-Bangura – often shortened to TTB. A member of the NTS family since its earliest days, Tabitha has been one of the key people pulling the strings behind the renowned radio station. In addition, she hosts her monthly TTB show, which melds soul, jazz, and funk with hip hop, ambient, techno, and a myriad of other sounds and genres.
Tabitha’s eclectic taste and curatorial disposition isn’t limited to music. Just recently, she has acted as curator-in-residence at Somerset House, where her final project Time Eating will be a culinary and sonic experience that explores themes of birth, death, and marriage in the Deadhouse – the eerie tunnel underneath the iconic central London building. The event will feature a menu by Hannah Hammond, chef at the Michelin starred River Café, and live performances from Aylu, Flora Yin-Wong, and Oliver Coates. Furthermore, Tabitha also recently created a soundscape piece for Swedish artist Toxe’s 600 seconds series and, when we speak, is gearing up to play at Peckham’s Chrome together with Felix Hall and Mobbs.
For Carhartt WIP Radio TTB – who is featured in our Spring/Summer 2020 campaign – has prepared a short mix that pairs old friends with talented strangers, from Beatrice Dillon and Lee Gamble to Kinlaw, Argentina's Aylu and Glaswegian duo LAPS. As ever, we also sat down with this month’s host, posing a series of questions, both quickfire and searching. Enjoy.
You’ve worked at NTS Radio since its early days. How did that come about?
TTB: I've been working at NTS for six and a half years, which is pretty crazy. I used to host a breakfast show on my student radio, and one day one of my regular listeners wrote in to say that his friend Femi was starting a radio station, and that I should join. I've been a fan ever since. I had done some light bits of music journalism, some booking agency work, a little DJing, door work, but NTS was the first place I really settled in. It was actually an article I wrote about how much I love NTS that got me the job.
The reach and impact of web radio stations has increasingly grown in the past years. Do you see it as a positive movement, or do you feel there’s an element of oversaturation?
TTB: Positive. I'm not sure about oversaturation, because even the smallest stations give an opportunity for new DJs, selectors and musicians to be heard, and for communities to come together.
Since 2013 you’ve hosted your own NTS show, TTB. How do you select the content and do you prepare your show or is it done with an impulsive drive that mirrors the music that moves you at that moment?
TTB: Whenever I answer this question I end up sounding really pretentious, but essentially it's me trying to sequence tracks that have come into my life, which are often from disparate time periods, genres, countries etc. In a way that reveals the mood or color or tone that joins them all together. I'm never satisfied with it though – I put a lot of heart into it and then leave the studio feeling like the show has been a failure. I'm a perfectionist to the point of actually being a bit psychotic about it, the people around me really have to suffer when I'm working on something. But eventually I get over myself, remind myself it's not that deep.
What was the last great live show you saw and what made it special?
TTB: I really enjoyed seeing Still House Plants at Hyperlocal festival in Buenos Aires last December. They're brilliant live. Jess from the band describes their music as 'tender and frantic', and I guess that's why I love them – I love anything that alchemizes strange juxtapositions.
Still House Plants @ La Comezón del Séptimo Año
What process do you follow for discovering new artists?
TTB: Anything and everything – friends, DJ sets, radio shows. I love Bandcamp, but I'm not a fan of Spotify for a variety of reasons. That horrible black and green colour scheme is one of them.
What is your first musical memory?
TTB: I seem to remember Think Twice by Céline Dion coming out, but I was only four so maybe I have a strong association with that track for some other reason. I spent a week recently just listening to that on repeat, I love it. I definitely remember seeing the video for Firestarter by The Prodigy when it first came out. I think it scared me quite a lot, but I was also a little excited by it.
Who are you listening to these days?
TTB: I love XXIII's "Megatron" compilation. I'm also a bit obsessed with this Mr. Vegas's Ed Sheeran cover that I found. I thought it was really funny to play it in a DJ set recently, but no-one really got the reference. I guess that's a good thing.
And a track/EP/album that's been unfairly slept on the past month?
TTB: It's not an EP or track or an album, and it's not from the last month. But Philip FM's emo cowboy special speaks to my soul.
I feel like these days we don't spend long enough with music. We try to consume too much too quickly, don't sit with things for long enough, get to know records properly. Generally though, I wish we could all slow down a little.
What's your perspective on the relationship between music and technology?
TTB: Obviously it's a very broad question, but I think new technologies have resulted in new modes of music consumption, and not always in a good way. I feel like these days we don't spend long enough with music. We try to consume too much too quickly, don't sit with things for long enough, get to know records properly. Skip through tracks instead of letting them build. And there's a knock-on effect with artists, who feel pressured to be constantly releasing. There are so many projects I hear and wonder if they're truly finished or properly considered. But obviously it's complicated, there are a myriad of pressures, especially financial ones. Generally though, I wish we could all slow down a little.
What’s something you’ve learned through music that has helped you in life and vice versa?
TTB: My favourite tracks make great use of space and silence. But I'm always overdoing things, and I should shut the f*** up sometimes – so I guess I'm not learning much.
What does the sound of tomorrow sound like?
TTB: Tomorrow sounds like yesterday, I think we can all agree. No, I'm being facetious. Obviously there are lots of artists making super original music, Beatrice Dillon is one of them. She's a good friend, but like everyone else I'm in awe of her work.
Beatrice Dillon - Workaround Two
What are your hobbies besides music?
TTB: Very boring answer: reading and going to the cinema. But I do read a lot. I wish I’d read more non-fiction, but my bookshelf is mostly novels. I actually ran out of shelf space recently and have had to resort to piling books in little towers on my bedroom floor. It's becoming hazardous.
Tell us about one memorable line in a film or song?
TTB: Can I be really pretentious again and choose a line from an epic poem instead? It's been rattling around my head recently. 'Which way shall I fly / Infinite wrath and infinite despair? / Which way I fly is hell; myself am hell.’ Satan, from John Milton's Paradise Lost. It's a line that stuck with me when I studied it at university, not sure why it's come into my head all these years later.
Who is your favorite writer currently and what makes them special?
TTB: I don't have a favourite writer, but I really liked Comemadre by Roque Larraquy. Very dark, absurd and deeply poetic.
In terms of visual art, what has inspired you recently?
TTB: I enjoyed the Frank Bowling exhibition at Tate Britain recently. Also my friend Naima recently published an amazing art book called Still Life Big Data. It's an incredible compendium, ten years of collecting the names of racing horses juxtaposed with photography and fabric. It works like an extended found poem; the pages can be read in succession or consulted at random for inspiration or direction. It's beautiful but also oracular. Like lots of amazing works of art it finds mystery in the mundane – highly recommended.
We need someone to time travel and fix it all... but in the meantime, I guess we just have to focus on grassroots activism and just hope that we can elect better governments.
How do you feel the lack of ethics, philosophy, and humanism in modern politics?
TTB: I don't know. I feel like the whole planet took a wrong turn in the path, that there's some other timeline we should all be on, where Trump never got elected and the whole Brexit debacle never happened. We need someone to time travel and fix it all … but in the meantime, I guess we just have to focus on grassroots activism and just hope that we can elect better governments.
What does social and cultural diversity mean to you and how important is it to who you are and what you do?
TTB: Diversity is crucial. Only hearing from one type of person or from one perspective is fucking boring. But it's disappointing to see diversity being addressed in really superficial ways recently. I hope that things will become more nuanced with time. I also hope that people will think more deeply about class, which feels like the elephant in the room a lot of the time. It almost seems easier for people to address gender or race than class, particularly in the UK. As someone who's experienced class mobility it's something I think about a lot. I was raised on a council estate but was private school educated, so there's always a level of double consciousness that I deal with. Especially working in a music industry that is predominantly middle class but likes to pretend otherwise.
Can you tell us some things that you haven’t done yet but always wanted to?
TTB: Again a pretty boring answer but I've always wanted to go to Tokyo. But I've travelled quite a lot internationally and Greta is rightfully making me feel guilty about my air travel … maybe I could take a couple of months off and train it the whole way there.
What has been the best thing for you about 2020 so far?
TTB: Psychedelics. Just kidding … I'm happy Yves Tumor is putting out new music this year.
When do you feel most at peace?
TTB: Hanging out with my nieces and nephews, or the morning after a night of dancing. But really small children are the best and most interesting people.
If you didn’t do what you do for a living, what would you do?
TTB: I was asked this before and I said I'd be an English teacher. I think these days teachers in the UK get a really rough deal, but that's still probably what I'd do. As a child I wanted to be a magician, that might be less pressure.
How does living in London shape your work?
TTB: This is a really hard question to answer. I actually hate it here! As soon as I leave the city, my stress levels drop by about 50%, but I can't live anywhere else. My favourite places in the city are places that don't feel like London at all – weird little oases that almost feel like the countryside. My friends in London inspire me, they're what really shapes my work. I'm lucky to have lots of friends who think in interesting ways, and create amazing things.
TTB on NTS
TTB upcoming events:
06/03/2020 - Chrome - Tola Peckham - London - GB
18/03/2020 - Time Eating - Somerset House - London - GB