Musical Chats with Carl Anka

I will be uploading interviews in a series called “Musical Chats”, so stay tuned for more interviews with great artists! Uploads Thursdays at 12pm.


Carl Anka is a London-born journalist and broadcaster, and is currently writing for The Athletic. He has written for BBC, the Guardian, VICE, NME, GQ and BuzzFeed among other publications online and in print and specialises in writing about pop culture, video games, films and football. We chatted about his listening habits, what inspires him and being a black man in journalism in the UK. Enjoy!

RS: What does a week of music listening look like for you? What role does music play in your life?

CA:  I’d say I listen to 2-3 hours of music every single day, minimum! I’m born and bred in London, and in that London-type world you wouldn’t be caught dead without a pair of headphones! On the commute – Spotify playlist, headphones in. Walking around town – headphones in. I normally go back and forth through 6 or 7 playlists, and listen to my Discover Weekly every single Monday. I now make a secondary playlist which I name after the year where I take the songs I like from my Discover Weekly and just feed that into the playlist – that’s a good tip for adapting the algorithm to your needs, because it means Spotify will keep making you better playlists for your Discover Weekly!

As far as gigs go, when I was in London I’d go to a gig probably once every 3 months – that is the thing I miss living in Southampton now. It took me a really long time to appreciate that in London every major musician came to see me, whereas now I have to travel to see them more. Though my last gig before lockdown was Craig David in Southampton – that was great!

RS: London is definitely the place to go for that variety, but Southampton does have some pretty good live venues! Do you use music for writing inspiration, or mainly for enjoyment?

I’ve reviewed music for FACT Magazine and NME, so I actually write about music a bit. I do write to music; I have a writing playlist, an editing playlist, a sports playlist. I would say, the one time people would expect me to listen to music and I don’t is in the gym! Though I do have a gym playlist, which I listen to on the way into and out of the gym…!

RS: Oh, of course! At the moment you’re working as a writer for The Athletic. What about cultural journalism inspires you, and why did you choose to do that as a career?

I truly did kind of fall into it! I went to university to be a screenwriter, and then partway through 3rd year I got in contact with someone who made nature documentaries for the BBC, and when I sent him my CV. Then, he phones me up on a Wednesday night and says: “Why have you sent me your CV? This is the CV of a journalist, not a filmmaker. Go be a journalist!” And I pretty much just went from there.

At the time I didn’t know I was chasing to be a ‘culture writer’. In my case, if I find something interesting, I will try and write about it. Sometimes I write about football, sometimes I write about dance, and sometimes film or computer games. I don’t have a guiding ‘I want to be… this’; it’s always been what interests me. It does mean I’ve written for quite an interesting batch of places!

RS: On a similar note, you’ve written a real variety of articles. There’s some on music listening styles, mental health and the representation of black youth in the media. Do you feel some responsibility as a writer to tackle some of those more difficult topics, or is it a case of it just being a topic of interest for you?

CA: It’s six of one, half a dozen of the other. I am black man who is a full-time journalist in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, that makes me rare. You can imagine how busy I was when Black Panther came out, for example! There was 2 or 3 times where I said: “Are you just ringing me up because I’m the only black person you know, and you need someone to write about Black Panther?!” And one of them actually said yes!

The thing is, I want to write about Black Panther – I grew up loving Marvel, and I’ve been reading Black Panther comic books since I was 15. So yeah, I will happily write about Black Panther and get paid to do it. But there was also a sense of people wanting me to write lofty, high-brow ideas about it, and sometimes I don’t want to. Sometimes an incident around race will happen, and I’ll know that clearly I need to write about it because it’s in my wheelhouse. If an example of racism happens in rugby, I can probably write about it – I’m a black man, and I played rugby for 10 years. I have knowledge in that area. But on the other hand, there have been times I have passed on work because people have got in contact asking me to talk about grime music, or explain racism. I’m not the best person to write about that, I’m just clearly the only black person you know. Then it falls on me to help that person find the best person to talk to.

RS: Do you have a favourite thing to write about? Is it these challenging topics, sport, or music?

CA: It comes and goes in cycles. When I was a freelancer, I’d spend the first half of the year writing about movies, then I’d write about videogames and then it’d be movies again, a little bit about news and culture.

Now 85% of my time is writing about football, which is interesting. It’s a fun challenge! You have to teach yourself ways to keep it interesting and fresh, and try not to become formulaic. Before, if I got bored of writing about a particular topic, I’d go off and write something different. Now, I have to find all the different ways I can talk about football – it could be the statistics, sport psychology, sports and humanity. And you have to learn how to hold the attention of the fan-base! It is fun having multiple strings to your bow, but it’s been really fun just running around with one hammer for a bit.

RS: And to close up, what is your dream day off?

CA: Tomorrow is my day off actually, and I am going to sleep! I’m going to sleep, do a puzzle, drink red wine and do Duolingo Spanish on my balcony. That’s a day off in lockdown!

RS: Sounds like fun to me! Thank you so much for your time, Carl!  

FIND CARL HERE

Musical Chats with Olcay Bayır

During my time as Concert Promotions and Marketing intern at Turner Sims (if you’re in the Southampton area, make sure to check out their concert series!) I got to interview a lot of great artists. You can check out my interviews and reviews on the Turner Sims blog, as well as here on The Rosie Word. 

I will be uploading interviews in a series called “Musical Chats”, so stay tuned for more interviews with great artists! 


I got the chance to interview Anatolian singer Olcay Bayır earlier this year, before her appearance at Turner Sims was unfortunately cancelled due to Coronavirus. Olcay’s fantastic album ‘Rüya: Dream for Anatolia’ was released last year – make sure to check it out here.

We chatted about the story of her album, traditional influences and how performances change from country to country. Enjoy!

RS: Your recent album Rüya (Dream) has many references to journeys in it. What story are you hoping to tell on this album?

OB: In Rüya (Dream) I am telling the stories of my personal experience from the last 4 years, my musical journeys, what I have learnt, feelings I’ve gone through. My original songs reflect this and I also re-interpret some traditional songs with the way I feel and see.

RS: Would you say that your nationality and homeland is a primary influence in your music? Is your writing often inspired by traditional songs?

OB: My main influence is where I grew up and the melodies I hear in my head from my childhood. But one thing I’d like to mention is I believe that culture – more than religion or nationality – provides identity. I’d rather talk about traditions and regions than specific religions and nations. You are you, whatever religion or country you’re from. My main influences are my culture and roots, but every music I hear, every emotion I feel too.

RS: Do you find that playing for audiences in Turkey is very different to playing for audiences in England and Western Europe?

OB: Very different. How people hear and appreciate music is quite different, and that’s normal. One song is loved by Turkish audiences, and they may sing along to a well-known song, but it may not find the same response from another audience. It’s something to keep in mind when delivering a performance. And of course I need to explain the background to songs to an English-speaking audience. 

RS: You have a fantastic group of musicians accompanying you for this concert. How did these collaborations come about?

OB: Many thanks! I met all these beautiful musicians through music making. Some of them I’ve been working with since my first album. Some of them joined more recently.

RS: Does this kind of collaborative process feature in your writing as well as your performances?

OB: I start my songs alone until the song feels complete to me. To build it from there and give it a final shape is always a collaborative process.

RS: And finally, what would your dream day off be?

OB: Being in a cottage in a valley where there is no sound apart from nature itself, away from technology.

RS: Thank you so much for your time, Olcay!


CHECK OLCAY OUT HERE:

Musical Chats with Mathias Eick

During my time as Concert Promotions and Marketing intern at Turner Sims (if you’re in the Southampton area, make sure to check out their concert series!) I got to interview a lot of great artists. You can check out my interviews and reviews on the Turner Sims blog, as well as here on The Rosie Word. 

I will be uploading interviews in a series called “Musical Chats”, so stay tuned for more interviews with great artists! 


I got the chance to interview Norwegian jazz trumpeter Mathias Eick ahead of his appearance at Turner Sims back in October. Mathias and his fantastic quintet performed music from his recent ECM release Ravensburg – make sure to check it out here.

We chatted about his signature sound, Norwegian Jazz and his writing process. Enjoy!

RS: How would you describe your sound to an audience member who has never heard you before?

ME: It’s an airy emotional sound with a lot of personality in it. The music is lyrical, energetic and speaks to you in a new way. That’s at least our goal!

RS: The Guardian says that Norwegian jazz is some of the world’s ‘most animated and productive’. That kind of links in with how you’ve described your own sound. Do you think Norwegian traditions have an influence on your music? Or are there other key influences on your musical life?

ME: To me, life itself has the biggest influence on my music. Becoming a father, growing into adulthood, experiencing many facets of life is the emotions I’m trying to communicate through my music. That said, on Midwest, our album from 2015, I dug into the folk music scene in Norway to find inspiration, and it worked. To this day, I still have a violin player in the band thanks to that.

RS: How did your most recent album, Ravensburg, come about?

ME: The music on Ravensburg is all about the close relationships in life, family, children and friends. It all started with a poem I was asked to write some music to, and it became the first song I composed for the album, For my Grandmothers. One of my grandmothers lived for many years in Ravensburg in south Germany, and I always got these large jigsaw puzzles when I was a kid. After that song, I started composing music out of an emotional perspective, bringing the theme of the album home in a way.

RS: When making an album, do you always have this kind of specific narrative in mind that you want to explore, or is it more of a collection of lots of different ideas?

ME: I really try having concepts for each album I make. It’s kind of easier to create in that way, when I have a direction emotionally. So I tend to use a lot of time figuring out narratives, I’m there right now actually!

RS: And finally, what is your dream day off?

ME: I guess a hotel close to Nürbürgring in Germany, so that I could go racing cars for a few hours. I’m going to make it happen!

RS: Hopefully sooner rather than later! Thanks for your time Mathias!

Musical Chats with Mark Lockheart

During my time as Concert Promotions and Marketing intern at Turner Sims (if you’re in the Southampton area, make sure to check out their concert series!) I got to interview a lot of great artists. You can check out my interviews and reviews on the Turner Sims blog, as well as here on The Rosie Word. 

I will be uploading interviews in a series called “Musical Chats with…”, so stay tuned for more interviews with great artists! 


I got the chance to interview jazz saxophonist and composer Mark Lockheart ahead of his appearance at Turner Sims back in October. Mark and his band performed a reduced version of his new major jazz/orchestral work titled Days On Earth for jazz sextet and 30-piece orchestra. Make sure to check it out here.

I chatted to Mark about his inspirations and influences, as well as his composition style!

RS: How would you describe Days on Earth for audience members who haven’t heard it before?

ML: Days On Earth is a suite of music combining jazz and classical techniques. This performance is a very different version of the music recorded on the CD which came out in Jan 2019. The 36 -piece line-up on the recording is reduced here to 8 instrumentalists and although keeping the essence of the recording is probably more fluid and open musically.

RS: It definitely comes across as very fluid – there are many eclectic influences brought together. What were some of your main influences and inspiration for this work in particular?

ML: I wanted to follow my instinct when writing this music and not worry what style or genre it was heading. As a result I think there’s lots of varied inspirations from all kinds of places from composers like Gil Evans, Stravinsky and Bacharach to the music I played in Polar Bear and Perfect Houseplants for so many years. Obviously it’s jazz but also there are many contemporary classical techniques in there along with folk and world influences too.

RS: The Times commented that it is the ‘strength of melodies that marks [Days on Earth] out from the mass of Brit Jazz.’ Do you tend to gravitate towards melody first when you are writing your music?

ML: I probably do gravitate towards melody quite strongly with this project but the grooves and rhythms that Seb and Tom provide are really important. I also spent along time experimenting with orchestration to get the most effective combinations of textures and moods with the instruments I had at my disposal , that was really fun and a big learning curve for me.

RS: You’re collaborating with a fantastic group of musicians for this project. How did these collaborations come about?

ML: All the musicians involved in this project are special collaborators on many projects not just mine over the years. Seb and Tom were my partners in Polar Bear and throughout the 13 years together we got used to each other’s playing and approaches. I worked also with Liam Noble a lot on my own music in the last 10 years and it feels like he has a great understanding for the way I approach things. The front line instruments too are either old or new friends and they all have their own very distinct voices which is important to me.

RS: And finally, what would your dream day off be?

ML: Probably to not have to think about either practising or composing for a day or two, maybe a trip and walk in the country somewhere nice with a curry at the end!

RS: Sounds perfect! Thank you very much for your time, Mark.

Musical Chats with David Owen Norris

During my time as Concert Promotions and Marketing intern at Turner Sims (if you’re in the Southampton area, make sure to check out their concert series!) I got to interview a lot of great artists. You can check out my interviews and reviews on the Turner Sims blog, as well as here on The Rosie Word. 

I will be uploading interviews in a series called “Musical Chats with…”, so stay tuned for more interviews with great artists! 

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David Owen Norris is a world-renowned pianist, educator, Professor and broadcaster. I had the pleasure of interviewing David before he delved into Mozart’s Jupiter symphony with orchestra SÓN at Turner Sims on Saturday 14 March 2020. This concert included Jupiter, and Debussy’s Clair de lune arranged for piano and orchestra.

Rosie Sewell (RS): How would you describe Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony to an audience member who has never heard it before?
David Owen Norris (DON): A sparkling diamond of a symphony that thoroughly deserves its nickname. Jupiter was King of the Gods, and nothing is more commandingly brilliant than this, Mozart’s last symphony. The themes perform that difficult trick of being both catchy and distinct, each with its own character, and rich in possibilities, as Mozart shows as he develops his ideas through each of the four movements. Unusually luxuriant harmonies, even for Mozart, and a dazzling tour de force of counterpoint in the Finale, where a whole world is conjured up from just the four notes we hear at the beginning. One of the great summits of music, up there with Beethoven’s Fifth and The Rite of Spring – and Clair de lune!

RS: Mozart and Debussy were alive and composing just over 100 years apart from each other, and were living in very different Europes to each other. Do you find that these composers’ works particularly complement each other? Or are they really quite distinct from each other?
DON: What Mozart and Debussy have in common is an exquisitely sensitive aural imagination – a fine ear, you could say. Putting just one note into a different octave, for instance, would completely change the effect. One of my favourite moments in Clair de lune is where the opening tune comes back at the end. It’s almost the same, but Debussy adds just one new note, a C flat, and the effect is heart-breaking. Or listen to how Mozart uses his single flute, like a painter touching in a dab of white to bring light into his picture.

RS: You are the Professor of Classical Performance at the University of Southampton, and are working on this project with SÓN, who place an emphasis on education and outreach. You also often make presentations alongside performances. Is music education and outreach a key point of interest for you when you undertake projects?
DON: Music is more than a warm aural bath for us to wallow in. Great music makes its emotional effects by intellectual means, and the better we understand its intellectual aspect, the more emotionally satisfying the music becomes. So, Bach can sound like a sewing-machine, or like a wonderful tapestry of interlocking threads of different colours. Beethoven can sound like an old, over-familiar, library book, or like one of art’s greatest revolutionaries. The difference lies in the intellectual comprehension of both performer and listener. Education and Outreach are tick-box words, but the activities that they imperfectly describe – Listening closely, Explaining simply, Knowing that everyone can enjoy music – are very important ones.

RS: On a similar theme, do you find that working alongside young musicians and students has influenced and impacted you as a performer?
DON: It’s good to see the effect that a by-now familiar piece of music has, upon someone who’s hearing it or playing it for the first time. And very satisfying to observe processes of discovery. Above all, it’s stimulating to hear the new interpretations of a generation with different formative experiences, different memories, and different emotional expectations. And a lesson on a piece, for both teacher and student, is a wonderful way of exploring it outside real time, as you try things in different ways.

RS: And finally, if you could host a dinner party and invite three composers, who would they be?
DON: Haydn, Poulenc and Constant Lambert. People who couldn’t be dull if they tried.

RS: Thank you very much for your time, David!