r.i.p. Robert Sandall, remembering Mixing It’s visit to Leeds

August 2, 2010 at 8:14 pm | Posted in musings, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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I was sad to find out today that Robert Sandall has died.  Here are the first two paragraphs of his obituary in The Guardian:

Robert Sandall, who has died of prostate cancer aged 58, was a music journalist whose writing was elegant, wry, insightful and full of enthusiasm. In 1987 he became the rock music critic for the Sunday Times, and he was also a features writer for the then groundbreaking music magazine Q. As a radio broadcaster, he was a natural talent in a medium that he loved.

From 1990 to 2007, Robert and I presented Radio 3’s Mixing It. Devised by the producer Tony Cheevers, the show was a strange brew of eclectic music (classical, jazz, folk, experimental, rock), interviews, sessions, chat and frequent arguments. He didn’t share my penchant for free jazz: “Where’s the skill in that?” he would tease, which became something of a catchphrase. Robert championed the “mavericks” as he called them: Captain Beefheart, Brian Eno, the Fall, David Sylvian and the Bad Plus. He used the show’s extensive playlists and sense of exploration to inform his writing.

The complete piece, written by his co-presenter Mark Russell, can be read here.  I used to really like Mixing It: like the John Peel Show but for grown-ups, it was often described as a radio version of The Wire magazine.  No wait, come back, that was a good thing – imagine being able to hear all that fascinating-sounding music without having to wade through all those brain-numbing reviews…

I met the Mixing It crew a couple of times.  Once, very briefly, just to give them some fencing flatworm cdrs at a godawful big-band-improv thing they were hosting.  Then I was interviewed by them when they returned in 2004 to do a special episode on the alternative music scene in Leeds.  They all came up from that London to do some interviews and attend a Termite Club event (Double Leopards and Vibracathedral I think).  I was far too drunk on the night to talk sensibly so I rashly promised to meet them at their hotel far too early the following day.  Robert and Mark were very friendly, enthused and well-informed and kindly edited my hungover meandering into coherent responses.  They also played some ffr stuff on national radio which was unbelievably exciting.

The other day I found a cdr of the programme so, as a little tribute, here’s an mp3 of it.  It is a chunky download, 73min of audio, but worth it.  As well as yours truly, they also speak to Chris Adams of Hood, Julian Bradley and Neil Campbell of Vibracathedral Orchestra, Paul Hession, improv percussionist and national treasure, Steve Becker and Mike Dando, then stalwarts of the legendary Termite Club and Matt Robson, then of randomNumber and Sierpinski.  It’s a great show and documents an important time for me.  Link below:

Mixing It Leeds Special, broadcast on BBC Radio 3, 5th March 2004

Thank you Robert.

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