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interview

Charlie Rickard

Independent Venue Week

One of the directors of CAN YOU CIC IT who run Independent Venue Week in the UK. Previously I’ve worked at a touring production company, music distribution & PR. I’ve done stints of freelance crew work too.

Photo credit: Nicholas Taghavi

Interviewee's note: In the spirit of this interview, spend some time really listening and getting into albums that take you somewhere else to escape. There is no better remedy.

Charlie Rickard

Where are you based?

I live in Colliers Wood, South London and work in Soho, Central London. Londoner born and bred. Quite a rarity these days.

Where do you work? What do you do?

I am one of the Directors at CAN YOU CIC IT, the Community Interest Company that runs Independent Venue Week  Primarily I look after production & logistics and liaise with venues. I also put together our live record. We’re a small team so we all help each other out at various times. The run up to the week and the week itself is intense but I’m so lucky to work with a wonderful team. We have a lot of fun along the way. I’ve met some incredible people through this job. I think that’s the beauty of the independent music sector, real creativity and passion is at the heart of it. Of course budgets can be tight but that also goes for the major sector too. We had exciting plans to do much more activity throughout the year but sadly with the pandemic, this was put on hold. With some time to not only come up for air and the live industry coming to a complete standstill overnight, we’re working on some things behind the scenes that we’re really excited about.

At the moment, we’ve just been putting our 2020 live record together that’s due for release in December. We’ve got an outstanding selection of artists, Anna Calvi, Sleaford Mods, She Drew The Gun to name but a few. It will be available directly from our shop and all good independent record stores. 

Independent Venue Week 2021 will be happening one way or another. Like the rest of the industry, we’re in a state of flux at present but we have every intention of going ahead, we’ve just got to see how things pan out over the following months. It is imperative that the work that venues and crew do is recognised more than ever at the moment. It’s frustrating but a positive is there seems to be a real willingness from all different areas of the industry. Amongst the chaos and uncertainty, it’s amazing to have some conversations with people I admire and have great respect for and get their input. It’s rare to catch many of them with some downtime.

Personally, I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I don’t want things to go back to the “old way”. If any good comes from this, once gigs & events can resume I hope some lessons are learnt and better practices are put in place.

What are you listening to?

Recently I’ve been on a bit of a Buzzcocks & The Clash binge. Billy Nomates album is on heavy rotation along with The Genius After Hours  – Ray Charles, Electric Mud – Muddy Waters & Paradise & Lunch – Ry Cooder. With the Winter weather, I always have a tradition of listening to a lot of John Martyn, Nick Drake, Fairport Convention, Pentange, Sandy Denny. I love that period of 70’s English Folk. Mainstays on my headphones are Stevie Wonder, James Taylor, D’Angelo, Nina Simone, Paul Simon, Earth Wind & Fire. I could be here all day reeling off artists.

I’m also really enjoying Off Menu , We Are The Road Crew & Questlove Supreme podcasts. Someone who is very much part of the IVW extended family, Stewart Baxter has launched a podcast called Keep Talking which is focusing on mental health amongst other topics. Like many others, I’m glad that the topic of mental health is very much a talking point and an important discussion within the music industry. Stewart is someone that I admire immensely and apart from being a fantastic drummer, he’s mentored many people within the city of Hull and beyond.

Another podcast/mix I’ve really enjoyed features a friend who I’ve known personally for years and grew up with, Bear Winder who is a London based DJ. She has been sober for just over a year now. Her story is so inspiring and I have nothing but love and respect for her journey to where she is now. The mix is a killer and I’m delighted that she’ll be joining me on my radio show in December. You can listen to the podcast here

How do you discover new music?

In all manner of ways. 6Music is constantly on in the office. I also listen to the radio when I’m at home. There are some great curated playlists on Spotify. Most of my circle of friends are all music lovers or musicians so we’re always sharing albums and artists between us. I love going record shopping whenever and wherever I can.

Going to gigs and making sure I catch the support is really important and that’s how I discovered Billy Nomates at the beginning of this year at 100 Club. She really blew me away. Lastly, I’m a discreet Shazamer!

What formats do you usually listen to? LP, CD, Cassette, Digital, Streaming Services? Why?

All formats apart from cassette only because I don’t have a deck. Primarily vinyl, digital & CD’s but I’m not snobby about formats at all, the music always comes first for me. It may come across as pretentious but I’m a stickler for good sound, that’s the bottom line. Streaming services are fantastic for discovery and convenience but the model for paying artists and labels is appalling. It’s simply not sustainable. I’m a big fan of Bandcamp and have just started using Tidal after being a Spotify user from very early on. Purely for audio quality.

“Streaming services are fantastic for discovery and convenience but the model for paying artists and labels is appalling. It’s simply not sustainable.”

Where do you do most of your music listening?

Everywhere but my favourite place is at home. I have a wonderful setup that I’ve put together over a number of years. Technics 1200’s & CDJ’s going through a vintage Bozak mixer with a Quad 303 power amp & Tannoy Little Red monitors. It sounds incredible.

Nothing can beat a well tuned PA in a venue or a sound system at Notting Hill Carnival. These are two things I’ve really missed this year. I must also give a shoutout to my dear friend Marco Perry who has an amazing company called Immersive Audio that specialize in 3D sound. Marco is master of his craft and I always leave his studio inspired and blown away by his own work and collaborations. Excuse the pun, but he really opened my ears to what is capable within the audio realm.

How do you find and listen to pre-release music?

I keep an eye on certain labels/artists such as Soundway, Analog Africa, Heavenly, Bella Union, Rough Trade, Leaf LabelCouncil Records, Thrill Jockey, Slump RecordingsMy Only Desire Records, Space Ghetto, Funkiwala & Gearbox Recordings. I was much more in the loop when I was working in distribution but you still can’t beat a good recommendation from a friend.

What are your frustrations with listening to music digitally? Any benefits?

Being able to listen anywhere to anything on the go is great and I like the immediacy of it but If I’m really into something I’ll buy the record. It’s unbelievable to have so much at your fingertips but it can be hard to keep up with it all. On the whole, I wouldn’t say there are many frustrations with it. I still love a physical product, that will never change but with storage not being a problem anymore, having access to lossless audio is amazing.

How do you keep track of everything you are listening to?

I love a good playlist. Most of mine are put together by a theme, genre or country. I’ve got a huge starred playlist which is basically a genreless dumping ground for anything I come across. It can make shuffle interesting sometimes! I tried the whole alphabetically organized record system but that quickly went out the window. I much prefer to pull out something at random and take it from there.

Discover the #HowWeListen Playlist

Listen to the #HowWeListen 2021 Picks playlist. Curated by this year’s interviewees.

Listen on Spotify

Do you tip other people off to new music? How?

I’m a music obsessive and not afraid to admit it so it’s often a hot topic of conversation. I’m constantly sending friends links to music. Again, I love making playlists for friends and long journeys.

Anything you want to “promote”?

The whole team at Independent Venue Week and the extended family around it (you know who you are). More importantly, all of the venue owners and operators who we work with. At the end of the day it’s about them, not us. It’s an incredibly difficult time for everyone in the music industry at the moment and it’s heartbreaking to see what’s happening. I’d really like to highlight the #WeMakeEvents campaign. Gigs, no matter the size, can only happen with crew and in some respects, they’ve become a victim of their own invisibility. We are renowned for having some of the best crew in the world and have a whole supply chain that is in imminent danger of collapsing completely if the government doesn’t step in and recognise their importance. On a more positive note, I’ve been keeping the Independent Venue Week Show which I’ve now taken over and renamed Acid Chaz on Totally Wired Radio I’ve been giving the second hour to friends to give them a platform to put a mix together or play their selections in these bleak times. I never dreamt in a million years that I’d end up doing radio but I really enjoy it. I never take these things for granted.

"I tried the whole alphabetically organised record system but that quickly went out the window. I much prefer to pull out something at random and take it from there."

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