Something about Nerm keeps the flame under your foot. We first met at Magnetic Fields Festival last year and about 304 ludicrously inappropriate banters and binges since, i’ll have to admit that beneath his energiser bunny routine (i’m fairly certain he never sleeps) there’s a seriously discerning mind. The kind that’s created, connected and destroyed the dots before you’ve even had a chance to think about them but he’s wary enough to refrain from allowing journalists like me to make any insinuations about it.
It feels significant that he’s finally sharing some of his reality with us though, so i’ll stop here with why you want to give this playlist a shot. Aside from the more obvious reasons like the fact that he does this for a living (spotting and featuring musical talent as a broadcaster for BBC radio we mean) or the fact that he makes some seriously timeless tunes as part of Shiva Soundsystem, Nerm once told me that he’s learned almost everything he knows, from Prince. Right from how he views women to allowing his inner freak show to shine. This might be biased but as far as we’re concerned, anyone who cites one of the most progressive artists the world has ever known as such a major influence, is unlikely to disappoint with their musical choices. Besides, if you’re as old-soul in your musical choices as we are, this will probably be your favourite Homegrown playlist ever.
Here’s what he had to say about this playlist:
“I listen to a lot of new music all the time, so picking my recurring greats and attributing them to a routine was tricky. It turns out that most of those awesome keepers seem to crop up when I’m travelling. So there’s a bit of a golden thread running through these seemingly disparate tunes, one that involves, motion, transition and sometimes a bit of introspection. But don’t worry, as well as all that depressing shit, there’s the odd ray of sunshine. I’ve also tried to weave in that ‘music for a particular time of day’ stuff that Homegrown likes.”
Scroll on to navigate the musical map to his world.
I. Waking up
Prince - Starfish and Coffee
The school bell at the beginning will get your ass out of bed, quick-smart.
There’s a LOT of Prince in my life. A LOT. So I’ll try to keep to one track and that track has to be Starfish and Coffee. From the incredible Sign ‘O’ The Times album, this track confuses a lot of people because of it’s whimsical, almost psychedelic lyrics. To me it’s quite simple: it’s a story about an autistic girl who is picked on by her class mates but to their amazement, has an insight that they don’t, and the confidence to be proud and do her own thing. It’s awesome.
II. Making Breakfast
Atlantic Connection - Day Dreamer ft McClain Sullivan
Ok so like the sad, 30-something I am, I actually make breakfast listening to The Economist in audio or BBC News. But if I was a lot cooler, I’d make my breakfast to this. It has an amazing build of vocals on a lovely, rolling old-school sounding break and soulful double bass. Something about the song gets me every time. It reminds me of the sleepy metal fog lifting and the day breaking. I guess that makes reverse-sense since the track’s called “Day Dreamer”.
III. Mentally preparing for the day
Massive Attack and Mos Def - I Against I
When I got the Blade 2 soundtrack on vinyl back in the day, I was excited because it came on two discs of translucent blue vinyl. Then I heard this and lost my mind. The lyrics and stark production gear you up for anything that could come your way. I’m no self-help fan (what with being British, uptight and not comfortable talking about feelings and stuff) but this is some serious motivational shit.
IV. On a massive empty old highway up to the Smokey Mountains.
Dolly Parton - Jolene (33rpm version)
This hit the internets a few months ago and I was mesmerised. It’s a 7inch version of the song played at the wrong speed on the turntable so it’s slower and the vocals are a lot deeper than the version we all know. It sounds surprisingly rich, textured and sorrowful - somehow the ache becomes more apparent at this speed.
The track bubbled up to the surface again while I was on a month load road trip across the Southern States of America, getting immersed in Blues, Country, Bluegrass, Honky Tonk and Proto-Rock N Roll. Maybe it was just because of the setting but now, this track’s permanently on the road trip selection.
V. Through a forest
Rolling Stones - Gimme Shelter
The gospel rooted backing vocals of the Stones always kill me. Merry Clayton’s voice in this just cuts to the core. It still sounds epic, almost angelic, in the face of sheer destruction of the track’s subject. I love that flip to the darkness, just like rays of sunshine piercing through dark clouds, or the shadows of trees.
VI. On the way to a festival
Foreign Beggars and Noisia - Contact
Ok, full disclosure, Pavan/Orifice Vulgatron from Foreign Beggars is family and was part of Shiva Soundsystem when it first started. That being said, I’m even more critical and honest about the people I love. So you know I’m serious when I say that this track is fucking brilliant. It’s the only tune I played in it’s entirety on my last Electro East radio show (which had over a hundered tracks in it) because it has got it all. Stunning production, great lyrical flow and a video shot at Pavan’s house (in fact, that wake up sequence at the beginning wasn’t that far from daily reality at all). Totally badass but also completely hilarious.
VII. Thinking about and reading fucked up fiction
Pantera - Planet Caravan
You can argue about the merits of this version and how the original Black Sabbath version is superior, but for some unknown reason I keep coming back to this. It’s like a guilty pleasure - especially when you have a band as heavy as Pantera doing something as beautiful as this. Also when this came out I was obsessed with The Sandman by Neil Gaiman. The dream like quality of this song matched the landscape of his writing perfectly. It’s something that stuck I guess because it’s on gently in the background when I’m immersed in reading something insane.
VIII. On the Tube
Om Unit - Ulysses
Maybe it’s in the nature of ‘slowfast’ music that make the pace of this perfect on the London Underground. If you’re looking for shoddy metaphors, the parallels between of DnB and Footwork that gave birth slowfast are like the tracks the train runs on. Jeeze, that was bad wasn’t it? Good job the tune’s awesome enough to make up for my bad writing.
IX. Walking through Central London at night in winter
Jimi Hendrix - All Along The Watchtower
I can’t quite remember how many years ago I started listening to this track while trudging through the bitter cold, fighting against freezing winds and snow. Perhaps when I was 12, when I stole my (much) older brother’s Walkman, taped this track off of the radio and wore out the tape by rewinding it to the beginning over and over and over again. But for some reason it’s been a regular in my ears when the wind begins to howl.
X. Walking home as the sun comes up after an incredible night out
Prince - Erotic City
Sorry, more Prince. OK, this only really works in cities (obviously). I’ve chosen to walk home after the final after-after-after-party on many mornings to just catch the relative stillness of a city that’s gearing up for a working day as I travel upstream. And as dick-ish as it sounds, I’m sporting a massive grin, wonky shades and a bewildered look in my eyes (that, yes, naturally you can’t see because of the shades). Erotic City. It says it all.
Listen to it here.
XI. The morning after the night before
Craig Armstrong - Weather Storm
There’s that moment when the rush of the fun-times gives way to the inevitable comedown. A wallow in the pits of despair. But then you need to rise. This track is perfect for that just-about-to-ascend part and the subsequent push to the surface. Also, on a geeky tip, this is Craig Armstrong’s interpretation of the Massive Attack track “Weather Storm” that he worked on for their album Protection. Also check out his film score work. It’s phenomenal.
Fun fact - this track was instrumental in my emergence as a DJ - the desire to share the emotion of it with as many people as possible was a key driving force. Mixing the final bars of this with tech DnB was tough but kind of a right of passage for me.
[Nerm is a broadcaster, DJ and producer who set up his organisation Shiva Soundsystem in 2000. Since then, he’s developed and helped break innumerable artists from the Indian and UK underground music scenes to International prominence.Using his BBC radio shows, clubnights, TV, film and writing, he’s made those lesser known become well known.He’s also seriously obsessed with Batman and loves Prince a bit too much.]