Interview By: Rodney
Non-stop Disco Action in the middle of any given field at any given time! You might be thinking…that would take one long extension cord, or a massive generator to power the night. Nope…you’d be just as wrong as kissing your first cousin. You see…DJ Dirty Ali (A.K.A. Joimson), has found a way to throw one heck of a Disco without aid of electricity or a generator, and he transports the whole thing in a wheelbarrow. Weird huh? What’s even weirder is his Discos’ compiled of 100% found objects, known only as Tip of the Pops solar powered wheelbarrow disco. Let’s investigate shall we…
Q: What is Tip of the Pops solar powered wheelbarrow disco?
J: Firstly let me tell you that the word tip means the same as dump in the UK. Tip of the Pops is an experimental mobile disco made from waste. I have been collecting records and equipment from there for 1 year in order to get to the stage I’m at now. This has been relatively easy because I work at a busy site in the south of England.
Currently there are two turntables, mixer, drum-machine, lights, amp etc. and hundreds of classic 7” vinyl records spanning six decades. The add-ons (also from the dump) include microphone and keyboard so people can MC, Beatbox, sing or jam along with whatever happening at the time.
Most of the stuff I get is in working order and the records are in good condition. The worst sounding because of it’s condition record is Sister Sledge, Lost in Music. But this is cool because it is kind of lost in a different way. Because of where Tip of the Pops comes from people expect it to sound rough but the sound quality is good and the music blows them away. It’s partly a nostalgia buzz because people remember saving up to buy the records and then playing them over and over whilst growing up.
A lot of younger kids have not even seen or used a turntable before and as the gear did not cost me anything I am happy to let anyone have a go. There will always be more equipment and music at the dump so I am not that bothered about things getting damaged. At one gig I even organized a disco dancing contest without having any prizes so I ended up giving away the records that the three winners danced to.
I should add every thing is as ‘tippy’ as possible. My current solar panel was bought new but I have 2 more from the dump that are working and will be installed soon. Even the computer I am writing this on is used for audio editing and was from the dump. Everything is constantly being upgraded as I find more useful gear. Last year I could only record DJ sets using cassette but this year I can digitally record using mini-disc or a creative jukebox. For the next gig I have found a tiny video camera small enough to wear and record.
My DJ name Dirty Ali is taken from the name for scrap metal, dirty alloy. An old record turntable would be dirty alloy if the plate was aluminum and the rest was not (best way to check is with a magnet). Even flight cases used for records or whatever else you put in them are part aluminum so they are dirty alloy too. My wheelbarrow is called Earwig after the first barrow I used at the Big Green Gathering festival 2007. Headphones are Earpod 300GB 😉
I have recently moved in to a workshop where I can continue to develop the project. The next earwig will be a four wheeled moto-barrow but before that I am attempting to build a pedal powered PA for a local community festival. Obviously I am interested in circuit bending too and that is how I found GetLoFi.com. Working where I do it’s a bit like being a kid in a candy store if you were interested in bending anything. As I am a novice I have ordered Build Your Own Alien Instruments by Reed Ghazala but it has not arrived and I have not found much.
Q: When did this start, and why?
J: The wheelbarrow disco debuted at the Big Green Gathering in August 2007 but I was involved with this and other festivals before that. In 2004 I was part of the independent free state of mind arts collective IFSOM. My role was to part organize a solar powered gallery at the first Earthwise festival. Before that I had never really considered or witnessed renewable energy and I was blown away by my experience there. Afterward I decided to invest in some of the equipment and start my own mobile power plant but it took two more years for me to get something resembling a renewable system called Creative Dynamo.
ffwd Easter 2007 and I started work at the tip, recycling for a living. I was already booked to provide electricity for the Artwise gallery at the Big Green in August but I wanted to do something extra. Throwing away all of the old equipment and records had become part of my job and in June I found a Panasonic SG-J550L (80’s ghettoblaster with built-in turntable). That was really the eureka moment!
From then on I was holding onto the records and sourcing the equipment – the rest is on my blog.
Why, because if you want to make the world a better place you must inspire people to make that change. When I started with IFSOM we were doing art exhibitions in empty shops in a derelict part of town. Although I wasn’t exhibiting anything I saw the transformation of the buildings and the knock-on effect in the community. Suddenly the place was not seen as such a dive and we attracted people from all walks of life. Putting pictures on walls was like applying social lubricant and people wanted to stop and talk and open-up about whatever.
Tip of the Pops is obviously environmental and I wanted to do something with broard appeal. If I was to stop someone in the street and lecture them about climate change, recycling or anything else for that matter the chances are they would not listen. But if I dress it up and we have an ace time albeit dancing around listening to waste wouldn’t that be better (?) I think the psychologists call it social learning.
On Wednesday I did my first school gig, it was the last week of term so they were pretty much in holiday mode already. I was to entertain 14 year olds who could not take part in the organised activities for some reason or another. The teacher who deals with disruptive pupils said that she had never seen them so well behaved. I don’t think I was responsible for that but she was impressed enough to recommend me to the pupil referral unit. This is where they send the kids that are too bad for school. If I get in there it will be worth it just to have the opportunity to make them stop and think about the environment we share. Maybe I can get circuit bending into schools as part of a class.
Circuit bending would definitely make Tip of the Pops more interesting and get more people involved. I don’t consider myself a musician but I could make a few noises to jam with. If there is anyone out there interested in collaborating I’d be happy to hear from them. The video on my website is a good example of what can be achieved. A beatboxer making whale song over the top of an 80’s pop tune sounds bizarre but it works. That was off the cuff as we’d never met before and I still don’t know his name. At another impromptu gig we had about half a dozen kids stop by and join in with surprisingly good mc’ing and beatbox.
Given my experience I want to encourage more artists and groups to use renewable energy. Tip of the Pops is just one example of what’s possible as I’m certain there are more projects worldwide.
Q: So your whole rig is set up using a solar panel that goes along with you?
The solar panel is mounted on the roof of camper van and charges a 12v leisure battery. The battery is disconnected from the panel and used in the wheelbarrow for gigs. A 110 Ah battery has lasted all night and next day without letting me down. With just one 60 watt panel the camper van becomes a mobile power plant providing enough energy for Tip of the Pops and other artists. There is a windmill that can also be used but it is rarely needed.
Q: When are you performing next?
Earthwise festival 8-10 August, an eco and family friendly gig. The great thing about what I am doing is that it’s fairly portable so I can set-up and do any number of gigs, anywhere. Boscombe Community Fair 5-7th September this is where I will be debuting bent devices.
Q: Do you plan on having any bent devices incorporated into your set by then?
The book has arrived and I have found a Vtech talking alphabet desk to get started. I have a couple of keyboards lying around but I do not think they’ll sound as good as the Vtech. Perhaps I should practice on the keyboards as I do not want to fry my main piece just yet! I don’t want to wreck my drum-machine either as it will be ideal accompaniment to whatever I come up with. At work last summer I came up with words to the Calvin Harris track I get all the girls but it’s to do with finding stuff at the dump. It goes I get all the games (playstation, sega etc.), I get all the phones (sony, nokia etc.). My goal is to perform that at BCF using at least one bent instrument
Whatever happens it will be recorded and put online for all to see and hear. I am not sure about Myspace because I do not own copyright so I use archive.org instead. This is linked from my wordpress blog which has no advertising whatsoever. I suppose as I get more musical myspace might come into it’s own, as I have already found some great circuit bent music on there.
* Thanks Joimson! COOL! Good luck with the bending! Should be a rocking rig once you get it all going.