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GayDar Radio Feature On Alan MX's Maida Vale Session

'Huw Stephens and his radio 1 crew seem impressed too, nodding in approval and repeating in disbelief, “This is only his 5th gig?!”

Can you remember a feature we ran predicting big things for a certain young, gay, electro whiz kid? Well, Alan MX's MySpace site may still be something of a mess, but his musical charms seem to be spreading. Last week the electro prince bagged himself a session on Radio 1 and GaydarNation went along to the infamous Maida Vale Studios to drop in on the recording.

A skip, hop and jump from the Bakerloo line and we run into a rather nervous looking Mr MX loitering outside the entrance to Maida Vale. Despite their epic history, from the outside the studios resemble a bunker. The building is off-white, low-rise and unimposing. Appearances however can be deceptive, for inside we discover a sprawling warren of tunnels and studios, the BBC’s own private labyrinth.

There’s a buzz of excitement as we’re informed, “You’re in studio4”. Maida Vale 4 is legendary having hosted classic sessions by Nirvana, Radiohead, Arcade Fire, The Smiths and countless other greats. When we check how Alan’s taken the news he sweetly answers, “To be honest, when I was told about the session, I didn’t even know that Maida Vale was a real place”.  Well, that’s one way to handle the pressure.

The session is being recorded for DJ Huw Stephens’ In New Music We Trust show. After hearing Alan’s track "Strange Bird", Huw invited both Alan MX and his label mates Fighting With Wire to play a double-header live session. Both acts are signed to the rising independent record label Smalltown America, so the outing is something of a party for their dedicated team.

It’s Huw Stephens that welcomes all into the studio’s intimate surroundings. The walls are covered with stickers and graffiti, and at first glance have you wondering why a BBC interior resembles a toilet door. Closer inspection reveals these scrawlings to be a little more prestigious than the usual “woz ere” fare, they’re the signatures of bands gone by, and an autograph-hunters dream.

A small and exclusive audience of around 35 are gathered on a hanging mezzanine floor and look down on the recording. There’s a booth to the side where the sound engineers sit and a great empty space for the performers. Usually this is filled with musicians, instruments and wires, today there’s just one guy, his laptop and a microphone.

After various sound checks, everything’s ready. Huw Stephens gives a brief introduction and Alan begins. It’s a mini whirlwind of a performance.  Forthcoming single "Captain America Video" kicks things off, and is swiftly followed by "Flesh Emergency", "Warpsichord", "Cuckoos" and "Strange Bird". It’s an intense, body-lurching, electro-emotional experience and fills the room with ease.

The crowd, a mixture of press, close friends, label heads and Alan’s mum, are understandably ecstatic. Flitting between sound booth and studio, Huw Stephens and his radio 1 crew seem impressed too, nodding in approval and repeating in disbelief, “This is only his 5th gig?!”.

Sitting in the artist lounge afterwards, with Nelly Furtado, Coldplay and The White Stripes gazing down on us from their photo-frames, we ask Alan how he feels it went: “It was amazing, a blur. Setting up, the sound tech asked me which microphone I wanted, the red or the yellow. Not understanding the significance, I joked that I’d better have both. Apparently Paul McCartney favored one, and Jack White the other. It’s insane”.

We left energized and content. It’s a wonderful experience to see a musician on the ascent, and now there’s another name added to that studio wall.

Find out more at www.myspace.com/alanmx and www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/huwstephens/. Plus, check out our feature on Electro's Gay Young Gun Alan MX.

 

- Anna Rutherford, GayDar Radio