Freshers Week

High Contrast Took us on a Guided Tour Around Cardiff

The D&B don takes us on a trip through his favourite spots in the city.

by Kristian Dando
20 September 2016, 11:50am

Photos by Aaron Jennings

Outside Clwb Ifor Bach on a sweltering summer's afternoon, a veteran raver in a 'concrete junglist' t-shirt calls over to the slight figure of Lincoln Barrett—the drum and bass producer and DJ otherwise known as High Contrast.

"You playing at that on the weekend?" he asks the DJ, pointing at a poster for a big forthcoming event at a local warehouse. Barrett—who is in the process of being somewhat reluctantly photographed—politely informs him otherwise and engages in a bit of scene small talk.

These sorts of encounters are the norm for Barrett when he's out and about in the city. It's where he started his journey from drum and bass specialist in his local record shop to chart-gatecrashing crossover star. He still lives in Penarth, the hilly seaside town just around the corner from the Welsh capital, and has so far resisted the urge to decamp to London or Los Angeles like many of his peers.

I got signed just as I graduated (in 2002)," he explains. "I just never had a moment to stop and consider moving away. I never really felt the need. I'm more used to a slower pace of life. I never really clicked with London. I guess I always found it a bit oppressive. I'm a bit of deep thinker and I like space and time."

We've met up with Barrett in order for him to run through some of his local haunts which have influenced him along the way – from cinemas and clubs to lighthouses and record shops. "Wales isn't particularly well known for drum and bass," says Barrett. "So it fits my character, being a bit of an outsider. It's worked for me so far, and it's part of who I am."

Clwb Ifor Bach (Cardiff nightlife institution also known as 'the Welsh Club' due to its long-association with the native language)

It's where I had my first residency. And it was the first place I ever heard drum and bass on a proper soundsystem. Drum and bass has always been popular in the city. There was a pirate radio station called Bass FM that was operating out of Barry, and I used to tune into that a lot to hear it.

I went from being someone who had to sneak in with a fake ID to headlining shows and there being riot van outside because so many people were trying to get into one of my album launch parties.

One time Marky played, and was late—not of his own fault—and I was on before him. I ended up having to play for three hours back when we were just playing on vinyl. It was absolutely rammed and I managed to hold the crowd. I try and look back to that time, when everything was new – that sense of wonder and possibility in going out. You speak to so many people who are so jaded. I stay in that frame of mind where it's all still exciting.

Chapter (An arts space, cinema, gallery and bar in the suburb of Canton)

My parents would take me here as a kid. It's the place you'd go to see more unusual films, and foreign ones, which weren't on in the multiplexes. Being exposed to those deeper movies had a big influence on me.

It's a community place, and it doesn't feel too snobby going there. It's very open. They show older films as well, and you hardly ever get to see those in a shopping centre cinema.

I saw a film called The Girl Can't Help It. It was the first rock and roll movie, from 1956. My dad took me to see it. In one of the scenes Julie London sings "Cry Me a River" which I sampled for my track "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang". It became a signature tune for me and it's all because of seeing that movie.

Buffalo (Club and bar)

I remember seeing Disclosure do one of their first gigs here. There were about three people there. A couple of months later they were absolutely massive. It's good that there's another more interesting venue here in Cardiff, where you can hear something a bit different to whatever they're playing elsewhere. Here and the Welsh Club are the two main spots I frequent. Gwdihw (a nearby bar specialising in leftfield music) is good too.

Kelly's Records (Second-hand record shop on the second floor of Cardiff Market)

Sampling is a huge part of my sound, so I used to go crate digging here as a teenager, buying 20p records and turning them into tracks. It was incredibly basic back then— just a clapped out PC and phoning a cable in. I had no training in production, and taught myself off demos of programmes. It was raw, but the ideas were fresh and it saw me through.

It's a shame that Catapult closed. It was a huge part of the Cardiff scene. You'd go in there and you'd meet garage guys, then there'd be the trance guys down from the valleys coming in, as well as the local drum and bass heads. You'd make connections and play at other people's nights.

At that point, I hated house music, or anything that wasn't drum and bass, really, but working there opened my mind. Hearing US house and deep house, that fed into my sound, trying to make records which had that soulful feel. If I hadn't expanded my mind and listened to house I wouldn't have done what I've done.

Milgi (A restaurant specialising in vegetarian food on City Road)

I'm a hardcore vegetarian, but not a vegan, it's too hard on the road. Even trying to get a cheese sandwich in Hungary is a struggle. But Milgi a great spot; the beer battered halloumi is a wonderful dish. That's the one. There are a few second-hand record spots in the area too, and you've got studentsville right next to it. I've been to so many house parties around there after gigs. I went through a period of doing surprise appearances at people's parties. It's always a gas to go in at four in the morning with everyone off their head, eyes wide and not believing that High Contrast is playing in their house.

Paget Rooms, Penarth (Grand old venue in Lincoln's hometown)

It's where my dad used to put on rock and roll events, going back to the '60s. He used to get into trouble with the council because of the mayhem down there. When you grow up with something, it puts you off a bit, so I was very anti rock and roll for a couple of years. But I still see a parallel between it and drum and bass—they had similar origins and journeys. There's a northern soul night on there now, which my sister runs. It feels bizarre that she's started DJing as well.

Nash Point (Local spot where Lincoln goes to get centred after touring or from the studio)

It's a got a lighthouse and incredible cliffs. When people come down to work with me—singers or other producers—the vast majority are from the London area. Generally people are like my god, it's nice to come somewhere so chill and have no traffic noises, sirens whizzing by and then be able to go for a nice country walk.

High Contrast debuts his new live show at Together Halloween at Brixton Academy on Friday October 28th. He headlines Hospitality Cardiff at the Tramshed on Saturday November 5th.

Kristian is on Twitter

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