Get to know The Grey Area
Bristol is a fortunate city. It’s roots are heavily soaked in culture and diversity and one man who’s made the most of this is DJ Ed Taylor. My introduction to Ed was through the Bristol Psych Fest (now known as Astral Festival) when I heard him spinning some records that really caught my ear. It was a mix of contemporary western rock and some deep cutting world music with some untouchable groove. I’ve been fortunate enough to catch a few of his sets plus seen some of the incredible bands he’s brought to the city, so caught up with the man himself to see what’s up.
Hi Ed. How’s it going today?
Pretty darn good. I took a swim in the Adriatic while the sun went down. For the record I’m on holiday, this wasn’t a normal Tuesday.
Tell us a little bit about The Grey Area. How did it come about?
Initially it was just a case of me wanting to get back to doing radio again. I used to have a show along side my good friend Jack on Leeds based pirate station Radio Frequency (RIP), but that was about 7 years ago. Once the ball started rolling with my Noods show I started to wonder why I wasn’t doing more. Essentially I got bored waiting for certain artists to be booked in Bristol, so I just thought I’d bring them here myself.
How did you get interested in world music? What draws you in?
First of all I hate the term “world music” but I’ll save that rant, as we could be here a while. I know what you’re referring to.
My first real exposure to anything outside of the western cannon was actually a Soundway compilation CD “Nigeria Special: Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds & Nigerian Blues 1970-6”.
I mentioned I used to do a radio show with my friend Jack, well his Dad is really into his Jazz and Blues and when we first moved away from home and got a house together he gave us a copy of this CD and it blew our minds. We’d never heard anything like it before and it got played every day. So that got me hooked on Nigerian stuff, which then lead me to explore further through Africa. My real vice now though is further east. I can’t actually remember how it started, but I’m just obsessed with both Middle Eastern and Asian stuff. It’s hurting my bank balance because the records generally aren’t cheap to come by either.
As for what draws me in, I think it’s just that I get bored so easily with any one genre of music. I’m constantly looking for a style or sound that completely changes the way I listen to music, and by exploring other countries I get that in abundance. Different scales, time signatures and just the approach to music. Because of cultural and geo-political differences between each continent something as raw and human as music is always going to be drastically different.
You’re based in Bristol. Are there plans to take the Grey Area national, or even international?
I think I need to work out how to do a semi-professional job of it in Bristol first, haha. I’d love to though. DJing particularly is such an important part of my life and getting to do that more often outside of Bristol and even the UK would be ace.
You were the head honcho DJ at 2018’s Bristol Psych Fest. How was that for you?
So much fun. Myself, Andrew Sherlock and Joseph Blakey have DJ’d the last 3 festivals together now and it’s always really fulfilling. Also Bristol Psych Fest is how I met those two, as well as the top dog Alex Studer. We’d all just messaged Alex and asked if he needed DJs, and now I DJ with those guys almost every month in some shape or form and Alex has become a close friend. Not only that but this year I got to play the after party at The Lanes. DJing on that sound system for 3 hours was brilliant. Particularly watching the members of Guili Guili Goulag seemingly challenging anyone who came close to a dance off.
You sometimes put on shows, focusing on international music. What made you start wanting to move into promoting?
Like I said, it was a selfish decision really. I just wanted to see certain artists and they weren’t coming to Bristol, so I took the risk and got them here. I’m not going to lie though promoting scares the shit out of me. I don’t have a team to help spread the word, or share the burden financially if it all goes wrong, so each show HAS to do well or my wallet takes a pounding. I don’t think I’m particularly good at it either, but I’ve got faith in the quality of acts I book, and it seems to have worked so far.
You’ve got a really interesting show coming up in Bristol at The Lanes. You’ve got The Scorpios from Sudan and Tezeta, who are Bristol based. Are you looking forward to this one?
Oh man, this show should really be something special. It’s the biggest thing I’ve promoted so far, just in terms of number of artists alone. Between the two bands there are 18 musicians. The stage is going to be packed and I feel like The Lanes is the perfect place for it, as their sound system is one of the few in town that would do the bands justice. The Scorpios haven’t played in Bristol before but everyone I know who’s seen them on the festival circuit this summer has been absolutely buzzing about this gig.
Tell me a bit about how you collect your records for your sets. Do you travel often to find them?
Honestly, I wish I could tell you I was a hardcore digger, but compared to some of my friends I’m a bit of a cheater. The majority of my record shopping is done online. Discogs for any older gear I’m looking for and then I primarily use Honest Johns and Bandcamp as a source for any new releases. That being said I did spend Christmas and New Year over in Japan and spent a small fortune on records while I was there, moving between loads of different shops. Finding the shops was more difficult than finding decent records most the time, as so many of them are tucked away on the 4th floor of what looks like an office building. So yeah, I’m not the kind of person who’s at the boot sales every week or trawling charity shops. My anxiety finds the beauty in digging from the comfort of my own sofa. I do really want to break that habit though and start organising trips to other countries with one thing in mind; hunting for those long forgotten gems.
And finally, what’s the future looking like for The Grey Area?
Busy. Probably too busy, but if it means I get to DJ as often as I am at the moment then it’s a good problem to have. I’ve also already confirmed a couple of shows for 2019, and there’s still a couple more in 2018 to announce once I’ve tied up the last few details. Eventually I’d like to start up a record label, but lets try crawling before running right?
Ed’s next show sees him bring The Scorpios and Tezeta to Bristol’s The Lanes. Tickets are available here and we strongly recommend going down to check out both bands. We hope to see you there! To catch all forthcoming sets and gigs check out The Grey Area on Facebook here.