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This week we are spotlighting Joel Wilson, a friend and musician/artist living in Birmingham, England with his lovely wife Danielle, a singer and magazine editor, and their daughter, Evie.

1. What is the current music scene like there in Birmingham?
Birmingham, the city that spawned Black Sabbath [and recently the Editors and the Streets] has over 1 million inhabitants. Despite the wealth of creativity and access to local government funding few local music scenes grow or have a national impact. The still too unfocused but flashy annual Artsfest has the potential to gain notoriety around across Europe. As far as I can tell Birmingham remains a city with fragmented, inward focused musical cliques, some of which could be doing some damage in the music business but instead are just quietly sauntering along. Some entrepreneurs are trying to change things. This guy knows more than I do: created in Birmingham

Who do you love to see live?
Unfortunately my favourite local band Distophia split up recently. I used to Cheshire-cat smile most of the way through their gigs. Seb, their bassist, looked like a starved Johnny Depp with major stage fright. He even had a scared, quizzical expression when he’d bass-machine-gun the audience. Great moment at Jug Of Ale gig: guitarist Pete jumped into the audience and walked slowly in a circle, his guitar lead lassoing a group of about 10 people. He gave the lead a good tug, making them spill their beers. Heehee.

Seeing Misty’s Big Adventure play is at first a bizarre experience, then it’s just a comfy pairs of worn paisley slippers.

Death Is Not Welcome Here’s front man has an ace voice and means what he roars.

Most of my favourite live performers are friends and collaborators:
Highlighter Islanders

Jo Hamilton

Carina Round

Moneytree

Ross Spencer

Chrissy Van Dyke

And of course the Zang family

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2. You’ve worked with various artists over the past 10 years…musicians, visual artists, MC’s and writers. Who has
inspired you along the way?

Ross Spencer – He’s an eccentric and multi-talented painter, songwriter, skater, clothes designer, etc. His imagination is exceptional.

Barrowclough – This rapper says he’s been called to an unspectacular life, but his beautiful short stories and witty, sobering raps hint at topsy-turvy kingdom of heaven mentality.

Michael Stork – This man is my favourite performance poet.

Benjamin Blower and Greybeard – These guys are prophetic, passionate songwriters and great friends.

Selina the Custodian – Her acappella covers and original songs fuel my imagination in a way I can’t explain.

subtle – my ideal band; before you see them live, you think they’re going to be pretentious and wilfully dissonant, but instead it’s surreal and progressive and weirdly very palatable.

Buck65 -This Canadian hip-hop folkster headlined our storytelling night ‘Yarnspinners’. I asked him once to tell me and Danielle a bedtime story when he stayed over a few years back. He proceeded to beguile us for the next half an hour with a hilarious and rather twisted ‘true’ story. He wants to change the world. That is inspiring. As is his ‘Wild Life’ E.p.

Ross Wilson – This Irish fine artist is prolific and focussed.

Juice Aleem – He is down-to-earth and avant garde. He’s the kinda person that reawakens your hope for hip-hop’s future

Jo Hamilton – She greatly helped my wife Danielle regain confidence as a singer. What I’ve heard of her new album Gown makes me tingle and cry. The thing is, she’s so unselfconscious she doesn’t realize just how amazing a singer-songwriter she is.

Soweto Kinch – Celebrated local jazz saxophonist who also writes rap concept albums? Yes, please

Vadim & Yarah Bravo – Truly international husband and wife beat-rhymes-life team. This is progressive hip-hop music, and I think they tour more than Listener!

Mike Ladd – Maker of heavyweight lyrics that may well become required listening in universities in the future

Luo Fei – I met this Chinese artist in Sweden. I was impressed with his hard graft performance and video art which exudes humour, eeriness and spirituality.

3. What form of art are you currently concentrating on?
I’m stuck. I am writing stories, a lot of stories: film synopses, a graphic novel, TV series scripts, rap theatre pieces, short stories. I’m not a fast writer and not prolific by my standards.

I’ve made a few short films and music videos. For my work one of my roles is photographer which seems somehow funny to me since after 13 years of photos I still feel like a total novice.

But to answer the question it’s music and lyric-writing and recording that still have me by the scruff of the neck! I’m making a melodic doxology album [recording the results of collaborative meditations with fellow musicians after reading parts of A.W. Tozer’s ‘Knowledge of the Holy’]. We’re writing and recording a song a month for 12 months. I’m also making a stream of consciousness MFDoomy-type album with Wasif Sayyed. Both projects will emerge next year, Inshallah.

4. How would you describe the musical sound of your group The Custodians?
It’s progressive rap music. Headphone music, intricate, colourful and colloquial.

5. How did you come together and are you still performing?
In May 2002 I met beat-maker Eliot Best, who was really in the doldrums at the time. The following month Danielle was turning 28. I thought an album would make an ace birthday present. So Eliot and myself recorded ‘Colloquial’. Eliot had incredible instrumental ammunition and the most beautiful machine in home-recording, a 4-track.

I rapped.
Eliot nodded and twiddled knobs.
I sang a bit of the Doctor Who theme.
Eliot nodded and tweaked beats.
I roped in djs, guitarists, singers and emcees.
Eliot nodded and smiled and constructed new instrumentals.

On June 2nd 2002 it was done. I loved the songs, but my delivery on a few of my verses were dodgy. In May 2005 we rerecorded some of the lyrics and revised, remixed and extended the album and it got released on Zang.

We plan to perform next year again when we finish the doxology album.

6. It seems your family oozes creativity, with your hand in various artistic forms and your wife, Danielle, a vocalist and editor of Move magazine. What’s a typical weekend like for you?
Mainly family and friend time.

Often we have people over for dinner or parties [it’s the place to be between sound check and gig], we go out to the local Nature Centre with our kid Evie, I watch Match of the Day [a soccer round-up show and something of an English institution] and we do church. Today Dani threw a bridal shower for a friend.

We also part of a gathering called The Sunday Thingie which started as a short series of Old Testament explorations, but has now turned into a regular story-telling, poetry and theology get-together in Moseley, Birmingham.

Currently we’re telling the stories of key figures and movements within the Christian faith between A.D. 90 and now, the Moravians, Blaise Pascal, St. Francis: inspiring stuff.

7. You host or attend various music festivals/gatherings in the UK. Tell us about them.
We run an annual Christian hip-hop artists gathering called Cypher [though we took a break from it this year]. About 75 Christian rappers, djs, producers and break dancers gather for the day to make connections, worship God, and of course, consume barbequed food!

What I love about Cypher is that it is simple and organic – natural music collaborations emerge, new believers are encouraged and challenged, impromptu prayer breaks out and acts of rhythmic service ensue . . . we love providing a context for this stuff to happen.

Biography

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I’m multi-national chap [born and raised in Ireland]. After completing my Media degree in Luton, England in ‘96, I spent two years performing with a rap group called DPS in Cincinnati and Indianapolis, where I also met my wife Danielle. In ’98 I returned to England to do youth work and kick-start a ‘worship-art’ movement with alt-folk musician and artist Ross Spencer.

For the next 4 years I wrote, recorded and performed with Michaelis Constant, labelled ‘the most unusual of all Britain’s hip-hop teams’ by Big Issue writer Peter Bate. As the group went into hibernation, I co-founded a South Birmingham hip-hop social club ‘Phantom Limb’, helped co-ordinate The Wrong Exhibition and started writing and making short films.

Danielle and I both work part-time for a Christian ministry called Agapé, she as the communications director and myself as the media co-ordinator. We have a 21 month old daughter called Evie.

You can learn more about The Custodians at myspace.com/thecustodians

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