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Interview with Sam Hall aka Goldierocks

Thursday 24 April 2014
Words Spindle

Sam Hall aka Goldierocks is best know as an international DJ and presenter but there is also a tad of philanthropist and fashionista in there too.  Our chat indulges in music (obviously), The Selector, her visit to Jordan and her plans for the festival season, aka summer!

Sam, many people know you for your international radio and DJ status, so at what point did you fall in love so deeply with music that you decided to make it your full on job?

 I grew up in a very musical household and we use to spend a lot of summers in the Caribbean and Jamaica so I use to sneak out and go dirty dancing at sound systems.

Then in the winters, here in Europe, I use to listen to a lot of emo rock. So it was a real contrast of influences, which I think, is good, because it made my mind and my spirit quite open.

When I was 16, I think that was when I fell in love with the way live music makes you feel; that electricity in the room. No matter who you are, or where you are from, for that one moment you are living and you’re alive. Also clubbing, that euphoric moment when the beat drops; everyone is together.

I also fell in love with a boy in a band…

Oh yeah, we’ve all been there

 Yeah! So I went on tour when I was quite young and I realised ‘Yeah, I’m going to do this; live this life.’ But I didn’t know how; was I going to be in radio, or magazines? ‘Was I going to start a band?’ I didn’t know how I’d be in that world but it just sort of naturally evolved. I did work experience for everyone under the sun! I worked for free for such a long time; name a radio station and I have made tea for them! I also was doing music journalism for free.

When I came to Uni at Goldsmiths and set up the Goldierocks club night; giving Bloc Party their first gig! Mystery Jets also…and I guess I got a name for being a bit of a tastemaker; I was good at spotting who would get big.

I was also Djing, and I didn’t know exactly what I was doing…But I had a lot of energy and I was very enthusiastic and people started booking me. So I thought ‘If I’m going to be a DJ, I best learn properly.’ So I did! Ladies, I recommend learn to DJ, it’s worth it! Always be a master of your craft!

Tell me, what is it like having not only your own radio show broadcasted in over 40 countries? Let’s talk about The Selector!

It’s pretty surreal, but amazing! I started presenting The Selector 4 years ago. The British Council funds it and it’s all about presenting the alternative music to all these different countries. In lots of places, like China, we are literally the only alternative radio show they can listen to on a mainstream station! It is about British music but we’re not these colonial conquers; it’s just about presenting them with the alternative and representing the UK underground.

This show is really like my baby; I’ve worked really hard to create something I’m really genuinely proud of.

With technology being so accessible now, do you get loads of emails and tweets from all around the globe then?

 Oh my gosh, yes! The loveliest emails and tweets! For the majority of people who listen to the show, English isn’t their first language so I get quite a few spelling mistakes and a lot of ‘Goldie is ze bezteeeest!’ And I’m just like ‘Yeah! I love you too!’

And we do weekly shout outs, which are always amazing! Trying to pronounce everyone’s names…. from every corner of the globe!

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And what is your creative process for the show; what goes into making the show each week?

Well I work with an amazing production team called Folded Wing founded by the amazing Karen P. For any women who are into radio, she is an amazing inspiration! And I also work with John Cranmer, and my assistant Pete. As well as, of course, the British Council team. So every week we bring music together which is sent to us by pluggers, by labels, by bands themselves… People who are unsigned will send me tracks via SoundCloud, or even good old-fashioned post demos! I spend a lot of time hunting new music out, downloading from blogs; I am always listening to music.

Then we all come together, I write a rough script for it and then we just record! We will also have live sessions, guest interviews, DJ mixes so we keep it eclectic, representing the UK!

Yeah, showing the incredible diversity we have here in the UK is what is great about your radio show.

Music is also a way of connecting many people together. Is the unifying factor of music, and it’s accessibility something that is very important to you?

Yes, that is integral to everything I stand for both as a human, and as a curator. I listen to what is considered quite ‘cool music’ but I don’t believe in the concept of a ‘cool kid gang.’ The nature of music means it should be accessible to everyone. I don’t believe that people should listen to crap music just because they don’t have access to anything else. Some people will be frightened of music because it’s out of their comfort zone but no, you should embrace it and always be open to different genres and subcultures!

Tell me a little bit about your travelling then Sam, you’ve been all over the place and you’re still booked for loads of other places!

 I travel a lot! So far so this year I’ve been to Switzerland and I’ve done a national tour of South Africa. This month (April) I go to Georgia-not the place in the states, the one by the Black Sea- I’m off to Cuba in May, then Ibiza. It’s pretty full on!

And you went to Jordan! It’s great to talk music with you but this was a very important trip wasn’t it?

Yeah, last June I went to Jordan to launch my radio show there and I met a huge amount of Syrian refugees living there. And it was very interesting because I’d always perceived the Syrian crisis as yet another Middle Eastern conflict, which was quite daunting and I didn’t quite understand. Not that I didn’t feel empathy for all these people, I just didn’t quite get it.

So when I was in Jordan, I made friends with a lot of these refugees and they were amazing; they were in punk bands, they were MCs, artists, theatre practitioners! And I thought ‘You’re exactly like my friends back in Dalston!’

We’re all the same at the end of the day ey? All human!

Yeah! My radio show use to be broadcasted on Arabesque FM in Damascus so I was meeting to people who had actually listened to the show and it was very surreal. I realised the world was a lot smaller than I had realised and I thought ‘I have got to do something to help these people.’

So in September I went back to Jordan and I went to visit Zaatari, which is the largest Syrian refugee camp, located in the North of Jordan. I am a long standing supporter of Oxfam, my family have been involved with them for years, so it was a very natural fit for me to be involved in something like this. I then made my first radio documentary, about Zaatari and what life is like, realistically as a young refugee.

One thing that is very interesting about Syria is that Syria is a very sophisticated society; very cosmopolitan and very westernised, for the fault of a better word. I mean its right on the edge of Europe! It’s not too far and their situation is horrific!

I think it is important that the youth of Britain really understands this and for it’s important for people to engage with it and help! The camp is run entirely on Western aid basically; therefore I feel it is our humanitarian duty to help these people.

Absolutely, could not agree with you more.

What was the biggest sentiment you have taken from this experience or what shocked you most?

It’s a pretty intense experience and there is a feeling you get in the camp of people getting stale; it’s literally a holding place for people. It is a very uncomfortable and tense environment.

I have seen horrific things, and nearly all the children there have family that have died and often very violently. There are 60,000 primary school children that live in Zataari and only 15,000 of them actually go to school so you can imagine there are many kids who are very restless, they don’t have much structure…or discipline. So two days before I entered the camp there had been an uprising at one of the primary school where the children had tried to stone their teacher and it was so violent the Jordanian army had to intervene with tear gas. These are 8-year-old children we’re talking about, and the Jordanian army had to intervene with tear gas!

And that makes you think ‘How is a country going to restructure itself when their young generation has been scared so deeply?’

Do you find that your status as an International DJ and someone who has a huge following, does that add to your feeling of duty?

Yeah, though I do also think this is how I was bought up. In quite a lot of press lately I’ve been described as a philanthropist and that wasn’t a self-coined thing!

I do charity work, but I don’t see it as a big deal, I feel it is our humanitarian duty especially if you’re in a privileged position. I am very lucky! I get to do exactly what I love! So I think it is our humanitarian duty to help others which are less privileged and also, so we grow as people.

I agree completely Sam.

So we know where you’ve been and where you’ll be in the next couple of months but what about summer? Festival season-what you playing?

Oooooo, it’s going to be a busy busy summer! I’ve been announced to play main stage festival at Wakestock, also Secret Garden Party, Boomtown and main stage at Bestival!

I’ll be at all of those, this is so exciting!

Awesome! Let’s see…where else? Cannes Lions, south of France…Oh and Burning Man! I’m doing Burning Man!

Amazing! That festival still stays true to the real essence of a festival doesn’t it?

Yeah, all money is banned! It’s all based on trade so bringing it back to medieval times. And a trade could be anything! So you could give someone a hug for a piece of pizza. It’s about all coming together as one and it’s a really full on experience but a beautiful one!

Oh, also going Newquay Boardmasters! And there are more still to be announced.

Just to wrap up Sam you are playing on the 16th May at The Garage

Yep, at the Royal Ruckus night-it’s a new club night and it’s all about mythical lions and unicorns and anything goes! It’s my first time but it’s meant to be pretty out there!

So you dressing up yeah? What will you be?

 Of course! I probably will be a lion!

You got the hair! So what you thinking for the set? What can we expect?

 Lots of deep house, electro stuff, a little bit of dub and a sprinkling of drum and bass so yeah, really fun! Good Dance music!

Thanks Sam! Head to www.goldierocks.co.uk to find all her blog posts and any upcoming shows!

Watch the full interview below 

Video & Photography: Jack Lawson Photography