Subverse Radio: Musical Marginalia

Subverse Radio – founded by James Shirley, Maria Fred Perevedentseva, Harry Scholes and Alex Hinkson – has been making ripples on the Oxford scene for over a year now. “When we started, we were kind of on the fringe,” says Harry. “Most Oxford nights at the time gravitated towards the bassier end of the spectrum, but we were, and always will be, House.”

Now, of course, House music seems to be the go-to genre for all the nights on in town. “But it’s funny because we still seem to be on the fringe,” Maria confirms.

It’s hard to deny that their sound has matured, into something more polished over the year; I ask them if their attitudes have similarly changed. “Not really,” says James, “our goal has always been to bring the best House and techno to Oxford.” Alex adds, “We’re in a lucky position where we can invite our favourite DJs to play at the night – not just international ones but our local heroes too.”

They continue by discussing the benefits and difficulties of catering for bigger names. “We have to be careful,” Harry affirms. “Booking Levon (Vincent, 7th week’s headliner) isn’t exactly a smart move financially. The Cellar’s capacity is small, it’s a Wednesday night, and we’re charging a fiver for one of the biggest DJs in the world!”

I note that meeting big names must be intimidating. “You picture your favourite DJs, those nondescript figures behind an oppressive booth. But then you meet them, have dinner, and realise how human they are, how they light up when talking about tunes. It’s awesome,” says James. “We probably should have found these experiences more intimidating. We ate with Tama Sumo – an absolute hero of mine – and listened to her accounts of the Berlin scene in the ’90s.”

Next I ask whether they’ve ever had a negative experience with a guest. Alex responds, “We’re not mentioning any names! But if we have someone who turns up ten minutes before their set and bounces straight after, it doesn’t do much good for the vibe or our stress levels.” So what makes a successful night? “It relies on there being common purpose,” says Maria. “Knowing our guests are there because they want to be, and letting them know that they’re wanted, and that’s something the crowd can sense.”

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They admit that every part of the process has been a learning curve, not least with the radio side of things. “At the beginning, Maria and I were broadcasting together,” says Alex, “but we quickly realised that we wanted to do different things.” “That’s the thing about a continuous engagement with music,” Maria adds. “Your palette will change but the filtering process is constant.”

James and Harry, who were broadcasting on Oxide before Subverse was born, are changing tack in 2014. “We’re going to look at the formative works of electronic music, really go back to the roots,” James explains. Harry adds, “Radio is the perfect platform for exploring the more experimental parts of your collec- tion. It’s easy to become obsessed with flawless transitions, but you run the risk of your sound becoming stale and one-dimensional.”

They’re clearly excited about the upcoming term. “We love the guys who broadcast for us,” James says. “They’re all individual, and they’re doing what they want. We’ve never tried to dictate what or how they play. All we’ve done is give them a platform to do their thing. There’s a lot of love here.”

Subverse Radio broadcasts Wednesday – Sunday from 8-10pm. Subverse Presents runs on Wednesday of odd weeks.