JOHN WATSON - THE RADAVIST
JOHN is the mind behind brilliant website The Radavist, which has brought the cycling 'experience' to a massive audience and is leading a burgeoning new cycling scene. We wanted to know if it really is mandatory to listen to Thom Yorke in architecture school, what the right music to travel to is and why he's not allowed to dj his own parties anymore.
Disc Breaks: When were you born and where did you grow up?
JOHN: I'm a southern boy, grew up in Wilmington, NC where they filmed that America show "Dawson's Creek," amongst other movies. It's a beautiful coastal town with clear beaches and a great wave to surf.
Disc Breaks: I know the show, it was crazy popular as a teenager in Australia, everybody watched it. I missed the memo though, and never caught on. Where have you lived and what is your Current City?
JOHN: I've lived in New York City, Austin and now, Los Angeles.
Disc Breaks: How’d you end up in LA and how are you liking it? As a kid I briefly visited and remember being let down because it wasn’t really like the movies, that feeling stuck with me strangely until only recently where I’ve come to love LA.
JOHN: Los Angeles has the best riding in the USA, hands down. You can go from the ocean to 10,000' mountains in one big day or if you want a change of scenery, you can be in the Sierra, coastal redwoods, the mojave desert by lunch time if you drive. The mountain biking is world-class and the road cycling won't let you down. If you want dirt roads, there are hundreds of miles of dirt just 8 miles from my house.
Disc Breaks: Ah man, it does sound perfect. When you’re travelling do you pick up on any musical tastes from the places you visit?
JOHN: Sometimes. More often than not, I revisit music when I'm traveling. For instance, I loved Wiley back in the 2000's and when I was in London last December, we stayed in Bow E3, the neighborhood where Wiley was from and he often repped it in his music. So I listened to Wiley when I was in London. I have an extensive vinyl collection that varies from obscure black metal to ragga (abrasive dancehall music) to country, neo-folk and electronic music. A lot of it is region-specific, such as Norwegian black metal or Japanese ambient. My travels have inspired a lot of it.
Disc Breaks:: How did you get in to / hear about Wiley back in the 2000s? Interested to know how UK grime found its way to you in the States - it was a very underground, UK (London even) sound until recently. Do you listen to much grime other than Wiley? If so what?
JOHN: I had a friend from the UK in Architecture school in 1999 - 2004. She had Dizzie, Wiley and other UK grime / garage djs, mcs and producers on mixtapes. She'd go home over the holidays and buy CDs, we'd rip them and listen to them in studio. That and a lot of Good Lookin Organization music - Bukem, Conrad, DRS, stuff like that. I haven't really touched on grime much as of late.
Disc Breaks: Do you look for new music and pick up a lot of records when you travel?
JOHN: Records are a pain to travel with and my local shop has such a good selection, I usually just buy from them.
Disc Breaks: Where was the last place you visited for work and what music were you listening to on the trip?
JOHN: Well, technically I was in Tahoe and Downieville for work. On the drive we listened to a lot of Link Wray. For international work, I was in Spain and Scotland, but the last place I traveled was for my girlfriend's birthday, we went to Iceland. When I'm on the road I listen a lot to Alessandro Cortini, a ambient electronic producer. He's worked with NIN in the past. That and Tinarwen, a Sahara-themed African band.
Disc Breaks: I’ve only just heard of Link Wray after they reissued his 1971 self titled album. He is great. What was Iceland like?
JOHN: Iceland was other-worldly.
Disc Breaks: Do you travel solo most of the time?
Disc Breaks: What music do you remember growing up around? Who was the first person to get you into music?
JOHN: My dad gave me three LPs when I was 12: Black Sabbath I, Led Zeppelin 1 and Frank Zappa. He told me which ever album(s) I liked best would determine my taste growing up. I've always like dark music and found black metal from my local record shop when I was 15 or so, I also listened to a lot of hardcore and industrial.
Disc Breaks: Which one did you gravitate towards most initially? And was your dad right about that then going on to determine your tastes growing up?
JOHN: Sabbath sucked me in almost immediately.
Disc Breaks: What is the first song you remember liking?
JOHN: Immigrant Song. I loved the intro.
Disc Breaks: I remember hearing this song for the first time in a 2many Djs set where the album cover was animated, It has stuck with me. Did you play a music instrument as a kid.
JOHN: Nope. I mostly skateboarded, rode my BMX and surfed.
Disc Breaks: If you could go back and learn a musical instrument, which would it be and why?
JOHN: Drums. Drummers command the stage.
Disc Breaks: What musical phases have you been a part of throughout your life? What songs defined each of those phases?
JOHN:Going to hardcore shows as a teen kept me out of trouble and away from drugs. My friends were all straight edge. At these shows, we saw bands like Converge, Cave In and a local band called "From Here On / Prayer For Cleansing" was our favorite. The band(s) were hardcore but Prayer had metal riffs, with their main anthem being "Sonnet". All through highschool, I tried to listen to as much music as possible. Wu-Tang, Mobb Deep, Dre, etc. The 90's were hip hop’s heyday. In college, I got into grime, garage, drum and bass. We'd go to clubs to see a lot of UK producers and MCs perform. Once I got to NYC I just kept absorbing music and going to shows. It wasn't until Austin that I started to enjoy the classics like Merle and Willy.
Disc Breaks: You wouldn’t think hardcore music would create such a big straight edge following, what drew you to the hardcore scene? Were you straight edge as well? Who are your favourite Garage and drum n bass producers? Where were your favourite venues in NYC and Austin to go to listen to music?
JOHN: I wasn't sXe but my friends were. I liked the community found in HxC. I loved Peshay, DRS, Bukem and more atmospheric drum and bass. I used to go to Mohawk, Red 7 a lot but loved Chaos in Tejas' venue choices, which were usually smaller venues.
Disc Breaks: What was the first album you bought with your own money?
JOHN: It was a punk band called Antischism "All Their Money Stinks of Death" 7"
Disc Breaks: What was the first gig / concert you remember going to?
JOHN: I saw Gwar when I was a freshman in highschool. It was insane.
Disc Breaks: I can imagine, was it a big show?
JOHN: Not too big, which was nice. Maybe 400 capacity.
Disc Breaks: What's the best gig / concert you've been to?
JOHN: Seeing NIN open for Bowie was great, Bjork on Coney Island at sunset, Converge and Cave In, Melvins in NYC, Swans in NYC. There's been a lot of great performances…
Disc Breaks: NIN and David Bowie where the two sets were merged together as one big one? That would have been very cool. What is your favourite Nine Inch Nails record? Are you a fan of the Swans stuff pre their hiatus or after? You going to seem them this year before they disband?
JOHN: Bowie and Reznor sang a few songs together, but it was two separate sets. I can't get over how good Pretty Hate Machine and Broken were! As for Swans, ever since I heard White Light from the Mouth of Infinity, I was hooked and began exploring other albums from the early 80's.
Disc Breaks: You obviously travel a lot is there anyone who you’ve been on the road with a lot that just has fantastic musical taste? And inversely have you ever been irritated by a colleague or travel companions musical choice but had to endure it?
JOHN: Oh my god I fucking hate Morrissey and Thom Yorke. In architecture school those were the two bands that everyone agreed would be ok to listen to in studio. I hated it.
Disc Breaks: hahahahahaha I think that agreement spans the globe for designers of all types. Is there any music that gives you strong nostalgia for a certain place, trip or event?
John: Tinariwen makes me think of the Mojave Preserve and Death Valley. My girlfriend and I spend a lot of time there in the winter.
Disc Breaks: I’d never heard them before but their story is really interesting. What song do you play to get things started when you’re throwing a party?
JOHN: I'm not allowed to DJ at my parties. My music tends to be too slow / depressing / dark.
Disc Breaks: Purely because of your taste or was their an incident that led to the ban? What would you play first if you were asked to put together a mix?
JOHN: I don't even recall the reason or what I would play. Usually something gothy.
Disc Breaks: Does musical taste influence how well you’re going to get along with someone? If so what’s a song that if someone played would let you know you’d probably get along?
JOHN: Anything by Kendrick Lamar.
Disc Breaks: You into his latest album?
JOHN: I was immediately pulled in but it made me listen to his older work even more.
Disc Breaks: A song that if someone played would instantly turn you off them?
JOHN: Anything by Morrissey.
Disc Breaks: Have you ever played a song to impress a person or a group? If so, what was it?
JOHN: Not that I can remember. Maybe a girl or something.
Disc Breaks: A song you’re embarrassed to admit you like, but listen to often?
JOHN: Lana Del Rey's Ultraviolence.
Disc Breaks: Which song would you choose to soundtrack a ‘highlights’ reel of your career?
JOHN: Something by Electric Wizard.
Disc Breaks: What’s the best way to listen to music?
JOHN: On vinyl.
Disc Breaks: What is it about vinyl?
JOHN: the engagement, the physical act of pulling out something, putting it on and adjusting levels.
Disc Breaks: If you were colonising Mars and could only take one album, what would it be?
JOHN: Black Sabbath's first LP.
Disc Breaks: Thanks a lot mate.