INTERVIEW: TUSK North | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Yao Bobby + Simon Grab

In the autumn of 2020, as gigs and festivals collapsed or reduced in scale, TUSK went against the prevailing mood to deliver what was probably their most expansive and successful project, a two-week programme of streamed performances, films, conversations and more. It was global in both reach and content and was a genuinely thrilling oasis in a desert of pandemic gloom. It also showed the TUSK team new ways to work, with their YouTube channel now boasting 300+ performances and 2,000 daily views. “We’re still trying to work out how to make the most of this but have some major streaming plans for this year.” Lee Etherington explains.
Despite that triumph, 2021 was tough. “The last 18 months have been pretty brutal for us, to be honest, as we’ve struggled to raise any funding at all for the first time since we began in 2011, so we’ve come pretty close to shutting up shop on numerous occasions. I’d say we’re still not out of the woods by any stretch, though we are able to do a series of events, streaming and digital content through the spring at least and are working hard to get things back on an even keel as the independent music world tries to get back on its feet.”

ICMuS is certainly one of the more adventurous university music departments and we hope this is the first of many collaborations

The TUSK team have built an increasingly close relationship with Newcastle’s International Centre For Music Studies (ICMuS), with regular collaborators Mariam Rezaei and Will Edmondes both working there and TUSK videos even being used in lectures. This relationship has led to TUSK North, taking place at The Lit & Phil this month, and a full collaboration in terms of programming. “We’re very protective of our programming so this is a new way for us to work but we feel we share so much in common re: outlook and aesthetics of music with Mariam, Will and ICMuS generally that it’s come together in a way that we’re all very happy with. It enables us to bring some acts to the region for the first time and showcase some favourite locals while also bringing more light to the great artists based at the University. ICMuS is certainly one of the more adventurous university music departments and we hope this is the first of many collaborations.”

The event will take place across the whole of The Lit & Phil, a beautiful building full of opportunities and spaces. There’ll be installations, talks, a video jukebox, a full TOPH fringe and a sacred harp session led as ever by Cath and Phil Tyler. As we’ve come to expect, Etherington’s enthusiasm is infections, especially when talking about the music line-up.

I’ve spent a lot of lockdown enjoying releases from Uganda’s Nyege Nyege and related labels so we’re really excited to bring Yao Bobby + Simon Grab’s noise-spattered dancehall. And Supriya Nagarajan and Lucy Nolan’s merge of carnatci singing and harp is sublime. Apartment House are someone we’ve been trying to bring here for the past few years and they will perform a new piece by our friend Jim O’Rourke for oscillator and strings. Plus Edward George’s superheavy Strangeness of Dub show, amazing Newcastle bands like Penance Stare and Bad Amputee, unhinged electronics from Kenosist, Will and Mariam in various guises and loads more.”

TUSK North takes places at The Lit & Phil, Newcastle on Friday 4th and Saturday 5th March.

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