NARC. E-ZINE #7 | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

Narc. Magazine Online

Reliably informed

Hello, and welcome to the seventh edition of our digital ‘zine! Right here you’ll find all kinds of interesting and unusual diversions, designed to keep you entertained and informed on the region’s alt. music and culture scenes. Video interviews and sound clips, mini-documentaries, live performances, playlists, reportage, reviews and much more are all created exclusively by us as well as by some of the region’s talented creatives.

Spanning music, theatre, comedy, film, art and everything in between, the NARC. E-ZINE is designed as an antidote to doom-scrolling! With the aim of entertaining and informing, we will provide you with a constant source of exciting, surprising and unusual content continually evolving throughout the issue’s lifespan. Dip back in regularly, there’s new content uploaded all the time!

May Days In Barcelona – Keep Yourself Healthy

Teasing listeners with a track from his forthcoming debut album, May Days In Barcelona (Simon James Clowes to his pals) has revealed a striking video for his new single Keep Yourself Healthy, created by Newcastle-based visual artist Laurie Johnson. The track’s militant drums and blaring saxophones underpin a story of keeping your sanity in this unpredictable modern times, while the video manages to be both bleak and humorous.

Filmmaker Laurie explains his thinking behind the video: “The first half of the video is filled with a lot of positive imagery, forward momentum, healthy food, physical activity, bright locations. Moving into the latter half, there is a sense of falling apart, the healthy food is replaced by junk, the running shoes discarded, the forward motion reversed. By the end, the vibrant, almost garish tones have been replaced by dull monochrome. All the footage was filmed by myself on an Android phone, around the West End of Newcastle. Any shots of legs/feet are my own!”

Ivan The Tolerable new album

Prolific Teesside artist Ivan The Tolerable (aka Oli Heffernan) unveils another predictably brilliant slice of off-kilter musical meanderings on his latest album, Black Water/Brown Earth. Inspired by the changing of the seasons, and roping in some talented buddies to add suitably vibrant accompaniments, Oli says of the album: 

“I recorded this album in Spring last year in my little room In Middlesbrough, UK and an abandoned nuclear bunker in Utrecht, NL with my good friends Mees on drums and vibraphone and Elsa on saxophone, flute and clarinet. It deals with themes of landscape, nature, getting older, the passing of time and shifting seasons – its a trip, and will hopefully make you realise that Spring isn’t really too far away…”

Check out the video for album closer Memory, and be suitably swept away.

The Alex Opal Outfit – I Don’t Mind

Having tickled the ears of BBC DJ Craig Charles with his previously released singles, Newcastle funk and soul producer Alex Opal unveils a video for his brand new release, I Don’t Mind, released by his all-new band The Alex Opal Outfit. The track features the flamboyant vocals of emerging soul singer Matti, and Opal’s new 7-piece band pair well with his deep melodic structures and expertly stacked harmonies to ensure that I Don’t Mind is pure, unadulterated dance floor dynamite. The video is an escapist dream too, check it out!

She’s Doing It, So I’m Doing It – Rookes

Jay Moussa-Mann’s animated podcast with women in music production continues with an insightful chat with artist and producer Rookes, who was a recipient of Help Musicians’ Do It Differently fund which helped to produce her first LP PopNotPop. She also conceived of the 2% Rising project alongside her friend Katie Tavini, which heps support women and gender minorities working in music production and studios.

Listen to an audio version of the episode here, and watch more of Jay’s chats with inspirational female musicians and producers on our YouTube channel.

Matt Hoss - This Is A Music Quiz!

Comedian Matt Hoss launches This Is A Music Quiz! – a brand-new panel show podcast all about music, hosted by himself and featuring team captains Michael Legge and Bethany Black.

Each week there is a new theme and guest comedians, with the first episode focusing on 80’s pop and featuring Nick Helm and Alexis Strum. Give it a listen and make sure you subscribe to get a regular fix of music trivia.


In the latest episode of My Writing Life, in which Fran Harvey chats with writers about their writing lives, author, journalist and activist Lucy Nichol returns to the podcast to discuss her new book Snowflake: Breaking Through Mental Health Stereotypes and Stigma. An understanding and empathetic read, Fran and Lucy discuss the themes raised in the book and why it’s so important to take charge of your mental health.

Read the transcript of Fran and Lucy’s chat here:

butteredfeet Christmas Special

We were charmed by the tragic lives of the characters in audio soap butteredfeet, created by the still anonymous Newcastle-based writers, back in May, and we’re delighted they’ve returned with a special festive episode. Here, they give us some insight into the episode.

“In the world of butteredfeet, Christmas is a time for teeth whitening over 50s single air hostesses, for taxiing tipsy Lindas to work parties as well as keeping the homeless alive with a Greggs, for making a bra out of tinsel to avoid singing East 17 and for building Vincent Van Gogh Executive Lego whilst hunting for that last Malteser Teaser.”

Expect plenty of tragedy, irony and oddness…we wouldn’t have it any other way.

She’s Doing It, So I’m Doing It – LNA Does Audio Stuff

Continuing her exploration of women in music production, Jay Moussa-Mann talks to musician, producer and educator Liina Turtonen who runs the LNA Does Audio Stuff YouTube channel, in which she provides valuable insight into using Ableton as a production tool, as well as live performance behind the scenes videos and breakdowns.

Listen to an audio version of the episode here, and watch more of Jay’s chats with inspirational female musicians and producers on our YouTube channel.

Downtown Lester Brown – Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Newcastle-based funk rockers Downtown Lester Brown are emerging with a revamped line-up and a series of releases ready to go. Their latest track, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, is a blues rock behemoth full of groove-fuelled riffs.

The band explain what the song is about: “This one is based on femme fatales, smoke filled bars and hard-boiled heroes. The video is entirely a child of coincidence – it just so happened that we found a collection of really cool clips from a noir style photoshoot that were available under the creative commons license that told the kind of story which matched the song. Lester would have wrought harsh vengeance on us if we had passed up the opportunity to make a music video out of it…”

Sage Gateshead: Supernatural Songs

Sage Gateshead has partnered with Newcastle agency NOVAK to create a special concert film reflecting the Lindisfarne Gospels, which have been on display in the North East for the first time in nearly ten years.

The film features audio and visual moments from a live performance by Royal Northern Sinfonia of Tavener’s Supernatural Songs earlier this year, with renowned vocalist Dame Sarah Connolly. Visuals from the film follow the journey of the Lindisfarne Gospels, transporting audiences through its rich and remarkable history across the North East landscape.

Not Now Norman – What I Want

Northumberland rock band Not Now Norman released their brand new album, It’s Not This One, in November, and have followed it up already with a cracking single and video for What I Want.

Songwriter and lead singer Taylor-Grace explains the background to the track: “I used to be a shy girl in school and got bullied for a few reasons. One of them including telling people I was going to be a singer and make my own music. One day last year someone said that I clearly have a plan which confused me because I’ve just been throwing things at the wall and seeing what stuck, but it made me realise how far I’ve come. From being too shy to even step foot on stage to being the queen diva that I am today. There’s nothing holding me back from taking on the world and I’m doing it for me, not because someone is telling me what I should be doing.”

Jay Sykes' Hills Are Alive

Freelance audio producer Jay Sykes was recently the recipient of a Gold award for Arts and Creative Radio of the Year at the Community Radio Awards 2022 for his project Hills Are Alive, which focuses on the transformation of Sunderland’s fondly remembered former independent bookshop, Hills. Hills Are Alive was a partnership project between Norfolk Street Arts CIC and Jay Sykes Media which uses sound and storytelling workshops as a vehicle to explore participants’ connection to memories, books and the city of Sunderland. The resulting sound art piece uses those stories to create an audio tapestry of sound art and retold memories.

Chief Judge Leona Fensome commented that the piece was an “engaging community project, with a unique layering of sound art and pacy music, using beautiful skill and flawless production to take listeners on an intense, upbeat and emotional journey. Listen to it here.

NARC. Mini-Doc #4: Outside The Mainstream – The North East’s Alternative Scene

Our final NARC. Mini-Docs sees Jake Anderson explore outside-the-mainstream sounds and the driving forces behind their creation, chatting with Me Lost Me, SQUARMS, Mariam Rezaei, Kaneda Records and TUSK to reflect on what genre boundaries actually mean and artists’ hopes for the future of the North East’s alternative scene.  

NARC. Mini-Doc #3: Combining The Arts – Access For All

In the third instalment of our NARC. Mini-Docs series, Lizzie Lovejoy explores the world of non-traditional performance spaces, chatting with Middlesbrough’s Pineapple Black and Redcar Palace, to celebrate the fantastic work they do.

NARC. Mini-Doc #2: North East Cultural Activism

In the second instalment of our NARC. Mini-Docs series, Hope Lynes speaks to local activist groups in the music industry and culture scene, including Curious Arts, Art Mouse Promotions, Tracks, Sister Shack and Ruth Lyon, to find out why people are driven to fight back and speak out on subjects they’re passionate about.

NARC. Mini-Doc #1: Magic Hat Cafe

In the first of our NARC. Mini-Docs series, Evie Lake introduces The Magic Hat cafe, an anti-food waste cafe in Newcastle, discovering an innovative and progressive organisation which puts the environment and community first.

Open Clasp: Us Too – Alisha’s Story

Open Clasp Theatre Company continue to tell urgent stories with their latest project, Us Too: Alisha’s Story, which was co-created with women with learning disabilities who have experience of reporting sexual assault and domestic violence to the police. The film was co-created to effect change and to develop inclusive criminal justice responses to sexual violence.

Us Too: Alishas Story will be launched online on Saturday 3rd December, the UN’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities, watch the trailer here.

Style Stories: Women In War Service

Newcastle’s Discovery Museum engage comedian Sammy Dobson in exploring the stories of the women who fought in the Second World War. With many women’s heroic efforts during the war erased from history, Sammy joins the museum’s Katie Wright to look at the uniforms of women and consider the incredible impact they had on the outcome of the war.

Playlist: Pealie’s Barn

Northallerton music venue and cultural hub Pealie’s Barn are fundraising to support a planning application for the venue, and were forced to close their doors in October, leaving them without any means to generate income. The North Yorkshire venue is a real labour of love for Pealie and his army of grassroots supporters, give them a helping hand by donating to their crowdfunder, or head along to one of their upcoming Pealie’s Barn On Tour gigs at Darlington’s Quakerhouse (2nd Dec) and The Green Room, Stockton (17th Dec).

Here, they’ve curated a playlist of some of their favourite artists to have performed at the venue.

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