Alias of UK producer and DJ Bob Bhamra, West Norwood Cassette Library is guided loosely by his taste for rough and funky tracks. In 2010, Bhamra set up his own label WCNL Recordings which is still thriving to this day, as well as playing regularly on the likes of Balamii Radio and NTS. Now set to play at Venue MOT on June 3rd alongside selector and producer Syz for ATRIUM’s debut event (tickets here), we found a minute to catch up with West Norwood Cassette Library ahead of his set…
You’ve run WCNL Recordings for 13 years and held a show on Balamii Radio for almost 7 years now – what would you describe as the signature West Norwood sound?
I have a stock response for this – if there is a signature WNCL sound, I have no idea what it is. I’m lucky enough to have found a radio station for the show and a distributor for the label that trust my taste and just let me get on with things without demanding too many explanations. Once upon a time, I would have been happy enough to just call it “underground” but there’s so much drivel out there right now claiming to be “underground” that I’m not sure I want to be associated with it!
What can people expect on the 3rd June at Atrium’s debut London party when you grace the decks at Venue MOT?
Massive, hands-in-the-air, sing-along, trance-flavoured, lowest common denominator, stadium-sized anthems. But underground ones, obviously.
Having seen things come and go, how important do you think it is for spaces like Venue MOT to exist in the face of large commercial venues so that the DIY spirit can remain?
There’s nothing wrong with big money venues dishing out painting by numbers commercial dance music on a Saturday night. It’s just not my cup of tea. The DIY spirit has always been intrinsic to all WNCL activity. Partly out of choice – it has so much more charm and romance than the workaday, corporate, ego-fuelled, mercenary alternative … and partly out of necessity – if nobody’s interested in putting out your record or booking you for their party, then do it yourself! So, obviously the smaller venues and intimate events have more appeal to me.
British Club music no longer sits in isolation, with London at an international crossroads for sounds from Europe, across the pond and beyond. What do you think the future London sound is?
I’ll let you know when LMajor finishes his next tune.
Being a vinyl enthusiast and crate digger, you spend a lot of time in records shops, we wondered if you could perhaps shed some light on your favourite places to hunt for tunes?
I’ve got a full-time job and an 8 year old daughter so it becomes harder to find time to dig for records when you’re knackered all the time. Like the rest of the world, I use all the obvious online resources but always try and get to a physical, bricks and mortar shop when I can and give them my pocket money.
These spots are often key to the dance music community, how important do you feel this is to a healthy and thriving scene?
When it works, it’s invaluable. Planet Wax in New Cross is a prime example and central to the WNCL universe. It’s usually an in-out trolley dash before the school run but it’s my go to place to pick up tunes and books, cut dubplates, have a drink and meet up with friends and producers from the label when I get the chance.
They’re championing the underground (you know, the real one!) with their events too. I recently played a 7 hour set for them which, again, was great to have someone invest that kind of trust – a godsend for someone like me who is mostly off the radar for promoters and agencies.
The Balamii Radio show you host is a firm favourite with DJs and fans alike. When putting a show together do you have a particular theme in mind or is it just what you’ve been enjoying the weeks prior?
I’ve always tried to present the show as a balance of upfront tunes and a dig into the archives. For the first few years, it was centred around having a guest in the studio every month – Saturday afternoon’s down at the Holdren’s Arcade in Peckham used to be a lot of fun.
Lockdown changed all that of course. I still had great guests coming through with prerecord mixes but it would have been nicer to hang out with them. Now the station is closed at the weekend so I’m in the Wednesday night slot and back in prerecord mode which is slowly killing me! I’m trying to make the most of being in a basement full of records and keeping the past / present / future format going.
Which artists inspire you the most?
The next signings on WNCL Recordings naturally … whoever they may be.
Which DJ would you most like to go B2B with?
I happen to be going back to back with Pepsi Slammer on a deep house flex on 16th July at Planet Wax. That’ll do for me.
Which London restaurant would you recommend to someone visiting?
Lal Baag, Norwood Road, West Norwood. Each and every …
Which record would you save from your burning record collection?
Ha! I’d probably burn to a crisp trying to decide … right now, I’m in the basement looking at a copy of The She Rockers “Give It A Rest” (1989, Music of Life) so I’ll grab that and make a run for it.
Finally, can you give us 3 tracks, one each of past, present and future that you think our readers should be listening to?
This is going to take far too long so I’ll narrow it down to just WNCL Recordings in a cheap attempt to plug the label!