THE DAY TODAY
This is the neeeeeeeeews
September 25, 2019
Dave Simpson has written a nice piece about us in today's Guardian..
Mark Radcliffe and Paul Langley are sipping tea in central Manchester. The former is the much-loved radio star; the latter is something of a mystery. “Good, the less said the better,” Langley says from behind his spectacles and pot of Earl Grey. However, I do know he once made an EP in an outfit called Rack-It! “That was with Martyn Walsh from Inspiral Carpets,” he laughs. “He said, ‘You wanna do a track called Sex on Acid – that’ll annoy people.’ And it did.”
Radcliffe and Langley are, they tell me, “soon to be legendary”. This will be in the guise of UNE, the name they have given themselves. The pair have made Lost, an album of lovely, plaintive electronica over which Radcliffe sings. They met five years ago in the Builder’s Arms in Knutsford, Cheshire. Radcliffe, new to the area, asked locals which pub was dog-friendly. This led to dog-walk encounters with Langley, and the pair were soon bantering over pints, about music and Manchester City.
When I heard Paul's music, I thought: 'This is surprisingly good'
One day Langley mentioned the fact he made electronic music, and Radcliffe groaned. “I didn’t think it would be any good,” he says, “because he’s such a clown. But his hidden shallows turned out to be hidden depths. When I heard it, I thought, ‘This is surprisingly good.’”
Radcliffe was reading Lost in Translation, Ella Frances Sanders’ illustrated compendium of untranslatable words from around the world. He wondered if it was possible to write a song called Boketto, which means “to gaze vacantly into the distance without thinking” in Japanese. “So I’d give Paul the idea and the picture from the book. He’d write music and I’d go away and write words.” The pair were surprised at how effectively this created what Radcliffe calls “electronic pop songs, but very warm and dreamlike”.
Mark Radcliffe ‘surprised’ to lose BBC show during cancer
Radcliffe hopes UNE aren’t seen as “some radio bloke having a dabble”. He was, after all, in bands before becoming a DJ. “I’ve never really seen a divide between the two. Sometimes it helps and sometimes it doesn’t because radio people think, ‘We can’t play that – it’s Mark.’ I just hope we get the same chance as everyone else.”
Over the years, his DJing has coexisted with playing in the not-yet-legendary pirate folkies Galleon Blast, spoof combo the Shirehorses, and Dr Feelgood-inspired Mark Radcliffe and the Big Figures. Early on, he even played drums in Skrewdriver, before singer Ian Donaldson became known as a white supremacist. “There were never any obvious signs of that while I was in them,” says the avowedly anti-racist DJ. “He did wear jackboots, though. God, I’m making this worse, aren’t I?”
‘I don’t pay my licence fee to hear scummy northerners’ … Mark Radcliffe with ‘Lard’ Riley in their breakfast show days. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian
Radcliffe’s radio career began in 1979 when, at the age of 21, Manchester’s Piccadilly Radio asked him to present Transmissions, a show about the music exploding in the city, triggered by Joy Division and Factory Records. “I thought, ‘How hard can that be?’ I tried to be Manchester’s John Peel, telling people what we were playing in a manic depressive voice.”
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In 1997, he found himself (alongside ex-Fall guitarist Marc “Lard” Riley) briefly hosting Radio 1’s flagship breakfast show. “It was the biggest show in Europe – until we took it over,” he chuckles. Their anarchic, edgy, Mancunian humour didn’t always travel. “I’ve never forgotten the focus-group woman in Guildford who said, ‘I don’t pay my licence fee to hear scummy northerners.’”
But his radio persona – self-effacing, ordinary bloke lost in music – works because it’s real. Langley roars at the tale Radcliffe tells of the time he and Lard were in David Bowie’s dressing room with the star asking where “Heroes” should go on the setlist. “I’m thinking, ‘Is this really happening?’” Radcliffe hoots. “Don’t ask us, Dave!”
In August last year, Radcliffe was diagnosed with cancer. As Langley ferried his mate around during treatment, the pair became even closer. Radcliffe is now cancer-free and doesn’t want to spend his life worrying that it will come back. After well-received performances at Bluedot and Kendal Calling festivals, there will be more gigs, although the pair have yet to master the demands of being electronic gods.
“One night,” says Radcliffe, “instead of singing, ‘The distant clatter of a thunderstorm’, I sang, ‘The distant clatter of a leprechaun.’ You can see the trouble we’ve got.”
Lost is out on 18 October. UNE play the Old Courts, Wigan, 3 October, and more dates before Christmas. Mark Radcliffe’s book, Crossroads, is published by Canongate.
BOKETTO - BBC RADIO 2
January 08, 2020
The ace Will Young is standing in for our good friend Jo Whiley all this week on Jo's daily evening show 7pm-9pm, played Boketto from our album Lost.
Head to BBC Sounds app or online at and listen again, it sounds really good.
Jo has played Boketto a few times on her show plus, we've been picking up further plays across BBC!
Mary Ann Hobbs and Janice Long have featured tracks from the album across the airwaves recently, fingers crossed for more!
So thanks Will, Jo, Mary, Janice and all our pals for supporting us!
IN THE NEWS
February 8, 2020
Mark Radcliffe’s cappuccino arrives at the table in the Cranford Café almost before he does.
“This is what it’s come to, I have a ‘usual!’, he jokes. He and energetic cavapoo Arlo are regulars here, and familiar faces around Knutsford.
Having lost his weekday BBC radio slot during recent cancer treatment, the 61-year-old has more time on his hands these days – but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Just over a year on from finishing treatment, the popular DJ remains in the clear and is settling nicely into a new lease of life.
“It was the worst thing that ever happened to me,” he says of the cancer in his tongue and lymph nodes, “but conversely it’s now one of the best.”
Tipping the work-life balance well into the leisure side of things – albeit against his will – the ‘semi-retired’ DJ says changes forced upon him by the BBC have led to a fresh perspective and new opportunities after 41 years as a full-time presenter.
He said: “There are decisions they make which I find a little bit hard to understand, but I have had a good career and a fair innings so I try not to complain.
“Coming back from treatment I don’t have the energy that I had, so doing the weekend breakfast shows on 6 Music and the Wednesday night folk show – I have actually come to quite like that.”
Known for his love of folk music, Mark turned heads with his new electro-pop venture UNE, born out of a friendship with fellow Knutsfordian Paul Langley. The pair met after Man City fan Mark sought out a pub to watch the match, finding himself in the Builders Arms.
“We spent a lot of time together and one day he told me he made electronic music, and because he is such a clown I thought, ‘Oh, god’, it was going to be terrible and spoil a beautiful friendship.
“When he played it to me, it was surprisingly good. I said, ‘are you sure you've done this?’ UNE grew out of that, and after the cancer I was looking for new things to do.”
While it was a new step into the world of electronic music, performing has always been Mark’s ambition and indeed his forte, playing in bands since the age of 14.
As his recovery continued, Mark was able to work in a pressure-free collaboration with Paul, who would send across demos for Mark to write lyrics and melodies.
The first album, Lost, brought together phrases for which there is no one-word translation into English. The lead single, Boketto, is Japanese for ‘staring absent mindedly into the middle distance’ –“I do quite a lot of that.”
“We have a lot of shared loves,” says Mark of his work with Paul and tech-wizard Jim Broughton of Knutsford Little Theatre, where UNE will play in February as part of a tour.
“New Order, Kraftwerk, Pet Shop Boys – our music was coming from a common set of influences.
“It was surprisingly natural and sometimes when I hear it I think ‘how have two pillocks from the pub come up with this?’”
An adopted Knutsfordian, Mark has grown fonder still of the town since his diagnosis and treatment.
“I love Knutsford, but what it doesn’t have is an arts centre or a venue for touring bands.
“I thought the Little Theatre was perfect. It’s a lovely stage, you get a comfy seat, a bar with decent beer, you can walk there – and hopefully people will go to the gigs and wonder what else is going on.
“For me, the idea that I might not be here and doing any of this focuses the mind. When you come up against life and death how can you not have a more positive outlook? “Hopefully, it will stop me descending into grumpy old man-ness. I feel quite young and I have this positive attitude to life which I have never really had before.”
The music star reborn says revellers at the Little Theatre show on Saturday, February 29 can expect a rounded performance, complete with an aesthetic and an immersive element that suits the music. With a set-up including lights, films, and ‘little men’ drawn in 15 minutes, it’s an act that works just as well in a 100-seat venue as it does in front of thousands at Blue Dot.
“It was one of the great days of my life, it went so well,” Mark recalls of the July 2019 gig.
“I had that appreciation of standing on stage in front of 3,000 people when six months earlier I had been stuck lying in bed.
“It’s the gift that keeps on giving and I enjoy the smaller gigs just as much. It’s like being a kid, I still wake up in the morning and think ‘great, gig tonight’.
“People have given me the benefit of the doubt and I think that’s very kind. Kindness is what your life should revolve around, really.”
UNE play at Knutsford Little Theatre on Saturday night, February 29.
Tickets available at unemusic.com/hold-tight-knutsford