"I've been friends with Braiden since I was 15," states Deano Jo, one part of Real Gold, London's defining collective of the late 00s, early 10s. A collective who across hundreds of parties, raves, gigs, club nights, events, exhibitions, t-shirts, zines, pub, clubs, restaurants and pop ups, defined a time and place, and a little bit of mine - and many others' - teenage years in the city. Real Gold's recently released documentary, X Years In London, directed by Joe Ridout, is a loving look inside in that time, and celebrating 10 years of their activity. But the 15 year friendship between Braiden and Deano picks up on another narrative brought up in the film - that of the collaborative creative cross contamination living in London offers.
X Years in London works because isn't an auto-hagiography, but a document of an era. A document of the people who made the nighttimes more fun, and the hangovers easier to cope with. Braiden's soundtrack weaves in and out of the film, its own rhythmic pulse to London's loud musical heartbeat. Never overwhelming the history.
Of collaborating with Braiden, Deano states, has "always been a prodigy at whatever he picks up - back then it was guitar, then photography, then DJing, then music production. I figured if anyone would be good at having a fresh perspective on film scoring it would be him. It reflects everything we asked him to reflect. It fits the film, of course, but stands on it's own effortlessly too. It mirrors the light and dark of London."
So as the soundtrack gets a stand alone release, we caught up with Braiden to chat about the difficulties, pleasures and possibilities of soundtracking London.
How did you and Deano meet? Why did you want to work on the soundtrack?
I met Deano way before any of this happened, before I'd set foot in a club. We were in a band together as teenagers for a few years, I was on guitar and he on vocals. There's a VHS of us playing at The Verge somewhere out there, I think I lost it 14 years ago. Reward for its return.
But I've been interested in soundtracking something for a little while - I have a background in photography, so scoring a picture felt like an inevitability. The film is about London and nightlife - themes that are naturally imbued in my music. But Deano was part of my first ever musical venture as a 15 year old, after which we went off and did our respective things, so this felt like a nice closing of the circle.
What was your initial inspiration for the soundtrack?
The initial experiments were based on a consideration of how London makes me feel, at its most inspiring and overwhelming moments. I feel London is very electric, gritty, eclectic and full of juxtapositions. It was very important for me to respond to the vibe and pace of the film, whilst still creating music that could exist independently.
What was your approach to creating it? How different was it as a way of working from what you normally do?
The film is split into six chapters, which gave me particular boundaries and specific moods to create. Unlike music I've made previously, which exists more abstractly, there was an existing visual context and aim for each piece of music so you know immediately whether the thing you're creating is correct for the context. Being freed from the constraints of club music, I was a lot more free to roam with tempo and arrangement and there's a lot of variation throughout. I chose to lay music down for the entire duration of the film with no breaks, as this fitted the pacing of the film's edit which is consistent and always moving. A sense of narrative was important to me, a lot of the soundtrack chapters have a defined opening and resolution, as does the soundtrack as a whole.
How do you capture the sound of 10 years in London in 26 minutes?
I was never trying to. It was more about trying to capture particular emotions that I personally feel in the city, as well as creating a sound bed that entwines with some themes the interviewees of the film were speaking about. I was thinking about broad emotions and moods from my time here, rather than specific historical moments or movements. It also important for me to create music that felt contemporary. There are parts where I'm trying to evoke a sense of nostalgia with the deployment of certain sounds or chords, but didn't want to make music that felt from a bygone era.
How much of an influence has London had on your music?
More than I can realise. I was born here and have a real love for London. Undoubtedly I've been influenced by the musical movements throughout the city's history, as well as having plenty of formative experiences in London clubs a decade ago. But I'm also influenced by the energy and feel of the city, and at times still feel a sense of awe mixed with a distorted sense of nostalgia that only comes from living somewhere for three decades.
What do you hope people take away from the film?
I believe what Joe Ridout and Deano were trying to do with the film, and what I was trying to highlight with the music, was a sense of inspiration and excitement in a journey - looking back whilst looking forwards. Also a celebration of young disparate creative minds coming together and the possibilities of that - a real strength of this city.
Text Felix Petty