In 2011, when I was news editor for Music Week, 1Xtra invited me along to its playlist meeting. It was at a time when the station – along with sister station Radio 1 – was trying to throw off some of the secrecy of how it put together the playlist and I was the second journalist to be invited along to the meeting.

Three years is a long time in music, of course: music fashions change and staff move on (and whatever did happen to The Bullitts?). But I think a lot of what is in this article remains valid – the relationship the station has with R1, the obsessions with stats, grime versus dubstep (which led to an almighty argument in the meeting, if I remember rightly) and the various concerns over commerciality and artist backgrounds.

 So I’ve reposted it here for you enjoyment or otherwise.

Inside the 1Xtra playlist meeting

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As Britain in the 90s frothed over Britpop, on the other side of the Channel the French were having their own patriotic music awakening, thanks to the French Touch, a one-size-fits-all term applied to the disco-led house music that filtered its way out of Paris in the mid to late 90s.

At the time, it seemed the two could hardly be more different: Britpop was a brand of Kinks-ian guitar music designed for lagery indie discos, while the French Touch combined smooth house beats, disco bass lines, French chic and sophisticated night clubs. It’s only now, looking back from 20 years on that I can see how much they have in common.

Patriotism and awakening

Britpop was seen as solidly British pop, long marginalised from its 60s boom, patriotically returning to claim its rightful chart crown.

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dj-falconWhen DJ Falcon appeared as the seventh instalment of the Daft Punk Creators video series last year you can imagine a few eyebrows were raised.

Who, you might have wondered, was this amiable looking French bloke who followed in the footsteps on legends such as Giorgio Moroder and Nile Rodgers among the Daft Punk collaborators?

It’s a good question. Falcon – aka Stéphane Quême – introduces himself as the video as the childhood best friend of Pedro Winter, Daft Punk’s erstwhile manager. He’s also been the Daft Punk tour photographer, worked in Virgin Records A&R department and is cousin to Alan Braxe (Alain Quême).

But Falcon isn’t just the best connected man in French house. He’s also a producer of rare quality, with just five solo tracks to his name, a handful of remixes and three collaborations, each one bursting with brilliance.

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Rainy City logoManchester doesn’t just do things different musically, it also has a strong history of house music, staking a good claim to be the first place in Britain to have played the emerging house sound back in the 80s.

By the 1990s the Manchester house scene was led by Paper Records, which released records by the likes of Salt City Orchestra, Dirty Jesus and Crazy Penis, while label founders Miles Holloway and Elliot Eastwick DJed all over the city.

But if the Paper Records duo were Manchester’s Deep Dish – that’s to say, smooth, deep and successful – then Rainy City Music was perhaps its KDJ, bringing a rougher, live edge to underground house, which looked to the US, Brazil and Africa for inspiration and proved very different to other electronic music being made in Manchester at the time.

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20131115_230714Barcelona must surely be the world capital of events that take dance music very seriously indeed. Take Sonar – it’s not just a massive rave in an exhibition centre on the outskirts of town; it’s an “international festival of advanced music and new media art”.

Mira, a festival of “music and visual arts”, which took place in the Catalan capital last week, fits very snugly into this lineage: it is set in Fabra I Coats, a vast old factory turned art space; most acts are accompanied by VJs and there are also artistic installations for revellers to check out as they wait The Haxan Cloak to make their ears bleed.

But if this sounds like a bit of a chore, it’s not. Barcelona is also a global capital of having a lot of fun and the two worlds collide with ease at Mira. There are people with arty moustaches checking out the installations, sure, but they are typically to be found, beer in hand later, making a disgrace of themselves later to Spanish producer Begun.

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Quincy JonesHowever much you think you know the work of Quincy Jones, he still has the power to surprise.

You know, of course, that he produced Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall and Thriller, revolutionising pop music in one amazing purple patch. But the sheer scale of his achievements is astounding.

Towards the end of our interview, the talk turns, inexplicably to football. Warming to the subject, Jones starts to sing The Self Preservation Society. “I wrote that, you know,” he adds, a glimmer in his eyes. “And they still sing that at football matches. Beckham told me.”

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When Mercury Rev’s fourth album, Deserter’s Songs, was released in September 1998 it felt like it had come from nowhere. That is a tribute to the album’s dark, otherworldy feel, of course, but also a testament to how far Mercury Rev had fallen since the release of their debut album Yerself Is Steam in 1991. In particular the band’s third album, See You On The Other Side had flopped on its release three years earlier.

“There was fairly little interest in people wanting to release a Mercury Rev record at that point,” Mercury Rev’s Jonathan Donahue told The Quietus of the period leading up to the release of Deserter’s Songs.

“We had left Columbia and See You On The Other Side had sold very little. It wasn’t enough to make anybody’s ears to perk up and for them to say ‘Oh I can’t wait for the next Mercury Rev record to hit the stores’. That wasn’t there, and that is the truth of it.”

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