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Interview: Down By The River - we chat to Alex Zinovieff

As Ratty says in Wind In The Willows, there's nothing better than 'messing about in boats' and, if you go down to Putney this weekend, then you'll discover a riverbank with a difference... '

The Boatshed – which began life as a humble blog – is now a pioneering force behind new approaches to music journalism. By focussing on connecting artists and audiences, as part of a multimedia experience, The Boatshed is shining a light on exciting new talent from both within and beyond the London scene; presenting them in an intelligent and visually beautiful manner.

We spoke to founder Alex Zinovieff about breaking the bow between words, production and performances, The Boatshed's summer residency at Auriol Kensington Rowing Club and throwing shapes with Tom Jones.

Run-Riot: To introduce you to our readers, who are you and what do you do?

Alex Zinovieff: My name is Alex Zinovieff and I run The Boatshed with my brother Tom and my friend Hamish. The Boatshed runs shows, makes videos with bands, has a radio show and publishes articles and interviews with bands that we love. We’re working with a sensationally good artist at the moment on their debut release which will go out on our, soon to be launched, label. It is unbelievably exciting, and we can’t wait to tell you more. At the moment it’s quite hush-hush! 

Run-Riot: How did music come into your life? What function does it play for you?

Alex Zinovieff: I was watching television as a very young child when The Offspring came on and performed Pretty Fly For a White Guy. I literally couldn’t believe what was happening to me. I bought the album, and listened to is about 15 times a day for the next six months. It was an obsession. From that moment as a 10 year old sitting in front of his TV I have been completely immersed in music. I’ve also got another Offspring album now.

Run-Riot: There's a lot of music review websites out there, what makes The Boatshed distinctive and how did the idea first come about?

Alex Zinovieff: There is a thread that runs through everything we do, and that is to only work with people that we genuinely really like, and whose music we really think other people will enjoy. We also insist that anyone that contributes has an IQ over 140, so that everything comes from a ridiculously brainy place. Joking apart, it’s a place where we hope people will find it really easy to find some new music that they’ll go completely bananas for. 

The Boatshed was conceived while lying in bed one night. I knew I wanted a channel for my writing, and so it began as a very simple blog. I was then hugely hugely lucky to be joined in the project by Tom and Hamish, who make the magic happen. They’re a cosmic pair. Things have moved on a little since those really early days, and it’s all happened really quickly. We’ve only been running for just over year.

Run-Riot: How would you describe the general style of The Boatshed and what do you consider when selecting a band to work with?

Alex Zinovieff: We will work with a band if we think they’re absolutely brilliant. That’s it! We put so much time and love into everything we do, it would be really depressing to be doing that for anything other than things we really liked! 

Run-Riot: When did you first decide to start hosting events and what can we expect at the riverside Summer Series?

Alex Zinovieff: These mini-festivals have been so much fun! The venue is the peachiest of peachy places. It has a huge roof-terrace that everyone hangs out on. We have bands through the day, a barbecue, lots to drink and all of this overlooking the river. We’re damn lucky to be able to work in the venue. 

Run-Riot: What does the future have in store - Do you see your function developing more in the reporting or performative direction?

Alex Zinovieff: We’re looking towards Management and the label side of things at the moment. We are exposed to some mind-blowing emerging music, and working in that area really excites me. We’ve also started to run shows outside of London, which is terrific fun. I am from Oxford, and I feel very connected to the music that is coming out of Oxford, so running shows there is an adventure and I’m really up for!

Run-Riot: Do you think that music journalism needs to have a curatorial aspect in order to be relevant?

Alex Zinovieff: On the whole, I find reviews a very boring business. Who actually cares about a review of the new Coldplay album, or some cobbled together words on the latest offering by a band you’ve probably heard on the radio 5 times that day? I think I’d have more fun reading the back of a packet of corn flakes. The music journalism that interests me is about music I’ve not heard before, and non-reviews. In the ‘words from the Editor’ section of our site, I have written a few articles with titles like: ‘What is Folk Music’ and ‘Is Pop Becoming Cool Again?’. If people read an article and learn something, whether that’s about a new band, or about the history of pop culture, then I think journalism has made a contribution. 

Run-Riot: Best experience from the journey so far?

Alex Zinovieff: We are heading up to Belladrum Festival in August to film sessions up there. We sent Tom Jones an email asking whether he fancied coming along and having us film him while he danced around and sang some songs. To our absolute horror his people responded saying that he actually would quite like to have us film him cutting some shapes and singing some songs. It’s not a done deal yet, but I suppose the answer is that the best experiences will come after having been touched by the Tom Jones magic. 

Run-Riot: It's midnight, you've taken over the playlist for the evening, what are you likely to put on?

Alex Zinovieff: 'Hazey' by Glass Animals. It is the grooviest and coolest song I’ve heard all month. 

Run-Riot: Who should we be watching out for at the moment?

Alex Zinovieff: I’m going to simply give you five songs that I am completely convinced you’ll really like. 

Nick Mulvey - Meet Me There

Jungle - The Heat

Khushi - Magpie

Catfish and the Bottlemen - Rango

Liz Lawrence - Health and Safety

The next 'Boatshed on the River' event takes place on August 2nd. For tickets and further details see their website.