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Mogwai On Julia Brightly Tribute
Luke Turner , July 11th, 2014 15:14

Stuart Braithwaite and KOKO's Daveid Phillips discuss fundraiser for Trans* charity Gendered Intelligence in memory of Julia Brightly

On 29th July, Mogwai, ATP and KOKO are teaming up for a night of music to pay tribute to Julia Brightly, a music world legend who worked behind the sound desk for the likes of Mogwai and Fuck Buttons. Brightly died after a short illness on May 3rd. KOKO boss Daveid Phillips and Mogwai's Stuart Braithwaite teamed up to arrange the benefit concert, which will raise money for Gendered Intelligence, a charity that works with trans* young people with arts events and helps to develop trans* awareness in schools and youth groups. Also on the bill are The Twilight Sad, Fuck Buttons and Phillips will be DJing, and you can buy tickets here. We spoke to Daveid Phillips and Stuart Braithwaite to find out more about the event, and to hear them pay tribute to Julia Brightly's life and work.

When did you first meet Julia?

Daveid Phillips: I first met Julia when she was an angry young man called Steve. Steve was in an incredible politically charged duo called Mute Drivers (think Big Black with a social conscience) named thus because they were in the in-house couriers for Mute records when they were based at 429 Harrow Rd. I had started off promoting bands and was based a little further up the road at the Mean Fiddler in Harlesden and used to often book the Mute Drivers for various incendiary shows. Steve went on to become a front of house sound engineer for most of the acts on Blast First and some Mute acts such as Wire.  

Stuart Braithwaite: We first met Julia (who at this point was Stephen) when she was doing sound for Slint in 2007. She did our front of house sound from 2008 until 2012. After that we kept in touch and saw her for the last time at our show earlier in the year at the Royal Festival Hall. She was a very good friend. 

DP: We lost touch over the years but recently made up for it when meeting up again last year. Angry Steve was now a much happier Julia Brightly and seemed to be making up for lost time. We quickly formed a little production company called Brightly & Phillips, to handle any projects we felt like both doing, the first of which was to start recording interviews for an audio documentary called 429 Harrow Rd, this was to be based on the people that worked there as much as the bands that were signed to Mute. We had the blessing from Daniel Miller and were a third of the way through when Julia died. She had just left to start work with The Knife and came back to London not feeling well. A few days later she was diagnosed with both liver and kidney cancer. Ten days later she was dead and my world fell apart. She was not only a sound engineer but also an amazing guitarist, song writer, performer and singer. A lot of her work can be found here.

What did she bring to Mogwai's live sound?

SB: She was a great sound person. I think the sound she did for the Slint shows was the best I ever heard. She was pretty formidable too and used to have great battles with venue sound people who tried to get us to turn down. She always won.

What are your fondest memories of Julia?

SB: My fondest memories are of just spending time talking. Julia was a bit older than me and would tell me lots about growing up in the 70s and seeing so many amazing bands that I loved in their heyday. She was great company and was just a wonderful warm human being. She was also very brave and knowing her has given me some insight into what trans* people go through every day.

You held her funeral at KOKO, can you tell us about that, and the idea for the benefit?

DP: It felt right to hold her funeral at KOKO. We had her coffin in the middle of the dance floor and people recounted stories and sang songs, we also played some of her recorded work at full volume through the PA. At the end we all carried her coffin together as if she was crowd surfing up on to the stage and fittingly out through the artists exit stage left into blinding sunshine. It was the at funeral whilst chatting to Barry from ATP that the idea of the memorial show was formed. Stuart Braithwaite from Mogwai had already said he wanted to do something as had Fuck Buttons who I met at the funeral. Myself and a small group of Julia's closest mates (team Lovely) decided that Gendered Intelligence would be the perfect benedictory for the the profits from the show. I can't thank Barry Hogan, Stuart Braithwaite, The Twilight Sad, Declan Allen and both Fuck Buttons enough, what they are doing is huge and means so very much.

Can you tell us about Mogwai's involvement with the night?

SB: Sadly as we only found out about Julia's illness very late we didn't get a chance to say goodbye. I thought that doing something to celebrate her life and raise money for a charity close to her heart seemed a good thing to do. We spoke to some of her friends and they suggested the charity Gendered Intelligence. She would have liked that.