Zang Productions


Hip hop used to be a youngun's game, but in 2013 it is ageing gracefully. Barrowclough was born the year before 'Rappers Delight' was released, and began writing and releasing music as the Golden Age was just dawning. A decade and a half ago, as part of Birmingham supergroup, Michaelis Constant, he released a couple of critically admired albums, before kicking things off on his lonesome, with 2008's 'Life on the Ground' album.

Now, in their mid 30s together, Barrowclough and hip hop have both left behind the idealism of youth and are all the better for it. 'Although We Claimed To Be Wise' is what happens when the teenage acquaintances of Chuck D, Aceyalone and the Demon Boyz start to mix with new friends like John Gray, St Paul and a wife and kids. This is not an exercise in scattershot angst. It is a careful lifting of the curtain to reveal the blind guides, the empty hopes and the unseen currents that are carrying us all towards oblivion. Salvation is necessary but our wisdom won't save us. That seems to be the general gist.

That and something to do with Wayne Rooney and Denby crockery.

The sombre but urgent musical backdrop is provided by Zang Production's GreyBeard and Benjamin Blower and encompasses mechanical horns, ethereal harmonies and shades of semi-boombap.
Its probably not what Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash had in mind, but its probably the Birmingham wordsmith's most coherent and least silly project yet.

To keep up to date with all Barrowclough goings on, like the Barrowclough facebook page.

Although We Claimed to be Wise track listing:

1) ‘Everything is not okay’ (produced by Greybeard)
2) ‘Freezing fog’ (produced by Benjamin Blower, featuring GreyBeard)
3) ‘Left right’ (produced by Greybeard and Barrowclough)
4) ‘Only One’ (produced by Greybeard and Barrowclough)
5) ‘Scar City’ (produced by and featuring Benjamin Blower)
6) ‘Then and now’ (produced by Greybeard)

Additional vocals on 2 and 4: Selina Blakeney
Trumpet on 3: Chris Carter


‘Although We Claimed To Be Wise Teaser’ 
‘Everything is not okay’ 
'My Hyundai'
'Zang Zero'
'Where is all the snow?'

Critical praise for ‘Life on the Ground’ (Barrowclough’s 2008 album)
‘A celestial charmer’ (HipHopConnection)

‘Barrowclough’s amazing, and sometimes hilarious story-telling ability and tight lyrical flows keep the listener hooked throughout the journey.’ (Fused Magazine)

‘A lot of Barrowclough’s character comes out in this album, and he sounds like a very interesting fellow indeed.’ (Line of Best Fit)

Although We Claimed to be Wise

30th Dec 2013

Barrowclough's new EP 'Although We Claimed to Be Wise' is out now from Itunes and other online stores. Like the Barrowclough facebook page for updates.
Yes yes y'all.


Advent Day 18

18th Dec 2012
Advent Day 18
Barrowclough and Joel the Custodian givve us a glimpse of what Christmas would be like for Santa and the Elfs climate change were to mean there was no snow anywhere at Christmas...

It's Christmas time, but where is all snow? 

48SHEET and Brum art. An ill informed rant.

23rd Apr 2012

On Sunday afternoon, my family enjoyed a unique and satisfying excursion. We drove around Birmingham city centre looking for art. It was kind of a safari, a treasure hunt and a gallery rolled into one. We loved it.

Basically, for those who have no idea what I’m on about, 45 advertising billboards in Birmingham city centre have been given over to artists to beautify England’s second city. It is a project called 48SHEET and is one of the best ideas I’ve seen come out of Birmingham’s art scene since I moved here 16 years ago.

Our afternoon then was spent following a map of the exhibits from Highgate to Hockley. While I appreciated the majority of the pieces displayed, the whole project had an effect beyond the individual billboards. As we searched for the exhibits amongst Renault Clio and vacuum cleaner advertisements, it made me start appreciating beauty that I’d never noticed before in my city. Impressive pre-blitz architecture. Original grafitti. Even some of the decay and urban squalor became striking in a way that could be enjoyed. Our conversation wandered on to the place of advertising in our lives. To the nature of art. To the mysteries of existence. Etc, etc.

I’ll be honest, we didn’t really get some of the exhibits (mostly the clock faces and surrealist slogans of the Delhi based Raqs collective) and didn’t get to see all of the billboards we were looking for (most regrettably Lucy Mclauchlan’s and the holiday and death ones) but for me the project worked utterly. It provoked thought and discussion and displayed some excellent pieces of art (Fazely St, in Digbeth, being our favourite cluster with Log Roper’s hand painted board and Steve Parson’s ‘Curiosity’)

However, at the same time, this ingenious exhibition was also incredibly frustrating. The 48SHEET project is an example of all that is good and bad about the Birmingham art scene. You see, nobody in Birmingham actually knows this is going on. I only found out about it because I happen to know one of the artists involved (Log Roper) and stumbled across one of his facebook posts. Nobody who I have mentioned it to had any idea what was I was talking about. Nobody. Not one person. The Ikon magazine gave over one page to it. Birmingham Whats On didn’t even mention it. Either this is a subversive attempt at anti-promotion as an artform or simply just an example of poor promotion. In either case, its inexcusable considering the wealth of talent on display and presumably the amount of money it cost to borrow all those valuable ad spaces. If you don’t know what is going on, in the majority of cases, you will simply find it annoying that so much of the advertising in your city has become so vague and arty. You definitely won’t take your family on a pre-Nando’s art safari on a Sunday afternoon and notice Curzon Street Station for the first time.

This is absolutely typical. How many times do us Brummies find out about some cool event just after its happened? You really have to work pretty hard to find out when things like the Flyover show or the Flat pack festival are happening. And that is if you care. Everyone else just goes on with their lives, oblivious of the fact that Birmingham is packed full of quality artists and has the potential to be a thriving, creative hub.

Someone needs to get hold of the Birmingham art scene and all its hidden genius and organise it. Promote it. Shout about it. Come up with a 5 year plan. Some targets. Maybe something could be learnt from the billboards that are being replaced and cleverly derided. At least JCDecaux and the corporations that use their spaces have a plan. The Birmingham art scene has one off ideas galore, but appears to be going nowhere in a very pretty, clever fashion. I really hope that this appearance is a deceptive trick hiding a well thought out path of momentum leading to Birmingham becoming the European Capital of culture in 2016. I have my doubts.

Please go and do the tour ( At least, commute with your eyes open. But it’ll be all gone by 29th April, so don’t blink or you’ll miss it.

Friends I've made beautiful music with... Irwin Maxx/Hobo Sonn

27th Jan 2012

Somewhere in either my loft or in Joel’s house (or possibly in that mysterious netherworld where lost things go) there is a minidisc. It is dark red/purple and has something scrawled on it- possibly ‘Irwin Maxx’ or ‘beats for Jonny’ or something like that. There may be a green one as well. Anyway, it/they feature/s a whole load of Ian Murphy’s finest beats and I fear they are lost forever. He doesn’t have them anymore. He spilt a cup of tea on the original disc. Ian has been a mate since we were young’uns and is primarily remarkable for growing a beard before anyone else I knew (by about 4 years). I first became acquainted with his musical skills on New Year’s Eve 1999, when I spent the evening freestyling to the seemingly unending selection of bangers emanating from his MPC. A couple of Michaelis tracks resulted (one is, like the minidiscs, lost forever), but his two tracks on ‘Life on the Ground’- ‘Photophobia’ and ‘Blue lights’ are two of my favourite all time beats.
Ian is now releasing music as Hobo Sonn. I have very few reference points at all to help me describe his sound. The best I can do is: Hobo Sonn sounds like the soundtrack to an early David Lynch movie. Its intriguing and oddly compelling. I like listening to it but I'm not sure I totally get it. Then again, since I met him, he’s always been about three steps ahead of me, so I’m sure one day I’ll catch up.

Favourite collaboration: ‘Blue Lights’
(listen on the music player on the Barrowclough page- )

Other listening: Wary the mind/swarm EP (you can listen to tracks on )

Friends I've made beautiful music with... Eliot Best

16th Jan 2012

2001. DJ Log’s bedroom. Michaelis Constant band practice. Joel tells us something about some bloke from West Heath who just won a competition remixing a track for Ty or something. He sticks on a cassette. The first track is really just a dirty, distorted double bassline. Maybe some drums are in there somewhere. Funny thing is that it literally compels you to rap. ‘Who’s this dude?’ someone asks. Eliot Best.

Eliot has gone by a number of nom de plumes over the years but Nightstalker 5000 seems to have stuck. Some people simply loop some instruments and cobble them together like that’s a major feat. Eliot crafts beats. His love for 80s electro pop and horror movie soundtracks seem to be appropriate reference points, but really its just hiphop how it should be done.

He is ½ of the Custodians and provided about half of the beats on ‘Life on the Ground.’ He’s a generous fellow as well, so if you’re dope and want a beat, you may be in luck. The perfect match, for me, though would be if a certain Daniel Dumile would give him a call. A DoomStalker 5000 album would be ridiculous.

Favourite collaboration: ‘Centre of the Universe’
(listen on the music player on the Barrowclough page- )

Other listening: Eliot’s soundcloud page (start with ‘banger 101’)

Friends I've made beautiful music with... DJ Pelt

14th Jan 2012

In 1999, while I was DJing at some dirty basement venue at Birmingham University, Joel told me that DJ Pelt had agreed to work with us to make the first Michaelis album. He might have well have said that Michael Jackson would be doing it. I can honestly remember few moments of such intense delight.

Just to explain: in my mind at that time there were only two types of music in existence- American hiphop and British hiphop. American hiphop generally sounded better, but had the distinct disadvantage of being more popular. Its British cousin was my favoured variety. Perpetually overlooked as a result of a total lack of airplay and the awkwardness of the majority of British regional accents, British hiphop was the plucky underdog, the upcoming challenger, the Bolton Wanderers of world music. And Pelt WAS British hiphop. Sitting proudly next to my Cash Crew, Gunshot and NSO Force 12”s was 499’s ‘Still Waiting’ EP featuring the classic ‘499 is here’. The MC was nice, but it was the rasping drum breaks and urgent horns that made it. And the producer was one DJ Pelt. And I got to make the best part of 2 albums with him.

A quiet, thoughtful chap, with an encyclopedic knowledge of hip hop history, Pelt is an artist who deserves much more recognition for his skill. He has continued to work with 499’s MC, Logic, particularly with Section 13, and my best bet would be that at this very moment he is poring over dusty jazz records looking for that perfect break. I hope he finds it.

Favourite collaboration: Michaelis Constant- Parasites in Paradise
(listen on the music player on the Barrowclough page- )

Other listening: 499- ‘499 is here’

Friends I've made beautiful music with...

7th Jan 2012
Happy New Year peeps. 2012 promises to be Zang-tastic. I’ve heard rumours of a Selina Blakeney free download album out shortly and my ‘Although we claimed to be wise’ EP will be out late Feb. Before that though I thought I’d kick off the New Year with a little backwards glance.

It dawned on me the other day that I have released music in 3 consecutive decades. Two words spring to mind: ‘veteran’ (to my mind) and ‘old’ (to most other people’s). Anyway, not one song I have recorded has been a solo effort. Every one has involved beat makers, DJs, vocalists or other musicians. Not one of them has ever been paid for their skill. This is a major regret and will be rectified when ‘Not Tame’ features as the soundtrack to next year’s Coca Cola advertising campaign and ‘Don’t despair’ becomes the national anthem of a newly formed Middle Eastern state. Until then I thought I’d simply do a little blogging series on the friends I’ve made beautiful music with. Unfortunately I won’t be able to include everyone and I’m going to focus on artists that aren’t my Zang buddies as most of you will probably be familiar with their awesomeness. Anyway, I’ll start with the beat makers and go from there. The first one will be out later in the week.

Please check them out, buy all of their stuff and say nice things about them. It really has been a privilege to work with so many talented people. Cheers amigos.

Still reading Schaeffer. Science and Christianity

21st Dec 2011

Almost finished my Francis Schaeffer trilogy. Provocative quote about the Christian origins of modern science:

 "...modern science could not have been born except in the milieu of Christianity. Why? In the area of biblical Chrisitianity, Galileo, Copernicus, Kepler, Francis Bacon - all these men, up to Newton and Faraday - understood that there was a universe there because God made it. And they believed, as Whitehead has so beautifully said, that because God was a reasonable God one could discover the truth of the universe by reason. So modern science was born. The Greeks had almost all the facts that the early scientists had, but it never turned into a science like modern science. This came, as Whitehead said, out of the fact that these men really were sure that the truth of the universe could be pursued in reason because it had been made by a reasonable God."

If modern science, the weapon most commonly wielded against the Christian faith, needs the Christian God to operate, the fight should be pretty one sided! Good work Francis!

By the way, I promise that my next blog post will be more hiphop related. Apologies. I am very easily distracted.

Go back and see what is wrong...

13th Dec 2011
On rare occasions, I am stirred beyond my normal level of sarcasm and frivolity. This quote is simply too good...

 "It is hard to understand how an orthodox, evangelical, Bible-believing Christian can fail to be excited. The answers in the realm of the intellect should make us overwhelmingly excited. But more than this, we are returned to a personal relationship with the God who is there. If we are unexcited Christians, we should go back and see what is wrong. We are surrounded by a generation that can find 'no one home' in the universe. If anything marks our generation, it is this. In contrast to this, as a Christian I know who I am; and I know the personal God who is there. I speak, and he hears. I am not surrounded by mere mass, nor only energy particles, but he is there. And if I have accepted Christ as my Savior, then though it will not be perfect in this life, yet moment by moment, on the basis of the finished work of Christ, this person-to-person relationship with the God who is there can have reality to me." (The God Who is There [Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1998], p. 190)

An amendment

25th Nov 2011
Mr Harrington's lawyers contacted me last night to demand that I put up a proper link to his video, not the shoddy one that I (alegedly) added the other day.
Apologies, but this should be better...

View all blog items from Barrowclough
Benjamin Blower
Fiction Fight
The Custodians
Josiah Gillespie
Bethan Marshall
University of the King
Selina Blakeney
The Zang Productions Ensemble
Vincent Gould