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March 5, 2015

WOMADelaide: Public Service Broadcasting

You probably won’t walk into Womad expecting to dance to Space Race-era public information films, but if you stumble upon Public Service Broadcasting’s set you should be ready to reconsider that expectation.

  • Words: Johnny Von Einem

“The idea just came from listening to the radio one night and hearing about these British Film Institute films being released onto the internet for the first time, and just thinking it sounded like a fun sort of thing to play around with,” explains Public Service Broadcasting frontman J. Wilgoose Esq.


Public Service Broadcasting play Speakers Corner 7 at 11pm on Friday and Stage 2 at 11pm on Sunday.

“The very first time I called [the Institute], it was to get permission to use these films called Protect and Survive, which was what to do in the event that nuclear war breaks out. These films were produced, and used to terrify people, throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s.”

Weaving samples of these films into their highly thematic music, J. and drummer Wrigglesworth (the pair work under pseudonyms, as you may have guessed) manage to create engrossing and at times surprisingly danceable tracks, despite the heavy source material.

Public Service Broadcasting’s first album, Inform-Educate-Entertain, features the krautrock-inspired Spitfire, based on the creation of the eponymous warplane; and Gagarin, from recently released sophomore album The Race for Space, is an instrumental ode to the Soviet cosmonaut (with the kind of funk Daft Punk were hoping for when they hired Nile Rodgers).

The Space Race theme of the second album also inspired an evolution of sound for the band.

“It made sense to try and stretch ourselves at the same time that we were writing about this extraordinary group of people who were stretching everything, I suppose. Sort of pushing the boundaries in every way,” J. explains.

“It kind of mirrors the words we’re sampling as well. Kennedy says ‘we choose to do these things, not because they’re easy, but because they’re hard,’ and I thought it was worth us having a stab at something that was a bit difficult to get that message across.”

The band’s live show consists of J. and Wriggles flitting between guitar, drums, percussion, synths, samplers and occasionally a banjo, while cuts of the films being sampled run behind them.

“It’s a weird live show, I’ll be honest. Before we started playing festivals I thought this would work really well, because … if you just stumbled into a field and saw us, you’d be like ‘what’s going on here? What are they doing? Why is he not talking to the crowd? What’s that video about?’ Yeah, it’s a weird one really,” J. laughs.

“It gets people moving, and … it’s odd enough that it’s worth sticking around for.”


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