Binker and Moses

Binker and Moses's debut album Dem Ones references growing up in London and is reminiscent to the free style of playing used by John Coltrane and Rashied Ali on their collaborations.
The album is out on 29 June through Gearbox Records

While the Nazi-led Slovak State ended in 1945, fascism still continues in present day Slovakia.

For this year’s 76th anniversary of the establishment of the right-wing state – on 14 March 1939 – hundreds of ‘Pro-Slovakians’ marched to the grave of Jozef Tiso, the president of the republic under the wing of Adolf Hitler.

I've never held a bottle that hard in my life, I thought it was going to kick off

In November 2013, Marian Kotleba, leader of the Eurofascist Our Slovakia party, was elected regional governor in the city of Banska Bystrica with a majority of 55.5%.

It is on the periphery of such a climate that Londoners Binker Golding and Moses Boyd met for the first time during a memorable two-day tour to Bratislava, led by American trumpeter Abraham Wilson, in the summer of 2008.

After arriving in the Slovakian capital, saxophonist Golding, along with friend’s Graham Godfrey (drummer) and Miles James (guitarist), had decided to go out and sample some of the city’s nightlife for the first time.

As their night progressed, the trio encountered a Slovak who supposedly “loved British people” and suggested they accompany him to a party nearby.

“The guy's then walking us through all these council estates, Soviet-type estates,” recalls Golding, who was around 22 at the time. “We didn't know where the fuck we were.”

Their new Slovak friend brought them to a club in the basement of a warehouse where they found themselves surrounded by unusual company.

“We go in there, and are the only brown skinned people in this club,” he recalls. “We start getting abuse from them and, looking around a little bit closer, I can see a guy wearing a swastika and everyone's got shaved heads. This is a Nazi club.

“So I'm clinging to a bottle of Stella Artois now and I've never held a bottle that hard in my life, I thought it was going to kick off.”

On the same tour, drummer Moses Boyd, who was 17 at the time and still at school, was brought on board after a member of Abraham Wilson’s group was put in prison.

I didn’t grow up listening to jazz, as much as I love it, I still have the upmost respect for grime

Today, seven years after this first meeting, Binker and Moses have formed a musical alliance with fruitful results.

With track names like ‘No Long Tings’, their debut album Dem Ones is a frank reflection of who they are as two jazz musicians from London, raised on either side of the Thames.

“We’re just trying to be honest with how we grew up and where we grew up,” says Boyd on the album. “To abandon one would just be pointless.”

While walking down a row of practice rooms in the music block at Sedgehill School, Moses Boyd’s interest to play an instrument was peaked for the first time when listening to a student named Leon “going crazy” on the drums.

Boyd, at 13, decided there and then that he wanted to start taking lessons. His first teacher was the British jazz drummer Bobby Dodsworth, who put Boyd onto a new type of music. One that he and none of his friends were into at the time.

“I didn’t grow up listening to jazz,” he says. “As much as I love it, I still have the upmost respect for grime. Wiley and Dizzee Rascal was the soundtrack to growing up in London ... When I did get into Duke Ellington I was like, ah man there’s this whole world I don’t know about.”

I just knew at a particular point of time, that I was kind of on my own

After playing drums for a couple of years, Boyd started honing his skills outside of Catford, where he grew up, catching the 171 bus to Camden’s Roundhouse Workshop on the weekends.

“When I got back to Catford, I’d be surrounded by grime again, seeing my friends trying to get onto Channel U or what not. I’d be saying, ah man there’s this Wynton Marsalis record or there’s this Miles Davis record ... Nobody would know what I was talking about. My friends weren’t into it.”

Even at home, Boyd’s parents Rupert and Angela, as well as his two brothers and three sisters, did not share his taste in jazz.

“I was cool with it though,” says Boyd. “I never thought to hide that I was listening to jazz from anyone. I just knew at a particular point of time, that I was kind of on my own ... I loved it really though because nobody else was doing it.”

At the age of 16, Boyd took his interests in music to a live setting, “playing out and just hanging around bars and jam sessions – the one’s I could get into.”

A year later, he was brought on board with Tomorrow’s Warriors – a musical development programme headed by British bassist Gary Crosby, with the occasional help of Abraham Wilson.

I realised that I wanted to mix as freely as I could improvise acoustically

It was through their programme that Boyd met his musical alter ego Binker Golding.

After finishing at Sedgehill School, Boyd began playing gigs with the likes of singer Zara McFarlane and saxophonist and rapper Soweto Kinch – who were both signed to Crosby’s Dune Records.

He then went on to do a BA at Trinity Laban.

“When I went to college, I also started doing music technology and production, making beats and mixing” says Boyd. “I realised that I wanted to mix as freely as I could improvise acoustically.”

“I’ve got another group called Exodus and I’m starting to get to a point where I can be like, this is where I want to go within this sort of spectrum.”

Born in Edmonton, Binker Golding started on the saxophone at the age of eight – encouraged by his parents John and Josephine.

I went to a decent school, there were opportunities there, but it also had the mandem

“For some reason, I was given this really odd choice of either saxophone or violin,” he recalls. “So I went to saxophone lessons and enjoyed it from the get go. I’d seen saxophones on TV before but when I saw it for the first time in the lesson, I remember it being visually quite interesting.”

His first tutor – who would subsequently teach him for 10 years – was the classical saxophonist and composer Adrienne Wilson.

“I wasn’t a child prodigy or anything like that,” he says. “But had she not been as brilliant as she was, I probably would have changed instrument … She encouraged me to interpret pieces of music, to mould something into what I thought it should be. That’s what kept me gripped I think.”

Around the age of 11, Golding started attending Enfield Grammar School, where he would study till he was 18.

“I went to a decent school, there were opportunities there and it had a good ethos but it also had the mandem,” he says. “It was a really good cross actually.”

While at Enfield Grammar, Golding noticed how his peers did not share the same taste in music. Thanks to his older sister Kim, he had from an early age been introduced to a wealth of bands and musicians, such as the Clash and the Who.

I learnt one scale that unlocked a whole world of possibilities

“When you have an older sibling, you mature quicker and they put you on to things beyond your years.” At the age of 10, Golding had also started listening to the likes of NWA and Public Enemy (featured in Jocks&Nerds Issue 4).

Having learnt classical from Wilson for seven years, Golding started playing for his school’s jazz band when he was 15 and discovered the appeal of improvisation.

“There was this alto player in the band called Hakan Yonel who was about three years older and could improvise,” he recalls. “I was like, I want to learn how to do that ... I learnt some D minor blues scale and that changed my life. One scale that unlocked a whole world of possibilities.”

After finishing at Edmonton Grammar, Golding furthered his musical studies with a BA at Middlesex University and a MA at Guildhall.

It was during his MA that he was invited on tour to Bratislava in 2008 with Wilson’s group.

While born in Arkansas, Abraham Wilson moved to London in 2002, performing first with pianist Julian Joseph’s big band before being signed to Crosby’s Dune Records in 2003 – later involving himself with the Tomorrow’s Warriors.

Tomorrow’s Warriors is like a house, you grow up and then you leave home

Although neither Boyd nor Golding would consider the American trumpet player as a direct mentor, his role in bringing them together through the Tomorrow’s Warriors is one that will remain crucial to their careers.

“I remember him very fondly,” says Golding. “He did make me laugh, sometimes deliberately and sometimes not deliberately.”

One particular memory on this point calls for a return to Golding’s night out in Bratislava in which, after making it safely back to his hotel from his encounter with the local Nazis, he received a telephone call from Wilson at 6am.

“He rang my phone and was like, everyone come to my hotel room so we can learn some dance routines ... So we go to his room, he’s in a full three-piece suit, which I’ve never seen him outside of, and he takes the whole band to rehearse at the main venue.”

After an hour, the group were kicked out, so Wilson then took them to a gym changing room. This lasted for another hour and they were again in need of a practice space.

“He then finds this other room with all these musical instruments laid out and we start rehearsing,” says Golding. “Then all these Austrian guys from this 40-piece Strauss orchestra are at the door and are like, we need to use our room. Abraham goes up to them and is like, give me five minutes man, then closes the door.

“This went on for a whole day and we did four sets that night ... Abraham was one of these guys who could never rehearse enough. He loved to be over-prepared and was very disciplined in his own way.”

On Friday 8 June 2012, Wilson married his long-term partner Jennie Cashman. He died from colon cancer the day after, having only been in hospital for two weeks.

Jazz is not about attaching yourself to a great legacy which you're not a part of

“One day he was standing up normal, like we knew him, and then I get contacted by Jennie who said he’d got cancer and there was a clock ticking,” recalls Golding.

“I never got to see him between hearing that news and him passing away ... I was really shocked, it took a while for it to sink in that I’d never see him again and have the same jokes.”

“I found out about it when I was on a gig with Abraham’s pianist Ruben James,” says Boyd. “I’d heard he was taken ill and was in hospital … Then my friend Ruben Fox called me saying that he had died.”

While Boyd and Golding no longer play for the Tomorrow’s Warriors, their connections with the programme still continues; whether that be through teaching its members at their new base at the Southbank Centre or composing music for the group.

“Tomorrow’s Warriors is like a house, you grow up and then you leave home,” says Golding.

Dem Ones
When speaking on their debut release, Moses Boyd emphasised the point that, “I don't necessarily think we've progressed the art form or done something new.

“I think that the music we’ve created is just an honest reflection of two people from across the Thames and on how we’ve got into jazz.”

Golding continues, “Honesty, is what we wanted with it. We didn't want to pretend that it's some bullshit that’s nothing to do with us.

“Jazz is not about attaching yourself to a great legacy which you're not a part of. That was a certain group of people in a certain period of time.

For Binker and Moses, they know that they didn’t grow up in the Blue Note period or with ECM Records. They grew up listening to Wiley, Dizzee Rascal, NWA and Public Enemy.

“We're not saying that we're street or any shit like that,” says Golding. “Believe me, I grew up with people that I would call street. I weren't in that gang. Going along to saxophone lessons on a Saturday morning, that's not street.

“But I think it’s wrong to try to accommodate for people that are so far removed from you. It just translates to me as false, if that makes sense.”