The Modcast

Written by Andrew Calderbank
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In these strange, unprecedented times, there has never been more of a need to escape the harsh realities of life. And for me, and many others, the world of podcasts is as good as any place to start. And for those of a modernist persuasion, or simply those who love a bit of culture, Eddie Piller’s Modcast is the place to be.


The Modcast, founded by Eddie Piller and Sarah Bolshi, is a radio show/podcast that gives the listener the chance to immerse themselves in a scene/state of mind that has been part of British society for over sixty years and continues to resonate to this day.

Eddie Piller, you could say, is a mover and shaker with an almost inexhaustible knowledge of all things mod. In fact, you could say that for Piller, modernism is in the blood. Piller’s mum ran the fan club of venerable East London sixties mod band The Small Faces. After a flirtation with the energy and bite of punk (Piller still sites The Saints as one his favourite bands), Piller threw himself headfirst into the late seventies mod revival scene, a scene characterised by a roster of bands who, with obvious exceptions, went largely unnoticed by the mainstream music press, but built up an ardent following among a new generation who embraced mod sensibilities and the energy of punk; The Purple Hearts, Secret Affair, The Chords, and a three-piece from the hinterlands of Woking, The Jam.

secret affair mods modcast ian page dave cairns

Piller has gone on to create a career in all things mod, a resume that has included, writer for his very own fanzine Extraordinary Sensations, record shop owner, DJ, promoter, band manager, producer, and record label owner. In fact, Piller helped resurrect a stagnant mod scene over half a decade before Britpop exploded onto the musical landscape, as co-founder of Acid Jazz records.

Bolshi, like Piller, has had a long-established career in the cutting edge of the music business, a thirty-year career that has included spells at Phonogram, Sony and Warners, before spearheading her own record label Sunday Best Recordings with former radio DJ Rob Da Bank.

The Modcast first found a home at Soho Radio, an independent radio station formed to showcase the diverse culture that still emanates from an enclave of counterculture fighting against gentrification, and the threat of property developers who know the value of the property but nothing of culture, history and the organic street life that makes the city’s heartbeat. An issue that Piller often speaks strongly and passionately about on his show. Soho, where six decades ago sharp-dressed, sharp-minded young men and women embraced modern jazz and beat writing, the perfect setting for a show/podcast that lives and breathes modernist culture.

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Since then, The Modcast has relocated to the East End district of Bethnal Green, home of Totally Wired radio. TWR is an offshoot of Acid Jazz records, a record label that still contributes to keeping the mod scene fresh and relevant, whether it’s the release of the back catalogue of the sublime and criminally under-rated Leroy Hutson or the smooth soul of North London’s finest young soul talent Laville. And TWR offers an eclectic mix of sounds from the most experienced and cutting edge DJ’S around, a welcome retreat from the soulless, bland pop, and tacky commercials that often characterise mainstream radio. If you like good music, then there is a chance you will find it here, from Jazz to Grime, with Soul, Reggae, Funk, Punk, and Afrobeat along the way.

The Modcast itself is a one hour show that is broadcast live monthly, with listen to again links available on Mixcloud, meaning you can get a slice of mod culture any time or day or night. Originally the show was co-hosted by Dean Rudland, former general manager at Acid jazz records and current A & R consultant at Ace Records. The show, however, has continued to evolve, and Rudland’s departure from The Modcast has seen Piller take the role of the sole interviewer, something that has thankfully not diminished the consistency and quality of one of the most entertaining and relevant radio podcasts around.

modcast eddie piller mods paul weller acid jazz

The strength of the modcast is in the diversity of both its subject matter and guests. Piller, no respecter of the boundaries that have often ghettoised the mod scene, has drawn on guests from the original Modern Jazz scene, Sixties R&B, Northern Soul, Mod Revival, Jazz-Funk and Acid Jazz, while also dipping its toes into the worlds of Punk and Rockabilly.

And while musicians have featured heavily on the show, with the likes of Rick Buckler, Geno Washington, Pete Talbot and the notoriously interview shy Paul Weller appearing on the show, its evident that mod means far more than just what bands or DJ’s you're into. Mod, however, its defined, is a way of life. It's not just about music, it is about clothes, the cut of your jib, books, films, even politics. This has been reflected in interviews with fashion designers; Mark Powell and William Hunt, writers; Richard Barnes and Terry Rawlings, DJ’S; Gary Crowley and Paul Smiler Anderson, and film-makers; Bob Smeaton and Phil Davis.

And the Modcast is an advert-free zone, the only interruption being the shows housekeeping, in which Sarah Bolshi promotes Modcast events, from Thames boat cruises (The Modboat), to seaside shindigs. In true modernist fashion, modcast events are characterised by the pushing of boundaries, with the traditional mod genres of northern soul being played alongside the contemporary sounds of hip hop. Which is what modernism, in its truest form, should always be.

The Jam paul weller bruce foxton rick buckler

But what makes the modcast so special, is that Piller is not some broadcaster going through the motions, interviewing guests selected by some corporate higher-ups. Piller is a man who has lived and breathed the mod lifestyle, a passion far from diminished, and it's his tales from his past when the show is often at its most entertaining and insightful. Whether it’s Piller talking about his first scooter, the exuberance of the early mod revival gigs, battles with skinheads, and sweaty northern soul all-nighters, often with guests who graced the same landscape, there is something that anybody with a passion for music and sub-culture can relate to.


Read 1270 times Last modified on Wednesday, 13 May 2020 11:05
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Andrew Calderbank

Andrew Calderbank

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