Who Needs Drummers?

Wednesday, 20 February 2008
by fiona
filed under About Us and Announcements
Comments: 12

It’s Saturday night and the first Last.fm Presents of the year is upon us. Somewhere amid the packed room is Lachlann Rattray of Gay Against You. On stage, his normally bespectacled partner-in-crime Joe Howe fears he has lost him forever. “If you’re not me, please sit-down” Lachlann requests (after locating his microphone) in a last ditch attempt to be reunited with his band mate.

It’s hot in here. And shambolic. And this is almost what we expected when we decided to ask Last.fm chart toppers Gay Against You to headline our February show. Almost, only better.

The rest of the line-up are equally as impressive, Pagan Wanderer Lu‘s cynical songs of everything mundane and Look Look (Dancing Boys)‘s insanity-fueled punk mean that tonight is free of drummers and bands of more than two members. In their place we’re offered a menu full of bleeps, shouting, dancing and, well, swearing.

The crowd at times don’t seem to know how to react to any of it, expressions ranging from bewilderment through to excitement and from awkwardness to all-out enthusiasm fill the sauna-like Old Blue Last.

Gay Against You however are the real stars, loud, messy, energetic and all over the place. They prowl the crowd, turning indifference into grins and getting us to sing along. At times, I fear for my life as the floor feels like it might give way under the weight of however-many dancing (and sweating) bodies struggling to stay upright.

As they finish the crowd barely thins, as people opt to stay, dancing their way into the early hours of the morning to the White Heat DJ‘s indie disco and Tack! Tack! Tack!‘s Swedish pop.

Thanks a lot to everyone who came down and made this such a successful night and apologies to anyone whose clothes were ruined by sitting on the floor.

Man Vs. His Can Opener

Thursday, 10 January 2008
by erikf
filed under About Us and Announcements
Comments: 20

This picture sits on the window outside the last.fm research team’s room. I stole it after reading about its origin because it so clearly represents my favorite dystopia, and serves as a clarion call: this way to machine domination!

Usually when someone asks me what I do for a living, I get pretty excited. There is some hand waving. I might use phrases like “making machines understand music like people do!”, “predicts what you’ll like”, sometimes even “the future of”. It’s grandiose stuff! If there’s a napkin around, I might even throw in a diagram.

It doesn’t surprise me to get back a “Huh,” or maybe a “Well, that’s interesting,” What does still surprise me is the occasional recoil-in-horror: “A machine that plumbs the very depths of my being? Surely not!” Just recently at a holiday dinner, one especially huffy great uncle so-and-so said to me, “The idea that I’d follow musical recommendations from a computer…”, he took a sip of wine and added, “no computer will ever understand why I like music.”

A Socratic Rebuttal!

What’s this judgment? Seriously, guy, pass me the cranberry sauce, and then please explain what drives this sentiment? Sort of a John Henry vs. the steam-powered hammer thing? Matthew Broderick vs. WOPR thing? Will Smith vs. robots with glowy red chests? But really, what, renegade Roombas? Who’s in control of whom? Is it possible we got our roles reversed? It wouldn’t be the first time.

How are music recommenders a corruption of music culture? Similarly, how is the gramophone a corruption of live performance? How are CDs a corruption of that warm gramophone sound? How are digital sales destroying the CD cover-art culture? Does culture constantly crumble and erode, or does it march on and evolve? Were it the former, surely by now we’d be walking on all fours, bashing each other with femurs. But we’re not! Well. I’m not.

I love the idea that new trends are eternally abhorrent to the old and that old are eternally abhorrent to the new. It makes me proud to think I’m a small part of that composition. Or decomposition. Whatever.

A Quick Plug!

So yeah, attention Philistines! We actually have not one, but two new research-related positions open. Join now and we promise to offer safe harbor during the coming robot wars.

Deciding what it means to be grown-ups.

Saturday, 22 December 2007
by tony
filed under About Us
Comments: 17

I’m sure a few people are wondering how we got from discussion to actually going ahead with it… well, here goes….

Read the whole entry

Blogging from the Ballpit

Friday, 21 December 2007
by max Howell
filed under About Us and Lunch Table
Comments: 44

It is surprisingly hard to type when nestled in a pool of balls. You type, you sink, you get attacked from the east by an enterprising young programmer. Settled now at the bottom of the pit you clear a small gap and realise, actually, you can touch type. You haven’t just been claiming you can for the last five years. It’s really true.

Our excuse that this is a relaxing harbour for meetings may not hold water. Nobody can stay still for thirty seconds before they dive to the depths of the pool rooting around for someone to pull under. Erupting magnificently, balls flying everywhere, before everything collapses into a game of who can hit Jonty on the head the most times in thirty seconds.

23 thousand balls goes surprisingly little distance. It was in the local, last night, over a feisty pint of best that the idea emerged. “Ball pool”. An idea so splendid, so ludicrous – it quickly became the only topic of conversation. “London is a big city. Someone must have balls to sell” postulated RJ. So we started the research. We got numbers. We booked the van. There was planning. Surprisingly, I turned up the next day to find RJ bouncing around all excited. Tony was getting the balls. We were building the pool.

We had fun.

It was awesome.

More pictures can be found on flickr

It’s been decided, in future, all interviews will be held in the ballpit. But we don’t plan on stopping there. The meeting room next door is begging to be converted into an ice-rink. The kitchen is lacking for a climbing frame. The toilets are not yet complete without a waterslide.

Fancy a job?

Client 1.4 Released, Fingerprinting Begins

Friday, 7 December 2007
by toby
filed under Announcements and About Us
Comments: 71

Today we are releasing a sparkling new version (1.4) of our client software. In addition to a general cleaning up of functionality and bug fixes, this is the first client with audio fingerprinting built in. You can read about fingerprinting in earlier blog posts, but essentially we are going to start analyzing the way your music sounds to better identify and scrobble what you listen to.

The implications to this are vast. Not only will we be able to build you a more accurate profile but recommendations and overall stats will improve. Of course, for this to work we need to gather a significant amount of data. With that in mind, this is simply a data collection release of fingerprinting. The new client will be sending us the fingerprints but we don’t have much functionality exposed around the data yet. Expect us to roll out more user facing features in the next client release after we’ve gathered enough data to ensure excellence.

If you’d rather not have your tracks fingerprinted, this can be disabled in the Scrobbling section of the Preferences.

We hope you enjoy the new version and look forward to more client growth in the near future.

Download it here.

Crash, Smash, Strike

Friday, 30 November 2007
by hannahdonovan
filed under Announcements and About Us
Comments: 7

Last night was thunderous. By the time Shit and Shine took over the smallest stage in the world with their six drumkits, bowling was in full effect. The only downside? You just don’t get the same auditory satisfaction with a ten-pin strike when you’re up against six drummers and four synths.

It was the first I’d heard six drummers playing in unison. Interestingness. Fucking awesome interestingness!

Maybe it’s a good thing that you couldn’t hear the bowling lanes, as there were more than a few drunken lopsided blowing ball tosses—landing with a booming crack—that otherwise might have brought on stern looks from more serious bowlers. Sure, I’m guilty.

What else happened? Total hotttt = Ipso Facto, who had the entire audience entranced with their sublimely crafted post-punk pop noir, and Popnoname changed his clothes five times during his set. With only a bag of clothes and his laptop he fit on stage perfectly, and had the party diehards dancing to his catchy beats until the bowling alley shut at 2AM.

Overall, not bad for a night in central London.

Last.fm/Presents Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. Live at The Old Blue Last

Thursday, 8 November 2007
by david
filed under Announcements and About Us
Comments: 7

“When was rock’n’roll ever meant to be comfortable?” asked Julian Cope in reference to Japanese genre-mashers Acid Mothers Temple. He’s right, and AMT proved it last night at our second live event at The Old Blue Last, destroying ear drums, smashing through everyone’s expectations and blowing up the boundaries between dive-bomb psychedelia, heavy riffage, and coruscating improvisation. It was an experience.

The place was filled with AMT freaks, kids getting their first fix of this sound, and loyal fans who’ve been following this collective since they started back in the ‘70s (in testament to their longevity, the AMT merchandise stall was laden with endless obscure CDs and DVDs from the band’s career that you wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else, rich pickings for the faithful).

AMT played an hour and half set that moved seamlessly from sombre noise to epic heaviness – helped in no small part by legendary Krautrock heroes Can vocalist Damo Suzuki. Yes really, the man who was the singer on Tago Mago and Future Days was belting away vocals right there in front of us in a tiny East London pub!

Out front guitarist and vocalist Kawabata wrenched extraordinary noise from his guitar – sometimes playing it with a magic wand – while synth wizard Higashi added hallucinatory FX. By the end everyone was beautifully wiped out!

A big thanks to Acid Mothers Temple for an unforgettable evening, and to all the people that made it out to share this amazing kick off event to their UK tour. For those who missed out on the night, never fear as they’re playing again in London at Corsica Studios. And for all of you hard core fans that can’t make it to Corsica we have exclusive videos, pictures, tracks, and a one on one interview with the singer and guitarist Kawabata from last night all here.

For those who are wondering about what’s next in store for Last.fm/Presents, we’re throwing another event this month at the Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes with some awesome bands and DJ’s that will be performing all night for your rocking out and bowling pleasure. Check out the full event details here.

Ivy Subversion Resolver code set free

Wednesday, 24 October 2007
by adrian
filed under Code and About Us
Comments: 6

This one is for all the Java geeks out there…

You may or may not know that a lot of the backend data processing at Last.fm (e.g. chart generation, listening pattern analysis) is done by applications we write in Java. Like many other Java users we also use Ant to build our software. Recently we have incorporated Ivy into our build process to help us manage the dependencies between our projects and any third party libraries that we use (incidentally, Ivy has just graduated to an official Ant subproject so it is moving from strength to strength). This went smoothly until we ran into a limitation of Ivy that prevented us from using Subversion as a dependency repository as this isn’t supported out of the box. Fortunately Ivy has been architected in such a way that it is very extensible so we coded up our own Ivy Subversion Resolver and gave it the oh-so catchy name “Ivy-svn” (a name only a geek could love).

Anyway, the point of all this is that we found this really useful and decided not to keep this to ourselves but to share the fruits of our labour (and the code) under the Apache license. If this sounds like something for you, head on over to the Audioscrobbler development site at:


to find out more. If you do end up using it and have feedback or issues, we’d love to hear from you.

Last.fm Presents… At The Old Blue Last

Wednesday, 17 October 2007
filed under Announcements and About Us
Comments: 6

There were people missing from the Last.fm office on Monday. Some didn’t survive the moshpit that erupted as SSS brought their flashbomb thrash to our second ever live event at the Old Blue Last on Saturday. We would mourn, but quite frankly we’re still reeling from an evening of metal mayhem, sci fi drum madness and punishing electro-noise.

We took over the Vice pub in East London in the early evening on Saturday, and had to pull the plug in the early hours of Sunday when the police descended to tell us off for being too loud. (They should’ve been upstairs when Errorplains kicked off with a wall of FX-pedal noise. Now that was loud.)

In between the smash’n’grab metal of SSS and the synth assault of The Errorplains , crazy drum maestro Duracell played a rare UK live set. If you haven’t seen this guy before, he manages to produce entire sets of future-music using just a drum set, trigger machine and a laptop. Never has a man been so sweaty as Duracell was by the time his incredible one-man beat-symphony came to an end.

Downstairs was equally rammed, as punters wigged out to our very own Last.fm DJs, and the deck-wrecking moves of Tape Deck, Shitting Fists and People Are Germs. By the end of the night the walls were dripping and bouncers were holding back a multitude outside.

A ton of thanks goes to the performers of the night, SSS, Duracell, The Errorplains, The Tapedeck DJ’s, Shitting Fists, People are Germs and our very own Last.fm DJ team. And last but not least, to all of the people that came down to party along side us in between the sweaty walls of the Old Blue Last, we salute you!

For all those who missed out on all the fun and nuttery of Saturday night you can check it out here, but to really get a feel for it come check out our upcoming shindig we’re throwing on November 7th to kick off the UK tour for The Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O.. – A nice little way to follow up our rock-out sauna party. ;-)

Last.fm Supports The Spitz!

Wednesday, 12 September 2007
filed under Announcements and About Us
Comments: 5

Back in the early zeroes, two of the three founders of Last.fm used to put on events at The Spitz, an East London venue that’s been showcasing new bands almost as long as Spitalfields has had a market (which is 369 years, fact fans). Then they got distracted by all this web start-up malarkey.

But yesterday they returned – with the rest of us, plus five amazing bands, our finest Last.fm deck-wreckers, and special guest DJs Hot Chip, who we managed to coax away from the studio where they’re finishing off their third album. Altogether, we rocked the place.

Upstairs was a riot of guitar and synth-fuelled mayhem as five of the finest new bands known to humanity (including Everyone To The Anderson, with our very own Matt Hillman on drums) did their thing to an audience of hardcore Last.fm users, music freaks, and the entirety of our office – including a moshing founder or two.

Downstairs, our one-woman Queen of Noize Fiona and Last.fm’s Spanish mixmaster Miguel kept the tunes flowing all night – from an amazing playlist drawn from the scrobble stats of all the Last.fm users attending the party (and there were quite a lot of you guys by the end!) Then Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard took over and slammed down an hour of genre-mashing tune-age, including two new tracks from the Chip’s next album – ‘Ready For The Floor’ and ‘Shake A Fist’ – that totally blew up the room.

(See more photos on Flickr)

By the end of the night we’d packed the place to the rafters, drank all cold beer in the house (!), and raised a ton of money to help the Spitz find a new home. Not bad for our first ever live event.

The audio from last night now live on the group page, and we’ll be posting the video soon so hold tight for more updates! Join the Last.fm Presents group to keep up with future events.

Thanks goes out to Turbowolf, Lost Penguin, Mica Levi and The Cluster, Everyone To the Anderson, and Agaskodo Teliverek for providing some of the best live music we’ve all seen in ages! And if you’re in London and want to throw The Spitz some more love, check out their One Day Punk Blues Festival on Sunday.