Playlist: Manchester Collective

Rakhi Singh and Adam Szabo. Photo by Robin Clewley (2) (1)

The last few months have been a tremendously difficult, stressful time for us all, not least events organisers. But Manchester Collective are looking to buck the trend with the release of Recreation, their first EP. Mike Pinnington spoke to co-director Adam Szabo…

The Double Negative: How and why did the Manchester Collective come about?

Adam Szabo, Manchester Collective: My co-director Rakhi and I founded MC in 2016, basically in response to two things – firstly, we felt there was so much amazing new and old music out there that we simply weren’t getting a chance to perform in the course of our day jobs, and secondly, after years and years of looking out from concert platforms and seeing overwhelmingly whiter, older, and more affluent faces, we were a bit fed up. We wanted to perform different music, and to give different people a chance to hear that music.

Have you been pleasantly surprised by the appetite from audiences for your particular presentations of classical music?

I’ve never found it surprising. We strip away barriers in our work. I have such a core belief that the music that we play can affect people, move and change and inspire people in a fundamental way. All we need to do is to give them the chance to experience it, and to be empathetic and compassionate in the way we present.

Has the upsurge in popularity of so-called ‘neo-classical’ been a factor?

Neo-classical music is fantastic, and it’s great that it has such a fast-growing audience. I’m sure some of our followers are really into that stuff, and probably some aren’t – that’s the amazing think about music. There’s something for everyone.

Primarily a live music programmer, how have you coped with and responded to lockdown?

Actually, we’ve been spending a load of time in the studio. We recently signed to the Icelandic record label Bedroom Community and have a few releases in the pipeline with them. We’re building broadcasts, touring exhibition work, still delivering plenty of education stuff – it’s been a busy period!

You’re about to release your debut EP  has this been a long time in the planning?

Absolutely. Recreation is really a mixtape – it’s a chance for us to really show our colours and play some of our very favourite pieces in our trademark, slightly off kilter way. We’ve been building up to these releases for years, really.

Speaking of mixtapes, can you tell us a bit about the playlist you’ve put together for us?

Our musical influences have always been very diverse – our music making is informed by work from all kinds of musical worlds. These are just some of the works that were spinning around our heads as we made Recreation.


It features giants of classical such as Bach, Ligeti and Vivaldi but has – intriguingly – been subject to ‘unconventional’ production. Can you tell us a bit about what that means and the choices made on this recording?

Yeah – Brendan Williams, Valgeir Sigurðsson and I have been working on the record together. The production has been a real mix of influences. Valgeir made a bunch of Björk’s records amongst many, many other things; Bren is one of the main producers on GoGo Penguin’s work (jazz/electronica), and I really come from a hardcore classical/new music background. We’ve tried to create something that feels extremely close and intimate. Hyper-close mic placement, unusual compression, at least for a classical release, and individual recording of each solo string player. It’s been a blast to put together.

Are there more releases in the pipeline?

Yes, quite a few! Next up will be a release at the start of 2021 – it’s a proper physical release which is exciting for us, and it’s going to be called The Centre is Everywhere. You heard it here first!

How do you think live gigs will look in the near future?

Distanced. Outside, in many cases. Bizarre, most likely.

Do you have any on the horizon?

We’re dipping our toes in the water with some October shows – a programme called Dark Days, Luminous Nights – and then we’re doing a bit more from February next year. But before then, we’ve got some other very exciting projects on the way…

As told to Mike Pinnington

Recreation is released 4 September and is available for pre-order now

Images, from top: Rakhi Singh and Adam Szabo. By Robin Clewley; sleeve art by Helenskià Collett

Posted on 18/08/2020 by thedoublenegative