As the AIM Awards returned to The Brewery in London once again, Music Week was there to bring you the best of the action. From BBC Radio 1’s Chris Price and AIM CEO Paul Pacifico, to rappers Dave and ShaoDow, the great and the good were out in force on a night that shone a flattering spotlight on not just the independent sector, but cutting edge music in general. The ceremony saw the electric talent of The Dillinger Escape Plan celebrated by Enter Shikari’s Rou Reynolds and Daniel P Carter, while Because Music won Independent Label Of The Year and Boy Better Know scooped the Innovator award. There was also a hugely popular return for Stormzy. For the full list of winners click here, and read on for the thrills and spills from the main arena and backstage.
Dave’s a fave
This year it was South London rapper Dave’s job to permeate the pre-dinner chatter following introductory words from AIM CEO Paul Pacifico and BBC Radio 1’s Chris Price. With only a mic and some beats for company he did so easily. As well as two songs, Tequila and Wanna Know, there were impassioned words about his journey so far and how music is changing his life. “I’m old man!” he said while introducing Wanna Know, before collapsing into giggles when the crowd clapped. Fully independent, he said, “Having control of your music can affect so many things around you”, before bigging up “friend and life coach” Fraser T Smith. With collaborators like that in his arsenal, surely this won’t be Dave’s last awards show.
"Warp Records is the very embodiment of the indie spirit," declared Pulp legend Jarvis Cocker, presenting the Pioneer Award to his Sheffield cohort Steve Beckett. Cocker used an umbrella to point to the big screen behind him when his point needed illustrating. The pair's relationship dates back to the label's formative years when Pulp released records via Warp imprint, Gift Records. Cocker also directed a number of early Warp videos. Beckett hailed the impact of the indie sector in his acceptance speech and paid heartfelt tribute to Warp's founding partner Rob Mitchell, who died in 2001.
Before leaving the stage to a huge ovation, Beckett remembered meeting a press officer in café who told him she couldn’t tell the difference between the cappuccino machine and the music on the radio. “And it was one of my artists playing…” he said. Summing up Warp’s MO he added: “The main thread of Warp is looking into the future and adapting to changes as best we can. It’s a label’s job to look into the future through different perspectives, artist, audience… Then pull it into the present and make adjustments. How can we market to robots?"
Enter the ShaoDow
Describing himself as a “multi-genre rap artist, Manga author, entrepreneur and possible ninja”, ShaoDow made the biggest impact in the backstage media room during the ceremony (with the possible exception of the photographers’ scrum for Stormzy). Living up to his award for hardest working artist, ShaoDow was throwing shapes for the snappers and even turned up with what appeared to be a sword in a sheath by his side. In fact, there was nothing for security to worry about. “It’s an umbrella but it looks cool,” he told Music Week. “It fits in with my character, I trained in Shaolin Kung Fu out in China, I lived out there. I regularly practice various martial arts, I speak Japanese, I have a manga series so I’m really into oriental stuff and swords in particular.”
As he’s also MD of his DiY Gang Entertainment music and merch company, he was doubly excited about the recognition. “I’m still kind of speechless, I dreamed about this – normally this doesn’t happen to me,” he said. “I’m in shock. It’s the first award – second nomination for the same award – but the first award that I’ve actually ever won for what I do.”
The boys aren’t back in town
“Been doing this for over 10 years so anyone of you cocaine snorting label executives that thinks you can take my integrity for a couple bags, think twice/ I make grime and I get paid/ I'm nice”.
Vice’s global executive producer/head of music Alex Hoffman quoted the lyrics from JME’s Integrity during an impassioned monologue about just why grime collective Boy Better Know were so deserving of their Innovator award. He questioned whether BBK would even call what they do – making and releasing music with a small, trusted group – as innovative. “They don’t take no for an answer, they don’t give a fuck about the music industry, they don’t even give a fuck about awards – but they’ve got one anyway,” he continued. You could feel the love in the room, and then came the not entirely surprising news that BBK were not in the building. Instead, their biggest hits played out on the big screen and through the speakers, delivering yet another indelible reminder of the brute strength of their industry-resistant project. “They march to the beat of their own drum,” summed up MistaJam.
Stormzy picks up AIM Awards for PPL's most played new independent act and independent album of the year pic.twitter.com/wkJTMHbkGy— Music Week (@MusicWeek) September 5, 2017
Suited and booted
“I think I’m a bit overdressed for this,” said Stormzy, resplendent in a crisp dinner suit. Here, fresh from the GQ Awards where he won Best Solo Artist, the rapper collected two trophies, the PPL Award for the Most Played Independent Artist and Independent Album Of The Year. Typically, he used the platform to say something packed with meaning. “People don’t understand the struggle, what it really means to make an album as a fully independent artist,” began the winner of 2016's Innovator award, to loud cheers. “I know about being cc’d into every email, going to the fucking marketing meetings! It’s incredibly difficult and I admire everyone in the room.” Showered with accolades as he is, Stormzy’s heart always appears huge. The AIM Awards fell for him all over again here.