Brainstorm Radio mixes tracks selected by a range of illustration’s greatest names
Looking for new forms of inspiration at the beginning of the pandemic, Xaviera Altena turned to her peers’ listening habits – creating a growing radio station in the process.
- Lucy Bourton
- 23 April 2021
As a freelance illustrator who works from home, Rotterdam-based Xaviera Altena often starts each day by deciding what to listen to. Without an office to head into, there’s no need for Xaviera to piece together a perfectly timed commute mix, or curate a more ambient collection of songs to drown out the noise of colleagues. But when the pandemic hit, she found herself stumped at what to listen to, and for inspiration in general. “I wasn’t able to find it in food, going out, visiting exhibitions or meeting new people since everything was closed. So, I looked for in music.” Wondering what her creative peers were listening to at their desks around the world she decided, she might as well ask, creating Brainstorm Radio in the process.
In short, Brainstorm Radio is a twice monthly updated station featuring mixes by some of creativity’s greatest names, largely from the global illustration scene Xaviera is part of. Once the artist has selected their tracks, Xaviera (“because I have the DJ skills of a slug”) passes on their chosen songs to her friend and DJ, Johan Amenyeku to mix. One year since the first lockdown and 31 mixes later, the station’s crew has grown to include graphic designer and DJ Yannick Mortier, Franky Sticks (who is also an illustrator) as well as Nicky Bommezijn, and each add their own flourishes when mixing the tracks.
So far, the project includs a whole host of It’s Nice That favourites, from Jean Julien to Nina Chanel Abney, Raman Djafari and Wilfrid Wood. Xaviera picks her curators by simply assessing whether their work triggers the question: “What kind of music were they listening when they made this?” Aside from this, and her own personal taste of course, Xaviera continually considers the mix of artists she’s platforming to ensure they showcase different countries, continents and cultural backgrounds, offering as broad amount of inspiration as possible. DJs on the team also suggest artists they like, creating “a really cool mixture of local artists, which are friends of the DJs, and the artists I curate from around the globe,” she adds.
Speaking to Xaviera a year on from Brainstorm Radio’s inception, she details how the sense of community on the platform has been positively received – as well as offers plenty of listening material. With a long list of artists to ask, the hardest task has been mixing some of their abstract tastes together in one mix. “The DJs are always feeling challenged by mixing music out of their own genre, but so far in a positive way. And, DJs are very excited when an artist they admire has delivered a nice list of songs to mix,” she elaborates. “Expanding the team with DJs who are comfortable mixing different genres and like experimenting has helped too, with more surprising combinations so we can continue to develop. This is much needed because some mixes are really challenging! Think Britney Spears mixed with Mishima.”
To date, some of the team’s personal favourites are the ones who have introduced them to entirely new scenes of music in the process. “This is very hard, since all the mixes have their own charms… but if I had to pick three favourites it would be Jean Julien, Joost Swarte and Shyama Golden,” says the curator. Elsewhere, Xaviera relays that DJ Yannick “is really fond of his Helena Covell mix, but he loved that Rein Reitsma and Wilfrid Wood made him experiment with a completely different genre,” she says. “Same goes for Franky, who is very good at mixing hip hop and genres with a strong beat, and his favourite is his Nina Chanel Abney mix. But then, Martine Johanna offered the complete opposite to what he normally does, and he still did a very good job in my opinion.” Another personal favourite of Xaviera’s is Jordy van den Nieuwendijk’s “beautiful selection of music” she adds. “It’s uplifting, relaxing and a perfect mix to get into a certain state of mind.” This mix also even led to a further collaboration, with Jordy suggesting he make a slipmat for Brainstorm Radio with his artwork, which unsurprisingly sold out almost immediately.
Seeing the project grow in this way hints at what the station may have planned for the future (watch out for their first birthday on 10 May), but the key aim remains to provide inspiration. “I hope that the listeners gain new inspiration from this project because they can hear music they wouldn’t in their Spotify or YouTube algorithm,” she says. “This way, we can all be inspired by new music and cultures, and in return, the artist receives a unique mix of their favourite music! And of course the artists who contribute can also be inspired by other artist’s mixes.” Finally adding that she sees Brainstorm Radio as “a cross-pollination project” of inspiration, even allowing artists to voice their thoughts on what music offers them creatively. You can tune into the Brainstorm Radio directly here.
Brainstorm Radio: Jean Jullien (Copyright © Brainstorm Radio, 2021)
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.