DJ, poet, and writer Charlie Dark started Run Dem Crew in 2007 as an answer to running clubs that were missing the point of community exercise, gathering, and reinvigoration. Working closely with the 1948 space, RDC is now an entity known for uplifting the youth in East London and offering opportunities to explore the city in new, fun, and educational ways.
As part of Nike's "Feel London" series of events and workshops inspired by the Nike Free Hyperfeel, Charlie Dark made this mix exclusively for Dazed Digital, which includes many of the tunes that, for him, inspire exercise, movement, and performance.
Dazed Digital: What inspired this mix for "Feel London"? What kind of listener were you trying to reach?
Charlie Dark: The fabric of London as a whole and its ability to absorb, remix and spit out culture from around the globe are the main inspirations for the mix. I wanted to put together something that would challenge your ears as you navigate the streets of the city and provide a soundtrack to what you see. It's a mix for the late night people, the characters you only see after dark, the ones who operate between the hours of midnight and the crack of dawn.
It's not about tempo, it's about texture and feeling. Running for me is all about feeling. It's not about how fast I can go but rather my quest to flow with my city. Many of us wake up and fight against the cities we call home, but running has allowed me to find a new peace within the chaos. This mix is an attempt to soundtrack that experience for those just starting out and perhaps it can be a catalyst for the more experienced to look at running in a different way. With the right soundtrack in your ears and the awareness of the city beneath your feet, you can enhance your performance.
DD: How do you feel that music and running go hand in hand?
Charlie Dark: Music is a great motivator for running and exercise in general, but what we encourage within the crew is the idea of creating positive training memories through the use of music. I try and run to tracks that help enhance that feeling so that at mile 24 of a marathon, when the going gets really tough, I can think back to a positive memory of running along the canal on a sunny summer's day, when the pace was easy and the body was flowing at one with the city. Sport without music is just a game, but add a soundtrack, and it becomes an experience.
DD: How would you describe Run Dem Crew to someone who knows nothing about it? What inspired you to start such a meaningful, collaborative project?
Charlie Dark: Run Dem Crew is a collective of creatives from across London who meet on a regular basis to explore the arteries of our city. Think running club remixed for the next generation. It's a real cross section of London and a chance to revel in a community of positivity on a weekly basis. We are also proactive in helping the younger generation achieve their creative goals - taking them from the sofa to the finish line of a running distance through our Run Dem Crew Youngers project.
I started Run Dem for many reasons but mainly because I fell in love with running and wanted to share that feeling with as many of my friends as possible. As musicians, artists and creatives, we burn the candle at multiple ends, and it's a lifestyle that can have severe consequences as you get older in life. Run Dem Crew gives people the tools to take positive control over their health choices and to work towards goals with the support of like minded people. Running saved me and opened doors to a world of people and experiences that I would never have found if I hadn't ventured out of the studio and onto the roads. As a producer, I need to move with the people in order to make music that inspires the people to move.
The advent of social media has meant that friendships have become increasingly virtual, but I think it's good to have a physical space where people can meet. I don't rave as much anymore, so running is my weekly warehouse party. On a more personal note, there isa slew of colourful characters from my past who didn't make it this far, and I wanted to reverse the trend.
DD: What's your favourite music to listen to when running around east London?
Charlie Dark: I'm partial to all forms of music and am not dictated to by tempo, but I do love a healthy dose of grime when running around in east. I like to keep it local, and it's amusing to run through areas being name-checked on your headphones.
DD: What's your preferred east London running route?
Charlie Dark: Olympic Park to Shoreditch along the canals or the back streets of Hackney Wick. Sparse, concrete and inner city routes that require a mental toughness to navigate translate well into marathon training and the hardship of racing. I see running as a celebration, not a test, and with each step that I take I try to celebrate the city I call home.
DD: Why do you think it's important to get young people out there and involved?
Charlie Dark: People forget that the next generation are going to be the ones taking care of and making decisions that will affect our later years. You don't have to wait until you are 30 and having a mid-life crisis to realise that health is wealth. A strong and healthy generation of young people with a positive outlook on life and the mental strength to survive the hardships of a city builds communities that prosper and thrive. You only have to look at the impact our RDC Youngers projects have had on the young people we have worked with to see the importance of helping those younger than ourselves.