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My Cultural Life: Colleen Murphy

The DJ and broadcaster on what she’s reading, listening to and more

colleen murphy interview
Colleen Murphy

It was Pink Floyd’s seminal Dark Side Of The Moon that inspired DJ, broadcaster and producer Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy to launch a listening event, where music lovers could collectively revisit records in hushed reverence. The idea, she says, ‘hit a cultural nerve’, and Classic Album Sundays has now spurred satellites on four continents, digital iterations and a podcast series.

She also hosts the Balearic Breakfast radio show on Worldwide FM, and regularly remixes artists as diverse as Róisín Murphy, Candi Staton and A Certain Ratio. Her next virtual Cosmodelica House Party is on 19 June, while Balearic Breakfast airs every Tuesday morning. worldwidefm.net

The first record I loved was Days Of Future Passed by The Moody Blues. This concept album made me realise the power of the format as a complete narrative. I borrowed it from my uncle when I was 12 and still haven’t given it back.

colleen murphy interview
Universal Music Group

My all-time favourite piece of music is As by Stevie Wonder. It’s one of the most spiritually uplifting songs of all time – truly life-affirming. For nostalgia, Roadrunner by The Modern Lovers brings me back to my teenage years driving around Massachusetts and blasting the radio. I’m putting it on now.

I’m currently listening to Celeste and her debut album Not Your Muse released earlier this year. I’m looking forward to Lady Blackbird's first album.

The author that has influenced me the most is James Baldwin. The Fire Next Time is a must-read for white Americans as it offers a window of understanding into what it is like to be Black in America. At the moment I’m reading Matt Haig’s latest, The Midnight Library, and Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness.

My favourite film is Wings Of Desire, as it beautifully illustrates what it means to be human. My guilty pleasure is This Is Spinal Tap and I can recite nearly every word verbatim.

colleen murphy interview
Olafur Eliason’s ‘The Weather Project’ at Tate Modern
Peter Macdiarmid

My most-loved gallery is Tate Modern. What I like best is the actual building – especially the Turbine Hall where I experienced Olafur Eliasson’s The Weather Project in 2003. I’m a member so I go frequently. The last exhibition I saw was Aubrey Beardsley at Tate Britain last summer. The small-scale detail and large-scale imagination were extraordinary and it was interesting to see how his work influenced creativity in the 1960s.

One of my favourite quotes is ‘Music is the space between the notes’, attributed to Claude Debussy and later paraphrased by Miles Davis. The silent spaces leave room for our own imagination.

My record collection sits at around 10,000 and tells the story of my life better than I can in words. I’m a music obsessive and I will always prefer vinyl.

If I won the lottery, I’d buy Georgia O’Keeffe’s Abstraction White Rose. I have a print but it doesn’t come close to the colours and aura of the original painting. I get lost in it.

colleen murphy interview
‘Abstraction White Rose’ by American artist Georgia O’Keeffe
Georgia O'Keeffe / Tate Modern

My favourite place in the world is Japan. I’ve been going since 1989 and adore the culture, the people and, of course, the food. I love bike-riding around old Tokyo, eating heaps of fresh sushi near the old fish market and record-shopping for hours in Shibuya.

If I had a free day in London, I’d travel by boat to Tate Modern for an exhibition and then walk all the way to Camden for dinner and live music at The Jazz Cafe.

This year, I’m hoping to DJ on a real dance floor. And to take my Balearic Breakfast radio show to a live venue – preferably a beach!

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