Rising star DJ and bassist of Mercury prize-nominated band Metronomy, Olugbenga Adelekan is used to travelling the world on a whistletop tour of hotels, gigs and festivals.
He tells us all about his travels both on and off tour, tips on how to find good food (and where NOT to find it in London), and the futuristic travel gadgets every traveller should have.
You’re on tour a lot, so I’m guessing you’ve got packing down to an art. What’s going in the suitcase? Any essentials you can’t travel without?
Well, you always have to imagine what happens if your luggage gets lost. So toiletries and clean underwear always go in the hand luggage. Otherwise, it’s all pretty standard stuff!
What music do you listen to whilst on the road?
Other people’s. When you’re travelling with a group, anyway. Being sat in a van or the lounge of a tour bus, you can try and listen to your own music but if there’s music on the stereo you’re kind of fighting a losing battle. This year, I think my best discovery has been a band from New Zealand called Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Wonderfully lo-fi bedroom beats created by a guitar virtuoso.
What are your recurring destinations, the places you always go back to?
I have family all over the world, so visiting them often gets built into any holiday plans. New York and LA come up again and again.
Since touring is a big part of your life, where do you go when you just want to relax and get away for fun?
The thing about coming off tour is you usually would rather not see another airport or hotel for a good while. So staying in one place and catching up with friends is something I really value. I went to university at King’s College, Cambridge and all graduates are able to stay at college and eat in the Great Hall a certain number of times each year. So weekend breaks to Cambridge are something my girlfriend and I enjoy – getting away for a few days without staying in a hotel.
What’s been the weirdest experience you’ve had whilst abroad?
I was with Metronomy and we had just arrived in Jakarta. Driving from the airport to the hotel, I looked to my right and saw a building with loads of small holes in it that was missing its top storey. I took a closer look and saw there were actually about 20 men knocking holes through the walls with hammers. They were demolishing the building… by hand! That’s just one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen.
Sounds very odd! Do you have any favourite cities to visit?
Tokyo. Bearing in mind that I come from an English-speaking country (Nigeria) and live in Europe, the first time I went to Tokyo, I couldn’t get over how foreign it felt. Despite the fact that lots of the shops are Western, I felt like I needed to memorise all directions in terms of lefts and rights because if I got lost I couldn’t even recognise the name of the street my hotel was on. I’ve been there a couple more times and know my way a bit better now, but it’s still great to be somewhere that feels culturally as well as geographically far away.
Cambridge (again). I’m biased because I spent a very happy few years there as an undergraduate, but it’s a very beautiful place, especially in the summer.
Where would you never want to return and why?
Pho on Wardour Street in Soho, London. I went in there to have lunch with my brother, was told to wait a few minutes to be seated. Fifteen minutes later we were still waiting and not a single member of staff in the whole place even acknowledged our existence. Terrible service.
You grew up in Lagos; not the easiest city for visitors to get their head round but what, if anything would you recommend for visitors?
It’s kind of a Lagos classic, but I’d head to Eko Hotel and get a barbecued meat delicacy called suya. Also, check out Tafawa Balewa Square. It’s a place that’s really steeped in history and has amazing statues of horses, war memorials and Independence House.
And where is still on the must-see list for you?
Africa is the continent that I’ve travelled the least. I hope to rectify that in the coming years. I’d like to see Aso Rock in Kano (Northern Nigeria). I’d like to see Lalibela in Ethiopia (thought to be the first place that humans started writing). I would also like to visit the great Kingdom of Zimbabwe – a city that existed before Europeans arrived in Africa.
What’s the most useful foreign phrase in your repertoire?
She-she. That’s ‘thank you’ in Cantonese.
What do you always bring back from your travels?
Do not disturb signs from hotels. It’s sad, but I have quite the collection now.
Any top travel tips?
If a restaurant is full of local people and they don’t have English menus, then the food is probably pretty good.
Get out the guidebook or dive in freestyle?
I’m gonna be a real Libra here and say ‘both’. Guidebook for a bit of background and then just do your thing.
Try the street food or seek out fine dining options?
Street food. Every time.
If you could invent any travel technology to make your life easier what would it be?
A version of the Babel-fish from The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. A creature that lives inside your head, eats sound waves of people speaking in other languages and produces words you can understand as a waste product. That or teleportation.