Then you’ve got this Bullsh*t that’s in peoples faces on the TV and radio, you listen to the Radio One playlist or drive time radio and it’s terrible, the same songs being played over and over. Most people don’t want to think about what to listen to, and will just wait for it to be delivered to their ears via what’s on the television or radio. Of course there will always be people who do want to get out and listen to something else, which hopefully is where venues like ours come in where people can come and listen to original music.” The industry has gone through a massive upheaval with the onset of the internet and downloading.
Do you think bands are still chasing after that elusive record contract as the be all and end all?
“Not as much, some bands are but with the internet you can bring out your own records incredibly cheaply. You don’t have to have actual physical product, by making it available online you cut out the middle man but you might not have the marketing and promotional clout of a record company. It’s good that now you can get our music out there without a record company. A record deal is basically like a big bank loan, whatever advance they give you, you have to pay back. If they give you a million pounds, that has to include recording, manufacturing, distribution, marketing and promotion, not to mention taking so and so out to lunch. So if you can find a way to do it your self or with an independent company without running up huge debts then that’s got to be good. Once upon a time, the only way for a band to get known was to get out and play live.”
The internet makes it possible to push music out to the world with a click. Do you find bands are still just as eager to gig as much as before?
“Yeah they are, a lot of the records I buy are from when I go and see bands live rather than go in to HMV. Bands still like to play live because there’s nothing like playing in front of a roomful of people who are in to what you do, it’s an amazing buzz, there’s nothing to beat that. Also if the bands have got merch, CD’s and T-shirts then that can raise funds.
We just had a great start to the year, January’s are usually dead but this year there was so many bands that wanted to play and the first week back we had 160 people in. For a Thursday night on the first week of January that is like fu*king amazing so hopefully that’s a sign that people are wanting to come out and fill the venues up. Not just ours but any original live music venue across the country. The nice thing about our nights is that one time you might see a band that’s not your bag but are good at what they do, then there might be a time when you go there not expecting anything, only to have your ass kicked from the first band to the last! If I can watch a band that sticks a smile from ear to ear across my face then that’s what it’s all about and if anyone else can feel the same then we know we’re doing the right thing.
As well as promoting and teaching guitar, Joe has become a highly regarded mandolin and banjo player. He divides his time between session work for Universal Pictures, BBC and ITV while playing in an average of ten bluegrass and traditional folk bands at any one time! His record number of performances was seven gigs with five bands over three festivals in one day! One story he was too modest to mention on record was the the time he was sought out backstage by Led Zeppelins John Paul Jones, who asked Joe to test drive a custom-made mandolin for him! Joe is one of the rare breed of promoters, doing it purely for the love of the music at the expense of any personal gain.
We wish there was more like him and and here’s to the next twenty years!
After many succesful years at The Castle Mayne, Joe has now moved his night to The Edge Bar in Basildon.
Still every Thursday night.
Still FREE entry.
6-8 High Pavement,
Park in Great Oaks Multi-Storey level 10 and walk through to venue.
Stuart (right), with Zane Lowe & Scroobius Pip
Throughout those years I saw music undertake the biggest change I think I’ll ever see. I saw Grunge go huge which made it OK to listen to guitar music. People who had never listened to it before were buying Nevermind or Ten. Then, a few years later, Oasis and Blur made guitar music acceptable for people who wore Ben Sherman shirts and “trendy” clobber. They were talking about birds, beer and football! For me, that was the death of the indie scene. Up until then, indie clubs had been the safe haven for the weird and wonderful.
Certainly in the mid to late 90’s you would notice a change in the type of people who would come to your club nights. Was that down to a certain band?.
“Oasis. Definitely Oasis. Suddenly it was ok for people who previously wouldn’t have been seen dead in an indie club, to now like guitar music. “Lad Culture” had arrived Suddenly all those indie bands we loved had become accessible. Even your Dad liked them.
That must have put a lot more people through the doors of your clubs?
“Yes, it did. The mid to late 90s were great for DJs. You knew you could put on any Brit Pop anthem and the place would go crazy.
Was that a good thing or a bad thing for indie music?
“Terrible. It wasn’t so obvious at the time because the clubs were packed and people were having a good time. It had all become so main stream. A lot of clubs were not putting their necks out and putting on live bands anymore. The Esplanade closed, as did the Y Club and Army and Navy in Chelmsford.”
When did the club circuit become something you would consider as a career?
“Around the time of the Bullseye my first band had come to an end and I was hoping to be taken seriously in my second band. We toured around the country a couple of times and put an album out on our own label hoping we could make a living from that but it wasn’t meant to be. It was then I was offered the job as manager of the Pink Toothbrush which I took as a career move. I did that for four or five years but decided management wasn’t for me. It was too much about the logistics of running a venue and not enough about the music “man”! When my first daughter was born I told the management I wanted to be a DJ again and resigned, taking a huge drop in pay to work on a building site.
I still continued to DJ at the Brush but it became apparent I wasn’t meant to work in the building trade. It was nice in the summer but not in the winter and it wasn’t long before I started to crave something more creative. I missed the music. I had an idea for an events company and after several meetings I secured funding and an office space from local business Focus Media.
That was the beginning of The Trash Society.
I started putting together compilation albums of the best local bands and packaged them with flyers and advertising from Essex venues, finally securing sponsorship from Xfm. We had some great bands on board. One act, Vinny Vinny, are now signed to Sony as The Milk and Baddies have done brilliantly as well.”
The association with Xfm must have worked wonders.
“It did, and I used that relationship to set up Club Xfm nights at the Pink Toothbrush and also at 333 in Shoreditch.”
These nights have become very successful in part due to the celebrity DJs you have been working with. How did this come about?
“Mat Horne had started to gain huge fame from the success of Gavin and Stacey and I happened to come into contact with him through a friend of a friend. I asked if he would be interested in DJing at the Brush, and he said “Yes”. Since then Mat and I have been running another very popular night called Session at The Queen of Hoxton in London. It’s been an amazing journey.”
In light of the celebs taking over at the decks, how has being a DJ changed over the years?
“When I first started I had this huge box with two decks and a mixer built into it. It was massive. It was like a coffin. I had an Escort Estate and carted it about with two big speakers and a set of “traffic light” lighting. Now things are a little different. If you can mix, it helps but now most DJs use CDs and Serato (a program linking a laptop to the decks). The skill is in playing the right songs. Having the experience to know what will make people dance.”
Stuart is now promoting and DJ’ing regular nights up and down the country but you can catch up with him weekly at The Pink Toothbrush in Rayleigh and go celeb spotting monthly at Session from The Queen of Hoxton.