Joe Hymas

‘Hippy’ Joe gets Bluegrass on your ass!

Meet The Promoter
Hippy Joe's Live & Unsigned
paulsgig.com Shakey Chelmsford Unique Sounds
Joe Hymas - Live & Unsigned The Edge Basildon Joe, If we could start from the beginning, when did you start to get in to music? “Since forever, When I was a kid I was always listening to stuff but it wasn’t till I was about 10 that I got in to the heavier aspect of music. Before that I was listening to a lot of Jazz, Ska & some of the alternative music that was about in the 80’s. The rock stuff didn’t really hit me till I was about 10, I started playing guitar when I was 13. I just went hammer & tongs on to it, so by the time I left school I was already in bands & stuff. I started teaching guitar when I was 16 I was already working part time in a music shop, Del’s Music. Then when I left school I went full time for a couple of years. I was in a local metal band, After Dark but there was nowhere to play in Basildon apart from The Roundacre but the guy who had hold of it, put us on the did a bunk with the money. Rather than get too upset about it, we decided to take all his customers away from him and start up another venue. So we started up at The Castle Mayne in the December, just before my 18th birthday. When we first went in to The Castle Mayne and said we want to put on original bands they didn’t want to know. So I said give us the worst night you’ve got, he said Tuesday, we get about six people in. So I said if we pack it, pay us accordingly, if not, don’t. So we booked up a gig in February or March and absolutely rammed it. I think we were called Wicked Ways by then. So it was a rarely busy night, the guvnor was over the moon so we asked about doing a regular night but we had to change to Thursday’s as we were getting too many complaints from the locals on Tuesdays. We’ve always kept it free entry, starting out with two bands a night then three, I can’t remember exactly when. We did that for about 4 or 5 years until they got a new guvnor in who decided he didn’t like all the heavy stuff and wanted to turn it in to a family pub. Just like all the other family pubs in Baaildon. So again, rather than arguing we just fu*ked off to the Towngate, spoke to the Director there who was really interested but wanted to do more, like put on paid gigs and bigger bands. So I got rolled in to doing that, up to seven nights a week. We’d have what we called the student night, the equivalent of what we had up at the Mayne, which was also still on a Thursday. Then we had The Cage which would have bigger, signed bands. We would charge a few quid to get in and there was a bigger P.A. and lighting, more like a club. That went on for a good few years and at the same time I was booking bands Fridays and Saturdays funnily enough at The Roundacre as they had new management. I was booking seven nights a week at the Fish & Firkin, The Top Alex in Southend as well as the occasional thing at The Dickens in Wickford. I was doing this while holding down the bands and teaching guitar. When the Towngate shut down I went back to the Castle Mayne who had a new guvnor Kelly who’s still there now and we’ve stayed there ever since. So at the Castle Mayne there’s been original music now every week for 21 years this will be I guess, with a short break when we went to the Towngate Theatre.” You started promoting right at the beginning of Grunge, did it have an effect on the bands you were booking? “You mean cut their hair a little and wear checked shirts? Some bands were like that and there still is now, bands that you can tell are just chasing after a record deal. One minute they’re like pop/punk, the next they’re like The Kooks. It does happen, sometimes to extremes. Most bands will pick up the bits they like about a certain type of music, other bands will just stay totally true to what they’re in to and stick with that. A lot of bands will try and get totally their own identity which might not be everybody’s cup of tea at the time. It’s a while later that people start accepting it when it becomes more mainstream. There’s a lot of talent in this area, always has been and it’s nice to have a platform for bands to play where they don’t get charged to play and it’s free to get in. You had some bands play that have gone on to be pretty big like Feeder and Reef. Are there any local bands that you thought could have gone on to big things? Oh yeah, there has been absolutely loads that you think deserve a serious crack of the whip and some of them did go on to get signed or get management deals, start to do Kerrang tours or & Melody Maker or NME , whatever it was at the time. Then they seem to just disappear or split up. If you do what I do you soon get pretty disillusioned with the way the industry works with young bands. Some of the bands out there are absolutely amazing you know, brilliant songwriters and they’ve got something incredible.

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.

 

 

Hippy Joe's Live & Unsigned

 

The Edge

6-8 High Pavement,

Basildon, Essex

SS14 1EA

 

Park in Great Oaks Multi-Storey level 10 and walk through to venue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stuart (right), with Zane Lowe & Scroobius Pip

Meet The Promoter
Stuart Whiffen - The Pink Toothbrush & Queen Of Hoxton Playing to the Floor Interview by James Quinn If you’ve partied the night away at an indie club or seen a live band in Essex over the last 20 years, the chances are, Stuart Whiffen has been involved somewhere along the line. For two decades now he has DJ’d, managed and promoted at some of the county’s most well known venues, providing the soundtrack to the youth of several generations. We caught up with Stuart on New Year’s Eve for a few drinks, a spot of “Dad Dancing” and a chat about his CV, past and present. So Stuart, where does your story start? “At Thurrock Technical College. A friend of mine who had come over from Ireland three years previously was toying with the idea of putting on a music event. At the time, for alternative music in Essex, you basically just had the Pink Toothbrush. This was 1991 and I had already been going there for about two years, loving it and thinking I could do something the same. We went to the Roundacre in Basildon, a venue on a roundabout in the town centre where we were offered a ridiculously bad deal to promote our own night. We had the job of filling the 200 capacity venue for £4.50 a ticket whilst only getting paid about £60 ourselves. It was the first time I had DJ’d anything other than wedding discos and it gave me the opportunity to promote an alternative music venue where I had the chance to play exactly the tunes I wanted to play. The first night we had about 18 people through the door but by the second night we had about 100 and it just grew and grew! We started to use the Roundacre to showcase some local bands and it was after this I was approached by the Pink Toothbrush. They recognised I was competent at my job and saw me as someone who would be enthusiastic about getting people interested in local music. How long had you been promoting the Roundacre before the Toothbrush showed an interest? “It was about a year. I started at the Toothbrush in ’92. It was slap bang in the middle of Grunge exploding into the mainstream. Not long after I started a Wednesday club night at the notorious Raquel’s in Basildon. It wasn’t known for alternative music but we started a night called Fan Club which ran for two summers and it was very successful. I used this as a platform for my own band Serious Problem and other local talent.” Alternative club nights and local bands went hand in hand at the Roundacre and Raquel’s but the Pink Toothbrush made use of emerging Essex acts too. “At that time I wasn’t putting on local acts at the Brush but Russell (promoter) was getting Supergrass and The Bluetones on the same bill, Blur supported by the Stereo MCs and Ice T!” Which Essex bands stood out for you at that time in the 90’s? “I remember a band called Heck that had a guy called Todd who ended up playing in Menswear. I remember seeing them at The Esplanade in Southend and thinking they were amazing. There were also some great bands from Grays like Honeylust, Cedar and Serious Problem. When I first started there were also good bands like Inner Self, Heresy and Yahoo Bowl.” So with three nights running every week, what was your next step? “By the mid 90’s the whole Brit Pop scene had begun and I started a night at Sak’s in Southend with a friend of mine called Wayne. It was called Blow Off and we played the likes of Blur, Oasis, Menswear and Echobelly along with stuff like the Small Faces and a bit of northern soul. Again, that ran for a couple of summers before it gradually petered out. And at about the same time the Roundacre closed as a venue so we had to find somewhere else in Basildon to move our night. That was when we moved up the street to the Bullseye, a bar with a big upstairs function suite and a rough reputation. I took my chances and hoped these weird and wonderful punks, goths, metallers and indie kids would brave it and walk into the Bullseye, upstairs, and into what would be a safe haven for them. And thankfully they did!” By that point you must have gained enough of a reputation to take a lot of the existing music community with you to the Bullseye? “I’d love to say that was the case and that I had arrived as a promoter but I think the truth is, there was just nowhere else to go in Basildon for indie/alternative music. It was a period when guitar music was at its most exciting in indie clubs.” Do you have fond memories of those times? “Most of those nights were a labour of love. There was never any money in it. It was just the chance to have a laugh, put on our own bands, our friend’s bands, not have to pay to go into other clubs and to listen to the kind of music we liked. At that point it was just about having fun.

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.

 

www.session.org.uk

 

www.pinktoothbrush.co.uk

Unique Sounds
Joe Hymas - Live & Unsigned The Edge Basildon Joe, If we could start from the beginning, when did you start to get in to music? “Since forever, When I was a kid I was always listening to stuff but it wasn’t till I was about 10 that I got in to the heavier aspect of music. Before that I was listening to a lot of Jazz, Ska & some of the alternative music that was about in the 80’s. The rock stuff didn’t really hit me till I was about 10, I started playing guitar when I was 13. I just went hammer & tongs on to it, so by the time I left school I was already in bands & stuff. I started teaching guitar when I was 16 I was already working part time in a music shop, Del’s Music. Then when I left school I went full time for a couple of years. I was in a local metal band, After Dark but there was nowhere to play in Basildon apart from The Roundacre but the guy who had hold of it, put us on the did a bunk with the money. Rather than get too upset about it, we decided to take all his customers away from him and start up another venue. So we started up at The Castle Mayne in the December, just before my 18th birthday. When we first went in to The Castle Mayne and said we want to put on original bands they didn’t want to know. So I said give us the worst night you’ve got, he said Tuesday, we get about six people in. So I said if we pack it, pay us accordingly, if not, don’t. So we booked up a gig in February or March and absolutely rammed it. I think we were called Wicked Ways by then. So it was a rarely busy night, the guvnor was over the moon so we asked about doing a regular night but we had to change to Thursday’s as we were getting too many complaints from the locals on Tuesdays. We’ve always kept it free entry, starting out with two bands a night then three, I can’t remember exactly when. We did that for about 4 or 5 years until they got a new guvnor in who decided he didn’t like all the heavy stuff and wanted to turn it in to a family pub. Just like all the other family pubs in Baaildon. So again, rather than arguing we just fu*ked off to the Towngate, spoke to the Director there who was really interested but wanted to do more, like put on paid gigs and bigger bands. So I got rolled in to doing that, up to seven nights a week. We’d have what we called the student night, the equivalent of what we had up at the Mayne, which was also still on a Thursday. Then we had The Cage which would have bigger, signed bands. We would charge a few quid to get in and there was a bigger P.A. and lighting, more like a club. That went on for a good few years and at the same time I was booking bands Fridays and Saturdays funnily enough at The Roundacre as they had new management. I was booking seven nights a week at the Fish & Firkin, The Top Alex in Southend as well as the occasional thing at The Dickens in Wickford. I was doing this while holding down the bands and teaching guitar. When the Towngate shut down I went back to the Castle Mayne who had a new guvnor Kelly who’s still there now and we’ve stayed there ever since. So at the Castle Mayne there’s been original music now every week for 21 years this will be I guess, with a short break when we went to the Towngate Theatre.” You started promoting right at the beginning of Grunge, did it have an effect on the bands you were booking? “You mean cut their hair a little and wear checked shirts? Some bands were like that and there still is now, bands that you can tell are just chasing after a record deal. One minute they’re like pop/punk, the next they’re like The Kooks. It does happen, sometimes to extremes. Most bands will pick up the bits they like about a certain type of music, other bands will just stay totally true to what they’re in to and stick with that. A lot of bands will try and get totally their own identity which might not be everybody’s cup of tea at the time. It’s a while later that people start accepting it when it becomes more mainstream. There’s a lot of talent in this area, always has been and it’s nice to have a platform for bands to play where they don’t get charged to play and it’s free to get in. You had some bands play that have gone on to be pretty big like Feeder and Reef. Are there any local bands that you thought could have gone on to big things? Oh yeah, there has been absolutely loads that you think deserve a serious crack of the whip and some of them did go on to get signed or get management deals, start to do Kerrang tours or & Melody Maker or NME , whatever it was at the time. Then they seem to just disappear or split up. If you do what I do you soon get pretty disillusioned with the way the industry works with young bands. Some of the bands out there are absolutely amazing you know, brilliant songwriters and they’ve got something incredible.
Stuart Whiffen - The Pink Toothbrush & Queen Of Hoxton Playing to the Floor Interview by James Quinn If you’ve partied the night away at an indie club or seen a live band in Essex over the last 20 years, the chances are, Stuart Whiffen has been involved somewhere along the line. For two decades now he has DJ’d, managed and promoted at some of the county’s most well known venues, providing the soundtrack to the youth of several generations. We caught up with Stuart on New Year’s Eve for a few drinks, a spot of “Dad Dancing” and a chat about his CV, past and present. So Stuart, where does your story start? “At Thurrock Technical College. A friend of mine who had come over from Ireland three years previously was toying with the idea of putting on a music event. At the time, for alternative music in Essex, you basically just had the Pink Toothbrush. This was 1991 and I had already been going there for about two years, loving it and thinking I could do something the same. We went to the Roundacre in Basildon, a venue on a roundabout in the town centre where we were offered a ridiculously bad deal to promote our own night. We had the job of filling the 200 capacity venue for £4.50 a ticket whilst only getting paid about £60 ourselves. It was the first time I had DJ’d anything other than wedding discos and it gave me the opportunity to promote an alternative music venue where I had the chance to play exactly the tunes I wanted to play. The first night we had about 18 people through the door but by the second night we had about 100 and it just grew and grew! We started to use the Roundacre to showcase some local bands and it was after this I was approached by the Pink Toothbrush. They recognised I was competent at my job and saw me as someone who would be enthusiastic about getting people interested in local music. How long had you been promoting the Roundacre before the Toothbrush showed an interest? “It was about a year. I started at the Toothbrush in ’92. It was slap bang in the middle of Grunge exploding into the mainstream. Not long after I started a Wednesday club night at the notorious Raquel’s in Basildon. It wasn’t known for alternative music but we started a night called Fan Club which ran for two summers and it was very successful. I used this as a platform for my own band Serious Problem and other local talent.” Alternative club nights and local bands went hand in hand at the Roundacre and Raquel’s but the Pink Toothbrush made use of emerging Essex acts too. “At that time I wasn’t putting on local acts at the Brush but Russell (promoter) was getting Supergrass and The Bluetones on the same bill, Blur supported by the Stereo MCs and Ice T!” Which Essex bands stood out for you at that time in the 90’s? “I remember a band called Heck that had a guy called Todd who ended up playing in Menswear. I remember seeing them at The Esplanade in Southend and thinking they were amazing. There were also some great bands from Grays like Honeylust, Cedar and Serious Problem. When I first started there were also good bands like Inner Self, Heresy and Yahoo Bowl.” So with three nights running every week, what was your next step? “By the mid 90’s the whole Brit Pop scene had begun and I started a night at Sak’s in Southend with a friend of mine called Wayne. It was called Blow Off and we played the likes of Blur, Oasis, Menswear and Echobelly along with stuff like the Small Faces and a bit of northern soul. Again, that ran for a couple of summers before it gradually petered out. And at about the same time the Roundacre closed as a venue so we had to find somewhere else in Basildon to move our night. That was when we moved up the street to the Bullseye, a bar with a big upstairs function suite and a rough reputation. I took my chances and hoped these weird and wonderful punks, goths, metallers and indie kids would brave it and walk into the Bullseye, upstairs, and into what would be a safe haven for them. And thankfully they did!” By that point you must have gained enough of a reputation to take a lot of the existing music community with you to the Bullseye? “I’d love to say that was the case and that I had arrived as a promoter but I think the truth is, there was just nowhere else to go in Basildon for indie/alternative music. It was a period when guitar music was at its most exciting in indie clubs.” Do you have fond memories of those times? “Most of those nights were a labour of love. There was never any money in it. It was just the chance to have a laugh, put on our own bands, our friend’s bands, not have to pay to go into other clubs and to listen to the kind of music we liked. At that point it was just about having fun.