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SPHERE magazine talks to one of EBM’s most prominent promoters in the UK, Adrian Thompson, about how he launched analoguetrash in Manchester and his hopes for the future. It’s about time we ‘Got Oontz’…
“I’m a fanboy with good organisational skills”
S] Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you developed the analoguetrash concept?
AT] You know, this is probably going to be the hardest question. Whenever people ask me stuff like that I just tell them, ‘I’m a fanboy with good organisational skills and who knows how to throw a good party.’ To be honest that’s about it – I don’t have an illustrious history of promoting events or bands and, before analoguetrash_001 I’d run one party which was an epic fail, to coin a phrase. I have been a fan of industrial and EBM since around 2001 and while I don’t think I was particularly well known on the ‘scene’, I went to my fair share of gigs and club nights with whoever I could drag along.
The analoguetrash concept was always to create more than just a club night. I am a firm believer that a decent party is more than having a room with a bar and playing some music (no matter how good the music is) and I wanted something unique in terms of visuals and sound. The idea wasn’t to create a goth night or an industrial and ebm night as such, but to develop a night that would play a diverse range of music that falls under the umbrella of alternative electronic, with acts and DJs performing that reflect the range of genres and sub-genres that we’d play. I also wanted to play all those excellent songs and bands that you wouldn’t normally here in clubs so we set up our policy of being very request-friendly and playing music that was good that fit in with the soundscapes we’re trying to create, regardless of how well know it is. Visually we’ve tried to go for a theme that is light hearted and wonderfully geeky. The posters of Daleks, inflatable aliens and the tongue-in-cheek slogans of ‘Got Oontz?’ plastered on the walls are all efforts to create an environment that’s fun, a bit silly and welcoming for anyone who wants to come and wave glow sticks about to VNV Nation or Covenant. It’s also an effort to create an environment where people don’t take themselves too seriously and where the onus is on enjoying the music and having a good time, and not so much being into the right bands or wearing the right clothes.
S] What have been some of the most challenging obstacles within the night’s history and how did you overcome them?
AT] Where do I begin?! We have a theory that it wouldn’t be an analoguetrash night if there weren’t some sort of disaster. I think probably the most stressful obstacle we faced was opening over an hour late for our first event back in June last year. I thought I’d planned for every contingency except for the extra PA hire company that turned up.
We ended up stuck in the middle of a battle between two PA companies who were trying to outdo each other for the gig. In the end we went for the one we’d originally booked but because the other had already set up, it took a long time to get everything taken apart and put back again. Thankfully people were very understanding and we let everyone who had to wait in for free, but it was stressful to say the least. Your first night is your chance to make a good impression and it wasn’t good to almost fall at the first hurdle.
We’ve had a few others like turning up to a venue due to start at 10pm and discovering the mixing desk would be locked away until 11pm and some others like that, but every one is a learning curve and we are usually able to work around them.
The hardest part is dealing with negative feedback really and I’ll openly tell you that I’m rubbish at it! We don’t get very many thankfully but it’s difficult sometimes not to take bad comments or stuff you read online to heart when you’re investing a lot of time, energy, emotions and money into something like analoguetrash. Thankfully most people have been cool and as the whole concept is pretty new anyway, constructive criticism from punters has led to some cool changes in the format and specifics of the events. I guess there are always going to be critics!
At analoguetrash_001 we accidentally burnt the carpet with Novus:UK’s angle grinder and Flesh Eating Foundation covered all the hired PA equipment in fake blood and an already irate PA guy slipped and fell in it when he was taking it down. It was funny in retrospect, but not at the time!
S] How supportive have your target market of bands and customers within the area been?
AT] Incredibly supportive actually. The amount of people who’ve told us that they enjoy the nights and want them to continue has been staggering. I think that a lot of people have wanted this kind of night for a while and we’ve already built up a core crowd of regulars who come to almost all our events. It’s been an interesting process with analoguetrash as I and others have noticed we get a lot of people attending who we’ve never seen at; say gigs at Corporation in Sheffield or in Mutate at The Wendyhouse. They’re there and they’re singing along to whatever song we’re playing and seem to be having a good time, but we’ve no idea where they came from. I think that more people like the music than consider themselves part of the ‘scene’ and it’s nice that we’re getting down such a wide range of people. It’s the best feeling in the world when you get home exhausted after putting on a night, go on Facebook and see people’s statuses saying what a good time they’ve had – it makes all the effort worthwhile.
Bands too have been great with us and we’ve got quite a waiting list of talented people who want to play Manchester. They’ve all been really supportive, promoting the night and have all put on amazing shows. I think it’s only fair to look after the talent so hopefully it’s paying off and we’re going to get a reputation as being good people to perform with. It still weirds me out a bit that bands and artists I’ve paid money to see, and bought CDs and t-shirts of know who I am and chat to me at gigs – it’s very humbling. Other promoters have also been great and I think there’s a real sense of comradary in this kind of scene. We exchange promotional stuff with most other nights in the region doing similar stuff and I think it’s great how everyone cross-promotes each other’s stuff to build a stronger community and scene rather than viewing other nights as competition.
S] Likewise, how receptive have venues in the area been to the event?
AT] We were really lucky with finding Moho Live for our first venue as they were willing to take a chance on us with, really, nothing existing to compare our concept to. Venues overall though did express a lot of interest in our ideas, purely because there was nothing else similar happening in Manchester at the time. The most difficult part has been explaining to people what we do and what sort of music we play. When you tell someone you want to start an ebm and industrial night you get blank looks or awkward silences from venue owners who are unfamiliar with the genre or the scene. We branded our events under the umbrella term of ‘alternative electronic’ to make it easier to explain to venues what we did and gave them links to bands’ MySpace pages and similar clubs in other cities to explain our concept. A few venues expressed an interest when we were looking for a Saturday slot and we were fortunate enough to get a contact at Legends and a few good words from other promoters using the venue. I think it’s fair to say that the things that are important to venues are sometimes different to the things that are important to promoters. A venue needs to know they’re going to get a crowd and that they’ll get enough over the bar to make the night viable, so having figures on bar takes and numbers paying in from the nights at Moho were a huge help. The Roadhouse where we’re now doing our live events are committed to newer and underground bands so were really happy to start working with us.
S] What made you realise that there was a need for this kind of night in Manchester?
AT] The decision to start analoguetrash came at around 11pm on Saturday, April 3, 2009. I was at the Covenant gig in Manchester Academy. I am a huge Covenant fan and had just had an amazing time dancing and singing along to every song, right at the front near the stage. After such a great gig I was on a real high and was gutted that there was nowhere to go afterwards where I could carry on partying to the sort of music I’d just been listening to. I figured that the gig was pretty busy and these people must have come from somewhere, and I’d overheard a few conversations from folks who were unhappy there was no after-party to go to or club on. The day after I started e-mailing around venues with a proposal and the rest is history really.
S] What do you think of the northern industrial scene in general?
AT] Ah, this is the controversial question! I think it’s great, but I am surprised it’s not bigger to be honest. Electronic music is the new thing at the moment and it’s not like it’s not accessible and easy to dance to, but for some reason it is still a really small scene. The biggest strength and best bit of the industrial scene here, is the people who run the nights. They’re so committed to what they do and so passionate about the music that they work really hard to keep it alive. There may not be loads of people into this stuff, but the people that are into it are some of the most passionate and friendly folks I’ve met and they keep nights going with their commitment and drive and that’s what makes it stand out for me. Without these people there wouldn’t be anything happening, and from a promoter’s point of view they’re crucial. We have some great nights happening in Leeds, Sheffield and Preston to name but a few and I’m pleased Manchester is finally catching up.
The industrial scene is the only genre of music that I’ve come across where people talk about the ‘scene’ in the way they do. It’s strange really. People who go to metal clubs seem not to talk about the metal ‘scene’ in the same context, they just seem to go to nights and gigs that play music they’re into. I guess the problem with any scene is that, if it becomes too insular and exclusive then it eventually folds in on itself, people drift away and that’s the end of it. I’ve picked up on this vibe on occasion, particularly in Manchester about how the scene is dying, and people don’t come to stuff when you put it on and how fans are apathetic. I don’t know where that kind of idea comes from as we haven’t seen any of that with the stuff that we’ve done. I guess we should take that as a compliment really. Seriously though, there is always loads of great stuff happening if you look for it.
S] What has been the best moment for you so far in analoguetrash’s brief history?
AT] It’s not necessarily an analoguetrash moment but it did come about through it. A massive one for me was when I met Jennifer [Parkin] from Ayria last year after their gig in Moho Live.’Analog Trash‘ is actually the title of an Ayria song from their last album and is where we got the name from. I’d been asked to DJ at and help advertise the Cruxshadows gig after the original promoter had to pull out and Moho had opted to joint-promote it with the bands. I was happy to help and had a great time at the gig despite blowing up my external soundcard at the start of the set and it went really well. I bottled out of speaking to any of the bands during the soundcheck as I was really, really star-struck at being a matter of metres away from Rogue and Jennifer but between a few people was basically forced to get over my nerves after the gig and say hi. Jennifer was lovely and flattered we’d named our night after one of her tracks. She said that she’d enjoyed my set and was dancing to it in the dressing room. I think on the outside I just smiled and said I was glad she liked it and how I’d really enjoyed her performance, but on the inside I was screaming and jumping up and down like some crazed person. I went home thinking, ‘Best. Night. Ever‘.
S] Can you give us your top five analoguetrash-friendly bands in the north?
AT] This is a tough one as there are so many great bands in the North of England that we’ve been lucky enough to work with. Keeping it brief though, I think we’d need to pick: The Ladder, Cybercide, Deviant UK, and even though they’re from London and Stafford respectively – System:FX and Flesh Eating Foundation. These are all local bands that regularly make our playlists and are all excellent. If you haven’t already, anyone reading this should go and check them out.
S] How will you expand and develop the event in the future?
AT] We’ve got a few ideas in the pipeline but nothing confirmed as of yet. We’ve only recently developed our new format of splitting live music events and club nights and are going to run with this for a while and see how it goes. Things I would like to do include having a second room with a guest club night each month so people get variety and newer nights get the chance to show their wares, so to speak. I’d love to do some ‘Versus’ events too and have spoken to a couple of other promoters about doing analoguetrash vs x events in the future where we’ll work together to put on a big night between us. If we can establish that there’s a big enough market I’d love to look at putting on some bigger international bands and maybe even some kind of all-dayer in the future, but we’ve a long way to go yet.
S] What are your most exciting plans for 2010?
AT] We’ve got our first gig on a Saturday happening at The Roadhouse on May 8 and we’re confirming bands for it at the moment and trying to line up the club night to coincide seeing as we can use Legends on the May 1. That’s pretty exciting, and we’re hoping to get someone pretty big to headline the live event then ship everyone over to Legends to carry on partying. For me, and my DJ alter-ego of ad3k there are some exciting guest slots coming up in Paris in February and June of this year which I’m equally excited and nervous about
S] What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start an event within this niche?
AT] The best piece of advice I can give is to advertise everywhere. You can’t promote a niche within a niche and the only way to keep a small scene going is to actively promote it outside itself and get more people into what you’re doing. Once you’ve done advertising your first events, advertise some more. If people don’t come you want it to be because they’re not interested or busy and not because they don’t know your night is happening.
I do think that you need to do something different to pull a crowd too. ‘Yet another ebm/industrial night‘ alone isn’t going to work for too long and you need something new and exciting and you have to make some effort. Hiring a room and playing music isn’t guaranteed to create the sort of atmosphere that brings people back and you need to keep it fresh.
It’s incredibly important to look after the people attending as their recommendation is going to be worth ten times any advertising or promotional materials and I think the only other good piece of advice I can give is work with other promoters. Provided it’s not on the same weekend and in the same city, most other promoters within this kind of genre will probably be more than happy to joint-promote your ventures and this is the easiest way to reach your target market, especially if your nights complement one-another.
S] What three things inspire you the most?
AT] First has to be my partner in crime Mark, who inspired me to start work on analoguetrash in the first place and who keeps me inspired when my motivation or energy is waning.
Second, has to be that feeling that you have when you’re DJing to a full dancefloor of happy people who have come to the night you’ve put on, or when you speak to people afterwards who have really enjoyed themselves. You have to have experienced it to know what I’m talking about but it is amazing. The third is lasers. It’s worth running a club night just to get to play with them, and I’d have the Death Star hanging over the dance floor lighting it up if I could!
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