You have been a promoter and advocate of Birmingham music for a number of years. Where did it all start?
“I started DJing and promoting parties when I was at University in Nottingham. I promoted my first ever event at Venus in 1992 and continued to do anything but study for the next three years. I was really influenced by what I’d grown up with in Birmingham. From reggae, soul, funk, jazz and hip-hop to early house, Detroit techno, disco and electro. The first gig we put on had one room of funk, soul, jazz & hip-hop and downstairs in the basement was house & techno. I was a bit obsessed with the Venus at the time, so I think I just wanted to DJ there.
So what are the origins of Leftfoot?
“After University I planned to move down to London. I’d been resident DJ at the Medicine Bar in Islington for about a year, and spent most weekends down there. But then the owners of the Islington Bar decided to open a Medicine Bar in B’ham, so I ended up running it for 3 years. We started doing these mini-festivals at the Custard Factory called Summer Madness, with some memorable events with the likes of Nightmares On Wax, Fabio, Andrew Weatherall, LTJ Bukem, Jose Padilla, Ballistic Brothers and Peshay.”
Do you have any particular highlights of the last 10 years of Leftfoot?
“Loads really but I suppose Lee Scratch Perry was a particularly memorable highlight. And the Radio 1 “One Live in Birmingham” show with Gilles Peterson, Cinematic Orchestra and Roots Manuva. I’ve just borrowed some old video footage from DJ Dick so we may be uploading to Youtube soon. Very happy days.”
What made you decide to make the transition to venue owner?
“I became a father of three children and realised that I could no longer make enough money as a promoter / DJ alone. I’d tried teaching and it wasn’t for me and I couldn’t see myself working for a big company in an office environment. Both The Hare and Hounds and The Bull’s Head play host to a real range of music, was that a deliberate policy? Yes. I’m not a big fan of venues with a narrow approach to their programming. I’ve had my own taste in music challenged by some of the acts I’ve seen at the Hare, and that can only be a positive thing. Some of my favourites nights recently have been spent watching acts I’d never of seen if I didn’t own a venue”
What are your thoughts on the Birmingham music scene?
“It seems really healthy at the moment, loads of great bands and DJ’s coming through. In terms of venues there seems to be some really passionate people doing great things. The Rainbow continually impress me with their development and places like The Victoria, The Yardbird, The Flapper, The Glee Club all have a really independent spirit. We obviously need places like the O2 and Barfly etc but it’s also important that there are places run by people with a real passion for their city. Some of the biggest names in the business have played at The Hare and Hounds.”
Who has been your highlight and why?
“The recent gig with Marlena Shaw was amazing. She is such a lovely woman with the most incredibly soulful voice. The emotion in her voice was unlike anything I’d ever heard before.”
You have been promoting Overproof Soundsystem for years and they even released their first album on your record label, Different Drummer. What do you like about this band?
“Brian and Rob are incredibly talented producers / musicians, everything they do has such a great sound. And Juggla & Dougie are great front men – not forgetting the Mighty Magoo! They really know how to put on a show and they have some really big tunes that everyone recognises.”
As well as putting big name acts, you champion promoters working at a grass roots level and seem to keep your ear to the ground when it comes to ‘breakthrough’ artists. Who would you tip as being set for big things in the next couple of years?
“Goodnight Lenin and Malpas are both great bands with the potential to do well. Sam Redmore is a fantastic DJ / producer / promoter who is very young and incredibly talented but with a wise old head on his shoulders.”
Birmingham is shortlisted for the city of culture award. You are obviously a passionate campaigner for this city. What’s the favourite thing about Brum? ”
“The sense of humour.”
What do you think would make it an even better city? Is there room for improvement?
“They should resurrect the Moseley and Kings Heath railway lines for a start.”
Tell us something we probably don’t know about Birmingham.
“The Stones and The Beatles played right next door to the Hare and Hounds in a venue that was called The Ritz. It was a great venue apparently run by someone known as ‘Old Man Regan’. People ask me if I am related to him. I’m not, but it’s a great story. He sounds like a legend.”
What music inspired you to start DJing?
“Rare groove / hip-hop / house”
What was your first record?
“I think it was Adam and The Ants “Antmusic”
The gig on May 1st is a Leftfoot 10th anniversary special. What can we expect?
“Great visuals from Blendstate, which will be a trip down memory lane, great sounds from all the DJs and, of course, the energy of the mighty Overproof Soundsystem. Basically party central for people who have supported us over the years, as well as people who have not yet tried a Leftfoot night. Everyone’s welcome for the bargain price of a fiver!
Any plans for the future?
“I’d like to buy a building in the city centre / eastside and custom-build a 500-700 capacity venue. There’s definitely a lack of venues this size”