So, years and years ago I used to DJ mainly playing ravey hardcore stuff which then morphed into new school breaks and big beat being resident DJ for Cryonix at the Matrix IN Reading, finally settling on drum and bass. I got into it when it was in a golden era, Think Metalheadz, Renegade Hardware, Hospital Records when they were at Herbal in Shoreditch, RAM at The End, Grooverider’s night Grace then Bryan Gee running Movement at Bar Rumba on Shaftsbury Ave, Fabric when it first opened, that kind of vibe.
I had done a few gigs for various promoters and every one I had done I felt like I had been treated like crap and nobody really cares about the music and only cares about the money. I had met many people in this period, Marcus who I put on my first event at the Agincourt in Camberley with Bad Company when the Shot down on safari album was about to drop. Various nights with the Streetbeats crew in Reading where we had everything from Pendulum to Peshay play. Stoney who used to run Apocalypse. I also used to DJ with Jack and Colm as the Phatcontrollers who were friends with a guy called Nick w ho went by the name of Subfocus. Me and Jack were playing before Andy C one night in Maidenhead at Apocalypse when we finished our set with one of Nicks tunes and Andy was all over it demanding the CD. Jack hurriedly scribbled Nicks phone number on it and gave it to Andy and well, the rest is history. However I was getting sick of it, it was the same local DJ’s on every night and they played exactly the same hour of tunes just in a different order and everything was just low grade jump up rubbish. I thought the only way to solve this was to do my own night and me Jack and Colm started Bassment on a Wednesday night at Po Na Na in Reading. We pulled in a favour with Subfocus as he kind of owed us one for giving Andy C that CD and him getting a recording contract for RAM records. I also asked local drum and bass legend John B who as the years went on became to this day one of mine and Chrisi’s close friends. There was only one way to make an impact on the very clicky Reading drum and bass scene. FREE ENTRY. The flyers went out and for the next month we hit them up everywhere, every single club night that might attract one person got flyered and I worked my ass off. Ironically 2 weeks before the night one of the other promoters in the area started flyering for their next event ironically in a bigger club on the night after ours and with the biggest DJ in the scene, Andy C. The excuse was “sorry Steve, Andy called me personally and wanted to do his album launch at my event and the only date he had was the night after yours and I could not refuse. Did he F**K! you didn’t want competition in your town so you booked a massive DJ so my night flops and I quit after the first night.
On the night we were nervous but after 30 mins of being open we were packed to the rafters with so many people complementing us and loving what we did, loving the flyer which was designed by Ricky Trikkart who now does all the artwork for hospital records. Loving the diversity of the music and loving the fact it was just different and you could tell it was done for the love. The Andy C night the next day was busy but we had made and impact and it was something fresh for the town. We did another 4 events at PoNaNa and then got the shitty news they are closing and despite our success could not find a single venue in the town that would take us, mainly because of the trouble that always happened at other drum and bass nights funnily the one that booked Andy C. Bassment had never been like that, It was vibes not attitude and I loved it. The next few months I was pretty low I had started something that was amazing but it was homeless, Jack and Colm had buggered off to London and I just didn’t have it in me to do it on my own, or did I.
I was drinking at the Phatz bar in Maidenhead one night and got into a conversation with Carl the good one of the 2 brothers that owned it. He gave us a shot of doing Bassment there but it was a tiny venue , a naff sound system and was in Maidenhead a naff town with not a lot going for it and if we wanted a crowd we would have to bring them to Maidenhead, Oh and we had £100 quid to put the night on.
Ok deal, 50 on flyer printing and 50 on the soundsystem as I had a mate with a few speakers and an amp. It turned out to be a pretty good rig for the venue though. I was DJ’ing on a local pirate radio too with Dexter (MC Hotrox) which boosted the promotion when we were on air. I had also met some of my resident DJ’s too with just one problem they lived in Dorset.
I had met them from going down to Swanage every summer with family and kind of getting involved in a night down there called Funktion. One of them is still a close friend who I don’t see enough, one has turned into a Bristol hipster vegan teacher who reminds me of Mr Mackie in Southpark, sorry Matt I do love you DJ Switch and the other I’m not sure what happened. Between them, myself and a few others we had enough to put on a night with the type of the music was what we wanted and different from everything else out there and that was our selling point, oh and we had a bouncer for the venue that would stand outside and rave hard till the last tune. Legend.
We lasted about 6 months at the Phatz bar when Carl sold his share in the Bar to his brother Grant and on our last night there he turned round to me and despite pretty much every night being packed he uttered the words “I don’t want think f**king music in here anymore”
I had been through this already with Ponana but we were on to something the night was a success and purely because it was real, organic and about loving the music and not the money. We just could not quit and a venue just down the road was available mainly because it was not that busy, but it was a lot bigger and had a vibe about it, even a garden on the roof, it was a bit quirky and different just like Bassment. We had to go bigger for it and not rely on just residents so I booked a headliner DJ Friction the first one I had payed full whack for, It was a big risk as I had emptied my bank account to pay for him and this had to work. I had to do an hour of free entry to at least try and entice people from other towns as Maidenhead and a fiver to get in after as I could not fill the capacity of the venue with the number of people into drum & bass from Maidenhead.
This is where I met Dan who pretty much became my right hand man in things, he had the love of the same music as I did, The same geekiness attention to detail I wanted to put into it and the same passion to do it for the love of doing it not the profit. We flyered the crap out of it, mainly in Reading with a lot of attitude from other promoters apart from a few like Subfactory and the Crystal forms boys, A lot of the attitude was along the lines of “that aint gonna work, a big dj in a shit town in a small venue” but It was like that scene from Waynes world, “If you book them they will come.” And they did most of the time and people travelled pretty far to get there too. We even had a shop manakin that the headliners playing had to sign that we were going to auction for charity. We did this for about 18 months and had some pretty awesome people play, Logistics, Break, Ray Keith, Dillinja, DJ Hype, Xample and a load more, How were these 2 guys putting on these parties in a small town and people in the bigger town were getting puzzled and also scared of us. Eventually surprise surprise the venue closed as literally we were their only busy night every month and the quiet nights pulled them under. This pretty much ended us as we had just booked Shy FX who wasn’t cheap and paid in full just to be told we had no venue to host it. His agent did not give a toss either as they had their money. It was over.
We both got depressed again but hungry and thought F**k it, how can we save this, We approached Bar Mango in Reading, a funky house club and they would only offer us a Wednesday night, we took it, I then asked my mate John B if he could contact Shy FX and explain our situation and he agreed to come and play for his travel expenses being as we had already paid for him to DJ. We had a night, time to promote it. Oh shit that night you were all worried about in that small little town has just moved to the big town your all doing your nights in. Time to start making some moves.
End of part 1.