NHC Ethical Promoter Spotlight Interview - Serpent Promotions

As well as throwing our spotlight on the excellent Scottish punk bands out there, we also intend to bring you interviews with some of the good guys from the scene, ethical promoters, bookers and venue owners... they really are out there!

Hi there Jamie, glad to finally have an ethical promoter on the new website, I think this is a first for us actually, interviewing another promoter from Glasgow! So, start us off by telling us a wee bit about yourself, and Serpent promotions?

What can I say about me?  I’m just a musician and former music student who happened upon an opportunity to put on some gigs in Glasgow. I made the Serpent Promotions Facebook page a few years ago when I was at college purely because I figured that I’d get a better response to venue hire inquiries with a page and a name. Even a few months ago this was still just an idea. Serpent Promotions now is about making booking a gig in Glasgow accessible and straightforward. We as musicians have all bit off a ticket deal we couldn’t live up to just to get a gig and it’s stressful when the promoter’s phoning every 5 minutes to ask if there’s been any progress on the 10 tickets you’ve sold out of 50. I’ve been given a great opportunity where I can work a little differently and try to grow the local scene instead of milking it.

You are actually part of a registered band with us too, was it seeing how things were done to bands while you were in one that encouraged you to start your own company?

That’s right, I registered Vipera Berus and as soon as we have something to sell in the shop we’ll be straight in to drop it off. I wouldn’t say a few negative experiences were the reason I took this project on but I suppose having experience of a few bad gigs and playing for one or two promoters from your “naughty list” does give me some appropriate insight into what I DON’T want to do. I think the worst thing for bands and promoters is communication and being aware of each other, I’m networking like crazy right now and making the acquaintance of some of the most exciting talent around our city at the moment and that’s probably my ulterior motive, maybe I can book a few bands and break out the emotional blackmail so they come to see Vipera Berus

So you know how we stand with scammers such as p2p morons and the like, you seem to be doing things exactly the right way though, bucking the trend somewhat. Was it always your intention to buck the trend with promotion, or are you just a fair guy by nature?

My main Project is the Classic Showcase at the Classic Grand and I’d like to focus on how that came to be because I didn’t really have a plan about changing the face of promotion or anything like that until the opportunity arose. I’m generally an even handed guy but this just kinda landed on my lap and I decided I was going to do something with it, I wasn’t sure what but I was gonna give it my best shot. I had a meeting with venue manager, Gary Broadhurst about running a regular gig night out of the Classic Grand lounge hall. A lot of promoters hire out the hall for their shows and the Classic Grand wanted to do something regular in-house to make the best of the facilities. I find myself in a very privileged position where I’ve got the backing of a venue and manager with whom I see eye to eye on giving performers a fair deal at our shows. It’s all possible because I have a good set up around me and we want bands to leave with some money in their pocket and actually want to come back again, we want them to tell all the other bands they play with all over Glasgow how good it was to play the Classic Showcase and hopefully give them all the same experience.

What else would you do to the local music scene to make it a little bit fairer, and just as importantly, get bums on seats. The majority of the trouble seems to be just with getting folk out these days!

The hardships of an unsigned band can be a grim tale at times but I would go back to communication again. Sure there’s some promoters out there that aren’t offering bands much incentive or even covering them for a pint and a bus ticket home after the gig but the biggest problem is that these guys are infamous and people are in fact much more likely to spend hours venting to other musicians about a horrible deal they had from promoter X than they are to shout about a relatively straight forward gig. Nobody gets a gun to their head to accept a poor deal from one of these promoters and it’s their own business if they want to operate that way. What we can do to help the musicians is to try to build healthy working relationships and friendships between venues, promoters and venues who do want to play ball. I keep preaching about community and that’s my vision, break down the distrust that we all have, not everyone is out to rip each other off, we need to get out to each others shows, and show real support to our peers. If we, the musicians and promoters aren’t even supporting each other in the musical community, what can we really expect from the rest of the public?

So tell us, who is your favourite live band on the Glasgow circuit just now?

You do realise that I tell every band I book that they’re my favourite and you’re about to get me into trouble don’t you?.... I have 3 I’d like to mention. I have been a fan of the Trongate Rum Riots for a few years now and I don’t think that’s changing any time soon but a few bands have really caught my attention lately. I booked Grim Morrison in July and they were simply amazing, I’ve seen them at other venues too and I can’t wait to have them back, amazing musicians and nice people. Even more recently I had the pleasure of booking Fools on the Frontline for a show and they absolutely killed it, The energy they had was incredible and they sounded absolutely ferocious on stage. There’s been so many great acts lately and I wish I could write about them all but these 3 really stand out for me.

Have you had any nightmare gigs with your own band in the past, this question can usually get a few interesting answers when we ask, names can be changed to protect the guilty!

Oh, I do have a couple of stand-out horrible gigs but I’m not gonna sit and run a sound engineer or promoter into the ground here and instead recall one particularly farcical evening that I am now able to laugh about a few years later. Vipera Berus agreed to do a charity event as a warm up to a show in Glasgow. We had new material and it seemed like a decent place to give it a go. The gig itself was in a high school auditorium that had been rented from the local council for the night and it had a great stage and adjoining dressing room. That’s about where the positives end. Just about all of the budget for the gig was blown on a lighting rig that would have been more at home at an ELO show. There was some band of kids on to open who took over an hour to sound check and blew the speakers up, seriously they played every song they knew. I have no idea why but I was backstage and quickly sobering up at a gig without a bar. So then we get to the stage.... as the singer for my band I’m aware that most of the attention on stage will fall on me, It’s not often I have to compete with a drummer for the spotlight, at least not in the fashion I did that night. I’m half way through the first song and something just appears in my peripheral vision... It’s a runaway drumkit bouncing about 5 inches forward with every hit of the pedal. 1. No mat under it, 2. The feet weren’t down. 3. “stage crew” standing with their arms folded watching this happen. How the first band didn’t notice is beyond me but they did break the PA and get us all bumped down to 20 minute slots before the gig even started so what did they know? I’ll remember that one as long as I live. Charity gigs always sound like a good idea butunless you know who’s running the thing, don’t do it haha.

Tell us what gigs Serpent Promotions has coming up then, what can we expect in the future!

Serpent Promotions has the Classic Showcase running every Thursday at the Classic Grand, There’s a few ideas getting bounced around between myself and others for some bigger events and some weekend slots but nothing concrete, Although I do firmly believe that a few of these ideas have legs and I’m excited to see where they go. It’s still early days and I have a long way to go with the Showcase. I reckon it could be popular with the student population of Glasgow when they come back from their summer holidays. Full gig listings are available on the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/serpentpromotions

I’ll book any genre I can fill a bill for so hit me up with your suggestions and I’ll try to make it happen. Hope to catch you all at a show in the near future.