/ Mike

Adventures In Music: Episode I

Introduction

As I mentioned in my earliest posts, I wasn't always in information security. My career has been varied and interesting (for the most part).

I did say that at some stage I'd write about my relatively brief career in the music business, so here's where it started. This will be a series of posts, as and when I feel like reflecting, but since it all properly kicked off in 2008, I think that putting out some of that era a decade on seems appropriate.

Sorry it isn't all about the cybers, but this is my blog, after all :)

May 2007

I started the music review site 'Living Atheist', inviting unsigned artists to submit tracks on their MySpace players for a fairly robust opinion in the form of a written review.

Within one month, the site was receiving 500 visits per day and also requests from emerging, signed UK artists such as The Enemy, The Whip and Does It Offend You, Yeah? All three agreed to be interviewed by Living Atheist which helped add credibility to the site.

In fact, I interviewed the lead singer of The Enemy the very week they had a record score number one spot in the official UK album chart. This gave Living Atheist a solid identity as the voice for new music.

At its most busy period during 2007, the site was delivering 40 reviews per week. The site gave the impression that the reviews were conducted by a team of music critics, when in fact the vast majority were written by me, but published using various alias identities.

During the review process (and I / we got through many hundreds of reviews in the initial phase of the project), it became apparent that there were a small number of artists who were not only exceptionally talented, but also of a standard where they could be made commercially viable and successful. It was also clear that these artists would only reach any level of reasonable success with some support and development.

This presented me with a life challenge; perhaps approach a band with a view to managing and developing their music career, despite having no previous experience of doing so, or in music at any professional level. This idea was placed in abeyance until the New Year.

January 2008

Liverpool band Killaflaw approached Living Atheist for a song review. Over the following month, three tracks received a review; ‘Happy Days’, ‘Lose Myself’ and ‘Revolution’.

All songs were explosive, excellently written, recorded and produced. Commercially ‘ready to go’. It occurred to me that this band could fit the model of the previous idea to take a band out of obscurity and onto a reasonable (at least) level of commercial and critical success.

During this time, I was introduced to Mark, a property buyer, by mutual friend and then colleague Peter. Mark showed an interest in working on a music project and various ideas were put forward by all concerned about how a successful business might take shape.

Over the space of a month, a company was formed called Living Atheist Limited, with five board members; Myself, Mark, Chris, Peter and David. Various changes to the initial focus of the business would soon lead to both Peter and David leaving the company and shortly after, Chris left to refocus on his core business of property and finance.

All former directors left the company on good terms with the remaining members. This left Mark and Myself in full control of Living Atheist Limited, with me holding a controlling stake in the business.

During March, a meeting was organised between Mark and I and Killaflaw’s original members; Benn Helm and Andy Paton. This was held at Wetherspoon’s pub in Manchester’s Piccadilly railway station.

At this meeting, Living Atheist offered to manage Killaflaw in all aspects of their business and made it clear that this was their first experience of such work at any level. The meeting was very open and honest. Killaflaw had been active since early 2006 and had been through various processes of development in the past, with varying levels of success and failure. They were looking for someone to provide them with structure, encouragement and the necessary stepping stones to achieve their objectives of making a career from creating music and performing it to audiences.

The earnest and sincerity of both Benn and Andy, coupled with that of our own led a to a unified view that we could work together, try things out and see where it went. Benn himself said at the time “We’ve been around for two years and not really got anywhere. What have we got to lose?”

The meeting concluded with a verbal agreement that Living Atheist would become Killaflaw’s full time management company.

I (riskily) decided that the best way to see what the live Killaflaw experience was all about was by booking them a gig. In London. This would the first gig I booked for them. In London. It would be the first gig I saw them play. In London.

At a place called 12 Acklam Road, formerly the cool Subterranea. In Notting Hill. In London!

The booking seemed too easy. I rang the venue and they said “yes”. They also asked if other acts could be brought down and I said “yes”.

April 2008

Killaflaw performed the said show at 12 Acklam Road, Notting Hill. The night started badly. The band is billed as ‘KILLA SLAW’ on the posters. It’s funny, but looks shit and unprofessional. The band and their entourage from Liverpool laugh it off, but Mark and I thought it was disgraceful, given the amount of information provided to the venue about the band.

The venue itself was a club. A club full of middle class late teens, early twenties pill heads. Ideal really, although I didn’t realise that at the time. Curiously, Killaflaw headlined and were supported by a still relatively underground act called Chase and Status.

More about those guys in future posts. The night didn’t start badly because of the typo on the posters. No one had heard of the band and no one cared what their name was, providing they delivered music they could dance to. A very simple formula for a club. The support live band we took down were an indie pop outfit from Leeds called A Lot Like Eskimos. They bombed. Wrong band in the wrong environment. People were quick to realise, both clubber, venue manager and us alike. They got their set pulled within perhaps two songs into their performance.

It’s worth noting that I wasn’t there at that time. I had arrived early, seen Killaflaw soundcheck and then do their own thing, before heading off to see Muse perform at the Royal Albert Hall for Teenage Cancer Trust. For the record, that was a great show, but not the only great show I attended that night.

Mark had arrived at 12 Acklam Road to witness A Lot Like Eskimos bomb and he took the decision to pull the set, or run the risk of our main act not even making it on stage. With the greatest respect and admiration to them, those guys took it well, we covered their finances and they stuck around for the night.

A guy called Akis was the sound engineer on site for the show. That’s not just a point of fact, but more a credit to him, because he engineered the audio with a high level of skill. Anyway…

Killaflaw went on and blew a crowd of 900 fucked up clubbers apart. Mark and I spent most of our time pulling people from the stage and sorting people out for throwing beer at the band. At one point, Benn jumped on his guitar amp and screamed “Fucking hell, free beer!” That endeared the individual members of the band to their audience in the most succinct and effective way. From that moment on, the crowd were ‘owned’.

The set went on and then completed. No one left the floor. People were streaming in even as the set finished. It had worked. Chase and Status then did their thing and to be fair to them pushed up the heat.

Now, we spent a few quid on about 5000 fliers. We gave tenners out to a few people to hand them out. They handed them all out / binned them. We got 14 people through the doors with a flyer in hand. We made 950 quid. Can anyone figure that out?! We earned a pound for pretty much every person in the club, despite the alien nature of the acts we brought, despite the fact our first act didn’t work and despite the fact we were incredibly inexperienced and probably very easy to exploit.

We realised at the time that the venue made probably 10-15 thousand pounds on the night, but it still seemed overly generous to give us so much of those takings, for seemingly very little in return. “You see that band on second? You bring them here any time you want.” The parting words of the Iranian manager, whose name I don’t remember, otherwise I’d give him proper credit. Akis might know.

Oh and Killaflaw signed a formal management agreement with Living Atheist that night, some time before they went on stage. After the set, Mark went to his friend’s and I stayed. We all got very drunk (and most of us high) and enjoyed from the VIP area watching a sea of people dance to Chase and Status. It was nice to see the Eskimo boys hang around and enjoy the night. Like I said, they took the whole thing like men.

May-August 2008

We took time out for all to consider what to do with the band next.

Meanhile, July 2008

Andy came to my 30 something birthday party, bringing with him a CD with early demos on, showing me some of their writing capacity and this included a rough vocal mix of a song called 'Set Me On Fire'. 'Set Me On Fire' becomes an important song, for a variety of reasons. I'll explain why another time.

Benn got married. That ended eventually.

After all of these separate events had concluded, we decided to release a catalogued single called ‘Revolution’.

August 2008

We put the single into release production. All tunes were ready, as the original Revolution and 'b-side' Holy Fuck had already been produced by an upcoming producer / engineer called Tom Young.

Andy produced a remix and a radio edit is made with Tom and finished by George from Massive Masters. With all tracks mastered they then went into factory production. CD Baby digital distribution was put in place and 1000 physical copies were created, complete with unique numbering and artwork by a Scouse designer called Drew. Drew needs inclusion in the story, as he’s an important player. More on him later.

Not long into the month, then XFM DJ Eddy Temple-Morris pitched up through the MySpace and asks for a demo. “You absolutely must send me a demo of Revolution. I can finally sleep at night now that the missing link between Soundgarden and The Prodigy has materialised!” It was the beginning of a relationship that became probably the most significant we have outside the band and team.

I sent Eddy a homemade CD, with Revolution on it and I think Holy Fuck. He can confirm if he still has it. I went out and bought a bunch of acrylic labels and made a label using the image of Benn and Andy back to back in a sort of weird ‘running out of ink but looked cool by accident’ thing that actually worked.

The following week Eddy played Revolution on his XFM The Remix show and again repeated his statement that they were the missing link between Soundgarden and The Prodigy.

In the same week, Martin Coogan (former Mock Turtles frontman and also Steve Coogan’s brother) played ‘Lose Myself’ the now defunct Revolution FM in Manchester and raved that it was brilliant. “Who cares what genre it is, it’s just brilliant!”

I had asked him if he could place it in a genre and didn’t bother, to his credit.
In the same week (yes, it was an interesting week) a bloke called Ed Cosens pitched up via the MySpace and asked if he could remix ‘Happy Days’. Ed Cosens being a writer and the bass player in the band Reverend And The Makers. We said “yeah cool!”.

In June that year I had moved out of the house I shared with my ex-fiancée and into a luxury flat in the middle of nowhere. I was running this expanding campaign from my laptop in the living room.

October 7 2008

We released ‘Revolution’ and hosted a launch party at The Zanzibar in Liverpool - a legendary venue the band to this day considers its spiritual home.

The End

For now. In the next post, I'll talk about what happened after the release, our brushes with fame and some people far cooler than we were.

Hopefully it wasn't boring :)

Mike Thompson

Mike Thompson

InfoSec pro, trying to keep the baddies at bay. Observer, pundit, helper, public speaker and blogger. Views my own. One of @TheBeerFarmers 🍻

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