Hippy Joe's Live & Unsigned at The Edge Basildon
Joe, If we could start from the beginning, when did you start to get in to music?
“Since forever, When I was a kid I was always listening to stuff but it wasn’t till I was about 10 that I got in to the heavier aspect of music. Before that I was listening to a lot of Jazz, Ska & some of the alternative music that was about in the 80’s. The rock stuff didn’t really hit me till I was about 10, I started playing guitar when I was 13. I just went hammer & tongs on to it, so by the time I left school I was already in bands & stuff. I started teaching guitar when I was 16 I was already working part time in a music shop, Del’s Music. Then when I left school I went full time for a couple of years. I was in a local metal band, After Dark but there was nowhere to play in Basildon apart from The Roundacre but the guy who had hold of it, put us on the did a bunk with the money. Rather than get too upset about it, we decided to take all his customers away from him and start up another venue. So we started up at The Castle Mayne in the December, just before my 18th birthday. When we first went in to The Castle Mayne and said we want to put on original bands they didn’t want to know. So I said give us the worst night you’ve got, he said Tuesday, we get about six people in. So I said if we pack it, pay us accordingly, if not, don’t. So we booked up a gig in February or March and absolutely rammed it. I think we were called Wicked Ways by then. So it was a rarely busy night, the guvnor was over the moon so we asked about doing a regular night but we had to change to Thursday’s as we were getting too many complaints from the locals on Tuesdays.
We’ve always kept it free entry, starting out with two bands a night then three, I can’t remember exactly when. We did that for about 4 or 5 years until they got a new guvnor in who decided he didn’t like all the heavy stuff and wanted to turn it in to a family pub. Just like all the other family pubs in Baaildon. So again, rather than arguing we just fu*ked off to the Towngate, spoke to the Director there who was really interested but wanted to do more, like put on paid gigs and bigger bands. So I got rolled in to doing that, up to seven nights a week. We’d have what we called the student night, the equivalent of what we had up at the Mayne, which was also still on a Thursday.
Then we had The Cage which would have bigger, signed bands. We would charge a few quid to get in and there was a bigger P.A. and lighting, more like a club. That went on for a good few years and at the same time I was booking bands Fridays and Saturdays funnily enough at The Roundacre as they had new management. I was booking seven nights a week at the Fish & Firkin, The Top Alex in Southend as well as the occasional thing at The Dickens in Wickford. I was doing this while holding down the bands and teaching guitar. When the Towngate shut down I went back to the Castle Mayne who had a new guvnor Kelly who’s still there now and we’ve stayed there ever since. So at the Castle Mayne there’s been original music now every week for 21 years this will be I guess, with a short break when we went to the Towngate Theatre.”
You started promoting right at the beginning of Grunge, did it have an effect on the bands you were booking?
“You mean cut their hair a little and wear checked shirts? Some bands were like that and there still is now, bands that you can tell are just chasing after a record deal. One minute they’re like pop/punk, the next they’re like The Kooks. It does happen, sometimes to extremes. Most bands will pick up the bits they like about a certain type of music, other bands will just stay totally true to what they’re in to and stick with that. A lot of bands will try and get totally their own identity which might not be everybody’s cup of tea at the time. It’s a while later that people start accepting it when it becomes more mainstream. There’s a lot of talent in this area, always has been and it’s nice to have a platform for bands to play where they don’t get charged to play and it’s free to get in. You had some bands play that have gone on to be pretty big like Feeder and Reef.
Are there any local bands that you thought could have gone on to big things?
Oh yeah, there has been absolutely loads that you think deserve a serious crack of the whip and some of them did go on to get signed or get management deals, start to do Kerrang tours or & Melody Maker or NME , whatever it was at the time. Then they seem to just disappear or split up. If you do what I do you soon get pretty disillusioned with the way the industry works with young bands. Some of the bands out there are absolutely amazing you know, brilliant songwriters and they’ve got something incredible.