In my experience, the hardest job in DnB has to be that of the Promoter.
In most cases, its a thankless task. they spend days, weeks, sometimes even months planning events. The hours are long and the ball ache that goes with it is enough to give any sane human being a massive hernia.
They have to deal with artists and punters, at the same time, usually in the same place, which can be an ordeal in itself. The financial involvement can range from amazing profit to near bankruptcy in a single event. Then there is the flyering. Countless nights spent in the pissing rain/sleet/snow trying to do a decent job while hoards of fucked people brush past you without so much as a second glance.
In short, its not fucking easy by anyone’s standards. Yet there are people out there who truly excel at it.
One of these people is the man I’m interviewing today. He literally lives, breathes and shits DnB. He doesn’t produce or DJ, he’s not an MC or vocalist, in fact, he has no performance related input into DnB whatsoever. His skill and artistry stems from hard work, dedication and a clear cut vision of how he and his team want people to experience real, grass roots DnB.
A lot of people in DnB always claim to be “on road”, a statement which in essence, is a huge pile of shit. A Facebook post or a Tweet saying “mans on road” means fuck all if you’re sat in your house, posting from your mums PC. This guy is actually “on road”, every single weekend, without fail. This guys is out there, at every event, at every bar beforehand and most after parties that follow the events. This guy is part of an unstoppable team that has flooded the underground with some of the most amazing events ever to grace the dark DnB spectrum.
I plan to do a full event review in the not too distant future. This guy is part of a solid team and although this interview is focusing on the individual, I want to make it quite clear that with regards to the events and the label, it has and always will be, a team effort.
So, after one of the biggest (and well deserved) intro’s I’ve ever written. It gives me great pleasure to introduce the original “Pec swilling amen walrus” … Paul Syndiclart.
GCB … Firstly, thanks for taking the time to chat to me today, without further ado, lets get down to business. Can you tell us a bit about yourself, how you got into DnB and more importantly, how you ended up promoting one of the most successful and consistent events in dark DnB ?
PAULRUS … Though DnB is basically the last 8 years of my life it starts before that, hip hop was and still is my first love when it comes to music but I never had a chance to go to hip hop gigs, the security were always so tight with ID it was impossible to get in most gigs before I was 18, whereas my mates were regularly heading to nights at Fabric and then later Hardware and Therapy. I went down to a few nights at Fabric and had a great time. Back then I was just touching the surface so was just listening in clubs to jump-up. Not surprisingly jump-up isn’t a particularly deep sub-genre so I started listening to more liquid stuff, and taking it out of the club and listening to it on headphones. I originally had never been into the harder styles of DnB that much, but as I went to a night called Braindrop (ran by The mighty McMash Clan) I started to get introduced to darker drum & bass, rinsing jungle and disgusting breakcore – and the big defining factor that they all had in common was the use of an amen break, that was probably my second big love in music.
Having been good mates with the guys who started Jungle Syndicate (went to secondary school with Nick, good friends with Colm) I always wanted to help them however I could, I’m no DJ, I’m no MC but I love the music so I’d do what I could. I started out helping the Bristol Syndicate with their promotional material, and when it came to re-launching Jungle Syndicate London at The Rhythm Factory I offered to help out with funding and promotion, and I suppose the rest is history, been a big part of the London promotions team ever since, as well as joint ventures like the branding, website admin and record label.
GCB … You’re responsible for promoting the London events. Can you tell us a bit about how much work actually goes into that on a day to day/week to week basis ?
PAULRUS …At the moment in London we’re having a bit of time off as a lot of the crew, myself included, are prioritising other areas of our lives. As much as it sucks to say that we have no forthcoming event, we have to keep sane in order to keep on, so we just need a bit of time out to sort things out. Also it’s to make sure we can come back bigger and better, until then Bristol and Manchester are holding the fort (and doing a damn fine job of that).
But the usual schedule would be sort dates out with venue firstly, hopefully a decent amount of time from the current date, then draft a line-up and rough budget so we can get an idea of what we’re working with. Then confirm the line-up and hopefully a rough idea of set times (set times always change though, so this is usually a pointless practice until the night before the event), once that’s done brief flyers to our main man Conzpiracy (check him out, conzpiracy.co.uk) and start online promotion. Once flyers arrive we will set out a rough idea of any and all events in London and possibly Bristol / Brighton that are slightly relevant, then on a weekend by weekend basis will make a decision what’s worth hitting, obviously the whole time we’ll be spamming online promotion, hitting record stores and such. Last thing we have to worry about is décor for the night, and then it’s just a case of looking after the event as it happens, make sure artists are on time and everything’s alright, look after recordings, deal with any issues etc. On a good run if our events are pretty regular we will try to have this all overlapping and have flyers ready for the next event, but that’s extremely difficult to achieve.
GCB … I’ve spoken to a lot of artists during my time in DnB and also during my research for this interview. Almost every single artist I’ve spoken to has said the same thing. “Jungle Syndicate put on amazing events, they pay properly and they know how to treat artists”. What is it that you guys are doing that has gained you such a solid reputation with artists and what do you think sets you apart from the rest of the promoters out there with regards to events ?
PAULRUS … We’re still a young event, we just haven’t had time to fuck it up yet. Haha. Nah but seriously, thinking about this I think it comes down to our name… no not Jungle, as our event is using that word in the loosest sense possible sometimes, but Syndicate. We operate as a group, not as one singular mind but one singular vision. This has caused problems down the line, especially dealing with venues it just seems to them like everybody’s the fucking promoter, but in the way that it removes personal issues. While one of us may say something, or one of us may not like artist X we won’t let it affect our work. I’m sure if Jungle Syndicate was just my event it’d be very different, not just to do with the styles I prefer but also to how I would run it. As for our rep, I suppose it’s just down to why we’re doing this, and coming back to why I’m doing this, I’m just trying to help the music I love, simply for the fact I love it, and while money keeps it going it’s not the reason why we’re doing this. I have a decent career that I make my money from, which means I can focus on doing Jungle Syndicate as a hobby. I think anyone who takes this attitude to music usually ends up making some of the best music, because music isn’t clouding their creative output, although there is those out there making decent money and not compromising at all, but that’s extremely rare these days it seems.
GCB … In financial terms, when it comes to actual profit, what’s the best JS event you’ve been a part of so far ?
PAULRUS … Hmmm, I can’t say for definite as most of my event records are on an old hard drive of mine, but I’m pretty sure it would be our January 2012 event. If not then it definitely felt like it. The event was ridiculously busy, with queues stretching around the block from very early on, which eventually led to a 1 in 1 out situation and even mateys of mine not being able to get in, which sucks as a matey but is a nice situation to be in as a promoter. The event was the busiest I’ve ever seen Rhythm Factory and must have been way over capacity. Obviously the very end January is a great time to party as most people have had a chill January after a mental December, so they’re looking at the end of January around payday for a first night of the year (we did a similar weekend the year before and that was really packed as well), as well as having little to no relevant competition that weekend. We also had one of our best lineups, with Dom & Roland doing an amen set, Trace doing his last set for a while before his usual jetsetting around the globe, as well as Script, D-Fect, Amen-tal, Ghost, Anorak, Pastaman, Vega, Mr Foul and more… It was one of them times where we put in the work with the lineup, décor etc, and the rest just perfectly fell in place – and it resulted in one helluva party.
GCB … Can you name your top 3 DnB tracks of all time and tell us why they stand out from the rest ?
PAULRUS … Fucker… I hate this question! But I’ve been thinking about it and while it’s difficult to say top 3 of all time because my memory sucks and that’s probably too difficult, I’ll do my best, at least for now.
Pish Posh – Corrupt Cops (Evol Intent Remix)
Just one of them tunes that never gets old, and also one of those tunes that was a turning point for me, one of the first tunes I heard that really turned me to the dark side. As soon as I get a whiff of this tune in a set I’ll standardly go fucking mental.
Technical Itch & Trace – Quad
Can’t really have a top 3 without Tech Itch… and while there is tunes of his that are more rinsing, and some that are more iconic this has always been a favourite of mine, just the way it builds and progresses. A great tune from a great era where Tech Itch and Trace were both absolutely smashing it.
Dub One – Cry of War
Jeez, this tune man… this tune! It’s just ridiculous. I heard this tune many years before meeting Olly and it gave me a very different image of him, in no bad way at all, I just didn’t expect him to be as chill as he is, I expected to see a little more aggression. I was just confused where a tune as sick as Cry of War came from, and from talking to him it seems he’s not quite sure, just one of them tunes that surprises everyone, artist included. Absolute filth!
GCB … Be honest, there must be times when you’re missing the last set of every event and standing outside in the rain that you must get pissed off with flyering. Aside from the obvious, why do you do it and how do you maintain that commitment ?
PAULRUS … It’s definitely the most difficult part of promoting, without a shadow… and yeah when you’ve missed Threshold’s set for the 5th time in a year (no joke) or when the venue allows Trace to play for an extra hour (although good stuff for those enjoying it) while it’s snowing outside it’s horrible. But sometimes it ain’t all that bad, it’s a nice chance to connect with punters and promoters outside the club environment (alright not very far outside the club but still) and it’s a good way to gauge interest for your next night as well, see reactions to line-ups and that. End of the day it’s one of them necessary sacrifices that you just gotta get on with if you want to have a successful event, going out ain’t all about me, part of me is there to work, so just gotta get on and do it. We’ve thought about moving to just flyer packs but I’ve stood there next to boxes of flyers for some mashed up munter come out for 5 minutes to hand them out, so at least when I’m doing it I know it’s getting done, or at least I know if I’ve decided to call it that I gave myself permission so it’s alright. When it comes down to it it’s a necessary sacrifice in order to fill a club, and it’s always worth it.
GCB … What’s the best “blag line” you’ve ever heard from a punter trying to score free entry into one of your events ?
PAULRUS … It wasn’t quite a blag line but on our first Jungle Syndicate London at Rhythm Factory some guy called Scratchy from Roll Deep turned up, and he tried to blag cheap entry for himself and a couple of girls because of who he was an who he was affiliated with… it was a nice try but honestly I still wasn’t sure who the fuck he was even when he told me and I didn’t really give two shits, but it was amusing none the less, and I think in the end he ended up getting 1 quid off entry, so egg on my face! The funny thing was a year later he came back to the 1st year birthday… I have no idea what that man does in Whitechapel in August, but obviously it’s a yearly ting.
My general blag line that proper grinds my gears is “it was free last week, what do you mean it’s not free this week”, erm, maybe because we’re not the same promoter who did the party last week. It’s a shame because as soon as you hear that you know they’re probably not there for the music at all, which is disappointing… will still take their money though.
GCB … JS have recently moved into the festival market, hosting the infamous “Prohibition Den” at Boomtown. Can you give us a bit of info as to how that came about and what goes into putting on a 3 day event ?
PAULRUS … A few years ago a bunch of Jungle Syndicate crew members went to Boomtown and absolutely loved it, so obviously wanted to be involved because it is a great buzz to be involved in, but they also felt that it was missing a lot of the amen jungle, drum & bass and breakcore that a lot of people going loved. There was little bits of it, with the closest thing being from the Bodyshop, but no haven for the amen heads. So instead of whining, we decided to do something about it. So we teamed up with our good mateys the Amen-tal crew and put forward a cracking proposal. There’s a lot of work that goes into something like Boomtown, but the music is only half the battle. While a strong line-up with lots of support from artist we’d worked with over the years was a massive help, the theme and décor was equally important. As for what goes into it the décor crew will turn up a week before the event and start setting up turning a blank tent into The Prohibition Den, it’s mad. When it all kicks off it’s just a case of looking after the artists and making sure there’s no problems, normal event stuff really. We’ve been doing the Prohibition Den for 2 years now, and will be back this year as well, it’s definitely a highlight of the year for Jungle Syndicate.
GCB … I interviewed Smyla a while back and he mentioned that you deal with the release artwork for MUTE:8 Recordings. JS and MUTE:8 have also worked together events wise in the past. Can you tell us how that came about and if there are any future plans to work with MUTE:8 ?
PAULRUS … It all came about as a little scratchy back from the both of us, Mute:8 helped us out a lot sorting out some of the paperwork and preparation for our label, in return asking for some events to host the second room at, so we gave them a few nights. We plan to continue at some point, but at the moment we’re just worrying about ourselves at the moment. There is plans to get a Promoter Battles going in London in similar vane to Bristol, which will be a great opportunity for us to do a slightly larger event than Jungle Syndicate and also to involve lots of promoters and lots of crowds in an uber event. At current there’s nothing planned but the relationship is still as strong as ever.
GCB … Aside from JS, what’s your favourite event in the UK and why ?
PAULRUS … Hmmm, this is another question like favourite tunes, and it’s a pain in the pooper. I think I’d have to say Rupture though. Every time I’ve gone I’ve had a great time, the music is always top quality, the venue is one of my favourite in London (and being in London it’s local) and the crowd who frequent it are a great bunch. Enough respect to Dave and Indi and all the Rupture family. While their line-ups are obviously more based around the old school foundation sound of drum and bass, and there’s none of the harder side of things that I like, it’s full of top quality amens, whereas with something like Bangface (which is a great event too) the variation sometimes works against it in my opinion and can lead to not enough amens. But then they’re very different beasts, and undoubtedly Bangface is a on a much larger level whereas Rupture is a smaller more focused event, bit like Jungle Syndicate in that respect. Honourable London mentions have to go out to Technicality, Tech:nology and Intent 2 Supply (RIP) which I’ve had some of the best nights in London at. Also, a special shout out goes to the new party in town BEATZ, any London event that books Equinox, Drum Cypha, Relapse and Squif always has my full attention!
GCB … I’m not into “naming and shaming”, so you don’t have to give names, but can you give us an example of when you’ve paid good money for an artist and they have either not delivered musically, or just been a real fucking diva on the night ?
PAULRUS … Nah don’t really want to name or shame anyone myself, but yeah there’s been a handful of people who have disappointed. Some big names, some smaller. Anyone who brings an ego to Jungle Syndicate I tell them where to check it. There should be no ego at Jungle Syndicate, as much as I respect an artists input to the scene, or their legacy, don’t use that as any reason to think you’re the shit, no matter how much I respect who you are and what you’ve done, I respect humility a whole lot more.
GCB … What are you’re thoughts on Crossbreed ?
PAULRUS … Err no thanks. The flow just doesn’t do it for me, and too many snares and kick drums just start scaring me after a while, needs more amen. It is what it is, it does what it does, which is fine, it’s just that it’s always classed in similar breath to drum and bass because a lot of artists came from drum and bass into it, when in fact it’s much closer to techno and hardcore than drum and bass. It’s not for me. Though as I said it did knick some top quality drum and bass artists, and because of that it killed a lot of the dark amen stuff that was being made, which sucks.
GCB … Can you settle the debate, why the fuck do people call you “Paulrus” and where did the nickname come from ?
PAULRUS … I am the walrus – coo-coo-kachoo! Hahaha. It all started when a friend of mine started calling me “the pec swilling amen walrus”, I can’t remember exactly why now, just the usual good times chatter and I found it highly amusing, and to a degree fitting so started adopting the walrus moniker, and seeing as my name is Paul it was just a natural progression to Paulrus. What’s quite funny is that someone completely separate to my first friend said that I reminded them of a walrus , so there’s obviously something in it. Now I treat it like that scene with the penguin in Fight Club, the walrus is my spirit animal! Walruses are pretty awesome as well, just sitting around all day being tusky and that. It’s great now because friends from all walks of life see anything walrus related and they think of me, so my imprint on the world has been strengthened through the majestic glory of the walrus!
GCB … In your opinion, which producer makes the best amens ?
PAULRUS … Hmmm, I think I would have to say Tech Itch, partly for his legacy, but even now when one of his amen tears out of his recent Progression Threat series of albums it blows ya’ fucking socks off. But a massive honourable mention has to go to Bkey as he has been equally consistent over the years and still absolutely killing it nowadays, he’s a very close second. Two absolute amen legends right there, and equally great chaps too!
GCB … You’ve recently launched a label, what made you guys decide to take that step and can you give us a bit of info as to how that all came about ?
PAULRUS … Natural progression really, if you have a successful event it makes sense to try create a successful label based around the same ethos. Like the other way round, if you have a successful label you should try creating a successful event, or at least speak with a club promoter, or a promotions team to help you do so. The fact that we have an event that caters around a specific taste, but at the same time is quite varied, works quite well, we’ve had jungle breakcore, old school jungle (quite a bit of it actually), bit of drum funk, bit of tearout drum & bass, lots of good stuff. Just how we ask artists to bring amens to our events, we ask them to bring amens to our label, and just like any other label out there I will say that whole thing of “no it’s not just amens, we’re more than just amens”, but lets not kid about, that’s where it all really shines and sings Jungle Syndicate the loudest! We now have something to ask when artists come to us asking for sets; we reply asking for tunes!
GCB … In your opinion, whats the best sound system/rig in the UK and why do you think it stands out from the rest ?
PAULRUS … Hmm, this should be more difficult, because there is a lot of great rigs in the UK, but there two that really stand out for me, and that is the Fundamental Audio rig that we’ve used for the Prohibition Den and Soundflow Festival, and then the rig I would rate at the top is without doubt the Neverlution Soundsystem. The Neverlution guys are some of the nicest, most dedicated guys I’ve met, and they’re pretty much involved with everything that’s good in Bristol. It’s pretty much the resident sound system for the Black Swan these days, no matter where it is, upstairs or downstairs it sounds great. The guys are really attentive over the whole night, constantly asking if it sounds alright, and constantly tweaking it if they feel it doesn’t. There was a while where I was sort of taking it for granted, I forgot how much of an issue bad sound could be, because whenever I’m in front of the Neverlution rig you know there’s no issue with the sound, it was only when someone mentioned how good it is that I thought about it, and yeah he was right, it is really good, I should give that more respect, but then I suppose when people get to that point where they see Neverlution on a flyer they know how it’ll sound, (ie faultless), then surely that’s pretty much mission accomplished. They also throw one of the best little parties every year, that is one of my absolute highlights of the year, sometimes being a better experience than some of the big festivals. Cannot praise them guys enough!
GCB … Finally, what are your plans for 2014 and where do you see yourself and JS in 2015 ?
PAULRUS … Hopefully this year we can successfully get Jungle Syndicate London up and running again, as well as starting to potentially make something of our Promoter Battles idea in London. Then on the label hopefully there’s no reason we can’t carry on as we our with our digital releases, although we do have a few releases planned that would be especially awesome to get sorted. It would be nice to think about vinyl 002 as well, but that may overlap into the next year. As for further than that, I’m not quite sure we’ll need to work that out, there’s always a few ideas brewing here and there within the crew, the beauty of having such a large crew of talented, hard working individuals.
GCB … Thanks again for taking the time to chat to me today fella, much appreciated. I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and JS all the best for the future. As I stated previously, I’ll be doing a proper event review at some point in the near future, I take it guest list won’t be an issue lol.
Until next time … Peace.