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Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The S4L Interview: Mainy the Booker, Music Obsessive and Blogger

It's not often that we get the opportunity to look beyond the band on the stage and at the labour of love that goes into booking a show at a venue in the heart of a city but today we do. A huge thanks to Mainy for taking time out to answer some questions and offer some interesting insights into his business and his own passionate heart.

Click on the links to discover the music and details about Mainy's Pivo Pivo Venue. Photos are courtesy of Mainy.

 (Mainy on the left, Steve Diggle in the middle and Jojo from Pivo Pivo on the right)

S4L: What is it that you actually do?

Mainy: I'm currently working in Pivo Pivo - a city centre music venue in Glasgow - as the Booker, but I also sort of do the jack of all trades thing and don't adhere to the usual remit of a booker. On any given day I can be doing anything from designing posters to separating the blue m and ms from the green ones to appease rock stars. It feels like I have been doing this forever in one capacity or another, but let's call it twenty five years as a bit player. I can be contacted here.

S4L:  How did you come to get involved in the whole world of Booking shows?

Mainy: I have no idea. That's the truthful answer. I couldn't even tell you what the first gig was that I booked. There's a nagging memory of a group of mates looking to put a night of live music on, and then as is so often the case, one by one everyone else dropped out leaving me to push through to the end. It may be a phantom memory, but it feels right. I suspect it must have been fairly successful though. If it had failed miserably then I doubt I would have put on another, and then another. So this isn't something that I planned. I've not been ticking off achievements over the years, or plotting out a career path. Instead I've sort of simply fallen into it. 

S4L: I take it that you are a lover of music and not just in it for the money? I ask that mainly because sometimes the impression that comes across from some of the bigger Gig Promoters is that they want to make huge bucks (whilst at the same time paying the bands that play so little!).

Mainy: I doubt people who know me would care to call me a lover of music. Most would laugh and say that was too passive a description and call me a music obsessive who should seek professional help. I really couldn't argue with them either. To give you a little insight I will admit that just today I had a twenty minute wait for a bus, and instead of standing in line I went into a poundland store and bought a CD by a band called 'The Sights' who I have previously never heard of. Apart from that I will also admit with a degree of shame that in the last three days I have also come into possession of a Culture Shock box set that contains three CDs, A Culture Shock vinyl album, a Thin Lizzy box set of six CDs, the original Crown of Thorns vinyl album, The Crown Jewels CD Linoleum, and the new Nevada Base ep that I picked up from Bandcamp. This is the behaviour of an addict, and it is only a partial joke when others say I should seek help. As for being in it for the money, well I know exactly what you mean about the impression that is given as I probably share a similar level of dismay with you about how some promoters conduct themselves. However this all consuming passion that I have for music does put me in the position of being partly in awe of those who create it, and with this being the case I couldn't look myself in the mirror if I didn't treat the musicians who work so hard to provide something that is so important to me with anything less than the respect that they deserve. It would be a dream to earn a living from what I do, but not at the expense of ripping the artists off. There must be some sort of mutually beneficial balance that can be reached, but all too often greed gets in the way of that.

S4L: What do you make of the whole issue of some venues or promoters basically getting the bands themselves to promote their gigs and sell tickets rather than them doing the hard work of promoting and selling tickets? Do you think that there should be a joint effort or is it the sole responsibility of the bands playing?

Mainy: I think it should be a joint effort and I advocate a communal approach to promotion. I don't expect bands to walk about putting posters up for a show that I am putting on, nor do I expect them to stand outside a venue thrusting flyers into peoples hands, or sit on facebook hassling people every day to come to the show as I consider that to be my job. I do however think that at the very least they can make people aware that they are playing an event and attempt to get a crowd to attend. That takes little effort. In this era of social media being king they can invite people along with a few clicks of a button and that's really not too much to ask for is it? The selling of tickets as part of an arrangement to play is different though I would urge acts to consider how much a promoters cut is of the money in regards to how much effort they have put into promoting a show. If for instance a promoter books a venue and gives four acts forty tickets each to sell and then expects 80% of the sales for making one phone call then please do feel free to tell this shady character where to go. In fact for artists reading this please think about how accepting a deal like that impacts on others. It's maintaining a rather ugly status quo of disrespect.

S4L: You book a lot of shows for Pivo Pivo in Glasgow, is it tough to get bands to come and play especially as Glasgow has a couple of other more "famous venues"? What's great about Pivo Pivo as a venue?

Mainy: It can be tough. There's no point in pretending otherwise. If a band are looking for a date and the options are one of the more well known venues, or Pivo Pivo, then the allure of the well established name very often wins out. It is the nature of the beast. All I can do is be open and honest about what the venue can provide and draw attention to our strengths. The main one being the people who work there. Without exception everyone is a music fan and that matters. In the last few months the praise has been pouring in from touring acts, and while that makes my heart swell with pride I am fully aware that the steps forward we have taken are not something I could have done alone. The team that I am part of are rock solid. We really do try and go that extra mile and that makes a huge difference.

S4L: Looking at recent shows that you have booked it is a very diverse range of musical genres, is that important to you find such diversity rather than focusing on one particular musical genre?

Mainy: It is. I don't want Pivo to be known as a rock club, a punk club or any other genre specific venue. We are a music venue, and it is an inclusive experience we want to provide. Regardless of what sort of taste in music an individual has I would love them to be able to look at our listings and find something that they want to see. Every Saturday afternoon we have pensioners in watching a big band, and I could argue that other venues would feel that is rather unhip, and would look to move away from hosting a regular event like that, but I don't see it that way. When I see the ninety five year old conductor of the band going for it I see a celebration of a love of music, and I am never going to knock that. That band are just as important to the local music scene as the latest young guns who are kicking up a racket on a Friday night.

S4L: Did your own gig going experience help you at all in the way you work now?

Mainy: Most certainly. I am a punter first and foremost. I can't help but see a show through the eyes of the audience member. I want the best sound, the best lights and the best performance just like everyone else who pays to see a gig. Most importantly I want people to come to a show and leave feeling that they have been to see something special. That has always been what I wanted from the experience, and it is what I want to share with others. Basically our cumulative experiences has allowed us to have a firm insight as to what works and we want to provide that. I think we are getting there one gig at a time.

S4L: A question that always comes up with regard to shows is to do with tickets and the age old debate of how to stop the scalpers? It's annoying when you want to see a band and the show seems to sell out in ten minutes flat and you know that a large majority of the tickets have gone to scalpers, what do you think is the way forward? E Tickets?

Mainy: Government legislation is one answer. Seriously. There are people making obscene amounts of money from this and the whole music industry is guilty by association. How do certain companies manage to advertise tickets at a mark up prior to them going on sale unless they are assured of getting them? Something stinks about the whole deal. The old style scalper on the street waiving tickets at punters do not have the capital to even come close to these companies. Another answer is people power. If a solid percentage of people boycotted the large companies who are nothing more than legalized scalpers then they would lose money hand over fist and crumble under the weight of unsold tickets, but I wont be holding my breath waiting for that to happen.

S4L: Could you name five shows that you have put on that you are the most proudest of and maybe why those particular ones make you proud?

Mainy: Culture Shock was one. I was never a huge fan of the anarcho punk scene, but I do have a soft spot for the bands Dick Lucas has been in and it was an honour to be part of their reunion tour. It felt quite special, and part of that is because of the reaction from those attending. There's something that feels good about being involved in something that makes others so happy. 

Hurray for the Riff Raff is another. I'm a fan. That's it really. After they played last time they went back to the states to open for Alabama Shakes and I was so happy for them. I sincerely hope that they get the recognition that they deserve and when they do I will be able to sit back and say that I put them on not just once, but twice. That will be pretty cool I think

30/08/12 @ Pivo Pivo

Two that go together are the Dammned Damned Damned gig featuring Rat Scabies and Brian James (watch 'So Messed Up' from the Pivo Pivo show), and the recent XSLF (performance from Aberdeen show 2013 - couldn't find any Pivo Pivo footage) one that has Henry Cluney, Jim Reilly doing all the early Stiff Little Fingers classics. I was in fan boy heaven and they were made all the better as these heroes of mine are all thoroughly nice people. (There are a few other videos from the show by Brian and Rat on You Tube check them out here . There's also loads of vids from XSLF worth a watch as well from their recent tour -S4L).

Then I can't forget a night when I had Mike Peters of The Alarm to a solo acoustic set in a pub in Kilmarnock. It was the smallest venue of the tour and the roof was nearly taken off. Someone who was there said to me that I hadn't just put on a gig, but instead made peoples dreams come true, and in a way that was exactly what had happened. Here was grown men and women standing shoulder to shoulder with a man they loved and everything just fitted into place. A great memory for me, and everyone who was there.

S4L: Besides being a promoter you are a passionate blogger, what is it that excites you to write and are you ever amazed that people actually read what you blog about (I know I am because there are so many better places people could go and read about music and yet they have chosen a few moments to read a post that I created)?

Mainy: I try not to think about people reading my blog. It partly freaks me out, but writing, or more accurately finding an outlet that allows me to express myself, is akin to therapy for me. Prior to blogs I did fanzines and prior to that I filled notebooks. There's a bit of me that accepts that others are reading it, and some are very kind with their praise, but in a selfish way I really do it for me. Others getting enjoyment from what I have written is a huge bonus of course, but ultimately I'm really just howling at the moon with rants, random nonsense, stories, reviews and interviews.

S4L: Any words of advice for up and coming promoters wanting to get into the business? A second part of this question would be any advice you could give to a new band looking to begin playing their first shows?

Mainy: Promoters - If you want to make money then forget it. Only a tiny percentage of people make any, and very often it is never that much. Certainly it is rarely worth the hours of effort for. If on the other hand you are a music fan then just dive in. It's not rocket science. Book a venue, sort out a back line if required, source tickets, make posters and flyers, get them up on walls and hand them out, shout about the gig and put on the best bands that you can find and then just enjoy it.

Bands - Don't run before you can walk. Practice, practice, practice, and not just the songs. Work on every single aspect of a live performance. Have some swagger if the music has it, get some attitude to go along with the technical ability. Once you have ticked all the boxes then grab your first show and shake it hard. Go into it with the intent that those watching it will remember your name and will want to see you again. Never use the stage as a practice hall.

S4L: Last question. What are your favourite ten singles,songs or albums that have been a constant source of pleasure on your musical journey and would be part and parcel of your Soundtrack4Life?

Mainy: Billie Holiday - Strange Fruit. It's so intimate, yet it deals with such huge issues, and it blows my mind to think of it in the context of the time it was released. 

The Kinks - Lola. I love anything that blatantly subverts the mainstream, and what better than a big hit about being seduced by a transvestite

Scott Walker - Jackie. It's a Brel song, but Scott Walker does it with such joyous abandon that it makes me want to join in at the top of my voice, and I do. 

David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. For me it is the perfect album. 

The Ramones - The KKK took my baby away. One of the best inter band wars put to lyrics ever. 

Hanoi Rocks - Motorvatin. A roller coaster of a song. It's like all of the fifties has been injected with a speedball. 

The Dogs D'Amour - In the Dynamite Jet Saloon. More debauched rock and roll. 

The Damned - New Rose. The song that kicked down so many doors for me. 

Alice Cooper - Only Women Bleed. A very fine songwriter who will forever remain in the shadow of his shlock horror alter ego, but this nails it. 

Johnny Cash – Hurt. A modern day classic. The song was wrenched from Trent Reznor and will forever be Johnny's now.

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