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By: Dan Salter
February sees London promotions collective Chaos Theory celebrate their 5th birthday with a series of very special events. With a few weeks to go we sat down with head honcho Kunal (K) and Magda (M), Lou (L), Peter (P) and James (J) to ask them a few questions about how they’ve grown from nothing to being among London’s premier promoters and what the future looks like.
(((o))): It’s like having Scooby and the gang! So, Chaos Theory – it’s a thing, it’s a proper thing now isn’t it?
K: It’s becoming a thing, yeah
(((o))): Give us a bit of background about how it started and then I’d like just to get a bit of input from you guys about how you got involved.
K: Ok, so how it started was me having had an idea of Chaos Theory for about ten years. When I realised I wanted to be a vocalist I decided long in the future I’d start a label called Chaos Theory and that was for brilliant, cool underground music and then I would use that to promote my own music. Then I had a radio show in uni called Chaos Theory in Lancaster – that was a late night one – and the idea of that show was that there is no genre you can say you don’t like, you just haven’t discovered what you like in that genre. So me and a friend, who liked different types of music, would play each other stuff and argue about the importance, the relevance of bands of another genre.
Years later I moved to London and started putting on gigs just cos I answered an ad for a venue and thought I’d use that to scout for bands for this label and then eventually I got very, very quickly disillusioned with the scene in London and I was so surprised that there were all these great musicians were here and not able to play anywhere that was actually an event. It was just all – as you’ve put it, which a phrase I still use – churn promoters and they just, you know how it goes: nine, ten bands on a lineup which had nothing to do with each other and it’s not an event. So I decided to give up everything else and make Chaos Theory a thing and then spent the rest of the time trying to figure out how to do that properly. So, yeah, that’s it.
(((o))): [To the others] So, how did you get involved?
J: Well, I was looking for work basically. I was looking for a job that would pay me to write stuff and I was working in a bar at the time. I came down here because I’m a journalist in order to get work, basically but I ended up working in a bar full-time because that’s how it happens, but yeah, I was on Gumtree and I saw this “Do you like good music? Are you open-minded?” all of Kunal’s spiel and “Get in touch” and I thought “Yeah, that’s great”. It said he was looking for help with media, so I thought “I could do that. Cool – get paid to…” First thing he said, he said “I can’t pay you” [all laugh]. But then I was like, you know what, the spiel that he’d given was such a good spiel about what his values were in terms of music, like I always describe it that Kunal has the perfect moral compass for music in terms of, like, building a company that will actually sustain itself but will not compromise the values of the music.
P: How did I get involved? The power of Twitter!
(((o))): Yes. All hail the power of Twitter!
P: I was looking for rock gigs because at the time there were a lot of indie and singer-songwriter things but I didn’t see too many rock gigs so I searched on Twitter for rock and somehow Chaos Theory popped up so I went to the first – well, not the first but one of the earlier Facemelters and came back and came back and came back and at some point Kunal asked “Who are you? I see you all the time!” and I explained what I do and he said “Oh, you’re a recording engineer” and I said “Yeah, I would love to actually work at some of the events”. He said “Yeah, how and why don’t we just start recording the nights” and that’s how it started, um, two years ago?
K: I think. I don’t know. I think you tried to tell me your rates for the first six months of that conversation!
P: Eventually I just gave in and said [sigh].
K: You just turned up. He just turned up and recorded it.
P: Yeah, exactly.
Lou: Well I got involved actually through DJing – I don’t know whether it was one of the first Facemelters,; it was at Mother Bar in Hoxton
K: That was like the third one
L: Was it the third one? I was introduced through a mutual friend and K needed a DJ so I was like “OK, cool – chance to, you know, spread myself around in London, cos I’m originally from Bath but then I saw K’s poster and…um… I love you, K but was it like somebody was being sick in my eyes. [all laugh] I do graphic design as well, so I was like “D’you know what? I’ll do your posters. Something like this needs to look good. It deserves to look good and to get the attention that it needs because I come from a promotional background myself as well, like, when I was a teenager I used to run a local music magazine and cover this kind of thing. So it was just…yeah. When I see somebody putting that much effort into a project like this, I was like “I want to get involved, and I want to help this”. So, yeah – five years later, here we are!
M: Chaos Theory not really stole me from Echoes & Dust but definitely scouted me from Echoes & Dust because I got involved through an Echoes & Dust tweet as well when I think Hannah was meant to be taking photos at one of the nights and she couldn’t make it and Kunal needed pretty much a last-minute photographer and that was at the time when I was slowly getting the hang of my camera and I already knew that I was really interested in shooting gigs and making my photography more of a thing, so I came along to the first – well, not the first Jazz Market – but like my first Jazz Market back in Camden at Heroes, a lovely gorgeous shithole of a venue.
Slowly that evolved and when Kunal needed more help from people and people were flaking out for like door people or merch people I said I could do it and from then on and now we recently said that I pretty much have done everything possible at Chaos Theory apart from performing!
(((o))): So, this next question I want you guys to answer before Kunal. What is Chaos Theory?
M: I think it’s now becoming a bit of a consortium of people who just care about independent music in London and really want to give the best possible experience both to the audience in London as well as to the bands. At least that’s definitely how I see it – just a group of people who just really give a shit about it and want it to be obvious to every single persons.
L: I agree, it’s definitely about people who care and I know that curation is a top priority for K – like he won’t put on bands if they don’t fit with each other. I also think it’s just the whole package, it’s kind of like people come back to Chaos Theory because they know that they’re going to get; it’s going to be the same team who are all really, really good at what they do and it’s going to be well promoted and things like that – everything’s going to run smoothly. I don’t think that’s what it started out as but it’s definitely what it’s become, which is great.
P: I think quality is really one of the key words. Quality for the artist, quality for the audience and I think we have quite a few followers now that come to the gigs not even knowing the bands and they know, they trust us so much that they just come back just because they know from experience that we put on good events. Plus, I think pretty much all of the events that we do, they’re all affordable – not crazy ticket prices like the big venues. Everyone can afford it, I think.
J: Yeah, I’d say something similar. It’s got high standards without exclusivity and that’s what I like about it, it’s an old school music movement, which isn’t about hipsters basically.
P: I think one thing I would like to add is that a lot of the time the music is all…I wouldn’t say underground, but it’s not necessarily music that is mainstream, so if you love some specific type of music you can find it sometimes and even if you don’t know the other two acts you can go and, like was said before earlier, Kunal picks acts – or Magda, whoever – picks them, they all go together so on the same night you’re going to find at least another act that you like, most likely. It’s all hand-in-hand.
(((o))): And Kunal?
K: Er, pretty much all that, yeah. Yeah, it’s nice to hear. Basically I guess my idea’s developed a lot over the last few years so what I had in mind five years ago isn’t the same as it is now but basically, yes, I want to make it music to appeal to various underground scenes so that if you’re really a fan of doom or post-rock or new jazz then you’ll find really good nights of that in our nights but also it’s about bringing in new people and making sure they realise that whatever your impression is of metal or jazz but you don’t follow it, it’s all moved on – it’s evolved. They all bleed into each other, all these genres and musicians – the really talented, forward-thinking ones – are influenced by other genres anyway, so if you didn’t like what metal sounded like 30 years ago, 20 years ago, it doesn’t matter cos you might well like what metal’s doing now and the same with jazz and everything, and that’s the idea.
So, that’s why I try and keep them as affordable as possible and try and promote them in a way that doesn’t just appeal to people who know the language of the scene. I wanna make it really laid out for everyone so…and it’s for the people, everyone here – and Hannah, you are part of this as far as I’m concerned, because you guys insisted on helping with the website, you’re part of it. [Hannah: Thank you!] These people all came onboard, most of them not asked to do it, and it makes my role easier. I can focus on curation and booking and stuff like that and all these people are doing other stuff. Knowing that Magda’s doing the social media and stuff and every one of them has taste in different types of music, so everyone’s always suggesting bands to me as well, and everyone’s getting a really good idea as well of what I’m looking for as a promoter, not just as a music fan and it really is making a stronger promotion all the time. So, I dunno. Does that answer your question or is it just a ramble?
(((o))): It’s interesting that you’ve all said very, very similar things so there’s obviously quite a cohesive mindset. So, on that note: there’s quite a big group of you now, you’re all doing roles. As a philosophical question, do you still consider yourselves DIY?
J: That’s a kind of timely question.
M: I would say definitely, because we do do it ourselves! It might not be one person doing it themselves but all of us, we do definitely do it all ourselves. You know, we don’t really pay anyone to do anything for us.
L: No, we don’t outsource.
K: No, I mean that’s kind of how it all started but now you’re all very much…you take it to heart. I think there’s as much at stake for you if it does badly as for me or for anyone else.
J: I mean, you know it’s DIY but I still wouldn’t say it’s… it’s definitely not a hobby for us, we all take it seriously. It’s part of our job.
M: I think we’re starting to look much more professional but that’s purely because it’s a team effort.
J: It’s not amateur. It’s DIY but not amateur
(((o))): That’s an interesting way of putting it.
K: There are a few people who aren’t here who should get mentioned: David, he gets one night off a month, which he does the merch stand at the Facemelter because he’s had a third child and he’s very, very busy trying to feed his family and obviously look after three kids. He used to be a metal promoter but he and I have a constant conversation about how he’s really good at picking out bands and keeping me in touch with the tech metal scene and stuff but he’s also suggested things for Chaos Theory. Drew, the same for the post-rock and post-metal scene and Peter for progressive stuff and Jack for folk and jazz. Peter and I often have clashes of ideas – gentle clashes of ideas – about stuff and one of them was whether to use DIY ever and you said you might have preferred underground but that was like six months ago so maybe you’re changing your mind now as well?
P: It’s the ‘not amateur’ that’s important to me, because it certainly is not a hobby. It’s not just one thing that we do a little bit on the side, it’s a full-on, full-time thing. When you see the hours Kunal or everyone basically puts in, it’s…sometimes two, three, four hours of sleep because he’s really on the case and I don’t think that’s a hobby.
(((o))): Leading on from that: how do you see where the wider London scene is at the moment? Is that something you’re conscious of as part of what you do, the kind of wider ecosystem of promoting and bands?
K: I’d say so. I’ve noticed a lot more really good quality DIY promotions popping up in the last few years. There’s some folk promotions popping up, some metal ones, some jazz ones I’ve seen and they’re all run by bands who’ve played at previous events or in one case our mutual friends at Cosmic Carnage. Rich, basically we bumped into each other at Desertfest after both having met briefly at an Echoes & Dust writers’ meet-up and we spent the entire weekend getting absolutely trashed and watching amazing bands together and then he said “You’re exactly like me. I thought you wouldn’t be”. I’m like “Why?”. He goes “I don’t know” and then he said “That’s given me the confidence to start up my own promotions. So he did. So, like, anyone can do it – I think you just have to be a fan and I think also I’m becoming aware that there are so many pockets of sub-genres and sub-cultures in London that the promotion that have been going on with established fan bases for ten years that I’m only just hearing about. I’m like “How did I not know that this existed?”!
(((o))): Recently we saw the announcement of the closure of the Buffalo Bar and Madam Jojos which was a bit devastating, and I dread to think how many venues have closed this year. Is that a concern for you guys? Does that make life harder?
K: Yeah. Well, like, I’m trying to encourage… Staying with the last question: when I moved here I did try to get together with every promoter I considered really good and get us all to network and hang out so that we could promote each other and try not to clash and try and make life easier for each other instead of clashing and “Oh, I’ve kept this band to myself”, no – they want other gigs to play in London. So, the same thing I’m trying to do now with venues, so venues are becoming very difficult to find that are good. I think we’ve become a bit pickier now. There are a lot of venues I worked with in the first few years which I wouldn’t work with now and I think it’s important to be aware of the fact that we can be choosy with the venues and they have to take themselves seriously as a venue, not just a pub trying to put on a gig but we’ll have to adapt to the environment, so should we get another year of landlords trying to sell venues that are then we’re gonna have to adapt. So, we’re really keen to understand that whichever venue we work with, we need to make it work for them as well and that’s the main thing. If we get bodies in that are drinking – not just fill a room with people who are stroking their chin and not drinking, which is unfortunately the kind of audience we often appeal to – we can make it easier for them to have us back and make more money and keep the venue doing well, as well. It’s really important in the wider scene, so…yeah. It is tough.
(((o))): Have you considered opening a venue?
K: Yeah. If I had a million quid. That’d probably pay, like, what? Small down payment in London but yeah, I would love to own a venue but I also love the fluidity of Chaos Theory. I like the fact that we’re liquid. I like the fact that we have different types of nights and different venues, with different aesthetics and different styles and different crowds.
J: Yeah and I also think that that’s one of the advantages, as well, of whatever’s happening with the scene, Chaos Theory seems to ride the changes. If a big venue closes down, well we’ll make do, you know? It’s a fluid operation, it’s not fixed. It’s got its own identity and isn’t dependent on the wider scene. It’s trying to create something from scratch without necessarily relying on any, kind of, big pillars of the scene and I think that’s a real advantage to it.
K: I think we’re seeing a surge of people now who are starting to take over management or ownership of venues who were going to really good gigs about 20-30 years ago and they’ve come into a bit of money, done well for themselves, and they’re kind of sick of seeing the way London venues are going. So we have people running places like the Black Heart, we have the Servant Jazz Quarters, which was basically turned into a venue from a squat by the collective of venues and places all around it. They all put their money into it to help it become a legitimate venue so they could keep on staying there and that’s how that started. And Power Lunches, they’ve been really trying and they’re building something up and it’s about people who really give a shit in their own way. Same with the Sebright Arms, I think, and there are bigger venues now.
Now the thing is, we’re at a stage where there are a lot of 300 capacity venues, 400 capacity venues that are opening up and asking us to come onboard and I’m like “Er, this is kind of what we’re left with so we’re gonna have to start doing stuff that will fill those kind of venues, cos we’re not ready for 900-1000 capacity venues”. I’m not sure we ever want to do that, cos that’s not totally DIY then, we’re just doing what other people do. So, we’re now at that mid-level venue stage where we can do it but they’re all good people who have good visions, that’s the point I’m trying to make. Like, the guys who own Nambucca, they’ve got a really good vision of what they want it to be as a venue and they’ve redone it and it looks really good so…there’s a lot to be done with it but I think there’s some hope in that aspect.
So we could see promoters like us merging more with venues like that and then we’ll see venues realising, “Oh shit, this is bringing back what London used to have”, which is places people went to just on reputation.
(((o))): But doesn’t that have an impact on more grass roots level bands? How are you gonna find bands to put on at 3-400 capacity venue places if there aren’t 40-50 capacity places for them to learn their trade in?
K: That’s a good point. I don’t know about you guys, you can interrupt me and tell me to shut up but I do think you play a lot of these places. I think there are loads of them still. There are loads of places you can go for folk, jazz. Like he plays three folk nights a night, open mics all the time, everywhere. They’re all over the place. They’re still there, you’ve just got to look for them.
J: I think maybe one of the problems is there are a lot of venues for you to play but to find ones that are of the kind of Black Heart level of devotion to it is difficult. So there are plenty of venues around, from my point of view, but finding ones with that focus on what they’re doing, not just in it for the money, you know, just wallpaper music and that kind of thing…In that sense you’re right, there is a difficulty for places for people to cut their teeth and really get a, kind of, relationship with their audience and stuff like that but they do exist.
K: They exist and the 3-400 capacity venues remember they’re not trying to fill it out every day of the week, so they fully accept that they’re gonna have quiet nights on Tuesdays and things – they’ll have singer-songwriter nights then but they wouldn’t do it on a weekend cos that would be too big a risk for them and they need to fill that place. So, there are people who are thinking about it.
(((o))): So, on a completely different tack, how do you find the artists? How do you book bands? What is it about a band that makes you go “That’s one for me”?
K: So, I have a rule with everyone who suggests a band to me in Chaos Theory, which is there’s three things you have to consider. First and foremost, if you weren’t even thinking of booking gigs ever and you’d never done it, would you just buy this band’s music, pay to go and see their gigs, go and see them at a festival and buy their merch and would you just follow them as a fan and spend money on it? If the answer’s yes and you like it that much then the next one is…What was the next one?
M: I think another one is are they serious about it? Is the band serious about it?
K: Yeah, is it a career for them or are they just hobbyists? I guess we’ve reached that point now where we can’t look after hobbyists because a lot of effort…everyone works really hard, as Lou said.
(((o))): What qualifies that? I think that’s quite a broad statement really. What qualifies a serious band from a hobbyist?
K: A serious band I’d consider as somebody who would like to make at least a small amount of their income from it and would actually… one’s your career and one’s your job, right? I would easily drop anything else I’m doing to make money, to do something else for Chaos Theory. I’d take time off, I’d take a day off or something, just to make sure something’s done for Chaos Theory. So, I think it’s important to realise that are some bands that just want to give a little bit more to it because they feel it, they love it, they love doing it, but when you put your time and effort into pushing a band really hard and then they say “Well, we’re not really ever gonna release anything, we just like doing it on the side of our day job” that’s a bit of a shame, to put that effort in.
So that’s what I mean by that. So, serious in terms of they really want to push it, they want to release stuff, they want to write, they’ve got that burning desire to create, they really want to do it and they want to be heard. They want to play to the right people, they don’t just want to play in their local pub every few months just to have a bit of a laugh with their mates – which is absolutely fine, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, I’m not saying that in any derogatory way but it’s just not who we work with.
Then the third thing to consider is can we make it financially viable for them and for us. We don’t want to be ripping bands off and telling them “Well, come and play and bring 70 people but you’re not getting anything for it”. We want to make it a good experience for the bands. We want to make sure they have nothing to do except soundchecking and playing as well as they can.
They don’t need to worry about the merch, they don’t need to worry about the money. Everyone takes every little role seriously. The merch and the door people are the most important people as far as I’m concerned, because they control all the finances of the whole operation so it’s really important to get that right, and the bands see that and they feel calmer.
M: Well obviously we get emailed a lot from people as well. So that’s one of the ways we source bands but yeah, they obviously go through the same process.
K: We do spot bands at gigs and stuff. Everyone here loves gigs. We all go to gigs all the time, and festivals, so it’s not like difficult but there still are a lot of bands getting in touch so there’s lots of cold bands and lots of management and agencies.
(((o))): Give us a bit of background about what’s going to happen in February.
K: There were three years running early on where we had a Chaos Theory festival and that was because we worked in a venue that allowed us to have two stages at once and we could make a proper all dayer of all the different nights we do and make it a really interesting day for everyone. We had Lou selling her artwork, everyone was involved. Then we started moving to other venues and that…it became more difficult to find venues – we even had a big scout and a big think earlier this year about where we could do a festival with multi-stage but that hasn’t worked out for various reasons. Either they’re too big or they’re not right. So it came upon me to just do special bigger versions of the types of nights we do and that’s what’s happening.
For Facemelter we’re in my favourite metal venue in London anyway and Latitudes are the band we’ve booked for headlining with Bast and Three Thrones. For this one it just aligned that after years of speaking with them, they’re able to make it, they’re really excited and it’s going to be an amazing night and a lot of people seem really excited about it already. I’ve actually received lots of personal messages about people asking about it and really excited and trying to get on the bill, so that’s really good.
Jo Quail is the one we’re doing the day after, so that’s going to be a busy weekend for you guys! She is an artist who played her first solo gig on one of our first – it was our second actually, I think – acoustic, classical smooshed up night, which was the sort of genres which were, basically, not heavy, until I define those nights better. She played at that and we just met each other at a point in our lives where we’d given up a lot of money to do something that we were finding extremely difficult. We both felt very lost and we both had a lot of passion and we didn’t really know where we were going – well, we did have an idea of where we wanted to be but we didn’t really know how to get there.
So now her career has blossomed over the years and so has Chaos Theory but she’s always been very involved…she’s been very fiercely involved in Chaos Theory and insisting we’re involved with her events and she likes the progress, she likes the journey and she wants it to be a part of what she does and vice versa. We both bring a lot to each other. So, she’s presenting this event herself but she wants us to be the promoters and to push it for her and to do all the stuff that we do so she can focus on organising the musicians. So, we’re doing an event where Jo is going to be performing material from her first two albums, ‘From the Sea’ and ‘Caldera’, which she just launched with us in June. And then she’s also going to be premiering new work and she’s also going be performing some works with a string quartet, which features people from the Dead Rat Orchestra and Al Richardson, which is one of her old projects and she’s also got a poet over from India, to perform some spoken word over some of her music that she wrote on her first album and she’ll be performing some stuff by Bartok with a string quartet. It’s going to be in two halves, the evening. There’s gonna be a lot of different facets to it so there’s going to be something for fans of contemporary and classical music.
The last event, the third event, is on Friday 13th, is Jarboe and Helen Money, the cellist, performing together.
They’re doing a big tour together so Jarboe will be performing with Helen Money and that will be really special. It’s our first one in Café Oto. We worked with Jarboe last November. The agent and she really liked what we did with it. She made more on her merch in that gig than she did on the entire rest of the UK tour combined. So, that made them very happy so they’re willing to take a bit of a hit to work with us, which is flattering and phenomenal and we’re like “Yes, I’ll snap your hand off”.
Then supporting them, we’ve got Alexander Hacke from Einstürzende Neubauten so that’ll be amazing, and he’s performing with his wife, Danielle de Picciotto, who does this amazing, weird, avant garde art and singing and stuff as well. I’ve heard some recent recordings that Alexander made with his wife made and sent to Jarboe’s agent, and he sent them to me and they’re just really weird and really different. They’re like doomy at the moment but, I mean, it could be very different by February so we’ll see how they are. So that’s what we’ve got going on in February. It’s gonna be fucking amazing!
(((o))): What about the next five years?
K: Fucking hell.
P: I knew this question was coming.
(((o))): Well, I’m sure you’ve had time to think about it, then!
K: I’ve got nothing to say.
P: The next five years? I think the main priority is to keep the quality up and find new artists, interesting artists. Put on regular nights but also special events, like the Jarboe gig. Getting new fans to the music – just getting more people… I always think, there are so many people who come to London and just don’t know of good music or where to go and it’s just, I think, my personal aim would be just to bring more music to more people.
J: There’s a non-corporate kind of aspect to what Chaos Theory is and very much, like, a kind of old school movement like you got in the 60s and the 70s or the early 80s, before corporations really took over the music scene and I think Chaos Theory will be a big part of that. What form it will take, I don’t know, but just this idea of a kind of very grass roots musical movement and a very dedicated value system that isn’t about the money but which can sustain itself. I think Chaos Theory will be part of that kind of movement in the next five years.
M: I mean I would certainly like to see Chaos Theory go to a place where gigs like the Five Years of Chaos ones are not gonna be just a special thing – that’s gonna be our regular standard of gigs and the special events will be even bigger than that. That would be nice.
(((o))): I can see Kunal getting greyer from here [everyone laughs]
K: I always try to do something that scares me a little but I think I can’t totally destroy everything I’ve built on if I mess it up, so that’s…you know, to make progress you’ve gotta scare yourself a little bit.
The one thing that is a big factor in this is that there’s no money. I’ve seen a lot of promoters who have funding or a big pot to put loads of money and guarantees for big bands down, then hope they make the money back on ticket sales cos the band’s name will sell the event. I’ve never had that, so I have had to make it gradually sustainable and build up a name for Chaos Theory and introduce them to bands and over the years the focus. We need the good venue, we need the friendly venue management who have a good vision, we need the bar staff, the door staff who take it a bit more seriously than just being meatheads, we need the recording, the sound guys, the artists, everyone plays a really important role, which is often overlooked and the stuff I was talking about at the beginning is, I was marketing Chaos Theory to musicians in the beginning – why should you play for us – and now it’s very much why should people come to our gigs and it’s very important to respect the fact that not only have you guys all helped build it up, I’m trying to find ways to compensate them and the bands.
But it’s also really, really important to compensate the fans and at the end of the day, we’re not independent – we’re funded, we’re sponsored and the people who sponsored us are all the people who came to our gigs. They’re the sponsors. So, it’s really important to remember that, which is why we’re doing that thing next year, which – you came up with the word for it.
L: Chaos Theorists.
K: Chaos Theorists, yeah.
M: Basically we just decided to reward some of the people that we see at our gigs all the time, so we’ve got the cream of the crop of all the punters that come to our gigs. Well, ok, you’re all great but we’ve got the ones that are just really dedicated and they’re the ones that come, regardless of the lineup, they just come…
J: The ones that really know how to mosh.
K: The kind of people who say “I’d never buy them online because I’d rather you guys had the extra quid”. That kind of thing.
M: Exactly. The ones that, you know, are our friends and we can happily put them as our plus one at a gig but they don’t want to because they want us to have that five quid.
K: Yeah, those kind of people. A lot of them – I have to point out, I didn’t know any of these people before the gigs but they’ve become friends over time.
M: Yeah, so we’re just gonna reward them a little bit.
K: Yeah, we’re having one a month – just name somebody and give them a few perks for that month, something like that. Give something back to the people who have basically, essentially, built Chaos Theory. We can talk about how good we are, promote ourselves, big it up all we want, put on really big names, but at the end of the day who’s funding it? It’s the people who come.
(((o))): So, the thing I just noticed while you guys were answering that last question is actually none of you are from London, are you? That’s quite interesting.
K: That’s a good point.
(((o))): Yeah, I don’t know whether that’s apropos of anything, really, but it’s just interesting.
K: I think it helped me – when I moved here, I had no concept of what was standard in promotion.
(((o))): I just wonder if you’ve all had that same ‘coming to London as an outsider’ experience and that’s perhaps why you’ve ended up working together?
L: [whispering] I don’t even live here.
K: I mean, there were no standards at all where I came from. Every band I auditioned for was “Oh, you can actually hit the note? Alright, you’re in”. That’s it. That literally is the level it was and I guess I still had that whole “Oh, the streets are paved with gold” kind of element of “Oh wow, it’s gonna be amazing in London, all these great bands coming from London” and I was like “How come these gigs are so shit and they’re some really big names? Why are they all shit? I just don’t understand”. But obviously I didn’t know where to go, either.
M: There is definitely a thing, like, you come to London and the music scene is definitely one of the first thing that comes to mind and, you know, all the music lovers they come to London cos they know that this is the place where you can just go to see anyone you can possibly dream of live at some point, definitely. Probably within the same year!
K: [To me] You have – what – 25 years of industry experience and you were putting on gigs in Manchester 20 years ago. How do you think things have changed in 5 years?
(((o))): I think there was some good stuff around back then but I think it was quite hard to find. Certainly five, six years ago there were things like End of Radio were pretty much in their peak but that was pretty much it. For this kind of music there was only those guys & Rip This Joint and us doing Sunkan Dymonds. There was patches but certainly I don’t think there was anything as coherent as what we see now with you guys, Cosmic Carnage and the GoodSoul guys and what Pete’s doing at the Good Ship and, you know, there wasn’t that type of spread – certainly not for the sorts of music that we like.
K: That’s thanks to you, isn’t it? Putting the promoters together, covering the stuff.
(((o))): Hahaha, I don’t know about that, but yeah, we’ve certainly always made a point of supporting promoters that we think are doing things in the right way. I know it sounds awfully high-minded but, you know, like you guys we have a set of criteria that we say “If we’re gonna support a promoter then they need to cover x, y and z bases”. Genre is kind of irrelevant if people are doing the right thing.
J: Yeah. Yeah. There’s a passion here and it’s something…old school is a really clichéd way of putting it but, like, you know, it does feel like to the core, the origins of the music rather than the kind of frills around it. It keeps to the core of the origins and I think, particularly with something like jazz, that’s been lost. There’s a lot of crap talked about jazz and…it’s like goth – everybody’s interested in the kind of accoutrements but nobody plays it. It’s the same thing with jazz. Everyone talks a good game about it and everyone wants to be seen to like it but there’s no…no-one gets down and dirty with it and shakes their ass to it any more and that, to me, sums it up.
K: I hate cliques of any kind, especially because a lot of them are made up…all these sub-cultures and alternative cultures are made up of people who have been alone or felt alone and excluded at some point in their lives and then they find their passion. So either you get the scene’s hipsters who join the scene just to be part of something, you get other people who find their way gravitating towards other people because they’ve found a passion and they realise they’re not alone, but then they get – some of them get elitist. Like the jazz crowd sometimes can get like, really, “Oh you’re not with us, you’re against us” kind of thing. It’s like “You don’t know what you’re on about”. That’s a broad statement – lots of jazz… I have a great time at a lot of jazz nights but like, yeah. Fuck scenes, basically. Fuck cliques. They should all be…you know…that’s why I want… it’s not just about making a post-rock night that only appeals to post-rock people, everyone should be included. It doesn’t matter whether you think you like it, come along. Here’s an explanation of the band so that you know what it’s like even if you don’t know the scene. That kind of thing.
J: There’s something important about that for culture as a whole, because if you have this fractured scene where everybody’s specialised – which is kind of what you’ve had in the last five years, but it is starting to change. So you had your little cliques and you had these specialised things and there’s a great music and great talent there, no doubt about it, but it isn’t a movement. It isn’t taking human culture anywhere. You know? I know that’s big, grand terms but actually if you look at the late 20th century music it wasn’t just, you know…folk music impacted politics. It impacted culture and there’s…I hope, I believe that Chaos Theory is capable of doing that or something similar. That it’s capable of resonating in people’s minds and it’s not just gonna be confined to some fringe event in the sideshow and be very good and everyone goes “Yeah, I saw one of those gigs once”. They’re gonna be like “Oh fuck, yeah”…
(((o))): It’s interesting, because that specialisation that you’re talking about is something actually we’ve discussed quite a lot and we quite strongly believe the Internet’s responsible for that. Because everybody now has access to everything, whereas scenes would coalesce in the past usually around a geographical location and people would get involved – not because they passionately believed in the music to start with but because their mates were and then it would get bigger and the momentum…and you don’t get that any more. We haven’t seen a mass music movement like that since, God, Britpop I hesitate to say.
M: Exactly and sub-cultures are dying as well. I mean, some of the die-hard ones will still be there but yeah, it’s pretty much what you just said, James. The sub-cultures are not really about the music any more, they’re about looking the part. Not necessarily living it.
(((o))): Yeah, but then that’s why something like ArcTanGent gives me so much heart because it is helping the scene for a relatively obscure corner of music come together.
K: That gives me hope. That’s, like, what I kind of wish we were doing but then that’s changing the world.
(((o))): What really struck me this year was that a lot of the music was wildly different but it was the same people watching all those different things. So the same people would be watching Cleft as had been watching Astrohenge, which are – like – two ends of a spectrum really, aren’t they, but that really made me think “Yeah, it can be done. You can break down those barriers and actually still create something of a movement”.
K: They had fucking Shiver there. Shiver. They’re, like, playing jazz festivals. It’s just ridiculous that you could get away with it, you know?
J: Yeah but crossovers is the key to it and it isn’t forced, it’s a natural crossover that happens with…exactly these kinds of styles start to intermingle.
(((o))): We could probably talk all night but somebody’s going to have to type this up, so… One final question – and it is the traditional Echoes & Dust question – if Chaos Theory was a biscuit, which biscuit would you be?
L: A fortune cookie.
M: Or maybe, like, a massive oatmeal biscuit with like everything in it – choc chip, raisins, like just nuts…
K: And it’s got a jam centre.
K: And chocolate coating.
P: And Smarties on top.
M: And honeycomb.
(((o))): So it would be a biscuit that hasn’t been invented yet?
(((o))): Brilliant. Thank you, guys