Dodging Pint Glasses: Brian Not Brian Talks
There is a lot to be said about someone who manages to maintain a sense of humanity whilst spending countless late hours playing records in those spaces which remain a little rough around the edges. It can be very easy to get washed away beneath the party, to become caught up in counter culture and the spaces in between. Brian Not Brian, or well, just Brian, has been involved in the above for longer than you might know or assume.
Going Good has become a stalwart of the underground having built networks and communication channels with similarly likeminded people across the globe. Brian, as a result, has had the chance to travel around the world playing records alongside the likes of the Mood Hut Crew and Sex Tags, and why the hell not? As a selector there are very few in London who can claim to contest his experience, knowledge and commitment.
From humble beginnings he has spent countless years collecting records and educating himself, Going Good was simply the next piece in the puzzle.
This weekend he will appear at General Public in Hackney Wick. We caught up with Brian to talk.
Most people I meet with from Ireland with an affinity for music seem to always have begun their journey with a love for hip hop and in turn have a deep knowledge of the genre. You had plenty of other types of music to distract but you singled out Hip Hop and Jungle. What was it about these two genres that lured you in at a young age?
Ireland, and most specifically – Belfast has always had an amazing history with music, especially with dance music and people having a good time clubbing etc. I mean really and truly there was fuck all to do so people were always looking for escapism from the boredom and general air of menace and segregation that was so prevalent back in the day. In the past I've said that the education I received from my close circle of friends back home during the 90's is 100% the thing that has influenced me the most right up until today in regards to music and records. There's very rich dance music culture in that city. I think with myself and these 2 genres in particular it was because they were completely different to anything else that was musically occurring around me at the time. Everyone where I grew up (just outside of Belfast) was either listening to shite local happy hardcore type stuff or Oasis. Not much to excite adventurous or curious ears there really. These styles of music were unlike anything I was used to so they were immediately attractive and dangerous.
What tracks best reflected that period of time for you and why?
Wow, tough question! I was into so much stuff then, literally just consuming anything I could find! I'd have to say on the Hip-Hop side of things I was super into lots of indie stuff, you know like small NY label releases. I'd gone to NYC in the summer of 1998 with my mate Andy and literally bought tons of records in places like Beat Street in Brooklyn (RIP), Bobbito's Footwork and Fat Beats (RIP), but I was also lucky enough to buy records directly from some of the artists too (in true independent fashion!) sometimes out of their rucksack on the street or at the subway station! So, a Hip-Hop record that reminds me of that period would be something like Shadez Of Brooklyn's "Change", that encapsulates that whole era for me, that sound. As far as the Jungle thing, I would say a massive record for me at the time and still today would be LTJ Bukem's "Atlantis", yeah it's a stone cold classic and I'm sure anyone reading this will know it inside out but there's something about that particular vibe, that strain of D&B that is super deep and timeless, it always sounds fresh. Obviously it was a bit later that I discovered he sampled Detroit techno artists Reel by Real, he flipped their track "Surkit" so well, adding that jungle edge while giving a nod to Detroit's influence. Love that.
You've lead a pretty interesting life in the pursuit of digging, can you recount some of your more interesting jobs you’ve had in oder to bag some of your gems?
Well, I guess the best jobs I've had in order to bag nice records would have to have been in record stores! I know, no real surprise there. But over the years I've had all kinds of gigs – Barista, Telesales guy, CD salesman, Painter & decorator, even working as a grave digger once with my dad for a summer in my hometown. I guess that takes the idea of "digging" to a whole new level. Saying that, being outside all summer doing super physical work felt pretty good, if a little morbid at times, you know… burying people etc.
You started Djing at a young age in Ireland, how was it trying to make your self heard on the Belfast circuit? Do you have any funny gigs tales?
Yes, I started in my hometown of Antrim. I vaguely remember playing upstairs in a pub at the bottom of the town called the Old Rogue. I'm guessing me and my musical / DJ partner at the time probably hold some kind of record for dodging pint glasses that had been thrown towards the DJ "booth". I guess that part of Northern Ireland might not have been ready to embrace the sounds of Mantronix at that point. Fair enough. Being heard in Belfast was tricky at first as I was so young, but a couple of people who later became good friends saw I was into it and took chances on me and let me throw on some records at their parties giving me my first few tastes of playing to people. Of course there's loads of other stories that I could recount from my Belfast clubbing days too but it's probably best that they're left out of print!
Record store's dipped for a while in the capital but are now making a come back in a big way. How was it digging in London when you first arrived 16 years ago? And how did the move influence your musical journey?
It's funny, as someone who has worked in a few record stores in London it never felt like it dipped to me. We were always busy at Phonica for example. That place was and is non-stop all the time. Yeah, I agree lots more people seem to be buying records again, or at least lots of new people have appeared who want to get involved. When you work in a record store everyday you see the same people each week so it never really feels like it dips or increases that much. It's pretty solid and steady somewhere like Phonica. When I originally arrived in London all those years ago I went crazy in MVE, they had the red stickered grade 2 records, all dirt cheap. I went for those. Basically I was super into the original records that all the Hip-Hop producers had been sampling, and some of those were in these cheap sections so I just scooped them up – Soul, Funk, Disco, Jazz etc. Obviously in Belfast there weren't that many record stores, Hector's House and Backbeat were the only ones open before I left so London just felt like a paradise for music really. You know, more than 2 spots to buy music from… crazy! Being exposed to more records and more styles here really fed into my DJ-ing in a big way. It opened my ears even further.
Closure in London is the talking point of the music industry at the moment. Its seems there is a double helix… an abundance of ever increasing producers pushing exciting and interesting sounds but with dwindling places to dance to the music being made. What are you thoughts on venue closures? And what are your predictions for the capital, optimistic?
I guess people will always find places to party and express themselves outside of what constitutes traditional club spaces as the terrain of clubland or whatever it's called these days constantly shifts. For me, these kinds of ideas have always held the most allure. I'm not really into the whole big club thing, like I much prefer random small basements and places that have a sort of lawless vibe in them. To be honest, I reckon people have been gee'd up by recent developments in the club scene, perhaps thinking outside the box a little with regards to parties and programming. As far as predictions go, I'm not sure i'm the man to ask but I think there's loads of healthy little things going on right now that reflect the shitloads of good music and scenes that are around at the minute. I think things could be a lot worse.
I have to agree with you on that, I always remember visiting my brother when I was 17 in brixton coming from manchester, and seeing people sprawled out side, what was then the George Four at 11am (now a Tesco metro) and thinking that's what London is about, a punk attitude to going out. What are your favourite parties in London going by this rule at the moment?
Yeah, I remember the George being like that! It's a few blocks up from where I've lived all my time here actually, know it well. May have even popped in there a few times myself, definitely an 'interesting' spot! It was refreshing for me coming from Belfast too, it's a relatively small city so anything here was going to have an impact on me. People were smoking weed in the clubs! We couldn't even get weed back home if we'd wanted it, it was so elusive and expensive. It all felt a bit alien and exotic here. Big city and all. Sadly I don't know if the 'punk' aspect of peoples attitudes towards going out is as important to them anymore. Clubbing now isn't as it was as everyone knows (Well, anyone of a certain age). These days it all feels a bit homogenised. But before I get accused of being called a 'grumpy old man' I gotta say there are some parties that are keeping that open spirit going. I'm not one to sit here and list names so go seek and ye shall find!
There has been a long history of trans atlantic dance music influence in Britain, arguably starting with those first Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry records landing in Liverpool docks back in the 50's. The trousers seem to be constantly tried on by both sides, but its becoming harder to see who is wearing them these days. With less attention on the states and more on Canada. You put out Canadian producers on Going Good… did you have a part to play in this influx of Maple leaf talent?
To be fair the amount of exciting new music that's coming out of Canada right now is absurd. But I feel it unfair to disregard the states and what's coming out of there too. Both places are so vast that it's not surprising there's so much killer stuff coming at us from every angle. In fact, the same can be said for here and Europe too. I feel globally, as a 'scene' we're in a very healthy state right now. Trying to keep up with all the new music that's coming out is just futile. It's an exciting time for all of this, lots of great stuff going on. I feel positive about it. Yes, we have released some very fine music from artists from Canada, namely Cloudface and Aquarian Foundation who are all part of Vancouver's Mood Hut collective that I'm sure anyone who's reading this is familiar with. We released AQFN's very first record so maybe we played a small part? Over time all of those guys have become our friends and family and we've all interconnected via various people throughout the world so who knows what else might come in the future?
2016 is wrapping up. And what a year it has been! Can you pick out a couple of tracks that define 2016 for you? And what made them stick out?
Yes, agreed. 2016 has certainly been a challenging year in a lot of ways, I feel most people will be glad to see the back of it actually! But in terms of music, as I said earlier, I think it's very exciting right now. 2 tracks for me that got a lot of spin this year are: the Peaking Lights remix of Moscoman's "Mexican cola bottle baby" on Lovefingers' ESP Institute label, I was given a white label of it months ago and literally hammered it every time I played a party, I couldn't get enough of it and I'm still playing it now. It's pure trippy, druggy, driving psychedelic house music, remixed by Peaking Lights' Aaron Coyes who blatantly knows what he's doing.
Also, another track I loved playing a lot this year was Bolis Pupul's "Moon Theme" on Dee Wee. It reminded me heavily of Richard Wahnfried or of something off Klaus Schulze's Innovative Communications label or like something you'd hear on a Baldelli or Loda mixtape, pure cosmic vibes. Slow, chugging space music that, dropped at the right time, can cause serious damage. More of that please!
Another track that I think deserves a mention is this I:Cube remix of Jordan from Juju & Jordash's new project Mei Tahat on Berecuese Heroique, it's just insane. People sometimes forget how deadly I:Cube can be, he's a veteran. This remix is simply out there in the best possible way, part fusion, part deep house, part Disco, part experimental, even slightly Gamelan influenced it's a total trip. Honestly one of the best tracks of the year for me. Massive shout to Gizmo and Nicolas for pulling this one together, crazy shit. I love it. We need more music like this.
Whats next for Brian Not Brian and the Going Good label?
For me it's more DJ-ing, doing a bit more travelling. Generally enjoying playing music to people! I'm considering moving into the studio for some experimentation. I've dabbled, but nothing major. Thinking I'd like to try and get some ideas down and see if they're any good. But saying that, I've had that idea for years and not managed to do anything yet, so let's see how that one goes! As for GG, we're about to release The Mystic Jungle Tribe's "Live in Napoli" record, that one's on it's way, and after that we have Nummer's as yet untitled debut LP coming on the label too. We're super excited about both of those, we've been sitting on them for a while and to see it all finally coming to life is amazingly satisfying. Also, I'm fortunate enough to be given tons of music by people I meet on my travels etc so there may be some more international collaborations on the label forthcoming too. My partner in GG, Sal, also has a new label and the first 12" is imminent. All I'll say is the label is called Counter99 and the first release is a killer, keep em peeled!
Catch Brian at General Public this Saturday HERE. Photography courtesy of Liam Jackson.