Interview: Jimmy Beck | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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For the past couple of decades or so, Jimmy Beck, have been a positive and everpresent force in the Teesside music scene. The promoter, owner of KU and The Social Room in Stockton and co-creator of the hugely popular Stockton Calling has brought a plethora of top musical talent to the town and has been responsible for giving so many local artists their first-ever gig, headline show, or support slot for their favourite touring act. Jimmy and KU’s passion for local music has led to them becoming not only renowned in the region but in the whole of the UK and this year, BBC 6 Music and Steve Lamacq paid them a visit as part of Independent Venue Week; recording a live broadcast from the venue itself. 

Jimmy’s most recent event idea is The Gathering Sounds, which is back for its fifth edition on Saturday 30th September. The all-day multi-venue festival taking place at venues throughout Stockton was conceived to showcase local talent alongside the best up-and-coming national acts and has established itself as a key tastemaking event in the regional music scene.

We catch up with Jimmy to find out more about him and the upcoming The Gathering Sounds…

What got you into promoting live music?
I fell in love with bands around the age of 16, mainly Indie music like Stone Roses and American Grunge bands including Nirvana and REM. Stockton always seemed to have some great, free festivals back then and I was soon attending shows at The Georgian Theatre.

How many years have you been promoting for now and what are some of your best memories?
I put my first band on at KU in 2003, so it’s been 20+ years now. I’ve got fond memories of booking unsigned bands via MySpace like The Wombats and The Enemy. It was a great time for bands and there was always a good crowd, whoever the acts were.

Were you ever in a band, or fancied performing yourself?
I can’t sing to save my life and tried to learn guitar once. DJing was the closest I did to performing though. I used to DJ four nights a week at various venues around Teesside.

When did you decide you wanted to run your own venue?
KU became available in 2008 and we felt it was the right time to have a go ourselves. It wasn’t easy, and still isn’t but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

What do you think the secret is to KU’s longevity?
We make changes to the venue all the time. Whether it’s new colour schemes, knocking down walls, new lighting or whatever, we have never stopped trying to improve the venue for our customers.

You played host to BBC 6 Music during Independent Venue Week earlier this year. What was that like?
The whole experience was amazing. It came out of nowhere. We had just celebrated our 20thAnniversary and emails started coming in. They literally turned the whole building into a studio, we had coaches outside, wires and audio equipment everywhere. To finish it off with The Murder Capital was really special.

How do you think a town like Stockton can have such a thriving live music scene? What lessons can other places in the area take from it?
I’ve said this before, the reason Stockton works so well for live music is down to all the organisers doing their best to work together, rather than compete with each other. Stockton has better (and more) live music venues than most cities do ranging from 80 cap to 2700 cap, not bad for a small town!

Where did the idea for The Gathering Sounds come from?
I wanted to run an event aimed at getting more of an audience in front of emerging acts and use that as a launch pad for standalone shows. We also invite national operators to run some of the stages in the hope they include the area in future tours. This year we’re really excited to have EVOL from Liverpool involved in addition to the return of London’s This Feeling and Yorkshire’s Under The Influence who do great things across the UK.

What sets it apart from other multi-venue festivals in the area?
The focus really is on putting the spotlight on emerging artists with an aim to provide them more exposure in the local area. We’ve already seen some of the acts who’ve played previous instalments go on to do very well for themselves. 

Tell us a bit about this year’s event. Is there anyone, in particular, you’re looking forward to seeing?
There’s too many to name really. If I had to highlight a few I’m looking forward to working again with the acts we’ve had before like Andrew Cushin who’s smashing it at the moment, as well as the likes of The Clause, The Skinner Brothers and ZELA. There’s also Fat Dog and The Molotovs who are generating some major buzz at the moment down south.

Is there anything else exciting that you’ve got coming up in the near future?
We have some great gigs booked in right up until the end of the year. Tom Clarke always plays a great show in KU. We’ve also got upcoming gigs with The Kairos, The Chase, Candid and Skinny Lister, most of which have played the festival before and we can’t wait to have back for their standalone shows. 

The Gathering Sounds takes place on Saturday 30th September. Tickets are available here.


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