INTERVIEW: Phil Saunders – This Club Could Be Your Life | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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As Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity suggested, the dream for any strung-out, addicted music lover seems to climax at the point where they win a Grammy, own a record label or run a club night. 

And while some of us (ahem) may not have gotten around to making that dream a reality, there are those whose combination of hard work, a love for music, and a positive attitude seems to make things happen. Take Phil Saunders; he may not have a Grammy (yet) but if you’ve had a night out on Teesside in the past twenty years, it’s likely that he’s played some part in the organising, promoting or managing of it. Not that that was ever the plan, mind…  

In 2004 I was working for the council shuffling paper and would speak regularly to the owner of promoters Ten Feet Tall. We started chatting one day and when I told him I worked in payroll, he said ‘why don’t you do that for me’, and basically from there I ended up down the rabbit hole and doing all sorts of things with them including stage managing, helping out in venues like the Cornerhouse and The Empire, and working on Middlesbrough Live where we had 100 bands playing across 10 stages.” 

I thought that maybe I could write a few ideas down to reflect on the importance of live music, and before I knew it I’d written a full book

A growing list of experiences, and a strong reputation, saw Saunders progress to running Sumo, one of the North East’s greatest rock nights, and stay in the role for well over fifteen years until Covid put an end to things. “When Covid started we had to stop Sumo, and some of us were so worried about what lockdown might do to the music and clubbing scene. It was a frightening time and so I thought that maybe I could write a few ideas down to reflect on the importance of live music, and before I knew it I’d written a full book.” 

Considered as part biography, part almanac, part local history project, This Club Could Be Your Life is written as a “Henry Rollins-style tale where there’s snippets of stories, insights and set lists, in a way which can be read in all-in-one go, but also can be picked up and skimmed little by little.”   

Never designed to be a “proper book”, Saunders instead wanted This Club Could Be Your Life to use a more jovial, conversational style of storytelling: “Telling stories like we would if we were catching up and talking about past nights out, or remembering some of the great gigs we’ve been to.” 

Excited to see the scene come back in full force after Covid, Phil may have left the business side of the live scene to one side but he’s still one of the revellers and a punk enthusiast at heart. “I’ve always enjoyed Rollins’ do it yourself style, so I tried to write and edit and publish this with just myself and family and I really enjoyed the challenge.”

This Club Could Be Your Life by Phil Saunders is released on Tuesday 1st November.

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