FEATURE: The Man Behind The Night
It’s common knowledge that each and every weekend, and a fair few weekdays, millions of Londoners pour onto the streets, into clubs, bars and pubs to party away the weight of the week. Londoners brushing off the pressures of pretending to be a responsible twenty-something year old, teenagers on a mission, pretending to be responsible twenty-something year olds. Some go out on the hunt for a partner or to be encircled by a group of their closest friends for 6 hours and some just have to be seen in the right place.
It’s an archaic British tradition to take part in such raucous festivities. The pub and club is to us what the siesta and fiesta is to the Spanish. Every generation make it their duty to party harder than those before them. It’s a weighty responsibility, leaving your generational mark on history. All so that one day, you in turn can say, “in my time we did it much better, not like the youngsters of today, they have no clue” just as our elders did before us. We take this seriously. We put more effort into partying than we do our actual jobs. We’re doing it, although in reality, there are other people doing it for us, setting up and organising these arenas of debauchery and hedonism.
Which raver has actually given a second thought to the time, skill and tenacity that goes into making a club night? Which hipster has given recognition to the phenomenal industry machine that makes their memory-making nights possible? Nights where they probably arrived, complained about the queue to the toilet, then about the queue to the bar, then bemoaned the queue to the cloakroom. Then the next day, gave feedback to friends, via Facebook, peppered with statements referring to one’s inebriation. “Oh God it was great, I was sooooo fucked”. “Oh God, it was awful, I was soooo fucked”. For us to be able to say we went to the baddest shindig in town, to gain valuable party status, there are individuals that take partying so seriously they have turned it into lucrative careers. They’ve built collectives and pioneered a scene that will be iconic of our generation. At the top of this game (though he is definitely pushing to go further) is nightlife promoter; Tom Broadbent.
Working for three Brands, Outlook, Vagabondz and promoting company Pack London as well as running his own night Redux, it’s a wonder that Tom has any time to meet us. Sure he is 50 minutes late, but is charming as ever when he finally arrives. Caught on the right day (as luckily we did) he has bundles of energetic cheekiness. With his South-East London accent, elongating vowels (“yeeeeaaaah” “naaaah” “Seeeeen”), whimsically dropping his Ts, talking in almost the same rhythm as one of his parties; “You got a try a scampi fry. Taste that. Baddest pub snack there is.” He’s thoughtful, yet speedy, a perfect combination for his profession.
To those close to him, it’s completely unsurprising that Tom is such a successful promoter and Redux is such a popular night. From the age of 13 he was throwing notorious parties from his home in South-East London. Kids running around, fresh out of their snotty-nose years (mostly), exhuming euphoria and completely overwhelmed with the discovery of uppers other than sugar. On one occasion, his mum, having become wise to his hedonistic ways, bolted shut the front door to the house military-style, hid the key and went on holiday relaxed in the knowledge that the house was fully fortified from the inside. His solution to this? Smashed the window and let the revelry happen. Tom will stop at nothing for a party and he has literally made it his business to show you a good time.
Starting out in life as a barman and eventually working up to manager, for Tom it was a natural progression to start putting on his own club nights in Camberwell. “Before bar management I was just doing nothing I didn’t go uni or finish college I was just bumming around. I got a job in a pub and I quite liked it. I wasn’t really thinking about it at that point. It was always something I was interested in and then over the time you realise, actually I can make quite a bit of money from this, this is actually quite a good lifestyle for me.”
Tom describes his nights as being under the “bass system music culture” each brand caters for a different genre under the bass umbrella. A low-key Dub and Reggae night, a more commercial night for the “tare-out wobbly dubstep” which he agrees is mainly popular with the younger, new kids to the scene. Then a brand that he tries to keep dedicated to the “more forward thinking, more cutting edge music.” However, Tom maintains that it is all essentially bass. Bass bass and more bass.
We are amazed by the sheer quantity of nights he is involved with putting on, surely it’s a long process? “Two weeks” he says nonchalantly. Two weeks?! We are gobsmacked. It takes us on average two weeks to decide on an outfit and Tom’s churning out whole raves in two weeks and not any old raves, successful, sold out to capacity raves. He admits that Outlook, who have recently had their fourth festival, has only started working solidly as a machine and built a reliable pattern in the last 6 months. We ask for a complete breakdown of the whole process. At this point Tom really gets into action, his eyes sparkle and he gesticulates more as he talks, making constant rolling movements with his hands. You can almost see the cogs starting to turn faster in his head. Nothing is left unconsidered. The venue; big enough? Small enough? Good enough sound system? The date; when’s payday? When’s term time? When’s student loan through? What will the weather be like? What other nights are on at the same time? He then rolls off humorously into a ‘what was I thinking?’ anecdote about the time he tried to put on a party on Glastonbury weekend. A failure as you could imagine.
Despite clearly being onto a winner and having an ability to organise a night in astounding speed, Tom doesn’t rest on his laurels either. He’s always keeping an eye out for the next big name, who’s making the best new music, whose record label is popping off, but at the end of it all? Budget. Everything has to be within reasonable budget, whilst staying true to his passion for music. It is his lively hood after all. We had forgotten, with all his king of the party status, boyish jokes and repetition of the word “darlin” so much that by the end of the interview we feel like the most precious of cockney queens, that he possesses a huge amount of business acumen. Tom doesn’t lay emphasis on this, money is maths, simple. For him the art is creating the actual party itself. Developing a line up is no mean feat. “You can’t have a jungle DJ before a dubstep DJ, or try and throw in Reggae with drum and bass, it has to be popping for the main set.”
How did it all kick off we ask him? “The first big night I ever did in 2009 at the Bussey Building, Peckham, the first big scale event I ever did, it was fully independent and we smashed it basically. It was an Earwax night, which was what Redux was called originally and we made loads of money, it was a wicked party, people were having a wicked time, everything went really smoothly. That for me gave a really good feeling, providing an experience for people to enjoy, also showcasing something that I’m passionate about and that I believe in which is the music and making a bit of coin on the side and having a bit of a laugh and seeing all my mates. I’m like yeah if I can do this for a living then definitely I’m up for it.” Tom is always keen to emphasise that it’s not smooth sailing in this game as with every up he always offers a down “I’ve done nights where I’ve lost money, I could have made money, but where there were so many people on guest list and concessions that I’ve lost money. So now I know that guest list gets shut off at a certain point, or it’s like you know, sorry guest list is only for artists and staff. The profit margins are so thin, you might come to an event and it might feel busy to you but the promoter could have still lost thousands of pounds. If its 100 people give or take that 100 people are either your £1500 profit or your £1500 loss. Though I’m still struggling with turning my friends down for guest lists, it’s something I’m working on, so everyone, get ready.”
Of course the money is the main objective as well as creating a line up, but we can’t help but imagine there are times where it’s not just the money that can cause problems. “There’s loads of dodgy fuckers out there, as an industry you’re dealing with quite creative people, who are good with people, but they’re not afraid to cut a corner. You aren’t dealing with typical people that have gone to college or who have gone to uni and did an internship and have got a job and stuff, it’s a hustle. You’ve got to be savvy, you’ve got to be on the ball, people are prepared to fuck you over, people will fuck you over, you can’t trust everyone, you’ve got to have your wits about you. I’ve never worked full-time in a proper office job, so I couldn’t compare it, but there are a lot of people who would happily sell you down the river to get on top of you.”
We coyly ask Tom about drugs, expecting it to be a subject that he would shy away from and perhaps give a uniform answer of not condoning any illegal substances, but typically, he is frank and honest about the situation “I’ve worked in clubs where the bar manager’s a complete cokehead, upstairs sniffing gear all night and I’ve worked in clubs where the bouncers are shit, can’t do their jobs, but nothing like in-house dealers. That might happen in bigger high-end clubs, but cos ours is quite an underground scene it’s the punters that are selling drugs. Taking into consideration that you are essentially going to spend your night in a dark, sweaty, damp, crowded venue, dancing around in Peckham, of course you’re going to want to get out of your box. There’s no debate, it’s a massive part of any event industry, drugs. I wouldn’t go as far to say that it’s because people are hanging out it sweaty raves that they NEED to take pills but I think it’s an association thing and the two go hand in hand and I think they quite compliment each other. I wouldn’t endorse anything like that, but I don’t care if people are taking or selling drugs at my event. I know people take drugs I know people are going to want to take drugs and I want people to be happy at our events and if that means that there has to be someone in there shotting pills then fine, I don’t mind it, it’s part of the parcel. You don’t have to take drugs, some people are actually passionate about the music.”
At ventsmag we love a party, but we love sleep too! The lifestyle Tom must lead in order to organise and attend such big events so consistently, surrounded by the mayhem he has described seems pretty full-on. “Believe it or not, people find it weird, but we do work office hours. It’s hard not to socialize when you’re at the event, on the event night, you’re spinning plates. Weekends, I sleep all the way through the day. You know we’re working Monday to Friday then Friday you got to be at a venue at 7 then you’re working all the way through to 3 then you want to get on it and go out then you know Saturday is gone and then Sunday you just chill out. The lifestyle goes with the job; I wouldn’t do this if the lifestyle didn’t suit me. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else unless it was an extension of what I’m doing now, like, go into music management, I’d like to start a record label a booking agency as well as managing artists individually and that would all tie into the events.” Though there are perks. Groupies, We ask? At this point Tom gives a knowing cheeky grin “Yeh there are groupies……” He says no more.
With all that love, surely there comes some hate? “I would say I got a long way to go in terms of success, but you know you are in the limelight a little bit and people are always going to, not necessarily feel threatened, but maybe resent your success. Not to say I’m a massive success, but the stage I’m at within that industry is relatively advanced and so some people might resent that and project that as a personal dislike for me.”
The artist themselves, can they ever be difficult to deal with? “Once when we did Somenight, every Wednesday, we had someone playing, he’s a big DJ but he’s an absolute diva. He had demanded all these mad technical requirements. Yeah it’s all part of the artistic process, but with him he is so fussy, we got a request for a specific mixer and we got this mixer and it was the right model and all the inputs that he needed, but it was the wrong brand of mixer! So we had to get a cab from central London to fucking far out in West London, hire this mixer for like £200 get a cab back just for him to do an hour set. On a fucking Wednesday night to like 300 people! And it’s that kind of attitude ….but that doesn’t prevent me booking him again. I know now what mixer to get for him! (laughs). On the whole artists are generally very nice to deal with. At worse they’re a bit stush and up their own arse and not very friendly, but once you’ve shown them you can put on a good night and take care of them they’re actually really friendly and pleased and appreciative. Cos it’s quite rare they get looked after properly, I try to think I set myself apart by resolving issues and being a people person and make these DJs want to play for me again.” And then with a glint in his eye, he offers a story which we can see there was an inner conflict about disclosing it, but after a pregnant pause…. “There was one incident with an artist, we ended up having a scuffle, over some bullshit I can’t remember. Then we calmed down I bought him a fucking Jack Daniels and coke. You have to take it on the chin, you’ve been a dick to me, but I’ll buy you a drink and apologise to you. He was fine, he did his show and apologised”
We think surely, after the party, after the room is cleared, the remnants of sweat and giggles are swept away at 6am in the morning, it must all feel a bit soulless? Quite the contrary according to Tom ”I’ve built personal relationships with the DJs, you know, Congo natty as a kid was very much an idol and now we’re pals. Even though he’s a 40 year old man with 4 kids, we work together we chill out together. It’s the same with Sticky, garage was always my thing, his productions were always my favourite.”
And the advice he offers others? “You need to be able to deal with pressure; you need to be able to get shit done quickly. If you get the line up finished and you’re behind schedule the flyer needs to be done now, like now. You have to be very resourceful; if something goes wrong you need to be able to have a plan B like straight away. You need a resolution for everything and whatever goes wrong the buck stops at you. Whether it’s a problem with the crowd, they’re pissed off because they’ve had to queue too long, the DJ’s pissed off because he’s had to wait too long for his money, the venue are pissed off cos they haven’t got their money. It’s all your fault. I’ve developed a thick skin over the years.”
So what is next in store for the future? “For me, I’d like to own my own venue, do my own events in that venue, own my own record label, all the artists playing at my event, manage them, take their bookings, basically, you know, tie it all together. I have a long way to go, there’s a lot more to learn, I have a lot more to achieve, but there is another step to go with Redux. The venue has to be South London, obviously from a personal point of view. Though from a business point of view, South is the new East London, once the Olympics goes there, its gunna get shutdown. Everyone who moved to East London five years ago to be cool and trendy has now had a kid and doesn’t wanna go out clubbing anymore, they want quiet at midnight. And all those young professionals are going to come to Peckham; especially when the over-ground tube line comes here that will make a big big big difference.” We honestly doubt Tom needs the tube to bring the party to him, wherever he goes the party clearly follows and one thing is for sure, we will never take that party for granted again.
Then Tom bounces back in quickly with something that seems imperative to say “can you give a shout out to Jack Robinson for bringing me in?” and there it is.
If you want to party Tom Broadbent style, check the High Focus Records 2nd Birthday Bash 17th March, Brixton Mass 10pm-6am
Words By Sarah-Jane Bacchus
Photography by Sam Llewellyn-Jones
Rave Images Courtesy of Redux London