Jay Taylor is as Manchester music as it gets. On the scene for years, he’s been in bands, organised band nights, organised venues and has been “promoter / booker / chap who looks after the diary” at The Ruby Lounge for years now. As such he plays a huge part in determining the flow of numerous fantastic bands that stream through our city. I got together with Jay to find out a bit more about what he does and how he does it, and to see who we should be listening to right now!
Jay, you have been an integral part of the Manchester Music scene for years, tell Manchester’s Finest readers about what you do?
Well, the main cut and thrust of what I laughingly call my 9 to 5 is running the diary for the Ruby Lounge venue, I also promote a few shows elsewhere, do a little work for the Musician’s Union, I’m a PRS Foundation advisor, and I dip in and out of a few other music related bits and bobs, including performing (the thing that got me into this mess in the first place).
When I was in a band a few years ago, and you booked us to play at some of your nights, it was clear to us that you actually cared a lot about the bands you worked with and the nights you organised, how important do you think this is?
That likely comes from having been in bands myself and having experienced a range to relationships with promoters and venues. I have absolutely been that guy walking into a venue to see the posters I posted to them sat behind the bar in the unopened tube I mailed them in. I’ve been that guy who thought ‘if I leave my bands equipment in the venue overnight, some crony connected to the promoter is going to steal it all’, and I’ve been the guy stuck in a screaming match to get paid at the end of the night. I’ve also met and worked with some honest, scrupulous, enthusiasts who were a joy to deal with. Ultimately I believe in the concept of shared goals and ideal scenarios, where the band, crowd, promoter, venue, agent, management and whatnot all end up satisfied – it’s hardly a novel concept, but totally do-able with a bit of graft. I’ve also spent a huge amount of time in music venues here and abroad and I’ve been paying attention.
How do you go about finding what bands to book?
Ah, this is the good bit. Endless mooching about online, listening to things recommended by folk I trust, having the radio on, talking to booking agents, being an enthusiast. Sometimes an agent will approach me, other times it’s the reverse where I think ‘wouldn’t it be great to put that act on.’ On a good day it all coalesces into a show somewhere. I announced a show with Dean Wareham from Galaxie 500 / Luna today and it made me remarkably happy.
And what about the team you work with? Sound engineers, promotion staff etc? How important is a good team in making a good gig happen?
As you’d expect, having reliable, smart people as colleagues is crucial – and we are back to shared goals I guess – though being a promoter attached to a smaller space means that you are charged with multi-tasking; aside from the booking itself you can find yourself juggling figures, dithering with XL sheets, arranging art, print, press, adverts, listings, poster and flyer distribution, updating websites and databases, and a whole bundle of other stuff. Oh, and running the show come the night of course. It’s occurred to me that on the actual evening of the show pretty much any member of staff can drop dead on the spot bar the sound engineers – most people could run a box office, tend bar, load acts in and out etc, but those engineer types have knowledge that we normal human beings don’t (they can also make a band sound transcendent or lousy at the touch of a button).
What culturally inspires you?
Anyone who’s happy to be bombarded with culture should struggle with this question I think.
What is your favorite thing about Manchester?
At it’s best it’s a confident, forward thinking city that isn’t stymied by its impressive history. In a lot of ways it’s a better city than the one I first started spending nights out in yonks ago – more venues, more galleries, more events, more culture. More to do (even though it’s plainly harder than ever to launch and maintain these endeavors).
It’s a confident, forward thinking city that isn’t stymied by its impressive history
And the worst?
£80 million pounds of budget cuts.
What do you think about the current music scene?
Again, I’m happy to be bombarded which implies rare health, and I discover something new that presses buttons for me more or less daily. I find it pretty easy to administer the steady stream of new music too, my super power is being able to zone out those areas that I’m not interested in (I get more traffic from people winging about talent shows than I do from the things themselves).
I’m happy to be bombarded which implies rare health, and I discover something new that presses buttons for me more or less daily.
And what about the music scene in Manchester?
The Mancunian music scene will always be ok. I see no reason why there shouldn’t be a never-ending parade of young musicians wanting to create, perform and communicate, if the volume of new bands sending me their music is anything to go by.
Predictions: What bands should we be checking out? Who is going to be hot?
Plainly, some tremendous bands find themselves with workable careers and other equally terrific acts never do, such are the idiosyncrasies and cruelty of the industry of course – so this should be more a list of things I love rather than one of those tips-for-the-top endorsements. In a more just world they’d all be ginormous. Anyhow, here you go… Satelliti, Baby Godzilla, Owiny Sigoma Band, Red Kite, Prides, Camp Stag, Waxahatchee, Circa Waves, Melt Yourself Down, Drenge, Emily Wells, Fat Goth, Hookworms. Oh, and there’s a new Mancunian project called Tesla Tapes that I adore. This morning I’ve Mike Watts’ last Il Sogno Del Marinaio long player on repeat. It’s magnificent.
What do you see yourself doing in ten years time?
Beekeeping on the Sussex Downs.
And finally: The world is going to end in five minutes, what song would you play the world as it was about to happen?
I imagine I wouldn’t have time; I’d be too busy strangling the person next to me who’s playing that REM thing. But if I get all the strangling done in less than three minutes I’d cheerfully devote the remaining two to Happy Go Lucky Me by Paul Evans.
Interview by Anne Louise Kershaw.