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Cable Club tenth anniversary
Simon Parker is busy dropping off the 7in vinyl of Brighton band Sparrow’s new single Move at a label in London when he finds a minute to catch up with The Guide.
The timing seems fitting: we’re discussing his ten years at the forefront of the Brighton music scene – first as head of Cable Club and latterly as Numbskull HQ records’ chief.
Sparrow (featured in The Guide, June 15) are his latest big hope to take an unsigned band from Brighton and crack the music industry at a national level.
They might not be musical revolutionaries, but they write crisp, intelligent indie rock. They eschew the maniacal programming that passes for production nowadays with pretence-free tracks. “Sparrow’s second record is now available to order the world over,” Parker enthuses down the phone. “If more people heard them, they would love them. There is not a bad track on either of the two albums they’ve made [Playtime, However Did The Wolf Get In].
“Where most albums have two or three good tracks, those two albums have no fillers.”
Another proud moment from his past ten years’ work (the first Cable Club at the Pressure Point – now a hostel – was in 2002) was finally releasing Turncoat’s An Adventure In Skill And Chance last year. The four Brightonians were, for a short time, signed to Regal Recordings, once home to Graham Coxon, The Beta Band, Charlotte Hatherley, and now home to Lily Rose Cooper (nee Allen). They peaked with the single Wasted On You, a fiery slice of bedroom nihilism evoking Bends-era Radiohead. “I always enjoyed working with Turncoat. It was really great when they got their deals. It was an injustice they didn’t make it then.”
Cable Club is now anchored out of The Prince Albert , with shows on Thursdays and occasional slots at The Haunt. When it started, Parker remembers a barren musical landscape for local bands. “It’s fair to say most nights were awful for local bands. The heart and soul had been ripped out by the dance boom. “Also, there were so many bands in Brighton but with no enthusiasm. When the scene changed, and I really do think The Strokes had a lot to do with it, guitar music became attractive again.” Ambitious musicians wanted to be in a band again. And they wanted to watch live music. “For the first time since Britpop, indie became pop again – which was lucky for Cable Club.”
At the time, Parker was friends with Gareth Gwynne-Smith who had bought the Pressure Point. Parker decided to put local bands on the same bill as bands booked by agencies, such as The Cribs and Kasabian, right before both broke nationally. “I wanted to do bands on a decent stage and with a soundman who knew what he was doing. I wanted good lights, a big PA.
“The aim was, and still is, to make an event. I didn’t want local bands to feel like they were a hindrance for venues because they didn’t have a signed band playing.”
The nights started on Mondays but within six months were moved to Thursdays. For Parker it is still the best night for promoting shows. “Brighton treats Thursday as part of the weekend.”
The event moved to The Prince Albert in 2007 and in ten years Parker reckons he has put on more than 1,500 different groups or artists. He used to spend his weeks listening to CDs sent in (and he still likes to receive them) but nowadays the searching is done via Soundcloud over the internet. “I can’t say I have every CD I’ve ever been sent, but I’ve kept every one I’ve liked since 2002.”
Tracks from these made up the four Cable Club compilations (yearly between 2003 and 2007), which will be stashed in record collections across the city. Each was a sort of “Brighton best of”. He promises a free “best of the best ofs” at two anniversary shows arranged for July 26 and July 27.
“I will pick 20 of the best songs I’ve been sent and do it as a free giveaway to the first 50 people on the door. “The compilations used to be the only way of taking my work with the bands further, but since I set up Numbskull HQ I’ve had another avenue.”
Parker, now in his 40s, has been in bands himself (Fruit Machine, The Violet Trade) and still leads Villareal and plays bass for White Star Liners. Cable Club is the longest running local band night in Brighton and one big change has been the rise in competition. Still, the big challenge is keeping people interested in local bands. “You are always trying to convince people these bands are worth seeing, and they are.”
The key is timing – putting bands on when they have no other local or London shows booked – and tailoring the bill so you don’t mix metal with folk.
Regrets include missing out on Stornoway (“I was offered it but couldn’t do it”) and hearing about a Mumford & Sons show at The Albert the day after it had happened. Before he departs he mentions a special consignment of Sparrow’s Move 7in, signed and limited edition, only on sale in Resident Records. Again it seems pertinent... while he wants to crack the national stage, he knows where his roots are.