AS THE 30TH ANNIVERSARY OF LONDON'S LEGENDARY MOUSETRAP APPROACHES WE INTERVIEW NEW UNTOUCHABLES HEAD HONCHO ROB BAILEY
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There are people that have helped shape the scene and turn it into what it is today, Rob Bailey is one of those, from the numerous club nights the New Untouchables host over the globe to the massive weekenders, Brighton, Margate, London and international get togethers. Rob and his team have been part of the fabric of mod for over 30 years! With the 30th anniversary of the legendary London club night The Mousetrap happening in February and March 2022 Suit Yourself caught up with the man himself to talk with him about his illustrious career as DJ, promoter, record label boss and modernist Icon.
Hi Rob, can you tell us a little about yourself and your early influences of the mod scene.
"I started like many kids my age when I was 11 or 12 at school, a couple of people in the 6th form had scooters and rode them to school and looked really cool. One of them Miss Potts, she was our Home Economics teacher which quite a few of us signed up to her classes unsurprisingly. Our school teacher I forget his name used to play ‘Green Onions’ and ‘Fortune Teller’ plus the music of the moment like The Jam and the Two-Tone stuff at the Christmas discos. Local heroes The Prisoners were also a massive influence on me as well. We had a good strong scene with plenty of live gigs and clubs in the Medway delta."
What turned you on to the DJ culture of the scene?
"We had our local Mod scooter club called the Cool Running SC, this was where both me and Lee Miller cut our teeth Djing at the Ditton community centre. The decks were two home stereos wired together and I was playing my parents 60’s pop records and the odd Motown and Ray Charles single alongside the Mod revival sounds and local bands. Everything changed when I discovered the Kent albums from Harbaro Horace aka Ady Croasdell and from then I got the bug for collecting the original 45’s."
Who gave you your first break and how did it feel?
"I started going to nearby London clubs nights like Sneakers and The Bizz and that’s where I met Tony (Class). I started doing the warm up DJ slots at The Bizz and CCI rallies in 1988. Tony was unique character and a massive influence on the Mod scene and many young DJ’s in the eighties."
Do you have any favourite musical styles and has your style of DJ’ing changed over the years?
"I do genuinely love lots of different styles from the golden era and some current bands that are influenced by the era. For me it’s about the raw production, environment and techniques those records were recorded under that somehow they managed to create that excitement in a recording. Of course, my DJ style has changed over thirty + years, the more you listen the more you discover and sounds I wasn’t keen on as a teenager I now enjoy. I’m one of rare breed these days that can and play most genres from the era."
Who came first Rob Bailey the DJ or promoter?
"The DJ first. I wanted to play an instrument and join a band but was rubbish so I thought I better do the next best thing and play the end product."
You made a massive impact on the scene in the 80’s playing at all the rallies, can you tell us what that was like.
"I was seventeen years old, nervous and excited. I mean there was Ian Jackson, Dom, Tony Class, Paul Hallam and Tony Shockman who were much older and well-established, great DJ’s. I used crash at Tony’s Shockman’s flat in Brixton at weekends and share a room with Ian on the rallies. It was like a young trainee being told you are playing in the first team Saturday lad."
You have also been and are still now one of London’s biggest promoters and DJ’s, how have you seen this change over the years?
"After serving my DJ apprentice I got bigger and better gigs and then started travelling abroad and eventually ended up DJing after the Rolling Stones at Glastonbury in 2013!
I’ve always been ambitious with a strong work ethic and I built a good team of people around me. At the start with good friends Paul Owers and Jason Ringgold to the current team who help on the bigger productions. I’d also like to mention the long serving DJ team of Pid, Lee Miller, Chris Dale and Speed who created the NU soundtrack together with me. I’d just like to say huge thanks to everyone who has helped down the years."
"How has it changed well I guess the projects have got more ambitious and I have been fortunate to work with artists whose records I have loved for years and never dreamed of meeting.
Over the last twenty plus years The New Untouchables have promoted artists including STAX feat Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn and Eddie Floyd, The Action, Martha Reeves, The Velvelettes, Brenda Holloway. The Sonics, PP Arnold, Yardbirds, The Pretty Things, The Creation, Maxine Brown, Dean Parrish, Betty Harris, The Flirtations, The Prisoners, Herbie Goins & the Nightimers, Brian Auger, Zoot Money, Kenny Jones, The Poets, Don Fardon, Buzzcocks, Undertones and The Chocolate Watchband.
Probably my favorite was the first ever show outside of the USA by the Sonics in 2008 at Le Beat Bespoke 4, it was certainly the biggest show to date. The Stax guys have been part of my musical journey from the beginning so to promote a show with Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn and Eddie Floyd was a wonderful moment not to mention meeting Bill Murray in the process.
The Action reformation was my first really big show back in 1998 and as my favorite ever band it was a real honor to manage the project from start to finish and have half a dozen fantastic shows with them."
"Finally I must mention Arthur Brown who I have done several shows with but the performance at Le Beat Bespoke 8 was simply amazing and probably the best show I have ever promoted or seen for that matter. I should also mention Arthur is an amazing person who I have loved spending time with over the years. I always left the conversation feeling like he had put a spell on me .
There is a film in the making of Arthur’s life story called “Everything Is Now” which I have no doubt will be a thrilling watch, get involved folks.
I also enjoy working with current bands like The Strypes, Horrors, Nick Waterhouse, Allah Las, King Khan & The Shrines, Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reed, Little Barrie, Big Boss Man, Gizelle Smith, Gizelle (Wild Records), James Hunter, Night Beats In fact there are tons of great acts out there right now."
Where and when did you get your first international DJ break and how has that evolved into the international career you have today?
"The first major DJ gig abroad was Modstock 1994 in Saarbrucken, Germany. I had played clubs night before that in Belgium and Holland. I love travelling and it was great listening to new DJ’s like Michael Wink (Germany) and Philippe Golbert (Belgium) who had their own continental take on Mod. It’s a bit like discovering a wonderful red wine or local dish in a restaurant, it’s an education. Since then I have been a lucky guy travelling all over the World playing records and meeting fun and interesting people on my journey as well as seeing many beautiful places."
What is it about the mod scene that drives you to continue your business ventures?
"I been lucky enough to make a living out of what I love doing. Like any job, it has its frustrating moments but when you are passionate about something it’s always easier to find a solution and put the hours in."
When did the New Untouchables arrive on the scene, how did you find this experience, how has it changed over the years and did you ever think it would become as successful as it is today?
"New Untouchables started in September 1997. Our first event in November at The Dragon in London Bridge with The Downliner Sect, The Aardvarks and Voodoo Boiler live plus two tunnels of great DJ’s. After finding and persuading the full original line-up of The Action (at the second attempt) in 1998 to perform live at IOW and The Dome in London, and then a decade later The Sonics first ever show outside the USA I started to believe I wasn’t too bad at this promoting lark."
To date, you have hosted hundreds of events and club nights, can you tell us a bit more about them, The Mousetrap, Crossfire, Le Beat Bespoke, Brighton, Margate, the London nights and of course the Euro YE YE events.
"How long have you got? HERE is an overview of NU history and the above events you mention."
This one may be a bit difficult but do you have a favourite?
"My favourite club night will always be Mousetrap even after thirty years I still have the best nights ever in Orleans. There is something magical about that place and the amount of great music that has come from the Mousetrap is incredible.
My favourite weekender is still Euro YeYe in Gijon, Spain. It’s summertime, allnighters, great venues, people, Cool live bands/DJ’s, pool party, amazing cuisine, wine, cocktails I could go on and on……."
How did the record label come about? How many releases have you had and what are your plans for it for the future?
"My Hipshakers Cassette tapes in the nineties were the precursor for the record label. First the Mousetrap anniversary singles and then John Reed asked me to compile an album for Sanctuary Records which I named Le Beat Bespoke and New Untouchables Productions were born. We've done 20 plus singles and lots of albums all available from the store here... http://www.newuntouchables.com/nutstore/
And the book, 'I’m one', how did it come together?
"I'm One is an up-to-date narrative of authentic images and is positive proof that the 21st century Mod scene is thriving. I remember the day this strange sounding German guy rang me up after finding a NU newsletter in Carnaby Street. He explained his idea for the project and asked If he could come with me In the magic bus to Scarborough next weekend. Luckily, I said yes and the adventure began.
Award-winning fine art photographer Horst A. Friedrichs spent more than a decade recording the modern day British Mod community travelling all over the UK – attending all-nighters, weekenders and scooter cruises to bring us ‘I’m One: 21st Century Mods’. The stunning compilation of colour and monochrome photographs is explained in texts by popular writer Paolo Hewitt In an interview with DJ Rob Bailey and the Faces pictured inside the book to punctuate the photos with real-life descriptions of what Modernism means to them.
The New Untouchables, provided much of the inspiration for this best-selling book published by Prestel.."
What are your thoughts on the current mod scene and the diversity within it?
"I think it’s very healthy, the scene is now a global phenomenon with events that cater for every aspect of the scene. There are plenty of great new bands, unreleased and unknown or lesser known future sixties club classics played out and compiled. Many excellent new clothing brands for all the whole spectrum of styles and the likes of Caspar still turn up impeccable vintage. After almost sixty years since it mysterious birth there is a wealth of music, fashion and inspiration to draw from so how could you ever get bored?"
Dressing to impress, are there any favourite styles you prefer?
"I love many of the Mod and Sixties styles from the era but have toned down the Carnaby Street and Kings Road dandy look in recent years."
What advise do you have for an aspiring young mod DJ/Promoter?
"Do it your way and don’t dismiss anything cos you might be surprised or embarrassed."
Do you ride a scooter, if so what is it?
"I do ride an SX150 and a GS160 in fine weather and not too far. Brighton will do."
What are your exciting future plans for the New Untouchables?
"The New Untouchables slogan is 21st Century Modernists and sixties underground music.
(NUTs) are an international organisation based in London, that promotes Mod & 60s-culture World-wide through our events, magazine and website newuntouchables.com My aim is the same as ever, to attract new interest to the scene and provide a platform for the converted with fun, ambitious and exciting events that will help keep this wonderful lifestyle and culture moving forward in the twenty first century."
The two 30th anniversary parties are as follows......
SATURDAY 26TH FEBRUARY - MOUSETRAP RHYTHM AND SOUL ALL-NIGHTER WITH FREE 45 SINGLE
BILL KEALY - ALAN HANDSCOMBE - ROB BAILEY - CHARLES WHITEHOUSE - INFO HERE
SATURDAY 5TH MARCH - MOUSETRAP PSYCHEDELIC ALL-NIGHTER WITH FREE 45
DOCTOR ROBERT - GARY MILAN AND SPECIAL GUESTS - INFO HERE
TICKETS FOR BOTH EVENTS CAN BE BOUGHT FROM THE NEW UNTOUCHABLES WEBSITE HERE
Visit the NUTSTORE for Le Beat Bespoke albums, Mousetrap 45’s and a bunch of other goodies.
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