With No Right to be here at Factory just round the corner it was time for Quenched Unsigned took some time out with Salford City DJ and Godfather of Helmets for Men Tony Thornborough who is also guest Djing at Factory for No Right to be Here night.
Thanks for joining us today Tony and we’re really looking forward to of the songs you play on City Salford, when did you first get into the radio side of things?
I was actually out walking my dog on 6th August 2008 when I noticed the CND were having a remembrance meeting for the people who lost their lives during the Hiroshima bombing. Someone noticed I had my video camera with me and asked me to film it, which I did.
After the meeting I was approached by Councilor Jim King who also happens to be the Chairman of Salford City Radio. He asked me if I had ever thought about having a radio show. I actually said jokingly “Yeah every time I turn it on and hear Chris Moyles I think I could do better than that”. So Jim took me to the studio and showed me around. I was really impressed with the set up they have, so I picked up an application form and filled it in. About a month later I was given some much needed training and I was then given my own show.
That sounds great so do you yourself do any other sort of media and how did that link into your passion for music?
I have been making little films and putting them on you tube for a few years now and I also worked for Salfordonline.com as one of their reporters for about a year. I must have made over 80 videos for them before I decided I was wasting my time. I then went on a film course at Creative Industries in Salford and became involved with the People’s Voice Media who I occasionally still do bits of work for. While I was on the film course we made a short film which we wrote and acted in ourselves. It has been shown at the Salford Film Festival a couple of times now and I’m quite proud of that. I have also made a few video’s for local bands and hope to continue doing that. I think it’s important to capture the musicians performing live because it help promote them. It’s also nice to have them in the archives for the future generations to see how it was in this present time.
What do you think about the Salford music scene and does it compare to others around the UK?
Salford has produced some quality bands over years but they often get credited as being from Manchester. I have noticed recently more bands are now saying they are from Salford though. I don’t know why this is but I think it’s great that they do. You wouldn’t call a Geordie a Maccam now would you? Geographically Salford is a bunch of little towns spread over a huge area and we don’t have a town centre either. This means it doesn’t have a focal point were bands all hang out and get to know each other. There is also a serious lack of venues in Salford for bands to play and check each other out. However this has started to change now we have Islington Mill, The Crescent, and the Town Hall in Eccles. Until a few years back we had the Kings Arms and that was about it, so things are starting to look up.
The bands are now starting to support each other more now also, which I feel is really important.
Also Salford doesn’t have a specific sound either which I think is how it should be. We have a very eclectic mix of acts and no two seem to sound alike. I like that it’s healthy.
Helmets for Men started in October 2009, mostly out of frustration on my part. I was getting to meet a lot of bands through doing the radio and I was hearing a lot of sad stories about bands getting ripped off and never getting paid. Anyway I was talking to a my wife Tricia and our good friends Julie and Paul Burbery one afternoon and I said wouldn’t it be great if we could do something to make things a little better.
They agreed and so I set about looking for a place that would be suitable. Then while I was doing my film course at Islington Mill I had my Eureka moment. Initially I thought The Mill may be a little too big for us but when the other three saw it they all thought it was perfect. We booked a date and some bands, got some fliers printed up and we managed to pull in over 100 people to the first one. We also managed to pay all the bands pretty well, so it was a good result really.
As for the name, well we knew we had to have something that people didn’t forget. We came up with all sorts of stupid names until we remembered a 1960′s knitting pattern my friend had framed on his wall. It was for balaclava’s and the artwork was really cool but at the same time hilarious. So that was it, we had a name and an idea for the artwork for the fliers in one go.
Recently you have been playing a lot more Unsigned tracks on your show, which is a great boost for a lot of musicians out there how did this come about as it goes against the norm?
The way I see it is everyone plays the big signed bands. I still do when I feel the need to but they don’t really need the airplay like
the lesser known bands. Lady Ga Ga is doing fine and I doubt she needs me to help her out. I feel I’m in a privileged position and I also feel it’s my duty help the bands in my locality. Salford City Radio is a community station so I think we need to serve that community by featuring as many local musicians as we can. Plus we do have the quality, I won’t play it if I don’t really like it. If it’s really badly recorded or just plain awful it won’t get played. I initially only featured bands in the North West but now I will play stuff from all over the place. The bands also appreciate it and that makes me happy.
Although this year has just got started are there any musicians out there you think could break through in a big way his year?
Suzuki Method have the tools to do it, they have worked really hard and with a little luck could break through anytime. The Black Knights made a very impressive album last year and for me they could be up there with the big guns very soon. The Janice Graham Band are one to watch out for also. They need to get some material out and get on the road, they are good to go and are stunning live. I think a lot of it has got to do with being in the right place at the right time also. Plus a good manager who actually cares is a bonus.
Another Salford band to watch out for in the future are The Souls. They need to do some work yet but they are only young and I’m certainly keeping my eye on them.
Have you got any horror stories about filming a gig and what has been the best gig you have filmed?
Oh yes! I ended up in a punch up once because some bloke said I was in his way. I try my best to be polite but this guy wasn’t having it and he started throwing punches. Another time I forgot to press the record button and only noticed after the band had finished.
As for best gig, well, I would have to say Kin at FAC251 last year. The lighting and sound just happened to be really good and that’s always handy.
Now that you are starting to promote gigs every few months for Helmets for Men do you ever find yourself losing passion for music now you are more on the organisation side of it?
If I ever lose the passion I will give up, it can be stressful at times but it’s all worth while in the end. So many people have said nice things about our gigs that I get a real buzz from it. I’m not all that fond of sound checks though, that’s the boring part that I would like to be able to avoid.
As a Dj who covers such a wide range of genres do you try and mix it up as much as possible or play the tracks the masses will want to hear, it must be hard weighing it up ?
I only ever DJ at gigs and I find most folk are not really up for dancing in between bands sets. Most folk just want to chat or get as much booze in them as the possibly can before the next band comes on. After the bands have finished they might be game for having a bit of a jump about though. So tend to try create a mood rather than play dance tunes until the bands have finished. Then I will put on something that will get them going a bit.
Finally cheers for your time Tony really looking forward to your set at Factory for Quenched, just one last question what is next for Helmets for Men this year?
This year Helmets for Men have a few dates lined up for Islington Mill that I’m still planning. We have also been asked to put a stage on for Sounds from the Other City on 1st May at The Crescent Pub. That will have seven bands on the bill and I’m really happy with the line up. This is not going to be a gig for the faint at heart. It’s going to be bouncing all day I have no doubt