The London Promoters’ Society weekly blog is back and this week we welcome to the table a real character, ferocious energy and an incredibly hard-working promoter. Max Golfar has attended many of our lockdown discussions and so it’s a pleasure to now interviewing him back for all you NTIA readers!
Max, introduce yourself in 5 words. Hi, my name is Max (Wasn’t sure what else to say in 5 words haha). Tell us about Hootanannys Brixton – what is it, what does it stand for? Hootananny is a music venue and community hub based in Brixton with a proper festival vibe. Hoots is a bastion for live music in London and the UK, it’s been an important cultural spot for the past 12 years supporting many bands, DJs and artists of all kinds. The venue has a real passion for underground sounds, putting on music and artists that don’t always get the opportunity to be heard on many other stages. Hoots has everything from Reggae to Funk, Soul, Latin, Gypsy, Swing, Drum’n’Bass, Jungle, Afrobeat, Global Beats, Hip Hop, Jazz & so much more! Hoots prides itself on being a venue which is ‘off mainstream’. Hoots stands for musical diversity and societal equality of all kinds.
How did your relationship with promoting and events begin?
I guess to answer how my relationship with promoting began, I probably have to talk about how I got into music and events in the first place! My first sort of really memorable experience of being properly exposed to the underground world of music was by going to Glastonbury for the first time where I was working on a paella stall at 17 years old.
I think seeing the festival gave me a proper taste for community and music in a way I hadn’t experienced before. It was so captivating to me. That was what made me catch the festival bug, and I started going to more and more festivals every year.
From there, one of my early clubbing experiences was at one of Continental Drifts / Chris Tofu’s nights. I started going to White Mink Black Cotton which was one of their really popular Electro Swing & Vintage Remix parties. Shortly after I started going to Electro Swing Club and I began getting really hooked by that scene. Simultaneously I was also really getting into Drum’n’Bass at the same time, listening to a silly amount of it every day! I think through going to these festivals and events, I was starting to see what I call real life ‘magic’. It was experiencing a real sense of community and togetherness with other people that I found truly inspiring. Music was the catalyst that was bringing people together in these instances.
I felt like I wanted to have a go at recreating some of this magic that I had experienced, which I think is what led me to putting on my own nights. I then started off doing events at Rough Trade in Nottingham when I was university, and I was just persistent with it and thankfully it’s paid off well enough that I get to do it as my full time job now!
What’s kept you engaged since?
I’m convinced the events, parties and music just get better and better every year so I’ve just become even more engaged than when I first started. So often you see people longing for days gone by, but I’m such an optimist for the future. Music just keeps getting more exciting to me and there’s always more to discover! I’ve got more involved with the music and events community around me that it now feels deeply a big part of me.
What have you learned from the Covid-19 lockdown and how did it impact your promotions/outlook?
The main thing I have learnt from everything that has happened this year is to take time to appreciate the simpler things. It has certainly made me realise how much we take for granted. We don’t realise how much we have until we no longer have it…
We all had the opportunity to go to watch gigs 7 nights a week if we really wanted to, yet now we would be lucky to have any gigs this year at all. It’s truly crazy how quickly things can change! Whilst it hasn’t always been the easiest thing to deal with, I think it has been a great opportunity to get creative and think outside of the box.
Even though it isn’t the same, I’ve really got into doing streams and filming artists for Hootananny and it has given me time to focus on my own creative pursuits outside of work which I didn’t always have time for.
Lockdown has actually really opened up opportunities for me to make connections and relationships which may not have presented themselves before.Although we are being forced apart by COVID, weirdly I think it has brought our community together in a way that has never been seen before.
How do you feel about the way the industry has reacted?
My feelings about how the industry has reacted are overall positive. I’ve been amazed by the togetherness of the music & events world, rallying for support all as one. It’s quite astonishing really.
I do worry that at times some of the rallying has been in a bit of a bubble of events & music industry people and perhaps sometimes doesn’t really get far out of that bubble. There has clearly been a lot of anger and frustration from people, a lot of it warranted and completely understandable, but I do think there has also been some unwarranted anger too though with unrealistic expectations of support.
An interesting perspective I heard from some friends of mine who respectively come from Israel & Romania, was that they said they were amazed by the support of the government here as there are other countries which don’t have the support that we do. Whilst yes there is always more our government could be doing, at the same time, we could also not have had any support at all.
I think this period has shown how there definitely is an appreciation for the arts in the UK. Don’t get me wrong, I think there is certainly more support that could be given to preserve club culture generally, not just with COVID relief, but with long term preservation of the arts and the institutions & venues that support those arts.
Have the NTIA/LPS groups and conversations been useful for you?
I think the group chats have been helpful for providing venues and promoters with useful information and advice for sure.
Without a doubt, it is a stellar example of our community coming together. Perhaps the only critical thing I could say is that I feel in those group chats & conversations I have sometimes seen frustrations going in a bit of a circle and staying in the events bubble that I mentioned earlier.
Tell us about Swing and Bass. What makes it special?
Swing & Bass was the first night I started running and it is still to this day my most successful event! It is a party which is all about taking the sounds of the 1920s to 70s and remixing them with a modern mashup twist.
It’s now developed into a really nice community party and we’ve even branched out into becoming an independent label showcasing our unique style of music.
To me what makes it special is that we really put a big focus on community and it is about not having to be the ‘cool’ party. It is about being silly, being able to wear some ridiculous festival outfit and not feel judged for it. You can listen to fun but also at times harder bassy music without having to be in a hard serious environment which often a lot of bass music parties feel like.
Simultaneously, I think even if you aren’t a big music head, you can still come and really enjoy yourself just because of the atmosphere and vibe. Because the music samples sounds from the past, it helps transcend generations and the music attracts people across a really wide age range, and in my opinion, that makes for a more well rounded party. There really are not many other places in the world where you’ll be able to hear the kind of music that we play. I really pride it on having really unique and different music that you certainly won’t hear anywhere else in London. You can check us out at www.facebook.com/swingbassevents and swingbass.bandcamp.com
What do you look for in a good venue and how do they often differ/complement your perspective?
To me, the most important thing is the atmosphere of a place. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got the best soundsystem or the best promotions team or the slickest looking venue, if the atmosphere isn’t right, none of that matters.
It’s hard for me to describe in words what exactly makes that atmosphere totally right, but I think with time and experience you begin to be able to feel whether a place is right for you or not.
I think it’s also important for me to say that atmosphere is a totally subjective thing, and what I may want out of a vibe may be different to the next person. It’s not for me to say what is or isn’t the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ vibe. We all have different taste and that’s cool. Of course if you can get a place with a great atmosphere plus all the bells and whistles on top, then you’ve found yourself a winner!
What advice do you have for new promoters?
My advice would be not to worry about money when you start off. Just do it for the fun of it and accept what you spend as part of your investment.
I’ve seen new promoters worry about not making a profit when they start, but that honestly doesn’t matter. You’re building your community and brand when you start. That doesn’t come without time and financial investment.
I think I probably lost money solidly for well over a year when I started, but I still considered it a success as money was never the measure of success to me. Even when I started making money, it was such a measly amount in the grand scheme of things that the money was better spent going straight back into the event.
Start small and work up, don’t rush into doing the biggest venue you can think of. Sometimes the best parties are the smaller ones. I have some incredibly fond memories of those smaller venue gigs.
The other piece of advice I’d give is to try and do something that means something to you. Don’t follow the same formula other people do just because you’ve seen it work for them. Try to do it your own way and with your own vibe. You don’t need to always follow what is ‘cool’. Do what makes you happy. If you are enjoying yourself and if you truly love what you are doing, that will show and will make a difference to the people coming to your event.
Who inspires you?
Chris Tofu has been an inspiration since I first got into events. He is a prime example of someone who in my eyes lives the dream. He does what he loves but also has a sustainable business and a loving family. You can’t do much better than that in my opinion! Find out more about Chris and what he does here: continentaldrifts.co.uk Richard Hale AKA Mista Trick is also an inspiration to me. He is another person who really lives by what he believes. He focuses on what he loves and he cares about the people around him. He’s a great music producer who has thrown himself into his music and he has a lovely soon to be wife and a beautiful home in Bristol. To me that is prime winning at this game we call life! Focus on who and what you love and life will reward you. You can check him out here: soundcloud.com/mistatrick
Dan Smith AKA Dan de’Lion who is my partner in Swing & Bass. He has been an inspiration for a long time. I first started going to his charity party Purple which he ran with his girlfriend Alyce and a bunch of other wonderful people. They really encapsulated the friendly community vibe and were one of the first London based club nights I went to where I really felt like it wasn’t your ordinary party. To this day, those parties still inspire me. Dan has taught me a lot about being in events and I’ve taken a lot from his own values which have inspired me and are a core part of my own working philosophy now. Here’s some of Dan’s work you should check out: soundcloud.com/dande_lion/ray-charles-hallelujah-i-love-her-so-dan-de-lion-mista-trick-remix
I’d probably also have to say Kaptin of Boomtown AKA AAA Badboy. I’m in awe of his musical knowledge and his capacity to programme across such a variety of genres and cultures. In our industry, I think there are not many people who quite have knowledge like him and it’s something I aspire to achieve myself one day. Boomtown has solidified itself as a cultural staple that has raised the bar for the entire events industry. I think Kaptin has played a big role in that.
What do you feel you need more of moving forward?
Moving forward I want to see more women getting into being a promoter. I don’t know enough and I would love to see more! It’s definitely a male-dominated job, and I’d like to see that change.
If you could collaborate with one promoter, who would it be?
If I could collaborate with anyone, it would be the people at Boomtown or Shambala festival. I’d love to run a stage or work on an event with their key people. Every year I am in awe of what they do.