An interview with Hamish Cole

Many will have heard of the phrase ‘Butter Side Up’, but for those living in Leeds it is indicative of something far more exciting than a piece of toast. Hamish Cole has helped to create one of the most original monthly nights out in Leeds – committed to producing a house party vibe complemented with music that will leave you feeling enriched, it has been an undeniable success. After starting out playing with friends and aspiring local DJs, four years of hard-work and creative ingenuity has led to BSU attracting the eyes of legendary DJs from across the globe, featuring the likes of Theo Parrish, Soulphiction, Floating Points and Jazzanova. Hamish Cole describes the success as a ‘dream come true’.

It would appear that Hamish Cole is something of an entrepreneur in this business. In his home town of Norwich he started his career at the age of 16 when he organised his first club night- only this was dedicated to hip-hop, a genre which is still a big influence for him and has followed him into the ‘HiFi’ club, where he holds down a residency twice a month incorporating sounds inspired by funk, soul, hip-hop, dub and disco.

But it is not just Butter Side Up you can credit Hamish for. In fact, as the Club Booker & Promotions Manager at ‘Wire’, he is essentially the man behind every great booking at the various dynamic nights held at the intimate club. All of this for Hamish is driven by passion, and that was clear when we caught up with him to find out more:

Hi Hamish, thanks for talking to Flux. Do you just want to start off by telling me about your musical routes and how you’ve got to where you are?

Well I started DJing when I was 15 and started off collecting hip-hop records. My brothers were a huge influence on me. I’ve been exposed to good quality music from a really young age, with my brothers constantly blasting out / making music around the house. My love for electronic music mainly started from when I moved to Leeds when I was 18. I started working for Louche from the early days, selling tickets and promoting and eventually went on to getting more involved with them and playing at the pre-parties at Distrikt. This is actually how I met my butter brother Bailey and created the connection with him to start a night of our own. We started our first Butter Side Up night at Hukaz in Hyde Park, which was about 4 years ago now, and then eventually moved to Wire in June 2011 and we’ve been there since. And that was that!

So would you say coming to Leeds has changed your outlook on music? Has being in Leeds deepened your interest in electronic music, or did you always want to pursue this path?

Yeah definitely coming to Leeds and going to nights like ‘Back to Basics’, ‘Louche’ & ‘mono_cult’, got me into house, techno & disco. As soon as I went to the nights, I knew it was something I wanted to be involved in…

So, your selections predominately consist of house, techno & disco, but I’ve noticed plenty more influences in your mixes, including the one for Bixon. What inspires you musically and what artists have really influenced you?

Well I’m into all sorts of music outside of house & techno. I try and buy everything, I collect funk/soul records, hip hop records, dub / reggae records, as well as electronic music – I’m into everything!

When I’m doing podcasts I like to show a bit of my musical inspiration, so I’m glad you noticed that in the Bixon mix. Also recently I’ve started a new residency at The HiFi Club playing Sundays and Fridays and that’s really helped push me to collect a variety of different records.

You played at the Chalet Club for Louche in Berlin, that must have been such an incredible experience. How was it?

It was amazing yeah, Chalet is a great club, I would highly recommend it to anyone who is going to Berlin anytime soon…Really, really sweet vibe! Definitely one of the most enjoyable sets I’ve had the pleasure of playing. Thanks to the Louche lads for getting me involved!

Did you get a long set?

I played B2B with my good friend Bruno from Louche for five hours. It was pretty special actually thinking back to it. We were playing in the middle floor of Chalet, it was a nice intimate room, had a really great sound system and the crowd were going off until the early hours! We were certainly a bit wobbly after we finished playing (Laughs)

So with the idea for ‘Butter Side Up’, as the co-founder what can you tell me about the BSU branding of the cow and the butter and the toast. Where did you get the brand idea from?

We needed to come up with a name for the party pretty quickly, so we had to get our thinking caps on… Bailey takes the credit for coming up the name ‘Butter Side Up’, I can’t remember where it came from, but to be honest I wasn’t particularly into it at first, but as time went on it started to grow on me! Now I am really happy with the name as it kicked off all of our branding ideas and direction that we still use today…

The name is fun and it reflects on the whole ethos of BSU. We’re very serious about music, but in terms of the atmosphere, we always aim to create a non-serious, fun house party vibe in the club.

The cows, butter and toast came from the name and the logo followed on from that. We started off buying a cow print banner to put behind the decks and it has became our trademark for every singe event…It has seen many of our favourite artists play in front of that old piece of cow print material that we got from Leeds market! We also have a cow mascot, toast/cow related visuals on old TV screens and little added surprises that we add to the club each event to create a unique vibe inside Wire.

Haha! So when it comes to ‘Butter Side Up TV’, who does all of that stuff?

I was a Multimedia Producer at my previous job and I did BSU TV with my pal Tom Williamson who I met from working there. Tom did the filming and I did the editing, but now I don’t have enough time to do them unfortunately, so Tom continues to come down and film at every event without fail! He’s a key member of the BSU family. Where we can, we try and get interviews with the artists and showcase the vibe of our events in 1 or 2 minute long episodes!

It’s really original, I love it. You’ve featured quite an impressive array of artists over the years – for the 3rd birthday you had Theo Parrish play – so how proud are you seeing how much it’s grown? Did you ever expect it would get this big?

No never! When we first started it was just a way for us to be able to play music with our friends in a bar. We never planned on making any bookings; it was just about putting on a party with friends. Now fast-forward 3 years it’s a complete dream come true to have had many top name DJ’s down to play for us. Highlight being when Theo played at our 3rd Birthday in October; he ended up playing for 7/half hours! In his own words “I wanna keep playing until my train leaves tomorrow”.

Throughout time we’ve built things up slowly, starting off with booking upcoming artists, local talent and just whoever we liked! It’s only been the past year that we have stepped up our game and started making bigger bookings. We wanted to create our vibe and gather our core crowd first. We’ve never booked anyone to follow trends or just because they pull in the big crowds, we’ve always booked who we like and hoped that other people will too. It has been hard at times, but now I am very happy with where we are at with everything.

And how is it playing alongside these artists, do you ever get intimidated? And who has been the most memorable to meet as a person, as well as to support behind the decks?

Warm ups can be a bit intimidating especially when it’s a complete don like Theo Parrish, but you get used to it and over the years I have become pretty confident with warm-ups. Another great person that I was lucky enough to meet was Sam Shepherd (Floating Points), he’s another massive inspiration for us, such an interesting guy and an amazing talent.

So how did you gain the position at Wire Club as the promotions manager/ in-house booker. Was that the result of your residency with Butter Side Up?

Yes, after running BSU down at Wire for a couple of years, I created a good working relationship with John & Steve, the Directors and Kyle the venue manager. I was very keen to get more involved with the company and I ended up doing some work experience for Wire/HiFi. Whilst doing this, the previous promotions manager left, so the position opened for me and when offered the job, I happily accepted! It’s a great team and the job has offered me so many great opportunities.

So what’s your role, give us a day in the life…

Well my role is the promotions manager of Wire, but I also do bit’s and pieces for Wire’s sister venue The HiFi Club as well. This has been good as I have had the opportunity to help out with booking live acts and bands rather than just DJ’s. Then I take care of all the bookings for Wire, the promotion for all of the events, social media and generally ensuring all the events run smoothly. It’s exciting at the moment, as I have booked lots of exciting guests at the club for this year. Fridays at Wire this year are going be great week in week out. Can’t wait to get them all announced! Also, one of my main jobs is to ensure we are working with the right external promoters putting on events at the club. Internally we run 2 mid week student nights Fuzzy Logic & SU at Wire…. They require a lot of work to keep them exciting for the students each week, especially with all the competition in Leeds at the moment.

And what factors inform who you decide to book, or what artists you take on. How do you go about choosing artists?

At Wire, we pride ourselves on being different. We try to book a diverse range of artists at the club to keep things fresh. It’s important to keep up to date with up and coming artists breaking through as well as the huge internationals. Obviously you have to think of artists that are going to bring the numbers into the club, or I wouldn’t be doing my job properly. But we still try to avoid booking the obvious names and go for quality/obscure bookings that appeal to the music heads of Leeds. I think one of the key selling points of Wire is being able to see top DJ’s play in such an intimate space.

Would you say it’s a challenging role?

I love it but it can get stressful at times. Before every booking/event that I book in, there is always that concern of it not being successful. There are so many big events going on every weekend in Leeds and you never know what you’re going to be going up against. Also it can be frustrating because everyone is after the same artists, and fees are getting higher and higher all the time. You book someone, and then a couple of months later their fee has gone up by a thousand pounds or so. Or they release a big single and their fee goes through the roof! It’s a great feeling when you finally secure a booking that you have been working on for a long time!

Looking forward, do you have any big plans for the future of the Wire? Wire was recently nominated for the Best Small Club at the DJ Mag awards so do you think you just want to keep following this successful formula or do you have bigger plans for the future?

We are extremely excited for 2014. We started the year off with a nice new refurb of the club. Don’t fear…it’s nothing too drastic, we have still kept the same underground feel of the club, just got a few bits touched up to make the club even better. There are still a couple of bits to finish, but overall we are very happy with the finished result!

Kyle and I have recently started a new bi-monthly brand at Wire called ‘One Night With.’ which kicks off this Friday with one of our favourite DJ’s, Roman Flugel. It’s all focused on one DJ/label/brand taking over Wire and playing all night, from the first record to the very last! Gives people the rare opportunity to watch their favourite DJ’s play in an intimate space for an extended period of time. Giving DJ’s more room to dig to the back of their record bags! We have some pretty special guests booked in for the next couple… keep your eyes peeled!

That does sound exciting. For you personally, what plans do you have for your future as a DJ, do you want to stay in Leeds or branch out?

Well for now I’m really happy, I’ve only been in my job for 8 months or so and I am really enjoying it. Butter Side Up will continue monthly at Wire. – We have some very exciting line ups that we can’t wait to get out in the open.

We would love to start branching out and doing parties in different cities…London is the next step, just got to find the right venue for us…

Outside of work, myself, Kristan Caryl (Music Journalist for RA, Fact Mag, Teshno), Arthur Barr (Fullbarr Labe Boss) & Mike Stockell (Fullbarr digital manager and promoter) are starting up a brand new Leeds based radio station. It’s called KMAH Radio and we aim to be the Rinse FM/NTS Radio of the North of England. We have some very exciting people involved and the initial reaction to the public has been very well received. That’s all I’m going to say for now, but you will be seeing more info very soon. It’s a very exciting project to be getting stuck into!

For now I’m happy where I am, I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing and see what happens!

Thanks for speaking to us Hamish.