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Nick Turner from The Chameleon on Running an Independent Music Venue

21 January 12 interview: Paul Klotschkow
photos: Carla Mundy

"The Chameleon is a launch pad for bands. Most of them aren’t going to make it... but they’ve got their mates to come down"

How did you end up running The Chameleon?
I first came here in 2007, but I’ve known the place since 1995, when when it used to
be Raffles. When we started, it was a café and we only put fourteen gigs on in the first
year. Cafés don’t make any money any more, so we’re just a gig venue now. We put on about 160 per year.

You’re very supportive of the Notts DIY music scene.
We specialise in indie/ underground stuff; anything from noise music to hardcore to pop to indie rock to jazz to folk. We try to cover a wide spectrum, but because we are running a business, there are certain things that we can’t put on. Stuff like Straight Edge; they don’t spend any money on alcohol, and they don’t drink enough pop to keep the place going, so we have to try and avoid them. Nothing against them – but you’ve got to make money to survive.

So what are you trying to do here?
This is a launch pad for bands. Most of them aren’t going to make it, and most of them aren’t even going to bother to try. Some of them are good, some of them are terrible, but they’ve got their mates to come down. Some of them do it for a laugh, others have big ideas. Everyone has got to start somewhere and everyone started in the small places.

Do you have any favourite Notts bands?
You’re putting me in to a corner here, aren’t you? Fists are a good band. The Cult of Dom Keller – OK, they get a bit drunk, but when they are sober they’re alright. Human Hair, who’ve just played. 

Is it tough to run a small independent venue like this in the city?
If you want to support your small independent venues you’ve got to get out and watch live music. We are forever getting hit by extra costs, and the Council just don’t want to help. We’re not attached to a brewery or a big company; we’re doing this on our own. What people need to understand is that if they don’t keep the small venues alive, bands will just end up playing their instruments in their own backyard.

The venues that have failed - what did they do wrong?
I don’t think that they did anything wrong, apart from the fact that the customers just didn’t bother going. Town is a funny place nowadays; every year you’re going to get a different crowd in because of the students. In their first year they’re messing about, going to lots of different places, whilst we are more of a cultured type thing. Eventually, some will come here because a band is on, then say that they like this place, because it’s a bit out of the way and they didn’t know about it – even though it’s opposite the Square. And that’s what we’re trying to be; a bit undercover, where all people are welcome as long as they relax and get into the music.

The Chameleon, 17 Angel Row, NG1 6HL

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