Nick Strang speaks with Stewart Cuthew, responsible for running Notts’ branch of events that swap the acoustic guitars for synths and buttons. If you’ve been exploring the art of production in lockdown, you might wanna show yer new skills at its next night when things are up ‘n’ running again. For now, have a read and learn about the unique creative community...
Whilst most of us are dossing round on a Thursday night watching telleh’, the city’s weird and wonderful can often be found gathering their tools, from Stylophones to samplers, and descending upon The Chameleon for a night known as EMOM - an intriguing take on the open mic night format, trading acoustic guitars for electronic sounds.
As we sit down with Stewart Cuthew, graphic designer and co-founder of Nottingham Electronic Music Open Mic night [EMOM], it’s no surprise that the idea was born out of necessity, encouraged by its rapid growth and expansion to other cities.
He told us, “It started with a one-off at Rough Trade where Martin Christie [original founder of the concept] put on an event billed as an ‘Electronic Music Open Mic’. I immediately noticed a space my music would fit in and I wanted to get involved in keeping the concept going. As it turned out, he’d been running nights like this up and down the country and wherever people have experienced it they’ve said, look can we carry this on?’’
A YouTube playlist featuring clips from artists who have performed at the EMOM events.
A casual affair, with sign-ups usually only on the evening, the events support consistent new talent, alongside a dedicated unit of regulars who showcase their latest musical sketches to people who gradually get to recognise their faces.
“Even from the off, we’ve always seemed to have a decent crowd,” Stewart continues. “You can have everything from ambient to drum and bass to gabba or whatever, and there just tends to be a real mix. That’s kind of the beauty of it, there doesn’t seem to be specific styles emerging in each city.”
Similarly, the slots cater to everyone from bedroom knob twiddlers, button pushers and laptop performers to full-on electronic four-piece bands.
It’s no surprise then, that the EMOM concept is now going strong wherever it pops up, sprouting regular nights in places like London, Bristol, Nottingham and Leeds as well as internationally in Berlin.
Still, in Nottingham the biggest ongoing challenge is ensuring the message reaches all corners of this dispersed music community.
“We seem to draw a lot of older folks, which is great and they’re not the sort of people that expect to be touring the world,” Stewart adds. “But also, with places like Confetti it feels like there’s a big audience of young people we haven’t tapped into. I can’t help but think that there’s a lot more out there that would be into this kind of music if they knew about it.”
Stewart also explains how finding the appropriate venue for the events is key to providing a relaxed atmosphere with an audience who knows what to expect. “Playing in a pub isn’t the right place, you’re gonna get a lot of people who just flat out aren’t interested. EMOM tends to be a bit more of a closed off space dedicated to that night. I really like the Chameleon and I really like John and Lauren [Chameleon owners] as well. It’s a nice vibe in there and I can’t think of anywhere else that’s as well suited.”
In addition to offering an invitation from the bedroom to the stage, EMOM supports progression for artists, hosting showcase events across the country, as well as regular takeovers at the legendary Hockley Hustle festival.
The brand has also collaborated with Manchester label, You Might Not Like This, whose motto, ‘NO GENRE LEFT BEHIND’ seems fitting to co-release 3 volumes of CD compilations from EMOM artists.
“There’s a lot of scope, it’s just finding the time to make it all happen. You have these ideas that would be nice but you can’t justify throwing the money at,” Stewart continues. “We’ve talked about having events where artists can meet up and geek out on gear, YouTube channels with how-tos…having funding would mean we can try out some of these ideas and find out what works.”
With local music organisations like Wigflex and City Beat Radio recently gaining arts funding, it seems hopeful that EMOM will continue to build its expansion and sustainability into the future.
Founder, Martin Christie concludes, “The old saying goes ‘if you build it they will come’ and lots of weird and wonderful music makers appeared for these nights that previously had nowhere else to play. I’ve had home-made electronic devices, live coding, phone apps, modular synths, techno… the list is endless. Most of all we’ve built a friendly and supportive community of electronic musicmakers.”
EMOM Nottingham would like to invite people of any level or background in electronic music to play at the events or come down to experience it for themselves. No event is yet scheduled, but you can learn more about EMOM and find out about its next event on its website.