Bass music purveyors The Blast have been a part of the Bristol scene for well over a decade now, from involvement in Bristol’s iconic Blowpop nights in the early days, to now running around 70 shows a year across Bristol and London, including festival stages around the world and their own fully-fledged festival, Sequences, which rang in its second year this August.
We met The Blast’s core three members Tom Hoyle, Rob Cracknell and Kane Anson in their Stokes Croft office to talk about the roots of The Blast and how they came to be one of Bristol’s biggest promoters.
Rob predominantly works on the booking side of things, while Tom takes care of logistics, marketing and promotion; with all-rounder Kane working across both sides. However, they’re quick to explain that The Blast family extends far beyond the three of them, with an extended network of residents and friends supporting them along the way.
We share ideas on everything. There’s the core three of us, but the actual Blast team is a wide variety of people
‘We share ideas on everything,’ says Kane. ‘There’s the core three of us, but the actual Blast team is a wide variety of people.’
Tom explains: ‘We’ve got a very chaotic Facebook group that goes on with all of our residents, where everyone is constantly saying, “why don’t you do this? We should get so and so to do that. Look at this flyer, it’s cool…” So there’s quite a lot of different input from different places.’
You can see winning formulas, but it’s not just about that. It’s about treading new ground as well
‘If you make yourself too insular, you can become repetitive,’ says Rob. ‘You can see winning formulas, but it’s not just about that. It’s about treading new ground as well, like new combinations of acts around each other, or making sure that the support act for a big name is a little bit different.’
Here's a little reminder of how it went down at our sold out The Blast x Butterz x Exit Records event last month.Check out what we've got coming up next: www.fb.com/theblastbristol/events
Posted by The Blast on Tuesday, 14 March 2017
Like most good arrangements, The Blast began as a bit of a party with mates. Tom explains: ‘Me and Rob were both DJing at house parties and stuff, and we both wanted to get more club shows.’
Rob adds: ‘I think we were just struggling to DJ whatsoever, so we thought the logical step was to put our own parties on – and then we could book ourselves.’
‘We had a little group of friends who were all in the same boat, so we put on a night and booked all our friends to play,’ says Tom.
‘The Arc bar, when it was run by Tom Paine from Team Love, was a bit of a hub for us earlier on,’ says Rob. ‘There was a lot of us in that bar, so that was our incubation. Part of what we liked about the scene in Bristol was that everyone did get together and do the collaborative thing – where your best ideas come at seven in the morning after a lock in…
Part of what we liked about the scene in Bristol was that everyone did get together and do the collaborative thing – where your best ideas come at seven in the morning after a lock in
‘From the outside, you always presume that to get into those things is quite aggressive and competitive, but we got into the more social aspect and the community spirit side of things and it went from there.
‘Originally there were three of us – myself, Tom and Ollie – but Ollie emigrated to Australia, so we replaced him with Kane.’
‘I grew up going to The Blast when I was 18/19,’ says Kane. ‘And just through working at Motion, starting out handing out flyers and doing the guest list on the door, I got involved with these guys. I moved away for a bit to London, came back and got involved in a more office-based role. Now I’m a full time, full part of the crew.’
One of the things The Blast are known for – besides a great party – is taking risks with their lineups, showcasing smaller emerging acts on the same bill as some huge names.
‘We’re all constantly listening to new music and I think we’ve got a duty to give people a platform,’ says Tom. ‘With Sequences Festival, for example, people will come and see Chase & Status, but if there are other good people who deserve a good platform, we want to give them that chance.’
One of the things The Blast are known for – besides a great party – is taking risks with their lineups, showcasing smaller emerging acts on the same bill as some huge names
Rob agrees: ‘When you have someone like EZ, you have that option of who is going to play before him – who is going to play to the most rammed room ever. And for us, to book someone like Conducta to play and have him on that platform, playing to that many people and absolutely destroying it, that’s kind of what we want. We got into this industry because we like listening to music, we like talking about music and we want to represent that and share it with people.’
‘I guess it’s the contemporary version of telling your mates,’ says Tom.
‘There’s so many sick people in Bristol doing good things at the moment and it’s great to give them a platform – whether it’s the cave or the main room of Motion,’ says Kane.
‘There are so many new guys coming up that are really, really fucking good and people we’d like to get involved with our nights, like Motu, DJ Stolen, or L U C Y – she’s absolutely incredible.’
There’s so many sick people in Bristol doing good things at the moment and it’s great to give them a platform – whether it’s the cave or the main room of Motion
It’s a reminder of The Blast’s other USP, which is a representation of good music across lots of genres, including drum and bass, dubstep, grime and house – with a common theme of bass.
‘We always made a point of not being pigeon holed with one genre,’ says Tom. ‘When we first started, there was quite a lot of drum and bass, or hip hop nights, and dubstep was becoming a thing, but we always made a point of trying to showcase a bit of everything.’
Currently, The Blast residents include Koast, Jaydrop, Fire Man Sam and K Stylz. But there are also a few other names popping up frequently on their lineups who can be considered part of the Blast crew. We asked what it takes to get booked for a Blast party…
‘Crowd interaction is a really important thing,’ says Tom. ‘You see a lot of people who have obviously gone out and planned a set, they’ve got their heads down and you can see they’ve got an agenda, which is fine, but I think it’s much more important when people are interacting with the crowd and you can see them change it up a bit. Certainly with all of our residents, we’ve seen them do that and that’s why they’re residents.’
Here it is! The Sequences Festival 2016 Recap courtesy of Entirety Labs. Massive thanks again to all of you who joined us and everyone who played or worked behind the scenes to make our first event so memorable. Head to www.sequences.co.uk now and sign up to be the first to hear when our 2017 lineup is announced.
Posted by Sequences Festival on Thursday, 8 September 2016
‘One of the main things for me when I’m booking someone is seeing them live,’ says Rob. ‘I’d never ever book anyone off Soundcloud links, I like to go and watch a DJ operate. Being in front of someone and being captivated by them is a very different thing to a studio mix.’
Being in front of someone and being captivated by them is a very different thing to a studio mix
As well as their own events, The Blast also work with some major brands including Hospitality Bristol, Critical in London and Bristol, RUN and Fabriclive, as well as working with acts like SaSaSaS.
‘Sometimes we’ll book and it’s quite apparent we’ve done it, but other times we’ll work with people and we’ll just do the role from the shadows – without putting our name to it,’ says Rob.
‘It’s been fairly important to us that we’re not too public facing. I don’t think we’ve ever felt the need for public back pattery or anything.’
I don’t think we’ve ever felt the need for public back pattery
With such a huge amount of events to plan and pull off, Rob explains what a typical day might look like for the team:
‘For me, there are two kinds of days,’ says Rob. ‘There’s a stressful day two months before an event and I’ve got to get it all done and get the artwork sorted. That’s when myself and Kane are still messaging each other at three in the morning.
‘Then by the time event comes around, that’s when Tom gets no sleep. When the event comes, I do fuck all. I get to hang around with my heroes and my peers and have a few drinks, and Tom’s normally having some sort of aneurism. ‘
‘On show day it’s my responsibility to make sure the rider is there, make sure everything is set up and everyone’s got the right equipment to play off,’ says Tom. ‘Usually about two or three in the morning is when I get to relax, because I know nothing has gone wrong and from that point onwards it’s probably fine. And on a normal day, we’re usually sat here in the office having conversations about who we can book for another show.’
‘We spend a lot of time in London too,’ says Rob. ‘For the next two days me and Kane will be in London, meeting brands and meeting other agents, checking out some other music, and there’s a few nights to check out as well – majority of the same stuff we do in Bristol.’
‘Bristol’s got a great music scene, but you can get a bit insular, so it’s good to keep it open and see what else is going on in the country,’ says Tom.
Bristol’s got a great music scene, but you can get a bit insular, so it’s good to keep it open and see what else is going on in the country
Despite each bringing their own strengths to the table, The Blast are clear that they work very much as a team, with all three of them (and often their residents and friends) having a say in every important decision.
‘I see no positives to working independently,’ says Rob. ‘Whether it be celebration or stress, having that shared across a team is much better. Just knowing that someone has your back and knowing that there is someone you can say to: “fucking hell, we’re fucked”.
‘That goes out to our residents as well. If something happens, we know that the whole team is going to rally around. If we need to get somewhere, someone going to lend up a car, or drive us there.’
If something happens, we know that the whole team is going to rally around
‘Likewise with the other promoters in Bristol,’ says Tom. We can call in favours from people that we work with and it’s good to have those people giving you a different perspective on things.’
‘I think having really great nights and other promoters around you is an inspiration in itself,’ says Rob. ‘It’s positive for everyone in the scene, being able to take inspiration from each other and move forward. It’s not a city where people particularly go at each other.’
‘So many of our room hosts and takeovers are other Bristol brands. I’d say that all of our shows have at least one takeover in some aspect,’ says Tom.
Our lineup is very forward-thinking. We don’t stick to the norm of how to programme a night.
‘I think our lineup is very forward-thinking,’ says Kane. ‘We don’t stick to the norm of how to programme a night. Everything is still credible and still fun, though.’
‘I think that’s the important thing for us,’ Tom adds. ‘To tread that really fine line of putting on really good music, but making it fun and accessible at the same time. You can get too pigeon holed into really niche stuff, which might be great, but it’s not necessarily a party.
You can get too pigeon holed into really niche stuff, which might be great, but it’s not necessarily a party
‘You want people to go away and say “I had a great night at The Blast”, not that they had a great night seeing independent sets,’ says Rob.
‘The lineup is the sum of its parts, not just the headliner,’ says Tom, ‘we want to showcase as much of the scene as possible.’
UPCOMING BLAST EVENTS: 30 September – In:Motion opening party with My Nu Leng, D Double E & more, Motion // 6 October – The Blast x TQD x Critical Sound x Swing Ting, Motion //
theblast.co.uk // 27 October – The Blast Halloween Carnival of the Dead with Shy FX, Motion
Photography by Martin Thompson