It’s been quite a month in Bristol’s music world. The sudden closure of the Bierkeller music venue, once famed for welcoming the likes of Nirvana and Arctic Monkeys to the stage, brought a wave of sadness and concern for the welfare of music venues across the city. On top of that, a recent interview with Tricky slamming Bristol’s music scene for being nothing but a ‘fairytale’, caused a heated debate from angry music lovers about the life-span of the cities renowned music culture.
But despite recent controversies, it’s the rise of local DIY DJ collectives like Don’t Test! that prove just how much the eclectic musical hub continues to thrive, and welcome new talent to the ever-growing community.
despite recent controversies, it’s the rise of local DIY DJ collectives like Don’t Test! that prove just how much the eclectic musical hub continues to thrive
So, who exactly are Don’t Test? You can pretty much hunt down a Don’t Test night at The Bell in Stokes Croft, purely by following the faint rattling sound of a heavy dub or soulful jazz pouring out the door of their fortnightly residency. Consisting of Reznik (Matt), MLab (Brendan) and Benny, the trio deliver a spectrum of genres from Benny’s funk, MLab’s dubwise reggae to Reznik’s stormy dubstep.
‘We like to put on an eclectic range of music at our nights, so there’s a bit of something for everyone’, Benny says as the DT trio sat down with pints in hand at a pub garden bench. ‘I think a lot of people listen to different types of music on an everyday basis anyway, so it’s nice to incorporate that into our sets. Sometimes it can get a bit boring listening to one type of music on a night out, so we like to bring a bit of everything to the table and move away from a genre-specific night.’
we like to bring a bit of everything to the table and move away from a genre-specific night
‘We started putting on nights at The Bell around July last year’ MLab adds. ‘We saw the perfect opportunity to fill the lull in Bristol during summer festival season and just went for it. It was just a place where we could play our records out, and that was the best bit for me. It started out as just a fortnightly Thursday thing, but that quickly progressed to Saturdays. Now it seems we’re packing out the pub every time we play.’
Now it seems we’re packing out the pub every time we play
‘I think the foundation of any successful night is to have fun with that you’re doing. Even when we’re doing gigs at The Bell, it might be a small venue but it’s all about the vibe. It’s about playing the music people want to hear and give them a good time.’
Alongside their residency at The Bell, Don’t Test! have also began pushing their cocktail of sounds over the airwaves, hooking up with Bristol’s online station 10 Twenty Radio on their own show every second Sunday between 7pm – 9pm.
‘The show features a little something from all of us, but it’s a bit more of an assorted mix you can kick back to on a Sunday’ says Benny.
The friends who came together through a shared love of music are having a change of scenery from their regular stomping ground this March and will be heading to Cosies with Chad Dubz (Foundation Audio) and Dutchie (Hold Tight Records). Reznik describes what we can look forward to from their debut Cosies takeover:
‘We’ve brought in Dutchie who runs Revinyl Sessions and is signed to Hold Tight Records, so she’ll definitely fit in with our style of music. We’ve also brought in Chad Dubz, who performs the darker dubstep side of things. This night is probably more catered towards my sort of taste!’
MLab continues ‘Dutchie released an EP on Hold Tight Records in December called Easy. Chad Dubz is properly up and coming in the dubstep scene. He plays all over Europe and in the UK a lot too. It’s going to be a real good mix.’
We wanted to keep the lineup local and up and coming, rather than booking big names for the sake of it
‘We wanted to keep the lineup local and up and coming, rather than booking big names for the sake of it,’ Reznik says. ‘I think because we’re up and coming ourselves, we’d rather play with other people who are at similar stages of their career, because then you are helping push each other’s music forward, rather than just getting established acts in to promote yourself.’
‘This night is more focused around the dubstep side of things, but in the future, we want to offer up a more eclectic lineup, including more funk, soul or reggae’, Benny says. ‘The three of us all play different genres of music, so we want our nights to reflect that.’
The three of us all play different genres of music, so we want our nights to reflect that
With their Cosies debut just around the corner, the Don’t Test! crew discuss how they structure their nights and how they prepare for getting behind the decks.
‘I always go first at a Don’t Test! Night’ Benny explains, ‘so I get a bit of a leeway with the type of music I can play. If I feel the vibe is pretty chilled, I’ll put on some chilled jazz, but if I’m playing a bit later then I might play a bit of funk or disco to warm up the crowd.’
‘Normally I try and have a bit of a flow with the mix I’m going to do, starting with dubstep and ending with bassline or grime’ say Reznik. ‘When I’m at home figuring out my mix, I tend to stick to a certain sub-genre for ten fifteen minutes, just so it all gels and flows, and then put it together just like fitting puzzle pieces together. I always like to try and get a mix of new and old stuff to keep people on their toes.’
I always like to try and get a mix of new and old stuff to keep people on their toes
‘My passion is dub’ says MLab, ‘so I’ll always focus my set around that. I might start off with some roots records and then depending on how late I’m playing, I’ll build up to dancehall to keep the energy high, before coming back down to play more dub to get the crowd ready for Reznik.’
‘Looking ahead’ says M Lab, ‘we’re going to continue with a fortnightly residency at The Bell, but hopefully if the Cosies event goes well, you can expect to catch more of Don’t Test! around Bristol. I’ve got a big feeling about this year for the Don’t Test! crew, so watch this space.’
if the Cosies event goes well, you can expect to catch more of Don’t Test! around Bristol