It has been quite the year for sharp snares, broken rhythms and sub-melting basslines in the north of England. Not least when it comes to one particular session.
Launched by Manchester promotion mainstay and DJ Rich Reason (a chap also behind nights like Hit & Run, in itself guilty of several FabricLive takeovers) and North West turntable regular Nanny Banton, himself fresh from the success of previous endeavour BMT, Amen Brother has been selling out parties for nigh on 12 months now. Delivering a solid stream of impressive guests, including Kenny Ken, Brian Gee, Mark XTC, Remarc and Breakage, the idea is pretty simple- dance to quality jungle until the wee small hours, as mixed by esteemed headliners and a strong selection of local heads.
This weekend- Friday 7th February precisely- sees the event reach its first birthday, an achievement that can’t be sniffed at in an age wherein the listings are overflowing with options vying for attention. Break, Dom & Roland are set to be at the helm, along with a few hundred of the faithful who turn up each month and threaten to tear the roof off Amen Brother’s home, the delightfully dirty dancing residence of Antwerp Mansion, located a few miles south of Manchester Piccadilly. Needless to say then we were keen to ask Mr. Banton a few questions on the scene in the city, the soiree he runs, and what happens next. Here’s what he had to say.
How did Amen Brother first begin as a party?
I sent a text Rich [Reason], who I run the event with, trying to blag a set at one of his Hit & Run nights. He came back to me asking if I wanted to set up a new jungle night with him, simple as that. I wasn’t part of any projects at the time and had worked with Rich before so figured it was worth giving it a shot. We ran the first event just to see how things went and before we knew it 12 months later we have hosted some of our favourite DJs, supported some of Manchester’s best acts and helped bring through a few youngsters.
When the night first began, how was Manchester’s jungle scene?
I think the scene was reasonably strong when we set up, but we came with our own style, which I think sets us apart from a lot of other nights. You know what you’re getting with us and we stay pretty true to our sound. When I started up BMT a few years ago I don’t think there was as much competition, but that hasn’t made things any more or less challenging now. There are loads of other nights in Manchester and there always will be, sooner or later you are gonna’ end up clashing with other events. I think that as long as you concentrate on your own night and make sure you have your own house in order you will find your place in the city.
Last year Mixmag ran a cover feature on jungle’s resurgence. Do you think the sound has had a renaissance?
Yeah this is all I hear when I go out “Jungle is back, man, WOOOO“. It does my head in, I never stopped playing it and have been pushing jungle nights for years, for me it never went anywhere. Guess that over the past year or so it’s started to be a bit ‘cooler’, and I see a lot of younger people at nights; it’s good that people are getting in to it I guess. I think the next 12 months will be very interesting, I know there are some big releases due to come out that might shake things up a bit.
One of the things for me, though, is that there’s a lot of so-called jungle being pushed these days that I don’t class as jungle. Loads of stuff that’s just a ragga sample with some shit beat put over the top. It pisses me off to be honest and a lot of the new more amen based stuff is just too hard, it may as well be breakcore. And nobody wants to listen to breakcore.
This Friday sees Break, Dom & Roland touch down for Amen Brother’s First Birthday. How’s life as a Manchester promoter at the moment?
One year old this week, pretty chuffed.
As any promoter will tell you the biggest challenge is getting heads through the door. Every Amen Brother we have done has gone off and we have really enjoyed all of them but the only reason they have been so successful is hard work. Driving around putting posters up at two in the morning- on a school night- isn’t what I thought I’d be doing at 29 years old, but it has to be done.
One of the things I’m really conscious with for the night is making sure the acts we put on are representative of the sound we push. We could do money spinners and put some producer on who is hot at the moment and easily sell out the venue but that’s not what we want to do. It’s been a challenge pushing a pretty underground and old sound in a city that is so forward thinking musically, but I guess Manchester knows good music when it hears it.
In addition to your guests, you regularly play back-to-back with other Manchester heads at your events. Do you prefer DJing solo or with other people?
I know a lot of really good Jungle and DnB DJs and I wanted to get people involved with the night as much as possible. At the moment the venue only has a license until 3AM, so it’s difficult to get headliners, residents and guests on so I split my set with one of my pals. I enjoy playing back-to-back, but there was a time last year when I had four gigs in a row that were all with someone else and it got a bit annoying, you can’t always get in to it. Sometimes you can get lumbered with people whose style you don’t know too, and the result is a clash. I’d say it’s the promoters job to get that balance right, but it can make you sound rubbish if there’s no continuity.
I work pretty well with Bane and Danny Drive Thru, both two of the best DJs in Manchester in my opinion. I’ve known them for years so we know what to expect when we are DJing. At the next Amen Brother I’m going back-to-back with Gloxxy, again I’ve known him and his style for years- we made him resident at BMT- and last time we played together we smashed it, so I’m really looking forward to another tear up.
Your own status as a DJ has been growing in recent years, aside from Amen Brother what else is coming up for you in the next few months?
Yeah I’ve been doing alright, got quite a few things coming up over the summer. I wanted to try and get on at some festivals this year, I have had offers in the past but never been able to do them so I’m making an effort this time. Don’t actually think the line ups have been released publicly yet but they should be out soon.
Aside from that just plugging away at Amen Brother, I have a residency at Relapse, at Sound Control in Manchester, and another at Jungle Jam in Leeds. I don’t know too many Manchester based DJs with residencies in other cities so I’m pretty chuffed to be part of it. Got a healthy amount of other bookings coming up too, a few outside Manchester, which is what I want to push.
As well as that I’m part of the Heavy Crates DJ crew. There are a few things coming up with those guys and I’m looking forward to helping push their future releases, might even get in the studio. If I can be arsed.
Finally, where from here for Amen Brother?
I don’t know, got some big bookings already pencilled in which I’m keeping close to my chest. I think it’s a case of seeing how the night evolves and going with it I guess. As long as I’m in to the sounds I’m happy to roll with it. SWEATEH!
Amen Brother takes over Antwerp Mansion on Friday 7th February, with Break, Dom & Roland. Click here for details.