In Depth: Frederick Sugden // Loose Lips
Nowadays, brand names and logos unfortunately become more familiar than the faces who created them. Nationwide events promotion team Loose Lips have been unavoidable this past year for the right reasons. They have been providing stages and producing shows for many homegrown artists on tour, as well as hosting their own hyper-active stage at Boomtown Festival 2018. It’s time to pay homage to the people behind the scenes. So, we welcome Frederick Sugden, co-founder of Loose Lips - a team of event promoters who host events featuring the underground spectrum of non-commercial sounds.
Frederick has earned a far-reaching reputation from hosting countless memorable showcases in the UK since 2014, overseeing many sell-out shows in the process. He has secured venues which complement the atmosphere created by artists Loose Lips book to perform. Throughout 2018, whilst covering the whole of the UK, they provided tours for the likes of Los Angeles based collective Astral Plane, as well as Blah Records’ Cult Of The Damned. Earlier this year we spoke to Frederick about advice for promoters, Loose Lips exclusives and more.
For those unaware, can you give us some highlights from your experiences as a promoter?
We've been really lucky to do some parties in amazing clubs and spaces. One thing which comes to mind is in Bristol - we came across a space called The Island in the past two years. It used to be a prison, now it's been transformed into an underground venue, which you walk down into and can explore prison cells which used to literally be where prisoners stayed. Those parties epitomise how amazing a party can be if you find the right space to compliment the type of music. The best parties are when the people who run the space you're working in understand the vibe, allowing you that crucial freedom to curate and promote.
Can you give people a summary of who Loose Lips are and what you’re about?
Loose Lips is quite a big team of people. I have to shout out to all those who contribute to what we do in Manny in different ways - Treece, Kortzer, Paxman, Morgan Spiced, BLK-45, Gormz, Tom Blain, Stokey, Callan Dooley, Josh Howard. Along with myself, who’s based in London but also managing the projects in other cities; that crew of us work together on our Manny-based events, editorial work in covering what’s going on in the city and running the radio shows there (on Limbo, MCR Live & Reform). Then there’s a load of other people involved in the operations in Bristol & London and/or involved in remotely running the other projects we work on (mix series, an editorial, the label). To check all the projects and crew members, head to our website HERE. Myself & Juggins started it but since then, it wouldn't have been able to continue and do all the stuff it has without the people in different roles based in different places and with different specialities.
Can we talk a bit about Manchester?
I've from down south but Pat who runs Loose Lips in Manchester was born there. He lived with me for a little bit in Devon, but he definitely see's himself as Mancunian.
Manchester is a haven for musical talent, especially Hip-Hop. Do you find yourself spoilt for choice when choosing local support for Loose Lips shows there?
Definitely! Whether it's Hip-Hop or not, it's the same principle. Definitely spoilt for choice. I considered moving because I am so musically inspired every time I go there. The amazing thing is, across the scenes there are people doing absolutely fantastic, diverse things. For example, I remember I once performed at this house music orientated event in Manchester. We were getting a lift up to the venue, I was talking about Manchester music and there was an old guy from the acid-house scene back in the day. I asked him, "What's your most inspiring crew in Manchester?" and he replied "Levelz." He talked about Levelz for ages. In other cities, you wouldn't get that cross-genre understanding. He was someone who, stereotypically, you'd never think would be into Grime, Hip-Hop, Trap and Drum & Bass elements. He knew absolutely everything. He said they were the most inspiring musical force in the city at the moment. For me to hear that, it epitomized Manchester because there's so much roots, local talent in each genre but it seems there's connections between each of them as well. It's not like they're separate things which no-one understands from the other. I've always found it to be a melting pot of naughty producers.
When it comes to Manchester, do you try and host Mancunian headliners as much as artists out of town?
We always try to gather local support. We actually broke that rule for the first time with our last Electro party at Hidden. Except for then, we've never put a line-up on where that hasn't been local support. Even if the headliner isn't Mancunian, it'll always be a pick from local talent and obviously we want to be putting on music which relates to the area. You and I Evo, first connected because of the Blah Records event at Whiskey Jar - having Black Josh play there gathered a mad response.
Do you want to shout out any of the local talents that Loose Lips has been bringing forward to support live shows?
So many to shout out. I’ll give 3:
WSR - an incredible musician, check it out instead of me having to try and describe it with limited language. Tobi Sunmola - a rapper I’ve started to listen to more and more since coming across his ‘Never Forget We’re Here’ video. Yant - some serious techno right here, check out his soundcloud. Check out a video of one of his live sessions for Loose Lips HERE.
As far as hosting Hip-Hop events, has the turn out suggested that as far as Manchester goes, there is still a pretty thriving hip-hop crowd there?
I'd say honestly, the response we got and the impact of that Blah Records event last September was ridiculous. I’ve had so many messages from people since, asking for us to bring particular acts, saying how thankful they were for us for bringing all those artists into such an intimate setting. Also the response from us playing hip-hop on our radio show and having rappers perform live has been great. Check out our radio show, HERE.
From your own experiences, what difficulties have you encountered that you resolved, which maybe other promoters might also have experience with?
That's a good question man. I think one difficulty which is only relevant for some promoters, is finding venues. We're not a promoter that can fill 1000 capacity venues every month, especially because some of the stuff we're doing is quite obscure. So if you're a promoter who wants to be investing in interesting gigs but are looking for those venues that are for example, around the 200 cap mark, it’s tough. Manchester needs some more mid-sized venues like this. The quality ones that are there are just over-subscribed. It is slightly off-putting for some people. We need venues of those sizes starting up who are invested in the scene’s growth and who are therefore prepared to take risks on new promoters, just like promoters take risks on new/experimental artists. So it's those sort of, entry-level venues I guess. In terms of how have we overcome that? Just by trying to communicate more and more with the local scene and find out about places.
Is there healthy competition amongst yourself and other promoters out there in Manchester or is it more cut-throat?
I think it's definitely healthy. I'm a part of something called the London Promoter’s Society that I launched about a year ago, which has been gathering a new lease of life recently. At some recent meet ups, I was telling everyone about how, in terms of organisational collaboration, Manchester can be an example of how to work together. For example, there's different groups on Facebook that I'm a part there which are really active - promoters sharing their dates, ideas, worries etc… I feel like there is a support network. I know in my phone I've got 10/20 promoters based there who I don't even know that well but who I could call if I had a bit of an issue without feeling like I was pushing any social limits. I feel like it's definitely healthy promotion, definitely compared with other places where you're plagued by posters being ripped down and people clashing with their nights all the time. I'm sure that does happen in Manchester but from my experience it's definitely one of the healthier scenes I've been involved with.
Why is collaboration important?
In terms of why collaboration is important, I just think it's crucial because you learn so much. We're coming up to our 4th anniversary in the winter and looking back, collaborations make up a huge chunk of my positive memories. For example, learning how you can make diverse line-ups work, how to make different groups of residents work together. If you just do your own thing the whole time, you can actually become quite easily locked into a certain way of doing stuff. So I definitely think it's important, and we're definitely keen to collaborate more in the future.
Are there any aspects that have benefited the sustainability of a strong hip-hop culture in Manchester other than through events that you have recognised?
One thing I'd say is radio. When I've been to Manchester, I've had so many amazing experiences on different radio stations that really support a lot of vocal music, whether it's singers or rappers. Even spoken word shit I've been to, it just seems that there's loads of stations popping. Everyone thinks that radio is very much a London culture-based thing that's engraved there - and it is - but in Manchester it seems to have that communal support as well. It dominates people’s weekly schedules, both as listeners and curators. Whenever I go up there, everyone is always doing a radio show and going in, spitting and testing new bars with everyone meeting up there. So I think that's always supportive, because it means you're interacting with those different people as well. I also think of the open mindedness. When I go to Manchester, people talk about hip-hop as in a certain style of Hip-Hop. I just think of it as Rap. There's so many people experimenting over different types of beats. It's not just 90's boom-bap, there's an openness to rappers being able to throw bars down over some House, Techno... Or lots of people experiment between Hip-Hop and Jungle, to Trap and Grime. I think that supports the local scene because there's an open-mindedness towards what Rap can be. All those things are connected and it's embraced in Manchester.
Have you got any acts lined up we should be keeping an eye out for?
Check out a guy called CEEOW. He's a singer/rapper/producer and part of a group called A Broken Camarilla. He's had interest from America, from people who were involved in producing for Outkast before. He's just doing some absolutely mad stuff and again, he's amazing because I can't put him in a box. He does Grime, he does Trap, Drill, Hip Hop…he's producing more like Garage-y bits. A Broken Camarilla are doing all different types of music and he's just putting that all into one mad showcase. A very talented guy, he's one person I'd say watch out for.
What artists out there would you like to work with?
One guy who we want to get along to play, based in Manchester, is the legendary Jehst. He moved to Manchester recently, he's still active. He's a legend but obviously not an old-timer. The new, most recent release he had I don't think got that much attention as it deserved but it was decent. So if Jehst is reading, we're trying to make something work. Whether it's a radio show or whether it's an event, we want to work with Jehst in Manchester.
Frederick, thank you very much for your time.
Watch for the upcoming release from Loose Lips by
Charlie Boy Manson - And The Handsome Family,
dropping October 31st 2018.
Pre-order : HERE