Music fans, we’re here with your weekly Leicester music guide featuring news and interviews from across the local scene.
This weekly music update is brought to you in partnership with PPL PRS Ltd. Big thanks for their ongoing support of local acts and venues.
Kasbabian – De Montfort Hall
Wednesday 27 October
They’re back. “We’re incredibly excited to announce these intimate shows. We love our band, our music and our fans too much to ever stop! We’ll be playing all the classic tunes plus something new for the mosh pit to bounce too. So come join us for the biggest party of 2021! See you there.” Sergio, Chris and Ian x
Tickets go on sale on Friday.
The Soundhouse Summer Sessions
Every Saturday until 25 June
Enjoy live music in the garden at The Soundhouse every Saturday afternoon from 1pm – 5.30pm. Free entry, no need to book. The best local acts on the outdoor stage.
Don’t miss the Cool As Leicester What’s On guide
It’s about to get a lot easier to keep on top of where to go and what to do in Leicester and Leicestershire. Don’t forget to bookmark our new What’s On guide which is your new go to guide packed with event listings across your favourite venues. Find it at www.coolasleicester.co.uk/whatson.
Easy Life’s new album
Easy Life’s debut album Life’s A Beach is out now and on track for the fastest selling album of the year. Make sure you grab a copy!
INTERVIEW: Chris Ilett
This week we’re catching up with Chris Ilett, who is the man pushing through on the development of a brand new artist development hub in the city, Sound Hive. With a premises found and lots of work to do, Chris is keen to meet any interested parties who may be interested in collaborating and working on the project. We caught up with him to find out more about Sound Hive and what’s next.
What is the concept for Sound Hive and how did it come about?
Overall, it’s about giving the amazing talent in this city a home to create and thrive. Somewhere to create opportunities, learn from and collaborate with each other.
Originally I was looking for a place to build a small studio to collaborate with local musicians and to work on my own material. I quickly realised that creating this in the cultural quarter is important on several levels
– Music IS part of the culture of our city and should be represented
– If we’re going to make an impact, then the cultural quarter is a huge part of our story
– We need a central location anyway, to give the most access to the greatest number of people. Music shouldn’t just be created in darkly-lit streets and out of the way
What drove me to go this far was realising that we’ve got an incredible theatre in Curve, which cost a lot of money. A superb cinema and digital arts facility in Phoenix, which cost a lot of money (although they spent years previously surviving and thriving on very little). We’ve got two buildings for artist creation space/gallery space so I knew I needed to represent our music community, without a doubt.
I did not realise that the only way past the barriers was to evolve the concept so rapidly.
During many meetings and a lot of research, I learned that music is becoming a major part of improving city-based economies – creating jobs and contributing heavily towards newer city space designs. In a crowded world, sound and music can drastically improve perception of that space, improve work and living experiences, as well as public areas. I think we all know this to some degree, but it’s only fairly recently that it’s been adopted into city planning.
So we’ve gone from just wanting to make some records, to seeing opportunities to impact the city on a much wider scale. Nurturing the creative stages of music is something we need to invest in heavily.
How has progression been with the project so far?
It’s taken a huge amount of work. I can easily see why this doesn’t already exist. Progress has seemed slow to me, because we’ve had to navigate a huge array of issues and find the correct paths to take. But a few people have been surprised at how much we’ve achieved in just 6 months – we’ve probably made 3 years of progress in that time, despite still not having a location.
The last few weeks have progressed fairly rapidly now we’ve let the idea out into the world. The music scene in Leicester is fit to burst with so many people needing so many different things.
We’ve gone from nothing, to having an arts organisation and a comprehensive roadmap of which activities need to happen first to create the greatest impact on the city (and its creators). The team is small, but surrounded by expert partners so we have a small footprint, but can make huge impact.
What would a centre like this mean for the city’s music community? What will it add that isn’t already here?
I think they’re mostly delighted to be taken seriously as artists, and as legitimate prospects to contribute to the economy of the city. I expect the financial and global career opportunities we’re creating will fulfil those with drive and ambition. Having greater freedom to collaborate, and to discover their unique sounds will satisfy their creative souls.
In terms of what’s already here, we already have a huge array of musical talent. We have amazing, privately run venues like Firebug, 2Funky Music Cafe and The Soundhouse. We have some small studios doing amazing work. Deadline is incredible. 247 are busy with Easy Life – the city is so proud of them. Those ones are a little further out of town.
HQ Studios IS in the city, and is way more than just a commercial place – they run a label, actively develop artists AND they work with young adults who maybe didn’t have the best start in life. That work is so important, it needs mentioning. It’s mostly based around hip hop, but not exclusively.
What we don’t have is a place for everyone to feel at home. All these venues and studios have been built on years of blood, sweat and tears, and they’ve made huge contributions to the community – yet music doesn’t seem to be recognised as a valuable part of our city’s culture. Even just in terms of real estate.
So, I want to make it clear that I’ve stepped around existing efforts within the music community, and this is all about helping people to extend their capabilities (businesses and artists) as well as getting opportunities which may not have been within reach previously.
What this is NOT is trying to compete with anyone in the city. That would not serve any of us well. A massive part of this is the partners we create opportunities with.
We’ve got some major record labels and publishing companies (e.g. Disney), some pro audio companies, a global expert in delivering economic growth to cities using strategies focused on music, as well as the most incredible Leicester-based supporters.
I understand there will be some sceptics. But if Leicester wants to become an important music destination in the UK, this is the right opportunity at the right time.
Tell us a little about your background in music?
Leicestershire Arts gave me my first ever recording studio experience when I was 17. I had to work hard to get our school to sponsor us for that, so probably the work ethic started then.
I went off to Australia a few years later and played some shows up and down the east coast. Nothing fancy – hostels and coffee shops, and definitely not a proper tour.
When I got back to the UK I recorded a few albums and did about 1000 gigs with a couple of bands (ist and Vitriol I.D). I also got into sound engineering and ended up working for Leicester’s very own Showaddywaddy. I had a great few years touring with them around Europe and the UK. Highlights were probably Wembley Arena, and some of the massive European festivals.
After that I got much more into recording and production. My live sound career progressed rapidly, but the learning curve for producing songs took much longer (and is still going).
I’ve spent quite a few years ALMOST getting somewhere. Sync (music to ads/film/games etc) opportunities started coming my way. Big car companies, drinks adverts etc. The two biggest ‘almost’ moments were The Walking Dead – which loved ‘The Fray’ – one of my solo releases and a hugely disappointing Mini advert which asked for a really cool hip hop/rock track and ended up using a whistling track for their advert.
Eminem’s team were also considering a track I co wrote and produced back in 2017. That one almost happened.
So I’ve had a lot of disappointments, a lot of time spent wondering if I just spend another few months living on fresh air – will it be worth it?
I think the answer is that yes – it’s worth it. I’ve now done some mixes for Jay-Z’s label (RocNation). I get asked for new songs by most of the major labels.
The point is that I’ve spent most of my life creating big opportunities – and I personally need them as much as I need the small wins. Now the world is opening up post-Covid, and artists are releasing more music, I’ll probably build up a bigger client base.
Having had this 14 months, which has been incredibly damaging to our industry, and particularly to our city, it feels like all those opportunities I’ve had would be better if they were shared.
What are the main challenges ahead of you for this project?
The location has always been the biggest problem. I spoke to several other cities, who could accommodate this in their central/cultural areas much more easily and could contribute financially. Even now that we’ve got a decent building identified – the complexities of this particular piece of real estate are huge.
The other challenge is funding. But I’m not as phased by that, because it’s much more simple. We will either get the money from a funding source or we won’t. If not, we’ll go somewhere else and get it.
I had a £2million quote earlier for our fit out costs, so it’s not a small sum we need. Most of the costs are at the beginning though. Running costs will be low. Very low.
The council are behind us now (I don’t think they were in the early stages) but their resources need to be spent on getting the city out of 14 months of lockdown. I am on their side with that. No city has the same challenges Leicester has at the moment.
With regards to the Carron Building (where we’re hoping to build this project) – it’s a fantastic place, but in a state of total disrepair. The cost to fix it would drive our annual rent up significantly, so we’re looking at every option we can.
If we can work it all out, we still face huge startup costs, but we’ll make a huge contribution to the area too. Long-term, it’s likely that our music industry economy will grow more rapidly than the rest of our city’s economy as long as we are proactive and invest wisely.
Is there a way for interested parties to get involved?
Firstly, come and join the Facebook group here – https://www.facebook.com/groups/soundhive
The more we show we want this and can fill space with activity, and make a positive contribution to the area and to the economy, the more likely we are to succeed.
We’re a very small team at the moment. We do need help, but it’s quite hard to onboard people. I think most people are quite daunted by the scale of the project.
I’d love the community to be active and engaged – if people can help with that, it would make a huge impact.
If anyone has time and expertise in building renovation (internal/external) and can help manage that – it would free up some of my time to get the funding plans in motion.
What’s your favourite thing about Leicester’s music scene?
It’s all about the artists. They keep going and they keep doing what they were born to do, no matter what.
Music influences cities, whether that is acknowledged or not. Housing booms occur because music (and other art) made that area an attractive place to be. Leicester’s music scene gets pushed around a lot but they’re the most wonderful creators, who remain soulful, creative and (when they’re at their best) collaborative.
> Who are some of your favourite local artists?
There’s an artist on HQ – Harri Georgio – who’s producing some incredible work and really defining a unique sound. https://www.hqrecording.co.uk/harri-georgio
Robot Needs Home put on some live broadcast streams recently – and I particularly loved Charlotte Carpenter – I added a load of her songs to my playlists. https://www.charlottecarpentermusic.com/
The Shadow That Melts The Flesh – brilliant, ambient experience from just one guitarist – https://theshadowthatmeltstheflesh.bandcamp.com/releases
Repping the decks – DJ Lady Envy – https://twitter.com/dj_ladyenvy
I’m currently co-producing a solo album by Kenton Hall, who is one of my favourite songwriters – https://www.facebook.com/kentonhallauthor
What are the next steps for you on the project?
We’ve just taken a couple of major steps forward with our partners and team. We’ve had a Health & Safety company offer to get us running for the first year for free. We’ve also just got our Chair of Trustees, who has an amazing career working with arts organisations. So we’re building our expertise and legitimacy as well as the fun stuff.
This week I’m talking again to a venture capital firm who I think will handle our technology and innovation processes. They’ll help us incubate startups, source and manage grants, and quickly grow income streams. This is a major part of retaining and attracting talent to Leicester.
There are 3 or 4 big companies interested in working with us, both in partnership and sponsorship. A streaming experience partnership might happen. That would be huge for the city and another massive opportunity to create income.
The first thing I should be doing is sourcing a feasibility grant. I’ve funded everything to this point, but now it’s grown so much and become a huge community and city-economy project, so it needs funding in order to continue to operate at such a high level.
How can people stay up to date with what’s happening?
The Facebook group is the best way for now. We’ll post relevant updates in there. Everyone is welcome – whether they’re a musician, or just interested to see how it develops.
The only rule is that contributions are positive to the outcome of the project, or to the community spirit.
Find us here – https://www.facebook.com/groups/soundhive
Each week we bring you a selection of favourite local acts to give you a flavour of the incredible range of upcoming talent.
Have a listen and get in touch to tell us which tracks you’re loving.