Jamie Sutherland: 'There's value in everybody's music, and we just try to provide a blank canvas for them to do their thing'
- Kirstyn Smith
- 20 September 2018
Broken Records' frontman chats to us about keeping Edinburgh's music scene alive
Jamie Sutherland was a labourer working in Summerhall after coming off a tour with his band, Broken Records, when he realised the venue's potential. In its zig-zagged warren of nooks and crannies, he noticed that the Dissection Room – unambiguously named when the space was still a vet school – would be a good spot for gigs.
'We looked at the fact that a lot of music venues around Edinburgh were closing, or having noise issues,' he says. 'Summerhall reminded me of some of the European arts spaces we'd toured – like the Paradiso in Amsterdam – a refreshing change after having done the British toilet circuit.'
After giving a business plan to the venue's GM, who trusted in Sutherland's decade of music industry experience, they built a partnership based on the desire to see Edinburgh's music scene thrive: Nothing Ever Happens Here was born.
The important thing about Summerhall, Sutherland says, is that it's a step on a symbiotic ladder that connects a number of venues throughout Edinburgh.
'Sneaky Pete's and Leith Depot – those two venues in particular are ones that support absolute grassroots music,' he says. 'And we're always keeping an eye on what they're doing, so when a band is ready for the next step, they can start looking at us.' After they've played Summerhall, bands can look to step up - to the likes of the Liquid Room, the Queen's Hall and, eventually Leith Theatre and beyond.
In terms of bands Sutherland take on board, there's a short checklist: 'where are they in their career? Who's interested in them? Are they getting written about? Can they bring people? Are they being really proactive about it? There's value in everybody's music, and we just try to provide a blank canvas for them to do their thing.'
In a city with a wealth of brilliant bands juxtaposed against venue closures and noise complaints, Sutherland's advice to keeping the scene alive is pretty simple.
'Support the venues, first and foremost. Buy a beer there, rather than somewhere nearby. The difference that makes in terms of how solvent a venue is is enormous.'
Unfortunately for councils, music venues aren't the sexy option in terms of money-making, but Edinburgh's history is in the arts, in literature, poetry, music and theatre. And Sutherland feels this needs to be acknowledged.
'It feels like a proper capital city to live in, apart from this one thing: everyone's happy to have one month of the year where the arts happen,' he says. 'And nobody wants to support it outside of that, and I can't understand why that would ever be the case.'
As for what Nothing Ever Happens Here has lined up to continue their support of the arts, it's looking good. Having built up an Edinburgh music audience, outside promoters are rallying to help with programmes and finances, resulting in some exciting bookings for the Summerhall space.
'We've got Mark Kozelek coming through in October, Kathryn Joseph in September. We have Jon Boden doing a solo show. Balkanarama are coming back again. There's a weird and varied programme running until the end of the year and into next.'