Conjurer: “Our country punches far above its weight when it comes to quality music, but the government seems determined to f*ck it all up”

As Conjurer gear up for the Kerrang! x Music Venue Trust tour of grassroots venues, the Brit-metal heavyweights explain the importance of taking action to preserve these local platforms for rising acts before it’s too late…

Conjurer: “Our country punches far above its weight when it comes to quality music, but the government seems determined to f*ck it all up”
Sam Law
Bob Foster

Live music is an ecosystem, a complex construct, a journey. As the towering main stages of the UK festival circuit – which have seen record numbers in 2023 – fall silent after another bumper summer, it’s never been more important to remember that almost every artist who stepped up cut their teeth in claustrophobic basements and dive bars around the country. Hell, if you’re looking for the most fascinating acts shaping the sounds of summers yet to come, that’s where most of them still are, smashing out tomorrow’s bleeding-edge sounds.

Yet, thanks to a brutal combination of financial uncertainty, political indifference and industry instability, many of those proving grounds could be facing closure in the immediate future. That’s why Kerrang! have teamed with the Music Venue Trust on The National Lottery’s United By Music tour, shining a spotlight on venues in need and offering two-for-one tickets for lottery players – get your tickets now.

And we couldn’t think of a better band to represent the British underground than Conjurer? Having flown the flag for UK metal on tours with Khemmis, Gojira and Carcass across North America, Europe and at home this year already, while still unpacking the fathomless brilliance of stunning second album Páthos, the English extremists are the perfect example of musicians who’ve stepped from those grassroots venues onto the world stage. As frontman Brady Deeprose explains, it is pivotal that we act now, to save not just those beloved rooms, but perhaps the very future of alternative music in the UK...

Hey Brady! How cool is it to have been put selected by K! for the United By Music tour?
“It’s amazing! I got the message from Luke [Morton, Kerrang! Editor] while we were out in the U.S. I was a little ill, just sleeping in a bunk in this RV with Conor [Marshall, bass] and Dan [Nightingale, guitar/vocals] sitting up front. I remember putting my head down and saying, ‘Kerrang! have just asked us to headline a tour for them!’ They looked up at me, like, ‘Go back to sleep!’ They thought I was dreaming! When I woke up a few hours later, I had to tell them this was actually real. It’s the kind of thing – one of those K! Tours – I remember reading about as a kid, so to be able to have our own version of that, on our terms, in support of MVT, is really special.”

You’ll be playing places off the beaten track, like Peterborough’s Met Lounge, Cambridge’s Portland Arms and Derby’s Hairy Dog. How vital are they for the local live music ecosystem?
“Growing up, places like the Tunbridge Wells Forum, The Met Lounge in Peterborough, Bedford’s Esquires, The Joiners in Southampton, the Roadmender in Northampton – and anywhere in any other ’hampton you can think of – were ‘the touring circuit’. To my young eyes, that’s just where bands played. I remember when Meshuggah played The Roadmender on the obZen tour and letting my dad talk me out of going because I didn’t really know them that well. What a fool I was! It wasn’t until I started to get into bands and actually start playing shows that these were the achievable venues, and most bigger bands would consider places like the O2 Academies to be the main touring circuit. But it’s credit to the strength of the UK scene that we have these venues. These are the places where bands learn to be bands. You don’t need to play the big corporate venue. It’s like going to your local burger joint rather than McDonald’s. Of course, you know what you’re getting with McDonald’s, but it just doesn’t have that local flavour and history and feeling.”

The tour hits venues close to Conjurer’s historic stomping ground. Was that intentional?
“To tell the absolute truth, Dan doesn’t have any holiday left at work, so [the tour is booked] around places we can all get to around our jobs! Beyond that, we wanted to go and play these historic Midlands venues. A few of us have moved away now – I live in London, Conor is in Leicester – and when we do tour we generally just do the big ‘markets’: London, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, maybe Nottingham, Glasgow, maybe Edinburgh. As a niche band, it can be hard to come out to those smaller places like Wolverhampton, which were so good to us coming up, but to be able to come back as the band we are now feels like a good way to say thank you for all the support that whole area has given us over the years.”

Being able to fit travel around work schedules is another reason why these venues are so vital...
“Very much so, especially for young acts starting out. I grew up in Daventry. The rest of the guys were in Rugby, which, along with Northampton, was the closest big town. We had one venue in Rugby, which shut down before we’d even started playing shows – so we’ve never played our hometown! And we’ve only played a couple of places in Northampton. There are fewer places to play shows now than when I was 10 or 15 years old. That really hammers home how important these MVT venues are. Where else will young bands play? They’re not going to go straight in with an opening slot for the O2 Academy Birmingham!”

Just how dire is the situation?
“I won’t name names, but I was talking to the manager of a proper, established venue in the UK music scene recently who said that they hadn’t made money off a show in three months, despite having some big touring packages come through along with loads of local bands. Obviously, your mileage will vary depending where you are in the country, but that’s not a fucking good sign, is it? Plus, it’s becoming an established reality that venues will make more money off a club night with a DJ and hiked-up bar prices than they will with a touring band. So what are venues to do?”

What are the consequences if we don’t act now?
“It’ll be the same old story: they’ll just close places down, or they’ll decide to build a block of flats in front of a venue that’s been open for like 200 years and then shut the venue down. It’s batshit. If more people and organisations like Kerrang! and MVT don’t continue to fight for these venues, then there will simply be fewer good new bands. Our country punches far above its weight when it comes to quality music, but the government seems determined to fuck it all up.”

To what extent does it feel like current UK politics are worsening the situation?
“It’s ultimately capitalism. It’s that short-sighted view that the arts don’t give back to the country. The government seem to overlook how important bands that do get big and tour overseas are as cultural exports for this country. And they don’t think of the revenue that comes from album sales, merch sales, streaming profits at that gross, financially-minded perspective. Where other countries like Australia actually fund bands to get out there and play, we seem to be working against the artists looking to continue the UK’s rich musical heritage. Just think of how sad it’ll be if we get to the end of our lives to see how the UK music scene has been allowed to stagnate just because of a small number of greedy pieces of shit.”

How exactly does the Music Venue Trust provide support?
“Normally, bands work on fees that are dependent on the number of tickets actually sold for the show. MVT assistance means that we get guaranteed fees that are equivalent to almost selling out each show. We know we’ll have enough money to run our van, pay our crew, print our merch, do all of the things that you worry about at the start of every tour. That’s supplemented with Lottery funds, which means they can do buy-one-get-one-free tickets, so not only do the venues not need to worry about paying the band, they’ll also have bigger turnouts spending more money on food and drinks and seeing all the posters for upcoming gigs. The MVT feels like one of the few legitimate forces for good right now, which genuinely benefits both venues and bands. As much as I don’t agree with the mass-commercialisation of gambling, it is so fucking cool to see the National Lottery using their funds for the cultural good rather than lining the pockets of rich white men.”

Aside from coming out for these shows, what can people do to lend their support?
“A big thing is buying tickets in advance. Seeing that a show has sold enough to break even – or better – gives everyone so much more breathing room. One of my first jobs after uni was working with a promoter in Birmingham, and seeing a big, expensive show that has sold six tickets three weeks before the date was incredibly stressful. It makes the bands look better when their shows sell out quickly, too. Promoters want to work with them, and give them bigger opportunities. Plus, fans can normally save themselves some money by buying well in advance!”

It’s been a busy year for Conjurer. You’ve been cropping up everywhere from opening for Carcass to ArcTanGent. Does getting to play that range of shows remind you how far you’ve come?
“It’s been interesting. The tour we did with Carcass took us to a bunch of places we’ve never been like Dundee, Southend and Exeter. They were great shows with really hungry fans. Then we went from that to playing what felt like arenas with Gojira in Europe. We even did a show with clipping. at Outernet, which was the cleanest venue we’ve ever played. Visiting those diverse venues definitely reminds you of that progression from doing 50-cap bars with a gig rooms in the back, to places like The Black Heart with a separate gig space, to dedicated venues like Boston Music Rooms and bigger spaces along the lines of The Dome or The Underworld. We’ve been so lucky over the last decade to get to climb that ladder. It’s something we absolutely want to keep doing.”

So, where do you go from here?
“Beyond this tour, we just want to keep playing live, and we’ve just had our first festival bookings confirmed for 2024. But we’re working on the next album, trying to make sure it doesn’t take another five years to come out, too. We’ve got new Curse These Metal Hands material in the pipeline. And we’re putting together another super left-field collaboration with an artist that we think will really take people by surprise. In the end, it’s about trying to get away with as much insane shit as we can without getting rumbled as just another metal band!”

Conjurer headline the Kerrang! x Music Venue Trust tour this month. Tickets are on sale now. And every ticket buyer can take a guest with them for free by showing a National Lottery ticket.

Conjurer Kerrang! x Music Venue Trust tour 2023


8 Peterborough Met Lounge
9 Bedford Esquires
10 Tunbridge Wells Forum
15 Wolverhampton KKs Steel Mill
16 Cambridge Portland
17 Derby Hairy Dog

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