2018 was the fourth year of Tunnel Club, and – as with every previous year – it seemed to amplify in activity for us almost exponentially. At the start of the year our loose aims were to:
1 – Further establish and grow our Northern Exposure parties
2 – Play more live!
3 – Try to establish ourselves outside of our Newcastle home
4 – Release a second album
History shows that we had varying degrees of success!
It’s fair to say that NEXP – with one exception – had a great year. We started the NEXP concept in mid 2017, with an aim of creating opportunities for north eastern live electronic musicians to showcase their talents as well (obviously) as giving us the opportunity to play. In 2018 we put on three NEXP parties, two in Newcastle and one down the road in Sunderland. To the latter first, and – despite stacks of promotion both online and around the city and area – we just could not make an impact. The excellent Independent was the perfect venue for NEXP but alas we struggled to get more than 20 people along to the show. A real shame for our guests Cass Lamb and Ako who put so much energy into everything.
Our two Newcastle NEXP shows, on the other hand, were excellent. In both cases we used the amazing, and soon to be no more, Little Buildings, a 60-capacity venue that sits proudly at the centre of the city’s grassroots music scene. Both shows in March and November were rammed to capacity with guests including Boss Level, the winner of our competition to find new electronic music talent, local stalwarts Buhl/Daughters, Brighton-based NE-originating Onism and Random Mat all delivering electronic perfection for our up-for-it and increasingly-loyal crowd.
Little Buildings will always occupy a special place for in our memories as the spiritual home of Northern Exposure. Due to close in spring 2019 due to the landlord of the building bewilderingly wanting to turn the space into a coffee shop, the venue and its owners Allan and Allan have been perfect for us and more welcoming to this bunch of techno freaks in amongst all the guitars than we could ever have imagined. Respect.
Playing more live music!
Outside of our own parties it was a great year for us as we started to get an increasing number of bookings for other shows. Once again one of the highlights for us were the immense Northern Electric Festival, for whom we played two packed-out shows in 2018 in summer and winter. Organised by Kaneda Records crew, big shouts go to Steven, Tom, Callum and Simeon for all of their support and confidence in us to bang a party!
We had a couple of chances to support touring bands visiting the city in 2018, with contrasting success. The first, supporting an Irish band called King Kong Company, was a disaster from the off in that we lugged all of our gear to the venue only to be told that we weren’t needed. We’re still not entirely sure what went wrong, but anyway, nothing ventured etc..
The second saw us support Section 25, a band that those familiar with the history of Factory Records will be very familiar. Despite a thin crowd this was an excellent opportunity for us to showcase Tunnel Club to a new audience and to present ourselves differently. Thanks to SSD for the opportunity.
We did several more gigs across the year – all in an around the north east – each giving us the chance to refine our live set and to road test new music before publication. All in, most enjoyable.
Venturing beyond the north east
At the start of the year we decided to put effort into trying to extend our live shows to beyond our native Newcastle. And despite our best efforts, we failed at this one. Over the year we’ve sent demos to festivals, promoters, other live acts, party organisers and – basically – anyone who we think might help to get us out and about nationally.
Unfortunately we failed but, undeterred, we’ll be continuing the mission in 2019. A rollover!
Release a second album
So, the big one, and something that I don’t think we expected to be so difficult.
Having released our first album From the Old School in 2016 digitally and on CD, we decided that this time we ought to try to put an album together that would sit beautifully on vinyl. Yes, the old DJ-romantics in us still see vinyl as *the* format that dance music should sit on, and so our mission was set. The first job was taking 20+ finished tracks and narrowing them down to just 7 or 8 to fit within the 40 minute time restriction that vinyl brings. No small task!! Once we completed this it was time to start the seemingly never-ending spending of money. First, mixing of our tracks in a pro studio followed by professional mastering of our tracks for vinyl and digital got us ready to go, as did the commissioning of a professional designer to make sure everything looked as good as it sounded.
We took the decision to run a crowdfunding campaign to help us raise the costs of the physical pressing of the album. Put simply, we were staggered by the support given to us not only from the local electronic music community, but from electronic music fans across the UK and indeed overseas. Massive thanks to everyone!
Exit Space was released on vinyl and digitally in November of 2018, with copies shipped to people to a really great receptions. We were amazed and humbled by the positivity surrounding the album, with extensive coverage of the release in publications as varied as Narc, Gigslutz and the Shields Gazette no less!
We were also lucky enough to be asked by Nick Roberts at BBC Introducing in the North East to go into the BBC Newcastle studio to record a live session and be interviewed about the album. What an experience!!
Beyond our crowdfunding supporters we believed that we had an album that electronic music fans across the country might like to hear in their local record shops. As a part of promoting the album pre-release we emailed and called 29 record shops across the country. These were all shops that specialise in dance / electronic music either wholly, or for a decent proportion of their stock.
It is fair to say that this was an utter waste of time.
A very small number of shops – 2 – were kind enough to listen to the album and reject it – this is totally cool, we get that not everyone will want to take the chance on an unknown artist from Newcastle! However, for the 27 others, which includes every physical and online shop that you will have heard of and doubtless shopped in across the UK, we were met with utter indifference. No returned calls, no replies to emails, nothing. We get that everyone is busy, and that they probably get deluged with pitches, but we struggle to see how new artists can have any chance of breaking through when there appears to be such abject apathy towards new music by the channel for whom the supply of new creativity is the lifeblood of their business.
Anyway, rant over.
We should say that our experience of our local record shops was very much the opposite, with all of 586, Pop, Reflex, Beatdown, Vinyl Guru and RPM very happy to stock the album. Thanks to all of these for the support.
An unexpected addition!
In summer 2018 we were asked if we’d like to do a show for new local station Slink Radio. What immense fun this was, raiding years of records from our collections and chatting about them like wannabe DJs!! Unfortunately Slink was short lived and so we only did get to do one show, however, the feedback that we got from that one show was such that we thought that we should give it a go ourselves, and so our own show – Timeless – was born. At the time of writing we are 3 shows in; its a lot of fun to do and it seems that people of a certain age across the UK resonate with what we’re trying to do in selecting music from across the history of dance and electronic music and up to present day. Expect more from this in 2019!
Looking to 2019
So what are our aims for 2019? Well, there will be more NEXP shows, that is for sure!! Also we will be continuing our quest to unearth electronic music talent from within our home region and to provide a platform from which they can grown and shine. We’ll also be majorly back in the studio, with a release or two to come as we go, and of course we’ll be recording more Timeless radio shows!
Plus, once again our mission to break out of the north east will continue, maybe 2019 will be the year that a promoter takes a chance on us?!
Overall though, we’ve been amazed and delighted by what we’ve achieved and the support that we’ve had in 2018 and we are so grateful to everyone that has got behind us, from fellow producers and promoters to venue owners, studios, journalists, PRs and DJs. Plus – of course – the loyal and growing band of folks who relentlessly come and see us play and indulge us on our Facebook ramblings – you know who you are!!
To 2019 and more fun!
Graeme & Steve – Tunnel Club x