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‘It’s where new music happens and evolves’: Inside Windmill Brixton

"It was an old council estate pub, and DJs and bands started to play there"

Shame playing at Windmill Brixton. Photo by Lou Smith

This month, we had a chat with Tim Perry, the booker for the grassroots venue Windmill Brixton to find out more about the space in the wake of Independent Venue Week and in light of the progress made by small venues with the reduction of business rates

How did Windmill Brixton evolve?

It was an old council estate pub and when times got hard, DJs and bands started to play there. I came along around 2002 and although I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, I wanted to put on exciting live acts. Nothing has really changed in the past 18 years.

What do you look for in a band?

Musically, something I haven’t quite heard before. Professionally, a good email goes a long way.

How will the recent reduction of business rates impact the venue?

As we are in an unflattering backstreet location we were zero-rated, but it’s great news for other venues, and the more venues, the better.

What did you have on the cards for Independent Venue Week?

We were so fortunate that BBC 6 Music decided they wanted to do an outside broadcast and have Steve Lamacq do his radio show live from here one of the days. And the added special bonus to that was Anna Calvi did a live on-air set, as well as a full show later in the evening. Black Country, New Road and Squid returned after having a very successful 2019 and no doubt an even better 2020 while black midi organised a special jam set.

We also had loads of emerging bands play, such as PVA, Lynks Afrikka, Lazarus Kane and Jerskin Fendrix as well as an eight band special on the Saturday featuring bands that were formed within the last year. That was a lot of fun and there were some really good ones.

What does Independent Venue Week mean to you?

It’s become a bit of an annual festival/celebration. It’s basically a week of the best bands that regularly play the venue plus a few old friends who have gone on to play much bigger venues and come back for a good time.

Photo by Martin Zechel

What do you think the importance of independent/grassroots venues is?

It’s where new music happens and evolves. I think it’s crucial that there are places where bands can hide and develop their craft and not get ripped off in the process.

What sound system do you have?

We use Electro-Voice ZX590 speakers and some big old Electro-Voice bass bins. We take care of them but it’s probably time for new ones. The last gig I went to that I thought had good sound also had an EV rig so we’ll probably keep with EV as the sound seems to fit our room very nicely. It’s got a bit of a crunch to it. Our desk is a Behringer X32 Compact – again it’s at the lower end of the price scale but all our techs like it and all visiting techs know their way around it.

How important is sound quality to you?

Very. We’ve invested in good cabling and also have a nice Fender backline (Bassbreaker 30, Blues Jr Mk4, Rumble 200) that all bands can use.

Why do you think Windmill Brixton has been voted the third-best music venue in London?

That was a while ago when Time Out readers voted for that, but we like to think we look after bands in terms of equipment provided and pay. When bands are happy their fans are also happy and they hopefully return.