A couple of years ago we spoke with one of Glasgow’s top independent gig promoters about the troubles, tribulations and triumphs of putting on shows in Central Scotland. Since then, Harris Douglas of HD Promotions has been on hiatus but is now back as hungry as ever with his new monthly showcase at Glasgow’s Bar Bloc. We went along to the inaugural Distract and caught up with Harris to get the lowdown on what it’s all about and his hopes for this event in the future.
You’ve been off the gig grid for a while – how did the partnership with Bloc come about?
I know Chris the venue manager here and it came up in conversation at another gig that if I wanted to put on any shows then he’d be happy to host something. I got in touch recently and asked him about putting on a monthly night to get something regular on the go and attempt to build a brand around that. From there we came up with a concept and started booking bands.
Distract is billed as a monthly music escape, is there any specific meaning behind the slogan?
For me, personally, music is an escape from real life things like work, relationships and whatever else is possibly going on in life that causes stress. Gigs are a great place to escape. You’ve got a few hours where you don’t have to worry about anything. It’s a distraction from life really, and that’s where the name comes in.
Does this tie in with the mental health awareness that seems to be a big thing, particularly in the music industry at the moment?
Absolutely. There are a lot of bands talking about it and there’s a real feeling of community at the moment within that network. Bands are doing everything they can to help. Anything we can do to help people and build on the community is a big positive. The music scene should be about supporting and helping each other while seeing some decent bands. If people can create a network of friends from this then it’s a success.
Is that the ideology that runs through the Glasgow music scene for you?
What appealed to me, seven or eight years ago, when I got into it was there were other people who were like-minded and maybe shared different ideas or put on different types of music but had the same idea that they wanted to do something different with their lives from sitting in an office nine ‘til five, boring themselves to death.
How does an event like Distract generate money when it’s free to enter?
It generates revenue solely through the bar sales. Bloc know this format inside out as they’ve been doing it for years. The great thing about these nights is that Bloc already have a great ‘walk in’ and deals on food – like tonight’s five quid steak – and when they have bands on it brings in an extra bunch of people who will hopefully make this their regular thing. Bar sales are crucial – which is weird because I don’t drink but I’ll usually get a few cans of coke to make up for it.
Lost in Stereo and Ikari are both Glasgow bands, is Distract always going to be about showcasing local talent?
This is just to start out, but these are two bands that I think have some big plans ahead this year. Lost in Stereo were just on the Fireball Tour and have just been announced for Download Festival, and Ikari have a new album coming out. It’s great to start this with two local bands I feel have some real promise. In saying that, we will have some bands from further afield, in the UK, playing her to give them a platform and a base for growing their names in Scotland.
You took a year out, did you use that time to reflect on where you were and put it to good use?
I was doing 70 hour weeks managing a bar and it meant it was getting to a point where it wasn’t feasible to keep the gig promotion going alongside it. Going away from that and taking the year out allowed me to reassess what I had been doing. I’m essentially starting again but with the knowledge of the past and the contacts I’ve built, on my side. The good thing about the focus is it’s not about money, not that’s ever been about that, but even more so here. It’s all about putting on good events.
Most bands you were putting on previously have either moved on to bigger things or sadly disbanded, does that make it harder for you?
One of the challenges is bringing in new bands that hadn’t played in Scotland before, like I did with Press To Meco and Dead. That was the first time those bands had come as far North. Those turned out to be regular bands for me to put on around Glasgow. Again it’s about bringing in new bands that I felt had potential, and building them up. These nights play a massive part in making that a reality.
On the side, you’re still booking bands for other venues?
I’ve got some really cool and exciting bands planned out in the future who’ve maybe played Glasgow once or twice before and have the potential to fill the space left by those bands I’ve mentioned before. Your next Press To Meco, Black Peaks, whatever. At the moment it’s about building it all up again like I did with those bands. I’ve got Employed to Serve in May and Tirade coming to Edinburgh in March. Along with those bands I’m looking to bring in a few more but the focus at the moment is getting Distract up and running and hopefully see the bands playing here take a step up to playing bigger venues like Stereo an Audio.
Now for the controversial question – DF Concerts are taking over the world when it comes to the Glasgow music scene, how do you feel about that?
DF have always been the big promoter in Scotland. At the end of the day, that company is there to make money so they’ll be looking at what’s popular but what I think I bring that’s different to them and other promoters is looking at things from a customer perspective and promote interesting ideas for small bands who are looking to break out. We can give them a level of promotion that’s more unique and tailored to the artist. I think DF are looking for bands who can sell themselves.
Do you feel you can give a more personal touch to bands looking to get that break?
With independent promoters, and anyone at grass-roots, that’s what it’s all about. It’s DIY music. The good thing is that there’s promoters like us who can cater for all different genres and help push them out towards more people and get them a following that’ll help establish them as go-to bands.
Distract is a monthly showcase for up-and-coming bands of all genres. It’s run by Harris Douglas of HD Promotions and is housed in Glasgow’s Bloc Bar on Bath Street. If you fancy getting along to this FREE event, then look out for promotional posts on all of the usual social media outlets.