Interview: Smash It Up! with Nigel Holmes

Punk runs in Nigel Holmes’ blood. And, like so many of his generation, discovering The Ramones, The Clash and his own personal favourites GBH, in the late 1970s set him on a new course. Leaving his hometown of Carlisle to pursue a career in music retail around the country, Nigel arrived in Hull in 1997 and quickly noticed an increasing number of punk bands needing a regular space to express themselves.

Punk has always been the backbone of the city’s musical scene. It’s been a constant, even when it’s not obviously in the public eye.

With that in mind, Smash It Up! night was born and became a regular fixture in The New Adelphi Club’s calendar.

“Punk has always been the backbone of the city’s musical scene, in my opinion,” Nigel says. “It’s been a constant, even when it’s not obviously in the public eye. It’s always going on under the radar.”

Estimating that he’s worked on in excess of 2,000 gigs and with more than 10,000 bands across a now-lengthy career, his introduction to Hull’s punk scene came via prominent local band, The Freaks Union, a shared look of Mohican haircuts and leather jackets allowing kindred spirits to connect.

The same commitment to developing a scene runs through Nigel’s work as a DJ, who acknowledges that it’s hard work getting any new night up and running. “It’s about the quality of the night for the punter,” he says.

Come As You Were, which features the sound of 1990s alternative club nights like those experienced at Hull nightclub Spiders, is slated to return later this year, but Nigel’s reputation as a DJ also sees his punk and ska-themed Pop Club night appearing at venues further afield. “It’s an art form,” he says, explaining that it’s about understanding the audience and the venue. “It’s about getting the mood right so people enjoy their night. That’s what it’s all about. If it’s done right, it complements the live music.”

Tomorrow night’s Smash It Up! gig [Sunday 19 March, 2017] is one Nigel is rightly proud to be bringing to Hull. There’s something special about bringing 1990s indie-punk darlings, The Senseless Things, pictured, back to the Adelphi to play to a sell-out crowd.

I thought it was a bit off-the-wall and unexpected.

“I saw that a one-off reunion show at Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London was announced last December, and thought it was a bit off-the-wall and unexpected,” he says.

It was clear that a warm-up gig for the big date would be required. Having promoted The Senseless Things gigs in the past, the connection was already there, but a chance conversation revealed that Mark Keds from the band had been working with Mal Williamson at Creator College in Hull city centre. Nigel seized the day. “I just asked Mal to hook us back up and it went from there. It’s fair to say they could have played somewhere else and made a lot more money, but it’s not about that for them.”

Asked to pick a favourite band from the current punk scene in the city, Nigel reveals a lengthy list, unable to narrow it down, always one more band he wants to mention. The bands he lists range from pop punk to noise, old-school punk to those with a political edge. “I just like putting on breaking bands,” he says. “It’s as simple as that.”

With upcoming gigs including a return for Smash It Up! favourites, 2 Sick Monkeys, and more club nights to follow, the punk scene in the city remains safe in Nigel’s passionate hands.