Faces That Have Shaped The Liverpool Music Scene
Liverpool is one of the best loved music cities in the world as tourists flock in their thousands each year to come to the place that spawned The Beatles.
Our local scene is still thriving and developing as many artists choose to call Merseyside their home. Some of these faces are born and bred on our shores; others come here for our many universities or for the thriving scene itself. We got to thinking about who, apart from the obvious, helped shape our illustrious music scene, and we believe they deserve being shouted about.
We know this one is blindingly obvious, but we had to kick start the list with the guys. The Fab Four put Merseyside on the map, making us into the musical mecca that we have been throughout the 20th century and continue to be. You’ll find their fingerprints all over the city, of course, but also all over this list.
As co-founder of LIPA, the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, along with Macca himself, Mark Featherstone-Witty has had a huge impact on the Liverpool scene, even if not directly. Because of the institution the scene has diversified greatly since it’s opening in 1996, bringing artists from across the genres and more importantly, across the globe, to our city. We couldn’t pick LIPA as a whole, so we chose the big boss.
Founder of Sound City and Modern Sky, Dave Pichilingi has quite literally been involved in the development and regeneration of parts of the city through his musical endeavours. Sound City used to take over the whole of the city centre, transforming it into the musical city that we are so well known for. Then, the festivities were moved onto the Bramley-Moore Docks where it flourished and provided a platform for the area to start its regeneration. Sound City has now returned to its roots, the City Centre, where it will continue to be the innovative, networking trailblazer that sets it apart from the rest.
John Power is still going strong after coming to us as the bassist for legendary Brit-Pop band, The La’s. After his time in The La’s, John went on to form Cast, another Indie, Brit-Pop band that would have lasting effects on the music industry, with Oasis’ Noel Gallagher describing watching them as a “religious experience”. The band split in the early 2000s but have since reformed in 2010 and are enjoying one hell of a comeback, most notably collaborating with Paul Weller and performing with our very own Philharmonic Orchestra. John Power is also a huge LFC fan and has been keenly involved in the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, even lending his voice to the 2009 charity single, The Fields of Anfield Road.
You may not know Dave by name, but you’ll certainly know him as the lead singer of The Zutons, a band that are firmly in the public consciousness through their intergalactic smash hit, Valerie. However, the story doesn’t end there. McCabe has worked with the likes of Mark Ronson and Thea Gilmore, as well as the man himself, Sir Paul McCartney, on the Hillsborough charity single, He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother. McCabe is reminder of what local artists can achieve in the modern industry.
Creator of famous local music publication, Getintothis, Peter Guy must get a mention for championing new music from the region and letting us music lovers know about the best musical goings on in the area. Getintothis is now a staple on Merseyside and has since widened its platform with the likes of the GiT Awards and Deep Cuts, a local gig night that showcases the best upcoming acts from the region and a little further afield.
The pink publication has become iconic in the city. You can’t move around the likes of Bold Street and The Baltic Triangle without finding a copy. Bido Lito is keeping print alive by being the platform that every local artist wants to be in, or even takeover the front page of. They break artists through interviews, reviews, listings and sponsor local music competitions and events to promote the Mersey scene and local talent, including The Mersey Rail Sound Station Prize.
Yaw Owusu is the curator of LIMF, the Liverpool International Music Festival, and made it what it is today. Not just that, he has managed many artists from the city who are making waves around the country such as XamVolo, Eleanor Nelly and Sub Blue. LIMF has a reputation for bringing huge artists to our shores, but also for providing an unrivalled platform for our local talent through its innovative LIMF Academy.
It’s hard to believe that our legendary Cavern Club has had the rocky past that it has. Whether being redeveloped or changing owners numerous times since it’s rise to fame, we should consider ourselves lucky that we can still walk through those famous doors. And, that is thanks to local business partners, Bill Heckle and Dave Jones, who took over the venue in 1991. Since then they have welcomed local showcases, regular tributes to the Fab Four and huge stars such as Jessie J, Arctic Monkeys, Oasis, Jake Bugg and one of the men who started this whole thing, Paul McCartney. Heckle and Jones are not only preserving a part of musical history, but they are also keeping it relevant, something that is harder than it sounds…and it sounds pretty damn hard. They do all this, including the wonderful International Beatles Week along with the venues director, Jon Keats.
Frontman of The Farm, Peter Hooton, has not only had a huge impact on the city’s music industry through…well, being the frontman of The Farm, but also through his work with local charities and events. Now he has become the Chair of The Beatles Legacy Group, which was established by the council to manage the huge economical impact that The Beatles had on the city. Not only does he now look after a commodity that is worth over £80m to the city, he also is continuing his work with the band and is a committee member of the Spirit of Shankly, another foundation that is important to the local community.
Established in 1992, Sense of Sound is a vocal training agency that was founded by Jennifer John. Thanks to this incredibly talented and hard working vocalist we have been lucky enough to hear the likes of Esco Williams and Jetta, who both came through the academy. Jennifer John is an amazingly accomplished vocalist and performer in her own right, but as far as the impact goes on educating young singers in the city, her company is quite unmatched. Through workshops, master classes and regular events, Sense of Sound and Jennifer John are keeping our city singing, even taking to our biggest stage, the Echo Arena with her choirs.
Our guy at the BBC for bringing local artists through the ranks and getting them on the airwaves, Dave Monks is a must on the list. Not only does he promote artists by giving them a spin on his BBC Introducing show, he uses his powers to help our Mersey musicians get on BBC Introducing stages at festivals, played on other BBC stations, or by hosting local festival stages and showcases at the likes of the Cavern.
LIPA graduate, Simon Pursehouse, has changed music publishing in a big way by founding Sentric Music, a company that any artist can sign up to for publishing, rather than having to be “signed”. What started in Liverpool is now nationally recognised company and has allowed artists to be played on national TV, films and adverts through their opportunities and unique business model. Thanks to Sentric, and Simon, any artist can easily get paid for simply playing their own music, or someone else playing it, changing the ball game for many local musicians who need a break wherever they can get it in todays industry.
Another company that may go under the radar for music lovers, but not for musicians and other industry folk, is Ditto Music. These guys do a lot for getting our local artists, and artists from around the world, heard in this digital age. For laymen like us, they distribute artist’s music onto the likes of Spotify and iTunes, as well as undertaking a promotional role in getting their artist onto the best platforms they can. This kind of thing used to go unseen, as part of a big corporation, but as we like to keep things humble on Merseyside, Ditto are an approachable, boutique team that really care about what’s at stake, set up by brothers, Matt Parsons and Lee Parsons.
Julian Gill, better known as his stage name, Esco Williams, has been making his own impact on various areas of the local scene for some years now. He shot to the forefront of the local scene back with his single, New Challenger, but since then has been busy breaking one of the cities best loved Pop-exports, MiC Lowry. Esco is the genius behind the crazy acapella arrangements and has developed the band into what they are today. Taking them on tour around the world with Justin Bieber whilst keeping their roots as seen in their latest session at our very own Parr Street Studios shows the ethos of the group, an ethos that has had an impact on the Soul and R&B scene in the city.
Talking of the Soul and R&B scene in the city, we want to mention Kelly, Tony and Saeed of Soul Inspired Events who helped create a scene where the wasn’t one previously. We’re most known on Merseyside for our Indie/Pop bands, but we have an underlying soul that was going previously untapped until these guys started up events such as Soul 4 Soul and Soulfest which in part built a scene around the sound in the city. Because of that, we now have a wealth of Soul and R&B artists who have a platform from which they can share their soul.
Another music festival that has taken over parts of the city in recent years is the Baltic favourite, Threshold Festival. Kaya and Chris, the founders of the festival, were early adopters of The Baltic Triangle as a cultural region in the city and we think are part of why it has flourished in recent years. This D.I.Y, urban hippy style festival gave punters a reason to explore the area before it became what it is today, with the Threshold being just short of a decade old.
One of the founders of the legendary club night, Cream, James Barton has to make the list. After setting up the original venue in Wolstenholme Square in 1992, the brand has gone on to not only shape our local scene, but EDM around the world, even setting up the world famous Creamfields Festival. What started as local night that quickly gained the attention of punters and DJ superstars alike is now an international name that has even conquered the party capital of the world, Ibiza. We’re still regularly seeing innovative Cream nights in our own backyard, taking over the likes of the Anglican Cathedral and LIMF as a full orchestra accompanies the resident DJs. In 2014, Barton was named as the ‘most important person in Dance music’ by the one and only Rolling Stone magazine. He is now Live Nation’s President of Electronic Music, one of the biggest gig promoters/agents in the world. James Barton is the cream of the crop when it comes to our music scene.
Since discussing the faces that shaped our thriving local scene, Tony Butler, the late, great owner of The Zanzibar, is ever present. His recent, sudden passing shocked the local scene and has really brought into focus how important his impact has been. The Zanzibar is a cornerstone of the local scene, giving underground bands a stage and community to get involved with. Tony truly loved Liverpool, music and the bands he put on, with no nonsense and nothing pretentious. Local nights allowed bands to perform on the same stage as the likes of The Zutons, The 1975 and The Coral, but Tony would never gloat or show off about everything that he justifiably could. The humility and genuine love for music shone through with everything he did for the Merseyside scene, earning him the GIT Award ‘Inspiration Honour ‘from fellow list member, Peter Guy. Rest in peace, Tony, and thank you.