Artist Interviews

Artist Interview: Philip Jonathan

Hello. In your own words, how would you describe your sound and style?
In a nutshell, it’s cinematic folk – or Ben Howard at the front and Sigur Ros at the back! I spend a lot of time in the hills or on the coast and this inspires a lot of my writing. So I tend to like these earthy, organic folk sounds sitting on top of wide open spaces and atmospheres created by orchestral and electronic sounds.

You’ve just released your debut EP titled “Pluma”. What is the story behind the EP and its title? What themes and ideas influence your music and writing?
Pluma” (‘feather’ in Latin) is about searching for hope in the highest, lowest and most mundane moments in life. The tie for me between a feather and the concept of hope goes back some way. Chokehold came about through the grief of losing a close friend who passed from cancer a few years ago. As he got more unwell, he kept on seeing feathers everywhere, and this prompted him each time to remember things to be thankful for and to live in the moment – that things were going to be okay. He was someone of faith and for him, existence was bigger than the life lived here so he had a different perspective. I worked the feather into most of the music videos – leading the woman to the shore in Seafront, behind the sunflower at the end of I, Hope, and all the bird-feeders in In the Garden. The artist who made the cover art, Goutham Tulasi, had shared with me how Seafront had accompanied his journey making peace with his father’s death. He suggested having a flower bursting from the end of the feather. Even after the feather has fallen from the bird: its story isn’t over yet. 

I couldn’t pin down any one thing that influences my music and writing. Often I find writing songs is a way to authentically examine some of the questions I ask myself. But a recurring theme in that process is a search for some kind of redemption – to find meaning and beauty in the middle of some of these struggles.

We really enjoy your music and had the pleasure of seeing you play at a Sofar Sounds event in Gateshead. What have been career highlights for you so far?
The day I released my first track, Seafront, stands out for me – the amount of messages I received from friends and total strangers about it was totally overwhelming! It took me about a week of near-constant messaging to reply to them all. That was a huge moment for me after years of not sharing so much of this music to realise that people actually valued what I was making. After that, another big milestone has got to be the gigs around the “Pluma” release. I played Sofar NE, sold out my first headliner for the launch gig and played to a packed room in Berwick the week after. It was both humbling and surreal to realise that so many people were coming out to support me! I’ve always wanted to play at Sofar – they have the best audiences, so that was really special. At the launch gig, the crowd started singing along to In the Garden – Alicia (my backing singer) and I were so surprised that we forgot all the lyrics! We had a good laugh about it on stage and managed to carry on though.

Do you have any plans for the year ahead that you would like to share with us? Also, what would you like to achieve in the upcoming year?
The next few months are about taking time to allow creative ideas to bubble up again. The last year has been so intense learning how to self-promote, use social media, send out press releases etc. that I’ve had almost no time for the most important bit – songwriting! But I’ve already been back in studio getting started on the next EP. I hope to be finishing off that through the Summer and Autumn, whilst getting out and playing as many gigs as I can in the meantime! Expect some new releases towards the back end of the year/early 2023.

What advice do you have specifically for other north east artists? And what advice do you have for artists in general?
I recently wrote a piece on just this for the fantastic local music Zine ‘Every Day is a Rhythm’ – you can read it here: But in summary: Figure out what drives you and what your internal metrics of success are – the things which aren’t dependent on anyone else. Don’t make art about numbers or what other people are saying, make it about what moves you or you’ll probably burn (or sell) out. Second – and I’m still on the learning journey here – don’t compare yourself up or down. Celebrating and championing those around you is a great antidote to the urge to compare yourself to others.

Lastly, what artists are on your radar that you would recommend others listen to & see live?
There’s a few most established artists who massively inspire my sound that I’d love to plug. The Staves are phenomenal live. Also, if you like any of my music, I thoroughly recommend Roo Panes, Matthew and the Atlas, the Paper Kites, the Oh Hellos and Francis Luke Accord.

However… locally (as I’ve recently been discovering!) we have some phenomenal talent. I’m a particular fan of Benjamin Amos live (so much energy!), Tom Joshua (can’t wait for him to release more music), Jodie Nicholson (a rising star + beautiful vocals) Matt Hunsley (cracking vocals and interesting arrangements) and Ceitidh Mac (some serious music there). I also saw Faithful Johannes live recently and I can say it was a unique and truly extraordinary experience.

Follow Philip Jonathan on socials: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

Industry Interviews

NMC Guest: Simon Shaw (KU Promotions)

How long have you been active in the north east music scene and what do you do?
Hey, I’ve been active since I was 18 years old as a musician, I think I put my first gig on when I was 22 as a promoter? I’m 33 years old now, it’s been a long long time. My main role is co-promoter over at KU Promotions alongside Jimmy Beck but I also am a rep for other gigs and even more recently also take photos/videos of gigs. Bass playing wise I’ve played in a fair few projects most notably Cape Cub but currently playing with ‘Travis Shaw’ and ‘Church, Honey’ with a couple others TBA (that’s a promoter joke but also true).

How did you become involved in music and what have you done to get where you are today?
I’ll speak mainly as a promoter from now on as that’s been my full-time work for so long and probably more interesting than wanting to perform on stage ‘because it’s class’. I wanted to put gigs on because I wanted my mates to have somewhere to play at the start.  I did everything myself to keep the costs down to please the venue owner at the time which meant setting up, doing the sound, taking little breaks away from the desk to take photos and serve some drinks if the bar was busy. I did that four, sometimes five nights a week for three years. I do think I’m still here because I’m very honest and friendly and people can see I’m horribly working class, I’m not from money in fact my parents were both disabled growing up. I am a people pleaser and somewhat live my happiness through the events I put on. I love live music, I don’t think there’s anything better than a dead good gig.

What advice would you offer to others looking to be more involved in music?
If you’re wanting to be a promoter I’d say find your local small venues, go in and watch the gigs as early as possible, maybe turn up at the door time. Stay as long as you are allowed and watch and take in what’s happening. Usually these gigs have the lowest overheads so speak to the owner of the building and see how feasible it would be to put a night on and explain it’ll be your first. Thankfully the buzz with your mates about your first promoted gig will be enough to fill a small room but then comes the graft. Little tips that always work is to keep the bands happy with expectations of what the gig is and how sales are going. Keep your engineers happy by sticking to planned timings and give them enough space and time to work. Keep everyone safe and most importantly, look after yourself. It’s a tough craft at times because the buck literally stops at you, if an event fails it’s because you didn’t get it right and that’s okay.

What are your favourite things about the north east music scene? Are there any particular highlights from your experiences?
I think the word wholesome is the vibe for me. I love seeing people succeed in their own expectations. My favourite thing is listening to people talk about something they really care about and the music world is full of those kinds of people.

Are there any upcoming events that you’re especially excited about and, if so, why?
The big one we’re promoting this year is a new music festival in Stockton called The Gathering Sounds festival. The best way to describe it to gig going fans is that it is a very slightly smaller Stockton Calling festival. Six stages all in established music venues like Georgian Theatre, ARC and KU itself. We’ve got This Feeling and Under The Influence promoters curating their own stages at this years festival. The line-ups announced please do check out because I could write a book about them all by now, headliners are Red Rum Club, Sophie and the Giants and The Mysterines, Du Blonde and Himalayas. It really feels like this is the year for a bloody big all day music festival ey?

Where can others find out more about your work and how can they get in touch?
My personal social media accounts are full of my work or you can check out KU Stockton on the usual places, I’m over at @SimonShawBass. Always happy to answer questions and I love a good natter so if you spot me at a gig let’s chat. Thanks very much for the questions Northern Music Collective.
KU Stockton: Facebook | Simon: Instagram & Twitter

Industry Interviews

NMC Guest: Rotate Records

Who are, or what is, Rotate Records? And what do you do?
Rotate Records is a Durham based dance music label looking to expose the city’s present, but unseen production talent. The label is one part of the multi-faceted organisation, Rotate: a collective of producers and DJs whose primary goal is to provide a platform for Durham based artists to promote their music and bring the local scene onto the map. We want to bring together the huge mix of tastes, skills and sounds from both the student and local communities and our debut project, the various artists compilation ‘66 Saddler Street’, aims to do just that.

What is the history of Rotate Records?
Rotate grew from a group of students who had a strong collective appreciation for underground dance music. We actually started from a house party that essentially moved house and turned into a full fledged weekly Wednesday night club event. That first year, pioneered by the ‘founding fathers’ Luke Thorne and Callum Traynor, saw this close community grow. The next year Isaac Green, Andy Knape, Dina Hudson and Brettan Garrett continued their legacy and brought in wider crowds, attracting those not so used to our kind of music, whilst at the same time still giving grassroot DJs the chance to play a live headline set. This year, despite the obvious lockdown restrictions we expanded our organisation. With such a strong following from the previous years, we had all the backing to start a podcast series and begin our new label Rotate Records. Fortunately, these were possible to do at a time when events were not.

What are your aims or mission statements?
Rotate’s primary focus has always been to provide a platform for Durham based dance musicians to showcase their music, whether that be DJs or producers, local or student. With our events, we aim to give fledgling DJs the opportunity to perform a headline set, often their debut. With Rotate Records, we aim to showcase the raw talent of dance music producers in Durham that have been under our noses the whole time.

How did Rotate become integrated in the music scene in the North East? And what is next for Rotate Records?
Rotate as a collective has comprised a number of students over the years who have had ties to Newcastle in the North East especially. Our residents at Rotate have been going to raves in Newcastle since before the brand was founded, notably events run by Rush, Ape-X and Ill Behaviour. It is through these events that we’ve been able to get in touch with DJs and producers and integrate ourselves with the music community in the North East. Everyone has been so accommodating and ready to go out on a limb to help out, which has really helped us to grow and develop.

We’ve got a lot of exciting plans for the next couple of months, after our debut compilation release on June 18th, we’ve got a couple of events lined up in Durham. We’re doing a takeover at the BST Durham Terrace Party alongside Harrison BDP and Hamdi on the 21st of June and have numerous other events in venues around Durham. After this premiere compilation we have a couple of singles lined up to release over the summer which we’re hoping coincides with the return of events and clubs over the coming months.

What advice would you offer to others looking to be more involved in music?
As cliche as it is, above all else strive to be ambitious and independent. For us, we’ve never been afraid to stray from the beaten path and as a result we’ve adapted to all the challenging conditions we’ve had to face over the last year. The majority of us had not done much before we got involved with Rotate, it was just a case of putting in the hours at any opportunity and loving every bit of it that got us where we are now.

Where can others find out more about your work and how can they get in touch?
We’ve got a website which we keep updated regularly with our mix series, live streams, podcasts, playlists, merch and events:

Check out our social media as well for all our latest events and news:

You can also get in touch by email at 

Industry Interviews

NMC Guest: Jordan (Editor at Spotlight Music)

How long have you been active in the north east music scene and what do you do?
I am the editor and manager for which is a North East based music blog, but we also occasionally do video content and put on gigs too.
My role is primarily to organise and delegate content to our volunteer writing team and make sure that it is of a good standard when we publish it and share it on social media.
In addition to this I am constantly networking with musicians, PR, managers, photographers and venues to make sure that they are on our radar and we are doing our best to help those who need it.
I’ve been active as a journalist and reviewer for around four years, an editor for three of those years and sole owner of the Spotlight brand since 2018 when it’s other founders moved on to pursue different projects.

How did you become involved in music and what have you done to get where you are today?
I’ve been going to gigs since I was 16, we used to get a lot of the national up and coming metalcore and hardcore bands come through Newcastle on tour so I was constantly at the 02 Arena and The Cluny for those. When I started a journalism course at uni I initially wanted to pursue a career in news journalism, but found myself being involved more and more in local arts and culture projects. I met one of the founding members of Spotlight while at university as it was just starting out and they were looking for writers, before long I was writing content for the website and not long after that I was sub-editing other writers’ contributions and helping to organise their events and social media.

Spotlight became my priority once I graduated from university and I jumped at the chance to officially take over ownership of the website in 2018.

What advice would you offer to others looking to be more involved in music?
If you haven’t found an artist or project you love in your local music scene, don’t give up! There’s always a huge range of hard working individuals in every genre imaginable, you just might need to scratch beneath the surface or try something new.
Take a chance and see a random band play live (Post-pandemic obviously) or start asking around for some recommendations, read blogs or listen to playlists and I’m almost certain something exciting will show up.
You can build some really rewarding relationships just by showing an interest in your local artistic community and more often than not the musicians are hugely grateful for your support.

If you’re wanting to get involved in writing reviews, features or music journalism I would say that there is no secret key to success other than to practice and delve into reviews made by others. Try out different styles and formats until you find something that fits you.
Start your own blog or see if you can contribute to a pre-existing one and be open to feedback and constructive criticism so you can learn and grow.
But definitely don’t be hard on yourself if you find yourself struggling to find inspiration or can’t quite reach a stage where you’re comfortable showing off your work to others yet.
Everybody starts from this point and you are absolutely as capable of being a fantastic writer as everyone else!

What are your favourite things about the north east music scene? Are there any particular highlights from your experiences?
I love that, even after all this time, I’m still finding new musicians, labels and projects that I’d never heard before! 
There is always something new around the corner to discover, and a dedicated following ready to help support it, no matter how niche.
I’m also so encouraged by the fact that, once you start engaging with the music scene, familiar faces show up in crowds or on stage and that makes the experience feel more special.
This is especially true when you’ve been involved for a few years and you can see artists develop and grow over time!

Where can others find out more about your work and how can they get in touch?
Spotlight Music: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Industry Interviews

NMC Guest: Adam (Promoter [Famous Last Words] & Founder of MUNRO Festival)

How long have you been active in the north east music scene and what do you do?
I have had a voice in the music scene for nearly nine years. Famous Last Words started in 2016 and the majority of the organising, planning, designing the work, promotion and managing I have done myself.

How did you become involved in music and what have you done to get where you are today?
Following the blog, I took an interest in the event organisation, planning and the behind the scenes of live music events. This included preparation, familiarising myself with all aspects of the event, equipment and promotion. In doing so, I started working with events company Ten Feet Tall, that at the time were based at the Middlesbrough Empire. During my work with them, I created Famous Last Words. FLW has been a huge personal success as I have worked with incredible local artists and some further afield. I have also had the pleasure of managing stages at Stockton Calling, The Gathering Sounds and Twisterella over the past few years. FLW have also managed it’s own all day festival called MUNRO for the past two years.

What advice would you offer to others looking to be more involved in music?
The three most important tips I always give to people, if they ask me this question, are:

Tip 1 – Get to know everyone within the music scene, physically go to gigs, have a look around see who is there; 99% of the time people will always have a chat with you and if they don’t know something they’ll help you by directing you towards someone who does.

Tip 2 – Get involved because you love music, not because you want to make money from it. I can’t stress this enough, at a grassroots level everyone is doing it because they love music. There isn’t any other reason than that.

Tip 3 – Don’t be a doyle. Simple advice.

What are your favourite things about the north east music scene? Are there any particular highlights from your experiences?
The North East music scene is amazing, from Newcastle to Hartlepool, from Sunderland to Stockton, it’s full of class talent.
The togetherness as such, everyone is wanting everyone to do amazing things and take it to the next level, I think because sometimes the North East does get over looked in some ways, it gives everyone a motivation to prove people wrong and the area has been doing that for years now which is class.
My highlights as a promoter would be selling out gigs, Cape Cub & Michael Gallagher are probably the highlights for me in that sense because they were the first two I did. Working with Stockton Calling is always a blast as well, always one of the first things I write on my calendar whether it be as a promoter or as a ticket goer.
The highlight that is always in every gig and I don’t know if anyone else does it as a promoter but I watch people leave and if I see people leaving with a smile, I have done my job, giving them a nice night, bit of entertainment. Always something I look for.

MUNRO is always a highlight, working with the likes of The Lottery Winners, The K’s, Komparrison, Plastic Glass, Club Paradise, Walt Disco. I could spend all day chatting about MUNRO but I don’t want to bore your readers too much.

Where can others find out more about your work and how can they get in touch?
Famous Last Words can be found @FamousLastBoro on all socials! I do prefer if bands want to send me something or are wanting to work with me, to email me at
Famous Last Words: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Industry Interviews

NMC Guest: Mal (That Verbally Withdrawn Music Blog)

How long have you been active in the north east music scene and what do you do?
I was first introduced to the music scene about 2003 when I was in a punk band called Verbally Withdrawn. But right now I have my own music blog which is named after that band called That Verbally Withdrawn Music Blog. I also still play I’m currently in a blues-influenced band, Grim Lizard (formally Dark Passenger), as the bass player.

How did you become involved in music and what have you done to get where you are today?
My interest in music started when I got introduced to the band Blink 182. I just loved everything about them; the image and music all seemed very cool to me. Over the year I’ve been in and out of bands and have made many friends along the way. I’ve also been very keen on supporting over bands and going to as many gigs as I can. That’s why I started the blog and, I think, the more I do the more popular the things I have posted have gotten.

What advice would you offer to others looking to be more involved in music?
My advice, if you’re interested in going to gigs and getting involved yourself, is to find other people with the same interests and catch some shows together. If you’re interested in writing, maybe start your own blog or get in touch with people already involved like local zines or magazines for a little help.

What are your favourite things about the north east music scene?
The support that people give each other, especially recently, has been incredible to see. I also love that events aren’t just limited to music acts; you get all types of art being displayed at events. People using art to send out a message. There’s really been loads going on over the past few years. On a personal level, I’ve enjoyed being involved in many things like bands messaging me upcoming tracks to review, and being in the band getting to play festivals like Stockton Calling, Heelapalooza and Volkspower, were so much fun. One of my favourites was playing Salsola’s single launch for the song “Cass”. I’ve always enjoyed launches that are organised by the band. It’s always been a fun and creative way bands to support each other.

Where can others find out more about your work and how can they get in touch?
Mostly on the socials such as Facebook or Twitter, for the blog just search “That Verbally Withdrawn Music Blog”, and for the band search “Grim Lizard”.
That Verbally Withdrawn Music Blog: Facebook | Twitter | Website
Grim Lizard: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter