Craig Bratley On Mixed Martial Arts

Ahead of his gig with Dan Avery and A Love From Outer Space at Antwerp Mansion this weekend, multi-talented Craig Bratley talks to us about his time in Thailand's mixed martial arts camps.

Mike Warburton

Date published: 5th Aug 2014

Image: Craig Bratley

Craig Bratley has been making waves in the world of slo-mo disco for a few years now, after his nagging workout 'Birdshell' (hear below) was caned by all and sundry in 2010.

He's gone on to release for many labels, including Andy Weatherall's vinyl only imprint Birdscarer, and is an integral part of the 12-hour disco marathon for Cowbell at Antwerp Mansion on Saturday, August the 9th, along with Dan Avery and Mr Weatherall himself as part of A Love From Outer Space.

But we're not going to talk about that - that would be too obvious. Instead, we sent Mike Boorman to talk to him about his love for Muay Thai and mixed martial arts, and how it's not the best idea to accept the offer of a tattoo from a man armed with a home-made gun and a piece of bamboo.

I'm fascinated by the fact you've actually been out to Thailand to stay at Muay Thai camps. You're the first person I've met that has done this. Firstly, just describe as much as you can what exactly it was like in these camps?

You might actually be surprised how many people do go out there training. I'm not sure I could do it now though! I'd not actually done that much travelling the first time I went so it was a little bit of a culture shock when I went. The first camp I went to was Rawai Muay Thai which was on Phuket.

The camp consisted of two rings, a few bags and a few weights. Right next to the ring, and I mean about three feet away there was three small rooms that contained two single beds. There was other accommodation available nearby but these were the cheapest.

Behind the gym was a few small rooms where a few of the Thais lived and a few of the kids that trained at the gym. I think a few of the kids had lost their parents in the Tsunami and had been adopted by the camp. They trained them up and they used to fight for money. A lot of the kids had a number of pro fights under their belt by the time they were twelve.

There are all manner of stereotypes going around my head of how regimented a camp for something like this would be. What would you do to wind down in the evenings? And were things like diet and bed times controlled? How long would you stay?

The first time I went for six or seven weeks and the second time was only a month. The second time I went to the World Muay Thai council camp in Ko Samui as I had a friend living out there.

It wasn't that regimented to be honest - you paid your money and trained when you wanted to or could. It was up to you to motivate yourself. Training started at 7am for two hours, you would then usually go for breakfast and hit the beach, maybe try and fit a nap in before training again at 4pm.

It's pretty punishing if you commit to it but some days it was too hot to do both sessions or you would pick up a little niggle that required a day off.

In the evening and on Sundays we would go for a meal, play pool, watch DVDs, go to the cinema, visit other areas, sight see etc. Sunday was a day off so we would go out for a few beers etc.

Are there any surreal memories that stand out?

I wanted to get a bamboo tattoo while I was there and got introduced to this local Thai guy, apparently he used to be a fighter/instructor. I thought he had a studio or something but when I was taken to his place it was just a tent in a dusty field.

Anyway, at one stage he showed me this gun he had hidden in a tree and I thought, here we go. I think it was home made, it looked like it would probably take your hand off too.

Rumour had it that he had previously been to prison for killing someone in a fight and was released early for representing the gym in prison Muay Thai fights. How true that is I'm not sure.

Anyway, it just got weirder and weirder and this tattoo design he came up with on my arm was awful. I told him I was just going to get some food before he started with the bamboo and did a runner, I spent the rest of the trip avoiding him at all costs. There where so many other funny things that happened on both trips, many of which are not repeatable in print!

Do you think the precision of thought and intensity required for Muay Thai has helped you as a musician? I can imagine it might help you get through those creative brick walls in the studio (hear below for his latest studio work 'The Vanity EP' on his own label, Magic Feet).

Not really, although I think perhaps you have to have a certain mentality and self discipline to be able to train/sit in a room listening to the same thing over and over again. I said recently that the reality of making modern 'underground' dance music is taking a day off work on what may possibly be the hottest day of the year, to sit in a sweltering studio in your underpants. That takes discipline!

What was it that got you in to MMA in the first place?

I've always dipped in and out of martial arts, boxing as a kid (before going out distracted me), bits of Kung Fu, Kickboxing, etc. I've trained with some really good guys.

One day I went to a Ju Jitsu class at a leisure centre and could hear this animalistic grunting coming from a balcony. I went up there and found this tiny gym. Seeing how the guys trained there and sparring with them made me realise that's the sort of gym you needed to be in.

That's where I really got involved in it as MMA. We had a small clique really, where we all got along and socialised but for a few hours a week would try and kill each other!

They've moved to a much bigger premises now and have some great fighters on their cards. The Grimsby Fight Ministry it's called - I wouldn't be surprised if you see one or two of their fighters in the UFC in the near future, Neil is a great coach.

Obviously you must have been at a pretty high standard if you went overseas to improve your art; but was there ever any kind of professional ambition with this for you? Or did you just do it for the basic reason of getting better at something?

Not really. I went overseas for the experience and to improve my technique. The Thais are known to be the best kickers in the world. You realise why when you are stood at a punch bag next to ten year old and he can kick a bag twice as hard as you!

I've always tried to keep in shape and at the time was doing a Personal Trainer course with the view to working in the fitness industry. Little known fact, I'm a fully qualified personal trainer you know. It was perhaps just another string to add to my bow. However, I made a decision to take a promotion in my current job and that change never happened.

Is there anything we could learn from Thai culture?

I think respect in general. The Thais have a lot more respect for each other and their elders.

How would sum up the art of Muay Thai in a few words for the lay man?

Muay Thai is known as the 'Art of Eight Limbs' as it involves punches, kicks, elbows and knees as strikes.

You can buy tickets to see Craig at Cowbell in Antwerp Mansion here, where hopefully he will not be punching, kicking or elbowing anyone, at least without good reason...

Tickets are no longer available for this event

Upcoming Events At Antwerp Mansion, Manchester

Here is the next upcoming event At Antwerp Mansion, Manchester

Big summer speedy social

Big summer speedy social

Antwerp Mansion, Manchester

28th June

6:00pm til 11:00pm (last entry 7:00pm)

Minimum Age: 18

For ticket prices, please click here (Additional fees may apply)

A big summer speedy social, hosted at antwerp mansion! The perfect opportunity to network and meet l...