PBR Streetgang's Bonar Bradberry spoke with Marko Kutlesa about his formative clubbing experiences, his relationship with Ibiza, favourite productions, their new album and more.
Last updated: 14th Dec 2017. Originally published: 8th Dec 2017
From the nightclubs of Leeds to the DJ booth at famed Ibiza club Space within just a couple of years in the early 2000s, in hindsight the rise of PBR Streetgang seems to have been a fairly quick one.
But such a judgement would discount the many years of effort both of the duo's members, Tom Thorpe and Bonar Bradberry, put in behind the scenes. Much experience in club promotion and daytime work at record labels has helped them on their way. And within the decade they set to the task of music production.
Their first releases emerged on Illja Rudman's Red Music Records and since then they have recorded for Wolf Music, 20:20 Vision, Hot Creations, Throne Of Blood and forged longstanding relationships with Futureboogie Recordings and Skint Records. The latter will be releasing their debut album at the end of January 2018. They have also remixed Lana Del Ray, Charlotte C, Crazy P, George Morel and Dusky and collaborated with X-Press 2.
Louche, System, Basics, Subdub, New Bohemia, Technique and many others. Leeds was awash with good club nights around the turn of the millennium. What made you think there was room for Asylum and the Faversham Garden parties and how do you think your parties were different from everything else that was going on?
It might be better for Tom to answer that because he was the one who really set up Asylum, I just did it with him. We'd done something that ran for a while at mint Club, after Basics left, but then that came to an end. But there was a really big buzz about the city at the time and we'd always had a really good group of friends, so we wanted to put on something that would basically cater for us. I think the inexperience and energy of youth spurs you on a bit.
Ours was really diverse. Jazzy Jeff, Timo Maas, Circo Loco, The Unabombers, Danny Krivit, our musical tastes were a bit broader than some of the other nights going on. There was loads of good stuff, but it just wasn't quite as eclectic as we wanted it to be.
There were a few of us who were residents, Simon Baker, Dan Ward from Acid Mondays, Andy Whittaker who now runs R&S Records and ourselves. We all wanted somewhere where we could play and do our own thing as well as bring some people to Leeds who'd never been before. So, it was a combination of motivating factors.
I read somewhere that you were a visitor to Gatecrasher in Sheffield when it was at its peak. What are your memories of the club?
Did Tom mention that in another interview?
Because I probably wouldn't have, ha! Only joking! I was so young at the time. I'm not sure I was even legally old enough to go. Those were my first forays. You'd go up on a coach from Birmingham, which is where I'm originally from, with a big group of friends. And that was a big part of it.
Going somewhere, out of town, seeing something different. The club was amazing. It was pretty far ahead of what was happening in Birmingham. The soundsystem was amazing. Musically, I wasn't so much into the stuff in the main room, but I went along with it because we were in a big group of friends. It was a big night out rather than a musical pilgrimage. The side rooms a few times had people like Elliot Eastwick, who I enjoyed listening to. Bed, also in Sheffield, was the next one I used to go to quite a bit.
I went to Bed one night and it was the same promoter as Gatecrasher, so he took us there for a look around beforehand. We went in the entrance and then immediately through this small door, down some dark steps and when the lights came on I realised we were stood in the DJ booth with someone huge trance DJ playing. The club looked incredible, the lights, the lazers, and so did the crowd.
Yeah, there was a really crazy element there. I suppose they were the early days of what maybe came to be called cyber kids. But by the time Bed opened I'd gone off it. But the atmosphere there (Gatecrasher) was absolutely amazing. At that age, you really felt like you were at something special, something different. The music might not have aged so well, but in terms of a party, at that time, there wasn't much to touch it.
What was it like going from playing in Leeds to becoming back room residents at We Love at Space on Ibiza and how did that come about?
We'd only been doing Asylum for two or three years when that came about. Mark Broadbent was the main booker at the time and I got his address when I was working at 20:20 Vision. I just did a mix CD, sent it off to him and didn't expect anything back at all. But literally a week later he contacted me, saying it was great and that he really liked it, if you're over in Ibiza this season come and say hello.
So, of course, we did engineer a reason to be out there. We met up and he said that next year we'd like to arrange a couple of slots to put you on. It kind of went on from there.
I think it actually cost us money to do at the time. Mark didn't really have much of a budget for people who'd never been heard of before, but he was really supportive and we were really keen to do it. The time slots got better, the rooms got bigger until the point where we did the final slot of the closing party in the year that he left, which I think was 2014. That was very, very special. A bucket list gig.
Since that time, as you say, Mark's left and indeed Space has closed. So, what's your relationship with Ibiza been since then?
We've done a couple of things at Pikes through Sarah Broadbent, who's Mark's wife and we did DC10 for the first time this August just gone. I've been going there for as long as we've been going to Space and it's an incredibly special place.
Which of you tracks that are already released are your personal favourites?
That's a difficult question. They're all my children and I love them all equally, ha!
Well, which do you find yourself playing most regularly?
I think we go through phases. At the moment we're playing 'Late Night Party Line' a lot and a couple of tracks from the new album. 'You Ready' was a bit of a favourite and 'At Dez' we used to play a lot. Like anything, you want to freshen it up. Remix wise, I think our remix of Charlotte OC is one we still play. We were really pleased with how that turned out.
You're playing for Electric Chair in Manchester at the end of December. Although you're more associated with Leeds, like you say, you had the Unabombers over as guests, so I presume you came over for the night. What memories do you have of Electric Chair?
One of my favourite memories! I think it's fair to say we're disciples of the Chair. They were hugely influential. I think we were there for every party, for a while, soaking up the atmosphere, soaking up what the Unabombers played. There really wasn't anything like that in Leeds.
They were a really great example for us, how we wanted to DJ, how we wanted to put on nights. It was so much more eclectic than anything in Leeds. In Leeds, people were always crazy, really up for a party, but the Electric Chair audience seemed different. It had a different kind of feel to it.
It's difficult to say what it was. But it's a massive thing for us, to be asked to do Electric Chair. You get those kinds of nights, when you're partying, that you can count on one hand, which are really magical, the atmosphere unique and it's hard to repeat anywhere else, and Electric Chair is definitely one of mine.
Do you each have your own individual strengths when you're working together in the studio?
Yeah, I think we do. That's the beauty of two people working together. You can bounce ideas off one another and make decisions a bit quicker.
My technical and engineering side is probably a bit stronger and Tom always brings a lot of enthusiasm and energy and will come at things with a different viewpoint.
I really liked your collaboration with X-Press 2. How did that happen?
That happened through the same guy, Matt, who we work with now at Skint, who are putting out our album at the end of January, joining the likes of Maya Jane Coles, Hercules and Love Affair. He approached us and said they'd done some stuff that they'd really like to collaborate on.
It was quite a slow process. We met up with Rocky and checked what they'd be expecting out of it and then we worked remotely on it. He sent us the stems and the original music was full of really great ideas, but very different to how the final tunes came out. It was amazing to work with people whose records you've been playing since you started DJing. I'd seen them at Bed in Sheffield and our first ever PBR gig was warming up for X-Press 2. It was like coming full circle.
I was wondering if your track titles At Dez and CRAIG were Carl Craig references?
Ahahaha. At Dez was, kind of. But CRAIG itself was named after the harmonica player, Craig, who came in the studio one afternoon and did the harmonica track for us, then left and we never heard from him again. So, we called it CRAIG so that hopefully he'd hear it and get back in touch.
This year's track 'Late Night Party Line' came out on your own Streetgang Jams label. Was that a one off or have you started your own proper label with this debut?
I think it was just a tentative foot in the water. I think we will be releasing more stuff on vinyl through there at some point. We do the Lost Property things already, the hand stamped vinyls.
We've got the album to concentrate on right now, but we may well come back to it. I've held off for years knowing how hard it is and all the work that goes into running a proper label, having worked at 20:20 Vision for five or six years. I'm of the mentality that if you're going to do it, do it proper or don't bother otherwise.
What can we expect from your debut album which is due at the end of January, because I gather it won't all be dancefloor stuff? What genres will you be exploring and what guests will be featured?
You're right, it won't all be dancefloor stuff. It's very much an album that has a progression through it. We've got some interesting people on there, Lily Juniper, Mattie Safer from The Rapture, who's on the lead single 'Everything Changes' and a couple of friends in Danielle Moore and Ron Basejam from Crazy P.
Jim (Ron Basejam) is an amazing keyboard player and we've been lucky enough to get him for the most out and out house track on the album. We did a remix together of Eddie C 'My Woman' a very long time ago, which Harvey played loads, and that was a good collaborative thing. But due to a mishap Jim wasn't credited properly, so it's nice to be able to have one with all our names on it together.