Having first found his musical feet as part of the Mod scene in Britain during the 80s, Russ Dewbury went on to start the world longest running club night, Brighton’s A Night At The Jazz Rooms, and for the past year he’s been following in Queen Victoria’s footsteps and starting setting up a colony here.
“I got the Jazz Rooms going in the late 80’s and then up into the 90’s I started to get lots of international gigs, and I was lucky enough to get booked to come out here in 2003 to play a DJ tour,” he tells me in a jolly British accent. “I came here and, I’m quite a fatalistic person in a lot of ways, and when I got it here it just felt like I really connected with the crowd and the audiences here, maybe that I was doing something they hadn’t heard before.”
“Basically I just had a great tour, met a bunch of great people and saw a lot of potential, not only for club nights and DJ-ing but also for bringing live music out here. I hooked up with James Browning from Niche Productions and we did the first Jazz Bop tour, which is my big live music event I do in England and we did that here in 2004 with Quantic Soul Orchestra, and Alex Russell and other people like The Bamboos, and this was before they were sort of appreciated properly here,” hew explains with the speed and insistence of a Tommy Gun.
“We kept doing more tours and club nights, and I found they were just doing really well around the country and it just sort of solidified for me that this was where I wanted to be to sort of spread the word.”
And spread the word he has. Having done shows with a wide range of Australian artists, while helping them gain international exposure through his nights and years of experience in the industry.
“What’s really interesting to me about Australia is that there is so much amazing musical talent, live music talent, that should be on the global stage, but that just isn’t at the moment, that’s kind of confined to Australia. So what I’ve being try to do is to take bands like Ray Mann Three, and Mariana Gilles and The Transatlantics, this great funk band from Adelaide, and getting them out internationally, and that’s been a bit of a mission for me.”
Although things haven’t exactly been easy as pie, Russ is not daunted, seeing difficulty, as a sign of it’s potential to endure. “I’ve always found with quality music and black music or whatever, there’s always a large audience you’ve just got to reach them. How many times do you do gigs, where you get people coming up and saying ‘I’ve never heard this music before, what is it?” So for me it’s about reaching that audience and turning people on to quality music. “
In a world were young, music fans are increasing wrapped up in short lived and shallow musical fads such as Hannah Montana, or MDMA fuelled public gurn-a-thons that sell-out before a line-up even gets announced (Harbourlife), Russ understands a lot for them just don’t know what they’re missing.
“Let’s be honest Mikey,” he commands. “Mainstream music is terrible, it’s the worst it’s ever been. Like the in the club scene kids in their late teens early 20s they’re going to all these electro things and they don’t realise there’s choice now, you know it isn’t all about that, there’s choice now and that’s what I’m about here in Australia, giving people choice.”
“Also the drug culture associated with the club scene has changed things. When I grew up, quality music was so much part of the culture, and that doesn’t exist as much anymore, a lot of people now go to a club to get, to get well, wasted. What I’m trying to do is bring back like a old school mentality where the reason you go to a club is to hear good music.”
“The thing is, it’s always a mission with quality music, and it’s the same for all of us dealing with quality music, but it’s worth the longevity that you get from fighting the battle.”
Coming from the guy that started the longest running club night in the world, his words certainly carry some weight.