Local Focus: In conversation with Basement 45 owner Mark DavisPosted on: 08 Aug 2018
In a city with a club scene as diverse as the one we have in Bristol, it can be easy to forget the vital role that smaller venues play in supporting local artists, labels and promoters while offering a unique club experience at the same time. Basement 45 is one of the city's longest-running venues and has welcomed some of the most respected names on the underground music scene through its doors over the years - we spoke to owner Mark Davis to discuss the history of the club, plans for the future and exactly what it is that makes Basement 45 so special.
Although the club was opened as Basement 45 by Mark and his team in 2009, the building itself has been a part of Bristol's musical landscape since its original birth in 1961 - it is, officially, the city's oldest music venue. Its recent history is up there with the richest of all of Bristol's current club venues, hosting countless nights run by local labels as well as providing an early platform for some of the biggest artists on the scene today including Skream, Joy Orbison and, of course, Bristol local Eats Everything.
The venue is far from the city's biggest - it has an official capacity of 300 split between two dancefloors - but despite the large number of similar-sized clubs in the city like The Love Inn, Cosies and Crofters Rights, Basement 45 manages to offer a truly unique atmosphere that could only really have been rivalled by the old Timbuk2 which, unfortunately, no longer remains - if you know, you know.
Because of its size, Mark sees Basement 45 as an essential part of Bristol's nightlife scene. "Clubs like ours are massively important, particularly as more and more venues of our size continue to close down. Small, multiroomed clubs are breeding grounds for new promoters as well as more established ones, and there aren't many of them left in Bristol today", he says. When discussing his venue in comparison to others, he believes it's the rich history of Basement 45 that sets it apart. "People of every generation have memories here."
As well as running the club, Mark has been running his own DJ lessons in Bristol for over 19 years. Now taking place inside the club on their 3-deck setup (with CDJ 2000s NXS2, Technics 1200's and a DJM 900 NXS2 mixer), the lessons are open to anyone - from complete beginners to experienced DJs looking to sharpen up their sets or hone certain skills. The lessons can be taken either on a one-to-one basis or as a part of a 2-4 person group, and cover all aspects of the craft including beat matching, mixing, scratching, pitch control, looping, using CDJs and more.
It appears that Mark enjoys the lessons almost as much as running the club, and puts as much time as he can into it in between the demands of Basement 45. "For some people its about having a go at something they've always wanted to do, and for others its about learning and kickstarting a career. People get real enjoyment out of the classes and in a lot of cases it's the start of a genuine love of mixing music" he says. As well as that, a part of the satisfaction on his end comes through seeing local DJs and promoters focussing on their music full time after starting out with lessons at Basement 45.
As for future plans, the Basement 45 team expect to carry on as normal and keep on creating space for new and established local artists, labels and promoters to perfect their craft and build their audiences. "There are always new nights on the horizon, of varied genres - we still get a huge buzz from putting on new nights that we haven't tried before" Mark explains. "We'll always do our best to ensure the events at Basement 45 are as diverse as possible".
Despite having been running the club for almost ten years now, the excitement of being in the business clearly hasn't faded. Mark picks out a huge Skrillex afterparty in 2012 and an Eats Everything residency during the club's first year of opening (in which Mark would regularly go back to back with the now internationally-renowned DJ) as his favourite moments over the years, and says he's still buzzing to create more memories like those.
"After the excitement of running the club with my brother for the first five years, it's just me now, but I enjoy it more than ever - I'm constantly trying to think of new ways to promote the club and different ways to utilise the space to maintain its edge and ensure that Basement 45 continues to be more than just a nightclub".
With a staff that is clearly among the most enthusiastic in the business, and a venue with a such huge Bristol pedigree, the Basement 45 flame is still burning brightly as the club approaches its 10th birthday in 2019. Promotion of up and coming members of the underground music scene remains a pillar of the Basement 45 philosophy, exemplified by the diversity of the events scheduled in the coming weeks.
This Saturday 11th August, Gyal Bruk Out will host another of their popular Dancehall/RnB parties, the following Saturday (18th August) sees The Bunker and New Dimension bring their unmissable hardcore/hard house night to the club, and Saturday 25th August marks the birth of the hotly anticipated Club Fascination 80s parties. Details for these events and more can be found via the Basement 45 website here.
Basement 45 is now available for hire as a private party venue. Promoters can hire the full club or half on weekends or in midweek for a variety of events. The venue also has a backroom area called The Den which can be hired out for private parties or birthdays/other functions. The club can provide a full bar, DJ equipment, a soundsystem, a dancefloor and seating. Head to the Basement 45 website or contact owner Mark Davis on 0117 929 3554 or 07714313692 or via email for more information.
Basement 45's weekly DJ lessons, mentioned above, are flexible in terms of time but usually take place between 10am-6pm Monday-Friday. Contact Mark Davis on 0117 929 3554 or 07714313692 or via email for more information or to book your spot.
Having moved to Bristol from Cornwall in 2015, Matt graduated from UWE with a degree in Journalism in 2018. He's keen on a wide variety of musical genres, as well as taking an interest in art and illustration, producing his own work in his spare time. Matt makes the most of Bristol's diverse nightlife and attends gigs and club nights regularly. Get in touch via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.