He may be wicked, but he’s not lazy. The genius part? Well you’ll have to judge that one for yourselves. Tom Johnson’s (pic above, right) the man behind Lazy Genius – think Ibiza Rocks. But in the drizzle – the city’s most eclectic marriage of live bands and club night, showcasing and supporting local bands, up and coming DJs and, generally, the most consistent stew of indie, electro, post punk and shoegaze you’re gonna get this side of Portland. Or, for that matter, Port des Torrent.
So, with its second birthday Friday 6, we grabbed Tom for a quick chat and an extended Summer Spotify Playlist…
Tell us about the birth of Lazy Genius
I’d always loved music and the idea of working in the industry or becoming a promoter was a real dream. After leaving University I got involved with a bit of music promotion through ‘Another Late Night’ and I think ‘Lazy Genius’ first appeared as part of an acoustic night at 3345, and in association with ‘Mellowtone’ which is a very well established night run by a good friend of mine.
I suppose like anything, I’d looked at what other people were doing and thought I could either do it better, or just as well, but with my own twist on things. I want Lazy Genius to be a platform for bands and something that will support them. I still see myself as very much a new kid on the block, and although Lazy Genius is establishing itself… there is still a lot of room to grow.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Usually whatever I didn’t get done the day before! I guess it’s that thought that I can always do more, I can always promote the show that little bit more… promotion keeps you on your toes, even if you’re confident about a show, there’s always that nagging thought that no one will turn up, which drives you on.
Give Liverpool’s music scene a health check for us – how’s it doing?
I think the scene is doing pretty well… there are some that will tell you it’s awful, others that it’s the best it’s ever been… I’d say it’s somewhere in the middle. What with the recession and the state of the music industry, live music and new music has certainly taken a knock, and not just in Liverpool. There are still loads of good bands in the city, but I think less people are going to see them… and I think there are less opportunities for them to break through. Liverpool Sound City and Liverpool Music Week are both great for the scene in the city, but I think we need to find a way of getting more industry people into the city and watching our bands… more A&R, more national promoters, more radio people, more labels. I hear a lot of bands talking about the need to ‘get out of Liverpool.’ I think that there’s a slight feeling, that just playing in the city all the time, and building a good following here, isn’t enough now.
I won’t name bands, as I think that’s a bit unfair… but there is certainly a crop of maybe 5 – 10 that are very exciting at the moment, and I’m almost certain one or two of that crop will be pretty big in a year’s time.
Another year, another decent Manchester band gets a Mercury shortlist. When are we going to rise again?
I honestly don’t know… I think we’ve had the bands in recent years, I just don’t know why they’ve not got where they should be. I think it is partly to do with the lack of industry interest in the city that I mentioned before, and I think maybe at times it’s our own fault a little bit. Maybe we think it’ll just happen because we’re Liverpool and we have the richest musical history in the world… bands can’t expect to have a head start just because their from Liverpool, it still takes a huge amount of hard work… but luck as well! We’ll rise again… I’ve no doubt about that.
Is it The Wombats’ fault?
haha… no it’s not The Wombats’ fault. You could argue that they’re not even a Liverpool band… they’re a LIPA band. LIPA is a fantastic place, but I think there needs to be a bit more integration of LIPA bands into the general Liverpool scene, and vice-versa. That is a whole other issue though…. what happened to The Wombats was fantastic, and well done to them but a lot of things came together for them at the same time, and all the people who were behind it need to do the same for other Liverpool bands, and on a regular basis.
Do you think Liverpool’s clubbing scene in the late 90s did for rock and roll in the city?
No, not at all. If anything I think it should have helped it… Manchester managed to fuse the two together, we didn’t seem to be able to do that, with the exception of The Farm maybe, and I think we did suffer from it. Those who weren’t into the clubbing revolution retreated back to their Las and Beatles albums, rather than looking ahead or taking something from the clubbing scene and revolutionising rock and roll with it.
I think we might only just be getting over that whole hangover. There’s no doubt that there are too many bands who are still trying to sound like The Las and The Beatles in Liverpool.
How’s Liverpool’s music venues? Do we need more? Less? Different?
I touched on this earlier… I don’t think we need more necessarily, but I think we need better, and different. I think some of the venues need to step their game up a bit, I hear so many stories about shit sound in a venue… or shit promoters, shit organisation. Another problem is that I think we have too many places trying to be too many different things… bars that are a music venue second, or even third! Aside from maybe The Zanzibar we’ve lost our beacon… I’d argue that we haven’t got a Leeds Cockpit, or a London Koko… I think we need a couple of venues to become ‘proper’ music venues.
What/where do you like in Liverpool these days?
I live near Lark Lane, and I love it round there… but again you worry that it is losing a bit of what makes it so special. In terms of the city centre, I love gigs in The Kazimier, it’s a very special place. I love Mojo, and it is where I’m running regular nights, the staff are great and the company as a whole know how to go about things. I like what they are trying to do at The Shipping Forecast… but I probably spend most of my time in and around Parr Street… 3345 and Studio 2. The likes of Evol are still doing brilliant things, and bringing us the best talent. The Zanzibar still certainly has its place, and does a lot to support young bands. Another fantastic thing is the emergence of Bido Lito magazine, finally a proper Liverpool Music Scene that does justice to the city’s talent. In terms of everything Bold Street is still special, you can’t beat walking down it on a Saturday afternoon.
The Line Up: The White Labels (pic above), The Fall of Kings, Super Cannes, The Moguls, A Death in Brazil
Plus Lazy Genius DJs and old friends spinning indie, electro, and other treats, with, upstairs is hosted by ‘cantmixwontmixshdntmixdontmix’ DJs.
Friday, 6 August: Zanzibar, 43 Seel Street