The second in our series of chats with the great and the good that make 1000 Trades, well… 1000 Trades. This month we sat down for a schooner with music supremo John Mostyn in advance of his Music Publishing Workshop in our upstairs space on January 30th.
Q: John Mostyn, – or should we say THE John Mostyn – thanks for coming in for a schooner. You’re the second John to sit down with us in as many months. How’s things with you?
A: I’m good thanks and really looking forward to this year.
Q: For the musically uninitiated, give us the lowdown on how you first became involved in the music biz?
A: Originally from Manchester, I came to Birmingham from Cornwall in ’72 and soon found myself living with a great bunch of singers, writers and players in a big rambling old house on the Hagley Road. I started organising a weekly gig for them upstairs at the Fighting Cocks in Moseley, just for the joy of it. I was spotted there and offered a job as a roadie and before I knew it was off touring with the likes of Bill Haley and the Comets, The Drifters and others. Pure chance really.
Q: Inner City, The Beat, Ocean Colour Scene, Fine Young Cannibals are just some of the well known acts you’ve discovered or managed. Do you have any favourite anecdotes from managing any of these acts?
A: Many, many anecdotes… that I’m writing about now in my memoir which I’m hoping to have published before the end of this year.
Q: Not only a plug for your memoir, but a tease at that. We’ll have to wait and see! You’ve been active in the industry for decades. Is there a particular year where you could really sense musical winds changing?
A: Undoubtedly ’79 when I was in the middle of the Two Tone explosion. First as agent for The Specials, Selecter and The Beat, then as The Beat’s manager. I can’t think of a similar musical movement that grew so fast, was so much fun and demonstrably made the country a better place to be.
Q: We’re positively giddy thinking about it. You’ve dedicated yourself the scene in Birmingham, what’ve you been up to recently?
A: Frankly recovering from 2016, when I lost the analogue studio that I ran and lived above in Kings Heath. Most unfortunate but this is the risk business and sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. With the book, a music app in development and plans to bring tourists to visit music heritage sites in the UK – I’ve found a direction that I’m really happy with now. I’m really enjoying the workshops too, it’s great to find a way to share my experience with those in the business, looking to get into it or just interested in this fascinating world around the popular song.
Q: And as someone with their finger firmly on the pulse of the musical zeitgeist, what’s going to make this city special over the next few years?
A: Ah… the big question. I’ve been around long enough to see the waves of artists that have emerged from the city and only one thing is clear, it’s utterly unpredictable. We can go for a decade with hardly an artist emerging from the city then have a year where there’s six new great ones who go on to international success. Be prepared to be surprised is the short answer, that’s what makes it great here.
Q: Birmingham is a city of a thousand trades. If you could pick one, besides what you do now, what would it be and why?
A: Do you know I’ve never asked myself that question. I’ve always just done what I’ve loved, sometimes with great success and sometimes dramatic failure. I have so much respect for the skilled people of all sorts that I’m surrounded by but I’m sorry, I just can’t imagine being something else.
Q: Later this month you’ll be sharing your knowledge in a musical publishing workshop between these four walls. What can we expect?
A: A romp through a short history of music publishing up to where it’s at now with some Brum based anecdotes to illustrate some of the issues. It’s very much a live thing, I’m never going to film it as the audience on the night directs some of the roads that we go down so it’s for those people in that room on the night. Informative but entertaining in a great bar with good company. What’s not to like?
Quite right, John. You can catch one of the UK’s most experienced industry professionals on Tuesday 30th January at 7.30pm. Tickets via Eventbrite.