INTERVIEW WITH PHILIP HAYES TAKEN FROM MOVE OUT MAGAZINE MAY JUNE 2003.
Philip is the brainchild behind the Picket; a music venue located in a Grade 1 and Grade II listed building on Hardman Street in Liverpool City Centre, that has established itself as one of the best places to see up-and-coming talent in the city. Bands that have played The Picket in the past include Cast, The La's, Happy Mondays, Travis, Space and Crowded House frontman Neil Finn.
The Picket is also home to the Pinball Wizard recording studios, originally opened in 1986 and relaunched recently with a new name and host of state of the art technology.
Since its birth in the 1980's, The Picket has picked up a few celebrity fans, including John Peel OBE, who officially opened The Picket after its refurbishment in 1996. Billy Bragg is another fan, once quoted as saying: "The Picket is great not just because it's a good venue to play, but because it is so grounded in the community. It's the kind of facility that every town should have."
Philip built up The Picket as a place to enjoy live music during the bleak 1980's, a time when other venues were closing their doors to live bands in favour of dance music, which was cheaper to arrange. Now things have come full circle, and Liverpool's music scene is once again awash with bands that love to play live.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Croxteth in the north end of Liverpool. My Mum and Dad are from Scotland Road and were offered a Council flat out there. I have fond memories of those early years; it was quite green and rural even! I'd spend loads of time in the woods of Lord Derby's estate 'eggin' and playing 'footie' on the River Alt fields. Also my older brothers and sisters were enjoying the Sixties and bringing home Tamla Motown and The Beatles music, playing them endlessly in our flat and creating a lovely 'vibe'. They all had jobs, which meant lots of hair lacquer and nights out at The Grafton, the Cavern and the Babalou! Also I loved my junior school in 'Crocky', Gillmoss R.C, were I passed the 11 plus exam. Same school as the Bluenose Wayne Rooney I believe.
Where do you live now?
I live by Greenbank Park/Sefton Park, which is a lovely 'spec' and conveniently near the city centre. It's great the way the city is regenerating at the moment. The Palm house is brilliant, but if I had a load of money I'd love to improve the cafe in Sefton Park and build a permanent live music stage on the old bandstand.
What was the thinking behind The Picket?
To create a professional live music venue for local bands, give them a chance to improve their skills and develop their knowledge of the music industry. It was first opened in the 1980's when there was a lot of unemployment; I wanted to create an alternative to heroin and desperation.
How hard was it to set up?
Its taken many years since we opened in 1983. I think it is fair to say that cultural activities as a 'regenerative tool' has only recently been acknowledged as an effective way of inspiring people and creating jobs. However with support from Liverpool City Council, Northwest Arts board Britain:
What did you do before you became involved with The Picket?
I was on the dole trying to make a success of my band The High Five'. At the same time I started to work as a volunteer at the People's Centre setting up a community access recording studio, The Picket music venue and organising events for community groups.
What does The Picket have to offer that other music venues in the city do not?
The staff - in particular Venue manager Neil Robinson - and facilities at the Picket are second to none. Uniquely we also provide an in- house 'backline' of top quality equipment. This is available to every band that appears at the venue regardless. Yoko, Paul McCartney, Cast, Space, Oasis, Marshall, Premier, Zildjian, and Joe Strummer, (RIP), donated the equipment for the benefit of local bands. We also have over 20 years of experience and a commitment to the city that is long term and genuine.
Why is the Picket's Recording Studio called Pinball?
The Studio is called 'Pinball Wizard' in recognition of the support we have received for many years from Pete Townshend of the Who. Pinball Wizard perhaps being one of The Who's most famous songs. Pete since the early 1980s has donated his time, money, and equipment and name to establish and develop the recording studio. His support has been very generous, and a wonderful gift to the people of Liverpool:place>. I often refer to him as our patron St. Peter.
Who else has supported the Picket and Pinball studio?
Hope I don't miss anyone out, we've received such a lot of great support, here goes....Thank you Ringo Starr, New Order, Paul Weller, Joe Strummer, (RIP), Depeche Mode, Players of the Philharmonic Orchestra, Elvis Costello, Billy Bragg, Travis, Cast, Space, Alexei Sayle, the Lotus Eaters, lan McCulloch, Alan Bleasdale, The Farm, Ricky Tomlinson, Tony Wilson, Pete Wylie, John Peel OBE, Phil Collins and China Crisis, Amsterdam, and many local bands....phew!
How do you decide which bands to book for The Picket?
Local bands are the priority, send us a decent demo and you are almost guaranteed a gig.
We continue to present many benefit concerts for all kinds of organisations from Kanti childrens hospital in Nepal, British Red Cross, and Alder Hospital to the Big Issue and the Hillsborough family support group.
We also have started an another unique venture for people under 18, called The Dry Bar'. These gigs are supporting the next generation of bands and artistes. The Dry Bar has been a great success and was recently featured on the BBC. They take place on the last Tuesday of every month.
Who are the most famous faces to have appeared onstage there?
The La's, Baaba Maal from Senegal, Neil Finn from Crowded House, Noel Gallagher, The Coral, lan McCulloch, Heidi from Sugarbabes, Travis, Janice Long, John Peel, Cast, Space, Jamie Theakston, Andy McCluskey from OMD, frank from a Flock of seagulls, Pete Wylie and lan McNabb.
Any tips for the next big thing?
Apart from my waistline? The Coral are doing well, also The Zutons, The Stands, Cracatilla, The Bandits and Omaha.
How does the current Liverpool scene compare to the famous scenes of the 60's and the 80's?
The 'scene', such as it is, is very healthy. The infrastructure and expertise in the local music industry certainly exists, in contrast to previous decades. There are some smashing live music venues; excellent locally based management companies, great recording studios and designers. Also the dance scene is still very vibrant despite Cream closing, although this is not really my scene man! Furthermore I think a scene is helped when one or two bands succeed, there is a ripple effect, so hopefully bands like The Cora, The Zutons and The Bandits, can prosper and inspire their peers to greater things.
What advice would you give to someone looking to get their band noticed?
Good music will always get noticed, bands need to be creative and original. Don't be afraid to listen to and use all kinds of music and sources. Don't lose your love of music. 'Open your eyes and your ears'.
What's the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
'What profits a man to gain the whole world but to lose his soul' or something like that.
What do you think makes Liverpool such a special place in terms of music, is it something in the water?
Have a read of the book 'Liverpool; Wondrous Place' by Scouser Paul Du Noyer. That about nails it! Also the attitude and openness of Liverpudlians, which is probably strongly influenced by our Irish connections. I suppose being a port we have had to be welcoming, entertaining and outgoing, having learnt many tales that just have to be told.
What's your favourite record, and why?
'Whats goin on' by Marvin Gaye. - Makes me tingle and reminds me to be human.
Do you think Liverpool will win the Capital of Culture bid, and how important a role do you think Liverpool:'s musical heritage will play in the judges' decision over the bid?
Yes we will win. If you mean The Beatles, I think it will play quite a big role, I have been doing my bit however to remind people that Liverpool has had other great periods of musical activity and success.
I compiled two volumes of CDs titled 'Rhyme Pays', which I have sent to hundreds of people, all over the place, to illustrate our great past, present and future.
Who or what are your inspirations, and why?
My family for their love and support, the Dalai Lama for his philosophy, 'It's a Wonderful Life' the film, which makes me cry at Christmas, Bill Shankly for his commitment, and comedy and music which keep me going!going!
What are your ambitions for the future?
Make Liverpool an even better place, write a great song, sing with Bob Dylan, and love my family and friends more!
The Picket Ltd,