Interview with Subcultz Records Owner & Brighton Skinhead Reunion Founder – Symond Lawes

I have known Symond personally for a few years now and although we share a passion for different subcultures we quickly developed a close working relationship sharing ideas, music and helping advertise each others events and projects. He was kind enough to allow us to feature our interviews & reviews on his website with the vision that Subcultz would be the go to place for all the latest information, events, music and news from not only Mod and Skinhead but from every subculture past and present. Along with Mods Of Your Generation the website has various other contributors featuring multiple articles throughout as well as the latest events run by Subcultz, including the Great Brighton skinhead Reunion and the latest band information and gigs. Symond has a long list of impressive accolades and has worked with some incredible people throughout his career with a reputation of signing bands and taking them up the ladder of success. Its an absolute pleasure to be collaborating with Symond in various projects planned for the future. The purpose of this interview is to give readers an insight into what Subcultz are about, what they are working on and what they have planned for the future.

Subcultz is a successful record label & events company which has a long history. Tell us about how it got started what was the vision from the beginning?

I have been involved in the subculture scene since the outbreak of punk in 1976, it made such a huge impression on me as a teenage kid. I loved the way anyone from a council estate could just get up and say what they want, play what they felt, fashion, music and attitude. Through my many years of attending gigs, helping friends out, working as an actor, working my way up to backstage management of huge festivals like Leeds, Glastonbury and many other things, the attitude stayed with me, so I thought I would do my bit to keep it alive after becoming frustrated that oh so often its the big commercial USA bands that get the slots, and the real punk is forgotten, I love to discover new and take it forward, a true underground movement and platform for other like minded people. As a label I started it really because I wanted to find and help new bands, but also dig up some of the old ones that never recorded the first time round. Its been a major chore trying to organise, but also to keep these bands in the stable, as being a young label bands have thought it a good stepping stone in the hope of something bigger and jumped ship the minute they see another green field

Subcultz are the organisers behind the Great British skinhead Reunion in Brighton soon to be celebrating its 10th year. A highly successful event which attracts a large gathering of skinheads and subculture enthusiasts from across the world. I know this event is something your highly passionate about. How did it all begin and what can we expect to experience at the event?

Established in 2011 The Great Skinhead Reunion Brighton was designed to bring Skinhead back home to where it was born in the 1960´s When the Mods and Rockers came to Brighton and hit the headlines, establishing their own youth culture. From those early Mods came the Skinheads, who embraced the new music coming in from Jamaica known as Ska. The Jamaican immigrants to the UK mixing with British working class kids with style and attitude, to form a new youth culture.

The second wave of Skinhead began to build in the mid 70´s with the birth of Punk Rock in 76, this time musically the Skinheads adopting the Punk rock sound and aggro of the football terraces, Working class bands forming and putting out their own angry antisocial messages in music, frightening the media into a frenzy of misinformation, who promoted the image of hyper violent bootboys and girls on the loose. This was a time of major political unrest in the UK and extremist groups tried to recruit within working class culture, often targeting Skinheads and football supporters, in the hope of win one, win them all pack mentality.

By 79 The skinheads were on the fightback and in London with bands like Madness and Badmanners, linked with British Midlands such as Coventry bands The Specials. The Selector and The Beat and created the 2Tone label, which firmly mixed black and white youth together against this media onslaught. In 1981 came the next wave. Oi! music was unleashed by Sounds magazine, bringing back the angry street punk energy and protest into the Skinhead subculture, once again giving the media and movie makers something to chew on.
Over the years the pendulum swung back and forth, but against all the odds Skinhead in its genuine form found its way across the world, connecting the Working class of Britain with mainland Europe, during the cold war even into communist Eastern block, then across to USA, South America, and in modern times, Indonesia to pretty much every westernised nation. At the Great Skinhead Reunion Brighton you will find the most genuine, real and very friendly welcoming event in Skinhead history. Real people who have lived the life, mixing with new faces just coming in. TICKETS HERE

We actively search for new acts to showcase and tour. We reunite old bands and give them a stage to play, we encourage scene DJ´s from across the worldwide scene, to play and network. Together all of us taking the scene forward, learning from previous mistakes, without selling out our principals of a true Working class subculture. The reunion invites everyone to attend, be you a skinhead or just someone wanting to be part of the event, interested and wanting a great fun weekend. We also actively support charities every year.

United We Stand!

Over the last few years we put a huge amount of energy into a few bands, all of which imploded with the pressure and hard work involved, one thing I always demand is loyalty, because without that you have nothing. The music industry is a small world and we are all connected and rely massively on each other with all the huge risks involved. But through doing that we have become part of a worldwide network of promoters in the scene, people like myself with 40 years under the belt, we respect each other across the world and work well helping each other out. I personally think the scene has become quite stale in certain areas, so I always am on the look out for quality acts that write their own tunes, can play and perform. Subsetters fit my vision perfectly, in that they are really incredible players, great song writing and performing, professional and have already been picking up a strong following since we signed them last year. We have them already booked for the London international ska fest and the Irish Ska fest. Manchester, Brighton plus shows and offers all over UK and Europe. The virus has put everything on hold right now, but we are about to release the first full album of new material for Subsetters

What I like about Subsetters is they are no standard band, the sound is a blend of familiar ska licks but with a real Indie edge. Think of an Arctic Monkeys meets The Specials. The live show is stunning, in your face energy and as tight as The Ramones at their best. A real British edgy quality act, with a familiar Modernist twinge of The Jam mixed in. I really think this band have the potential to go all the way, and am excited to really get my teeth into promoting and building them.

You are currently working alongside Jamaican Ska Legends The Pyramids. Tell us about them and a bit of a back story of the band for those who are not familiar and can you tell us about your collaboration with Trojan Records?

Monty Neysmith approached me a few years ago and asked me to be his UK representative, as he is based in Atlanta Georgia. I pulled him over the play the Great skinhead Reunion Brighton 2 years ago. He enjoyed it so much two other original members joined him and asked me to become the manager of the band. For a life long fan of Jamaican Ska how could I refuse such an honour. I set about re-branding and taking things forward. The bands high point was as Symarip releasing the album skinhead Moonstomp in 1969, which is widely noted as the very first Skinhead Reggae album, the songs covered by many acts ever since, including 2Tone legends The Specials.

We decided to work on the previous name of The Pyramids to try and focus the band as an overall Reggae act, rather than just a concept band. We have played Germany, UK and released a 7” Selfish man so far. We have a planned tour in August of Uk Ireland and probably back over into mainland Europe, where we have already done two mini tours last year and early 2020. Trojan records are planning some ‘Trojan takeover events’ with Pyramids and another band I am working with called The Ethiopians, another legendary act. At the moment with Covid 19 its all on hold, until things get back to life, my main concern is the health of the artists, but as soon as things become solid we will release all details of upcoming shows. Pyramids are so far booked for Leeds Ska and Reggae fest. The great northern ska fest in Manchester. Ireland, Cardiff and all the Trojan stuff in the pipeline. I am hoping very soon to do a big showcase of Subcultz bands including Subsetters and an eye out for new young bands to join the stable. Spreading the web out to build a strong scene of serious talent and professional quality

Pictured above – (Left to right) Arthur Kay, Stranger Cole, Symond Lawes , Monty Neysmith

For further information on Symond Lawes and Subcultz check out Wikipedia here

Words by Symond Lawes (Subcultz)
Copyright © Mods Of Your Generation, Johnny Bradley 2020, All Rights Reserved. No part of this interview may be reproduced without the permission of the authors.
Pictures © 2020 Symond Lawes, Subcultz

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