Recently had the chance to catch up with affable Scotsman, Stokey local and familiar face around the bar and party scene, Iain Houston to find out what he’s been up to. Turns out he’s been busy setting up a new fortnightly event called Plugged In, Switched On at the White Hart.
First things first, how long have you been living in Stoke Newington? And how did you come to be here?
I’ve been living in Stoke Newington for eight years. I used to live in Finsbury Park before that but it seemed that all the best parties were here so I made the move. It was all sex, drugs and rock ‘n’roll – also known as the vibrant nightlife.
What do you think is so special about Stokey people – as opposed to those from, further a-field, say… Finsbury Park?
Well, it depends on the type of Stokey people you are talking about. But what I like about it here is demographically, the amount of people that are artists, musicians – you know creative types. I’m attracted to like minded people.
What do you think is the best thing about Stokey?
It’s gotta be the vibrant nightlife.
Hmmm…so ‘Plugged In, Switched On’. What is it all about? Take me through what happens on a typical night.
It is a fortnightly Open Mic night at the White Hart. Its great because it gives you the chance to hear live music from local musicians. Plus its the perfect end to the weekend.
Generally open mic slots are three songs or 15 minutes, whichever comes first, but there is such a wealth of talent around here that I usually have to give half the acts a 30 minute slot. Musically a variety of genres are covered and it is a mixture between electronic and acoustic.
A few years ago, you used to host a similar night at Ryan’s Bar and in fact, Ryan’s still run a night on Mondays. What made you think there was room for Plugged In?
Two reasons really. First there are more professional and semi-pro musicians in the local area than you can shake a stick at so you aren’t going to run out of talent.
And the second reason is the venue itself. There are some great acts at Ryan’s but the White Hart is different. It is very open, very much in your face. You are there to entertain an audience. It can put people off as much as turn them on. The nerves can get to you. Your name is on the line. It is very much a public event so you have to feel confident enough to play there. Even people on the street can see you when they are walking by.
You’ve held two events already. How did it go? What has the reaction been like?
The first one was stomping – in fact it was so good I was a little worried about the follow up! But it was great. The musicians are brilliant and gave excellent performances and the crowd is great too, it’s not cliquey with people wandering in from the garden – its just really nice. But don’t take my word for it, check out the website and judge for yourself.
What makes my night different is that I record all the sessions from beginning to end. I then showcase the top acts of the night on http://www.myspace.com/pluggedinswitchedon for two weeks. I can also arrange for a copy of an artists full set on request. The recordings are really excellent and well worth checking out so please do visit the site.
As well as being a bit of fun this site really is a great marketing tool for the performers as I’ve been encouraging A&R guys to have a look so you never know, it might even end up being instrumental in landing you that sought after record deal…
Apart from organising the Plugged In, Switched On got anything else going on?
I run another open mic night in Hampstead and I’m playing in two bands, one is a jazz band called That Camel – with the most amazing singer called Lizzie Hibert, who incidentally also sings in a gospel choir. We’re busy rehearsing, getting ready to gig.
And I also play bass and vocals in HardWired which is a much punkier, edgy rock band. HardWired are gigging already and the next one is on 27 May as part of the Stokey Rocks at Barden’s Boudoir.
You seem very busy, when did you decide you wanted to follow a musical career? Did you never consider the 9-5 route?
Music is my passion. I tried 9-5 several times. It just never worked for me. My parents bought me a keyboard when I was 4 and I’ve known since then that I wanted my life to be musical. When I was growing up my parents ran a grand hotel in Scotland, and I used to spend hours hiding away in the ballroom, playing the grand piano. It taught me to dream big.
Talking about big dreams, if you could live your perfect life what would it be?
Touring the world in a heavy metal band…I’ve heard the those guys enjoy exceptionally vibrant nightlife.
The next Plugged In, Switched On is on Sunday 24 May, 7:30pm @ the White Hart. Entry is free. To book a slot to play at a future event contact Iain on email@example.com.