As a prospective new student at BIMM, we figured you’d be interested to read about our tutors and their backgrounds within the music industry, which is why we’ve been conducting Q&A’s with some of our newest recruits to scratch beneath the surface and highlight why they’re such an asset to our faculty. Expect rock ‘n’ roll stories, career-making anecdotes and just a bit of name-dropping for good measure.
Who are you and what department are you joining at BIMM Birmingham?
My name is Tim Brinkhurst – AKA Tim London. I am an artist, artist manager, producer, songwriter, theatrical composer, video-maker, graphic artist and photographer-by-necessity.
I will be joining the Music Production course in September ’18.
Can you sum up your career highlights in the music industry up until this point?
1. In the early 80s, I received the obligatory cheque from John Peel for purchase and play of our self-made and released 7” on his programme. This was followed by a session in the old Maida Vale BBC studios at a time when technicians still wore white coats and the studios held spares of every piece of equipment. Notably, they also still had a reverb room, with a speaker on wheels to bring it closer or further from the mic that was linked to the control rooms.
2. After Young Fathers won the Mercury prize in 2014 with their album DEAD, as they were ushered from the stage, I frantically ran backstage to catch them before they were led to the press room where the assembled UK media were waiting to snap them shaking champagne and grinning like junkies on payday. I managed to intercept them and reminded them, as their manager, that they could take control of the situation, there was no hurry and only talk to whoever they wanted. I then spoke to the Mercury PR rep and reminded her that certain newspapers (those owned by Murdoch, The Mail and other right-wing publications) were to be ‘quarantined’ and unable to ask questions, which upset her a bit but which gave me a small thrill.
3. Meeting your heroes can be, well, disappointing. In 1991 my group were on the same bill as Iggy Pop and Happy Mondays. The Mondays we had bumped into before and I liked them – they were original. Iggy Pop was who I was most looking forward to seeing in the flesh. But this was at a time when he had hooked up with an American ‘hair’ band, who mangled the classic Stooges riffs and widdled all over his 80s pop tunes whilst Iggy did his normal shirtless gyrations and berated the existence of computers in music. He was so bad I didn’t even want to say hello afterwards when I had the chance. I’ve seen him since with the remaining Stooges and it was very good, so I’ve forgiven him for which, I’m sure, he is very grateful.
4. In 1990, whilst living in a squat in north London, we received a phone call from an American in Texas. Calls from America didn’t happen to ordinary people in those days, it was still a somewhat mysterious, different place back then and, of course, where rock ‘n’ roll was born. So, I was excited. Turns out that a record my group Soho had released on an independent label in the UK was becoming a hit in Texas, which sounded incredibly exotic and exciting and the caller was from a big station based in Austin.
Soon the hit spread across radio stations in the USA and we had a genuine million selling single. At the time we had no management, so I found myself on a plane to New York for the first time to meet our new label, ATCO (part of Warners) who had bought up the single and album. Arriving at the airport with around fifty dollars to my name I was disappointed to end up in a green taxi (not yellow) that promptly got lost in Central Park (pre-satnav!) before dropping me at a swanky hotel paid for by the label.
In my room, everything was white. So white, in fact, that I was nervous to touch anything. That evening, I left the hotel and went into the first bar I found and ordered a single whisky that came in American measures that would have equalled five UK shorts and puzzled over the rules of a football game on TV behind the bar whilst a thunder storm raged outside, lightning lighting up the skyscrapers. That night, the storm brought down a lighting rig in Brooklyn during a concert by Curtis Mayfield that left him broken from the neck down and the injuries of which later killed him. I loved Curtis.
What excites you about teaching at BIMM?
You would think the internet has covered most subjects in the world but, strangely, there’s not a huge amount of first hand experience from artists, managers, producers and business people in the music industry, apart from accounts of particularly famous or notable recordings and careers.
There are plenty of biographical books, however, which are more useful to read but, obviously, you don’t get to ask questions. If I had had access to someone with similar experience to my own when I was starting out it would have been incredibly useful, even if it was just to ‘de-mystify’ aspects of the business and art creation. If BIMM has one single, super-useful function, it is to provide access to people who have actual experience.
Top 5 records?
I’ve mixed up albums and singles…
…and an honorary mention for the first and third Velvets albums and pretty much any reggae single from 1968 to 1973.