Adam Regan is the brain behind leading Birmingham music venue Hare & Hounds in Kings Heath, electronic promotions brand Leftfoot and has been in the Brum music game for almost two decades. We sat down for a chat with Adam to find out about his memorable moments, favourite artists and his top tip for any budding music business students.
Can you tell us a little bit about the origins of Leftfoot and the Hare & Hounds – your first shows, favourite shows and any unforgettable moments?
Leftfoot started in January 2000 at the newly opened club extension to the Medicine Bar in the Custard Factory. It had originally been a bar but the empty warehouse space next door was added towards the end of 1999 and we launched the space with our first ever Leftfoot night. We had 6 brilliant years there and won a few awards including Gilles Peterson’s Club of the Year in 2003. In many ways the Medicine Bar was a blueprint for what we’ve done at the Hare & Hounds.
In 2006 we bought the Bull’s Head in Moseley and the Hare & Hounds the following year. We sold the Bull’s Head in 2015 and focused on making the Hare & Hounds as good as we possibly could. We still run lots of Leftfoot & This Is Tmrw shows elsewhere (Matt Beck is also now a partner alongside myself and Jon Nash) and we’re very focused on growing the outside promotions year by year. We’ve just had a 4 day take-over of The Crossing in Digbeth with a Leftfoot show on the Thursday with Kamaal Williams, plus a new This Is Tmrw event called Future Days. Kurt Vile & Parquet Courts headlined the Friday and Sunday with Hookworms due to headline the Saturday (but their tour was pulled at the last minute). Other than that disappointment, the weekend was amazing. It’s a great venue with a team like ours at the H&H, so we’ll definitely be back there again next year.
How long have you personally been working in music and what made you want to get into promotion/owning a venue?
I’ve been into music all my life but the turning point for me was meeting a lad in 1988 at 6th form college who had every bit of kit you could ever want. From guitars, bass and drums to recording equipment, PA, turntables & DJ mixer. We used to jam in his massive house in Edgbaston and listen to everything from Public Enemy & De La Soul to Joni Mitchell & Miles Davis. I then went to university and got obsessed with clubs and DJing.
I promoted a party at the legendary Venus Club in Nottingham in 1992 and I was instantly hooked. I spent most of my time at Uni partying and DJing with my pals. We promoted a few events and had residencies at a bar but it wasn’t really until my 3rd year that I actually earned money from DJing. My girlfriend’s brother and his best pal opened the Medicine Bar in London and I had a residency there once a month. I used to jump the train or hitchhike down from Nottingham with a big box of records.
In the following years, I DJed and promoted all over the place with Leftfoot nights in Birmingham, London, Paris and regular trips abroad. Leftfoot was myself and Richard Whittingham back then. He invited me to work with him at his Different Drummer Record label and one of the perks was getting to DJ all over Europe as part of the Different Drummer Soundsystem. They were great times that taught me a lot about what makes venues work. I’ve learnt as much from badly run venues though. Learning how not to do things is also a valuable lesson.
What are your favourite artists on a personal level and have you managed to work with any?
It’s so hard to pick favourites when you’re constantly immersed in music but I love Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone, Chaka Khan, A Tribe Called Quest, Masters At Work…
I saw Stevie at Glastonbury and Chaka at Mostly Jazz and both gigs were amazing, but I only worked with Masters At Work from that list. I’ve booked Kenny Dope from MAW several times but I’d really like to bring Louie Vega to the H&H at some point. Both of them are true heroes.
What’s it like both working with international artists and giving the opportunities to local bands / DJs?
Seeing artists like Gregory Porter or Charles Bradley on our small stage at the H&H can be breathtaking. Both gigs reduced me to tears. There’s something really life-affirming about hearing voices like that in a 250 capacity room. You can’t recreate that in a huge arena. But also seeing a band like Troumaca performing to a fiercely loyal and local crowd is just as rewarding. We have the best of both worlds at the H&H.
What’s the best thing about promoting in Birmingham? And what’s the most difficult?
The best thing is Brummies tend to trust their own and stay loyal once you’ve proved yourself. It’s not an easy city to promote in but we do prefer home-grown brands to opportunists looking to make a quick buck.
Other than your own, what are your favourite venues in Birmingham? And are there any promoters/club nights which you think are leading the way in terms of innovation?
I’ve got to give huge props to Nik Wells and the team at The Crossing, Will Power at Lab 11 and the team at the Sunflower Lounge. We love doing shows at all these venues as they share our love of music but also have a professional approach.
If you could give one piece of advice to those wanting a career in the music industry, what would it be?
Stick at it if you really want to make a career in music. So many people think it’s glamorous and cool but give up after a year or two. Promoting and running a venue is really not that glamorous if you want to be good at it, but it’s hugely rewarding if you get it right. I still love my job and genuinely can’t imagine doing anything else.
Photograph by Matthydephotography