Backstage Hero: ROB TOWN

Rob Town of Stampede Press and Lightning In A Bottle, which was recently formed with former Little Angels and current Wayward Sons singer Toby Jepson, gives us some insight on working in the music business and his days in Panic Cell

How did Lightning In A Bottle come about?

Toby and I started working together in 2013 around the time, during which time he released his solo mini album ‘Raising My Own Hell’ and touring the UK. We quickly realised that both he and I shared a lot in common, a passion for music being one of them, and we’d spend hours discussing not just his latest releases and news but also what made us tick as human beings. One value we both shared was the view that we felt that a lot of bands, especially grassroots, weren’t being given the time to evolve and be nurtured enough with the internet being the way that it was, and with digital media moving at such a fast pace we always questioned if being thrust into the “limelight” of the internet was a good thing as we felt a lot of music being showcased was difficult to distinguish due to the high volume frequently serviced. Lightning In A Bottle is the start of what we hope will be a new movement; to help bands and music makers find their unique.

What does Lightning In A Bottle offer that other music based services may not?

Lightning In A Bottle’s unique selling point is the opportunity for music artists to have their music honestly critiqued by Toby and myself and give any strengths the songs have the chance to breathe and be explored. Toby is a bonafide brilliant song writer and producer (also musician that’s had a national chart Number 1 album and is now seeing success with the band Wayward Sons) and I’ve seen first hand the positive changes he can help make when it comes to bands having a fighting chance of standing out from the crowd with their music. Couple this with the fact that both Toby and I continue to work full time in this fast paced music business (which seems to change every day) and be in tune as best we can with the industry at every level. This isn’t a management service, it’s music management consultation designed to help bands and artists self manage themselves better and focus on the creativity. We know first hand that unless the songs get the focus they need and musicians get a better handle on how the music business really is and how they can exist happily within it; it can be extremely difficult.

What for you does a band need to have a chance of being heard more and gaining more fans/success?

Three things: the songs, the songs, the songs. If you’re serious about carving a career in this business and sustaining it, the music needs to come first and be examined more carefully in a positive manner. Otherwise, many artists run the risk of sounding too much like one another due to the sheer volume of music readily available and quickly consumed because it’s too familiar.

Is Gene Simmons right when he said rock music is dead?

No. Although the money side of things in terms of the big profits and most bands being able to quickly build BIG (HUGE) audiences, probably yes. But then again, I would debate this comes down to expectations and how they are handled. This isn’t the 1980′s anymore, a LOT has changed as we know.

What newer bands would you recommend?

For me personally there’s this progressive rock/metal group from Denmark called VOLA. Incredible. Their current album blew me away when I heard it and still does, it’s frequently playing wherever I am. I think they are a great example of a band that’s evolving, being unique and hopefully being nurtured.

Musicians have a tough time emotionally which can have tragic consequences. Do you think there is enough support out there for musicians and what could we as fans and those connected to the music business do to help?

There are incredible supportive organisations that can really help people with mental health issues. Toby and I are not accredited mental health experts and we’d never pretend to be (we always recommend getting in touch with the likes of MIND, The Samaritans etc). What we offer is our own experiences and the opportunity to learn from them and avoid a lot of pitfalls that can lead to stress and anxiety and more. I believe we are seeing the important issue of mental health awareness being addressed a lot more, not just in the media but in our communities as well. I think in any walk of life, we as human beings should be as understanding as we can. For me personally, I believe the instant gratification of digital and social media needs highlighting; whilst there are many benefits to it I do feel we are over whelmed and if we’re not careful, instead of evolving we could devolve as a society. If there’s one word I could choose that we could all take on board: patience.

Does streaming help newer bands get known more, despite the fact any financial reruns are minimal?

It’s a hot potato isn’t it. I tend to look at streaming as the one of the displays in a shop window. The fact is if all musicians have the same tools to work with, then the playing field is levelled for all intent and purposes. Yes, money and profile play their parts, but that aside, technology has enabled musicians to create and distribute their music at a far more cost effective price than before. If the music is good enough and surrounds itself with visual elements that compel, then that will engage audiences and start the process of turning them into fans that want to invest monies in music. There are ways to sell products at reasonable to big rates; I’ve seen it done, I’ve done it myself. Sometimes it takes time, sometimes it can happen really quickly. It all comes down to the potency of the music and the power of the fans.

Is the live scene in the UK still in a good shape? Is there still a good network of small to medium sized venues for bands to play and grow their fanbase?

There is a good deal of great venues in the UK with fantastic people working tirelessly behind the scenes making things work. Obviously it’s terrible when you hear of venues shutting down and festivals being cancelled. I think there’s a balance of quantity v quality combined with uniqueness of music for bands that needs addressing if venues and events are to survive and go on to thrive.

Panic Cell bid farewell back in 2011, however is there any chance the band could reunite at some stage in the future?

Never say never. But a lot of water has gone under the bridge and life circumstances have obviously changed. I’m just grateful to have been a part of those days and thank everyone involved for having me along for the ride, I wish all the very best in what they are doing.

What were the live highlights for you in Panic Cell and why?

I think the big one for me was being given the opportunity at a time when I thought my “ship had sailed” and I wasn’t as young as I was (I was 29 when I joined Panic Cell). I remember the comradery when we first got together and the genuine excitement about the music we were creating. It was a fantastic time in my life and it’s something I’ve kept hold of. Enviably as success starts to happen and the business gets more involved, it became more difficult, even when given the opportunity to share stages with Metallica, Disturbed etc, play festivals around the world and get TV/Radio exposure. I look back and count myself lucky for the experience but a big part of me wishes we had found a way to hold onto those early days of being a band of brothers and understanding each other better. If you can do that, then that’s a massive box to have ticked.

Anything else to add… (feel free to plug away!)

Thanks for interviewing me! If you’re a music maker, a musician and you’re in a band and looking to have a more fulfilling, creative career then check out Lightning In A Bottle.





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