Q&A: Mick Hill - The man behind Rotherham’s music scene

Q&A: Mick Hill - The man behind Rotherham’s music scene

By Michael Upton | 05/08/2020

Q&A: Mick Hill - The man behind Rotherham’s music scene


IF YOU'VE ever been to see a band play live at the Cutlers' Arms, Slamfest or the Dickens over the years, there's a good chance you've Mick Hill to thank for booking them.
As the Cutlers’ music promoter, the former steelmaker and metal health worker has lined up a host of big names and helped build the pub a reputation that draws music lovers from as far away as France, Germany and Israel.
Mick, who has been putting acts on since 2009, took time out of his day job with the Cutlers' owners, Chantry Brewery, to talk us through his lifelong love of music.

Q: How and when did you first become interested in music?

A: It came from having an older brother, who would be playing his Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry records, while my dad would play his Mario Lanza - I can still remember the Drinking Song now!
I remember my brother Ray putting a lock on his door to keep me from playing his records after my collection of Pinky and Perky were worn out. By the time I got to around ten, it was the glam rock era, with Slade, Sweet, T Rex, Mud and Alvin Stardust.  
ABBA was always on the radio, having won the Eurovision song contest, there was Hot Chocolate, too, and Suzi Quattro was down in Devil Gate Drive.
It was the days you had your cassette player on standby for the Sunday music charts to record your favourites, which sometimes got ruined due to people talking over the songs.
In the late 70s, I was into Queen, ELO and Roxy Music but then I got into bands such as Pink Floyd, AC/DC, Black Sabbath and the Rolling Stones.
It was great going to the Thrybergh Youth club as it was the time of Mods v Rockers and the DJ would play stuff like The Jam, Madness and The Specials, who played Herringthorpe playing fields in 1981.
When I started at British Steel, I went to Rotherham Technical College to do my City & Guilds in steel making and they had a common room where someone had a record player, and the Adam and Eve nightclub was good for 80s stuff.
I was still listening to my Pink Floyd, Elvis, Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin before the 90s arrived, with Britpop.
Oasis kind of brought live music back to life again and after Alan McGee spotted them and took them under his wing.
I had the privilege of meeting him after me and John McCullough organised a gig at the Charters Arms, with Alan doing a guest DJ slot.

Q: Tell us about your music collection - how did you start building it and what does it include?
A: It started from buying vinyl records from the Sound of Music record shop at the top of the market, Woolworth's, Brittain's. Roulette Records and Lazer Records in Rotherham as well as Virgin, Violet Maze and Rare 'n' Racey in Sheffield.
I started off with Elvis Presley's Aloha from Hawaii and then 24 Carat Deep Purple. When it was payday, I would always go buy three or four records a week.
My collection ranges from Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin to The Human League, Bowie, Happy Mondays, The Specials, The Meteors, Kraftwerk, Blondie and many more from rock, indie, mod, 80s, ska, punk, and rock'n'roll.

Q: You spent more than 20 years at the steelworks. Were your workmates also music fans?
A: Some of the people I worked with were into their music - most were into their rock.
One of my mates, Pete Shaw, got us £120 Rolling stones tickets for Don Valley Stadium for about £60. They were near the front, which was a great result. I also went to Manchester for Stones tickets with Pete - he was a big fan, too. It was the only time I've seen the Stones play indoors as all the all other gigs were outdoor stadiums.
I used to put my gig posters up at work over the clocking-in station so people would know what was happening at the No 10 Dickens in Wellgate.

Q: How did you get involved in music promotion?
A: It was when my mate's band Royal Orleans started out - they were great Led Zeppelin tribute - and me and Steve Lewis (the guitarist) decided to do a Charade rock reunion night at No 10, so we went around town looking for some of our old rocker friends.
We managed to sell around 300 tickets and it turned out to be a magnificent night. It was so good, the owner asked: “Would you like to do it again?”
My mate Mark Sherburn said he was up for it as we could create our own rock nights in Rotherham instead of going up Sheffield all the time.
We had some great nights down there, with rock, ska, indie, metal and punk nights, original bands and tribute bands.
I moved on to Rudi’s Blues Café, where we had the likes of Dr Feelgood, Nine Below Zero and even Simon Kirk from Free and Bad Company.
After that, I was asked to put bands on at the old Mondo bar and had some quality bands, including The Lambrettas, The Beat, Ed Tenpole Tudor and the Book Club.
We did the Slamfest festival and put some gigs on at the Trades, including Chris Slade from AC/DC and The Sherlocks.  
In the end, I decided the only place for me was the Cutlers' Arms, thanks to Kev Warburton, Mick Warburton and Sean Page, good friends of mine, who want success and deserve it with what they have done with Chantry Brewery.

Q: Which are the best gigs you've ever been to as a fan and booked as a promoter?
A: As a fan, one would be Pink Floyd's The Wall at Earls Court. They don't come much bigger than Floyd with their inflatable pig and teacher and building the Wall up on stage, with David Gilmour playing Comfortably Numb on top. The other was The Rolling Stones at the Titans stadium in Nashville, Tennessee - what an experience in such a massive stadium.
The best two gigs I've have put on would The Beat in Barnsley and the Neville Staple Band at the Cutlers. Neville's is such a great band and to see a fantastic audience enjoying themselves makes it all worthwhile.

Q: Do you get starstruck when you meet famous faces?
A: The only time I ever got starstruck was when I met Robert Plant at a charity event in Dudley.
Me and my mates Andy Whitehead, Steve Lewis and John Brooks were lucky to get tickets for a small venue.
As the Mike Sanchez Orchestra were playing, Robert appeared behind us, so John and I went to shake his hand. We started telling him how we had been to Holland to see him a few months before - he laughed and then signed our tickets for us. It was amazing to meet one of my heroes.

Q: Have you ever been in a band?
A: Unfortunately not - I've thought about it a few times but it's always been difficult because of working shifts for most of my life. I have however been known to get up and sing after a few pints. I did once get up in the Rudi Blues Cafe a few years ago and sang Rock and Roll by Led Zeppelin, with Graham Oliver of Saxon on lead guitar - that was a great experience, especially with his ten-minute guitar solo!

Q: The coronavirus crisis has hit live music venues hard. What are your hopes and fears for venues in the long term?
A: I hope we can get back to some kind of normality, with no social distancing. Venues need customers in to make their business work, while having bands with no-one in wouldn't work at all, as bands need paying.

Q: Finally, which three albums would you take to a desert island with you?
A: The Wall and Animals by Pink Floyd and Physical Graffiti by Led Zepellin.
It's very hard to choose - I would have to sneak in The Dark Side of The Moon Pink Floyd in as well!

The Cutlers Arms, which reopened last weekend, as part of the national Save Our Venues campaign in support of independent live music venues.