Bristol might be gaining attention as a new driving force in music through bands such as Idles, but at its heart are a number of individuals creating a broader artistic culture. One such is Adrian Dutt.
Dutt (37) is not only one of the managers at Rough Trade (bookshop cum record shop cum venue), but also an expert illustrator / designer, co-founder of Howling Owl Records and, to cap it all, guitarist with experimental group the Spectres. So many different activities, you wonder how he finds time to sleep!
Whilst he might have all the urban edge of a rusty chainsaw, his background lies in North Devon, a location more associated with cream teas than counter-culture (perhaps that’s where he did all his sleeping? Got it in early). Yet as his musical collaborator Joe Hatt pointed out, the very somnambulance of locations like Barnstaple was also their inspiration. “The best thing the place did was instil a sense of ‘if we don’t do it, no one else will’ (B24/7).
Aware of the limited opportunities North Devon offered, Dutt moved to Bristol with his band when in his twenties. “When we got here, we didn’t know anyone, so we just had to go out and meet people. We played one show and all of sudden we had a circle of friends. We were meeting all these cool bands, not just musicians but people who were artists and other sorts of creatives. I loved Bristol and wanted to be part of its music and arts scene.
“Not long afterwards, we started putting out a tape of bands we’d met and that led to a record label (Howling Owl) that we ran for a while. We also did loads of shows around the City. It felt as if there was no hierarchy, people were very encouraging of others.
“There are some great venues here which, before the virus, were putting on music across a range of genres. Promoters like 1percentofone, Gravy Train and Worm Disco are just a few. Also because of Idles, there is more of a musical light shining on the city. Consequently, bands like; Scalping, Lice and Ishmael Ensemble are really beginning to be noticed.” Dutt's own band Spectres, is part of a Bristol sound that The Guardian described as 'blending noise, punk and techno'. (Guardian 25 Nov 2019)
He’s equally as enthusiastic about Rough Trade. “We have so many good nights I think we make a very positive contribution to the music scene. One of the things about being such a small venue, is it takes away the barriers between fans and musicians.”
“In terms of illustration I love doing gig posters. They are something that not only makes events successful but are also items that people can keep. We have loads of posters in the shop and I really like seeing which ones people stop to look at, that really get their attention and then to work out why. Around the City, I really admire the work of Max Kemp who runs Shake, Joshua Hughes-Games at 16 Tonne Press and Jayde Perkins."
Dutt's illustration work is a mix of styles. He takes inspiration from his rural background, with drawings of birds and animals but then mixes it with what he calls ‘sad things’ but which probably most people would see as macabre. Amongst an amalgam of skulls and bones his bestselling item is his serial killer tea towel. “People definitely like exploring their darker side,” he suggests.
Ten years later Dutt is still as enthusiastic about his adopted home as when he first arrived. “When you start digging into the different worlds in Bristol there is so much going on. It’s a City that doesn’t feel like a city because its made up of so many different small communities. It's urban yet so close to the countryside, just about still affordable and it’s so welcoming. I think it’s that which makes so many people want to come and live here and participate in its culture.”
Adrian Dutt's illustrations can be found here, https://www.adriandutt.co.uk/
and items for purchase here https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/AdriansHauntedHouse