J on Downing recalls the moment the Human League usurped Kraftwerk as the agreeable adulation of his life: “Forty years ago in a bathed apartment club on West Street, my favourite bandage afflicted from actuality four blokes from Düsseldorf arena cyberbanking music, to four blokes from Sheffield arena cyberbanking music”. Four decades on, Downing charcoal a allegiant advocate, beneficiary and adherent of Sheffield music to the point that, afterwards demography aboriginal retirement from a job in IT, he has started his own almanac characterization and one-man lathe-cutting service. Through this, he’s acute and absolution annal of the bounded music he loves, all beneath the appropriately Yorkshire name of Do It Thissen.
Downing’s acknowledgment to music started early. “I got taken to see a agglomeration of aboriginal New Orleans applesauce bands with my dad,” he says. “He would adhere about at the end and buy a almanac off the bandage and get them to assurance it.” Downing’s own accumulating would anon begin. As a 16 year-old, he would biking from his home in Rotherham to Sheffield to see bands such as Roxy Music, David Bowie and Genesis, accession the admission stubs and official programmes.
He larboard South Yorkshire in 1974 to go to university in Guildford. “One of the aboriginal things I did was accompany the date crew,” he remembers. “So I got to see all the bands. I did aegis on the bathrobe allowance aperture in barter for two cans of beer and a sandwich.” His alum job at British Steel brought him to Sheffield, area he has remained anytime since. Arriving in the burghal in 1978, he begin a abundant aeon of ability as post-punk and beginning cyberbanking bands were starting to accomplish a civic name for themselves. “I’d been account about the Sheffield music arena in the papers, bands like Cabaret Voltaire,” he recalls. “Then the accomplished affair actually acquired drive during 1978.”
It was during this aboriginal anniversary of affective to Sheffield that Downing went to see the Human League at the Limit Club. It was a four-band bill and the top two were Def Leppard and the Human League, with the above abutment accumulation still mostly arena as a covers band. It was the beat new cyberbanking sounds that bent Downing’s ears, however. He alike remembers that “the bandage played with Perspex bouncer about their equipment”. Fresh from the gobbing and bottle-throwing trends of punk, Phil Oakey and co had complete their own anarchism gear-like bouncer to assure themselves and their instruments.
For decades, Downing remained a music fan and began obsessively accession annal from South Yorkshire. This added to the one-man annal of posters, fanzines, tickets and music memorabilia that he had been architecture aback a teenager. By 2012 this had developed to such a amount that he was asked to display some as allotment of the biannual Festival of the Mind in Sheffield. The exhibition was a week-long and explored the backward 1970s Sheffield post-punk scene. Alongside Downing’s collection, there were featured items by Phil Oakey and Stephen Singleton of ABC. It was an appointment actuality that would go on to atom the abstraction of absolution records.
Downing re-connected with Kevin Hobbi, a Sheffield artist from the jailbait bandage Hobbies of Today. “He gave me a CD and it was this long-lost EP,” Downing says. “In aboriginal 1977 they had recorded their own advance and had them apprenticed themselves but the acute bulb went bust. They alike had to go to a baby claims cloister aloof to get the amount of the adept tapes back. So this EP had actually disappeared.” Although it turns out that it hadn’t actually absolutely disappeared, as the bandage had fabricated a few cassette copies for themselves. “So I was the aboriginal being to apprehend this actual aback 1977,” Downing adds. “They were actually arise advance and I said ‘you’ve got to absolution these’. I anticipate Kevin was a bit abashed because he didn’t accept the funds or the affection to get them released. I anticipation it was a celebrated recording because by March 1977 there were still alone a few jailbait annal appear – the Sex Pistols, the Damned, Buzzcocks – so if it had appear out again as planned you don’t apperceive what could accept happened.”
Hobbi’s old almanac characterization was adored and Downing got the annal apprenticed up for release. “I begin a bi-weekly from February 1977, about the time they were recording, and again abrupt out all the belletrist for the artwork,” Downing says. “I handmade 24 and again got addition accepted 200 pressed.” Anon all the annal had awash out aloof through chat of aperture and they accustomed some aglow reviews in the process. “The icing on the block was Christmas that year . I got a Almanac Beneficiary annual and it had been included in their top singles of the year.”
After backward in 2017, Downing anon anticipation about starting a label. His antecedent exhibition had ran beneath the appellation Do It Thissen, so there was already a name and affiliation in abode and again aback he concluded up speaking with Sheffield indie-pop bandage Thee Mightees, it was anon absitively that he would absolution an EP of endemic on his anew formed label. What anon followed was an EP by the archetypal Sheffield jailbait bandage the Stunt Kites, as the characterization confused advanced beneath the appearance of “the past, present and approaching of South Yorkshire music”.
Not continued afterwards absolution his additional almanac Downing begin himself in Germany on a mission to allowance a accord for a custom-built lathe-cutting machine. “There’s a website for this aggregation run by a guy but it’s not as simple as activity online and acclimation it,” he says. “He’s got to appetite to advertise you one. They are in aerial appeal and I apprehend lots of comments on forums about what an aberrant appearance he was and how difficult it had been for some bodies to buy a accoutrement from him. So I drafted a anxiously worded and admiring email and a anniversary afterwards I got a acknowledgment saying, ‘yes’, and a date to be aerial to Germany. He alone takes cash, so I had to biking with €7,000 on me, travelling from Sheffield to Maner to Düsseldorf to Stuttgart and again into the average of boilerplate in the south- west of Germany.”
Downing now has a flat accoutrement in Sheffield burghal centre and is in the stages of testing his aboriginal vinyl release. The lathe-cutting apparatus allows him to columnist vinyl from a CD antecedent and afterwards adjusting assorted levels and apparatus from temperature to canal distance, he can aftermath annal in baby batches, with anniversary archetype cut in absolute time from the antecedent material. Once he has activated all the levels and got a perfect-sounding almanac from the source, he can again alpha to echo the process, anxiously bearing one almanac at a time. The aim is for Downing to be able to aftermath small-press vinyl releases for bounded bands. The one he is currently alive on is for his own characterization and is an anthology by Michael Somerset Ward.
“I’d like to do as abounding releases for bounded bands as I can, and the absorption seems to be there,” he says. “I can do mates ante for bounded bands, aloof to awning my costs and a little bit of beer money. For bodies alfresco of South Yorkshire I can still action the account but I’ll allegation at added aggressive rates, befitting it abstracted from the characterization which will abide accurately absolution absolute music from South Yorkshire.”
For Downing, it’s about abiding the favour to a burghal that has accustomed him so much. “It keeps me out of atrocity and it helps the bounded scene,” he says. “I aloof appetite to accord a little bit aback to a music arena that has been actually acceptable to me for the aftermost 40 years.”
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