This week Still Burning locks handlebars with Flash of The Moorings Bar, Aberdeen’s very own Epitome of Rock ‘n’ Roll!
Afternoon Flash, hows it going?
I have the afternoon off, the sun is shining, so in another hour or so I’m going to jump on my bike and go nowhere fast 🙂
Want to tell us a wee bit about yourself?
Sure. I’ve been 26 for almost 14 years now, was born in Aberdeen, and my father grew up in Shiprow, just across from the bar so we have some history in this area. Barely drink any more (previously I REALLY drank), and other than the bar my hobbies are motorcycling, boxing, and martial arts. I’m a 20 year student of Western mysticism which, among other things, has converted me to eco-anarchism. I love nature and dislike sociopaths, politicians, big business, bigots, energy vampires, players, and anyone who is materialistic. Music wise my tastes are very broad, I enjoy anything played by real human beings (those with a soul) and detest anything manufactured. There is a special place in my heart for Patti Smith.
So… The Moorings Bar eh? The Epitome of Rock ‘n’ Roll! Been there for a good long time now hasn’t it? Wi’ no name changes either!
Yes the bar has been on the go for a very long time. We’re not exactly sure how long, but it was renamed The Moorings Bar in 1965. At that time it was owned by Simpson ‘Shep’ Shepherd, then passed over to John Porter in November 1976. John sold it to Laura and myself in March 2002.
You’ve seen many changes over the years?
I’ve seen many changes in Aberdeen, mostly for the worse. I am old enough to remember when the harbour was full of little trawlers and the harbour front was still intact before they put in that God awful dual carriageway. But The Moorings Bar has remained pretty constant since January 1990 when I first started drinking there. Yes things have evolved over the years, the same way that fashion and music change with the times, and the bar has drifted along with those changes. The internal structure of the building has subtlety changed but the general vibe hasn’t. The bar has always had this edgy reputation for being a risky destination, but that’s a belief perpetuated by those that have never frequented the place. Take a bunch of alternative hell raiser hard living types and put them in a room together with booze and loud music and anything can and does happen, but it’s always good natured.
Although the most recent change is the extending of your licensing hours… have you applied for that before or is it only a recent idea?
We’ve been working towards the late opening since 2002 but this was the first time we’d actually made the application. There was a lot of ground work to do first, and we also needed a convergence between our business model and the licensing legislation in order to make it a viable proposition. We didn’t want to become a full-time night club.
Back in the day I always thought it was a `bikers bar`? Justified at the time perhaps?
The bar has always played host to the counter culture and that which dwells underground hah hah. There’s always been a bit of everything in the mix, we’re equal opportunities weirdos. The mix just changes over time. The biker culture was big in Aberdeen during the 1970s, and naturally they drifted towards The Moorings because it had the best jukebox and an anything goes attitude, but they were just a subset of the clientele. Over time the mix changed and some of the bikers stayed along for the ride so to speak. I hail from that background, although regrettably I missed out on the Golden Years 😦 By 2002 I think I was the only biker still in attendance LOL You need to remember that Joe Public is hard pushed to distinguish between The Ramones (all of them), Lemmy, the dude from the village people, James Hetfield, Bruce Springsteen, Sid Vicious, and Sonny Barger. Anyone wearing a black leather jacket used to be labelled ‘biker’, these days they label us all as ‘goth’. Do I look like a Goth LOL?
Does being a harbour located bar have its own advantages?
It Is What It Is LOL. Different rules apply down there… or at least they appear to. The minks that generally cause trouble up town are too scared to venture down to where they perceive that the streets will be sparsely lit by the glowing tab end of a toothless crack whore fuelled by the feeble sooking of her sunken cheeks. The reputation of the area, not to mention the bar, acts as a deterrent to undesirable lifeforms. There’s no crime down here, or if there is crime then it’s what I’d class as ‘victimless’ – I believe that, as a bare minimum, one must retain a soul in order to lay claim to basic human rights. Negotiating Union Street, Belmont Street, or Windmill Brae, on the other hand is like running a gauntlet of hate. Down here at night, once the traffic dies away, we get a fresh sea breeze blowing in from the harbour, and it’s pretty much peace and quiet occasionally shattered by the sound of some 16 year old chavs on 50cc mopeds going “wing ding ding ding”, or woosh of a blowoff valve from a modded EVO headed for the booly. There’s not much else down by us, so The Moorings has become a destination rather than a stop along the way. When the boats are in we get a lot of sailors so there’s a real cosmopolitan feel to the place. These people travel the world for a living, so they all tend to be pretty gregarious, have great tales to tell, and make friends very easily.
When do you think the Moorings became established as a live music venue?
It was one of the first pubs in Aberdeen to host live music back in the 60’s. There was a period from the late 1990s until we took over when it had gotten into a rut, pretty much running the same four covers bands on repeat. This had the effect of making it something of an irrelevance within the local music scene. We began the process of reversing that in 2003, and by 2004 we had invested in state of the art equipment and started getting some pretty good acts.
You must have had some memories of bands and artists who have played there… any favourites?
My memory is a little ropey due to all the brain cells I killed drinking, but off the top of my head:
The first really great gig we hosted was Toxic Ephex. At that time I was managing the band. It was the period when Fred wasn’t actively involved. The bars capacity at the time was around 120 and we were so rammed the punters formed a chain gang to distribute drinks and payment for said drinks. There was about another 30 people out in the street who couldn’t get in but participated from the Quay. The atmosphere was electric because it was a comeback gig. It was a privilege being part of that.
The Red Light Rippers played us twice. They were a Canadian sleaze rock band. They also recorded a live album with us. Really nice guys.
Aluminum Babe were a band from New York who also played us twice. The combined NY punk rock with electronica and a Swedish front woman.
Supragod were a bunch of crazy Swedes who dressed up in white jumpsuits and played hard edged rock ‘n’ roll.
Antiproduct have also played the bar twice and I occasionally exchange emails with Alex, he’s a really nice person. They are due back soon.
Mark Burgess of the Chameleons did a couple of solo acoustic sets with us, and those were great nights. He just took requests from the crowd.
Chop Suicide were another Canadian sleeze rock band, this time female fronted. One girl got upset at her boyfriend’s eyes being on stalks so she chucked her pint over Danyell the vocalist… who promptly jumped off the stage and decked her. I captured the pint chucking on my Nikon, you see the stream of beer coming out of the glass, several feet, right into her face. Luckiest shot ever.
Blaze Bayley has played the bar twice. Blaze, the guys in the band, and the tour manager are all really nice people, very easy to work with.
Ricky Warwick is a really great guy, he’s also played the bar twice now.
Back in 2004 we had a new wave punk band called The Pills over from the US. They were great, really involving.
Any memories of bands who have been booed/jeered/bottled offstage?
The was one band called Altitude 0 that we considered faking a power cut on because they were so inept, but they were just young guys learning their craft (live) and not really prepared for their first proper gig. That’s probably the only band that’s been truly inept. There have been a couple of bands with a really bad attitude but we just won’t book them again, and those are the ones that tend to get booed.
You also get the odd person that gets power crazed when you put them in front of a mic. I remember one instance where a guy showed up with five (I shit you not) distortion pedals all connected in series, and all turned up to ten. He’s playing his guitar and all you can hear is “sshhhhhcccccewwwsshhhh” coming from his cab. He pipes up “This is shit – I need more distortion. I can’t fucking hear anything up here!” So the sound engineer says to the rest of the band “Can the rest of your hear anything?”. They all say “No, all we can hear is this horrible sssshhhhhcccceeeeewwwsssshh noise”. So the engineer says “OK, hang on. Everyone else stop playing apart from the guitarist.” Now all that’s coming from the stage is “sssshhhceeewwweeesssshhh”. So the sound engineer says “OK, what can you hear up there now?”, and the guitarist says “Still just this same really annoying fucking sssshhhhceeewweeessshhh noise”. So the engineer says “OK, stop playing.” The noise goes away. The engineer says “OK, start playing that guitar again”. The noise comes back. The engineer says “That really fucking annoying sssshhhhhcceewwwwwsssshhh noise your hearing… well that’s your guitar. So how about you disconnect four of those distortion pedals, and turn the remaining one down a touch?” Less is more.
One thing I totally appreciate about the MB is how you always keep the door price down to a bare minimum, i.e. £3-4 for 4 bands and so on… Just how do you manage to do that?
We figure that it’s better to have a low door charge and a packed venue, than to get all anal about covering our ass. We’re never seeking to score a profit on the door. High ticket prices mean less punters: that’s a false economy. Better to have the place rammed. We aim for everyone – the customers, the bands, and the staff – to enjoy a really good night with a really good atmosphere. Being busy contributes significantly towards that. Being able to provide free band accommodation also helps a lot (the band flat is located immediately above the bar).
The other thing to take into account is that Aberdeen has a total catchment area of around 250,000, with just over 210,000 of those living in the city itself. In contrast, the Central Belt has a total catchment area of 2,000,000. That means perhaps 60,000 people of a regular gig-going age. Now, reduce that to actual gig goers, then reduce that to a particular musical genre, then reduce that to the appeal of a specific gig, then reduce that to availability, then reduce that to disposable income, then reduce that to whether or not they can be arsed attending… and the fact is that a typical small to medium sized gig in Aberdeen would be doing well to pull 200 people – which is precisely our capacity. In other words a gig that might pull 1,000 people in Glasgow would be lucky to pull 200 people here. Don’t get me started on capacity BTW, if we used the same formula as certain other places then we’d be citing a capacity of 350! The important thing is not how many people there are (or aren’t) space for, the important thing is how many people actually attend. Let’s not lose sight of that.
Your in-house sound system seems to be well liked also?
Yes, the sound it produces is very natural. We don’t need to run EQ, there is no feedback, no distortion, and nobody ever gets sore ears after a gig – unless Tibetan Dave starts talking at them. It’s been worth every penny. It also helps us to attract a better class of band. The main advantage is that with no feedback we can run with only a line check rather than a sound check, and that really cuts costs. The other advantage of the sound system is that it covers all bases, from live music, to jukebox, to DJ, and even movies.
My own personal liking is your jukebox, the best I’ve ever heard and with a track choice to match. So who actually writes out the inlay cards these days? 😉 And the all time most played tracks that might surprise us?
The staff and customers used to write the inlays for the old jukebox, customers being paid in pints. We’d actually taken a digital line out of that old 1985 CD jukebox into our PA. Then about 4 years ago we built our own digital jukebox and now Dan types all the inlays into it. We build our own so that the selection of music would not be commercially constrained, and so that we could avoid all the usual dross that those things come preprogrammed with. We run full CD audio, not MP3. The most played track is *COUGH* “Don’t Stop Believin” by Journey *COUGH*. Hangs head in shame.
Any machines worth mentioning? Arcade, pinball, fags, whatever!
We used to have pinball but the pinball guy folded, so now we have a classic arcade machine with hundreds of games. Robotron and Asteroids are the most popular. It doesn’t make any money, just enough to replace the machine every 4 years when it’s worn out. Then I get a load of grief because all the high score tables get reset. We sell fags behind the bar, which means the customer gets the full twenty per pack.
Posters. Yours, well Fudge’s, are ACE. Who does them?
Brian Fudge stays up all night to do them. Recently he started branding them, so people can tell at a glance that it’s a Moorings gig.
On that topic, who, what, why is Fudge?
Fudge is Brian and Craig Fudge. They are music promoters. Brian Fudge is the driving force and he does all the work. He also babbles shit from a range of 2″ into my ear when he’s pissed. Craig drinks anything all the time and DJs some of the time. His is very much the Andrew Ridgely end of the partnership.
And expanding on that theme… Team Fudge?
Yeah, Brian is embarking on The Mongol Rally, which is a charitable car race that runs halfway across the world including the Gobi Desert before terminating in China. We think Brian will terminate much sooner, reasons being A) that he hasn’t driven in over 10 years. B) that he hasn’t been straight since he last drove. C) that his co-driver is allegedly a psycho. D) The Gobi Desert. The barstaff have a sweeper on this, and I’m also under the impression that Brian may have added to our deal pool. It’s OK though, we can easily find another promoter.
So… Saturday is gig night… what happens the rest of the week at the MB?
Now we have the late license there are some changes, and we plan on hosting gigs both Fridays and Saturdays until late evening, with discos… oops I mean DJs performing afterwards until 3am. The Fridays are likely to be month long residencies, this is something we last ran in 2004 so we’re just resurrecting that. Sundays we host an open stage night which is like a jam session but more unpredictable. Sunday afternoons we show movies, although those are on hold right now due to technical difficulties. Mon-Thurs we operate as a regular bar. Well, not sure regular is the correct term, but you catch my drift!
Your wide range of exotic beers and spirts sure leaves a gap in ones wallet when in experimental mode…even Absinthe! Just how do you source new and interesting liquid products? Any favourites with the punters that might surprise us?
Everything that we stock is something that I’ve personally road tested to destruction. Meaning that at some point in my sordid past I’ve drunk it exclusively for a whole night. Sometimes a whole day too. All those stories on the dangerous and sexy drinks lists are based on my own real world experiences. The Absinthe we stock is the only genuine Absinthe available on sale today. It is chemically identical to the stuff that was semi-banned in the 19th Century. It’s even made in the same stills on the original sites. The Scrumpy and Absinthe are probably our signature drinks. Patron Silver Tequila is also something very special.
A bar with character always attracts punters with character I think. True story? Examples if so!
Yes but if anything we’re overly tolerant. Much of the time it’s like living in some fucked up soap opera broadcast after the watershed. Well after the watershed heh heh. I’ve heard the bar described as the Star Wars Canteena. It’s not just the punters either, the staff are just as interesting. In fact it’s hard to tell where staff end and punter begins, the line is very blurry. The cast of misfits changes over time as people written in and out of the story line, often reappearing years later as special guest stars. I liked it when Garth frequented the bar (Garth is the Willie Rushden look-a-like that wears a green snorkel parka). We unofficially employed Garth as the minesweeper. How this works is that at the end of the night you have 20 minutes to get all the customers out of the bar. The job of the minesweeper is to go round downing their drinks for them when they’re not looking. Garth was ideal for this because everyone just took it that he was a tramp. Garth always said that he refused to wash in protest against smoking in bars. When the smoking ban came in he switched his protest to another issue, but unfortunately the lack of smoke made the odour of Garth much more apparent and he’s no longer admitted to the bar unless he’s had a wash. Now this reminds me of my favourite bar tale. Back in 2002 one of the customers alerted me to some strange activity in the gents. So I went in and there was Garth in the midst of his (at that time) annual wash. He was stripped to the waist soaping up over the sink. Anyway we had this blue roller towel for drying hands, and Garth proceeded to use this to dry himself with. Afterwards there was a perfect Garth imprint on the roller towel. It looked EXACTLY like the Turin Shroud. Amazing.
In terms of staff we’ve had some real characters, and I could tell staff tales all day. From Frank falling asleep in the gents urinal… to Pete using the keg crash mat for an emergency shag… to John the bouncer fighting a one legged man… we’ve seen it all. Perhaps one day I’ll write a book!
Anything else you’d like to add about the MB? How should prospective bands get in touch with a view to playing there?
They should email: fudge music <email@example.com> several times until Brian eventually responds. I printed these lovely business cards for him, and he went through them all with a black marker deleting his phone number… Hey here’s an idea – Brian’s phone number is 07XXX XXX XXX.
Nearly finished now pal. Should Scotland ditch the Pound for the Euro? Actually, do you take Euros at the bar?
I don’t believe in the financial system. We should ditch the system and put the greedy sociopaths that perpetuate the system up against a wall and stone them to death. I’d have suggested shooting them but I don’t believe in guns either. They don’t have souls so there’s be no karmic consequences to worry about. The world needs to waken up to the fact that real humans outnumber these fuckers by at least 25-1.
Your Top Three Films?
My New Gun
Dog Day Afternoon
’79 Laverda Mirage and fortunately it has also been my reality since 1995. I do however have nightmares that one day I open my garage door and find that I traded it for a jelly mould Honda CBR600! UGH! Wake up in a cold sweat. I’d rather see a sister in a whorehouse than a brother on a Honda.
Your five desert island tracks?
As The Night Goes By – Patti Smith
You Ain’t Got A Hold On Me – AC/DC
Get Ready (Here I Come) – The Temptations
Don’t Dictate – Penetration
Is That All There Is – Peggy Lee
And finally… your favourite flavour of crisps?
I don’t do crisps but Space Raiders are the official crisp of The Moorings Bar.
I think that’s about it my friend. Thanks for your time and wish the boys all the very best fae us at FnS for the Mongol Rally. Still Burning
The Moorings Bar Website
The Moorings Bar MySpace
Fudge (the promoters) MySpace
Team Fudge Website