Tom Dunstan / Hip Hop Happenings

Monday, 27th March 2017

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Tom Dunstan
Tom Dunstan

Since May 2016 local events and music producer, Thomas Dunstan, has been running the upstairs venue at the Dark Horse, Moseley.  I met up with him, having heard that he had some very exciting plans in the offing this spring.

Those of you who have been around the Birmingham music scene for a few years may already know Tom Dunstan from his success at the Yardbird.  Some of the older music fans may even remember him having a prime input at the old Medicine Bar, back when the Custard Factory was a thriving hub in the Midlands music scene.

Tom began his love affair with music early on, as most do, notching up his first performance at just seven years old playing trumpet at a wedding.  Following in the traditional route, he advanced to Trumpet Grade 6, sang in church as a choirboy and also learned guitar and piano.  It was at 14 that he began as a DJ and embarked into the electronic music scene.  However it didn’t take long before he found the variety and scope of his collection was fraught with limitations.  So he decided that if he couldn’t buy it, he’d make it and this was where his serious career with music began.

As an intelligent and technically minded musician Tom took the route into Sound Engineering, in which he earned his degree and it wasn’t long before he became a promoter and DJ at the Medicine Bar, Digbeth.  Having established an excellent reputation and a little bit of cash Tom, along with two friends started up their new scene at the Yardbird, next to the Copthorne Hotel in Birmingham City Centre. The two friends in question have gone on to make excellent names for themselves.  The first, ‘Mr Switch’ is current and four years’ reigning scratch champion; he is also the youngest person to ever have held this title!  Tom has done a vast number of collaborations with ‘Mr Switch’ under his own music name of ‘Automaton’.  An example of these can be found here:  The other founder of the Yardbird was called ‘Bass6’.  He is currently the beatbox champion, performs in an outfit known as ‘The Beatbox Collective’ and owns the 5th Element Beatbox Agency.

Beginning as a sound engineer Tom began running Scratch Club at the Yardbird back in 2007 with the idea that he could bring together developing DJs and MCs in the area.  However, it became far more than this; as local talent was nurtured, it turned out to be far more prolific than expected.  It wasn’t long before Tuesday night became a free-for-all talent event and a den for all hip hop musicians, dancers and enthusiasts.

It was a huge blow to music fans in the Midlands when the town planners announced the planned demolition of the Yardbird a few years ago, as part of the regeneration of the library and Paradise Forum.  For a while the future of Scratch Club was unsure, but it has regularly showcased at Moseley venues since, such as The Bulls Head and The Dark Horse, along with The Hare and Hounds, Kings Heath.  Hopefully, news of a new permanent venue is imminent, as no matter where the night is held it proves to be a resounding success.

Over the years of being intrinsic in what capitulated in a new explosion of talent on the UK Hip Hop scene, Tom also has contact with the majority of the biggest names.  Those in the know will be impressed to see; Jehst, DJ Qbert, Public Enemy, the Souls of Mischief, Akala and DJ Food amongst his catalogue of previous and likely forthcoming bookings.

To add to this remarkable list; one of the founding fathers of electronic music as we know it; Wolfgang Flür, of Kraftwerk fame, will be attending an exclusive, limited capacity Question and Answer session at The Prince of Wales, Moseley on Sunday 28 May.  He will also be performing his exclusive new track; “Birmingham” which he has written especially for the occasion!
Alongside Tom’s own music and promotional work he also performs in a band called, “The Boom Operators”, who have known their own success, having supported Public Enemy and played alongside Pharcyde at the Moseley Jazz Festival.  Gary (pink hair) Williams and Richard March (Pop Will Eat Itself, Bentley Rhythm Ace) are also members of the The Boom Operators.  Keep a look out for their gig listings!

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