Shell Zenner loves audio, vinyl and obsesses about all things new music. Living and breathing Manchester, Salford and the North West, she gets her kicks from obscure instruments, flea markets, festivals, gigs and digging around at the back of venues for embryonic new talent that she can showcase on the radio. Catch her broadcasts on Amazing Radio, BBC Introducing, and BBC Lancashire.
What made you be involved as curator for OTR?
I was kindly asked if I would like to be involved and jumped at the chance! Being able to big up ace new artists and bands is a joy and I relish opportunities to be able to spread the gospel of ace new music and put a spotlight on incredible artists that deserve recognition.
Manchester has recently been ranked as the ‘best city in the UK for live music’ – how do you think the music movement has changed in Manchester since the early 80’s?
Wow, thats an epic question! I only moved to Manchester in 2001 so I guess I can’t talk about the 80s or 90s too much, but it’s fair to say Manchester has always been a highlight on the live music circuit for both local artists and those from further afield. Forever inspiring and pioneering, i’ve learnt to expect the unexpected in Manchester. From the halcyon days of The Hacienda, the colourfulness of ‘Madchester’, the controversy of Bob Dylan going ‘electric’ for the first time at the Free Trade Hall, to PINS and Savages playing a 360 degree set in a wooden cage at the Bunker and Blossoms slaying their month long residency at the Blue Cat Cafe in Stockport in their early days.
Has there been change?
Well yes, and no. New venues have opened, old venues have closed, old venues have re-opened and been refurbished into more modern spaces. Musical genres have been in fashion, gone out of fashion and even come back into fashion. But thats all by the bye The cities landscape has changed forever, new areas such as Ancoats have offered more affordable practice spaces, venues and commercial space on the edge of the city to those outpriced by the popularity of the Northern Quarter. Also, now more than ever before, people are residing in the city centre, bringing so much demand for night time economy and bringing prosperity to the city.
Ultimately though, Manchester in it’s heart of hearts is the same city, living by its own rules and spirit. It’s a tight knit musical community and variety of culture attracting young creatives to move here, oh and don’t forget the weather. It rains A LOT in Manchester which means you’ll often find people holed up inside a studio escaping the rain or hanging out in bars and venues, which can conjure up some creative magic.
What do you think people can learn from the OTR conference?
For some musicians the industry is very isolating and this is an opportunity to leave their rehearsal space and connect with like minded individuals, share knowledge, learn from each other and help make their dream a reality.
What advice would you give to bands starting out in the industry?
Use the tools around you to help you find your path, the internet is an incredible place for doing homework on people, labels, tastemakers, platforms. Tailor your approach with what you learn!
What inspired you to get into the music industry?
It’s simple really, the music. There is no greater thrill than finding a song that is so great that you just want to shout it from the rooftops!
How important is it that new bands are recognised?
Incredibly important, i’ve had many a message from musicians that have told me that a play on my radio show lifted them out of a dark place and made their hard work feel worthwhile. In a world where technically the internet makes it easier than ever to get heard, our inboxes and social network feeds are awash with contact which means getting someone to listen or respond can actually be quite difficult.
What is your favourite music venue in the UK?
Oh so many to choose from! I adore The Deaf Institute in Manchester for its welcoming front of house and backstage areas for artists to it’s bird wallpaper and lush drapes, and I adore the stunning stained glass in Manchester’s Albert Hall too.
But my favourite is over the Pennines. It looks unassuming from the outside but has been the site of many of my favourite gigs and festivals. The Brudenell is almost a religion, it even has its own t shirt. It’s located in the suburbs of Leeds in an area surrounded by students. I’ve never had a bad view or a bad sound experience there and Nath’s mum (Nath runs the place) makes an amazing lasagne to boot!