STORIES FROM THE OFFICE: 3 RECRUITMENT NIGHTMARES!

“The modern recruitment industry is becoming increasingly competitive, and providing candidates with a positive experience is key to securing their interest and standing out from the crowd.”

But let’s be honest. Sometimes, the experience isn’t going to be great.

As you all know, the recruitment process can be fraught with calamities, pitfalls and disaster. Everything that could go wrong probably has gone wrong at some point in your careers.

Here at CloudCall, we’ve all been through the process in one way or another. While we’ve helped countless recruiters provide a better candidate experience, there are some situations that we just can’t help you with. So, we thought we’d go around the office and give you some of our worst recruitment nightmares.

How-to-get-fired-in-3-days 101…

“Before working for CloudCall, I used to work as a legal recruitment consultant. I had a client who was returning to work after a period of absence, and I managed to find her an entry-level role as a receptionist.
She started on Monday and was late in, which wasn’t a great start. But I just put that down to finding the office, not knowing the quickest way in… the usual really.
On Wednesday I received an angry call from the manager, wanting her removed from the company as soon as possible. It turned out that she had posted a status on Facebook slating him, effing and blinding about how he was such a bad boss. She’d added him as a friend the day before, so he saw this rant front and centre on his newsfeed.”

Twitter and Facebook can be a pitfall for everyone, from the poor marketing executive who, when trying to promote Walkers Crisps’ partnership with the UEFA Champions League, decided to invite the famously-gentle Twitterverse to send in a photo which would then be clutched by Gary Lineker (with predictable results) to Shadow Chancellor-turned-celebrity dad dancer Ed Balls, who managed to tweet this…

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For recruiters, it’s no different. You think you’ve done all the hard work when your candidate starts, only to see them mess it up like that! But while that must be infuriating, it can be hard to know what the parameters are when returning to work after a long period of absence.

While no sensible person would add their boss and then slate them, it may be worth giving your candidates a few pointers before they start, just in case. After all, as a recruiter, you are considered an expert in the world of work. Because you’ve just secured them a job, they may see you as a friendly face who’s on their side.

“I explained that I was unable to remember the exact role…”

“Many moons ago, I was a Computer Operator, which was back in the days when mainframe computers existed, and we still had to load magnetic tapes onto enormous drives to take backups. I was desperate to move to a more senior role, so I applied for a position where I thought there was the potential for this to happen. Then I put the details to one side and waited for their call. And waited. And waited.
“In the weeks that passed, the details disappeared into the ether, and I pretty much forgot about the application. So, imagine my surprise when, out of the blue, I received a letter asking me to come for an interview for a Computer Operator position. The letter had no details of salary, hours, shifts or progression, but I knew the types of roles I was applying for at that time, so I decided to go along and ‘wing it’.
“The first 30 minutes of the interview went very well. I had a strong CV, had a fair bit of experience in the role, and I’d also heavily researched the company in advance. Unfortunately, it was at that point when I was asked the question I’d most feared …
“So, Mike, what was it about this role that specifically caught your attention?”
“My mind went blank. Unable to think on my feet, I explained that I was unable to remember the exact role, and just waffled on about something or other for what felt like an uncomfortably long period of time. Strangely enough, the interview didn’t last much longer, and I wasn’t offered the role. This was a shame as it was exactly what I was looking for; Computer Operator moving into development in 3-6 months!”

In today’s candidate-driven job market, providing a great experience is key to making sure you’re in pole position to retain business. Keeping your candidates waiting for weeks and weeks probably isn’t conducive to this. Of course, you shouldn’t neglect the quality of your recruiting, but speed does matter, especially when recruiting for high-level positions where your candidates hold all the cards.

“Can I use a false name?”

“Within 10 minutes of finishing university, my mum began to moan about when I was going to get a job. So, when a mass of call centre jobs came up at the big retailer near my house, I thought I’d spare her the moaning and apply. During the initial application, there was a very small screening test which was about 5 questions and pretty much a formality. Somehow, I got past that and eventually ended up at the group assessment day which, for some reason, I came into halfway through.
“Looking back, that was a great shame, because, during training, my colleague (who was in the same assessment) took great pleasure in telling me about the candidate who, when filling out the assessment sheet, put his hand up and asked the hiring manager whether he could use a false name. Apparently, his mate did that in a previous interview. He didn’t get the job.
“Fortunately, I didn’t miss the guy who got a bit too emotionally invested in the written assessment questions, which were about discounting a product due to delays. For an uncomfortably long period, he poured his heart out to us all about how he felt awful for the poor (entirely-fabricated) family who wouldn’t get their sofa, and how he wanted to give them more discount than the example allowed.
“For some reason, the hiring manager didn’t think he’d have the strength in character to relay this news to a real family 100 times a week without bankrupting the company, and he didn’t get the job either.”

There’s nothing wrong with casting the net out wide, particularly when you are mass-recruiting. You may not have the time to interview or assess every single candidate, and they may have similar qualifications across the board. This may be the case for graduate schemes, or entry-level positions with lower requirements such as the customer services one above. For these sorts of roles, assessment centres make a lot of sense.

But it can’t look great for a prospective employee to see themselves alongside candidates of the ilk of the ones above. When dealing with a lot of candidates, make sure that you have an effective screening process before bringing them on-site. For example, you could utilise telephone interviews, psychometric tests or some of the new gamified solutions out there on the market.

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3 WAYS TO KEEP YOUR RECRUITING, MOBILE!

mobile recruiting

The office desk has a lot going for it. Your PC’s desktop is crammed with every file you’ve ever needed from the past five years. That teddy bear you picked up from a recruiting fair the week before you achieved top biller is keeping a watchful eye on proceedings. Your drawers are full of an array of biscuits, sweets and crisps that would bring an Instagram ‘influencer’ out in cold sweats.

Of course, you do have to put up with your co-workers…

But, while its days aren’t yet numbered, a desk isn’t quite the centre of a recruiter’s world anymore. The way that people consume the Internet has changed immensely; in fact, in November 2016 mobile internet usage overtook desktop for the first time.

This means that recruiters have to be more mobile-savvy, whether this means utilising mobile recruitment tools, working on-the-go or making use of social media channels.

Kiss the commute goodbye?

Just a generation or so ago, the thought of a recruiter regularly working outside the office would have been ludicrous. But fast-forward a few years, and you may be forgiven for finding that commute into the office a little pointless. Why navigate the snarled-up streets, signalling failures, Tube strikes and packed buses when you could be just as productive at home.

Salesforce ushered in the world of cloud-based CRMs in 1999, and this provided quick and easy access to your database from any PC (internet connection permitting). As connection speeds increased, the cloud-based CRM became ever more useful, particularly when VoIP telephony opened up access to your company’s phone system from anywhere with a quick-enough connection. But there’s a problem. Your phone system on one program, your CRM on another; and never the twain shall meet. Call notes may go astray, recordings may be impossible to trace back to entries and how would your manager know if you weren’t using a drinking bird to cover for you?

Computer telephony integration (CTI) on its own solves that issue by linking your phone system and CRM, but in a mobile-first world where one in five millennials don’t even own a PC, it’s important to stay ahead of the curve. Your CRM may offer mobile access, whether in the form of a dedicated application (such as Salesforce) or a mobile-native design (such as Bullhorn), while some CTIs provide mobile apps which give the same level of integration with your CRM on both mobile and desktop devices. These apps are perfect for when you’re on the go, working from home or even kicking back on the sofa.

Swipe right for work?

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via GIPHY

We’ve all been guilty of flicking through Tinder or Bumble while killing time on the train or bus. While I wouldn’t recommend asking for your next match to send their CV in, you can utilise the lessons from these apps when recruiting.

The common trope about millennials having a short attention span may or may not be true, but all evidence does seem to point to a desire for instant gratification that, while probably not a positive in the long-run, you need to accommodate.

Filling out job application forms can be one of the most tiresome things imaginable. It’s tedious when out of work and with time on your hands, and even worse when in work and pushed for time. It’s not enough to assume that your potential candidates will hang on in there either, no matter how good the job is.

Try and keep your application process as streamlined as possible. This will mean those younger and/or more passive candidates have less of an excuse not to apply. Tools such as Jobmagnet, Workey and Switch even offer a Tinder-like experience, which, despite being less personal and more transactional than traditional application methods, will encourage younger applicants who may have the skills that you’re looking for.

Instajob?

There’s nothing like a glance at Instagram to make you feel jealous of other people. So what better tool for a recruiter to use….

Of course, I jest, but as social media usage continues to grow, it is important to stay ahead of the game.

We all know how LinkedIn can work for recruiters, but let’s face it; it’s not exactly flavour of the month with every young job-seeker, probably due to posts like this…

And while Facebook is still the giant of the social media scene, it has gone a little bit… mature….

But what about Instagram? The most visual of social media channels has 600 million more users than LinkedIn, appeals to a younger audience than pretty much every other platform, and it is pretty much new ground for recruiters.  Despite this, 28 percent of American workers aged 18 through 29 preferred using Instagram to LinkedIn as a window into company culture and workplace life.
Statistic: Age distribution of active social media users worldwide as of 3rd quarter 2014, by platform | Statista
Major companies such as Marriott Hotels, Disney and ITV have created polished, dedicated recruiting accounts, featuring attractive posts that show off the company culture and make you want to work there. And recruiters are beginning to catch on to the opportunity it offers to strengthen their brands, source talent and develop their social presence. Don’t be left out!

 

https://www.cloudcall.com/3-ways-keep-recruiting-mobile/

Why You Should Personalise Your Candidate and Client Conversations

According to a recent survey carried out by Bullhorn, improving the management of client and candidate relationships is a top priority for 42% of recruiters. Managing those relationships often comes down to the quality of the conversations that you have.

Personalise Candidate Experience

You may be calling up clients to secure contracts, discussing parameters for candidate sourcing or conducting telephone interviews. Either way, your conversations are your business. So how can you make sure that your conversations make a good impression on your clients and candidates? How do you improve their experience?

With the amount of communications that you send out every day, it can be easy to slip into ‘one-size-fits-all’ responses. In today’s candidate-driven market, that isn’t going to cut it.  The growth of social media has greatly increased the amount of information available to you. Leading customer service expert, Shep Hyken, says “there is no reason to not create a more personalised experience that caters to a customer’s individual needs.”

For example, imagine receiving a call and as the phone rings, the caller’s details instantly pop up on screen.You’re only one click away from a full record of previous interactions, so you can carry on from where the last conversation finished, even if you personallyhaven’t spoken to, or even encountered, the caller before. You’d show the caller that your agency is prepared, professional and knowledgeable, improving their experience with your business.

It isn’t all about phone calls though.

You may text those in your talent pool whose skill-set corresponds to a specific vacancy. Or you could email clients personalised content that you know relates to their interests or industry. You may even decide to share a glimpse into your company’s values and culture using social media.

These examples are all based upon information that you either already have or can easily access, and would communicate and reinforce your principles with clients and candidates. These factors can make all the difference when contracts are up for discussion, or a candidate is wavering on which position to take.

A 2016 study by Forrester found that, across a wide array of industries, companies that focused on their customers’ experience grew their revenues 14% higher than those who didn’t. Simply improving the quality of your communications and conversations can go a long way towards improving your candidates’ journeys. Make sure that your candidates aren’t part of the 31% who rated their overall hiring experience as just one or two stars out of five (Talent Board, 2016), and personalise your communications.

https://www.cloudcall.com/why-you-should-personalise-your-candidate-and-client-conversations/

 

Interview with The Diskery’s Liam Skully

“I can’t figure out how they work… it baffles me.”

For someone that’s spent 44 years working in a vinyl record store, Liam Skully doesn’t know much about the technical side of the format which he loves. But I’m fairly sure that his encyclopaedic knowledge of music makes up for it.
The Diskery is certainly Birmingham’s oldest record store; an enduring fixture of the Birmingham music scene since Morris Hunting opened up a specialist jazz record store selling 58’s on Moor Street in 1952. 2 moves and 20 or so years later, the specialist jazz store had morphed into an all-encompassing smorgasbord of popular music, and had just moved into its current home on Bromsgrove Street, located in 3 old back-to-backs (formerly accommodation for the workers of the Wellington Hotel next door) next to the concrete behemoth of the A38 Bristol Road.
Skully had worked at The Diskery in its former premises (on Hurst Street, just down the road) for around a year. He wasn’t even supposed to be there for that long;

“I should’ve only been here for a couple of weeks! They needed someone while the manager was off, and my mate asked me if I fancied it. I was just an art student who needed a part-time job, so I went along, and it turned into a month’s trial, and I’ve been incarcerated here ever since!”

Despite making it sound suspiciously like the American justice system, it is clear that Skully has it very, very good. I mean, imagine waking up every day, knowing that you work in a record store; knowing that you literally get to listen to music and talk about music and find new music and introduce people to music every single day.
Yeah, sure, you could argue that it doesn’t quite have the cache of a Premier League footballer (and it certainly doesn’t have the wages). And it’s doubtful that you’ll be able to mess around with the ondes martenot like the lead guitarist of Radiohead.
But I don’t think there’s that many jobs out there that would be as enjoyable as the one that Skully has, and he knows it;

“It’s not really a job, is it? I mean, it’s that old cliché, but I’ve never really worked a day in my life, or at least since I’ve been here. I genuinely love coming to work… and I’ve met so many interesting people through being here.”

And he’s certainly met more in the past few years. Vinyl sales have shot through the roof in the last few years, increasing by 64% from 2014 to 2015 to a 21 year peak.[/caption]

“…there’s been the realisation that you can’t beat the warmth of the sound of vinyl records. It’s indisputable that music just sounds better on vinyl.”

But in 2007, no-one agreed; vinyl LPs only accounted for 0.1% of the British music market, and it looked like the format was dead. So how exactly did The Diskery survive in a period in which three quarters of their peers closed down?

“There was a hardcore that always believed in vinyl, and they definitely kept us going through the lean years; but we certainly didn’t have that many new collectors. People turn up who haven’t been in years and they’re all surprised we’re still going! But we are… we managed to weather the storm.”

What probably helped The Diskery is that it is so much more than a record shop. To some, it’s a place for therapy (“You end up being more of a counsellor than anything else”). To others, it’s a celebrity haunt (for example, Henry Rollins, of Black Flag fame, was in the other week, and Robert Cray came in on a Friday, bought a couple of LPs and then returned with his band on the Saturday). To some, it’s useful as a refrigeration unit (seriously, you don’t realise how cold upstairs is…). To Skully, it’s “a magpie of a shop”;

“We’ve bought a lot of stuff… we just tend to accumulate things, and when the weather’s good and we put some of the bric-a-brac outside, people don’t realise we’re a record store! Well, until they come inside anyway…”

And yes, there’s VHS’s DVD’s and old copies of Football Manager and “How To Kick A Football Soccer-Style” instructional books for American football kickers and punters; but as soon as you step inside, it’s unmistakably a record store- one straight out of the old-school. It’s the ‘straight toe’ to the soccer-style punt, to use the American football term.

“The look of this place hasn’t changed in 40 years, but I think that’s what makes it so popular. People come in and they’re like, ‘I’ve found a proper record shop!’ And we get a lot of musicians coming in, and they’ve been around the world, in every record store there is, and they say they haven’t found a better one.”

There can’t be that many stores with the same amount of records anyway; Skully reckons there must be at least 100,000 in the store at any one time (including 12,000 78’s; the precursor to vinyl which is much stiffer and much more delicate). From Cliff Richard to Fela Kuti, Elton John to Tangerine Dream, Scritti Politti to The Kinks… you’ll probably find it here.

But of course, there isn’t many people out there rushing out to buy 78’s. There are not throngs of crowds outside, queuing up to buy Scritti Politti records either. It’s always the usual suspects (“your Smiths, Fleetwood Mac, New Order, Bowie, Joy Division… that kind of stuff”) that fly out of the door quickly.

“With all of the iconic, obvious stuff, it comes from the era when records sold in massive numbers so there’s plenty of stock around.”

But of course, for every £3 7th repressing of Hunky Dory, there’s 10p novelty 7 inch singles, and then of course, there’s your £30 first edition Blue Monday….

“We do sell records from both ends of the spectrum, from 10p singles to more collectible, expensive stock; it’s simply common sense that the more collectible and rare it is, the more it goes for.”

With records being so collectible, and in some cases, rare, some punters have complained about The Diskery’s price of records, especially when compared to online. But Skully doesn’t feel that’s particularly warranted.

“Unfortunately today, online sets the precedent, but they don’t have the overheads that we do, what with several members of staff and the upkeep of the building. I think we’re fair; I certainly don’t think we overprice anyway.”

But what some people fail to realise is that, for what you save buying online, you lose out in terms of the experience. Yeah, you can buy that record cheaper on Discogs…but you can’t get new recommendations, you can’t chat away to anyone through a screen and you certainly don’t feel the same when you find that one LP you’ve been after for months.

“For me, coming into stores like The Diskery is like going into your local butchers instead of Tesco… it feels better helping independent retailers out. I do think [online] takes the fun out of record collecting… you get a great buzz from picking records up in stores, it’s all part of the experience, aint it?”

Skully doesn’t switch off from music. On his days off, he’s trawling through record shops, looking to add to his own personal collection. It already takes up all available space in his house (“The wife reluctantly accepts it, but I think we might have to move house soon, because we’re running out of room!”). When I’m looking around the store, I hear him singing along to the records being played out in the store (although you wouldn’t catch him singing along to his favourite act, the Swedish instrumental jazz trio, Esbjörn Svensson Trio)… and he’s being paid for it!
Things have changed a little at The Diskery recently. After 50 years of ownership, Morris Hunting passed away in 2012, and the shop was recently bought in June by Lee Dearn (“he’s kept the same ethos and philosophy that we always had under Morris, but we’ve moved into the 21st century now. We’ve got a website, we’re on the social medias… That wouldn’t have happened beforehand”).
Scully recently received a promotion as well; 45 years after his arrival, the retirement of Jimmy Shannon meant that “the longest stint as an understudy” had finally came to an end, and he was to become the manager.
And that certainly means one thing will never change.

“The one record I’ll never sell is this one by Stiff Records, called The Wit and Wisdom of Ronald Reagan. We’ve had it since the Seventies…we always bring it out and play it to people, and tell them how great it is, but it’s a blank record… on both sides there’s nothing. We get people coming in and they’ll ask to hear the wit, and people coming in asking to hear the wisdom… all they hear is the crackle of the vinyl…. We’ve had big offers for it but it’s just too quirky to get rid of.”

Parkrun feature

Concrete Collar’s Karter decided to try out his local parkrun, and now he won’t shut up about it…

It’s 8 o’clock on a Saturday morning. Normally, I’ll be in my pit, trying to sleep off a #MADNIGHTOUT (3 Shandy Bass’s, 2 WKD’s and 1 Sourz shot).

However, today is different. I’m waking up early, dusting off my running shoes and going for a jog… and not just any old jog.
Parkrun is a weekly series of timed 5 km runs which, in just 11 years, has grown from 13 runners at a single event in south-west London, into a community of over 1.3 million runners at nearly 90000 events around the world. It is open to all, regardless of age, fitness levels and experience.
Mary Ross is the event director for the Birmingham Cannon Hill event, one of the biggest events in the country.

“We started in August 2010 with 34 runners and 10 volunteers, and we now regularly have over 500 runners and 20 volunteers each week. We have put on the run nearly 300 times over the last few years and very rarely cancel, only when the park has other events or the weather is too dangerous.”

Armed with my printed barcode (how they’re able to time you; it’s scanned after the race), I arrive at my local park. There is a big crowd; admittedly not as big as the peak attendance at Cannon Hill (“we had 780 last year in May, and I do expect we will get to that number again in the summer”), but it’s a crowd that includes a wide cross-section of people. Those that have clearly never gone for a run in their life are talking to Lycra-clad club runners wearing their team vests with pride.
This encourages me to get speaking to people. Joe has been taking part in parkruns for a year now and tells me he’s made a lot of friends from it. Needless to say, his enthusiasm knows no bounds.

“I love the community feel of the event, like there’s people here of all ages, all backgrounds…some will finish the course in 15 minutes, some in 40, but it’s a great atmosphere and everyone’s just here to have a really good time.”

After listening to the pre-race briefing, we’re ready to go. There’s a veritable mass of people up ahead, and behind the visible determination on their faces, they all look genuinely happy. It’s 9am on a Saturday morning; I’m usually either fast asleep, hungover or worse at this point. I suddenly feel a slight pang of shame, as if this is the sort of thing I should be doing every week.
Joe’s certainly seen a positive change in his life since he started taking part, and one reason stands out in particular.

“It’s definitely made me more motivated to get fitter and exercise more, because I really want to beat my personal best. The thing that I love about parkrun is that you’re being timed, and all the information’s emailed to you the very same day, so it’s easy to keep track of it all.”

There’s a sea of Lycra-clad runners ahead of me as the race begins. The pace is high; I look behind and some are falling away already. But regardless of their pace, everyone’s being cheered on and encouraged by the many marshals that line the route. They’re all volunteers; no-one makes any money from parkrun. They’re all just doing it for the love of it.
Eventually, the pack I’m in starts to disintegrate. The club runners are sprinting away; their long gaits reminding me of gazelles. But with some anonymous house music in my ear, I settle right bang in the middle, and keep a fairly steady pace for the next few kilometres.

But about two thirds of the way in, I begin to tire. I definitely went out too quick. I want to stop and walk. Others behind me have. But the encouragement from the marshals is actually spurring me on. It somehow sounds genuine as well, like they really want you to finish the race (although of course I’m not in too much of a position to debate the validity of it). Either way, there definitely is something special about the atmosphere here.
Joe certainly thinks so anyway.

“There’s just so much positive energy at parkruns, and everyone’s so full of encouragement. When you’re struggling, there’s loads of marshals cheering you on, and it actually helps, even though they’re doing it for everyone.”

Urged on by the marshals, I keep going, and about 500 metres from the end, all the positive energy starts doing funny things to my head, and I somehow manage to convince myself I’m having a second wind. In my head, this is Mo Farah in the Olympic Stadium; lights flashing, crowds cheering, the PR guy for Quorn on the line to my agent…
But before I get too used to the idea of posing with (but never actually being pictured eating) some meat-free chicken pieces, reality sets in; my legs start to give way, my breathing gets heavier and heavier and the pain gets more and more unbearable. It takes every last ounce of energy to haul myself to the finish, but I somehow manage it. And although I feel so bad when I stumble across the line, it feels so good.

The email came through a few hours later with the results. I came 65th out of 122, with a time of 27:26. Average. I could see why Joe was so enthusiastic about it being timed now, because I really wanted to go again and beat that time. In fact, I could see why he was so enthusiastic period.
Beforehand, I’d read about parkrun in articles like this with a degree of suspicion. I mean, it can’t be that good, can it?

But after taking part in one, I completely got it. To me, parkrun felt like a judgement-free zone; one where, regardless of who you are, why you’re there and how fast you can run, you’ll be welcomed into a community with open arms. Everyone gets on, everyone talks, no one’s taking it too seriously, and there isn’t the stuffiness you’d associate with the running scene. Granted, there’s still a vast amount of Lycra on show, but I don’t know… it just feels different (the atmosphere, not the Lycra. The Lycra’s still the same.).
I’ll certainly be going down again, and I wouldn’t bet against plenty more people printing out their barcodes, dusting off the running shoes and thinking they’re Mo Farah with 200 metres to go. You never know, some of them may pull it off better than I did.

My top 5: Naomi-Leigh Morgan

In another edition of our regular Top 5 feature, BBC Radio 1 & 1Xtra assistant producer Naomi-Leigh Morgan gives us her favourite UK dancehall bangers…

K More– London Don

Even though K More’s originally from the Caribbean, this one has a proper UK twist, as it has a grime beat… he’s really popular in the scene right now, and this tune is growing and getting recognised by a lot of dancehall DJ’s.

Trenz– Tip Like Ballerina

This is the kind of song that you hear in a club… it’s a proper ‘girl’s’ song as you can properly bruk it down! Its normally artists from the Caribbean that create really dancey dancehall tracks, and Trenz is one of the first UK artists to really do one!

J Kaz– Wine Potion

J Kaz is really growing in stature in the UK dancehall scene… he’s a sick performer at raves and is constantly releasing new music…

G Maffiah- We Nuh Sponge

He is from the Caribbean but grew up in London, and his songs really capture that ‘island’ feel…He has some of the best riddims in the UK scene right now!

Lady Chann ft Rage- Not Me

Lady Chann is probably the number 1 dancehall female artist in the UK… this is a big track but you should definitely check out some of her 1Xtra freestyles, because she really made a name for herself with them!

Interview with FZKS’ Dean Pattison

“The last FZKS event… it was the most stressful day of my life! I was working from 9am to 5.15 am the next day, and for the entire show I was sat in the back counting money. I mean, how can you work for that long without seeing any of the DJ’s?”

It certainly sounded stressful, that’s for sure. But for Dean Pattison and his FZKS team, it is definitely a labour of love.

If you’re a bit unsure what FZKS is… well, they’re a number of things. They’re a club night that has been smashing up Amusement 13. They’re a DJ collective that have been making waves in the heavy techno scene.

The marketing spiel defines them as “a Birmingham based brand that specialises in curating underground bass music events [which aim] to transform your night into a world of a science by creating their own conceptual laboratory full of beakers, bubbles and bass… a fully immersive experience.”

But I think Dean sums it up best when he calls it;

“beats, bass, breaks & drum and bass”

FZKS has only been around for about 2 years, but Dean’s passion for the music began way before then.

“I was from just outside London, and mainly listened to bands and all that, but when I moved to college, all my new friends were from London and they were big into people like Burial, Skream, Benga…They’d been massive in the original UK dubstep scene; that 140bpm sound… now all my mates were going on about it, so I kind of started listening to it and found I really liked it.”

While now, many associate dubstep with that grating, Americanised ‘brostep’ sound popularised by Skrillex, it is difficult to quantify how big that original UK sound was. Artists were coming out of nowhere, at a young age, and producing nothing like you’d ever heard before. Imagine producing something like this at 17, like Skream and Benga did back in 2003…

It made sense, therefore, that, when their sound changed “into the slightly slower 125-130bpm techno sound” in recent years, their fans followed them.

Eventually, just listening wasn’t enough for Dean, and he decided to push things forward.

“One day I just decided to go for it, so I bought myself some decks and tried to teach myself. Luckily, I’ve got a mate who’s quite a good drum ’n’ bass DJ, so I just picked up quite a few tips from him. You’ve just got to get your ear in, because there’s obviously so much going on… but once you get used to it, you’re alright.”

Things have certainly been alright for Dean since then. His DJ career has gone from strength to strength since his move to Birmingham for university, becoming a regular at house institution Seedy Sonics, both solo and as part of the FZKS collective. But this wasn’t quite enough for him.

“When I’d DJ solo, I’d be at places like Seedy, and I’d always be thinking, “I cant play some of the stuff I want to play because it’s too weird”! You feel like you’d get people looking at you thinking ‘What the fuck is this?’ and it wouldn’t be what they came out for! I kind of wanted to do some events where we could play the weird stuff, and eventually, me and the rest of the FZKS lads (Connor, Laurence and Jack) decided to put on our own events, and I have to say, I probably enjoy it just as much as DJ’ing now!”

You’ve all read ‘The Hacienda: How not to run a club’ by ex-New Order bassist, Peter Hook, haven’t you? If you haven’t, you definitely should, but if you have, you’ll know how much of a nightmare running a nightclub (or event) can be. You’ll know how you can be one of the biggest (and best) bands on Earth at the peak of their powers, financing probably the most famous nightclub on the planet; one that popularised a youth culture movement (acid house) on a scale that this country has never seen before or since… yet still lose a tenner on every punter that came in.

Of course, Amusement 13 isn’t quite The Hacienda, heavy techno isn’t quite at the level of the Second Summer of Love yet, and they’re clearly not losing money on every punter like Tony Wilson’s financially-challenged crew of musical geniuses. But it honestly all sounds bit of a ball-ache, nonetheless.

“The thing is, we all know the music we want to do, we know our sound… that sort of heavy techno, people like Burial, Skream, Ransomer, Boudicca, Woz, Paleman; the Swamp 81 label… we play a lot of good stuff, so that bit’s fine. But when you’re promoting, it’s all about numbers… and there’s literally so many variables into getting people to come to your club. They’ve got to know about it… for the last event, in the 4 weeks leading up to it, every weekend we were standing outside rainbow at 3 in the morning, handing out flyers, waking up the next day in the afternoon feeling ill because you’ve been stood outside all night…”

All to hand out flyers that, for 95% of people, will be chucked away while they concentrate on not chewing their gums up. And even if they know, and are up for it, things can go wrong.

“Imagine you’ve got a room of 20 people, saying they’ll go to your night… you can be 10 minutes away from them getting a taxi, and someone just turns round and says “let’s go somewhere else”… and that’s 20 sales down the drain, in the blink of an eye. And even if you turn up and love the event… it doesn’t mean you’re gonna go back.”

And that’s certainly true. While it’s easy to fall into a pattern of cheap shitty student nights or cheap and cheerful clubs that serve VK and play Mr Brightside; the real, proper, dangerous, hedonistic, sweaty nights out always seem to be harder to plan for. Maybe it’s the thought of the crushing comedown that will follow; maybe you’ve pushed it too far last time and don’t want to pass out in the toilets and get dragged out by a pissed off security guard; maybe you just don’t want to listen to techno and want a different vibe… either way, imagine being at the whims of that for every single event you put on.
Admittedly, Birmingham’s not a bad place to hold an event.

“It’s changed so much in the past few years… I remember my dad told me how it used to be a shithole! But now, I read somewhere that it has the youngest population of any city in Europe…there’s a massive captive audience, and there’s a really big dance music scene around here, with so many well-established brands, like Rainbow and places like that.”

And that’s certainly true. Rainbow, Boxxed and the like do pull in huge amounts of punters from around the Midlands and beyond. But Birmingham never really took to dubstep in the same way that London did…

“Traditionally, Birmingham was always more about speed garage than dubstep, for sure. For the last event we did, we had Sgt. Pokes in, who was the host MC for a lot of the original dubstep stuff. He performed with Magnetic Man when they were huge, which was around 2010, and he said that they popped off everywhere else… but in Birmingham it didn’t quite get going. And also, I saw Youngsta in London just before I came to uni, and it was completely rammed… I was pretty excited to see him in Birmingham a few months later… there must’ve been no more than 100 people there. It was mad how different it was.”

Of course, since then, electronic dance music has exploded back into everybody’s consciousness. Every cunt with a man bag and Huaraches and a fake tan’s probably gonna end up spending half their summer raving away and the other half coming down off some shit pills; your nerdy flatmate probably sits in his room listening to EDM while playing his 18th successive FIFA game on career mode, and your mum’s a bit gutted that Avicii announced his last tour. With Birmingham’s big club scene, it was only right that the big names in Digbeth were at the forefront of this, but of course, they do cater somewhat to the “House Every Weekend” crew, simply because there’s more of them out there. FZKS, what with their science-themed parties, artistic vision and heavy techno sound inspired by dubstep, isn’t quite set up like that.

“We do feel we’re offering something different. We do it because we’re passionate, not because there’s a gap in the market… but over time, we’ve probably became more astute. You have to remember that it is a business and you do have to get those bigger names in for people to come.”

At the end of the day, while we all have to start somewhere, there’s a reason super-clubs exist; people want to see the big names. More people want to see Four Tet behind the decks than plain old Joe Bloggs, no matter how much potential Bloggsy has. There is one issue with that though…

“Headline DJ’s go for big money, expenses, travel and riders, and the real big cream-of-the-crop ones will ask for it all upfront as well. And if the promoter cancels for any reason, the DJ still gets paid… but if it’s vice versa and the DJ cancels, even a few hours before the event, the promoter has to go on and do the event without potentially their headline act. Of course I do kind of sympathise with the DJ’s because it’s their job, and no matter how much they enjoy it, they’ve still got to pay the rent at the end of the month.”

But Dean does as well. Luckily, it’s clear from the amount of time they’ve been putting on shows (about 18 months) that they’re not doing a bad job of it. The shows have been successful, have attracted big names to Amusement 13 and have a loyal fan-base (more on that later). Unfortunately, currently FZKS are having to take a bit of time out from hosting shows.

“Amusement 13 has been shut for a little bit, but it’s relaunching on May 27th, with us doing a show during Pride weekend, which will be massive.The club’s invested in new infrastructure, like a new sound system, and we’re gonna show people what it’s about… and then for fresher’s week, we’re planning on hosting a big event as well!”

In the meantime however, FZKS has some big things lined up.

“We’re partnering up with Forbidden Forest festival , which is this brand new thing near Donington Park [near East Midlands Airport] on Bank Holiday Sunday (May 1st). It sounds massive, and it’s got some big headliners…Leftwing & Kody, My Nu Leng, Skream… We’re doing coaches on it, and we’ve got 150 people coming from Amusement 13, and then we’ll hopefully be playing a 2 hour set there as FZKS Audio, which we’re looking at experimenting with different genres during… hopefully we’ll get some original dubstep in there!”

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“We’re trying to keep everything ticking over at the moment, but unfortunately, I’ve got tinnitus at the moment… my ears aren’t damaged but I’ve just got to lay low for the while, but we’ll be getting mixes out and all that in the next few weeks.”

Luckily, they have some proper committed fans waiting for their next shows and sets, and presumably praying for a speedy recovery…

“Someone actually has a FZKS tattoo! They turned up with it on our first night as well… our mate did it- despite the fact he can’t actually tattoo- with one of those DIY kits. It was mad!”

 

If you want more of the FZKS sound, check out Dean’s “Top 5” dark techno tracks as well!