“Some may say that a term like ‘the Bristol sound’ is irrelevant and passé, but when you hear these sort of tracks in their home setting, its an amazing feeling that lives on strong today” – Bruce
In any discussion on the state of Bristol dance music over the last five years, it won’t take long until Idle Hands is mentioned. Founded by Chris Farrell in 2011 after Rooted Records shut down, it was very much an uncertain time for the vinyl format and record stores in general. That brave decision, coupled with an unparalleled level of devotion and care for the following five years, has created a West Country institution; a pillar of the community with almost religious significance to the city.
Having just celebrated five years since opening, we wanted to create a retrospective that summed up the shop’s significance. Rather letting Chris blow his own trumpet – which is highly out of character anyway – we decided to speak to some key Bristol music figures instead.
From lock-ins with Pender Street Steppers and DJ Sotofett, painting the shop, stamping their first record, drunken birthday mix sessions and even hearing Chris Farrell MCing over ‘Woo Riddim’, there’s some great tales told from an an exhaustive list of names that includes Asusu, Bruce, Facta, Hodge, Jay L, The Kelly Twins, Kahn, Kowton, DJ October, Peverlist, Richard Carnes, Rhythmic Theory, Sam Binga, Shanti Celeste, DJ Stryda.
Read their stories below alongside some photos lifted from the IH Instagram, and a playlist made up from standout musical moments from each of the above from their time in store.
Idle Hands opened at the perfect time. Rooted had closed a month or two after I moved to Bristol, and Idle Hands opened up within a very short space of time afterwards. The first ever Livity Sound gig at Take5 (next door to the shop) was put on by Idle Hands and Qu Junctions and it was one of the most memorable I’ve ever played. Packed to the rafters with friendly faces.
It’s tough to choose between this and Rhythmic Theory’s ‘Future Tense’, but this hasn’t left my bag since 2011. The whole thing feels skewed, kind of slanted but still propulsive, something that I think made it stand out among a lot of techno at the time.
Idle Hands moment: AnD – ‘Lights Down’
Despite living here for a year and a half, I still regard Idle Hands as this exciting and magical institution. I recall a few years ago, I’d just moved to the city – wet behind the ears, and not knowing my Pinch from my Peverelist – and I wandered in to see Chris. With such a content yet solemn smile on his face, he was sitting back listening to this record and didn’t really stir when I walked in. I was blown away by how brilliant the track embodied this amazing Bristol sound I’d started to recognise. Some may say that such a term is irrelevant and passé, but when you hear these sort of tracks in their home setting, its an amazing feeling that lives on strong today.
Idle Hands moment: Jabu – ‘Move In Circles / You & I (Kahn Remix)’
Idle Hands was the first place I headed to on the day I moved to Bristol, and was one of the first labels to release my music a few years later. I owe a lot to Chris! When we got round to starting our own label, Chris invited us to launch it with an instore at the shop. Rhythmic Theory asked if he could come and play some records too, and I remember being blown away by a dubplate he’d just cut, an early version of ‘Future Tense’.
Idle Hands moment: Rhythmic Theory – ‘Future Tense’
This track for me is what Idle Hands is about: never obey or follow some trend, just put out extremely high quality music from the right place. This release, among the recent others, shows Idle Hands’ mission statement is as true now as it was five years ago. I’ve found out about some amazing music there, from Saade Bonnaire to AnD. Oddly some of my favourite memories include things like painting the shop or clearing out the back which has now been turned into Elevator Sound. The one memory that really stands out has to be Sam Binga on his birthday playing jump up DnB looking like the happiest Binga ever. I think that captures the vibe at its best.
Idle Hands moment: O$VMV$M – ‘Sad Grime’
Many fond memories of the shop over the last five years! Stamping my first release on brstl in a hazy after-hours production line, a lot of fun in-stores and pissed up lock-ins, dancing around to disco records (and grime Youtube rips) after a gig with the Pender Street guys and singing along with Hashman Deejay at the top of our lungs to rare 80’s modern soul all spring to mind. I gave this Oscar G 12″ to Chris for his birthday a few years ago. Positive vibes. Family ting. Keep it moving on, keep the feeling strong. Here’s to another five.
Idle Hands moment: Oscar G – ‘Gotta Keep Movin’
The Kelly Twins
Idle Hands is more than just a record shop to me. It was my place of work on and off for around three years, my home for a year, a place to meet friends, to party, to moan about the current state of dance music, a place to share ideas and to celebrate. I still go there most days on my lunch break, it continues to inspire me both musically and personally and i’m very proud of what Chris and everyone involved has achieved over the last five years.
I could have picked so many tracks but this is the one that really stands out for me. As soon as this came in on a baby blue 10″, we knew it was going to be one of the biggest grime tracks of the decade. With minimal parts, ridiculous subs and a vast amount of space, it was the perfect riddim for an MC to do their thing. Hence why there are so many great versions of this track, this one however is my favourite. Buy Chris Farrell enough Guinness and he’ll do his D-Double impression…BLUKU BLUKU.
Idle Hands moment: SX – ‘Wooo Riddim (D-Double version)’
I have a lot of music and memories attached to Idle Hands but the first that came to mind was the various record launches we’ve had at the shop over the past few years, namely the release party of mine and Neek’s EP on our label Bandulu Records at the beginning of 2014 from which this track below is taken. Chris has always been a massive supporter of our musical endeavours and when he opened the shop five years ago it was important to me to help support the shop however I could, not just for Chris but for Bristol as a whole as I feel there would have been a chasm in the musical community without it.
Idle Hands moment: Kahn & Neek – ‘Got My Ting’
To be honest I could have picked pretty much any Theo Parrish track to sum up my time at Idle Hands but this one stands out. Whether in the Bell at 6pm or as last tune of the night at Timbuk2, Parrish’s sublime meshing of a Section Vangelis ‘Memories of Green’ and his signature rough-as-hell drums is about as good as it gets. I remember playing it on the Idle Hands boat party as we came into harbour and the sun set on this beautiful Croatian bay. Sounds naff but it seemed pretty fucking great the time.
Idle Hands moment: Theo Parrish – ‘Solitary Flight’
Idle Hands holds a special place in my heart. I’ve always been close to Chris and worked in record shops with him for a few years prior to the birth of Idle Hands so it’s really amazing to see how much it has grown. Chris started it and created a hub for like-minded people during a period where the Bristol music scene was going through change and a lot of new sounds and talents were emerging. This record by Joe Cowton for me is a great statement of intent of what both the shop and label stand for.
Idle Hands moment: Kowton – ‘Basic Music Knowledge’
Idle Hands is the manifestation of Chris’s personal musical vision and deep rooted idealism in doing things for the right reasons. So many good times over the last five years at various Idle Hands parties and seeing Chris DJing around Bristol. Idle Hands has proved itself an invaluable cog in the Bristol music scene. Andy Mac’s ‘Cities & Desires’ track is a track from one of my favourite releases on Idle Hands and I think perfectly sums up the positivity and determination of the shop and the label.
Idle Hands moment: Andy Mac – ‘Cities & Desires’
Richard Carnes (Free House)
Rewind to 2010. Vinyl is supposedly on it’s arse, and all the record shops selling new music in Bristol have closed, including the beloved Rooted Records. Some might’ve thought that it’d be suicide to open a bricks-and-mortar record shop at the time, but fair play to Chris, he’s really put his all into making Idle Hands a great record shop. The fact that it’s still here today speaks volumes. It may sound a bit clichéd, but Idle Hands really did become a hub and a real positive force for Bristol’s underground electronic music scene after the demise of Rooted. Friday early evenings used to be some of my favourite times in there, shooting the shit with everyone and seeing what gems Chris had managed to get in that week.
The late nights in there, however, were a much messier affair. The shop kind of became a regular after hours gathering, especially after an Idle Hands party (which were often conveniently located in the basement of a cafe next door). There were definitely some memorable sessions by some great DJs, including two from DJ Sotofett. When we were back in the shop after he’d just played for six hours next door, he slammed on this after hours anthem – one of my absolute favourites – and said “this is when the proper records come out!”, before playing for another five hours. There are less of those types of things now that there are people living above the shop, but still it’s a place where friendships are forged, collaborations are brokered, ideas are flung around, and good music is celebrated. Long may it continue!
Idle Hands moment: Michael Shrieve with Kevin Shrieve & Klaus Schulze – ‘Transfer Station Blue’
I had known Chris before he started the record label, but it was only through it that we got to know each other better and became good friends. Idle Hands has been an important part of my musical career. My most cherished memories always hark back to quite an early stage where there would be myself, Chris, Carnes, Joe, Sean, Shanti, Benji and a few others in the shop on a Friday night after hours, playing each other music we had made or discovered. That would be my main motivation to write music at that time, to create something my friends enjoyed and see the reaction on their faces when they heard them for the first time. You never knew which way it would go either, so it was a true thrill when they got good reactions. I’m not really interested in touring and keep fairly to myself in general. If I could have just those moments in the shop all the time, I would be content. The track I’ve picked is Tom’s remix of Strategy. When I first heard Paul’s album and the track in question, I could totally understand why Chris gave it to Tom; it was built for him to remix.
Idle Hands moment: Strategy – ‘Return from the Stars’ (Pev’s Jerky Remix)
Some of my best memories of the shop have been from the drunken after-hours sessions. Normally this will involve Chris or Shanti locking the doors and playing house or disco or 80’s indie or whatever, but one somehow ended up with a bunch of us trying to explain to Andrew Ryce (North American editor for Resident Advisor) why Bassman is a living legend and deserves an RA feature. Pretty sure the above tune was run repeatedly to illustrate this.
Idle Hands moment: MC Bassman – ‘Girl Want A Buiscuit Half A Eeeeeee’
This shop has been a crucial part of my musical path. Without it I genuinely don’t think I’d be where I am today. A great hub for meeting artists from all over the city and getting inspired.
This tune was one of the first records I got from Idle Hands about five years ago, recommended by Chris. He was like “hey I have a tune I think you’ll like” and he played to me and I loved it! It was played a lot at parties (mainly by Chris and myself) that we’ve had, so for me it brings really good memories of the early IH days.
Very often we would end up back at the shop drinking and playing records till the wee hours of the morning. Then we would have to clear up all the spilt beer and records that were all over the place so that we could open the shop. After a bit of a sweep and Fabreeze, we were ready to go!
Idle Hands moment: DJ Jus Ed – ‘Deeply I Feel (Original Mix Deeply)’
This track, taken from the Inna London Dub LP on Tuff Scout Records, was very popular with Idle Hands customers. It reminds me of the days presenting my Sufferah’s Choice radio show at Passion Radio situated next door to Idle Hands. I’d fly over from Easton in a mad rush and very often go to start the show only to find there were no needles! Chris saved the day on more than one occasion allowing me to borrow the needles from the shop’s decks. “Big shout out to the Idle Hands massive in tune next door” said between mouthfuls of a Biblos wrap.
Idle Hands moment: Tuff Scout All Stars – ‘Seven Sisters Curfew’
Thanks to all the above for taking part, and big thanks to Chris for pulling the whole feature together. Here’s to the next five years!