Nathan Jennings is a man on a mission. After walking past his childhood haunt TJ’s in the Welsh town of Newport and seeing it sold-on and in disrepair, he knew then he had to preserve the legacy of this iconic music venue… and the scene surrounding it. Rock of Newport is the feature documentary Nathan is now on an epic journey to complete, researching, plundering the town’s archives and interviewing the countless musicians who played in Newport. We caught up with him to find out more.
What’s the film about?
Every town has its club and independent music scene, ours was TJ’s and punk and rock. Newport had a really strong self-supported music scene – everyone came together to put on music that they loved. There was a small but dedicated group of local musicians, record-shop owners and music fans that grew the Newport scene into something really special. The town of Newport was also a working class town and much of the scene took place in the 80s against the socioeconomic backdrop of the miners strikes – so the fact there was this thriving music scene is something to be celebrated.
Why is it important for you to make this documentary?
Before people forget about Newport – most of the clubs have closed down now – the legacy needs to be preserved. The dedication to the cause that the people had and the way promoters would treat musicians with love and kindness. There’s stories of the owners of TJ’s having huge rock acts over and making dinner for them and offering them a roof over their heads. Welsh hospitality – they looked after them.
Without TJ’s I wouldn’t be who I am today.
What was it about the club TJ’s that made it so special?
For Newport it was the place. It wasn’t pleasant, it was a dark, dingy cave – you’d stick to the floor in there. And you would definitely NOT go to the toilets under any circumstances. In 1996 there was a Catatonia gig in the summer and the building had no air conditioning at all, so it got so hot the crowd had to leave the gig and watch the band play through the windows. So it wasn’t glamourous. But it was host to some musical legends… 60 Foot Dolls, Dub War, NOFX, The Vandals. Apparently Kurt Cobain proposed to Courtney Love here as well.
So, when can we expect the film?
I’m doing everything independently and currently tracking down and interviewing all the artists that played there. It’s a very long process. To fund the project I’m doing crowdfunding and people can contribute towards making the film.