Justin Deighton is the founder of Two Tribes. Based in London’s radically renovated Kings Cross area, the company / concept encompasses a microbrewery, taproom / restaurant, and live music venue. Prior to Two Tribes, Justin – an acid house “veteran” – had a lengthy career both as a recording artist, and running record labels. Music continues to be at the heart of what Two Tribes do. Late last year, they launched their own imprint, 7s Clash – releasing four, colourful 45s, put together by Justin, and colleagues / spars – fellow veterans – Pete Herbert and Leo Zero. At the time – just before Christmas was cancelled in the UK – I`d recently spoken to the folks at Disappearing Dining Club, and had this idea that perhaps Ban Ban Ton Ton could help – in at least some small way – to keep locked down bars and clubs afloat – by getting their message, and stories out there. Those bespoke Two Tribe singles gave me an excuse to drop Justin a line.
Where are you from?
I was born in North West London, but moved around a bit as a kid. I ended up going to senior school in Ashford, in Middlesex – which is on West London’s Heathrow flightpath.
Where are you based?
I`ve lived in Brighton for last 10 years.
Prior to starting Two Tribes you had a fairly full career in music. Did you start out by DJing?
Yes, it all began in `80s. As a young kid I all my money went on records and clothes, and I spent many, many, hours in my bedroom putting cassettes together using an old Citronic twin deck. That lead to me playing at parties and in the backrooms of pubs. I used to play a real mix of funk, hip hop, rare groove and electro.
How did you get the Balearic / acid house bug? Which clubs were you going to?
I used to go to the RAW, WAG and Special Branch parties. As we all know there were a handful of DJs involved in those parties who came back from Ibiza in 1987, and from then on, the music, drugs and fashion changed almost overnight.
When did you start making music? What sort of set up did you have?
In 1989. A friend of mine was an amazing hip hop DJ and used to have a Roland TR-66 drum machine hooked up to his decks. He showed me how to create my own beats. We did a very basic house track together which was a crude version of INXS` I Need You Tonight. We called ourselves 303 Force and the track was House U Tonight.
How did you hook up with Flying / Cowboy records?
I’d known all those guys for years already from the scene. The early London Acid House weekenders lead to the Sunday sessions at Queens and Valbonne’s where we all became a big family.
I mentioned this to you before, but I sold nearly all of my progressive house records – including everything on Cowboy – decades ago. I kept maybe two – Charas` Lunar Muisque, and yours – Talizman`s Only You. I’m a sucker for the Jesus On The Payroll pianos. Boom Boom hearted indeed. Who else was in the band?
Talizman was me, Ashley Webb, and Colin Martin on vocals.
How did you meet?
Friends of Friends. Before Only You we`d released an Italian house version of The Animals` Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood. Both tracks were made in a bedroom studio in Fulham. We eventually split up when Ashley and his girlfriend had a baby and his priorities changed.
What did you all do next?
I continued doing what I was doing, producing and DJing. I’m not sure what Ashley and Colin did. I lost touch – I don’t think they ever made music again though. In 1991 I was I working for a music company called Sub Level, based in Ladbroke Grove. I was promotions manager for labels like Synewave NYC, Plink Plonk – Mr C`s Label – and FNAC Dance Division. This is where I got to know Eric Moran and Laurent Garnier – who I later worked with on the launch of the F communication label. Together with Sub Level`s US import buyer, Stuart Mclellan, I started a label called Pacific Records. Stu is a great networker and really understood distribution. My main role was A&Ring the sound, overseeing the artwork, and choosing and tracking down remixers – such Carl Craig, Mike Dunn, Stacey Pullen, Damon Wild, Dennis Ferrer…calling them up and – yes – talking to them on the phone – this was before email – in Detroit, Chicago, New York, getting them to remix our tracks for half their normal rate, which was incredible! We worked with a lot of great artists – Dan Curtain, Charles Webster, Ian O’Brien, Steve Rachmad, Mark Broom, Fretless AZM, Pure Science, and Mark Seven. Initially we were based in Stu`s flat, but we then moved to Strongroom Studios in Shoreditch.
Again, I’ve mentioned this to you before but Hot Lizard`s Theme was a huge tune – I think for everyone – and another one that I’ve kept. Do you have any other favourites from your time with the label?
Yes, all the Sunrise Society releases. My favourite being Astral Travel.
Pacific ran from 1994 to 1999?
Yes, I left the label in 1998. We were both DJing and partying a lot. Stu stayed in Paris, where he was involved in local parties, and I came back to London. I then started a label called Product Deluxe Records – releasing music under the names Dark Boogie and Eastside Movement.
Are you still in touch with Stuart?
Yes, Stu and I had some great times together traveling the world DJing with Pacific. We don’t see each other much as Stu has been living – and DJing – in Bali. He’s currently busy re-issuing the Pacific Records back catalogue on Bandcamp, as it’s never been available as digitally before.
When did you start the Two Tribes Brewery?
In 2017. It started when I was asked to make a beer for Island Records. Two Tribes is Inspired by collaboration. That’s where the name comes from – bringing like-minded creatives together through the brewing process.
Where are you based?
We’re based in Tileyard Studios London. It’s a fantastic place to be and build our culture, it’s a real creative community. There are over 200 recording studios, and over 100 music and media companies based here – including Apple Music, Pioneer DJ, The Prodigy, Noel Gallagher.
How did you get into brewing?
I was interested in the emerging craft beer scene in 2013, as I could see similarities with the dance music of the early `90s, where you had people making music in their bedrooms and pressing and distributing to independent record stores. The same thing was happening with beer where brewers were making beer in lock-ups and distributing themselves. Doing things differently creates a movement.
I’ve got a Bsc. in Biotechnology – and back when I was studying in the 80s – although I ended up taking a totally different route for my PhD. – at the time practical Biotech was only sewage farms and large scale fermentation.
Amazing. Next time you’re back in London you must come and brew with us.
Can you tell me more about the concept?
As I said Two Tribes is born out of collaboration. We are London brewery provocateurs producing full-flavoured beer that won’t see you being carried out of the bar! The early days of craft beer was all about high ABVs i.e. 7% +. It’s not sustainable to drink these huge ABV beers. We set out to create “sessionable” beers, without compromising on quality and flavour. Metroland is our ‘hero’ beer which is a Session IPA brewed at an ABV of 3.8% and packed with flavour. The branding is classic ‘Leo Zero’ collage artwork inspired by Two Tribes Metroland ‘London’. Metroland can be any city in the world and we’ve recently released the Metroland ‘World Tour Series’ which are a range of Session IPA’s inspired by cities, and their flavours, around the world – New York, Rio, Tokyo, Bangkok.
Our Two Tribes Taproom is called Campfire and is the lovechild of an open fire summer solstice festival we held a few years back – with revered London chefs cooking in a crop circle in the heart of English countryside. It was a nod to pagan festivals. Reconnecting with nature, foraging and cooking what is in season. We brought that concept back to our home in Kings Cross and it`s now a unique live fire-cooking and fermentation freight container venue in the heart of London. Part community hub, part entertainment space. The bar is centred around an open-fire pit where live-fire chefs serve up food to a soundtrack of visiting DJs and musicians – many of whom are resident at the recording studios and record labels located nearby. It’s a brewery taproom experience unlike any other.
Who else is involved?
I work very closely with Leo Zero – he’s brilliant. I’ve known Leo since early 90s – we used to go to the same parties. I’ve always been a fan of his music, flyers, and record sleeve designs. I reconnected with him around about the same time as I was building the brewery in Kings Cross. Since then, we’ve worked on all areas of the brand together.
I know Pete Herbert is also involved. How did you meet Pete?
I met Pete when he used to have a record shop in Soho, called Atlas Records – again in the 1990s. He spent the last few years in Bali – with Stuart – programming and DJing at the now famous Potato Head Beach Club. When he recently relocated to London we reconnected.
Music is obviously very important to you. How does music tie into Two Tribes?
Music is in my DNA. With everything we do at Two Tribes – beer names, can design – it bleeds through…I can’t think of many breweries that have a record label.
Can you tell me more about the label? You’ve had 4 releases so far – from you, Pete, and Leo.
Leo and I had talked about doing a label for a while. The CAMPFIRE venue was the best excuse to set up the label to make tracks, remixes, and edits for Leo and Pete to play at their CAMPFIRE DJ residency.
Do you have more releases already lined-up?
Yes, the plan is to release three 45s at a time. The next batch is set for end of May. At the moment the music is all created by the 3 of us – but that may change.
Can people only buy the 45s directly from the tap room or your bandcamp page?
Yes, at the moment.
Prior to the pandemic who did you have play at the tap rooms?
We’ve had everyone from Justin Strauss DJing to JP Cooper playing live.
Can you give me a Two Tribes top 10?
One of the things I love about Two Tribes is when our Brewers are the in full flow of a brew and the music is turned up loud in the brewhouse. There is always a real eclectic mix of tunes. Here’s a taste of 10 brewhouse tunes…
The Brian Jonestown Massacre / Anenome
A Tribe Called Quest / Luck of Lucien
The Maytals / Pressure Drop
Die Wilde Jagd / Drachenfels
Fontaines D.C. / A Heros Death (Soulwax remix)
Cocteau Twins / Cherry-coloured Funk
Public Image Limited / Rise (Bob Clearmountain Remix)
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young / Almost Cut My Hair
Sensurround / Blind Faith
Radio Babylon / Meat Beat Manifesto
Your mix of good music, food, and drink, while not exactly the same, does seem aligned with what the Disappearing Dining Club is doing. Do you know those folks?
Yes, we know those guys and work with them.
How have you managed to survive through the pandemic and lockdowns?
We’ve been very fortunate to have pivoted to online sales through the Two Tribes webstore.
Can you tell me more about “Two Tribes On Air”?
Again, as part of the whole Two Tribes ethos / experience we set this up for our customers to play in their bars, pubs and restaurants. Its continuous mix of music programmed by Pete Herbert.
All being well, and pandemic permitting, what do you and Two Tribes have planned for the near future?
We aim to pour Two Tribes beer in as many pubs, bars and restaurants across London. We have also just agreed distribution partners in Singapore and Hong Kong, and we`re looking to grow our Asia market by plugging in a tour as soon as we can travel.
Two Tribes Campfire will be at the Bigfoot Festival in June. Primal Scream are headlining the main stage. We have the lakeside area where Sean Johnston will be DJing alongside, Pete, Leo Zero, and me.
The next Campfire Chef line up is incredible – Andrew Clarke, of the Tramshed Project and St Leonards, Ramael Scully from St James, in London, and Genevieve Taylor – an amazing fire chef and author of “Charred” – all hosted by Julian D Brown of Beyond BBQ fame. Then late summer 2021, we have another site for Campfire set up in Old Street, EC1, and plans for a Two Tribes late-night bar – The New Romantic.