Since hosting his first Just-Is party in the nurturing womb of Bedford’s Crypt back in January 2012, Daniel Tuffs has come a long way. In just two years his nights have grown from humble skanks in a local basement to sell-out shows in the 1000-capacity main room at Open. Focusing primarily on reggae and its derivatives, Dan has been associated with myriad club nights and live music events, most recently inaugurating Trod This Land at Hideout and bringing such names as Mungo’s Hi-fi, Reggae Roast, and Channel One Soundsystem to the city.
A Norwich native, it is his loyalty to the city’s musical heritage coupled with a keen ear for moving trends in underground bass-led music that has been at the heart of his success. “For the last twenty-odd years, Norwich has had a really strong reggae and soundsystem culture… in the early to mid 2000’s, East Anglia was one of the main destinations for the rave scene nationwide.”
Paying homage to that sense of tradition while simultaneously keeping things contemporary has always been a characteristic of Daniel’s events. Upon venturing through the door, more often than not there will be an even split of students and locals getting sweaty on the dancefloor. “I try and incorporate the origins of the Norwich reggae scene with a combination of new and current acts from in and around the country.”
Perhaps the most visible (or rather, audible) impression the city has left on Daniel’s work has been the emphasis placed on the soundsystem. “I always love to hear a new soundsystem as there are so many different sounds you can achieve… There’s nothing like being able to feel the music.” What’s special about soundsystem culture is the kind of atmosphere it creates; rather than dancing in closed circles, revellers come shoulder to shoulder either to face the monstrous subwoofers, or the live MC as they incite the dance. Asked whether or not he think this creates a strong sense of community at his events, Daniel emphatically agrees. “Absolutely, people come together to appreciate the selections and the music itself – it breaks down barriers between people as the focus is on the music and the atmosphere rather than anything else.”
Having retired the ‘Just-Is’ moniker for his monthly Hideout shindigs last year, Daniel re-launched and rebranded as ‘Trod This Land’. The reasons for the shake-up are equal parts aesthetic and musical. “After starting Just-Is I feel like I’ve moved on a lot from that. Where Just-Is functioned as a crossover night, now I’ve honed in to a Jamaican focus while keeping the modern club-night feel, maintaining different genres on different floors.”
Keen to keep the night cohesive, the kind of styles Daniel alludes to are all, as he explains, cut from the same cloth. “Genres like jungle that came about in the mid 90’s heavily sample dancehall and reggae tracks, and continue to do so, and drum ‘n’ bass came from that in turn – it all comes back to the roots which is reggae, and a philosophy of love and inclusion.”
On the night of TTL’s launch party, Hideout hit full capacity after an hour of opening its doors, and a queue stretching around the corner persisted nearly all evening. However, running such a successful night only meant Daniel sought out more challenges to sink his teeth into. “Just-Is became a free-to-download online record label as a way for me to release music me and my mates were making as the Chief Rockas Collective. Our first release featuring Dark Angel has been getting some decent attention up and down the country, in clubs and on the radio.”
In addition to the club night and the label, Daniel recently launched ‘Trod This Land Live!’. “After running events in clubs for two years now, I thought it would be exciting to bring in an extra live element, a completely different feel from the club nights.” His first live event at Open hosting Gentleman’s Dub Club was originally lined up for the smaller room and was later moved into the main room due to popular demand. “There is nothing like selling out an enormous room like Open. I’ve only had a positive response for that show and plan to run a quarterly ‘TTL Live!’, bringing Reggae and Ska bands of that calibre to Norwich’s best live music venue.”
TTL at Hideout falls on the second Friday of every month, with the next taking place on the 14th of March. “When you come to Trod This Land you can expect a lot of happy faces on a lively dancefloor, energetic performances from top DJs and live vocalists that are big on the festival circuit, and a variety of music set over three floors. My main goal is to bring the carnival vibes into the club.” TTL has something for everyone, but crucially it has something most large club nights fail to achieve: a warm and inviting atmosphere, and a strong sense of community that reminds you why dance music was conceived in the first place.