THOMAS SODEN INTERVIEW
I interviewed Thomas Soden (lower left) one of the fabulous creative trio behind Nine Lives, for those of you who don’t know, it’s an awesome little neighbourhood bar in Bermondsey Street, nestled in the Victorian basement of No.8 Holyrood St and is packed full of incredible cocktails, great vibes & a killer soundtrack.
Where are you and what are you doing today?
I’m sat in my flat in Haggerston working wishing I was outside which I will hopefully be later. Opennig a bar & running a business is quite a task so I’m catching up on my admin from the week.
Tell us about your new bar Nine Lives?
It’s a passion project between 3 friends who are also business partners, a culmination of all our favourite things from a lifetime behind bars.
What’s your favourite cocktail on the menu?
In all honesty I love them all! I didn’t design the menu for the venue, I collected all my favourite cocktails. I love the ŌMU at the moment which is Campari with watermelon & cucumber soda, it’s just very refreshing.
How would you describe the design of the venue?
Vibey. Emma who designed the space was influenced a lot by film & brought much of this in. It’s just full of character, I don’t like sitting in white minimal boxes. The design is also heavily influenced by us a individuals with many personal items across the walls, there’s many a story to tell about items in that space.
Nine Lives bar ethos is to have less than one bag of rubbish a week. Tell us more about how you have have achieved this?
We’re still on the journey to this goal but we’re making good progress. The key difficulty that we have is packaging as this is outside of our control. Looking to balance your requirements and how a product is sold/distributed to you sometimes leaves you with a problem. When you start looking into the nitty gritty of it all it’s surprising what items aren’t recyclable, crisp packets for example. We’ve probably cut down waste to landfill by around 85-90% from a normal bar which is still great & we’re working every day to reduce that even further.
Three words to describe the design of Nine Live?
Tropical vintage warehouse
You have some of london’s top taste makers curating music for you. What should people expect to experience musically?
We play tunes that everyone will love. It’s good music. It’s that song you’ve always loved but never remembered the name of. It’s that song that you recognise but never
knew that you knew. Then you realise this is the song that they sampled on that song you love. This is the type of music we play.
Music is a large part of this venue, what is your earliest memory of music?
Music is the fuel for life! Loads of early memories of being played Zepplin, Stones, Muddy Waters etc, I had a good musical upbringing. I’m obsessed with music. I probably listen to music 8-12 hours a day.
Why did you call the bar Nine Lives?
Naming something is hard, naming something when 3 people have to approve it is near impossible. The name came quite a long way down the track & it fitted nicely. A bit rock & roll but with good intentions. It fits into our ethos of repurposing things for use, whether a sound system or a cocktail ingredient
As well as Nine Lives, you have an incredible consultant for brands worldwide. What’s been the most inspiring project you’ve worked on?
I really enjoy helping people so I do enjoy anything that makes an impact on peoples working lives by making it better. We write a great training programme for Diageo called World Class Studios which is used across the world & has great feedback. It’s also nice when you get approached by bartenders who say that you changed their carrer for the benefit years after you trained them. That makes all the hard work worthwhile.
What inspires you the most about your work?
Sharing happiness. That sounds a bit hippy but when you break it down to the bare elements my job for both Nine Lives & Sweet&Chilli is making people happy. What’s not to love about making others happy!
What’s your favorite hangout in London/Worldwide?
Too many to list! Some of my favourites near me? I’d say two of my favourite haunts are Trailer Happiness & Lion+Lamb
What’s in store for the next year?
Working smarter rather than harder, I need to scale myself in a clever way. It’s difficult when the product people buy is yourself, you can end up working like a dog. I’m about to become a father & that will be my priority so I need to ensure I can put food on the table & be more present.
What do you do to get away from everything?
Surfing or snowboarding. Before being serious about bartending I was serious about snowboarding & lived in the mountains. I feel incredibly free when I’m up there away from everyone in the backcountry, there’s something about the risk the frees you too. The risk of serious injury or death does wonders for the concentration & is a superb way of clearing the mind.
What was the last thing that really made you stop and stare?
Watching the sunrise from a plane recently. Natural beauty knows no boundaries.