….

Did you abandon the scene anytime because of work, family, work commitments, etc. or have you been 100% active(travelling and djing) since you started.

Abandon would be wrong in so far as I always bought records. I stopped going to events between 1987 and 1990 when my wife was very ill. So that was a couple of years off of going out, and when I started going again it was more modern events I guess. I also had to end Blackbeat, I didn’t have the time or energy to keep it going with everything else that was going on in my life. I split up with my wife in the end and my then new girlfriend hated soul music. I dragged her along to a night in Cambridge in about 1990, all she did was sit there and moan “This is rubbish, can we go home now?…..I’m so bored…..this music is terrible, remind me again why you like it? ”

In case you stopped at some point, could you briefly describe us how was this journey through the desert? Did you suffer a lot staying in at weekends? Did you keep in touch with mates who still attended soul events?

No I didn’t suffer at all. And I went to record fairs throughout, especially in London, there were loads of them in the late 80s in places like Crouch End and Paddington. It was amazing what you could find. And there were a number of shops still selling records, I just kept buying records and built my collection. I was also going to the USA every month and buying stuff there.  

How often do you go to soul events? Which are your favourite ones and why? Please recommend us what current events should we not miss under no circumstances.

Today, probably about two a month. I’ve been ‘renovating’ a house in Somerset and that takes up some of my weekends. Plus it is lovely down there, so there is always a wrench come Friday – I want to go down to Somerset to relax after a week in London.

So to going out, I have a group of friends and we often travel together because we leave relatively near each other, Karen, Geoff, Martin, they are a good bunch, and all open minded musically, and sometimes we take a group decision on where to go. I like the events that Steve Jay runs up in Spalding, but generally we like going to different venues. Somewhere we haven’t been before.

Essentials? For northern – Lifeline. For crossover – Soul Essence Weekenders of course. I also like Boomerang, they have a very good ethos there. In Bedford ‘Groovesville’ is persevering with an uptempo theme. I also like the West Midlands and many of the events up there, they’re a great crowd up there and again open minded. 

With regard to Djs, who are your favourites?

I still rate Sam, for a guy nearing his 70th birthday his enthusiasm is fantastic. I remember when we went over to Gijon in the Asturias a few years ago, it was his first time DJing abroad since the late 1960s I think, and we both loved it. The crowd were enthusiastic, danced all night, appreciated what we played; as a DJ it was everything you could want from a soul allnighter. And everyone made us so welcome.

For rare soul I rate Butch. Very knowledgeable guy as well as being a tremendous DJ who knows how to read a crowd.

For modern soul – Fish. I worked as a resident for him at the Bass Museum alldayers, and they were great because in the alternative room you could really push the boundaries musically. I have always thought Colin Curtis has a good ear for a good tune as well.

We remember seeing you dancing (with class) at Lifeline. Do you dance regularly or do you predominantly stand at the bar? What sounds would drag you to the dancefloor? Same sounds that you play?

Oh no – how embarrassing! Actually I usually dance. For dancing I like the faster funkier sounds like Joseph Webster, Salt & Pepper etc. They’re just made for dancing. Doesn’t every DJ dance? I can stand at the bar and sometimes do that as well if the music is a bit dull or if I want to have a chat. I think more DJs should dance though.

Is there any genre you can’t stand (60s r&b, oldies, soulful house?

R&B – the 50s rock and roll variety. I know it is popular but it just leaves me cold. You know those old tapes that Randy did had some R&B on like Chuck Jackson, Guitar Red, Kip Anderson and The Cobra Kings and they were great and I don’t include them, but some of this stuff I hear out today is like ‘E grade’ Rock and Roll – awful and nothing whatsoever to do with soul. I can’t stand that “Got my Voodoo working” record (Charles Sheffield). I don’t like hearing 60s pop out either (although I quite like some 60s pop music). I can’t believe things like Holly St James have been revived, and I now hear Tim Tam & The Turn Ons is being played again – why, when there are so many underplayed great records out there? It comes down to the DJs and taste at the end of the day. 

I also don’t really like some of the nasally ‘nu R&B’ either, the stuff where they sing from their throat rather than from their lungs! Anyway I am beginning to sound like a grumpy old man! I like everything else soul wise deep, funk, northern, soulful house, good new soul like Mike Jemison on Soul Junction for example.

Have your tastes evolved throughout the years?

Yes very much so. Some records I loved in the 70s and 80s sound awful now. And of course I have made mistakes too like ‘rejecting’ a copy of Ellipsis “People” at a nothing price. Then when I started to like it, the price had gone through the roof and people are paying silly money for copies that looked like they’ve been used to sand down rough wood! The 80s / 90s stuff hasn’t aged well and I was big into that at one time – now it sounds flat and a bit boring.

When driving up and down the country what do you normally listen on the journey back?

If I have bought new CDs, I’ll play them, other than that just soul CDs I have made up, or one of my travelling companions has done (usually Geoff). Either that or I might listen to radio, or we’ll just talk – you know putting the world to rights, talking about the night we’ve been to, moaning about politics.

Are there still many people who travel to events depending on the DJ line-up? Do you think that one only name can still attract people to an event?

I’d say no, with two exceptions. I think Butch and Sam can make a difference to attendances – put them on and your numbers will go up. Other than that I have seen events with top line ups and poor attendances, and the opposite, mediocre DJs and a full house. There is no logic to it at all. Travelling is more a part of the scene in the north of England, where I guess people have always travelled to go to a soul venue ever since the days of the Twisted Wheel. In London you can put on a venue across the road from someone’s house and they still won’t turn up. I was on the bill once with Keb Darge in Central London, and I though ‘this will be a full house’, and there were only 45 people that turned up. So you can never tell. Yet despite this some people in London really try hard – and hats off to them – people like the Monumental gang who persevere despite low attendances – that’s dedication.

How many different scenes could you distinguish in the current soul scene? People only attending to oldies local nights, those who still attend and travel to allnighters on a weekly basis, modern soul only people…?

There are 24 identified genres. Seriously, the problem is today everyone is a DJ, and there are more venues than you can shake a stick at. The other week I counted 35, which is ridiculous. People as they get older will get more picky as to where they go and the scene is totally fragmented. Of course some people like oldies others newies, others 70s, others crossover, others modern, and there is some crossover between the genres, but it’s all become to complicated. People are travelling less to soul nights as well. It’s partly an age thing – I mean on a Friday night after a slog of a week at work to jump in the car and drive for 2 hours takes some doing. The Weekenders have also had an effect, for a lot of people they can get their soul fix by pitching up at half a dozen weekenders over the course of a year. I don’t go to pure Oldies evening do’s so I cannot really comment on them.

How do you see the future of the soul scene? Does it worry you?

Sure, it’s not healthy. An ageing population, and outside of parts of Europe there is very little in the way of new blood coming in. We joke about soul nights in old peoples homes but I am sure it will come and they’ll be hopping about on their zimerframes to the Salvadors. In Europe it’s far healthier, but in the UK, where is the next generation coming from? I went to a soul night in St Albans in the 90s, a bar, it was packed with young trendies. But the problem was that 12 of us were there for the music, the other 112 were there for the social, and for pulling. They’d have been there if it was a Status Quo tribute night! Soul music isn’t trendy either, I asked my son about it – he likes The Royal Esquires “Ain’t gonna run” because he thinks it’s got a Drum & Bass type rhythm to it – I’d never have thought of it that way! It’s interesting because the remains of the UK mod scene is also out there but is a musical millpond now. I went to a local mod soul night, I didn’t know anyone there and they were all dancing to things like Ray Pollard “The Drifter” and Gil Scott Heron “The Bottle” – so good music. But it was like being in a parallel universe, these folks would never pitch up at a rare soul night and only ever go to their mod nights –a very strange experience. In a way it’s a shame that the mod scene isn’t pushing the boundaries and is content to sit on tried and tested oldies. For a lot of people now, too many in fact, the soul scene is just a revivalist scene, like the Teddy Boys and Rockabilly. That’s a real shame and can’t be good for it’s future.

Since I am on a roll I’ll also tell you that whilst I think Wigan Casino introduced thousands of people to northern soul up north, it has also damaged the soul scene in the UK. As I say there’s too much reviving going on – I see it with the Jazz Funk scene as well incidentally – people wanting to relive their youth – rather than accepting the way they are now. Ears closed to new sounds – how sad is that? It’s like people buying the latest Queen CD repackage when they have the Queen’s greatest hits three times already……their musical appetite has stopped growing. I think this whole Oldies obsession has both held back and damaged the scene in the UK.

Do you travel to soul events outside UK? Which ones would you recommend us?

Yes, usually when DJing though. Well the Spanish crowd are great so I’d recommend any of their events! Seriously the enthusiasm for the music in Europe is so refreshing. I’ve also done Rimini in Italy but that was mainly Brits on tour when I was there which is a shame because the promotors have the right idea, they just need more of the indigenous population to turn up. Bamburg in Germany is also very good, ran by Malyka  with a two room format. Again they have a very progressive scene in Germany. I am waiting for bookings in Scandinavia and France so I’ll let you know when I’ve been there. I also did a gig in Washington once – that was good but unusual. 

Do your work colleagues, non scene friends or relatives know you are a soulie and what does it mean that? Do they know what you dedicate your energy, time and money to?

Yes, it’s not a big secret. One or two at work also like the music so I have done them CDs etc. Someone at work, not a soul fan, asked me about The Rotations the other week – amazing. Most people don’t get it though, they think I like the Supremes and Aretha Franklin, and I cannot abide either!

Could you still go to a night club playing the “mainstream” top 20 music on a Saturday night?

No. Jees, I don’t think I have ever done that. I can’t stand commercial pop music and you’d never see me in a club like that.

In case you didn’t notice we have been fans of yours since long time ago, not only for your sets but for everything you write, both your record reviews and your entertaining and informative events chronicles. Aside from your many contributions to magazines, you also spent two years publishing a blog through which we could enjoy your frequent trips across the country with such clarity that was almost as if we had been there. More recently you also put your own website “Too Darn Soulful” and you did a radio show on Soul 24-7 although both projects are sadly no longer active.
Has been the lack of time that led you to abandon these projects or is that you need to constantly change? Will you intend to return to any of them?

It’s time really. I have a very demanding job, and it’s just a case of getting the balance right. I also have a lot of time consuming hobbies, I like Films and TV and have a good collection of them, and cycling amongst other things. I’d like to write more, I enjoy that. As for radio DJing I loved that too. Soul 24-7 was a great idea, it’s just there is no money in soul music and the guys couldn’t get anyone to sponsor them. We had a fabulous audience. It was great getting emails from Atlanta, Chicago, Japan, as well as Brighton and Bolton. And interviewing Sid Barnes, Lou Pride, Cal Thomas and the former lead of the Imperial Wonders.  Soul 24-7 was a really exciting time, but as I say no one would invest in soul music radio. On another soul station I think it’s kept going because the DJs pay to DJ and get their shows “sponsored” – I commend their dedication to the cause but how ridiculous is that when you think about it? DJ’s paying to be DJ’s – whatever next! 

 

We saw with envy some pics of your modest record collection. How is it organized? Alphabetical by label? By genres?

Ha! It’s a mess right now. I have a lock up which has a load in, nothing too special but I always find bits and pieces in there. I have a load in Somerset and a load in my Hertfordshire house. Singles are in label order. I did that after the first time I went to Soul Bowl where there was a big barn full of records, all in label order and I thought that was really cool. Albums are in artist order. Then there are just boxes upon boxes of unsorted stuff. It’s fun ‘cos you never know what you’re going to find.

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