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The All-Dayer

Loft Studios

On Easter Sunday, The Date @ Loft Studios in London hosts a ‘Disco Special’ All-Dayer, commemorating it’s 2nd birthday with 8 hours of music, commencing at 4pm in the afternoon and continuing until midnight. I’ll be appearing alongside New York’s Studio 54 legend, Kenny Carpenter, plus Baleraric favourite Phil Mison, Faith’s Dave Jarvis, and residents Stuart Patterson and Tim Keenoy. All the info is here:
http://www.residentadvisor.net/event.aspx?563538

Loft Studios is one of my favourite London spaces. I made my debut there for ‘A Night with…’ in 2012, playing a marathon 8 hours, before returning last year for The Date, and a hook-up with New York luminary Danny Krivit – you can stream / download the recording here:

http://soundcloud.com/gregwilson/the-date-loft-studios-london

Growing out of the Mod scene of the 60’s, All-Nighters were synonymous with Soul music, and later Funk, the DJ’s priding themselves on playing the latest imported black music (or, in the case of the Northern Soul scene, rare US 45’s). All-Dayers were initially an offshoot of the Soul All-Nighters, the events generally held on Sundays or Bank Holiday Mondays, kicking off about 2pm in the afternoon, and going on until around midnight. What happened during the 70’s marked the development of a whole new direction for the black music scene, and the golden era for the All-Dayer can be roughly dated from the mid-70’s to the mid-80’s. Although All-Dayers largely died off following the advent of Acid House / Rave, the term was still being used by some of the events of this subsequent era – announcing that the ‘2nd Summer Of Love Starts Here’, The Sin All-Dayer at The Astoria in the center of London on May Bank Holiday 1989 featured 3 of the fabled ‘Ibiza 4’, DJ’s Nicky Holloway, Paul Oakenfold and Johnny Walker (Holloway, the events promoter, having started out during the All-Dayer dominated Jazz-Funk years):

When I was starting out myself in the mid-70’s, Blues & Soul magazine was the essential publication for black music aficionados, and their coverage of the club scene, both North and South, was second to none at the time. The first All-Dayers I saw advertised were at what seemed to me to be exotic locations back then, like The Locarno in Birmingham, Nottingham Palais, and The Ritz in Manchester; old ballrooms from a different epoch that provided the ideal environment for what was very much a dance orientated audience – who liked to find a bit of floor space and do their thing.

The drug associations with All-Nighters (speed being a staple of the Mod and the Northern Soul scenes) meant that it became increasingly difficult for promoters to find venues that were able to obtain the special licenses necessary to host such events. There weren’t so many obstacles in staging daytime gatherings, so, as far as the Jazz-Funk scene was concerned , the All-Dayer became absolutely central.

It was via All-Dayers that the South’s soon to be all-powerful Soul Mafia DJ’s, led by Chris Hill, really made their mark. Kicking off at the Top Rank Suite in Reading (commencing August 1976), they eventually had to find a new venue, due to ever-increasing crowds, and would really hit their stride with a major step up to the 4000 capacity Tiffany’s in Purley. Jazz-Funk All-Dayers would soon be popping up all over the South, with the Mafia in great demand – they’d even eventually move on to full weekend events at Caister Holiday Camp (which still continue to this day).

The general criteria for being booked to appear at this type of event was that you’d already have to have had established your credentials on the specialist scene, either by running a successful club night or presenting your own Soul show on a local radio station, for the DJ’s were, of course, expected to come complete with a fair chunk of their club crowd, the more people who followed you to these events, the greater your status – it was all about pulling power. This is what made the All-Dayers important to the overall well-being of the scene – the coming together of otherwise separate groups of people, creating a sizeable infrastructure of black music clubs, DJ’s and enthusiasts, both black and white, and thus strengthening inter-area ties as people happily travelled outside of their home environment to sample what was on offer elsewhere. A popular DJ could attract an audience from a wide radius of towns and cities to their club nights, and the All-Dayers provided the perfect recruiting ground for this purpose.

When, during the late 70’s, I looked at the impressive DJ line-ups for the Jazz-Funk All-Dayers advertised in Blues & Soul, with all the big names of the time (Colin Curtis, John Grant, Mike Shaft, Chris Hill, Robbie Vincent, Greg Edwards, Froggy etc), I could never have imagined that in just a few short years I’d be right up their on the top line of bill alongside some of them, headlining at events not only where my club nights were based (Wigan and Manchester), but in places like Sheffield, Leeds, Bradford, Birmingham, Nottingham, Derby, Burnley and Preston.

There was still a definite North / South divide at the time with DJ’s from the North and Midlands rarely appearing in the South, and vice-versa. I was always pushing to buck this trend, falling foul of Blues & Soul Northern club correspondent, Frank Elson when I brought Mafia DJ Froggy up North to play at a Wigan Pier All-Dayer in 1982 (but that’s another tale for another time). The only London DJ to play regularly on the All-Dayer scene in the North and Midlands throughout the early 80’s was Cleveland Anderson. There’s an interview with him here, which helps illuminate this period, as well as what was happening on the London scene during the mid-70’s – mid-80’s:
http://www.electrofunkroots.co.uk/cleveland-anderson/

The first Jazz-Funk All-Dayer I was booked to appear at was in March 1981 at Man Friday’s in Blackpool. Colin Curtis & John Grant, then a major force in Manchester, topped the bill, with support courtesy of Neil Neal from Derby, and Blackpool DJ tag team Pete Haigh & Frenchie.

I’d taken over the residency at Wigan Pier around 6 months earlier, including the Tuesday Jazz-Funk night, which had been built to a commendable 350+ weekly attendance by my predecessor Nicky Flavell, who’d inherited the night from DJ Kelly before him (both were on 6 month contracts, the Pier opening a year before my tenure). I was on the bill for this Blackpool All-Dayer purely because the promoter came to the Pier, was impressed by the amount of people there, and thought that if he booked me I might be able to pull a healthy percentage of them to his event. Part of the condition of my appearing was that I organized a coach to bring my crowd over – this was the norm, and later down the line I sometimes put on 3 or 4 separate coaches, from Wigan, Manchester and Huddersfield (where I played at the Stars Bar every Thursday during an eventful 6 month period commencing August 1982).

It’s funny to see that in order to give my name a bit more weight, the promoter of the Man Friday's All-Dayer concocted a completely false description - ‘Greg Wilson’s Road Show & Sound System’. Although I’d run a mobile disco back in 1975, I’d never owned something as elaborate as my own Road Show & Sound System. This was the one and only time I was billed in this way.

The most popular event in the North during the 81-84 period, when I became a regular on the All-Dayer circuit, was Clouds in Preston. The fact it was held somewhere that didn’t have a strong underground club night at the time worked in its favour, with Preston regarded as neutral ground for the crews in attendance, who came from far and wide. Towards the end of my time as a DJ, during the latter part of 1983, the baton passed to the state-of-the-art Birmingham club, The Powerhouse, with Rock City in Nottingham also absolutely essential – both clubs were active in bridging that North / South divide by booking DJ’s from both regions, including London’s Paul Murphy, Paul ‘Trouble’ Anderson and Tim Westwood.

I never got to play an All-Dayer in the South back in the day, so Sunday at Loft Studios will be something of a belated debut. I still believe the All-Dayer format could work in the modern era, outside of festival season that is. All it would take would be 3 or more club nights within the same region to agree on a suitable neutral venue, possibly off the beaten track, and organize a couple of coaches from each club – that would ensure 300+ in attendance without accounting for those who’d prefer to get there under their own stream. I’m sure that the spin-off, new friendships having been forged, would involve a fair amount of these people subsequently checking out each others club nights further cross-pollenating. It’s from these small acorns that scenes grow and thrive.

Jazz-Funk Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jazz-funk

2

Looking Back Moving On

Got a big Easter weekend coming up soon that kicks off at Sankey’s in Manchester with the Haçienda Good Friday event, and rounds off on Easter Sunday with the Loft Studios All-Dayer in London, where I’ll be appearing alongside former New York Studio 54 resident, Kenny Carpenter. It’ll be my 3rd time at Loft Studios – it’s one of my favourite London venues, and was the location of my 8 hour ‘A Night With…’ session in 2012, as well as the memorable hook-up with Danny Krivit last year. More info here:
http://www.residentadvisor.net/event.aspx?563538

However, it’s Manchester I want to place particular emphasis on in this post, for, apart from the Haçienda night on Friday, I’m also doing something somewhat different to the norm during Saturday afternoon / evening - curating a ‘Vinyl Happening’ at Dry Bar, right opposite Piccadilly Records, to celebrate Record Store Day.

The Haçienda Good Friday is a repeat of last year’s event, which proved to be a huge success, with a DJ line-up of heavy-hitters from the club’s golden era, including the essential Mike Pickering & Graeme Park combination, perhaps the most legendary DJ partnership of all. Along with Pickering, Park and myself, this year’s bill includes Justin Robertson, Jon Dasilva and Hewan Clarke, along with Herbie Saccani and Russ. All the relevant info is at their Facebook events page:
https://www.facebook.com/events/727003044007110/

Great to see Hewan Clarke take his place in the line-up, appearing in the upstairs room, where I’ll also be playing. Hewan was the original Haçienda DJ, there from the get go in May 1982. When I interviewed him back in 2004 I referred to him as the ‘quintessential Manchester DJ’, given that he’s never left the city, and has quietly gone about his business of playing quality tunes since he started out at Pips back in the late 70’s. I wrote:

If medals were given out for services to the city’s nightlife, based on overall contribution coupled with sheer longevity, he’d be first in line. As the original Haçienda resident, he was a fixture of the club during its difficult formative years – his perspective on this period absolutely vital for anyone wishing to gain a fuller understanding of the clubs evolution. Yet, rather than being regarded as a central figure in Manchester’s rise to prominence during the 80’s, the decade in which the city became world-renowned for its dance music scene, Hewan has been cast as little more than a bit part player. Maybe this is because his association with The Haçienda has obscured everything else he’s done, not least his time at three of the most influential venues of the pre-Rave era – The Gallery, Berlin and The Playpen (not to mention Moss Side’s gloriously notorious Reno).

The full interview with Hewan can be read here:
http://www.electrofunkroots.co.uk/interviews/hewan_clarke.html

Jon Dasilva & Justin Robinson

Another DJ who rarely receives his proper dues is Jon Dasilva, the Pickering / Park axis often overshadowing his crucial contribution to the Haçienda story, not least via his stewardship of the groundbreaking ‘Hot’ night, that did so much to beckon in the Madchester era.

Justin Robertson and I keep popping up on the same bill – it’s happened with increasing regularity during the past year. Whilst he played at The Haçienda in the 90’s, he’s best known for other Manchester club nights, Spice (with Greg Fenton) and Most Excellent, which was a major influence on the Chemical Brothers (then students in the city).

Sankey’s, a more recent Manchester institution, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. File under strange but true – I was the first person to play at the club, back in 1994, on one of my rare forays back into the DJ realm during my ‘retirement’ period.

The recording for my appearance last Good Friday is available to stream / download via SoundCloud:


http://soundcloud.com/gregwilson/hacienda-good-friday-sankeys

The following day (Saturday April 19th) I’ll be at Dry, yet another landmark Manchester venue steeped in its own history, for the Record Store Day commemorations. 2014 marks Dry’s 25th anniversary, the bar having been opened by the owners of The Haçienda in 1989.

Commencing at 2pm, and continuing until 8pm, the multi-media event will feature Grandmasters Of Ceremony, Howard Marks and Kermit Leveridge, along with a DJ’s EVM128, Walter Ego, Derek Kaye and Organic Gav (Kendrick). There will also be a vocal jam, courtesy of boss Merseyside singers Katherine & Carmel Reynolds, as well as visuals, live art, photography and more. Big thanks also due to Neil Diablo, Elspeth Moore and Dan Stretch in helping behind the scenes.

Presented under the banner ‘Super Weird Substance’, the name of the new label I’m currently busy setting up, which will become operative in the summer. Super Weird Substance will deal primarily with recording and live events, the flagship project being Blind Arcade, featuring collaborators Kermit and EVM128, who’ve been stockpiling a whole heap of dynamite cuts with a good times vibe, many of which will be included on a ‘mixtape’ I’m putting together, which I hope to have in circulation next month.

Readers of the blog will be familiar with Kermit. He’s an old friend, dating back to my time at Legend in Manchester during the early 80’s. I subsequently managed Broken Glass, the trailblazing Manchester breakdance crew Kermit co-founded, as well as the Hip-Hop trio the Ruthless Rap Assassins, of which he was a member, and who I also produced. The Assassins broke up in 1991, after 2 albums for EMI, Kermit’s heroin addiction a major factor. He found a suitable drugs buddy in Shaun Ryder of the Happy Mondays, and when the band imploded after their ill-fated 1992 LP ‘Yes Please!’, sinking Factory Records in the process (Kermit contributing a guest vocal on ‘Cut ‘Em Loose Bruce’) Ryder and Kermit began writing together, formed Black Grape, and went all the way to #1 with their debut album ‘It’s Great When You’re Straight…Yeah’ (1995), which also spun-off a hat-trick of hit singles in ‘Reverend Black Grape’, ‘In The Name Of The Father’ and ‘Kelly’s Heroes’.

Our collective contribution to Record Store Day is a bit unorthodox. It’s a poem written by Kermit and narrated by Howard called ‘Lies And Other Fools’, which we’ve pressed onto a limited edition one-sided 7” single. The poem harks back to Kermit’s heroin addiction, which so nearly killed him when he injected with a dirty needle during the Black Grape days, and ended up in a critical condition with septicemia, the infection causing serious damage when a ball of bacteria ripped off one of his heart valves, resulting in a major operation a few years ago, which, thankfully, was successful in repairing the damage, giving him a new lease of life. Back from the brink, Kermit’s is a tale of redemption - his life now completely turned around with the birth of his daughter, Xian, just a few weeks ago. The distinctive artwork for the single is by Mal Earl, who’s currently working on a comic book version of ‘Lies And Other Fools’ (Kermit a comics obsessive since childhood).

Howard Marks is the infamous ‘Mr Nice’ of the best-selling autobiography and spin-off movie. Formerly a notorious international cannabis smuggler, Marks was eventually convicted in the USA in 1990, serving 7 years in prison. Following his release, and return to the UK, he published his book and instantly became an icon of popular culture, touring the UK and charismatically regaling his captivated audiences with hugely entertaining anecdotes of his dope smuggling past (I myself went to see him speak in Liverpool during the late 90’s).

Kermit and Howard first met up a decade ago. When I agreed to get involved with the production of Blind Arcade’s music last year, Kermit told me he had a track he wanted Howard to feature on, and brought him to my house to record the part, my then 14 year old son engineering. Whilst there, Kermit showed Howard the words to ‘Lies And Other Fools’ and he recorded it, off-the-cuff, there and then, his deep Welsh tones bringing a gravitas that was perfect for the subject matter. A week later I was enjoying a family meal when my son asked about Howard, and when he looked him up on Wikipedia his face was a picture as he exclaimed; ‘CIA, the IRA, MI6, the Mafia!’ - he couldn’t believe what he was reading. Having discovered ‘Breaking Bad’ around that time it was as though he’d encountered his own real life Heisenberg.

YouTube Preview Image https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2J6cG4hFos

The opportunity to launch this new venture at Dry, a place which connects directly back to the period of time when Manchester was at the very forefront of cultural innovation and expression, perfectly provides that past / present balance that I'm always looking for when embarking on new projects – drawing from what went before, whilst looking forward to what lies ahead.

I’ll blog specifically about Super Weird Substance when it’s properly up and running, but suffice to say that there are a handful of releases scheduled for the summer months, with a series of live events throughout the UK being planned for the Autumn. It’s an exciting time for all involved.

So, on embarking on this new venture, on making this fools leap, it’s personally important for me to connect back to where my love affair with music began – with the record as we called it, or as people increasingly refer to it these days, vinyl.

Needle to plastic, base metal to gold – the philosophers stone.

Record Store Day

Record Store Day Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Record_Store_Day

1

Frankie Knuckles

Bronx born Frankie Knuckles (real name Francis Nicholls), the honorary Chicagoan bestowed with the title ‘Godfather Of House’, died last Sunday of diabetes-related complications. He was 59.

Since the news of his death broke there’s been a genuine outpouring of love for this iconic DJ from all corners of the global dance community. It’s been one of those events that has, certainly as far as the UK is concerned, stopped a generation in its tracks, illustrating how time has moved on and reminding us that we’re all getting older – the rise of House music in the mid-late 80’s plunging, in a moment, into ever-distant history, its founder DJ no longer with us.

As far as club culture is concerned, there’s no precedent to the passing of Frankie Knuckles. We’ve lost other immortals, including Larry Levan, Ron Hardy and Francis Grasso, but these were essentially underground figures in their lifetimes – it’s with hindsight that they’ve acquired wider recognition, and only then by people obsessed enough with dance music, and the cultural shifts it’s inspired, to dig deeper and learn who the innovators were. The difference here is that, with the explosion of House into mainstream consciousness back in the day, the name Frankie Knuckles became much more widely known than those mentioned above, and even people with but a passing interest in dance music were likely to have heard of him. In short, for the past quarter of a century Knuckles has been regarded as a bone-fide living legend – a DJ maestro representative of an entire culture, his death deemed front-page news by the British newspaper The Independent.

Having started out playing Soul, Funk and Disco in the mid-70’s filling in for Larry Levan, his childhood friend, at the Continental Baths, New York’s famously decadent gay bathhouse / nightspot, in 1977 he moved to Chicago to take up residency at a new club, The Warehouse, and it was here that he’d build his legend. He’d taken up the position by default, Levan having been offered the job first. However, Levan was about to embark on his own journey to DJ eminence as the guiding force behind NYC’s gamechanging Paradise Garage.

By the early 80’s the music Knuckles played at The Warehouse had gained its own category in the Chicago record shop Imports Etc, where it was racked under the shortened heading ‘House’. The seeds had been unwittingly planted for the birth of a dance music movement that continues to fill floors throughout the world to this very day - the irony being that House music (as we now define it) was never played at The Warehouse (Knuckles left in 1982, moving on to The Power Plant, whilst The Warehouse, now renamed The Music Box, hired DJ Ron Hardy, setting in motion a whole new phase for Chicago, which would serve to ensure Knuckles’ legend).

Two decades on, the city of Chicago would honour him, naming the street where The Warehouse once stood Frankie Knuckles Way, a decision backed by the then Illinois state senator, Barak Obama. Despite this, the overall appreciation for his work has been much greater in the UK, Europe and other parts of the world, than in his own country, where House music has remained largely underground.

Just a few weeks ago, Mixmag uploaded a short 7 minute film they’d put together called ‘The Origins Of House’, which features Frankie Knuckles, alongside some of his fellow Chicago legends, talking about the evolution of the music and the movement:

YouTube Preview Image http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7JHqtMuuAI

Famously describing House as ‘Disco’s Revenge’ in 1990, he belatedly hit back at all those who had declared Disco ‘dead’ in 1979, following on from Chicago’s infamous Comiskey Park baseball stadium record burning frenzy, a racist and homophobic outpouring of anti-Disco sentiment that had been whipped up by shock jock Steve Dahl under the banner of ‘Disco Demolition Night’.

Apart from his DJ work, Knuckles was also known for his recordings, production and remixes, charting 5 singles in the UK top 50, his most successful, ‘The Whistle Song’ in 1991, peaking at #17. The track he’ll be best remembered for wasn’t one of his own records, but Jamie Principle’s ‘Your Love’, having championed the original demo recording at The Power Plant. Knuckles not only received a production credit on the version released by the essential Chicago label Trax, but also took the artist credit by way of Frankie Knuckles Presents, Principle’s name not appearing at all. ‘Your Love’ would then take on a whole new lease of life when a spin-off mash-up that married the track with a Candi Staton acappella called ‘You Got The Love’ went huge in the underground clubs, and, via an official release in 1991 from The Source & Candi Staton, would eventually climb all the way up to #4 on the UK chart.

‘Your Love’ wasn’t a track I got to play myself until more recent times, as I’d stopped deejaying well before House exploded in Britain. I’d also missed out, first time around, on his superb downtempo remixes of Rufus & Chaka Khan’s ‘Ain’t Nobody’ (1989) and Loose Ends’ ‘Hanging On A String’ (1992), both of which would feature in my Essential Mix in 2009.

For me, Frankie Knuckles’ last great remix was for Hercules & Love Affair in 2008, on the track ‘Blind’, which features a vocal of ethereal beauty from Antony Hegarty (of Antony & The Johnson’s). Only recently I mentioned it as the inspiration behind the mix of Joan As Police Woman’s ‘Holy City’ that I’ve just done with Derek Kaye. It’s certainly one of my favourite dance tracks of the past decade, and I link it here in personal tribute to its remixer, the lyrics of the song all the more poignant in the context of his passing:

YouTube Preview Image http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZ6sLFDUPWg

The final Frankie Knuckles gig, just 2 days before he died, was fittingly in the UK at the Ministry Of Sound, the London superclub inspired by the Paradise Garage, home of his old friend (having succumbed to his heroin addiction in the late 80’s, it was at the Ministry Of Sound that Larry Levan embarked on a successful DJ renaissance during the year prior to his death in 1992).

Whilst his physical presence will be greatly missed by family, friends and fans, Frankie Knuckles’ spiritual presence shines on, not only in the music he made and the music he played, but through the music of countless others who continue to draw their inspiration from the worldwide movement he originated, all those years ago, at 206 South Jefferson Street, Chicago.

Frankie Knuckles Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankie_Knuckles

11

A&R Edits Mixed

A&R Edits

It’s 10 months since I blogged about the first 2 A&R Edits releases, issued simultaneously on DJ only limited 12” vinyl. Since then there have been 3 further additions, with another to follow next month, making 6 releases in all, each containing 2 tracks.

12 is a good number of tunes for a mix, so I’ve knitted this disco dozen together, all of which will be familiar if you follow my live mixes on SoundCloud. In my role as selector for the A&R series I’ve been able to help draw attention to some top-notch edits and reworks from UK DJ’s Henry Greenwood, Derek Kaye, Sophie Lloyd, Fingerman and Peza, plus Detroit’s F.A.M.E. crew.

https://soundcloud.com/gregwilson/a-r-edits-mixed-by-greg-wilson

The most recent release featured Peza’s take on the pre-Rodgers & Edwards Sister Sledge single, ‘Love Don’t You Go Through No Changes On Me’ (aka ‘No Changes’), which, although never a hit like many of their subsequent Chic infused recordings, was a cult tune at one of the key UK club venues of the 70’s, the Blackpool Mecca, which was the club at the root of the Northern Soul schism, when it’s DJ’s, Ian Levine and Colin Curtis, began playing contemporary Disco tracks alongside the 60’s obscurities that had defined the scene since its inception.

On the flip side is the 1979 German New Wave cut, ‘No G.D.M.’ by Gina X Performance, again reworked by Peza, a track recorded in homage to the English ‘stately homo’ Quentin Crisp - G.D.M. referring to Crisp’s famous remark that ‘there is no great dark man’.

Next up will be Derek Kaye’s 2nd A&R coupling. Due late April, he reworks a pair of 70’s Funk classics from 2 of the era’s most influential groups, Funkadelic and Earth Wind & Fire.

There will be a series of regular A&R Edits nights in Shoreditch, London at Trapeze (formerly East Village), the first of which is tomorrow night (March 28th) with Henry Greenwood appearing at the club alongside label chief Gavin Kendrick.

AND

A&R Edits @ Piccadilly Records:
http://bit.ly/1iAtrll

1

Remixing Joan As Police Woman

Back in December I received an email from Sean Mayo at Play It Again Sam Records asking me if I’d like to remix what I thought, at first glance, was a track by Jon Of The Pleased Wimmin, who’d had some club hits back in the 90’s. I thought this an odd request, not the type of artist I’d expect to be approached to remix. Then I noticed that it was in fact the similarly, but unconnectedly named Joan As Police Woman, aka Brooklyn based Joan Wasser, who’s been recording under this moniker for the past decade in lighthearted homage to the strong and sassy TV character Pepper Anderson (played by Angie Dickenson) from the 70’s series ‘Police Woman’, which was the first successful American primetime TV cop series to feature a woman in the starring role.

Joan herself, who also weighs in with violin, guitar and keyboards, has previously been a member of Antony & The Johnsons, as well as Rufus Wainwright’s band. Having cut her teeth on the Indie-Rock scene in the 90’s, the death of her boyfriend, the American singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley (son of Tim Buckley), in 1997 was a devastating blow. After working with the remainder of Buckley’s band, Black Beetle, she became a full time member of Antony & The Johnsons in 1999, finding exactly the type of creative environment she needed in order to deal with her loss, enabling her to eventually move on with her musical vocation, this time as a solo artist. She’s now onto her 4th album.

The Classic

On listening to the track in question, ‘Holy City’, I was sold on it straight away. I replied ‘Nuts track! Some schizoid Northern Soul hybrid oddness going off. I love it!’, and the wheels were set in motion for me to put together a club version with my remix partner Derek Kaye. Here’s the video of the original version, taken from the album ‘The Classic’, which was released earlier this week. The song, as the press release says, was ‘inspired by a visit to Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall and understanding people find ecstasy in different ways, from praying to making music.

YouTube Preview Image http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zS5pjxseTQM

Having just embarked on an exhaustive near 2 month long European tour, kicking off with a sell out date in London last night, and backed by an impressive online promotional campaign, Joan As Police Woman is set to build on her previous UK chart success with ‘The Classic’, whilst ‘Holy City’, the flagship single, is, if there’s any justice in the world, destined to become a big hit.

Approaching the remix, we wanted to make it more club friendly, but without diluting the essence of the original. Joan’s unusual voice brought to mind the exquisite Frankie Knuckles mix of ‘Blind’ by Hercules & Love Affair (2008), a big personal favorite, which featured another distinctive vocalist, Antony Hegarty of Antony & The Johnsons (this was before I realized the direct association), and would provide a touchstone for how we approached this mix. Having decided to lose a few bpm off the tempo, we set about giving the track more of a Disco flavour, the original evocative of a Motown stomper. Another key decision was to switch the order of the lead vocal and the scat (courtesy of comedian / musician Reggie Watts), allowing the mix more time to build, setting it all up nicely for the eventual entry of the song almost 4 minutes in. Then, with the arrangement sketched out, Derek worked his magic adding fresh beats, a fuller bass, and some additional keys, whilst massaging the overall sound, pixie dust and all, into exactly what we’d imagined it could be. It’s great when a plan works out so well – hope you like:

http://soundcloud.com/joan-as-police-woman/holy-city-greg-wilson-derek-2

The remix is currently being promo'd with official release late April.

Joan

Joan Wasser Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joan_Wasser

4

Greg Wilson Versions 2005-2013

I’ve been giving the studio computer a bit of a spring clean, sorting everything into the correct folders and generally getting myself better organised. Given that I’ve entered a new phase, as far as remixing is concerned, partnering up with Derek Kaye nowadays, I think this is a good time to clear the decks and make the work I did between 2005-2013 available to stream via SoundCloud as a complete collection – 40 tracks in all.

My first remixes were done 30 years ago, back in 1984, and all related to the ‘UK Electro’ project (more at: www.electrofunkroots.co.uk/misc/uk_electro.html). I produced and remixed pretty regularly for the next decade or so, but things increasingly dried up from there, the next 10 years being relatively fallow for me, until a new cycle began in 2005 as a consequence of my DJ return. There have also, of course, been many edits, but this is a different type of manipulation, given that you’re limited to the stereo recording of the track in hand.

Because the line can nowadays be blurred between what some might call an edit and others a remix, I started to apply the old Jamaican term ‘version’ to everything I worked on where I could separate at least some of the component parts of the original track (although some of the labels still credited these as edits). In most cases I worked with a complete set of stems (original multitrack parts), giving me full scope to remix; in others my options were more limited. All of these were commissioned by record companies, or by the artists directly, and only one has never been made available (although not officially released, my take on Elektrons was issued as a DJ only promo). The exception is Goldfrapp’s ‘Dreaming’, which the label approved, but never got around to releasing for whatever reason. A similar thing happened with The XX and ‘Night Time’ – I kept trying to find out when it would be made available, not least because of the amount of enquiries I was getting about it (having featured it, as I also did with the Goldfrapp remix, on the 2010 festival circuit). Finally, just as I was about to give up the ghost, I learned that it was going to be issued as part of a limited edition 12” the band were putting out in Japan in 2011. On my last glance at Discogs the cheapest copy of this record currently available is priced at a whopping £164.06!

Although the vast majority are UK or US recordings, also represented (either by artist or label) are Belgium, Croatia, Jamaica, Japan, New Zealand, Portugal, Russia, Spain and Uruguay. There are a couple in there that didn’t come together quite as well as others, which is only natural, but I’m really satisfied with the overall body of work, which will be uploaded, in alphabetical order, into their own set at SoundCloud, which you can access here (all are uploaded, bar 2 – Grace Jones 'William's Blood' and 40 Thieves 'Don't Turn It Off, which I'll endeavour to add on as soon as I get the go ahead):

http://soundcloud.com/gregwilson/sets/greg-wilson-versions-2005-2013/

The first of these ‘versions’ was commissioned in 2005 by Manchester’s Fat City Records. I mentioned it in an interview with Keep On Magazine that year:

“Matt Triggs from Fat City contacted me about the idea of doing a re-edit on one of Martin Brew’s tracks and ‘Galactico’ fitted the bill perfectly – the track was already a popular underground dance tune, but I’ve put a new slant on it.

It ended up going a stage further than a re-edit, as I worked from a CD of the individual parts. In many ways it’s like an old style remix, although I didn’t change Martin’s sounds in any way, just added into the track with sounds of my own.”

It was this nod to the past that informed my approach. With the advances in home-based technology enabling people to remix on their own computers I figured that, apart from the obvious benefits, there was also a significant downside. Back in the early 80’s, when the likes of Tee Scott, Shep Pettibone, Larry Levan, ‘Jellybean’ Benitez and François Kevorkian had taken up the baton from 70’s pioneers Tom Moulton and Walter Gibbons, remixing was, to my ears, at its creative zenith. A dub sensibility had been introduced, and most of the tracks I was playing in the clubs during '82/'83 contained exciting and innovative dubs, or instrumental mixes, on the flip side of the 12” release. It was these dance variants that I was going with 9 times out of 10. Later down the line, with technology allowing people to work on remixes at their own leisure in the comfort of their homes, and giving them almost limitless options, which obviously wasn’t the case in the early 80’s when a studio needed to be booked and the remixers would work from multitrack tape, with a finite number of tracks at their disposal, I felt that, for want of a better term, the vibe was being lost.

Remixes were becoming more sanitised, and I put this down to the fact that many of those classic early 80’s excursions were probably done in a single studio session, the remixer working against the clock, time being money. This meant that vibe / instinct was much more important in terms of how the mix worked itself out, for if the session ran out, and the mix wasn’t completed, it wasn’t a case of just going ahead and booking another expensive studio day – that was pretty much that. In short, whatever came out of the studio session was the remix (with additional editing options available afterward), and it was this very restriction that forced the remixers to think quickly, and often outside of the box, relying heavily on vibe and feel. They were remixing as much from the heart as from the head (this balance shifting later, as everything was worked out much more methodically, given the ever-increasing amount of options available, especially as the digital age gained momentum).

So, with this earlier time in mind I always tried to apply this principle as best I could, taking a more freeflowing / instinctive approach, where the mix was generally mapped out in one session and then it was just a case of putting the sheen on things from there - the advances in technology now a godsend, rather than a hindrance. By placing these initial restrictions on myself I felt I got better results – it was a less is more type scenario.

Although the principle is still applied, I work differently now I’ve hooked up with Derek. Whereas I’m very much loops based in my approach, he introduces a new level of musicality, playing (rather than, in my case, sampling) in additional elements, be it beats, bass or keys. It’s a perfect marriage, each of us covering the other's weak spots and, over the 9 remixes we’ve done together to date, we’ve really honed our sound. During the next few months a handful of our mixes will be made available – Blancmange ‘Feel Me’, Joan As Police Woman ‘Holy City’, Gilberto Gil ‘Maracatu Atomica’, plus Steve Mason ‘Come To Me’ and ‘Seen It All Before’, all issued both on vinyl and digitally, whilst a 12” release is upcoming for ‘Stand Tough’ by Situation, currently only available digitally. I’ll make sure to follow-up on the ‘versions’ uploads by getting all these up onto SoundCloud once available to buy, along with my previous mixes in collaboration with Derek that are already available – Bryan Ferry ‘Don’t Stop The Dance’, Daniele Baldelli ‘Mellow Games’ and Grandbrothers ‘Ezra Was Right’.

Remix Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remix

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Breaking Bad – Feeding The Habit

Breaking Bad

I finally got around to watching the US TV series ‘Breaking Bad’ – a bit late, I know, but better late than never. My son had been constantly raving about it since picking up on it via Netflix – he’d stumbled across it, given it a go, and, just like the programme’s subject matter, it had him hooked in no time. Having quickly caught up with the then ongoing series, along with millions of others, he was glued right through to the concluding episode last September.

I must admit it was a bit disconcerting when, soon after he’d begun watching ‘Breaking Bad’, he explained to me that the plot concerned a chemistry teacher who’d been diagnosed with cancer and subsequently, to safeguard his family’s future security, had taken to illegally cooking up batches of highly addictive crystal meth, utilizing his knowledge of the necessary chemicals to produce the purest product on the market, and thus building notoriety within the criminal underworld. You don’t expect 14 year olds to be speaking to you with such non-judgmental comprehension about the fineries of the manufacture and distribution of something as dangerous and damaging as methamphetamine (or ‘ice’ to give it its street name), but that’s the paradox of ‘Breaking Bad’, and exactly what makes it such a marker of the times in which we live.

Let's Cook

The descent of the lead character, Walter White aka Heisenberg, ‘from Mr. Chips into Scarface’, as the shows creator Vince Gilligan put it, is the central theme. The fact that what he’s doing is abhorrent to anyone who’s come across the devastation caused by meth addiction gives the series its gravitas, making us feel uncomfortable in our hope that he’ll avoid detection, when, in reality, we’d surely want such a person removed from society at the earliest opportunity.

Walter White / Heisenberg is one of the great anti-heroes of our time – an unremarkable everyman (at least on the surface) who, due to life circumstances, finds himself increasingly drawn towards the darker side of his nature. Yet, despite clearly knowing better, we brush over the immorality of his actions as though he was some sort of modern day Robin Hood.

Heisenberg

In order to blur those lines between right and wrong / light and dark / good and evil, the storytelling and its portrayal has to be top-notch, and this is what sets ‘Breaking Bad’ apart, not only as a must-see series, but an important pop culture event. In creating a character that ‘had to be simultaneously loathsome and sympathetic’, Gilligan cast the ideal leading man in Bryan Cranston, an actor previously best-known for a gentler comedic role in the US sit-com ‘Malcolm In The Middle’ (2000-2006). With ‘Breaking Bad’ lauded as ‘one of the greatest television series of all time’, Cranston was showered with awards and accolades for his enactment of the lead role, and is now no less than a screen icon, his goatee beard, glasses / sunglasses and flat top pork pie hat providing a potent image that will surely resonate with future generations, to whom ‘Breaking Bad’ will continue to be held in high regard, just as Quentin Tarantino’s 90’s movies, especially ‘Reservoir Dogs’ (1992) and ‘Pulp Fiction’ (1994), will always remain symbolic of the times in which they were made, the work rich in cultural reference points.

‘Breaking Bad’ is set in Albuquerque, 230 miles from the US / Mexican border, which over recent history has become increasingly fraught with danger as powerful Mexican cartels wrestle over control of the lucrative drugs trade and its distribution routes into America. The brutality of the cartels is most vividly illustrated by the ongoing spate of beheadings that have been a grizzly feature of the feuds within Mexico since 2006, when a group of armed men entered a discotheque in the region of Michoacán, and dumped 5 severed heads belonging to street-level methamphetamine dealers from a plastic bag onto the dancefloor. The number of people executed in such a manner now runs into the thousands, with horrifying video clips of these ‘narco-killings’ uploaded to the internet as a warning to anyone who crosses the cartels.

It’s against this blood soaked backdrop that ‘Breaking Bad’ plays out, with the action taking place not only on the US side of the border, but also in Mexico - the sheer ruthlessness of many of the characters adding to the overall tension that Gilligan expertly musters episode to episode.

Heisenberg 'I Am The One Who Knocks'

Heisenberg’s chilling statement, ‘I am the one who knocks’, has become the most quotable line of the series. It’s not so much what he says, but the context of its delivery, and the implications of this statement, leaving us in no doubt that Walter White’s Dr Jeckyll has now been almost totally usurped by Heisenberg’s Mr Hyde.

Apart from White / Heisenberg and his sidekick and former student, Jesse Pinkman, there’s a plethora of wonderful supporting characters – not least Walter’s no-nonsense wife, Skyler, his brother-in-law, DEA agent Hank Schrader, the shifty lawyer Saul Goodman (who’s getting his own spin-off series, ‘Better Call Saul’, due in November), the bell-ringing Hector Salamanca, Los Pollos Hermanos owner Gus Fring, and steely-eyed enforcer Mike Ehrmantraut, to name but some.

Broadcast over a 5 series span (2008-2013) in 62 episodes, each lasting approximately 47 minutes, it’s clearly a mammoth watch, but once you start you won’t want to stop – it’s as moreish as they come, and fans who just can’t get enough of the show are even now turning to the Spanish language remake, ‘Metástasis’, shot in Columbia with a different cast, to continue to feed their habit.

Walter Blanco 'Metastasis'

Breaking Bad Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breaking_Bad

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Dancing In The Darkness

Japan No Dancing

Last Monday, the latest film in the Resident Advisor ‘Real Scenes’ series was uploaded. Focusing on Tokyo, and how the ever-increasing implementation of an old morality law, known as Fueiho, which was originally aimed at curbing prostitution, is forcing dance music venues to close and, in the process, serving to dismantle Japan’s reputation as one of the club capitals of the world.

‘Real Scenes’ was launched in November 2011, and was Resident Advisor's first foray into producing short films highlighting global dance culture, each edition focusing on a different city – Bristol, Detroit, Berlin, Paris, Johannesburg, New York, and now the Japanese capital. It’s an impressive series, and all the editions to date can be found here:
http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLnZOad80R4nqLcVpidO55JG2kH_3vRDR2

YouTube Preview Image http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=paR21Qi6848

Japan has an ageing population, and this, coupled with the negative portrayal of the country’s club culture in a traditionally conservative Japanese media, is marginalising the nation’s youth, forcing what was only recently a thriving mainstream club scene into a more underground terrain.

The film certainly struck a chord with me, having, as I’ve spoken about in previous blog posts, enjoyed some treasured nights in Tokyo (also Osaka, which has taken the brunt of the Fueiho crackdown). It’s concerning to see how something so positive and vibrant now finds itself under siege, the devastating impact of the 2011 earthquake causing older Japanese to regard dance music as not only trivial in the circumstances, but anti-social by their more straight-laced standards. Suffice to say, the right to party isn’t a cause Japanese politicians are likely to put their weight behind, although the people this is affecting would regard it as a basic human right; a release from the tension in a country only recently gripped by the very real fears that followed its nuclear catastrophe.

In this environment its inevitable that the underground becomes increasingly vital as the mainstream downscales, and, as history tells us, this isn’t necessarily a negative thing in terms of creativity and innovation, which are often born of struggle or disfranchisement.

The film includes footage from Dommune, which blurs the lines between club and TV studio, as well as the sadly no more Seco, an institution to a generation of Tokyo clubbers. I have links to both, having been a guest at Dommune during my last trip to Japan in 2012, whilst experiencing a memorable night at Seco Lounge in 2010. I was asked to DJ at Seco’s closing party last November, but it wasn’t to be. Sometimes you feel a real sense of personal disappointment when, for reasons outside of your control, you’re unable to take a booking that you really want to do, and this was a prime example. The 2010 recording is available to stream / download via SoundCloud:

SECO LOUNGE TOKYO 13.11.10 (greg wilson live mix) by gregwilson

The trailblazing Dommune, which is streamed online Monday to Thursday from a Shibuya based studio-cum-club, features interviews, discussion and, of course, music played by live DJ’s, pre-dating Boiler Room and other online DJ platforms. I was driven there straight off a flight from Los Angeles and had a brilliant night, not only from a DJ perspective, but also socially. It’s a great crew of people associated with Dommune, both staff and supporters, and it was a pleasure to spend time in their company.

Dommune’s Naohiro Ukawa shares some particularly wise words in the ‘Real Scenes’ piece, but the most poignant is his ‘but still do it’ rallying call, where he quotes Manga artist Takashi Nemoto in relation to the current predicament Japan’s club enthusiasts find themselves confronted with. Where there’s a will there’s a way, and if you drive something underground it’s often likely to come back at you later down the line with renewed vigour.

Ukawa was also the subject of a Resident Advisor interview last year that I’d recommend anyone with an interest in the future of dance culture, wherever you might be, to take some time out to read:
http://www.residentadvisor.net/feature.aspx?1686

If you’re compelled to do something, you’ll do it through darkness and light, reinforcing the inherent passion you have, regardless of enforced limitations. Whilst on the surface it might feel like you’re being closed-in and stifled, beneath it a whole new expressive realm, which you might otherwise have missed, can open up as consequence – that is, of course, if you don’t lose faith, but still do it, both despite and because of everything. Sometimes there’s no other choice, but no better chance.

DOMMUNE NAOHIRO UKAWA

Previous related posts:

Those Tokyo Cats Know Where It’s At:
http://www.gregwilson.co.uk/2010/11/those-tokyo-cats-know-where-its-at/
Japan:
http://www.gregwilson.co.uk/2011/03/japan/

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Luxxury Hotel

About 6 months ago I received an email from the extravagantly named Baron Von Luxxury, who’s based in Los Angeles. He told me he was launching a series of ‘dubby edits’, 3 of which he’d linked me to. There was a somewhat spaced-out version of ‘Hotel California’, which I really liked, so I asked for a wav and the Baron obliged.

I’d presumed it was some obscure European variant I hadn’t heard before, the vocoder vocal completely throwing me, and it was only later that I realized that Luxxury had worked from the original stems, completely reinventing the LA classic that had taken The Eagles to the top of the US chart in 1977.


http://soundcloud.com/luxxury/hotel-california-luxxury-edit

In a club context, at 82bpm this is slow even for me, so it was all about finding the right moment to play it. I had to wait a little while, but it finally arrived in December, when I used it to commence my 8 hour session at Kantine am Berghain in Berlin. A large part of the night was recorded, including the first 3 hours:
http://soundcloud.com/gregwilson/eine-nact-mit-kantine-am

Luxxury linked my Berghain mix via his Facebook page in December, mentioning it in his promo material for the edit (rework would be more apt), which he shared on SoundCloud in mid-January. The response was overwhelming, and within 2 days the track had received almost 20,000 plays (the figure is well over 100,000 and rising at this point).

Before making the track available he’d asked for my suggestions with regards to tweaks / levels, but my advice was ‘not broke don’t fix’ - the reaction it had received via its inclusion in my mix providing the proof of the pudding.

In re-editing terms, Luxxury has struck gold, scoring a viral success that will take his name far and wide. He’s now uploaded his ‘Slow Edit Mixtape ‘78’, which builds on that chilled out soft rock vibe that has really caught the imagination where his ‘Hotel California’ edit, with its West Coast haze, is concerned – apart from The Eagles, other artists featured include Simon & Garfunkel, Bee Gees, Fleetwood Mac, Black Sabbath, Grateful Dead and David Bowie:
http://soundcloud.com/luxxury/slow-edit-mixtape-78

Hotel California Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hotel_California

1

Unmixed Essentials

Perhaps the defining moment of my reignited DJ career occurred 5 years ago today when my Essential Mix was broadcast on BBC Radio 1 to an overwhelmingly positive response. The comments on the BBC website that followed it’s airing can still be viewed, along with the full tracklisting:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/essentialmix/tracklistingarchive.shtml?20090117

The mix gained further kudos in 2010 when, to reflect the show’s history, dating back to 1993, 10 classic Essential Mixes were chosen by Radio 1, including my own, as part of their Essential Mix 500 landmark. The full list is included in this blog post from 2011:
http://www.gregwilson.co.uk/2011/01/essential-mix-revisited/

Back in November I appeared as part of the line-up at a special one-off event, The Essential Mix Live, held at Manchester’s Warehouse Project in celebration of the 20th anniversary of what’s become a British institution (even more so now, with it’s presenter, Pete Tong, recently awarded an MBE in the New Year honours list for services to music and broadcasting).

I put my own Essential Mix together in early January 2009, just a few weeks on from the 5th anniversary of my DJ comeback. Here’s how I described the process at the time:

It was quite laborious. Before I could start the actual mixing part I had to edit every track to a coherent length of around two and a half minutes average, inclusive of in and out points. I had a pool of about 90 tracks that fitted the criteria I'd set (a representative selection of the biggest tunes I've been playing during the past 5 years). It wasn't as straightforward as just editing the 43 tracks I ended up featuring - in order to have the necessary options once I started to piece the mix together I needed to have all the tracks at my disposal, just as I would have if I was out deejaying in a club, so the only thing to do was edit all 90 to the required length, even though I knew that only half would make the cut.

Once that was finally done they were all taken across into my laptop, enabling me to vari-speed them via PCDJ whilst I recorded across to my home computer into Cool Edit Pro, where I put the mix together track by track, before adding overdubs (fx, samples, textures) in a similar way to what I do live using the Revox (reel to reel).

However, for the 5th anniversary, it’s not the construction of the mix I’ve focused on, but its deconstruction – before the fx, samples and textures were added, before the 43 parts were jigsawed together into a whole, and before each of the selections had been truncated into those 43 parts. Just uploaded to Soundcloud, in the same Essential Mix order, is a whopping 277 minute podcast, featuring all of the source tracks, but this time unmixed and in their full-length glory. I owe a debt of gratitude to each and every one of these killer tunes, and all of those associated with them – the artists, the producers, the remixers and the re-editors.

http://soundcloud.com/gregwilson/unmixed-essentials-greg-wilson

The Essential Mix is, of course, also available to stream / download too:


http://soundcloud.com/gregwilson/essential-mix-greg-wilson-mix-for-bbc-radio-1

Essential Mix Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Essential_Mix

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