Next month marks 22 years since one of the world’s most iconic nightclubs closed its doors. The Haçienda was the backbone of Manchester’s nightlife throughout the 80s and 90s, a venue opened to build on the achievements of Factory Records, a home for many of New Order, the Happy Mondays and Joy Division’s releases. A place for freedom and hedonism, it’s gritty warehouse vibe put a middle finger up to the lavish established clubs that existed at the time, and helped to launch the careers of DJs like Mike Pickering, Graeme Park and Sasha.
Among those playing regularly was DJ Paulette – the first female resident to grace the decks of the ‘people’s palace’. The club’s monthly Gay Flesh party was the launchpad for her life-long career in what can only be described as an obsession. Not many can say that music is ingrained in their DNA, but Paulette has a pretty strong claim. The result of an upbringing quite literally saturated in sound, she’s been DJing, radio presenting, singing, dancing, producing, coaching (and the rest) for almost three decades now and she shows no signs of letting up anytime soon.
We’re extremely honoured to host this 130 minute vinyl-only mix themed around her one true, enduring love: music. Alongside this she chronicles a life spent collecting, appreciating and listening to records… Get ready to be educated.
DJ Paulette plays We Out Here, Gilles Peterson’s first UK festival, on 15th-18th August.
DJs and producers often mention their musical education came through their family’s record collection. Was this the case for you? Can you pick out any pivotal records from your upbringing that informed your musical journey?
Yes, this is the case for me. No question about it. My family has music in every strand of our DNA helix: we were born singing and dancing, we all taped our favourites off the radio, we all know the difference between a D-90, an AD-90, SA-90 and an FE-90 and we’re all extremely and unashamedly passionate about music. Music is our lifeblood and a blessing for which we are all truly grateful.
Back in the day, my mum – as well as holding down some serious day jobs – was a famous jazz and cabaret singer and my dad, whilst he couldn’t carry a tune in a paper bag, loved music to the end of his days. At school I took piano and violin, tried the saxophone for a while, fiddled about on the guitar, sang in the choir. Me and my twin played first violin in the school orchestras for years and passed Grade exams on the violin. After I left college, I sang in bands and was a paid studio session vocalist. When I stopped doing that, DJing was the closest I could get to entertaining people by playing an instrument and performing live.
My earliest vinyl memories are of my parents having a collection of fragile shellac 78’s that we played with and took great pains not to break, sometimes failing miserably. I don’t remember us having a phonograph to play them with but I do remember the focal point of our Prestwich living room was a 1950s cherry wood radiogram with a top loading record player, a side compartment for the vinyl and a swirly, curved, moulded Bakelite tone arm with a stylus that looked like a carpet tack. My mum and dad’s record collection consisted of lots of albums, some with simple yellowing inner sleeves and others with graphic looking 50s and 60s covers and a drawer full of 7”s. I’m flashing back to a copy of ‘Some Enchanted Evening / Happy Talk / Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair’ from South Pacific on 7”. I remember it having a predominantly blue sleeve with a black and white still and graphics from the film on it – I still have this in my collection somewhere. Me and my twin loved playing with the removable, Manx leg looking middles on some of the 7”s – we would pop them out and click them back in. When my sisters bought records they proudly stored their purchases in the little vertical side section of the radiogram and it was funny watching them trying to rescue 7”s from that awkward abyss.
My mum’s collection included Music For Pleasure Classical and Opera albums, Readers Digest themed Box sets and compilations, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, Mahalia Jackson, Billie Holliday, Judy Garland, Liza Minelli, the Porgy and Bess, South Pacific and Westside Story soundtracks, Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley. Me and my twin created a crazy dance routine to mum’s 7” of Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers ‘Up Jumped A Rabbit’ which I still have somewhere. For our 10th birthday my mum bought us a Readers Digest Walt Disney soundtrack compilation boxset which I think my twin kept and I have a very vivid memory of teaching myself the lyrics to Aretha Franklin’s ‘I Say A Little Prayer’ and the B-Side ‘See Saw’. Over time Mum’s collection grew to include The Stylistics, MFSB, The Three Degrees, George Benson, Michel Legrand, Andy Williams, Barry White, Odyssey, Randy Crawford, Diana Ross, Shirley Bassey, Prince. She also loves show tunes so Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Joseph and his Technicolour, Dreamcoat, Sweet Charity, Fiddler On The Roof, Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, everything by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim Rice, Lerner and Loewe, Rodgers and Hart, Rodgers and Hammerstein. My mum was in the habit of getting the songs she liked the most arranged when the sheet music wasn’t readily available for her and her band to perform. My Dad loved Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Vic Damone, Fela Kuti, Miles Davis, Bob Marley. There was always music playing in every house we lived in. When my parents divorced the family moved with my mum to Fallowfield where it was always a battle for lone occupancy of the front room with its plush sofa, rugs, modern hi-fi and the privacy afforded by a door which locked from the inside.
I have six sisters and one brother and we all have our own particular music tastes and collections with crossovers and intersections. I was a massive pesterer and was allowed to sit in the front room with my sisters (no chance with my brother) if I was a) quiet b) good. I was happy to sit on the heater reading the song sheets and looking at the artwork. We always had music at our family parties too. Our time honoured anthems are Dayton – ‘The Sound of Music’, Unlimited Touch – ‘I Hear Music In the Streets’, Positive Force – ‘We Got The Funk’, Rose Royce – Car Wash, Stevie Wonder – ‘Do I Do’.
My siblings influenced me like this: my sister Rhonda taught me the lyrics to Don McLean’s ‘American Pie’ when I was three years old. She is the Northern Soul and Manchester music scene aficionado, she went to the Twisted Wheel and Wigan Casino, had embroidered patches on her vast flares, wore tank tops and penny rounds and could spin for days on a sixpence. Man could she dance. ‘There’s Nothing Else to Say’ and ‘Breakin Down The Walls Of Heartache’ were two of my favourites.
My brother Robert used to DJ at Pips for a time with his friend Mike Shaft – I remember watching him get ready to go out to gigs. He was a cool amalgam of Curtis Mayfield ‘Superfly’ and Isaac Hayes ‘Shaft’ right down to the leather gloves, leather trench coat and impeccable three piece suit, always with an enamel PhillyBusters badge on the lapel of his trench coat. He also drove an orange TR-7. Robert’s record collection was enviable, he had lots of 7”s which he transported in a mini record box and in amongst the albums there was the Ohio Players collection, original Rolling Stones zip fronted Sticky Fingers album that I took great delight in playing with, plus the original Warhol Banana Velvet Underground and Nico album which I thought was magnificent too.
My sister Jennifer is the 60s aficionado. She owned the complete Beatles and John Lennon collections and I remember her playing ‘Double Fantasy’ on repeat when John Lennon was shot. She also loved and collected The Rolling Stones, Genesis, Jethro Tull, Supertramp, The Who, ELO, Rod Stewart, Sparks, Roxy Music and David Bowie. She gave me her 7” copy of ‘The Laughing Gnome’ on Deram which has ‘The Gospel According To Tony Day’ on the B-Side, which I always thought was a much better song. She also gave me The Stranglers ‘Nice N Sleazy’. We shared a love of 60s and 70s music and 80s post-punk, new wave and electronic, specifically Kate Bush, Gary Numan, John Foxx, Ultravox, Bowie, Sparks, The Stranglers and Roxy Music. Jennifer worked for Woolworths which had a great record department – her staff discount came in handy until it closed down.
My sister Elicia was a massive Motown, Glam Rock, David Bowie, T-Rex, Marc Bolan, Alice Cooper, Luther Vandross, Change, Roberta Flack, Otis Redding, Donny Hathaway, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Patti Austin, Crown Heights Affair, Levert, Guy and everything 80s and 90s soul and funk fan. She brought the flavour straight from school and the clubs, all dayers, all-nighters and soul weekenders. Most of my sisters followed Greg Wilson’s Piccadilly Radio show religiously and bought the playlists accordingly.
Elicia gave me records too – I still have the ‘Young Americans’ album she bought for me for 19c in a warehouse in New York. When she left home she gave me her copy of ‘Aladdin Sane’, with the gatefold sleeve cover that she had bought on the first day of release because I loved it so much. She also gave me the 7” of Alice Cooper ‘School’s Out’.
Audrey’s collection revolved around Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Minnie Ripperton, Deniece Williams, Rufus and Chaka Khan, Millie Jackson, Steely Dan, Average White Band, James Ingram, Grover Washington, Dionne Warwick, Barbra Streisand, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Chic, Sister Sledge, The Commodores, The Isley Brothers. I was transfixed by the cover of ‘Music Of My Mind’, played ‘Talking Book’, ‘Innervisions’ and ‘Fulfillingness’ to death and ‘Songs In The Key Of Life’ was a life changer – I loved the multi-lingual lyrics, took great pains to try and learn them and I personally own two copies, possibly three. I wrote the lyrics to Stevie Wonder’s ‘Golden Lady’ out in italic pen and stuck the piece of A4 on the inside of my wardrobe door. Audrey was also the disco queen – Donna Summer, Diana Ross, Patti Labelle.
Elizabeth’s first love was The Jackson 5, The Jacksons, David Cassidy, The Bay City Rollers, then when she started working and clubbing she soon graduated to Teena Marie, Chaka Khan, Michael Jackson, McFadden and Whitehead, Raw Silk, Earth, Wind And Fire, Heatwave, Janet Kay, Parliament, Funkadelic, George Clinton, Lovers Rock, Prince, Slave, Maze, Shalamar, Mary J Blige. She was also the avid concert goer – seeing Earth Wind and Fire’s ‘All N All’ tour with its magic, disappearing pyramid and Prince ‘LoveSexy’ with the car on stage.
In school Paula and I occasionally pooled our resources and bought joint albums – the ‘Bugsy Malone’ ‘Fame’ and ‘Abba the Movie’ soundtracks plus ‘Streetlife’ by the Crusaders and The Police ‘Message In A Bottle’. Then when we started clubbing she became a break and jazz dancer supreme collecting electro by the World Famous Supreme Team, Two Sisters ‘High Noon’, Afrika Bambaata and the Soulsonic Force, Grandmaster Flash, Mantronix together with the Streetsounds compilations. Her jazz tastes were contemporary – David Benoit, Mike Campbell, Wally Badarou, Sergio Mendez, Paulinho Da Costa. We bonded over Planet Rock and loved dancing together to ‘Novela Das Nove’. Paula was heavily into British funk and soul supporting the likes of Imagination, Central Line, Julia & Co, Lynx, Shakatak, Level 42, Beggar & Co. Paula bought expensive imports and limited editions from the USA and Japan.
I have always loved distinctive and quirky voices and great songwriting. And once I started clubbing I listened to Radio 2 for the jazz and swing show on Sunday mornings. It was my post Saturday night chill out. After buying the joint purchases with my twin, I started to follow a different path for myself. I was getting into the futuristic sounds of synth pop and New Romantics so bought my Kraftwerk, Human League ‘Sound Of The Crowd’, Gary Numan, John Foxx delights in HMV and Woolworths. I got into everything from Kate Bush, Rosemary Clooney, Doris Day, Liza Minelli, Janet Jackson, Sylvester, Alison Moyet, Swing Out Sister, Malcolm McLaren, Public Image, Killing Joke, The Clash, The Sex Pistols (retrospectively), Aretha Franklin, Bobby McFerrin, James Brown, Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell, Suzanne Vega, Everything But The Girl, The Smiths, Sade, Simply Red, Prince, Eurythmics, Grace Jones, Art of Noise, Gina X, Blue Rondo A La Turk, ABC, Heaven 17, Was Not Was, The Time, Sheila E, Loleatta Holloway, Diana Ross, Jean Carn, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Quincy Jones, Anita Baker, Troublefunk, Gil Scott Heron, Beastie Boys, Run DMC, Aerosmith, ZZ Top, Jamiroquai, C&C and the Music Factory, MARRS, Pet Shop Boys, Michael Jackson, Snap, Degrees of Motion, Inner City, DSK, Funky Green Dogs, Fleetwood Mac, The Miracles, Change, Young Disciples, Galliano. If I liked it I bought it.
People buy records for a multiple of reasons. What first drew you to collecting records and what motivates you to continue digging after all these years?
I love and live music, grew up listening to the radio, watching music programmes on TV like The Tube and the Oxford Road Show, Top Of The Pops, The Old Grey Whistle Test and the Chart Show singing in bands. I was encouraged to buy music and saw my sisters build their collections, plus I loved clubbing. Buying records and building a collection began as a hobby then became a passion and an obsession which was fed, fuelled by and supported this beautifully. Aside from this, once you were in that front room, you had a blissful escape and a lock in away from a full and rowdy house.
I wanted to hear music all the time and since my sisters and brothers bought records it was natural to follow suit. Having played my sisters’ record collections to death, been given various bits and pieces by all of them that started me off, I then wanted to shape my own collection that reflected my personal musical tastes. I took a paper round to supplement my weekly spends – and spent Saturday afternoons and some early weekday evenings after school in town at Woolworths, W H Smiths, HMV, Piccadilly Records and Virgin and if I was rich, Spin Inn on Cross Street. As I became more confident in what I was looking for I loved trawling the secondhand stalls in the Corn Exchange and Afflecks. When I lived in Stockport and started studying for my degree it was all about the second hand and charity shops and Woolworths and the market. Then when I started DJing it was Eastern Bloc, Vinyl Exchange, Piccadilly Records. I’m curious and I’m a magpie. I like unearthing new things or finding old treasure so I will always dig somewhere – maybe not as regularly but I find that it’s hard not to twitch involuntarily when I smell or see vinyl. I always have to have a good rummage so lock up your vinyl!
Where do you store your records and how do you file them?
I store my records in my head, at home, on shelves, on the floor, in boxes, in record bags, in crates, in storage. A ‘friend’ in France still has a few thousand vinyl that they were supposed to be looking after until I moved, but they have now itemized that collection and are refusing to return it. Letting that go has not been easy.
When I lived in London I had custom built shelves in the spare bedroom and the vinyl was arranged meticulously by genre and stacked alphabetically but moving around so much has nixed that. Since I moved from Paris in 2013 the order has become more and more haphazard – still split by genres – albums/12’s but stacked in no particular order. My record box is split into albums/12’s and each section in alphabetical order. It’s the only way I can order my brain. It’s like a USB file ordering but with vinyl.
What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?
My wardrobe, the fridge and the kitchen cupboards for obvious reasons. Jokes. No, I haven’t travelled far and wide enough to have a Holy Grail record store, there’s plenty of time still to discover that, plus I think you can find pearls anywhere. My favourite place to go digging is in my brother in law’s or my mother’s collections. Once a magpie always a magpie. I also like a good charity shop/bin end rummage/bargain. And I have one leg shorter than the other so when I go store shopping. I tend to stick with where I know – so my first stop will be to see Jim at Eastern Bloc. Chris Massey (Sprechen Records) introduced me to Neil Clarke at Clampdown Records when we shot the Sheroes video in there. I was mega impressed, it’s a small but very deceptive Aladdin’s Cave on a little road off Dale Street. Neil is a fount of knowledge and the browse experience is not too overwhelming so I highly recommend it. I dig in the same way, but without the personalised counter advice, online – Juno, Discogs, Hard to Find, Amazon. Yes I said Amazon. If it comes with free delivery on Prime why not? Maybe I should be more of a snob… I’ll have to work on that.
Digging isn’t just about the records you find, but the people who help you find them. Who are some of the colourful characters you’ve met on your travels in record stores round the world? Any unsung heroes you’d like to shout out?
Dulcie Danger (Dulcie Weaver) was one of the first people that I ever connected with in terms of record selection. She used to send me a bag of records every week from Inner Rhythm in Brighton where she worked. I trusted her taste implicitly and because we spun together she knew my style instinctively. She has the most ridiculous musical knowledge and not just house music or disco. We spun together on Saturday nights at The Zap Club for two years and she eventually became the co-creator and director of Brighton Pride. She is now following her heart and dream and studying music production.
I first met Spencer Parker when he was working at Uptown Records and I was working as the Promotions Director for Azuli Records above Black market on D’Arblay Street. He always made sure I had the best upfront white labels every Friday. Now he has grown to become an enormous, muscle bound techno DJ and producer who lives in Berlin and plays at Berghain and Panorama Bar :-D.
Goldie (Gerry McGoldrick), manager of Black Market Records and still friends to this day. In fact all the boys (and ladies – hi miss Jools and Anthea) at Black Market were pretty special. Nicky Blackmarket and Clarky used to personally set aside my drum and bass selections and upstairs I used to serve myself on Friday nights. Blessed times indeed.
Honest Johns – I lived on Harrow Road for years so Portobello, North Ken, Kensal Green and Ladbroke Grove were the hood to me. I always loved buying records in there and disappearing into the vibrant décor.
Tibo’z was my man who knows in Paris – I can’t remember the name of the store now but it was situated across the road from Chatelet metro exit Les Halles. He was a fresh-faced resident DJ at the ‘287’ at the time – from 2000/2008 it was a super cool after hours. Years later he became the creative director of the Showcase, launching the B2B career of Appolonia – Dan Ghenacia, Dyed Soundorum and Shonky.
I used to sell/exchange vinyl with Zaf who now owns Love Vinyl alongside Stuart Patterson. And at SoulJazz I met Abi Clarke: very few women worked in record shops when I lived in London, between 1994 and 2004, so the ones I met I really remember. Abi is a mega brain who now co-presents a show on Mi-Soul with Bob Masters. We are still friends today.
Neil Clarke at Clampdown Records is a stand-up bloke, with an opinion on everything and true prospector’s spirit.
Is there a record (or records), that has continued to be illusive over the years?
I was listening to one of Gilles Peterson’s old tapes from 1994, texted him for a track ID (hashtag Shazam fail) and then tried to get hold of ‘Hey Love’, the Rotary Connection album with ‘Vine Of Happiness’ on it. Maybe £140 isn’t a lot to most collectors but I was horrified at the price. I am digging for this wherever I land as you never know where you might find it. I’m hoping that someone might be doing a Nana’s house clear out and think it’s just 70s concept soul and take it to a charity shop that prices it for £2 by accident – or is that just wishful thinking? I refuse to pay silly money for vinyl, having lost way too much of my personal collection to flood damage and theft and getting so little back for it. The pain of loss and the level of grief was horrendous so now my relationship to vinyl has to be a lot less possessive, less obsessive and my grip has certainly loosened.
Do you prefer record shopping as a solitary process or with friends to nerd out with and search for strange sounds together? If the latter, who do you like to go digging with?
I like going in with someone but much the same as shopping for anything and even DJing, once I am in my zone I might as well be on my own. I shut everything and everyone out then it’s just me, the sleeves, the artists, the music and my choice. I can be there for hours lost in my thoughts.
Walking into a record shop can be quite a daunting experience. Do you have a digging process that helps you hone in on what you’re after?
I have to put my lucky socks on, burn a bit of Palo Santo incense and chant before I enter the store and then I channel positivity, get in my flow and let my spirit lead me to the right corner. LOLs. No seriously, if I haven’t gone with an album or artist or a theme in mind I just start where or with something I know and recognise then take it from there. If I don’t flash on something I will ask for similar suggestions. I used to be the Queen of browsing but now, unless it’s Youtube cat memes, I can’t do time-wasting so try to be a lot more in-store focused. Vinyl is so expensive, even second-hand, that there isn’t any room for error, it has to be really special or I have to really want something on vinyl to commit to spending good dollar.
How big a role does album artwork play in your digging?
Artwork is a massive part of the music enjoyment to me. I feel that even though people still make the effort, truly iconic sleeves are few and far between these days. Proof? At this point, I have images flashing through my head – Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Roxy Music, Kate Bush, Prince, Michael Jackson, Maze, Ohio Players, Chaka Khan, Earth, Wind And Fire, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, Billy Paul, Johnny Hammond, Fela Kuti, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Funkadelic, Grace Jones, Commodores, Quincy Jones, Donna Summer – strong artistic concepts and quality design and photography is the key. Being heavily visually led has led to the occasional purchase of an aural howler, but in general good thoughtful creative sleeve artwork plus informative sleeve notes, accurate lyrics and track listing and an artist of dreams sounds like a classic quality album to me.
Could you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve done for us? Where/how did you record it, what was the idea behind it?
I was burgled at the end of January and one of my babies, Technics 1210s, that I’ve had since 1993 was stolen, along with my Vestax rotary mixer and a lot of other personal music home possessions. It was a big shock that is still not resolved so my friends at Reform Radio stepped in and offered me a session to record the mix in their new studio space in the Bonded Warehouse in Manchester.
I recorded the mix in one take, old skool on two Technics 1210 MK2’s, and even though it was recorded digitally I did not edit or tart it up. I kept the selection lively, let all the pops and crackles tell their own little story and left my occasional vinyl release/intro warps in so it’s still got that mixtape feel. This is the way I made my Essential Mix for Radio 1 in 1998. I wanted it to sound real – as in what you see is what you will get if you hear me play vinyl out in a club, at a house party or at home. Sequenced, selected, one track then another, blended, live.
And what’s it about? It is about my one true and enduring love – music. It is about endless listening sessions in our front room at Birchfields Road – me being good and quiet whilst my sisters played through their record collections. It’s about me playing their records and mine when I had the room to myself and being so careful putting their records back that they never noticed they’d been played. It is about me buying and building my own record collection, discovering the beauty of b-sides and album tracks. It’s about anticipating where the pops and scratches are and then enjoying them becoming an integral part of my listening pleasure. Pops and scratches are the way that we differentiated when there were doubles/multiples in the family room and also in my personal collection. It’s about running over to the turntable to lift the stylus before the click of the run-out groove at the end. It’s about playing songs as loud as I could and on repeat to the annoyance of my family and working out dance routines whilst looking at myself in the mirror and pretending I was on stage singing all the songs to an adoring crowd. In a strange way it is also about triumph over challenge. It is about making a lifetime career out of a hobby. These are the songs that have somehow influenced my vinyl collecting since they are album tracks and b-sides that I have loved as much as and sometimes more than the lead tracks that I bought the release for. It’s all about love and passion that endures. For the art, for the artists and for the music. It’s also some stuff that try though I might, I can’t find decent full length digital copies of so aren’t in my usual weekly sets.
Any standouts in the mix you’d like to mention?
All of it…
Grace Jones – ‘Nightclubbing’. Written by David Bowie and Iggy Pop, performed by Alex Sadkin, Sly and Robbie, Wally Badarou and produced by Chris Blackwell – it’s the stuff of dreams and legend even today. I danced to it at Pips regularly.
Bell & James – ‘Living It Up’. This is so dynamic, it’s funky, it’s disco, it’s heaven – and it still makes my booty wiggle.
Two Man Sound – ‘Que Tal America’. Of course I make up every word to this. Still. I love me a bit of latin percussive disco.
Wally Badarou – ‘Novela Das Nove’. This record will always remind me of dancing with my twin to this when Mike Pickering dropped it one Friday night at ‘Nude’ at the Hacienda. I love me a bit of classic jazz funk. ‘Chief Inspector’ is on the other side.
Panther soundtrack – ‘Freedom’. The year was 1995, Mario Van Peebles directed the film about the Black Panthers, the title track was sung by an all-star chorus of women including Mary J Blige, Brownstone, En Vogue, Aaliyah, N’Dea Davenport, Queen Latifah, Caron Wheeler and more. The lyrics are more relevant today than ever before. It’s time to stand for what’s right – there is no place for institutionalised racism in this life. It also reminds me of post-Queer Nation chill outs in Brixton with my amazing friends Alex Babsky (who is now an AAA-list make up artist) and Sean Taylor.
Casting the net wider now, who are some of the record collectors you most admire and why?
Passion and love govern everything and everyone I most admire and respect.
Dave Lee – Joey Negro – started off his career working in record shops so instinctively knows what’s good and what isn’t. He has run record labels for thirty years, has a million pseudonyms, creates re-edits and reworkings using the original masters, and his knowledge starts well outside of the standard box. He listens to everything, his sets and compilations can be master classes and yet he is totally approachable, not a diva, not a snob and has a knowledge that I envy.
Gilles Peterson – he has experienced music from the Pirate Radio days putting his antenna up on a roof to having weekly shows on Kiss, Radio 1 and now 6 Music. His club pedigree is immaculate from playing music at Dingwalls, That’s How It Is at Bar Rumba, where I had the honour of guesting on various occasions, plus being at the helm of Talkin Loud who were responsible for the Young Disciples, Galiiano, Nicolette, and where I got the massive honour to work alongside him for four years and publicise the Roni Size and Reprazent, 4 Hero, Nuyorican Soul and Terry Callier projects. Gilles is a lightning rod, a conductor and an alchemist all rolled into one. What he doesn’t know about music isn’t worth knowing – and still he is learning at a rate that surpasses everyone in his field. He has a global understanding of music; for him music is truly the universal language and this is so rare. He can speak as comfortably about jazz and brazilica to off kilter techno, electronica and drum and bass, film, books, tv, food, football in English and French. And his 50,000 strong record collection has to be unparalleled.
DJ Cosmo – with her background in clubs (David Mancuso’s protégé at The Loft), radio and record labels – she has her own bespoke label Bitches Brew – and now with the brand Classic Album Sundays, Cosmo’s pedigree is up there with the cream of the music industry. Her music taste is wide and varied, her knowledge is vast and she is an audiophile – it’s not just what to Cosmo, but also how music is played and experienced that matters. I learn from her.
My brother in law Martin Clancy – he is meticulous, knowledgeable, has a broad range of tastes from blues and jazz, punk and reggae, soul and disco, electro and house and has an enviable record collection that he is still avidly adding to. He reads all about it, used to be a DJ when he studied at Manchester Poly back in the 80s, he supports the local and the international music scene as much as he can – artists, bands, events, record shops, Record Store Day. He is a complete vinyl only snob who, like Gilles, has a massive interest in everything and loves life. He is political, remains hungry and passionate and is like a massive music sponge or an online music server in human form.
And are there any young collectors emerging who we should keep a close eye on?
Sophie Callis – she has a show on Soho Radio, her knowledge is ridiculous plus she’s the biggest J-Dilla fan I know next to Benji B. Andy Newens of Shake and Fingerpop. He always introduces me to someone new, just in passing like… Matthew Rothery who holds the ‘Kiss Me Again’ party at the Soup Kitchen and has a show on NTS Manchester. He always impresses me with his obsessive attention to catalog details, remixes and versions.
These are the people I get a kick out of learning from, who can point me to new stuff I like, who know the off centre details about artists and releases I already follow, and whom I can always have accidental and animated discussions about music with.
Your hometown of Manchester is currently enjoying one of its best moments, with depth and variety to rival most other cities round the world. What’s exciting you most about Manchester club culture at the moment?
Music. Diversity. Choice. Variety. Party. Rave. LGBT. Listen. Live. Options. Venues. Bars. Clubs. Community. Charity. Characters.
Live music is happening all over the place, although there aren’t that many outlets for new fledgling bands. Venues like Deaf Institute, Gorilla, Band On The Wall, Albert Hall, Manchester Cathedral, YES, Brickworks Manchester have hosted some great talent this year from Nils Frahm to Thundercat to Yazmin Lacey to Children of Zeus. Then for DJs – The White Hotel, Hidden, Joshua Brooks, YES, The Refuge, The Soup Kitchen, Pen and Pencil, Stage and Radio, The Whisky Jar and Eastern Bloc keep the underground bar and club dance floors vibing, despite the titanium grip The Warehouse Project has on most of the biggest names and DJ fees. There’s a host of new bars like Hatch and YES that are offering interesting programming with your pizza or jerk chips. Secret corners such as The Honeytrap Club and Daisy provide intimate yet cheeky nights out. LGBT parties like Homoelectric, Kiss Me Again, Meat Free and High Hoops turn it out on the regular. And community wise there is NIAMOS in Moss Side and Partisan on Cheetham Hill Road who are keeping suburbia as woke as possible.
If you just want a bit of disco with your brunch, sunshine on the terrace or three floors jumping with an all-night rave – start in the Northern Quarter at Cottonopolis and Tariff and Dale, head up to Deansgate for the Albert’s Schloss Sunday Service experience or head out of town for Victoria Warehouse, Islington Mill, Social Services in Chorlton, Supernature at Brickhouse Social, NWS charity supporting parties. And don’t forget the jewel in the crown ‘Come As You Are’ seasonal weekenders at The Refuge, One Deck Wednesdays at Electrik, and the Parklife, Bluedot and Moovin Festivals for that all summer long, lobster striping. There really is something for everyone going on here. Manchester is on.
You’ve lived and played in Manchester through many different dance music eras. Who are some of the unsung heroes you’ve met over the years who have helped make the scene what it is?
Unsung… hmmm, there are a few. Mike Shaft for his Pips Manchester and Piccadilly Radio shows and Hewan Clarke for the all dayers/nighters, original Hacienda vibe and Berlin. Alan Maskell and Dave Booth for my alternative fix at Pips, DeVille’s, Berlin, The Ritz. Tim Lennox was the figurehead absolute for Flesh but he was the person I learned the most from having danced to his sets as a paid podium dancer (pre-Flesh) at the No 1 Club on Central Street. My love of Inner City and Kevin Saunderson comes from his selections there.
Michael Anthony Barnes-Wynters – ‘Barney’ brought the Bristol design/fashion and curated cool to Manchester – he employed me for his Hoochie Coochie parties at Oscars, The State 101 and Dry 201. RIP Lucy Scher – Lucy was Paul Cons partner in ‘A Bit Ginger Productions’ and the co-creator of Flesh. She is the reason there were women behind the decks at all the parties they threw and I bow to her, not just for Flesh but for The World at HOME in the basement of Ducie House, Ducie Street. Peter Dalton (Manto’s / Paradise Factory). Elton Jackson and Lee Baxter – for working at Geese in the daytime and running Most Excellent on Monday nights.
Throughout your time as resident of the Hacienda, can you pinpoint a set that left the biggest impression on you?
I have a very vivid memory of playing the Masters of Work remix of Donna Summer’s reworking of I Feel Love. I lip synced all the way through to it downstairs in the Gay Traitor at Flesh, to an astounded James Horrocks and Thomas Foley from React Records and Wayne Kurz from The Zap in Brighton. It was to be a pivotal point in my career as James and Thomas offered me work at their Garage residency at Heaven, and Wayne offered me a guest slot at The Zap in June ’94. Straight after he offered me the weekly residency on Saturday nights at The Zap Club in Brighton, the combination of which prompted my move to London.
My Flesh sets were an all-night affair so I rarely got to hear the sets of the guest DJs upstairs. However, I became firm friends with a young DJ from London called Luke Howard who played regularly downstairs with me in the Gay Traitor/Pussy Parlour. He was then a resident at a London party called ‘Kinky Gerlinky’ and later at Queer Nation, where I played regularly once I moved to London. He is now one quarter of Horsemeat Disco with a massive international brand through Z Records and Glitterbox, and a weekly Sunday radio show on Rinse FM.
Enjoying as a punter – my most notable DJ set has to be Sasha opening with what felt like three minutes of dolphin noises in 1993/4. Or maybe that was the E? And always Mike Pickering at ‘Nude’.
Bringing it up to the present day, what’s currently keeping you busy in music?
DJing is my full-time job. Radio – I have a show every fourth Thursday from 3pm – 5pm on Reform Radio. Guest mixes for the coming months are DJ Cosmo, Davina Moss, Bonzai Bonner, Danny Rampling and DJ Pippi.
I am collaborating in production and song writing, working on an EP with a Manchester artist called Mbaya. We’re writing and creating songs from the ground and ideas up, all played in – some live sounds. Mbaya plays guitar and keys and is a super good engineer and programmer. I play some keys, do some spoken word, ‘spinging’, some singing, lyrics and melodies. My strengths are the basic ideas, starting points, structure, fine tuning and arrangements. It’s a weekly lock in.
Finally, what’s coming up on your horizon we should look out for?
My residencies with Albert’s Schloss, The Refuge, Tariff and Dale and some of the best bars in the Northern Quarter and Central Manchester continue on the weekly. I have a new monthly all-nighter – it’s a disco/house lock in that starts at The Honeytrap Club in June. Books – look out for ‘Generation W’. DJ Cosmo has included me in her upcoming book project which will be released in October (no name yet) but it will be available in Urban Outfitters. I have a Resident Advisor Podcast coming up. Teaching – find me directing some NCS Mega Waves through the summer where I am a Public Speaking and Creative Workshop coach. Festival and event wise you can catch me at: Parklife – June, Bluedot Festival – official warm up at Hatch in June and closing the weekend onstage at the festival proper, MIF (Manchester International Festival) – I will be holding court in Albert Square in July, River Stage for the NT – August, DJ’ing – White City House (London) – August, Pool Party – The Ned – August, We Out Here Festival – August, Liverpool – On Air (May) and Yard (August), Hedonista – Golden Lion – Todmorden (August). I also work as a supporting artist so if you scan the background of some flagship TV shows on BBC, ITV and C4 – you’ll see me twitching my whiskers.
DJ Paulette plays We Out Here, Gilles Peterson’s first UK festival, on 15th-18th August.