Luke Sutton and Tim Smith have placed themselves, whether knowingly or by the sheer power of their ability to have a good time, at the centre of an ever-growing house scene in Bristol. For four years, they’ve hosted regular parties at The Bank of Stokes Croft, with the vibe of an awesome house party, rather than an intoxicant-fuelled night. This atmosphere is, in part, produced by core group of friends and fans whose faces can be seen anywhere they play, but also due to their brand of italo-disco infused sets. Always tightly mixed with a smile, and often served with complementary bread and cheese, PMF have graced crowds all over Europe. They’ve curated stages at Bristol’s Love Saves The Day, Simple Things and Farr Festival, played sets at Space in Ibiza and Stop Making Sense Festival in Croatia and also have residency on Kiss FM every Friday.
I joined the Wiltshire-raised duo on a customary trip to buy cheese for their Christmas party at a new bagel joint in the centre (Pardon My Christmas at Bagel Boy on St. Nicholas Street). The event sold out the day tickets came out, so the guys are of course in a jovial mood…
Credit: James Duncalfe
Where to start? I guess I’ve got to ask you what your favourite cheese is?
Tim: We’ve been privileged as Pardon My French (PMF) to try different things…A good one is Comté – it’s from the alps, it’s almost spicy, in a way sort of mustardy. It’s got a real sort of oomph! That’s my one.
Luke: As it’s a festive time of year, I quite like the Wensleydale with cranberries with some turkey in a sandwich.
T: I find that’s the one that’s always left on the cheese aisle.
L: It’s the most un-French cheese, but it’s a bloody good one!
I’m really interested in where it all started. What music were you both listening to when you were 15 and do you still listen to it now?
T: Ah 15! I reckon I was on Feeder at that point.
L: Shh this is being recorded mate!
T: I’d prefer to answer the question if it was 16/17
That’s not the question though is it?
L: Razorlight? I paid about 20 quid to see them at the Swindon Oasis once.
T: I guess I was just about getting into the right things around 15 though, honestly. I was listening to Arcade Fire’s first album and a bit of Interpol. I would just hear on the grapevine in science class at school that Luke had been to a Bryan Adams gig.
L: I fell in with a bad crowd! Instead of trying a gateway drug, I went to see Bryan Adams at the County Ground in Swindon, which was also pretty shit!
T: Who needs drugs when you’ve got Bryan Adams?
L: I remember Beverley Knight supported and she sang a Tina Turner track… but the one with Mel C (When You’re Gone), was sung by someone who had bought the right to sing on stage with him on ebay for charity – some girl with a really rich boyfriend – sang it and she was shit as well!
Did you two go to school together then?
L: Yeah we did; our first encounter was when we were 10 or 11 and I had joined the Devizes Rugby Team. I wasn’t very good, but I quite enjoyed it. I got to know Tim a little bit, but then got a whack on the face during a game and had a big lump on my face, so that was the end of my rugby career. But then we met again at school, but didn’t really become mates until sixth form when we went to the NME New-Rave Tour.
If we now fast-forward to uni…
L: Yeah I went to UWE in Bristol to do computer science, which was pretty bad… I dropped out and did construction management for a year, which was probably a bit worse and then got a job in marketing… and I’m still in marketing now.
Was it then that you were doing your first radio show?
L: Yes, well, Hub Radio is UWE’s radio station and it was actually in my third year, if I had carried on my original course, but I’d already dropped out (not to the knowledge of the Student Union) and I got a slot on Monday nights at 7pm and Tim…
T: I didn’t even go to UWE. Neither of us did at the time. I used to travel up on the Megabus every Monday after my lectures (studying film at Kingston Uni in London) to do the show even though I wasn’t part of UWE, but they were definitely convinced we were because…
L: When it came to the SU awards, we were asked if we were coming.
T: …we said ‘nah, we don’t fancy it’
L: But then someone who we knew who worked at the union said ‘you kinda have to go because you like, won the award’… so we went… got really pissed at this student union awards surrounded by people who had really done stuff and we were smashing red wine…
T: They were like ‘who are these guys!?’
L: We went up with a French flag on stage, thanked our mums and I then fell down the back of the stage
T: You see I wasn’t going to mention that… but all I can say is ‘thanks UWE’. They gave us some good equipment for sure!
What sort of stuff were you playing on the UWE show?
T: We played some of our rock tunes and then slowly move it into something else… we got a few guest mixes as well. We got one from Bottin, and one from Solee – he was pretty big at the time. We also had Jambo who’s part of Crazylegs and Bowski would have done one.
L: You can actually still find some of them on the internet, those old radio shows, but I wouldn’t really recommend listening to them… some iffy tracks in there.
T: No I think definitely listen to them! Just ‘cos it’s really funny, but of course they’re slightly out of date.
I once asked you Tim, what the best thing about playing as a pair was and you said that it was that you could go to the loo in the middle of a set.
T: Yeah I still stand by that!
L: That’s probably what I would say as well! It’s just nice to bounce off someone and sometimes we’ve had gigs that we’ve played on our own – and I don’t know if I’m speaking for myself – but I’ve played for about an hour and it’s not that you run out of tunes but it certainly is good to have a break.
T: Another factor I’d add to that is that the gigs that we don’t both turn up for tend to be a bit shit anyway, if you’re playing by yourself.
L: Yeah and if it’s a gig quite far away, you’ve got to go there on your own… well like you (Tim) went to play in London on your own when I had sprained my ankle at Love Saves The Day and I couldn’t umm…
T: Needless to say I was a pissed off with that excuse.
L: I couldn’t get to London, so I watched Chic (at Love Saves Sunday) while Tim played a gig… I honestly couldn’t walk.
T: You could watch Chic though couldn’t you… standing up probably!
L: I was leaning on my friend… (laughter from both). But Tim went and played on his own and the upshot is that we got another gig out of it. So we’ll be playing in London on the 27th in Brixton.
T: Glad we got that out the way!
When you’re finding tracks, do you sit together or do you both come to a set with your own selection of what you’d like to play?
Both: Pretty much the second option.
L: We don’t live together any more…luckily.
T: Yeah we’re better friends now, it’s just… DJing, being mates and living with each other didn’t work out at points.
L: We look for tunes pretty separately and then when we mix every week for Kiss FM, I’ll go round to Tim’s house, where our decks are and we’ll just bring our own tracks and it usually works. Well we’ll give a heads up to each other – what the vibe is from our tracks that week.
T: If there’s a new Todd Terje out though, we’ll probably have both bought it and downloaded it, but most of the time, because we have different methods of finding tracks, we come with such a wide variety of tunes. I think that also helps. Going back to the DJing as a pair point, that helps us – you’ve got two different sets almost, two different minds looking for tunes. If it’s just one person looking for tunes, you’re more likely to play tunes that everyone else is playing.
Have either of you been stumped about what track to follow with?
L: Yeah it happened at Simple Things, closing the terrace on Colston Hall.. Tim played a Soulwax track or something…
T: …it was a DFA remix of Another Excuse (he begins to ‘sing’ it)
L: …and then I literally had nothing to play, and there were three minutes to go. So I just texted the sound guy and said to close up in three minutes. It was basically 11 o’clock, and you know, we would have got complaints…
T: Yeah that’s the excuse!
L: I’d already played Reflektor by Arcade Fire…
When I’ve seen you play you seem to be able to gauge a crowd and venue you’re playing to, which some other DJs don’t bother with. How do you approach a set at Space, Ibiza as opposed to say a set in the tunnel at Motion?
L: Depends what time we’re on really.
T: We always have a pre-brief. So we’ll arrive there and have a look at the venue, and we’ll talk about what vibe we’re gonna go for, but sometimes it isn’t right and we have to switch it up. We usually have to switch it up rather than down – it’s usually that we’re playing too slow for too long
L: We did that in Ibiza the first time, we were on first, from 11-1…
T: … and we just played what we would want to hear at that time.
L: We just had to speed it up quite quickly and a lot of people got involved towards the end.
T: You mentioned that some DJs don’t look at the crowd… and because we don’t produce our own stuff, we’re closer to an actual DJ and we have to make people happy. If we don’t do that then we are really shit.
L: There are so many people out there who have made banging tunes, and have got to play in front of about 3000 people purely because they’ve got a couple of good tunes. But now you’ve got some really good purely DJs out there who are inspirations.
L: The obvious example is Ben UFO, who’s not quite our style of music, but he plays everything…
T: You’ve also got someone like Eats Everything.
L: Yeah he produces as well, but technically as a DJ he’s phenomenal.
T: And people love him because he makes people happy when they see him, and he can drop in some of his tunes and people love it…
L: Another guy who produces a little bit is Gerd Janson, who’s playing at the Just Jack 8th Birthday and we saw him at DC-10 in Ibiza the night after we played and he was sick!
T: I wonder if some producers even need to read a crowd, because their tunes are so good.
L: No I think they definitely do! Just without us noticing!
Have you guys tried producing?
L: I’ve tried a bit. I got Logic off a friend and I made a track in about two hours. It was a really pounding techno track and I thought it sounded alright. My boss is quite a big techno fan so I went to work the next day and put on a new Hotflush EP, played the first couple of tracks and then the third track was the one I’d made. I played it and then the drop came in and the boss was like ‘what is this… phwoar! The new Hotflush?!’ and I just had to laugh… I had completely fooled him. And that’s my experience of producing!
T: I think I’ve attempted more seriously, but I don’t think I’d be comfortable enough with what I’ve made to do something like that! I haven’t had a go in a while. I definitely would if I had more time.
L: But it is really hard! Fair play to everyone that produces, because they give us tunes to play and they populate Beatport for our advantage.
T: I had a tear in my eye there!
If there were no social barriers or money issues, what three DJs would you invite to your ultimate party…
L: It’s got to be James Murphy
T: One of the Berliners… maybe Gerd.
L: I love Gerd, but I think we’d probably take John Talabot.
T: Yeah Talabot was incredible when we saw him… so that’s a good strong two… and then…
L: …well there’s Gramrcy (they both smile)… he’s a friend of ours and he’s actually just a really good DJ… and a bloody nice guy too!
T: We’d possibly get Noel Edmonds in…
L: Does he DJ?
T: Well it certainly would be interesting wouldn’t it!
Looking at the Bristol more closely, what is it about the city that makes it seem so unique compared to other places?
L: Being quite small helps. Just being able to get anywhere quickly. It’s not like London for instance – the amount of times I’ve said: “you know London, mate, is so fucking big!”. London’s great, they’ve got a lot more going on, but everyone knows each other in Bristol…
You’re both involved in Crack Magazine. What do you do for them?
L: I’m officially the Marketing and Events Manager, which also leads into Simple Things Festival, because we had a big hand in that. Booking artists, advertising, and media partnerships with other festivals.
T: I review the films for Crack. Obviously it’s nice to be involved but it’s not my full-time job like it is for Luke. It’s really nice to write for such a good magazine. Would you say we’re also official DJs?
L: Oh yeah, official! That’s really helped, with Ibiza for instance, that was a room hosted by Crack, it’s helped with most of our abroad trips, they’ve been under the Crack banner.
What’s your ultimate aim with Pardon My French… do you do it on the side or do you want it to lead somewhere?
T: I reckon when we did the radio show, our aim was to get into radio, but it’s sort of changed slightly.
L: We’d love to tour about a bit more, but at the end of the day we’re just having a bit of fun and we get to play in London every so often and Manchester. It’s fun!
T: We played at Glasto as well… the thing is that if I was a full-time DJ, I think I would turn into a bit of a non-personality. The fact that we do this as something extra makes us enjoy it all the more. We also tie it in quite nicely with the other things that we do, so it makes a lot of sense. When we started it was all about being radio presenters. We used to get gigs because we were radio presenters, whereas now we get a radio show because we’ve built up our DJ thing…
L: We’re being like Tim Sweeney.
T: Do you want me to tell the story about Tim Sweeney?
L: Go on then…
T: Well quickly… he played a night for us at Start The Bus in Bristol and after the gig we were walking with him up Corn St. in the centre and this huge guy – for the legend, he was HUGE – went for his record bag and me and Luke just went… ‘NO!!’
L: I think it was just you actually…
T: Oh, right, okay, well I went ‘NO!!’ and the guy just apologised and went off… so basically, we saved Tim Sweeney’s record bag.
L: There were some damn good records in that bag!
Tell me about Pardon My Christmas, this Friday…
L: We’ve done Pardon My Christmas for years and it’s always been at The Bank, but some friends of ours have opened a bagel joint and wanted to do some parties there, so we thought we’d do one. So we’re going to black out the windows, put some bunting up and…
T: fairy lights!
L: We’ve invited out favourite DJs who are also mates. We’ve got Jethro from Just Jack…very fun selections. We’ve got Graham who I mentioned before (Gramrcy), and we’ve got Space Jamz – it’s the first time they’ve played out – they’re really good mates of ours. Plus we’ve got a Bristol Uni guy called Chris Yeoward, who was going to play with Jonty Green, but Jonty can’t make it. They’re a pair that never get to play, but they are amazing.
T: That’s sort of the point of Pardon My Friends/Pardon My Christmas nights that we put on – inviting our friends.
L: Those two have played for us before… they were great. They played I’m in Love With A German Film Star and it was brilliant!
T: Get there for 8pm, we want to finish early, so that everyone can get their flights home for Christmas.
Final question…one of my greatest moments at your parties was hearing one of my all-time favourites coming in towards the end of a night at The Bank. Where did you first hear Time by the Pachanga Boys, and does it occupy a special place in your hearts as it does in mine?
L: Yeah absolutely
T: I first heard it when Luke played it.
L: Tim and I once had a massive row at a gig when I played it. I went for a piss and said, ‘Tim don’t mix out of this one’… so I went to the toilet and when I got back from the toilets he had mixed out of it… so I was like, “what are you doing?!” Another time, it was at Shapes at the Coroners Court. I played it and told Tim “remember this one? Don’t mix out!’ This is after about seven of the 15 minute track and obviously he started mixing out. So I just grabbed the fader and went straight back into it and played the whole thing…
It’s occupies a special place in my heart. It reminds me that even very good friends can argue a lot!
Guys, that’s it really…thanks a lot,was loads of fun!
Catch Pardon My French at Plan B on 27th December and somewhere top secret for NYE.