Choose your path and throw everything but the kitchen sink at pursuing it. All the better if you manage to actually play said kitchen sink along the way.
Heels & Souls are Pat Forrester and Ben Croft, who crossed paths at York University but didn’t properly link up in a musical capacity until they both settled in London. Built around charitable intentions and unusual spaces, their parties have been running for three years and raised nearly £10k, welcoming DJs like Francis Inferno Orchestra, Mark Grusane, Brian Not Brian and Esa. DJing together under the same name, they channel spontaneity and fun from the booth to dance floor. They’ve also been long time writers on STW but this ain’t no nepotism job. They’ve earned their stripes.
As part of a series profiling the 2018 recruits for Dimensions Festival’s DJ Directory, we speak to Pat and Ben about what’s moving and motivating them, alongside a first listen to a mix that collects Nu Guinea, Dego & Kaidi, Mpumi and Romanthony. For more info on last year’s Directory DJ’s check our Frequently Asked Questions feature.
What’s been your musical upbringing? Self-taught, schooled or otherwise?
Pat: very much self-taught. Besides abortive attempts from my seven-year-old self at mastering the clarinet, I had no schooling in music and very little by way of guidance with regards to tunes. When I first started messing around on decks, this too was by and large a solitary pursuit. If musical upbringing encompasses listening to music though, I’ve been hugely fortunate to have friends with brilliant taste, who’ve shared so much knowledge with me and exposed me to new sounds.
Ben: played in bands when I was a youngun, was a keen little indie kid guitarist, then caught the DJ bug about five years ago. DJings been learnt through osmosis from a lot of good friends who’ve also provided me with a wealth of music I would never have come across otherwise. Special shouts to man like Tom Mallas who I’ve been bouncing music off since day dot, played in terribly named bands together and is the person I cut my teeth with DJing in Manchester.
Can you think back to a key moment that made you want to take music seriously?
Pat: there’s no watershed moment for me really. Things have just happened naturally to this point. That being said, I vividly remember the first time DJing to a receptive dance floor and the huge buzz that affected in me. This rush, coupled with both the fundraising aspect of the H&S project and a passion for discovering tunes and sharing these with others is, I suppose, what’s made me want to take DJing seriously.
Ben: since I was kid I’ve always used music as an outlet to express myself. Like Pat mentioned that first taste of playing in front of people and sharing the music you love to others was key but seeing that we could potentially do something great with H&S, whilst giving something back to people less fortunate was the defining moment.
How and why did you both come together to form Heels & Souls?
Well, we met at uni, though weren’t in the same year and beyond chit-chat here and there weren’t all that familiar. We properly linked in London when I had moved down here and Ben came to visit, going to Rhythm Section and then heading back to mine for a mix. By that point I’d already done my first H&S and realised the desperate need for someone to do the party with me, so when we clicked so well musically and had a great time too, it happened fairly naturally. In terms of values…we both definitely have the same ambition for both the party and as DJs. Anyone who knows us well would probably be quick to mention I’m quite loose and Ben fairly sensible, but that just adds flavour to the pot.
Rather than focusing on a specific sound, are there a key principle or philosophy that drives you as a DJ?
Though not a defining principle, one thing we’re both hot on is improvisation. Gigs are not pre-meditated and, apart from a cursory heads up on genres, we rarely share with each other the tunes we’ve packed. The upshot being that it keeps things very dynamic and reactive to the dance floor. It’s also loads more fun!
Have there been any people or collectives who have empowered you or helped you find your feet as a DJ?
Pat: for me, Ben has definitely been the biggest source of inspiration. Playing together is hugely gratifying, and he’s offered guidance, and represented how best to approach the art of DJing; dig hard, believe in music that makes you feel, don’t drink all the rider before playing!
Ben: it’s a joy to find someone that’s on totally the same page as you when it comes to a creative endeavor and joining forces with Pat has been exactly that. He’s been the key to me developing as a DJ, from teaching me to ride the pitch way back when, to making me want to practice day in day out. Big shouts also going out to Tom Mallas as outlined above, Tim Perera for giving me my first ever public set and Alex T who’s taught me a lot about the art of DJing and tips me onto so many killer records.
What’s the biggest challenge you face as a DJ?
Significance. Trying to represent something beyond just us as DJs. The very best DJs have this, whether that’s explicit or just a consequence of the way their music makes others feel.
…and waking up Pat in time for a gig!
And what’s your biggest source of optimism or inner strength?
Pat: musically, knowing there’s an infinite amount of chooonz I haven’t yet heard awaiting listening. The cliché of ‘the more you know, the more you know you don’t know’ comes to mind here.
Ben: knowing that when life get’s real tough I’ve got a lot of good friends and family around me that I can reach out to for support and guidance.
What’s your greatest musical achievement to date?
Getting asked to join the Dimensions DJ Directory definitely ranks high. Also, releasing a Test Pressing mix earlier this year is something we’re immensely proud of. That site’s been a big influence and a constant source of music so receiving the artwork for the mix and seeing our name there on the mixes section of the site was a very proud moment. Finally, watching the party grow from the back-room of a Congolese Restaurant in Brixton to The Pickle Factory in three years, and being on track to raise 5k for Key Changes is a really special feeling.
What goals have you set yourself this year?
For the uninitiated, Heels & Souls is first and foremost a London based fundraising party. This year, we set out to raise £5,000 for Key Changes, a local, grassroots music-based mental health recovery service. The response has been overwhelming. We’re currently at just over £3,500 on our Just Giving page and really confident we’ll now get to the target. Considering how speculative the target felt at the beginning, it’s a big achievement and one that couldn’t have been done without the support from both good friends and the wider dance music community.
What’s your favourite party to dance at?
Picking one is tough. Tangent is definitely up there. Nick and John are both DJs who inspire us every time we see them play.
What’s your perfect party to play at?
Good sound, an intimate and interesting space and a crowd invested in the most important part of a party – the dance floor. The lovely Brudenell Groove crew invited us up to Leeds to DJ at the start of 2018 and the energy, enthusiasm and togetherness of the crowd was a total eye-opener. This is often missing in London, and for us it’s the key ingredient to a spiritual, or whatever you want to call it, party atmosphere.
Where do you get your inspiration from outside of music?
Pat: Aston Villa’s perpetual struggle for mediocrity. Joking aside, inspiration is everywhere, often in the most unexpected places. Just being open and inquisitive exposes me to daily inspiration and maintains a positive mind frame. My parents’ support and enthusiasm for life. Having loads of brilliant friends doing amazing things helps with that too for sure.
Ben: my parents for sure, who taught me a lot about doing things for the right reasons and believing in myself, alongside backing me whole heartedly when it came to pursuing music seriously both for work and through DJing. That and seeing my mates doing bits on the regs.
Could you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve made for us?
Recorded on two 1210s and an E&S DJR400 mixer. We had a rough direction for the mix. We knew we wanted to move through a number of genres, as that’s our driving force when we play out and also to play some heavier bits as people might have the misconception we just play disco and boogie.
It’s not easy making a living out of music these days, so why did you make charities the beneficiaries of your Heels & Soul parties?
H&S was never intended to be a breadwinner. It started as an opportunity for ourselves and mates to play out, whilst donating what little we made to various causes. Working closely with charities such as Shelter From The Storm and Spitalfields Crypt Trust made us aware of the impact these parties could have to people less fortunate than us, and for sure that spurned us on to where we are now: close to hitting that £5k target for Key Changes by the end of 2018.
How do you pick the charities you work with and have you had a chance to see the impact of your donations?
Which charities we work with comes through quite a natural process. At the start it tended to be the bigger causes like MSF and War Child, but we gradually spent more time looking into local charities close to the area where we hosted the party. We’ve had the pleasure of raising money for grassroots causes like Brixton Soup Kitchen and even donating to a local fundraising initiative to save Cressingham Gardens from being demolished and rebuilt as luxury flats by Lambeth Council.
More often than not we do get to see the impact of our donations, which is an extremely gratifying part of the process. To take the Cressingham Gardens initiative as an example, the money we raised helped fund the legal fees to overturn the decision, so seeing the residents win was pretty special. This is only really possible by having an open, accessible relationship with those at the charity, which can be quite difficult the larger in stature and size the charity gets.
What’s been your favourite H&S to date?
Some of the most memorable parties have been the ones hosted in unusual locations, as for the past three years we’ve been very nomadic in our approach to venues. The Tamesis Dock boat party that you played at was an early highlight, though in terms of mad locations the Halloween party we hosted with good friends Mavrik at St Johns on Bethnal Green church was something else, especially considering we had such an amazing line up: Francis Inferno Orchestra, Brian Not Brian, Apiento b2b Lexx and Tom Smith.
That being said those parties were an exceptional amount of work both prior to doors and during the party, so to have been able to host our last event at such an established venue as The Pickle Factory, definitely allowed us a fuller appreciation of what we’ve achieved.
What’s coming up this year for you that you’re excited about?
We’ve got another party in the works at The Pickle Factory in November alongside playing across London at a bunch of killer parties. We’re also off to play Lost Village at the end of August and then you can catch us playing at Dimensions in the Ballroom on the Thursday night alongside a dreamy lineup of great friends and then on the Abandon Silence boat party with Peggy Gou & ya boy Andrew Hill on the Friday.
Pat you’ve been known to wear sports bras while DJing. What’s this year’s hottest festival accessory you’ll be bringing to Dimensions?
Our mixing is gunna be so sporty this year that I’ll probably pack the Edgar David’s style sports googles, replete with +7 prescription.
And finally, turning back the clock, what advice would you give to your younger self before you started persuing music properly?
Pat: stop trying to grow your hair shoulder length. No-one need go through the trauma.
Ben: be patient, stop worrying about the little things, get stuck in and be open to all types of music.
Aaron Broomfield – I’m Gunna Miss Ya
Kreamcicle – No News Is News (Remix Instrumental)
Nu Guinea – Je Vulesse
Ego – Move It Jungle Man
Focus – Hay-Hay
Stimela – Mind Games
Zizi Kongo – Naughty Street Boys
Mpumi – Ngiyekele
Joyce Sims – All & All (You Are My) Dub
Katrina Moss – Dancing To The Beat (Of My Man)
Ben Norman – Got To Be
Barbara Norris – It’s Heavy! (Dub Version)
Telex – Raised By Snakes
Shirley Lites – Heat You Up
The Movement – Movement (Club Version)
Pineapples Featuring Douglas Roop – Come On Closer
Tia Monae – Don’t Keep Me Waiting
Dionne – Kisses (ALF Soul Dub Mix)
Elastic Reality – Cassa De X (Deep Dish Does X)
Fontasia – Blood Vibe
Romanthony – Trust (Kerri Chandler Dub)
Jorge Caiado – Moving Forwards
Neal Howard – Indulge
Dego & Kaidi – Dealt A Bad Hand
Bunny Mack – Let Me Love You
Touchdown – Ease Your Mind
Kokomo – Use Your Imagination
George Duke – Positive Energy
Sunbelt – Spin It
Sport – Dream Support
Dawn and Sween – All Systems Down
4hero – The Scorcher (Dance Mix)
Cloud Nine – Baby Jade
Groove Committee – Freedom
M.R.J – Living Without You
Your Favorite Martian – Sex In Zero Gravity
Nu Era – Space Above Us
Stasis – Point Of No Return
Digital Justice – Theme From It’s All Gone Pearshaped