(Extended Mix): Heels & Souls

Here we go, another two of our STW alumni are graduating to the big leagues. Pat and Ben are the smiley-faced DJ duo behind Heels & Souls, one of London’s foremost not-for-profit parties, who’ve been throwing their charitable soirees since 2015. A nomadic party to begin with, the pair set up shop permanently at The Pickle Factory in 2017, playing host to the likes of Pender Street Steppers, Tornado Wallace, Lauren Hansom and Jan Schulte, while raising a whopping £40,000 for various causes.

In unison with the party’s success, the pair have become equally recognised for their slick blends, wide-ranging tastes and deep digging selections which can navigate everything from street soul and Lovers rock to 90s tech house, progressive and even a dose of hardcore. A natural next step for the duo, during lockdown they added another string to the H&S bow with the launch of Heels & Souls Recordings, a reissue label unearthing soulful dance-focused gems from across the world.

Opting to explore a different blend of sonics than those we’ve come to associate them with, over a four and a half hour stint Pat and Ben reach for ambient, dub, downtempo, and electronica, balancing planning and improvisation.

(Extended Mix) is a new charitable series that celebrates all-night specialists and more simple, carbon-friendly lineups. Instead of paying on the door for this extended experience, we invite listeners to donate to the DJ directly while their gigs are cancelled, or to a chosen charity. Heels & Souls have chosen to pair their mix with their year-long fundraising campaign for The Felix Project, a charity that redistributes surplus food to other charities and schools so they can provide healthy meals and help London’s most vulnerable.

First off, how was lockdown for you? What was the biggest challenge and more positive outcome you’ve experienced through extended time at home? 

Lockdown feels (in many ways) like a distant memory now! We were both very fortunate to be living with friends and girlfriends, so it wasn’t an isolating experience for us either, and gave us a chance to slow down, look after ourselves, re-balance the scales a bit. Definitely the most positive thing on a Heels & Souls level to come out of lockdown was the chance to start the reissue label. It’s something we’d both spoken about but had never found the time to get things moving. We get a real buzz off the label side of H&S now and have got lots of exciting stuff planned, pressing plant delays allowing…

Thanks for recording an extended mix for us. How did you find the recording process?

Our pleasure, it was nice to stretch our legs on a podcast that was a little longer than we’ve done before. Four hours at first seemed like a daunting task for a recorded mix, but we set aside a sleepy Sunday, got the brews on the go and got going.

How did you approach the mix? Did you have an idea in mind beforehand? Was there much pre-planning or did you just trust your instincts?

We wanted to do something a little different to the mixes we’ve done in the past, venturing through the worlds of ambient, dub, downtempo, electronica, house and beyond. We had the opportunity to road test some of the records we’d picked out for the mix at our Pickle party the other week when we warmed up for Dr Baird, which slotted a few things into place in our brains. It’s always interesting recording mixes together, naturally you need a little more planning with it being two people and maybe not being so familiar with each other’s tunes, but we also didn’t want to meticulously plan things.

Could you talk us through a couple standouts from set?

It’s really tough to pick! There’s some special tunes for us in here for sure, including some forthcoming material on the label which we can’t disclose just yet. Here’s one from us each though:

Pat: I’ll go for ‘Essa 3 – Pool 2’. Really nice slo-mo trance number from Darshan Jesrani, who went on to become very successful as one half of Metro Area alongside Morgan Geist. One of several great releases from cult 90s San Fran label ZoëMagik Records. This one sounded proper lush at Pickle the other week!

Ben: Mine’s one I picked up from the Music & Video Exchange the week we recorded the mix, The Detonators – Lift Off. We knew we wanted to start on ambient then roll into dub but didn’t really have something to make the transition. Spotted this in the racks and it was the perfect fit. Starting off with some mad sci-fi electronics and a wiggy countdown it opens up into the ultimate cosmic, space-echoed, stripped back dubby cut. Plus it was produced by the mighty John Collins, producer of some treasured tracks from the likes of Janet Kay, Rick Clarke and The Specials.

Where’s been your favourite place to play an all-night set, and why?

Brilliant Corners is always a vibe as you take it from dining to dancing which really makes you think about the setting, the pace and how you want to build things slowly across the night. Honing an all nighter there, or any bar for that matter, definitely helps when you translate that to more club focussed settings and having to get those early dancers onboard. You can catch us there twice over the next two weekends – on the 5th with Trujillo and Norsicaa for the launch of the Ritmo Fantasía compilation that Trujillo put together for Soundway Records, and then the following Friday spinning alongside DJ Sotofett, which should be mint!

Who are some of your favourite all-night specialists, and why? 

Theo Parrish has gotta be the best for our money. No one can mix it up like him when he’s in the zone. Vladimir Ivkovic is another who we love seeing play an extended session, the atmosphere he creates is totally unique. We caught Josey Rebelle at Pickle a few years back and that was a masterclass. On the tech / prog house tip which we get into towards the end of the mix, there’s loads of DJ’s who are brilliant at playing longer sets, the likes of The Ghost, Margaret Dygas, and Zip standout.

By celebrating DJs with a penchant for all-night sets, the (Extended Mix) series hopes to encourage a more stripped back, carbon-friendly approach to lineup curation. Reducing our footprint as a globalised underground community is a massive challenge as we try to rebuild the scene after Covid-19 lockdown, and we hope progression can be forged through sharing our challenges and experiences. Are there any thoughts you’d like to add to the discussion?

It’s a tricky one and there’s tons of things to unpack here. DJ’s and promoters definitely have a responsibility for the amount of flights they take, but so do punters who go to events week in week out that largely are booking artists from outside the UK. There’s a paradox in reducing the carbon footprint of a globalised community who primarily connect through shared dancefloor experiences.

Taking the train to gigs can work for some people and we encourage it for our parties (the last event we did, Mad Miran and Katia took the train from Amsterdam and Berlin respectively), but it’s not always feasible, particularly for artists travelling from further afield. Something we’d always advocate is supporting your local scene. In London there’s a wealth of wicked parties every weekend, often happening slightly more off the beaten track, with class lesser-known DJ’s and a really wicked atmosphere.

There’s some organisations doing brilliant work on grappling with these issues. Ecodisco, who Pat works closely with via his day job at Secretsundaze, are helping venues and promoters remove single use plastic cups from their events. Clean Scene have a carbon offsetting calculator for DJs / agencies / promoters and earlier this year penned a very insightful report, ‘Last Night A DJ Took A Flight’ which we recommend checking out for anyone interested in the carbon footprint of touring DJ’s. Ultimately it’s something we must grapple with in all aspects of life, and there’s no silver bullet solutions.

Tell us a bit more about your chosen charity – what work do they do and why is it so important to you? 

We’re asking for any donations to be put towards our year-long fundraising campaign for The Felix Project, an incredible charity that redistributes surplus food to other charities and schools so they can provide healthy meals and help London’s most vulnerable. It’s crazy that in one of the wealthiest cities on earth, so much food is chucked in the bin when others badly need it, and The Felix Project are helping to address this which we find very inspiring.  

For those who don’t know, Heels & Souls was formed as a not-for-profit party, and every year we set ourselves a fundraising target for a charity close to our hearts. We’ve managed to raise over £40,000 over the last 6-years for various charities and local causes! 

Photo credit: Rob Jones.

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