Interview with Greg Wilson and Paul ‘Trouble’ Anderson before this Saturday’s big party
It is a real pleasure to once again have Greg Wilson join us in London on Dec 14th. As with the party earlier in the year where we teamed Greg with New York legend Danny Krivit we thought it fitting being a London party that one of this city’s originators Paul ‘Trouble’ Anderson joined Greg for this special night. Greg and Paul began djing at very similar times so we thought we’d get both their takes on those early years.
Trouble cut his dj teeth clubwise in ’79 at the legendary jazz-funk sessions at Soho’s Crackers. How much were you aware of George Power’s Cracker’s session at that point and can you remember when you became aware of Trouble breaking through on the dj circuit?
I first came across Crackers via George Power’s DJ charts in Blues & Soul in 1976. I was also getting my top 10’s listed in Bob Killbourne’s club columns, so you became aware of other DJ’s up and down the country who were playing the latest Soul & Funk. I actually went to Crackers a couple of times – I was a regular visitor to the record companies in London during the late 70’s / early 80’s and got to meet all the people working in the various club promotion departments. Sometimes I’d tag along with someone like Greg Lynn or Orin Cozier as they did a sweep of some of the West End clubs, dropping off new promos. I also got to check out clubs like Gullivers and The Embassy in this way. George Power was one of the rare DJ’s to have a residency in the North, playing Thursday nights for a time at Cassinelli’s in Standish near Wigan, although I didn’t go there until after his time.
Again, I would have first come across Paul’s name in Blues & Soul, in the adverts for Crackers, and later, of course, in connection with the Electric Ballroom.
Prior to this,Trouble, as a lot of London djs, came through the sound system culture in London (with his Trouble Funk sound). Was there anything similar in Manchester or Liverpool or did djs have to go through the more conventional route of taking (usually difficult midweek or Sunday) nights at local clubs to get noticed and build a crowd.
I had pretty much no contact with Sound System culture – it didn’t have as much visibility up North as in cities like London, Bristol and Birmingham. I recently read Lloyd Bradley’s book, ‘Sounds Like London’, a history of black music in the capital, and was fascinated to read about just how vital a role the Sound Systems played.
There were obviously visiting Sound Systems, and no doubt some local ones, but these would be playing Reggae, and confined to areas like Moss Side and Hulme, or Toxteth in Liverpool, rather than the city centre, where the big club nights were.
You’re right about the midweek thing – both my main nights were midweek (Wigan Pier on a Tuesday and Legend in Manchester on a Wednesday).
Something that also developed through Sound System culture in London were the warehouse parties of the early 80’s, again anything similar go on around that time up North.
No, not really. This is why the lineage is different between the North and South in the 80’s – the Rare Groove scene, which was so influential in London, was never really a factor up North. The scene here remained club / all-dayer based, so there was direct continuation from Electro, which held sway when I stopped deejaying in ’84, to the early Chicago House, which was just regarded as another form of Electro at first.
London clubland early to mid eighties was highly powered by pirate radio especially the original Kiss FM (where Trouble held down his legendary mix shows for many yeas pre and post legal license). Obviously in later years the whole nation could listen to the same presenters like Jeff Young then Pete Tong on Radio 1. But before that in late 70’s / early 80’s where could you hear our music locally to you and I presume there were pirates as well.
Once again, quite surprisingly, pirate radio never took a hold up here. Instead, people would religiously listen to the once per week shows on the big Manchester ILR station, Piccadilly, where Mike Shaft and later Stu Allen would play all the latest imports (also Terry Lennaine on BBC Radio Merseyside in the mid-late 70’s). There were a couple of pirates, but their influence was nominal in the greater scheme of things.
Jazz-funk was a major part of both your early years djing. How much so and how did your own personal dj sets change musically from the mid to late 70’s to the early to mid -eighties.
I’d aspired to be a black music specialist from the moment I started to deejay in the clubs. I’d seen the type of crowd that went to Les Spaine’s nights at The Timepiece in Liverpool, and closer to home in Birkenhead where the Radio Merseyside Soul show presenter, Terry Lennaine, had a big midweek night at The Hamilton. The music these DJ’s played would have been similar to what Mark Roman and George Power played at Crackers. Liverpool was a real Funk stronghold back then, and Northern Soul never got a look in – it’s a fallacy that it was all Northern Soul in this part of the country during the 70’s. As with London, the black kids were always forward looking, wanting to know what was next rather obsessing over obscure 60’s 45’s.
I gained a reputation for playing black music at my main hometown residency, the Golden Guinea in New Brighton, where I was DJ between 1977-80 – my proudest moment was when Blues & Soul headed over to report on my little backwater club and gave it their seal of approval. However, landing the residency at Wigan Pier in 1980 was a huge step up, their Tuesday already a successful Jazz-Funk night thanks to previous residents, Kelly and Nicky Flavell. This was the type of cutting-edge night I’d always wanted, and I managed to take it on to a new level, where the Pier would be voted top club in the North by Blues & Soul readers. All of a sudden I was right up there with the biggest DJ’s in the region – people like Colin Curtis, who had Jazz seeping through his veins, and Mike Shaft.
My move in a more electronic direction also saw a change in the crowd at the Pier. It had originally been a mainly white audience, but with a black presence, most of the people living within a 15 miles radius, but would eventually become majority black (although not to the extent of Legend, which was predominantly black), with people travelling a far greater distance, from places like Huddersfield, Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, Bradford, Nottingham etc. Wigan had next to no black population, so it was very much regarded as neutral ground for all the crews.
Electro marked a radical change for me, and a somewhat turbulent period, given that I was accused of being a heretic who was ‘polluting the scene’. I was in the perfect environment when Electro began to emerge, given the state of the art sound and lighting at Wigan Pier and Legend, so I wholeheartedly embraced this new direction – it was the music of the future, here and now, and I was fortunate to work in what might then have been described as futuristic venues. Most other DJ’s on the scene initially ignored it as a fad, and I was told on many occasions that I’d made a huge mistake by associating myself with this ‘machine muzak’, as some called it, and that this would be the ruin of me. However, the kids who came to my nights, who, as I previously stated, were mainly black, went for it in a big way, turning the entire scene on its head up North, and I began to counter the accusations that ‘this isn’t black music’, by telling my detractors (mostly white), that they should ask the black crowd whether or not it was black music. Sounds a bit mad now, but there are always those who are reluctant to change, and Electro was a massive future shock, completely altering the course of black / dance music.
Post the 87/88 house explosion many more djs were found traveling up and down up the M1 and M6 for gigs. Prior to your break from djing in ’83 what do you remember of London djs guesting in clubs near you and what dj experiences did you have in London prior to ’83.
I infamously brought Froggy up North to play at a Wigan Pier all-dayer in 1982, and was thoroughly castigated for doing so in the pages of Blues & Soul by Frank Elson. He accused me of displaying ‘a naivety akin to virginity” and lectured me about ‘Londinium’ and how the capital had always taken from the provinces without giving anything back. There was a real North / South divide at the time, and Frank was a full-on cloth cap Northerner. I responded in my column for the London fanzine Groove Weekly (I was their Northern correspondent at the time), telling Frank to keep his nose out, and accusing him of backwardness. I was all for greater links with the Southern scene, but the old school back then, from both sides of the Watford Gap, could be very blinkered. Frank and I would have many a spat consequently, not least about the Electro direction my nights went off into – he wouldn’t even print the word for a time, typing EL*C*RO instead!
I’d become pretty friendly with Froggy in the early 80’s, and stayed at his house in Ilford a couple of times. He was a top DJ, a true UK innovator, but I always felt he was held back by the Soul Mafia in the early 80’s when, being a mixing DJ, he should have fully embraced Electro. He was caught between two stools, and never asserted himself during these changing times, losing his pioneering kudos to new up and comers.
The one DJ that bridged the North / South divide at that time was Cleveland Anderson, who made regular all-dayer appearances in the North and Midlands during the early 80’s. Got a great interview with him at electrofunkroots:
My only appearance is London back then was in December 1983, when I deejayed at Camden Palace as part of the short Hacienda tour of the South, which also featured Broken Glass, the famous Manchester breakdancing crew, and Mike Pickering’s band Quando Quango (Mike hadn’t started deejaying at The Hacienda at that point, he was the club’s promotions manager). It was on the Brighton leg of the tour that I met Norman Cook (then known as Quentin), who I taught how to scratch and cut during the soundcheck in Hickstead the following day (he’d travelled along from Brighton with us).
Finally, you obviously have a big and loyal following in London now, how do the crowds, atmosphere and reactions vary to Manchester and other big cities around the world or do you think with the web and social media mean today’s club culture is getting more similar everywhere in the world.
In many respects, London is the closest thing to a home city for me 2nd time around. I play in London more than anywhere, and by some distance – there’s rarely a month goes by that I don’t appear somewhere in the capital. It’s one of the great club cities of the world, probably the greatest in terms of consistency. I get wonderful support – some of the gigs I’ve done in recent years have been off the scale. It’s a sprawling metropolis, so there’s something, somewhere in the city, for everyone, whereas other historically important club cities in the UK, due to their smaller sizes, are traditionally more cyclic, having golden eras, and then quieter spells before growing fresh momentum – London is so huge that even the most obscure niche nights can generally find an audience.
Travelling around the world you encounter the same type of passions everywhere. You don’t really have regional scenes like you used to, the internet changing the whole dynamic. In some places its just a small nucleus of people who might be into the side of the scene I’m associated with, whereas in a city like London its obviously much more significant. I have great nights in places like Manchester, New York, Tokyo, Sydney, Amsterdam, Glasgow, San Francisco, Melbourne, Detroit, Liverpool, Los Angeles, Dublin, Berlin etc – it’s just that I have them much more regularly in London.
Most people have associated you with house wether through your Kiss radio or the legendary Loft in Camden. Well you were a champion of soulful house from day one but recently you’ve been ‘Going Back To Your Roots’ and playing a lot of jazz-funk, disco and boogie sets. Tell us about the early days djing pre house at places like Crackers and The Electric Ballroom and how you got started.
Originally I was what was known as a sound bwoy, it was like serving an apprenticeship, I used to string up sounds, lift boxes, speaker boxes and at the end of the night pack it all up. This I did in the early 70’s for Reggae Sounds, this I regard as priceless experience and knowledge for my introduction into Djing.
Greg mentions warehouse parties and pirate radio didn’t play a part in the North’s clubbing evolution through the 80’s but can you let us know how important the two were to your career in the early to mid eighties.
Warehouse parties and Pirate radio was an essential part of Club evolution in London in the 80’s, without the Pirate Stations a lot of music would never have been broken, warehouse parties showcased the different styles of music under one roof.
How much were you aware of any scenes up north before the house explosion. Did you ever play up there pre 85 for instance (if not when was your first gig in Manchester or Liverpool)?
I was aware of what was going on outside London and up North, London has never been the only City with a music scene going on, I experienced the Northern Soul Scene in Wigan back in da Day. In the 80’s I used to play in Birmingham’s Locarno, go to RamRunner. Played at Rock City with Johnathon in Nottingham, did lots of alldayers in North those days. I wasn’t just a Dj, I was also a well established dancer, so I used to travel up & down the country, gracing dance floors with my Djing & dancing skills, so much fun.
How did your personal career and dj style evolve through the eighties leading into house?
My Career evolved through the 80’s, partly because of the Electric Ballroom, Jazzy Funk, Double Disco with George Power.
This Friday night session was an institute for clubbers all around the Country. For Me, I also got to show off my DJ style in front of a massive audience, experiment with new sounds and at the same time Paulfecting my mixing skills. I suppose in the Ballroom, in the mid 80’s, some of the music that I played was House, but at that time it was not recognized as House, Music wasn’t really labelled in those days, as it is presently, it was more of a scene back then
You are playing two sets on Saturday, the second being upstairs in the Vintage House Foundation Room. Please tell us a bit about The Loft in Camden as it was London’s leading midweek house nights for many years that saw so many great guest artists perform.
The Loft….little club Big Sound
L FOR THE LOVE
O FOR THE ORIGINAL
F FOR THE FUNKIE
T FOR THE TROUBLE
The Loft Originally started out as Trouble & Friends, there was no real theme, I used to get the same 20-30 people every Wednesday night for about a year, then we came up with the name Loft, because the building resembled a Loft. Not because of Dave Mancuso’s Loft night in New York, purely because that is what the club looked like. The plan was to showcase the Singers of the Music I was playing, as nobody knew of them.
Word soon got around and the night excelled and became an institute, a religion for exclusive House Music, mainly dubplates & the Voices behind them performing live. The original venue was HQ at the west yard Camden Lock, every Wednesday night. The night ran for 10 years every week, in the same venue. Amazing if you think it was a midweek night, Wednesday being one of the worst nights for clubbing. That was then it was fresh and first of it’s kind. Having my mix show on Kiss every Saturday night really contributed to promoting the night. There is always so much more I could say regarding the Loft, but leave it at that.
London is obviously your home town but what northern cities in the UK do you also have a strong connection with and how have you seen the scenes change and possibly become more similar and less regional over the years.
London is my home and always will be no matter where I am in the world. I say this because I’ve spent more years in London than anywhere else in the Country. I have lived in many different parts of England, due to growing up in children’s homes, being moved around from home to home over 15 years. So I have ties in many parts of the country which is nice to have.
I watched the scene change so many times, it changes, yet remains the same. Everything has to go full circle and then start again, like space invaders, you clock it & start again.
Makes Paulfect sense to Me, Troubsolutely.
SET TIMES FOR THIS SATURDAY – MAIN ROOM – PAUL ‘TROUBLE’ ANDERSON 11PM-1AM, GREG WILSON 1-4AM.
UPSTAIRS – VINTAGE HOUSE FOUNDATION – DOM MOIR 11PM-12.45 AM, STUART PATTERSON 12.45-2.15AM, PAUL ‘TROUBLE’ ANDERSON 2.15-4AM.
INVITES FOR THIS SATURDAY ARE £10 PLUS B/FEE FROM http://www.residentadvisor.net/event.aspx?534066