Jeremy Newall on Frankie Knuckles, meeting Larry Levan, working at some of London’s essential Record Stores, his Salsoul Records collection and his new residency at Spun.

 

Words by Cem Ceylan

 

2001 London, Brixton. Excited is an understatement. As I’m about to encounter a pivotal music experience. I’m in a cue with friends and music partner, Jamie Heath, waiting to see no other than the Godfather of House Music, Frankie Knuckles, for the first time. For those who don’t remember the specifics, the club is Mass, a converted church in the heart of Brixton, housing two rooms with amazing acoustics and sound system. The night itself was Indulge, where Jamie and I would become regulars.

Finally, we get in, after what felt like hours outside in the cold. As soon as we enter, we notice the vibe was beyond perfect. The flyer stated Frankie was to play a 6-hour set. After handing in our coats we rushed to the main room. The music was on point. 2001 saw the release of Jon Cutler’s classic, It’s Yours, so you can imagine what was pumping through the speakers. However, Frankie wasn’t playing yet. Oblivious to who was, I remember asking Jamie for the DJ’s name. Every other party I’d been to since the mid-nineties, it seemed to be the same guy playing the opening set. When Frankie came on he really was majestic in every possible way, playing a variety of new music and classics, serving each person in the room that night. However, this is not about Frankie at Mass or Louis Vega at the Ministry of Sound or Francois Kervorkian at a Whistlebump Boat Party. It’s about the DJ who was always there.

Fast forward say 16 years, I felt the need to throw my own parties. I wanted to bring the experience, the art and knowledge to the amazing people of London. So, with the help of close friends, Jamie Heath and Heloise Touffu, we formed Spun. After a year of throwing parties at London’s infamous Disco Pub, the Horse & Groom Shoreditch, we booked Mark Grusane. As part of our promotion Mark played at the BBE Record Store, in East London at the Institute of Light. Low and behold Jeremy Newall was there, this time working the store. We exchanged some stories, but even back then I couldn’t fathom what was to come. 

Another year goes by, keeping in contact with Jeremy along the way, I end up finding out a lot more about him as a DJ and Producer. One of the main talking points we had was Salsoul Records. In fact, Jeremy has accumulated probably the most complete Salsoul Records vinyl collection, in the World! It was from here our shared love of music was clear to both. We offered him a residency at Spun, which he gratefully accepted, and was happy to help shape and build our parties, with the purpose of sharing good music.

Jeremy’s established DJ career, began back in 1986, since then he’s been a regular feature in London’s seminal club nights. A resident of ‘Soul Heaven’ at the Ministry of Sound, as well as running his very own night, ‘Right Area’ at Madame Jo Jo’s. Previously he was the resident DJ at The Loft, Paul ‘Trouble’ Anderson’s legendary weekly night groove, where Jeremy won acceptance from one of London’s most particular crowds. He was also a regular at Garage City @ Bar Rumba, BBE’s Night People @ Bar Rumba, Off Centre, Indulge, Whistlebump, spinning his regular set of uplifting and funky soulful dance music fuelled with disco funk classics alongside vintage house tracks and the latest sounds. Producing music for François K’s Wave Music, remixes of Roy Ayers, and productions with Ron Trent, Robert Owens and more, Jeremy has also presented shows on pirate stations House FM, Girls FM and Phantasy FM, as well as regular spots on Kiss FM and Radio 1 no less. After taking a brief hiatus from the scene, Jeremy is back with a groove and ready for action!

 

Cem: Jeremy it’s good to have you onboard. What have you been up to recently?

Jeremy: Hey Cem, it’s a pleasure to join the Spun team, I’m looking forward to some great parties!  Since we met in the world of record stores, I joined Defected Records last year as Catalogue Manager, one of my roles is maintaining and reactivating the heritage labels in our catalogue such as Movin’ and Nu Groove amongst others. This has been great as I loved those labels when they were active, Movin’ and Nu Groove in particular. It’s been great connecting with the artists, restoring the original audio, uncovering unreleased versions, and letting the music be heard again. I have fond memories of the impact that these records had and feel privileged to be curating them. I’m bursting with excitement for my next project, I can’t reveal just yet, but I have spent the last 30 years studying for it and I’m ready! All will be revealed shortly…

C: Let’s get the meaty stuff out of the way. How does the scene today compare to the early-nineties?

J: It was a great time to live through, especially being in record stores and opening a cardboard box and breaking the seal for a first listen to historic records, and then getting to share those releases with record collectors, DJ’s, record labels, and watching the scene grow. I knew I wanted to work in a record store, but I lucked out and ended up working in some of the most essential Record Stores of the time, and I spent half of it completely awestruck, finding myself meeting all of my heroes! Larry Levan would be getting records from Catch A Groove and playing them at a newly opened Ministry of Sound, Tony Humphries would be recording his legendary radio shows from Ricky Morrison’s flat above the store, Frankie Knuckles and Louie Vega would always pass by, the list goes on and on, suffice to say that record stores in Soho were an exciting place to be. As a DJ I became a regular a club’s like Garage City and Release the Pressure, as well as a resident at The Loft alongside Paul Anderson. And on a Saturday night, the main room at the Ministry was the place to be with the world’s finest DJs changing lives on a weekly basis! 

C: With regards to your residency, would you be doing anything different compared to your previous residencies?

J: Every party is different, every night unique, it will be a science experiment! It’s all a physical/spiritual/chemical/musical reaction that you can’t judge or predict until all of the elements come together. I do have various moods that I would like to create, but I don’t normally program anything in advance, too much preparation can make sets sound too sterile or lifeless for my tastes. My best performances always stem from simply going with the flow of the music and ‘feeling’ what to play next. 

C: What made you want to be a DJ?

J: I used to collect records as a kid, mainly pop at first, Duran Duran, Wham, Madness, Human League, things like that. I really wanted to share the music with friends but didn’t really want to invite lots of people into my bedroom. I thought there must be a better way. At some under 16s disco I used to bring a bag of records for the DJ to play. He would not quite play the records as I wanted to hear them, so thought I could do a better job and I chose my path. By 15 I started playing a few parties with my friend Toby. At the time I didn’t have any DJ equipment so it was two belt drive turntables with no pitch control, 2 amplifiers and 4 speakers! ‘Mixing’ between 2 different systems!  It was all about wanting to share music with people.

A couple of years later I vividly recall going to a club night in Leicester Square called Delirium, with Fingers Inc, CeCe Rogers and Xavier Gold performing. I really liked their records so wanted to hear them perform. There was also some DJ called Frankie Knuckles. I knew he been involved with some of the records. It was 1987 I think, possibly 88. I didn’t go for the DJ specifically, I went to hear the PAs. I remember Frankie playing a record by Joe Church ‘I Can’t Wait Too Long’. I already liked the record, but the way he played it just completely blew me away. I had no idea that a DJ could draw that kind of power, energy and emotion out of a record. It was just mind blowing to me. At that time the clubs and parties were all a mixture of hip hop, funky rare grooves, disco, soul. The journey was different. House had only just started to take root in the UK. Hearing Frankie that night made me re-evaluate what was possible with those grooves. Inspired. Paul Anderson also possessed a raw and unique talent which was captivating, and the scientific soulful beatdown of Ricky Morrison at clubs like High on Hope and Dance Wicked also made me take notes!

C: That night we talked about, Indulge at Mass, Brixton. Was that the first time you played alongside Frankie Knuckles?

J: I played with him several times I think, certainly for Indulge as you mentioned, I also remember Turnmills with Frankie and Danny Rampling. It seems Frankie has been an influence and inspiration at many points in my career, after first hearing him play in the 80s, then fast forward a few years later and Frankie is a regular visitor to Catch A Groove, and I am playing parties alongside him. I then took some time out from the music scene around 2007, but when I heard of Frankie’s untimely death in 2014 it hit me pretty hard and made me realise I still had work to do, and I had to get back to the music that I lived for. I feel it necessary for people that experienced those times and moments in music to share and pass on that feeling.

C: Can you tell us a bit about how you got to work with Ron Trent?

J: I went to visit Terry Hunter in Chicago in the early 90s, and he picked me up from the airport with Ron Trent. I knew Ron from his monstrous Altered States record, as well as being a member of UBQ along with Terry. I think I made a comment about him being too short for a stormtrooper and we both fell about laughing like we had known each other for years! Ron would make frequent visits to London and we would often take time to make some music together. One of the first releases we collaborated on came out on Subwoofer/Freetown. We worked on several songs with Robert Owens, along with Simbad and DJ Romain, with ‘Deep Down’ doing quite well, getting licensed, and remixed more than a few times. Larry Heard did a great mix of the song. It even got bootlegged at one point. The bootleg mix was by a guy called Filsonik but it was pretty hot so it’s all good!

C: What’s the deal with you and Salsoul?!

J: Some of the first Salsoul records I discovered were my favourite songs, and a wise tip off from one of my mentors, Ricky ‘Salsoul Nugget’ Morrison was that I should buy every Salsoul Record that I saw as “they were all good”. I took that advice literally and proceeded to scour every corner of every record shop I passed for each and every Salsoul release, including all of its sub labels, Gold Mind, Dream, Tom n Jerry, etc, buying every 12”, 7” and LP that I came across.30 years later and I find myself with what I believe to be the largest collection in the world! I was very proud to have had a hand in many of the comps and anthologies that Salsoul released in the early 2000’s, especially putting together the Walter Gibbons and Larry Levan compilations, it was an honour to work on those collections. I’m slowly working on a project to document the whole story of Salsoul. It’s a lifelong project and another thing I can’t reveal too much about today!

C: Any last words for us about the Spun party?

J: I know all of the DJs have great and unique tastes in music, and I know you have a fun energetic crowd, so I’m excited to hear how it all comes together on the night, let’s go!

You can catch Jeremy Newall at Spun, Saturday 30 June at SEDITION London.

For advance tickets go to:

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