Greg began DJing in 1975 and is regarded as one of the most important figures on the UK dance scene. He enjoyed hugely popular residencies in the early eighties at Wigan Pier and Manchester's majorly influential Legend. He was a pioneer of mixing in the UK and in 1983 he became the first ‘dance music’ DJ hired for a regular weekly session at Manchester's now legendary Hacienda club. having retired from DJ work at the end of 1983, Greg returned to spinning tunes two decades later, receiving plaudits for his red-hot appearances at renowned nights including Electric Chair, Horse Meat Disco, Fabric, Back To Basics, Ministry Of Sound, Asylum, Melting Pot and the Sub Club, to name but a few. He plays Slide on NYE at Brixton Club House and ahead of that caught up with Pulse.
Pulse: What have been the highs and lows in your career? Greg Wilson: Manchester in the early 80’s was a special time. It was right at the crossroads of dance culture and my night at Legend was very much at thecutting-edge. I was at The Hacienda in ’83, but Legend was the highlight. Coming back into it during the past 8 years has been special for different reasons – being able to reach a new generation and bridge between then and now. The downside was the period in the 90’s where I’d totally lost my muse and felt hollow as far as my love of music was concerned. Thankfully I managed to somehow eventually navigate my way out of that bleak place.
How have things charged since you first started out? On the one hand things have totally changed (DJ’s now well rewarded for their work, mixing not microphone being the main approach, technological advances etc), but on the other they remain the same (it’s still, at its basis, all about helping provide a good night out for people via the selection of music you play).
What is it about the scene that still gets you excited? The fact that younger people are still enthused by the music I play. I’m not into nostalgia in anything more than small doses – it’s about referencing the past to inform the future, and to do this you need to constantly connect with new generations of clubbers, and draw from the energy they bring to the table.
How often do you use the reel to reel setup? What does that setup mean to you – what does it allow you to do and how does it compare to straight decks? It’s just my thing – allowing me the juxtaposition of past (the reel-to-reel) alongside present, computer technology, to create something new. It’s not about the format as far as I’m concerned, but the music, regardless of whether this is played from vinyl, CD or laptop. I’ve found my own unique approach; the sounds / samples from the reel-to-reel peppering the tunes I play from my laptop, many of which are contemporary re-edits of older tracks, which again provides that past / present balance I’m always after.
Do you listen to contemporary dance music or just oldies? Are you not limited just playing older stuff? Some contemporary releases fit my vibe - for example, Alena, Escort and Subvader have been massive for me during recent times. I wish there was more, but it’s difficult when they need to slot alongside a wealth of great dance music dating back to the 70’s, and even sometimes the 60’s. There’s plenty of current stuff that I like, but doesn’t fit what I’m doing now, but I can never be limited when there’s a rich history of music for me to draw from.
And what is it about the sounds you play that you love so much? It’s all subjective – who can say why one person likes one thing, but not another. I just hope that other people connect with what I’m playing, and share my passion for the music.
Where do you find all your music and how long do you spend looking for it? Increasingly via what’s sent to me by other DJ’s / producers, with SoundCloud a major source. It’s not like the old days when you went to the record shop once or twice a week to keep abreast of things, and even though I check in at Juno and Piccadilly, most of the stuff I play is sent to me direct nowadays.
What makes you decide to edit the tunes you do? What inspires and influences those edits? It’s a purely practical thing – wanting to have a version that’s more suitable for now, even if it’s just a case of making it more DJ friendly with mix in and out.
Ever think you’ll hang up your decks, so to speak? Any reason to? I think I’ll always keep my hand in now, even if it eventually comes down to limiting the appearances. The only way I’d stop completely is if I fell out of love with it and I found I was just going through the motions to pick up the money – there has to be an underlying reason I do this that’s separate to the financial rewards.
What can people expect from one of your sets at the moment? As ever, I hope I can facilitate a good party vibe via some familiar and not so familiar tunes.
Who are you outside of music, what do you like to do? As you can see with my blog (www.gregwilson.co.uk) I also like to read, and watch films and documentaries. Most of my time away from the clubs is spent doing stuff related to my DJ career, be it editing / remixing, the blog, uploading to SoundCloud, or attempting to keep up with a constant stream of emails. I’m forever chasing my tail trying to do all the things I want to do. As I continually hear myself saying, ‘there aren’t enough hours in the day’, so I’m going to have to put my mind to the age old question of how time might be slowed down somewhat, enabling me to fit everything in – I need to vari-speed my life a bit more adeptly.
For tickets to see Greg WIlson on NYE at Slide, Brixton Club House, head here