Joining the dots with BBC DJ Gilles Peterson

BBC DJ Gilles Peterson.

Renowned DJ and producer Gilles Peterson will be playing at the It Takes A Village Festival in Trabolgan, Co Cork, on the weekend of May 10-12. A founder of the Acid Jazz label in the late 1980s, his weekly show on BBC 6 diplays the north London tastemaker’s eclectic approach, taking in such genres as soul, jazz, hip-hop, electronica and world music, writes Des O'Driscoll.

You’ve played in Ireland on several occasions: any standout memories?

Back in the very early days just after I’d set up Acid Jazz. I was over with my mate Rob Gallagher to Dublin. He was recording as Galliano, and we had just released our first record, Frederick Lies Still. The guys in Dublin who were running the party said they could get him on the TV, and he ended up on the Pat Kenny Show. It was hilarious — he was singing a Curtis Mayield song in a Last Poets sort of way, all backed by the show’s house band. Incidentally, Rob is also coming to Cork with me.

You play all over the world — where has impressed you recently?

An event in Mexico called Bahidora, it’s the best festival I’ve gone to in the last three or four years. It’s absolutely magnificent in terms of bands, curation, audience, etc. The lineup included Acid Arab, Blood Orange... not the lowest common denominator approach you can get in other places.

We hear conflicting accounts’ of the club scene in London — loads going on, but also tales of shutdowns, etc?

I think when places shut, others open up, and people find new ways of bending the rules. For instance, if you can’t get a late licence, do something earlier. I played Giant Steps at Hackney Wick recently from 4pm to 10.30pm and it was brilliant. So it’s still really good in London, but it just keeps relocating. Whenever there’s shitty times going on socially or politically, art seems to benefit. I feel it’s a difficult time to be living here, but a good time to be creative.

Perhaps we do need a type of nightlife czar to to make more sense of the situation with the drugs and other issues, and the local communities. Amsterdam is a really good example of how to throw a lot of really good energy into club culture.

When playing for a new crowd, how do you decide on your set?

One of the big dilemmas I’ve got is that I’ve got a lot of different people who want different things from me. I have the crowd in their 40s who want acid jazz; then there’s the crowd who to hear world music, from my

Brazilian and Cuban records; and other people who want me to play all modern electronic stuff. So, the answer for me is to play really long sets. I do still love DJing and it doesn’t get any better than being in a moment, whether it’s 20 people or 2,000, who are all appreciating the same thing.

Tell us about your collection:

I’ve about 40,000 records. I’m archiving them all at the moment. Sorting them will probably take about 10 years! I’ve had somebody working with me and he’s Brazilian so we started with Brazilian music. After 10 days he’s only half-way through the Brazilian stuff, and that’s just the albums.

And your collection is constantly expanding?

I’m still a mad collector, which hasn’t been helped by the arrival of Discogs a few years ago. It means if you really want something you can actually get it. There’s also been this whole vinyl renaissance. I love vinyl, and I still spend all my money on it.

Which DJs do you listen to?

The reason I set up [online radio station] Worldwide FM was I wanted to find a way of being able to listen to people I admired. People like Francois K, as he’s never really done radio before. And he’s loving it, he’s using radio for a new platform to be incredibly creative and artistic.

When it comes to new music, it’d be somebody like Lefto because he’s so up to date. I don’t know if he does anything else but go through music all day every day. I also really like Ross Allen who does a show on NTS.

Are your sons into your music?

One is in uni at Nottingham, so he doesn’t like it if I do gigs anywhere near there. My other son is a budding radio broadcaster, with a show on Reprezent in south London, so he’s right in it, making his own productions.

To be honest, I’ve been that dad who doesn’t talk shop at all at home. . Home is somewhere I don’t play music. I don’t give them opinions on it... I just let them get on with their thing.

There’s been no shortage of casualties from the club scene over the years. You’re 53, what’s kept you on track?

Exercise saved me — otherwise I was going to be another party-head bloke who was eventually going to fall off. My therapy is running and I do as much of it as I can. That’s great for my mental and physical health.

I bring my trainers everywhere I go. I’m training for the London marathon so I’m doing about 40 miles a week at the moment. In terms of DJing, it’s also about pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, keeping it interesting.

A Question of Taste

First piece of music to move you?

I remember coming home on the train and really wanting to listen to my brother’s copy of Caravan’s In the Land of Grey and Pink.

First record you bought?

Not sure, but Madness ‘One Step Beyond’ was one of the early ones.

Reading habits?

At the moment I’m reading the biography of [American jazz saxophonist] Dexter Gordon, which is written by his wife Maxine Gordon.

TV viewing?

I’m sort of watching the Madeline McCann series on Netflix at the moment. I’m a bit of a documentary fiend.

Favourite Arsenal moment?

The Champions League final in Paris against Barcelona in 2006, even though we lost. It was just the whole experience which started with me DJ-ing in Paris the night before, and loads of Gooners coming out, and ended with me being in a bar at 3am with a load of Barcelona guys. It was an amazing period. By the way, I’m a big fan of Arseblog, run by a guy [Andrew Mangan] in Dublin. He’s an exceptionally funny guy who I read every day.

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