Think disco is dead? It’s time to think again. We caught up with Glasgow-based DJ, producer and label owner Al Kent to hear his thoughts on today’s disco dynamics, as well as coming to play in Nottingham on 24 November at Tunnel club, alongside some of the city’s finest artists and dance music devotees.
Nottingham has a long heritage when it comes to the scene, with some of history’s most significant Soundsystem crews formed there. This event is a celebration of house and disco – past, present and future. Get your tickets here.
What’s been keeping you busy?
I've been releasing tracks on Bandcamp, rather than through labels and distributors. I kindaprefer doing stuff this way, only producing a limited number of records, because then the finished product becomes a bit of a collector’s item. It also frees me up from the stress of working with lots of other parties. I’m a graphic designer as well as a DJ, so I create all my own artwork, meaning I'm in full control of everything with these releases. I tend to like a lot of my new stuff to stay under wraps until it's ready, to keep a bit of mystique.
Your sound is distinctive – how would you describe it?
Disco! It's what I’m passionate about. I play what suits the crowd, of course, but I am always true to myself. New York and Glasgow have helped me hone my distinctive style.
How did you get into DJing, production and disco?
I’ve always been an avid record collector, primarily 60s Soul and Motown – that’s how my love of disco developed. I was brought up on Northern Soul, so I guess that’s why my sound is so soulful. Music has always been my thing, so creating it was just the next step in the journey. I love producing but there’s something about DJing that gives you instant feedback and gratification – it’s addictive.
What’s been your most random DJ set?
Well, it was definitely random and not all that successful – it was in the middle of a local fairground in my hometown of Paisley. Some guy I went to school with had heard I was a DJ and booked me to play on the motorbikes! There were turntables set up in the middle, for some reason. I tried my best but it’s safe to say it really didn’t work… I think every record I tried to play jumped.
Are you looking forward to your gig in Nottingham on 24 November?
I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve not visited the city that much, but I’ve played a couple of times for Soul Buggin’, as well as a couple of other things a long, long time ago! In fact, one of the first ever people to book me outside of Glasgow was a guy called Iain Newton for the “Do it Fluid” party at The Bomb.
A HOST OF HOUSE AND DISCO
Al Kent will be playing alongside notorious Nottingham and Lincoln crews on 24 November for a fusion of the best dance music around. We chatted to a few of the artists to get a feel for their backgrounds and sounds.
AL KENT (Million Dollar Disco/Barely Breaking Even)
WRIGHTY (Soul Buggin’)
DIMES & JAKKI D (Ultrasound)
SCULLY (Gallery Sounds)
FRANDANSKI (Smokescreen Soundsystem)
ANDY RILEY (Inland Knights)
ANDREW MCLOUGHLIN & EDEN (Kinky Movement)
NICK LEES & SAM BURTON (Ultrasound)
GALLERY SOUNDS: ADAM SCULTHORPE (SCULLY)
“My life as a DJ started when I was 13 and started listening to my step-father’s vinyl collection. He had lots of funk, soul and reggae – a massive album collection. Then, I moved to London and quickly got into buying records myself. I was really into the 12-inch record rather than albums, and loved Chic, Sister Sledge and pretty much anything that Nile Rogers touched. I think one of the first records I bought was Carly Simon’s ‘Why’, produced by the legend himself.
I moved back to the Midlands in 1988, just when the acid house scene exploded, and my first night out in Nottingham was at the Kool Kat/Garage club. That’s when I first heard Graeme Park do his thing, on this actual night he finished his set off with ‘Why’ – hearing that in the state of mind I was in completely knocked my socks off, and it was at that point I thought “I want to do this.
My sound is different to what it was 30 years ago. Back then it was all about house music, whereas nowadays I like a fusion. I will now mix in the house music I love with some funk, soul, hip-hop and breaks – and even chuck in the odd curveball and play a bit of post-punk electronic 80s.
I’m part of Gallery Sounds, which came into existence in December 2012. Founder members Andy Riley and Gemma Hale aimed to create a party to encompass everything that is, and has been, great about Nottingham’s nightlife scene. Incorporating house, hip-hop, funk and reggae flavours, Gallery Sounds is a must for great music, top-flight DJs and a wicked atmosphere in a chilled space.
Al Kent has always been a favourite of mine – I love the way he edits amazing disco records into things you can play today and mix in with your sets. Knowing that we would usually have had to go to Glasgow if we ever wanted to see him play, it became a no-brainer when we got the opportunity to put him on at our own night here in Nottingham.
Tunnel is the perfect venue as it means we can incorporate two genres across two floors – obviously the main floor is going to be a disco extravaganza, with the top floor for all those that prefer the deeper house sound. We can’t wait!”
ULTRASOUND Lincoln: JAKKI D
“Ultrasound is made up of a bunch of friends from Lincoln who first met through Rugkutta – the former crew bossing the underground party scene.
Myself and Sean, Ultrasound’s other founding member (now sadly passed) and an original Rugkutta member, cherry-picked each DJ because of their incredible individual sound and shared passion for music and the scene. What really unites us is our love of house combined with the sounds of funk and heavy bassy beatz.
I remember vinyl shopping with Sean, whose daughter Poppie is now part of Ultrasound, and picking up this one record – Sean said to me, if you ever see that label, don’t question it – just buy it… the label was Al Kent’s Million Dollar Disco. I bought it there and then!
I shared this intel with my best mate and fellow Ultrasound DJ Nick Lees –and we never looked back . Al Kent’s edits are next-level disco magic. His sound is unique and no-one does it quite like him… so to play alongside him on 24 November will be a real honour.
On 24 Nov I'll be joined by Nick – known for his cosmic chunky funky house and disco sprinkles, with a great ear for all things house – Dimes, who’s a master of scratch, hiphop, soul and funk, and the super-talented Sam Burton, who brings the jazz-funk element.”
“In 1997, us and some of our Nottingham mates began hosting events called Kinky Movement – firstly at the Sky club which later became the Blueprint, as well as venues such as the legendary The Bomb, Dubble Bubble and The Edge.
We’d been into dance music since we were teenagers, before forming a collective with a shared passion for deep house. After a few years of regularly playing and promoting round Nottingham and beyond, we took the natural progression into producing our own music.
Our first release came out in 2004 on Tango records, and since then we’ve gone on to work with more than 50 labels and released over 300 tracks and remixes on Salted Music, Large Music, Swing City, Drop Music, King Street, Jalapeño, Erase and more.
We’re really proud of our discography, and the fact that Kinky Movement’s been booked to play in over 20 different countries such as Australia, the US, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa, Bulgaria, Belgium, Georgia and Ukraine.
Our music’s been licensed to Armada music and Hed Kandi compilations and we’ve also had music featured on Radio 1 Extra, presented by Monki.
Check out INDEEP, a monthly Nottingham event run by Lee (Animist) that’s dedicated to deep house, celebrating established and upcoming artists.
With many new releases in the pipeline on our own label Replay recordings and others, we’re really excited about what the future holds – we’re really looking forward to supporting Al Kent on 24 Nov.”
Also playing on the night:
Bigsexy is a hazey cloud of parties, a DJ of the same name and a collective of like-minded vinyl diggers, bringing intimate dancefloor heat wherever it goes.
In this setting (Al Kent @Tunnel) Bigsexy takes the form of Nottingham based DJs Ben Amor, Eileen & Bigsexy as a B2b2b disco & house power trio operating as one but each bringing their own flavour to the decks.
DJ, producer, label owner and one half of the world-acclaimed deep house duo Inland Knights, Andy plays across Nottingham for Smokescreen Soundsystem, Gallery Sounds and more – as well as being a longstanding and sought-after DJ on the international circuit, as part of Inland Knights and his solo Toka guise.
Frandanski plays an integral part within Smokecreen Soundsystem, knowing how to bring out the very best sound from the crew’s powerful rig. Fran has been DJing for ‘Smokies’ for over 30 years, playing his own style of deep and slamming, dubby, jacked-up acid house. Together with his fellow Smokescreen members, Frandanski has played some of the best clubs, festivals and free raves across the globe, sharing their distinctive heavyweight sound with party crews far and wide.
WRIGHTY – SOUL BUGGIN’
One fourth of Nottingham’s dark-room disco collective Soul Buggin’, Wrighty has been playing tunes in clubs, bars, festivals and on the radio since the 80s. He’s been part of Soul Buggin’ since 2005, DJing across the UK and Europe.