SWEAT is turning two, and the tropical party crew celebrate their birthday in style by inviting the mighty Red Greg to the laser basement for a soul explosion! Red Greg has been collecting and spinning dancefloor-ready soul obscurities for over three decades. His back-to-back with Ge-ology was the highlight for most Dekmantel 2017 attendees. Pavliné caught up with him ahead of the Sweat Birthday Bash to talk about his label peers Floating Points and Mafalda, time travel and what makes a good edit!
Hey Red Greg, firstly let me say how excited myself and the SWEAT crew are to be celebrating our second birthday with you. For those who might not know you, could you tell us a bit about yourself and your DJ career?
Hi Pavliné, thanks for the kind words. I must say I’m excited to be playing.
Music and DJing have always been something I’ve been interested in. As a kid, I would religiously record the songs from the top 40 and do mix tapes with a couple of cassette decks, by using play/pause buttons and trying to create stutter effects in a real 80s megamix style. I’m pretty sure this must have been in 1981-82 because Haircut 100, Kid Creole and The Weather Girls spring to mind.
From then on, I’d save my pocket money and buy records. It wasn’t until I was 15 that I thought to try and DJ, so I bought some cheap turntables and modified them by adding pitch controls and taught myself how to mix and like every other kid on the block tried to scratch and do the fancy hip hop stuff.
I always collected records and started to play at local blues dances and quickly found myself playing around London at weekends. It wasn’t until 1989 that I really got into disco. It was the first time I heard many of Patrick Adams' records in a club environment. Shortly after a friend invited me to play at his Sunday night party at The Pig Club in Holborn, so from then on I was hooked and have since continued to play all sorts of dance music, which led to European gigs and more recently worldwide gigs and festivals.
You are affiliated with Floating Points and Mafalda’s Melodies International. Could you tell us how your relationship with the label started and about your work for them?
Yes, well that basically came about via an email from Sam (Floating Points) about five years ago. He got in touch and we instantly got talking about records and he invited me to Plastic People to check what he was doing there. So about a week or so later I walked in and was pretty overwhelmed to see a packed dance floor with the crowd singing along to Paradise by Jewel, which was very special. We chatted after hours about parties, music and the next thing You’re a Melody was born and the Melodies International label shortly followed.
I’ve always supported the label from the launch but never actually worked for them or had any output, until Disco Baby. It was a record I used to play quite often but when I played it at the third YAM party at Plastic People, everyone was really into it and shortly after we were playing the edit from a 7” dub plate and people were constantly asking about the record, so it made sense to license and release it.
Like with all your edits, yours and Floating Points' intervention on the Disco Baby record is really subtle. It’s like you’re giving it just enough punch to make it shine on a modern dance floor without removing any of its original intention. It’s a very humble approach to music and, in my opinion, the sign of a true selector DJ. Could you tell us what you’re looking for in a record to edit?
I believe that less is more when it comes to disco edits. I don’t understand disco edits that zap the soul and lose feeling from a disco record by quantising the whole track and adding a kick drum. Occasionally it can be done to great effect but in general I like to keep the natural feel of the groove and rearrange, so it still sounds like a song to some extent.
There’s so many great records with amazing parts and equally dull parts, so for me it’s about removing the dull parts and really extending the great parts, allowing the song to shine throughout and work on a dance floor. I guess it’s looking back to the 70s and the way they used to edit back then.
For me Ron Hardy was beast when it came to edits. The way he would stretch out that amazing part of a record and work it into his DJ sets was something else. I used to constantly listen to his mixes and without a doubt he’s my all round inspiration.
I thought of having you playing at SWEAT since I heard you play at Dekmantel together with Ge-ology. It was the highlight of the festival for me. I was surprised to have read recently that you guys had never met before, something that I found hard to believe judging by the coherence of the selection and the flow of the mix. How did the idea of this back-to-back come to reality?
Thank you, glad to hear you enjoyed the Dekmantel set. I wasn’t sure how the back-to-back idea came about or how it would go.
Initially I was asked to play a regular set and then I later received an email asking if I would play b2b with Ge-ology. I had only heard his mixes online at the time but knew we had very similar taste, so happily agreed. We had no background history but I played after him at Nomads Festival about a month prior to Dekmantel. Unfortunately we never had time to get into deep conversation because we were both playing but we were both looking forward to playing Dekmantel together.
I think not knowing or discussing anything about the back-to-back is the reason it worked, we had no idea of what selection or tempo we had between us but we were both feeling relaxed and went straight in with that approach. I basically put on a gospel record to reset the vibe and we just had fun and naturally bounced off each other for the whole duration.
The Dekmantel guys had clearly heard us both play individually and knew exactly what they were doing by teaming us up, so a huge thanks to them and Ge-ology for being that super cool dude he is and an outstanding DJ.
What can we expect from your set at Superstore?
I’m really not sure but the good thing is that it’s in London. So I can bring an extra bag of records. I think variety and energy will be the key things here.
Can you think of a track that would fit the tropical and hedonistic aesthetic of SWEAT?
I’m not sure, but I’m hoping I can play some feel good high energy disco bangers like this:
Finally, our favourite question here at Superstore, if we had a time machine ready to take you to any dance floor, past present or future, where would you like to go and why?
Ron Hardy at the Muzic Box, simply because he’s the boss and I like an open minded mixed crowd, where everyone can express themselves freely.
Catch Red Greg at SWEAT on Friday 2 March from 9pm-3am at Dalston Superstore!