Greg Wilson is a Merseyside-based DJ who started out during the seventies disco era and played a pivotal role in the development of UK club culture in the early eighties during his tenure at Wigan Pier and Manchester’s Legend plus The Haçienda, with his upfront selection of NYC electro-funk grooves. After 2003, Greg connected with a younger audience and began to spread his reach wider than ever. Greg has DJ’d throughout the world including globally renowned events / clubs like Glastonbury and WOMAD Festivals, Ministry Of Sound and Fabric in London, Space Ibiza, Berghain Berlin and ADE Amsterdam.
STEVE STIMPSON: What aspect of the Elrow parties, do you think separates them from the other events in the scene right now?
The word that comes to mind is colour – colour in big splashes. It has that visual overload you might have experienced as a child going to the fairground. The attention to detail that goes into the stages is obviously hugely impressive – one great big fun palace.
Having been pushing the Disco sound, pioneering and redefining the genre since the 70s, what do you think makes the style of music so timeless?
Before the term Disco was used for a genre of music it was a catch-all term for the music played in discotheques and nightclubs. At the time this was Soul and Funk, but later the term became more specific as the Disco era really exploded, then burnt out somewhat during the ‘Disco Sucks’ backlash. It then had a change of name and became known as Dance – this was how it was newly designated by US trade magazine, Billboard, which published all the charts.
The new electronic directions emerged with the ‘80s, and Hip Hop in its early evolution owes a debt to Disco. Then House, which Frankie Knuckles so aptly referred to as ‘Disco’s Revenge’, changed the course of club culture in the mid-late ‘80s.
So it’s clear that Disco is an extremely broad church, and this is without adding the more contemporary releases that draw from its inspiration, as well as, of course, the re-edits scene, which was the fuel behind Disco’s more recent revival.
There’s a whole wealth of classic, cult-classic and rare gems that come under the Disco umbrella, so there’s no shortage of great records that fit the vibe. If you’d never heard a track like, for example, ‘This Time Baby’ by Jackie Moore, it’d still be an exhilarating aural experience and make your body move, just as it did when it was released in 1979 – its qualitative nature transcending time.
You’ve played sets in a lot of other DJ’s dream venues and festivals, from Glastonbury to the Berghain, do you think that dance music still holds the same energy and excitement in the club room as they did back in the early days of disco and funk?
It’s a different energy, a different environment. I don’t really think it’s fair to compare the 2 times - there are pros and cons with both. It’s really about the audience and how they embrace the times in which they live.
I’m not one of those people who likes to dwell too long in the past. I wouldn’t have been into exclusively playing the same records I used to play 40 years ago, it’s the reworks and re-edits that have given this music a new context – so rather than playing oldies, you’re playing something with a contemporary relevance.
Being at the forefront of the ‘Re-Edit’ scene of Disco, what features, for you, define a good track Edit?
If it makes an older track more playable in a current setting, it does its job. This mainly involves putting the track in time and giving mixable intro and outro, whilst, if beneficial, adding elements like additional beats and bass to bring the sonics more in line with how people experience music nowadays over club or festival sound systems.
Where can our listeners find you playing next?
I’m in Ibiza on Monday for La Discothèque at the Ibiza Rocks Hotel. It’s a pool party gig in the evening, which rounds off the summer for me nicely. The party also features Artwork, Crazy P, PBR Streetgang and Heidi Lawden, so promises to be big fun.
What are three tracks that you have kept in the bag for multiples of years?
Here are 3 tracks that I’ve only ever played the originals of. I’ve never come across reworks / edits of these 3 that I’d prefer to the original versions, so I suppose that these are examples that fit the criteria well.
Hamilton Bohannon ‘Let’s Start The Dance’
Incredible Bongo Band ‘Apache’
Harry Thumann ‘Underwater’
A DJ who has been at the birth of the scene, and stuck by it, growing and developing the culture surrounding the music, what 3 tips would you share with an aspiring DJ looking to start pursuing their DJ’ing passion?
Don’t lock yourself too tightly into a pre-conceived ‘set’, always allow yourself spontaneity.
All the technical ability in the world is hollow without programming skills – know your music, but feel when it should be played.
Always consider the audience and the reciprocal connection necessary for things to properly ignite. Don’t fall into the trap of becoming too self-absorbed in what you’re playing to fully sense, and act upon, the vibes emanating from the dancefloor.
We’ve just announced the new EvermixBox4, with live streaming capabilities and crowd capture features, how important is capturing the crowd in a DJ performance live when recording or streaming a set?
When recording a live mix my concern is getting the best quality possible, taking my signal straight from the back of my mixer. If there’s a system that enables crowd capture separately to the recording, I’m all for it, so you can have both with and without options. There are also considerations as to where you’re actually recording from – it could be on a big stage distant to the audience, or in a more intimate environment with the audience right on top of you – so the level of the audience in relation to the music is obviously important, as what might be part of the ambience in a live setting may sound over-bearing in a more clinical listening environment if the crowd noise isn’t properly balanced to the music played.