By Stuart Bolt
From a South London soul boy to Worldwide DJ, Gilles Peterson has devoted much of his life to bringing beats from around the world, to the world. Now we’re speaking in the middle of preparations for his weekly BBC Radio 6 show. No easy task for someone with over 20k records, in three different locations. All of them badly filed by his own admission. “I’m the most unorganised DJ ever,” he laughs. Mixing samba, bossa-nova, disco, boogie, afro-beat, jazz, hip-hop, house, latin, electronica and loads of genres you’ve maybe never heard, his DJ style is the very definition of ‘eclectic’. That’s not to say his average show is a mess of disparate sounds and rhythms. Somehow he manages to blend together all of these forms, to create a small but enlightening sample of the great music produced all over planet Earth.
Even at an age of 16, when most lads are considering what to do with their lives, Peterson was championing great music with a small pirate station… in his back garden. A natural progression was to try and get some of the artists he loved down for an interview in his show. A difficult task, until Incognito’s Jean-Paul ‘Bluey’ Maunick answered the young lad’s call. “I invited all these people, but none of them responded, apart from him. He came all the way from Tottenham to Cheam, my Mum made some tea and we did the interview.” That simple meeting and a love for their music, led to Peterson signing Incognito to his own ‘Talking Loud’ label ten years later. They became one of the label’s biggest artists, making 12 albums and selling millions of records in America.
This personal approach, in navigating the global music landscape, is something he continues on to this day. Many guests still come to his home studio, to be interviewed in its intimate surroundings. As he enthusiastically tells me about interviews with Bobby Womack, George Clinton and Chaka Khan, it becomes clear the biggest thrills in his life comefrom spending time with artists he idolises. “I feel privileged I can continue to do what I love doing, and that I can do it on all levels.”
Now Brighton promoters Inspired – responsible for bringing Yousef, Derrick Carter, Steve Lawler and David Morales to Brighton – have asked Peterson to light up the Concorde 2 this month. With a remit to showcase artists who’ve made a real difference to dance culture, it’s fitting that Peterson is next on their list.
He says he loves DJing more than ever,believing he’s grown better at it in later years. This may be down to confidence, but to some masochistic extent he actually enjoys being occasionally put in situations where he has to try harder. “That takes years of getting used to. You have to learn how to deal with any situation.” He recalls a gig in Holland recently, where he followed twolocal radio personalities who played two solid hours of pop cheese. To aggravate matters, he was competing with Outkast, Chic and the World Cup Final. Rarely setting out to challenge audiences, he does think the art is in the seduction of music. When he gets to play a slightly mad record that receives a terrific response from the audience, he likens it to voodoo.
Throughout his radio shows, label work and live events, Peterson remains at the forefront of promoting new genres and provoking fresh sounds. Now in its ninth year his festival ‘Worldwide’ is attracting incredible crowds from across the world. Launched in the French town of Séte in July 2006, he started Worldwide Festival with the aim of creating a different kind of festival. It offers a unique artistic selection of Jazz, electronica, world beats and weirdness, all fused together. The Festival has now expanded to visit cities in Asia and Switzerland, highlighting these places’ rich culture and bringing new music from around the world. Gilles Peterson We catch up with the Worldwide DJ “ “I wiped the floor,in a bad way. But that’s what you’ve got to do…What you believe in,otherwise everyone ends up sounding the same.” His reputation, as a champion of new and exciting music, caught the attentions of those responsible for compiling the Grand Theft Auto V soundtrack.
Subsequently the DJ was asked to be one of 17 radio station hosts on the 35 million selling title, consolidating his position as a DJ with true global reach. Surprisingly he didn’t tell his childrenabout this inclusion, believing them to be indifferent totheir father’s success. “When it came out they were quietly impressed. But that’s always been my thing: How do I get music out to more people? Playing in less obvious places for me is important, because that’s how I got into music. ”
Gilles Peterson plays a Bank Holiday Special at Concorde 2
on Sat 23 Aug, 2014
Image: © Casey Moore