Greg Wilson (DJ)
Greg Wilson (born 1960) is an English DJ and producer associated with both the early 80s electro scene in Manchester and the current disco / re-edit movement. He's also a writer / commentator on dance music and popular culture.
Growing up in New Brighton on Merseyside, Wilson lived above his family's pub during the years 1966–1973. The premises included two function rooms where he’d witness mobile discos featuring on a weekly basis at wedding receptions and parties. His main musical influences came from the record collections of his elder brother and sister, especially the soul music labels Tamla Motown, Stax and Atlantic. Wilson began his career as a DJ in 1975 at the age of 15, having bought a mobile set-up from his schoolfriend Derek Kelsey (later known as DJ Derek Kaye). He began a residency at local nightspot The Chelsea Reach on 6 December 1975, and remained at the venue until 1977. Further local residencies followed at The Penny Farthing (1976–77) and The Golden Guinea (1977-1980), where he first built his reputation as a black music specialist, playing soul, funk, disco and jazz-funk. He also worked as a DJ in Denmark and Norway during a 2-month period in 1978.
Wilson left the Golden Guinea in 1980 and worked in Denmark and Germany before returning to the UK to take a 4 night a week residency at Wigan Pier. In 1982 he become a full-time black music specialist, continuing Wigan Pier’s Tuesday night jazz-funk session, which was voted the North’s Best Club by Blues & Soul readers, with Wilson collecting the Best DJ award. He controversially championed early electro records at Wigan Pier and, most notably, Manchester club Legend, where he took over their Wednesday jazz-funk night in 1981. As with Wigan Pier, people travelled to his nights at Legend from places including Birmingham, Huddersfield, Sheffield, Leeds, Bradford, Nottingham, Liverpool and London. Legend attracted a predominantly black crowd to listen to the new electro-funk records, which were mainly coming out of New York. Wilson also began to take a serious approach to mixing around this point, and is regarded as one of the UK pioneers. In 1982 he began to present regular mixes of the music he was playing in the clubs on Manchester’s Piccadilly Radio, and these featured on Mike Shaft’s specialist black music show ‘T.C.O.B’ (Taking Care Of Business). These radio mixes are still talked about as being influential to this day, with the end of year ‘Best Of 82’ and ‘Best Of 83’ mixes regarded as classics.
In February 1983 Wilson was invited to demonstrate live mixing on the Channel 4 TV show ‘The Tube’. Interviewed by one of the show’s presenters, Jools Holland, Wilson, with Mike Shaft commentating, mixed 2 copies of David Joseph's ‘You Can’t Hide (Your Love From Me)’, then a new release, but subsequently a UK top 20 hit. This was the first time a British DJ had mixed live on TV.
Wilson was a fixture on the All-Dayer circuit in the North and Midlands between 1981-1984, regularly appearing alongside other black music specialists including Colin Curtis, Mike Shaft, John Grant, Hewan Clarke, Richard Searling, Kev Edwards, Pete Haigh, Jonathan, Trevor M and Cleveland Anderson. In 1983, Wilson began a Friday night residency at the The Haçienda club in Manchester, which had opened the previous year. This was the club's first weekly dance music night and would lay the groundwork for its influential Nude night, also held every Friday, which came to prominence in the mid-80s with DJs Mike Pickering and Martin Prendergast.
Wilson also put together the first UK re-edit, Paul Haig’s ‘Heaven Sent’, in 1983, and taught Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim), then a young aspiring DJ called Quentin, how to scratch in December 1983 during a short Haçienda tour of the South.
At the end of 1983, aged 23, Wilson retired from DJing to focus on record production, as well as managing Manchester breakdance crew Broken Glass. They gained national exposure via TV appearances including a famous edition of ‘The Tube’, filmed at The Haçienda in January 1984, on which Madonna made her UK live TV debut. Later in 1984, along with musicians Martin Jackson and Andy Connell, he co-wrote and produced all but one of the tracks on the Street Sounds ‘UK Electro’ album, now revered as a seminal British dance album, the first to feature sampling. One of the tracks, ‘Style Of The Street’, a recording by Broken Glass, was sampled itself 20 years later on the 2004 The Prodigy hit Girls (The Prodigy song).
Wilson split from Jackson and Connell, who went on to form the band Swing Out Sister, and ceased managing Broken Glass. Mounting financial problems caused him to lose his car and then his house in Wigan. Re-locating to Liverpool in 1985 he briefly worked for the short-lived record label Ryker, before unsuccessfully attempting to launch his own label. Experiencing mounting financial problems, and with Liverpool in deep recession at the time, he moved to London in 1987 in order to try to resurrect his fortunes.
In 1987, Wilson began to manage and produce Manchester’s Ruthless Rap Assassins and sister band Kiss AMC. The Rap Assassins included former Broken Glass member Paul ‘Kermit’ Leveridge along with brothers Anderson and Carson Hinds. The Rap Assassins released two critically acclaimed albums via EMI, ‘Killer Album’ in 1990 and ‘Th!nk (It Ain’t Illegal Yet)’ in 1991. Their best known recording, ‘And It Wasn’t A Dream’, a minor chart hit in 1990, focused on the plight of West Indian immigrants coming to the UK in the 50s and 60s, and was named amongst Mojo (magazine)'s ‘50 Greatest British Tracks Ever’ in 2006. In 2011, urban artist Roots Manuva would hail their music as ‘the roots of Grime’. Between 1990-1993 he collaborated with singer Tracey Carmen, releasing a handful of records as Mind Body & Soul (or MBS). The first of these, a dance version of Jefferson Airplane’s psychedelic classic, ‘White Rabbit’, was championed by Radio 1 DJ John Peel.
The following decade was something of a wilderness period for Wilson, but in 1994 he revisited his electro-funk past, compiling the ‘Classic Electro Mastercuts’ album. This would generate a small number of DJ bookings, his first 10 years, in promotion of the album.
In 1996 he was part of a collective of DJs and musicians who promoted a series of nights called The Monastery in Birkenhead, Liverpool and London. A mix, ‘The Monastic Mix’, was the last he ever put together on reel-to-reel.
Alerted by the lack of documentation of the specialist black music scene that had helped shape contemporary dance culture, he announced the website electrofunkroots.co.uk in 2003. The site documents the early 80s era, what led up to it and what came out of it. Offers of DJ bookings followed and on 20 December 2003 Wilson made his DJ comeback at a night called Music Is Better in Manchester club The Attic. This was the launchpad that re-ignited Wilson’s DJ career 20 years on from his retirement. As his popularity increased, he appeared throughout the UK, Europe and the world, gaining newfound followers from a new, younger generation of clubbers.
In 2005, his re-edits compilation Credit to the Edit, released on the Tirk Recordings label, was the catalyst for his international success, helping to establish him, once again, as a scene leader.
Apart from working as a DJ and remixer, Wilson also wrote on various aspects of dance / black culture with articles published in magazines / webzines including Wax Poetics, Clash, Grand Slam, Strobelight Honey and Discopia.
His blog, Being A DJ, was launched in June 2010, and his observations on various aspects of club culture are now an online touchstone for dance music enthusiasts. Wilson has also been interviewed for a number of books, TV and film projects focusing on the history of club culture.
Credit To The Edit Volume 2 was released in November 2009. With tour dates throughout the following months in the UK, Europe, Japan, Australia and the US to promote the album.
Wilson has produced a series of documentative podcasts, ‘Time Capsule’, ‘Random Influences’ and ‘Early 80s Floorfillers’, as well as the long-running blog series, ‘Living To Music’, where people were encouraged to listen to a monthly album selection in their home environment. This served to influence other related listening events, including Colleen Murphy’s ‘Classic Album Sundays’ audiophile sessions.
He’s also built up a strong following on SoundCloud with regular uploads of DJ mixes, mainly live recordings, commencing in 2009.
In August 2010 he co-curated, with Jack Hemingway, the Warehouse and Roller Disco areas at the inaugural Vintage Festival at Goodwood. It was named ‘Best New Festival’ at the UK Festival Awards, whilst Wilson, in his role of DJ, was nominated in the ‘Best Feel Good Act Of The Summer’ category. The following year he and Hemingway curated the Warehouse and Style Studio areas as Vintage was hosted at London’s Southbank. He continues to make regular festival appearances both in the UK and overseas.
In addition to his DJ work, Wilson has given talks on music and dance culture at numerous events including Afro Modern at Tate Liverpool, Vintage at London Southbank, Salon at Standon Calling and Festival N°6 and alongside legendary figures Nile Rodgers and Giorgio Moroder at ADE in Amsterdam.
Super Weird Substance
10 years on from his DJ return, in 2014 he launched his multi-media label Super Weird Substance, focusing primarily on recording and live events. This new venture was launched with the 7" single release, on Record Store Day, of the Kermit Leveridge poem ‘Lies And Other Fools’, narrated by Howard Marks, and followed with an online mixtape ‘Blind Arcade Meets Super Weird Substance In The Morphogenetic Field’ and a series of 5 ‘Super Weird Happenings’, held in Manchester, Glasgow, Bristol, Liverpool and London, featuring talks, live art, live performance and DJs.
Awards and recognition
Wilson was voted 'North's Top DJ' by readers of Blues & Soul Magazine in 1983.
He was the first British DJ to mix live on TV in 1983.
- Phull, Jasmine (3 February 2011). "Interview: Greg Wilson". Skiddle. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
- Price, Daniel (16 January 2009). "Greg Wilson - Electro Music Numero Uno". DMC World. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
- "Greg Wilson Guest Mix". The House Of Disco. 1 August 2013. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
- Harkin, Eamon (22 March 2010). "Better Late Than Never". Mister Saturday Night. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
- Heslop, Anthony (31 August 2010). "Greg Wilson Interview". Proper Mag. Retrieved 30 November 2014.
- Nahm, Paul (8 September 2008). "Red Bull Music Academy - Greg Wilson Interview Transcript". Impressions. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
- Blake, James (7 November 2007). "Electro Anniversary?". The Skinny. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
- "Fact Mix 141: Greg Wilson". FACT. 16 April 2010. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
- "Greg Wilson: Credit To the Edit". Clash Music. 25 October 2009. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
- Wilson, Greg (16 April 2004). "The All-Dayer". Being A DJ. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
- Wilson, Greg (27 May 2011). "Greg Wilson - A Living DJ Legend". DJ Master Course. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
- "'She mesmerised the crowd - you just knew there was a personality there'". The Guardian. 23 November 2005. Retrieved 30 November 2014.
- "So Lucky!". Civilisation Of The Rough. 16 October 2009. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
- "So Lucky!". Who Sampled. 30 August 2004. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
- "Mojo 100 Greatest Singers Of All Time". Rock List Music. 1 October 1998. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
- Simpson, Dave (21 July 2011). "'Catalyst bands': What do you mean, you've never heard of them?". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
- Lawson, Ralph (19 December 2013). "Greg Wilson - When The Legend Returned". Ralph Lawson. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
- Saintil, Jean-Robert (4 February 2010). "Greg Wilson, Credit To The Edit 2". Little White Earbuds. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
- Sillito, David (18 January 2011). "Are record clubs the new book clubs?". BBC News. Retrieved 30 November 2014.
- Dewhurst, Ian (15 August 1994). "Classic Electro Mastercuts Sleevenotes". Electrofunkroots. Retrieved 6 November 2014.
- "'Watch' The 1st UK DJ Mix Live on TV from Greg Wilson". Traxsource News. 25 February 2013. Retrieved 6 November 2014.
- "DJ Mag’s Best of British awards announced". Juno Plus. 15 November 2010. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
- "Radio 1's Essential Mix". Radio 1. 17 January 2009. Retrieved 30 November 2014.