He's the reel deal; EMMA JOHNSON chats to one of the elder statesmen of British dance music, Greg Wilson.
HERE'S not much Greg Wilson does not know about dance music.
TActually, having listened to him talk me from the dancefloors of Seventies New York to the current state of clubland with detours around William Blake, The Beatles and the X Factor en route, I'm starting to think there's not much Greg doesn't know about, full stop.
The Wirralian, who began spinning records back in 1975, is quite rightly regarded as a pioneer in UK club culture.
By the early Eighties, he was playing at the famous Wigan Pier nightclub and Manchester's Legend and he created the soundtrack for The Hacienda when the club was still in its infancy.
He taught Norman Cook (Fatboy Slim) how to scratch, was the first DJ to mix live on British TV (on a 1983 episode of The Tube) and was instrumental in bringing the black music of the Big Apple to these shores. But it would be over-simplistic to reduce Greg's influence on British music to this trio of events.
Having stopped DJing in 1984 to focus on record production, in 2003 Greg was lured back - not for the fame and adulation afforded the superstar DJ - but, he says, because he felt that the UK dance scene's history was being lost.
Or, at least it was being inaccurately remembered.
"There was a gaping hole between the Northern Soul scene and rave culture," says the impassioned producer. "Dance music didn't come to the UK because a group of DJs went on holiday to Ibiza."
In December, DJ Mag honoured Greg with its Industry Icon award and earlier this year he launched his online "Discotheque Archives" for the magazine.
In the columns, Greg outlines prominent landmarks in the pre-rave culture, presenting a classic DJ, record label, venue and track each month. New York's Paradise Garage, The Loft DJ David Mancuso and ZE Records are just a few of the subjects he has covered.
"I have now been a DJ longer this time around than I was the first time, and those 20 years when I was not a DJ I was quite happy," the 55-year-old explains.
"My mantra is: to know the future, first you must know the past. With my archive and the gigs, hopefully I have done what I can to inform people about that, and done it in a fun way."
Of course, Greg's life is not entirely taken up with preserving the history of dance culture.
He's also a very busy musician. He says: "It started in a very organic way. Gigs came off the back of gigs. I didn't even take on an agent until about two years ago.
"The last 10 years has been great but I always like to know why I am doing something. I never want to lapse into taking things for granted."
Last weekend, Greg played Bestival, in the Isle of Wight, with his Super Weird Substance sound system (Super Weird is also the name of the record label he launched in 2014), which features musicians including former Black Grape and Ruthless Rap Assassins alum Kermit Leveridge, The Reynolds and the Reverend Cleve Freckleton.
"It was the end of a busy three months which I can only describe as like being pinballed," he smiles. "I have barely had chance to catch my breath."
He gets booked to DJ the world over with recent dates in New York, Atlanta, Washington and San Francisco, as well as the odd gig in Brazil and Japan. He has played in Australia and will soon appear at his first festival in Mexico, having discovered he has quite the Mexican fan base during a recent gig in LA.
Next month, Greg will be back at home with his Credit to the Edit party to the Buyers Club. The night is part of the Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA) Tour, which is coming to Liverpool for the first time with a mix of club gigs, lectures and presentations at various venues across the city.
"They first asked me to work with them in Australia years ago," Greg recalls of the RBMA. "They have people from all over the world come ... all these musicians, producers doing talks and sessions. The first year I did it, Nina Kraviz (the house DJ) and Aloe Blacc were among the students.
"Red Bull do these things so well. I have done stuff with them in Madrid and London. They really know how to put events on and they understand this arena."
Greg's night takes its name from the Credit to the Edit album he produced in 2005 and sees him joined by musical peers Henry Greenwood, Peza and Derek Kaye.
"I was asked to compile a collection of my own re-edits," he recalls. "That helped re-establish my name in a big way. It was a real milestone. I have done a second compilation since.
"This is a curated night, rather than just a selection of DJs," Greg explains. "These three guys have all had a similar trajectory to me. We have worked together and they have all contributed to the label. They are all really good DJs with their own studios and careers.
"And they are people who have history. Derek goes back to even before me. Their approach is to take the music from back then, but make it relevant now.
"That's the trick of the edit, to take the music and enhance it while still being respectful to it."
He continues: "I don't want to be Mr Nostalgia, playing the old tunes, the old ways. That gives me the heebie-jeebies.
"I am always very aware that I have to connect to a new group of young people.
"We are taking the music from the past but presenting it in a contemporary way and I will play current music if it feels right.
"Whether you call it classics, or re-edits or disco edits ...
people like that they might be listening to Led Zeppelin one minute, then Marvin Gaye, then Todd Terje ... and it works.
"It is unpredictable ... it does away with the genres.
"It's not going to be house music all night," Greg concludes, "there might be some house music but we will be drawing from all avenues. It will be really good music from now and from a time before ...
"But it will not be a history lesson."
| CREDIT to the Edit is at Buyers Club, on Hardman Street, on October 6. For more on the RBMA Tour, see uktour. redbullmusicacademy.com/
'I don't want to be Mr Nostalgia, playing the old tunes, the old ways,' says Wirral DJ and dance scene pioneer Greg Wilson, right