Despite having its beginnings around 40 years ago, Northern Soul fans are still flocking to the floor to groove to the sounds of rare, unknown gems. Ahead of their two hotly-anticipated nights at Headrow House, Alex Gibbon spoke to the lads behind Deptford Northern Soul, the hugely successful party bringing NS to the next generation, about the evolution of one of Britain’s most electric underground music scenes.
How were you guys first introduced to the music of northern soul?
We grew up together. Lewis’s Dad has an amazing Jukebox under the stairs in his childhood home filled with all sorts of amazing 7-inch records, from punk though to soul. We were always drawn to the soul records; two 7 year olds sliding around the hallway in our socks to ‘Get Ready’ by Ella Fitzgerald.
Although we are very glad you didn’t, both of you could have just launched a regular funk/soul night – what drew you to the northern soul scene in particular?
The energy of the music. We had both spent a lot of time in clubs listening to house and techno, we wanted to create that atmosphere in a similar environment but with soul music.
The scene has its roots in the 60s and 70s yet there has been a recent revival of interest following the release of the 2014 film ‘Northern Soul’. Do you find that your events draw a diverse crowd with fans both young and old?
Absolutely, our nights attract people across all demographics. Always the youngest ones down the front through to people in their sixties towards the back of the room. I think people want to hear emotion in music – and soul has that in bags!
You describe yourselves as ‘the new face of soul’. What is different about a night at Deptford Northern Soul than, say, from a night at Wigan Casino during the scene’s zenith in the 70s?
Pretty much everything – bar the music. We’re not interested in being part of any revivalist movement; we’re more into the idea of recontextualizing the genre. We want people to come dressed however they want, dance how they want, and act however they want.
Obviously, the scene was born
and thrives primarily in Lancashire, Yorkshire and other areas in the North. Do
you find there is something special about playing gigs this side of Sandbach
I had to google Sandbach…Yes, for sure. It’s a more educated crowd, perhaps with a more narrow view of Northern Soul but that’s not to say they aren’t open-minded. The dance moves tend to be a bit more ‘Northern Soul’ but the best thing is people wanting to come up and chat records with us and share their experiences of Northern Soul in the North.
Recently you guys launched your own label, Deptford Northern Soul Club Records. Tell us about how that came to be and your goals for the label.
We spent the best part of the last two years making a list of all the records we wanted on vinyl but couldn’t afford, or they were too rare or delicate to be played out at all. It seemed like a logical step, obtaining rights and reissuing tracks that should be heard by everyone on vinyl but are unattainable for most people. We also want to put our favorite tracks down on to vinyl, there are loads of album versions, mono versions, b sides etc that we feel deserve to be center stage.
Back in the day, the scene was known for aficionados scouring record shops to find the best unheard soul tracks but nowadays we have a very different way of discovering music. How has the digital age changed the way you source tracks for a Northern Soul night? And do you feel as though discovering unheard of tracks is becoming harder and harder?
That’s a bit of a difficult one. The web is great as it allows you to discover music and other people who are interested in the same niche things you are. That allows you to track down more obscure tracks and artists, but by its nature, if it’s online then someone knows about it. We do sift through YouTube, Discogs and SoulSource to find new music, in a way it democratizes the act of DJing and makes it more about taste.
At your event on October 18th at Headrow House, The Gryphon’s very own Safi B (Music Editor) will be the guest DJ – how did this collaboration come about?
Saf! We met Saf when we did a party in Headrow House last March. She’d seen us at Green Man in 2018 and we were all going this year so kept in touch. We saw she’s a DJ and asked if she was up for a Northern Soul set; we can’t wait to hear her selections.
Finally, ahead of your upcoming nights in Leeds, could you give our readers a couple of your ultimate northern soul picks?
Little Ann – Who Are You Trying To Fool
The Invincibles – Heart Full Of Love
Timmy Thomas – Why Can’t We Live Together
Alice Clark – Don’t You Care
The Delreys Incorporated – Destination Unknown