Happy New Year all!
It seems only right to start 2016 with some good tunes. To help your eager souls in that area, I turned back to my DJ world. Every now and then I have an itch for some danceable music that also simply makes me feel good. One such DJ caught my ears early on, Al Kent. With his groovy and addicting sounds, I was curious to learn more about the musician.
Naturally, I was eager to learn about how this whole DJ thing came about. “None of this was planned. I spent most of my time at school staring out of the window or doodling on the desks. I had no idea that one day I’d have to earn a living so it was a bit of a shock when I left school and home and discovered things cost money. The one thing I’d always be able to afford though was records; I was quite obsessed, frequently choosing a record over a decent meal. I’d played records here and there for as long as I can remember but it wasn’t something I thought could ever pay the bills. Then somebody who knew somebody who knew somebody that was looking for a DJ put my name forward, because I had some records. I totally blagged the audition and starting earning £30 a week, which I then spent on more records! … That was really just for fun, it took years to actually see music as some sort of job. I started making music just because I could. I never stood in front of the mirror with a tennis racket or anything when I was young. I never really bothered learning an instrument… You could go to a studio and pay somebody to press a few buttons and make a record. It was easy and people actually bought records then so there wasn’t much risk involved.” A music man through and through.
His proudest work to date is an easy one to pick out. I was interested in learning more about why. “Predictably, ‘The Million Dollar Orchestra’ album. Eight years down the line it possibly doesn’t seem as exciting as it was at the time, but a Scottish guy recording a disco album with a twenty piece band, string and horn section in a converted barn on the outskirts of Glasgow was no mean feat.” Seriously, not many musicians can say that their work experience is as interesting as that.
As a DJ, Al has a unique show style. He shared with me his performances and how they have fared in his craft. “I don’t know; I’m just a DJ. I don’t actually like the word ‘performance’. I’m just playing some records. I hate playing on a stage or any kind of raised booth; hate the idea that the DJ should be a focal point. I just want people to dance with each other and leave me alone! Ideal for me would be a small dark room with a great sound system, an enthusiastic dance floor and enough time to just play all the music I love. Sometimes when you’re a DJ it maybe doesn’t feel right, the people don’t get it or something. That can be difficult because it throws you and makes you doubt the music you’re playing. You’ll end up struggling, trying to find the record that will get them but if you don’t connect then the set becomes messy and makes no sense. Thankfully most people who book me have the right people at their parties but it occasionally does still happen and it can be a bit soul destroying.”
Mr. Kent’s honesty was admirable as he elaborated a bit on the modern music world. “How much space do we have? I don’t think you need me to point out how horribly wrong the music industry has gone. There’s so much incredibly shallow, soul-less, lowest common denominator garbage being churned out. I grew up avoiding the mainstream so I couldn’t care less if Jason Donovan or the guy out of Coronation Street had a number one record but it’s hard not to notice now. People seem to be anaesthetized or something, not just in music [also] in all walks of life: food, films, fashion, you name it. It’s like the Stepford Wives out there.
However, not all was as bleak as it seems. Al provided another prospective. “But… there will always be people who avoid the mainstream and as long as there are enough people who can think for themselves and have a bit of taste then those people will find support. It’s easy to miss because you have to actively seek decent music out, but that’s what I’ve always done anyway. I think that’s a symptom of the Stepford Wives anesthetic, actually getting off your arse to look for music rather than just letting the TV set your standards seems like a lot of effort, but it’s not, everybody used to do it, it’s surely a natural thing to do?” Get out there and find some good tunes! Simple and sweet.
I asked if he had any plans to explore any additional mediums and he seems set on music. “… Music is what I love and I’m pretty fortunate to be able to do what I do without having to compromise. Anything else just sounds like work. I’m very traditional when it comes to making music, so probably the opposite is true. I’m looking for ways to avoid new sounds and so on. I’m about to start recording a second ‘Million Dollar Orchestra’ album which I’m hoping will be a further step backwards production wise. The first album probably did lack songs so that’s something I’m addressing this time but Glasgow isn’t known for its disco divas so finding the right voice isn’t easy!” Calling all disco divas, head on over to Glasgow for a gig as soon as possible, it will be well worth your time.
DJs can pick out tunes from all over the world from endless genres. Among that work, vision ranges from many talented musicians. “Most of my inspiration comes from people whose careers peaked in the 1970s, the original DJ/producers in particular. Walter Gibbons first and foremost, Tee Scott, Jim Burgess and Tom Savarese. These guys are one hundred per cent responsible for creating the club scene, DJing style, production style we know today. I’m inspired by people like Theo Parrish who simply do their thing and stick to their guns with no fanfare, no ego and no attempts to follow trends. There are a lot of people I meet who are totally passionate about what they do, whether they’re DJs, promoters, musicians or simply guys who like a good night out who inspire me in different ways.”
Next on Al’s schedule is a hectic yet exciting one. “I’ve got a big party in Glasgow in a couple of weeks so I’m going to be making some new music to play then!” His latest project will be sweet one to see as well. “[I am working on] another ‘Million Dollar Orchestra’ album, which I’m super excited about. I’ve been talking about doing it for years now but just haven’t found the time or the enthusiasm to see it through. I’ve got a few people on board, found the perfect studio, recorded a load of demos, so it’s all systems go in the new year!” The force is strong with this one.
If any of you have a desire to head over to Glasgow coming up, check out Al’s annual party on January 16th where he will be unveiling the Disco Love Vol. 4 album from BBE Records! It will be something to enjoy. Give Al Kent and listen and get down with your bad self.