Southport resident writer Angel Mel catches up with Mucho Soul who will be playing their debut Weekender set at The Big 50 in the SuncéBeat Dome.
Ket & Alan you are best known for your tag team adventures as Mucho Soul, which other famous twosome reflects your relationship?
Alan: Ooh that’s a bit tricky… Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid maybe? I think Ket’s hit the nail on the head though with Burt and Ernie from Sesame Street, he’s Ernie and I’m Burt – the more intelligent one!
Ket: I would say Bert and Ernie (or Epi y Blas in Spanish) from Sesame Street! They have a great friendship!
A little bird tells me that Mucho Soul started life back in the early noughties, tripping the light fantastic in Soho. How did this union come about?
Alan: Your little bird is correct Mel! Mucho Soul began life as a club night in Soho in the early millennium. We found this basement club under an Indian Restaurant in Wardour Street called Soho Spice and Ket came up with the name of Mucho Paprika Soul. I said we needed a club name not something to stick on the menu so we shortened it to Mucho Soul and it’s stuck ever since! It also accurately reflects our musical philosophy. Mucho means much or very in Spanish so basically Much Soul! As for our union? I first met Ket in a London pub near where we both worked around the turn of the millennium. The pub landlord introduced me to Ket as a fellow DJ and muso and we got chatting and it turned out we’d been going to the same parties and gigs in the 80’s and 90’s and had loads of mutual friends on the club scene.
What were your musical interests before Mucho Soul?
Alan: I’m what you might call an archetypal Soul Boy. I grew up in the mid to late 70’s in the suburbs of South London and went to school with Carl Cox and loads of other Soul music lovers. I used to go to all the big Soul clubs back then… Crackers, Lacey Lady, Goldmine, Global Village etc and my personal local fave, Sutton Scamps. I also DJ’d and helped run clubs in my late teens and early 20’s with Trevor Fung, Danny Rampling, Paul Oakenfold and all that lot.
I actually covered a couple of gigs for another South London DJ Kev Beadle way back when whilst he was on holiday too, he probably doesn’t remember that! My day job’s a freelance Graphic Designer so I used to do a lot of flyers and promotional stuff, but I did my fair share of warm up DJing in those days. It’s amazing to think back now at how many of the top global DJ’s from the UK came out of that South London Suburban Soul scene really. Even Gilles Peterson was a young up-start who lived nearby in Epsom at that time! All us musos, DJ’s and record collectors knew each other back then. My personal musical interests are rooted in Disco, Soul, Funk, Boogie, Jazz and House. Black Music in general has been a constant through my life really, my Dad and older brother were big Stevie Wonder / Motown fans but I have to admit I got into Soul Music initially in a typical 70’s Soul Boy way via David Bowie and that whole Young Americans period. I still love Bowie to this day!
Ket: I began my DJ career warming up at my school discos courtesy of John Ferguson and Sean French.
I then progressed to guest spots at wine bars and house parties; we set up a sound system/road show with two mates and we got booked for Wedding Receptions, Birthday parties and Pub gigs. I managed to a get guest spot on the legendary Radio Invicta with Darren Fogel and attended Caister 8 in 1981.
My Radio career began at Girls FM (the first one out of Harlesden) then Jive FM Luton plus Playback Radio in Watford. I did a lot of clubbing in those years especially at Special Branch Gigs and Weekenders. I teamed up with 5 Girls and did some mental parties and raves in 1987 and 1988, called Back To The Scene of The Crime and Acid Fallout.
I then ventured over to Tenerife to see some friends in 1989 and ended up taking a job but that lasted one day and then had to wait for a new bar to open and went in cold, but we worked hard and made it very popular, it was called ‘Roxys’. I then employed a DJ to work with me and his name was Ritchie Wilson. We both worked hard and we then got poached and taken to Paradise Lost. This place blew up and helped us to have big reunion parties in Hollywood’s Romford and also got me a chance to DJ at big party with Carl Cox as the headliner. I also had a daily radio show on one of the local stations call Radio Bahia. When I came back to the UK, had a few residencies, worked in a record shop part time and did shows on Active FM in Essex before they became legal.
You are on the SPW bill with a lot of your contempories such as Kev Beadle, Phil Asher, Gilles Peterson and Norman Jay. How does it feel to be joining them once again at this unique event?
Alan: We’ve been lucky enough to play with many of our contempories over the years. As I’ve already mentioned I’ve known Kev for years… he’s been a DJ I’ve long admired and someone I’ve always thought deserves more recognition. He’s one of those selectors that I put in the “for those that know” category and still influences my listening habits 30 years on since first hearing him! Phil has been a guest DJ at many gigs that both Ket and I have put on or promoted over the years. Although Gilles and Norman are global DJ stars in their own right we’ve also known them for many years crossing paths at various events both behind the decks or out on the dance floor. I like to think we’re in a fortunate position having been on both sides of the fence (ie behind the decks and on the dance floor) for many years now, so we know a lot of the audience at Southport very well. Joining the big names behind the decks is just an added magical bonus for us!
Ket: It feels good, over the years mutual respect has been gained and we travel to see these guys around the world. You must remember that I have been on the scene as long as these guys (no spring chicken).
Alan & Ket your Mucho Soul radio show is known for its eclectic selection of music. What inspires your selections and how do you keep it so fresh?
Ket: If it does not sound fresh, different and soulful it does not get aired or selected to be played in either the radio or club sessions. It has to be quality! No Bish Bosh (as quoted by Harv Naji). Over the years you hear so much stuff and it has no individuality – I spend about 4 days preparing a show.
Alan: As I mentioned earlier, the Mucho Soul philosophy is all about music that touches the soul. This could mean anything from spiritual modal Jazz, classic heart wrenching Soul, dirty bass driven funk or deep melodic House! I listen to all sorts of music every day and my second hour of the Mucho Soul Show is often a 60 minute snapshot of things that have reached my ears during that particular week. This could be something from a film score, another DJ’s recommendation or radio show, an online forum, Facebook group or a live gig or party I might have been to. Obviously it’s important to include new releases but I also like to include stuff that might have slipped under the radar or might have gone largely un-noticed. By mixing all these elements I like to think that I give a more original, varied and fresh approach. As long as it gets to my soul I’ll play it!
Alan what would your 16 year old self make of the man you have become? What advice if any would you give little Al?
At 16 you could say I was a Young Soul Rebel! I left home early compared with kids of today and shacked up with my first girlfriend at the tender age of 17. I’m still in touch with her actually and with many of my friends from that time, but to be honest I don’t really have any regrets about that period. If anything perhaps I may have tried to grow up too quickly during my late teens which meant that in my mid twenties I took a sabbatical from work and went travelling for a couple of years. I think I’d advise little 16 year old Al to do all of that bit a lot earlier in life – go travelling when younger and most definitely for a longer period if possible! Travelling broadens the mind and you get to meet so many people from all walks of life which helps put so many of life’s worries into perspective. I still think little Al would be pretty proud of what big Al’s become though. A proud father of two kids now in their twenties, an amazing girlfriend and soul mate in Annie, a career I’ve always enjoyed and a great social life partying and DJing around the world. My family and friends are most important to me and I’m fortunate to have more friends than I dare to count! They’re what get you through life! Big Al’s done alright I reckon?
Ket I saw you cutting a rug at an Afternoon at Dingwalls with Gilles Peterson & Patrick Forge. Where did you learn to dance like that and can you teach me?
Happy to share my signature move the ‘Praying Mantia’ anytime! I used to watch the dancers at a youth club called St Gabriel’s, Bogart’s, Americas, Tudors, Horseshoe, Caister and a few other places, but I learnt From Tony Etienne and Giuseppe. Both of those guys could move and are still able to move. They got me to get my first patent leather slippers, drain pipe jeans and punk T Shirt. The grooves were very fast in those days and I was slim and nimble (big change to now).
If you had the opportunity to make a compilation, could you each name 5 artists past and present that would make up the album?
Alan: That’s very tricky!… A lot of the classic artists from the past that I personally like have all been included on so many compilations over the years. There’s a cupboard in the Mucho Soul studio full of mix tapes and comp CD’s I’ve put together for friends in the past so you could say that I’ve been doing compilations for years anyway! Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, Jon Lucien, Gill Scott Heron, Terry Callier for example were all included but I was amazed at how many friends just didn’t know some of the songs I chose. I’m a bit of a geek in that way, if I get into an artist I want to hear everything and I mean everything by them! Of the newer school I’d definitely have to choose Gregory Porter – he’s in a class of his own in my opinion. I like singers who can cross the Soul and Jazz boundaries so I’d probably go for the likes of Erykah, Jill Scott, Chaka and someone like Rachelle Farrell. She’s an amazing singer who doesn’t get enough props for me! There you go that’s ten big fav artists from me for this week, it would probably be a completely different list next week though!
Ket: We made an album for Carlsberg a few years ago but forgot to put ‘Probably the best Album in the World’ on the artwork. I would probably choose Andrew Ashong, Donald Byrd, Cedar Walton, Lilla and Minnie Ripperton.
The Mucho Soul show has become a staple part of my weekly routine whether in the office or when I’m cycling to work. Who are you currently listening to on your commute to work or play?
Alan: The new Moodymann release is a bit special, that’s been on constant replay lately I must admit. I tend to check lots of other good radio shows rather than complete albums these days. Patrick Forge, Kev Beadle, DJ Harv and Gilles Peterson have always been in my ears and on my radar whilst on the number 38 bus to Piccadilly! Shows like that continue to inspire me but I also like discovering new music via up and coming DJs and selectors too. Obviously the internet is a very good source now for me. Facebook groups and forums, Soundcloud and Bandcamp always throw up lots of surprises. Take Moonchild for example, a Jazz/Soul trio from LA who popped up out of nowhere in the last couple of years. A lot of people including myself discovered them via Bandcamp and now they’re working with Robert Glasper, Jill Scott and James Poyser! They have a new album coming out later this year which I’m looking forward to.
For all of those who will be discovering your set for the first time, can you describe the feel of music we are going to hear?
Alan: It will touch the heart and get to the feet all at the same time. Like I mentioned earlier Mucho Soul = Much Soul!
2014 is set to be a meteorite year for you both, as you ride the comet what can we expect from you in the future?
Alan: We’ve worked hard on the radio show these past two years, particularly with the interview specials and we’ve built up a good reputation for representing the artists, DJs and labels in an accurate and considered way, so I think you can expect more insightful interviews from us. Watch this space!
Ket: Hopefully we will find a place to have a monthly residency, hope to do more International Friday night warm up parties, more cool interviews, and more radio shows.
Alan & Ket this has been a long time in the making and it an utter pleasure to finally interview you both.
The Mucho Soulies will be at Southport with their pom poms to give you both cheering support and love. We never ever expected to build a fan-base of such young and beautiful females especially during our fast advancing years! Cheerleaders with pom poms?… bring it on Mel! xxx
Check out the Mucho Soul show here.