Norman Jay Talks + 10 Get Out Of Jail Free Tracks
Norman Jay: Do we even need to introduce Norman Jay? Jay is a hero to selectors, a DJ who carved out a massive, influential career without producing tracks, without trying to have more dubplates than the next man, without kissing arse like it was going out of fashion, but by simply being very, very good at making people dance. Year in, year out, the Good Times soundsystem is at Notting Hill Carnival, packing it out and spreading the vibe, and Norman's there, a true Londoner, at the heart of it all.
In advance of this weekend's intimate gig from Norman, we thought we'd grab him for a quick chat – anyone fancying a bit of the Jay magic can catch him playing on Saturday 28th November at the excellent Tuckshop party over in Hackney Wick – tickets and details here…
What do you think of the Tuckshop concept; mixed genres of sweet music?
It's why I chose to play the gig! Of course it depends on how you have schooled your crowd & followers. No-one is about one genre. There will always be something about some type of music you can like/groove to. At the end of the day, I will play my bit, but it's about how well you have schooled your people.
This year you didn't host your Good Times stage at Carnival or your own festival – can you fill us in with any forthcoming plans in 2015?
I'm actually about to go to Poland for a gig tomorrow, I travel a lot. There are plans for 2015 but I don't want to say anything just yet. I've definitely got plans in store. Coming soon!
I can imagine, things are always unpredictable.
Yeah, I don't want to say anything until it's concrete.
Can we expect any more Radio shows?
Not at the moment, no. For me it's all about BBC Radio. I would go back on if I was given the right offer but I wouldn't go backwards. I've done that. I've played the illegal radio stations and had my mission – now it's time for the young & hungry to do that, I respect that.
What music are you listening to these days?
Let me make something clear. I dont listen to music. If I'm in the car I might hear music on the radio but I don't look for anything. I've got my selections grooves, that's what I like to play- what I know.
I love music & if it's on I'll listen to it, but I don't try and keep up with the scene. I don't need to!
How do you discover and connect with new music?
That's a good question. Mainly it's through my son and nephew who are DJs and a sound engineer. They will come to me and ask me what I think of this and if I like that. They will school me on new things. I like it that way. I don't need to try and stay ahead of the people. I'm a party DJ!
I tell you what though, I'm really loving Paloma Faith's new D&B track. It's a great instrumental too but her vocals are incredible.
What about other D&B chart stuff then? Are you a fan of Sigma?
I do like D&B but it's not my favorite – I'm just all about mixing accessible music. That's how you can mix genres in sets, ensuring it's accessible!
What events have stood out most to you over the years?
It's Carnival. Without a doubt. I've played to thousands of people all over the place and Carnival is always the most special to me. I've also had the opportunity to play for some celebrities and more interesting functions but Carnival is the most special place for me!
What about anywhere else in terms of outside London?
Outside London I'd say Germany. I was the first black man to play in Eastern Germany! But in all fairness I've been the first of a lot of things. In my era we broke the mould & changed things, so I've been able to do that.
No doubt! We know you were the first British black man to be featured on NME too. How did it feel to break that mould & change things?
Yeah, I was. As well as a lot of things. What's most important is the music though. I'm not a DJ about the heads. For me it's all about the good times and the music. Although I was the first for a lot of things, it feels just as good today. That's the way I see it. It should always feel good. The day it doesn't is that day it stops. At the end of the day, we broke those barriers so now it's up to you and your generation to push things the way you want to. I'm not looking to focus on that anymore. I had my passionate days. I have passed the baton down for you guys to make of it what you want!
In a previous interview you mentioned that if you were growing up today you would be involved in the Grime scene and helping innovate Sound. What new/aspiring artists do you rate at the moment and which ones stand out as innovators to you?
To be honest, I liked Dizzee Rascal when he started and I'm a fan of the whole movement. I can't really mention many names but I believe in the movement and making what you can because that's what we fought for. London is full of innovation!
How do you feel about house? You used to be well recognised for your rare groove and DJing house too, is it something you're following still?
I used to DJ a lot of house and I do like it. For me though, I like to play anything that has soul in it – that's what I liked about house. I stopped playing it once I saw the scene change to be more about the heads than the good times. For me, it wasn't about lots of guys surrounding the DJ, it was about women partying and everyone having a good time. When it got serious, I got out. I'm a party DJ, Gilles (Peterson) is more about the heads!
Given the choice, who would you give an MBE to?
To all the unsung heroes. The people who DJ for the people, not themselves. I understand and respect the DJs who play their own style and artistic preference but for me its all about the real DJs playing for the people – Wedding DJs, House party DJs etc – The ones reading the crowd and doing it all for the vibes they see! People forget how much talent there is behind these DJs!
Sometimes a crowd can be tough. What are your top 10 'get out of Jail' tracks?
My 10 'get out jail' floor fillers, in no particular order;
1. Jamiroquai – Too Young To Die
2. Bill Withers – Lovely Day
3. Mark Ronson – Just
4. Aretha Franklin – Respect
5. Pharrell – Happy
6. Angie Stone – Wish I Didn't Miss You
7. Amy Winehouse – Tears Dry On Their Own
8. Sigma feat. Paloma Faith – Changing
9. Marlena Shaw – California Soul
10. Stevie Wonder – Superstition
See Norman Jay on Saturday 28th November at the excellent Tuckshop party over in Hackney Wick – tickets and more information here.