Greg Wilson is a national treasure: a pioneer of the disco edit, a major player on the development of the UK electrofunk scene, the first person to mix live on British Telly and all round gentleman. R$N caught up with the living legend to talk edit culture, electrofunk, Jamaican dub and the art of DJing.

Edit culture has been riding high in the last few years, with artists like The Revenge and Tiger and Woods making their names by utilizing the technique. You’re rightly seen as a pioneer of the edit concept, but who or what were you yourself influenced by when you first set out?

The US bootleg 'mixers' as they were called, like 'Big Apple Production Vol 1' and the 'Bits & Pieces' series were an eye-opener, but Shep Pettibone's edits on 'Kiss FM Mastermixes Vol 1' in '82 was probably the greatest personal inspiration.

You’re well known to have used a Revox reel-to-reel tape machine to produce your edits. Do you still? And do you think it is important in a time when software has become a dominant creative tool, to have an element of physicality, of hands on experience, to your artistic process?

It'd be crazy to edit on tape now, given the possibilities digital editing enables. For example, if I wanted the same 1 bar loop to repeat 16 times, I'd have to methodically record it 16 times and edit accordingly, whereas in a computer I only have to record once, then instruct it to repeat 15 more measures, saving myself a whole heap of time. There's a certain romance in editing on tape, but it's completely unpractical in this day and age.

For the production geeks out there (such as myself!), please lay out the processes you undergo when approaching an edit, and what steps go into producing an edit on the Revox.

It's horses for courses – some edits only need to be simple, so you can extend the original, whilst others are more complex, overdubbing additional elements. I refer you to the sleevenotes I wrote for 'Credit To The Edit Vol 2', where I go into this in greater detail:

What would be the criteria you would use to define the concept of an edit, compared to that of a remix or rework?

There's an increasingly thin line between what constitutes an edit and a remix nowadays. Once again, I explain this in the 'Credit To The Edit Vol 2' sleevenotes (linked above).

Disco edits have been quite a divisive subject in the dance music universe, some people have been critical of producers for making money and raising their profile with hastily put together Ableton edits, often released as bootlegs, while others see it as a natural, positive evolution. What’s your own take on this?

It's like everything, there's good and not so good, but the good can often be very very good, giving an old record a whole new lease of life – it's all a case, as with any genre, of digging through in order to unearth the gems. A lot of great tunes have been and continue to be, re-discovered via the edits scene, and introduced to a new generation of music enthusiasts, so, on that basis, I think it's a highly positive movement.

How important do you think advances in Jamaican Dub Reggae, the idea of reworking a track as a heavier, minimal version, have been on the development of dance music? I know you sometimes used delays and dub fx when djing and editing, were you consciously referencing Jamaican Dub yourself?

Dub was absolutely crucial to the evolution of remix culture – the Jamaican sonic alchemists, like King Tubby, Lee 'Scratch' Perry and Errol Thompson laid the foundations from which the great New York remixers of the early 80's, people like Tee Scott, Larry Levan, Francois Kevorkian, Shep Pettibone and 'Jellybean' Benitez, shaped the course of dance culture. I'm very much referencing their innovations when creating dub effects in my own work, both in the studio and live – we stand on the shoulders of giants. 

With figures such as Ron Hardy and Walter Gibbons in the disco world, as with the early Hip Hop pioneers, there is now a long established history of DJs turning producers and using their experience of playing to nightclub crowds to help define a new sound or genre. How important was DJing in developing your understanding of groove and dynamics?

There's nothing like playing a track in a live environment to see if it works or not – that's the acid test. Good DJ's understand the dynamics of the dancefloor – why one record might work, whilst another one doesn't, even though they may have similarities. It's often in the nuances, and the process of roadtesting with an audience can show you what needs tweaking, or what might be superfulous, or what necessary element may be missing.

The Electrofunk scene that you were a part of in the early 80s is now viewed by a lot of people as a real high point in UK nightlife history. What was it like at the time, and have you experienced a similar atmosphere anywhere recently that would compare to those halcyon days?

I don't like to compare now to then – for starters, the social conditions were completely different, and, of course, we were in a pioneering age with the underground clubs writing the blueprint for what subsequently became the norm. In order to properly understand what was going on back then you have to unravel history, ridding yourselves of pre-conceptions (especially given that the documentation of UK club culture has seriously undervalued this period). What's special about now is that, unlike back then, when things worked on a regional level, we now have a global sub-culture of dance enthusiasts putting on underground parties all over the world and cross-pollunating via the internet. The key element of both these eras is passion – people primarily into it for the love of music, rather than the financial rewards. When things work from that basis, you have solid foundations from which to build movements of substance, which will hopefully be viewed and valued, from a future perspective, as having their heart in the right place.

In recent years, you’ve worked with Ralph Lawson on the 20:20 Vision release, and Tirk with the Credit to the Edit series. Have you got anything in the pipeline in regards to future releases; either edits wise or your own original productions?

Lots of plans, just a case of finding the time to implement them. My priority is to finally start producing my own material, and my intention is for this to take shape in the coming months

By Joe Evans

Catch Greg Wilson at Eastern Electrics Festival EE0408. More info and full line-up here.