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Paul Taylor: Still Hooked On (Pacha) Classics (interview) ::

Reported by Ben Stroud on May 19, 2009

“The closest I came to quitting DJing was the moment I proposed to my now ex-wife when I said I would retire from this wonderful job at the age of 30. But I just couldn’t do it.”

Two and a half decades later, 52 year old Brit Paul Taylor remains at the top of the DJ tree, principally due to the long running success of his still massively popular club brand Retro. Also an established resident DJ at Pacha Ibiza, he’s a natural choice to compile the super-club’s first ever ‘Classics’ compilation, a job he approached with gusto.

“I have tried to create a mix that spans a classic house sound that also incorporates recent years,” says Paul. ‘I’m aiming to put into Pacha Classics what I perceive the people desire from a night out in one of the world’s greatest clubs- it’s a challenge that I absolutely love and I rise to it.”

In practise, he delivers a greatest hits style triple CD selection ranging from New Order’s Blue Monday to Bodyrox’ Yeah Yeah and Spiller’s ‘Groovejet’ though all carefully collated and sorted, he insists.

“It was not as easy compiling this CD package as most people would probably think. Sure it’s pretty easy to recall the biggest dance tracks over the past twenty years but this is Pacha we are talking about,” he explains.

“It took me time to analyse the brand’s history and its massive contribution to the dance world. In addition to this I made the decision to make a definite split between the three CDS; pure classics for the first, more obvious ones for the second and recent classics for the third. Each album has its own unique presence.”
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): You’ve done a few of these retro comps before including three called Retro for Eddie Gordon’s Neo Records, what makes this one different?
Paul Taylor: “The Retro comps I did with Neo are much different to this project. Retro is a completely different sound- sure there are a few crossovers on both projects but I have developed the unique Retro sound over the past 20 years, I’ve been playing for Pacha with both concepts for three years now and musically they are definitely different. The way I see it, Pacha Classics has a modern twist on what is determined as a classic, whereas with Retro there are tracks that I have discovered over the years that are really underground tunes that others would never conceive to be a classic- both concepts work really well for that reason.”

Skrufff: I know you’ve been doing retro nights for many years: what do you make of the Sunday Times declaring recently that a ‘middle aged club revival . . . is happening across the country’?

Paul Taylor: “I’m really happy that you asked me this question-, when I read that particular article I found it to be slightly flawed. Firstly, my night Retro is a house classics concept which was established in 1989, which makes us 20 this year. We have seen a consistent increase in figures throughout these years proving us to be one of the UK’s longest running dance brands. We attract clubbers from all age groups, and I must say I haven’t recognised any middle age club revival; it’s always been there actually, just perhaps unnoticed and not reported. This may be due to the fact that editors and writers of trend setting media companies never want to report on a scene that looks backwards.”
What also makes us unique at Retro is that we are not an ageist institution. I’m 52 this year and our 40 plus customers are still coming out; obviously some prefer certain venues. However we also have a loyal youth following who are so into the history of house music and all that it stands for. In fact, at some of my events there are two generations of the same family out together. There might be a revival for some DJs and promoters and it may be perceived as a trend but as far as I’m concerned it never went away. People may also be turning to classic house music because there’s so much mundane music that’s out there at the moment.”
Skrufff: In the same article DJ John Kelly said ‘This is about nostalgia, the crowd does not want anything new’: how much is that an issue?
Paul Taylor: “John Kelly is an old stalwart of this scene- a bit like myself although I’m a damn sight better looking (laughing). Like me he’s a realist. Of course people get nostalgic, it’s human nature, people will always look back to the ‘good old days’. I slightly disagree with this point though because music is about memories and you can be 35 and still have a great memory of an era say from the early 2000’s.” 
Skrufff: Gilles Peterson said this week: [because I’ve been doing it for 25 years, I’ve appealed to lots of generations of clubbers. So some 40-year-old will complain that I didn’t play Massive Attack and some younger person will complain that I didn’t play a Flying Lotus track,’ how much of an issue is it, trying to appeal to different generations simultaneously?
Paul Taylor: “I have huge respect for Giles Peterson and his analysis is good though I don’t tend to hear those kind of comments because I have created and concentrated on promoting my brand Retro rather than myself as a DJ, People who come to a Retro event know what to expect, the sound keeps evolving and incorporating new music. There are some newish tracks on this Pacha compilation, very deliberately: a classic can be a classic as soon as it needs to be.”
Skrufff: How do you manage to avoid getting bored of playing oldies week after week, month after month, year after year?
Paul Taylor: “There are two reasons really, the first one being that there are so many classics out there to select from. I quite often delve right into my collection and re-discover tracks. Obviously there are certain ones that people like to hear – this is just part and parcel of the job but I don’t get bored and secondly although my DJing does predominately involve playing classics I am always looking to play a future classic, it keeps things fresh no matter where I play. I do also run a night called Lovefunky where I play new material which I love too and it does add variety to my week.”
Skrufff: How much do you find older audiences reacting differently to younger crowds (eg less people on drugs? People more self-conscious? Or more conservatively dressed?)
Paul Taylor: “I don’t really notice too much of a gap, all people of all ages dress differently, whether on drugs or not. However I do find the more mature clubber will place themselves in quieter areas of the club whereas more youthful clubbers will usually gravitate towards the centre’ of the dance floor. Perhaps some venues lend themselves to a younger audience too though I’m a firm believer that music transcends all ages.”
Skrufff: How much are DJ requests an issue?

Paul Taylor: “Requests can be a problem for me especially as people have their own favourite half a dozen tracks and the mobile phone issue, people holding up phones with track names written in, becomes annoying. However I do take time when I can to absorb peoples’ requests. Each person has indeed made the choice to travel and come to the event therefore they deserve a response from me when requesting a track.”
Skrufff:: You’ve been DJing for 28 years: have you experienced any (many) periods when bookings have dipped and you’ve considered giving up? Have you ever had to struggle with depression: while having to present a happy face to clubbers?
Paul Taylor: “That’s; a pretty deep question- of course I’ve been involved with flops and failures during my career, everybody experiences these at some point. Fortunately the success outweighs those nights you would rather forget. I’ve not considered giving up; I just keep moving on; things are always changing, I’ve never experienced a serious decline though I do tend to take charge of my own destiny; I’m good at adjusting, I suppose.”
Depression is a serious subject; I believe that everyone is born with a gene that either prepares you for the lows or not as the case may be. The prospect of having to deal with it I honestly believe is down to fate. I am one of the fortunate souls who is unscathed in that department. There have been times when I have certainly been stressed though not really the job but rather the workload sometimes leaving me feeling too tired. But that’s an issue everybody experiences in any job and I just deal with it and smile. I always remember I am in a privileged position- doing what I love doing the most.”
Skrufff: Dance music started out as quite a revolutionary force: how much could it retain that side given the chaotic times we’re living in?
Paul Taylor: “Yes I was part of that of that revolution back in the hazy day’s house music. But come on, people have been dancing in some form or another for thousands of years, if you have a heart beat then there must be a drum involved at some stage. I have experienced two major downward economic spirals prior to the one we are in at the moment and in many cases dance music has pulled people through. It brings people together and lets them forget their dilemmas- without wanting to sound cheesy; it’s true.”

Paul Taylor; Pacha Classics is out now through New State, download it now at

Jonty Skrufff (