We were lucky enough to catch up with a bit of a legend this week. DIY collective DJ and 3Beat record shop supremo Pezz talks music, parties and working in arguably the UKs finest record shop..
So going right back to the beginning, what age were you when you first discovered a love of music?
Watching Top of the Pops was such a massive thing when I was growing up – every Thursday the whole family would crowd round the TV. One of the first records that really grabbed me was Gary Numan’s - Tubeway Army ‘Are Friends Electric’. It was mad, punky and futuristic with this crazy frontman who almost looked like a robot with his dead pan face and eyeliner. A few months later when Cars came out, it was the first record I bought.
How did that music influence you growing up?
It was part of a journey as I think music is for most. I was heavily into anything electronic – Human League, Depeche Mode, Yazoo but I was also into Adam And The Ants, I had all their 7” and albums that was where my obsessive collecting started. It was something to do with the Ants, their two drummers and the electronic pop of the others. It definitely shaped things for when electro hip hop and then house came along. There was a moment when I was 14 where it all went up a gear though.
When did you decide that you fancied becoming a DJ?
Initially I didn’t. I was a collector first and foremost. Dean Meredith of Bizarre Inc / Chicken Lips fame was our dJ when I was breakdancing, he was seriously good. I didn’t think I’d be able to get to his level but loved music and just collected it. One of my first non-matching belt drives was bought from him in ’86 when he upgraded to Technics. In ’87 myself, Dean Daz Willot [who started Shelleys before Sasha] and Colin Curtis [a northern soul dj legend] played at the Roxy Roller rink in Hanley Stoke on Trent it was the venue that eventually Golden would take off from. It was my first time dJing in a club and first time on Technic’s – it was absolutely awful I hated it and didn’t ever want to do it again. In ’88 I was supposed to be going on holiday with one of my mates Rob, he unfortunately had a crash and needed to use his holiday money to get his car repaired. I then decided to buy Technic’s with what I’d saved. After a couple of years of messing around in my bedroom I got a lot of the technical skills needed to become a dJ. It still wasn’t an aim then, but I had the basis in the bag ready for when the opportunity came along.
I recently saw a post regarding the Vic Reeves track 'Abide with Me' that was produced by The Grid. Now its a pretty obscure track and you mentioned that it was something you started playing at the DIY parties. On Discog’s it’s described as 'Real progressive production by the Grid. Used on DK's practice tape and also a secret weapon for Pezz and part of his set at Universe' Did you enjoy hunting down 'different' tracks to play out?
I loved finding the weird and wonderful – it’s one of the things that the internet takes away from the scene and dJing. I found that record on a market stall in Nottingham’s Victoria Centre. The stall wasn’t even a record stall but had a box of promos that some local dJ was obviously selling to the owner. There was always something there and they were cheap. That record cost me 50p! I lived round the corner from DK and played it to him – he may well have used mine on his practice tape.
Looking at Discogs recently I came across a note saying 'originally played by DK who lent it to Pezz to play until he got his own copy'.. the track was '2 Men from Jersey – So Special' it’s a sought after expensive 12”. What can you tell us about that particular track?
That was a DK special that one – he was such a good tune spotter and often in the right place at the right time to get them. It was on a tiny independent label Bass Boy. They were not a hugely available label like say Strictly so if you got the opportunity to buy one you had to as tomorrow it would be gone. He was the first person I heard playing it and I instantly wanted it. He always moved on from tunes quite quickly so once he’d had his 2-3 weeks with it he lent it to me. It’s got that mash of two styles like Playing With Knives with its techno/piano thing, this one is a quirky NY deep house number for the first half then bursts into a full on techy stabby belter.
A lot of the obscure classic prog/piano tracks from the early 90s go for big money with collectors these days. New World Corporation was featured on the Vertigo Grin tape ‘Tribe’ and retails around the £100 mark with a DIY mix. How do you feel about tracks commanding these sorts of prices?
It is what it is. The value of any record is totally dependent on what someone else is willing to pay for it. I got given a couple of copies of New World Corporation by the DIY guys when it got pressed and they had a bunch promo’s sent to them to give out, one for me and one for Vertigo. Was a great record – is it worth £100 probably not but it is quite rare so…
Are you able to give us a favourite prog label and track that really did the business for you back in the nineties?
Undoubtedly the best label from that era was Guerilla – the volume and consistency were unreal. Even when they veered off from driving the progressive sound forward and released house records like DJ Pierre presents Doomsday ‘Atom Bomb’ they were still on point. Records like that fitted into my DIY sets which were more a blend of traditional deeper techy house and prog.
So most of us associate Pezz with 3Beat and DIY, how did you get to become involved in them both and which came first ?
DIY came first. It started in the summer of 1990. I’d bumped into an ex-girlfriend Claire who had been going to raves rather than clubs for a while. She asked if wanted to join her and some of her mates and go to Amnesia.It was here I first heard Sasha and got exposed to a wider variety of house. Previously it was Graeme Park, Pickering, Whitehead that I’d heard the most. Hearing Sasha and the dJs playing raves rather than clubs suddenly opened me up to wider variety of house.This meant there were way more records to hunt down and new sounds to search out.It was at this time that I got most of my records at Arcade in Nottingham. One day, a week before DIY’s Rhythm Collision 2 rave I was in Arcade and Rick [Diggs] from DIY was delivering flyers and tickets to the shop. They had just added Nexus 21 to the line-up, Nexus 21 were the guys from Altern8 and good mates of mine from back in Stafford, they were also connected to the Bizarre Inc guys making all their tunes in the same studio. I got speaking to Rick and the only club they hadn’t flyered was Shelley’s. I said I was going the following week, so he gave me two tickets to the rave and I then would hand the flyers out. It was here I heard Sasha for the second time and Carl Cox for the first. A few weeks later when I got my Uni grant cheque I was back in Arcade and blew the lot on these new tunes I’d heard. Then came a couple of mix tapes. Whilst on more travels with Claire we went to Quadrant Park which was an insane club. Claire met a guy and we ended up back at his house for an after party. The house was just up the road from 3Beat incidentally and right on the edge of the city centre. He was a student and lived with a girl called Barbara who was the girlfriend of Harry one of the core members of DIY. The following week after the Quad we ended up back at this same house – this time Harry, Diggs, Woosh and a few of the other DIY crew were there. One of my new mix tapes was on rotation for hours and everyone was loving it. Diggs got speaking to me and asked who’s tape it was – I said mine to which he replied ‘we know it’s your tape but who’s dJ-ing?’.. I said me! Everyone was shocked. Diggs started talking about dJing asking if I had decks, how long id been into house blah blah. I was made up but thought nothing of it until a few days later back in Notts when there was a knock at the door and Diggs [who’d somehow found out where I lived] asked if I wanted to dJ for them. I got a show on Rave FM via DIY – sadly only did it once before it got shutdown. Then came the infamous night in Venus where Sasha couldn’t make it because of snow and I covered for him much to the initial annoyance of half the club who were there for him but a few tunes in and they were converted…
Talking about DIY. For anyone that's not aware of DIY can you give us some info on the collective?
OK, DIY was a collective of DJs, punters, musicians, producers and performers heavily connected to the new age traveller movement. Its ethos was to go against the grain of modern post Thatcherite society. To put parties on that were totally inclusive and above everything else were free. Outdoor raves that could go on for days that were not restricted by walls, time or the law. It was quite anti rave too so hardcore records were a no no.. Mentasm and Human Resource were the ones they hated the most – its why it ended up in this really deep dubby place and didn’t suit me or my style as I became more progressive in my selection. DK even bought the only promo copy of The Prodigy Charley to stop any other dJ getting it and playing it at the DIY party in the Marcus Garvey centre much was their distain of that sound.
A number of DIY parties have become the stuff of legend in free party circles, can you pick a favourite?
Castle Moreton hands down. 30,000+ revellers for over 5 days partying. It was all over the news and after the event the government brought in the Criminal Justice bill. My set from there is on my Mixcloud page.
I read a DJ Mag article from ‘93 that described the DIY ethos as 'egos and pecking orders count for nothing, top music and good times are everything'.. Do you think that's something that should be more liberally applied in clubland if we ever get to return to something resembling normality?
It’s a nice thing to say but even in DIY there was a pecking order. Certain dJs Sasha, Digweed and Carl Cox are more popular - they are going to get the best slots in the best clubs – they are the best though so for me its fine. People gravitate to the popular and it does count for something – humans are competitive. I would though agree that top music and a good time totally count for everything. I think as things start to become more normal and we get back into a localised vibe, smaller more intimate clubs will become popular again and from that other less well known dJ’s will get opportunities.
As things moved forward in the nineties with DIY it seemed like the collective were more focussed on developing than say Spiral Tribe. Why do you think that was?
Whilst DIY was all about the free party, we were also very aware that you need money to be able to do that. Club nights were the key. Run good club nights, make money from them and have funds to make your free party better. We had an amazing sound system called the Black Box PA. Sasha used it at his Venus night to boost the sound in the club. Harry was a great visionary and he’d have a plan and put it into effect – free parties in France or 30 if us going to San Francisco for a month in 93. The club nights brought people like Jose Padilla and in return he had us play his nights in Ibiza. Spiral Tribe didn’t get involved so much in that type of thing. Maybe some of it was the music we played opposed to them – it was really about house at DIY be it DK with his US stuff, me with my blend of house, prog and uplifting bigger moments, Jack who was more energetic and techy but with a solid house base or Diggs n Woosh who were initially all about the chilled and wibbly wobbly. This worked in clubs, so we found ourselves with slots at clubs like Golden, Renaissance and Ministry of Sound as well as being able to put nights on in the Hacienda and Lakota amongst others. Spiral Tribe was much more banging techno and goa trance which at the time was more limited in its appeal, especially in clubs.
DIY made some positive steps into production, the obvious track I would say is the Hothead EP which was licensed to Warp and remains a prog classic to this day, there was also an album 'Strictly 4 Groovers'. In the press release for that album it was mentioned that DIY would rather not discuss the free party movement anymore. Was this a conscious move to start distancing from the scene with a view to the legal club nights (Bounce) that were coming?
It was more to take the free party movement underground and not have any press focus on the organisation. The police and authorities were looking everywhere to try and get ahead of the parties and the new laws helped them. Keeping out of the press helped keep the parties more intimate and able to happen. Also, around that time the focus on music became greater – it all became about deep groovy house. It was at this time too deep and a little lifeless for me.. This was the point I moved on.
I read that there was a DIY San Francisco trip and an Ibiza visit. Were you lucky enough get along on either of those?
I went to them both, Ibiza multiple times. San Fran was great and awful at the same time. Myself, Dk and Emma all flew into LA on the day the Rodney King trial verdict was released. The cops had gotten away with a brutal murder. We drove up to San Fran and as soon as we got there Pete asked me if I wanted to go back to LA for 4 gigs. I was the only one of the main dJ’s without any gigs for that weekend so I said yes. I flew back down and was met by a guy called Freddie who was supposed to be looking after me and taking me to the gigs. The first one I was about to play, had just took the lid of my box and the police raided it. There was a curfew as the police were expecting riots because of the verdict so, off to the second party and here I got to play – it was a warehouse in downtown LA – proper warehouse rave lasers smoke machines people going wild, I’d played for about 45 minutes and everyone was going mad mainly for the proggyer stuff that I had in abundance when the cops raided this party too. I almost got arrested and they confiscated my tunes. I was the last person to leave that warehouse I had to get dragged away from my records, I was gutted. I also only had $7 in my pocket and my passport. Luckily Freddie was hiding round the corner and picked me up and took me back to his. Next day I was supposed to be playing at Spundae.. still went, met Taylor there and also a girl Lily who got my records back from the police, she’s been an amazing friend ever since.
You often see lists of DIY classic tracks over on Discogs. Could you pick a DIY top 5 tracks that you feel sum up the ethos behind the collective?
Yeah for me I think it would be..
Davina - Don’t You Want It
Elastic Reality - Casa De X
Tribal Spirit - Rave Off
Morgan King - I Am Free
Yo Yo Honey - Groove On (DJ Pierre Wild Pitch Mix)
Links to the tracks are at the bottom of the page
So, moving on to 3Beat. When the whole vinyl DJ thing was at its peak back in the nineties can you give us some idea of a typical day at 3Beat ?
It fluctuated through the decade – early on it was all about over the counter. It was a total buzz buying, selling, sorting people out with music, putting a smile on their faces and hanging out talking music. It was the Liverpool hub for anyone and everyone into club culture. Later on, it shifted and became about mail order, sorting tunes out for the world’s elite dJ’s, launching and running a website. We were really early getting online mainly by luck, mates of mine ran a shop in Stafford called Funky World. One was Richard Marshall who was Scanti Sandwich who had a massive hit on Fat Boy Slims label. When this happened he left the shop and Ian Gordon his partner decided to close it and start a web design company. He had just built a new web site for their shop and didn’t want it to go to waste so they gave it to us, off we went. Working a record shop whilst being a great laugh was also hard work, you need to be on it all the time and whilst it might seem great listening to house music all day long you are playing music to others to sell not listening to what you want so in reality it can become really draining. I would often get home at 7.00pm and not be able to get on the decks at home till gone 11.00 because my ears and head were fried. It was challenging listening and getting your head around new tunes ready to play out at the weekend.
What would you say is the best piece of prog vinyl that went on sale in 3Beat?
That is such a hard one to answer. Over 17 years of running the shop there have been thousands and thousands come through. Some of the records that on initial hearing hugely stood out and changed the direction and dynamics of progressive house would be records like BT ‘Embracing the Future’ on Musicnow. When I first heard that I was knocked sideways the production was so far ahead of anything before – it took a good while for everyone to catch up with him. Also a white label Trixta Friction was another crazy different sounding record. We had 3 of them, I kept one and sent one to Sasha and one to Digweed. The following week after a weekend of gigs Sasha rang up to find out about the record – his words were ‘What an amazing record I feel like starting a label to release records like this’ From that Excession was born it was the first release on the label renamed Cosmic Duo ‘Nu Energy’. I must say it was the other side of the Trixta Friction 12” that I preferred but who’s gonna argue with Sasha…
What would you say over those years was the most in demand 12” by prog DJs ?
2 records spring to mind. Mathew Dekay ‘Intergalactic’ was our biggest selling prog record primarily as we were the only shop in the world that had it – it was a bootleg. Peter Van Hal sent it to us, he managed Mathew and ran Deep Records that was on the roster of our 3 Beat Label Management business. He wanted to do something but with its Beastie Boy sample he and Mathew were a bit paranoid they didn’t want it sent out to loads of shops. We solved that issue by taking all of them. I think we had 1,000 copies or maybe 500, I know it was a lot. Another one was Cass and Slide ‘Opera’. Cass sent me a test pressing to review for Muzik or Update can’t remember which, it was one of a handful. We had a pre order function built into the web site I asked him if it would be ok to put online and he was cool with it. As soon as it went up we watched the pre-orders come in. About 2 weeks later he rang to ask how many promo’s we wanted – he said he was getting 300.. I said we need all of them as we were over 300 on the pre orders!
Lots of big name DJs have flicked through the racks in the shop including Sasha and Digweed. Did you have good relationships with the lads and did you ever pop stuff under the counter waiting for them to come in?
We did have good relationships with all the DJ’s. I’d known Sasha since Shelley’s and dj-ed for him at his Zoo night in Venus. Digweed became a good mate, in fact he was probably more matey with Michelle who used to do a lot of the mail order shipping to the big guys. He came to our house for dinner before Cream once, it became that kind of friendship. He also did things like a mix for us when we re-launched the website or moved shop..I can never remember which ha! Michelle was also good friends with Oakey. Rob J who ran the 3 Beat offshoot label Glow was good friends with Tongy and Jules it was really a mail order thing with them though. We would keep things back for local dJ’s like Greame Park, John Kelly and Paul Bleasdale. We would also often have dJ’s that were playing Cream come in..David Morales, Andy Weatherall, Justin Robertson, Nick Warren, Rocky and Diesel. Generally though it was more via mail order than in the actual shop.
I have a really cool memory of 3Beat and this was after Sasha played his 96 Cream at Amnesia Essential Selection set. I phoned on the Monday morning and spoke to Michelle. I tried to describe a track albeit very poorly and after my rather embarrassing it goes like this 'der der der der with a guitar' description I was calmly told ‘your talking about the new Loaded track Scared' we've got promos coming in do you want me to put you down for one?'.. That cemented my own vinyl purchasing relationship with the shop and although I never got to visit it was the go to for me for a few years.. Did you get many punters or big names doing this sort of thing?
Punters were at it all day every day. Singing a tune over the counter was the 90s version of Shazam!. Whilst it was funny at times it was an important way of getting records. Record shops can be daunting places and to have the balls to sing a tune because you wanted it that much was always a thing I’d try and encourage. Monday mornings were the maddest, people still flying high from the weekend bouncing in trying to get the tune from the weekend ‘eh mate have you got this tune it starts with this beat and then a bird starts singing its fucking brilliant you must have it?’ ‘what does she say? how does it go?’ ‘I can’t remember but its boss’ ‘sorry mate I can’t help you’ 20 minutes later he’s still hanging round and you put on some big tune of the time and his eyes light up and you’ve accidentally stumbled across it. Great feeling.
And finally.. working with arguably the UKs most famous collective AND record shop.. happy you did it?
Absolutely – I feel completely blessed with my musical journey and being able to carve a career in the music industry beats being an accountant!!
Its been an absolute pleasure Pezz, thanks for taking the time to talk to us and thank you for supplying all those amazing records!
Pezz Classic Archive Mix
Pezz Top 5 DIY Classics
PHC - Jay Dobie / Wasim Afzal / Marcus Harriman