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Greg Wilson

Related: dance music - edit - electro - electro-funk - UK music - punk-funk - tape

Greg Wilson in a collage by Matt of Samurai FM(2006)


“Greg Wilson is an honorary Manc born in Liverpool who is generally acknowledged as the godfather of the early eighties Manc electro [funk] scene. He is one of the first British DJ’s to have used three turntables. Remembered for his nights at Legend and the Hacienda”. --The Face, 1990

Greg Wilson is also a well-versed writer on music. His website can be found at http://www.electrofunkroots.co.uk/. [Jan 2006]

When punk meets funk [...]

They say that what goes around comes around, and sometimes it takes the passage of time for the full significance of earlier innovations to be fully appreciated. This seems to be the case with New York’s No Wave movement of the late 70’s / early 80’s, which resulted in a Dance hybrid, fusing Funk with Punk at a time when these two distinctive areas of music were regarded as the most unlikely bedfellows.

The most influential labels of the movement, ZE and 99 Records, have found a new audience during recent times, as an increasing number of clubbers look back to the days before House music, when New York was at the epicentre of the Dance universe and creative energy overflowed in the city that never slept. Following on from the now sadly defunct Strut label’s excellent ‘Disco (Not Disco)’ compilations are three albums that perfectly capture the essence of the era: ‘New York Noise’, yet another quality collection from Soul Jazz, and a double dose of ZE memories in the form of ‘Mutant Disco’, which builds on the labels 1981 cult-classic compilation of the same name, and ‘NY No Wave’, a more obscure retrospective of music from the ZE vaults. --Greg Wilson via email [2004]

Hi-Energy and gay disco

"Before the term Hi-Energy came into common usage, the Boystown Gang were firmly categorized as ‘Gay Disco’. Spin Inn, the North’s main import specialists, in Manchester, wasn’t just the place to buy the latest black music, but was also an important shop for DJ’s on the Gay scene, selling both US and European releases. Harry Taylor, sadly no longer with us, looked after this side of the shops business and, when I was still the 4 nights-per-week resident at Wigan Pier, I’d buy the odd Gay Disco tune from Harry to play on the more commercial weekend nights. It would have been in this way that I came across ‘Cruisin’ The Streets’ in 1981, a record that made you feel proud to be gay, even though you weren’t! Harry would turn me on to a lot of tracks the other DJ’s on the black scene weren’t listening to, and it was in this way I came across some real gems, not least Klien & MBO’s ‘Dirty Talk’, an Italian import that slotted straight into the Electro vibe I was cultivating in my clubs (and later one of the records that provided the inspiration for New Order’s seminal ‘Blue Monday’)." --Greg Wilson http://www.discopia.com/portal/issues/issue6/castro/document_view [Jan 2006]

See also: gay music - Hi-NRG

Malcolm McLaren [...]

They say that lightening doesn’t strike twice, but where there’s a rule there’s always the exception. Case-in-point concerns that maverick maestro of musical mayhem, Mr Malcolm McLaren, the man who masterminded the explosion of the Punk Rock scene and brought anarchy to the UK in the form of the notorious Sex Pistols (who he managed and mentored). As a result, McLaren’s place in British music history is ensured, and countless words have been written (and will continue to be written) on the subject.

Yet, strangely, little is ever mentioned about McLaren’s later role, which was also hugely significant, for it was he who was ultimately responsible for bringing Hip Hop out of New York’s South Bronx and placing it squarely into the collective psyche of the British youth. The portal for this unlikely introduction to what would become the most influential cultural movement of the late 20th Century was a highly infectious and truly inspirational single called ‘Buffalo Gals’, which entered the UK Pop chart in December 1982 (exactly 6 years on from the Sex Pistol’s chart debut), climbing all the way into the top 10.


As with Punk, Malcolm McLaren could clearly understand Hip Hop’s role as a force for social change, for when all’s said and done, these two major youth movements represent opposite sides of the same coin. Both Punk and Hip Hop made a lasting impact on popular culture in the UK and McLaren’s role was absolutely crucial in each case. To view him only in context with the Punk years is to miss the full scale of his role in music history (not to mention the related areas of dance, art and fashion).

It’s difficult to bring to mind another 80’s release that had a greater impact, or longer-lasting effect, on the youth of this country than ‘Buffalo Gals’, and as such, McLaren can lay claim to another title to place alongside his Punk Rock plaudits, that of British ambassador for the Boogie Down Bronx. It’s about time that this fact was finally (and fully) recognised; the tributes are long overdue, for this was undoubtedly a monumental contribution to British popular culture and black British culture in particular.

Copyright – Greg Wilson 2003

Info: www.electrofunkroots.co.uk E-mail: electrofunkroots@yahoo.co.uk

David Mancuso [...]

Opening with David Mancuso's seminal "Love Saves the Day" Valentine's party, Tim Lawrence tells the definitive story of American dance music culture in the 1970s-from its subterranean roots in NoHo and Hell's Kitchen to its gaudy blossoming in midtown Manhattan to its wildfire transmission through America's suburbs and urban hotspots such as Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Newark, and Miami.

Tales of nocturnal journeys, radical music making, and polymorphous sexuality flow through the arteries of Love Saves the Day like hot liquid vinyl. They are interspersed with a detailed examination of the era's most powerful DJs, the venues in which they played, and the records they loved to spin-as well as the labels, musicians, vocalists, producers, remixers, party promoters, journalists, and dance crowds that fuelled dance music's tireless engine.

Love Saves the Day includes material from over three hundred original interviews with the scene's most influential players, including David David Mancuso, Nicky Siano, Tom Moulton, Loleatta Holloway, Giorgio Moroder, Francis Grasso, Frankie Knuckles, and Earl Young. It incorporates more than twenty special DJ discographies-listing the favorite records of the most important spinners of the disco decade-and a more general discography cataloguing some 600 releases. Love Saves the Day also contains a unique collection of more than seventy rare photos. --amazon.com

[I]t’s only now, thanks to ‘Love Saves The Day’, that the Leary / Mancuso connection becomes crucial to our understanding of the origins of dance culture. Other writers have touched on it, but this is the first book to reveal the extent of Leary’s direct influence on Mancuso, and, as such, it’s author, Tim Lawrence, the director of the Music Cultures program at East London University, has unearthed a hugely significant missing link. --Greg Wilson reviews Love Saves the Day

Comments on Greg

“Greg Wilson is an honorary Manc born in Liverpool who is generally acknowledged as the godfather of the early eighties Manc electro [funk] scene. He is one of the first British DJ’s to have used three turntables. Remembered for his nights at Legend and the Hacienda”.

“By 1982 he was established at Wigan Pier, thrilling all and sundry with his brew of electronica and soul. He was given a dying Wednesday at Legend, Manchester’s most influential black music venue, and blew enough life into it to spread queues round the block and gain punters countrywide. Forget the Hacienda, where Wilson began the first full-on dance night – Legend was the start of it all. His secret? The dastardly mixing techniques he’d picked up in Europe plus this weird and wonderful new form of music sweeping across from New York”.

“Greg Wilson was entranced by the stripped down electronic sounds that were coming out of New York where, in one of the weirdest quirks in rock history, black kids in the ghetto started to get hip to Kraftwerk. Taking the atmospheric synth music of the German outfit, they re-invented it as a dance music of their own. The computer age was dawning and here was a music that matched the nu digital times…Electro is one of the key forebares of nineties pop culture”.

“Wilson’s work on the decks every Wednesday (at Legend) drew the attention of Mike Shaft, who was then fronting a black music show on Piccadilly Radio. Although not a big fan of the new dancefloor sounds, he invited Wilson to do mixes for the radio show. These were probably some of the most taped programmes in Manchester radio history”

“Compiled by famed deejay Greg Wilson who was one of the chief protagonists in the early development of electro in the UK. Greg helped pioneer the early stages as resident deejay at the legendary Wigan Pier and Manchester Legends venues. Greg was one of the first British deejays to consider seriously the art of deejaying and mixing was beyond the simple act of sticking a platter on a turntable before swilling ale and checking out the available talent (although I’m pretty sure Greg did his fair share of these activities too!). Greg’s mixes on Manchester Piccadilly Radio were significant interludes and he was also the first British deejay to mix live on TV when appearing on the now defunct The Tube show”.

“’The whole black side of Manchester has been completely ignored’ says Greg Wilson, Manchester’s first electro DJ, on the wheels of steel at Wigan Pier and Legends in ’82. A disco-chemist, he experimented with mixing and NY’s new styles…Legends stepped out a whole 18 months before The Face’s cover feature caught up…By the start of ’83, white hipsters were changing channels, switching from doom-rock to dance beats. ACR, New Order, Swamp Children and the like tuned into Legends…’In all things that have been written about Manchester, the thing that led the way hasn’t even been mentioned! The black-white mix! Even when the students arrived (on the scene) the black side kept its identity and everyone began bouncing ideas around’ argues Greg”.

“Kermit was here there and everywhere. Everyone knew Kermit. Everyone knew Kermit stories. Everyone knew that one day this man would turn into something important. The story begins way back in the early eighties, at Manchester’s Legends nightspot. On Wednesday night Manchester grandmaster of Electro, Greg Wilson, held hardcore funk sessions sussed enough to educate even the hippest of dudes from old Hulme. All the while, down the road, the Hacienda remained a vast, cold, empty shell, full of echoey indie sounds and a few straggly raincoated students. Greg Wilson was where it began and Kermit would soak in his influences”.

“Before retiring from deejaying in 1984, Greg had kicked off the first weekly dance night at The Hacienda and was managing Britain’s best known breakdance crew, Manchester’s Broken Glass. In ’84 he produced Street Sounds’ experimental ‘UK Electro’ album, and has since produced the Ruthless Rap Assassins”.



Credit to the edit, vol. one (2005) - Greg Wilson

Credit to the edit, vol. one (2005) - Greg Wilson [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Track Listings
1. Salsoul Orchestra - Ooh, I Love It (Love Break) 2. Rockers Revenge - Sunshine 3. Raw Silk Vs DMX Krew - Do It To The Funk 4. BT (Brenda Taylor) - You Can't Have Your Cake & Eat It Too 5. The Controllers - I Can't Turn The Boogie Loose 6. Scritti Politti - Absolute / Wood Beez 7. Boystown Gang - Cruisin' The Streets 8. Kool And The Gang - Open Sesame 9. Yello - Lost Again 10. Chicken Lips - He Not In 11. Mike T - Do It Anyway You Wanna 12. Uncle Louie - Full-Tilt Boogie 13. Chaka Khan - I Feel For You 14. Chic - Dance Dance Dance (Yowsah Yowsah Yowsah) 15. Mr Bloe - Groovin' With Mr Bloe

Greg Wilson's first CD, released by the Tirk label. Behind Tirk are the original people of former Nuphonic.

Greg Wilson was responsible for introducing black dance music, and in particular electro, to Manchester's legendary Hacienda club, back in the summer of 1982. His pioneering work on just a Revox tape deck and two Technics turntables, crafting one off DJ re-edits, virtually wrote the rulebook for DJs, remixers and dance producers. This is his first CD, a career defining anthology, ''Credit To The Edit''.

Liner notes by Greg Wilson:
It’s almost 30 years since I did my first basic edits. This was for a demonstration tape I made for local radio, which, as was the way back then, would only be listened to if submitted on reel, rather than cassette, with the tracks shortened to minimal length (the emphasis placed firmly on how I sounded on the microphone, rather than the music I was playing). The guy who taught me how to splice tape was a presenter from Radio Merseyside called Dave Porter, who still works on radio today (nowadays he’s based in the North-East).

However, it wasn't until 1982 that I began to explore the possibilities of creative editing. By this point I was a successful club DJ in the North of England, working at the best two venues in the region, Wigan Pier and Legend in Manchester, where I played the latest imports (Soul, Funk, Jazz and, of course, the music I became most associated with, Electro). I was also one of the few people in the country to fully embrace turntable mixing and, in May ’82, I was invited by a DJ called Mike Shaft to create specialist black music mixes for his show on Piccadilly Radio, in Manchester. They were the first mixes of their type in the UK and I became known nationally as an innovator of this style. These early radio mixes were as live, recorded onto reel-to-reel at Legend (during the daytime) and topped and tailed back in one of the stations editing booths. At first someone else did this for me, but one day there was nobody available so I had a go myself…

This would be the start of my obsession with editing. Pretty soon I’d decided to invest in a home DJ studio, where I’d subsequently record and edit my mixes. I bought a Revox B77, the best piece of equipment I've ever owned, and this, along with 2 Technics SL1200's (extremely rare to see in a club back then, let alone someone’s home), a Matamp DJ mixer and a cassette deck (for the occasional pause button sample), made up my kit. When I demonstrated mixing live on Channel 4’s music show, ‘The Tube’ in February 1983, I also had the Revox on stage with me (using it for dub/echo effects).

What I was doing was pretty unique from a UK perspective. I had nobody to reference, so I devised my own techniques, some of which had been inspired by innovative US bootleg mixes, especially 'Big Apple Production Vol 1', plus some of the Disconet DJ only series. The first ‘Kiss FM Mastermixes’ LP, released on US Prelude in 1982, would also make a big impression on me.

During the next few years my approach to editing became increasingly intricate. Even after I stopped deejaying in 1984 to concentrate on producing my own tracks, the razor blade remained central to my work, becoming something of a trademark.

In June 84, the Street Sounds ‘UK Electro’ album was released. I worked on all the tracks, bar one, as co-writer and producer. I also mixed them, with editing a key ingredient. This was taken a whole stage further on the three 12” singles that were issued from the album, plus the various ‘mixes’ of the tracks (which were, in effect, re-edits, cut-up sometimes to a major degree). ‘UK Electro’ was the first homegrown Dance project to make a main feature of sampled voices, twelve months before Paul Hardcastle topped the British charts with ‘19’. Interestingly, the engineer brought over to work with me on the ‘UK Electro’ remixes, a New Yorker called Craig Bevan (who’d recorded with the B Boys), would later collaborate with Steinski on his cut ‘n’ paste classic ‘The Motorcade Sped On’.

My vinyl debut had actually come the previous year, when Island Records pressed up a mad little edit I’d done of one of their releases, ‘Heaven Sent’ by Paul Haig, as a DJ only promo. To the best of my knowledge this is the first example of a re-edit by a British DJ.

I’d fully utilise my editing skills during the latter part of the 80’s and into the 90’s, especially on the two Ruthless Rap Assassins albums and the various singles by the Assassins and Kiss AMC. Apart from editing tracks together, the Revox was also used as a sampler of sorts, from which I'd spin sounds I’d recorded onto tape into the tracks I was working on. I compiled numerous reels of ‘spins’ for this purpose, all with gaps between each snippet (much like a sample CD). Even when the Akai revolutionised the whole sampling thing I'd only use it in conjunction with live spins from the Revox. Sometimes a sampler couldn't quite give you the vibe you got from spinning a sound in. It's an effect The Beatles used during the mid/late 60's to add texture to their tracks.

I'd cite The Beatles (or more precisely producer George Martin) with the greatest single edit of all time. This is when John Lennon wanted to use the first section of one recording of 'Strawberry Fields Forever', but take the rest of the track from a completely different and more progressive version. His comment to George Martin, when he pointed out the difficulties of pitch and tempo, was 'you can fix it'. The fixed version is the definitive one that we all know, two recordings perfectly merged together by one decisive splice.

In 1996 I put together my final mix using the Revox ('The Monastic Mix'), recorded for an experimental club night I was involved in called ‘The Monastery’. This mix, which I worked on in conjunction with a young Liverpool DJ called Matt Shannon, filled one side of a cassette given away on the first night, and has since become regarded as something of a cult-classic by those who got hold of a copy.

I remember that when people would watch me working at the Revox they were amazed to see all the pieces of white splicing tape running past the heads. Sometimes a series of edits were grouped so closely together that all that could be seen was a long stream of white tape whizzing past. I would literally take a ruler and measure a beat, before cutting it up into smaller and smaller fractions. I'd have bits of tape everywhere, bars and beats and bits of beats all marked on the back with a chinagraph pencil so I knew what they were. Having nobody else to refer to, I’d evolved my own madcap system, which made perfect sense to me, but must have seemed completely chaotic to anyone else!

Suffice to say that editing has been a major part of my life. Nowadays my work is computer based and I can do things that would once have taken me hours in just a matter of minutes. Many tape edit effects, which used to be highly complex and time consuming back in those distant days, are now made relatively simple by modern technology. That's not to say that the craft has gone out of editing, you still have to come up with the ideas and that's always the most important thing, no amount of technological expertise can make a silk purse from a sow's ear. However, the precision and speed of computers undoubtedly makes life a lot easier, allowing so many more possibilities than I could have imagined during those countless hours sat over my Revox, blade in hand. There are also things that were impossible when I started out editing, like changing the tempo of a track without changing the pitch. The tools I had at my disposal back then were undoubtedly primitive when compared to what’s available now.


FULL SLEEVENOTES: http://www.tirk.co.uk/releases_gregwilson.html FURTHER INFO: www.electrofunkroots.co.uk

See also: tape - edit - Greg Wilson - electro - electro funk - music

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