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?UESTIONS: Patrick Forge - Rebirth of Cool

The sorcerer of sound - playing and sharing undiscovered gems for us all to boogie to. DJ and Broadcaster Patrick Forge is a legendary pioneer that celebrates the origins of great music. He is the rebirth of cool.

Dingwalls Flyer Nov 2013

A true connoisseur, what do you love about music?

From an early age music fired my imagination, I discovered that it offered the chance to feel an exalted state, and I’ve spent my life chasing that feeling. My fascination with and passion for music and the culture it spawns eventually led me to place where I had the chance to share my love of music and find my place within it, and I have deep gratitude for having had that opportunity.

Maybe I chose this path, but it’s vastly apparent to me that I’ve been very lucky, or to put it in more cosmic terms, the stars aligned and the universe said yes. In that sense it feels more like music chose me.

There was a period in my life when I went from being a frustrated and failing musician to working in Soho’s Reckless Records, nabbing myself a radio show on London’s hottest pirate radio Kiss FM, and starting a residency with Gilles Peterson at Dingwalls. Which all happened in a matter of months.

Of course the path I’ve trodden since then has in many ways dictated the terms of my relationship with music, but I try not to let that get in the way of my  fundamental love for music. I don’t want it to kill the goosebumps! Those moments when you’re just staggered with disbelief at how powerful music is and the way it makes you feel.

Soul Album Covers

Has the movement changed or your place within it? How do you connect with your audience?

Music and culture are constantly changing and evolving, and I always try to embrace the philosophy that all change is good, even when it seems initially detrimental. There’s always something new to learn!

My career has spanned the transition into the digital age and it’s always interesting to compare and contrast between then and now. From the days when clubs were promoted with flyers and word of mouth, when radio shows had a vital role to play, and knowledge was hard won from books, magazines and record sleeves. To the digital world where everything is instantly accessible, and there are always infinite possibilities.

Patrick Forge infront of music decks

For everything gained there is always something lost too, it’s inevitable. However one thing I believe to be true, is that creativity is often stifled by the ease of the digital age. Whether it’s carrying thousands of tunes for your DJ set in a memory stick, or trawling through the endless options of digital music production; it can be overwhelming and stifling.

Less is very often more and working within narrower parameters means there’s less chance of getting lost! Less options often fosters greater creativity.

Social media has of course radically changed the relationship between DJ and audience, mainly in good ways, there’s always a sense of community there, and so many things and ways to share. However, in a club, it’s the same as it ever was, (providing folk aren’t too glued to their screens), as it’s about an energetic connection through the music. 

Having worked with such an array of artists, do you have a favourite memory?

Sometimes I forget that people I’ve known for years, whether musicians, DJs or producers are artists in other people’s perceptions. Which is not to undermine or diminish what they do, it’s just that I’m lucky enough to know them as regular, flawed but brilliant humans.

In that respect from my generation, I would always big-up Kaidi Tatham whose music I love, and though I don’t see him that often we share a language of appreciation for many of the same things. Kaidi is a very special musician and producer, (and DJ!) and that excitement, that spirit, that inspirational feeling that music offers flows out of him constantly.

I’ve also been lucky enough to meet and sometimes also interview some legendary artists, many of whom are no longer with us. I even met James Brown! But people like Mark Murphy and Terry Callier, who were special for our scene and whose careers we helped revive and prolong I feel particularly strongly about. They never disappointed, and were as people everything their art suggested they might be. Which isn’t always the case!

They say “never meet your heroes” and it’s a cautionary note people often ignore, setting themselves up to be disappointed, sometimes there’s a huge gulf between the flawless art someone creates and the rather compromised human being behind it.

Kaidi Tatham Album cover

What year made the biggest impression?

This question just makes me feel old, as all the years that spring to mind are a long time ago. It also makes me feel slightly depressed as I reflect on the lack such huge tectonic shifts in recent times. It also makes me feel incredibly blessed to have been born at a time to have been witness to and a part of those changes.

I can’t settle on one year, so here’s three. 1977, I was still at school, the advent of punk was something that ripped through an increasingly staid, stale and outdated culture, no matter what you made of the music, the attitude was everything. It was rebellious and empowering and reached out to the disaffected, whoever and wherever you were.

1982, I often cite the early eighties as being the last throes of a genuine counter culture, and also one of the most exciting periods in terms of musical creativity and evolution. It was all blueprinted back then, from electronic dance music to the reassimilation of jazz, from the ambient and abstract to the exemplars of eclectic pop.

1988, the second Summer Of Love, the year my DJ career began to gather momentum, the acid jazz “phenomenon” and a breathless ride at a time when it felt like things were moving so fast it was nigh on impossible to take stock. 

Talking Loud & Sayin Something in Dingwalls

Talking Loud & Sayin Something in Dingwalls, London, 1990 photo by Adam Friedman.

Do you have a favourite DJ?

My favourite DJs are also those who I owe the most to, and I have learned immeasurably from. Gilles Peterson, who I worked alongside for many years and through many memorable sessions, he taught me so much about being brave as a selector, the light and shade, tension and release of constructing a set.

Paul Trouble Anderson (RIP) whose encouragement was priceless and enthusiasm infectious;  you can only really learn about “the dance” from a dancer, and PTA was not only one of the greatest DJs he was also a superlative dancer. There’s a much misunderstood word in our lexicon, and that is boogie. Some people think of it as a genre, as a style of music, and that’s all well and good, but beyond that, boogie is a way to dance, and beyond that, boogie is a feeling. Paul taught me about boogie.

Thirdly Phil Asher (RIP) who I hooked up with towards the end of the 90s when we ran a night called Inspiration Information together. Although our paths diverged in his later years, I miss him terribly. More than anything I’m grateful for the way he brought me back into myself and encouraged me to stay true to what I believe in. 

And I think the DJ I most admire is Theo Parrish, I was amongst a bunch of DJs at the sadly no longer Southern Soul Festival in Montenegro, and we were just shaking our heads, next level is next level! 

Of course there are many DJs who I admire and am excited by, some huge names and some barely known. The point being that we are all (as DJs) conduits for something far bigger and more important than ourselves, music.

From starting out to now - are the same things important to you?

Of course priorities shift as you age and hopefully grow, the responsibilities of parenthood and the perspective that creates changes everything. I’m definitely more reflective, less arrogant, more at peace with who I am. I try to see the bigger picture.

I’m not a hungry young man anymore, I’m a hungry old man! It’s just that my taste has evolved and my understanding deepened. Yet no matter what, music is a constant for me. 

Between 1987 and 2008 (apart from a year’s gap when the station transitioned from pirate to legal) I did a weekly radio show for Kiss FM. Unlike most of the original pirate legends, Norman Jay, Jazzie B etc. I neither fell out with or was pushed out by Kiss, until I was the only survivor from the original pirate crew.

Then I left the station and moved to Okinawa, Japan. I wasn’t doing much club DJing, and having stopped broadcasting it was such a huge relief, I was able to have a complete reset of my relationship with music, without that pressure.

Kiss FM Crew

I’m extremely grateful for that period, it definitely re-stoked my passion, I listened differently, things became clearer to me about what I loved about music, the various threads of my taste and how they wove together. When I moved back to London in 2010(?) I think I’d become a better DJ… anyway I didn’t start doing radio again until December 2012. 

My saving grace in life has been rediscovering a passion for swimming at the end of my twenties, I’d become quite disconnected from my body, and unfit! So I truly needed to get back to where I felt most at home, in the water.

I’m definitely a water person… and as a very wise woman once told me, “swimming is your goddess”, and that’s true in that sense that for me swimming is as much a spiritual practice as it is exercise.

I’m pretty dedicated and disciplined as a swimmer, now all I want to achieve in life is to find a way to apply those qualities to writing a book (about music). I also want to get out there and DJ as much as I can whilst I still feel able and energised to do so! 

Instagram: @patrickforge


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