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Eclectic Ballroom Interview

10 June 09 words: Ben Hacking
Eclectic Ballroom: To be a good selector you have to be a good connector..

Eclectic BallroomMaking it behind the decks can be a gruelling task. One that is made significantly easier if you are a producer playing off the back of successful record sales or if you happen to be sleeping with the owner of Fabric.

Zed Malik and Jim Norton, AKA Eclectic Ballroom, are two DJs hailing from Peterborough who have progressed at an impressive pace. Within the last three years passionate crate digging has thrown them from the micro scenes of the UK (previous residencies have included Stamford and Soho) onto some major festivals - picking up acclaim from the likes of Giles Peterson and Jo Whiley during their journey.

With predominantly Funk, Soul and old skool hip-hop in the box, more big bookings are on the horizon. The duo have just secured a new monthly residency at Bluu in Notts. LeftLion caught up with them for a chat to find out the story so far and to see what makes these boys stand out from the crowd.

For a bit of background, how did you meet and what brought about you playing together?
Jim: We met in a pub called Bogart’s in Peterborough where I was resident at a monthly Reggae night. I heard that Zed had started putting on Funk based events and was keen to get involved. The duo thing kind of evolved over time. Although we still play individual solo sets, our styles are very similar.

Zed: Summer 2006 The Eclectic Ballroom started at Bogart’s. I was bored with whole music scene in Peterborough (it still fucking sucks!), Jim came and played at the 2nd event and he rocked it, so we got chatting and realised we loved all things funk. The whole name thing came about because of my musical tastes I was into every thing if it sounded good - rock, funk, soul and hip-hop.

It sounds like there is a lot of passion in your musical roots, what inspired you to be dj’s and where does your sound come from?
Jim: I grew up with Hip-hop and then got into the early nineties rave scene as a teenager. I was a regular visitor to London clubs where I was inspired by the likes of Norman Jay, Giles Peterson and even some of the US house jocks like Tony Humphries.
However I’d say the biggest influence to my sound has been attending The Gallery parties hosted by the legendary Nicky Siano. This guy helped pioneer the whole nightclub phenomenon back in the seventies and still plays breathtaking 4-5 hour sets now!

Zed: I grew up listening to Disco, Elvis and Greece the musical (told you it was eclectic). As a child I remember hearing the disco version of star wars and dancing to “you’re the one that I want”, later as my tastes matured I got into the legendary Larry Levan (Paradise Garage), David Mancuso (the loft), David Holmes, Giles Peterson and Andrew weatherall. They have influenced my musical tastes immensely. Afternoons spent round my mates house going thorough his vinyl watching him trying to mix, great times. Clubbing wise it was Venus and White rooms in Nottingham. Loosen Up in London was my very first clubbing experience.

Did the relatively small music scene in Peterborough make it easier to become established?
Jim: We almost gave up. It was only our enthusiasm for the music which pressed us to find more suitable venues where the crowd was receptive to music they hadn’t heard before. Peterborough was a struggle but it gave us the time together to forge our sound and we’ve never looked back since.

Zed: Peterborough has no clubbing scene left since The Attic closed in the late nineties, it has struggled ever since. We had an element of luck on our side, whilst promoting our first major event with the legendary Dr Bob Jones (Southport Weekenders),we stumbled across what was to be our home for the next 2 years - Mi Familia in Stamford. It was at Mi Familia that a major festival promoter who had not been back to his hometown for years just so happened to be at our night and we booked our first major festival, Glade in summer 2008.

What’s been the best gig to date?
Jim: Playing the closing set at the Beautiful Days festival in Devon last year was amazing, it was as if the whole place was totally locked into our vibe and they were going nuts for it.

Zed: Beautiful Days and playing at the Pussy Parlure which was awesome, the place was rammed. What a rush. I cant remember my set or what I played, I was in trance or something!

How are your sets are compiled, do you prefer to improvise on the night or work mixes out beforehand?
Jim: We have a rough idea of what’s going to be played but I’ve hardly ever pre-planned a whole set. To be honest our style is so eclectic that we tend to rely on reading the crowd for a bit of direction, which is how it should be.

Zed: We tend to vibe of each other and it works its always a surprise, its never the same and we like it like that.

When it comes to formats do you agree the sound quality is compromised when vinyl isn’t being played?
Jim: Mmm… I’ve gone from vinyl to CD, and back again, twice, so I’m not sure I know the answer to that one. I do know vinyl is a lot heavier to be dragging around muddy fields when it comes to festival season so right now I’m heading back to digital formats.

Zed: CD’s and MP3’s for me, it’s not the format its what you’re playing that matters. Jim’s record boxes are fucking heavy!

Is there a secret to making a crowd go nuts?
Jim: In the words of David Rodigan, “To be a good Selector, you have to be a good connector”

Zed: Damn straight.

If you could go back in time and play any venue alongside any DJ, when, where and who would it be?
Jim: I guess playing at Studio54 the night Bianca Jagger rode into the club on a white horse would have to be the one. All those celebrities totally off their heads must have been fun!

Zed: Paradise garage along side Larry levan 1977, genius, nuff said.

What does the future hold for Eclectic Ballroom?
Jim: Funky people getting their groove on.

Zed: We are playing Glastonbury this year on 28th June, the closing set at the Pussy Parlure. Looking to release our first mix cd, and we have a night starting at the Soul Tree in Cambridgeshire. We are also releasing 3 minute animation movie based around DJ funkateers from another galaxy fighting souls with no groove.

What can we expect from the upcoming residency at Bluu?
Jim: A reincarnation of the original disco experience, seriously great fucking music, and a great vibe.

Anything else you’d like to say to the LeftLion readers?
Jim: Next time you’re in a commercial venue playing crap music that you’ve heard a thousand times before. Stop. Think Eclectic Ballroom at Bluu.

Zed: We will make you dance, it’s the dirtiest funk soul and disco you’ve ever heard!

Eclectic ballroom play the first saturday of each month at Bluu, Broadway, The Lace Market, Nottingham.

Eclectic Ballroom website

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