We caught up with Leeds based but Kent born and bred, DJ Lee Miller recently to talk about his life as a DJ and collector.
01. How and when did you get into music and what were you listening to then?
I started listening to music from a young age. Mum & Dad had quite a large collection of 50’s & 60’s R&R, with a bit of pop thrown in. Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Bill Hayley, Gene Vincent & Bill Fury, but my favourite, that I used to do the air guitar & hairbrush routine too was a lesser known “B” side by The Attack – Any More Than I Do – which I still have today. They don’t know how they came to have that 45, all we can assume is that they thought they were getting Jeff Beck’s – Hi Ho Silver Lining.
02. Where was your first DJ slot?
I first started playing records at my local youth club, in the early 1980’s, at the ripe old age of 11 or 12. Playing a selection of sounds that I deemed to be Mod – 2 Tone, The Jam, Small Faces and The Who, and as my knowledge grew, Tamla Motown, Stax, John Lee Hooker and Kent Compilations. Forward to 1985/6, Rob Bailey and I used to run local nights, using two hi-fi systems and speakers. Playing a mix of original 45’s, Kent & Charly Compilations. I think my first “big” Mod club spot was somewhere like Drummonds in 1988. But prior to that would have been one of the Hidden Traces AMSC events around Bracknell, or a lunchtime session at a CCI Rally.
03. What was your most memorable DJ spot?
There have been so many, really great experiences, and I have been honoured to DJ at so many events and clubs over the world, over the past 25 years. Each one drawing a different reaction, whether it be a basement club or a large dancehall. To pin just one down, that’s hard. But, for the euphoria, that has to be the opening set for The New Untouchables Motown Review, at Modstock 2014. Followed closely, by the round of applause I received, at Brighton 2008 at the end of my set which was at the Saturday night. I had been seriously ill and this was my “return” to the decks.
04. What so far, has been your worst DJ experience?
It’s very difficult to say really, because you make the bad become good. But there is one incident in the early 1990’s – I was playing a set and this guy comes up and complains that I’m not playing “Mod Music” … So I announce over the microphone that if this isn’t Mod music, I’m in the wrong place and sorry for wasting your time, and proceeded to play Lou Donaldson’s – Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky (From Now On). Like a smacker o’blueidy, the guy’s punch catches me unaware and he runs off.
05. Your favourite scene DJ’s and why?
There are many “scenes” under the umbrella of Mod, Soul, Blues, R&B & Jazz. My main influences come from the MOD Scene.
Pid, Alan Handscombe, David Edwards Andrew “Mace” Mason & Chris Dale, sounds lame, but they have always been there, can read a dance-floor/crowd, keep them dancing and always create the atmosphere, and bring new exciting sounds to the turntables
Ady Croasdell & Roger Banks, both I have known for many years, and again never fail to deliver the goods.Discovering those un-issued Soul Jazz & R&B tracks which become dancefloor dynamite.
Paul Molloy & Mikey Collins, two Mod stalwarts! These guys cover all angles on time, everytime.
DJ’s Soup & Bread Or Mark & Ollie, from Leicester. Young, enthusiastic and mindful. These guys are the scenes next dynamic duo. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, well they have.
There are many more DJ’s I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside and many I’ve admired from afar, each one bringing listening pleasure to my ears and tapping to my feet; Mark Ellis, Jon Godden, Neil Henderson, Mocky & Alvaro Dimples, Roberta Pompetti, Andrea Mattioni, Mark Stewart, Joe Dutton (RIP), Mik & Gav @ POW WOW, James Parker, Gav Needham, Axel, Hoss & Mark Thomas.
06. What has shaped your DJ sound and why?
I play the music I like, mainly black American sounds, Soul, Jazz & Blues. The Mod scene has gone through many musical phases* in my time so I take a little from each and mix it all up. The “job” of the DJ is to keep the floor dancing and not just play what he / she likes. *by this I mean, the popularity of one genre of sounds alone is the “fashion” ie: Soul R&B or Jazz for a length of time.
07. What was your best ever find/discovery?
If we’re talking the best 45 at the cheapest price, then there are far too many to mention. I do have some unreleased acetates, that I would file under both finds and discoveries. Some have been played out and others will hopefully have their first airings this year.
08. Who was your biggest influence musically and your favourite artist(s)?
There are two main label stables that have influenced me for 20+ years, Chess Records & Berry Gordy’s Motown Empire. Favourite artists, too many to mention, as many of the greatest tracks were one-off’s.
9. Do you collect specific labels/artists/genres?
Yes and no. I used to be a collector and felt the need for every release on various labels and of course in Mint condition, and the lesser ones for DJ’ing. But in the end I sold 60% of my collection as there were too many I couldn’t ”use”, like ballads, country, rock & roll.
10. Where can folks currently catch your DJ set?
Shiver & Shake, Manchester – 20th August 2016
Brighton New Untouchables Weekender – August 2016
11. What is the record you would most like to own?
That’ll be the record I still don’t know it exists.
Current Top 5 Tracks:
J.J. & Lilly – My Baby Done Left This Town
Jimmy Smith – Uh Ruh
Lonesome Sundown – My Home Ain’t Here
Oliver Miller & The Quinlans – Rock The Boat
Hector Rivera – Be On The Lookout
Top 10 Tracks of All Time:
Top Ten – in no particular order
The Capitols – Cool Jerk
Billy Hawks – O’Baby (I Think I’m Losing You)
Herbie Goins & The Nightimers – Crusin’
The Untamed – My Baby Is Gone
B.B. King – Think It Over
Bobby Bland – Farther On Up The Road
Dionne Warwick – Walk On By
Junior Wells – Snatch It Back, And Hold It
Jimmy Smith – Stay Loose
The Mohawks – Beat Me ‘till I’m Blue
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