Mon. Dec. 10, 2018

Norman Jay (MBE): Good Times!

Norman JayAffable and sober in the meantime, here comes Norman Jay. A man who’s brought his inseparable Bob hats at the four corners of the globe. And, in the meantime, his vibes which he blends together in a unique way. Such as his aptly titled ‘Good Times’ compilations illustrate this.
From his collaboration with Gilles Peterson to his annual sets at the upper level of a double-decker bus at the Notting Hill Carnival, Norman has progressively become an institution. Eventually receiving the MBE Award for services to music back in 2002…

“I’m someone wearing a lot of hats, be it on my head as regarding my activities. I feel as good in a Jazz/Funk night as in an old school Funk one. As a matter of fact, I can play any kind of music in front of any kind of crowd…”

You’ve been around for quite some time now. Is it to say we got to see you as so to say a DJing senior member in the UK, like Dr Bob Jones for instance?
“Nope (Norman first got paid for a gig back in 1986). Many big names in the House scene are older than me. I think of Pete Tong or Dave Pearce for instance…”

Pete Tong isn’t the first that would have come to my mind artistically speaking…
“He has got his fans on his own domain and he’s popular. As far for me, it’s another story. As I’ve always remained true to my Black roots, whatever I might be playing…”

You’ve been colloaborating for some time with Gilles Peterson…
“True. Mainly as a DJ by the time Talkin’ Loud saw the light. Even though I had a bunch of artistical input…”

Your spiritual family…
“Paul Anderson! We’re like twins. Trevor Nelson and Jazzie B (Soul II Soul). But also Bob Jones, Bobby & Steve. And then would come Joey Negro. As in terms of sound, I would say New York, Philadelphia, New Jersey. In other words, soulful and deep House…”

Which explains the versatility in your sets…
“Without a doubt. And most likely due to the fact that I’ve seen the arrival of so many successive trends. Actually, I’ve been lucky enough to be in NYC at the end of the 70’s and see the birth of Hip-Hop…”

I suppose you don’t like that much being gotten into a specific niche…
“To me, this is simply a non sense. Simply because the crowd’s expactations are in a constant evolution. At the end of the day, I don’t really care as to how people see me. I know who I am and I am what I’m doin’. I’m someone wearing a lot of hats, be it on my head as regarding my activities. I feel as good in a Jazz/Funk night as in an old school Funk one. Therefore, I most likely can play any kind of music in front of any kind of crowd. I eventually played Techno at times, which has surprised a lot of people. I play Reggae and also Ambient/Chill Out. But the best way to know about my real influences is to come over and hear me playing at the Notting Hill Carnival…”

Tell us more about it...
“I’m installed on the upper level of a double-decker bus which has been specially redesigned for this. I get myself in front of an average 12,000 people who come for the sound. We open at Noon and stop at 07:00pm. I usually start with cool jams and I try to bring people into a musical trip…”

You’re carrying along that tradition of the so to say general practioner DJ’s. In other words what used to be around until the arrival of the specialized DJ’s by the end of the 80’s…
“Exactly. It’s the best way to learn, but also for me to secure freedom. I have no problem at the perspective of playing like House Music on Saturdays. Hip-Hop on Mondays and Jazz on Thursdays! This is not a natural process though. It’s something that we build year after year…”

And there is that series of ‘Good Times’ compilations…
“It’s so to say a retrospective of the best tunes I’ve got to be playing at the Carnival since we started back in 1980. A showcase of our eclectism…

Strange as to how one can get back to the underground as quickly as under the spotlights…
“This is not like a physical act. It comes from the way you’re perceived. A new generation is to land who doesn’t know about you. And, as a result, doesn’t give a damn about you. And that’s pretty much it: you are underground. Then these people will eventually come to discover you, appreciate what you’re doin’ and make you becoming overground… Mainstream!

Everything is a matter of cycles. If ever there’s a thing I’ve noticed, it’s the fact that, despite your attempts to eventually reinvent it, the wheel will always make rounds to end up coming back at you one day or another. Here’s where I’m at after more than 30 years of activities. Still around…”

Chosen few
Norman Jay – Shake & Fingerpop Warehouse Classics Vol.1 (P-Vine Records)
Joey & Norman Jay – Good Times vol. 1 & 2 (Nuphonic)
Joey & Norman Jay MBE – Good Times vol. 3 (React)
Gilles Peterson & Norman Jay – Desert Island Mix (V2)
Joey & Norman Jay MBE – Good Times vol. 4, 5, 6, 7 (Resist)
Norman Jay MBE – Good Times 30 Anniversary Edition (Harmless)

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Loose Ends: Ooh, you make me feel!
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