Interview: 45 Live’s Pete Isaac
Pete Isaac runs 45 Live, a collective devoted to all aspects of the perfectly formed 7″ vinyl 45rpm record. Something You Said’s 25ThC is one half of DJ duo Original Forty Fivers who specialise in just playing 45s. He and Pete had a lot to talk about including the 45 scene, Pete’s graphic design work, his record label and his 25-year-strong club night Jelly Jazz:
When did you first set up 45 Live and what does it promote?
I spent a couple of years living in Bristol 2013-2015, and whilst there got into discussions with Scott Boca 45 about making something more of the ’45 Live’ night he was doing at a venue called Native. He’d been inviting various people to come down to Bristol with nothing but a box of 7″s, even though they may have been using Serato/CD/other DJ tech tools at other gigs. The consensus was that everyone actually really enjoyed going back to vinyl, myself included after a few years flirting with Serato. The fact is all of the 45 Live crew are not exactly young any more, we all started spinning rekkids a long time before the technical options expanded into the vast array of DJing possibilities you have now. We all learned our trade with vinyl, 2 x Technics and a mixer and this is where we feel most at home.
So over a few pints one day in the Autumn 2014, Scott and I talked about the general vinyl resurgence and ever building 45 fever in particular. We determined that there was an opportunity to literally celebrate this fact and in doing so create a community based around the 7″. One of the pillars of the 45 Live ethos is that we are not just concerned with promoting ourselves, our events and so on, we actively dedicate equal time to other people’s projects, events, products etc, we are all about the scene, however niche that actually is. In my 30 years of promoting events, I always noticed most people just talk about themselves and I’ve always reacted against that. I get it of course, it’s cut-throat out there, but I’ve always done things differently. My other thing – Jelly Jazz – was the same, it celebrated the wider Acid Jazz/rare groove scene of the 90’s/00’s. And now with 45 Live, I’m able to run a lot deeper in that direction with the magazine styled web site, the radio show and so on. I’ve just embarked on an ambitious series of interviews/articles on the web site called ‘Forty Five Corners – A Seven Inch Journey Around The World’, focusing on 45 people who are involved in the mighty 7″ single internationally in a significant way. Basically celebrating people, who like us, are in love with 45s and progressing all aspects of the format. It’s quite the commitment, but I think the end result will be a great record of where the scene stands in 2018.
But to answer your question succinctly, 45 Live is a celebration of the 7″ 45rpm single in all its forms, from the records themselves, old or new, to the labels, the DJs, the producers, diggers and manufacturers of 45s related kit all over the world. We want it all to be a rallying point for 45 freaks everywhere. Everyone is welcome to get involved and we actively encourage collaborations.
Like myself you have a love of the 7″ 45rpm vinyl format. What is it that makes it so special for you?
The honesty of a 7″ is very alluring. Whatever the music is, that two and half minutes or so has an immediacy that is unique to the format. In a DJ set, that time limitation naturally creates energy. On a nerd level, collecting 45s is an obsession with what seems like a limitless reservoir of records to discover. You never stop learning in this game, and with black belt diggers like Greg Belson, Format and Mr Thing in the crew (the whole crew are obsessed btw!) I know I’ll always be introduced to new/old records that will blow my mind, it will never become boring.
You have recently added the legendary DJ Woody to the 45 Live DJ roster. What do you look for in your members?
It’s a total honour that Woody wanted to join. He is typical in many ways, having started with vinyl then moved into the digital realm and now re-discovering his love of wax. Like Mr Thing, Lee Woody has risen to the very top and their skills are literally breathtaking. As for who we look for, well, we started with a smallish crew that were basically mates of Scott and I. Having both been in the game for so long, we both had plenty of DJs that fitted the bill that have become good friends, so it was natural to invite them to become part of the crew first. Then one by one, more and more people wanted to be involved and to indulge in their love of the 7″. Personally, I’m completely overjoyed in the strength of the crew, it’s totally stacked with skills and experience, I couldn’t ask for more really. Cut Chemist and Koco would be most welcome though! I should also say that being sound on a human level is also important, we haven’t got time for self-obsessed egomaniacs and unfriendly prats.
You have already released some quality 45s on your label. Is there more to come this year?
We’re on to release number five in early spring (six if you count the 45 Live Manchester 7″). All I can say right now is that it’s a NYC boom bap hip hop affair, very much a golden era vibe and a doubled sided dancefloor slab of gold. We may very well release another Aeon Seven 45 in 2018, his ‘Seven Breaks’ 45 is a personal favourite in our catalogue so far, and I hope that Scott Boca will do another on the label again too, but that will likely be 2019. The label is very fluid and loose and if something comes along we will jump on it, so 2018 could see two records, or it could see five! Another thing is we’re not stifled by genre, we could release absolutely anything if we love it. I’d love to put out an acid/hip house 45 and have nearly secured something twice now but those projects have stalled unfortunately. I’m not sure an acid 45 makes good business sense but it’s just one of those bucket list things for me personally, I’ve got all the artwork sorted already, a lovely full colour printed 7″ sleeve, it just needs an artist and track!
Which other labels and artists do you rate at the moment?
Colemine in the US are smashing it right now for new soul/funk/jazz music, plus labels like Southpaw Chop and Delights are on point. As for reissues the usual suspects continue to keep the quality control high – Jazzman, AOTN, Mukatsuku, Rocafort and so on.
What were in your opinion the best 5 releases on 45 in 2017?
Oh god, this is a list of five records I really love that came out in 2017, there are many others that could/should be in there!
1. Scone Cash Players ‘Year Of The Rooster’ (Flamingo Time) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hg_LcDETEeM
2. DJ Format & Abdominal ‘We’re Back’ (Rocafort) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHNT4V3b7lo
3. Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio ‘Concussion’ (Colemine) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZK0JBp3zl2c
4. Voodoo Cuts ‘Loopita’ (Juice On Wax) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGUOil3vjxs
5. Marc Hype & Naughty NMX ‘Funky Thang’ (Dusty Donuts) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdpOPgTrL_k
In addition to running the site, label and DJ’ing you are a graphic designer and have worked on some great projects recently. Which pieces have you particularly enjoyed designing and what do you have in the pipeline?
If music hadn’t become such an obsession, I probably would have been a full-time designer. But I guess being able to indulge in both is a blessing in reality. My last real ‘job’ at a design agency in Plymouth in 1992-3 had me doing adverts for plastic windows and what not, and I hated doing that. So I left, went freelance and dedicated more time to music promotion. So since 92, I’ve been able to satisfy my design interests with my own music projects, perfect! But in all that time I’ve always done bits and bobs for others, and the ever present desire is to design record artwork. My favourite job in 2017 was the new Haggis Horns LP/CD sleeve, I could very happily design jazz LPs all day long for the rest of my life. The latest sleeve which is due out any day is one for Coldcut, needless to say it’s a total honour to be asked to do that.
You started club night Jelly Jazz in 1993 which is now in its 25th year. Why do you think It has stood the test of time and what do you have planned to celebrate this year?
Ah Jelly Jazz, my first love! I cut my teeth in all aspects of DJing, design, promotion, booking, business, marketing etc etc and had a total ball with it. Looking back, I think it’s simply a case of right time, right place coupled with bloody good timeless music. I’m immensely proud of what Jelly Jazz has achieved, from a 14-year weekly Wednesday night run, to the big shows we did at The Eden Project and Dance Academy in Plymouth and the hundreds of other events across the SW over the years. We put on the very first Sharon Jones show in Europe for example, 1500 people on a Wednesday night, in Plymouth! Sounds crazy now right?! To be honest, Jelly Jazz has taken a back seat now 45 Live is up and running, as 45 Live enables me to take things to places that Jelly wasn’t reaching. But there are still some Jelly Jazz events around Devon and Cornwall here and there, we’re still blessed with Jelly fans that demand us! And I still love playing a Jelly set, as they were always very freestyle. Any genre of music is fair game, as long as it has that Jelly element, i.e. a bit of jazziness or funkiness in there somewhere. DJ Griff and I can identify if a track is ‘Jelly’ or not within seconds, and it’s still a joy to spin with him after 25 years. We played together this NYE just gone in Devon, and it was a crazy night, going from jazz to funk to house to D&B and everywhere in between. It’s this variety that defines us, yet there’s a cohesion that has naturally come from it’s longevity. We’re going to celebrate our 25th birthday at The Masked Ball in May 2018 with ‘Jelly Jazz’s Original Rare Groove’, Griff and I with some special guests doing what we do best. I’m also doing a 25th guest spot at The Crofters Rights in Bristol in March. No doubt some other stuff will bubble up too.
Your main love is Jazz. What is it about this genre that makes is stand out for you and which accomplished and current artists are you playing?
Making a presumption there aren’t you! Jazz is right up there, but so is funk, soul, breakbeat, D&B, house, acid, blues, rock…. I’m a music lover. I’ve been obsessing over new folk/downbeat/country grunge for the last two years, acts like Widowspeak, Big Thief, Laura Marling, Richard Hawley, James Yorkson and the like. I’ve also lost my mind over the new Slowdive album. Another new album I bloody love is ‘From The Mind of Boogie Nite’ (I actually designed the sleeve for this LP), it’s a killer nu-disco/house set from Chicago, it’s total class. Jazz wise, and if you mean proper jazz, then the new Jukka Eskola Soul Trio album ‘Soul Trio’ on Timmion Records is a beauty in every way, music and sleeve art.
2018 already looks to be a busy one for you including curating two stages at Cornwall’s biggest party “The Masked Ball” in May. Who is lined up to play and what do you have planned for it?
45 Live had stages at six festivals in 2017, so we’re hoping to replicate or better that in 2018, we’ve got a bunch in the bag with others still TBC. The Masked Ball in Cornwall holds a special place in my heart though as it was the first festival that gave 45 Live a go when we started and where we were able to do a full production as we envisioned it at the beginning, and working with MB chief Alec Short is a joy, he’s a true creative full of energy and ideas. We’ve been doing their two-yearly festivals ever since. That and the fact that it’s a monster party with a wicked crew of SW party people, people down here know how to have a good time!
So this year I’m running two stages, ‘Jelly Jazz’s Original Rare Groove’ as mentioned already and a little creative playfulness with ’45 Live Airways’! This evolved from the fact that I wanted to book various DJs from around the world, and wanted to graphically represent that in some way. So the departure board offered the perfect vehicle to get creative. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent animating the poster artwork, a real labour of love or torture depending on how I was feeling on any day during the process of doing it. Every single frame and movement was hand done in illustrator/animate, but I’m pretty pleased with the result! Then of course there is the line up, which is epic – Mr Thing, Boca, Suspect, Hype, Greg Belson, MysDiggi hosting and myself warming things up. 12 hours of 100% 45s, which will be amazing no doubt, the skills above should very much guarantee a total rocker. We were trying to book Koco from Japan for this but alas it didn’t happen, this time. The job now is to settle upon the stage set, but I won’t reveal anything about that now. This party is definitely going to be one of 2018’s highlights for sure.
Interview by 25ThC.