Norman Jay MBE in conversation with Rob Kelly
Its not often the term Superstar DJ can be used and genuinely be descriptive, Norman Jay MBE has been bringing the good times for more than 50 years, playing his first ever set aged 8. Rob Kelly spoke to him prior to his return to St Paul’s on Friday September 8th. Discussing early influences, not being tied to a single genre and being a positive role model at a time when we need just such a thing
How does it feel to be returning to Worthing?
I had such a fantastic time at St Paul, playing in that old church. It’s a great venue and I had an amazing time. I only live ½ hour away so I am always down on the south coast seeing friends in Brighton but last year was the first time I have played in Worthing for 10 or 15 years and I really enjoyed it.
It was absolutely amazing and the crowds always seem to show me a lot of love, I like to think I am one of the lucky ones, I have an affinity with the south coast, if I didn’t enjoy it I wouldn’t do it. When my agent said they want you back at St Paul’s I said straight away yeah put it in.
I read that one of your early influences was the Israelites, is that right
The Israelites, Desmond Decker, yeah I’m that old really, coming from an Afro-Caribbean family that was the only music I was really exposed too , Reggae and Ska was an absolute staple in our house when I was very young. As soon as I was old enough and I had the money I carried on that long running family tradition.
Is there one song that was your, Elvis, Beatles, Marvin moment, when you thought Ok I get it now?
It is difficult to recall as there are so many but it might be Smokey Robinson, Tears of a Clown.
Did you really play your first set aged 8 on a Dansette at a birthday party for your cousin?
Yeah that’s right but that story has been twisted a bit, when we were really young, in the mid 60’s, all the kids would go over the park on a Sunday afternoon. The bigger guys, would bring their “Dansettes “ and we would be playing records while we played football, but the batteries never lasted you only got only 3 or 4 records. The bigger lads would come over and tax us young kids and then send one of us over to the shop to buy the batteries
you have a love of Mod culture is that a Ska connection?
Well no, I am of the generation that grew up too young for mod, but that culture was all around me, I had older friends and I always loved it and aspired to it but could never afford it. I always loved it from afar. I always wanted the scooter but never could afford one and then family came along, kids, different priorities and then about 7 or 8 years ago I got back into it bought myself a scooter and have never looked back. I still ride a Vespa and a Lammie, when I got back on the scene I hooked up again with so many mates from school, college, football who I hadn’t seen for years. Work had taken me somewhere else and then when I got back into it was great to reunite all those disparate parts of my life again.
Are you still enjoying it as much as you did back in the day
Yes I am, probably more so as it’s much more varied. I realise I am one of the lucky few DJ’s who is comfortable and is by and large accepted on all the music scenes.
I am happy doing drum and base, reggae, doing a Northern night or a house night and I have played with all the biggest Techno and House DJ’s in the world, I love it. I look around me and I am so lucky. I am able to go and play a jazz set with Gilles Peterson one day and a house or techno set with Masters at Work the next and then play with a sound system the day after.
You confounded expectations from the start by doing that sort of thing
I did it from the start, it works for me.
I don’t have a set list, people who know me know that I am never that organised, I’m not a robot, I play off emotion, instinct and experience. I never worry I learned a long time ago you are there because of what you do, so do what you do!
It’s not what you play it’s how you play it
Can you Recommend 1 book and 1 record to the readers out there?
Book would be “Last night a DJ saved my life” by Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton a really good book if you are aspiring to be a DJ or be in the business and the record I guess would be a Marvin Gaye song, maybe “What’s going on”, you know, ask the question.
do you think getting the MBE has proved to be a help or a hindrance?
Personally it hasn’t made any difference, I haven’t used it perhaps as I should have done, it’s just a great accolade to get and I am just happy to wear it as a badge of honour and as a current role model, you can win a Grammy or” DJ magazine” polls but to me it doesn’t come bigger.
what advice would you give your younger self or any aspiring DJ’s coming through?
Be patient, simply be patient, they are always on about get it now, instant gratification, it works for some but for 99.9% it doesn’t.
“For every day success eludes you, when it comes it’s an extra day to savour.”
At that point Norman had to get on with an extremely busy day, but I felt it was a great place to stop on a great quote.
Catch Norman Jay MBE THIS FRIDAY 8th September at Worthing’s leading music venue St Paul’s and browse their “What’s on” section for a full list of up and coming gigs
Follow me on twitter @rkelly316 or read my blog WOMU a Worthing music blog at https://worthingmusic.wordpress.com/