SOAS Radio Resident Interviews – Russ Jones aka Hackney GT Thu, 2017-05-11 17:01

How did you end up at SOAS Radio?

I knew the original station manager, the infamous Carlos Chirinos. He’s the one who convinced the university to set up a radio station. He’s unbelievable – a bit like a character from a children’s show I used to watch called Mr. Ben, who would appear in all sorts of different unsuspecting places… he’s actually now a lecturer in New York. We knew each other through working with a Venezuelan record company, and I was keen on the idea of doing a radio show.

How has your show changed over the past 200 hours of episodes?
(You can check out Russ’ first recorded show here)

Well, I hope that it’s got better. 200 episodes has taken a long time – it’s been going for 10 years. My DJing is very fluid and so is always changing. I still programme my shows on iTunes, however I now carry them on a USB, whereas before I would have to burn it onto two CDs, and the show would be broadcast on FM when SOAS Radio was still called OpenAir FM.

Has the studio changed over the past decade?

It’s still surrounded by dodgy students, and there’s still the same carpet, which I guess has become a bit browner. A change would be that the current station manager Miia has made operations really slick, with a good online profile now that internet radio is a thing. Today there are a lot more shows and events, with some really prolific people on board.

Do you have any favourite tracks or genres from over the years?

As a rule I try not to repeat tracks unless I really like them, then maybe they’ll get played twice, and perhaps again a year later or so. In terms of genre I mostly feature Cumbia because I love it.

>Your top three shows?

– The Annual collaboration with Cal Jader

– The guest show with Shantel (Bucovina Club Orkestar) – It was all over the place but we were laughing all the way through so that will always stick out.

Episode 202, which happened to fall on International Women’s day. It was great to focus specifically on female artists because usually about 70 or 80 percent of my tracks are by male artists.

Do you make a living through your music alone?

I used to help a friend run a Brazilian record label called Far Right Recordings, and wanted to make my own label and publishing company, but it wasn’t viable. So then I created a spin off from Hackney Globe Trotter – my cycling clothing brand ‘Hackney GT.’ (I chose to drop ‘trotter’ as it reminded me of some dodgy backstreet dealers from Only Fools and Horses.) I started Hackney GT 6 years ago because it became increasingly difficult to make a living through the music industry, especially world music. – I’ve seen people go out of business left right and center.

How did you get into the music industry?

I loved going to clubs. We would go to nights put on by Gilles Peterson and Norman Jay in the late 80s when acid house was emerging, but struggled to find any regular jazzy/funk/hip-hop gigs near my base in Kingston. Consequently a couple of mates and I started our night every Friday in the Cockpit in Kingston. I found the whole promotion and organisation behind the events just as cool as the DJing, and from that little session things just blew right on off. We eventually came up town in the 90s to do a night called ‘London Calling’ with 1,500 guests sprawling through multiple rooms dedicated to jazz/funk n soul/house/DnB. It was in the 90s that I met Chris Greenwood (host of Madera Verde).

What was the world music club scene like in the 90s?

Man, it really was hot. Bar Rumba for example was packed seven nights a week! This was before bars had good music, and so people would have to go to clubs, which meant that the good clubs would have huge queues every single night, and would even turn people away for not being in the right gear. In Bar Rumba, Gilles Peterson drew 500 people in every Monday, and Chris Greenwood had his salsa night on Wednesdays.

How were you were introduced into DnB.

It was just something everyone was really into, ever since in broke out with Roni Size. I always play a bit of DnB when I’m DJing because it goes down really well, but nowadays I’m more into more old school stuff like Jungle, which mixes in old reggae beats. There’s always good stuff coming out in the jungle scene.

What changes in the music trends amongst young people have you noticed?

I’m from an age of defined youth movement in music. It was almost like gangs: you signed up to a subculture, dressed accordingly, and couldn’t have any association to any other genre. So, for example, if you were a ‘soul boy’, you’d never admit to liking a rock track. That’s something which has changed a lot.
Nowadays it’s pretty cool to see all ages go to festivals. For example, Roy Ayer’s crowd at Wilderness 2017 was made up from 13 year olds, who couldn’t really be familiar with his stuff, mixed with people through to my age and older, with everyone getting down together. Also, today world music is far more popular than it ever was when I was a teenager. We’d listen to things like Fela Kuti, but never anything from Mali or Indonesia. Rita Ray really opened my eyes to world music. Recently I’ve heard world music crossing into pop music like never before. It goes to show how timeless music can be.

What can we expect to come from Hackney GT in the future?

Who knows. I listen to the radio and hear music is forever getting rediscovered. It’s exciting, there’s a lot more to be uncovered.