Jump to the blues with DJ Andy Smith

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THE Guide speaks to DJ Andy Smith about his club night, held monthly at Plugged Inn on Holmeside.

The Guide (TG): Your Jam Up Twist club night has been running for four months in Sunderland now. How do you find Sunderland compares to the other cities – Swansea/London/Manchester – that you run the night in?

“ACTUALLY it’s different “up north” as you seem to dig the northern soul more, probably more ingrained in the north of England I guess – down south it’s all rockabilly and jump blues, up north it’s much more Northern Soul and Ska.”

YOU’RE probably best known for your work with Mercury Music/Brit-winning band Portishead, and you’ve travelled the world DJing hip hop, so is there a reason why you’ve focused more on the music of earlier decades?

“NEW hip hop became a joke and as it took a while for people to realise this.

“There was a time when I just couldn’t play hip hop so I went backwards in time to find a whole treasure trove of amazing music, compared to very little new stuff that excited me.

“I started off with the northern soul. I always used to play this alongside the hip hop and newer stuff anyway, and when Keb Darge asked me to play at Madame Jo Jo’s in London every week, the 50’s stuff was a revelation.

“Here I had people dancing all over the place, and together, rather than a load of moody blokes nodding their heads at the edge of the club to hip hop. It was a no brainer for me DJ wise!”

THE night is advertised as playing rockabilly, northern soul, ska and 50’s jump blues, is there a linear connection between the music you used to play (hip hop) and your current bag of records?

“YES, I used to think that stuff was good then and now I think this stuff is good. I had to take a break from hip hop.

“I can still dig early hip hop, 80’s stuff and some 90’s stuff, but not much newer. If hip hop was the punk music of the 80s when it came along then rockabilly is certainly the punk music of the 50s.”

YOU’VE restricted yourself to playing old-fashioned vinyl when the rest of the DJ world are embracing digital formats. Is this musical snobbery or is vinyl really better?

“You’ll hear everybody say that vinyl sounds better – this is true if a sound system is set up for vinyl and let’s face it most clubs today aren’t.

“I use vinyl as that is what I prefer. I have tried CDs, which I found odd, and have used Serato, where I literally can’t find tunes as there are so many in there and I just don’t like scrolling down lines and lines of text trying to find the next selection.

“With vinyl, especially 45s, I can see what I’m looking at and find things quickly. It’s just what I’ve always known and what I want to use.”

FINALLY, what is 50s jump blues?

“Jump Blues was up-tempo blues played by small groups, and therefore cheaper to book, that started in the 40s after the end of the Second World War and became more prevalent in the 50s.

“They were bands that were putting more of a swing into the traditional blues sound to get people jumping in the juke joints of America.

This music inadvertently created Rock and Roll as many of the big tunes were later covered by white artists such as Elvis Presley and Bill Haley, amongst others.”

* The next Jam Up Twist night takes place at Plugged Inn tomorrow from 11pm to 3.30am.