Bill Brewster is the DJ’s DJ, journalist’s journalist and record collector’s record collector. He first moved to London in the late 70s, and witnessed the rise of club culture in the capital first hand from post-punk and disco, through rare groove and soul and onto house. He was one of the original residents at Fabric and has been running his Lowlife nights in London since 1997. Bill’s got a new, 41-track monster of an album out; ‘Bill Brewster presents Tribal Rites‘, charting the past 36 years of his life in music and it’s an absolute belter. He’s also having a launch party for it next Wednesday – check it out here.
Hey Bill, how’s it going?
Pretty good thanks. I’ve got the kids to school, walked the dog, bought the new Beck album, had my piano tuned (not a euphemism), renewed my parking permit and it’s not even midday. Oh and I’ve got a juicy album coming out this Friday (Nov 3rd).
Tell us about this new album – 41 tracks seems like a lot, but it’s not really. How did you manage to distill 36 years into that many tracks?
It’s similar to making illegal vodka, but possibly more fun and certainly with fewer hangovers. I made a massive list of stuff I’ve loved over the years and then gradually edited it down to a more manageable list that I submitted to Eskimo (it still had over 100 tracks on it). Then, by a process of osmosis, chicanery and sleight of hand, got it down to the 41 tracks you see before you. Obviously you can never really pick 41 tracks that sum up everything you’ve done, especially when you’re as old as a mountain, like I am, but I think it works pretty well as an aural shorthand for what I’ve been involved in over the past (nearly) 40 years. Plus I’m still alive after all that. Yay.
How was the trip down memory lane for you?
Well, generally I like to look forward rather than back, because otherwise I get depressed about how few wrinkles and kilos I used to have, but it was quite fun digging through all of my records looking for things that represented the younger me, the one without the wrinkles, the paunch, the one that looked semi-attractive to women.
What’s the best buy you’ve ever got on eBay? Any super rare tracks for bargain prices?
Quite a few during the drunk Friday years of the late 1990s. I used to be obsessed with finding cheap ‘Buy-It-Nows’. Best ones I’ve got are probably Sticky Jones Gang’s Tunisian Ride for $10 and also one of the tracks on my compilation, Peter Accident’s ‘Turning Black’, which I’ve never seen before or since, for $14.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen in your journey through the music world?
I’ve seen many strange things over the years, from seeing strippers dancing to the Stranglers in Battersea Park in 1978 to one of the Pogues using a beer tray as a percussion instrument on his head when I supported them in 1984, to doing a line of coke off a transvestite’s breast in the Sound Factory in 1994.
Where are we in terms of UK dance music? Are things going to get punky? It feels like the time might be right.
It depends what you mean by punky. Loads of my old (like really old) friends are still into punk and I have to say I find it all pretty depressing really. Punk was necessary back then, as a way of wiping the slate clean and also giving idiots like me the impetus to think they could have a go at making music. But now, it just sounds like a right old racket made by fat 60-year-olds who, frankly, should be listening to Frank Sinatra and Perry Como at this stage in the game.