“I definitely appreciate that over here music is a part of the culture, a very long-standing part of the culture. In Australia it just doesn’t exist! There isn’t that culture, that obsession with music as there is here. So I’ve enjoyed coming back.” Russ Dewbury
Corrina Greyson and Russ Dewbury
In anticipation of his long overdue DJ “return engagement” on Friday, October 7, 2011 at the legendary Brighton Jazz Rooms, Musical Selector/Producer/Label Owner/Promoter and all round music lover Russ Dewbury has returned to the UK to reclaim his crown, after being out in the wiles of Australia spreading his gospel of good music to our cousins down under. Michael J Edwards caught up with the genial and easy-going Mr Dewbury at London’s 100 Club, where he was the invited guest DJ at UK soul singer Corrina Greyson’s last promoted gig of the year headlined by Brazilian band Saravah Soul.
Michael J Edwards: So, Russ Dewbury great to catch up and see you back in the UK. I believe you’ve been residing down in Australia for the past few years, but exactly where?
Russ Dewbury: Thank you! I’ve been in Sydney. I moved out there 3 1/2 years ago.
Michael J Edwards: Around the year 2000 and?
Russ Dewbury: It would’ve been 2008.
Michael J Edwards: And prior to then, if we can take people back to the early Russ Dewbury days, what were your musical roots?
Russ Dewbury: I got into the jazz dance scene via DJs like Paul Murphy and acid jazz. This was in 1985, around that kind of time. In 86 when I heard jazz for the first time in a club, I thought, “Yeah! This is the music I’ve been waiting for…” I had come through the sort of mod scene of soul and R&B and whatever, so I hadn’t really heard any groovy jazz. And also Latin music as well, the Latin soul music – I just decided overnight to be a DJ, and at that time I was in Bedford, which is where I hung out.
Then I moved to Brighton in 1987 with this whole idea to open a club night basically, based on this new music, on the whole jazz dance scene. And we opened it within two months of getting to Brighton in 1987 and it ran for 21 years…consecutively!!
Michael J Edwards: Wow! For those people who were hibernating, what was the name of the night?
Russ Dewbury: The Jazz Rooms – the Brighton Jazz Rooms.
Corrina Greyson: “The famous Brighton Jazz Rooms!” (Miss Greyson Chimes in having overheard our conversation from the 100 club backstage changing rooms)
Russ Dewbury: By the time we finished the residency in Brighton it was pretty much one ofthe longest running nights in the world! Gazza’s rock and blues was maybe a year or two older than us and that still running. So they’re obviously the longest, but we were definitely one of the longest running nights in the world. And I used it as a platform to DJ all over the world basically – all over Europe. In 2003 I ended up going on a DJ tour to Australia and saw potential for, not just for the DJ thing, but also as a promoter, promoting live music events over there.
Michael J Edwards: Taking it to the next level?
Russ Dewbury: So, that started the process of applying for a Visa which took me a couple of years. I got a distinguished talent Visa for permanent residency out there.
Michael J Edwards: I understand that immigration authorities are very stringent out in Australia?
Russ Dewbury: Yeah! Well I got one of only 200. They give out 200 a year to the world, and it’s across the arts. As well as music, there’s also sports and TV. The lawyer told me that basically the level is that if you were a cricketer you would have to be a test cricketer to get one. But I got a lot of support, I know Carl Cox from back in the day and he wrote a letter of support. Giles (Peterson) he also wrote a letter of support. And I ended up getting it basically.
Michael J Edwards: So, from the time you applied to the time that you got the Visa was how long?
Russ Dewbury: About two years. So I got the green light, moved over there and set my Jazz Rooms night up, which I’ve done in Sydney and now Melbourne and Perth as well. So it’s a regular thing around the country and it’s sort of playing to an audience that haven’t really heard that type of music before.
Michael J Edwards: It’s all about education?
Russ Dewbury: Yeah, because it’s mainly a commercial-based music scene over there. And it’s gone really well! And I’ve also found a lot of really interesting musicians and producers and singers. Much more than I thought I would do. I’ve found some really good Latin musicians there, Brazilian musicians.
Michael J Edwards: Anyone we should look out for that you can give us the heads up on?
Russ Dewbury: They wouldn’t really be known over here, because they have crossed over at all. But there’s a lot of good funk bands from there – “Fleet Street soul,” a band I work with called “The I like It like That Orchestra,” which is like a Latin type thing.
Michael J Edwards: So, they play all the local clubs in the area?
Russ Dewbury: Yeah! Kind of, but a few bands I’ve worked with, I’ve worked with in terms of giving them the repertoire and turning them on to different aspects of music that they weren’t hearing before sort of thing. I’ve gone to straight Latin musicians and played them the sort of Latin soul stuff and Latin funk thing and they’ve gone for it!
Michael J Edwards: You’ve broadened their horizons?
Russ Dewbury: I’ve opened them up basically. So it’s worked really well over there and I’ve got a really young family. One of the issues for being over there, definitely for my wife was about family and all of that, and also the fact that I did miss the UK as well. So I decided to be based here (UK) six months and six months there, half and half basically. To be honest I’ve always travelled as a DJ so it’s no big thing to me really. For instance, we’re going to do Mulatu in Australia in November. We’re going to do a little tour with him.
Michael J Edwards: Oh great! He’s been sampled to death as well.
Russ Dewbury: Yeah, exactly! But equally I want to do some live shows here as well. I’ve released an album of the Brighton Jazz Bop which was a big live event in Brighton. So we had like literally everybody, a lot of jazz names.
Michael J Edwards: So, you’re talking about your Incognito’s etc?
Russ Dewbury: Yeah, but also used to go to America and track down like the Charles Earland; Jon Lucien; Terry Callier; Melvin Sparks; Idris Muhammad, we had a lot of people. Big John Patton, we had a lot of people. So I want to do some more those Jazz Bops here as well.
Michael J Edwards: What timeframe are you looking at?
Russ Dewbury: Next May (2012), I’m teaming up with the Brighton Festival to do something.
Michael J Edwards: Okay! Thanks for the heads up on that one. Very interesting!
Russ Dewbury: That’s the plan.
Michael J Edwards: What’s keeping the spark in Russ Dewbury alight?
Russ Dewbury: Erm! Three weeks ago I did a Jazz Rooms the union in Brighton. It was the first one for three years. It was fantastic! Absolutely brilliant! There were 300 people and a really great atmosphere. I definitely appreciate that over here music is a part of the culture, a very long-standing part of the culture. In Australia it just doesn’t exist! There isn’t that culture, that obsession with music as there is here. So I’ve enjoyed coming back.
Michael J Edwards: Feeling that vibe again?!
Russ Dewbury: Yeah! In Australia it’s almost like you you’re educating the whole time. Which is great and fine and people go for it, but here you can sense that people know the music as well. It’s like being in this venue (100 Club), it’s got history and you can’t argue with that. So I definitely like that aspect.
Michael J Edwards: It seems to me like you’ve got the best of both worlds and you’re mixing the new music with the roots of the music. Plus the favourable weather that you have out in Aussie! (Laughter) For the record when are you due to go back out there?
Russ Dewbury and Paul Clifford Strutter Brown (tag team DJ on the night) at 100 Club
Russ Dewbury: I’m going back at the end of October.
Michael J Edwards: How do you DJ nowadays? Has technology caught up with you?
Russ Dewbury: Well, I play like a mixture. I’m not into laptop DJing at all! I always wherever I play mainly use vinyl but I’ll play some CDs as well. Another reason I’m enjoying being back here is being able to play all the old music again, which I do in Australia but again you’ve got to package it…When I did Snowboy’s night a few weeks ago that was all 60s and 70s funk and soul, and I really enjoyed it. I really really enjoy it playing and that’s the same for tonight.
Michael J Edwards: On the topic of Corrina Greyson, what do you have to say about the series of G- Spot events that Corrina has put on at the 100 Club over the last few years?
Russ Dewbury: I read about them while I was in Australia, but it’s good to see the diverse array of acts she’s had on.
Michael J Edwards: Did you have any musical influences growing up at home?
Russ Dewbury: No! I just seemed to find it myself. My parents weren’t into music at all, so I don’t know how I found it. I remember I bought a David Bowie 7 inch when I was six. So I was always into cutting edge music basically… I got into the punk thing massively in ‘76/’77. And then in 79 there was like a mod revival which appealed, so I got involved with that. And from there I started to hear soul music basically, R&B etc. I’d never heard proper music like that before and that started the whole path to what I ended up doing basically. But I had always been into soul, I had always been into the blues, and I think that was the connection.
Russ Dewbury on the decks at the 100 Club, London
Michael J Edwards: And that eventually led to you finding a way to express yourself via the turntables?
Russ Dewbury: The minute I heard DJ’s like Paul Murphy and Baz for jazz play jazz and Latin music in clubs, I just knew this is what I was going to do basically.
Michael J Edwards: Did other DJs such as Chris Hill and the likes have an influence?
Russ Dewbury: Yeah sort of, but for me though it was Paul Murphy really because he was the first DJ to play jazz. It was like you’d go to a club and he’ll play Take Five! And the entire club would be dancing – it was just unbelievable to see that! They’d be dancing to just straight jazz records basically and that’s what started the ball rolling.
Michael J Edwards: What you see in the future for yourself and also the music that you love going forward?
Russ Dewbury: I just think that the testament of the music is that it sounds as good now as it did 20 or 25 years ago when I first heard it. Whenever you go around the world there are always pockets of scenes basically everywhere and really enthusiastic people. When I used to DJ a lot around Europe and America, I became very conscious of the International brotherhood in music. You’d go to different cities but there’d always be like-minded people, whether you in Oslo or Singapore or Berlin or wherever. There’d always be seen likewise it was the same in Canada or America.
Michael J Edwards: As you mentioned earlier in relation to Australia one always gravitate towards the areas where that vibe is?
Russ Dewbury: Yeah, it’s great to see that it’s still there obviously.
Michael J Edwards: And what’s your take on Japan?
Michael J Edwards and Russ Dewbury at the 100 Club, London
Russ Dewbury: I never went to Japan! That’s one place I never went to. But to me the International brotherhood of music is where that. Like with yourself with UK Vibe and whatever, you fit into that as well and it’s great to see that you’re still going. It’s fantastic!
Michael J Edwards: I noticed your eyes lit up when I said I was from UK Vibe. Steve (the editor) will be pleased.
Russ Dewbury: Yeah! Yeah! Oh please give him my regards.
Michael J Edwards: I will do. Listen, thank you for your time. It’s nine o’clock and we need to get you on the decks to do what you do best. After all that’s the reason you’re here this evening. Keep the soul alive, keep the funk alive, keep the jazz alive and keep the good music alive!
Russ Dewbury: I will do, thank you.
Michael J Edwards