Apart from the flock…
Continuing on from past interviews we’ve now decided to shed a little light on the people who make Holdin’ Court just what it is (and continue to do so on a zero budget for the love of the music and culture). Here is an interview a from a few months back. Ladies and Gentleman on the weekend of his 40th Birthday we present..Dj Shep:
Shep has been a supporter of Holdin’ Court since day one, bringing his selection of funk and soul, classic back in the day hip hop and UK bangers to almost every event we have run. He first caught the hip hop bug way back when after seeing the Rock Steady Crew on Top Of The Pops in the eighties. Like most people then he started out B Boying and writing but soon became the guy with the tapes, then the guy with the records, snapping up whatever tunes he could afford on the back of a paper round through the decade. He has been spinning records all over the country for more than twenty years now, playing an eclectic blend of soulful music without genre boundaries with hip hop always there as his first love. These days he plays out less, concentrating on gigs where he has total musical freedom, but is heavily involved in SS Radio, an internet-based radio station, running and presenting a show on the Funk & Disco Channel call the Penthouse Funk Sessions.
We caught up with him at his home recently and asked him a few questions while he was doing what he does best, digging through his racks of dusty vinyl.
How did you first get in DJ’ing?
It was organic really. I started out being the guy who would stay up taping Mike Allen and picking up the Electro bootlegs from Blackbush Market so I always had tapes and would always be in charge of the selection on whoever’s boom box we would use while busting moves on the square of lino my brother liberated from a skip. As soon as I got a paper round I was spending every penny I had on whatever records our provincial Our Price stocked as well as heading into Soho every few months to pick up goodies in Groove Records. All I needed then was more than the one turntable to do something with all the records I had accumulated and my big breakthrough for that was when I joined University. On literally my first night there I got involved with the college’s sound system and in return for being part of the box shifting crew I got to borrow the Technics whenever I wanted and just locked myself away whenever I could to get practising. I must have been a fast learner, it all really took off quickly from there.
How did your spot on SS Radio come about and then later, your residency at Holdin’ Court?
I knew a couple of the guys at SS Radio through Norman Jay’s forum so we were on each other’s radars but my first chance with the radio was when I won a house mixing competition organised by Defected Records, about as big a label as there is in that scene. Off the back of that my profile increased so I pushed for a show and got an hour a fortnight playing house. It turned out that the guys behind the station all lived within a couple of miles of me so we got tight and my involvement increased so I was the obvious guy to go to when they decided to set up a channel for funk, soul and disco.
My involvement with Holdin’ Court goes way back too. I used to have a residency at a dump of a club in Camberley, Surrey where I used to play a lot of commercial stuff but always got to have some fun in the first hour when no one was in the venue. An 18 year old Luke HC used to work behind the bar and we got to know each other through a shared love of hip hop so when Holdin’ Court started Luke got on the phone and I was only too happy to get involved.
Seeing as you’ve been so immersed in music including Hip-Hop since it first came over here, how do you see today’s scene compared to that of the 80’s/ 90’s and early 2000’s?
Well I was on it fairly early but round our way the real first wave were guys like Prone and, of course, Holdin’ Court regulars TZC so I doff my cap to those old buggers. Overnight hip hop just became huge and graff was up everywhere for a few years. When I first got into hip hop it was all about the Electro sound, Planet Rock and the like. At the time the sound was fresh, original, futuristic. Now though??? The 808 and auto tune sound that is all over the commercial end of things is… pardon me, I was about to go into an old man rant there. For me it has always been about the breaks, from Kool Herc’s Merry Go Round to Premo’s bangers. The good stuff is still out there though, especially in the UK, you just have to dig deeper into the underground. You know me well enough to know I am not afraid of a little digging!
Which is the best live show you’ve witnessed?
I have been lucky enough to see such hip hop legends as Big Daddy Kane and Public Enemy live, as well as catching Stevie Wonder at Wembley a couple of years ago but I have to say it was probably my first ever concert, EPMD and the legendary Stetsonic live at The Majestic (later known as RG1) in Reading.
What is the aim of your Penthouse Funk Session internet radio show on SS Radio and what can listeners who haven’t yet tuned in expect to hear?
It is essentially a labour of love, just as well as I don’t make a bean from it! It came about as a spin off from a House show I was doing for the station where I was highlighting classic 4:4 stuff from the eighties and nineties. When SS Radio decided to launch a Funk & Disco I carried on the same philosophy of mixing up long forgotten rarities with stone cold classics from my extensive collection of soul, funk, disco and jazz. I try to make the first half hour as chilled as possible, a bit of a hangover selection, before picking up the pace. I then just freestyle, dropping whatever feels good for the next hour and a half with an emphasis on uncovering original sample sources and original breaks.
What was the first record you ever bought?
One of the classic Street Sounds Electro series, probably Electro 8 or 9. We had been busting Electro 5, 6 and 7 on our Boomboxes but that would have been the first vinyl rather than tape that I bought. My first 12” was probably Run DMC – King Of Rock and the first import was either EPMD’s Strictly Business or The Jungle Brothers – Straight Out The Jungle from Groove Records up in Soho.
What was the last record you bought?
Last weekend I went on a bit of a crate digging mission around a few second hand stores and charity stores and picked up some nice bits and pieces. Amongst the goodies I came across I managed to pick up a copy of The Jackson 5’s 1973 album Get It Together. The cover is battered but the wax is mint and there is an epic break on there in the shape of “Hum Along And Dance”. Not especially rare but nice to get a clean copy after battering my original on the road for years.
Full respect to everybody keeping our scene alive, it is truly heart warming to see people turn up to our bi-monthly jams. I know Luke and the crew work their nuts off without making a dollar just to have somewhere to hear this shit but it is all made worthwhile when people turn up in their numbers.
You can listen to DJ Shep’s monthly Funk, Soul & Disco show ‘The Penthouse Funk Sessions’ at: http://funk.ssradiouk.com
Come see Dj Shep at the next Holdin’ Court HERE