The best weekend of your life returns. Exclusive interview with the main man Yogi Haughton…

 

Interview by Dan Prince

Photos by Paul Bennett

Now entering it’s sixth year, SSW that has quite simply taken over the mantle from Southport as the finest weekender on the music calender. You want to hear the best DJs on the planet spinning the finest soul, house, funk, disco, jazz and boogie? Here’s your ticket…

Yogi a massive welcome to DMCWORLD young man, where on planet earth are you right now? 

Hey Mr Prince, I’m in the world famous City Café in Edinburgh – the city’s first real pre club/style bar that opened some thirty one years ago.  I used to organize all the birthday parties here in the early days so I have a soft spot for it.

Cool. Well, only three months to go now until your beloved SSW returns, the event is now in it’s sixth year – not bad for an idea you sat on for fifteen years! Let’s rewind before we get stuck into No.6 and let you take us back the days when Yogi Haughton was in short trousers. What is your earliest musical memory?

I always remember being at school and folk bringing Roxy Music LPs in and Elton John albums and everybody goin’ nuts about them and was thinkin’, there must be mo’ to music than this?  I then started dating a girl from a place called Partington, a wee satellite town in Manchester and EVERYBODY was jumpin’ about like mad at the youth club to this stuff called Northern Soul.  Within a few months I was taking Bombers, Filon and SK&F Dex and was visiting Wigan Casino every week and the rest as they say…

Who were the artists that first helped you fall in love with soul, funk and disco?

Soooo many but labels such as Okeh, RCA were influential and I still collect RCA to this day.  I have always had a soft spot for Slave so I am over the moon that we have Steve Arrington of Slave playing at SSW.

Is there one particular record that still sends shivers down your spine from that time when you play it?

Lots and lots but perhaps Pharoah Sanders ‘You’ve Got To Have Freedom’ always hits the spot but that’s jus’ one record from the Jazz genre and I collect so many genres of Black Music.

Can you remember the first live gig you ever went to?

T. Rex!  Free Trade Hall Manchester but the gig that made me really appreciate live music was Edwin Starr at Wigan Casino….a mind boggling performance of energy and a Soul explosion.

So you are going through school, you are a massive music head…were you getting pressure from your family to get “a proper job” or did you know your future lay in playing music for the masses?

LOL. Now I could sit here and write a book ‘bout this, I got busted for drugs at Wigan Casino at the age of 17 and was kicked out the house and never spoke to my family again.  Let’s jus’ say I was living, breathing, sleeping Soul Music 7 days a week.  I was out every night of the week at a Soul or Funk gig somewhere in the UK, I was a proper handful for my family lol.

What was your first big break in the industry?

Moving to Edinburgh in about 1983, they were still playing James Brown, P Funk and mainstream dance music in the clubs.  I think I heard Jocelyn Brown ‘Somebody Else’s Guy’ a thousand times in 1984.  I was going back to Manchester every other week to party and was bringing imports up the road and lent them to the DJs, it wasn’t long before they said “why don’t you play them?” I had dabbled in Manchester so I kinda knew what I was doing…

Fellow DJs back in the day who you looked up to?

Colin Curtis, his ability to play at the top of the game in so many genres was inspirational, Jazz, Northern, Funk, Electro and he created the Mecca sound with Levine, not many folk get to create a whole genre or scene. Today, Motor City Drum Ensemble always hits the mark, love his sets.

5 clubs over the years that you have absolutely loved…

– Wigan Casino

Probably the most famous club in Britain and the one that beat Studio 54 to the “best disco in the world” by Billboard Magazine, the USA industry paper. Mr M’s a small room in there was the place that really got me hooked on clubbing.

– Rafters in Manchester

In my mind the best Jazz/Funk club in the North, if not the UK at the time.

– The Tunnel in New York

I will never forget the moment an accapella of Soul II Soul’s ‘Keep On Movin’ was dropped and the whole yard was singing along to it all the way through.

– The Honeycomb in Edinburgh

A great space, I DJ’d in there a hell of a lot and jus’ had some great moments playing alongside massive names such as Humphries, Delgado, Camacho, ‘Trouble’ Anderson, so many big names from back in the day.

– The Hoochie Coochie in Edinburgh

The first club I ran and where people say House and Techno was first played weekly in Scotland and who am I to argue?  We Had Norman Cook play, Nightmares On Wax, Unique 3 – we were all over anything new that was breakin’ and folk travelled from all over Britain for it.

Like so many of us you attended and DJ’d at all of the first Southport Weekenders. For the readers too young to have witnessed these amazing events, why were they so good? Some personal highlights?

That weekender scene had been dominated by Caister and it was great to have something of our own in the North, there was definitely a Nothern pride about the event and it reflected the scene up here.  Don’t forget Southport was first held in Berwick, the last town before you cross the border to Scotland, so it really was ours.  Highlights, bein’ carried aloft in the crowd at the finale, mind you I was only 11 stone then, that wouldn’t happen now lol  Larry Heard live, Sam Dees live, jus’ getting’ to play on a rig like that too.  Best performance was Sounds Of Blackness, grown men bubblin’ like bairns as they say in Scotland.  Also I did the first all night session there called ‘Yogi’s Potpourri’ where I played from around 2.00am until 6.00am playing EVERYTHING from Jazz to Northern to Hip Hop and House…those were my own favourite moments from a DJing perspective.

And then you walked away, pissed off with the whole weekender scene. What was your gripe with these events back then, what was pissing you off?

My friend and I used to take five coaches to the early Southports, all the DJs were good, solid British guys that were popular in their own geographical area.  Southport started booking the “big names” and I think sight was lost a lil’ from the grass roots of beginnings of the event and it started to become obsessed with bigger and bigger names, which is fine but I thought we had so much home grown talent. There appeared to be a league emerging in the way DJs were treated, certainly felt like that after my last weekender.

So you decided to start SSW – what was the original idea…how was your event going to be different or resurrect the scene?

Caroline and I wanted it to have its own identity, our own DJ’s that we wanted to nurture and as it started in Scotland, it of course had a strong Scottish DJ contingent.  We also started a room called the Goldmine Room, where anybody that attended the event could book a slot.  That room has now become one of the most popular rooms and we have discovered so much talent in there.  We are trying to bridge the gap age wise also, a lot of weekenders cater to an older clientele but we are trying to make SSW appeal to young and old by looking forward whilst glancing back at where House music and Disco edits came from. We also do the ‘Made In’ room where we will focus on a particular cities DJ/live act talent each year, this year it’s Glasgow and perhaps next year Manchester or Newcastle.

The event’s history has not been all plain sailing. After launching in Dumfries you moved south of the border where one particular ‘rival’ decided to scupper your party. What happened?

We outgrew our original venue in Dumfries so we moved South to Preston.  Our competitor went to our venue and with their financial clout managed to persuade our new venue to allow them to throw a two day party two weeks before ours.  They also threw a one off return to their former North West venue not too far away from our Preston venue a few weeks after SSW4, so we were sandwiched in between two similar events all within a small radius and many of the same DJ’s appeared on certainly two of the events.  We laugh about it now but at the time we were obviously perplexed why our SSW4 venue was picked for a one event by one of our competitors?

Thankfully it looks like you have now found your spiritual home in the Stanwix Holiday Park…what has made this the perfect venue?

My God, the venue is impeccable, folk say “it’s the first weekender we have been to that we don’t have to bleach the accommodation from top to bottom first”. It is spotless and five star accommodation and the owners are very sympathetic to what has happened to SSW in the past at the previous venues and assured us that Stanwix is SSW’s home only. The rooms where we hold the parties are incredible also, it’s just feels right working with guys that want your gig to succeed and will do anything to help and that includes giving us the venue exclusively for our weekender.

Your partner Caroline (who does all the hard work Yogi!!) admits that running SSW “is a year round job”. Does the work for the following year literally start straight away?

Is that what she told you? That she does all the hard work lol?  She is right to be fair. Yes, we take two weeks off and start on the next weekender right there and then.  Of course the pace is leisurely for the first three months but it soon picks up.  We are a small outfit staff wise, Caroline and I do the majority of the work but we have a handful of folk that help also and it has to be said because they love the event so much.  Pure 107 our radio partners do lots out with the radio stuff and we have a few friends that give so much of their own time to helping when we need it.  Lots of folk call saying “can I do this, do you need that”, it really is incredible that folk will help out so much and SSW would never of gotten off the ground without all these folk.

Right then let’s get down to the music. One thing we love about SSW is how you embrace the future with your line ups but always have a cheeky look over your shoulder and bring in some treasured artists. Let’s go through the arenas, please describe the sound and also who has got you excited this year…

The Pressure Point…Got to be Sneak!  It’s took an age to sort this, we really have to fight tooth and nail for a good deal and we have waited a few years for this one.  From the nu skool, Opolopo and Pig And Dan who will bring a real freshness to that room.

The Shrine…Steve Arrington of Slave, this is the most anticipated act so far for me and Fingerman always brings a youthful edge to the Shrine with his edits selection.

Made In (Glasgow)…Mike Dunn from Chicago is joining the Lets Goback Wayback guys from Glasgow as an honoury Glaswegian for one night. Nick And Rob from Lets Go Back are two of Glasgow’s best jackin’ House DJ’s so they will compliment Dunn perfectly.

The Goldmine…We have discovered so many great DJ’s in there and many of them have now progressed to the main arenas. Young Chris Thomas is one such DJ that played last year in the Goldmine, he now is playing all over Scotland and will be playing at the pool party at SSW this year.

The Outdoor Pool Party…Yam Who? And as I said above, everybody is looking forward to hearing Chris Thomas.

SSW defines underground music. Please share some of your moments when tears have filled yours and Caroline’s eyes over the last five years?

At SSW3 we really turned a corner and Jocelyn Brown did the finale, the place was goin’ nuts and it was jus’ a relief to see the place goin’ ape…at that moment the tears flowed from our eyes.  DJ Pierre and I did an acid set and for 3 hours I totally forgot I was at my own weekender and the stress that involves, it was jus’ that place where DJing takes you, away from all the stress lol.

How far is the furthest some people have travelled?

Amazingly Japan, we have also had numerous folk from America and a lot from mainland Europe.  This year we have folk travelling from Belgium, Sweden, France, Italy and of course all over the UK and a lot from Southern Ireland again…They love their House in Ireland and they come to support Fish Go Deep who play SSW a lot.

What is the strangest thing found in one of the chalets after everyone has gone home?

Nicky Holloway! He hung around forever, does he not have a home to go to?  He was in the village and had all the locals doin’ the Hokey Cokey around the pub at one point over the weekend.

Who in your opinion has been the best ever artist/DJ at SSW….

From a Soul perspective, Garfield Fleming, a one hit wonder who I took a gamble on because he had one big Soul track and one ballad.  He came and smashed it, he did a couple of covers and left everybody open mouthed…he really should be doing House tracks.  House wise, Motor City Drum Ensemble, Kerri Chandler and people still talk about Fish Go Deep’s Sunday afternoon sesh at SSW3, a master class in building a room’s atmosphere.

What are the 10 anthems of SSW…

You know what, we don’t really do anthems, sounds mad but we encourage DJ’s to dig deep. I hate standing still musically, I would hate for certain tracks to become “anthems” at SSW, that would be a problem for me.  However, Studio 54 legend Nicky Siano did play ‘Love Sensation’ one night and the roof came off. If you wanna lose your mind as a DJ, SSW is the place to play, sure drop an anthem, but don’t stand there and play records all night that any Tom, Dick or Harry can play.

Tell us something different you are doing at the event this year…

Made In (Glasgow) as I outlined above…we think think this concept put together by Gary Lawson from Lets Goback will really highlight the underground clubs of the cities we focus on.  Luv Dancin’ in Manchester is one such night we really wanna bring to SSW for a wider audience to experience.  It’s like bringin’ the best a city has to offer to SSW.

What are the future plans for the event….

To bring even more cutting edge DJs to the event and keep smashing down the walls by championing new genres and to keep giving new and undiscovered talent a chance to play next to the big boys and gals.  We really are the weekender where anybody with talent could end up warming up for M.A.N.D.Y. or Kerri Chandler etc.

And finally – for people who haven’t been to a SSW event yet – in one sentence, tell them what they are missing out on…

I dunno, folk take away different things from events but I guess it’s the like-minded musical liberation that folk always comment on, the fact that we are from the underground. As our strap line says, for House and Soul purists, not tourists…ooops that was two sentences, well rules were made for breakin’ eh Dan?

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