Soul Unsigned’s first release of 2011 is a second compilation from Solar Radio’s GINGER TONY. Snappily titled ‘Jump Start 2’, the set is as uncompromisingly eclectic as the first volume which GINGER and Soul Unsigned released last year. Because ‘Jump Start 1’ was critically acclaimed, embraced by soul collectors – AND praised and utilised by TONY’S fellow DJs, we needed to find out more about the new set and the man who put it together. Pinning down the self-effacing GINGER, we began by discovering some revealing personal details…..
My real name’s TONY FARMER and I’m proud to say I’m a Cockney! Yes – born within the sound of Bow Bells – but my family moved from East London into the Sutton/Croydon area where I started DJ-ing in my mid-teens. Although my DJ partner STEVE LOWLES and I were on the mobile circuit (Weddings/Birthdays etc.) we did have our own “proper” music events. “Buffers” in Sutton High St. was always fun on a Monday night for us! By the time I’d hit my thirties, I decided I really wanted to play only the music I was into and ditched the mobile DJ thing. At the time I was in the printing industry, so with shift patterns etc I had plenty of spare time to throw myself into the “Soul Scene”. Having moved into Essex (work commitments) I started to go to places like the Lacy Lady. Having only experienced South London’s scene (apart from the occasional Prestatyn Weekender) I did enjoy making new friends and learning about the Essex scene. When I started DJ-ing in Essex I was still TONY FARMER – it was the late, great FROGGY who suggested the name “GINGER”. He wasn’t serious, but I thought “what the hell…”
OK … tell us a little about your music background … when did you decide to become a DJ?
DJ wise, it was all about the radio jocks. Growing up, I remember listening to PETE YOUNG, ROBBIE VINCENT, GREG EDWARDS and TONY BLACKBURN. I was really into hip hop & electro in the 80s, MIKE ALLEN on Capital Radio and TIM WESTWOOD on LWR were essential listening!!! I even remember as a youngster – I used to record my own little shows, with my record player set up next to a microphone to record the music with my introductions. We all start somewhere… So, I guess DJ-ing for real was a natural progression.
What about your musical tastes and influences?
I always had a lot of time for my DAD’S record collection – I still do! I consider myself very lucky to have someone around playing BURT BACHARACH, GEORGIE FAME, MOTOWN and STAX in the house. By the time I started buying my own music, the Jazz-Funk scene had exploded. I’ll never forget the impact FREEEZ’S “Southern Freeez” had on me. What a cool, cool tune – still puts a smile on my face. As I mentioned earlier, I was hugely into Hip-Hop … hunting down the samples that were being used led me into Rare Groove and just as I lost interest in Rap music Acid Jazz appeared and I was hooked! Nowadays I’m kind of into everything – a good record is a good record and genres don’t really come into it anymore.
You still work the live scene and have your radio shows… which role do you prefer …are there any real differences between the two functions?
I’ve been involved in radio for about 10 years. My current show (the “Jump Start”, 8-10am Saturdays on Solar Radio) has helped me my find my own little niche. The approach is very much about getting up and starting the weekend on the good foot. I love being able to play newly discovered tunes to the audience. It’s the old “Have you heard this?” – I used to inflict that upon my friends, but now it’s on a global scale! Playing live is a very different beast; I try to keep a balance between playing new material (some people just don’t dance to music they don’t know) and keeping it accessible. I always thought the easiest thing a DJ can do is play classic after anthem after classic. For me it’s not about giving the dance floor what they want, it’s about giving them what they didn’t know they wanted!
How did you get involved with PHIL DRIVER and Soul Unsigned?
When I was first looking into releasing my own compilation, I was very much thinking “to do this I’m gonna have to set up my own label”. I’d seen what PHIL had achieved with Soul Unsigned and really just approached him for some advice. Little did I know he was a fan of the show and the fact I was playing upfront and current tracks meant I fitted right in with what Soul Unsigned was about – getting original, new music to a wider audience. Sure my wish-list had already been released, but together we thought we’d try and get it out to a new, wider audience.
‘Jump Start’ was the first album – why that name, how did you put it together, what problems did you face and how did it do?
The name is lifted straight from the radio show. I also write a column in Soul Survivors called “Jump Start – Words”. Between the radio show, the column and the compilations, I like to think you get the complete picture of what I love – good quality new music that puts a smile on your face.“Jump Start” listeners gave me the idea to release a compilation. People were always asking where they could pick up a track and telling me I should put a CD together. I always thought that it would be pretty much impossible and my initial enquiries proved me right. I’d be lying if I said everyone I approached was helpful and positive about “my little project”, but having spoken with GARY DENNIS (Crazy Beat)), DR. BOB JONES and TERRY JONES things started to fall into place. PHIL DRIVER was the link that helped pull everything together, but I still believe what really made it possible was the artists and labels. I’m lucky enough to have regular contact with these guys through my radio show and I’m very, very grateful that they trust me enough to get their music to a new audience.We couldn’t have paid money for better reviews! The support Volume 1 received was fantastic – it had airplay from CRAIG CHARLES, ANDY PEEBLES, PETER YOUNG (one of my idols), GORDON MAC and beyond!!!
Did you approach Volume 2 in the same way or did you try to do things a little differently?
I created my own biggest problem with Volume 2; I wanted it to be fresher than Volume 1. The 1st “Jump Start Music” was a retrospective look at 3 years of the radio show, the 2nd was about the next 12 months. At the time I’d had one of those moments of clarity, when I realised I was not playing great, older tracks because something new had come along and sometimes new doesn’t make better! Once I’d gotten over the fear of popping in a few “older” tracks “Jump Start 2” pretty much fell into place. We used JSM1 to show artists and labels what we could achieve, a promotional tool for themselves and their music … it’s great that the “Jump Start” /”Soul Unsigned” family is growing!
Tell us about some of the tracks on the new set… what your favourites are and what would you recommend?
It’d be unfair to pick out any specific tracks, I’ve enjoyed all of them… but let’s start with MONDAY MICHIRU. For 20 years this lady has been making some of the most stunningly beautiful music. I’d like to think that anyone would love to have her music amongst their collection. Hopefully both “Jump Start” CDs might have sparked a flame for her I also love TAPE FIVE’S “Birds Like It” – it’s an absolute gem but then so too is “Staying For Good” by PAPIK. There are two other artists that really excite me – DIESLER and MARTIN DENEV. MARTIN is a recent addition to my list of favourites – I think his album “Stolen Blessings” is one of the most exciting things of 2010, very different, always interesting. DIESLER’S work has been with me for quite a white now, I still find him edgy and unpredictable and I like that a lot!
What do you hope the album will achieve for you and also for Soul Unsigned?
I hope the album will raise people’s awareness about newer music. There are so many new artists out there making original, fresh and exciting sounds and I’d like to think that some parts of the industry acknowledge that. As for Soul Unsigned, I hope that people will realize that here’s a great little indie, enthusiast-led label that helps move things forward. I’d hate to think that people think I do what I do as a vanity project – I genuinely want music fans to keep looking outside their own safety net…. keep testing themselves and to never be afraid of experiencing new music!
What next for Ginger Tony?
I’ve no idea – “Jump Start – the board game”? No, I realize that I’m very lucky to have a hatful of gigs lined up all over the country. That’s exciting – I get to meet new friends and go to new events. I consider it an honour to be asked to DJ anywhere, so I try not to get above my station. Right now I’m honestly just enjoying having folks saying nice things about the CDs and the music they get to hear on my show…. as DR. BOB JONES would say(in homage to dear old CURTIS MAYFIELD) , I’ll “Keep on, keepin’ on…”