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More KebDarge / Paul Weller Coverage via Time Out: New York!

BLADE OF GLORY Darge and Weller’s new comp cuts through the clutter of insipid music.

You think that Kraftwerk box set was expensive? Talk to soul and funk connoisseur Keb Darge, the U.K. DJ and compilation maestro. “The most I ever paid for one record was 3,000 pounds,” he recalls, “but once I bought two that together cost me 5,000. One was by Mellow Madness… Jesus, I can’t even remember the name of the bloody tune!” (The track is the late-’70s disco-soul burner “Save the Youth,” reissued in 2007 on Kay-Dee, the label Darge runs with Kenny “Dope” Gonzalez.) That he can’t remember the title is telling: For Darge, 53, what’s in the grooves—not the name, not the record’s reputation and certainly not its perceived “coolness”—is all that matters.

“Keb plays with the urgency of someone who can’t wait to dance, and really plies the joy and party vibe of each tune,” says Darge’s friend Citizen Kane, the NYC spinner and head honcho of the Disques Sinthomme and Ghost Town labels. “His programming encourages people to get down, not admire how rare the records are.” Getting down is the name of the game on Darge’s latest collection of tunes, Lost & Found—Real R&B and Soul (BBE), a two-disc set (named after his weekly club night) of sweet and stomping beats, compiled with British music icon Paul Weller. We caught up with the thick-brogued Scotsman at his London home, where he happily chatted away between sips of tea and drags of cigarettes.

Paul Weller has had a long association with soul music, but are some people still surprised to see a pop star’s name on this CD?
Maybe a little, but they shouldn’t be. Paul actually played Lost & Found’s opening night. He’s been delving into ’60s soul stuff since before he was in the Jam in the ’70s, and he’s been buying it ever since. He loves the music, same as me; when he’s on the decks, he’s always like, “Hey, Keb, listen to this!”

So he’s a record nerd too!
Are you calling me a nerd! No, we’re not nerds! We hate those nerds, especially when they’re in my club! “Oh, you can’t play James Brown, can’t you play something rare?” I’m like, I’ve got a floor full of shopgirls having the time of their fucking lives—just let me play James Brown!

You actually got into this music through dancing, right?
That was about in 1973, when I was a young teenager. Some boys I knew at the time introduced me to Northern soul, and I was like, “Ooh, I like all this stuff!” So I started going to the all-nighters and got right into it. But I was living in the north of Scotland, and nobody up there really had many of the records. I was going at the time to [Northern-soul mecca]Wigan Casino, just outside Manchester, and I would pick up a few records there, bring them back and give them to the local DJs to play. That way I could have a nice dance at the clubs in Scotland on a Sunday night.

So that was sort of the beginning of your career as a selector.
At that point, I wasn’t interested in anything like that—I just wanted to dance. But I was handing the DJs so many records that one of them finally said, “For fuck’s sake, kid. Why don’t you start deejaying yourself?”

After so many years, you must have a stellar collection of records.
I’ve actually never called myself a collector. My friends are like, “Don’t be stupid, Keb, you have one of the best collections around!” But I never buy records just to collect them—I buy records because I want to dance to them, or I want other people to dance to them. Ever since I was first going out, I was very confused, wondering, Why do people go out and dance to Gary Glitter and ABBA and shit like that? There’s this other music they could be dancing to that would satisfy them much more.

And today, you probably wonder why people dance to Paul van Dyk.
I do still feel that way. But I have to say, there’s a new generation that gets straight into the good stuff. I get these girls who are maybe 16—who shouldn’t even be in the club—asking, “Can you play Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘You’ll Be Mine’ for Tracy? She’s turning 17 tonight!” I’m like, She’s 17 and that’s her favorite record? Huh!

How do you account for such cross-generational appeal?
It’s not music for the day—it’s music for all eternity. This kind of stuff will still sell in 300 years. But in 300 years, people will listen to house and say, “Fuckin’ hell, people used to dance to this shit?”


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