DJ - FONSOUL BCN
Cris Davies caught up with international superstar DJ Fonsoul who's international career spans decades, a man who is a massive favourite on the UK dance floors, this major record collector and DJ has graced the turntables of some of the coolest venues across Europe and his continued dominance as one of the leading figures will mean that his diary will always remain choc a block full of great gigs, try to catch him when you can...........
Hi Alfonso, can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you are from, how long have you been part of the DJ scene, how you became part of it and what or who were your early musical influences.
Hi! Of course, it’s a big pleasure talking to Suit Yourself Modernists. Alfonso from Barcelona speaking. Been most of my life collecting. When I was 12, while all my classmates spent their pocket money on sweets I saved mine to be able once a month to buy me an LP. My first albums were Beatles, Zombies, Who etc, 60s classics. I delved into many music styles later, I also spent the whole of the 90s playing in different bands in my hometown. By the end of last century, I started to put the focus on 60s and 70s afro-american music and started collecting on 7” format.
Who gave you your first break and how did it feel?
Back in the 90s, I don’t remember exactly but I was often called to play my records after doing a gig when we were touring. Related to our scene I started in my lifetime bar, the Barbara Ann, I was a regular and one day around 2001 I asked to play there. The first weekender was called was named Go Lleida back in 2005 or 2006.
Do you have any favourite musical styles and has your style of DJ’ing changed over the years?
Absolutely. My taste is wide and I’d say it’s constantly evolving. Since I started collecting afro American music I’d say the edge here is still on R&B, but always open to most other styles, gospel, soul, funk, latin, ska, crossover etc.
Do you have any current favourite DJ’s and who was your favourite back in the day?
When I started djing I remember Keb Darge had a residence in my hometown, the club was named Powder Room. Years later I had the chance of knowing him personally. We played together once earlier this year, he’s a cool crazy guy, younger in mind than most of us. On present times I like many DJ’s, it’s gonna be difficult to mention them all. When I listen a DJ set I love to be surprised, listening new tunes but also the way they’re put together. Will drop a few names from my HUGE list: Alan Handscombe, he knows everything, he already played your newies back in the 80s, a man you must listen, every time, respect. Bill Kealy, Mr R&B, nobody reads a dancefloor like he does. Mik Parry, pure taste, if people would put half the passion he does have we’d live in a much better world. I’d also gladly travel to watch sets by Mace, Steve Longworth, Liam Large, Callum Simpson, Gav Arno, Rachelle Piper, Chris Dale, Mr. Fine Wine, Michael Robinson, Action Pat, Henrik Akerberg, John Berchtold, Christopher Stuckenbrock, Luis Soulful, Laurent Reus, Lluis Cardenal…and many many more.
Can you tell us about your promoter side and any nights/weekends that you are involved with?
I’m not promoting anything at the present time. I’ve tried quite a few clubs/nights in my hometown over the years, all of them in small venues, mostly bars. Had to mention one, it’d be the club I ran along with my mate Tof, the Double Cookin’, I think we were at #59, on a nine years lapse when we stopped last year. We had an open-minded policy where you could listen to every afro American sounds of the early 50s till late 70s, with the focus on the lesser known/overlooked stuff.
Can you tell us about some of your favourite times behind the decks, where, when and with who?
It’s a long list but I’ll try to be quick. My hometown Boiler club was always great, played there quite a few times over the years. Best club I’ve ever been was At The Soul Inn in Berlin. Played there three years back, for six straight hours with my mate Christian Göbel, over 600 non-stop dancing crowd. Highlights for this year would be two all-dayers I was in the UK, the Long John Baldry in Southampton and the Federal in Crewe. Love the format, the chance of listening to many DJ’s, the ambience. We don’t quite have such in Spain. Also, have to mention our local A Wamba Buluba club with Turis Bang Bang, it takes part every Thursday of the year and I’m called to play about once or twice a month. It’s a challenge and a great experience playing for a casual crowd unrelated to any scenes that very likely won’t know any of the tunes you play, they just want to dance.
Can you tell us about your YouTube channel and any other ways you promote the music that you love?
I started my Youtube back in 2011 as a way to share my passion with other people. Sadly Youtube has lots of copyright issues and my channel was closed once, I reopened it shortly after. But overall I think it’s great when sometimes you get in touch with the songwriter or the singer or any relative, and they told you stories, how happy they are somebody pays attention in the music they made so many years back and were unsuccessful back then. And right now it’s past 4000 vids uploaded and much more queued, so I hope it’ll be useful to some people. I have a mixcloud as well but so far haven’t made many mixes on my own. I’ve been called to do mixes for many channels though, like Jukebox Jam, Buzzsaw Joint, Straight From The Play Box etc. Also, I used to be part of the mix series named The Great Jester Wild Show, ran by Chris Redlich. We had there some of the best mixes I’ve ever heard done by all the usual suspects in the game. Sadly it’s been stopped for already a whole year. Hopefully, it’ll be back sometime soon. In recent times I’ve been forced to start selling to keep funding my new records. And I’m quite liking that, knowing many collectors through sales. Also, it’s another way of sharing with other people the (information on) the records you love.
In these days of digital DJ’s, are you a vinyl purist? What are your thoughts on record prices today and how they have changed over the years?
I don’t know much about digital DJ’s and such, and well I only collect seven-inch vinyl in its original format so I guess it’s ok if you call me a purist. But I’m fine with what the other people do, just please don’t call me to play CDs at your party! Current record prices are to me a consequence of the rising demand. Many people want the same records, which were issued in very small quantities and some of them just handful copies have survived/ shown up so far. Northern Soul classic oldies are under a price bubble for sure. So yes, if you aim to have that (overplayed) oldie I’m afraid you’re gonna pay. But hey, why not look for the lesser known/played stuff? I will never support those who complain about prices as, how do you say, it’s full of fish in the sea.
What are your favourite current club nights/events?
Mentioned a few before. Federal, LJB, Pow Wow, MG Blues, Dreamsville, Dance with The Devil (Rome), Cool Cat (Hamburg), All Saints Mod Weekender (Lavarone)…
An international DJ in the UK may end up playing in Europe, have you played in any interesting global destinations?
Many. Europe has a healthy growing club scene as well. I mentioned a few before but there are other cool events/nights right now in France, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Belgium, Spain, Germany, Italy…
Are there any major differences in the clubs across Europe and beyond?
Don’t know USA and Australia. To me main differences in clubs through Europe (vs the UK) are people involved is about a decade younger, they care a little less about dressing (leaving apart strictly mod events) and they struggle a little less on fast tempo tunes Lol.
What is your treasured track and why?
I know it’ll sound pretentious, but I have a special connection with every tune it’s been part of my collection. Said so, well, I’m happy to have contributed to making some tunes a little more known in our beloved small record collecting world. So I’ll drop one, Jackie E. Lewis – Drivin’ blues. Lovely mid 60s Indiana rockin’ r&b that starts having a few plays around.
What advise would you give an aspiring DJ?
Use your own ears, be yourself. Buy records according to your budget. Build the basement before the roof.
Can you tell us 10 all time favourite spine-tingling tracks and 10 current playlist favourites?
As I keep track of all my playlists since 2003 I’ll drop here my top 15 most played tunes. Some of them I still play, some others are slowly being replaced by new entries:
1- Hector Rivera - I want a chance for romance (Barry)
2- The Bamboos - Tighten up (Kay-Dee)
3- Les Formidables - Unchained my heart (American Golden Oldies BEL)
4- Mary Ann Fisher - Put on my shoes (Fire)
5- Saxie Russell - El monkey (Ran-Dee)
6- El Corols Band & Show - Chick, chick (Tiny)
7- The isonics – Sugar (Kammy)
8- Three Rivers Blues Band – Ophelia (Lion)
9- Frances Faye – Comin’ home baby (Audio Fidelity)
10- La Tribu – Para que (Musimex)
11- Dorothy Williams – Watchdog (Volt)
12- Zu Zu Blues Band – Zu zu man (A&M)
13- Little Joe Hinton – Let’s start a romance (Arvee)
14- Curtis Lee – Is she in your town (Mira)
15- Nathaniel Mayer with The Fortune Braves – I want love and affection (Fortune)
Current top 10 plays:
Peppermint Harris – I cry for my baby (Aladdin)
Big Tiny Kennedy and his Orchestra – Strange kind of feeling (Groove)
Jimmy Lewis – Let them believe (Ment)
Walter Moore and The Lancers – My girl (Seawood)
Zaida Turner – I want to find someone (Tuneglow)
Al Novell – Love me, love me, tonight (Bootstrap)
Classie Ballou & The Orlandos – Classie’s whip (Soulsville U.S.A.)
Rita Chao – Hanky panky (Columbia SIN)
Berta Rosen – Boogaloo en cuarta dimension (Sono Radio PER)
Joe Panama and Co. – My people (Tico)