DJ - LEE MILLER
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Mr Lee Miller. Promoter, DJ extraordinaire, avid style represent, and all round top fella. Lee has been gracing the decks at clubs and rallies for many years. Suit Yourself managed to grab this musical legend for a chat about his past, present and future but where do we begin…..At the beginning of course..........
Tell us a bit about yourself, how long have you been part of the mod scene, how you became part of it and what or who were your early influences musically.
At the age of ten, yeah, ten, in 1980, the last year of junior school, I was dressed in 8 hole Doctor Martins, Loafers & Monkey boots, Sta Press, Grandad Cardies, Fred Perry / Ben Sherman and a Harrington jacket. Listening to the sounds of Madness, The Specials, bands from the 2 Tone stable and Prince Buster. I called myself a Rude Boy.
The summer of 1981 saw a large amount of Mods on scooters frequenting the village I come from, and was intrigued by what I saw, and thought – I want a piece of that! I started secondary school in September, after spending the summer listening to The Jam, The Who & Small Faces and reading up on Mods. There were Mods everywhere at school, all from different villages, some who are still life long friends. Through the older Mods, Parents, Aunties & Uncles many lessons were learnt, the style, the music etc..
My first visit to Carnaby Street was in 1983 around my 13th Birthday, paper round & birthday money – Navy Suit from The Cavern, Blue & White Gibsons from Shellys & White with Navy Polkadot shirt from Mellandi, topped off with a Blue Mac with epaulettes & braiding. Smart As F@@@ ! After that most weekends were spent meeting other Mods in the local town or spending the day in and around Carnaby St. During those two years, my “Mod Music” sponge was taking it all in, Revival from, The Purple Hearts, The Chords, The Lambrettas; Rhythm & Blues, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and 6T’s Rhythm & Soul (Rare/Northern) from the early Kent/Ace Compilations; Bobby Bland, Chuck Jackson.
1985 I attended my first Phoenix Rally – Hastings. I went for the day on the bus. Later that year Leysdown & The Buckingham Palace run, making new friends along the way.
And the rest they say, is history......or in my mind, a damn good adventure.
What turned you on to the DJ culture of the scene?
I’d always loved music, from an early age, Mum & Dad’s record collection saw me in front of the mirror, air guitar in hand. I started playing records at the local youth club in 1980, my musical tastes at the time. My paper round money would buy me the 45’s I needed, at the time. Over the years 80 – 86 any money, paper round, Saturday work, school holiday work would get me threads and records, by 1984 I’d discovered record fairs, and tried to get records from the Mods book and Kent LP’s.
1986, and part of The Cool Running Scooter Club, along with Rob Bailey, Craig Webb, Sean Leonard & Paul Stanford we put on our first Mod night. We all took part in spinning the tunes, from two home stereo systems.
When I started attending more Mod club, events and rallies, I heard more and more of this amazing music that falls under the “Mod Music” umbrella. My taste-buds took to the Black Dance Music of the sixties section, oh and anything Dom Basset or Ian Jackson played.
Who gave you your first break and how did it feel?
Sir Tony Class ! After months of hounding TC, he finally gave me a chance, as he’d heard that I had a nice little collection. But first I had to prove that I could do it, at a rally lunchtime session, using his records. Mission accomplished, playing stuff TC forgot he had too..From there on in, most rally lunchtimes I got to play, which led onto clubs etc
Do you have any favourite musical styles and has your style of DJ’ing changed over the years?
My DJ styles have changed over the years, mostly due to the en-vogue style at any moment in time. The late 80’s early 90’s I mainly played sixties soul, with a touch of Jazz, R&B and the en-vogue Latin tracks of the time. From the mid 90’s, my sets were always a mix of panels from that Umbrella mentioned earlier. The late 90’s through to today, the R&B side has been more dominant, but dependant if I’m at a Mod, R&B or mainstream club – the selections and set will always vary between, 6T’s Soul, Blues, Jazz, and Latin. All on Original Vinyl.
Do you have any current favourite DJ’s and who were your favourite back in the day?
Favourite DJ’s, that’s a hard one. My influences are heroes to many, some lost in the history of the Mod Scene, Dom Bassett, Ian “Detroit Executive” Jackson, John Kelly (Birmingham), Paul ”Smiler” Anderson, Pid, Chris Dale, David Edwards and of course Alan Handscombe.
I’ve many anorak DJ’s who are friends and currently make a noise on today’s scene: Bill Kealy, Callum Simpson, Soup & Bread, Rob Powner, Gav & Mik & Andrew “Mace” Mason. All deliver on time, every-time, and always bring a new offering to the table
Can you tell us about the promoter side of Lee Miller?(Dreamsville etc)
I am and always have been passionate about the Mod scene, just ask my long term friend, Samantha Stevens. My first events were alongside Rob Bailey back in the 80’s, then The Maidstone Brandy and Blues Club events, and when I moved to Leeds, I started The Sidewinder which ran for a year or two.
Dreamsville- this was a meeting of minds and Mod ethics and has now become a permanent fixture on in the Mod calendar, growing every year. For Mods By Mods – Smart Dress Only & No Drinks On The Dance Floor (One Of My Pet Hates!)
After many years of Leeds being “dry” of real Mod events, myself and Neil Lee started “Getting To The Point”, again for Mods by Mods – inviting the best Mod DJ’s across the UK to help wear down the shoe leather.
Tell us about some of your favourite times behind the decks, where, when and with who?
Every time behind the decks is an adventure, not knowing where you and your box of tricks is going. There have been so many, really great experiences, and I have been honoured to DJ at so many events and clubs over the world, over the past 25 years.
Each one drawing a different reaction, whether it be a basement club or a large dancehall. To pin just one down, that’s hard. Some memorable times are Brighton 2008; I’d been I’ll for quite some time and this was a “return” to the decks, well received with an immense rapture of applause!
The Ace Of Clubs – Cattolica, Italy; from the first note to the last, the crowd were appreciative, clapping, whistling etc & Opening the Motown Revue as part of Modstock, was an honour.
Can you tell us a couple of stories from your time in the Mod scene?
I could write a book of funny moments, but to protect those involved, here’s just two which involved Mods within a close circle of friends..No names, but good clues.
“Get Your Passports Ready” - At Portsmouth, For Isle Of Wight Ferry. Then Watching A Younger Member Of The C.R.S.C’s Mood Change From Excitement To Total Horror! He Saw The Funny Side, And Didn’t Get Caught In Our Trap! (1987)
Lovely Homely B&B, Up for breakfast with members of The Hidden Traces. One guy runs down the stairs to get there first into the dining area. Then immediately comes “hopping” out, up the stairs, crying out “Sh!t, Oh Sh!t!” – Can you guess what he’d trodden in? Must have been an early training exercise for Ironman Triathlons!
Scooters, we all love them. Can you tell us if you own one, and ones you’ve owned in the past.
I no longer own one, but would love another.
My first scooter was a Vespa 50 Special, in white. Brought, unknowingly at the time of purchase, from, Phil Bush – of Sounds & Pressure. I adorned it with all the MOD accessories, lights, mirrors, fly-screen (with name), ironing board backrest (with tiger skin cover), double whip ariel etc..
Ridden to my first MOD rally (by scooter) – Great Yarmouth in 1986. Restricted to 30mph, but with the chrome & luggage the journey seemed to take forever, 150 miles each way.
Next was the Servetta 125 Special, LI 150, SX200, Rally 200, GP150, SX200 & P200E, not forgetting the Pink Panther somewhere in there, which if my memory serves me well, I sold to you Cris (Hmmm your memory is better than mine lol - Ed)
The last scooter I owned was during the late 90’s. But I do have some “Furthest Travelled” trophy’s to prove that, I had, The Numb Bum Experience – Maidstone to Scotland, Blackpool & Bridlington.
What do you think of todays scene and how it's changed over the years?
Today’s “scene” , as overview is as healthy as it’s ever been, events on every weekend which is probably too much, but show’s it’s healthy.
As I’ve mentioned above there are “events” all over Europe, with great DJ’s playing great music from the Umbrella to the sussed and those that are targeted at the not so.
But in my own opinion, the “scene” is very split, disjointed and territorial. I have my own thoughts on it all, but this is not the place to air them.
Tell us about your You Tube channel and any other way you promote the music and scene that you love.
I have a YT Channel – Modspinner, but I really need to update, and a Mixcloud Chanel – Lee Miller, with 20+ mixes on.
In these days of digital DJ’s, are you a vinyl purist?
I don’t care what other “scene’s” (musical or cultural) do, but I believe that the DJ’s on the MOD scene should be Original Vinyl Only (OVO), whether it be a 45 or an album track only. No Bootlegs! But if you want to play from CD’s, Laptop etc, that’s your choice.
But UNISSUED tracks are a whole different ballgame, if they are out there available in the world, I see no problem with having a carver (a one off) made for DJing purposes. Everyone is needs to hear tracks like that – they are too good to be missed out on.
What are your favourite current club nights/ events?
Current MOD Club nights are Kitten Casino (Dalkeith,Scotland), Get Smarter (Newcastle), Brum Beat (Birmingham), Tailor Made (Glasgow) & Gettin’ To The Point (Leeds/Hull) – as well as Mod / R&B nights, MG Blues (Manchester), Birth Of The Cool (Sheffield). Not forgetting The Mousetrap (London), this has a special place in my heart, well worth the 400 mile round trip, every time.
Events: My favourite weekenders are Dreamsville, Lowestoft: And The New Untouchables @ Brighton & Margate.
You have been part of the scene for a long time, what significant changes have you seen?
Significant changes, not that many really.
The internet sort of blew the whole worldwide Mod Scene apart, from pen pals to e-mail to instant messaging, the scene became whole. I got older, but don’t dress like my first years.
What advise would you give a young mod, fresh into the scene, fashion, music, attitude?
No two people are the same, the look, the music, the attitude, do it your way. But be passionate about what you do. Nobody gets it right all the time, Stop, Look & Listen, but enjoy..
What advise would you give an aspiring DJ?
Be yourself, we all have a different taste within each style, Uptempo, Mid Tempo etc so be yourself. Don’t go out and spend £100’s on the Big Guns everyone else has. Don’t get me wrong, you need one or two in your box, along with some classics and your sound. Don’t play for yourself, the dancefloor should look like a swarm of cool smart dancing ants, but believe me that does not happen all the time. If you play something “new” to the crowd, don’t expect it to work straight away.
Can you tell us 10 all time favourite tracks and 10 current playlist favourites.
Difficult ain’t the word here..
My top ten are nearly cast in stone, and my playlist changes from set to set but is pretty on the ball at the moment.
All Time Top Ten:
The Capitols – Cool Jerk
Billy Hawks – O’Baby (I Think I’m Losing You)
Herbie Goins & The Nightimers – Crusin’
The Untamed – My Baby Is Gone
B.B. King – Think It Over
Bobby Bland – Farther On Up The Road
Dionne Warwick – Walk On By
Junior Wells – Snatch It Back, And Hold It
Jimmy Smith – Stay Loose
The Mohawks – Beat Me ‘till I’m Blue
Ten From The Playbox:
J.J. & Lilly – My Baby Done Left This Town
The Stacattos – Stop Rockin The Boat
Hector Rivera – Be On The Lookout
DiFosco Erwin Jr – Money Tree
Detroit Junior – Too Poor
Norman Thrasher – Trouble
Elsie Mae – Whole Lot Of Lovin’
Roy Calhoun – All You Can Do
Derek Martin – Breakaway
Frank D’Rone – Think I Will