DJ - SEAN CHAPMAN
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Suit yourself get to grips with international DJ, Promoter, record dealer, Soul entrepreneur, and man steeped in musical history - Mr Sean Chapman!, In this exclusive interview we talk about his history in the Mod and Northern/rare soul scene, his love of good music, time in the Royal Air Force, favourite venues and his own successful Chapman records. This is a rare glimpse of a true international ikon and Gentleman.........
Sean, can you tell our readers a bit about yourself, how long have you been part of the mod/soul scene, how you became part of it and who were your early influences musically.
I first got into the soul scene in mid 1976 and started attending Sunday night soul sessions at the Cleethorpes Winter Gardens, and by mid 1977 it soon escalated into every weekend, often doing 2 all nighters at the weekend, followed by an all-dayer on the Sunday. Anywhere from Wakefield Unity, St Ives Reco, Wigan Casino and always my favourite the brilliant Cleethorpes Winter Gardens All-Dayers. At the time I was influenced by a local guy called Norman Pillay, who seemed to know every word to every song and was a fantastic dancers so I used to tag along with him in the beginning until I found my feet. I always had a liking for any thing Mod from the same period, especially the clothes!
What turned you on to the DJ culture of the scene?
I had started collecting records from 1977 mainly reissues, as that was all I could afford at the time, I was in the RAF (30Years) and it was a reasonably low wage when I started out, I also had to get my fix of clothes as well, which was also very important. But in 1981 I started to buy originals only, albeit only the lower end of the market and got involved in djaying shortly after that.
Who gave you your first break and how did it feel?
It was in 1982 when I met a guy called Matt Matthews and we decided to do a soul night in Trowbridge, calling it the West Wilts Soul Club and arranged events for the next 18 months until I was posted to Belgium in Feb 1984. At the same time I also got a mid-week residency at the Pink Flamingo club first Thursday of the month in Newport South Wales I also djayed at local events. I have always enjoyed djaying, I like the mental side of what to play next and also the challenge of changing styles around and mixing it up!
Do you have any favourite musical styles and has your style of DJ’ing changed over the years?
I actually love all musical genres involved in the scene. I love all styles of musical genres within both the northern and Mod scene and Yes my musical styles have changed over the years which I think is good. I started out just wanting to please the floor with all the classics and anthems, but through time I have also tried to find something a little different to throw into the mix. I have definitely been playing much more Mod influenced sets in my northern soul gigs and introduced some of the well known Mod tunes to the northern soul clubs in the last 10 years, playing Manny Corchado – Pow Wow, Jonathan Capree – Gonna Build Me A Mountain, Aqumen – Line and Track and others which have been around the Mod scene for many many years!
Who came first Sean Chapman the DJ or promoter?
DJ way before promoting, but saying that I promoted and djayed my first event in Trowbridge in 1982 but then did not promote until 1998 at the Aylesbury Soul Club Nights which were held at The RAFA Club RAF Halton, Then 10 years promoting the Talk Of The Soul soul club in Luton with my very good friend Pete Tebbutt which ran from 2001 – 2010. I now co-promote the brilliant Chills and Fever Mod Club in Hertford with Andy Hill.
Can you tell us about the early days of your DJ career, what you played, where you played, what it was like and some treasured memories of those days.
I first started in Wiltshire at Trowbridge and Bath, Newport and Bristol until 1984 until I moved to Belgium, When I returned to the UK after a short posting to Lincolnshire I had moved to Anglesey 1988 and ran some soul events in Holyhead with Steve Thomas although these were not well attended. I also used to DJ at The Families club RAF Valley playing across the board playing more commercial music to non soul and mod but always adding my style. I was posted to RAF Brampton in 1991 when again I worked all the clubs on the RAF station and started getting northern soul DJ bookings in the early 1990's around Cambridgeshire at St Neots and Wellingboro until I was posted to Holland in 1995.
The Mod scene has changed over the years. We know that as well as being an integral part of the Mod scene you have also been heavily involved in the rare/ Northern soul scene. have you seen changes in that scene too.
I have been involved in the soul scene since 1976 and like most things in life people come and people go. The halcyon days of northern soul were in the 1970's. Through the 1980's the soul scene was very much underground and you could count the number of All Nighters with two pair of hands and toes over a 10 year period. When attending soul nights to get over 75 was a packer at a lot of venues. However, by the early 90's saw a increase in numbers which steadily rose through the rest of the decade. Since The naughties the numbers seemed to have increased even more with so many more venues, DJ's and promoters. Not all for the good as I think there has been a water down of the whole scene, with too much going on, It seems everybody wants to be a DJ, which in my opinion takes time to learn the craft, knowing how and when to pick up a Mic and use it well, A good collection of records takes time unless you want to play a set of reissues. As I said earlier people come to the scene and people go.
Where and when did you get your first international DJ break? What was the experience like?
I djayed In Aachen for Cheesy in the mid 1990's as I was living in Holland at the time, playing a northern soul set. Since then I have played many times in Europe in Spain, France and Italy as well as twice in The US at Los Angelos and New York City.
Can you tell us about the now well established Chapman records, how the business came about and how the business has changed over the years, have there been any amazing finds that you have kept in your own box rather than sell on and can we have your thoughts on the value of rare records today.
I started Chapmanrecords in 1994 for the sole purpose of trying to improve my DJ box, which I still do today. Chapman records has been going 20 years but all the profit has always gone into buying my DJ records as I have never been interested in the money side of selling. So when buying the collection I always get first pick for my collection, although I have a very in-depth collection they are worth nothing to me in monetary terms, they are just tools of the trade. Any other profit is offset against collections. The value of records is staggering, for the last 20 years the whole Mod and soul scene have been saying, that the prices will drop out, but still the prices of vinyl keeps going up and up! Don't forget to check out the website for Mod, northern soul, Tamla Motown 45s Lps and memorabilia.
Where do you stand in these days of digital downloads and vinyl represses?
Easy Original vinyl only, even on my radio show I only play original vinyl, NO reissues boots or counterfeits thank YOU!!
To date, you have DJ’ed at 1000’s of events. This one may be a bit difficult but do you have a favourite venues that you like to play in?
My all time favourite venue is The Kings Hall at Stoke where I am now in my 11th year as a resident, its such a iconic venue, now in its 21st year and still playing to 1000. The venue is amazing with a great sound system and always a full dance floor. One of my best nights ever was in Madrid back in 2014 and although there were 350 in it felt like 3500, the atmosphere was electric. Even when playing to 3-4000 at the Prestatyn and Blackpool Towers it never felt that good in Madrid that night.
What tips would you give a young DJ?
Always be true to yourself, be original and always play OVO, don't just buy and play the classics. Do loads of digging for your vinyl and as long as OVO it does not matter how much they cost! Dont be afraid to use the Mic, its a great tool.
Can you tell us about anything else you are involved with........
I write an article in the Manifesto magazine called Soul Nation which I have done since 2003. I started radio back in 2004 at RAF Lyneham, In 2006 I started a show called Soul Train in Pontypridd for five years. When I moved to Stafford in late 2011, I eventually got into radio with Stafford fm first of all with the Soul Spectrum with my good buddy Nigel Brown for 18 months, since then I Have had my own soul called Club A Go-Go which is every Thursday evening form 8-10pm playing a mix of club soul, mod, northern soul, reggae and ska.
What are your thoughts on the current mod scene and the musical diversity within it.
I Love the diversity of music where there seems to be very little boundaries which is a good thing as it gives the DJ a fuller array of music to play with, I love just mixing it all up, there is not one genre I prefer, I love it all. I do not really have a view as I think it is “each to their own”
Lastly, and most difficult, can you give us a top 5 or 10 favourite tracks.
Some of the tracks I Like today, tomorrow will change, depending what mood I'm in.
Del Larks – Job Opening.
Hamilton Movement – She's Gone
Quik – Bert's Apple Crumble
David Bowie – Space Oddity
Otis Redding – Try A Little Tenderness
Busters All Stars – City Riot
Small Faces – Tin Soldier
Jimmy Bo Horne – I Just Can't Speak
Sean can be heard on on his own show 'CLUB A GO GO' on Stafford FM - Every Thursday 8-10pm HERE
CHAPMANRECORDS can be found HERE for the best in Northern soul/Mod/Ska Vinyl and memorabilia.
CHILLS AND FEVER MOD CLUB Facebook page can be found HERE
OUT OF TIME MOD CLUB Wolverhampton Facebook page can be found HERE