People: Al Kent
One of the UK’s foremost soul and disco DJ’s, we spoke to Paisley native Al Kent about his origins as a mod, how he entered the club world and more.
What was your gateway into soul music?
“I was still at school at the time. My generation were the second wave of mods from about 1979 onwards and we were into Secret Affair and The Chords. So, I was up in Virgin Megastore in Glasgow and there was an album called 20 Mod Classics with the big target on the cover, so I had to get that. Then when I took it up the road, it was Martha Reeves, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye so I thought ‘this is weird, that doesn’t sound like my music’. But I persevered with it and eventually thought I was a proper mod for having it (laughs).”
What incentivised you to get behind the decks?
“It started when my pal and I booked a night in Gallowhill Community Centre. We borrowed decks off someone and about 20 people came. It boiled down to ‘I’ve got these crackin’ records and I want to play them to you!’ Then, there was a nightclub in Silk Street called Paris. One night, a guy asked me to DJ the indie room with his collection. I thought ‘aye, this’ll be fine’ but I didn’t know a single track (laughs). I was just a wee guy but they must’ve thought ‘I like the look of him’ so I ended up with my own Northern Soul night on a Monday.”
Where do you stand on the great vinyl vs digital divide in DJing?
“People can get a bit elitist about it, as if they’re doing something real and you’re not. The time that I decided I wasn’t carrying records anymore was when I was going on a flight and saw my case going up the conveyor belt. The baggage guys just lobbed it and I was like “Whoa! There’s five grand’s worth in there’. Whether you’re using vinyl or a USB, it doesn’t make much difference to the guy that’s down there having the time of his life.”
What’s on your agenda for the rest of the year?
“Just recording, remixing, I actually just finished up a track in the studio with The Million Dollar Orchestra. I think I started it in 2009 so that’s a decade on. When I last pulled the file up, it was dated 2016 so that’s been a good three years at least. It’s for my pleasure more than anything so I can have a wee shot at it whenever. That’ll be coming out in the next few months alongside a few remixes and shows.”
Al Kent’s “holy grail”
“There’s one record that I’d kill for. It’s the 12″ mix of Lorraine Johnson’s take on Teddy Pendergrass’ ‘The More I Get, The More I Want.’ On the very rare occasion that I’ve seen it, the price tag is about $1500.”
Keep up with the man behind “Million Dollar Disco” via his website.