The Night Begins To Turn Your Head Around: Deptford Northern Soul Club
Deptford Northern Soul Club is the result of two crate-diggers going their own way.
Kicked off in 2016 by Will Foot and Lewis Henderson, the pair wanted to place rare soul in a fresh context, re-aligning the stalwart underground scene with other club flavours.
Sticking to straight-down-the-line floorfillers, the results speak for themselves. Holding down residencies across the county, the pair have carved out a notch at Glastonbury, all while remaining true to their South London base.
Recently launching their own label with an ultra-limited vinyl-only drop, Deptford Northern Soul Club are finishing 2019 on a high.
Clash tracked down the duo to talk about the mysterious beast known as Northern Soul...
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How did the two of you get into Northern Soul?
Lewis’ Dad has an amazing jukebox filled with all sorts of singles from all sorts of genres. We were always drawn to the soul tracks. It wasn’t until five or so years ago we understood it be Northern Soul, we just thought it was great dance music.
Where did the impetus for Deptford Northern Soul Club come from?
We’ve always been friends, since playgroup actually - when we were two or three. Growing up together we used to be in bands and when Will moved to London we thought it’d be fun to do something musical together.
I’d been to a few Northern Soul nights but never really seen any other young people going. We thought it’d be interesting to try and do a one-off as nobody our age was really putting anything like that on and it kind of snowballed.
There are a lot of different Northern Soul clubs across the country, what is it that makes you different?
To put it plainly, the age of the people coming to our nights… most Northern Soul clubs in the UK cater to an older crowd, not a bad thing but quite hard for a young person to get involved with.
What we are trying to do is get other young people into the scene. We’ve run DJ workshops, supported new talent and made an inclusive club environment for people to come and experience the music - even if they don't know a lot about the history.
There is a real network of young DJ’s coming through now with other nights and clubs looking to bring in the next generation and this is getting a bit of excitement back into the scene.
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Given the huge range of different sounds under the Northern Soul bracket how do you go about giving your sets focus? Where does that identity come from?
After playing to people solidly for three years you know how to work a room. Obviously there are tracks we always play and love that are part of the culture like; Frankie Valli’s ‘The Night’ or ‘Do I Love You’ by Frank Wilson but we try to bring in different records each set we do to keep it interesting.
We have a few fans now that come to almost all of our shows that just love the music and want to see what we’ll come up with on that night. Saying that, you’ll see them dancing and having a good time to the classics too!
You regularly play Glastonbury, what was your first set like there?
For us it was always a dream to play in some capacity, we’ve been going to Glastonbury since we were thirteen. To be honest I wasn't sure if it would ever happen, but then it did! We were really nervous before that show.
We played before Eddie Piller in 2017 so everyone was there to see him but it still felt like the start of something big for us. Up until that point we hadn’t played venues outside of London. We found ourselves on stage with a huge crowd of knowledgeable Northern Soul fans. I think the conversation we had before was ‘fuck it’, let’s put on a show. They had us back this year, must’ve done something right!
Deptford Northern Soul Club take these sounds outwith the usual background for rare soul – do you think that’s part of what makes your sets so exciting? Taking the music into a fresh context?
I think it’s 'cause we’re happy to play the hits alongside the rarer cuts. Playing the room is always key with Northern Soul and people vote with their feet. If they’re not into what you’re playing you know it.
I also think that people don’t get to hear this music played out on a big soundsystem often, if not at all. It seems that no matter where you play you get a good reaction.
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Is there something universal about Northern Soul?
Absolutely, it’s pop music with a four-four-beat. We sometimes see people on the dancefloor looking a bit unsure but as soon as a track they’ve heard before comes on, or if they recognise a drum break that’d been sampled in a hip-hop track they love it.
Essentially, Northern Soul is emotional dance music, it’s got that same beat that you can hear in disco, house and techno just hidden under some heart wrenching vocals and a melodic horn section.
Where did the impetus come from to launch your own label?
Frustration at not being able to afford the records that we wanted to play out. We’ve been making a list for the last few years of all the tracks we’d like to have in our record boxes with the hope of some day being able to put them out ourselves.
Digital versions can usually be found these days but not at good enough quality for big club or festival sound systems. Northern Soul is probably the most expensive genre to own as most of the artists and labels only put out a few releases in limited runs and then gave it up to become bus drivers or to work in factories making cars.
Over the past 40 years the records have got lost, broken and scratched and now mostly sound awful when played at a loud volume and cost a stupid amount of money. I guess we are interested in doing this because we want to see this music live on and unless someone puts good versions of these tracks out again then they may become lost forever.
If you want to get something done, do it yourself... right?
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The label is vinyl-only, what prompted this? And how did you get about deciding which tracks to release? Was there a lengthy licensing process, for example?
It’s a desire to own good quality cuts of the tracks that we love. Nearly all the tracks we’re releasing people will have heard us play out over the years and some we’ve been wanting to play out for so long.
We’re not interested in getting these songs on streaming services, we want them to be played in clubs across the world, back on the dancefloors where they belong. The licensing process can take months if not years. In all, we think it’s been eighteen months from the start of the label to the first release.
A lot of labels and artists we are licencing from are scared to put things online as it’s only really the big majors that make any money from doing that. We are happy to work with them to bring out something on a smaller scale with a lot of respect, care and attention going into each aspect of the individual release.
What are your ambitions with the club? Where would you like to play, for example? What’s the next step?
Our main ambitions is to bring Northern Soul back into the conversation of dance music - a proto-dance music revival.
We’d love to be on the same bill as the DJs that we admire, playing at festivals known for multigenre experiences. We’d love to travel and go to play cities like Tokyo, Berlin, New York, and Paris as well as festivals like Burning Man and Dekmantel Selectors... Ibiza too.
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Stay in touch with Deptford Northern Soul Club HERE.
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