Lost Club Culture: Paul Morrell
As part of our ‘Lost Club Culture’ series we wanted to talk to some serious Coventry born and bred talent and we did just that! DJ Paul Morrell, who has a globally recognised career spanning over a decade and a list of credentials way, way longer than my arm.
In addition to working with ‘A’ list DJ’s including Paul Oakenfold, Lisa Lashes, Judge Jules, Martin Garrix, Axwell and Steve Aoki (and soooo many more) his remix catalogue boasts tracks collaborating with former Pussycat Doll Kimberly Wyatt, Grammy Award Winner Stonebridge and Brit Award/Ivor Novello Award winning Sonique. Paul has smashed it with remixes of club classics ‘Dreamer’ and ‘Don’t Stop Movin’ for Livin’ Joy and his remix of ‘I Lux U Baby’ for Dancing Divaz Vs the Original grabbed the No.1 Club chart position. He’s unstoppable!
We wanted to dig deep and ask him about how he started out in Coventry, celebrate his amazing successes and quiz him on the decline of house music in the city. His views certainly provoke thought… do you agree that we lack venues, which affects young promoters from being established? Has the fun gone out of house music, with people buying into what they think is ‘cool’, rather than good? You decide.
One thing I think we can take from this interview is this… Whoever says Coventry didn’t have a house scene is sadly mistaken. Enjoy.
How old were you when you first started DJ’ing and where was the first place you played in Coventry?
I first began at the age of 14 as a ‘mobile DJ’, and I believe my first paid gigs were doing corporate Christmas parties at various hotels in the city. I always had a love for music, and knew from quite an early age that this was what I wanted to pursue as a career.
We hear you used to be a part time media studies teacher at Caludon Castle school, Wyken. How did you manage your time between establishing yourself as a DJ and producer and teaching?
To be perfectly honest, I don’t really have anything positive to say about that experience or point in my career. I loved teaching, however, worked in an extremely high-pressure school where my creativity was repressed and the management team were unsupportive of what I did outside of school. I didn’t have time to focus on my music and ended up hating my day job to the point that it was a real chore to get up and drag myself to Caludon every day. I eventually decided to move into further education, where the other lecturers were far more like minded and most of which had other careers within the arts outside of college. This allowed me to develop as an artist and also gave me the opportunity to share my knowledge of the music industry with my students.
You have graced the decks of so many Coventry nightclubs including The Foundry, The Planet, Ikon, Crazy Daisy’s and Careys. Which venue did you feel had the best atmosphere and why?
When IKON first opened, it was a landmark venue for the region and the City as a whole. It was a privilege to be both Friday and Saturday night resident alongside other DJ / Producer Rob Searle and the club regularly drew crowds in excess of 2000 on a Saturday night. When the club was busy, it had a fantastic atmosphere and was the cities first proper commercial ‘Super club’. I remained at IKON for three years before leaving in 2002. Other venues in the city have also been fantastic to play at. I enjoyed playing at The Earlsdon Cottage when it was at its peak of popularity and also had some great nights at The Lighthouse in Tile Hill, as well as ‘LOL’ on Spon Street.
Can you give us a couple of standout memories from your DJ gigs in Coventry?
I have had some fantastic nights in Coventry and when the clubbing scene was at its peak, you could almost guarantee that every venue would be packed. I have extremely fond memories of playing with Sonique (whom has since become an extremely good friend) at both The Glass House and Careys. I also remember performing at The Foundry in Far Gosford Street at the start of my career, which was one of the very first venues I played in. It was such a great, underground venue, and the sound system was also fantastic.
At the time of holding your Coventry residencies, how would you describe the house music scene?
Both the sound in Coventry and my sound in general have changed a lot since my time in the City. At the start of my career and in particular the start of Classique, I was playing quite aggressive hard dance and trance music to a very mixed crowd. I would regularly play alongside artists including The Tidy Boys, Lisa Pin Up, Kutski, Andy Farley and BK etc. This sound was extremely popular in the city, and also had a following with other city events including Barry Diston’s ‘Fidget’ club at Platform Five at the train station.
In stark contrast, there were also very successful ‘funky house’ events in Coventry, such as “What Would Jesus Do?” (at the Earlsdon Cottage), and “Cassa Funk” (promoted by Luke Spencer and Matt Nash) which also had big loyal followings. My sound has now evolved into a more EDM / Future house style, which I predominantly play at the big London superclubs including Ministry of Sound and my weekly residency at the 2500 capacity Gay nightclub XXL.”
What inspired you to create and develop the prestigious clubbing brand “Classique?”
Classique was essentially my way of bringing big name DJs to Coventry, as I spotted a niche in the market. Since the closure of clubs such as The Planet and The Foundry, there had been no real regular ‘House Music’ event within the city and I felt that there was still a market for this. The event launched in 2005 at the 200 capacity ‘Glasshouse venue’ with Anne Savage headlining. The event was initially intended to be held on monthly Sundays, however, soon moved to Saturday’s for various reasons. Within 2 years, Classique had grown into a huge brand within the city and I held its 2nd Birthday Event at The Skydome Arena on Saturday 29thSeptember 2007 with a DJ line-up that would rival any London superclub. Legendary DJs Paul Oakenfold & Judge Jules headlined, supported by John Kelly, Riley & Durant & I. This still remains one of the biggest dance music events the city has seen. Following the second Birthday, Classique continued to enjoy success with monthly guests including Boy George, Mauro Picotto, Dave Pearce, Lisa Lashes, Kutski, Hoxton Whores, etc, until its demise in 2010.
I’ve read that you first played in Ibiza in 2005? Where was that and how did it feel?
My first Ibiza gig was playing for Judge Jules at his weekly club night Judgement Sunday @ Eden. This was a big step in my career as I found myself on the bill alongside Sander Van Doorn, Howard Donald (Take That) and Jules himself. Obviously at as a young DJ, Ibiza is a ‘dream destination’, and this gig saw the start of me being invited back several times to perform at Jules event.
What do you consider to be the highlight of your career so far?
There have been some amazing experiences over the past decade and I have been extremely fortunate with some of the gigs that I have played at and people I have worked with. Last year I supported Martin Garrix, Tiesto, Steve Aoki, Axwell and Armin Van Buuren at the 35,000 capacity Weekend Festival in Helsinki, Finland. This is currently the largest event I have ever played at, as part of an enormous line-up of international talent and is definitely a highlight. UK wise, I think the first time I played at Ministry of Sound in London is also a highlight, as again it is a venue that most DJs dream of playing at – I suppose the football equivalent of a footballer to play at Wembley. This is one of the only venues in the UK that has maintained such a high profile for the duration of time that it has.
You won Best Breakthrough DJ from the infamous global Ministry of Sound Club in 2010. How did this impact your career in the music industry?
The award had a great impact on my career and obviously strengthened my relationship with Ministry of Sound, where I have played regularly ever since winning the award. Awards and recognition are fantastic; however, people forget them very quickly so it’s far more important to be consistent with things like music production etc.
With a highly acclaimed career spanning over a decade, you have worked with so many famous artists throughout your career but who has made you really star struck?
To be honest, I don’t really get ‘star struck’ anymore, as the majority of celebrities/big name DJ’s are usually extremely nice people and very easy to get along with. The first time I performed with Boy George was possibly a stand out moment as he continues to be one of Britain’s true music icons, not only as a DJ but also as a fashion figure and one of the most successful pop stars of the 1980s. I have since worked with George many times and he recently performed the vocals on my track ‘Tall and Handsome’, which has been supported by various big name international DJs.
You have had amazing success as a producer with a seriously impressive remix catalogue. How do you work to push musical boundaries on new projects?
As a producer, I don’t feel as if I ‘push’ any musical boundaries really. I just produce music that I know will work on a dancefloor and will get a good reaction from clubbers. I always try and incorporate something that is interesting, whether that is a guest vocalist, a catchy synth riff or a hooky bassline. However, to be honest, I think very few dance music producers do push any musical boundaries at all. Most of the music you hear today is just regurgitated from previous genres with slightly newer sounds etc.
What is on your music bucket list in the future?
To achieve a UK top 40 single.
There has been a decline in Coventry’s house scene over the recent years. What challenges do you believe the City faces with regards to this?
I think the main issue Coventry has is the lack of venues in which to promote any dance music events. The clubs I used to previously promote in have all long since gone and there is now nowhere for upcoming promoters to hold events. Obviously, there are great ‘one off’ events and the guys who hold the ‘Ruins’ events at the Cathedral have a great thing going there, with a large capacity. However, there are no 200-600 capacity clubs anymore such as Careys which make it feasible for young promoters to become established.
If you could change one thing about the current house music scene, what would it be?
I think to some extent the ‘fun’ has gone out of the house music scene and it suffers from what I call ‘Emperors New Clothes’ syndrome. What I mean by that is, often young people buy into music for it being ‘cool’ rather than it being good. There is a lot of extremely poor, boring music out there, but because everyone says, ‘it’s cool’, people tend to follow the crowd. Because I predominantly play in London now, I tend to forget that Coventry is not like London, which has hundreds of small, niche events every night of the week. For a city the size of Coventry, it’s a real shame that nobody has started something new and exciting to revitalise the cities nightlife.
A huge thank you to Paul Morrell for taking the time out to talk to us.
Check out his tracks and follow him on https://soundcloud.com/paul-morrell
Read our interview with Eclipse hero MC Man Parris now.