The Last Word

The Last Word: Neil Rushton

Q: You became heavily involved in the Northern Soul scene in the early 70s, how did you discover the scene and what are your favourite memories of that time?

A: At school around 1970 everyone was either into Soul or Rock. I loved Soul and I became fanatical about it.

From local youth clubs I graduated to going to Rare Soul sessions (before it was branded Northern Soul) at The George Hotel in Walsall which was one of the best Soul nights in the U.K.

Being exposed to that tipped me over the edge. In 1972 it went crazy and I became regular at The Catacombs in Wolverhampton and The Torch in Stoke. Both cutting edge iconic venues. Later I DJ’d at The Catacombs so I must have been OK as that was a venue full of fanatics who loved their Soul music, a lot of American discoveries got their first ever U.K. spins there.

Q: You then went on to found Inferno Records, what was it like setting up your first record label?

A: Well from 1975 to 1980 (when the Northern scene imploded) I was right in the middle of things. I was the first full time staff writer at Black Echies and my Heart Of England Soul Club promotions at Manchester Ritz and Blackpool Mecca were up there with Wigan Casino which as I started The Ritz All-Dayers when I was 21 was no mean achievement. I was getting over 3,000 people in for shows with the likes of Brass Construction and Players Associaton and importing tens of thousands of records from America.

With so much going on setting up Inferno just seemed the next thing to do and there was a real punk inspired D-I-Y attitude so it kind of was kind of logical to have my own label. We released some great records including Gloria Jones, The Crow - Your Autumn Of Tomorrow (which I purchased) and in recent year’s licenced to Elaine’s film “Northern Soul”, Freda Payne “Band Of Gold” (sold over 40,000 and it didn’t chart) and all time classics by The Carstairs, Frank Beverley & The Butlers, Gil Scott-Heron, Ann Sexton, The Four Perfections.. it was a great experience and gave me the education I needed when I co-founded Network which became the best selling indie owned House Music label in the UK.

Q: After the Northern Soul movement you went back to newspaper reporting, what brought you back onto the music scene and made you set up Kool Kat Music? Where did the idea to import music from Detroit come from?

A: House Music! I loved it, The Chicago stuff had been snapped up by other labels. My love of Detroit Soul meant I wanted to know all about the house music from Detroit, that led to me putting together the Techno! compilation for Virgin and managing and releasing records by Derrick May, Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson and Inner City and the trip of a lifetime at Network.

Q: You’ve DJ’ed some amazing and iconic venues, how would you say the DJing scene has changed since you started?

A: I can remember primitive sound systems and nobody caring about DJ’s. Now it’s an industry. What has remained the same is that I have always respected DJ’s who love the music instead of loving themselves.

Q: What does Ben Sherman mean to you? When did you first encounter the brand?

A: Me at 16 desperately yearning for a plain black Ben Sherman shirt. Found one on shopping trip to Birmingham and I was on Cloud 9.

Q: What are you up to now? What are the plans for the future?

A: I’ve almost finished a revamp of my book ‘Northern Soul Stories’ to celebrate 10 years of the original release. I’m also involved in promoting gigs including Detroit A-Go-Go in Detriot.

Q: Lastly, you’re on a desert island, you can only have one record, what would it be?

Northern - It Really Hurts Me Girl - The Carstairs
House - Strings Of Life - Rhythim Is Rhyhtin
Motown - Walk Away From Love - David Ruffin
Funk - The Grunt - The J.Bs
Jazz Funk - Expansions - Lonnie Liston Smith

Don’t forget to check out our night at The Night Owl.

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