DJ Paulette has always been one step ahead

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The ‘good’ in DJ Paulette’s story is detailed in exhilarating detail, bringing to life the excitement and chaos of the formative years of club culture in the UK. DJ Paulette describes how her first booking came about because the promoter had spent the whole budget on flyers and how her residency at Flesh dealt with a makeshift DJ booth fashioned out of a metal flight case and two wobbly bar tables for the turntables to stand on. Then there’s the laugh-out-loud recollection of when she DJed on ecstasy pills, that turned into a complete disaster when DJ Paulette lost the ability to read the print on the sleeves of her records. She left her twin sister Paula to take the reins, only to find that her sister was playing the same record over and over as DJ Paulette slumped down grinding her teeth in a toilet cubicle, unable to do anything about it.

The ‘bad’ takes on sexism, racism and classism that DJ Paulette and her peers have experienced, but also subjects like the loneliness of DJing and struggles with mental health, doing so with candour and often humour. “If I’ve had a breakdown, I’m not going to gloss over that and jump to the next chapter of happy, I want to deal with how that affected me, and how that affected all the people around me; I think it’s important to tell that too,” she says. She also explores how a career in DJing affects relationships and shines a light on fellow female DJs’ experiences, including the struggles of juggling playing out with motherhood. Many of the younger voices in the book illustrate how much the music industry has evolved for the better.

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But as much as DJ Paulette shares her literary stage with others, from Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy to Lakuti and Jamz Supernova, it’s her own story that’s the most remarkable thing about Welcome to the club. Although well documented in articles through the years, there are aspects of DJ Paulette’s career that don’t make the cut in limited word count profiles; in book form there’s room to demonstrate just what the secret to DJ Paulette’s endurance is. Arguably, it’s her ability to predict what’s coming next, and getting one step ahead. In the mid 1990s it was internet radio, in the early 2000s, it was having her own website and blog. It’s also been about constantly evolving her skillset, from doing PR for Mercury Records to A&R for Azuli and Defected.

It’s also been about DJ Paulette’s ability to predict developments in music and adapt accordingly. “I don’t make music myself and because of that I’ve had to find music that I can create a body of music around me with, that people will identify as my sound, so I’ve had to really stay ahead of the game,” she says. This approach is in full flow during her Haçienda reunion set, where the music she plays – mostly harder tech-house mixed with choice soulful house numbers the crowd will know – contrasts with the purely nostalgic vibe of most of the other DJs. “The crowd changes, music sounds different now, you need a bigger kick, you need a more compressed middle, to fill a room that holds 10,000 people. Some of those old tracks don’t travel anymore because the production values are different,” she says.

Written by: Tim Hopkins

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