The Mix 014: Wes Baggaley


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Can you tell us about some of your first musical experiences?

Oh music was everything for me when I was growing up. When I was little, I lived with my Grandma, Grandad, my mum, my two aunties and my little cousin — all in the same house. So my aunties were in their teens when I was little, and one of them was a punk in the ’70s who left home when she was 15-16. My Grandma just gave me the entire record collection that she left behind, I had like Sex Pistols singles, Siouxsie and the Banshees, etc when I was 5-6 years old. I used to love Adam and The Ants, he used to have this white stripe across his nose… my mum used to do one for me.

You let your mum draw one on?!

Yeah yeah, little stripe across my nose.


Yeah, then I got into Duran Duran. Every week I’d go to Wigan Market, this stall used to sell ex-jukebox singles so I’d go and get three for 50p. They’d have a hole in the middle, so I’d have to get an adapter to play them. When I was about 12, Inner City’s ‘Good Life’ was in the charts, Steve “Silk” Hurley’s ‘Jack Your Body’ as well, Lil Louis’ ‘French Kiss’ was on the radio and Top Of The Pops. But the first music I got into was punk records, I was obsessed with thrash metal. I wanted harder than that even, so I got into Napalm Death. I got into electronic music funnily enough because I bought a Throbbing Gristle record, I’d heard they were amazing from metal magazines and for some reason when I went to this record shop in Wigan their album – ’20 Jazz Funk Greats’ – was in the punk section. I got home and I was like “what is this?” I thought it was gonna be metal and it was these bleeps and bloops and someone chanting. But that last track, ‘Hot On the Heels of Love’ – which is in my mix – is this hypnotic techno track, and it’s from 1979. I loved it, I’ve got all their records now.

So yeah, I’d be listening to all these earache records and then when I got slightly older, I’d be going out at the weekend to raves. I looked a bit older so I could get in, so I started going to Wigan Pier when I was about 14. It was 1991, so just after the Summer of Love. Breakbeats were everywhere and we couldn’t afford ecstasy, so we used to get a gram of speed and blotting paper of acid. Then I got my first pill when I was… am I all right talking about drugs?

Oh yeah, you’re grand, go for it.

Yeah, so my first ever pill was in a house, my mate was babysitting and we took it for the first time and we were like “This is shit.” Then I went out and had one, and I was like: “Oh, now I get it. This crap music sounds better.” But yeah, I used to love the drugs more than the music at first, I just wanted to go get off my tits with my mates.

Do you have a special place in your heart for Wigan Pier? Coming from Wigan and spending so much time there?

I mean yeah. Some of it was shit, but also it was different back then they’d be playing all sorts of stuff side-by-side — Italo house, with breaks mixed with techno. This was before Scouse house and donk and stuff. You could do that then because everything was a bit less rigid, it was all dance music. I went for the first time when I was 14 and stopped going around 1998, but I went every weekend between ’93 and ’95. The first time I ever went they had an under-18s disco on a Thursday and Sunday, and they’d have the main weekend DJs roadtesting music to all these kids off their tits on speed. We were still in school! [laughs]. But we’d go every weekend as soon as we were old enough, then we’d get a coach to go to a party once a month and travel further afield to go out. Then I moved to Manchester.

Did you go to The Haçienda?

Just for the sake of saying I’d been [Laughs]. I hated it. I used to go down there, right, and I used to stay for about two hours and stand there on me own. This was obviously after the Summer Of Love, around the mid-90s. But I’d dance around for a bit, and it always felt like something was gonna kick off in there. Then I’d go to Paradise Factory instead, I felt more comfortable. I went to Flesh once, which was the “queer” party on a Wednesday, Kath McDermott used to DJ there and DJ Paulette. But things were different then. I sound like an old fart.

When did you start DJing?

In 1994 I started buying 12-inch electronic singles and I used to go and play them at my friend’s flat because he had decks. I got my own not long after. I think my first gig was in the mid-90s? So It will be 30 years I’ve been DJing this year.

Woah, a long time.

Yeah it’s awful innit. But some of the gigs, I’d sort of blagged my way in. I had a few records that I really loved, that I used to play at my friend’s after we’d been to the ‘Pier or whatever — but when I got my own turntables I just wanted loads of records, I didn’t care what they were. So I’d spend hours trawling through the bargain bins on the floor in the Vinyl Exchange, I had some absolute crap. I’d go blagging to people I’d be meeting in Manchester who owned bars and stuff, being like “Yeah, let me come and DJ” and turn up with all these shite records. One of the places I used to go though didn’t have turntables, so I’d take my own and a mixer and plug them in at this bar and I spent two years practising and learning in front of an audience until I could do it.

When did it change from DJing in bars to getting bigger bookings?

Do you know what? it took me a long time. Anybody else would have jacked it in. I was the resident DJ at Legends in Manchester, and things kind of started taking off, but I messed it up because I was such a mess. I’m completely sober now, I have been for fourteen years… but in the early 2000s I was overdoing it, and I messed it all up. People didn’t even want to talk to me. They would give me free drinks at this venue, and sometimes I could barely stand up.

I moved to London in 2010 and by that point, I’d already been DJing for a good 15 years. Because I’m gay, people think I play gay music — remixes of Kylie Minogue and stuff. So when I first moved here, I got booked for these mega-gay parties and I’d play all this techno and Chicago house and they’d be like: “What is this?”. I did start putting on my own party in 2014-15 called Sleaze City, it was at this fetish club in London. Because I’d DJed a few times for them they asked if I wanted to put on my a party and I said: “Yeah but only if women and trans people can come,” it was a men’s only venue. They said no, and I said I’m not doing it then. Then, they kept asking and they finally caved in. It was the biggest party they had. But that turned into the biggest nightmare ever to be honest…

How come?!

I’m a bit innocent really, people think I’m a right pervert because I wore leather clothes at Glastonbury [laughs]. But this crowd were proper hardcore. I liked the environment, but I’d look out at the crowd and be like “Oh my god, I really do not want to see that stuff going on.” That’s why that party didn’t last very long. I just couldn’t. I don’t want to look at that. I’m not going to go into detail…

Please don’t.

It were a bit shocking [laughs]. So yeah, it took me from 1994 to 2016 to get noticed.

When did it all change?

I won a competition to go dancing at Block9 at NYC Downlow, and I’d told GIDEÖN: “You know I also DJ, I’ll bring some music along with me in case one of your DJs dies.” And he said: “I actually did know that you DJ, but I don’t know what you play so send me a mix.” So I did, and the next thing I knew he sent me a message saying: “Yeah you’re on.” And that were it. I didn’t hear anything about it for the next couple of months and then I just saw my name on the poster for Glastonbury. So I played in the Meat Rack and also I played in Maceo’s, which is the bar for staff and artists in Block9. It all stemmed from that really, because GIDEÖN gave me a go.

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Do you hold NYC Downlow and Glastonbury quite dear then?

That first time I ever went to Glastonbury, it was the most special thing — the best week of my life. I thought I would hate it, but I’d never been and I wanted to do it before I was 40. So when I won the competition, I went with them and the atmosphere was just so nice. You get to hang out with all these people that you would have never thought would give you the time of day. Last time I went, Larry Heard was there, and I was like: “Oh, Iya!” I know the records you see, but I don’t know what these people look like. I saw A Guy Called Gerald and I just started talking to him and I was like “Oh you’re from Moss Side are you?” Also because I’d gone there to dance, there were all these photos of me dressed as a butcher so I ended up being the face of it for a year or two, I was in Mixmag actually! But yeah, I don’t think I’d be getting the gigs that I’ve had until that, that was a tipping point. I’d been DJing for so long and got nowhere with it, and that’s all it is sometimes getting a bit of a lucky break. I did a Boiler Room as well not long after that. God I looked at it the other week and I messed up nearly every mix… I had diarrhoea.

Oh no!

I got so nervous before I did it, I’ve got anxiety and I used to get nervous before any gig. Just before it was my turn to get on the decks, I realised: “Oh my god, I need a poo.” All I could think was “Don’t shit yourself on TV.” I was concentrating more on not farting than the mix. The records were good, but the mixing was horrendous. But I got loads of bookings after that Boiler Room too, and it’s like…

You’ve been around so long why now?

No, because it was fucking shit [laughs]. But a lot of this stuff is just luck really. For example, me and Dan Beaumont got booked to play at someone’s party in some warehouse in Hackney, around the same time and then Dan said, “We should do a party together that was fun.” Then we started Bottom Heavy, and it’s still going now… it’ll be 7 years this year!

So it all just came together pretty quickly from there?

Yeah like, me and Dan got booked to play at Robert Johnson in 2018 with Bottom Heavy, and the next night we flew back and he asked me to play at Chapter 10. Then I met Steffi and she said “Have you ever been booked to play at Berghain?” I was like no, and she just went: “Leave it with me.” A couple of weeks later I got an email from Berghain asking me to come and play, she was curating a party then I got asked back quite a few times. I’ve played at all these cool places now, it’s great. I played at KALT in Strasbourg which was great, I’ve played in Prague, Georgia — last year I went to New York!

At Mizz Softee?

Yeah! I’d never been to America, I’m scared of flying. I’m petrified of tall buildings right, I’ve had nightmares about being in New York. When I got asked to do it, I just couldn’t turn it down. Stayed in Brooklyn away from the tall buildings [laughs], then I went to Manhattan and I did it. Saw the Empire State Building and all that…

Conquered your fear?

Well I took a valium [laughs]. But yeah that was crazy. I think I’m really lucky. But that’s what you get for playing the long game I guess.

They always say it takes 10 years to make it overnight right?

Yeah. I’ve never been hot shit, I’m on the periphery of everything and I’d rather stay there. To me, if everybody liked what I was doing, you’re doing something wrong. But also if you have your moment in the sun, it can only ever go down — but If you stay around the edge, you’re never going to be massive of course but you have staying power. I can keep doing it, I genuinely really love it. I love the music. It’s not a business thing for me, I’ve got a day job — it’s a compulsion. I think if I was a bit more business-minded I could probably make a bit more of a go at it, but it’s just so much arse-licking… I can’t do it.

Can you tell us about your Mix?

This is me going against what I’m hearing in clubs at the minute. It’s all-vinyl and recorded in one take — I haven’t edited out any mistakes or anything, so there are a couple of crackles and pops in it, but I wanted to leave them. I’ve just moved house, so I’ve pulled some of my favourite records out for this mix — there’s hardly any new stuff on here. I didn’t plan any of it apart from the first track, which is from Gemini – and the last track: Throbbing Gristle’s ‘Hot On The Heels of Love’ which is my favourite track ever — for the rest I just winged it.

Megan Townsend is Mixmag’s Deputy Editor, follow her on Twitter

Written by: Tim Hopkins

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