Miles Simpson – DJ and one third of dance collaborative Thunder, with cohorts Rick Hopkins and Joe Apted – launches brand new club night Giant at the Bussey Building in Peckham this Friday. Here he opens up to The London Word about London’s regeneration, record collecting, loving Soho and loathing Boris Johnson.
‘I’m a DJ so there’s a limit to how creative you can be playing other people’s music, but when I’m DJing back-to-back with my Thunder brothers, Joe and Rick, we sometimes discover that little bit of magic that you simply can’t plan.
Its scale and diversity makes London unique. It’s huge and whatever your interests there’s always something to do; always something you haven’t experienced. The mix of people and cultures means it’s constantly evolving. It’s just an exciting place to live.
My perfect London day would involve chilling out in a quiet spot on Hampstead Heath with my family and friends, with a picnic and maybe a glass or two of wine, no work the next day and nothing to have to rush off and do.
My perfect London night would involve Thunder! Meeting up with all my friends in a pub in Dalston for a few pre-party drinks. Taking our guest DJ out somewhere local for Turkish food and heading down to the Dance Tunnel to play the final warm-up set before our guest, who would be someone I’ve always wanted to play with like Rick Wilhite, Chez Damier or DJ Sprinkles. Then dance the rest of the night away, before heading over to the extraordinary South Place Hotel in Liverpool Street for an after party on their roof terrace as the sun comes up. Hopefully I’d get a taxi home at reasonable time, then fall into bed and a magical slumber that cured my hangover.
I’m not very good at relaxing, but pottering around the house, listening to old jazz fusion LPs, and drinking copious amounts of tea isn’t so bad.
I’ve been fascinated by Soho since I was at school. I used to go shopping there in the late ‘80s in place called Swank on Old Compton Street and not long after I got a job in a shop on Wardour Street. It was pretty seedy then; we were opposite a peep show and would chuckle at the clientele sneaking in and out. But Soho had an edge that you wanted as a young man. It had all the best record shops, the best clubs, the coolest people, the late night drinking dens, the pubs, even the market, and you could almost taste the history. It’s been hugely sanitised now. There aren’t many red-lit doorways advertising a ‘model upstairs’ these days but there still isn’t a better place to have a wander around or a drink on a summer’s evening. It just needs a decent basement club or two.
I’m lucky enough to know a bunch of people who are talented and determined. People who stare adversity down and achieve what they want to, big or small, inspire me to get my lazy backside in to gear.
The Milk Bar on Sutton Row was the sort of small basement club Soho is now missing, and home to Danny and Jenni Rampling’s seminal Pure Sexy party. I went every week for a year, on a Wednesday, catching the night bus home to Highgate before getting up to work on a building site two hours later. There are certain things – smells, certain records, the taste of lime in Sol beer – that instantly transport me back. I bump into former regulars now and again, and I’m always slightly surprised they look so old because they’re still fresh faced 20-somethings in my mind.
There’s such a buzz in London in the summer. You can feel excitement in the air; drinking and eating outside, street parties, festivals, Carnival. It’s not too hot like Rome or humid like New York. I absolutely love London in the summer.
Boris Johnson is my least favourite Londoner. With his silly hair and ridiculously affected comedic buffoon persona he acts the clown, distracting people with high profile vanity projects, whilst he goes about his real business very, very quietly. I don’t trust him and I think he takes Londoners for being simple minded but we’re not. We know he’s a wolf in clown’s clothing.
Alan’s records in East Finchley is London’s best kept secret. It’s an absolute treasure trove for record collectors. He has records stacked up to the ceiling in there. Alan is also one of the nicest men to ever own a record shop; no attitude at all. He’ll even make you a cup of tea while you’re browsing.
The gentrification of working-class areas makes me mad. I’m all for regeneration, but working people and their families need to be able to live in London. It is part of what makes the city what it is. I think I’ll probably live to see the day that they can’t afford it.
I went to William Ellis School on the edge of Hampstead Heath. I’ve fallen in and out of love there, scattered relatives’ ashes. It’s a constant and doesn’t really change. I almost moved my family to Brighton a few years ago and remember being on the Heath thinking: ‘I can’t leave all this’. So I didn’t.
If you get the chance and the good fortune, fly into City Airport on a clear day. There’s an approach from the north the planes sometimes take that loops down over the South Bank and then back across Westminster towards the city and then, if you’re really lucky, it banks directly over the Shard so you’re looking right down it, before descending down past Canary Wharf, skimming the Dome and touching down. It’s the best non-intentional sightseeing tour ever.
Coming up with Thunder we’ve got Rick Wilhite, who is part of the 3 Chairs collective in Detroit, playing to 200 people in our basement in November. Next year we’re hoping to have some of our most exciting DJ bookings ever; the general idea being we get DJs you would never expect to hear somewhere so small. But before that we have our first ever residents’ only party in December, which will be invite only for members of the Thunder group on Facebook. We’re playing more guest slots and are excited about being involved with Giant with Tim Keenoy and Stuart Patterson. And finally, I’m working on the second volume of the Acid Rain compilation with Terry Farley, for Harmless Records.’
Thunder will be DJing at the Giant launch at the Bussey Building in Peckham on Friday 4 October alongside Greg Wilson, Jimpster, Severino and Stuart Patterson.