Gordon Mac: Godfather of dance to soul pioneer

Gordon Mac

Gordon Mac

The first thing you notice about Gordon Mac is the hair, and then the laugh. A bunch of stubby, silver dreads bound with a black hairband. Against his sharp suit, they suggest an interesting past.

The laugh is boyish and infectious, a snicker. You can’t help but think of a lion – with a mellow demeanour.

Leaning back in a high-backed leather chair and linking his fingers behind his head, he’s at ease in the studio of Mi-Soul, his new digital radio station.

After founding KISS FM in 1985, earning himself the title ‘godfather of UK dance music’, he turned his attention to the internet last year, and is animated about its virtues.

“We did [Notting Hill] Carnival last year, and using just a laptop we sent the feed through one of the neighbour’s Wi-Fi connections back to the studio. That would have cost us £10,000 back in the day. But all it set us back was the price a bottle of rum for the guy who’s Wi-Fi it was. For four hours of live transmission; unbelievable!”

Some in Gordon’s generation, confronted with technological advances, bury their head in the sand, or pass the load to younger subordinates . But he sees it another way: “You’ve got to embrace new technology: it keeps you young!”

This positive pragmatism has made for a remarkable career. Raised in Camberwell, he started DJ’ing in local churches at the age of 12. With Kiss, originally a pirate station, he launched the careers of many who defined the sound of their generation: Judge Jules, Tim Westwood, Norman Jay, and Trevor Nelson.

Mi-Soul.com, his latest project, is a multi-platform radio station playing a broad spectrum of ‘soulful’ music. It is run from a studio in the Stephen Lawrence Centre, which he describes as a ‘beautiful, iconic building in Deptford Bridge’, offering space to digital start-ups, and visiting school and charity groups.

“I’ve asked myself how we ended up here a few times. But now it makes perfect sense: this place is all about creating a business and media hub for young people. We’re multi-media, not just a radio station, we’re the website, the videos, the interviews. We’re the full 360 internet experience.”

There’s no doubt that music has been the motor of his career. Asked about the current British scene, his eyes light up.

“It’s really exciting. We’ve got music now that we can really call our own – dubstep, drum and bass, they’re British and very London. MOBO have embraced artists like Tinie Tempah and Toddla T and now we don’t have to rely on America for the big names to come over. We’ve got our own scene and the youth love it, it speaks their language.”

“But Mi-Soul is all about soulful music. We play a lot of soulful house and a bit of reggae. There’s not a station out there that’s legal that really caters for this music. At one point, we thought of our audience as 30-plus but it’s really not an age thing, it’s just about good music. We play what’s good now, and things that are going to be big – everything from old school to new cool.”

And in those six words, he just about sums himself up.

Tune into Mi-Soul here.

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