Adventures In Paradise are Katie Barber and Michelle Kelly. They’ve been DJing and hosting parties together for around 7 years, and in 2016 they launched a vinyl offshoot. Their latest release, Want This, is the debut by Soma World AKA Josh Ludlow and Tom Green. Its beat a little bit burger highlife, a little bit zouk. Its bass slapped, six strings strummed, and keys sent ascending, while impassioned guest vocalist Falle Nioke also provides percussion – on West African instruments, the gongoma, cassi and bolon. Ray Mang, on the remix, extends everything, and drenches it all in delay. Sending flashes of axe, and devil-like detail, spinning into a dubwise forever. With a vibe very much like one of those classic Stones discomixes. The tempo slowly evolving into a tribal chug – tethering stirring bottleneck riffs – before descending into computer madness, and a finale of full on build-the-box rave.
Where are you from?
Michelle: Cape Breton
Katie: Sheffield, but I grew up in Basingstoke, and we lived in London for around 20 years.
Where are you based?
We are both now based in Margate, the “Kent Riviera”.
Michelle, what brought you to the UK? Was / is there a big club / dance scene in Nova Scotia?
It was definitely music that brought me to the UK from Canada. There was a great underground rave scene in Halifax, Nova Scotia, that I was first introduced to in 1997 – which was a total game changer for me. I wasn’t old enough to get into clubs – so raving was easier for me. I was lucky to make friends with some pretty awesome people who were deeply involved in the scene and schooled me in dance music culture. We had amazing DJs come to play in Halifax from across Canada, the US and UK but the UK dance scene was a big deal in our eyes, and in 2000 we all decided to move to London and I’ve been here ever since.
Can you both tell me something about your musical backgrounds? Where did you first go out dancing? Which venues / parties did you attend regularly? What music were you listening to?
Michelle: If I wasn’t at a rave then you`d find me at Reflections Cabaret, which was the best club in Halifax to properly dance and hear the best house music. When I moved to the UK, I was going to Fabric a lot, mostly for DTPM, also Trade at Turnmills and Lazy Dog in Notting Hill.
Katie: My first parties were the Flying Records and Boys Own parties. From the age of 16, I would come up with older mates from Basingstoke. I remember excellent parties at the Soho Theatre Club. After that my early years of parties included Sin at the Astoria, the Pushca parties. On A Need to Know Basis at James and Alex’s underground home nightclub become a regular for me, and I don’t think I missed any of the Faith parties, which I eventually got to DJ at. I also got into Phil Asher and Patrick Forge’s brilliantly informative and inspirational night Inspiration Information, and ended up becoming a warm up DJ there for over 8 years in the early 2000’s. Oh and I loved Co-Op, I got to DJ there a couple of times too.
When did you start DJing, both individually and together? How did the two of you meet?
Katie: I started DJing at university in the early nineties, but things really kicked off for me when Phil Asher asked my to play the newly formed all-female warm-up session at Inspiration Information. I played for about 4 hours most Friday nights at the The Notting Hill Arts Club, and learned a whole lot about music and DJing from Phil and Patrick.
Michelle: I started DJing around 2004 but really didn’t find my feet until 2008, when I started a night called ‘Behind The Velvet Curtain’ with my pals Erica T and and Simon Rohrer – first at the Horse and Groom, and then other various venues around East London. From there I played at a lot of different parties in London and then went on to host Breaking Even.
Katie: We met in the summer of 2009 at a DJ Rahaan party. We ended up hanging out afterwards, playing music into the early hours and have remained close since then. We were both DJing and putting on nights in London with other crews. Then in 2013 I approached Michelle about doing something together and Adventures In Paradise was born. We started off with our Adventure mix series and then played our first gig together at Spiritland 2014, at the Merchants Tavern – which began our residency and love affair with Spiritland.
Spiritland photo by Rik Mo.
Michelle, can you tell me more about Breaking Even parties? Prior to the pandemic, where and when were they, who else is involved, what kind of guests have you had? Katie are you also involved?
The Breaking Even parties started with my good friend Dave Rose back in 2010 and ran until 2015. The ethos behind the parties was that you could get in for free and there was always a great guest, such as Richard Sen, Sean P, Gerry Rooney, Glowing Palms, Nancy Noise, Phil Mison, Moonboots, Mudd. We did have Katie on the list of DJs to book but the parties tailed off before we could get her to play.
Were either of you promoting parties before Breaking Even and AIP? Do you also hold AIP parties?
Katie: One of the early parties I promoted, rather than just being the DJ, was a night called TBC with Miles Simpson. I’d previously had a night called Adventures In Success with Will Webster where we asked DJs to come and play an “alternative” set – something different to what people might expect them to play – and we had DJ’s like Paul Anderson and Diesel DJ at that. I’d also had a Night called See You Next Tuesday with my good friend Hanna Sawtell, which strangely enough was on a Tuesday. But I think TBC was where I took promotion more seriously. We held our AIP club nights at Grow in Hackney Wick in 2016 and we were starting a residency in Margate in March just when COVID-19 hit.
Could you give me 3 AIP “classics”?
Pennye Ford – Dangerous
Jo Bisso – Your Love
Miami SoundMachine – Dr Beat (Instrumental)
Katie I know you were involved with Flying Records for a while. Could you tell me a little bit about that? How did you get involved in Inspiration Information? The times I went it was a brilliant mix of house and Brazilian music. How did you get to know Phil Asher and Patrick Forge? Was Lofty a connection?
Katie: My ex-husband used to work for Flying, and before and during that time I was a regular there – buying records. I became really good pals with Lofty and Dr Bob (Jones) who were doing their Chillifunk stuff, and Norman, the guy who owned it. When Flying had to leave its premises on Dean Street – I think the rents around there just got too high – I was heartbroken, so I bought the business and ran it online with my then partner Andrew Baker. It was a tough time for record shops, but we ran the on-line shop for a couple of years. I did meet Phil through hanging out at Flying. I handed him a mix of mine and next thing I knew, he and Dego came into Flying bugging out about the mix – and I got the gig at Inspiration Information.
Could you give me 3 Inspiration Information “classics”?
Tania Maria – Come With Me
James Mason – I Want Your Love
Isaac Hayes – Joy
How did you both get the Spiritland gig?
Our first AIP gig together was actually at Spiritland in 2014, when it was based in Merchants Tavern. Michelle contacted Paul Noble to tell him how wonderful we thought the Spiritland Soundsystem was and asked if there was an opportunity to play there…and that turned in to a residency and great love affair. We’ve both played there from the start, individually and together as AIP.
Can you give me 3 examples of tunes we might hear you play at Spiritland?
Elisa Waut – 4 Times More
Hong Kong Syndikat – Too Much (Cola-Banana Mix)
Pier Rosier et Son Groupe Gazoline – Ba Nou Lan Min
Can you tell me more about Ladyz? Is this something you are both involved in?
Katie: Ladyz was the second incarnation of Ladybugz – an all female DJ collective that I was involved with for quite a few years – which included Maria Carr, Sophie Callis, Tayo Maronie and Marsha Smith. We ended up playing a few nice gigs and festivals, including Worldwide in Sete.
Were you both regulars at The Garden Festival in Tisno? Do you now go to Love International?
We certainly were.
Katie: I first went to Petrcane in 2007, to the second one, and then started DJing at the festival in 2008. I became a regular DJ and festival goer at Garden and Love International.
Michelle: My first time at The Garden festival was in 2008. I went to The Garden off and on over the years, and DJed at the first two Love International festivals.
Were either of you involved in running record labels before AIP?
This is our first time. We talked about running a label in 2015 as we felt that between us, we knew some incredibly talented musicians and producers who had music they might not necessarily release on their own labels. It was an opportunity for them to do something a bit different perhaps. The label came to fruition around 2016.
Are the parties and label named after the Minnie Ripperton LP?
Katie: Adventures In Paradise is a name that I`d always wanted to use for a night, and when I mentioned it to Michelle, she fell in love with the idea. And yes, it’s after the Minnie Ripperton LP. Calling the label after this was a natural progression.
The sleeves are pretty “bespoke”. Who does your artwork?
Our very good friend and talented DJ, producer and artist Christopher Rees does our artwork. We wanted a style that would stand out, reflect what we love and also give us something we could become recognised for. We think Chris has done an excellent job on the artwork, he’s a very talented man.
The Distance kinda came out of the blue – I mean I know both Paul and Quinn pretty well and neither of them had mentioned it was coming. Had the track been around for a while?
We`d released a track with Felix Dickinson’s band Dedication – Show Me Love with Danielle Moore on vocals. Both Felix and Dani are great pals and artists we seriously rate. The Distance followed a pretty similar approach. We asked Paul if he had anything we could work with, and he offered up The Distance – which blew us away.
Is the plan to do just one release a year? Is there a theme to the releases, a specific sound?
Our releases are a slow process, and we are averaging about one year at the moment. That’s because we like to take our time to find the right artist and music – we don’t want to rush these things. But perhaps a more steady flow of releases is on the cards. We are currently talking to producers about what AIP004 could be.
Do you kind of “commission” pieces from people, or do folks send you stuff? Are all the people on the label friends of yours?
Katie: For the first two releases we approached people we know, who’s music we love. But the latest release is one that I’d heard about as a demo version – which was played to my boyfriend, Joe Lye. I went to meet the band and had them play the track – as a work in progress – and fell in love. I quickly got on the phone to Michelle and we agreed that Want This would be our third release. We worked with the band for about a year before they had the final cut ready to go.
What do you do when you`re not running AIP?
Katie: We both have quite a lot on. I own and run a clothes and record shop in Margate called Albion Stores. Running a shop takes a lot of my time and energy, and I absolutely love it. I also work as a freelance marketing consultant and have been pretty much full-time on this for the past year. So as you can imagine, this, with DJing and running record label, means there`s not much “free-time”.
Michelle: I’m currently in the middle of finishing off an ‘Exercise to Music‘ course – which was put on hold in March due to COVID. Besides becoming an aerobics instructor, I`d really like to get into programming music for exercise. I’ve also a started a Personal Training qualification, as well as having a very busy day job.
Do either of you make music yourselves?
It’s something we’ve always planned to do, but amongst the multiple jobs, we just haven’t really had the time yet to dedicate to it.
Do you have the next AIP release already lined-up?
Not yet, but we are close.
What are your plans once the pandemic is over? Where will you go out dancing?
Michelle: Katie’s got a couple of radio shows for 1BTN and Radio Margate and we hope to be able to get our DJ residency restarted. There’s a couple of perfect spots in Margate that we used to DJ at – one is the Sun Deck run by Kelly Love and Dan Williams, which as you can guess by the name, is a Tiki bar where you get to DJ while looking out over the sea as the sun sets.
The other is The Margate Arts Club run by Luke Vandenberg which is one of the best small venues ever, the policy is open, inclusive and welcoming and Luke is a big fan of what we play.
Soma World’s Want This is out now on Katie Barber and Michelle Kelly`s Adventures In Paradise.