Paul Morrell is one of the main room resident DJs at the Boyz Award-winning club XXL at Pulse. He’s also a busy boy during the week, working in the studio remixing club classics and the forthcoming new XXL album. Dave Cross had a catch up with this music man.
Hi Paul, before we talk about your very busy couple of weeks ahead, tell us how did you get into DJing in the first place.
I always had a keen interest in music, and would avidly listen to the charts and watch Top of the Pops and The Chart Show. As I got slightly older, this evolved into collecting records, and in particular focusing on the dance and rave genres of the late 80s and early 90s. The first record I bought was Technotronic’s Pump Up The Jam in 1989. I was 8 years old and this was really the record that influenced me as a DJ, and shaped the rest of my career. By the time I went to secondary school, I was regularly DJing for friends’ birthdays and student parties.
How did the residency at XXL come about?
I was already a fairly well-established DJ-producer, but aside from Birmingham Pride, only really played in straight clubs, such as Ministry of Sound, Progress and GodsKitchen. I was also hosting my own events in my home city of Coventry, at which I regularly booked high profile artists including Judge Jules, Boy George, Paul Oakenfold, Mauro Picotto and Mark Knight. I regularly attended the Birmingham XXL event on monthly Fridays as a clubber. Every month I would look forward to this event, as it was local and a great place to go and listen to the kind of music I produced and enjoyed playing. I was so impressed by the atmosphere and diversity of the crowd that I knew I wanted to be involved with the XXL brand, so contacted Mark Ames and his partner to see if they would consider booking me. Mark was already familiar with my remixes for Livin’ Joy and Stonebridge, as they were being played at XXL, and when their existing resident DJ left, I was offered the Birmingham residency. Soon after that, I was offered a guest spot at the London club, and the rest is history.
How would you describe the music that you play at XXL?
I play an extremely eclectic set, and live by the rule ‘Good music does not have a sell-by date’ – I am more than willing to drop a classic tune in the middle of my sets to really set the dancefloor alight. My DJ performances are always quite tough and EDM influenced, and I think having heritage as a ‘trance’ DJ sets me aside from a lot of the other DJs playing on the gay scene in London. The majority of the guest DJs that play at XXL have a very house/tribal/circuit sound, which has become the popular genre defining sound of London gay clubs. I think like any art form, music is a fluid, constantly evolving medium, and therefore my sets also evolve. I recently played Oakenfold’s remix of U2 Even Better Than The Real Thing at XXL, which is over 20 years old, but I love playing new music as well.
What is about XXL on a Saturday that makes it special for you?
XXL is unlike any club I have played at before; it’s a fantastic, forward-thinking environment. The venue itself has state of the art sound and lighting as well as a friendly, energetic bar and security team. Mark Ames has a very definite idea about the musical direction and décor of the club. The management team are friendly and professional, and the thousands of clubbers that attend weekly are always up for a party, and come with a friendly, open minded attitude. I always have fun when I play at the club, and in particular with the other resident DJs – Alex Logan, Joe Egg and David Robson are huge fun to be with. The regular guests that perform at the club also bring their own unique style, DJs such as Fat Tony, Bobby Blanco, Pagano and Hoxton Whores all add to the electric environment. I am extremely proud to call XXL my weekly home.
Can you tell us about the remix that you’ve done for legendary dance label Positiva?
Positiva is celebrating its 25th anniversary. The label has been responsible for some of the most iconic records of the dance music genre. In 2016 I unofficially remixed Motorcycle’s As The Rush Comes, turning it from a trance classic into a more EDM/house track. I mailed my remix to several DJs and it soon gained the support of Stonebridge, Judge Jules, Dave Pearce and Andi Durrant. Shortly after mailing the track, I was contacted by the creators of the track, Josh Gabriel and Dave Dresden, who were thrilled with my remix. They did however say that the likelihood of Positiva approving my remix was extremely slim. My manager, Natalie, sent the track to Positiva, with some of the DJ feedback and they loved it and signed it as part of their 25th Anniversary remix series. Obviously this was a huge coup, and the track will be officially released alongside a new remix from Dash Berlin next week on 4 May.
And on the same night you are playing for Positiva at Ministry?
I have been a monthly resident for The Gallery at MOS for almost a decade, and when promoter Gavyn Mytchel heard about the Motorcycle remix, he contacted me, as he had already confirmed Ministry of Sound as the venue that would hold Positiva’s 25th Birthday Celebration. I have therefore been asked to perform an extended three hour Positiva house classics set. As well as this, JES (vocalist for Motorcycle) will be performing my remix live at the venue, where I will also be joined by Ferry Corsten and Cosmic Gate.
Early in May is the release of the next XXL album, which you have compiled and mixed. What can you tell us about that?
It is always extremely tricky compiling an album, as you have to juggle ‘the tracks you want’ with ‘the tracks you are able to get’. Often, huge artists such as Madonna and Beyonce etc will not license their music to albums, as it adds nothing to their profile. This XXL album is a combination of current XXL club anthems, iconic club classics, my remixes, and some future club tracks that I feel are going to blow up and become massive over the summer of 2018. It was a privilege to be able to license some of my all-time favourite dancefloor records, and the album includes Livin’ Joy’s Don’t Stop Movin, KKlass’ Let Me Show You, Freemasons’ featuring Katherine Ellis Tears and Stonebridge featuring Therese Put Em High. It also features future anthems from Matt Darey, Somn3um, Freejak and Erkki R. The album is being released via Somnthing Records, and is available for pre-order on all stores on Friday (27 Apr), with the full release being a couple of weeks later on 18 May.
We know you are a busy boy in the studio, what else do you have coming out?
I have completed another remix for Positiva, Boris Dlugosh Presents Booom Hold Your Head Up High, for which we are awaiting approval. Then I have a track signed to Clippers Music in Spain called Up In Flames, which features Freemasons/Avicii vocalist, Amanda Wilson. I have a remix for new American Diva Ava Max signed to Universal Music, and due for release at the end of May, and my track No Ordinary Love at the start of June, which features a remix from Grammy Award nominee’s KKlass. As well as all of this I am currently writing and remixing new music, and will have a host of other productions finished for the end of summer 2018. It really has been an amazing year so far!