Al Kent was born Ewan Kelly in late '60s Glasgow where his introduction
to music came early with gifts of kids' albums from his record loving
dad. He helped himself to piles of his dad's records too, which were probably
rubbish, but to his young ears they were ace; It was the vinyl as much
as the music he loved. Soon he was taping stuff off the radio, making
little compilations, and buying his own records. The weekly shopping trip
to Tesco always meant a cheeky half hour in the record department while
the rest of the family stocked up on washing powder and cat food.
On one such trip he found an album called "20 Mod Classics" on a label
he didn't know called "Tamla Motown". It took a couple of listens, but
he was soon in love with songs by the likes of Marvin Gaye, The Miracles,
The Temptations and The Marvelettes. The fact that the coolest guy in
school, the guy with the best records, gave it his seal of approval only
made it more of a discovery. And so, his love affair with "black music"
A few years later he began meeting other people who loved this music
too, except they called it northern soul. And they weren't listening to
Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, it was Steve Mancha, Al Kent, Linda Griner,
Darrell Banks - people he'd never heard of in his life. And these guys
Around the age of fifteen, for some unknown reason, he and some friends
hired a local community hall and a set of turntables and put on a party.
Not surprisingly, it wasn't well attended, but the few people who did
show up actually danced to the records he was playing. So that was him
a DJ! The occasional community centre parties continued over the next
few years while he made his way around the country attending all nighters
and spending way too much money on records, and stuff.
When he was eighteen he was asked to play in a real club. And got paid!
Amazing. More money for records then. And the community centre parties
turned into occasional all nighters. With guest DJs and everything.
Somewhere along the line he discovered that soul music didn't end in 1969
and got a taste for 1970s releases, including things like Rare Pleasure
"Let Me Down Easy", Bileo "You Can Win" and Four Below Zero "My Baby's
Got ESP", the latter of which he had to buy on 12 inch as he couldn't
find it on 45. It was very big, and had a bright sleeve with the word
"Disco" on it. Hmmmm. Disco eh? So more of that stuff was bought and names
like Walter Gibbons and Bobby DJ started to become familiar. Soon he was
obsessively collecting disco 12 inches - an obsession that continues to
Fast forward a few years to the late '80s at a soul event put on by Yogi
Haughton in Edinburgh with two rooms - one northern soul and the other
house. Ewan ventured into the house room at some point and was totally
blown away by what he saw and heard. This was another world altogether,
and he was soon visiting more and more of these kind of clubs, adding
some of the records he was hearing to his collection.
Around this time a local club was looking for a DJ to play this type of
music, and since he was probably the only person with any records that
they knew of, Ewan was called in for an audition. Having never mixed before,
other than with a cassette and pause button, he had to bluff his way through,
but, much to the annoyance of the resident DJ, he got the gig, and played
every Friday. And got paid! Yay. More records.
Over the coming years he kept up the deejaying, moving up from the local
club, to slightly bigger clubs in the city and beyond. And then, like
most DJs, he got the urge to make music. His first attempts were rubbish,
until he heard things like Azuli's Chocolate Fudge ep and Disco Elements
and realised that those old disco records could actually be sampled and
put on top of house drums. And people would buy these records. And so,
Million Dollar Disco was born as an offshoot of Glasgow's Solemusic.
One of the early releases contained a really obvious sample, so to avoid
legal issues, Ewan stole a name from one of those old northern soul records
- Al Kent, and it kind of stuck. The label had some minor successes, including
tracks being licensed to Azuli, Defected, Z Records and Hed Kandi. But
after a few years it got a bit boring. There's only so much you can do
with a disco sample, and the records he was playing as a DJ weren't really
doing it for him any more. So, he dug out those old disco records again,
and started playing some of them in his sets, then playing a few more,
and more, until he realised that his heart wasn't really in this house
music thing and that disco was the way forward. Over the years he'd been
mucking about re-editing, and when he discovered you could burn audio
CDs on a Mac, he started playing some edits in his DJ sets. And he did
some more, and then some more. Till he was playing nothing else.
Since then the DJing's picked up quite a bit, seeing Al guesting all over
the UK and beyond, always sticking to the music he loves; pleasing the
purists with plenty of obscurities, while keeping Mr and Mrs Average happy
with the odd "classic", and always surprising the uninitiated who suddenly
realise they DO actually like disco!
Al was honoured to be asked by Dave Lee to play at Z Records' first (and
only) party in London, even more honoured to be invited by Dimitri From
Paris to play at Respect's Ete d'Amour afloat on the Seine, and in 2006
was proud to play at Southport Weekender, which kind of took him full
circle, playing to the soul crowd he was once part of. And then he was
asked back in 2007. Then in 2009 he was asked back again - not to play
Connoisseur's Corner as before, but to play the Powerhouse - Southport's
main room, holding over 2000 people. Normally dedicated to "soulful house"
music, Al was genuinely flattered to be asked to play at their "Disco
Extravaganza"! In between he's made regular appearances at London's Soul
City, Edinburgh's Ultragroove, Bam Bam in Birmingham, Society in Sheffield,
Loose Joints in Aberdeen, Melting Pot Glasgow, Powder Room Barcelona,
Legacy Berlin, Club Disco in Paris amongst many more, as well as running
his own parties from time to time in Glasgow venues such as the Sub Club,
Mas, The Buff, and the amazing Big Joint. And now he's resident DJ at
Northern Disco in Manchester, playing alongside some of the world's best
- Kon & Amir, Dimitri, Monk One, Sean P, Rahaan....
Al's also released some of the edits he spends so much time making - three
volumes of Brown Brothers releases on the Real Thing label, two on Jisco
Music and a further two on Kat, with plans to release more on at least
three different labels this year. He's compiled four volumes of the highly
popular "Disco Demands" series, volume one of the "Northern Disco" series,
and a special Brown Brothers compilation, all released on Million Dollar
His most ambitious project happened in 2005: totally bored with chopping
up loops, but still in love with producing music, he got together a few
musicians to play some parts for him to use instead of samples. From humble
beginnings in his spare room, the project soon grew wings and became the
Million Dollar Orchestra, involving more than twenty musicians and taking
the best part of three years to complete, with the addition of full string
and horn sections, and lengthy recording sessions using fully analog equipment.
The project was finally released as "Better Days" on BBE in 2008.
In 2009 BBE released a second album, "Secret Sounds". Recorded without
the timescale or budget of MDO, it's a more stripped down, backstreet
kinda thang, recorded at home, but again treated to some full analog sessions
to give it a far nicer sound.
Due for release at the time of writing is "Disco Love - Rare Disco & Soul
Uncovered" - a mixed CD (with DJ friendly unmixed CD too - AND a very
limited vinyl package!), featuring some rare gems.
On top of all this he's managed to squeeze in writing reviews and a couple
of articles for Keep On and Faith magazines, with requests for more disco
articles for magazines and sites in the pipeline, he's provided guest
mixes for the likes of Six Million Steps, DJ History, Ministry of Sound,
Galaxy Radio, SSRadio, Deepsoul3, Love Unlimited, Test Pressing, Keep-It-Deep
and Inhale, and of course single handedly runs the Million Dollar Disco