An extended chat with the team behind Wiggle: Terry Francis, Nathan Coles & Eddie Richards

There are few club events in London that have lasted as long as Wiggle and that have managed to maintain such a staunch music policy. The club night started out 19 years ago and, like many parties, as a slightly illegal party just for friends but it soon grew into a legitimate promotion, attracting plenty of the most influential DJs within the electronic music world. From Mr.C to Jay Tripwire, Glimpse, Simon Baker and many many more, Wiggle has maintained a sterling reputation thanks to its great crowds (some of whom have been attending since the very beginning), good atmosphere and staying true to its original ethos. So here is a special interview with resident DJ at Wiggle, Terry Francis, Eddie Richards and Nathan Coles.

Terry Francis:
As well as being resident DJ at one of the world’s most respected and revered clubs, fabric, Terry started Wiggle with Nathan Coles and, of course, has been resident DJ with the party ever since.

When did your love affair with music begin?

My mum was a Motown lover so I guess that was my first exposure to music. In my early teens I shared a room with my brother who was into rock so I listened to Queen, Led Zepplin and Jimi Hendrix, which I still like. I didn’t find out until my mum passed away that she used to travel with a big band around the country and tap dance, play the banjo and clarinet so I guess she was a big influence – she always had music on in the house. When I was about 15 my friend Mickey and I used to listen to a lot of northern soul and then sort of moved on to early eighties funk, electro and progressed into early house .

How and when did you get into DJing?

A friend of mine, Julian, asked if I wanted to play a night with him in a bar in Leatherhead. He was really into his music and I had decks so we started a night in a rockers bar, which didn’t really go down very well at first as you can imagine but turned out really good. People used to travel to it from quite a long way away. From there I got a gig at Method Air in Vauxhall with Ben and Andy from Boilerhouse and then I got a gig on the south coast and started playing Sterns, in Worthing, on a bi-weekly residency and just went from there.

What kind of music were you playing when you first started?

By the time I started playing clubs I was playing house; Mr Fingers, Virgo, Warriors Dance, Trax Records… Acid House.

Who were your earliest inspirations?

With house music I suppose Solar Radio with Jazzy M and Kiss when it was a pirate station, that sort of stuff.

How did Wiggle come into existence? Whose idea was it and why did it come about?

Nathan and I had very similar backgrounds in musical taste, we’d known each other for a while and decided to get together and put on a party so we could play music we loved.

What was the original ethos?

We wanted to put on totally unpretentious parties for people who loved to go out and have a good time and enjoy good music. The name comes from a good friend of mine called Tovey whose dad John used to call her his ‘little wiggles’ when she was young. We thought, “What a great name!”, totally unpretentious – the way we wanted it. Her dad used to come to the parties, it was a really diverse crowd. Acid house…

Where was the first Wiggle held and how did it go?

The first wiggle was a bit of a shambles actually. We had his penthouse suite at Tower Bridge but got let down with it on the same day as a party. It turned out okay because none of us realised it was the day of the London marathon so no one would have got to the party anyway due to road closures. So Nathan found a lock-up in Camden, drove the cars out of there and we got in and had our party.

Who was on the line-up?

Might have to cross reference this with Nathan this one because I can’t remember. Eddie didn’t play this party, we got him on the next one and then asked him to be our resident.

Wiggle is renowned for being held in unusual venues, how did you go about finding these places and then converting them into a space for raving?

Sometimes we just got what we could and decorated it and made it into a party. We wanted the sort of places we could do what you want, no bouncers, so a lot of the time they were pretty raw.

How has the event evolved and changed over the years?

We try to keep it the same really, same music, same reasons why we do the parties. Some things changed – they always do; the crowd, music develops and takes different directions but still has a underlying funk and dirty groove.

What are the key differences between Wiggle in its infancy and Wiggle in the year 2013?

We’re 19 years older!

Wiggle has been going for quite a while now, were the ever any moments where you thought you might be able to carry on doing it?

There’s been a few moments we’ve thought about doing something new but it’s mainly down to Nathans energy for the party that we’ve kept going and I’m really glad we have.

What does each of you contribute to the night?

I don’t have so much to do with it these days, Nathan does most of the organisation for it. We put our heads together to choose DJs and stuff like that.

What do you enjoy most about putting on Wiggle?

The party.

What have you learned from doing the event? Or what difference has Wiggle made to your lives and careers?

We’ve grown up with Wiggle and been doing it half our lives. It’s helped all our careers and contributed a lot to the London scene over the years

Why do you think it’s lasted as long as it has?

I think the main reasons got to be a very loyal strong crowd and the right attitude.

What can a newcomer to Wiggle expect to encounter?

A bloody good party!

What’s your view on the general London club scene at the moment? What changes, if any, need to be made to improve the London scene?

Things always change; new music, new crowds but on the whole I think it’s really healthy. Lots of great music and good fun.

Nathan Coles: Inspired by attending the legendary Sunrise (and parties in the late eighties, Nathan started Wiggle with Terry Francis in 1994. In the years since he’s become a stalwart of the London scene and is one of the most respected DJs on the circuit.

When did your love affair with music begin?

I remember loving music from a very early age really. My mum was always playing music around the house, anything from Bob Marley, the Beatles and right through to Herbie Hancock. Music really started to get me by the short and curlies when my mum got me my first bedroom stack system for Christmas. Thats when I started getting into pirate radio stations and this magical doorway to another world suddenly opened. Before I knew it I was a complete and utter soul boy, along with the rest of my mates and it had soon become a battle to hear who had the best pause button tapes recorded from the radio. I remember first hearing bands like Loose Ends and Imagination and being blown away by these incredible new electronic sounds that I was hearing for the first time. Years later came the Street Sounds compilations and, by that time, I had started to do the robot after seeing two guys called Tick & Tock do this amazing robotic dance performance in the square at Covent Garden, to Tour de France by Kraftwerk. Next came breakdancing and Breakdance the movie. By that time I was too obsessed by my clothes and my appearance to be spinning around on my back and messing up my perfectly gelled hair and my new clothes. My mate George and his older brother Phil Attard had a pair of belt driven decks and a mixer round their house, set up in a back room where we could have parties and mess around on the decks… great times! I ended buying the decks and mixer from them and also bought a pair of Jamo speakers from Tottenham Court Road, with a view to try and get gigs at local pubs, but only managed to get one gig and that was the end of that. Next thing I knew, the rare groove funk scene kicked in (with a big tip of the hat to Norman Jay) and we were going to parties like Family Funktion, Shake And Finger Pop at venues like the Astoria and the Lyceum. I soon became hooked on buying second hand records for anything up to a tenner a pop. Funk from the late sixties and mostly the early seventies and artists like James Brown, Bobbie Bird, Vickie Anderson, Sly And The Family Stone, Cymande, to name a few. Towards the end of the rare groove days, some of the parties were being held in warehouse spaces, but as it was the back end of the scene they were pretty empty and you could feel a change in the air. Then BOOM! Acid house started to take over the pirate radio airways with Steve Jackson and Pete Tong and those same warehouses were suddenly filled with thousands of people, dancing to a very different beat. The rest is history for me…

How and when did you get into DJing professionally?

I eventually started to DJ professionally at my own parties in my early twenties after years of wanting to, but making sure I was ready enough be able to step up to the plates.

What kind of music were you playing when you first started?

I was playing stuff from Nervous Records, Strictly Rhythm, DNH, Difinitive, Stickman Records to name just a few.

Who were your earliest inspirations?

So many really, but here’s a few off the top of my disco damaged brain. Charles Webster, DJ Duke, Prince, James Brown, Art Of Sound, Roy Davis Jr, Loose Ends, The Stickmen..

How did Wiggle come into existence? Whose idea was it and why did it come about?

I’d been organising parties for quite a few years before we started Wiggle.. My first ever party, was in a basement of a big Victorian house, that had been deserted for years in Blackheath, SE London, and I got Terry Francis to play at it as we knew each other through our girlfriends at the time. Next I did a party in a photographers studio in the Old Kent Road and booked Mr C.. it turned out to be a brilliant night and Mr C loved it so much, he asked me if I wanted to do something together. So we started Release, back in the start of the 90′s and we did loads of parties together, just when the police were clamping down on the M25 warehouse parities and they were getting raided. We did Release in photographers studios, warehouses, meat factories and an amazing photographers studio called the Loft on the Shoreditch one-way system. I’d always speak to the police when they turned up and tell them it was a private party and they were always fine with it and got to know my face. I think they were so used to dodgy gangsters putting parties on and running out the back door that when they turned up to ours, we were a breath of fresh air to them and they let us crack on. We had DJs and live acts like Moby, Eddie Richards, Adamski, Colin Faver, Kid Batchelor, Speedy J, Laggy, Femi B, Aubrey, Stick, E Mix the MC and many others. Mr C suddenly became really busy with the Shamen and Release, became Release The Pressure for a few years. Next I started the Heart & Soul parties, where I linked up with Terry Francis again as he started playing for us. That’s when I really started to DJ at my own nights and was building my confidence with every party. Just over a year later and feeling like Heart & Soul had run its course, Terry and I decided to start Wiggle together with our respective partners, Lou and Claire. The name Wiggle came from a friend of Terry and Claire’s who said that she thought the name suited the music we were playing, and that was that!

What was the original ethos?

To be able to play the music we loved, with our mates, in a space where we could do what we wanted without restrictions.

Where was the first Wiggle held and how did it go? Who was on the line-up? Can you give me a flyer to use?

The first Wiggle was actually held in a disused car lock up space in Camden. We lost the original venue the day before and we spent a very stressful 24 hours finding the venue and only found it at the last minute. Pheeeew! Click this link to see some early flyers >> HERE.

Wiggle is renowned for being held in unusual venues, how did you go about finding these places and then converting them into a space for raving?

Once Wiggle had built momentum as a party venues just started to pop up as the venue owners knew we had a crowd and we had a good reputation for having a nice bunch of people at our parties, that also drank like fish, and that’s always a good incentive for any venue owner.

How has the event evolved and changed over the years?

Wiggle seems to have bridged the generation gap and we’re getting people who have been coming from the start and turning up with their sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, who are young adults now and they’re bringing their mates and the beat goes on… it’s as simple as that really.

Wiggle has been going for quite a while now, were the ever any moments where you thought you might be able to carry on doing it?

There was a time when we slowed down, as we were doing them every month at one point, and that just became too much and you start to lose the buzz for it a little. You need to feel excited by whatever you’re doing in life as that’s what drives you forward.

Why do you think it’s lasted as long as it has?

It’s lasted as long as it has because it’s in our bones and I personally live and breathe it.

What can a newcomer to Wiggle expect to encounter?

A jolly good knees up!

Eddie Richards: Eddie Richards, or Evil Eddie Richards as many old ravers will remember him as, was brought into Wiggle as a resident in its very early stages and has been with them ever since.

When did your love affair with music begin?

I didn’t listen to music at all until I was in my early teens. My sister was into Motown and Reggae, she always had the Motown Chartbusters and Trojan compilations playing – that pretty much forced me to listen and was my first introduction into dance music. Some years later my school friend Alan Bates and I were talking about starting a mobile disco, so we saved up some money, got on a bus to Luton and bought a Garrard SP25 Mk2 turntable. I think we only got one at first, then bought another at a later stage. Anyway we ordered a DIY mixer from an electronics magazine and soldered it together ourselves, building a ‘coffin’ out of chipboard and covering it with bright orange Fablon, which is a bit like sticky-backed plastic. I cut out letters from fluorescent green card and stuck them on the front. We called our disco ‘Ministry of Sound’. Of course this was way before the club… we thought of the name first. I should have registered the name I suppose, oh well! My dad had something to do with a sports and social club and got us our first booking in a local community hall , we only had about 50 7” singles, they were mostly pop hits but it was a big success and we got £25, I think. It wasn’t until the early eighties that I got into dance music as we know it now. I started a night in a pub in Milton Keynes called the Starting Gate and played all sorts of music. The kids that came were new romantics, punks and glam rockers. Bowie, Killing Joke, Grandmaster Flash and lots more were all thrown into the mix. I’d got a pair of better turntables by then but they were belt driven and had a tiny knob to change the speed so were almost impossible to mix on but that helped my concentration and determination so when I got my first technics mixing seemed easy.

Thanks to that night in the pub I managed to get noticed and Colin Faver got me an audition for a residency in a new London Club called Camden Palace. I got the job and found out it was hosted by Steve Strange and Rusty Egan who had been running the infamous Blitz Club in London… What an amazing break! I was mixing the latest electronic dance tracks along with classics from Giorgio Moroder, Iggy Pop, Telex, Tom Tom Club etc. and eventually introduced early House music In 1986. I stayed at the Palais for about five years but like every trendy club it started to get commercial and I decided to leave. I got introduced to Tony Colson Hayter not long after and he wanted to promote big parties that weren’t in clubs because of the moody violent element they used to attract. I became the ‘Music Coordinator’ and DJ, recommending other DJs for the parties. That was the start of the rave scene worldwide and the parties were called Sunrise.

How did Wiggle come into existence? Whose idea was it and why did it come about

Nathan wasn’t a DJ at first, he used to promote parties and book me in the early nineties. He started Wiggle with Terry and they asked me to be a resident DJ after being booked a few times.

What was the original ethos?

I would say it was a reaction against all the commercial proggy music that was around at the time. There weren’t any real aspirations, we just wanted to put on a proper party for friends and it became really successful.

Wiggle is renowned for being held in unusual venues, how did you go about finding these places and then converting them into a space for raving?

I wasn’t involved so much in the organisation and set up I pretty much just turned up to DJ after all the hard work was done!

How has the event evolved and changed over the years?

We always played new music at Wiggle and that’s not really changed, obviously the crowd has changed over time but we still get some of the original Wigglers turning up, sometimes with their kids these days…

What are the key differences between Wiggle in its infancy and Wiggle in the year 2013?

Apart from the new faces I suppose it’s the venues. They were a lot easier to find in the early days. It seems everything is a lot more regulated now and old-style illegal warehouse venues aren’t so common.

Wiggle has been going for quite a while now, were the ever any moments where you thought you might not be able to carry on doing it?

Not for me personally it was always one of my favourite places to play, no question there was a period when Nathan and Terry had young families so it made it more difficult as their wives were a big part of the organisation and general running of the nights but it just slowed down for a while.

What do you enjoy most about putting on Wiggle?

The friendly crowd and that we can play whatever because they trust the DJ.

What have you learned from doing the event? Or what difference has Wiggle made to your lives and careers?

Looking back I’m proud to be part of something that was important to so many people and that probably made a small difference in dance music history.

Why do you think it’s lasted as long as it has?

Because of friendship mainly… Terry, Nathan and I have been friends for longer than Wiggle has been running and with our busy schedules it’s good to meet up and chat with each other and mutual friends at the parties.

What can a newcomer to Wiggle expect to encounter?

In the immortal words of the Jungle Brothers “House music all night long”! Always a fun time and a party they can rely on to be consistently good ….

What’s your view on the general London club scene at the moment? What changes, if any, need to be made to improve the London scene?

There’s always going to be ups and downs but, despite the recession worldwide, it seems like the London Club Scene is holding its own. In fact I think it’s thriving at the moment.

Wiggle heads back to fabric this Saturday, for more information head over to the fabric website here. And for more information on Wiggle itself, click here.

Copyright © Marcus Barnes 2012
Website by Jason Cianfrone