Karen Gwyer, Nastia, Robert Hood, Raica and Will Saul tell Tom Faber about the challenges they face as dance music mums and dads.
Henry Saul slips the Pépé Bradock record onto the turntable and lowers the tonearm. He is seven years old and stands eye-level with the mixer. This is his first DJ lesson and his dad is surprised at his proficiency—that is, until Henry decides he prefers Bradock at 45 RPM rather than the recommended 33, speeding it up until it sounds like footwork.
I'm in Will Saul's spacious country home in Somerset on a drizzly day in March. A golden balloon in the shape of the number four hangs halfheartedly in the kitchen, blinking in the festive strobe of a disco light. Yesterday was the birthday of Saul's second son, Oscar, who is now picking out vinyl with Henry. Their little sister Freya, 2, is trying to wear a record as a hat.
Some of the records cast onto the floor are from Saul's labels Aus and Simple, house imprints where he honed his talent-spotting skills, releasing early EPs from Joy O, Pearson Sound, Leon Vynehall and Bicep. Saul spent his 20s working in music in London. He DJ'd, ran labels, and in 2003 helped found the record shop Phonica. After he met Christabel, now his wife, they spent their first big night out together at Corsica Studios at an Innervisions showcase.
Their first child came along to some of Saul's biggest gigs, including a set to 5000 people in Barcelona. Henry was only 3, but he came out on stage. "I picked him up and he looked at the crowd," says Saul. "People as far as you could see. He waved and everyone waved back. I could feel the adrenaline coursing through his body. He was rigid with excitement."
Back then Saul was playing more than 80 shows a year and his absences were putting a strain on his relationship. "I looked at my life and thought: I'm not going to be able to keep this up in ten years time with more children," he says. He decided to cut down on touring and moved back to the countryside where he grew up, both for the relaxed pace and to be closer to his parents.
Now 40, Saul says he was only able to tour less because he also works outside of DJing. He is currently head of A&R at !K7 Records, home of the DJ-Kicks series. "I didn't feel that cutting back and moving was a sacrifice because I still love what I'm doing," he says. "If I got to child number three and was still playing 80 shows a year, the wheels of the family would have come off."
Freya is now peeping through the hole in a hip-hop record, and has found a new hat in Saul's headphone bag. She dances to a thumping beat and giggles, egged on by their floppy and excitable cocker spaniel Lulu. Saul surveys the scene and smiles. "You end up doing what's best for your family," he says, "but as they're getting bigger I'm making music more. I might start touring again." Then, seemingly oblivious to any contradiction, he continues, "and we might have another one when these three are all at school. We love kids—keep 'em coming!"