The London DJ transcends styles and eras.
In an age of on-demand and podcasting, Josey Rebelle is a great reason to listen to radio the old-fashioned way. Each week from 10 AM until 1 PM GMT, she eases Rinse FM listeners into their Sunday mornings with an outstanding selection of soul, R&B, disco, house and techno. This past Sunday morning at ten past ten, she played a 1983 funk cut by Walter Jackson called "It's Cool." Five minutes later it was TLC's cruisy "Let's Do It Again"—"'Cause I love to make sweet love to you baby / Let's do it again." And, if her point wasn't already clear, Lowrell's "Mellow Mellow Right On" came on later in the hour. This is one end of Rebelle's spectrum; the other reveals itself as her show moves towards lunchtime, the pace and intensity increasing through wild house tracks and crunchy techno cuts.
There is one thing that ties all of this together. While many of her colleagues on Rinse chase brand new music (this past Saturday afternoon, the garage DJ Dappa played a track he said had literally just been finished) Rebelle pursues timelessness. "A lot of the time when I'm playing tunes you might not be able to tell which era things were made in," she's said in the past. Rebelle has built a glowing reputation on this quality. In addition to hosting on Rinse for the past five years, she's a regular at London's best clubs, which included residencies at the highly-respected (but sadly now closed) Plastic People, while back in 2010 she played the first show on a newly created streaming platform called Boiler Room. Rebelle's power base is fairly localised, but she has the skills, experience and creative focus to be mixing it globally.
There's a particularly revealing transition on Rebelle's RA podcast that shows her unique, era-spanning ear. She resets the mix by playing a Sun Runners edit of a soul slow-jam, and then works in a Tevo Howard-produced DJ tool that's twice the speed, the two tracks engaging in the unlikeliest of dialogues.
What have you been up to recently?
As well as my weekly three-hour Rinse FM show I've started doing a few longer sets than usual. I mean, I'm no Larry Levan or anything, but it's nice to have a bit more than 90 minutes to really get into it. A recent highlight was playing Phonox in London for about three hours. I was gutted when my set ended, and I felt the same after doing an extended set at Panorama Bar a couple of months back. It's like I totally forget where I am and get washed away by the music. The joke is that I look ultra serious when I DJ—you'd almost think I hated it—but it makes me feel so happy.
How and where was the mix recorded?
I snuck into Rinse's second studio to record this after one of my shows. I find it hard to record mixes at home because I need it to be mega loud and my neighbours would probably call the police before I was halfway through, so it's nice to use a little studio where I can pick a few tunes I love, turn the lights off and go for it.
Could you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
This sounds boring but it really is just music I love. A few classics, a few newer bits. I don't tend to spend a huge amount of time deciding on tracklists for mixes. It's just stuff that I want to play out loud right then.
You've said in the past that the records you play tend to have a "classic" feel. How do you personally define this quality?
For me, that's just any record that I know I'll still be playing in five or ten years' time. And to be honest that's the majority of my music collection—I'm really fussy about what I buy. That started from a practical place, not having enough money to buy all the tunes I wanted when I was younger, plus playing mostly vinyl where you only have space in your bag for 50 records (so you better make them good) helped to up my selection game. But also stuff has happened in my life over the last few years which has made me feel that life is way too short to be filled with things that don't move you or fill you with joy.
The health of London's clubs is an ongoing discussion, but as someone who's been involved in the scene for a good number of years what's your take on it presently?
London feels healthy for music at the moment. It's been sad to see a few amazing clubs closing, like my beloved Plastic People last year. That felt like a little haven—and I really miss playing and dancing there. That sense of community is something I haven't found anywhere else yet. But in my opinion we're spoilt for choice in terms of the incredible artists playing in the capital week in, week out. Just go through the listings right here on RA, it's nuts. It also feels like a new generation of London producers are breaking through and it's really exciting to witness and be a part of.
What are you up to next?
Just ducking and diving around the DJ scene and having a delightful time in life. I feel so lucky that I get booked for so many nights with amazing crowds that love the same music I love. This year is also the fifth anniversary of my Rinse FM show so I'd like to do something special around that. I love playing music in clubs, on radio, everywhere. It always feels fun.