Life and soul I was born in Normandy, France, in 1964 to a French mum and a Swiss dad. We moved to England when I was three and I went to the Lycée (Lycée Française Charles de Gaulle) in South Kensington. After passing my 11-plus exam, I got into an English school. English and French kids were different in terms of identity and how important music was. French kids are free to wear what they want at school, whereas the English had to wear uniforms, so when they went home they became a punk or a soul boy or a mod. I became one of only three soul boys in my school – I was into jazz-funk and soul music. I was into Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye when I was 13. I would tune into Radio Invicta, a pirate radio station that used to broadcast on Sunday afternoons. I’d get the best signal in the bathroom; I would sit in the bath with an aerial trying to tune into the show and record it onto cassettes to swap with people. By the age of 15, I was going to weekenders and all-dayers. Sónar Hong Kong 2019 line-up: MØ, Bonobo, AlunaGeorge, Thundercat Hitting the decks Before I knew it, I’d got some turntables. My mum and dad came back from an anniversary weekend away and what used to be an electric railway set in the garden shed had become a DJ station. They were really worried. I’d been quite sporty until then, playing rugby for the county, but when music arrived sport and education went. I worked in a fruit and vegetable shop, but realised there was a way of making money from the decks. My first DJ job was an under-14s disco at a church hall in south London. I played Time , by Light of the World, multiple times because I loved it so much. I started DJing at weddings, bar mitzvahs, gay clubs – whatever people would offer me. By the time I was 18, I was DJing three or four times a week at pubs and wine bars. These gigs made me appreciate all the aspects of the job before I got to the glamorous bit. To get better known, I’d organise coach trips and say to clubs, “If you book me, I’ll bring 100 people.” Soul clubs were full of girls and guys from all backgrounds who dressed up. It was more exciting than a bunch of boys drinking beer and listening to Def Leppard. We wore our hair in a wedge, leather trousers and Italian shoes, or casual clothes like tracksuit tops. If you saw a bunch of punks while dressed like that, you’d get beaten up. But that was your army and you believed in your music. Pirate enterprise I got a transmitter when I was 17 and set up my own pirate radio station. Invicta got busted and I agreed to lend them my rig on the condition they gave me a show, so that’s how I became a jazz-funk pirate. I had a car and would put the aerials up on top of high-rise council flat rooftops in London. If you were suddenly off-air, you’d know someone had taken down your aerial. It got to the stage where pirates were doing pirates. It was one step away from serious crime and we weren’t ready for that, us middle-class boys from Surrey, so we got out of the game. Luckily, I managed to get onto BBC Radio London. I was only 18 or 19 doing a jazz show called Mad on Jazz . Then I got sacked, so I had to go back to pirate radio. I was part of Jazz FM and Kiss 100 FM when the government started giving out licences as a result of pressure from pirate radio stations. From Kiss, I got onto BBC Radio 1 and now I’m on BBC Radio 6 Music. Radio is still a big part of what I do, it’s how I earn my money. Most people come to my gigs because of the radio. All my money went towards records until I was at least 30. I became a famous DJ not because I was good at mixing, but because I had records no one else had Turning the tables I was playing at the Electric Ballroom, in Camden Town, when I was 18. It was a black club and I was the only white guy in there. The etiquette was different – it was all about being the best dancer. I had to make sure I played the right tunes for the dance battles. I was really bad at first and the dancers didn’t want to come back. I sucked. Then I gave one of the best dancers a lift home. He warmed to me and got all the dancers back. By the third week, I’d got better. That kind of saved my career. Record numbers All my money went towards records until I was at least 30. I became a famous DJ not because I was good at mixing, but because I had records no one else had. I don’t have a record player or records at home – they are in the house I used to live in, which became my studio, Brownswood. When I get home I just want to read books. I know people who take (record-collecting) to another level. I’m not anal about it. I need space, so I’ve got probably 30,000 to 40,000 records. My record collection is quality not quantity, as opposed to people who’ve got 100,000 records. That’s just showing off. Father and sons I have two sons, aged 21 and 17. They are both into music in different ways. My youngest is on a London radio station called Reprezent. He’s not in denial of his father. Whereas my other son, who’s at university, is in denial of me. Lots of his mates come to my parties but he said, “Don’t come within 20 miles of my university for the next four years” when he started. He doesn’t like the attention, which I respect. My youngest is a good producer. It’s scary because I know the pitfalls of the music world but I’m just letting him get on with it. I’d advise him not to do drugs, to be aware of how they can take it all away from you. It is important to have friends who aren’t hard core. I wasn’t exercising until my mid-30s, when I realised I couldn’t recover after parties. I needed to get myself in order if I wanted to carry on enjoying DJing. Running and being fit was a good way to get through mental issues. I have a charity called the Steve Reid Foundation (set up in memory of the American jazz drummer), which helps older musicians who aren’t getting support and mentors up-and-coming artists. Still rocking I’m at the best moment of my life. I’m spending a lot of time enjoying London, I’ve never lived anywhere else. My wife is into us living in Kyoto, Japan, where her family is from. She was a friend of a group signed to my label called United Future Organization. When we met, she was working in fashion in London – it’s been 25 years, we’re one of the few surviving couples in the game. Over the past two years, I’ve been spending a lot of time on Worldwide FM, which is run out of Brownswood. There are big DJs on there with lots of women and strong voices. I wanted to create a platform for discussion alongside great music. It’s like going back to pirate radio. I remember thinking there was no way I’d be DJing after 40. Now I’m in my 50s, I’ve never been as good at what I do. I’m quite popular among the youth, which is great. I’m not ready to be a legacy act. Gilles Peterson was in Hong Kong to perform at MO Bar at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, in Central.