Paul ‘Smiler’ Anderson – ‘Mods – The New Religion’

Paul  Anderson YoungPaul Anderson Now

You’ve been on ‘The Scene’ a long time, but for those who don’t know, how did you get involved in ‘Mod’ and what’s been your involvement over the years?

I became involved in the Mod scene around September 1979 after watching it evolve from a far. At first the entry point was through the revival bands such as the Jam, Secret Affair and The Chords etc. Fashionwise I hadn’t a clue it was all white socks, loafers and a parka. In 1983 I started work as a postman, by now lots of the older original revival Mods were getting more into being scooter boys. In other words their interest revolved around their scooters so clothes were not that important and their music choices changed. To me being a Mod was always about clothes first, music second and although I always have owned scooters, they really aren’t a necessity. At work I had to wear a uniform so I really appreciated dressing up in my leisure time which I guess is the paradox to businessmen wearing jeans and sportswear in their free time. By 1984 locally most Mods had evolved into the scooter scene whilst I went in search of my Mod Nirvana which I found in London. I discovered clubs like The Phoenix and Sneakers which were full of young kids wearing tailor made suits and 60’s vintage clothes dancing to original R&B, soul, ska, beat and jazz. I first DJ’d at the Horse and Barge in Duke Street in July 1985 which started a DJ career that has lasted until now. At that point Reading only really had Northern Soul nights to cater to scooter orientated people. I was more into 60’s black R&B, blues, ska and jazz so that’s what I based my sets on. Soon I was DJ’ing at do’s all over the south such as Bracknell, Oxford and London. In the late 80’s I ran a weekly Mods only club at The Kings Tavern in Kings Road Reading. It was attended by Mods from all over Britain and ran for 4 years. I also DJ’d at all the major London Mod clubs as well as the CCI Mod scooter rallies from the period and was later a founder member and namer of original Untouchables events. I got heavily into Jazz and Acid Jazz and ran several clubs along those lines with my friend Keith Mathews. The Mod scene is really an international affair and has led me to DJ’ing in various places from Amsterdam to Belgium, from Barcelona to Rome. All fantastic! My R&B collection has led me to DJ’ing for top performers such as Chris Farlowe at London ’s legendary 100 Club. These days sadly I turn down many DJ’ing offers as I concentrate on helping my wife with my new son but I still take the occasional job and could still be found spinning once a month at Club Rude! until I gave that up in July two years ago. I will however put on a few Club Rude! specials. I also co-compile the Rare Mod series of albums and EP’s with Damian Jones for the Acid Jazz record label.

How do you think you have evolved within the Mod scene over the years?

Years ago I feel that I was very blinkered and purist about my whole Mod involvement. I’d hate to be that way now. Around 1990 I was really heavily involved in the scene DJ’ing, running clubs, writing fanzines and helping organise the Mod rallies. I felt that somehow I couldn’t expand any further and felt very limited. I got very into Acid Jazz, and the whole vintage tops and Duffer St George look. By 1991 I was buying things like The Young Disciples, Galliano, Brand New Heavies, A Tribe Called Quest plus seeing bands like these alive alongside the early Manic Street Preachers, Revs and 5.30 bands. I became a regular at Dingwalls on Sundays and various other clubs. By early 1992 I literally walked away from the Mod scene. I never stopped being or calling myself a Mod it was just that I had had enough of the actual scene. I sold off all my tailored suits and trousers as well as my hand made shirts. I began wearing Lacoste, Armani, Hugo Boss, Stone Island, Paul & Shark and Paul Smith. Feet were shod in Patrick Cox loafers or Adidas Gazelles. I was riding a 1966 Lambretta SX225 before moving on to a 1964 Vespa GS160 mk 2.

It was around 2000 that I was asked to DJ at a Mod orientated club for the first time in years as I still had all my record collection. I enjoyed myself and although I have never fully immersed myself back into the Mod scene, I began to get more involved with it again. I started to get my shirts, suits and trousers tailor made again. These days you are likely to find me dressed casually in a Lacoste polo, Levi 501’s with 1 inch turn ups and Adidas Italias or Adidas Japans. Dressed up normally in a handmade shirt, tailor made trousers and either Bass Weejun loafers or vintage shoes. To me the essence of Mod is always about being smart and sussed. Dressing to fit the occasion rather than just dressing up for the sake of it. To me a true Mod will take the best influences both musically and clotheswise from the past and the present and co-ordinate them to move forward.

What do you think of ‘The Scene’ now?

It’s weird but the scene now is quite healthy but somehow I feel disappointed. In the 80’s we were evolving and you spent ages trying to find out about everything from music to clothes to Mod history. If you were sussed back then it stood out a mile. Just about everybody hated Mods and they were quite violent times but hey we were young and you thrived off that! Now we live in the Internet age. All the information is there at the push of a button so people don’t have to search for those tiny details so much. Britpop seemed to make scooters and Mod clothing acceptable, so much that now Mods are deemed as British as fish and chips. Anybody can DJ now because if you own a credit card and access to E Bay you can own those elusive records. No more trawling through record fairs, building up contacts, finding dealers who put out record lists. DJ’ing is there to anybody with a knowledge of tunes and a credit card. On a positive note the Internet has made it more possible to view things you’d never see. Hear tunes you’d never hear and basically make the world a smaller place so that Mod is truly international now. Computer technology embraces the true Mod dream of forward planning and the future whilst killing off the other Mod ideal of elitism to some extent.. In general though I am happy with the current state of play and love the fact that the scene will always be run and directed from people rooted within the scene. The passion of a true Mod always shines through.

What was the inspiration for writing ‘Mods – The New Religon’ and the aim of the book?

My current book ‘Mods – The New Religion’ is due on April 14th this year by Omnibus Publishing. It was a very long project taking up a few years but it is the book I think the Mod scene finally deserves. It takes in the early period of the culture from 1958 up until 1973. Plus it mentions the Mod revival. It is the Mods own story in their own words but not just from London and Manchester but all over the country. It also takes on the musician’s perspective and I got to interview many of my heroes such as Martha Reeves from Motown, Eddie Floyd from Stax and a whole load of musical pioneers. I’m proud of it and believe it to be a great legacy (apart from my son of course!) to leave behind.

How can people get their hands on a copy?

The book is available to pre-order online with most big established bookshops WH Smiths, Waterstones etc and Amazon.

What made you decide to do a Guest Dj slot at MOTM’s Reading?

Anything that can promote the Mod scene in general is great. But in the big scheme of things anything that can promote the fantastic work of The Teenage Cancer Trust is truly fantastic. That has far more appeal to me and I will do anything to support such a worthy case.

A Massive Thank you to Paul for taking the time for this interview, we wish you every success with your forthcoming book and giving your time to Dj at Reading’s #MOTMs

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