In conversation: Pete Le Freq, resident DJ and label owner

24th September 2019

One DJ. Ten years. Countless revelers. Endless good times. Pete Le Freq’s split shifts at the helm of Kennedy’s dancefloor have come at either end of a busy tenure running his own house label and making a name for himself on the edit scene. We chat to Pete about his music career so far and what you can expect at his new night ‘Freakout Disco Fridays’ in Kennedy’s alongside his ever-popular residency deep down at Sotanos.

Tell us about Freakout Disco Fridays at Kennedy’s – what’s it all about?

Freakout is all about bringing a little joy to your Friday nights. Myself and the other two residents (Alex Malam and Slam Dango) take it in turns to bring a little disco and soul to Kennedy’s. The idea is to give an atmosphere where people can grab a drink, socialise with their friends, and have a dance if that’s what takes their fancy. Can you tell me how it all started for you at Kennedy’s a decade ago?

I was originally a resident at Kennedy’s doing Saturday and Friday nights, playing across multiple genres over the course of a night. At that time Sotano was still the function room. I remember one night I was ill with the flu but still came in. As I felt worse over the night, I figured if I went more underground with my music they might give me a quieter night - instead the crowd went with the flow and I ended up with a full dance floor. It ended up being one of my favourite nights I’d played. Serves me right!

I’d been making house music and running my label house label Llama Farm Recordings for a few years at the time. My production and DJ-ing were not necessarily linked - the music I was making at the time didn’t line up with what I was playing, and as I wanted to go more in the house music direction I decided to leave. About 4 years ago, I was invited back to play as a guest alongside the other resident in Sotano, Jon Baker-Hood (Upside Your Mind), and from there it turned into a regular residency. I’ve also realised that playing down there is my stress relief - I’m a primary school teacher during the week so it’s something I do that allows me to enjoy myself, and hopefully that’s the vibe people get.

What else have you been up to in that time?

I’ve been making music for about 12 years now. I started out by making bootleg/house versions of disco and funk tunes. I was living in Lincoln at the time and got involved in some of the sound systems . A lot of the guys involved produced, and I caught the bug from them, playing with the likes of Inland Knights, Crazy P and a whole host of others.

Before returning to Kennedy’s earlier this year, I had played at a few places around the city - including Vanity as was in the second room, and the odd set here and there. After that things were quiet for a while before I became resident at Missoula, and that was where I re-discovered my love of soul funk and disco.

Playing edits and reworks of the tunes I’d previously sampled meant I was playing music I loved (which is ALWAYS easier!) also got me looking to dig out versions of tunes I could play in my sets. When I couldn’t find a version I liked, I started making my own. This kicked off my second label Alpaca Edits.

The edits scene is a funny thing - a lot of the producers have come from other genres when they were younger, but have drifted towards funk, soul and disco as they got older. As the label grew, I signed music by the likes of Dr Packer (now signed to Glitterbox and taking the world by storm), Patawawa, Peza and RockNRolla Soundsystem. It’s now up to 70 releases and going from strength to strength. So much so Llama Farm has taken a back seat. Through working with some of the producers we got on the radar of Craig Charles. The label regularly sent him our releases and he played them on his BBC 6Music show. About the same time, one of the producers I’d got to know, Gary Poulter (aka Chuggin’ Edits) contracted testicular cancer. Since the scene is pretty close knit, he asked if I could help by doing a release to raise funds for MacMillan. Well, it kind of snowballed and with the support of the community, and 18 months’ worth of hard work, we had released two compilations and promoted a series of nights for charity. In total we have now raised over £2,000 and its one of my proudest moments. Gary is now all clear and is building a nice little label of his own with Ash Reynolds.

Since then, the label has gone from strength to strength – it’s now up to 70 releases. We even topped the charts on Junodownload, knocking Joey Negro off the top spot just before Christmas.

In the last two years, I’ve headlined at Fibbers (as ‘That Needs An Edit’ with Jon Baker-Hood), opened for Pete Tong at Beatherder Festival and in the last couple of months had my first vinyl release in 10 years through Samosa Records.

How has your music evolved and what can people expect today?

For me, music is about joy. When people come out for the evening, it’s often to distract from what the world is chucking at them. I’ve always tried to play in a positive way and I suppose disco is a great example of that.

I used to play disco house, so playing disco wasn’t that big a change. What has happened is that I’ve gone back and learnt a lot of where the music comes from, which labels produced what, and also digging up some more obscure but amazing tracks. More recently I’ve also been getting my hands on some of the original studio tracks of some of the disco releases, and that has meant I’ve been able to make my own remixes to play out.

I’ve always adopted a simple philosophy - “Make what you like in the headphones come out the big speakers” - and I’m certainly not averse to lobbing the odd curveball in when it fits.

What do Kennedy’s and Sotano mean to you?

Kennedy’s and Sotano to me is like a family. There’s a genuine feeling that they look out for you and that means you do the same. Andy and Karen (the owners) are attentive and are always positive in supporting what we do.

Playing at Sotano has meant I’ve got a direct outlet for my music - once I’ve done a set I’ll go home, maybe listen to what I’d played and then try and find more tracks that will fit. If I can’t find a decent version, I’ll make my own that suits. The crowd down there are brilliant. It’s like an old style residency when people used to play all night and there’s a level of trust that gives me freedom to play. I know I can push the boundaries down there and the crowd go with me.

Beyond your own sets, what other nights would you recommend in York?

First of all. the other resident from Sotano, Upside Your Mind. Jon Baker-Hood has a breadth of musical knowledge that keeps giving. I’ve heard him play calypso to hip-hop, house to jazz. And all with this laidback air.

The Crescent community venue are always doing great things too - wide variety of bands and nights, including house, jazz and hip hop. Blackbox is another great night – proper disco and house too.

What’s next for Pete Le Freq?

I’ve got a busy couple of months coming up - this weekend (28th September) Sam Flanagan is guesting with me at Sotano, then the following week I’m playing Freakout @ Kennedy’s on the Friday followed by headlining Preach@ The Old School House in Hull on the Saturday. Two weeks later I’ve got Ian Ossia (Downtown Disco/ ex-Renaissance resident) with me, and then after that I’m warming up for Michael Gray (Full Intention/Glitterbox) at Downtown Disco @ District in Leeds (2nd Nov). And to cap it all I’ve got Derek Kaye (Credit to the Edit) guesting with me @ Sotano on the 16th Nov. And that’s before you get to the label releases, a couple of original vocal tunes and more edits and reworks.

And finally, where can people hear your music online?

Most of my reworks can be heard on my Soundcloud.

There’s a few mixes and other bits on there too. Enjoy!