Reach Up and enjoy a Disco Wonderland in Cambridge
Andy Smith and Nick Halkes, two top DJs, will be bringing a disco party vibe to the 2648 bar on Trinity Street next month, ahead of the release of a new compilation album in January.
Known collectively as Reach Up, Andy used to work with Bristol collective Portishead, often warming up the crowd at their live shows, while Nick is best known for signing the Prodigy and guest spots on Radio 1.
Expect ’80s disco, boogie and proto house from this duo who usually play to packed venues in London.
The pair go way back. “We met each other in the late ’70s because we went to school together,” recalls Andy.
“I went to school in Portishead [near Bristol] and Nick moved from Leicester to Portishead in 1976, I think it was.
"He came into my classroom and the teacher decided to put him next to me, and we’ve been friends ever since.
“We first shared a love of football, and then we started getting into music in around 1978, ’79.
Then we ended up running our own mobile disco around Portishead - and here we are today still DJing together.
“And because we play a lot of vinyl records, we’re actually playing some of the same records that we used to play.
"It’s quite a mad journey we’ve been on, really.”
Andy says that Reach Up has been running for around six years.
“We knew each other in Portishead, and then he went off to London in the late ’80s and I stayed in Portishead,” he explains.
“Then I met up with the band Portishead and started working with them.
Nick went off and started XL Recordings and signed The Prodigy.
“Although we stayed friends, it’s only in the last 10 years or so that we’ve kind of got back together, because we both live in London now.
"I guess because of the revival of the whole disco thing which came along six or seven years ago, we thought, ‘Shall we start playing those records that we used to love back in the day?’
"So we did and we have a lot of fun doing it.”
Nick says: “I have a small Cambridgeshire link, in that I was born in Ely, but then my parents ended up living in the West Country.
"Little did Andy and I know when we were introduced to each other at the age of 10 or 11 that all these years later, we would both be enjoying careers in music and doing what we love together – it’s fantastic.”
Nick agrees with his old friend that the duo play many of their old records whenever they perform.
“We play re-edits of old tunes, and we play some new disco-influenced music,” he says.
“But it is the case that a chunk of what we play is classic disco and boogie records.
"Maybe 80 per cent of what we play is on vinyl, so yes we are actually using the same bits of wax that we might have picked up in Broadmead Shopping Centre in Bristol as 14-year-olds.”
On how he came to sign The Prodigy – one of Britain’s most successful acts of the last 30 years – Nick says: “Over the decades I’ve had a career in music which was starting and running record labels, originally.
“So I was there from before the start at XL Recordings and Positiva [another record label].
"I was signing artists to XL and Liam [Howlett – Prodigy leader and co-founder] called me up and said he had a demo tape and could he come by and play it to me.
“It was a cold call and I basically said, ‘Yeah, come down to the office and let’s have a listen’.
"He came down and I thought that what he had was really interesting and exciting. We offered him a deal a couple of days later and the rest is history.”
More by this authorAdrian Peel