The wit and wisdom of Norman Jay

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He's the king of Notting Hill Carnival, the don of the Good Times Sound System and the man who coined the phrase "rare groove". But more than that, DJ Norman Jay MBE is the man who can be relied upon to get the party started. We caught up with him in Thailand where he shared his thoughts on everything from punk to Prince Phillip...

On his record collection... I’ve still kept all my best-loved records since around 1966. I never lend them out and still have everything. I’m sure I have the best and most valuable black music collection in the UK, if not the world. It’s all music that I have with an emotional attachment to, all quality.

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On record shopping... I love Black Market records on D’Arblay St and Sounds Of The Universe, both in Soho. There are not many of these shops left now. In Notting Hill I go to Honest Jon’s Records to trawl the boxes of Jazz and Afro beat. I met Joe Strummer while I was having a breakfast opposite. Joe introduced himself but I didn’t recognise him at first. It was really early. We became good friends, he was really special. I got Joe up on the bus at the Good Times Sound System at Notting Hill Carnival. He loved it.

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On surviving Notting Hill Carnival... One bit of advice for carnival is know where you want to go, get there, stay there and party. It’s too much effort moving around.

On his most memorable gigs... I’ve played some great gigs. Paddington Station and on a tube on the Circle Line are ones I’m particularly proud of. The police didn’t quite know what was happening. In the warehouse gigs we would get students to put up their art. The NME even got interested in me when the warehouse thing started kicking off. By the time The Mail and The Sun got their teeth into it we were well over it and had moved on.

On punk... I had a lot of punk friends in Notting Hill in 1977 who loved the Pistols but I was in love with soul music. I was a soul boy. We still hung out with each other though.

On the clientele at his early warehouse parties... Lots of minister’s kids from the Eighties Tory government, such as Heseltine’s daughters, would come to my warehouse gigs. They loved to party — still do. Everybody was out of it — except me. I’ve never been interested in drugs or alcohol. That’s the reason I can remember all of this. I’ve seen a lot of casualties in my time.

On reforming the JBs... In 1987 I got Bobby Byrd to reform the JBs and called them The Funky People. With the threat of law suits from the USA, I got them to play two sell-out shows at The Town And Country in Camden. A few years later, I got to tour with James Brown, playing to 30,00 people in Australia. Those musicians could play a fantastic gig even if they were deaf.

On being awarded an MBE... I was lucky when I collected my MBE because it was the Golden Jubilee and the Queen gave out the medals. I’m glad it wasn't Philip. When I got the letter I thought it was a joke from a radio or TV station so I threw it away. Finally, they sent a letter with the Royal seal on it. It would be illegal to fake the seal. That's how I knew it was real. They must of thoroughly checked me out before deciding to give me the honour.

On playing Glastonbury... As well as my usual slot at the Big Chill and Notting Hill Carnival I’m playing Glastonbury for the first time. I’ve been once before with Galliano (a band formerly on Norman’s Talking Loud Records label). It was a muddy hell. I hope it’s sunny this year. I played Reading rock festival once. That was crazy. The crowd was all hairy white guys with black T-shirts leather jackets and studs everywhere. It didn’t scare me. I slammed on some heavy drum and bass and they loved it. My parting words were "See you again, I have to go to the Notting Hill Carnival."

On his globetrotting schedule... This year is really busy. Just over a week ago I left Mexico after playing a gig for Seal at his amazing beachfront villa. He was there to renew his marriage vows. From there I went on to Hong Kong, Singapore, Jakarta and Thailand. Up next: Turkey.

Interview and photos by Martyn Goodacre