Divine Situation and the Gospel Renaissance
Divine Situation and the Gospel Renaissance
We first came across Divine Situation a couple of years back when their superb Born Again EP dropped courtesy of Moton Records. You can check the review HERE. That one was followed up not too long after with yet another sublime EP on Moton The Problem Solver EP. Crammed to the hilt with euphoric hand-in-the-air Gospel cuts the EP’s were both beautifully produced and perfectly crafted for the dance-floor.
Divine Situation are Greg Belson and Paulo Fulci two long time producers and soulful music aficionados with an enviable history between them. Both are renowned for their love of digging and their ability to craft long forgotten disco, gospel, funk and soul cuts into tracks which are essential for today’s dancefloor.
Originally a well regarded London Promoter and DJ Greg had already established himself as a true soulful music aficionado before moving to Los Angeles in 2006 to be closer to the source of the music. He has since launched ‘The Divine Chord Gospel Show’ on dublab.com to compliment his 45 Live and Divine Discotheque shows. Greg is also behind the much loved Divine Disco Compilations.
Paulo hails from Bristol and is a renowned member of the Situation Edit crew as well as being a very well respected producer on the scene.
Divine Situation was born in 2017 and has quickly established a big reputation for their work. We spoke to Greg and Paulo about their collaborations so far, their digging legacy, radio shows and their track on Midnight Riot’s brand new Take it To Church Vol. 3 and their future plans.
You can check out the Take It To Church Comp here: https://www.traxsource.com/title/1278922/take-it-to-church-vol-3
They also put together this sublime mix packed with their own edits and exclusives. Check it on Soundcloud and please give it a share and help spread the love.
Hi there Greg and Paulo,
Thanks for speaking to us today.
Firstly please can you give us a bit of background to Divine Situation? How did you two meet and what led to you collaborating on this project?
Greg – Hey, thanks for having us….Paulo and I met at the most awesome of venues, Maceo’s Crew Bar in the Block 9 field at Glastonbury Festival. We chatted whilst drinking a couple of tins of warm cider, not just about edits but specifically Gospel edits. I was DJ’ing at the NYC Downlow stage that year and played two copies of the original tune that formed ‘Born Again’, so effectively performing the edit live during my set. It made perfect sense that we should cut our teeth with that track, so really it was the making of ‘Born’ that made us realize that we work well together and have similar production ideas.
Paulo – I met Greg a couple of times at the hallowed ground of Block 9 Glastonbury, checking out his awesome sets, but I didn’t really meet him to talk to until after I’d played an edit of a Gospel Soul Revival track I’d done in a mellow afternoon set there, (2016?). We had a natter, and decided right there and then to collaborate!
For our readers who haven’t come across your releases before how would you describe the musical style of Divine Situation?
Greg – Divine Situation slots heavily into the Disco ethos, creating a slightly heavier sound within that genre. We’re keen not to tread the thumping House boards and slap a booming kick over everything. Our sound is more considered to create a well-balanced Disco tune with a little extra jolt. Musicality and arrangements that make you move, rather than long played out loops….that kinda thing.
Paulo – I’d say the style is dusty, authentic, soulful and spiritual with a big nod to the dancefloor
Please can you give us four tracks from your discography which you would say are quintessentially Divine Situation.
1. Born Again
Simply because it was the track that started it all for both of us.
2. The Problem Solver
Greg – A track that we really got our teeth into, from lifting the production quality to putting a proper Divine Situation stamp on it.
Paulo – A real labour of love, from an insanely rare 7”. This one was a tricky one to land, but as ever in the edit game, once you find the key it opens up like a flower. Lot of love for this one
3. On That Other Shore (Way Over Yonder Rework)
Greg – The original 45 is a fairly thin recording, so we jumped at the chance to re-edit this amazing rarity. It was a good day when Herman Hitson, the original producer, gave us his blessing.
4. Divine Situation – Goin’ On
Paulo – Heading in a slightly more Garage direction this one. A great vocal and a dream to chop up
How would you describe your latest track Goin On which is out now on Midnight Riot’s Take It To Church Vol 3 and please can you give us a bit of history about the track?
Greg – ‘Goin’ On’ was primarily the brain child of Paulo, who had mined a cut buried away as the last track on an LP. The original was just a shade over 3 minutes long, so we attacked it as a feel good tune that sat heavily in the Soul pocket. We wanted sunshine to flow through the speakers, inspirationally uplifting, put a smile on time music…and I think we achieved that.
Paulo – This is a track Greg and I have bounced back and forth for a while, and for a long time was way more on a House tip but never quite landed for us, until we found the right Jersey – style beats that just skipped the track to swing heaven and then it pretty much finished itself ☺
How did you each initially get into gospel music?
Greg – My path dates back to 1994 when DJ Snowboy played a session at the club night I was running alongside DJ Vadim. Snowy announced over the mic that he was about to play a new addition to the playbox, and as he dropped the needle, I totally stopped what I was doing and paid full attention to the record. That tune was Clarence Smith’s version of ‘Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child’….I immediately bought a copy as soon as I could, and realized that the label was the ‘Stax’ subsidiary ‘The Gospel Truth’. It took a few months to notice that this was my first Gospel purchase, but once I had made the connection, it rooted my interest in the genre, and changed my record buying habits immeasurably.
Paulo – Apart from the obvious lifelong awareness and love of Aretha, Al Green et al, it wasn’t until I was playing a lot of garage, playing a lot of the Spen, Jasper street, Basement Boys, Kenny Bobien etc that I really leaned into the whole vibe/ spirituality of it.
Caning the likes of Joubert Singers and NYCC from 1995 onwards as I followed a more disco tip in my DJ’ing kind of cemented my love of the genre, and what is always the case when digging, you have to go deeper and deeper….Interestingly Greg cites Clarence Smith’s version of ‘Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child and that one was also key for me when Gideon Berger played it at Bestival one year and I harangued him for an ID by humming the bassline… Found out later he’d arrived at it through Greg himself so it’s all connected which is nice 🙂
What talents would you say each other brings to the table which have helped Divine Situation create such a strong reputation?
Greg – It’s awesome working with Paulo as we share a similar taste in what we are originally looking for musically along with attaining the end result. Paulo is a skilled technician and engineer, which is an area that I’m severely lacking. After the ideas have been properly mapped out, we work on the arrangements and general direction together. Also, whilst we both dig for tunes, I’m kinda the ‘full time’ guy in that department, so we’ve got a very healthy library at our disposal.
Paulo – Greg’s crates are very deep so we have a great flow of incredible material that once we’ve decided on (which can be difficult due to the high quality!) , I then squirrel away and obsess over it and then start chopping… It’s a back and forward process. Greg has a great ear for a concise cut, which tends to curb my tendency to maybe extend too long. I love to get deep with scalpel and like to think I have a knack of making things fit/work where they may have not been intended/possible. It’s a very intuitive yin yang system that works very well.
Greg you moved over to LA a few years back. How would you say that has helped your musical career? And how does the record collecting scene differ there from the UK?
Greg – It’s helped in so many ways…the most immediate being that I’m closer to the source. I was taking digging trips 3 or 4 times a year before I moved to LA, so it makes accessibility much easier. Most importantly though, my connection with dublab.com probably wouldn’t have happened, at least the way that it did. Without that platform and the radio shows, I undoubtedly wouldn’t have had the global reach their award winning creative hub has offered me, particularly for the specialist music that I play.
Both of you are renowned record collectors and diggers? What is the most exciting record that you have each found when you have been out on a random digging trip?
Greg – Tough question! It might sound clichéd, but every record I buy for my collection is an exciting record! So I’ll answer with a highlight that sparked a collector’s mentality epiphany. I was digging in the Midwest circa ’99, in a small Mom & Pop town, which had a decent antique mall at its heart. In there was an overlooked box of Gospel LP’s marked at 25 cents each. In it was a copy of Michael Orr and the Book Of Life’s ‘Love Will Rise’ on the Birthright label. The epiphany was that I already knew the original version of ‘Spread Love’ (included in our Le Visiteur mix), but had no idea of this reworking that came out of California nearly 5 years later. I learnt that Gospel folks often reimagined their own work, which intensified my searching methods about how to approach collecting this music as it is such an enormous musical tree.
Paulo – I once found an OG copy of Tapper Zukie – Visions Of Love on Starz in a pile of Who records once which was very nice.
As a gospel novice are there any labels or artists who we should look out for as a good way into the genre?
Greg – Gospel has so many genres within the overall umbrella, that it’s often difficult to give accurate advice when asked this question. In days gone by, trial and error was the way to find the sound you were looking for what with pigeon holes like 50’s R&B, straight ahead Spiritual, Vocal Harmony, Modern, Disco, 60’s Funk, 70’s Soul etc. Nowadays, there are a number of compilations available released by labels that are covering all these styles. Essentially, they’ve done a bulk of the work for you! Build your taste from the comps before entering the minefield of original Gospel as it’s such a huge market that it can be rather daunting when you kickstart your journey!
What are your tips for DJ’s when who are just kicking off a vinyl collection on the best places to hunt for those hidden dusty gems?
Greg – The advent of the internet has changed digging practices in recent times certainly from the old days of receiving paper lists in the post, or just getting dusty fingers out in the field. Folks are digging far and wide across the globe, so I don’t think there’s any right or wrong way to collect original vinyl and mine for your own supply. Use the methods that feel right to you…if that means searching online, then find your wheel house and run with it. Places like ebay will turn up records, but more often than not, you’ll need to have deep pockets to buy lesser condition records. Build your taste and knowledge first and foremost, don’t just panic buy some other DJ’s current hot pick. Follow and trust your decision making process, learn from any potential mistakes, and above all, enjoy building your collection. That way, you’ll respect what’s in your racks!
When do you think gospel really started to make a foothold in DJ sets and other than yourselves which DJ’s were instrumental in helping push the genre towards clubs?
Greg – I think it started to gain popularity in the early to mid 90’s, certainly in the UK with DJ’s like Dr Bob Jones, Wilber Wilberforce and Trevor ‘Madhatter’ Nelson all playing killer tracks like Sounds of Blackness ‘Optimistic’, Lisa Taylor’s ‘Did You Pray Today’, Paul Johnson’s ‘If We Lose Our Way’ and The Bygraves ‘Set Me Free’. At the same time, the UK jazz scene championed by Gilles Peterson, Chris Bangs, Patrick Forge, DJ Snowboy and again Dr Bob Jones were ensconced with ‘Baptist Beat’. A sound that came out of the late 60’s mainly dubbed the ‘Prestige’ era, where jazz artists entitled a body of their work with Gospel influenced religious meaning. Gospel was oozing its way into the clubbing fraternity back then, so nearly 25 years later, clubland has seen the influence for some time…just not as prevalent as it is today.
Greg you are behind three radio shows what can you tell us about those and where can we find them?
Greg – The Divine Chord Gospel Show has been my flagship really, broadcasting the 4th Wednesday of every month since 2011, alongside The 45 Live Radio Show which airs the 1st & 3rd Friday of the month, both on the mighty Los Angeles creative hub, dublab.com. I also host a weekly show out of London UK, with Greg Belson’s Divine Discotheque, every Sunday morning on the amazing Soho Radio.
You have both been into the Gospel side of club music for many years. How surprised have you been at the resurgence in interest in this style of music over the last couple of years and what would you say is driving it?
Greg – I’m not surprised at all. Gospel tracks have always been bubbling around since the original Disco days, with the likes of David Mancuso, Francis Grasso, Larry Levan and Tony Humphries all injecting the euphoric sound into their sets. Whilst there wasn’t an overflow of Gospel included back then, with figure heads like that, folks knew that the sound had a green light. As diggers started to go hard in to Gospel as a whole, it became clear that there was a raft of amazing music to be discovered. The wheel has come around and now it’s Gospel’s time to shine…it really is as uplifting as anything you’ll hear in a club setting.
Please can you give us 4 tracks, 2 each which you would say have directly influenced your style of production as Divine Situation.
Black Science Orchestra – Headspace Lullaby (Afro Art)
This is a beautiful snapshot of superior production by Ashley Beedle. Such a brave tune with so many layers, tempo changes, heavy percussive nuances and ultimately a feel good factor turned to 11. Killer business!
Gloster Williams & Master Control – No Cross, No Crown (L.A.)
A master class of how to write an anthemic, hands in the air, crowd pleaser of a tune. For years, this was the dancefloor killer that most folks didn’t know, but just danced their asses off, regardless. Awesome arrangement, with changes to die for….essential.
Theo Parrish Ugly edits of course… All of them!
Beatconductor – Something Betta
Is there a particular feeling that you are looking for in a track before you would consider giving it the Divine Situation touch?
Greg – Feeling and performance; the kind of track that makes the hairs on your arm stand up! It has to be embedded and dripping with soul with plenty of musical movement as we’re not really filter happy folks! We like to create soul music on steroids, if you will. We’re all about joyful moments for the dancefloor, providing songs that elevate rather than imitate.
Paulo – Just soul for me, with a bounce in its step
What else can we expect from Divine Situation in 2020?
Greg – More music, most definitely! We’re working on new material right now, and we’ll be expecting to road test it this summer around the UK. I’ll be on a solo DJ tour from June til August, and teaming up with Paulo at various events to bring that Divine Situation sound….check press for details!
Paulo – More of the same. Hopefully our own imprint at some stage. Lots in the pipeline so exciting times for sure!
Greg you also have a few other musical projects in the pipelines this year would you like to tell us a little about those?
Greg – Other projects in the works for 2020 include at least two compilations including a Savoy Record label focus, released on Honest Jon’s alongside co-compiler David Hill. And I’m working on a Gospel Funk 45’s comp with those fine folk at Cultures of Soul, which hopefully will see an end of year release.
For more info on Divine Situation please check:
Divine Disco Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gregbelsonsdivinedisco/
Greg Belson Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/greg.belson
Paulo Fulci Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/paulo.fulci
Greg Belson Mixcloud: https://www.mixcloud.com/gregbelson/stream/
Greg Belson on 45 Live: https://www.45live.net/greg-belson