Review by Nadia Younes for HVN FAN ZINE #2 coming soon…
For DJ Paulette, it’s all about the dance. For over 30 years, DJ Paulette has made her mark on dance music history across the UK and Europe with her dancers-first approach to DJing and her relentlessly eclectic, energetic, and often surprising sets. But her story – along with the countless important stories of Black woman DJs over the years – has never been told in quite as great depth as it has now, in Paulette’s debut book, Welcome to the Club: The life and lessons of a Black Woman DJ.
Like any true dance music head, Paulette’s identity was formed on the dancefloor. From her early introduction to the Manchester club scene at venues like PiPs, DeVilles, Rotters and The Ritz at just 15 years old; to her first paid club gigs go-go dancing at the Number 1 Club; to earning residencies and regular slots at legendary clubs like Manchester’s Hacienda, London’s Ministry of Sound and Paris’ The Mix Club; Paulette’s evolution from clubber to club legend is a story that needed to be told – and it feels like there’s still so much more to tell.
As much an oral history of the dance music scene over the years and a documentation of Paulette’s legacy, Welcome to the Club also feels like a passing of the baton; a celebration of the new wave of Black women and non-binary DJs, promoters and music industry workers shaping the current scene. She gushes over the likes of Jamz Supernova, Jaguar and Manchester’s own Anz, dedicating a short paragraph to each of them in the latter pages of the book. It feels like a mark of how far the scene has come since Paulette’s early days in the industry, and highlights the hugely significant role she has played in pushing it forward.
She has done so not only as a DJ but from behind the scenes, too. A lesser-known part of Paulette’s career, perhaps, is her time spent working in promotions and A&R for record labels like Manifesto Records, Azuli and Defected – and she shares some incredible page-turning anecdotes from this time. At Manifesto she championed Black artists – “My roster was almost entirely Black,” she writes – and preferred to work with specialist journalists from indie publications, much to the dismay of the higher-ups. Between 2008-2010, during her lengthy stint in Paris, she was responsible for filtering promos sent to David Guetta – so maybe he owes some of his success to her.
Paulette doesn’t shy away from the gritty side of life as a touring DJ, though: the constant travelling, the many, many benders, and the obvious struggles that come with being a Black, bisexual woman working in a cis white male-dominated industry that she’s managed to escape mostly unscathed. “I have my own teeth,” she proclaims proudly, “a clean bill of physical and sexual health, a divorce but no kids and apart from a few misguided cocaine-fuelled meltdowns, have a clear conscience.” A list that, unfortunately, not all DJs can attest to.