Lost London Clubs: The Loft

The career of Paul Trouble Anderson reads like a history of London's club culture: from his early days as boxboy for a reggae soundsystem to pioneering electro and boogie at the Electric Ballroom, via a stint at legendary soul party Crackers. But it was at his own club night in Camden for which he is perhaps most fondly remembered: The Loft.
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From its beginnings in the early '90s, Camden Lock's HQ and The Loft parties became the place to be for any discerning music head on a Wednesday night. “It was real, it was about the music,” Trouble tells me. “No people coming in with attitudes or coming in just wanting to do drugs and shit – no. Music was first, music was the most important thing.” Thanks to Trouble's weekly Saturday night Advance Dance radio show, The Loft soon gained a cult following: “At that time I had my show on Kiss which was one of the biggest shows in London,” he says. “My audience was huge, and a lot of them listeners came to the Loft. People would come down from Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham on a Wednesday night, they'd drive down, you know.”

With a music policy ranging from New York disco to New Jersey house, and Trouble himself a resident behind the decks, The Loft would become a hotbed for new tunes from across the pond. Loft regular Nicky Trax describes the influence the club had in breaking new music: “It was at a time when American house was massive in the UK, so it was like a drop-off place for the yanks,” she says. “Two records that came from The Loft were Rosie Gaines – Closer than Close, he played that every week for probably two years. Then there was a track Byron Stingly sang on which became Get Up Everybody, and that record came from The Loft, it came from Paul playing it."


“For me, nowhere before or since has matched the energy of that place,” begins long-time clubber and Loft veteran Matt Ralph. “I have always maintained that the best clubs are based on a resident DJ with occasional guests. Paul Anderson was that resident DJ and no one knew their crowd better than Trouble. Paul's mixing style was very particular to him, lots of cutting up two copies, mixing vocals in a call-and-response style, rewinds on occasion, even scratching sometimes, but always a very active DJ. Drums were added, basslines were added, he worked the system like no one.”


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Those occasional guests who were lucky enough to play at The Loft often came with world class reputations.“You had to be there when Loleatta Holloway came in, it was ridiculous,” remembers Paul. “There was one occasion when I think I booked Rosie Gaines to sing, then out of the crowd came Yvonne Turner and Barbara Tucker. There was four or five of them all up on stage freestyling. This was like heaven, mate, I can't explain it. Ridiculous!”

House heavyweights such as Louie Vega, Kerri Chandler and Tony Humphries would drop by and play, although it was a performance by Nobody's Business singer Bille which sticks out in Trouble's mind: “The place is jammed as usual, everyone's out there having a good time,” he recalls, “and it's time to put on Billie. We thought she was upstairs in the dressing room but she weren't there, so we sent scouts out to find her. 20 minutes, half hour, coming close to an hour and nobody can find Billie – even I'm looking. I went up into the office, I looked, and she was in the wardrobe! Fuck knows what she was doing in there, but she was in the wardrobe. No explanation, nothing – I didn't get into it. She was fantastic, but I'll never forget that!”


Trouble would also famously have a row of his own dancers along the front of the club. "The regular dancers were amazing and would really add to the vibe,” recalls Matt, “but the best dancer there was always Paul himself." With an intense dancefloor and the club usually packed to almost double capacity, the atmosphere would reach fever pitch. “Tony Humphries played one night, I had to go back on 'coz it was so hot. We had all the doors open, all the fire exits open, but it was so hot, the walls were sweating – Tony couldn't play any more, he was soaking wet!”

After nearly a decade at HQ's, the building was sold and The Loft switched to a new monthly residency at Bar Vinyl. While still hosting weekly Wednesday parties at his 'Back to my Roots' nights, Paul Trouble Anderson has gone on to be one of the most respected names in UK DJ culture – as the calibre of friends and DJs who took part in his recent fundraising event for Macmillan Cancer Research in May confirms. His summing up seems to echo the sentiments of everybody involved:“There was never anything like it. All the live shows we had there, all the artists. It was more like a family. Like a religion”.

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