The Mix 014: Wes Baggaley - Music - Mixmag

The Mix 014: Wes Baggaley

Wigan's greatest export rolls through an all-vinyl mix of EBM, deep house and acid, and talks hidden gems, playing the long game and conquering his fear of skyscrapers

  • Words: Megan Townsend | Lead image: Khroma Collective | Second inline: Dan Beaumont
  • 24 May 2024

No one can quite get bodies moving, hearts thumping and synapses tingling like our Wes Baggaley. Typically found dispensing a nimble combination of rough-edged techno, intoxicatingly cavernous deep house cuts and propulsive EBM towards the dark recesses of the UK's nightclubs — the Wigan-hailing DJ has been honing his craft, and adding to his extensive vinyl collection, for the last three decades; a journey that has taken him from Manchester to London, bar resident to playing at some of the world's biggest underground parties. His master hand at plying sweaty dancefloors with mind-altering music is matched only by his unabashedly honest and downright hilarious online presence, chronicling everything from his thoughts on current club trends to reminiscing about being booked to play at John Lewis to his love of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar Lemon, to - ahem - multitasking in Berghain. Despite his apparent lack of awareness of his own place as one of the UK scene's most beloved figures, Wes embodies the very notion of a "DJ's DJ."

His fixation on vinyl began when he was just five years old, after being given his aunty's collection of punk records "I had a little record player and they'd just leave me in my room, they didn't know what I was listening to," he laughs. "I still have records that I've had since 1979." Born and raised in Wigan, Lancashire, Wes was first introduced to electronic music from digging through crates in the town's overflowing record stores. "When I was about 11, hip hop was just coming up. I'm from a really cool town for music, so much happened in Wigan in the '80s." Starting his clubbing career early, Wes was already a regular at Wigan Pier before his 14th birthday, though he admits that his immersion in early rave was motivated more by "the drugs than the music." That was until a trip to Leeds in 1994, on the dancefloor of The Pleasure Rooms for a Back to Basics party with Derrick Carter and Gemini on the billing. "I'd never heard of them and I didn't get dance music really," he says. "But this was different, it was proper house mixed with techno and I just thought, this is cooler than what they are playing at the Pier."

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Curiosity ignited, he moved to Manchester and bought his own decks, playing records he discovered in bargain bins at the Vinyl Exchange to any venue that would let him test out his skills to a live audience. "I was desperate to get all these DJ gigs, but It was a closed door," he says. "Very cliquey, very homophobic: 'This is our thing, you're not cool enough to hang out with us.' Maybe it was just in my head, but I think it was a bit like: 'You're too gay to play at one thing, but not gay enough to play at another.'" Despite this Wes continued DJing and collecting records, before eventually moving to London in 2010. It would take another seven years before Wes got his "lucky break," as he describes it – having won a dancing competition to appear at the Meat Rack at Glastonbury's Block9, he eventually landed a set at backstage bar Maceo's. "All these industry bigwigs were there," he recalls. "I started getting all these bookings and people contacting me saying 'Oh we heard you at Glastonbury, do you want to come and play for us?'"

The "long game" is something that defines Baggaley's outlook on his career so far, but also his refusal to adhere to trends or compromise on his taste — preferring to focus on playing the music he loves, pairing the records of his youth alongside modern bass cuts. And dance music fans love it too, with Wes having energised the discernible crowds at the likes of Berghain, Bassiani, fabric and Robert Johnson; securing coveted festival slots at Dimensions, Houghton, Waterworks, and more. His long-running party Bottom Heavy at Dalston Superstore has equally earned him the reverence of London's LGBTQIA+ scene, alongside his regular appearances at Adonis, Unfold and Body Movements.

So for those already familiar with the ways of Wes Baggs, and those who have yet to be inducted to the sonic stylings of Wigan's greatest export — enjoy his 80-minute, all-vinyl mix brimming with tracks from GRRL, Moodymann, KMFH, Legowelt and more; paired with a typically candid interview where he talks "TikTok techno", why The Haçienda wasn't all that, and conquering his fear of tall buildings to play in New York. Check it out below.

Describing your Mix, you said you wanted to go "against what you're hearing in clubs" right now. What is it about the current club music trends that you aren't keen on?

Yeah, everything is faster, cheesier and harder and it's just not my thing. It's so quantised and perfect, too robotic. I like playing fast but a lot of the stuff that's trendy at the minute is just fast for the sake of it. I think it's because when people could go out again, after [lockdown], everybody wanted to go mental and have fun. And that's fair enough, everyone wanted a party and all that — you had reputable DJs playing proper cheese. But it seems to have just gone cheesier, and harder and faster since then and I don't get it. Obviously, people like it because it's very popular, but it's not for me.

Do you think part of that is because there's an entire generation whose first time clubbing was post-COVID? So they identify "harder/faster" sounds as dance music now?

Yeah, they call it "TikTok techno," don't they? I'm quite old and I've been around nightclubs since I was about 13, so I've seen a lot of trends come and go. It always comes back around. But this seems to have taken over. Obviously, nightclubs are for young people, and your first introduction to it is whatever is trendy at the time and then some people might dig a bit deeper — you realise "techno" comes from these other genres, and you start exploring. But this now... I don't know what it is.

So there's less of a variation on offer do you think?

It's just not what it was supposed to be. Everything's become very commercial, hasn't it? I mean when I was very younger you'd have the more commercial stuff like Gatecrasher that was playing at the superclubs, then you'd have the cooler clubs that were more in the middle playing weirder stuff and the smaller places — which were bars where people just got drunk and go off and have a fight and a kebab. But now, the people who used to go to the superclubs now go to the cool clubs, and those are the superclubs now.

Do you think part of that is because venues are under financial pressure? Have you noticed a shift in the London scene?

I mean the smaller places, which I've gone back to playing at, are being squeezed out. In big cities the rents are going up so much there are barely any clubs left. We still have some good ones like The Cause, fabric, FOLD, etc — but it's becoming rarer to see a new venue in London. On the smaller side, you have places like Dalston Superstore, which is still there and it's amazing — but there used to be so many 200-capacity nightclubs and they've all just closed down. I remember 10 years ago, there used to be so many LGBTQIA+ venues closing left, right and centre because the rents were expensive. Now you have these mega-capacity venues like Drumsheds, where they hold 10-15,000 people. So to sell that amount of tickets they have to play stuff that all those people want to listen to.

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You played at Drumsheds for False Idols right? What did you think of it?

It's massive, it's huge. Dan Beaumont [DJ and owner of Dalston Superstore] asked me to do it, I didn't even know what it was, to be honest, I say yeah to everything [laughs]. I saw the Sugababes were headlining and I was like: "What have you roped me into here?" Paranoid London did it too, and it was like, what exactly is this? It was mad. It was the same with the last one, they had horsegiirL playing before Derrick Carter, and I was watching from the sides thinking: "How he is supposed to follow on from that?" He plays cool, groovy house music and he's following up this mega-fast DJ. It was an experience. But yeah, I seem to be play at more of the smaller venues right now.

Are there venues/parties that you think are doing it right?

In London my favourite place is FOLD. Nice people behind it, they do Unfold parties once a month — the music's good, the soundsystem is fantastic, the lights, everything about the venue is great... even the door policy, they don't let dickheads in. You can do what you want in there. It seems like they are in it for the right reasons too, they give people a go and aren't booking the latest trendy thing. The Cause is really cool too, and Dalston Superstore is great. But I'm also really old now, so maybe I don't know what's going on.

Some of the best places I've played recently have been in pubs. I played at this party in Bristol called Duvet Vous, at The Queens Head – it's been going for 25 years and I didn't know. On paper, I thought it was going to be crap, but I got there and it was this pub with an incredible soundsystem, queue down the street, the crowd was amazing, full of gays, lesbians and trans people. It wasn't a "queer" party, it was a party. It was probably one of the best parties I've ever played at.

Maybe that's it, there's all these little hidden gems around and we need to find them.

There is! Because people can't afford to put parties on in clubs anymore due having to book all these massive people — so they are going to pubs. There's this place in Manchester called The Derby Brewery Arms, Meat Free do their after-parties there and Surgeon played there a few months ago, it's really cool. There's a few in London too, there's this party at Star Lane Pizza that's great. So I think the people that want less of the commercial music are putting cool parties on, and there's a scene bubbling up underneath. It's quite exciting actually.

Nice bit of optimism from you there Wes!

Yeah! People are getting fed up with it. I'm thinking about putting another party on as well, there are a few of us who don't feel like we have a space in the current scene — we do get bookings and stuff, but we're not massive names. But we're like, shall we just do something for us and our mates.

Do you often find yourself on line-ups where you feel the programming is disparate to what you usually play?

I mean, I'm not going to ruin my work [laughs]. But yeah, I guess sometimes it seems like people don't understand what I'm playing. Maybe I'm just getting too old for it, but I love [DJing]. I've invested so much of my life into it, and money on records. There's been quite a few times where I've been like: "I've had enough." But I love it. I mean, I get booked a lot for "queer" things. I don't really use that word, but to people from my generation that was a hateful word. I get it of course, and I used to use it — I'll use it now if I get booked at a "queer" party and I understand why people use the word. But people who are my age and a bit older hate it.

It still has that loaded feeling to it?

Yeah, people have had their faces kicked in while having that shouted at them you know? I grew up through the AIDS epidemic, and then it was: "You dirty queer spreading diseases." So it does my head in when "corporations" put on "queer parties." It's heterosexual men behind a lot of these things and it drives me mad. We can put on our own parties. I get booked for a lot of these things, but it's music that I'm into. I am part of the queer community, but I've never wanted to be a "queer DJ". I've been booked for a lot of non-queer parties. But then, is that even a thing anymore? In my mind, everybody can go anywhere.

Can you tell us about some of your first musical experiences?

Oh music was everything for me when I was growing up. When I was little, I lived with my Grandma, Grandad, my mum, my two aunties and my little cousin — all in the same house. So my aunties were in their teens when I was little, and one of them was a punk in the '70s who left home when she was 15-16. My Grandma just gave me the entire record collection that she left behind, I had like Sex Pistols singles, Siouxsie and the Banshees, etc when I was 5-6 years old. I used to love Adam and The Ants, he used to have this white stripe across his nose... my mum used to do one for me.

You let your mum draw one on?!

Yeah yeah, little stripe across my nose.


Yeah, then I got into Duran Duran. Every week I'd go to Wigan Market, this stall used to sell ex-jukebox singles so I'd go and get three for 50p. They'd have a hole in the middle, so I'd have to get an adapter to play them. When I was about 12, Inner City's 'Good Life' was in the charts, Steve "Silk" Hurley's 'Jack Your Body' as well, Lil Louis' 'French Kiss' was on the radio and Top Of The Pops. But the first music I got into was punk records, I was obsessed with thrash metal. I wanted harder than that even, so I got into Napalm Death. I got into electronic music funnily enough because I bought a Throbbing Gristle record, I'd heard they were amazing from metal magazines and for some reason when I went to this record shop in Wigan their album - '20 Jazz Funk Greats' - was in the punk section. I got home and I was like "what is this?" I thought it was gonna be metal and it was these bleeps and bloops and someone chanting. But that last track, 'Hot On the Heels of Love' - which is in my mix - is this hypnotic techno track, and it's from 1979. I loved it, I've got all their records now.

So yeah, I'd be listening to all these earache records and then when I got slightly older, I'd be going out at the weekend to raves. I looked a bit older so I could get in, so I started going to Wigan Pier when I was about 14. It was 1991, so just after the Summer of Love. Breakbeats were everywhere and we couldn't afford ecstasy, so we used to get a gram of speed and blotting paper of acid. Then I got my first pill when I was... am I all right talking about drugs?

Oh yeah, you're grand, go for it.

Yeah, so my first ever pill was in a house, my mate was babysitting and we took it for the first time and we were like "This is shit." Then I went out and had one, and I was like: "Oh, now I get it. This crap music sounds better." But yeah, I used to love the drugs more than the music at first, I just wanted to go get off my tits with my mates.

Do you have a special place in your heart for Wigan Pier? Coming from Wigan and spending so much time there?

I mean yeah. Some of it was shit, but also it was different back then they'd be playing all sorts of stuff side-by-side — Italo house, with breaks mixed with techno. This was before Scouse house and donk and stuff. You could do that then because everything was a bit less rigid, it was all dance music. I went for the first time when I was 14 and stopped going around 1998, but I went every weekend between '93 and '95. The first time I ever went they had an under-18s disco on a Thursday and Sunday, and they'd have the main weekend DJs roadtesting music to all these kids off their tits on speed. We were still in school! [laughs]. But we'd go every weekend as soon as we were old enough, then we'd get a coach to go to a party once a month and travel further afield to go out. Then I moved to Manchester.

Did you go to The Haçienda?

Just for the sake of saying I'd been [Laughs]. I hated it. I used to go down there, right, and I used to stay for about two hours and stand there on me own. This was obviously after the Summer Of Love, around the mid-90s. But I'd dance around for a bit, and it always felt like something was gonna kick off in there. Then I'd go to Paradise Factory instead, I felt more comfortable. I went to Flesh once, which was the "queer" party on a Wednesday, Kath McDermott used to DJ there and DJ Paulette. But things were different then. I sound like an old fart.

When did you start DJing?

In 1994 I started buying 12-inch electronic singles and I used to go and play them at my friend's flat because he had decks. I got my own not long after. I think my first gig was in the mid-90s? So It will be 30 years I've been DJing this year.

Woah, a long time.

Yeah it's awful innit. But some of the gigs, I'd sort of blagged my way in. I had a few records that I really loved, that I used to play at my friend's after we'd been to the 'Pier or whatever — but when I got my own turntables I just wanted loads of records, I didn't care what they were. So I'd spend hours trawling through the bargain bins on the floor in the Vinyl Exchange, I had some absolute crap. I'd go blagging to people I'd be meeting in Manchester who owned bars and stuff, being like "Yeah, let me come and DJ" and turn up with all these shite records. One of the places I used to go though didn't have turntables, so I'd take my own and a mixer and plug them in at this bar and I spent two years practising and learning in front of an audience until I could do it.

When did it change from DJing in bars to getting bigger bookings?

Do you know what? it took me a long time. Anybody else would have jacked it in. I was the resident DJ at Legends in Manchester, and things kind of started taking off, but I messed it up because I was such a mess. I'm completely sober now, I have been for fourteen years... but in the early 2000s I was overdoing it, and I messed it all up. People didn't even want to talk to me. They would give me free drinks at this venue, and sometimes I could barely stand up.

I moved to London in 2010 and by that point, I'd already been DJing for a good 15 years. Because I'm gay, people think I play gay music — remixes of Kylie Minogue and stuff. So when I first moved here, I got booked for these mega-gay parties and I'd play all this techno and Chicago house and they'd be like: "What is this?". I did start putting on my own party in 2014-15 called Sleaze City, it was at this fetish club in London. Because I'd DJed a few times for them they asked if I wanted to put on my a party and I said: "Yeah but only if women and trans people can come," it was a men's only venue. They said no, and I said I'm not doing it then. Then, they kept asking and they finally caved in. It was the biggest party they had. But that turned into the biggest nightmare ever to be honest...

How come?!

I'm a bit innocent really, people think I'm a right pervert because I wore leather clothes at Glastonbury [laughs]. But this crowd were proper hardcore. I liked the environment, but I'd look out at the crowd and be like "Oh my god, I really do not want to see that stuff going on." That's why that party didn't last very long. I just couldn't. I don't want to look at that. I'm not going to go into detail...

Please don't.

It were a bit shocking [laughs]. So yeah, it took me from 1994 to 2016 to get noticed.

When did it all change?

I won a competition to go dancing at Block9 at NYC Downlow, and I'd told GIDEÖN: "You know I also DJ, I'll bring some music along with me in case one of your DJs dies." And he said: "I actually did know that you DJ, but I don't know what you play so send me a mix." So I did, and the next thing I knew he sent me a message saying: "Yeah you're on." And that were it. I didn't hear anything about it for the next couple of months and then I just saw my name on the poster for Glastonbury. So I played in the Meat Rack and also I played in Maceo's, which is the bar for staff and artists in Block9. It all stemmed from that really, because GIDEÖN gave me a go.

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Do you hold NYC Downlow and Glastonbury quite dear then?

That first time I ever went to Glastonbury, it was the most special thing — the best week of my life. I thought I would hate it, but I'd never been and I wanted to do it before I was 40. So when I won the competition, I went with them and the atmosphere was just so nice. You get to hang out with all these people that you would have never thought would give you the time of day. Last time I went, Larry Heard was there, and I was like: "Oh, Iya!" I know the records you see, but I don't know what these people look like. I saw A Guy Called Gerald and I just started talking to him and I was like "Oh you're from Moss Side are you?" Also because I'd gone there to dance, there were all these photos of me dressed as a butcher so I ended up being the face of it for a year or two, I was in Mixmag actually! But yeah, I don't think I'd be getting the gigs that I've had until that, that was a tipping point. I'd been DJing for so long and got nowhere with it, and that's all it is sometimes getting a bit of a lucky break. I did a Boiler Room as well not long after that. God I looked at it the other week and I messed up nearly every mix... I had diarrhoea.

Oh no!

I got so nervous before I did it, I've got anxiety and I used to get nervous before any gig. Just before it was my turn to get on the decks, I realised: "Oh my god, I need a poo." All I could think was "Don't shit yourself on TV." I was concentrating more on not farting than the mix. The records were good, but the mixing was horrendous. But I got loads of bookings after that Boiler Room too, and it's like...

You've been around so long why now?

No, because it was fucking shit [laughs]. But a lot of this stuff is just luck really. For example, me and Dan Beaumont got booked to play at someone's party in some warehouse in Hackney, around the same time and then Dan said, "We should do a party together that was fun." Then we started Bottom Heavy, and it's still going now... it'll be 7 years this year!

So it all just came together pretty quickly from there?

Yeah like, me and Dan got booked to play at Robert Johnson in 2018 with Bottom Heavy, and the next night we flew back and he asked me to play at Chapter 10. Then I met Steffi and she said "Have you ever been booked to play at Berghain?" I was like no, and she just went: "Leave it with me." A couple of weeks later I got an email from Berghain asking me to come and play, she was curating a party then I got asked back quite a few times. I've played at all these cool places now, it's great. I played at KALT in Strasbourg which was great, I've played in Prague, Georgia — last year I went to New York!

At Mizz Softee?

Yeah! I'd never been to America, I'm scared of flying. I'm petrified of tall buildings right, I've had nightmares about being in New York. When I got asked to do it, I just couldn't turn it down. Stayed in Brooklyn away from the tall buildings [laughs], then I went to Manhattan and I did it. Saw the Empire State Building and all that...

Conquered your fear?

Well I took a valium [laughs]. But yeah that was crazy. I think I'm really lucky. But that's what you get for playing the long game I guess.

They always say it takes 10 years to make it overnight right?

Yeah. I've never been hot shit, I'm on the periphery of everything and I'd rather stay there. To me, if everybody liked what I was doing, you're doing something wrong. But also if you have your moment in the sun, it can only ever go down — but If you stay around the edge, you're never going to be massive of course but you have staying power. I can keep doing it, I genuinely really love it. I love the music. It's not a business thing for me, I've got a day job — it's a compulsion. I think if I was a bit more business-minded I could probably make a bit more of a go at it, but it's just so much arse-licking... I can't do it.

Can you tell us about your Mix?

This is me going against what I’m hearing in clubs at the minute. It's all-vinyl and recorded in one take — I haven't edited out any mistakes or anything, so there are a couple of crackles and pops in it, but I wanted to leave them. I’ve just moved house, so I've pulled some of my favourite records out for this mix — there’s hardly any new stuff on here. I didn’t plan any of it apart from the first track, which is from Gemini - and the last track: Throbbing Gristle’s ‘Hot On The Heels of Love’ which is my favourite track ever — for the rest I just winged it.

Megan Townsend is Mixmag's Deputy Editor, follow her on Twitter


Gemini 'Rapid Eye Movement'
Larry Heard 'Freaky (Chaos)'
Baby Pop 'Deep Techno'
Kryptic Universe 'Cloud Riders'
Steve Poindexter 'State of Shock'
Jared Wilson 'Drug Related Stories'
Mike Pierce 'Parade'
Grizzly Knuckles 'Caviar' (Ensemble)
Gherkin Jerks 'Blast Off'
Lil Louis 'Jupiter'
GRRL 'Banji'
KMFH 'Flemmenup'
Rhythim is Rhythim 'Kaos' (Juice Bar Mix)
Unknown 'Det313'
Cityboy 'Klax'
A H Corp 'Pipeline'
Mathew Jonson 'Behind The Mirror'
Jayson Wynters 'Filtered Xploits'
Legowelt 'Untitled'
Moodymann 'Dem Young Sconies'
Throbbing Gristle 'Hot On The Heels Of Love'

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