Special Request: Paul Woolford's darker alias.
The darker alter ego of UK-based DJ Paul Woolford, Special Request has been turning heads since bursting onto the scene back in 2012, bringing a distinctive new sound with him.
Growing up in a home where the radio was always on, Woolford was influenced by a wide variety of music, and after garnering huge respect within the industry for his stylish techno, house and electro, he grew disillusioned with what he has suggested were concerns over his artistic freedom, switching his focus to producing a more robust, physical sound.
Having himself described Special Request as ‘the roughage, the rowdy younger brother’ of his previous offerings, the project was inspired by the dynamism of pirate radio in and around Woolford’s hometown of Leeds, and by the sense of community that these stations fostered. Special Request is the embodiment of this spirit, and a manifestation of the revival of the jungle, hardcore and breakbeat influences in Woolford’s music.
These influences can be clearly seen from the outset; a string of early releases came in 2012, before the release of Special Request’s first album, ‘Soul Music’, in the following year, with two further albums coming in 2015 and 2017. One of his most loved releases is the VIP mix of Tessela’s ‘Hackney Parrot’, which is transformed partly through the accentuation of the main drum breaks and the vinyl spinbacks that precede a short vocal sample taken from a 1994 Kenny Ken jungle set.
While it is his production output that sets this project aside from Woolford’s other work, it is through Special Request’s DJ sets that Woolford truly pushes the boundaries. He takes the crowd on a journey with sudden changes of tempo and direction, playing songs that nobody could expect, yet still managing to maintain the organised chaos that makes his sets so memorable. This is little surprise, given that when asked in a 2017 interview, Woolford acknowledged that Special Request is deeply rooted in a vast spectrum of sounds, stating that ‘the British way is a grab bag of different influences’, citing particularly the Street Sounds Electro compilations, with their vast variance of sounds.
While DJ sets from Special Request were once a rare sight, growing numbers of music-lovers have had the opportunity to see this current incarnation of Woolford’s sound. His closing set at Dekmantel Festival in 2018 is testament to just how special he is. By his own admission, the scope of what Special Request means is widening slowly, and this can mean only good things for when we host him in April.
By Louis Holbrook