Faith in culture

Crazy P secured their place in the dance halls of fame in the mid-1990s. Now, Danielle Moore and Jim Baron are reaching a new generation of listeners

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Even on a stereotypically cold and windy spring night in northern England, it’s easy to feel warm around Danielle Moore and Jim Baron. In a few hours, thousands of dancers at Manchester’s Albert Hall will be at the mercy of their amorous beats, earworm hooks, hulking basslines and seductive stage presence. Right now, though, they couldn’t present as more understated if they tried.

It’s reassuring, all things are considered. These two faces belong to one of the most critically lauded acts in UK disco-house history, Crazy P. Their story stretches back to the mid-1990s and their place in the pantheons of late nights and soulful-yet-solid dance music long since secured.

And this is before we factor in efforts outside the group proper, from Moore’s busy DJ schedule to Baron’s forthcoming solo album, which he describes as a folk-leaning record some might compare to Crosby, Stills & Nash, “although it doesn’t really sound much like that at all”.

Big Issue North is here to discuss one project in particular, though – the EP series Crazy P Curate. The first instalment arrived in November 2022, and the names involved in all parts are testament to the outfit’s status – a combination of in-demand rising production stars and veteran heroes have contributed tracks.

Volume Two alone sees A Certain Ratio offer a beautiful curveball in the lush, downtempo Atmosphere Sings, Italian DJ godfather Daniele Baldelli and protégé Marco Dionigi serving up deep, exotic grooves, and Manchester synth queen Sarah Bates doing lo-fi disco.

Meanwhile, Hot Toddy – AKA Crazy P’s own Chris Todd (currently “on hold” from touring) – goes for atmospheric chug. Elsewhere, names like Ashley Beedle, Ruf Dug and Sean Johnston also have a hand in the endeavour. Adding to the selling points, Bristol-based illustrator Victoria Topping, whose creations have graced a number of the band’s releases, has been drafted for cover art.

“We were signed to Ralph Lawson’s label, 2020 Vision, in about 2008 or 2009, and did two albums. It was a really good move at the time. He was looking for a live act to add some variation to the roster. As things were it was very much house music,” Moore says, sipping from a glass of iced water.

“We originally connected through that, and personally they were some of my favourite albums that we’ve done. Anyway, Ralph is forever bubbling over with ideas and approached our manager about the curated series.”

“Ralph is a hero of mine. He comes to every gig, his enthusiasm is boundless, and basically we’ve got a lot of love for him,” Baron interjects. “Currently, all our album work is tied up with !K7 records, so it was kind of a case of what can
we work on together now. When Ralph suggested this we loved it. I mean, what’s not to like? Pick your favourite producers and then get them involved in making new music.”

Suffice to say, the reality hasn’t been quite so straightforward. Crazy P Curate is logistically challenging, to put it mildly, with countless moving parts each with innumerable other commitments. Even if the vast majority of artists enlisted are based in northern England, or nearby, managing so many deadlines at once can’t be easy. Nevertheless, Baron is quick to point out how satisfying and enjoyable the process has been.

“We’ve had the experience before of thinking something was going to be amazing, then in the end not getting what we were hoping for – or expecting,” he says, nodding to previous attempts at commissioning Crazy P remixes. “But you’ve got to let people do their thing, trust them. I mean, obviously there’s a line. If someone sends you five minutes of car crash noises, you probably need to have a word.

“But we trusted everyone to submit what they thought was a great track. I was thinking the A&R side would be more difficult, just in terms of keeping the quality up. But it really wasn’t.”

Some artists wound up submitting multiple tunes, all of which were good enough to be used, such as Polish one to watch Das Komplex, while “Red Rack’em sent a file of about 24 tunes he just knocked up last week, or something ridiculous”.

Unsurprisingly, the series has now given rise to a string of dates at choice venues across the UK, including Sheaf Street in Leeds, and Todmorden hotspot the Golden Lion – essentially Moore’s local when she’s in town, with her time now split between the West Yorkshire town and Birmingham, where another of her favourite spots, Hare & Hounds, is found.

But while these spaces are thriving, as our conversation moves to live music in Britain the overall tone changes.

“I got really offended just the other day about the Rishi Sunak retraining campaign during the pandemic. Something triggered a memory of it – basically just thinking how important music and culture are. How these things connect everything. How beautiful music is, and how sad it would be if we didn’t have these things and these places,” Moore says, tangible emotion in her voice. “It’s such an important world and it has proven that time and time again.”

“A lot of these places, they made it through the pandemic only to now face councils looking to bring money in, energy bills, all these threats,” adds Baron.

“If you lose them you cut the legs off everything, but as a country that is where we are in terms of the arts, and where people actually want to put their money… We’re in a lucky position. We’ve been going a long time and do a lot of studio work so in the pandemic, we earned a lot less money but we managed okay. Some of our friends who perhaps weren’t able to fall back on those things really struggled.”

Despite them keeping heads above water, it’s clear how much the fallout from events – or lack of – between spring 2020 and summer 2021 affected everyone involved in music. Not least a band like Crazy P, whose passion for performing in front of an audience is evident to anyone who has seen their show, even for just a moment or two. The energy of those performances apparently feeds directly off those buying tickets and booking them to play.

“We were fortunate to have this slight change of audience a few years back. We had a loyal following from our age group, people who grew up with us, but then suddenly we were turning up to venues with 19 year olds on the dance floor. It was amazing,” Moore says. “I think part of it was that some, of a certain age, heard their mums and dads playing our early albums.”

“Also we were being approached by really good young promoters who viewed us as, well, good, and artists who should be championed. So in terms of attendance at gigs, some of it could be attributed to that – being brought into their world and into their crowd,” says Baron, before his wry wit resurfaces. “I mean, our mates now – you can’t get me out very often so how are we expecting them to come out?”

Crazy P Curate Volume Three was released on 1 May via 2020 Vision. Crazy P play the Golden Lion, Todmorden, on 12 May.

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