A presenter of the BBC’s Radio 6 Music and Radio 2 stations, an actor in popular UK soap Coronation Street, a former stand-up comedian and an international DJ, Craig Charles is arguably a man of many facets. So how does he get the time to hotfoot it here, for one night admittedly, to entertain Dubaians with his brand of soul and funk? Congenial by nature, he explains that balancing these commitments all comes down to careful scheduling.
‘Monday to Friday, I act in Coronation Street and Friday and Saturday nights we DJ all over the world. I do my radio show 6pm-9pm on a Saturday night (The Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show on BBC Radio 6 Music) then DJ [clubs] at midnight.’ On why he’s performing at Sunny Vibe Up straight from the UK, he is equally straightforward. ‘They just asked me to play. I did the closing party at Space in Ibiza and we just rocked it – someone there just asked me.’ In preparation for his set at the Radisson Blu, we talk musical preferences, irritations and his guilty pleasures.
What track will you open with at Sunny Vibe Up? It kind of changes really – it depends what kind of mood I’m in. Recently we played Brighton and Manchester and opened with this smooth remix of a load of James Brown tracks, all mashed up, and then I mixed that into the Grant Lazlo version of ‘Heard it Through the Grape Vine,’ which is just a stunning record.
Track you’ll throw down to get people on the dance floor? There’s loads of them to be honest. The Hidden Jazz Quartett’s version of ‘High Heels’ (the Lack of Afro remix) is a pure party starter. The Reflex’s version of ‘ABC’ [Jackson 5] is stunning. It’s sounds housey but it’s got strong funk and soul credentials.
Current earworm track? I’m really into The Reflex and the moment and his Revision Series. He gets the original stems for the music (he doesn’t add anything) and he just remixes and makes things sound like they were done now.
Any underrated tracks you favour? There’s all sorts of stuff like that. I think Smooth+Turrell should basically be a lot bigger than they are. Their track ‘Hard Work’ didn’t quite make it and ‘Beggarman’ didn’t even make the [BBC] Radio 2 playlist.
The track that everyone loves but you hate? I don’t hate music – there’s stuff that leaves me cold. That Daft Punk ‘Get Lucky’ thing. I’m a big Chic fan and I like Daft Punk – I just think that was so overrated. But I’ve got a wicked mix of it, which I might drop in Dubai.
A track to impress the ladies? I’ve got a wicked version of ‘Rock With You’ by Michael Jackson. You don’t realise it’s Michael Jackson until you’re about three minutes into the tune and then it all just kicks off and you’re just like ‘wow’.
The track that irritates you? Of course you can never forget ‘Ebony and Ivory’ [Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder]. If I ever come across that, I’d burn it.
The track you’ve cleared a dance floor with? Thankfully that’s never happened – that would be terrible. I’ve played places that I think it has been inappropriate for me to play. I played Liverpool Fashion Week and I had people coming up and going: ‘Have you got any Lady GaGa?’ and I said: ‘No – it’s a funk and soul show!’
The track or album that’s most important to you? Again it depends on my mood. Talking Book by Stevie Wonder is an album I like to dig into and Songs in the Key of Life. Also, What’s Going On? [Marvin Gaye].
The track you first remember? My first musical memories were my mum and dad dancing around the kitchen to Ray Charles ‘I’ve Got A Woman.’ That’s where it all came from. My dad – he came to England in the ’50s with a bag full of records and a pocket full of change. When everyone else in Liverpool was listening to The Beatles, our house was dancing to a rather different kind of beat.
The track that you secretly love but you really shouldn’t? I quite like ELO – that’s my guilty pleasure – ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ – I think they’re brilliant. I shouldn’t really have said that. Well, everyone’s got a guilty pleasure – at least it’s not Abba or George Michael.
The track that cheers you up when you’re down? I love Cody Chesnutt’s ‘I Look Good In Leather.’ I think it’s brilliant. I had Cody in session on my radio show at Maida Vale [London studio] and he was brilliant and his new album Landing On A Hundred is fantastic. I’m a big fan. Craig Charles appears at Sunny Vibe Up with the Deep Crates Cartel on November 22. Dhs85. 2pm-12.30am.Dusk Terrace, Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Media City. www.timeouttickets.com