In 2020, if you were maxing out on DJ mixes in the Covid pandemic’s first wave, it would have been hard to miss Kirollus. The DJ seemed to come out of nowhere, spinning wax-only boogie alongside rare funk and old soul numbers. Who was this guy, singing along to obscure cuts, playing specialist mixes like Brit funk and UK boogie one moment, and blue sleeve covers the next? Turns out he’s a record seller from Brighton — and a very nice one, too.
We catch up with the DJ at Flashback Records on Bethnal Green Road, London, and he makes a beeline for the new stock section. He’s happy with what he sees, so heads downstairs for a deeper dig and talks us through the collection; that Manfredo Fest 7” on the wall is great, but it’s the wrong way round – they should have hung the ‘Jungle Kitten’ side; this label went downhill in the early ’80s, so anything post-’82 is a no-no; that Charles Earland record going for £100 isn’t a bad price — Kirollus copped his for £90.
Kirollus comes to soul, funk and boogie by way of hip-hop. Artists like DJ Quik and EPMD led him to the bargain buckets of record shops around town, where he found the original tracks behind the samples in his favourite rap records. “A lot of the stuff that was in that cheap bin was boogie and ’80s funk,” he tells DJ Mag, “and I was already into it a little bit, but more James Brown — but a lot of his records are like £20 to £30.”
Boogie, a slower, more funky cousin of disco, packed with love-drunk chords, slapping bass and a mean groove, never hit the mainstream in the way disco did, Kirollus explains, but Black clubs were playing the sound right up until the late ’80s. “The boogie artists were doing it for the passion, just the same way underground producers are making music for themselves today.”
Kirollus began working at soul, funk and jazz specialist record store Uptight Records in Hove in 2014. There he trained his ear, listening to and uploading tracks on the shop’s website and digging through label back catalogues. By late 2018, he was playing the odd gig at Patterns.
“That was a great experience for me, because I realised young people were really into the music. I was playing super obscure ’80s funk, and they were just getting down to it.”
The DJ matched his ambition to make the sound popular again with real smarts. In the first lockdown, he scooped a monthly slot on Balamii radio, launched his ‘Forty Minutes Of Funk’ mix series, and was soon inviting his favourite DJs to take up guest slots. He was busy on Instagram too, building a family of fellow boogie, funk and soul heads, and live streaming sets.
He began 2020 with 1,000 followers, grew it to 2,300 by January 2021, and by early 2022, had over 10,000 followers. As we go to print, he’s just passed the 16,000 mark. “Instagram is how people know about me and that’s why it’s important for DJs to invest time in it and enjoy it, figure out what’s working and what isn’t,” he advises. “It’s as much a craft as DJing is.”
Fast-forward two years, and Kirollus is now sharing his vast collection with audiences up and down the country, as well as on his monthly Defected Broadcasting House show. And that same level of enthusiasm we saw in his early streams is still there, as is his faith in his generation to fall in love with the sound just like he did.
“I really appreciate people spreading the word,” he says with real warmth. “I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing without them.”