It's all in the mix: Club legend Gaz Mayall's cave of wonders
Ten thousand records vie for space with primitive art, countless instruments and esoterica 'no one else would want'
Sunday 15 May 2011
Gaz Mayall's legendary Soho club night Gaz's Rockin Blues is 30 this year. With more than 1,560 Thursday nights danced away to reggae, R&B, rock'n'roll, ska, and soul from Mayall's collection, it's the longest-running shindig in London. Little wonder, then, that he shares his home with an estimated 10,000 records.
"Some are grouped by label, but usually it's by genre," says the 52-year-old. "I've got a really good collection of Prince Buster records, including a very rare, signed version of Fly Flying Ska. It got stolen once: some rascal took a handful of my collection. It took me a year, but I tracked him down, went round and got them all back."
Mayall's crowded home in west London's Kensal Green is packed with collections and knick-knacks. He puts his magpie ways down to an early job helping out with his mum's antiques business, from a barn in Llanddewi Brefi in south k Wales. "I've always been interested in old things. I used to wheel and deal antiques when I was a teenager. And when I was 20, I opened a shop in London selling old clothes and records. I like bargains and things no one else is interested in."
Like the rather alarming toothy skull adorning his wall? This, it turns out, was a 50th birthday gift from the artist Sam Haggerty. "It balances the plaster joker on the other side of the sofa. I'm quite sentimental if friends give me things."
Then there's an assortment of primitive art – "a good collection of bits and bobs from Borneo" – as well as a variety of animal skins, including a bearskin rug, a wild-boar skin and a wolfskin coat, which apparently starts dogs howling. "I'm a bit of a caveman, really. I love the city, but at heart I'm a real country boy."
As he is a musician – the son of British blues legend John Mayall, Gaz also fronts his own ska and reggae band, the Trojans – it is no surprise that instruments are strewn through the house, from a piano and double bass to a scattered collection of drums and percussion. At Mayall's, popping round for dinner can easily turn into a major jam session. Apparently, his rocking chair is favoured by Rudy Jones, the band's octogenarian saxophonist. The chair is made of wood that came down during the hurricane of 1987, and was Mayall's housewarming present to himself when he moved in. "It's aged with the place. And the older I get, the more time I spend in it."
He has lived in the flat for 20 years, and is joined by his Swedish girlfriend, the illustrator Elinor Fahrman, when she's in London. Their bedroom looks on to a graveyard, although Mayall insists that's never spooked him, and instead provides bird-watching opportunities: they've spied jays and woodpeckers among the headstones.
Maybe it would take more than a grave to frighten Mayall: his curios reflect his childhood love of horror comics. Mostly, though, his home is stuffed with memories: "The place is so full, I even had to get a lock-up for the extra stuff. I find it hard to get rid of things. Albums and books are all records of events, but memories are records too. If you keep some rocks from a beach, they hold that record of your memory of that day. Everything records something: it's just about finding out how to play it."
'Gaz's Rockin Blues: the First 30 Years' is published by Trolley Books, priced £19.99
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