British DJ and producer Paul Woolford has made a staggering amount of dance records and remixes in a wide variety of styles. Whether he's producing Chicago-style jacking house or hardcore jungle, the common factor of his work has always been bold, energetic rhythms finely tuned for maximum club impact. He's released records and mixes on underground labels like Hotflush and Aus Music as well as mainstream dance institutions such as Positiva and Ministry of Sound, and has reached wider exposure through his remixes for artists such as Disclosure, Depeche Mode, and Tom Walker in addition to collaborations with Karen Harding and Diplo. Initially using Bobby Peru as his main moniker, he scored an underground club hit with the trippy, minimalist 2006 single "Erotic Discourse," which preceded the acclaimed 2008 full-length The Truth. Woolford's profile expanded during the 2010s with the release of further club smashes like 2013's "Untitled," as well as the introduction of his Special Request alias, which paid homage to U.K. pirate radio on releases such as 2013 full-length Soul Music and 2017 mix Fabriclive 91.
Originally from Leeds, Paul Woolford began going to raves during the early 1990s, and eventually became a resident DJ at Back to Basics, a legendary techno night that took place in his home city. He gradually taught himself how to produce tracks, and by the end of the decade, he began releasing tech-house records with Tony Senghore, eventually calling themselves the Wackdaddies. In 2000, Woolford signed to 20:20 Vision as Bobby Peru and began releasing house records infused with funk and electro, making his full-length solo debut with 2002's Death of a Player. He additionally released material under short-lived monikers like Hip Therapist and Skip Donahue, and first used his own name on the Subliminal-issued 2002 release Without You/Only the Wild. His mid-2000s output, including records titled Jack Factory and The Jackford Files, paid homage to classic Chicago house, while the three-part Modernist EP series in 2006 was inspired by Detroit techno. The Bobby Peru single "Erotic Discourse" was also released in 2006 and became one of his most widely played tracks.
Woolford launched his Intimacy label in 2007, with the EP Body Double, and his second Bobby Peru album, The Truth, arrived in 2008. In connection with his popular weekly residency at Ibiza's Space club, he mixed the first disc of the Ministry of Sound-issued We Love Space 08. Another mix, Renaissance: Platform, appeared in 2010. Woolford collaborated with Psycatron on that year's Cocoon-issued "Thunder" single, followed by 2011's "Stolen," his first release for U.K. bass label Hotflush. He also released well-received records on Planet E ("Achilles") and Phonica ("Can't Do Without"), and reunited with Mat Playford (whom he previously worked with as Snow Monkeys) for a single as Ford Inc, issued by Throne of Blood. 2012 saw the release of Woolford's ambitious double-CD mix The Lab 04, as well as the "Pursuit" single on Halo Cyan.
Woolford also began releasing white label 12"s as Special Request in 2012, taking influence from breakbeat hardcore and jungle. Houndstooth signed the project and issued the full-length Soul Music in 2013; its CD edition came with a bonus disc featuring tracks from the earlier singles and remixes, including his notorious mix of Lana Del Rey's "Ride." Woolford's second Hotflush single, "Untitled," became another major club hit, and was picked up by Ultra Records/Sony (with the subtitle "Call Out Your Name") in 2014. Hotflush released a pair of remixes of "Erotic Discourse," followed by the 2015 single "Orbit." As Special Request, Woolford issued the three-part Modern Warfare EP series on XL Recordings. He continued using the moniker for his more experimental work, including the ambitious, cinematic double album Belief System (2017), as well as his Fabriclive 91 mix. His more club-friendly output was released under his own name, including the piano-heavy "Forevermore" on Running Back, as well as more spiritually inclined material such as the Aus Music-released Father, Son & Holy Ghost and Heaven & Earth.
As Special Request kept pushing jungle and breakbeat to the limits with releases like 2019's Vortex and Zero Fucks, Woolford released some of his most successful mainstream club material under his own name. He worked with Chicago house diva Kim English on the 2018 FFRR single "Hang Up Your Hang Ups" and Newcastle singer/songwriter Karen Harding on "You Already Know," issued by Positiva in 2019. "Looking for Me," a collaboration with Diplo and Atlanta-born singer Kareen Lomax, appeared on Higher Ground in 2020.
© Paul Simpson /TiVo