A music festival in Kent is good news for south Londoners, and headliner Paul Daley, of Leftfield fame, is gearing up for the gig, writes Laura Burgoine…

“I’m from Kent originally. I don’t know if I’ve been to Hop Farm but I’ve driven past it lots of times,” Paul said. “It’s great to have a festival in the south.”

Set across seven stages, with camping, circus performers, a kids zone and crèche, international street food, and rides and activities, Alfresco Festival features over 100 acts, including Bird of Paradise, Forriner, and Haules Baules.

DJ, remixer, and producer Paul Daley rose to fame as one half of the ‘90s electronic group Leftfield. Best known for their albums Leftism (1995) and Rhythm and Stealth (1999), the band pioneered the progressive house genre. “That was the early 1990s, we were doing an interview with Mixmag and they said ‘we’ve decided to call your music progressive house’ then it got hijacked by loads of people,” Paul recalled. “We went on to do really well out of it. This was pre-internet. One of the points of Leftfield was we were doing something modern but we didn’t want to be pigeonholed.”

“I’m open to listening to every genre,” Paul said. “My main question is always: is the music actually any good?”

“If I was 17 years old it’d be very daunting to find music,” he continued. “It was hard to buy cool records when I was 17. There were gangs and if you looked like that, you were into that band. If I was in a band now, what would you do to stick out? As a DJ, you’re mostly playing other people’s music, it’s not very creative.”

Living in central London since the ‘80s, Paul has since made the move out to Margate. “I have a studio out here. A lot of the seaside towns are becoming places more people want to go to now,” he said. “In London you can find it a bit hard to move. Everything’s going on but nothing’s going on. Going back to punk rock, acid house in the late ‘80s –for me those were the times to be in London. Now society has changed with the internet. You had to be places back then.”

The musician is selective about festivals. “Festivals are so massive now on a global level. It can become more quantity than quality on a lot of things, and sometimes I wonder if people are getting ripped off a bit but it’s also a positive creative thing,” he said.  “It’s still got to come back to making good music. That’s the good thing about Alfresco. [Organiser] Mark’s very much into promoting less known DJs, alongside veterans like me.”

He attributes Leftfield’s success to “a bit of a timing thing.” “We made those records in the ‘90s at the right time, and it fell into place. Kind of a happy accident.”

Leftfield’s music has featured in a number of films, including Trainspotting 1 and 2, the Beach, Vanilla Sky, and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. The duo’s music was also used in the 1999 award-winning Surfer advertising campaign for Guinness.

“The stuff we’ve made with Leftfield, particularly those two tracks [A Final Hit and Snakeblood] were quite cinematic,” Paul said. “Working with Danny Boyle on the Beach, after we did that there was a lot of interest,” he continued. “There was a time in the ‘90s when advertising companies were looking for something new. There wasn’t underground music on TV used in adverts, but after the early ‘90s with the arts music explosion, creatives started looking to that. Before that it was pretty bland, then after we did the Guinness advert people realised there’s this wealth of electronic music, and now it’s in every car advert,” he said.

Paul and his band member Neil Barnes wrote music specifically for Trainspotting. “We wrote that for that scene,” Paul said. “I remember going to the screening in Soho and thinking it was really good but I had no idea it would become such a big film.”

This summer Paul is heading to Ibiza where he’s been playing for 30 years. “I spend a couple of months out there. I don’t really do commercial clubs anymore. I kind of did all that before it became really commercial. Now underground music is a sea of names, whereas you used to be able to count the underground DJs on two hands.”

“The ‘60s and ‘70s music are my favourite decades for music,” Paul said. “Being in the music industry you have a different outlook; I always think wasn’t it great to hear music for the first time? That’s why electronic music has kept up –there’s this massive love for the ‘90s sound, and people trying to sound like Chicago or Detroit underground music from the ‘90s.”

“The whole crux of what I do is: for two hours I play, if you’re not there, you’re going to miss it,” he said. “It was always like that back in the day.”

“The main reason I do this festival is [organisers] Mark and Nicky and their positive energy, and attitude,” he said. “I’m chuffed they asked me to do it amongst all the new people; there’s lot of new DJs playing, and it’s great for them to come through.”

Alfresco Festival is at Hop Farm, near Paddock Wood, Kent, TN12 6PY, on bank holiday weekend May 25-27. Admission: Tickets range from adult Friday (£33)-adult full weekend (£135.45) alfrescofestival.co.uk