The renowned DJ and record label boss tells EDWIN GILSON about finding new sounds, the importance of the BBC and his experiences in the music industry.

IT SPEAKS volumes about Gilles Peterson’s profile on the music scene that he will perform on Brighton Beach tomorrow, once the venue of Fatboy Slim’s massive DJ parties. After all, Peterson recalls a time when his trips to the city commanded much less interest – and much less of an audience.

“I remember coming in the 80s and playing to a half empty club,” says the 52 year-old ahead of the launch of Brighton’s Big Screen open air cinema. “And once I DJ’d in a wine bar near the station.” While these occasions might be memorable only for how underwhelming they were, Peterson holds Brighton close to his heart. He gleefully tells a story about legendary saxophonist Pharoah Sanders “frightening the life” out of a Brighton audience with his free-wheeling jazz. “The lights came on and he just kept playing – security had to get him off the stage. Total classic.”

Despite the closure of once iconic venues like The Zap Club, loved by ravers and DJs alike, Peterson says that Brighton “still has a big part to play in the UK’s club scene”. He cites seafront club Patterns as a good example of a venue with its finger on the pulse and says he still loves scouring the lanes for old, rare records. This is Peterson’s livelihood, of course – the discovery of diverse and scintillating sounds. Having started his career on pirate radio stations he was hired by Radio 1 in 1998, introducing a more mainstream demographic to his blend of soul, hip-hop, jazz and more. A move to BBC Radio 6 Music in 2012 seemed a natural progression.

Two recent editions of his Saturday show exemplify the DJ’s capacity to embrace the old with the new; an extensive tribute to jazz icon John Coltrane on the 50th anniversary of his death and a live session from modern funk and jazz band The Heliocentrics. 6 Music was threatened with closure in 2010 as BBC bosses pondered a remodel, but since then it seems to have gone from strength to strength.

“I couldn’t have found a better home – the listeners are such crazy music fans,” says Peterson. “They are the real thing.” At a time when the BBC is under the spotlight due to its presenters’ salaries, Peterson is keen to stress the importance of the British institution. “If you’ve been brought up in the UK the BBC will always have a huge impact on your DNA, so to actually be a part of it always feels big to me. It’s an incredible body that needs to be protected even though it sometimes makes mistakes, inevitably. We need it for music and culture to keep thriving in the UK.”

As for sourcing new sounds, there are a number of platforms through which Peterson is able to monitor new music. His record label, Brownswood Recordings, is home to many leftfield, genre-defying acts and there’s also his talent development scheme Future Bubblers, which aims to uncover and support musicians across the country. It goes without saying that Peterson is very much doing things on his terms.

In another interview, he referred to those in the “acid house” scene of the 90s who “became millionaires but they didn’t care about the music”. He picks up that mantra today when speaking of his time working for major record labels.

“I hated that side of the scene – the major label privileged a*******s looking for an easy ride. Of course there were some good people there too but seriously it was another world to what I was used to.” He adds, however, that this experience was an “essential part of my learning” and that it only increased his passion for unearthing new sounds.

“I wouldn’t be able to do what I do if I didn’t love it,” he says. “I can’t go past a record shop without going in.”

Gilles Peterson, Brighton’s Big Screen Launch, Brighton Beach, tomorrow, from 12pm