Soundtrack Of My Life: Paris Lees
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FeaturesTV Interviews

Soundtrack Of My Life: Paris Lees

Award-winning writer. Presenter. Equality campaigner

By Nick Levine

Paris Lees
CREDIT: Stuart Simpson

The first song I remember hearing

Whitney Houston – ‘I Will Always Love You’

“It was on the radio constantly and all over music television. I mean that’s how you do a cover, right? It’s like a dream when I think about it now, though in retrospect I think this song woke me up to the fact there was a wider world out there. It’s just a shame it wasn’t one that could fully celebrate who Whitney was along with her immense talent.”

The first song I fell in love with


M-Beat feat. General Levy – ‘Incredible’

“I owned a compilation cassette as a kid called the ‘The Best of Dance 94’ which also featured the likes of Livin’ Joy and PJ & Duncan, but ‘Incredible’ really stood out. I was mesmerised by its spacey synths and his delivery is excellent; it’s one of the best MC tracks of all time. They took the piss out of it in the Ali G movie, and I get that because it became synonymous with a certain type of wannabe rude boy. But for me, there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s a bona fide council estate classic.”

The first gig I went to

Madonna at G-A-Y in London, 2005

“It was this little gig Madonna did to promote [2005 album] ‘Confessions on a Dance Floor’, and I found out about it through her website. I’d never been to London before – I was at college [in Nottingham] at the time – but I called up a sleazy guy I’d met online and begged him to get in the queue for me. I took a taxi to London – a taxi all the way from Nottingham! You really don’t want to know where I got the money from. But I literally cried when she came on stage and honestly, it was more than worth the effort.”

The song that makes me want to dance


Run Tings – ‘Fires Burning (Micky Finn Remix)’

“I was pretty precocious as a kid and utterly fascinated by what all the teenagers were up to. I didn’t really understand what raving was or what drugs were but I knew something was going on – something really exciting and edgy that existed outside of normality, that people loved but was shrouded in secrecy. When I hear tracks like this and ‘Out of Space’ by The Prodigy, it takes me back to being that little kid sitting outside the youth house, too small and too scared to go in, desperately wanting to taste a world that was just beyond my reach.”

The song I do at karaoke

Geri Halliwell – ‘Scream If You Wanna Go Faster’

“I can’t sing, so I need three glasses of champagne or it’s not happening. And no, Prosecco doesn’t count. She’s one of the biggest-selling female solo artists in the UK and she can’t really sing. I find that inspiring.”

The song I can no longer listen to

Young Fathers – ‘Still Running’

“I first heard it during the most passionate, dreamy, intense, exciting and transformative night of sex in my life. Needless to say I fell madly, deeply in love – with the album and the man. The whole record is just so… tasty, if that makes sense? It’s got a really specific flavour and I just love artists who have that holy trinity of unique style, technical skill and an uncompromising creative vision. Sadly, the relationship ended in tears, and now I just can’t with this track.”

The band I fell in love with during lockdown

Bon Voyage Organisation

“I’ve been learning French and taken a deep dive into French electronica at the same time. I’m really into these guys now. I never thought I’d be the sort of person who says ‘I’m into French electronica’, but it makes sense in a way because Daft Punk and that amazing French house sound were a big part of my childhood. There’s a lot of people producing music now that references that sound but still feels fresh and contemporary. And when I hear those new songs, something about the synths takes me right back to that period of my life, in quite an emotional way.”

The song I wish I’d written

Moloko – ‘The Time Is Now’

“I was never the same after seeing Róisín Murphy looking so sleek, chic and cool performing this on Top of the Pops. They seemed so different to a lot of the dance that was out at the time, although looking back I can put it into context of what I would call a golden era for orchestral pop. I’d put it alongside tracks like Massive Attack’s ‘Unfinished Sympathy’, Octave One’s ‘Black Water’ and ‘Lonely Soul’ by U.N.K.L.E. and Richard Ashcroft. The lyrics are so clever and capture this intense passion and love without ever feeling cheesy. It’s still one of my favourite songs.”

The song I want played at my funeral

Moby – ‘The Sky Is Broken’

“I didn’t fully appreciate this back in the day, but I listened to it recently and realised it would be perfect for a funeral. I have this vision of a gothic church lit with candles: everyone’s seated, and as the track progresses the candles start to go out in time with the rhythm. Then when the strings kick in at the climax, curtains will be pulled back and a shaft of light will drop down to reveal the coffin, draped in black velvet and white oriental lilies with the stamens removed. Obviously my funeral will require a creative director. I’m not sure who yet; it would depend on who was doing the most interesting work at that time.”

Paris Lees’ memoir ‘What It Feels Like For A Girl’ is out now via Penguin Books

  • Related Topics
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  • Soundtrack Of My Life
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  • Whitney Houston

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