She moved down to London in the mid-’90s, as most of her DJ work was pulling her south. “My divorce was going through, I’d finished my degree, I’d finished presenting the TV programme I was presenting for Granada — everything had come to a natural end,” she recalls. Paulette was offered a weekly residency at The Zap in Brighton and regular DJ slots at Heaven in London, plus other gigs nationally, and “the travelling with two record boxes was too much, the trains were really slow”.
In London, to supplement her DJing income she got a PR job at Mercury Records in 1995, after a brief spell working for Rapido TV. One subsidiary of Mercury was Talkin Loud, helmed by Gilles Peterson, which boasted a roster of Roni Size Reprazent, Nu Yorican Soul, Galliano, Nicolette, 4hero, Terry Callier, Femi Kuti and others. Meanwhile, the house offshoot label Manifesto — headed up by Eddie Gordon — had the likes of Todd Terry, Masters At Work, David Morales, Byron Stingily, Donna Summer and more on its books.
“Gilles and Eddie Gordon were constantly pressuring me, saying ‘Whose PR are you?’” Paulette says. “I was doing both to the best degree possible.” She also had trip-hop act Lamb, plus Def Jam hip-hop acts like LL Cool J and Method Man. “You name it, pretty much every Black artist going through Mercury Records was on my desk,” she says. “There weren’t enough hours in the day, and I was DJing at the same time.”
Paulette became one of the best — and busiest — PRs in operation. She took music journalists out to dinner to sell the Roni Size Reprazent project to them, as their album wasn’t able to garner any mainstream radio or TV coverage, and was rewarded when the ‘New Forms’ album was nominated for the 1997 Mercury Music Prize. Nobody gave the drum & bass opus much of a chance up against The Prodigy, the Chemical Brothers, Suede, the Spice Girls and, especially, Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer’ for the prize, but the Bristol junglists triumphed in a major measure of validity for the nascent d&b scene.
“Everything that happened for Roni Size Reprazent, and also 4hero who were nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, came off the back of the press campaign and their live gigs,” Paulette says. “It’s very rare to translate a good press campaign for some dance music singles to the Mercury Prize, it has to cross them over into the nationals and broadsheets everywhere. Obviously they had to perform live, I would never take credit for their creativity, but without that press campaign… there were so many other bands who were really great live, but they didn’t have the press.”
Paulette won a gold record for the Reprazent PR campaign, after they sold 100,000 copies of ‘New Forms’. They were also nominated for two awards at The Brits. “All of that I was heavily responsible for, but when I left Mercury Records I got a 40 quid Harvey Nicks voucher and a bottle of Freixenet,” she says.