Baptism by Disco
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Not wanting to copy and paste my usual ‘official biog’ dotted around the web, for my own website, I thought I’d give an insight on the more personal story of the birth of my DJ and production career. The actual ‘DJ’ flame for me was lit when, as a teenager in 1979/80, I visited a nightclub called The Warehouse in Leeds, UK. The owner, a guy called Mike Wiand, had imported two American ‘mixing’ jocks (Greg James and my soon to be personal hero, Dan ‘The Pooch’ Pucciarelli). I’d never experienced anything like it. There was a beautiful crowd of people doing ‘the rock’ on the dancefloor grooving to Disco music I’d never heard the likes of before. They weren’t there to get drunk, or get off with somebody: they were there to DANCE! The amazing sound system, neon lighting and magical atmosphere was further compounded by the fact that the music seemed endless: never a gap, silence, or some egotistical DJ with inane rambling over a microphone. I looked up to the Gods and saw a single figure with headphones. Climbing the stairs, walking down the glass walled corridor, I peered through to see ‘Pooch’ bent over three Technics decks, dancing and floating between them like a human symphony. I didn’t ‘hear’ any transition between one piece of music or another, and watched as he took a piece of vinyl off from one deck that I thought was the source of the music playing. That was ‘The Moment’.. my fate was sealed. The magic spell was fully cast and I felt destiny calling.
Back in my East coast Yorkshire town, I set up two belt drive ‘Garrard’ decks (with no pitch control) and a cheap basic DJ mixer in my bedroom, and took regular trips to the local vinyl store armed with a top 20 US Billboard Disco chart. Totally self taught, I began practicing to get a ‘mix’ between two records by manually slowing down or speeding up the records. It was clumsy and messy but somehow I managed it. From there, I heard about a newly opened club in a local town that was based on, and built by, the same team from The Warehouse. I needed to graduate from my bedroom and into a proper club environment, and so visited the ‘Beverley Hills’ club. The DJ was surrounded by all this amazing audio/visual technology, but was (albeit well) still delivering the usual ‘record/vox/record/vox’ formula. Being a teenager, and somewhat cocksure and arrogant, I found the owner of the club, told him what I could do, that he needed a US style mixing DJ in his venue and that he should give me a chance to prove that.. (arrogant, told you..!). He smiled, agreed to audition me one afternoon the following week, and take it from there. Now remember, to this point, I’d never even seen, touched or used a vari-speed Technics deck close up: however, I managed to adapt quickly at my ‘audition’ and deliver what I promised. The owner then gave me his ‘quiet’ Thursdays, branded it a ‘US Disco’ night, and we turned 70 people into 700 within a few weeks.
The nearby big city DJ’s began to hear the grapevine rustling about this ‘moody young DJ’ who mixes his records and never speaks. This led to befriending the city’s leading club jock who was keen to learn the art of mixing (thanking me subsequently by plonking his prime residency right in my lap upon his departure to the USA). So there I was, early twenties, and DJ’ing in a main club, with big crowds, mixing and playing the music I liked. Enter the then burgeoning DMC (Disco Mix Club). DMC was at that time recognised as ‘the’ DJ mix subscription service with a massive Global membership. Their monthly cassettes (yes, that’s right), contained mixes and remixes of the popular tracks of the day. Having already dabbled in mixing together hits by the same artist (a ‘Megamix’) using decks, reel to reel tape machines and digital delay’s, I sent some stuff off to Tony Prince (who ran DMC with wife Christine). His response to my submitted work was too luke warm for me and it very much felt like DMC was a ‘closed shop’, at least for that moment. Not one to lie down and play dead, I sent some of my megamixes to Radio 1′s Bruno Brookes (not daft – targeting the drive time show for maximum listenership). Bruno played a U2 mix, a Communards mix and a Paul Hardcastle one too [I guess this was my first attempt at marketing myself.. in the real world.. remember there was no internet - shock, horror!]. The next step was to enter some of the DMC mixing competitions to further make the Prince’s take note (how determined?!?). After reaching a third position in one of their annual finals, I was taken to one side and invited to dinner with the Royal Ruler and his crew. Just before dessert, I was offered a full time studio job at DMC HQ near London, with the amazing luxury of literally 24 hour access to a ‘pro-studio’ set up!
Upping sticks and leaving my Yorkshire home, I moved ‘down south’ and esconssed myself in the small but perfectly formed DMC studio. Here, I met someone who was to not only become my studio mentor and inspiration, but a liflong friend too.. Mr Sanny X. During the early 80′s, Sanny was world famous for his bullet edit style of remixing, plus he was one of the first people to use sampling technology that was away from the magabucks Fairlight/Emulator territory, and pre-Akai hardware days – A Greengate sampler if memory serves me well? This half Greek, half Swedish genius was patient and giving of his knowledge and time – he still has those attributes today and he remains a close and true friend.
So, from here, and as I don’t want to make this even more of a Tolkien epic, I enjoyed: DJ’ing at the Hippodrome, London / Mixing CD’s ‘live’ for the first time in the world / Achieving a Top Ten UK chart position with Tinman’s ’18 Strings’ / Consulting for Akai & Technics on new products / Being a ‘Cream’ records artist / One of the first 5 DJ’s to produce and mix in 6.1 surround sound / Lecturing in Music Technology at Performance Academies and Colleges / DJ’ing globally, recording for and being published by the Ministry of Sound, London / Co-creating the music for BBC’s ‘Watchdog’ programme / Playing DJ sets & residencies for U2 and Kraftwerk / and having something like 250+ remixes and productions released…
Recent good vibes have been remixing Soft Cell’s iconic masterpiece, ‘Tainted Love’, doing a cheeky non-commissioned remix of Flo Rida’s ‘Low’ and watching the subsequent ’36,000 plays’ video of it been taken down by Warner Brother’s (all the others were left alone – why mine, lol). In early May this year, I had the pleasure of revisiting my megamixing past and doing a Mash Up for Radio 1′s Chris Moyles to help him blow Tim Westwood off the stage at the 2009, Big Weekend event – now that was a hoot!