DJ

dj disc jockey technics mix mixing

DJ Sy

Great interview with a man like DJ Sy over at Ransom Note

Shouts out for Ark, shame the dates are wrong (shoudl eb 91-97), Fantazia, Obsession etc

Check the whole interview out here   Dj Sy

 

Tell me how you got into music

I’m originally from Croydon, and it was through radio stations that I got into the music. One night I was tuning across the radio and I came across Invicta Radio– I think it was Mastermind Roadshow on, they were a couple of guys, Mad Max and Dave VJ, and they were playing New York New York by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Up to that point I’d been quite heavily into ska, the Specials and all of that, but when I came across this track I’d never heard anything by it. It was funky, it was a rap, immediately I was hooked. I stayed in every night tuned into that radio station for months and months, listen to rap. I ended up getting Technics decks a couple of years after that through a Saturday job

That was quite a commitment in those days

Yeah. There was no one else in my school into the music- maybe two blokes in a thousand kids. So yeah it was really rare to be into it. It wasn’t the normal thing to do – it was even really difficult to find out what the decks were that the hip hop DJs were using cos there was no internet back then

How did you find out what the decks were?

I went to a hip hop night with an MC I used to do demo tapes with, and that was the first time I saw a DJ in front of me live. I remember staring at them for the whole show, I must have been about 14, 15, staring at these two decks thinking I want them, I want them. I did a little scratching before then, but when I got the Technics it transformed what I could do.

What was the show?

I can’t remember the name, but it was in Brixton, and all the British guys who were around then played; Hijack, Cookie Crew – I think Mastermind were DJing there which is how I knew about it.

So finding the decks must have been hard – learning to scratch must have been harder

That’s the thing, it sounds like I’m trying to big myself up, but I had to work it out myself. There was no digital support, no videos I could watch – that hip hop show I mentioned was one of only a very few I went to and you couldn’t really see what was going on because you couldn’t get up close. So I was completely self-taught.

And the scratching became such a feature of your sets

I bought it from my hip hop grounding, then carried on doing it even when I played house music. I’m a bit gutted about that whole thing, because to keep on top of it you’ve got to practice 5-6 hours a day, and at the start I used to do that. But I got so pissed off with turning up to clubs and the set up not being right, the mixer being a weird mixer with no cross fader, or the decks being 10 feet apart, I kinda lost faith in it, so I didn’t keep up the practice. It’s a bit of an excuse, but I’d get to a gig after having practiced a new technique or pattern, and I just couldn’t do it. I’d get so pissed off – it’s something I’ve always done but I didn’t follow through because of that fact. But still, I got known for scratching, and people started tagging me as ‘the UK’s number one scratchmaster’ which bothered me a bit. I mean it was flattering, but you look at some of these guys, these proper hip hop guys who live and breathe hip hop scratching and they’re a million miles further advanced than what I do. I just use it as an addition, I use it to augment the music – if there’s a flatter bit of a track I’ll try and give a bit more rhythm to it – it’s not a main feature, I try and keep it subtler.

Yeah, very true. That’s a good way of putting it – a very political way of putting it hahaha… DJs who scratch all over a vocal are twats, you want them to shut the fuck up..

So when did you take it out and start playing

I went to university in Nottingham and got together with a load of like-minded people who were into urban music, hip hop, soul and all of that, and we put a night on for students, and then that was pretty popular. Because of that there was a wine bar in the centre of Nottingham that my mate managed to sweet talk us a gig in. It went well the first night, and within two weeks it was rammed. The owner of that wine bar owned a club in town, and he put me on there – that went well, he then moved to a club called Venus in Nottinghma that’s quite famous, and it all kicked off there. That was just at the time of tracks by LFO and Nightmares on Wax, and the rave scene really started. The hip hop had been good, but it wasn’t really club music back then, and with the summer of love of ’88, and house music coming over to the UK, I really loved it. So this fella bought Venus and it went mental – I caught it right at the right time with those tracks coming out. The manager wanted to keep it a trendy sort of London Balearic club, but because I don’t really like that sort of stuff I stuck to the proper underground hard rave stuff, and it went mad. There were queues around the block. The owner got rid of me in the end because the clientele was too rave based and he didn’t like it. He was very fashion conscious, and he wanted to be right on the cusp of every changing trend – rave has always been a bit of a bastard niche, it’s always been a bit looked down upon and he didn’t want to go down that path. I mean, of course with the drugs that are associated with it you can understand it from a certain point of view – you don’t want 2000 kids off their faces in Nottingham city centre, the national press were against it. Crazy times.

How did you get from there to a national stage?

The start of that was through DJ SS. He booked me for an event in Leicester, for one of his Nemesis gigs, which was 2-3000 people. They were awesome raves, really really good. I played that and that got my name out into record shops on flyers. Then I was booked to play in Amnesia in Coventry which was massive back then, and it went from there really. Once Gideon from Obsession – or Fantazia as it was known back then – booked me, he took me down to Exeter, down to the South coast.

There are so many stories of people getting stitched for payment, or encountering gangsters, is this something you came across?

I never did. To be honest, I never had time to hang about in raves. At that time I was really getting busy – I’d do Newcastle, over to Carlisle, then over to Exeter in the same night. It’s a bit gutting really, I would have liked to experience it a bit more, to soak up the atmosphere rather than just turn up and play, but that’s the way it was.

What were the tunes that came out around 1991 – 92 that really sounded to you like the sound was being pushed forward?

That’s easy – Edge #1 – well, it’s called Compounded and the artist is Edge #1. I remember I was at an Ark night in Leeds – it’s something I was doing from 91-95. They were wicked nights, and I remember one night Grooverider was on, and at last I had a chance to check some other DJs out. He pulled that tune out, and it was something that I’d never heard before. Most of the other stuff was pure breakbeat then, but this had the kick to it, and that synth line. I went up to him and said ‘what the fuck is that!?’ I think that’s a real seminal track.

What point did you get into the production?

That was about ‘94. Heavy breakbeat stuff had split off into jungle, but there were a few DJs who still liked the four/four kick – it was noticeable in 92 – 93 hardcore that there were tracks that had the 4/4 kick running through, but in ’94 it branched off into a genre of just that, a lot happier as well, lots of piano breaks in there. ‘94 was when I still had a full time job, but I had so many gigs that I thought I just can’t carry on working 7 til 5 or whatever it was – I’d end up having to cancel gigs because I was so tired. So I thought, everywhere I was DJing was busy, it was a really good time for raves, so I made the decision to quit the day job and start producing. It was crazy times – I think Slipmatt’s SMD #1 did about 20,000 copies. For something that’s not being advertised on radio that’s not bad for a day’s work.

And you were pursing the happier 4/4 sound – was that a conscious decision to move away from the breakbeats?

To be honest it was forced, which is unfortunate. My favourite era, which is probably 87-90, the tunes I really liked were the bass heavy breakbeat tunes, really dark tunes like Unique 3, Nightmares on Wax, LFO… I dunno. I really liked the early 90s as well, up to 94, because there was the mixture, you could play a piano track, and then follow it with the darkest thing you’ve heard in your life and the crowd would lap it up. But when it split you kinda had to make a choice. I remember in 94, the jungle stuff was just a bit too dark and monotonous, it was all amen breaks and I wasn’t really inspired by it, but then it bothers me that the happy scene was a bit too happy – there wasn’t much variation in it. So I tried to introduce a bit of darkness into the tracks, but it split so much. It was amazing how it split so immensely. Within the space of a year happy hardcore was a million miles away from jungle. It was ridiculously popular and the atmosphere at happy hardcore raves was out of this world, but it always bugged me that there wasn’t more variety and that if you did do something a bit different it didn’t get as good a reaction as the really happy stuff.

Then in the late 90s and early 00s there was a period where vinyl stopped selling and record shops started closing down. How did you react to this? Was there ever a point where you were worried?

There’s been a few occasions like that. Around 98-99 happy hardcore had run it’s course a little bit, and the scene started to take a bit of a dip. That was a worrying time, but luckily the trance element was introduced, that gave it another kick up the balls as it were – that style is still around 16 years later. That got popular, and by 2005-06 it was absolutely massive again, it picked right up. That coincided with the decline of vinyl – vinyl sales were a big chunk of my income and I had to adapt to the digital market which at the time was nowhere near as big. That’s the reason I stopped producing, you’ve got to support yourself and now there’s just not the financial reward in producing hardcore. It’s a shame but that’s how it’s gone.

 

So you’ve got another job?

Yeah I’m in property development now, I’ve been doing it for about 10 years – with the decline in record sales and downloads I had to branch out and do something else. It’s good – Djing now I’m not doing it just for the money, I’m doing it more for enjoyment than having to pay the bills.

Are you a naturally manic person? Because to me, 180 bpm is manic. You seem pretty laidback to be honest..

Hahaha, I’m very laidback I’d say – the thing with hardcore is you get the half tempo feel to it – it sounds like 90 bpm to me, it’s the way you interpret it I suppose. I remember when the tempos started to creep up and Ellis-D put out a track called something like ‘keep rave at 140 bpm’ – and you’d hear tracks faster than that and be like Jesus Christ it’s too fast! Now we’re at 180 bpm and I don’t even bat an eyelid. It’s crazy how you get used to it.

OK, finally what’s the greatest rave you played at?

I think the 1992 Fantazia at Matchams Park in Bournemouth. I was doing a very late set, 4 til 5 or 5 til 6 or something. I drove down and it was a beautiful morning. The sun was coming up, and it was dead quiet where I parked. I walked up 500 yards, walked round the corner into this huge crowd of 10 or 15,000 people going mental as the sun came up. It was absolutely wicked.

 

 

Advertisements

Moby on his first Top Of The Pops

‘I jumped around, banged on my keyboard and yelled Go’: Moby on his first Top Of The Pops

In an extract from his new memoir, the musician and DJ recalls his first visit to London: dowdy B&Bs, deserted streets and performing with his heroes

From the Guardian – https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/may/21/jumped-around-banged-keyboard-yelled-go-moby-first-totp

Moby in the UK in the 90s
Moby in the UK in the 90s. Photograph: Jurgen Ostarhild

I was flying to London for the third time in two months in 1991, to play a show for Kiss FM and to perform on Top Of The Pops. Go, this oddball song that I recorded on a few hundred dollars’ worth of equipment, was now a Top 10 hit in the UK.

The record company had sent a car to pick me up from Heathrow. After two hours in traffic, we pulled up to the hotel. Except it wasn’t a hotel. It was a sad grey house on a sad grey road in a defeated part of London.

Eric, my new manager, met me outside the house. He and I had met in New York a year ago and I’d asked him to be my manager, even though he hadn’t ever really managed anyone. He was tall, German, and seemed trustworthy. “Welcome to sunny England!” he said in the drizzle.

“Is this the hotel?” I asked.

“It’s a B&B; my office is nearby. It seemed like a good choice,” he said.

We walked in and I got my key from a woman in the entranceway. She was wearing a worn beige dress and reading the Daily Mirror. “Here’s your key,” she croaked. “Your room’s on the second floor and the bathroom’s down the hall.” She handed me a towel that had clearly been used in the second world war to mop up diseased blood from the basements of infirmaries.

“OK, pop star,” Eric said. “I’ll pick you up at one.”

“OK, I’ll just take a shower,” I said.

“Shower’s 50p for five minutes.”

I was confused. The shower cost money?

“You put 50p in the shower and you get five minutes of water,” she said brusquely.

***

That evening, Eric and I drove to the Astoria. My dressing room was a small closet with a black plastic chair and two bare lightbulbs over a mirror. “It’s just as depressing as your hotel,” Eric the German comedian said. “You should feel right at home.”

I looked at the running order. “I play for 10 minutes?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Eric said. “You play Go, and then maybe play Go again.”

Eric and I walked up to the stage. The show was in an old, venerable theatre but it felt like a rave. The crowd was waving glow sticks and blowing air horns and whistles. On stage, Dream Frequency were playing their hit Feel So Real. The stage was full of singers, dancers, and keyboard players. The song sounded amazing and I was petrified.

The MC said, “Now from New York, Moby Go!” I had got used to being introduced as “Moby Go”: because of the design of my single’s sleeve many Britons thought “Moby Go” was my name.

I ran on stage. The crowd roared, but I panicked because my keyboard wasn’t plugged in and I didn’t even have a microphone. They didn’t care: 3,000 people were dancing and yelling “Go!” at the top of their lungs. I banged on my unplugged keyboard and yelled “Go!”.

The song ended and the MC returned. “Wicked! Top tune from Moby Go! Next up are Manchester favourites K-Klass!” Some roadies ran on stage, grabbed my keyboard, and rushed it off stage. I stood there, confused. Wasn’t I supposed to play a second song?

A pass for Moby's tour with the Prodigy in 1992
Pinterest
A pass for a tour with the Prodigy in 1992. Photograph: Moby’s personal collection

“Come on, mate, get off the fucking stage!” one of the roadies barked at me. I scurried off.

“That was great!” Eric said. “They loved it!”

“But my keyboard was unplugged and I didn’t have a microphone and what about my second song?” I asked.

“Oh, they’re running behind schedule so they’re cutting people’s second songs. They told me while you were on.”

I considered that. “The song was OK?” I asked.

“It was amazing! Didn’t you see the crowd?”

“But I wasn’t really doing anything.”

“It doesn’t matter. They loved it.”

I hung out and watched the rest of the show: Orbital, 808 State, the Prodigy. It was like listening to my record collection. After the show, Eric dropped me back at my alleged hotel. It was 1am and I had to be up at 8.30 for Top Of The Pops. Sleeping would be wise, but I was now wide awake. I went for a walk.

I walked for a mile or so before it started to rain. The only shops open were Pakistani grocery stores: little beacons of light on the wide empty streets. I came to an overpass and looked at the railway lines beneath me. Why was this city so quiet? Growing up, I’d imagined London to be like Times Square, with every inch a riot of noise and activity. I thought of a Clash lyric in London’s Burning, “I run through the empty stone because I’m all alone”, and it made sense.

I’d grown up seeing two different Englands on TV. There was the bucolic England with witty university students floating on slow boats on gentle rivers and sunny ponds. Then there was this England, the rainy, cold England that was the background for every movie about defeated people waiting to die in public housing estates. This was the country that gave birth to Joy Division. If Ian Curtis had been born in Palo Alto he’d probably be managing a chain of organic coffee shops and married to a yoga teacher.

My shoes were getting squishy from the rain. I walked for another hour and got back to my hovel. It was 5am and I had to wake up in three hours. There was a thin grey light coming through the curtains. I kept my clothes on, got under the one smallpox-ridden blanket, and willed myself to sleep.

***

“Pop star! It’s your big day! Wake up!” It was Eric, yelling on the other side of the door. I was already dressed, so I put on my damp sneakers.

When Sally from the record company showed me my dressing room at the BBC I almost started crying with joy. It was small, but it had a radiator and was warm. Most importantly, it had its own bathroom and its own shower.

I took off my stinky travel clothes and stepped into the shower for 10 uninterrupted minutes. The water was hot, and for the first time in days, I was clean. I dried off and lay down on the couch. The rain was pattering against the old windows, the steam heat was clanking in the old radiator, and I felt at peace. I closed my eyes, and there was a knock on the door. “Moby? First run-through in five minutes!”

I climbed on to the tiny stage where I’d be performing. None of the gear was plugged in. “Do they plug in the equipment before the broadcast?” I asked.

“No,” Eric said. “Some people sing live, but everyone mimes their equipment.”

I looked across the room: New Order were rehearsing on their stage. I’d loved Joy Division obsessively and loved New Order just as much. Now they were standing 40 feet away from me. When it was my turn, I stood behind my unplugged equipment and jumped around a bit and yelled “Go” into the unplugged microphone.

Three naps and two rehearsals later, Sally came to my dressing room. “Do you have your clothes ready?” she asked.

I was going to wear a pair of yellow pants that I’d found at a Salvation Army shop and a green T-shirt covered in arrows. I thought it looked cool and futuristic, possibly like something Marinetti would have worn if he’d been a balding techno musician and not an aspiring fascist.

I stepped out of the dressing room and Eric guffawed. “That’s what you’re going to wear?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said defensively. Sally looked concerned.

“The guys from a club called Rush gave you a T-shirt if you want to wear it?”

I took off my futuristic arrows shirt and put on the proffered Rush T-shirt.

“Much better,” Eric said. “You look almost modern.”

Pinterest
Moby performing Go on Top Of The Pops in 1991

We walked into the TV studio for the live broadcast and the energy was completely different from the rehearsals: the lights were flashing, all the musicians were dressed up, and the studio was filled with audience members. My song started. I jumped around, banged on my keyboard, yelled, “Go!” and whacked the Octapad. And in three minutes, before I even knew what was happening, it was done. I was hurried off my little stage by a stagehand and walked down the hallway and back to my dressing room.

A moment later, Eric came in. “How was that?” I asked.

“It looked good, but maybe next time you want to dance a little less?”

“You think so? But what should I do?”

“I don’t know, just play keyboards and hit the drum machine.”

“OK,” I said, slightly chastened.

***

I took off my futuristic yellow pants and my Rush club shirt and stepped into the shower. The adrenaline left me and I deflated like a balloon. None of this made sense to me. What was I doing here? Living in an abandoned factory in a crack neighbourhood made sense to me. Playing punk rock shows for 10 people in a dingy bar made sense to me. Walking around New York dropping off cassettes at record labels made sense to me. But flying to England and being on TV shows confused me to the core of my soul. Top Of The Pops was New Order’s world. It was Phil Collins’ world. I loved it, maybe too much, but it wasn’t my world.

Britain’s biggest raver Billy ‘Daniel’ Bunter on a life of thrills, pills and more pills

Biggest Raver eh?

 

Anyway decent interview over at Fact…

Billy ‘Daniel’ Bunter talks about a lifetime of thrills, pills and more pills in Britain’s happy hardcore and hard dance scenes.

Source: Britain’s biggest raver Billy ‘Daniel’ Bunter on a life of thrills, pills and more pills