The past couple of years had seen Terminates Here achieve many of it’s long-standing objectives, and the general rate of activity was encouraging. But there were still new things to try. Live bands for instance. I’d been DJ support to countless live acts in recent years, but could it be that hard to put on a few of my own? The calendar had determined that the critical date of 24th February (24/2!) fell on a Friday this year, but a new event Exit The Grey already had that slot. I’ve got nothing against them, they’re just two DJs I’d never personally worked with. If I wanted to run my own event on the same night, I had to play a different hand.
Finding willing live acts wasn’t hard as I’d built up plenty of contacts in recent years. Black Light Ascension were up for the headline slot, DJ Translight agreed to open and the middle spot was taken by Personal Propaganda Machine, bringing me back in touch with Ross Liddle, who’d played (Un)Common People back in 2014. I’d arranged the Urban Bar in Whitechapel as a venue, not exactly in scene heartland but essentially workable. And despite the fact than none of the bands were strictly speaking ‘EBM’, I jumped on the 24/2 dateline and dubbed the event “Tragedy >Four<”, with original event DJs Nathan Nothing and Kreigslok back in the fold.
Not willing to go into another new venture blind, I’d consulted live music expert Ays Kura about the various complications we may encounter. He put my mind at rest – by booking three acts that didn’t use a live drumkit, I’d removed the biggest complication without even thinking about it. And that’s how it worked out – soundcheck was a simple case of tuning guitars and balancing levels through DIs. The sound engineer seems impressed with my organisation levels (he didn’t know that I’d never tried something like this before). We were open on time, I took it upon myself to act as compère, introducing the first act at 20:29 tonight (why not squeeze in another reference?) and we were go.
Everything went as smoothly as I could have hoped. I even got in a short speech at the end about supporting live music in London, and almost as an afterthought, had to play my own DJ set at the afterparty, there and then! Extra 242 to mark the date, plus a few oddball requests (Sunglasses at Night?), otherwise we were back to the established sound of previous >Tragedy< events. And the incredible thing? Even once we’d paid everyone who had a fixed fee, we still emerged in profit financially. What had gone right?
Swimming in the Ocean – Respected by the Sharks
We were back at the Tufnell Park a few weeks later, the re-jigged venue putting the DJs on the stage! Amazingly, despite all the years of playing this event, I was still able to find new and interesting things to play here, though I did briefly revive the mittelalter rock late in the event, a style that simply never caught on over here. Back across the road at Aces and Eights, I got the idea once more that this concept still had legs as a standalone event if only we could pick the right date. We agreed that Easter Sunday was the perfect moment and set it up without too much difficulty.
But once again I’d fallen into the trap of unknowingly clashing with a big event that was simply outside my field of vision – Invocation was checking out of The Minories for the last time that night, another event to whom I bore no grudge, but involved DJs that I’d simply “missed out” on working with over the years. The person who actually revealed the clash to me, however, did so with a glint of satisfaction that I’d unknowingly set myself up to fail. Tried to convince people to come to our event first, but just for once, the big event of the scene wasn’t in North London. Luckily the pub had plenty of regular punters that night, so we played their requests instead, but the joy of the open-request list process simply wasn’t there.
Under a Pale Gray Sky – We Shall Arise
Still, Renaissance was back later in the month, now moved to Nightclub Kolis. Another twelve-hour epic, my role as DJ co-ordinator got extra hard due to two late line-up changes and a total of seven DJs to co-ordinate, with an outdoor second stage! It was fortunate that it didn’t rain, as bringing the outdoor bands indoors would have eaten up what little DJ time went around. As it happened, Scott and myself were around from opening, as was DJ Ban (good to have my Infest co-DJ back for another adventure) and also the Italian DJ Zaira. So for us at least, there were plenty of gaps to fill in the reworked running order.
This also meant another Djing first – support DJ on the outdoor stage! OK, the sun shone on my tablet screen but somehow I navigated CrossDJ just about well enough to create something of an atmosphere in what was really the smoking area with an improvised PA. Later in the day I had to work the complexity of making sure extreme metal specialist DJ 69 got to support the heaviest part of the event and finding time for Jo The Waiter and Vade Retro to fit into the stacked later portion of the bill – in the end, as they are both club-hours veterans, I just left them to play the afterparty. My work was done by then.
I was back at the same venue and many of the same people a few months later for “Ich Will”, a tribute night to Rammstein. I hadn’t played a ‘single band special’ since Y34R Z3R0 back in 2012 and wasn’t originally billed for this one, but when I asked if any of the other Neue Deutsche Härte bands would be played (Eisbrecher, Ost+Front, Oomph!, etc), I quickly got brought into the fold. It’s always got me that whilst Rammstein have a huge following here, none of the other German bands playing the style are even known here. I’m one of only a few DJs here who’ve ever really acknowledge their existence. When Ost+Front barely half-filled the Underworld that same year, I filed this mystery under the category of “unsolvable problems”. Sure, I get occasional request for Eisbrecher, but I’m pretty sure it’s the same few people asking for them each time.
Still, with everything setup, we hit a crisis on the night when DJ Translight’s laptop died at the last moment. With Ays Kura off searching London for the means of repair (alas, this was one fix too far for our live tech wizard) and Ostfrau only set up for the intro set, I was left to fill the gap. A two-hour set. I pulled the Aces and Eights trick of polling the floor for requests, and launched into 120 minutes of Rammstein combined with whatever other metal bands that fitted in. We were never going to fill the whole night up with R+ alone as they don’t actually have that many albums.
In the end, I got in one from each album plus their “Stripped” single and the Laibach version of “Ohne Dich”, half a dozen of the Neue Deutsche Härte collective and enough other metal to keep the audience in motion. I emerged from the booth exhausted but happy, the event was back on track and Ays and Vade Retro would take it from here, though I did get in a further half-hour off tablet later. I then did something I’ve hardly ever done. Emerged into sunlight after a DJ set. It seems all my previous later-nighters have been in winter….
Where Is The Youth?
In many respects, it was just as well this event worked out, as my busy flurry of Djing was about to take a hit. The summer heat was kicking in, and at summer ABBS a few weeks later, it was revealed to me that I’d arranged my next Tragedy >For Us< event clashing with the mega-scale fetish-theme alternative Club Antichrist! It’s worth explaining at this point why this matters….our scene isn’t that big, there’s only a small pool of disposable income to draw from. A big multi-floor event eats up a massive chunk of that income – you can pretty much forget about trying to run an event on the same weekend, never mind same night.
There’s also this thing I call ‘social gravity’ – once a certain number of people declare they’re going to ‘Event X’, others will follow. You can’t tempt them with event ‘Event Y’, even with the offer of free entry, cheaper drinks, a better-defined music policy or the absence of any association to a massive non-event three years previously. Add the presence of a warm spell where people either want to be outdoors or wearing as few clothes as possible and you can see where this one was headed.
In the end, neither our ABBS afterparty nor Tragedy >For Us< itself were well attended at all. Indeed, by the time I played the final few songs at Tragedy, there were no customers left in the room and I’d finally committed the act I had been avoiding for years – playing to an empty room. It was no surprise that for the first time I lost my deposit on a venue. It was time to retreat for a few months.
Now It’s Just a Memory, Eroded by the Years
But there was a small compensation. As part of my promotion for the event, I’d agreed a double-side flier-share with Cavey Nik, who was promoting his next Dead and Buried event. In amongst the discussion, I agreed to play Nik’s other night, No Tears, with a more minimal-synth friendly theme. This was right up my street (and, near enough, right down our road) – I’d found a promoter and audience who understood that there was more to ‘Neue Deutsche Welle’ than 99 Luftballoons. And in case I’m confusing you with all these Neue Deutsche genres (and I haven’t even got to Neue Deutsche Todeskunst yet), tough.
The venue was in Hornsey, some way north of the scene’s epicentre and not particularly near a tube station. However, we still got a dozen or so in time for my early set, which wasn’t that danceable anyway. For the second set, we had a got crowd and I hit the old-school drum machine rhythms, and by the last set we were packed and I broke out the hits. Never beyond throwing a curveball, I chucked in “Magic Fly” by Space on the back of an isolated mention in conversation earlier in the day. I think that got the best response of the night, and the failure of a few months previous was alleviated.
Things were on a roll once more. We were back at the ABBS in September, with Zaira (first met at Renaissance) now as guest DJ. I originally had ideas that she would be my long-term replacement, but alas she’s no longer in the UK. Replacement? Well, it became clear to me that there’s only so long a DJ can go in this scene without repeating themselves. Some don’t mind, in some case it’s even their trademark. But with a still-huge array of music to choose from, I’ve never walked that path. When I realised that part of my first set was just a chunk from Tragedy >For Two< in 2015, and that I was really scraping the barrel later in the day to find something fresh to play, I realised it may be time to let another in.
The Aces afterparty still had a thrill factor. Turning up not knowing what you’re going to play, not even the essential style of the night, still gets the creative energies flowing. After the summer slump, we had a good crowd once more, and some of the most interesting requests ever (who in the UK actually asks for Lacrimosa?). There was still some space for what we refer to as ‘Dealers Choice’ tunes – usually played to warm up the soundsystem or to genre hop. After all the Bowie and Prince tributes of 2016, it fell to me to mark the loss of Felix Flaucher of Silke Bischoff, later 18 Summers. If you don’t know who I’m referring to, well, it’s all part of the lessons learned from reading this thing.
We Live In Fear and Drunken Lies
I had a couple of goes at Yesterday’s Shadow in the Autumn. The September event fell at the end of a busy day for us. We’d won us a trip to Williams F1’s heritage collection by virtue of guessing Lance Stroll’s fastest lap at the British GP (don’t ask why that matters). Having made it to Grove and back via engineering works on trains slower than the teams 2018 F1 challenger, and then out to the Pack and Elixir-whatever-it’s-called, I sleepwalked through an early set that just didn’t capture the mood at the time. Luckily I got a second go later, now completely in tune with the audience, kicking off with my trademark “Tragedy >For You<” and ending with Oxygene IV, which I’d decided by now was well-known enough to play in club sets, even if it’s not exceptionally rhythmic.
The November one was a classic, though. Having kicked off with punky stuff like The Skids and The Ruts, I got a request for Dernière Volonté. French neofolk isn’t really in the music policy but their minimal synth take on the style was (I’d played things like Opera Multi Steel there before), and I worked there via an excursion through post-punk and EBM and then out again through darkwave. Later in the night, I shoehorned “Highway To Hell” into proceedings – we’d lost Malcolm Young that very day, his brother George a few weeks previous. Was anyone brave enough to interrupt the 80s retro mood for a tribute song? Never underestimate where a DJ Terminates Here set may take you…..
But where would DJ Terminates Here take me? The answer – Antwerp.
Lost Somewhere In Paradise, A Lonesome King Feels Cold At Night
OK, we were already going there to see Depeche Mode anyway, but I remembered some conversations with Danny Dupont and Lizard Smile during Ad:Rem 2016. It had long been an ambition of mine to DJ overseas, to try a new audience and stretch my wings, although my aversion to the process of travelling meant my range wouldn’t be that far. Belgium isn’t much of a challenge to get to though – one Eurostar ticket and the whole country is at your disposal, and in Flemish territory at least, speaking English isn’t a problem. Also, we already knew the city after a trip to BIMFest in 2013. (Side note: my first attempt at getting an overseas set was in the one place even closer – Lille, but despite best efforts, that didn’t happen).
A deal to DJ a live event of Lizard Smile and Spankraght a couple of nights before the Mode show was soon arranged. Eurostar was refreshingly uncomplicated, and we arrived in a rainy Antwerp on a cold November afternoon. Actually getting to the venue was a challenge – JH Wommel being in one of the forts on the outskirts of the city and not easy to find. Still, we found it, the vaulted brick ceiling a reminder of the original Reptile venue, now long since disused by the scene back home.
I got wired in and began playing some music. What was originally a warm-up set was actually the start of a full-blown evening of Djing, interrupted only by the two bands, and going on until 2am. I’d travelled this far to play some tunes, and I was ready to rise to the challenge. All the more accessible areas of my remit got in, though even here a few lesser-played tunes made it too – a request for Borghesia was unexpected, as was my only ever DJ play of Valor-era Christian Death, inspired by a T-shirt in the crowd. My job was complete, safe in the knowledge that my London friends were having a blast at the second Ich Will on the same night.
The rest of the weekend went well, ending with a return-to-glory set from Depeche Mode. On my return home, it was time to think about the December ABBS. Thinking back to some of the less-than-inspired sets at the last couple, I decided that this would be my last time playing the event as a regular DJ (though that didn’t happen in the end). As a final act, I suggested to Scott we should play one hour each in each others styles. So whilst he was revising Front 242, Ministry and Skinny Puppy, I looked up the shoegaze and 90s alt-rock. We still did an hour in our ‘own’ styles, with the two Yesterday’s Shadow DJs filling in the rest of the gaps.
Und der Schneemann sieht sie an
On the morning of the event, snow began to fall. And settle. Snow on Sunday mornings has little traffic to clear it, and promptly brought transport in London to near-standstill. I had to get from Bounds Green to Tufnell Park, which eventually amounted to walking, sorry, sliding to Wood Green, getting one of the few Piccadilly Line trains to Holloway Road and walking from there. In non-waterproof footwear. I resembled the bloke from that Covenant album on arrival – luckily Scott lived closer and was on earlies anyway so somehow we managed to do what needed to be done.
Attendance was about half what it normally was, but we still did the role-reversal sets, and thankfully the other two DJs made it in the end, allowing us to get a head-start over the road for Open Request List. With the snow cleared by then, it was one of our busiest ever, a real morale-booster after such a difficult start to the day. As far as the ABBS went, I’d decided on the day that it couldn’t end at an event limited by force majeure, so decided to carry on, at least until a replacement for me could be found.
Strangely, I had two further sets to play in 2017 after this. The Yesterday’s Shadow Christmas Special had eight DJs, but I was still given two sets, and inspired by recent events, got three Belgian bands into my first set (242, Siglo xx and Arbeid Adelt!), but had to leave immediately after my second due to a family commitment the next day. The final set was the closest I could get to New Years Eve – a 30 December event entitled ‘Daancing and Larfing’ – a one-off London revival of Nathan’s former Manchester club night in London, taking his Special Love project to the stage.
Black Light Ascension were also on the bill, so it felt like a full circle going back to Tragedy >Four<. With DJ Matt The Mo having to leave early and Gertrud Stein doing double-duty as sound engineer, I actually ended up doing the bulk of the Djing here. A run of obscurities between the live shows and a lengthy set of hits straight after, again choosing to end on Oxygene IV. With no chance of a New Years Eve set anywhere, that would be my lot for 2017. The third straight year of success for Terminates Here, most of my objectives now complete. Would that result in a period of complacency in 2018?
Well, Yes. And No. Read about it here….