This guide comes after a lengthy break in my long-form writing. In order to get back on track, I realised I had to cover a band where I could really spin a tale, both in terms of the band’s own history and how their music affected me. And when I think back to which band broke the Anglo-American dominated nature of my CD collection back in the late 1990s and dragged me willingly into the ‘scene’ that has dominated my life ever since, Apoptygma Berzerk are the band most responsible.
The name means little to many, indeed it means nothing at all in linguistic terms. However, behind that incomprehensible name is a fascinating, diverse, sometimes frustrating project, one who’s never afraid to state its influences, but always willing to take them in a variety of directions. It is a project of many facets, many influences and many motivations, and hence despite not having the largest backcatalogue of all the bands I’m planning to cover, it’s still my longest Listener’s Guide to date.
Djing is not a solo pursuit, and there’s many people I need to thank. There are some people that do need a special mention and they are….
Stephanie Dunk for giving me the start-up that set this whole story in motion.
Ays Kura and Richard Kaltenhauser for providing me with opportunities that really allowed me to take Terminates Here to places I never thought it would go.
Chris Molyneux for introducing me to the right people at key moments
Scott McMahon for putting up with my company longer than anyone
Mandy Graves for being there through all the part of this story I didn’t write about!
Next a tribute to as many of the other DJs I’ve worked with who’s names I remember…..Andy Ravensable, Robert Cowlin, Martin Oldgoth, DJX, Paul Alan, Miss Jade, James Black, Vade Retro, KG Orphanides, Alan Hicks, Miss Bleep, Wozza, DJ Shadowchaser, Dancefloor Landmine, Jo The Waiter, Demondaz, Kirlian Blue, DJ Paladin, DJ Jester, Captain Howard, DJ traumahound, Ross Liddle, Alcuin Hipwell, Nathan Nothing, DJ Kriegslok, Grimorg, Valeriun, The Baron, Shai Rothfeld, Danny Dup, Caroline Vain, Paul Sticks, The Count, DJ Ban, DJ Zaira, DJ Translight, DJ Ostfrau, Cavey Nik, Ana Necrogoth, Matt The Mo, Gertud Stein, Mike Tzulan, DJ Stromtod and DJ Chelle Helle.
And the bands I’ve offered a support slot for….Ghost In The Static, Futurefrenetic, Digital Deformation, Cease2Exist, Global Citizen, Machine Rox, System:FX, Die Kur, Ventenner, MaxDmyz, Jordan Reyne, Dreams Divide, Decayed Reflection, TerrorNation, Kommand + Kontrol, Method Cell, V2A, Saville Row, BB Blackdog, Calatrilloz, Bleak, Ghostfire, Reskizio, Paresis, Analog Angel, Deviant UK, Null White, Global Noise Attack, London SS, Drilling Spree, Themira, K-Nitrate, Ariel Undine, Ghostfire, Spacebuoy, Project Rotten, Mechanical Cabaret, Urchin Child, Cat Beat Tree, Girl From The Castle…..
(pause for breath)
…..Cold In Berlin (surely this should have been Scott?), MixE1, Amon Zero, The Infinite Three, History Of Guns, Little Death Machine, Faceless Dolls, Swivelman, Cortex Defect, Deadcell, Non-Bio, Deja Vu II (OK, OK, that’s ME!), Death Valley Scars, Splendor, Maleficent, Protafield, The Memepunks (this one was a private booking but it still counts), The Tango Pirates, Andrew King, Institution D.O.L. (Power Electronics – At Last!), Lizard Smile, Invasion of Female Logic, Pantser Fabriek, Peter Von Toy, Hana Piranha, DJ Translight (the live project this time!), Grimbergen, STAB Electronics, Triarii, MDS.51, Schramm, Akalotz, Spankraght, Special Love and Toxic Shock. Also thanks to Black Light Ascension – who (amazingly) I’ve never directly DJ supported but have been part of the story nonetheless!
Thanks also to the venues that hosted Terminates Here-branded events – Aces and Eights, Hope and Anchor, Dirty Dicks (sadly no longer in the music game), Elixir Bar (ditto), The Urban Bar and last but certainly not least Nightclub Kolis!
And finally I need to thank everyone not already listed who were part of the story via turning up, dancing, requesting tunes, working the door and the bar, getting the PA working (too right!), engineering the sound, giving out the fliers or simply promoting the events, the bands, the DJs and the scene as a whole. This is just as much for all of you as everyone I’ve listed so far.
It really is the end now. If you came in part-way through, you might want to go back to the Intro.
Whilst only the original or named version counts, ties have been broken by the number of remixes or covers of the same song I’ve also played.
1. DAF – Der Mussolini
2. Skinny Puppy – Smothered Hope
3. Front 242 – Tragedy >For You<
4. Killing Joke – Requiem
5. Depeche Mode – Photographic (Some Bizarre)
6. Project Pitchfork – Timekiller
7. Nitzer Ebb – Let Your Body Learn
8= Depeche Mode – Ice Machine
8= Die Krupps – Robo Sapien
8= Front Line Assembly – Mindphaser
8= Invincible Spirit – Push!
12= Covenant – Figurehead (Plain)
12= A Split Second – Flesh
14. Absolute Body Control – Figures
15= Front 242 – Welcome To Paradise
15= Motörhead – Ace of Spades (WTF?)
We then get a multi-way tie with AC/DC (Highway to Hell), Cubanate (Oxyacetylene), OMD (Enola Gay and Maid of Orleans), Sisters of Mercy (Vision Thing), Tool (Stinkfist), Underworld (Cowgirl) and VNV Nation (Joy) all featuring.
The top two are obvious hits from bands that either don’t have many songs (DAF) or don’t have many songs suitable for DJ play (Skinny Puppy). The next few are all personal favourites for one reason or another.
Both the Depeche Mode songs to get in were written by Vince Clarke – the highest scoring Gore-written songs were Wrong and Everything Counts (Live 101 version). Timekiller is the highest ranked song from the 21st century, Robo Sapien the newest song on the list, and the only one release AFTER my DJ story began!
Most Played Bands
1. Depeche Mode
2. Front 242
3. Nine Inch Nails
4. Project Pitchfork
6. Killing Joke
7. VNV Nation
8. Diary Of Dreams
10. Skinny Puppy
The ‘Mode tops the list mainly due to two Depeche Mode tribute nights I played early on in my DJ career – Front 242 is the band I’ve played at the most different events. NIN and Rammstein also shoot up the list due to featuring at single-band tribute events that I’ve played.
David Bowie came in 13th and Fad Gadget 21st, proof that the influence of certain artists lives on long after they themselves have passed on. Most played band with female vocals was Kirlian Camera – Human League came higher but some of the tunes I picked pre-date Susan and Joanne’s tenure in the band.
Over 1500 bands have been played at some point, that’s more than ten per set.
It’s worth saying that I did briefly consider announcing an immediate retirement from Djing on the occasion of my 10th anniversary. It would have been a nice way to complete the circle before moving on to focus on other things. But as the date drew closer, it simply felt wrong to do that. I may have played less in 2018 than during any of the previous half-dozen years, but stopping completely would have been overkill. Besides, there’s still songs as yet unplayed, by me or any other DJ.
There’s still some things I want to play around the more esoteric styles available on labels like Hands and Ant-Zen, though finding suitable locations to play such material remains an unsolved problem. My existing collection has been well-covered but there’s new stuff arriving all the time. And with my first booking for 2019 arranged a few days prior to me writing this, it’s clear that people don’t want me to stop. There’s still a thrill factor in delivering a great set to an appreciative crowd. I don’t want to lose that.
Brexit remains the elephant in the room – London events have a significant following from EU expatriates, and more importantly, quite a few of these people actually run the events! Even if only a small minority of people have actually made UK exit plans of their own, it’s a worrying time with so many people being made to feel so unwelcome in a country who’s essential character is defined by population that’s diverse on so many levels. I for one have no choice but to stick around and see what happens, but there’s no reason to stop playing whilst the whole mess is being sorted out. Or not.
My music writing took off again in 2018, having hit upon a ‘retrospective’ tone that plays to my long-form style. There’s plenty more of that to come in 2019, and it may mean less time to spend putting on events of my own. But I’m not stopping. This story may Terminates Here, but this DJ does not.
My first 2018 set was arranged during some rare downtime during my Antwerp trip in the last chapter. The former organiser of Neo-Noir hadn’t been involved with DJ events for years, having focused more on film. The two interests came together when the Deptford Cinema, a low-budget volunteer-run picturehouse, decided to put on a Spinal Tap special. As well as the film, we’d have an air guitar contest and plenty of music. That was my bit. And so my second consecutive gig in South London (only ever played three!) was arranged.
The venue wasn’t quite prepped when I arrived, so I used the ABBS technique of play-an-incredible-long-track-whilst-I-lent-a-hand (what else but Dylan’s “Desolation Row”?) and soon people began arriving. I had plenty of directions to take the evenings music – my original plan for a US-centric “cock rock” set was tweaked when I found the most requested band was Iron Maiden – obviously the mood was for British bands with a penchant for globetrotting. We’d also lost the last member of the classic Motörhead line up a few days previous (Fast Eddie Clarke), so “Ace of Spades” was brought out one more time. Often wondered why people request other Motörhead songs – as Lemmy once said “it’s all the same to me!”.
I ended up going as contemporary as Sabaton (when did the Scandinavians take the metal crown anyway?) and as old-school as The Who and The Rolling Stones. The improvised set-up was true to the spirit of past Terminates Here sets, as was the idea of having a DJ in a cinema, so I like to think I was the right person to do this. A rather misplaced private set took place a week later – the demand was for contemporary pop and EDM and I just don’t play that. In any case, you’ll have to wait until the papers are released under the 20 year rule for this one, but as I only did the early shift, it doesn’t really matter.
I Never Lied, I Never Joked
And that was it for a while. The Spring ABBS didn’t take place due to a mutual case of non-availability, and nothing much else was forthcoming. The people I’d played for in the past were either offering their sets to others or not putting anything on. And my own events? The drive simply wasn’t there. I took one look at my Facebook calendar, saw the number of small-scale events on, and whilst I went to quite a few of them, it only proved to me that London was ‘fully booked’. The idea of cramming in another event merely to have an excuse to play a set no longer seemed viable.
As it happened, the next set to come along was one that also kept true to my “make it distinctive” policy. DJs Translight and Ostfrau (remember Ich Will?) had decided to give the Sunday Evening market a go – with more Sunday DJ hours on the clock that anyone except possibly Scott, I was the obviously choice as a guest for their debut. The basement of The Albany was brought into use. Some small scale scene events had previously taken there, but I mainly remember it from many years previous, where I once got roped in as a judge for a stand-up comedy competition. Doesn’t matter – I was back in the booth.
With the other two DJs essentially on the rock side of things, I could go synthy. I decided to kick off with a percussion-free song – “Castle of Sand” by Kite (a band and song covered in detail at the end of my live memoir from last year), before my first and only brace of tunes from that most fashionably obscure of genres – Witch House. I can’t take any style of music that sounds like a property magazine seriously, but it has produced some interesting pieces and this was the right moment to get them into a set. I upped the tempos a little later, including OMD’s “Maid Of Orleans”. For some reason, I decided to leave the DJ booth and recreate Andy McCluskey’s “Whilrling Dervish-meets-Dad-at-the-disco” dance to said song. In full view of everyone. It was a comical moment at a time when things were getting serious.
2018 was an era of many bitter, vicious online exchanges, and a particularly bad one kicked off on the way home from this very event. I won’t revive the precise subject matter, but it was enough to alienate me permanently from a number of sub-factions within the scene and was another sign that the Terminates Here mission was one that was closer to it’s end than first thought. But as my London prospects began to cloud over, there was the most glittering of a silver linings. My name was put forward to the Darkflower Club. In Leipzig. For the Wave-Gotik-Treffen festival.
STRAFTANZ – IM FLOWER!
Despite all the stories I’d heard about the complicated processes that go on in the process of organising the festival, this deal was done remarkably quickly. I was after all, playing a established club in the city that simply joined the festival for the weekend and not one of the bespoke venues brought into play for four days a year only. I was on the bill with two Austrian DJs – Mike Tzulan and Stromtod. Not having made it as far as Austria myself since a family holiday in 1989, we had no idea who each other were, but an exchange on Facebook shortly before (in English for my benefit only) established what we all played and we are set.
Whilst only a small proportion of my friends were actually attending Leipzig this year, people had cottoned onto the fact that this was a BIG THING. Sure, Facebook got excited, but colleagues of mine were wishing me all the best despite having no idea what the hell it was meant to be playing. Even my dad rang me up the night before we flew to Germany to wish me good luck – he usually only knows of my Djing activities after they’ve taken place! Emotions were unbelievably high. There have been a slew of UK DJs play the event in recent years, though most of them have had a long-standing association with an established club, band, genre or the event itself. An itinerant guest DJ like me with no real affiliations was a rarity indeed.
Retaining the habit of the past few years, we picked up our wristbands on arrive in Leipzig city centre, only this time, I tore open the programme and sure enough, Freitag, Darkflower, DJ TERMINATES HERE was on the bill. And at least point, the festival from this point to the night itself was something of a blur. A couple of bands at the EBM warm-up, a couple more early on Friday at the awkward new Stadtbad venue, and there was no doubt that I was at sixes and sevens throughout, zagging where I should have zigged and a bundle of nerves. This reached extreme when I returned to my hotel room to get my kit, only for my room key to fail. It was only a 5 minute delay to fix but I just didn’t need that.
Things felt better once I was at the venue. It might have been my first and so far only set in a territory where English is not widely understood, but I could marginally tone down my obsessive verbosity (what do you mean you noticed)? and so was happy to talk to Mike about events we’d previously played (Infest 2016 was essential for my kudos here) and Stromtod about the concept of putting film soundtracks into DJ sets (Hans Zimmer, Vangelis or Angelo Badalamenti?). Then soundcheck, and the first clue that I might have been a little out-of-my depth. Two DJs with massive consoles and me with a six-year old laptop. Nightglory had come this far with me, but sounded rubbish through the PA for some reason.
With no time to tweak, I pulled out my 8” tablet, tried a mix through the PA, discovered it sounded great and used it for the night! My setup might have looked pitiful, but all I had to do was make it SOUND good and surely I’d be OK? It had to be as this was no longer the friendly surroundings of the Infest Escape Bar. This was Germany, where this kind of thing is taken very seriously, Running order was agreed. On the understanding that everybody had to do one of the ‘empty ends’ of the night, I jumped at taking the first set and just for once didn’t mind kicking off with an empty room. I had to ease my way in with some downtempo dark electro, which worked well enough amongst the early arrivals.
Then I heard what the other two were doing. This was getting to banging uptempo territory fast, something I’d not heard since I last ventured on the Slimelight industek floor on NYE 2016. The populist genre-mix style I usually do was going on next door with the ‘celebrity’ DJs (frontmen from Covenant, Xymox and two later-day Sigue Sigue Sputnik members). By the time my midnight set came around, our floor was packed. Anything less than keeping them all there would not be tolerated.
So I went in with “Straftanz (Ost)”. There’s a version of this song for each corner of Germany, and obviously I needed the one that referred to the core audience, and even named the club we were in. Chiptune burst with the 600XL mix of “Pong” and I was still in the game. I upset one person who vocally complained about a couple of mixes I did, even bursting into the DJ booth to protest, but the staff got rid of him. As it happened, I nailed a perfect mix between the schaffel delights of “Electronaut” and Seb Komor’s version of the Game of Thrones theme (seems they love it in Germany too!) and I realised I might get away with this. Dragged myself back into old-school EBM territory as my next hour came to a close, having to tweak the gain heavily to make the old songs with pre-loudness war mastering sound loud enough, but the PA here had plenty in reserve.
By now I was exhausted, and I still had an hour left to play. Switched to soft drinks located in a fridge at the back of the booth, spent some time talking to the manager outdoors about various bits of Ost/West history, and finally the home run. Stromtod had worked up a furious head of noisy beats, and I decided to cut myself a slice of the action. Xotox, Punch Inc. and This Morn’Omina and then Feindflug’s “Glaubenskreig” – my favourite track for a bridge in or out of noisebeat, and through the Darkflower PA, it sounded like a bomb had just exploded. Given their militant image, I think that was original intention of the band.
It was in the bag now – everyone shouted along to the Full Metal Jacket samples of “Soilbleed”, back into old-school territory via “Plasticity” and my last half hour was, at last, the Terminates Here classics – Robo Sapien, Push!, Requiem (Project Pitchfork, not Killing Joke), Smothered Hope and, finally, Figurehead (Plain). Played only to give myself something to dance to at last, my job was done. At 4am CET, I left my new-found Austrian friends to see us through past sunrise, as I could go on no more.
I emerged to the first signs of dawn, delirious (despite having not drunk beer since 1am), the birds tweeting and the city asleep between the club nights still going on. I’d done it. The biggest name-event I was ever likely to play and regardless of whether I was up to the standards of others, in terms of technical ability or reputation, the pure fact is – It Happened. And for the first time, DJ Terminates Here ceased to be a journey. Instead, I felt like I’d reached a destination. The home city of my late grandmother, married to decades to a grandfather who loved his trips to Germany, even if he was always even worse at the language that I was. The circle was closed, the mission complete.
The rest of the festival was enjoyed with a somewhat reduced energy level, though I scored a free beer on the back of my DJ set when heading into Zeromancer on Saturday. By Sunday night, I was swaying to Jesus and Mary Chain and walked back from the tram stop after with legs of lead. The tank was empty. Despite an easier Monday, the weekend had a final sting in the tail with a nightmarish journey home, overbooked flight, delays, missed connection and the labyrinth that is Frankfurt Airport. Was humming The Great Escape theme as our final BA flight to London took off. Home at midnight, but I still immediately unpacked and filled the washing machine in a desperate attempt to get back to normalcy.
I got no illusions of superstardom from my WGT set, and I didn’t need to. DJ stardom is a sickening thing. There’s only so much kudos one can acquire by being a glorified record player operative, and I’m hoping this story, far from glamorizing the hobby (it’s hardly a profession) has revealed that it really isn’t that star-studded after all. Neither does it earn you much (in my case it’s a net loss). If you ain’t in it for the love of the music, get the fuck out and give your space to someone who wants it more. If you ARE in it for the music, though – please, keep doing it, and go off and have an adventure that may or may not be like this one. And then tell the world about it.
Do You Remember Me? Don’t You Know That I Miss You?
The ABBS was back in June. I’d decided that quitting at this point would have been wrong – as if I’d turned by back on those who’d given me my start the very moment I’d nailed that one big set. Cutting my committent to 1 hour was more dignified, as it gave us a chance to try out potential replacements. We originally thought Zaira was closest to my original style and would suit my spot well – unfortunately she wasn’t staying in the UK much longer, but we put her on in June anyway on a now-or-never basis.
As it happened, the June event went well. My one hour set reprised a few of the dark electro tracks I played during the “empty room phase” at WGT plus a selection of tunes from various compilations, bands I’d hoped to try out in the near future having established they’d already got at least one decent recording. It felt a bit “technical” delivering such a set, like I’d needlessly over-prepared, but once we were over at Aces and Eights, the thrill of the open request list process came back and I was once again amongst my own.
Two low-pressure sets in July. The first was the Die Kur EP launch with Toxic Shock in support – with plenty of time spare, this was shared with two other DJs. In the end, I handled the band supports, knowing my own less-obvious selections would fit in better there, giving the bulk of the afterparty over to DJ Translight. The next was a birthday party with a rented PA. Once again with Translight and Ostfrau (also Fil Noir), the greatest challenge was wiring the PA in and connecting to the wrong-sort-of-mixer (we’d got a studio panel instead of a DJ one). With various live musicians and DJs to hand, we got a workable solution eventually.
Actually playing the sets was pretty easy – with the Ich Will pair logically taking the industrial/dark metal, I’d had a remit of 80s rock and glam. Years of Open Request Lists plus that Spinal Tap party earlier in the year and this one was about as simple as it gets. The usual sing-along moments you usually get with such material didn’t kick in though – we had to wait for the last train home for that. England had beaten Sweden 2-0 earlier in the day with a World Cup semi the prize, and hence the footy crowd were in good spirits for once, actually entertaining the train rather than threatening it.
It was possibly appropriate that my last track of this stint was Alice Cooper’s “Schools Out” as it certainly was in a DJ sense. The Summer Slump was here again. Yesterday’s Shadow had lost their venue earlier in the year, I’d “had my go” at the other events that would take me, and of the other things that were going on, well, they were taking place in a different loop to the one I was in. I’d learned as far back as 2013 that “cold calling” isn’t a viable method of getting sets. Those people who say “It never hurts to ask” – you’re wrong. It makes you seem desperate, even a nuisance. And now I wasn’t desperate any more.
Save Me – Save Me From Myself
By the time we came round to the September ABBS, I’d found another new DJ in my style – Chelle Helle. Both of us with East London accents and a taste for industrial and EBM (hers slightly more in the club-friendly direction but essentially the same). There was also something to be said for giving a chance to female DJs at a time where they still remain a minority in almost every genre. I wanted to make sure the chances went to those that weren’t already established on the scene, the objective being to break the glass ceiling rather than help the few who rose above it anyway, and also that it was given to those showing a real passion for the music they were playing.
As it happened, I put in an hour of my own around the middle of the event, and I admit this was one of the most phoned-in sets I ever played. No complaints from anyone, I just didn’t enjoy it much, even with such joyous tunes as KLF, Utah Saints and recent Infest hits Elegant Machinery (now thankfully minus the Farage-lite presence of Richard Jomsoff). Chelle did a great job with the kind-of-things-I-used-to-play with plenty of projects I never went near.
The afterparty over the road certainly DID get my adrenaline flowing. Of all the events I still play, the Open Request List formula remains the one where I’m most likely to step up and really play to my strengths. This one dealt up a lot of personal favourites, including the rarely-heard “Human Crossing” (Project Pitchfork) and a request for something to mark Mexico’s independence day (Hocico’s “Tiempos De Furia” was the best I could muster at the time). But there was a problem lurking. Me.
My exhaustion during WGT was mistakenly put down to my Friday DJ set, and my lack of ability to recover in the following weeks down to the heatwave that came that summer. At Infest, where I had no special duties, I was clearly struggling to keep up. And it carried on like that through September. Sweating even when it wasn’t hot, dizzy on my feet and various other symptoms. It came to a head in early October when I stood up at a work event and promptly fell immediately to the floor. Something was wrong. Urgent doctors appointment, blood test and the wait for results.
It eventually became clear that whilst I was spared the onset of Type 2 Diabetes (for which I had most of the symptoms), I still had to both lose weight and cut my meat and alcohol consumption. The idea of becoming a teetotal vegan, whilst a choice for some, was neither necessary nor, on a personal level, sustainable for me – after all, I had to focus on health, not ethical purity. My aversion to ‘fake meat’ (itself not likely to help this particular problem) meant learning to love the chick pea, black bean and lentil, but one Facebook post unlocked a plethora of good recipes, some of which I’ve since personalised and have become regulars. Weekday and daytime drinking is also over, even when there’s a gig on.
I Am OK, If AmoK, You See?
This occupied me for a few months and hence I didn’t seek out any DJ action where the old habits may return. But I had to do something to mark an anniversary I’d marked some time ago. 30th November 2018 marked the 10th anniversary of my first set at the Alternative Bring’n’Buy Sale, it fell on a Friday, and was thankfully a day free of major scene events. Unfortunately, Aces and Eights was booked that night and I’d lost contact with all other venues. To the rescue came Ays Kura once more, putting me in touch with the Nightclub Kolis manager Arno, someone I’d managed to miss during their original Archway phase but was very happy to finally make contact with!
The club had recently moved to Camden, with two dancefloors and we quickly came to an agreement for me to use one of them for my event after the bands that night. I decided to DJ solo. I knew I had enough music, and with my renewed health (8kg lighter and no longer falling over), I knew I could last the night physically, too. Only downside was my now-ageing DJ laptop Nightglory and associated controller. Whilst not in daily use, she was definitely showing her age at this point. But two more sets wouldn’t be too much to ask? Yes, two (more on the second in a moment). All that remained was to do as much promotion as I could in the three weeks available. No time for a flier run, but plenty of online activity would follow.
I hit upon the idea of posting one track from every set, in order, with a story about each, like a TL;DR version of this thing. My main concern was about the viability of a night based purely on my own reputation. No 2nd DJ and no overall theme meant my two usual method of upping the selling points weren’t an option – it was all down to what kind of promotion I and the Kolis management could muster online.
On the night, we had quite a good attendance, with a particularly strong Eastern European contingent. I did everything I could to fit in as much of my remit into the evening as possible, focusing on the danceable tracks where possible. A short speech in the middle part of the night, a request friendly second half and by 3am the job was done. I ended the evening with the same band with which Terminates Here began, concluding the night with Laibach’s “WAT”. The small profit I made was split amongst the door and venue staff and the rare luxury of a taxi home.
I was back on the Djing two days later. The December ABBS was on, and this time Scott and I returned to the two-DJ format. There were reasons for this – there was a gig on in the Aces basement, including Terminal Gods and Cold In Berlin (the latter a Scott must-see). Meanwhile, I was wanting to see Leæther Strip in Islington. There was no way our usual DJ gig would have worked anyway – my laptop began to fail on more terminal basis towards the end of my set and I had to play the last few songs from tablet.
And that was the end. With talk of some early 2019 events already underway, hopes are high that I can continue Terminates Here into it’s second decade. Maybe not with the activity level of times past – most of my objectives are now completed (though another crack at rhythmic noise would be welcome) and I’m going to be focusing more on music writing, having revived the art earlier this year. But for now, I’m happy enough to go into Christmas without a clear idea of what will come next.
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?
It’s fair to say that Djing wasn’t the first thing on my mind when 2016 began. First handling a hacked home internet connection, then the whole “Windows 10 Upgrade” thing that was going on at the time, and then the usual early-days-of-the-year cold that lingered longer than it should have done. Somewhere in amongst this, I’d agreed to DJ Reptile in February, but whilst I’d got shot of the distractions by the time of the event itself, I remember little of what happened that night. There was also the March ABBS and Aces afterparty, now a regular pairing in my DJ calendar, and both delivered without drama.
Celebrate It, Anticipate It – Yesterday’s Faded
But what I really needed to take things up a gear was a wildcard, something different. It came on a Saturday morning in March. We’d planned an evening at the Yesterday’s Shadow 80s night at The Pack and Carriage (a renamed Elixir Bar). A message came through from event organiser Demondaz. One of the DJs had woken up sick, and could I replace him? Well, I was going anyway, my DJ kit was ready to go, and it’s not like an 80s set would need much preparation. So yes, I could.
Of course, the ease at which one can play an eighties set in the scene is also a drawback. The hits are too obvious and with 5 DJs, one of the others is more likely to get some of them in before me (to this day I’ve never managed to get “I Could Be Happy” by Altered Images in first!). On this occasion, I had enough time to figure out an interesting early set which was not jam-packed with hits, winged it on the second set when the dancefloor was busy, and the whole event went quite well. I was even invited back the next month, but this focus of this event was the return of DJ Paul Sticks to the UK. When people began elbowing me in the rather limited DJ area, simply due to how crowded it was, I realised this wasn’t going to be my big night and decided to wait for the next one.
But 2016 was about to explode. Most of us will remember that year, the fateful EU Exit referendum, the election of Donald Trump and the death of more celebrities, particularly from the music business, than I can name here. But with that as a backdrop, I was about to enter my busiest period so far. The main focus was getting my first set at a major scene festival. I’d played numerous one-day events in London, but could I make the step-up to one of the long-established names? With Whitby Gothic Weekend being “too political” and Resistanz unlikely to offer anything to someone without a club association (and due to end in 2016 anyway), Infest became my target. It was the one I went to most often anyway.
I actually first tried to get on the bill in 2014, but that went nowhere. In 2015, I decided to wait until I’d got an event of my own under my belt. Tragedy >For Us< indeed happened, and one of the Infest organisers even showed up, but it was too late to get myself on the radar for that year. Still, I put everything into getting on in 2016, spoke to all the right people, made the deal and on one glorious Friday-afternoon-before-the-late-May-holiday, my participation was announced and my Facebook profile went mad. Appropriately enough, my plans for that night were a Test Dept gig at the Dome, back where it all started, with an Aces and Eights pint and pizza beforehand.
I was back at both venues in a weeks time, for the now well-established Sunday DJ epic, made moreso when one of the guest DJs failed to show. Luckily, rustling up half-an-hour of extra music each wasn’t beyond Scott and myself. I’d also done a deal for get a third EBM night going, though my love of wordplay meant it would have to be called “Tragedy >For Free<”, with the resultant no-entry-price policy. Neither me, Nathan nor Kreigslok were worried about this. And having something not-to-worry-about was something of a plus in what would become the most emotionally-charged period of Djing ever.
A bombshell dropped on the night of Tragedy >For Free<, now taking place on the Hope and Anchor on Upper Street and a convenient distance from the scene’s London heartland of ‘Gothic Valley’. I won’t discuss the details here, but it resulted in having to run the event under a cloud. And yet….it was the best attended and most lively dancefloor-wise of the three so far. A few days later and we had that EU Exit referendum, with a result that threw a spanner into the works of our country that at time of writing (two and a half years on) has only got more and more confusing.
And despite my own British nationality, it was a major hit to the Terminates Here mission. Most of the bands that make my sets distinctive come from EU nations – I have to go there to see the ones I like and potentially discover new ones. Also, much of the audience at my sets are people from elsewhere in the EU, with Germans, Italians, French and Polish particularly noticeable. And there’s not the only group who’ve made this story what it was. The LGBT+ community have often taken refuge in our scene, many in the role of muscians, DJs, promoters, fashion designers or various other roles. And it all came together a couple of nights after the vote.
If We All Stand Together – It Will Just Be The Start
Friday after the vote…I was watching footage of Underworld’s performance at Glastonbury, when a message arrives. For reasons not entirely clear, I was wanted for the Slimelight goth/80s floor the following night. Unusual, as I’ve only ever filled in gaps at Slimelight when I was Djing the gig before and hence already on-hand to play the club as well. I’d never got my foot in the door in terms of Djing the club on it’s own, and to be honest, never fancied the concept of a weekly set in the same place. I’d get stuck in a loop.
I eventually put the pieces together. The London scene have a float on the Pride March each year, which includes an on-board DJ. It’s a collective that carries on hours after the march itself. They’d arranged to have an afterparty at Slimelight, but with the “daytime DJs” having been on the go for hours by then, they needed an allied DJ who’d be fresh for the late night session. In I stepped.
The opening set was OK, if a little empty. However, by the time of the second set, the room was rammed solid. With my laptop playing up, it was time to pull out the tablet. And somehow sensing the mood of the night, it was time to dig out the protest tunes. Pop Will Eat Itself, New Model Army, Sex Pistols and Sham 69 in a row. Despite being a one-off guest, I wasn’t beyond a few requests. Someone asked me to play something “camp” (like Cyndi Lauper or Elton John, he said). We compromised on “A Little Respect” by Erasure, the floor never stopped moving, and it’s safe to say I left that DJ booth feeling more emotion than at any point previously.
Djing continued for the next few months with some more low-key action. I’d agreed with Scott and the Aces and Eights management to run a ‘standalone’ version of the open request list event. We discovered late in the day that this coincided with the Euro 2016 final. None of us are renowned for sports-related events, but we turned our DJ event into a kind of warm-up, with our trademark ‘tag-team’ at half-time. I stuck around until the end, even playing a Moonspell tune to mark Portugal’s less-than-thrilling victory, but this one seemed a little less special that those that came before.
Two consecutive Yesterday’s Shadow events saw me through the usual “summer slump”. The July event was actually quite lively, though it emptied out every time there was a communal cigarette break (why are people still smoking anyway?). August was a little quieter, but since I seldom played any sets at all in that particular month in recent years, I wasn’t really surprised. Because this was the month where people were away at festivals. As I would be in a few weeks time. And this time I was bringing my DJ kit. It was time for Infest.
Illuminate Me – Make Me Complete
As a kind of celebratory action, I purchased first-class train tickets to Bradford. Perhaps it was indicative of the fact that it was a less-than-popular August Bank Holiday destination, but they weren’t actually that much more expensive. I got my AAA pass and wore it with pride. I had made it. But there was still work to do. Friday night could be enjoyed, with my first chances to see Dead When I Found Her and Pop Will Eat Itself. My moment was due on Saturday in the Escape Bar. I’d admit there was stress in the hours leading up to my set, though I still got my hour with Velvet Acid Christ before I focused on the task at hand. The headliner that night were Atari Teenage Riot, who I never liked anyway, but at least I had plausible excuse to not watch them!
Grabbed my kit from the hotel, and also located my co-DJ for the evening, DJ Ban. He was on first, and the space issues (always an issue) meant I had to play my first two tracks off tablet whilst we swapped laptops. He’d left me on The Damned, so I went into Star Industry, from there to Diary of Dreams and I was already into my A-material. No obscure educational tricks tonight, only the best would do. From darkwave, to EBM, to industrial, to post-punk, to eighties. Only downside was the soundsystem wasn’t as loud as I would have liked, but I’ll take that as a compliment.
My last track should have been Apop’s “Love Never Dies Pt 1”, the original version with the illicit Carmina Burana sample included. But as it faded out, I realise no-one was stopping me and put on one more – VNV Nation’s “Nova”. I had only ever played this song as the last track of the night, a rule I wasn’t about to break. I knew how popular they were amongst the Infest crowd. What I didn’t expect was everyone to launch into a communal sing-a-long and dance (I christened it the “Nova-Cokey”), even dragging in me and also the security guard who had only come to close the room down! Some moments stick with you forever – had this set been the early slot, or even a band-support on the main floor (the kind of set I was originally thinking I might have got), this wouldn’t have happened. But it happened. And that’s what matters.
The Sunday of the festival could then be a rest day, though Claus Larsen had other ideas and threw everything he had into the long-awaited Leæther Strip set and brought the rest of Infest along for the ride in the process. There was a distinct celebratory air about that Sunday, and even the journey back to London. The feeling carried right through to the next weekend, with the ABBS-and-open-request-list double-header. Unusually, there were some technical issues with the Aces PA this time, but luckily their Friday night resident DJ was on hand to assist, so it only hit the earliest part of the event.
Like An Endless Seeming Circle, Around I Go
This pairing took me to the tantalising count of 99 “official” DJ sets – I didn’t count pre-recorded sets, the kit-testing session or the first (Un)Common People by this point. Where would the 100th be? I first had the distraction of doing something I never otherwise do (going on holiday), not the best plan given how poorly I adapt to overseas travel. A couple of Autumn sets were arranged, though, and my 100th DJ appearance came at Bleak’s album launch on Halloween. Die Kur were there too, and I also discovered Francesco Fonte’s project ‘DJ Translight’ (actually a live improv affair). It seemed right to mark this landmark with a number of the people who’d helped me get this far.
Ad:Rem 2016 came a week later. Once again, a host of obscure European bands were brought in to play, whilst two UK projects opened up. One was Grimbergen, Nathan’s darkambient project (it’s grim ‘oop North), the other the antagonising power electronics affair S.T.A.B. I was the sole support DJ this time, with Danny back from Belgium to handle the afterparty, but my first job was to get my unwanted bass guitar amp from East London to Elektrowerkz (my contribution to the backline). It was something I purchased as a folly several year ago, pointless in the era of virtual amps and small flats, and was happy to donate it to the cause. Indeed, I have no idea what happened to it after that.
The actual event was a stressful affair, technically complex with every band having a unique configuration to soundcheck. I just stayed focused on my role as support DJ, happy to develop a bespoke lead-in set for every band on the bill – with everything from noise to EBM to martial industrial, I had my hands full with that. Danny took over when it came to the afterparty, but both he and a third DJ from one of the bands (who never got to play!) had to leave to catch early flights and Eurostar trains, and I had the 5am slot on the industek floor to handle myself.
It was time to hit the rhythmic noise again. A poster around the venue actually advertised I’d be playing the style, and after a couple of lead-in tunes, I got a group dancing to the likes of Xotox, Terrorfakt and Converter. Someone actually came up to me expressing the wish that the club would play the style more often. But whatever happened on that front, I wasn’t involved. This actually turned out to be my last set at Elektrowerkz – Slimelight or otherwise.
I recognise their significance of the venue as far as the London scene goes. I also understand that as the last remaining weekly scene event in the UK, they have to run it as a business rather than a hobby. But deep down, one remembers those who went out of their way to help, and from my perspective, there were never any favours coming from this particular corner of the scene. They occasionally made use of my services when they were needed and I happened to be on hand, and I co-operated simply to ensure I got some action from one of the few internationally-recognised UK venues on my DJ history. But that was the limit of the relationship. If you’re reading this expecting to find all the history and intrigue surrounding this venue, ask someone else. It’s not my story to tell.
You Want It Darker – We Kill The Flame
My own Djing for the year was not yet complete. The Christmas ABBS and Open Request list pairing included a number of tributes to the too-many musicians who’d died during 2016. Bowie and Cohen tributes was notable, as were those to a fallen Eagle and a Hoople drummer, but I felt it was my place to mark lost members of less-known bands like The Weathermen and Vision Talk also.
The Open Request list even carried on this theme, though there was a less-than-friendly encounter during this one. A woman feeling slighted that we didn’t have her request sent in her aggressive boyfriend to have a go at us. It was eventually quelled but it’s the kind of nasty encounter we have to deal with once in a while.
There was only the Yesterday’s Shadow “this isn’t a Christmas party” to play after this. I didn’t even think about bringing my laptop, the tablet would do, and it was a nice way to see out the year, especially when I got in childhood favourite “Our House” (Madness). Twenty sets played, as many as 2012, but higher-profile ones in most cases. If the world was indeed sliding into terminal decline at this point, I was at least ensuring the process of descent had a fuckin’ good soundtrack.
The solution for my stress related illness was ‘nothing’. Doing nothing more challenging over the Christmas period than trying to get a PS2 to work with a modern television was indeed the solution to my problem. With no Djing to think about, New Years Eve was spent at Electric Dreams, hiding from the over-the-top social pressures that would have presented themselves at Slimelight. And the first set of the year was already sorted. Reptile, Protafield and I were all set for another crack at turning the-event-that-never-was into the-event-that-took-place-one-month-late.
Striving for Perfection – Man is Back in Action
It was my fifth go at Djing Reptile, but my first in the Nightclub Kolis venue, and the first time where at least some of my remit was guitar-driven industrial. At the time, the DJ booth was cramped, but somehow I managed not only to play a floorfilling set before Protafield, but managed to get NINE songs into the half-hour allocated to me (talk about quickfire!). The second set was deep in club hours with a more open policy, and I was relived to find that the relatively recent “Robo Sapien” by Die Krupps was well-recognised enough to get everyone dancing also. It became something of a later-day signature tune of mine – certainly I knew few other DJs to pick it up.
This set was a partial return to form for me, but I still needed to get closure on another piece of unfinished business from the previous year. The old-school EBM night. Dirty Dicks, host of two of my earlier events, became available once more, and Nathan was available to DJ, also bringing in a third DJ Kriegslok. We still had to deal with the problem of the venue having no CD players (apparently they’d got rid of them years ago), but Nathan was able to cobble together enough kit and we were set. My love of wordplay and a certain Front 242 song led me to the title ‘Tragedy >For Us<’. My limited graphic design talents came up with a suitable 242-themed flier (the old-school genre meant old-school design to match!), and the event was announced.
This time we starting getting real interest from announcement through to the final countdown, with people even travelling from outside London. And despite the limitations of the venue, it was nicely busy throughout, including an old friend from the pre-Facebook era, who’d turned up with no idea that Terminates Here was me. One notable memory was during my ‘lucky burger’ before the event spotting that Leonard Nimoy had died, and hastily getting SPOCK’s “Never Trust a Klingon” into the set (having previous triggered a near mosh-pit with Erdball’s “Monoton + Minimal, of all things). A side note was that it was the first event of my own creation to actually end up ‘in the black’ financially – but deep down I was happier that the concept had worked. It’s the night I always wanted to run all along.
The weekend wasn’t over DJ wise. There was still the March ABBS and the now-established open-request list afterparty in Aces and Eights. These events remain something of a blur to this day, it was only on the morning after that I woke up feeling like the jinx that had followed Terminates Here since early 2013 was finally lifted. It seemed fitting that this rush of DJ activity was finished with one more set with Die Kur, MaxDmyz and co, my one and only chance to play the legendary Purple Turtle venue before it fell victim to another owner vs management “difference of opinion”. My late night set was another tag-team with Scott, starting with late 90s SOAD and seeing how far back into music history we could get (late 70s Buzzcocks in the end).
You Keep Me Running Round and Round, Well That’s Alright With Me
There was another two-month gap before my next set, but this time I wasn’t worried as I had plenty in the pipeline. One slight problem came with the death of one of my original pieces of equipment. Somewhere in amongst one of these sets, a drink was spilled on my USB DJ console. First the faders lost their smoothness, then the whole thing started cutting out, luckily never during the key phase of the night, and I still had the tablet for backup. Dismantling it to diagnose and possibly clean proved to be a one-way process. No way I could trust it live again, and hence the next run of sets were run with some rather “improvised” equipment. Not that improvisation was a stranger to me, and it was a workaround that would play great dividends later in the year.
A run of half a dozen sets came in quick succession from late May through to July. There was my first (and so far only) go at Djing Electric Dreams, the long-running 80s night. The next ABBS came a week later. Scott had to disappear early from this one due to an all-day event elsewhere, so the original DJ for the event, Andy Ravensable, returned for one day only, joining me not only for this event but also the Aces afterparty. It was the only time I’d tried the formula with any DJ other than Scott, it worked well but I still wouldn’t try it with any DJ I hadn’t worked with a few times.
Next up was a private booking – a ‘Northern Hemisphere’ wedding party for a couple who’d got married a few months previously in Australia, with one of their friend’s 50th birthday parties thrown in! I was the only DJ here, all requests this time, but surprised the happy couple with the number of their favourite tunes I already had to hand. It wasn’t a continuous set, as London’s most original covers act, The Memepunks, did their trademark play-more-than-one-song-at-once thing and gave me a couple of breathers. Only downside were the sulky venue staff, who closed us down an hour earlier than previously agreed.
I managed to get another EBM night going again, again playing games with the English language and names of Belgian bands with the title “Tragedy >For Two<”. My connections to Aces and Eights allowed me to use their basement room on a Friday night. Attendance was as good as last time, and whilst DJ Kriegslok wasn’t available this time, DJ traumahound (remember Byte Back?) was ideally suited as replacement and we had another night to remember.
That looked like it for a while, but I was called upon one more time to play a couple of hours at the Dark Disco night. This one actually goes back a few months….I’d first met the DJ and event founder Shai having handed him one of my otherwise-ineffective DJ Terminates Here business cards when I heard him playing A Split-Second, I decided there and then that we’d work on an event together some day. The event in question was back at Dirty Dicks, my fourth time playing there but the only time I’d visited for an event other than my own.
As it happens, my usual crowd didn’t really show, so I was playing songs based on their popularity on the Facebook event page during the days leading up to the event. As a result, the most popular track of the night was The Eternal Afflict’s “San Diego”, rarely heard in London. I fluffed the end of my second set though, having misread the popularity of old-school EBM amongst the largely unknown crowd, and decided to head for home and have a nice lie down. It didn’t matter in the end – a successful summer of Djing was complete.
But If The Answer Isn’t Violence, Neither Is Your Silence
It’s time now to look at a more strategic element to my Djing. I’ve mentioned a few times a list of bands that I owned more than 20 tracks by, with the objective being to play at least one by every band in the course of my DJ career. The purpose of this mission was to prove that anything could be viable DJ material, not self-indulgence, and hence other rules followed, namely that I couldn’t hire a venue and play all the bands on a list to an empty room, and all the bands had to be played in a suitable context – I wasn’t allowed to break music policies of events (mine or anyone else’s) to cut the list down.
Fortunately, the ABBS was open enough to allow most things at some point, with the various guest DJs actually obliging me to vary my own sets, though the extremely noisy material was off-limits there. And by the time of the September ABBS, my list of bands that once numbered in the hundreds was down to 15. One hour would nail them all. Or it would have done if no-one else mattered but me, but such a set would have cleared the room and ensured I would never have been invited back. I still had to work up interesting and varied sets and not alienate anyone along the way.
Sure, I used the September ABBS early setup time to shoehorn in a Nurse With Wound track, an interesting project that’s otherwise near-impossible to get into a DJ set, but had to get more accessible later on in the day, even joining Scott in a Madchester revival moment later on. The Aces and Eights afterparty yielded some interesting requests of it’s own (This Morn’Omina? Fine by me!) and actually overran it’s 10pm endpoint when people refused to let us stop. Not only was it a great day, but that list of bands I mentioned? Without going off-topic or receiving death threats, I’d got it down to five. But they were five of the least-accessible industrial bands in existence.
I’ll Give You Something, Even More Interesting Than The Last One
But for the moment, that was a distraction I didn’t need. Renaissance VI was back at Elektrowerkz in October. This time, the second stage was open only when bands were on, so it was more a case of making sure the six DJs all had enough set-time to play, and my own set got brought forward two hours due to the lack of CD players for the one DJ still using them! Myself, I didn’t even bring a laptop along, instead using my second and improved tablet for my own sets. It was a fast-moving day and dragging kit around would have been an unwelcome distraction.
I was also Djing the other multi-band festival at Elektrowerkz that Autumn. The small-scale event Stompa the previous year had grown into Ad:Rem. Nathan and I were called upon for our Tragedy >For Something-or-other< credentials to DJ between and after the bands, along with the Belgian DJ Danny Dupont, coming over from Antwerp with the band Lizard Smile, one of eleven acts on the bill. Unlike Renaissance, which adopted a noon-to-midnight pattern, Ad:Rem opened in the evening and went through to the early hours of the morning. And unlike Renaissance, which offered a plethora of bands that were essentially accessible to the end music fan, Ad:Rem put no limits on the extremities to which it would go.
But before any live action look place, we had a brief birthday celebration for one of the co-organisers, formerly known in elitist corners of the industrial scene as Andi Penguin. He had various neovolkish requests for the occasion. And guess who out of the DJs available had the most of those tracks to hand? Add this to a support DJ slot for Institution D.O.L., where I finally got a legitimate chance to play Whitehouse in a DJ set (“WHY YOU NEVER BECAME A DANCER!”), and I’d scratched one of the longest-running DJ itches of all.
Later sets demanded a more straightforward EBM approach, not a challenge after everything else that year. I’d originally agreed to play a rhythmic noise set as part of the Slimelight afterparty, but the event ran an hour late, and by 5am the crowd had thinned to the point where I just had to dig out more predictable scene favourites. The thing was, once the birthday tunes and band supports were out of the way, only two names were left on my to-play list. Proyecto Mirage and Hypnoskull. If not today, then definitely by the years end.
I Broke The Silence – I Rose The Volume
Only thing was, the only set left open to me that year was the Christmas edition of the ABBS, with extended play at Aces and Eights afterwards. Neither venue suitable for rhythmic noise, but with a this-ends-here mentality, I found a track by each artist that would be melodic and subtle enough to play on a Sunday afternoon. Just for good luck, I sorted an Imminent track (in case it counted as distinct from Imminent Starvation) and some before-he-was-famous Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids (in case it counted as a different band from the one he’s in, or rather is, now) and just to put the nail on the head, some TV themes.
But on arrival, we found the PA system in pieces, the usual mixer replaced with a cheap model, and no-one to help get it turned on. We turned on the PA only to find a severe ground loop, no use when we have a room full of people. It looked like we were defeated. But it was in the mid-afternoon that I had a brainwave. My improvised DJ setup included a Komplete Audio 6 audio interface, which was really intended for studio use. This had the option of a balanced XLR line-out. In a last ditch attempt, I plugged this XLR directly into the PA, bypassing the groundlooping mixer, and finally we were playing.
A couple of Christmassy EBM tracks were immediately played to wake the mood up, and then I got in those two elusive project that crossed those last names off my list. And the Imminent one, it’s glitchy sound a sideswipe at the issues that bugged us. And, later on, the theme from the TV Show “The IT Crowd”. Because we’d tried more than just turning it off and on again. We still had to figure out how Scott could play his set, given this solution was unique to my setup. Luckily, I had some of his favourites stored on my laptop for such an instance, and the rest were transferred on USB stick during a short break for a charity promo.
By the time we got to the Aces afterparty, there was a celebratory air. We came close to being cheated of a moment but we’d pulled it off anyway, symbolic of a year where I felt a cloud hovering over me had been lifted. An interesting set of requests saw the DJ year out nicely, the days leading up to Christmas and New Years Eve spent either catching the last few gigs of the year or playing various Source-engine video games, investing the “Chrimbo Limbo” week living the Half-Life 2 experience 11 years too late.
And as a bonus, the Dome’s management changed soon after – refitting the venue and generally organising things much better. We haven’t had any problems since.
The early days of 2014 saw a couple of the seeds I planted on New Years Eve began to bring forth promise. First was a birthday party, back at the Elixir Bar and with a simple classic rock remit. I also found myself back in the role of DJ co-ordinator and found myself with two half-hour sets at either end of the night. The first half-hour was played to a near empty room, and nine of those minutes were eaten up with the no-one-else-would-play-it request “Freebird”.
Thankfully, the joker dealt to me on NYE was an ace this time. Itching to get back on before everyone disappeared, one of the DJs failed to show (he did my a favour so will remain nameless). I got extended play and hence dropped in the cheesy anthem rock, with everyone singing over the PA once more. It was like Nightrain all over again. Apart from the Hawaiian shirt dress code. I’ve still got mine. Never found another use for it, really.
There was my third and final set at the Intrepid Fox with Die Kur, MaxDmyz and co, which went without a hitch this time, even if the writing was on the wall for the venue, what with Crossrail redevelopments and the like. The Fox briefly moved to the complex on the Archway Triangle, which itself became something of a scene focus point for a few years, but the pub itself didn’t last and hasn’t been heard from since – another scene name was lost in the name of “development”.
You Blame Yourself For Wanting More
The most interesting set in the early part of the year wasn’t in London at all, though. My conversations on NYE night had opened up one particularly interesting opportunity – the Asylum Club in Chelmsford were interested in putting me on one Friday night. It was only a short train ride from my East London residence, so a deal was quickly put in place and my first set outside the capital occurred in the city where I had my first full-time permanent job. On arrival, discovered my original office was in the process of being demolished, never liked the place anyway so I shed no tears.
A couple of bands (Faceless Dolls and Swivel Man) were booked. I’d originally agreed to play after they were done, but I quickly agreed to play short sets before and between them also – having come this far, I was going to play every minute I could. So I got in short sets hovering between grunge, shoegaze and experimental rock (best I could do with the clues soundcheck offered) and then two lengthy afterparty sets, one in the upstairs ‘live’ room and a second in the downstairs bar, not stopping to the early hours of the morning. My take from the night didn’t even cover my hotel costs (DJ Terminates Here has always worked at a net loss), but I didn’t care. I’d pushed the boat out and not sunk!
Another lengthy set followed at the March ABBS with Scott – this set out of all of them wasn’t particularly competitive and many of the guest DJs we’d put on were now focusing on other things (acting, tech writing, live bands, etc). But once again, I had the feeling that once it was over, I didn’t want to stop. But stop I had to. No bookings were forthcoming. But thinking back to last year, I realised destiny could still be in my own hands.
With The Wrong Tune Playing ‘till it Sounded Right
Initially I wanted to re-run my 1990s event, but not-enough-available-DJs prevented that taking place immediately. I did establish that the Elixir Bar would let me put on free entry nights on the occasions they weren’t booked for anything else. With only Scott showing any interest in working with me at the time, we dreamt up an open-genre event called ‘Vs’, which soon evolved into a kind of ‘the audience decides the music policy’ event. We held it on Good Friday, clear of obvious scene activity from others. Though obviously many people would be away, it was still the best option open to us.
I wouldn’t say the place was packed, but it was a moderately successful event. The open request concept eventually took off, even scoring a free beer for playing AC/DC, thanks to some old men who’d wandered in expecting nothing more than a quiet pint. It was also the point where I met a couple of DJs from ‘Oop North’. DJ Electric Dream is someone I’ve yet to play an event with, but I’m sure it’d work if it ever happened. DJ Nathan Nothing, however, would go on to play a role in the later chapters.
The next event I put on was back at Dirty Dicks – I’d originally planned to use a club in Shoreditch but the sulky management and high deposit demanded just presented me with a sign pointing back towards Bishopsgate. X-KiN were ready for another video launch, and a venue with both a PA and screens was required. On this occasion, I had the benefit of X-KiN’s front man Karl to design a flier, something he was much better talented at that me. However, as it was also his leaving the UK party, I also had to accept his choice of DJs.
At least Howard was back, and DJ Jester (ex-Inferno, ex-Neo Noir, now Slimelight) came along and did his thing without fuss. The fourth DJ, well, I won’t name him here as he’s got too many friends in high places, but I only remember him kicking up a lot of fuss about the substandard equipment (including my own DJ laptop) – I was close to kicking him out, but the repercussions of such an act could have been severe at a time where he was several step further up the scene establishment than I was. However, it reinforced my belief that my own events should focus on up-and-coming DJs, one used to working with less-than-the-best. Because people like me can’t afford the best. And don’t need it anyway.
This event was still the best attended of my ‘Irregular Events’ so far, but it felt a little hollow as it’s the one over which I had the least creative control, as if X-KiN had outsourced their party organisation to me rather than serve as something I’d dreamt up myself. Still, there was time to think of my next move. The June ABBS gave me a two low-pressure hours of Djing – though in attempt to distinguish this set from the others I was playing at the time, I ended up inserted things as obscure as Karjalan Sissit, Monte Cazazza and Amon Amarth into my playlist. But Summer 2014 was turning ugly.
And Then Dance and Drink and Screw, Because There’s Nothing Else To Do
It was a warm and muggy summer, with the atmosphere in the scene as thick as the air outside. I was never directly involved in the various occurrences, but that was in fact part the problem. There is a Diary of Dreams song with a lyrics that say “You cannot help where your help is not wanted”. And that’s pretty much were I stood at the time.
I thought I might try to drum up some international interest in my Djing at Wave-Gotik-Treffen, but in a city full of scene people from across Europe, it was impossible to find the promoters, shot-callers and other people of influence, especially when English was the second-at-best language to use (anyone thinking I should have become fluent in multiple European languages, easier said than done and scarcely the best use of time on a return-on-investment basis). It later became clear that all the people I needed to speaking to were in the sealed-off worlds of VIP lounges, places where my regular wristband didn’t grant admittance.
On my return, I faced a multitude of domestic breakages, eating up the money I didn’t have. And then the Reptile club, location of some of my most memorable sets, were booted out of their original venue. This story at least had a happy ending – they ended up in Nightclub Kolis in North London, a better location for most, a friendly and receptive management and a more suitable facility all round, the only downside being they couldn’t host NYE there any more. But for the summer at least, their future was uncertain.
In all the confusion, I managed to bag the Elixir Bar one more time to re-run my “(Un)Common People” night with budget only for a few monochrome fliers. Scott was back on board as DJ, and as Shadowchaser was unavailable, we brought in Ross Liddle as our third and we were on. It was another moderately successful night, unsure of the correct balance between ‘dance’, ‘rock’ and ‘pop’ but covering all bases in the end. And then for the next few months, the story ceases to be mine to tell.
Alt-Fest collapsed amidst acrimony, the initial sympathies for the organisers evaporating once the true scale of the fuck-up became clear. Some hastily thrown together substitute events, a few one-off DJ nights and then an Infest hit by three line-up changes. And I was just a punter. I’d tried to get my foot in the door at various points, but no, it wasn’t my moment to shine. At this point, I was travelling to work starting into my DJ notebook, thinking “What action could I take right now to improve my booking rate?”. I’d exhausted my own idea pool, pulled in all the favours I could, even resorted to Any Question Answered (AQA) at one point, and had drawn a blank.
And the solution? When you can’t think of anything, try everything.
I Have Roads to Walk, I Have Mountains to Climb
Firstly, I though the ‘open request list’ idea had legs, even if it needed two DJs who knew each others styles well enough to divide up the tunes into manageable chunks in similar styles. Secondly, I knew the ABBS was my one remaining sure-fire booking and that many people stuck around hours afterwards in nearby pubs, especially Aces and Eights on the other side of the crossroads. And I knew they had an upstairs DJ booth used on some nights. Could I put all these pieces together.
Yes, I could. The Aces and Eights management agreed to trial the idea of occasional Sunday night DJs, with the proviso of nothing too noisy being played – something we defined as ‘no extreme metal, no harsh noise, no dubstep’ (we’ve broken one of these once, another a couple of times, and another one never – can you work out which?). We still had the issue of the ABBS itself before, which Scott and I decided to play on our own, meaning we had 3 hours of Djing under our belts before we’d even opened up the floor for requests.
We had some initial issues getting set up, a lesson we later learned involved getting a guest DJ to do the last hour of the ABBS whilst we got a head-start over the road. As it was, I got in a couple of warm-up tunes whilst I got used to the PA, before the requests landed. There then followed the process of taking the disparate collection of tracks asked for, working out which one I had, which one’s Scott was likely to have (between us we had most of them), working out which ones would mix well together and trying to make a DJ set from crowdsourced suggestions that was an improvement on a jukebox or iPod on random.
There was even the continuation of our habit of tag-teaming (alternating tracks each) the final phase of the night. We’d had some practice back in April, but now we’d made the format work on all levels. It’s almost as though I’d found the format to which my DJ skills were best suited. A lot of DJs I’ve spoken to simply shuddered at the idea of turning up with blank pieces of paper that could take you in any direction. But my background musical knowledge allowed me to solve that puzzle on-the-fly. To this day it’s my favourite Djing format to actually play.
Hand Me a Line – Really Hand Me a Line
This short burst of DJ activity continued for a few weeks. There was a downstairs Elektrowerkz slot supporting the Dutch industrial metal band Deadcell, though it was more apparent than ever that the Slimelight DJs really didn’t want me to play any overtime in ‘their’ bit of the night. There was also a totally unplanned set a few weeks later at the Black Heart in Camden. It was an open mic/jam session event, and I’d turned up with my laptop planning to give my Deja Vu 2 tracks an airing.
This indeed happened, with my anti-dubstep anthem “Invasive Species” getting the best response. But I also had a tablet by now and hence pulled double-duty but piecing together the various live contributions (experimental projects, performance poets, live covers) with various pieces of music played through CrossDJ (which I still believe is the best Android-based DJ software). I then played a half-hour afterparty and then packed up my things contented with progress in multiple areas. But once again, it was a false dawn.
Deja Vu 2 never progressed further – I hit a brick wall with creativity soon after. What I most wanted to do was get another Irregular Event going. The DJ Nathan Nothing had recently moved to London, and we’d spoken about getting an old-school EBM night started. I’d always had a thing for the style, more so since my return to Wave-Gotik-Treffen in 2013. I didn’t make it my first Irregular Event as I didn’t want to risk anything too specialist until I knew what I was doing – also with London in the throes of the dubstep fad at the time, it’s not a concept that would have been well-received in late 2013. But despite some increased interest in the concept, trying to find an available venue suddenly became impossible.
I thought I had it at one point, only to find I’d booked an event clashing with ‘Beat:Cancer’ at Elektrowerkz – no chance against that, but more upsetting was that I didn’t even know the event was taking place until someone pointed it out. Had I seriously fallen out of the loop to that extent? I got various leads on possible venues, but e-mails weren’t replied to, even with the offer of money. Because that’s what venue mangers like, right? I also tried to find myself a booking agent, again with the promise of a cut of my take, but the genres I played seemed to exist in a black hole as far as anyone on the dance scene was concerned. Nobody that could of helped did, and I had nothing I could offer to incentivise them with anyway. Unlike some, I’ve given up on the notion that the majority of human beings will do something for another without something in it for them.
Some Doors are Better Left Unopened
So I had to hold out until the next ABBS. Even here, my Djing seemed fated, the door to the room with the PA kit was locked with the keys nowhere to be found in the venue. In the end, the handyman had to unscrew the lock for us to gain access, and we were an hour into the event by then – notably when the management of the Dome changed, one of their first acts of note was installed combination locks instead. At least we were back at Aces afterwards, with a welcome set of requests for various German bands that I seldom get to play elsewhere.
The Renaissance festival moved to Elektrowerkz in 2014 and took place six days later. Once again, six DJs and countless live acts were booked across the day-long duration. With an additional second stage improvised in the back bar, it also meant a whole lot more Djing to do than the previous year. Starting at noon, I was playing classical, film score and darkambient music to whoever happened to be in the room at the time. Some of the other DJs (Scott, Vade Retro and Jester) also took the chance to play extra sets – the CD DJs really missed out on this chance. Everyone got a go on the main floor, too – and I also took a chance for 45 minutes on the goth/80s floor of Slimelight later on, my energy finally failing at around 1:30am, thirteen hours after my first set of the day.
There was meant to be one final set at Reptile, supporting the Welsh band ‘Protafield’ (aka Jayce Lewis’ project), but a police cordon outside the venue on the night put paid to that. Perhaps not in the best state of mind, I went on AQA once more in desperation to try and find an alternate venue, a futile mission, with everyone else heading for home or Slimelight, I was left standing in Archway wondering why I thought, even briefly, that I could be the saviour of the second biggest non-event of the year (Alt-Fest was the biggest). All that I remember afterwards was downing a six-pack of Lech lager back home.
But in many respects, it may have been a blessing in disguise. I was not in a happy place emotionally for much of 2014, though this was largely due high-pressure period in the day job (a massive story in it’s own right), which left few escapes. I was sleeping poorly, drinking too much and generally just zoning through life. Had I played Reptile that night in December, I most likely would have gone through the motions, such was my state of mind.
A few days later and stress-related illness put me out of action for the rest of the year. And it seems a pity to end like that when in actual fact, 2014’s Djing adventure really saw me take fate into my own hands in terms of defining my destiny. But there’s a difference between “making your own luck” and “bashing fate’s head against a wall to force things to happen that otherwise wouldn’t”, and this year just felt out of balance in every sense.
2013 initially looked like it was going to offer more of the same. Things actually got off to a bright enough start. First a trip back to the Intrepid Fox to play for a Die Kur, MaxDmyz and Drilling Spree lineup – thankfully with considerably more polite venue staff than last time. Three DJs meant there wasn’t actually much to play, even if we were able to squeeze in a brief afterparty this time, but what was played fitted the spirit of the night and it was a nice low-pressure way of kicking off the year’s DJ action.
I Relied Upon You To Break The Silence
February saw an unprecedented four sets, including two in one night (the only time I’ve done this with a tube ride in between). First a birthday party at the Elixir Bar, where mittelalter and symphonic metal were the order of the day, and then back for a late pair of sets at Neo-Noir. And it was here that I got the first clue that my credit might be running out. The first set (synthpop and EBM) suffered from a ground loop whenever I mixed something (the spilled drink in the DJ booth might be an explanation), the second, which was meant to be a full-on 90s-style industrial dance set, was cut short by the venue staff. No warning, no “10 minutes left”, they just stopped the music mid-song, as “there weren’t enough people in the venue”.
A private party booking in South London saw a near-continuous 6 hour set from me (2 short breaks for the celebratory moments), and then at the other end of the spectrum, a tightly-packed 40 minutes of eighties hits at Living On Video. Technically, it was one of the most satisfying sets I’d ever played – a lot of DJs in this genre don’t bother with or can’t do precise mixing – even though modern laptops make it much easier than it once was. The software might micro-manage the tempo, but you still need to know the songs well enough to know which ones go well together, cue them right and figure out the best crossfade points, and on this occasion I nailed it. Laptops and tablet didn’t destroy the art of Djing, it just raised the bar.
But things were starting to go sour. I’d long been talking to promoter Kirlian Blue about running a minimal synth/old-school EBM type event – it was a style of music I wish I could have played more of, but my current sets wouldn’t allow it. The working title of this event was ‘Blind Youth’ – both an old-school Human League classic and a swipe at a younger generation who seemingly didn’t know where electronic music came from prior to the EDM boom of the time. This eventually morphed in ‘Reproduction’, we bagged a floor of Elektrowerkz and the band Futureperfect were booked to play. It was an event I really though London needed – with the tastemakers still publicly masturbating over dubstep, it would be a sharp reminder of what electronic music could be if it had space to breathe.
Late March snow put paid to the band on the morning of the event, and also scared off plenty of potential punters (even if nothing much came of it in London). It would have made sense to have run what was left of the event as another floor of Slimelight, but complicated scene politics put paid to that. Then was the issue of DJs. No issue with any of the individuals, but there were simply too many of us! Eight or nine, the exact number escape me, but there just wasn’t enough set time to go round. By the time I played my set, there were five people left on the dancefloor. About fifteen minutes after I’d finished, they closed the event early because it was a ‘waste of electricity’. And that was the end of that.
And You Think About The Past Time, When You Were Still Loved
Neo-Noir was also on it’s way out. The poorly attended February event and the loss of enthusiasm from some of the organisers meant that the April event would be the last. As a club night, this one actually went quite well once we got a malfunctioning sound system (another one?) going. By the time of the final sets, we had decided “what music policy?” and were freewheeling across the genres, a last act of defiance and a final salute for an event that remains the nearest I ever had to a club residency.
And so began the DJ desert of summer 2013. With most of the promoters I’d worked with in recent times either moved on to other things or offering their sets to others, I suddenly found myself surplus to requirements in the London scene. Only a couple of my longest-established contacts were still able to offer me something. The Renaissance festival at grown into a 12-hour epic, now with over 20 bands and 6 DJs. As a live event, it was a mammoth achievement, never sitting still for long and barely scraping in headliner Die Kur before the time was up.
However, my focus that day was as ‘DJ co-ordinator’, making sure all the changes in the booth happened in a timely manner. My own set didn’t feature until the very end – once again, no-one else felt esoteric enough to DJ support Jordan Reyne’s slot! In the small amount of DJ time allotted to me (3 band supports and a ‘go home’ song) I did manage to get in bands as diverse AC/DC, Death In June and ABBA without any of them being “out of place”, but I wasn’t going to make any lasting impressions on anyone on this day.
The other slot was two months later back at the ABBS. I’d skipped the spring event in order to sell CDs rather than play them, but now I really needed any DJ action at all to keep the flame alive. My opening salvo was closer to ambient house and IDM than anything scene oriented, in my continuing attempt to find new ways of handling the Sunday Morning Set. The later set featured a track called “World Alert” by my own project Deja Vu II, something I’d tinkered with in the Djing lay-off. The track in question appeared a few more times and I even performed it live once (more on that in 2014) but it’s hardly a spoiler to say it never really went anywhere.
It’s Been A While Since You Pulled The Plug On Me – I Tried To Keep It Together
After this, things really went quiet. I had scrabbled around and sorted myself a couple of band support slots for October (co-incidentally either side of the next ABBS), but most of my messages to people in positions of influence went ignored. But I wasn’t willing wait that long to play again. . I’ve never worked out why patience is a virtue – what is so virtuous about sitting around waiting for other people to sort your life out for you? Get up and get on with it – now THAT’S a virtue.
So that’s what I did. I tried to make things happen. At the time I had stashed a few hundred quid due to my heavily-subsidised social life earlier in the year and throughout 2012, so I first looked into pay-to-play, common in the USA and some other countries. But I tested the water, realised quickly it was a bad move on several levels and abandoned the idea. Friends talk other friends out of bad things, but only true friends don’t think worse of them for having though of the idea first. I also looked down other avenues, finding myself a booking agent and even overseas slots, but drew a blank at every turn. So, if I couldn’t make my musical statement in the confines of someone else’s event, I would have to do it at one of my own. Only problem, I had no idea how.
It was a couple of nights after the July ABBS. I’d downed a few too many beers, and decided to hit Google looking for an answer. First thing I found was a site called “Digital DJ Tips”. The technical advice was useless to me – the genres I played weren’t even acknowledged to exist, but they had a very useful, if somewhat US-centric, series of articles on running your own DJ event. I’d already broken one rule – putting on an event for the purpose of giving myself somewhere to play. So I was going to have to follow all the others to compensate.
Firstly, I needed a selling point. There wasn’t space in the London scene for another regular club night, the failure of some of the events earlier in the year put paid to that idea. So instead I hit upon the idea of ‘Irregular Events’ (IRREV for short) – one-off events, each with a different theme. The theme wouldn’t be decided until I knew who was Djing. A quick poll on Facebook yielded five names – I’d had too much trouble with crowded DJ lineups recently, so two were declined – one for stylistic incompatibility with the others (yep, he wanted to do dubstep), the other because of a residency at an existing scene night. Both took it with good grace, which was one of the more welcome lessons learned – you don’t have to put on everyone who asks. Another DJ pulled out later, but agreed to help with the promotion.
This left me with DJ Captain Howard (from Non-Bio) and DJ traumahound (of A Model of Control, also Djed Infest a few times). The line-up felt right. The name BYTE BACK was dreamt up whilst walking to the station one day, with a remit to revive tunes that were popular in the alternative electronic scene until recently, but had since been pushed aside in favour of other things. I tried to design a flyer using a retro-video-game font, but soon realised I had zero graphic design ability (five years on and I’m no better, it just ain’t my thing). In a scene full of artistic people, we would look amateurish if we couldn’t get this right. After breaking down in front of my PC trying to get text to line up, I called upon Howard’s assistance, who’s actually quite good at such things, and we got something distinctive.
Around this time, I also had to find a venue. I didn’t have any leads, so I had to start from scratch. I found a service (now seemingly gone) that would email multiple London venues and interested parties would write back. The site was clunky as hell, but I sent off my application anyway, and got a stackload of emails over the next few days. Most declined as they weren’t licensed to hold publicly-promoted events (a technically that annoys me to this day), but I got half a dozen maybes, eventually whittled down to Dirty Dicks on Bishopsgate. The hire fee was over my estimated budget, but I was so desperate to make this happen that I paid up anyway.
The promotion got underway, but I simply didn’t sense any interest. Too many “I’d love to but it clashes with —-”. I knew I was up against Inferno at the Electric Ballroom, but it turns out two other vaguely-industrial events were going on that night, all with bigger name DJs that I had – it also meant that many of my potential avenues of help were already committed to help the competition. At my wits end, with the FB attending figure in single figures with a few days to do, I posted a cry for help on Facebook. I got nothing directly but encouraging words directly, but it’s only looking back years later that I realised that something must have happened in the background. Someone must have rallied some friends or done something similar, because plenty of people showed. I had no idea who most of them were, but it didn’t matter. To whoever did this, I’m eternally grateful.
Not knowing about this at the time, of course, I was stressed as hell the night before. I worked out two music policies on my laptop, depending on whether I was playing to scene people or drunken city workers (cheesy 90s dance was my backup plan – and I still ended up playing Born Slippy.NUXX!). I didn’t get to bed until 1:30am, and couldn’t sleep when I did. This meant I slept through my alarm the next day, was late for work and was lagging behind the whole day. At 5:30pm, I went into Wetherspoons and ordered a gourmet burger. For good luck, you see? I ate one on the day each of my last three relationships truly began. I ate one on the day of the interview for the job I have to this day (remember the 2009 chapter?). If I was a general, I’d eat one before going into battle. If I was a deity, I’d eat one before creating a universe. I needed every plus I could get.
Anyway, enough people showed for opening to ensure we weren’t playing to an empty room. I deliberately played the first and last sets to leave the middle free to play the host, avoiding the temptation to talk to friends only and actually welcome the new people to my event. Howard and Adam had this covered perfectly, including a comical moment where a drunken group nearly fell over trying to dance to FLA. Howard had also prepped some retro-video game graphics to play on the screens in the venue. We had our own event, our own brand.
The last hour, and I let rip with Cubanate’s “Oxyacetylene”, followed by Funker Vogt’s “Gunman”. Actually playing my DJ set was something of an afterthought but I wasn’t going to screw it up now I was on. Eventually I had to calm things down as people went off to catch last tubes and suchlike, but important thing was, we’d pulled it off. Adopting a “pay what you want” policy – I didn’t come close to clawing back the hire fee, but as a Terminates Here loss leader, it was the best I could have hoped for.
And in case you think I spent too long writing about one event, well, I hope I’ve made it clear what made this one special. To think, if one of my earlier messages out to a promoter got me something around this time, this event most likely would never have happened. But it turns out that whilst some more assistance from those who could have helped but ignored me would have indeed been useful, ultimately I didn’t need them then, and I don’t now. But if you’ve actually read this far, dear reader, it means you’re not one of them.
The Utopia You Were Promised Has Been Destroyed
Anyway, I’d kept myself on the radar long enough to make it through to a trio of sets in a single week. There was a Saturday night band support at Elektrowerkz, featuring Paresis, Machine Rox and (headlining) a brief return for Global Noise Attack. No Slimelight overtime was possible, even though I tried. The October ABBS was the next day. There was a ‘standard issue’ gothic rock set here, but I also decided to bring the classic rock along and played a set consisting of all the bands that were too folky, proggy or psych-e to feature in a club hours set.
And then a gig on the Leytonstone High Road. History of Guns were also making a one-off comeback and I’d arrange to support this one too as part of a drunken conversation with Anton from Bleak back in the summer. The show itself was something of a reunion of at least some of the Wasp Factory/Line Out collective who made their mark on the UK scene back in the 00s, and I ever squeezed some of the bands into my DJ set, though once again an intermittent power supply kept disrupting proceedings. According to a live music expert friend of mine, PA maintenance is the first corner to get cut when venue budgets are squeezed. And it as we emerged from years of recession, the long-term price of this decision was becoming clear.
My own financial hit came the next day. A backdated electricity bill put me nearly £500 down almost immediately (yes, I protested, no I failed). That was the money for the next Irregular Event gone. If I wanted to get one more into 2013, I’d need to find a venue that would let me use one of its floors for free or near enough. I eventually found Ryan’s Bar in Stoke Newington had a cancellation and could host my event in November. Which gave me 9 days notice. I needed two DJs I knew well and a concept – Scott was an obvious choice, Shadowchaser also came on board, and we devised a 90s tribute night called ‘(Un)Common People’, my thinking being that as 80s tributes nights had been around for ages, moving one decade on would give us something fresh.
There wasn’t time for much promotion – Scott found an event to flier and I pushed it online. And on the night itself? Once you discount DJs, partners and people-wandering-from-the-upstairs-bar, we had an attendance of one. 1 person. Nothing ventured, nothing gained I guess, but that’s exactly what I gained – Nothing! The real pity was that I actually did some of my best ever beatmixing that night, the 90s dance really adapting to my style (futurepop got most of it’s ideas from there after all). But in the desperation, I also forgot to eat dinner, drank too much, and ended the night in a puddle of my own vomit. There, I said it.
I Wake Up In The Dark, There’s No Tomorrow
The next ABBS was in December, sandwiched in between a Claus Larsen double header (Leæther Strip and Klutæ in Elektrowerkz) the night before and a train to Cardiff immediately after (two day meeting starting on Monday morning). Despite the time pressures, there was no way I was missing the last solid DJ booking left open to me, and Scott and I duly put in three hours worth of music each. Each of us thought the other was doing the trad-goth, no-one did it in the end and quite frankly, no-one missed it.
It was on the way to Cardiff that I looked back over the list of ‘bands I wanted to play in a DJ set’ at some point. It had been falling in size since it started in 2011, but there were still over 100 left, and in all genres. My mission statement to cover all music that I thought was worth the airtime was still far from complete.
And this left me with one set left to play. Reptile on New Years Eve. I went there with no DJ booking lined up for 2014 at all. So whilst others were only thinking of celebration, I was trying to drum up some business. This action might have seemed out of place given the night, but it actually had some success in the end, even if no deals were done there and then. As for my Djing, I knew what my remit was, issued two sets of stuff-I-knew-would-work, one in each year, and was getting cued up for my third set when the power died. The event came to a premature end and I walked out into 2014 not knowing what would follow next.