2010 had a surprisingly sedate opening, only woken up by a stag party (OK, ‘Gentleman’s Tour of Historic Public Houses’) at the end of January. Up until that point, I had no inkling it would be the most eventful year of my life so far. But then absolutely everything took off. Including the Djing. Finally I was ready to graduate from the ABBS and get some live sets in elsewhere. And that stag party was the precursor to one of them.
It Was Me, Waiting For Me, Hoping For Something More
A couple of weeks later and I was Djing at the wedding party, alongside Cowlin and scene veteran Martin Oldgoth. Being the token ‘not goth’ DJ essentially meant one darkwave set, one EBM set and one metal set. It all went down quite well until someone came up to me in the middle of SOAD’s “Chop Suey” and asks “Can you play MORE Crüxshadows please?” (having long since delivered the full length version of “Winterborn”).
My response was something like “Sorry, there’s no way I can fit that into what I’m doing right now”. This comment got passed on and mangled by the increasingly drunken attendees into “he told her to fuck off”. No long term ramifications, but it proves how utterly thankless the job of Djing can be sometimes, and how unfeasible some people’s expectations can be. At least the newlyweds were grateful.
As for my own ‘love life’, well, I won’t cover those details here, but it was around this time that I found myself in one of those ‘seemed like a good idea at the time’ relationships that ultimately, well, wasn’t. Somewhere amidst the confusion, I found myself back at the Dome Djing at the March ABBS, this time alongside DJ Scott McMahon. We didn’t know it at the time, but this would be a DJ partnership that would last right through to the present day. For now though, I got my first go at Djing ‘proper goth’ (as some like to call it) on a ‘if I don’t, no-one will’ basis.
The events between this and my next “live set” four months later would be worth a chapter of their own if this was a conventional autobiography. But it isn’t, and even if it was, it’s not a story I really feel like telling in full, now or in the future. The only DJ Terminates Here action during this period was a pre-recorded hour of music for a Mittelalter night held at the Zeitgeist pub in Vauxhall. A good attendance for a style only of marginal interest in the UK, but how much of that was down to the popularity of the venue at the time, and how much of it was down to the music?
Never Say Never ‘Cause I’ll Do It Again
I returned to real Djing in July with a one-time ‘Sunday Afternoon’ event in the London Stone pub. I’d arranged to start relatively late, due to having moved house the previous day and also due to my plan to watch the British Grand Prix at the Haymarket Sports Bar first. And mid-race I get a phone call, barely audible amongst the background noise. Turns out that as the venue was opening especially for us, it was locked up until the scheduled start time, with the DJ kit not wired in. Why they rang me, when I was obviously distracted and over a mile away, is a mystery.
Still, I set off the moment Red Bull’s ‘Number 2 Driver’ had received his congratulatory face-full of chessboard. Two buses and thirty minutes and I was there. The event itself went quite well, despite the delayed start. The gothic-themed pub quiz was fun, whilst Scott, Robert, myself and guest DJX (from Tanz Macabre) covered all bases music-wise. I had a lot of fun with my final set in particular, ending with covers of the Pac-Man theme and Popcorn.
It was at this point that I caught the attention of another promoter (who, given the following paragraphs, is best left unnamed here), who ran a Depeche Mode night (‘Black Celebration’ the too-obvious name) at the Elixir bar, and was on the lookout for new DJs. I gave a verbal agreement there and then, before returning my far-too-exciting life away from the DJ booth. Which I’m not writing about, see?
Whatever You’ve Planned For Me – I’m Not The One
I was originally due to play said Mode night in September but my debut was brought forward by a month due to a lack of other available and willing DJs. That should have been a warning. The August event actually went quite well, though. With little guidance from the promoter (who was outside smoking most of the time), my early set combined early Mode material with various minimal synth and old-school EBM tracks, with a second set later packing in most of the hits. Bit surprised that Yazoo cleared the floor, given it was Vince in his immediate post-Mode phase, but felt like a good event, let down only by the fact that my partner at the time (and Mode fanatic) was visiting family in Germany and couldn’t attend.
I wasn’t too worried as we’d get to right that wrong a month later. Sure enough, we had a bigger crowd next time out, with Electric Dreams veteran Paul Alan joining me in the DJ booth. With both of us on hand, we shouldn’t have needed any assistance. But the promoter had other ideas – when not outside getting her nicotine fix, she was switching DJs, letting her friends play sets, taking over the booth whenever she pleased and taking over the music policy as it suited her, acting like it was her own private party (it wasn’t). Having got a 101-style singalong going to “Everything Counts”, I was aghast when she insisted playing her boyfriend’s sub-Rammstein-style metal band, not only clearing the floor but leaving me at least two mixes away from playing any more Mode.
The only upside to this was that I used Skinny Puppy’s ‘Smothered Hope’ as one of my ‘rescue tracks’, finally getting this critical band into a Terminates Here set. It was on the night bus home that I began to think that there must be quite a few other bands I’d never played in a DJ set but should do at some point, and doodled a list in a notebook that would later chart the course of my Djing directions (plural intended) from here. As for the event and the promoter, I never heard from either again, and I hope it doesn’t jeopardise my commitment to the health of scene events if I said “Good Riddance” in this case.
And I’m Not From Heaven Sent – I’m Not Holy Just Like You
Unfortunately, 2010 was all downhill from here. An increasingly busy time in the day job, second breakup of the year and I was just too emotionally exhausted to feel anything any more. A four DJ line-up at the October ABBS (with Ashleigh, aka “Miss Jade” joining Scott Robert and myself) made my life easy that day. Other than making my attempt to support local acts by getting System:FX into my ‘industrial’ set, I pretty much sleepwalked this one.
A second running of the pre-recorded ‘Mittelalter’ night in late October saw an expanded “pre-J” lineup, with me now able to focus on my speciality of synth-enhanced medieval (yes, that is a thing), but ultimately we focused too much on the technicalities of assembling the sets and not enough in making the event go with a bang. The night itself was well-attended and well-received, but some of the venue staff didn’t want us there and that was the end of that.
By the time of the December ABBS, I was ready just to wind down to Christmas. Fate decreed that such a luxury would not be afforded at this time, with family members stranded overseas due to heavy snow and a major project starting up at work, but the DJ set here was quite a lot of fun, with Scott now established as ‘regular’ and James Black of ‘Black n Beard’ radio as today’s guest. I didn’t really get into the Christmas spirit as much as I could have done, but my closing-hour synthpop set was sufficiently rollicking to bring my DJ year to a close.