January 2012 was quoted in a VNV Nation song (‘Honour’) and sure enough when the date arrived, they undertook a mini-tour to mark the fact. The London gig was stuffed into the tight confines of The Purple Turtle pub, a show so packed that the guest list had to be turned away. Schadenfreude for me, as to this day I’ve never felt I’ve truly been accepted as a DJ by the scene shot callers who inhabit such lists.
But within a week, I’d be taking a substantial step up myself. The VNV song involved wasn’t the one with the dateline actually in it, but it was off the same album, and this isn’t their story anyway (though I hope Ronan writes such a thing one day).
I Have No Doubt From What I’ve Seen, I Have Never Wanted More
Ah, Reptile January 2012. This time the CD players were fully functional, and I had some better ideas as to what to play. I put on ‘Set Me Free’ by In Strict Confidence, and…..nothing but a crushing noise. If ever I needed a real-life demo of what the ‘loudness war’ had done to hurt music, shoving this through a club PA was all the proof I needed. Die Krupps didn’t get anyone on the dancefloor either, so I pulled out Das Ich’s ‘Destiallat’. Briefly considered the original, but given the empty dancefloor, went for the VNV remix. And suddenly everyone rushed through from the bar.
“Christfuck” by Wumpscut kept them, as did (amazingly) “God Wrote” by Project Pitchfork, the dynamics of this late 90s coming over as strong as the more recent “Set Me Free” was weak. But it was the second set I’ll always remember. Oxyacetelyne, the Re:Boot live mix of Front 242’s “Happiness”, and then, sensing a kind of “Full Tilt Revival” theme, “Cowgirl” by Underworld, actually mangaing to mix the two quite tight given we were in the pre-sync era. Old-school VNV and Apop, both rarely aired the club at the time but no-one was unhappy to hear them, and the live 101 version of “Everything Counts” to finish. Nowadays, it might read like a standard issue alt-scene setlist, but it’s one of those “you had to be there!” moments.
Now things really took off, but don’t believe it was an easy ride, because it wasn’t. My next set was a band support slot in the Interpid’s Fox’s old location under Centre Point. Support DJ for MaxDmyz and Die Kur shouldn’t have been a problem, but that didn’t account for a venue with the most awkwardly located DJ booths ever, and the most aggressive venue manager and security guard I’d had the misfortune to deal with. I regret the loss of the venue in any form, but alas I cannot say that extends to some of the individuals who worked there. It left a sour taste following what should have been a simple Saturday night of live music.
Insane With Faith, I Took The Driving Front Seat
The next event also had some bitterness surrounding it, but at least this one had a happy ending. Neo-Noir was a promising alt-scene event that I’d attended several times, but finally I got a chance to DJ it. Only one of the ex-organisers tried to cancel it the night before. Messages and Facebook posts were exchanged and it went ahead after much confusion, with me getting extra DJ time into the bargain (never a problem) – the packed dancefloor towards the end was proof that whilst spite can be a powerful force, it rarely wins out in the end.
A return to the Underworld next – Dark 7 2012 featured another seven bands, with Paresis replacing K-Nitrate at the last moment (no-one told me until AFTER I’d played the intro DJ set), and Deviant UK headlining – so a chance to play some Numan and Pitchfork then! I’d also adopted the habit of working in bands from the 2011 Underworld events into my set – V2A, Method Cell and Dreams Divide were all now part of my repertoire.
Two more live music supports in May. The aforementioned Dreams Divide were back in London, headlining this time at Elektrowerkz, thus giving me my first DJ shot at this legendary/notorious (delete according to allegiance) venue. Then there was another mixed-genre line-up at the Boston Music Rooms. And it was here that I added another string to my bow. I decided to start playing classic rock. Old-school metal. Blues riff withs amps up to 11. I did say that nothing in my collection was off-limits, and I just had to wait for the right moment to put each genre into practice.
Afraid of a Ruthless New Age While Their Future Screams Unknown
It was around this time that I acquired a laptop good enough to DJ with. I’d stuck out with CD-Rs longer than most, but it was time to make the switch. A remarkably unspectacular Currys PC World discount later, and the acquisition of the Mixxx DJ software and a USB console and I was set. Not the most glamorous setup, but it served me well for years to come. The kit was debuted at a low-pressure event – System:FX were headlining a 4-band lineup at Elektrowerkz and no-one minded the occasional drop-out as I tried to get the settings right. As with all my computers, their network name is taken from an album from the year the technology dates from, and in this instance, the first track played was the title track from the album in question – Kirlian Camera’s “Nightglory”.
Mid 2012 was also when one of the adversaries enter the story. It wasn’t a person, a club or a venue but a music genre. Dubstep. Before the electro-musicologists wade in, I’m not talking about the original, English underground style from the 00s. I’m talking about the bass-drop heavy, stuck-CD impersonation popularised by the like of Skrillex in the early 10s – most of the human race outside elitist dance music circles regard this as ‘dubstep’ now, just like everyone calls St Stephens Tower (or is it the Elizabeth Tower) “Big Ben”, even though Ben is just the name of the biggest bell. So everytime I use the term “dubstep” from here, assume I mean the stuff we were all forced to listen to for a couple of years. Yes, forced.
Because unlike most extreme music genres (usually ones ending in ‘core”), who keep themselves to themselves in specialist events, dubstep invaded the music scene like an invasive knotweed, winding it’s way into countless genres. Watching the band She Wants Revenge live (not practitioners of the style in any way), the support DJ on stage (On STAGE? FFS!) was playing a dubstep set that would have resembled a malfunctioning CD player had it not been obvious that he was playing from laptop.
And it came into play again at my next set – it had been arranged for me to play the Die Kur support slot at Voodoo Rock – the monthly metal-fest at Elektrowerkz (there they are again!). One of the organisers was complaining that my music “wasn’t suitable for this floor”. I’d supported Die Kur often enough now to know what to play before their sets, so what was the problem? It only became clear afterwards. The established DJ was playing dubstep remixes of Rammstein, Rob Zombie and the like. These bands might remix well in the right hands, but this was nowt more than crow-barring in the latest music fad. And the drunken, rowdy crowd went for it. Add a hefty does of irresponsible behaviour and I soon realised the current metal scene was not for me.
Next up was a go at the short lived ‘Y34R Z3R0’ Nine Inch Nails tribute night. I’d attended the first running, and suggested to the promoter that I had a good idea for the first hour (mainly – play the album tracks too slow for regular club play). That was enough to get me on at the second event – alas we were competing with a Numan night and a scene-focused 80s event at the same time and attendance wasn’t what it could have been. Still, the final 40 minute set (should have been an hour!) dispensed with the ambient stuff and I just nailed in the hits one after the other, which seemed to work.
This Is The Lonesome Death Of A Goth DJ
Dubstep reared it’s ugly head again at August’s hot and sweaty ABBS. Scott wasn’t playing this one, but both the guest DJs thought bass drops were appropriate accompaniment for Sunday afternoon shopping. I went in the other direction, with an extended-length opening of minimal-melodic-synthy-stuff (just right for a summer morning) and then a more club-friendly industrial/darkwave set later – after a run of ‘variant’ sets, it was essentially a chance to get back to my core styles.
But another variation was only a few hours away. Renaissance 2012 was taking place downstairs in the Boston Music Rooms, and I was Djing that one, too. DJ Vade Retro (Reptile’s founder) was here to help this time, though in the division of labour stakes, I happily took all the genre option bands (everyone always let me be Jordan Reyne’s support for some reason). Laptop began to play up in the heat, but we made it though and my longest-ever day of Djing was done. A couple of years later and the idea of a Sunday double-header wouldn’t seem so unusual.
But the events kept coming. Neo-Noir made a comeback in it’s original home of the London Stone (a venue which has since been transformed – minus the scary pub decor and under the name “The Cannick Taps”). This event had a super-sized DJ lineup. In the short time allotted to me, I decided to act on a rather vociferous Facebook war over the previous week about ‘Ibiza’ music being played at scene events. By playing some Ibiza music. If Faithless “God Is A DJ” counts. And then some futurepop. In case THAT counted!
Cybersonik festival was back in 2012, too – this time in Elektrowerkz. Another lengthy band support slot ensued, but with a hidden bonus. Gigs at Elektrowerkz on Saturdays don’t generally chuck out after the last band – instead the show simply evolves into a Slimelight. In this case, Slimelight’s 25th anniversary. It had been made clear to me earlier in the day that I was ‘only’ Djing Cybersonik, and ‘not’ Slimelight. But no DJ was booked on the top floor until 12:30am. And Cybersonik ended around 11:45pm.
With no-one stopping me, I carried on Djing after the bands were done. And what does one do with the top floor of Elektrowerkz with no stated remit? Rhythmic Noise, that’s what! Mak actually verbally approved me to do this, and my first Slimelight set was in the bag in the last style anyone would have expected me to play. But, as previously stated, nothing was off-limits and I was actively seeking any opportunity to get in the styles of marginal interest. Sometimes you just have to jump on these things when the chance arises.
There were also a few sets back at the Elixir Bar. The first was a video launch for the bands X-KiN and Non-Bio, both friends of mine, with an open remit afterparty set essentially going from harsh EBM to alt-rock. The second was Nightrain, an attempt to start a new classic rock night. I’d volunteered on the back of one of my DJ support slots earlier in the year. Some hasty research, including consulting some old friends of mine back in Essex and trawling the rock compilations in HMV (who were playing fuckin’ DUBSTEP when I was in there, proof that there was no escape at the time), and I got enough material together.
The event was enjoyable enough, but not exceptionally well attended, playing to a too-competitive market, and hence it ended up as a one-off. A few of the bands I missed on that evening got squeezed into a Halloween band-support slot I played for Bleak in Whitechapel, my first set in my native East London but otherwise quite not-really-my-kind-of-thing in terms of audience, though even here I believe I acquitted myself.
Time Was The Force, Brought Me Back On Course
Neo-Noir was still going. The November event had a 80s/90s theme, which was no problem for me – an early set of industrial from Neubauten to Thrill Kill Kult and a second set resembling turn-of-the-millenium Slimelight. December saw them join up with the other two London Stone based scene clubs (Y34R Z3R0 and Electric Dreams). Nine DJs were billed, but pre-Christmas illness and commitments meant only six played. My own 90s industrial set didn’t really work, so I ended up playing things like Echo & The Bunnymen and Teardrop Explodes to keep people dancing.
There was one more ABBS in December. We turned up to find the venue was still being cleared up from a club the previous night (yep, it was a dubstep night). Once we’d finally got going, I once again found myself playing the trad-goth. Turned out I owned more of it that expected and thus was able to able to mostly avoid the bleedin’ obvious. Which left just one final set – Reptile, New Years Eve. It was my first chance to DJ the busiest clubbing night of the year in any location, and it was back in the club where my 2012 DJ adventure kicked off back in January. It couldn’t have been better placed. Only downside was having to switch back to CDs due to a lack of space for multiple laptops.
Now fully validated in playing the tracks that Full Tilt used to and Slimelight had largely forgotten, I nailed in the 11pm-11:30pm set. Pitchfork, VNV, Covenant, Front 242 before giving Arif the segue back to 80s classics that would see out the last thirty minutes of the year. The place was rammed, so the people in attendance probably couldn’t have left the dancefloor if they wanted to, but we certainly kept them moving. Two more slots were played in the early hours of 2013, one mainly-industrial, the other a twenty-minute burst of 80s classics when the crowd was thinning, but it was Mission Accomplished.
Indeed, 2012 was a case of Mission Accomplished all round. Twenty DJ sets played, the first year since 2008 without a house move and at the halfway point, a relationship began which remains strong to this day – but I won’t be writing about that here, nor will I any in future memoir. Question was – where to from here? It turned out I didn’t actually have an answer to that.