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.
Time for The Last Word.