I believe everyone has moments which define who they are. Mine was my aha moment when I decided to become a DJ/producer back in 1988. To many, it may seem like I have been living the dream, and it is a real blessing to have spent my whole life so far in the world of music. But it wasn't easy to start, and for years I kept a diary. Here for the first time, I would like to share a little of my story and maybe it will encourage some of you to start your own journey.
Discovering My Religion.
As I walk into the dusty warehouse in Wallace road hackney In London, England, Dave Angel is playing. He looks so beautiful all in white, that for a moment, I think perhaps he is a real angel. I'd never seen anything like this, people hugging, so much love and this music is so strange, so heather my friend explains this is Acid house. A kaleidoscope of music and colors colliding, and that night, I fell in love not with a man but with a scene and all the love I witnessed regardless of color race or stature that was being shared by the people brought together by this music.
Everything Starts With An 'E' The history Of Rave, Some Fun Facts:
January - Steve 'Silk' Hurley has the first House number 1 with "Jack your Body"
The Times newspaper reports the first ecstasy seizures in London. The drug, it says "Is used as a sexual stimulant"
Early summer - Trevor Fung & Ian St Paul open a small bar in San Antonio called the Project (named after a club in London paul was partially running). It acts as a focal point for young British youth's out for a good time on the island. Taking ecstasy and going to open-air clubs like Amnesia where DJ's like Alfredo were playing some of the early house imports.
September - Trevor and Ian invite their friend Paul Oakenfold to Ibiza for his birthday. Paul brings with him Johnny Walker, Nicky Holloway and Danny Rampling. Trevor and Ian close the project bar and they spend the rest of the summer back and forth between Amnesia and Cafe Del Mar.
Autumn - The newly converted Ibiza crew return to London and immediately they feel something has changed. "How can they forget what has happened in Ibiza over the summer". Paul starts to open the original Project club 'after hours'. At 2 am when the club officially finished they would let the Ibiza crew in and party until 6 am. This lasts only a few weeks until the Police raid it.
November - Danny Rampling and Jenni open Klub Sch-oom (soon shortened to Shoom) at a fitness centre near Southwark bridge, just south of the Thames in London. Two weeks later Paul Oakenfold holds the first Future in the backroom of the Heaven, a huge club on London's Charing Cross.
A while later raving has blurred into my life, and I can say these are truly the happiest days of my life. Party to party I discover a brave new world, dancing in fields with pure joy in my heart. It is almost impossible to describe what it feels like to walk into a field of 50,000 people who all wanna hug you and be hugged back. I find myself in the 'Ibiza' rave in London and edge my way near the DJs. Dem 2 are playing and they drop 10 pounds to get in, (you know, that catchy Susanne Vega song da da da da) I move closer to check the DJs out, my friends and I are entranced, in the palm of their hands. I stare at them in wonder, I am thinking how cool this is, the power they have to make us all so happy, I look around the room at what is happening to us all at the same time it's pure telepathy. It's like a light bulb went off in my head. I turn to my friends and I simply say, 'I want to do this'. I just knew it, felt it in my stomach, that this was a big idea and I felt it in every ounce of my body.
How To Start?
Now we have all kinds of technology to fit your budget that will almost DJ for you, Traktor, Serato, my fac CDJ's but back in the day, that was not the case. I had to learn using a tape deck and one turntable and mix that record on the deck into a tape that was playing. Still, the true art of a DJ is still the same at its root. It's that journey we take you on, knowing that a record can change your life. It's the blending of music in perfect harmony, in key, creating live remixes as you play, and when put together properly, it is an incredible feeling for both DJ and Fan of music alike. I started out by creating music, I knew right away that that was the only way to really break into the scene, I can't stress how important that is. but how?
I am a songwriter and a pianist but back then I was just beginning so I had no idea of what I could achieve. I had basic skills, to say the least. I figured the smart thing to do was team up with someone with better skills that I could learn off. It is still something I do to this day, it only helps you grow.
I teamed up with a friend who produced music, Jeff B and we made our first tune. 'Don't Be Afraid To Love' Our band was called 'The adored' and we actually managed to get that tune signed to a label Raw Bass Recordings and made record of the week in MixMag. That was a big deal for us and we wanted to promote our records so the thought was to split and each play on a separate pirate radio station and promote. That is how I ended up on Fantasy FM.
Getting Your music Out there
I am a fan of pirate radio, getting your music out there to the masses is a very good thing, it grows your audience, and today, it couldn't be easier with SoundCloud, Spotify, pandora etc...in that aspect nothing has changed, except for when it comes down to getting paid. At least on the pirate radio stations, all your music sold, because back then people supported their scene and it's artistes, they never took it for granted like it is today or expected it for free, as if it was air.
Today with the above-mentioned platforms you are paid pretty much nothing if you are an indie artist, so again, use it for promotional purposes to gain a solid fan base. These days promoting yourself couldn't be easier with social media, gone are the days when all you had to do was make music, now you have to be a manager, publicist, and marketer until your become super famous and can pay someone else to do all that for you. Even then, it's been my experience that even with the biggest people taking care of you, no one is going to care about your business as much as you do.
Joining forces with a label is another great way to get all that promotion for free. I have been signed to Sony, Ministry Of Sound to name a few. Not saying all were great experiences but that is the deal you make with the devil, so choose wisely. My experience with Sony was incredible and took me all over the world to work with so many artists, BT, Eric Morrillo, Hans Zimmer, Hybid, and DJ Tydi, to name just a few that were outside the world of Drum and bass. Licensing your music is also key, so finding a source that will help you get your music out there on video games and into film and commercials is vital. Again, do your research and don't sign your life way with exclusive deals.
How do you find these people?
The Uber Talented Goldie!
Make friends in the music industry! The internet is always your friend and a great resource for research. Also, every artist has a website, you can easily see their team on their contact page, it usually states contact info for managers, agents, press etc.
Take a look and see are they promoted well? Are they marketed well? This all cost money and you get the best once you have risen to the top for the most part, but like I said, no one will care as much as you do, so how do you do this when you have no money? Simple. Watch how YouTubers promote, watch what people say on IG, copy hashtags that people use to sell the products. See how ads are put together from other companies and adapt and adopt to suit your audience. There is always someone out there doing something similar to you, if they are successful, see how they do it and make it your own. No one owns marketing, but do be original so you stand out from the crowd.
Easy when you have a great Manger and you are a superstar. You are there already. You Manager will wipe your bottom for you if they think it will make money. Not you? Ok, read on.
When it comes to getting shows and you are new try to put yourself in the promoters shoes. Think of reasons why he/she should book you. after all, your not a huge DJ-yet. We all had to start somewhere, remember that...For me, well I think it was way less sexist back in the day, promoters gave me a chance, Raindance, Elevation, Eclipse, Shelleys, Moondance, Telepathy and the world famous Astoria in London name a few. Thank God for those promoters!
I was also producing hit records so I got support and Love from Fabio, Grooverider, Roni Size and Goldie and of course Jumping Jack Frost. The boys were my family and showed me the ropes. it was a unique insight into their world, the DJ world and I felt privileged to be part of that.
When I started and this still applies in todays world I always made an effort to be in everyone's face, I would go as a raver to my fav clubs, I would bring so many friends to the clubs with me, I always took the time to say hi to the promoter made sure the promoter knew who I was and saw that I was bringing business into the club. That way when I said hello after 5, 6 weeks of going there as a patron, he was fine with me giving him a sample of my music.
Eventually he listened to what I gave him, then it was only a matter of time before I got booked, why, because he saw how many people I brought into the club, he saw I was a regular, and my mixtapes were bloody good. (This was 1989 when I started to DJ) Most importantly I was nice, didn't act unprofessionally in the club and never gave up. Just being a good DJ won't get you gigs. You have to do the work and learn to promote yourself. This means work on your social media, be professional, look like you mean business on there, selfies of you smoking weed or getting drunk with you mates does not bode well if you want to be taken seriously. What you do in private is up to you, but if you want to be in the public eye, then act responsibly.
I hope this gives you some insight and encourages you on your own journey. Be yourself, everybody else is taken.