Frequently Asked Questions: what’s moving & motivating some of the UK’s most promising DJs?

FAQs2

Mired in astronomical DJ fees, large, homogenous events lacking in character, gender and racial inequality and closing venues, it’s easy to succumb to the notion that there’s little cause for optimism about the future of underground music. Look beneath the glare of the brightest lights though, and you’ll find a flourishing grassroots DJ community, empowered by Internet radio, conscious of their socio-political surroundings and elevated by the power of the collective. For us, this represents one of the most exciting musical movements in the UK right now; it’s a feeling also shared by Dimensions Festival, marked by the launch of their DJ Directory this year, which supports a cross-genre selection of talented selectors.

To celebrate the wealth of creativity and talent on their list, we’ve picked out some of the UK-based names to build together a picture of life as an aspiring young DJ today, asking them questions about their origins, elevation, struggles and muses. They include: On Rotation resident and Tribe Records family Alex T; Touching Bass co-founder and Boiler Room host Andwot; Rhythm Section label manager and illustrator anu; Idle Hands family Sam Hall; Balamii host and radio producer Sean OD; CoOp member and producer Shy One; Dance for Refuge co-founder and Phonica-signed producer Will Lister.

Many are friends of ours who we get to DJ or dance with regularly – some of them have even contributed to the site – and it’s been a constant inspiration to see them flourish at their respective exploits. It’s a long old read, but one that offers advise to aspiring DJs and gives an insight into the minds of a young generation who are building a rock solid foundation for the UK in years to come.

Origins

First a nice easy one: what made you want to be a DJ?

Alex T

The earliest memory I have of wanting to be a DJ was listening to Annie Mac, Mistajam and In New DJs We Trust on Radio 1 when I was about 16. My parents never let me out much and I was quite an awkward kid, so I spent a lot of my late teens at home on a Friday and Saturday nights listening to The Essential Mix or whatever dance music was on the radio. Through Radio 1 I started listening to Mary Anne Hobbs, which put me onto my first dance music obsession – dubstep. Seeing Skream at my first festival blew my mind and strengthened my resolve to get decks and give it a go myself.

Andwot

I’d always been into making playlists and got a kick out of finding new music. I was also that donnie selecting tunes for the house parties in Uni, but it didn’t really click that I should become a DJ until it was out of necessity. The first Touching Bass happened in December 2014 and we needed a DJ to open things up. I cautiously stepped up and enjoyed it so much that I decided to teach myself how to do it properly.

anu

The first time I ever played in a club was during a trial week for a new job in Berlin. It was at the official closing party of Berlin Art Week. I had no idea what I was doing, I faded between iTunes and Spotify. People loved it though, and I got the job that evening. During that period I was trying out as many different things I could and trying to figure out what I wanted to do in life. The feeling I got after playing was unlike anything I’d ever felt from working in fashion or art, so I started to take my music discovery to the next level.   

Sam Hall

The main people who made me want to be a DJ are two school friends, Tommy and Mike. My close group of friends and I used to be heavily into drum & bass and jungle through my secondary school years. Tommy was the guy who had the decks and a few records at his parents’ house so the three of us ended up round there listening to the latest records he had bought. The moment I really wanted to learn to DJ happened from quite a strange incident. Tommy had stepped off the decks, and the record had run out so I was sat in silence in the room on my own. I had a real eagerness to put on some records and impress my mates but had no idea what I was doing so I tried to pull the wool over my friends eyes and plugged my iPod into the aux cable, pretending I was mixing using some old Metalheadz mix which was on my iTunes. When they walked in they thought I was blending two records perfectly using two of Tommy’s records. It didn’t take them long to work out what was going on but it was that moment of their pure excitement that spurred on my desire to practice and buy my own set of turntables.

Sean OD

The first time I DJd in front of people was actually the first time I’d used two decks and a mixer (as opposed to the single belt-drive turntable set up I had in my room at the time). It was at this little hippie festival in a small park in Brighton and was incredibly nerve-wracking. Because I was playing records and had no idea how to beat match or mix, I had to go purely on selection. That made me realise that, although chops do help, what you’ve got in your bag is what truly matters. The response was surprisingly good too and it got me pretty excited about playing tunes to people. I’ve always loved and collected music, but before this I didn’t see myself as a DJ of any sort.

Shy One

Besides having a genuine passion for listening to and collecting music, I think the desire to be a DJ came about when I was too shy to dance in primary school so insisted on being the DJ at all classroom/assembly hall tun ups! It killed two birds with one stone. I got to do what I love while avoiding what I dreaded.

Will Lister

I would go out and have loads of fun and just think to myself “yeah I want to start DJing so I can curate the room and its atmosphere”. One of my first club experiences was going to a Black Butter night at Village Underground when I was 17. I queued thinking I wasn’t going to get in and used my credit card as ID and somehow it worked, and danced sober until about 6am off pure adrenaline and thought that this is what I want to be doing: playing parties. I also remember going to see Mr Bongo at Bussey in Freshers Week and they were throwing 7”s into the crowd which was crazy.

For musical reasons or otherwise, who are some of your biggest DJ role models and why?

Alex T

Hunee and Ben UFO stand out for me, not only because of their immense talent and technical skill, but for their dedication, work ethic and ability to dig deeper than anyone else despite gigging up to 20 times a month. Their knowledge and passion for music, art and culture stretches far beyond the confines of dance music and it is clearly evident that their thirst for knowledge drives them forward. I really appreciate their social media presence as well, because they bring a level of intellectualism to their posts without being inaccessible to the average fan. Ben especially discusses his thoughts about music in a really nuanced way that is very logical and unpretentious, which I think is hard to do when you are extremely passionate about something.

Andwot

Alexander Nut, Josey Rebelle and Andrew Ashong are most definitely my idols. Their ability to seamlessly blend styles of music is untouchable. They’re also really good-hearted people too, heads who put the music first and all else after that. I’ve been blessed to spend a considerable amount of time with Andrew especially, and his way of looking at the world has rubbed off on me a bit.

anu

Josey Rebelle is a big role model for me. I started listening to her show on Rinse years ago and I’d never heard anyone mix such a variety of genres in that way before. I still listen to her show weekly and it’s a big source of inspiration for me. Moxie is another role model for me, I started listening to her show when I was 18 and didn’t really know what house music was. She turned me onto so much good music that I still play today. It’s also been really inspiring to watch how her career has grown – she’s been constantly killing it.

Sam Hall

For me there are three people all who reside in Bristol who are some of my biggest DJ role models. The first is two brothers, Sean and Dan a.k.a The Kelly Twins, who own one of my favourite labels, Happy Skull. When I first started going out in Bristol I would always end up seeing their names on lineups and would accidently stumble into one of the parties they were playing at without even realising. Give them any genre or tempo to play and they will outperform most people who put their all into one sound. The third is Jay L of Deep Street and brstl. The first time I saw Jay play he was blending together a mix of disco, funk and soul with an ease that surpassed any other DJ I’d seen play those kind of records, technically and selection wise.

Sean OD

There’s so many amazing DJs that it’s hard to pick! Not really on a musical level, but I love how Helena Hauff can seamlessly blend all this weird Soviet-era proto techno with electro and upfront techno productions. I don’t overlap with her musically in any way, but I think it’s amazing that she can draw influences from a musical timeline that spans over so many decades yet it all makes so much sense in the contexts of her sets. Motor City Drum Ensemble, Ge-ology, Jayda G, Hunee and Antal are similarly amazing at joining the dots between music from across time (and, like Helena, they actually mix it too). They dig up so many amazing nuggets, which I really admire. You can tell hours of work, research and passion has gone into the music you discover through them. Like many of my DJ peers, Gilles Peterson is a huge influence to me too. Not only can he play ridiculously eclectic sets and somehow make sense of it all, but he’s also earned this golden seal of approval, which people trust and I get that’s what ultimately makes him a tastemaker. I’ve seen him mix DJ Rashad into Ella Fitzgerald in a packed out club at 3am and if you ask him to explain why he chose to play certain tracks in a certain order he’ll actually give you a pretty eloquent artistic explanation. He doesn’t just get away with playing random tracks because of his status. Obviously his reputation helps, but there’s a whole process of thought which doesn’t make the tracks random at all.

Shy One

A bit naff of me to but I’ve gotta go with my family on this one. My dad, Trevor Nelson and my Godfather Jazzie B are my role models. They’ve been doing this since before I was born and both still tour/get booked, not to mention they’re sick selectors with amazing knowledge.

Will Lister

Will Lister

DJing as a career choice isn’t always the easiest concept to explain to curious parents and elderly relatives. How do you describe what you do and how do you communicate your achievements?

Andwot

I’ve been blessed to have parents that support me in whatever it is I do. When I was younger and playing football at a high level, they were there on the sidelines. Although not exactly standing in the booth with me, my parents have always showed a keen interest in my efforts; whether it be journalism or now, DJing, they’ve always been there. After all, their free-willingness and musical tastes form the backbone of what I play anyways.

anu

Parents Just Don’t Understand’ – DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince

 Sean OD

My older relatives live in Brazil and I haven’t actually had the chance to attempt to explain what I do to them yet. I don’t really know how much my parents get it, but they’re supportive and proud of me nevertheless. My mum is Brazilian and I think she finds it hilarious that there’s young English people dancing to 70s/80s/90s Brazilian hits in UK clubs/festivals. To her it’s the equivalent of everyone dancing to a Leon Ware or George Benson track, which obviously does (and should) happen but I guess if you were around when those tracks came out you might find them a lot more dated than if you were discovering them four decades later.

 

Elevation 

It’s become increasingly challenging to stand out on social media as a DJ, given the amount of similar traffic flying around online. Has creating a clear image for yourself been much of a conscious decision? Both in terms of how you communicate with the outside world and how your image? If yes, could you expand on how you choose to present yourself as a DJ?

Alex T

For me social media has been vitally important for developing myself as a selector. Being visible in a local and national club scene means that promoters put faith in you to do a good job, and sadly there are plenty of DJs who are ‘visible’ but have no technical skills to match. It’s quite incredible what bad DJs can blag through being good at Facebook! I can see why a lot of people see social media as a load of bullshit, however it’s what you make of it. I see it as a great tool to connect like- minded people from the UK and beyond about music that I love. I have met many of my closest mates (including my current housemate) through Facebook, and being actively involved online has led me to attend many wonderful parties I had no idea existed and listen to music I would never have usually given the time of day. As far as creating a clear online image goes, it’s something I haven’t really put any thought into. I find the whole concept of creating a personal ‘brand’ really disingenuous seeing as all I do is play other peoples music. If I ever started a label or began to produce myself I might give it some more consideration, but for now I only want to present myself as someone who loves the music that they play.

anu

It hasn’t been exactly been a conscious decision as I’ve been active on social media for a long time, so I’ve kept the ‘image’ for myself the same. I want my social media presence to reflect how I am in real life, so that before anyone has met me in real life, they can get an idea of who I am. I don’t like to take it too seriously and I try to make as many jokes as possible 🙂

Sam Hall

Creating an image and promoting myself as a DJ has been very difficult on two main levels. The first problem I found was that although people listen to mixes by well established DJs and artists, they were more likely to listen to a track and mix by a producer than to a mix by someone who doesn’t make music. Strictly being a DJ I found it difficult to reach people and gain a following. It was inspiring to see DJs like Jackmaster and Oneman get over this barrier if you worked hard enough and were on top of your game.

The second problem was accepting that I had to make a Facebook page for my DJing. Using my personal Facebook profile to share my upcoming gigs or a new mix got to some of my friends and family on Facebook. I sometimes feel the same when I see people posting constantly about going to the gym or making food. I’ve slowly built up a following and created an image which I believe truly reflects who I am as a person and a DJ and doesn’t include any bullshit to make me sounds like something I’m not; a major problem in the whole social media promotion game right now I believe. Honesty is the best policy and you will get caught out making yourself out to be something you’re not when you step in front of a packed dance floor and haven’t got the skills or selection to go with the talk you’ve been giving on your Facebook page.

Shy One

Shy One

How important is the power of the collective in elevating you? Would you like to shout out any you’re part of, or any who have helped you?

Alex T

I cannot understate how important being part of a collective is for anyone to further themselves in a local or national scene. You can achieve so much more together and you grow together as a result. Big shout outs go to Stamp The Wax for one! I have been writing for them for a number of years and through STW I have met so many contacts who are involved in various parties or work in the industry. Not to mention all the rest of the STW crew who are some of the most knowledgeable and lovely people I have ever had the pleasure to work with. It was also through STW that I ended up on this DJ Directory, which is my biggest achievement to date! Aaron (the editor) recommended me to Andy, and after Sam who helped curate the Directory recommended me to be put on, that was that! Big shout outs also go to the Brudenell Groove crew who welcomed me to Leeds with open arms when I moved last September, making me feel right at home. They also introduced me to various other collectives in Leeds such as Super Hexagon, Butter Side Up, Nord, Relic, Alter and Come Thru who have become good friends and important peers as a result. Leeds is a very good place to be right now and there are lots of smaller collectives working together to make the scene extremely strong. It’s ace to be somewhere where everyone is so excited about their plans!

anu

Collectives are SO powerful! It’s really important to have relationships with people who are doing similar things to you, because you can uplift and support one another. When I first started playing I was part of a duo with a friend at the time – we started a music magazine and we learnt how to DJ together. I’ll forever be shouting out Rhythm Section for helping me to get where I am now and for giving me a platform to grow. I also have a solid group of friends who DJ and we’re constantly elevating each another.

Andwot

Vital. Surrounding yourself with good peoples is the first step. Touching Bass all day, every day. Music of the soul. Also shouts to BBZ, Bone Soda, gal-dem and the Dubious Doobies fam.

Sam Hall

The power of the collective has been probably the most important and fundamental elevation to my DJing. Working at Idle Hands and joining the family was one of the biggest turning points not just in my DJing but also in my life. Before I started working there I was going through a severe depressive spell that was triggered from excessive drug and alcohol abuse. I was lacking confidence and was isolating myself from my friends and family so I decided I had nothing to lose and emailed the boss Chris Farrell to see if he had any work going. He had no idea at the time but when he got me involved he elevated my life to a new level. Huge shout outs to Chris Farrell.

Being able to put the shops name next to my name on a poster for a gig has raised my credibility ten fold and means I get associated with a collective that is well renowned for quality and talent. I have also gained a huge amount of wisdom and knowledge on music, records, the industry and DJing and have found some friends for life just by working at that one shop. Shouts to all the current employees (Aidan and Sean Kelly of Happy Skull) and past employees (James O’hare, Sam Wild, Shanti Celeste and Joe Kowton) who I’ve worked with or who helped shaped the shop into the amazing place to work it is today.

Sean OD

Collective, community and a network of support are incredibly important. There are so many young upcoming DJs who are killing it at the moment and I’d like to think that we all support each other, send each other music and keep up to date with each other’s moves. Big shouts to Will Lister, ATLAS, anu, Andwot, Shy One, Aaron L, Warren Xclnce to name a few. All of these are passionate, upcoming DJs and great people. Although I’m not directly in a collective with any of them, what they do drives and inspires me to do my thing too. In terms of collective and community spirit I have to give props to Balamii Radio and Andy Lemay. Balamii has been a great platform for me to meet like-minded people and get some mixes out there whilst Andy has given so many people (myself included) amazing opportunities to affiliate themselves to the reputable institution that is Dimensions Festival.

Shy One

I’ve always been on my jacks right up until six months ago – shouts to BBZ and Touching Bass for recently adopting me into their families. From the short time I’ve been in these collectives I’ve been very grateful for the education, inspiration and support from like-minded individuals. All the new, music-related opportunities are great but the friendships and insight are what I find most elevating.

Will Lister

Family in music is so important for me. No one gets anywhere by going solo. You’re always going to have various people supporting you along the way, even if you don’t realise it until later. I was in touch with Throwing Snow when I was 15/16 and sending him my first tunes and he’d always reply with any advice he could offer, and now he’s been playing my tracks in his sets. People like that really make you thankful for any support you can get, and also means that should I be in a position to help anyone out then I’m more than happy to do so. James at Balamii is a don too, he’s helped me loads recently and given me a platform to do what we want with. Then again it’s important for people to want to listen to your music because of the actual content, rather than just your affiliation.

Dance music has become increasingly more politically apathetic. Is a political consciousness relevant to your identity as a DJ?

anu

It’s definitely relevant and I think it has to be. It’s not particularly easy being a Woman of Colour in this industry as sexism and racism is still a big problem. As a WOC I feel like I can play a role in amplifying voices of marginalised groups of people, whether it be supporting women or ethnic minorities through the music I play on the radio, or being conscious of this whilst curating lineups. I think it’s really important to spark conversation and debate when it comes to the politics of music, as it’s a form of education, and there’s still a lot of educating to be done!

Andwot

Although the world we live in is crazy, I prefer to focus on the politics of self; making sure my own mind is right.

Sean OD

I don’t think dance music and club culture will ever carry the same impactful political message that it did when it started as a gay, predominantly black movement. It’s now a multi-million pound business and, like any other, there are several things that need to change on a political and cultural level. Like in many other sectors, the gender imbalance in the industry is disgraceful but I’m very pleased to see that promoters seem to be making a conscious decision to book more diverse lineups. Having said that, I’m a straight white male and, with my position of privilege in mind, I feel that it could be a bit insincere if I was to be publically outspoken about issues of gender and race or, in other words, reflect this as part of my image. This doesn’t mean that I don’t think about these issues and discuss them with my friends or that I won’t call someone out if they’re out of line though.

Will Lister

I’m a pretty political person in general and I feel passionately about a lot of issues, but on social media you’re always going to piss people off because not everyone is going to agree with you. If there’s something I feel is important to make a stand or statement on I will, but the music I play and make isn’t politically motivated. I will sometimes not play something because of affiliations the artist/label/whatever may have, but that’s something I’ll keep private. I’ve been involved with Dance For Refuge for over a year now and we’ve put of a few events that have had all the proceeds go to various refugee charities like Help Refugees and Warchild.

The rise of Internet radio in recent years has helped give a platform for many young DJs who previously didn’t have the opportunity to express themselves in a public forum. Has this been true for you? If so, how has it helped you?

anu

Internet radio has been a massive help for me – my first show was on Radar Radio and I started to learn how to mix there. I then moved on to Balamii and now I have a show on NTS. Balamii and NTS are two of the most supportive platforms in London – they’ve given me space to grow and have made me way more confident in all aspects of DJing. I love going to different cities and doing radio shows whilst I’m there, it’s a great way to meet new people.

Sean OD

Massively. I don’t think I’d be up to much if it wasn’t for radio. Balamii in particular has given me the opportunity to refine my sound and, ultimately, be self-critical. I’ve done a fair few shows now, so I’m able to trace my progression and send the best bits to promoters. Radio can be helpful in many ways, not just through doing a show. I listen to at least 12 hours of radio every week and not only find a ridiculous amount of music through it, but listening to good presenters also makes me a better one. Radio brings people together. You can go to Amsterdam and do an hour-long show on Red Light Radio and you’re guaranteed to make friends if you’re a music head. These upcoming stations build a community of interest, be that geographical or an online scene of people who are hyped about a sound. They offer meticulous curation without the confines of a public service or commercial broadcasting entity and I think that they’ve become indispensable to dance music and club culture that might not have a platform on more mainstream outlets.

Shy One

I was lucky enough to play on pirate before Internet radio so I had an opportunity to express myself publicly before getting shows on NTS, Radar and Balamii. Being the “world wide web” there’s no denying its power to maximise reach.

Sean OD

Sean OD

Much is made of “getting signed” or joining a Booking Agency in the development of a DJ. How did you go about getting signed and, now knowing what your agent was looking for, what advice would you give to others looking for a similar thing?  

anu

I was getting quite a few bookings and found myself playing most weekends for not much money as I felt like I had to take everything that was coming my way. I approached TSA as I wanted some advice and they decided to sign me. I instantly noticed the change as I started to get paid for DJing. The advice I’d give to others looking for a similar thing is to not rush into signing to an agency because you feel like you have to. Wait till the right agent approaches you and don’t sign a contract. 

Will Lister

I’m not sure how Sarah at TSA picked up what I was doing but she must have liked it, which was really nice to hear, especially as the TSA family were one of the agencies I was aspiring to be on. It’s nice to get on one fairly early because then they can really get to know you and your way of working, so it makes your relationship strong as you grow as an artist. For anyone wanting to get involved with an agency, I would advise playing as many reputable gigs as possible rather than spending loads of time sending “do you want to represent me” emails to people. If you’re doing something cool they’ll know about it. If they don’t, then they’re not worth representing you.

How has making music yourself helped in your development as a DJ?

Shy One

I’d like to say that on a technical level it’s helped me be more considerate of a DJ set – so structurally and sonically – but that’s still a work in progress. It’s great as another means of getting your name out there. Some people don’t know I DJ and some don’t know I make beats.

Will Lister

The stuff I DJ and the stuff I’ve released so far is pretty different. I’ll only play my tunes if I really think it fits the vibe of the party. It’s made me appreciate the production and mixes of certain tracks more because I know whether they’ll work on a club system. I’m hopefully going to release more club-orientated tracks soon so it’ll be fun challenging myself to make something a bit heavier.

The Struggle

What’s the biggest challenge you face as a DJ?

Alex T

Keeping it interesting. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to mixing records and if I don’t know the tracks as well I can’t put them together to the best of my ability, which is why the urge to play the same songs can become quite tempting. However, I also have a voice in the back of my head that tells me to try and keep it fresh and interesting even if I don’t know the music quite so well. This is a large part of why I admire people like Ben UFO and Hunee so much. They gig constantly, have no time to practice mixing their records outside of gigs, yet still manage to smash it better than anyone else week in week out. Aside from this, managing my finances is something I have struggled with, especially when discogs is an endless wormhole. I need to learn to reign in my spending when I don’t have as much money.

Sam Hall

The biggest challenge I face most times when I go to play at parties is the technical side of things when playing records. With the huge resurgence of vinyl over the past few years and the influx of DJs playing records out at club nights you would have thought that clubs, sound technicians and promoters would strive to have a good setup for people they invite to play but that’s not always the case. From using equipment that hasn’t been serviced properly or not understanding the technical side of how to stop a needle from skipping or where to place monitors in a booth.

Shy One

Probably organising and updating a digital library. Though it should be the more convenient method I find that it’s easier to forget and lose track of tunes on the laptop/USB as opposed to physical format. I overlook so much of my digital collection and end up playing the same tunes or records (depending on the genre).

Sam Hall

Sam Hall

Have you experienced something while DJing recently that has made you want to pack it in? 

Alex T

Nope! If anything I am being constantly inspired to push on by my peers and friends who are making amazing music and throwing great parties. There’s a lot of negativity surrounding where dance music is going in the UK with club closures and whatever else, but as Dan Beaumont said on a recent Boiler Room panel discussion, you have to adapt; and since the subculture will always be there we just have to make the best of what we have.

anu

It’s not recent, but a few years ago I played a few Bollywood records at a day party in Peckham and a racist guy sitting at the bar started to make noises of disparagement. He made me feel even more uncomfortable by coming over to me and swearing throughout the songs and then clapped when I started playing something that wasn’t in Hindi. My friend’s didn’t defend me either. It made me feel so small, useless and shit about playing music from my motherland.

I thought about giving up because I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere, and things were taking me longer than a lot of people around me. I had a conversation with my mum about this, and she made me realise that I’d have to work a lot harder than my peers to get to the positions that they’re in. I didn’t walk away because I wanted to prove myself and not let any racist, bigoted people stop me from doing the things I love.

Sam Hall

One main problem that has really put me off DJing is the complete disrespect and disgusting behaviour that I’ve witnessed guys show to girls on a dance floor. If a girl doesn’t want to dance with you then get the fucking hint. The sheer audacity for a guy to just pinch a random girl’s bum in front of them is vile and has no place in the club or anywhere else for that matter. Clubs are meant to be safe spaces and a haven for people to let loose without having to worry about a few creeps who think they can do what they like.

I was once playing in Bristol and witnessed a guy grinding on a girl from behind who had repeatedly told him to go away. Amazingly he was still adamant she was going to be interested in him after his fourth advancement so at that point I stopped the music, called over security and got the guy kicked out. I met the girl in the smoking area later on and she thanked me and told me how distressed the guy had made her feel. From that point on I decided I was going to use my position as a DJ to do what I can to stop this behaviour in clubs.

Sean OD

This was a while ago and it didn’t really make me want to pack it in, but it’s pretty funny and a bit depressing. I was playing an afrobeat/highlife party in Brixton, which was sold out at £20 a ticket with a solid lineup of bands and DJs and run by reputable promoters. I was playing an Ebo Taylor track at 2am-ish and, within a 10 minute period, three different people came into the booth saying I needed to play something harder like tech house/Rihanna/Kings of Leon. I know it’s such a cliché thing for DJs to moan about requests, but it just didn’t make sense at a sold out and somewhat niche night. Having that said, if I’d put ‘Sex on Fire’ on my USB the temptation to play it would’ve definitely be there.

 

Following that more positive tangent, what is your biggest source of optimism or inner-strength as a DJ? 

Alex T

My closest friends who are involved in the scene are my biggest source of inspiration. I never cease to be amazed at what I learn from them every week and they constantly challenge me to rethink my position within the scene, how I approach more nuanced issues surrounding safe clubbing, inclusivity amongst other topics. Not to mention the endless amounts of exciting tracks they share with me on a daily basis.

Andwot

Being able to make people dance and smile.

anu

As cheesy as it sounds, my best friends (Lil Bits) and boyfriend are my biggest source of optimism and inspiration. My favourite time to DJ is when they’re at one of my gigs, they’re always bigging me up and reminding me that I’m doing good shit!

Sean OD

If it ever gets stressful or frustrating, I just remind myself how lucky I am to be getting paid to share music with people.

Shy One

The feeling of peace when you get in the zone during a set.

Will Lister

It’s one of the best feelings playing music to a crowd of people going wild to what you’re playing. It never fails to bring a smile to my face. Plus you meet so many amazing people and get to do so many amazing things so that is a constant source of inspiration. I haven’t got over people coming up to me and saying that they like the music I make as well. I’m still like “shit, thank you! I thought it was only me who thought it was alright”.

anu

anu

What’s your greatest achievement so far as a DJ?

Andwot

There have been a few in my short time as a DJ. The Touching Bass family being invited to soundtrack a Late at Tate Britain event earlier this year, playing at Dimensions Festival last year and being a part of the broken beat resurgence.

anu

There are quite a few – playing at Rhythm Section for the first time, doing a Resident Advisor mix, being on the same lineup as some of my favourite DJs (DJ Sprinkles, Tama Sumo & Lakuti were standouts!). 

Sam Hall

Opening for one of my favourite producers, DJs and political activists, Terre Thaemlitz aka DJ Sprinkles. I played b2b on the warmup with my good friend Larry who produces as Bruce (Hessle Audio/ Hemlock/ Idle Hands) and we created the perfect atmosphere in the room for Sprinkles to come on to. I also played one of my favourite house records, Mr. Fingers – ‘Closer (The Deep Down Basement Mix)’ right before Terre came on which was quite a surreal moment but also made me realise how far I’d come as a DJ.

Sean OD

Playing Dimensions. They let me play the moat at Outlook too for some reason. Cheers, guys!

Will Lister

Helping to organise a Dance For Refuge event where I played with Mall Grab and Shy One in Room 1 Corsica Studios and raised over £2,500 for Help Refugees is probably my favourite moment of recent times. All the sets were killer and the vibe in the room was amazing, and it was all for a good cause. Plus Corsica is one of my favourite clubs in London so it’s always nice to have a fun set there.

Muses

What’s your favourite place to buy records and why?

Andwot

As well as frequenting car boot sales, I’d also say Cosmos Records (when I can afford it), Supertone Records and Love Vinyl’s up there too. Increasingly heading out of town though.

anu

The Internet haha. I don’t really enjoy going to record shops – some of them are pretty uncomfortable to browse / listen in. Having said that, I do love Rye Wax and Yam for being 2 of the friendliest record shops in London!

Sam Hall

Without being biased, Idle Hands in Bristol. The new space that we’ve just moved into is fresh and bright and creates such a good atmosphere to chat to likeminded people and listen to great music. The aesthetic of the shop is simple and calming so you can really lose yourself in the record you’re listening to which makes the whole experience a lot more personal and exciting. The selection of records for sale are top quality and Chris Farrell has instilled a friendly and welcoming nature in his staff, which means customers are relaxed enough to ask for recommendations or just to have a chat with the employees.

Sean OD

I don’t think I have one. Honest Jon’s has amazing jazz, funk, afro and soul, but that’s prime digging music and they don’t have a turntable where you can listen before you buy. Music & Video Exchange in Greenwich is cheap and great for all things bass but again, no listening before you buy. Red Light Records in Amsterdam is solid. The guys in there are helpful and you can listen to as much stuff as you want. Rush Hour Records is great for jazz, boogie and Brazilian bits too and you can just grab and listen to whatever you want, although it’s not cheap. I need to go Sounds Of The Universe more often to be honest. I’ve always left with an empty pocket and a full bag when I’ve gone in there and Debora Ipekel behind the counter is a legend. Gotta love Discogs too. Who else is going to sell me ‘The Ganja Kru – Super Sharp Shooter’ on 12” at 5am on the 178 night bus?

Shy One

My fave closed down, it was Record and Tape exchange in Soho. I’m still not over it. I love a bargain basement, Flashback, Love Vinyl, Reckless and any other random ones I stumble upon with a £1 or 50p section really.

Will Lister

It’s got to be Phonica. I don’t work there any more but when I go in I can just sort myself out with records I want to listen to which is nice because there’s no pressure or hurry and I know the space. I try and go when it’s a bit quieter though and have a chat with the staff. I do a lot of record hunting online on Youtube and Discogs too because my room is one of my favourite spaces to chill out in so I can just spend a whole day looking for tunes at my own pace.

Andwot

Andwot

What’s your favourite party? 

Alex T

Currently my favourite is a queer party in Leeds called Love Muscle. They operate every month at a co-op run venue with a safer spaces policy. The drinks are cheap and the party is absolutely phenomenal! I’ve not experienced such a raw energy in a club anywhere outside of Berghain. People become uninhibited and in touch with their animalistic nature and there’s nothing else quite like the energy that they create. The residents are all amazing and there’s no greater sight than watching Michael play in drag, wearing a skinny dress and massive gold earrings whilst sending 200 people mental to Paradise Garage classics. It truly feels like stepping into the past. They are currently facing issues of their party becoming too popular, which means their regular LGBTQ clientele are becoming marginalised. However, they are working to take steps to make sure that their core demographic are protected and hopefully they’ll be able to continue without any more problems.

anu

JM Moser and I started putting on parties at this little spot in Berlin. Our first party was with Laurel Halo and Liam Butler and our second was with RAMZi, Umfang, Deadlift, Lamin Fofana and Philip FM. It’s my favourite party to play at. The vibes are right, everyone is friendly and the DJs are amazing (if I may say so myself). Also, Johannes and I became Internet friends about three years ago, he has the best taste in music of anyone I know and he’s one of my favourite selectors. Big ups to him!

Sam Hall

My favourite party by a long mile is Dirtytalk in Bristol. I’m not going to go into detail because you need to experience the night to catch the vibe but if you like great DJs, amazing venues and a sleazy party atmosphere then come and check it out.

Sean OD

Eglo Records at Corsica is always special. Great vibes, amazing DJing and lots of familiar faces. I’ve got a massive nostalgic soft spot for dub and dubstep and will always cherish memories from the Teachings In Dub nights that Sam Stryda runs at the Trinity Centre in Bristol too, especially if Deep Medi were involved. I see value in anything with a friendly, diverse crowd who are up for the music, even if the music isn’t necessarily my cup of tea. I’ll admit that I like it when there’s music heads at the party too. Not when the night is a full-on chin stroke, but it’s nice to be able to talk about the music you’re hearing with people who are into it and, with the risk of sounding pretentious, to know that the crowd ‘get’ what you’re playing and the effort that’s gone into it.

Shy One

Touching Bass, BBZ and Magic Clit (Not even a biased ting, they’re the best parties out there for me).

Will Lister

I’ve had a lot of good memories of Soul Control parties. I started going to them when I moved to London for Uni, and then ended up playing one with Patrick Forge and Alex Nut a few months later, which was probably my first big gig. It was an honour to join Alex and Patrick who are both master selectors and the guys who run the party are lovely. The Tessellate parties are great too, they really know how to have a fun night and they booked me for my first gig at Corsica with San Proper last year when I was 19, which I’ll remember forever.

What makes for your perfect party to play at?

Andwot

Intimate spaces with good people, incense, good speakers and a few sofas.

anu

A varied and diverse line up, a crowd who’s also diverse and open to hear anything and everything. The right mixer, working CDJs, maybe a smoke machine, some fun lights, nice drinks, and good sound!

Sam Hall

No pretentiousness, a decent technical set up, great sound, a booth that is level with the dance floor, a crowd who is really responsive and eager to dance and of course cheap drinks always helps too.

Sean OD

The sound system and the crowd. I think a lot of people who might not nerd out over audio quality underestimate how much the sound affects their night. If the subs are heavy enough for you to feel them and the tracks sound crisp then you can dance all night. If the DJ is good you won’t think about going to the bar or texting your mate. It makes the music a physical experience as well as a sonic and visual one. As for crowds, it’s very important that clubs and venues are accepting spaces where people can feel safe to let loose and do so respectfully. The most welcoming club environments I’ve been in have been where the crowd is a diverse mix in gender, nationality, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

Shy One

A decent set up so no dodgy decks or crappy booth monitor and a crowd up for a journey.

Alex T

Alex T

Away from music, what do you turn to for inspiration?

Andwot

My mum and travelling.

anu

I’m an illustrator too so I draw a lot when I’m feeling uninspired with music. I love TV, mostly comedy shows. Weed too. All three of these things mixed together are actually the perfect combination.

Sean OD

Jamie Oliver cookbooks. He’s very annoying but, boy oh boy, can he cook. My hungover post-set Sundays consist of reading The Observer, listening to Sun Ra and following a nice Jamie recipe.

Shy One

Life experiences and the emotions they evoke (good and bad).

Will Lister

I like things that are aesthetically pleasing. So like art, buildings, clothes and colours. I like to take photos too so I’ll go for walks about and try and notice things that I usually wouldn’t, or go to an exhibition to see an artist I like. I’m not super knowledgeable on it all but it all links into the music I make so it’s important to stay inspired.

A parting statement

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self when you were first considering taking up DJing, what would it be?

Andwot

Don’t be afraid to start a lot earlier.

anu

Don’t feel like you have to do everything at once to be successful, don’t be afraid to ask for help in all aspects of life and don’t be afraid of drastic changes.

Sam Hall

Buy some cheap turntables, two copies of the same house/techno record and spend a good few hours leaning how to ride the pitch in a mix and jog the platter to beat match properly. I’d also say don’t plug an iPhone in and pretend to mix to impress you’re friends.

Sean OD

I’d tell my young self all the labels/producers/musicians to look out for so that I’d be ten times better at digging now.

Shy One

Take better care of all your grime records because they’re gonna cost four times the money to replace 12 years later!

Will Lister

Don’t rush. Good will happen to those who wait. It’s something my parents used to say. It’s pretty clichéd and I would yawn at it at the time but looking back it is really important. My worst gigs happen if I’m in a hurry picking tunes beforehand. It’s also really important when releasing music because in this era when so much music is being released all the time you really have to make the stuff you release stand out from the rest. It’s hard, but if you can manage it (and I’m still working on it) then it’ll prolong you as a creative artist.

Dimensions Festival takes place 30th Aug to 3rd Sep. For ticket and info on the Dimensions DJ Directory check the their website. Thanks to Leila Fataar, as the head of culture for Diageio, the Directory has recently partnered up with Smirnoff, who will be helping expand the scope and reach of the project in the coming months. 

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