Well, you know, clubbing, once a week, a couple of residents. They play most of the night, you have one guest who plays for a couple of hours, rather than a big event that happened once a month with 30 DJs. Because I do think if you're, if you're in your early 20s now, you've grown up with the culture being these big events. All your going out money goes on one event. And I think promoters promote like this now.
When the Euro lottery comes on, my missus and I talk about what we'd do with 60 million. I would buy Plastic People and I'd open it up five days a week. I'd let people in for free and get people in playing every night. We need more clubs to open as opposed to big venues. I like going into a place where I know people and they can go 'oh will you play that record you played last week.'
When you play on these circuits playing all around the world, you're going in dry every week. It's cold every week. They know who you are and they know the music but there isn't that, 'you need to play that one again this week' - that rapport you get if you play monthly or even every six weeks.
I was just thinking that I’ve never done a DJ interview at half 10 on a Monday morning. Would this have happened in normal times?
Currently, I pretty much DJ just on Saturday nights. Sunday is kind of coming home, Sunday night to bed nice and early then I’m ready to go again Monday. My times of getting on the sesh with someone and reappearing Monday morning is long gone now. This is a regular occurrence now, me being able to function on a Monday morning.
So the immediate loss of gigs and being at home more because of the pandemic wasn’t as much of a shock to you as it might have been in the past?
Yeah, I mean, you get to 50 and you go, I can’t do that anymore, but then you’re still doing it. And then you get through other milestones and you go, OK really, I’d like to live a little bit longer. I need to stop. It’s just not possible to carry on forever. It’s not a matter of growing out of it or not wanting to, it’s just that physically you get a little bit scared of what might happen to yourself.
Have you missed the experience of DJing more or less than you thought you might?
Far more than I thought I would. When you DJ and have a great gig, you drive home or go back to the hotel and you can’t sleep because the adrenaline is pumping so much. Or you have a gig that just stinks and people have been asking for stupid records or you’ve had to go down routes that you don’t want to go down. It can get really can get depressing. Because you know how great this should be. And you’re always judging your gigs by your best gigs, which is not the right thing to do. During the lockdown, it hit me that that’s a shit way to judge things. Just doing your best, giving your best and connecting with people is enough sometimes.
It’s interesting you say people are asking for shit records. Does that mean that you think you are there to lead rather than to be reactive, to give the crowd what it wants?
It depends. I mean, if I’m playing a party with a load of the heritage DJs on and people coming are going to be wanting classics whether you like it or not, it’s down to you to play music that fits into their mindset but without playing the same boring old Allison Limerick, ‘Strings of Life’ stuff. That kind of laziness might get people screaming and all that because they only come out once every couple of months. But it’s not the way forward.
I kind of have this little thing in my head where I enjoy playing new records to older crowds or old records for younger kids. I think that’s more enjoyable, but it’s a balancing act. I could get quite kind of upset if I got too much involved in how this went, how that went. Now, I’m just really happy to play records. Get everyone dancing, then try and slip in some stuff they don’t know or that they should know as you go along.
Do you have quite a battle to prevent yourself from getting pigeonholed as that legacy DJ, the heritage act?
Depends who books me. People know what I play who book me most often. I play 90% new records. It’s a balancing act. If you get it wrong, you can hate yourself. When you get it right, it’s really good. You have to meet people’s expectations somewhere in the middle.
So I guess the work aspect of your job then is making sure that you are in tune with what is hot now, or will be hot tomorrow?
No, no, no, because I think the worst thing to do is to try and stay up with the trends, right? Because it’s just, you know, people don’t want to come and see me play like, the latest Hot Creations record. I might play one, they sound fantastic next to a Morales dub from ’92, or a pitched down techno record coming out of Detroit a month ago. It’s a little collage you have to make of the old and the new.
When you used to go to Ibiza in the summer, Alfredo would kind of play the same records every night. And by the end of the summer, and this is pretty much true if you’d gone to the Ministry of Sound in 92, you’d have heard the same records over the summer. So I try and do that – have a core of records that I play at every gig and try and arrange other stuff around them depending on where I am. By the end of the six months or whatever you can have these records that started off as a kind of unknown classic that people are really getting into.
And how has your relationship changed with music over the last year, have you still been looking for new stuff and making lists as much as often?
Yeh, yeh, and Faith Magazine has kept me searching for new artists and new music to feature in the magazine.
What are you looking for in a new artist to make them worth interviewing?
I guess it’s the same as records where, you know, there has to be a connection, something that links to the roots of house music, without being a copy of an old school classic. DJ Holographic in Detroit is a fine example of that – someone new but with roots.
When you’re playing before another DJ you see they’re just going through numbers, they play the same record for every gig. And you can kind of get a little bit down about it, but I think the lockdown has proven to me exactly how important it is to do it right, to try a bit harder, and to crack on. Instead of complaining, just do better.
Going back to Faith, why bring it back? Was it a reaction to something specific?
It started in 1999 as a reaction, absolutely, to what was going on in the late 90s, super-club stuff, trance had taken over everywhere. If you wanted to hear house you were going out Sunday nights for Lazy Dog, and then going to The Cross. So it was definitely a reaction to help us kind of promote the little parties we were doing and shout about the music we love that was being ignored by DJ Mag and Mixmag.
We stopped doing the magazine, we kind of run out of steam, and it was just after that economic crash in 2008. A lot of clubs had stopped advertising. We never charged for the magazine, we’ve always kept it free. We kind of slowed it down and stopped it. And when Defected got involved and helped it look better and be bigger, suddenly I realised we could get to people that before we perhaps couldn’t get to. It’s the perfect time to come back in lockdown and the worst time – there’s no advertising for clubs, very few people releasing music, but also it meant people were sitting in doors, you know, sending in postage money to get a free copy, so we’re doing four times more than we did originally.
Right now there is a real drive for diversity in dance music writing, in clubs, on line-ups. As someone who’s lived through a time when everyone thinks it was much more diverse and a bit more utopian, how’d you feel about it? Will we get back there? Should we just forget that time and accept the scene is very different now?
I don’t know. Maybe. I mean, people who write for the magazine say maybe you should have this person or that person on the cover. But I look back, we did 20 magazines, the very first edition had a transgender woman on the front cover. And it wasn’t political correctness, it wasn’t a political move. The diversity of the people inside the magazine has always been really strong, but we didn’t put people in there for any other reason than they were authentically leaders of the culture. We never thought about it. I think now we have to.
In the past, the magazine was deliberately kind of offending other people. We couldn’t do that now, we have to be more careful and understand the mindset of people and what’s going on out there.
It’s funny how it comes around though, because like you say, Faith originally was a thorn in the side of commercialism and the scene. There were magazines like Jockey Slut which were outspoken and had a bit more of a punk attitude, and they were respected and admired for it. Even to this day, people go back and say that there will never be anything like it again. But really, you couldn’t have that now, because you’d get taken apart.
You could, but you would have to be anti all the right things – anti-Tory or whatever. Your ‘antis’ would have to tick all the right boxes. You couldn’t veer from what was generally accepted. We used to stick our neck out, you know, but I think there’s a responsibility now to help kind of push things forward, and not necessarily just cause fires.
Is that sensible elder statesman Terry talking?
We just want to be positive now, to kind of educate the younger kind of crowd who maybe only find found us through Defected and the internet, about great DJs, about great clubs and about where this actually started. I think that’s really important. It’s a different world now, you either move with it or you end up being someone moaning away all the time.
Would it be fair to say that these days you have as many enjoyable gigs and go to as many great parties that could be talked about in 10 years time as you did back in the 90s?
No, certainly not, but then I’m not in the 90s. I was a young man going out a lot then. Four or five days a week. And staying out. I’m pretty sure if you asked someone who was 23 now living in Clapton that they would say it’s a golden period. I just don’t think that the kind of infrastructure is there at the moment. We were very lucky. You know, there was great clubs opening up, but there was also, you know…
It was more ad hoc. It was rough and ready. It wasn’t about tickets and commercial partners.
It’s hard, I’m sure there is lots going on about now that I don’t even know about. One thing I would like is a return to clubbing instead of events.
What do you mean by that?
Well, you know, clubbing, once a week, a couple of residents. They play most of the night, you have one guest who plays for a couple of hours, rather than a big event that happened once a month with 30 DJs. Because I do think if you’re, if you’re in your early 20s now, you’ve grown up with the culture being these big events. All your going out money goes on one event. And I think promoters promote like this now.
When the Euro lottery comes on, my missus and I talk about what we’d do with 60 million. I would buy Plastic People and I’d open it up five days a week. I’d let people in for free and get people in playing every night. We need more clubs to open as opposed to big venues. I like going into a place where I know people and they can go ‘oh will you play that record you played last week.’
When you play on these circuits playing all around the world, you’re going in dry every week. It’s cold every week. They know who you are and they know the music but there isn’t that, ‘you need to play that one again this week’ – that rapport you get if you play monthly or even every six weeks.
I think that sort of regular party would maybe allow crowds to be a bit more free and a bit more crazy and colourful, camp and outrageous as well. If they were going every week and felt comfortable, knowing the crowd and the vibe, they could cut more loose.
Yeh, you would literally get to know half of the club at places like Basics. You’d know people in Middlesborough, Newcastle, all over. If you’re in a club with 500 people, you will naturally get to know a big percentage. If you’re in a club of 10,000 people, or 5000 people, how many conversations can you have?
Your Instagram has been like a treasure trove of great history of the last few months.
Yeah I like Instagram. It’s social media without me getting myself into trouble. You know, I just kind of find pictures, and I quite like pictures of me looking stupid that I know I can put up and people will really take the piss, and I like that. I like finding old pictures of clubs that I never heard of in Chicago or wherever from the late 70s. I think that’s interesting. Instagram allows you to make visual points without getting dragged into the madness that is Twitter and Facebook.
But you do like a ruck on those platforms, don’t you? I’ve seen you get involved with a few.
Yes. Actually, I used to enjoy the kind of, you know, combative side of it. But during lockdown I learnt to fucking wind my neck in because you’re talking to someone you know, who knows who you are, who knows your sense of humour and how far you go, but then there might be someone who has never met you misreading it. So you know, you have to be careful. Instagram is the safest social media for me now days.
Are you familiar with the Business Teshno account?
Is it a good, worthwhile mission they are on?
They are fierce aren’t they? And I do agree with them slagging off plague rave DJs. I haven’t played anywhere. I’ve kept my head down and gone without wages for 15 months.
Will accounts like that change anything?
No. Nothing. The people that Business Teshno are having a dig at, they’re far too big to worry about that page. Their agents are the people that control the festivals. It seems to me like agents, like in football, fans kick and scream but without agents football never cost so much. It’s the same in music. DJs and agent money, at the top end, it’s out of control. I think Business Teshno is good for highlighting that but it won’t change. The agents are who control it all.
People complain that all the big money DJs take the gigs away from everyone else. Do they? Or is that scene just totally separate?
Yeah, I think it is. And anyway, that complaint has been going on since the middle of the 90s when trance DJs were said to be taking gigs away from all the house DJs. And, you know, by and large, it’s the same people complaining. But no one listens. Everyone should just shut the fuck up and try and make the best of what we’ve got.
I really enjoyed listening to your RA Exchange a few years ago and particularly the bit about all the clobber that was so associated with the different music scenes from the soul and teddy boys to the acid house heads. Is fashion as intrinsic to music now as it was then?
No, it’s just not the case anymore. Before Resident Advisor and the whole advance ticket thing took off, you went out to every record shop with flyers, you stood outside, or you paid someone to stand outside The End or fabric, and you gave your flyers out. You did the word of mouth thing, and people turned up for your club. And you had a door man or woman who would turn away people who kind of just randomly walked up. Now, people buy tickets, because they buy tickets, they don’t need of fit in with what you’re doing.
Also I think it’s very difficult now, you know, because everything cool in fashion is just copied. You could go into Son of Stag and spend a thousand pound on Japanese denim, someone who really wants to come in your club. Well, to the untrained eye the person in the copy from Gap would look like the same tribe. So now, people just buy their ticket and that’s it, there’s no need to care what you wear.
Could you even have a strict door policy these days?
Yeah, I mean, it’s a tough one. People think it’s snobbery to have people dress in a certain way. And maybe it is. But all the clubs that were really good in the acid house era had door people who were really good at their jobs and kept out the worst of the yobbo element or whatever. Could that even exist now? Would you just get ruined on social media?
Probably. So have you missed DJing more or less than you thought you would?
More. I was maybe taking it for granted. Not just the music but the social aspect. If Chelsea had won and were on Match of the Day, I’d probably have passed up an invite to go see someone at fabric before. But not now. The number of friendships, relationships and even children that wouldn’t have happened without people meeting on the dance floor. It’s really, really important, it’s the fabric of our society. Dating apps just aren’t the same as catching someone’s eye at 3am on a dance floor. That’s a shared experience.
Which leads me on nicely to my last question. How much does the spirit of your good friend, the late Andrew Weatherall, with whom you shared many an experience, still influence you and the decisions you make?
Well, people have been talking a lot about ‘what would Andrew do?’. But really you never knew what he was going to do. He would do whatever you would think he wouldn’t do. He would keep people guessing. Whether that was deliberate or not I have no idea. He was someone who had really fantastically wide tastes in music, and clothes, and literature, and everything, and he drew from all those sources.
That was the beauty of Andrew. Like, when we were kids, we took him along to a Soul Weekender. We picked him up from Windsor in a van. He got in and had his head shaved into a kind of Mohawk style like Joe Strummer from The Clash. He had a Motorhead t-shirt on. We were walking round with him like that, and all the other kids were in deck shoes and had wedge haircuts. It fitted. It seemed to work. And when he was making music he was taking all those influences that shouldn’t work, but because he did it with talent and panache, they worked perfectly.