Monday, 1 March 2010
MD'S DIARY, FEBRUARY 2010
It's almost four years since I gave up using vinyl as a result of the digital revolution. I switched to CD, which is the method I still use in clubs. I get asked virtually every time I play why I haven't done as everybody else and gone to a laptop-based Serato system. Just for the record, whilst I certainly see the benefits of Serato, (mainly being able to conveniently carry a huge array of music for all occasions,) there are three aspects of using it that put me off.
First, as someone that's had countless headphones and microphones nicked, I'm concerned about the security of leaving a Macbook unattended in a DJ booth. Maybe that's down to some of the spots I find myself playing in, but I wouldn't feel comfortable even nipping to the loo and leaving it in certain places. Secondly, the danger of some drunken twat spilling a drink on my laptop fills me with dread. And thirdly, I've played many events where there have been two or three DJs on the bill, with each one having to wire and unwire their assorted Serato cables, often leading to interruptions, distortions, wrong leads being pulled out, etc. Far better to just roll up to a booth, slide a disk into the CDJ, and you're off. I'm extremely disciplined with burning new CDs weekly, and I carry an extensive selection of tunes in my wallet wherever I go. You can do anything on a CDJ1000 that you used to on a turntable. It works for me. That's how I feel about it.
Anyway, all that rambling was intended as a precursor to my first overseas gig of '10, which was at the underground bar venue We Got Beef in Helsinki, Finland on Friday 5th Feb. It's a curious choice of venue name, particularly for a vegetarian, but We Got Lentils would have been even more ridiculous. In preliminary chats with promoter resident DJ Svengali it emerged that the venue doesn't house CD players, so we opted to bill my set as an old-school vinyl revival one. It called for military precision in my tune selection in order to avoid my hand baggage becoming too heavy to carry, a problem I frequently used to face.
The weather forecasts had Helsinki down as being minus 5c, which was positively tropical compared to the minus 25c of a couple of weeks earlier. Touching down at 8.30pm I was met by my old DJ mate Drew Myrie, who I used to spin with at Legends in Northampton back in the day. Drew moved to Helsinki to be with girlfriend Mia a couple of years ago, and has adjusted to Finnish life nicely - speaks the language, Winter tyres on the cars, etc. He also has a sauna in his apartment, and that's where we headed straight away for a beer and a chat.
Saunas are a big part of Finnish social life, and are often taken in conjunction with a dip in a frozen lake to balance the blood flow. I was very happy to avoid that part ... although we did sit out on the frozen balcony for a short while afterwards.
We got to Beef around midnight, and I span a set consisting of hip hop and reggae revivals, in the end using every piece of vinyl I had. It brought back lots of memories - particularly the playing of reggae 7"s from Jamaica with the middles cut out. The bar fills out late and was buzzing by the end of my set, but we couldn't hang around for long. Drew and Mia were leaving for a holiday in Lapland at 8.30 in the morning - a snow-laden ten-hour drive - and they dropped me at the airport on the way out for my return flight.
After a chance to catch up on sleep at home, it was off to spin at The Bridge in Oxford, just as rammed as the previous week. The following Saturday, the 13th, it was Mirage in Aylesbury, another spot that frustratingly doesn't fill up until an hour or so before closing, which invariably means nobody's ready to go home when the lights come up. Go out earlier!
On Saturday 20th, I headed off to The Second Bridge in Bath, my first time there since November. Playing in the main room was James Ussher, aka Ussherman, who like me was travelling up from Oxford. (Our carbon footprint through driving up separately leaves a lot to be desired.) It had been another weekend of harsh weather, and the constant sleet didn't help. Equally unhelpful was the closure of the M4 between junctions 16 and 17, forcing a tedious re-routing via random country roads in both directions. Once there though, the gig was very strong. The DJ booth in The Vaults has been slightly improved, preventing punters from seeing the restricted area behind it as a public thoroughfare.
The weather wasn't showing much improvement by the time I set off on business to Geneva on Tuesday 23rd. It wasn't the fog which delayed the departure by over two hours, however. That honour fell to French air traffic controllers who were on strike, (what a surprise,) creating a knock-on effect of delays through the day. Also flying out of Luton was Judge Jules, on the way to Ireland, although he had the privilege of only a half-hour delay.
On the subject of Luton Airport, it's unbelievable how anal they've become. Harsh rules and regulations are posted everywhere, Third Reich style, and they've taken to charging for anything they can get away with, from £1 for a transparent bag for toiletries, to a charge for even dropping passengers off outside the terminal! Britiain's most unfriendly airport, for sure.
I was staying just over the border into France in a charming town called Ferney Voltaire, and used the trip to test out my (very patchy) French. I have no problem in making myself understood; it's making sense of the answers I get that keeps me stumped. Geneva's a very friendly and welcoming city, and so is its airport, which offers free wi-fi, laptop charging points, and highly reasonable Duty Free charges among the plus-points. London's airports could certainly learn a lesson or two from the Swiss model!
The flight back was no fun. We hit some of worst turbulence I've ever experienced, with a kid nearby screaming 'we're all gonna die' as we fell through the sky. I've never been happier to see Luton.
The latest of our occasional Black Sheep Magazine Executive Management meetings took place on Friday 26th. What that generally means is a bunch of us getting together for drinks and moans at a London boozer. To be fair, there was some business value to this excursion; we had a meeting with a PR company re strategies for the site before heading to the rammed Square Pig in Holborn. Good to catch up with Stretch Taylor, Bru, Natalie and others. During the session, I slipped round to a side street to record an interview with hip hop artist Kinetik. It must have looked like a surreptitious drug deal to any onlookers, but it wouldn't be the first time. (That it's been thought, I mean. Not that I've done a drug deal.)
End of the month payday style at The Bridge, Oxford the following night. And that was February.