MD’S HOT JOINTS, OCTOBER 2008

The ten that are blowing up the radio airwaves and/ or rocking dancefloors this month.

DAS EFX: CAN U FEEL IT (White)
The return of one of the hottest and most distinctive two-man crews of the 90s is an event in itself. The fact that this bases itself on the Fat Boys 80s classic of the same name only adds to its authentic good-time feel.

Q-TIP: GETTING’ UP (Universal Motown)
In a perfect world all hip hop jams would have the sublime bounce and flow of this latest offering from the Tribe refugee, proving he’s lost none of his touch for lacing a wicked rhyme. The world’s far from perfect, of course, which is why we don’t. So in the meantime, this is one to be absorbed with full hip-hop relish.

NATALIA Featuring KALIBA MOTES: PERFECT DAY (Upper 11)
This type of bright and breezy street soul bouncer, arriving just too late to be a perfect Summer jam, doesn’t seem to get made much any more at the expense of tunes with tricky beat patterns and dumb filtered vocals. This one keeps it all simple, and is highly appealing as a result.

JOLEON D’AVENUE: CAFE CLOUD 9 (Unique Mood)
Although a bit of a mouthful, JD’s is a name worth remembering. Dubbed ‘the British Barry White’, this East London muso fuses hip hop, soul, jazz and funk to uplifting and inspiring effect throughout his ‘Mellow Defiance’ album, this being the standout uptempo cut. Real music for people who feel music!

BRYN CHRISTOPHER: SMILIN’ (Mafia & Fluxy Remix) (Polydor)
Bryn’s looking like a dude that’s about to enjoy some mainstream success, and his sound, like that of Natty and Roachford before him, isn’t strictly ‘urban’. Nevertheless, this tune belongs on these pages thanks to the lively, skanking reggae-style workout provided by scene veterans Mafia & Fluxy, melding with Bryn’s abrasive vocals to highly striking effect.

GTA: THE WAY (GTA)
Forget London, Bristol and Birmingham. It makes me proud that my city of birth is shining so bright for heavy music in the form of GTA frontman Chima Anya and sidekick Ineffible. Empowering lyrics delivered over a driving beat with wailing backing vocals from Jada Pearl. This one’s got the whole package. OX represents!

BUSY SIGNAL: TIC TOC (VPD)
Has anyone else noticed that genuine club-rocking reggae dancehall joints are about as rare as mother-in-law jokes these days? Here’s one that ticks (no pun intended) all the right boxes, however, riding on a riddim that would have sounded at home during the genre’s glory days of the late 90s. This one’s club-ready.

PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS: THE WIZ (Om Records)
While lyrical themes in mainstream hip hop still seem restricted to the same tired old cliches – flossing, b*tches, packing heat, gold rims, instructions on how to perform retarded little line dances, etc – the underground scene is still showing itself capable of being more imaginative, this one standing as a cool, chilled-out ode to the attractions of being in Australia. It’s all set to a mellow head-nodding groove that could make you swear for a minute that you’re relaxing with a cocktail on Bondi.

MR LIVE: AT THE CROSSROADS (White)
Underground enthusiasts might recall this Fort Greene, Brooklyn resident as one half of the duo Mr. Live and Tony Bones, (‘Placebo’, ‘Splashing Over Monica.’) His remains one of the most distinctive voices in the game, and it resonates to full effect here over a sick, twisted beat that J Dilla would have been proud of.

ESTELLE Featuring SEAN PAUL: COME OVER (Homeschool)
Refusing to be easily pigeon-holed, Estelle slips dextrously into mid-tempo reggae territory on this bright and soulful excursion that – because it’s her – should get felt in all the right places.

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THE UK THROWBACK ON K-SERA RADIO, AUSTRALIA


Watch out for a weekly show entitled The UK Throwback, on the new Australian radio station www.kseraradio.com

The station is part of the Australia Radio Networks organisation, and is the country’s first dealing exclusively with black and urban music. The UK Throwback airs every Sunday at 6pm Australian East Coast time, (which equates to Sunday 8am in the UK, and 9am in central Europe.)

Each show features an hour’s mix put together by Mark Devlin, consisting entirely of classic hip hop, R&B and reggae dancehall revivals, from the early 90s to the early 2000s. The station’s other internationally syndicated shows are Clinton Sparks’ ‘Smashtime Radio’ and DJ Power’s ‘Outta Control.’

The station is now streaming live at www.kseraradio.com.

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MD’S TOUR DIARY, SEPTEMBER 2008


I put in a fair few motorway miles during the course of my job, and by the start of September this had really started to take its toll. The turbo converter on my BMW 320 had given up the ghost, and this, along with a related secondary fault, resulted in the need for an entire new engine. In a month where my Apple iBook, our household boiler, and – less importantly but just as annoying – our video remote control had all packed up, it was, quite frankly, something I could have done without. Owing to a mis-diagnosis on their part, however, I did manage to persuade my BMW garage to install an engine worth around £8K for a little over an eighth of the price which, in the circumstances, was a result. Happily, I’m now back cruising happily on the road, but on Monday 1st, Mrs. D’s VW Golf had to step in to save the day.

Mondays have long been saved from being a complete write-off in clubland by the ever-reliable student market. Que Pasa in Watford runs a promotion every Monday night which, impressively, still draws a strong student crowd even outside of college term time. My first session there was reasonably enjoyable, and free of tedious DJ booth comments. Instead, the most entertaining conversation of the night went along the lines of:

Girl: Can you play some Lionel Richie?
Me: No, sorry
Girl: Why?
Me: Because I don’t carry any Lionel Richie
Girl: Why?
Me; Because it’s Lionel Richie

Friday 5th marked the second weekend of the new St. James’ Club operation in Banbury. The monsoon-like conditions outside did little to boost attendance levels, but management have now unveiled plans to book a few high-profile guest DJs to inject a bit of interest, starting with DJ Spoony on 26th September.

The following night saw me heading to Manchester for my first DJ gig there in quite a while. Everything ran smoothly once I reached the venue … getting there was another matter. Lounge 31 is situated in The Printworks, the complex where many of the city’s clubs, bars and fast food joints are centred. It’s well signposted on the main routes from the M6, and on previous visits, I’ve simply followed the signs and sailed through.

On this occasion, Mancunian Way, one of the key routes through the city, was closed without notice. I’d not had the foresight to bring a map, so I spent the best part of an hour getting absurdly lost in Manchester’s maze of streets, screaming in frustration at the never-ending stream of red lights, before finally working out where I needed to be. I was slightly late for my midnight set as a result, but from that point, everything was good. Lounge 31 is owned by the Brown Suga promotions crew who have a long history of staging key urban and student club nights in town, and the session was buzzing and enjoyable. It was 6am by the time I crawled back through my front door. Having worked 15 of the previous 18 nights, I felt a restful couple of days were well in order.

As you may have seen from elsewhere on this site, the latest instalment in my Beatmasters mix series is now here. The ten previous volumes have covered contemporary luminaries such as DJ Premier, Dr. Dre, Kanye West and Timbaland, plus an old-school offering from Marley Marl. For this one, I wanted to take it way back to pay tribute to a couple of highly-underrated producers with one of the most distinctive sounds in black music history. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis totally dominated the scene in the 80s and early 90s, producing much of the output from Alexander O’ Neal, The SOS Band and Sounds Of Blackness, as well as just about everything Janet Jackson did from ‘Control’ onwards. The mix stands at over an hour, encompassing 42 of their tracks, but most of the work came from actually finding all the records I needed before I could get started. Almost all were on vinyl, and some have been sitting in dusty archives for many years. I’m very happy with the result, anyway, and it’s now ready to absorb via the following download link:

http://www.sendspace.com/file/koxdcb

You can also get a quick glimpse into the chaotic production process with the following short video, too:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-JyUF7Wegk

On Tuesday 9th, Parveen and myself went to see the new Guy Ritchie movie ‘Rocknrolla’. In terms of my verdict, the best thing I can do is point you in the directiion of the review I wrote for the local press, as follows:

A favourite old “Spitting Image” gag had Madonna’s unflattering effigy being asked by a reporter what her new single was like. “The old one,” she replied. And so it is with hubby Guy Ritchie’s latest excursion into London street skulduggery.
If you’ve seen ‘Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels’, you’ve already seen the best that ‘Rocknrolla’ has to offer. The multi-layered plot involves an old-school property villain, his gang of street enforcers, an enterprising Russian immigrant and his hard-as-nails henchmen, a junkie presumed-dead rock star, (half Pete Doherty, half Russell Brand,) and – the film’s only female character – a corrupt femme-fatale accountant, played by Thandie Newton, (the only vaguely familiar name among the cast.) The lines between good guys and villains are blurred in this confusing maze, and no one character emerges as the obvious lead player, top billing going to Gerard Butler’s Scottish beefcake street soldier.
Seemingly running short on inspiration, Ritchie has dipped back into his own archive for tricks and gimmicks. The flashbacks, slow frames and screen captions are here, while the carnivorous pigs from ‘Snatch’ have become lethal Thames crayfish in ‘Rocknrolla’, with a ‘lucky’ missing painting taking the place of the antique guns in ‘Lock Stock’. In a search for something quirky and still original, a gay subplot between two of the mob enforcers is thrown into the mix.
Although engaging in parts, ‘Rocknrolla’ exposes Ritchie as a one-trick director. The real proof of his film-making abilities would be to leave the Mockney rascals alone for once, and try something completely out of the frame.

Most of my live studio guests on ‘Just Buggin’ have come from London, or Oxford itself. So it was good to have Bristol representing on Wednesday 10th, as the MC known as Triggadon alongside his crew T Dot and Big Ceaze passed through. Eventually, anyway. During a very hectic show, I kept in phone contact with Trigg to guide him up to Oxford, after he inadvertently missed his turn off the M4 and went sailing off towards Reading. They just made it in time for midnight, which still allowed for half an hour of exclusives and blazing freestyles. As I now do with all my radio guests, I took some video footage of the sessions, and it’s available to view now in my Myspace Videos, or alternatively at www.youtube.com/markdevlintv

The rest of the weekend involved gigs I now play regularly – G’s in Bicester on Thursday, St. James’ in Banbury on Friday and The Second Bridge in Bath on Saturday. It gets difficult to think of new things to say about these, so instead, I’ll recount another couple of favourite dumb DJ request scenarios. Banbury saw me being asked to ‘play some Michael Jackson’. I obliged by dropping ‘Rock With You’. Two minutes into the song, the woman who’d asked came back to the box to exclaim, ‘When are you going to play my Michael Jackson?’ I asked her who she thought she was listening to and she shrugged her shoulders. Revolver, please. At a later stage, Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’ got dropped, at which point a girl came up, (have you noticed that it’s always females?!) to ask for ‘some R&B.’ Just to do my educational bit, I politely pointed out that Aretha Franklin was, technically, original R&B. The girl screwed up her face and said, no, I mean proper R&B like Timbaland or Pussycat Dolls. Public executions really should be brought back in this country for such comments.

(Incidentally, I was so impressed to learn that the DJ world has a track of its very own which breaks down all these types of situations concisely and entertainingtly, and deserves to be played in every session. Track down Andre Harris’ ’10 Things You Should Never Say To A DJ’ for the therapy. It’s just a shame that it’s a house track, and not an urban one!)

My sleep deficit during mid September had reached almost critical levels – a recurring peril of the job. I’d had only two hours on Saturday night before having to take some relatives to Stansted Airport for a flight on Sunday morning. On Tuesday 16th, I managed only slightly more after my latest Monday night session at Que Pasa in Watford, (which was rocking by the way– a surefire indicator that the newly-funded students are back in town.) Early on Tuesday, I headed back to the airport – Gatwick this time – for a flight to Sardinia. This wasn’t for a gig; it was purely a 24-hour leisure trip to Olbia in the north. I’d clearly picked the right time to go. The island was free of holidaying families, and the temperature had dropped to a bearable 78 degrees with a cooling breeze. Being an Italian resort, the food was right up my street. I kept my eyes open for any clubs, but couldn’t find any – not that I was expecting to. Just a DJ’s natural curiosity!

There’s not many venues this could apply to, but I can honestly say I’ve never had a bad night at The Apartment in Swindon, my touchdown on Saturday 20th. The venue has long made it clear that it differs from the assorted mainstream spots by concentrating on cool, funky, soulful music, and always tends to attract the right type of punter as a result. I took over from resident Stu, dropping all manner of gems I could never get away with elsewhere at peak time on a Saturday night. Prior to my set, I sneaked a look at the upstairs level which was hosting a happy hardcore/ rave revival night. It’s not often I feel young in a club these days, but I found myself among 40 and 50-somethings who probably haven’t had a night out in 15 years, but used to go raving to all this good stuff in the early 90s, and can still remember some of their moves. On the decks was veteran DJ Ellis D, whose name I remember from the time. I won’t embarrass him by revealing the full details, but there was an entertaining incident later in the night where he came far too close to living up to his amusing moniker. Go on Ellis!

My latest visit to the nation’s capital came a couple of evenings later. First on the agenda was the latest link-up of a few of us former Blues & Soul mag staff in what will forever be known as ‘the scuzzy old Dickens’, the pub just round the corner from the old B&S offices in Paddington. There was some business value to our chat as well as the social aspect, and I hope to be able to reveal more on that front very shortly. Watch this space.

Next, I hooked up with Joleon Davenue, a guy whose music I’m loving right now – check his ‘Mellow Defiance’ album for a refreshing alternative to the tired, cliched hip hop around at the moment. The idea was to record a radio interview, the interior of my car being the only place to offer the right acoustic surroundings. Unfortunately, the mic cable to my minidisc had other ideas, refusing to work, so we ended up having to do a phone interview on the following night’s show after all. Well, we got there in the end.

The opening night of 300 at The Regal in Oxford the previous Friday had been rammed, the freshers queuing round the block as early as 9pm. The second event on Friday 26th took far longer to get going, causing some concern. By 11.30 though, the hordes had arrived and it was jumping again. I’ll be doing this one (theoretically!) every Friday til term breaks for Christmas on 5th December, and it looks like it’s going to be a good one.

I began my evening at The Bridge the following night chatting to fellow DJs Justin Winks and Danny Smith about the appalling state of the music coming out in 2008, (Lil Wayne, Akon, T-Pain, Rihanna – I’m talking to you.) Strangely, I felt inspired afterwards. Our little moan committed me towards deliberately peppering the usual commercial selection with a high quota of new bangers and some back-in-the-day classics, where I might otherwise have given in and just played the usual old crap. The gambit paid off and made for a far more fulfilling night than usual. It’s a strategy I’ll be looking to repeat as frequently as possible.

The month finished with another student session at Que Pasa in Watford on Monday 29th – like The Regal, a little quieter than the previous outing.

… and that was September.

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THE FORUM CARDIFF REUNION – LISTEN BACK AND VIEW THE PICS


Here’s a chance to listen back to Mark Devlin’s revival set from No. 10 in Cardiff on Bank Holiday Sunday. The night acted as the ten-year reunion session for Late Nite Flava, the legendary night that ran at The Forum nightclub back in the day, with Urban Fusion, (Mista Bibs, JD & Blighty,) Kid Fury and DJ Silver also rocking the spot.

Download the audio here:
http://www.sendspace.com/file/a2cgwu

The pics from the night are also on-line. Just go to the Photos section of www.myspace.com/therealmarkdevln to see who you recognise.

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BANK HOLIDAY URBAN ANTHEMS. PLAYLIST & LISTEN AGAIN LINKS


URBAN ANTHEMS WITH MARK DEVLIN
FM107.9, OXFORD (WWW.FM1079.COM)
BANK HOLIDAY MONDAY, 25TH AUGUST 2008. 8-10.30pm

Two and a half hours of all-time classic revivals, bangers and throwbacks, spanning hip hop, soul, New Jack Swing, reggae dancehall, jungle and UKG.

To listen again and catch a vibe, just click on the following links:

Part 1:
http://www.sendspace.com/file/4trg2u

Part 2:
(Includes London’s DJ Chippie in the mix)
http://www.sendspace.com/file/iah1rc

Part 3:
(Includes New York City’s DJ Drastic in the mix)
http://www.sendspace.com/file/tip9fh

NOTORIOUS B.I.G: JUICY (Bad Boy)

FOXY BROWN Featuring BLACKSTREET: GET ME HOME (Def Jam) **

AALIYAH: BACK & FORTH (Jive) **

WHITEHEAD BROTHERS: FORGET I WAS A G (Motown)

SNOOP DOGGY DOGG: WHAT’S MY NAME? (Interscope)

WARREN G & NATE DOGG: REGULATE (Interscope) **

KELE LE ROC: MY LOVE (UKG Mix) (Polydor) **

JAHEIM: JUST IN CASE (UKG Remix) (Warner)

SHOLA AMA: IMAGINE (UKG Mix) (WEA)

MONSTA BOY: I’M SORRY (White)

SWEET FEMALE ATTITUDE: FLOWERS (White)

DAWN PENN: NO NO NO (EMI)

SASHA: DAT SEXY BODY (VPD)

RED RAT: DWAYNE (VPD)

RED RAT: WRIGLEYS (VPD)

DEVONTE & TANTO METRO: EVERYONE FALLS IN LOVE (VPD)

GENERAL DEGREE: TRAFFIC BLOCKING (VPD)

SUPERCAT: GHETTO RED HOT (Hip Hop Mix) (White)

SOUNDMAN & LLOYDIE Featuring ELIZABETH TROY: A GREATER LOVE (White)

SHARON FORRESTER: LOVE INSIDE (FFRR)

GOLDIE: INNER CITY LIFE (FFRR)

GUEST DJ MIX: DJ CHIPPIE, SOUL STYLUS/ GET OFF THE WALL, LONDON

KID FURY CHAT 1

KEITH SWEAT: I WANT HER (EMI)

ERIC GABLE: PROCESS OF ELIMINATION (White)

MONTELL JORDAN: THIS IS HOW WE DO IT (Def Jam)

KID FURY CHAT 2

SWV Featuring WU TANG CLAN: ANYTHING (Remix) (RCA)

TRUTH HURTS: ADDICTIVE (Interscope)

SUNSHINE ANDERSON: HEARD IT ALL BEFORE (Atlantic)

GUEST DJ MIX: THE UNTOUCHABLE DJ DRASTIC, NEW YORK CITY’S HEAT, USA:

ALICIA KEYS/ JUNIOR REID: NO ONE REMIX

SPRAGGA BENZ: WE NUH LIFE

RAYVON & RED FOX: BASHMENT PARTY

FRISCO KID: GAL PON DI SIDE

WAYNE WONDER: SEARCHING DEM SEARCHING

MAD LION: TAKE IT EASY

VICIOUS/ SHYHEIM: LIFE OF A SHORTIE

VICIOUS/ DOUG E. FRESH: FREAKS

SUPERCAT: GIRLSTOWN REMIX

BUJU BANTON: CHAMPION REMIX

WAYNE WONDER: SADDEST DAY

JOHNNY OSBOURNE: BUDDY BYE

SHABBA RANKS: MR. LOVERMAN

MAXI PRIEST/ SHABBA RANKS: HOUSE CALL

SIZZLA: SOLID AS A ROCK

RAYVON: NO GUNS NO MURDER

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MARK DEVLIN MEETS THE LEGENDARY RZA!


Here’s a chance to check out Mark Devlin’s interview feature with Wu Tang Clan founder and all-round hip hop God RZA.
He’s a prolific guy. As well as continuing to produce for the Wu, he’s about to release his third solo album under the alter-ego of Bobby Digital, has started scoring Hollywood movies, including Tarantino’s ‘Kill Bill’, and has even become an actor, with a recent role in ‘American Gangster’, among others.
The interview’s right here.

http://www.sendspace.com/file/14s04n

And here’s the link to the RZA instalment of MD’s ongoing Beatmasters mix series – all the big Wu Tang productions and beats, chopped up in the mix.

http://www.sendspace.com/file/t4e56n

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LISTEN TO MD IN CROATIA


LISTEN TO MD IN CROATIA

Here’s a chance to listen back to part of Mark Devlin’s set recorded at the Summer party spot of Maraschino Bar in Zadar, Croatia this month.

This is a little different to the standard urban music set – not a Pussycat Dolls, Timbaland or Lil Wayne in sight, (thank God!) The hallmark of a professional DJ is versatility. A polished DJ is able to switch between many different styles of music as crowd situations dictate. Not only does it show skill and imagination, it’s also a lot of fun!

As such, this mix covers unfamiliar territory, starting with some disco, funk and old school hip-hop moments, before progressing into some fantastic vintage funky house and dance. One for the musically open-minded who appreciate the unexpected.

Just click on the link below to download the mix.

http://www.sendspace.com/file/sh9nol

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MD’S TOUR DIARY, AUGUST 2008


Diary
August 2008

It’s going to be a very different Christmas this year. A while ago, we learned that Parveen is expecting our first baby, with an estimated delivery date of 17th December. To say I’m over the moon is the understatement of the millennium!

A few people we’ve mentioned it to have commented on how difficult it’s going to be juggling a DJ lifestyle with looking after a young baby. I’d argue completely to the contrary. Baby will already be in bed by the time I leave for gigs. My sleep ‘patterns’ are already all over the place, so there won’t be any difference there. And the fact that I work at night means that I can be at home during the day to share nappy changing (great) and all the rest of it with Mrs. D. As a result, I’m having to limit my travel for the rest of this year to quick Europe hops only, putting my annual visit to Australia on ice. But it’s a small price to pay for such great news. The best Christmas present yet!

There’s a highly entertaining chat group on Facebook called ‘Things You Should Never Say To A DJ’, which reads very much like an extension of the DJ requests chapter in my book. It’s grown prodigiously with regular posts from jocks all over the world, and many nights after coming in from an exasperating gig, I’ve drawn great inspiration, calming vodka in hand, from perusing the comments and realising that this sh*t really does happen to everyone and not just me! I recommend doing a search for it and joining. I was inspired to make a contribution by my latest experience at G’s in Bicester, which went as follows:

Chav girl: Oi DJ, sort it out. Play some decent tunes.
Me: Such as…?
Chav girl: Well, I don’t know. You’re the DJ!
Me: Die. Immediately.

On to more sane matters… I love the buzz of doing my weekly radio show live, and only pre-record when there’s no other option. On Wednesday 6th August there wasn’t, as Parveen and myself headed up to The Lake District for a short break, tagged on to my latest Block Party gig in Windermere. The show was the one containing my interview feature on RZA, aka Bobby Digital, which will go down as one of the most memorable in my career.

We spent Wednesday and Thursday around Windermere, Grasmere and Keswick, many of the locals joking that the region would be more suitably named The Rain District. The roadsides were lined with ramblers and campers resiliently looking like they were bloody well going to have a good time whatever the weather.

Parveen’s not in heavy party mode right now, so she stayed at our guest house on Thursday night as I headed down to The Wheelhouse on the shores of Lake Windermere for the August instalment of The Block Party, loyally hosted by DJ Bligeness and MC Master P. This gig is one of my most consistent, and the atmosphere never disappoints. As ever, many of the off-duty Jamaican hotel workers were in attendance, ensuring things stayed lively. There’s a great set of pictures that go some way to capturing the atmosphere, posted now in the Pics section of my Myspace. Do check them out.

It’s frustrating that I always score DJ bookings on nights directly after holidays, making for a mad dash back, when the diary remains empty on other nights where a gig could have been easily accommodated. That’s the way it goes though, so on Friday 8th, we ploughed through heavy traffic for the five-hour drive home, before setting off for the evening at Que Pasa in Watford. We took advantage of the kind offer of a feed before I settled down to the night’s DJing. The combination of mid-month, rain, the holiday season and the credit crunch led to a less-busy-than-usual Friday, but we made the best of it. The following night, I found myself in the rare situation of spinning at G’s on a Saturday, having swapped that week with Cecil, the usual Saturday resident. The night drew an entirely different profile of crowd to my Thursday sessions … and I didn’t mind at all.

Normally I avoid TV programmes like ‘Wife Swap’ like the plague. But on Sunday 10th, Mrs. D just happened to be watching the latest celeb version of the show featuring none other than the dude Alexander O’ Neal. There was one section where he was getting vexed because he was late for a magazine interview and photo session with … Blues & Soul. Shows how long ago they filmed it, as the mag’s now been out of business for over a year. It was an entertaining glimpse into what the Big Man’s up to these days, and I couldn’t help feeling a painful pang of nostalgia when they showed a B&S front cover. A few hours later came the sad news that soul legend Isaac Hayes had passed away, only 48 hours after we lost the comedy genius of Bernie Mac. What a tragic weekend for the entertainment world.

They say you don’t know what you got til it’s gone. In the case of my Apple iBook, that’s certainly the case. Until a few weeks ago, I’d developed some highly efficient ways of working that would have made any time management guru proud, by taking as much work as possible away with me on flights. Earlier in the Summer, the machine suddenly failed to go beyond the login stage, and consultation of a few geeky on-line forums revealed that this has become a common problem with the entire batch of iBooks that Apple put out in 2005/ 06, all to do with a connection beneath the keypad working itself loose. Until I can find a permanent fix, I’m now back to the prehistoric days of passing airport time by nothing more comprehensive than reading. I’ve polished off a few good books, however, the latest being Dave Haslam’s ‘Not Abba’, the real story of the harshness of British life in the 1970s, and highly recommended for anyone that grew up in that decade.

I got stuck into it while travelling to my latest Summer hotspot gig on Monday 11th. The destination was Zadar, an increasingly popular resort on Croatia’s Adriatic Coast, but served by a small airport with very few international flights. The restrictions made it necessary to travel with three separate airlines and spend only 11 hours on Croatian soil, one of my more insane schedules. The outward leg was straightforward – Ryanair from Stansted, and thankfully there were no nightmare experiences this time.

No club could ever operate on a permanently open-air basis in Britain. In Southern Europe, there are no such worries, and Croatia had been basking in intense heat for many weeks. As such, two thirds of Maraschino Bar, overlooking Zadar’s estuary and flanked by boats, is outside, with a covered part for those that prefer to stay indoors. The venue attracts mainly Italians – Zadar’s just across the sea from towns like Rimini and Ancona. I played from midnight til closing at 4, and it was 2 before cats showed themselves to be in the mood for dancing. But from there on it was kicking, and I doubt I’ll enjoy a more lively Monday night for a very long time.

I felt less lively at 7am. After only two hours’ sleep at an apartment, I was driven, red-eyed, straight back to the airport. The only way to make it home had been to take an early Sky Europe flight to Prague, spend six and a half hours there, then return to Stansted with Easyjet at 5pm. I had no desire to stay in the airport that long, so I used the time to head into town. Prague’s one of my favourite and most visited European cities so this was no hardship. Although the stifling muggy heat was.

First port of call was the legendary club/ bar/ restaurant Radost FX, where I linked with Rico, long-standing promoter and DJ at Soul Train for a spot of lunch and a catch-up chat. Next, I was on a weary mission to track down a witch marionnette for Mrs. D. Prague specialises in creepy-ass macabre puppets of the Chucky variety, and Parveen has adorned our living room with a couple. I find them deeply unsettling. The b*stards look they’re about to come alive any second. By my return flight, I’d dispensed with the book and was on to the crossword and the Sun Dial in the back of The Sun to pass the time. Now that’s boredom!

The carbon footprint of the three Oxford heads who travelled to The Second Bridge in Bath on Saturday 16th wouldn’t have impressed Al Gore. The club is a sister venue to the main Bridge in Oxford, and Saturday night saw DJ James Ussher (in the main room), myself (playing in The Vaults), and manager Simon Marshall all travelling separately. To be fair, a car share on my part wouldn’t have worked on this occasion, as I first called in on some old family friends who live in nearby Calne. Once in session, the Bath gig was as reliably buzzing as it always is. The journey home was spent catching up on some promo CD listening. 4am motorway blasts are so often the only time I get for what’s still an essential task in any DJ’s schedule.

A few nights later the Bank Holiday weekend was upon us, and first stop for me on Friday 22nd was the latest social gathering of the former Blues & Soul mag staff, appropriately enough at The Social in London. The magazine ceased publication a year ago, but the initial bitterness gave away long ago to good natured acceptance, and our drinks session had a jovial tone as a result.

I can well remember the days when, as wide-eyed teenagers, my mate Damien Mendis and myself gazed towards London as a Mecca of musical education, revering the key clubs and the DJs that played there with religious status. As far as urban music goes, virtually all of the West End clubs went from niche to commercial/ tourist-style status a long time ago. The one notable exception is Bar Rumba, deep in the heart of things in Shaftesbury Avenue, which sticks true to its musical guns with nights like Bubblin’ Over, Movement and Barrio Latino running weekly. Friday night’s offering is Front 2 Back, (previously known as Get Down,) which sees on-point resident Sharma, and rotational guests Mista Jam, Manny Norte and others mix everything from standard urban styles, to DnB, UKG, funky house, Afrobeat, soca, Miami bass and all the rest. After The Social, I headed there for my latest guest spot, which also doubled as a warm-up for the weekend’s Notting Hill Carnival. Spirits were high, and the place was hot – in more ways than one. Bar Rumba is one of those joints where the ceiling sweats and drips – not too glamorous, perhaps, but every bit the dramatic atmosphere a proper club night should have.

Saturday’s outing was to Que Pasa in Watford, where I held down the spot all night.

And so to Bank Holiday Sunday. I reached Carnival every year from 1992 to 2000, but have only been twice since then. Each year I consider re-visiting, as memories of the roar of the crowd when a heavy bassline comes rumbling in wash over me … but then the thought of squeezing through tens of thousands of people, stepping on discarded corn cobs, chicken bones and crushed Red Stripe cans puts me off again.

On the cards for that night was the ten-year reunion jam for Late Nite Flava, the legendary allnighter that ran at The Forum in Cardiff for two years. The genre known as R&B merged with the pop market many years ago, and the watered-down hybrid can now be heard in any High Street venue. But in 1998, the music was still fresh and new as a clubbing soundtrack, and The Forum was one of the first clubs outside London to fully embrace it. As a result, we managed to get 1,500 to 2,000 heads in the place every week, with big-name guests most Saturdays, and the session running all the way to 6am. The first time Trevor Nelson’s MTV Lick night visited, the queue snaked the whole way up Queen Street to the walls of the castle as early as 10pm. Truly incredible times that will never be repeated.

I’d had the idea of a reunion session for a while. It was clear that nothing remotely on the scale of The Forum would work, so I’d liaised with Mista Bibs of Urban Fusion to put on a night at the intimate No. 10’s that was partly a Cult Couture jam, and partly the Forum gig. I drove up from Oxford with Kid Fury, just the way we used to ten years previous, along with his girl, and we joined Urban Fusion and DJ Silver to drop old-school tunes of the variety that used to rock Late Nite Flava. I’d started a Facebook group a few weeks previous to try and track down all the old heads. Sadly, virtually none of the people who’d promised they’d turn up actually did, (no great surprise there,) but a whole load of other clubbers did, and the night ended up being busy and great fun as a result. We eventually got back at 6am – a reminder of the long, late nights we used to endure every single week. How the hell did we do it?! The pics from the night are now in my Myspace and Facebook Photo sections, and there’s a recording of part of my set available via the following download link:

http://www.sendspace.com/file/a2cgwu

More nostalgic vibes on Bank Holiday Monday, as I presented a one-off radio special entitled Urban Anthems from 8 to 10.30pm, dealing with nothing but hip hop, R&B, New Jack Swing, jungle and UKG classics, with mixes from London’s DJ Chippie, and a specially-commissioned one from New York City’s DJ Drastic. I really enjoyed myself, and the resulting show, packed full of quality throwbacks, is available to listen to using the following links.

Part 1:
http://www.sendspace.com/file/4trg2u

Part 2:
(Includes London’s DJ Chippie in the mix)
http://www.sendspace.com/file/iah1rc

Part 3:
(Includes New York City’s DJ Drastic in the mix)
http://www.sendspace.com/file/tip9fh

Maintaining a balance between an active DJ schedule and holding down a relationship is a tricky one. Most weekends, I manage to juggle things effectively, but by Monday I’d worked six nights on the trot, (with four of the next five nights on duty as well,) and Mrs. D was not impressed, coming into the radio station as the only way of spending some time with me. Many DJ relationships have faltered as a result of the demands of the job, and the weekend was a reminder of how important it is to avoid the two coming into conflict!

Oxford’s own GTA are one of the most under-rated rap crews in the UK, consistently putting out material that’s far superior to much of the stuff I receive from London. On Wednesday 27th, I was happy to be a part of an event organised in association with Oxford Arts Management, which also doubled as a video shoot for GTA’s latest single. A host of Oxford’s hottest DJs were lined up to drop sets, including Kid Fury, Spex, Lolo and Uncle Paulie, and I used my quick half-hour to drop bangers like Roots Manuva’s ‘Witness’ and Skinnyman’s ‘I’ll Be Surprised’. It was hugely satisfying to be able to drop such bona fide slammers to a proper hip hop crowd and watch them get the jump-up reaction they deserved. Sadly, I had to jet immediately after my set for my radio show. Whether my ugly mug makes the final video cut remains to be seen.

Friday 29th marked the opening of an impressive new two-roomed club in Banbury which, all going well, will house my residency on Fridays for the foreseeable future. St. James’ is a sister venue to the club of the same name in Aylesbury. During the week, it hosts ‘exotic dancing’ (aka pole dancing,) but at weekends, becomes a general-purpose club, pitching itself at a higher calibre of clientele than the town’s other mass-market venues. Friday night was a VIP opening, and the dancers had been brought in for a special introductory show. With the clientele consisting mainly of middle-aged businessmen, it was hardly surprising that the room housing the dancers retained the most interest. But I’m sure the balance will shift when the venue opens its doors properly to the public from next week. (I’ve Djed in a pole-dancing club only once, and I’m not particularly keen on a repeat performance. All night, the girls demanded I play ‘their’ tunes, the ones they’d rehearsed routines to, and I ended up being reduced to nothing more than a jukebox with no freedom of creativity – not what I became a DJ for!) Either way, it’s an undeniably cool venue with an impressive sound system, and clearly, a generous investment into the interiors.

Clubland being as volatile as it is, it’s a very rare thing to have held a spot at the same venue for seven years, as I’ve managed at The Bridge in Oxford. It’s easy to get complacent with such a long-lasting residency, but I reflected on what a good situation this has been as I span there for my monthly session on Saturday 30th. It’s good to have a base in your home city.

… and that, pretty much, was August!

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MD’S TOUR DIARY, JULY 2008

Website diary
July 2008

The first weekend of July was a fairly routine affair, consisting of gigs in Bicester, Oxford and Ealing, West London. The Ealing was a last-minute booking, only coming in on the afternoon on Friday 4th. This was at The Town House, a popular bar venue close to Ealing Broadway station. Musically, it was a general-purpose, commercially-orientated session, my time made easier by the fact that my brother-in-law Shamim and his mate Aaron had come down to keep me company, serving the additional purpose of fielding some of the more patience-challenging requests. Aaron works as a chef, and I asked him to consider parallels between some of the things people say to me in my profession, and how that could be applied to his. For instance, you would never go up to the kitchen in a restaurant and say to the chef, ‘bruv, I’m a chef myself, yeah? Trust me, you should prepare this dish with cayenne pepper, not cumin. I’ve tried it myself, yeah, and it really works.’ So why do you always get the guy in the club who claims he’s a DJ himself, and if you play such-and-such a tune, he guarantees the place will go mad because he’s tried it himself? Aaron saw the point.

I’ve played a fair few under 18s events over the years, and I always appreciate the opportunity. The repressed energy levels brought about by teenagers’ frustration that they’re not allowed into proper clubs always make for a highly-charged party. On Saturday 5th, I played to a group of 16-year-olds from a public school in Oxford at The Regal, and the atmosphere was every bit as fun as I’d expected. Parveen came with me, and we both reflected on how well behaved and civilised the kids were. If the event had been for either of the schools we went to, the session would have been plagued by spiteful bitchiness, petty squabbles and clique—ish politics throughout. In reality, these values probably still rule in schools. We were just fortunate enough to be entertaining kids from a particularly well-cultured one! Upon finishing, the main club was shaping up for a DJing appearance from The Freemasons, but we were happy to take advantage of the very rare luxury of an 11pm finish on a Saturday night and headed straight home.

Despite having worked there for over 18 months, there are still many other presenters on FM107.9 that I’ve never met. Because most of the specialist shows go out late at night, the DJs often find themselves alone in the building. You see other shows and names on the schedule, but never cross paths. On Tuesday 8th, we had the first of two link-ups of the specialist jocks, mainly as a training exercise on certain studio procedures, but with an equally important social occasion down the pub afterwards. The conversation got a bit anoracky, covering the sort of subject matter that would have my wife yawning and looking at her watch, but I guess that’s unavoidable on a jocks’ night out. The following evening I went in to present that week’s ‘Just Buggin’ live, but also to pre-record the following week’s show. I love live radio and only pre-record when there’s no other option. On this occasion, I’d be in Spain the following Wednesday, so it was unavoidable.

G’s Bicester punter comments for Thursday 10th, (I know you love ’em.) 1. “Can you play that ‘Low’ by Flo Rida?” (Punter whilst ”Low’ by Flo Rida was playing in the background.) 2. “Can you play something urban?” (Punter whilst Sean Paul was playing in the background.)

I feel nothing more needs to be said.

The second radio station social gathering of the week happened on Saturday afternoon, as the FM 107.9 bosses threw a barbecue for all staff, freelancers and their partners. The weather had shown its usual British Summer characteristics by tipping down all week, but somehow, we were afforded a reprise for the event, (which was still held in a marquee for safe measure.) Later in the evening, I set off for my monthly session at The Second Bridge in Bath, which had attracted a livelier-than-usual crowd for the second month running.

A few days earlier my Apple iBook laptop had given up the ghost by refusing to go beyond the log in stage, an engineer’s best guess being that it needed a new logic board. As so much of my work gets done on the move, this screwed me up neatly for my week of Mediterranean Euro-hopping from Tuesday 15th, so the flight and airport time was spent old-school style, with magazines, books and a pen and pad. On the cards were visits to Ibiza, Barcelona and Lisbon.

On this occasion, I’d selected Easyjet’s late night flight to Ibiza from Luton. Big mistake. The plane became entirely populated with apes, Neanderthals, Cro-magnons, beasts and savages of every variety … and that was just the girls. The stewardesses, who looked more like librarians, were entirely out of their depth handling such a rowdy crowd, the lobotomised prehistoric chants of ‘Oi oiiiiiii!’, ‘’ere we go’, ‘oggy oggy oggy’ and ‘get your tits out for the lads’ filling the air as we took off. Doesn’t it make you proud to be British?

I was seated behind a group of meatheads who were already pissed before boarding, and pushing each other around playfully. A few Jack Daniels’ later and the playfulness had turned to proper aggression, and it looked like a full-scale fight would break out. Then, the smell of smoke filled the cabin and it became clear that some complete cock had locked themselves in the toilet to have a cigarette. At this point, the cabin crew threatened that we would have to divert and land so the police could board and arrest the fool. Mercifully, we didn’t, and we eventually arrived into Ibiza at 1.30am. As I disembarked, I vowed never again to take the same flight. Next time it has to be BA from Gatwick. Surely a better class of clientele? Thank f*ck Ryanair doesn’t do flights to Ibiza!

Soul City, located right in the heart of San Antonio’s garish West End, remains the only venue on the island to deal with R&B, hip hop, dancehall and garage seven nights a week, and has long been the venue of choice for urban music fans visiting the island. I recounted the flight tales to Julian, Soul City’s owner/ proprietor as we drove across to San An, passing the giant Amnesia and Privilege venues on the way. I also queried why it is that all direct flights from the UK to Ibiza either depart at the crack of dawn, or very late at night. His view was that the civilised slot times are all occupied by the Spanish and German airlines, who pay the airport authorities considerably more than the likes of Easyjet, Monarch and the rest to secure them. Sounds plausible.

After checking briefly into my apartment accommodation, I arrived at a heaving Simple, home of Soul City, shortly after 2am. The atmosphere has never disappointed on any of my six visits, and the almost-entirely-English crowd was on top form as I thrashed out tunes for two hours and the vodka flowed, (and Spanish measures are large, trust me!) It was worth bearing the appalling flight conditions for such a stunning gig. I filmed a few bits from the night, including an East London crew losing their minds to Lethal Bizzle’s ‘Pow’, as dropped by resident Master I. The videos, along with the pics, are all available to view now via my Myspace page – www.myspace.com/therealmarkdevlin

I’d discovered the previous year that the hours from 6 to 10am are probably the best opportunity to grab any kind of sleep in an apartment complex in the middle of San An. By this time even the most insane caner is just about dropping, and I heard the shouting and hollering from reception diminish around this time allowing me to get a small amount of rest. By lunchtime I was back at the airport, having spent only 11 hours on the island. People who save up all year for their cherished two weeks would doubtless consider this insane, but when it comes to ‘beefa’, a straight-in-do-the-job-straight-out-again approach is the one that works for me!

Next on the agenda was Barcelona for my first ever gig in mainland Spain. My Air Europa flight was delayed by an hour, but in Spain, in the middle of the Summer season, this is nothing to get concerned about! Transferring to the nicely air-conditioned Spa Senator business hotel, I grabbed a few more hours of rest before venturing out into the hot Spanish night.

Prior to the gig I hooked up with Daniella, aka Spaniella, who was the work experience girl at the Blues & Soul office in London before the mag went tits-up a year ago. She’s now resident in Barc, and her fluent Spanish helped me get past the bouncers on the door of Bikini with no hassle.

The Spanish party late, and by 1am, the venue was still quiet. Then, all of a sudden, a mass influx of clubbers turned the dancefloor into a heaving mass of bodies. Bikini is the the city’s number one spot for urban music, with DJ Muly’s Wednesday Black Box session the key night of the week. I alternated sets with Muly, and the place was on fire throughout. Another top night, and possibly the liveliest midweek night I’ve ever played. The only downer came when a clodhopping clubber on the stage above kicked a drink all over my CD wallet, soaking the sleeves. To add insult to injury, it was my drink! Earlier in the day, I’d managed to put the same wallet down on to a lump of stringy discarded chewing gum. All part of the occupational hazards, I guess.

My Easyjet return to Luton on Thursday morning was a far more civilised affair without an ape in sight. It was on time, too.

The third instalment in the week’s Euro-hopping trilogy involved another country debut. Although I’d visited as a kid with my folks a scary 26 years earlier, Saturday 19th marked the first time I’d DJ-ed in Lisbon, Portugal. The BBC and Yahoo weather sites revealed the city was sweltering in 91-degree heat, a far cry from the Autumn-like weather back in Blighty. On this occasion I flew BMI Baby from Birmingham, and, aside from a couple of Welsh football hooligans boasting about the many happy times that they’d kicked the police’s heads in at terraces over the years, the flight was a fairly civilised affair.

If the Spanish party late, the Portuguese make an art form of it. Promoter Yen Sung, whose Chocolate City event I was playing at, informed me that the venue only opened its doors at 1am, and it was often 4 before the club had reached its peak. The venue, Lux Fragil, is world class, and impeccably well run. It’s situated on a dockside, well away from any residential neighbours. The downstairs room, very reminiscent of the main room at London’s Ministry Of Sound, was dealing with deep house. Up above was a large loungy area with plentiful dancing space and an overhead DJ booth, an open-air terrace completing the layout. My set was thoroughly enjoyable as I took the music in many different directions, complementing Yen’s more funky, disco-infused approach. As with Spain, Portugal has yet to receive the ban on smoking in public places. It’s now a year since this hit the UK, and I’m so used to it that it’s a real shock the system to see people sparking up in clubs. Thankfully the Lux air conditioning is very efficient. Another top night, and a fitting end to a stunning week.

Portuguese clubbing times being what they are, it was 7am before I was installed back in my industrial-strength-air-conditioned hotel room, but there was no rush to be up again as the only available return flight didn’t leave til 8.25pm. I used the time to do some extensive Lisbon sightseeing. It’s a large, imposing city, very colonial in feel, and with a small stretch of the imagination, the many monuments and palm trees could make you believe you were somewhere in South America. Meal-wise, I probably should have sampled some Portuguese cuisine. I was very predictable and ate in an Italian instead.

On Monday 21st, I got the opportunity to meet and interview a true legend and a personal musical hero. RZA, founder member and prolific producer for the Wu Tang Clan was in London for one night, at the tail end of Wu’s recent European tour. Linking at his Covent Garden hotel, I chatted to the dude about the legacy of the Wu, his secondary musical role in scoring Hollywood movies such as the ‘Kill Bill’ films, his move into acting, (he was most recently seen in ‘American Gangster’), and his new musical project, the revival of his Bobby Digital alter-ego for the new ‘Digisnax’ album this Summer. RZA was the model interviewee – incisive, witty, friendly, and seeming like he genuinely wanted to be there. I’d managed to find my Wu Tang T-shirt with the distinctive yellow W, which went down well – RZA himself was wearing one almost exactly the same. Plus he gave me a stunning Wu Wear padded jacket that makes me look at least five stone heavier, and which I’ll be rocking big time in the Winter months. I’ll be broadcasting the interview on my ‘Just Buggin’ show next week. In the meantime, I just posted a couple of clips of our chat in my Myspace videos section and on Youtube.

A couple of nights later, I welcomed that week’s live guest on to the show. Breis is a South London MC with a refreshingly different, conscious style, (check out myspace.com/breisuk for more info.) I first came across him in 1999 when he came into Joints & Jams, the radio show I used to co-present with Kid Fury, alongside fellow MCs Ty and Cyrus The Virus. The resulting three-way freestyle was classic material, and it was the first time Breis had heard it in nine years when I played it to him live on the radio on Wednesday night to a priceless reaction. More spontaneous lyrics followed.

As I’d discovered a while back, DJing to a roomful of 18-year-olds for an entire night is no easy task. I took a late booking on Friday 25th at Mosaic in Sutton, Surrey. What I only found out when I got there was that it was for a private 18th birthday, playing to an almost exclusively black crowd. It certainly looked like being a fun gig – but I’d under-estimated the wilfulness of teenage girls, as gradually the approaches to the DJ booth came, along with classic attempted strategies such as telling me that a particular crowd wanted to hear bashment right now, or they’d be leaving. So I’d play a couple of bashment tunes only to have another crew approach and ask ‘how long’s this bashment sh*t going on? Everyone wants to hear bassline. They’re starting to leave because you’re not playing it.’ Despite the duplicity I did my level best to keep everyone happy, and there were some great moments, such as during the Lil Wayne/ Rick Ross Southern roller sequence where the guys in the room lost their minds. I don’t remember being this fussy about my music when I was 18, though.

There was a classic moment in the street after the party. One particular girl had taken off her shoes because they were hurting – you know, the way girls do – and drunkenly staggered barefoot right into a pool of sick. Absolutely disgusting, but hilarious at the same time. If you walk the streets barefoot at 2am, that’s what you can expect!

The weekend finished with The Bridge in Oxford on Saturday night. After seven years of doing the gig, I’m running very short on new things to say about it. Suffice to say it was an entirely routine night.

… and that was July.

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