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, as this particular spot always is.