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
Me: Because I don’t carry any Lionel Richie
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:
You can also get a quick glimpse into the chaotic production process with the following short video, too:
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.