My first DJ gig was set up to go as badly as it possibly could. I was seventeen and my best friend at the time was the same age but had already been DJIng in clubs for three years already. His Dad was the go-to school disco DJ in our part of Newcastle. I had seen him doing his thing since I was around nine years old. He would kill it every school dance we had. He had the ability to stop the boys from running in circles and punching each other and actually get them to dance with girls. Mad ability.
They both had gigs this one night but had somehow double booked themselves. One cocktail bar in central Newcastle was going to go DJ-less unless they found someone. I can only assume they tried everyone they could before they decided to ask me. They did not take me there and show me what equipment I would be using and they certainly did not tell me what was on any of the CDs they kindly supplied me with. They just sent me there and told me it would be easy.
Using up all of the young person delusion I could muster I went and started. What followed may have been the worst DJ set to ever occur on planet Earth. It took me the first two hours of what should have been a six hour set to figure out how to do things like open the CD player, press play, press stop etc. I had no idea that DJs were allowed to use their headphones to listen to tracks before they played them. I would just play songs from the CDs completely randomly.
This wasn’t an underground thing. I wasn’t banging out any deep stuff. The best track you’d play in place like this would be Jermaine Stewart - ‘we don’t have to take our clothes off to have a good time’. I always worried about Jermaine. What situations was he finding himself in where he ended up saying that phrase so often he decided to make a song about it.
The lowest point came around four hours in. It had been going about as badly as it could up until then. I had no idea why a member of security didn’t remove me. I played another track from the start like I had been the whole night. There was no mixing. I am not even sure I knew what mixing was at this point. Every track just had to start and play from beat one. No fading in or out or anything like that. Huge gaps in between too.
I am sure those things were possible on the Fisher Price level set up I was given but I wasn’t even at Fisher Price level at that point. So I played a track from the start that I thought I knew. Except it was a remix.
It was Bob Sinclar’s Feel For You but the Erick Morillo remix. It started and just repeated ‘I can…. can you, I can…. can you’. I thought the CD was skipping so after 20 or so seconds I stopped it and started it all over again. I did that maybe three times before I realised that that was just how this particular remix began. 90 seconds non stop of ‘I can… can you’. It is meant to be like that so you can mix this cool little vocal sample onto the end of whatever you were playing before hand.
By stopping and restarting, sweating profusely all the while, I had subjected this bar to four straight minutes of ‘I can… can you’. By that point I was nearing nervous breakdown so I packed up the stuff and pretended that I was told I was only playing until midnight. The poor bar manager had no idea what had hit him. He asked me to play the last hour as agreed. I lied and said I had another gig elsewhere. The least believable lie maybe ever. The bar fell silent which was a huge improvement on the noise I was making and I ran away.