For the first time since his most recent Tales From The Booth, the Secret DJ is on the road throwing peculiar parties around the UK. Ahead of the tour, starting at infamous Weatherallian haunt The Golden Lion, we interrogated the incognito impresario to unearth what Balearic buffoonery is on the cards.
- August 4 – Golden Lion, Todmorden
- August 12 – York
- August 18 – Neon, 194 Piccadilly, London
- August 20 – Bugged Out, Between The Bridges, London
- August 26 – Kanteena, Lancaster
- August 27 – Douglas, Isle of Man
- Sept 1 – Carlton Club, Manchester
- Sept 9 – Imaginarium, Leeds
- Sept 15 – Faith in Strangers, Margate
- Sept 16 – The Sun Deck, Margate
- Sept 23 – Pollina Amphitheatre, Sicily
- Sept 30 – Saltaire
- October 12-14 – Beyond the Music Conference, Manchester
- October 21 – Hastings
- October 28 – Ministry of Sound
- December 9 – Derry
- December 15 – Sheaf St, Leeds
- December 16 – Herd, Bedford
- January – Hare & Hounds, Birmingham
What can we expect from gigs on your tour?
We had big plans that got scuppered relentlessly by COVID, so most of the tour has been pared down to DJ gigs. They are far less complex and costly than our Dark Room shows. A couple of dates have book signings and there are another two with talks and Q&A sessions. It’s a mixed bag. I’ve got a lot of music saved up from the past three years, so that is something to look forward to, by me more than anyone.
Your tour is taking you to venues of all flavours, from The Golden Lion Pub in Todmorden to behemoth clubs like Ministry of Sound. Which one are you looking forward to most? Do you prefer playing in bigger/smaller spaces?
To be honest, there is no design to the apparent chaos of venue choices other than I have a personal relationship with nearly all the venues, and most of them are postponed gigs from pre-COVID. It’s tough getting booked lately. These days if you are an unknown quantity, or even just a little risky there is no room at the inn for Lidl Baybeh Cheezis. Every DJ reading this will know this story and I can tell you it doesn’t get easier after 40 years at it.
I tell you what though, the venues nearly all have killer sound systems. That much I can tell you. I tend to get to know the sound techs at venues immediately, being a former one myself. It is almost the only thing I care about. I’m taking the full Bozak kit of course, every bit Paul makes is coming. Bozak plus killer system = very happy. I’m ambivalent about venue size if the venue is legit. It’s fox and grapes innit? In the sense that DJs who only play small venues are more likely to say small venues are superior. They all have their own charm. Ministry still has the best sound in the UK, probs in the top 5 in the world.
I suppose I could concede I’m not a fan of stadiums and large festival stages. I don’t think what we do works particularly well there but then again, depends if you have the chops to work it. I mean, I’d swerve most stadium gigs but jump at Depeche Mode, ‘cos they totally pull it off. I’m generally against polarising things to either/or. Everything is always far more complicated innit?
Have you played anywhere on the tour before? Looking forward to revisiting anywhere?
Most of them are well known to me. The gig in Lancaster is a new place to me though. I am extremely familiar with Leeds but Imaginarium is also new to that town. I’ve been semi-deceased for three years. A lot can happen in 3 years. Venues die, venues are born or reborn. I’m looking forward to seeing my buddies at Bugged Out! for their Balearic thing on the South Bank. Such nice people.
Also, my old friend Chris Sullivan AKA the King of Soho, is doing a talk and book signing with me at a new venue in Piccadilly called ‘Neon’ and there should be a lot of West End Faces there. My old stomping ground and home to world class freakazoids. Being a face was everything when I was coming up. Can’t say I ever was one, always kept my head down a bit, but I know a few.
Buzzing for Cafe Del Margate too, Faith in Strangers and Sundeck double weekender on the South Coast. Fingers crossed I bring the weather with me. I’m extremely happy to be starting the tour with the Golden Lion. It’s a special place.
Ever taken any drastic measures to hide your identity when on the road?
This is the first proper tour of Secret DJ, so no, can’t say I have. I’m not famous and neither is ‘Secret DJ’ so it’s never been a consideration. Fame is a toxic thing to be avoided wherever possible. I’ve been to a few red carpet things in the past, accidentally more than by design, and there is a palpable relaxing of paps and droogs when I walked by. They flick a look at you for a microsecond like a cat and then carry on staring at the real prey. I did once throw up on the paparazzi by mistake and when I proudly told my Dad he thought it was a kind of Italian linoleum.
Are you taking any books with you to read during any downtime while on tour?
Always. I can’t have a shit or wait for a bus without a read. A phone is just a phone to me, being ancient, a thing to talk on and make plans for as short a period as possible. So I’ve always got a few books in a bag. Always, since I was a kid. One for fun, one for facts and one for ‘self improvement’ which is not ‘self help’ I must stress. No,
I was raised in Yorkshire so ‘self help’ means getting paralytic and having the piss taken out of you by your mates. No, for me a ‘self-improving’ read is a quite boring book that is a strain to read but you feel like you climbed a mountain at the end. Like for example currently I have a book about maths which is mainly completely beyond me but I force myself to try learn. Gets so much harder and harder to learn stuff the older you get. It’s like exercise though, once you stop you may as well start building a coffin.
My book for fun at the moment is a bit of Jodorowsky and Moebius and for non-fiction I am deep into a book about The Whitechapel Ripper by Bruce Robinson of Withnail and I fame. I’ve never seen a non-fiction voice that hates it’s subject so much, and rightly so. After the maths, I have a book lined-up about ancient Mediterranean history ready to bore me back to the Iron Age, haha.
How has touring changed for you since you started mixing? Do you still enjoy it as much?
Well in a sense at a DJ’s career peak, you are always touring as a constant. Going ‘on-tour’ for a defined period is pretty new to me as a DJ, but I do remember it from when I played in bands. Bottom line is I am both old and unpopular so it is far better for me as a niche act to do a bunch of gigs and then stop than try get back on the ‘circuit’ which is a ride you don’t ever seem to get off.
Last time literally nearly killed me. So I am trying things a little differently this time around. I can be a bit of slow learner with some things but it is finally sinking in to me that the requirements and pace of modern life might not just be highly toxic but possibly completely unnecessary. I’m getting bang into The Slow. Slow is the new fast.
What are you gonna miss about Ibiza while away? How will you be keeping Balearic while on the road in the UK? Bananas? Limoncello?
I make my own limoncello from the only lonely wee lemon tree in the castle of Dalt Vila. It’ll put hairs on your chest. I’m quite Kung Fu about living in the moment so I rarely miss things. Ibiza is home though, so that “aaahhh” when you get back in your own bed is ace. My bedroom is in a cave underground so it is always the same temperature all year round, Iron Age air con. It is literally a cave. It’s carved out of the bedrock and thousands of years old. There’s a tiny necropolis under the stairs where a Punic sarcophagus used to be. Me mother won’t go down there. Says it is haunted. It is I suppose, by me, I’m the other ancient corpse sleeping in the basement. I
suppose I try to stay Balearic by completely ignoring anything anyone British says about anything ‘balearic’ haha! I like to rib them about it ‘cos it is all a bit daft really. Talk to any Spanish, Germans or Italians here about the British obsession with ‘balearic’ and they look at you like you are mad. “Yeah it is our music and it is played in Ibiza, it’s Balearic.” Easy as that. The idea that there is an established narrative with carefully-drawn rules about Amnesia and it being exported to the UK only makes sense to the British. If you live here it is not a genre, it’s an address.
Who else will you be touring with? If they’re not in The Secret DJ crew and it’s confidential.
I may dust off the legendary Tour Manager! He’s recently returned from the grave, less dead than advertised. Delighted to see it! I mean if you absolutely have to make every single gig a staggering jazz mess of cosmic proportions, only Tour Manager will do. He has gamely volunteered to drive to some of the gigs and I may take him up on it just for old times sake.
Naturally I will have a backup vehicle idling in the background in case he explodes on the way to pick me up. Otherwise I am afraid it is just me. People and venues are skint right now. There’s no more extras, entourages and limos anymore. Those days are long gone. It’s a National Express and a jolly hostess serving crisps and tea.
Anyone/thing you’ll be ranting about whilst back in the UK? Who will be getting it in the neck in any late night heated discussions about politics or the electronic music industry?
I did a lot of journalism in the past, for some fairly heavyweight publications and in the end for Private Eye. It seems to me my industry is deeply corrupt and extremely light on morals so the idea between the 3 of us was to try and bring some of that Private Eye flavour to this business. Bringing those two factors together is like a cheese and onion daiquiri in reality. The music biz doesn’t get it at all, as perhaps your question demonstrates.
The biz has absolutely zero sense of humour and even less interest in addressing its more hideous aspects. ‘Ranting’ is one of those slight off Americanisms that seem to arrive by osmosis and don’t bear much scrutiny. ‘Reasoned discourse’ dear boy! There’s nothing wrong with holding a bad business to account. Politics is like air, it cannot be avoided. Politics and the Music Industry are just two sides of a coin. Politics affects everything, there is no escaping it.
In fact the more you stick fingers in your ears and go LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU the more politics comes knocking when you don’t want it to. In just the last few months it was nearly made illegal to protest and it is now definitely illegal to strike. If you just sit around they come for you. Laws also exist to bind power and greed. The powerful and greedy want to end the laws they don’t like and create more to make your life harder or more profitable to them.
Anyone who wants to ignore it is basically asking for it to happen. Social media doesn’t really do nuance but I am OK with delivering satire, humour and politics like my heroes at Private Eye taught me to. A lot of people get it, some don’t. I’m here for the ones who do.
Will you be taking anonymous anecdotal submissions for another Tales From The Booth?
Done with books now I think. For a bit. Maybe when the film comes out I will get back into working on book three of the trilogy. I didn’t invent books about our scene by any means but we seem to have been a partial catalyst for dozens of them suddenly appearing, which I am all for. About time even. I have a suspicion there is only so much you can say about a thing as basic as ours before everyone starts repeating themselves. It’s a low ceiling, a red light and a strobe. What more can you say? It’s a feeling.
Your tour has been delayed multiple times by various world events, how does it feel to have it sorted? Are you apprehensive about anything?
Yeah, I was very unsure I’d be able to physically stand up for a long time. So I’ve been on the Rocky Balboa trail doing loads of physio and I did a couple of low key gigs in Ibiza to train myself up. I managed to stay upright for a whole night playing records recently which restored a lot of confidence. It’s good to be alive. You wouldn’t believe what three serious medical procedures cost privately, but let’s just say I will be paying for it for the rest of my life in both senses of the word.
Earning a few quid after three years of nothing is not just essential it was about to put me under. The 11th hour came and went. Generally I am very positive and sunny. Full of life. In terms of your final question I would say the thing I am most apprehensive of is going to England itself. It’s the place that took me in as a ‘migrant’. I have a deep fundamental love for it, so it pains me to my very soul what is happening there and I just can’t pretend it isn’t going on.
From the moment you land the slightly daft and pompous ‘Border Force’ are there to do all they can to intimidate from the get-go, especially to someone like me with a different passport. It’s a completely different experience to how it was just say ten years ago. It’s unwelcoming and dark. So I guess we will have to make some light at the parties. I’m here to make the good people happy. To forget about it all for a few hours. That feels good. It isn’t exactly worthy, but it’s not worthless either.