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Writing Long Relationships

Harold Heath

Our next book Long Relationships details exactly what DJing is like for the 99% of DJs who never make it big. Here author Harold Heath explains how he came to write the book.

My book ‘Long Relationships: My Incredible Journey from Unknown DJ to Smalltime DJ’ details the ebb and flow of many years of DJing and then producing house music. The good, the bad and the ugly gigs, tales of raves and record shops, clubs and after-parties, of club owners, promoters and doormen, DJs, producers, clubbers, dancers, chancers, liggers, free-loaders, winners, losers: the whole rich micro-world of those who love a disco.

Once I started writing down the various stories and observations that make up ‘Long Relationships’ I became concerned that my story might be too pedestrian in the wild world of dance music, that my tales of poorly-attended raves, half-remembered nights and minor success wouldn’t have an audience. I’ve read a few books by or about the exploits of big star DJs and I love all that stuff – staying up for weeks in exclusive luxury venues, endless benders with celebs and the beautiful people, all the drugs you can eat, it’s brilliant, it’s the rock ‘n’ roll dream for the acid house generation. But there were always different levels and indeed definitions of DJ success. I wanted to tell the more prosaic tale of every DJ that didn’t make it, but who fell in love with the joys of DJing just the same. I wanted to recount the ups and downs of minor-tier DJing: playing warm-ups, dealing with punters, getting ripped off, pulling off your first brilliant peak time set and all the often hilarious, occasionally sad reality of life as a small-time DJ.

And I figured there would be an audience for this story, as there are so many more DJs who didn’t ‘make it’ than who did as well as people who had fallen in love with club culture like me. Writing this book was also a chance to redefine that idea of ‘making it’ as a DJ. Because most of all I wanted to record how much joy us lower-ranking DJs got from being a part of the DJ world, despite never reaching the heights – personally, I loved every single budget minute of it, and that surely is some kind of success.

There’s often a sense with first-time writers that they try to cram as much as possible into their first book. This is certainly the case with me: aside from my DJing story, I also used the book to write about my induction into the world of dance music in the early 80s via breakdancing and electro. I also included pretty much all my observations on and feelings about DJing, at both a practical and philosophical level. And I covered changes in the dance music industry during my time as a DJ and producer. But I felt that all this stuff was essential to the story as it all helped explain how I, and all the other DJs like me, continued to pursue our DJ dreams for so long.

I still have DJ dreams. Even though I don’t really DJ anymore, I still drift off sometimes while listening to tunes and find myself imagining how a piece of music might sound on a decent system, when in the night I might drop it and what I might follow it up with. DJs never stop being DJs, not really. You can walk away from it, leave your promo emails unopened, put your decks in the loft but once you’ve experienced that rush of dropping a new killer tune to a dance floor, you never really lose the urge to experience it again. DJing is like the Mafia: you can never really retire. Ultimately, that’s what ‘Long Relationships: My Incredible Journey from Unknown DJ to Smalltime DJ’ is about: how me and countless others fell in love with DJing, and how our time behind the decks were some of the best times of our lives.