Wednesday, October 08, 2008
CROSSFADER DOMINATOR: an exclusive interview with DAVID SEE
David See is a man who needs little introduction to anyone who genuinely loves dance music. He's been pounding the mean streets of Britain's disco beat since the 1970s, having spun, mixed and scratched more 12"s than you've had sad, lonely wanks into your older sister's laundry basket. Pete Tong? Don't make me laugh, his mum used to pre-record his mixes for him at home, while he just slouched around the Radio 1 studio, sucking love hearts and pretending they were Es. Seb Fontaine? A wannabe rapist, by all accounts - "the man who puts the 'hip' into 'rohypnol'!", as the sleazy bastard used to joke in the Ministry of Sound toilets. Grooverider? Couldn't mix a scotch and coke, let alone two records together. Jon Pleased Women? Straight as a die, straight as a die! These buffoons pale into insignificant spatters of kebab vomit on a cold Finsbury Park pavement, compared to the godlike dynamism of David See.
Anyone who's serious about DJing for a living NEEDS to track down See's INCREDIBLE manual, "How to be a Disc Jockey" - still the first and last word on the subject. Those who've encountered this precious, yet obscure, tome will verify just what a life-changing read it is. The fact that thousands of ill-informed clowns neglect to study this masterpiece before racing down to the shops to buy a pair of turntables and a mixer probably accounts for the sheer volume of pathetic, instantly forgettable 'mixes' out there in the world today. The dole offices of this country are heaving with burnt-out MDMA casualties, out-of-work DJs and bitter, washed-up MCs...none of whom had the nouse to consult See's words of wisdom before attempting their conquests of Clubland. Discotheques are battlezones, and See is the Disco Paratrooper who'll get you through the mortar attacks in one piece.
Recently, this blog had the tremendous privilege of being able to secure an interview with the elusive See, the importance of this coup barely requires an explanation. We met up for a few ales in the Lamb & Flag in Covent Garden - the same pub where poet John Dryden had his head kicked in after he slagged off Guy Fawkes. Like yourselves, I certainly had a lot of questions to ask DJ Dave. But be warned: See doesn't mince his words, and some of the following views may cause self-styled 'mixmeisters' to redden and sob with shame...NOW READ ON
BTi - When I was 16, I pretty much believed in armed revolution against the state, loud basslines and motor-goth girls with forearm tattoos, riding Honda CX500s. But deep down, I used to get my kicks from drinking snowballs and dancing around my room to Linx and Freeez, with Xmas tree lights draped around my neck. Everyone thinks the only music that 'mattered' in the late '70s was punk, post-punk or reggae - disco gets pretty short shrift.
DS - Ha! Tell that to the tens of thousands of nubile groovers I've whipped into a frenzy over the years. Yes, disco's always been belittled by disgruntled bigots. I never thought that much of punk. John Lydon advertises butter these days, so I hear. Can you imagine Sylvester wasting his time doing Stork commercials? Mark E Smith's a pathetic alcoholic who can't even string a sentence together - the only people he intimidates are 14-year old NME hacks. Jake Burns looks like a gerbil that can't stop eating. Punks always looked so bloody ill, I never understood how that caught on! But, 30 years on, Frank Farian's productions still sound like they were recorded in 2034 - on a spacecraft - and the Clash might as well have recorded their first album in the 1950s, for all it's worth sonically.
However, I was always partial to a bit of reggae, even though I'm not black. In fact, I was involved in the production of a few recordings, in the late 1970s, for a small but innovative political reggae label.
BTi - I'm not trying to kiss arse, but "How to be a Disc Jockey" seems to be the only book worth reading on the subject.
DS - Listen, I know my stuff. I've DJ'd at youth centres in places you'd never find on an Ordnance Survey map. I've humped a JVC turntable down the Old Kent Road at 3 in the morning, and I always designed my own flyers, meticulously, by hand. I've also made a fortune in this game - I signed off the dole in 1976 and haven't needed to do an honest day's work since. Quite frankly, if you ignore the book...well, I can't help you.
BTi - Since I started doing the blog, back in May 2004, I've met quite a few people who've done DJ mixes, some of whom I've become quite friendly with. But, even though they've selected some OK tunes, and I appreciate the spirit behind their efforts, I can't help but find these mixes depressingly poor, technically. I wish some of these people would bother to read your manual.
DS - Some people don't want to learn, I guess. Like in 1994, I had some girl track me down, asking me to teach her how to mix. Lisa Lashes, I think she called herself. Absolutely hopeless. She didn't even know what I was talking about when I asked her if she had a Pulsonic Plus. I cut my teeth on the mobile DJ circuit and, let me tell you, you learn bloody quick in that environment. This girl just wanted to sit on her arse, put on some sunglasses, take a chill pill and let the turntable do all the work. All my advice went in one ear, out of her navel. That's why I wrote the book - to let youngsters know what DJing really entails.
BTi - I guess you've got some crazy stories from life on the road.
DS - You have to understand - I'm from a generation of REAL DJs. We drank 20 pints a night and never mis-cued a 7", not once, what we were doing was too important. It's a far cry from the Evian-sipping flakes you get manning the decks these days.
I remember this one time I DJ'd on a Scandinavian ferry crossing. There were loads of Swedish birds really getting into it, especially when I slipped on the latest single by Munich Machine. One of them came up to my control booth and whispered what she'd do to me if I played some Tavares, for her best mate's birthday. I could hardly refuse - considering that she'd promised to blow pure cocaine up my urethra while stimulating my prostate with her nipples! I bet you don't get many offers like that in Fabric. But this was 1979, and anything went. Unfortunately, I didn't even manage to get the Tavares record out of its sleeve, as, seconds later, a bunch of Finnish skinheads started trashing the 'disco deck', and I was concussed by a flying Danish pastry.
Then there was the time I did a set at the Starlight Youth Club, when I came on wearing a bed sheet with the eyeholes cut out and DISCO DUPPIE painted on the back. I was experimenting with my roots reggae alter-ego, 'The Cool Ghoul'. Unfortunately, the 99% black crowd mistook my ghostly garb for a Klansman uniform, and I had to flee the venue under a hail of ashtrays, tankards, bar stools, pool cues, pool balls, bottles, tables, drip trays, cheese baps and darts.
As you probably know, the UK was split across subcultural lines back in the old days. Heavy metal and disco were ideological opposites, in every respect. But this didn't stop me being very good mates with Neal Kay, who ran the Bandwagon HM club in North London. I didn't enjoy his championing of garbage like Def Leppard and Iron Maiden, but he was a top DJ, certainly one of the best this country's ever seen. I can't fault him on that score. I suppose, in a way, he was the first 'superstar DJ'. Anyway, I remember me and Neal went along to the Miss TV Times 1982 Contest. I had a 20-minute DJ slot, so I was spinning Angel 43 by Marsha Raven while Neal kept the booze coming. Suddenly, a couple of birds came up and asked if we wanted to head back to theirs, to have a go on their 'dreamachine'. So we got a taxi to their gaffe - a swanky pad in Fulham - and spent hours soaking up flickering strobes and tripping out to visions of Atlantis, before it got flooded. I don't want to sound soppy, but I really think I saw Jesus that night, whirring around in the lights, and he told me I had a very special gift. Mind you, I say "that night" - by the time we'd unplugged the bloody machine, 22 days had passed! I ended up missing several club bookings. But one of the girls shoved her tits up my arse.
I used to be good mates with the Italo Disco troupe, La Bionda. Great lads, had a cracking time with them. Not many people know this, but I was one of the first DJs to play Italian club tunes in Britain. La Bionda seriously knew how to party. One of their tricks was to buy condoms in bulk, and then fill the rubbers up with Chianti. They'd then tie a knot in the end and swallow the Trojans, international smack smuggler-style. When their gastric juices eventually dissolved the flimsy rubber coatings, umpteen quantities of red wine would simultaneously erupt into their bloodstreams. It was the Omagh Bomb of getting wasted. Unfortunately, I never saw them after they had their big hit I Wanna Be Your Lover but I heard their record label was forced to feature La Bionda in 'cartoon form' for the promo video, cos they were too trolleyed to turn up for filming.
BTi - OK, we've taken the piss out of all the wannabes who upload crap mixes on the Web, so what would advice would you give to the 'Blogariddims' generation of hopefuls?
DS - Learn to annunciate clearly. You're not just there to push records around, you need to communicate with the dancefloor as well. You're a pilot, flying at 45RPM, guiding your passengers to DESTINATION DISCO, estimated arrival time: HALF PAST THE GROOVE. And don't just deliver 'shout outs' in some mumbled slang terminology - you're an ambassador, not a bloody town-crier.
Decent lights are everything. Get yourself a proper rig. People want flashing lights in a variety of colours, not just some vague green or orange hue behind the booth. Ask any Mescalero Indian: intense, flashing lights play a crucial role in generating libido and excitement.
If you get nervous before a set, sink a few pints. I used to drink at least 12 before I went on the wheels. It helps you to relax and steadies your hand.
If people are smooching on the dancefloor, don't play some 'industrial punk rock' record. It will kill the mood. You think it makes you look clever and subversive: well, let me tell you, little fool - you just look like another spotty scrote who doesn't know what the bloody hell he's doing. One thing's for sure, these couples won't ever return to one of your disco parties, and then it'll just be you, alone in your bedroom, sobbing over some 'twisted deathcore' record you only ever bought as a statement of your own naive insecurity...because no-one wants to listen to that tosh, no-one.
Be courteous to women. I have had sex with over 20,000 women in the past 30 years, but I've always said "ta" when they laid out the bacon and sausage the morning after.
And - if people ask you if you've got a certain record, try to be a bit civil when you reply, or you might get a fist in the eye. I saw an inferior DJ in Blackpool get chinned for telling someone's wife to 'eff off' when she asked if he had anything by Ten Tons of Fun.
BTi - Finally, the big question - whatever happened to you? Why did you retire from Clubland?
DS - I became disillusioned, the scene had all changed, lowered its standards, got sloppy. When you have people turning up to nightclubs in baseball caps, something's wrong. Also, I'm getting on a bit now, and my sexual appetite's diminished somewhat - though, God knows, I'd hardly need it to pass myself off as a 'DJ' these days. The magic's all gone. I'm currently working on a crime novel - it's taking a while, but it'll be worth the wait. It's set during the 1979 EMI Disco Dancing Championship.
I'll tell you something, put me against any of these current so-called DJs and I'd show them a thing or two. I could do a better mix on one deck than they could on eight. The book's been out of a print for a while but, every now and then, I receive an email begging me for tips and advice, and I'm aware it's revered as a cult item, from Hitchin to Osaka. I'm amazed people still manage to track me down, but it just confirms that every word I wrote in 1980 is gospel. That's enough for me - I'm not a greedy man, and I have nothing to prove to anyone.
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