Sometimes your hopes, dreams and aspirations can eventually come true and often when you least expect them.
I began DJing back in 1995. It was Christmas and my parents bought me a pair of soundlab belt drive turntables. The reason for giving the detail on the decks is to highlight that they didn’t keep time particularly well and so made it more difficult to mix. Mind you, I had no idea what I was doing. YouTube hadn’t even been dreamt of and even if it did we had no internet in the house. Crazy times. So, no YouTube tutorial and no friends who were DJs available to show me the ropes! I did eventually work out that the aim of the game was to match the beat, but that took much longer to discover than it should have.
I remember my first trip to the record shop. It was intimidating. I asked to listen to some new music. What do like? What are you into? What was the latest tune you bought? I was flustered. What do I say? I was then given a pile of tunes and pointed in the direction of a turntable where other likeminded music nerds would queue up one by one to listen to their selection. I remember fearing handing the records back and saying I didn’t like them as I wanted to fit in, look knowledgeable and respect the taste of the person behind the counter who had selected the songs for me. I look back now, laughing at how awkward I was. I grew to love it and the various shops I bought music from became my haven. A place where I hung out having a laugh, discussing music, Dj’s and club nights. I, just like everyone else was jockeying for positioning the shops in order to get my hands on the promos, test pressings and rarities, the tunes that everyone wanted but found hard to get. This is what got me hooked. This became my craft and this is what made me different from the other DJs. I needed the tunes and I would hunt high and low. I listened to the new music given to me in store but I also came armed with a wish list from magazine suggestions to what I had heard on specialist radio shows. The tastemaker, the man with ‘the’ tunes and my hero was Pete Tong. The Essential selection on a Friday night on Radio 1 signified the start of my weekend and the tunes played were always amazing and often extremely hard to come by. I made going to record shop a routine. I loved it. I bought from Mixmaster in Belfast (at one stage it was called Elite records and before that Underground) on a Tuesday / Wednesday, Street Dance Records and Central Records were also frequented as were Kosmos music and Underground Records in Bangor. I never missed going into Underground Records on a Friday afternoon. It was my favourite part of the week. Friendships were forged over the music we loved but also the music we didn’t.
It came with great pleasure then that I got to meet my hero and interview ‘Pete Tong’ a month or so back ahead of his Ibiza Classics Show in Belfast. We got to chat about dance music culture, missing the record shop experience as mostly everything is downloaded nowadays and how a prom curated by him has spawned a tour of orchestral re workings of classic Ibiza anthems. He was honest, extremely down to earth and humble. They say ‘never meet your heroes’. I disagree with that wholeheartedly. You can watch it below:
A number of wks later I received a call asking if I wanted to do the warm up set before his Belfast show at the SSE arena. I simply couldn’t believe it. Yes, was of course the answer and now I write this having done the gig and seeing Tongs Ibiza Classics Show in the flesh for the first time.
It blew me away, the production was epic and the song selection was incredible with a few tunes reworked that I didn’t expect. The one that took me by surprise the most was ‘Out of Space’, originally recorded by the ‘Prodigy’. Never in a million years did I ever think that an orchestra could have performed it.
From start to finish, tune after tune the atmosphere grew. It was a special evening for everyone there but particularly for me who opened the show. As a 15 year old boy with soundlab turntables I could only have dreamt of DJing before that bloke who I listened to on the radio. 23 years on and it happened, not in a club but in an arena. It was an amazing night, one I will never forget. One I am extremely grateful for. I loved putting my set together which I recorded on the night and you can listen to it here:
I suppose sometimes your hopes, dreams and aspirations can eventually come true and often when you least expect them. Certainly that has been my experience. If you love your dance music and want to see a spectacle and if you get a chance go and see Pete Tongs ‘Ibiza Classics’ with the Heritage orchestra. It will blow you away.
Cheers for taking the time to read,