We Are Proud Of Our Choices: slideshow photograph 1
We Are Proud Of Our Choices: slideshow photograph 2
We Are Proud Of Our Choices: slideshow photograph 3
We Are Proud Of Our Choices: slideshow photograph 4
We Are Proud Of Our Choices: slideshow photograph 5


Groove Column: on saying goodbye.



If you ever visit my studio, in the toilet there is a sign at man-who-is-urinating eye-level. It says in jaunty bold italics ‘if you miss when you piss, wipe it up!’ Every time I go to the loo its corny rhyming monosyllables make me smile. The toilet used to get pretty filthy; since the sign went up it hasn’t. The man who wrote the sign, Martin Dawson was also jovial and easy to like, and he too was really good at his job.

At lunchtime on November 1st, 2012 Martin collapsed at our studio with what was later diagnosed to be an aneurysm. He was found by one of my other studio partners Sasse Lindblad a few minutes afterward and rushed to hospital. He died two weeks later. For us who saw him every day at work, even if it was only for a cup of tea and a natter or to check a mix, or talk about a new compressor plug-in it’s not really begun to sink in yet. He’s not there, next door, and he should be and it’s bitterly unfair.

We are just a handful well down the ranks of the very many people who are missing Martin now. As well as family and loved ones there are those thousands who knew his music. As a DJ I will miss the laser-guided accuracy of his tracks; so many great releases in the last twelve months alone. They were sure-things, get-out-of-jail-free cards, but generous and joyous ones; you always knew when you dropped one, even brand-new and unmastered, that it would smash the dance-floor.

It’s his funeral this week at the Crematorium in Treptow in the city that he and many of us have made our home. As is the way with funerals there will be much grief but there will also be jokes and stories and happy memories. We have so very much to remember him by and yet not nearly enough. We’re only starting to say goodbye.


Note: this was my last column for Groove magazine; I would like to say thanks to everyone who has grabbed me at a gig or dropped me a line to say how much they’ve enjoyed them and most of all to Heiko Hoffman who persuaded a doubtful me that it would be a good idea in the first place. It’s been a great pleasure. I will be back writing in a different format soon. See you then.

Groove Column: on feeling like an imposter. Mostly.

So I’m in bed in the penthouse suite of the Upper House hotel in Hong Kong and it’s, well, a bit weird. Let me re-phrase that. The room’s not weird, it’s gorgeous. Very plush, with an incredible view over a movie skyline; Blade Runner light-show, Dark Knight skyscrapers. But I have a modest career with fees and rider to match – I don’t stay in places like this. I’m not sure why the upgrade angel put me here tonight and I don’t want to sound ungrateful – rest assured I’m embarrassingly, pathetically grateful – yet part of me feels decidedly twitchy.

It’s the familiar attack of impostor syndrome; the feeling that any moment someone is going to come out from behind a curtain and lead you quietly away. I’ll hear a knock on the door and hotel security will be there to take me somewhere much more beige, with a vastly inferior mini-bar, saying ‘I think you’ll find this is where you belong, sir. Terribly sorry for the misunderstanding’.

An unwilling centre of attention, I often feel ill-suited to my job.  My ability to be social twenty per cent of the time is predicated on getting the fuck away from you the other eighty. I’m better than I was – you can’t wander solo around the world without coming out of your shell a little – but it’s mostly wasted on me. I have not cut a swathe through the world’s disco beauties; I do not live to hobnob with the internationally monied. I’d rather be up a corner with a book. Perhaps I’ve a tweedy twin in a library somewhere who feels similarly ill-at-ease, who looks up from their folio edition and sighs, yearning to swap the dust of the stacks for a bit of night-life glitter.

Next month, I get married. At first the idea of voluntarily being in the spotlight – of a big do – filled me with utter dread and I lobbied for the tiniest celebration possible. This was a mistake; the reason I am getting married is that I have found an amazing woman with whom I never feel like an impostor, who renders me absolutely calm, happy and precisely myself. She knows what I am – this weird intro-extrovert gobshite-nerd amalgam – and loves it for some peculiar reason. I want people to see it.

Someone so special deserves a bit of fuss. There will be hoopla. I may even book us a fancy hotel suite. Just this once.

Groove Column: on fear of festivals

photo: M. Jeremy Goldman


Come summer, come festival season and from the moment I spent a whole day at Reading in 1989 sheltering from the rain in my girlfriend’s Mini Metro, bickering and waiting for New Order to come and make everything OK, I’ve known they might not be for me. I’m 40 now and have come to appreciate life’s small luxuries – mattresses, a ceiling, plumbing – so although I’ll defend to the death the rights of kids to ingest their bodyweight in ketamine on a leyline I’d rather not be in the tent next door while they do.

Being British my festival fear is largely weather-based. Three years out of four you find yourself re-enacting the Somme. If you manage to dodge the trench foot you get sunstroke instead; everyone so in awe of the yellow sky-God’s return that they forget to offer up the factor 30. Work has sent me to festivals in warmer climes. They’re better surely? Well there was that time a hurricane hit Spain as I was on stage trying to coax techno out of my rain-soaked-but-ever-so-connected-to-the-mains MPC. I’ve never fled a disaster area so fast. And when I DJ’ed in 46C Australian heat, smoke from a nearby bushfire drifting menacingly over the escarpment toward us. Dressed as a Care Bear. Slimming.

It’s not only extreme weather that makes you feel like a correspondent at the end of the world; many festivals resemble ad hoc experiments in post-apocalyptic town planning. Parachuted into Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome but instead of Tina Turner you get 40,000 dust-masked Spaniards pogoing to nosebleed techno. You play your biggest records 10bpm faster than usual and wait for the airlift to civilisation. Friends rave about Burning Man but I’m not ready to barter for toilet paper with someone wearing a suit knitted from hemp and Bacofoil who travelled into the desert atop an iron spider.

But there’s hope. I spent the last two weekends in Corsica and Croatia in coastal festival bliss. Where the only fear is stepping on a sea urchin as you plash through cobalt sea, piña colada in hand. I’m going gently into the summer afternoon that is middle-age aboard a Balearic boat, surrounded by friends grateful for a bit of the music they love, a respite from the rain and the odd glass of wine. You can take your psychotropic-fuelled adventures in Utopia. I’m happy to visit Bartertown occasionally, but it’s not my neighbourhood anymore.

Groove Column: on Donna Summer

I’m on a train to the Robert Johnson club in Offenbach, trying to decide what Donna Summer track to play tonight in her memory. There are so many amazing cuts to choose from:  ‘Our Love’ with its hints at what would become New Order’s ‘Blue Monday’, the new-age gospel of ‘State of Independence’ or the behemoth ‘I Feel Love’, a record which casts a huge shadow, a template and an inspiration for so much of what we’ve done since, yet which thirty-five years after it was made still sounds radically like the future.

Too much DJing has been in memoriam recently; two weeks ago it was a segue of MCA’s brilliant revisionist acapella from Sureshot (‘I want to say a little something that’s long overdue, that disrespecting women has got to be through’) into Intergalactic. In the past months it’s been Whitney Houston, Darryl Pandy, Michael Jackson, Kenny Hawkes. Every death, however keenly felt, is also a defiant reminder that dance, once dismissed as a mere ‘craze’, the provenance of teenagers, is well into it’s forties now, a permanent part of the cultural landscape, ubiquitous but still thrilling.

Summer’s career tells in miniature the story of how dance music got to where it is now – the criss-crossing of musical influence across the Atlantic, the collision of white European pop and the black American soul, the at-first-controversial mixture of the human and the machine-wrought, an erotics of bodily pleasure threatening to eclipse pop’s tales of romance. And when Moroder, Bellote and Summer ripped out disco’s heart and put a motorik sixteenths bassline in its place, a new form began that we haven’t nearly finished getting to grips with.

In the end I choose the bittersweet ‘Last Dance’ from the movie, ’Thank God It’s Friday’, her vocal simultaneously coquettish and insecure, defiant and elegaic;  ‘it’s my last dance, my last chance for love tonight’. As death forces us to take stock it also gives us a chance to say thanks. Millions of us will dance to Donna Summer and the musics she inspired this weekend, disappearing into that delicious eternal present, joyously flicking our fingers in the face of our inevitable ending for a few hours at least. For a moment, a wish is granted.

Groove Column: on the tyranny of convenience

When I first starting taking just CDs to gigs, fed-up of schlepping 23 kilos and the back spasms that resulted, I would sometimes get abuse from the odd vinyl die-hard. Then last year someone looked at the dishevelled wallet I pulled out of my bag at a gig and remarked ‘you play CDs? Old school!’ I laughed at the time but a couple of weeks ago I couldn’t find CDRs in the shop I usually buy them. Time marches on. In less than two weeks I turn 40. I am about to become old-school.

Two or three times every year I decide to bow to progress and get Traktor, but the thought of scrabbling behind a mixer for fifteen minutes while someone else is playing gives me pause. It feels, well, rude I guess. (Remember I’m English. You could run me down whilst drunk-driving a stolen car and my last breath would be an apology for bleeding all over you.)

We live in a world where convenience is king but what appears easy at first often bites us on the arse later. MP3s take up less space but sound awful. Online record shopping is misery if you don’t already know what you want. Carrying months of music wherever I go harms my DJing rather than improving it – too many choices to parse, too many tracks to locate. The act of pre-selection, of narrowing-down required by only being able to fit eighty records in a bag created coherence and identity; you couldn’t bring just anything in case.

The tyranny of technological convenience is often an excuse for dubious ethical behaviour. Because you can’t get what you want right now at the price you choose (the cheek of these content creators!) it’s OK to steal. At a tech conference in Austin last week homeless people were made into mobile Wifi hotspots, with the claim that it was raising ‘awareness’ when it was actually treating them as means rather than ends.

The older I get the more I like things which buck the trend: synthesisers that you program with patch-cords. Cast-iron pots that take ages to cook. Ribbon mics which require a heavy-duty pre-amp before they can pick up any sound. Life is not convenient, love is not convenient. Nor friends nor kids nor work. All the most important things require care and effort and trouble. Maybe I should start carrying records around again. Can anyone recommend an osteopath?