I’ve been crate digging hunting for music since the age of 14. It seems a bit odd thinking back now, because the DJ culture as it is today didn’t exist back then and I’ve no idea what started my fascination. I somehow found out about (way before the days of the Internet) a local market that sold vinyl and used to head there on my push bike, struggling home with a bunch of heavy vinyls that I’d play constantly on repeat at home on my basic hi-fi. This obsession grew and took me further afield to my local city where there was one specialist record store and, every Thursday, I’d be the first inline awaiting for the new delivery of the latest imports.
This was the start of my journey to becoming an obsessed music collector. I’d spend hours hunting and collecting music, and while becoming a DJ had never crossed my mind, it was a natural progression because I needed an outlet to share my found treasure with like-minded music lovers.
For the last 30 years of my professional DJ career I still dedicate hours each week hunting for music and I still get that same feeling of achievement / excitement finding a musical hidden gem that I did as a 12 year old kid, though today its done through my mouse. I don’t think it will every leave me, and it’s what drives me every single day to be a DJ.
Being a traditional DJ is more than just collecting a few tracks, we gain a huge amount of musical knowledge becoming a walking encyclopaedia. We have our fingers on the pulse of exactly what’s happening in the scene due to the constant researching and inherit a DJ ‘gut instinct’ that tells us where the scene is heading next, what will be a musical fad, and what will fail and why so many authentic DJ’s manage successful to reinvent themselves and sustain long healthy careers. Only a DJ can explain this gut feeling, but this talent is recognised in the music business as an asset as many of the biggest most powerful music industry players started their careers as DJs. Knowledge is key.
Myself and many of the greatest authentic DJs started our careers hosting the whole night. It wasn’t a big deal back then, it was standard practice to play all night and something I’m extremely thankful for as it helped me craft my art that I keep with me today. It was a gruesome boot camp. I had a room full of people and I had to unfold a very interesting musical story to keep their attention for the whole night. A few wrong moves, and it can go horribly wrong very quickly and you lose them. The crowd also changed from week to week, it taught me to understand how to read a crowd and understand what they wanted. Importantly it forced me to music shop for the extra musical tools I need to be able too handle any situation and keep that musical story interesting. I still keep that skill with me today.
As the scene grew, the shorter the sets become as people liked to see multiple DJs on the line up. But as an authentic DJ, an hour set isn’t enough for me, as I have a record box packed and armed with hours and hours of new fresh music. You tend to go in autopilot playing short sets, and for me that’s not challenging enough, I like the thrill of taking the crowd on a journey, the buzz I get from taking musical risks as I take them into the musical future. Take twists and turns as I have them on the edge of a music journey they have no idea what’s coming next and I’m fully in control, its that very feeling once I connect and gain control is my adrenaline drug.
This is the reason why I choose to play extended sets and all night long, as it unleashes the true DJ side of me. It’s in my human genes. I’ve dedicated my whole life crate digging and becoming a music specialist, something I love share with on the dance floor. It’s my specialty.
2018 will be the year of me playing more of these extended / all-night-long sets, because I’m fortunate that you and clubs have been asking for them. We’ll kick things off with The Gallery Club team at Ministry of Sound Club in London 16th February 2018. Keep an eye on my tour dates as we announce the rest.
– John ’00’ Fleming