Q1: So, who the frig is Rob McGeechan then, give us a little bit of background….
Well that all sounded a bit Cilla Black on Blind Date going a bit rouge didn’t it?! I work in HR and Employment Law for a FTSE100 company during the day, as well as having a budding rugby coaching career. I am trying to follow in the footsteps of my dad; Sir Ian McGeechan, who coached Scotland and the British Lions at international level, as well as winning rugby’s Premiership and European Cup with London Wasps. Currently I am one of the academy coaches at the championship club; Yorkshire Carnegie, as well as coaching Yorkshire County under 15’s. In addition to these roles, I also coach a men’s side based in Chesterfield. I am originally from Leeds, but now live in Sheffield with my long suffering partner; Ellen, as well as our 5 year old daughter Annabelle, a cat and two gerbils. I know that the readers of this will be shocked to learn that I am almost 40. If I am honest, I haven’t aged brilliantly have I?! In fact, my big 4-0 coincides with me playing at Anomaly in Birmingham on 3rd November. My birthday is two days after so if anyone fancies sending me money or taking me out for a beer or three, please get in touch!
Q2. How did you first get into DJ’ing?
As a young kid growing up in Leeds, I was obsessed with spending my pocket money on 7” vinyl. I will admit I bought some novelty songs like ‘John Kettley is a Weatherman’ by the Tribe of Toffs. But the vast majority of what I bought was tracks from the acid house scene that had crossed over into the mainstream, like Bomb Da Bass. Fast forward a few years to 1991 and I’m listening to tapes of DJ sets from The Gallery in Leeds, which was a combination of acid house and Italian piano house. Back then my bedroom wall was covered in all the old Fantazia and dreamscape flyers. In late 1994 and just prior to my 16th Birthday, the family moved to Northampton. I was in my final year at school and had a part time job working each Saturday morning in a factory on the edge of the town centre. Once I had finished my shift I used to go into McGinty’s bar to spend my wage packet. McGinty’s was a typical city centre bar, playing 70-80’s and cart music each Friday and Saturday night. The resident DJ there was a guy called Rob Lawes, who would play house/dance music from 12-4pm, before switching to the music more suited to the clientele that would be coming in late afternoon/early evening.
I quickly became friends with Rob and he would give me the names of all the tracks that he had played that I liked, then I would run down the street to the nearest specialist record shop and buy them on 12”, to then take home and play on my 7” turntable on top of my stacked Hi-Fi in my bedroom! Around this time I became friends with another DJ called Andy, who was resident at a club called Kelly’s. I would take down my record bag and he would kindly play my records for me. I am not sure if this would constitute grooming in this day and age, but I was getting to hear my records being played in front of a crowd. This arrangement had been going for a few weeks when another of the Northampton circuit DJ’s came running up to Andy asking whether he knew anyone who could DJ at another club close by. Andy just pointed to me and said; “Rob’s got a bagful of vinyl, he can do it” So there we are, a slightly tipsy schoolkid with a bagful of vinyl and the promise of £40 cash in hand for a two hour set, as well as free drinks, I was a DJ, even though I didn’t own my own headphones!
Q3. You have been loyal to the trance sound, have you always played trance?
God no, back when I was getting into DJing, or dance music for that matter, there wasn’t the level of pigeon holing and creating genres that we have these days. It was just referred to as house music. If I think back to those early sets when I was just starting out I was playing stuff like The Ethics- La Luna, which sampled the House of Gypsies track Samba, Joanna by Mrs Woods and some god awful remix of A-ha’s the Sun Always Shines on TV! I would say that the trance sound started to appear in 1997 with the emergence of tracks like BBE- 7 days and one week, DJ Quicksilver- Bellissima, Robert Miles’s Children and Vincent De Moor’s Flotation. But even then, I would be playing these tracks in a set where I was also playing house and even speed garage.
Q4. Talk to us about Gatecrasher, apparently you have been there once or twice!
My first night was Friday 13th December 1996, Lion on the Move Tour in Northampton. It was at a club night called What a Life that was each Friday at a club called The Vaults. Which, I played at a number of times and in fact the night, later relocated to Birmingham and rebranded as Gods Kitchen. Since that first night, I have been heavily influenced by Gatecrasher and have been a regular ever since. In fact I have only missed two Gatecrasher nights since 1999. The first one was the 2001 re-opening with a Nick Warren three hour set, out of protest and more recently, the June 2017 event, as I was in Thailand.
Me and my best mate Lee ended up being poster boys for the club, appearing in Mixmag, DJ Mag, M8 Magazine and Ministry Magazine on a monthly basis, including gracing the front cover of May 1999’s DJ Magazine, there aren’t many who can say they’ve appeared on the front cover of DJ mag is there?! Obviously, at this point the Gatecrasher sound was heavily influencing my sets; likewise, their DJ bookings played a hand in my DJ name at the time. My surname is pronounced Ma-Geek-an, so naturally I had the nickname ‘Geek’, and this was what everyone in Gatecrasher referred to me as. One Sunday, I had just come off the decks at an after-party and someone said, instead of Paul Van Dyk, we have Rob Van Geek, and the name just stuck! Then the DJing career seemed to go ballistic. If it wasn’t for me being in Kelly’s in 1995 and then someone coming up with Rob Van Geek, I would probably now be found on an A road near Kidderminster shouting at traffic!
Q6. Who are your biggest musical influences?
Back in the early 90’s I would have to say it was Steve Luigi and DJ Vertigo, their sets from the Gallery in Leeds that I had on cassette back then were huge influence. In fact, I still have these to this day! I think then it was Jeremy Healy, at the time he was the ultimate DJ superstar. Although, around this time I was being mentored by the Northampton based happy hardcore DJ; Dougal. So although I hated the concept of Happy Hardcore, he was able to give me some great pointers from a mixing perspective. More recently I would say that I was influenced by Tall Paul, circa 1997-98, but ultimately, I have been lucky enough to have spent hours backstage and behind the decks with both Scott Bond and Matt Hardwick. So as DJ’s, these two are my ultimate influences.
Q6. You took a break from DJ’ing, what was all that about?
The late 90’s/early 2000’s were amazing for me, I was getting 2-3 bookings per weekend and these varied from small nights, right through to Gatecrasher, Sundissential, Good Greef and the Ministry of Sound. Then every Sunday, it was always back to The Howard in Sheffield. At the time I didn’t have decks at home, so the Howard was me practicing and testing out promos that I had received! In 2002 I had the opportunity to go out to Ibiza with The Howard and build upon the success that my good friends Paddy and Bonner had had with it a year earlier, so I went. Six months later I returned and found that clubland had changed. I supposed I expected to walk back in and pick up where I had left off, but that wasn’t the case and I really struggled to get gigs. I struggled by and I think that around 2004/2005 was the turning point for me, when the Pioneer CDJ really took off. I was convinced that it was just going to be a fad, just like when Technics released the SLDZ1200 CDJ. So I stayed true to vinyl. However, as CDJ’s grew in popularity, I realised that I was a dinosaur that could no longer get gigs on the basis that the promoter would have to fetch a pair of 1210 turntables to the night just for me to play. I was still DJing in my spare bedroom and kept saying to myself; “nothing can replace 1210’s, they will all come running back once they release that CD’s skip”, but the CDJ’s became more and more advanced, so I finally had to give up the analogue dream and become a digital DJ! I have to admit that although I miss the olden days of lugging a record box around that’s slamming into your shins when you walk, the sound of an MP3 on a USB stick is much clearer. That said, the mixing element on CDJ’s is so easy compared to vinyl. DJ’s who have never played vinyl will never know the struggle of spending an entire track queuing up the next track, rather than just looking at the digital display to make sure the BPM’s are the same and then hitting play. I get why things have changed. I mean comparing a CDJ2000 to a Technics 1210 is like comparing the internet to Ceefax! Yes it’s quicker, easier and better. But that’s what I grew up with and in some ways I miss that. One thing I have noticed that you need to be a DJ these days is to have logo in a weird font and have produced a track! Which of course are things that you didn’t need 5-10 years ago, as you were booked upon the ability to DJ, not your capabilities to write your own name in Comic Sans! So if anyone is a graphics designer cum ghost producer please feel free to get in touch, as I am sure that I will go far and make loads of money off the back of all your hard work and effort.
Q7. What were your favourite gigs?
Raukous at Bed in Sheffield was an immense night with me, Elliot Tordoff and Eddie Halliwell as residents. The amazing Sweat events that were held in Northampton’s majestic Guildhall and attended by 5,000 clubbers. The mental and twisted Sunday affair that was the Howard. But ultimately, playing The Republic and Area for Gatecrasher is the pinnacle for me.
Q8. What’s next for Rob?
Gig wise, I have Anomaly on 3rd November which will be amazing and I am not sure if I have mentioned it, but it is my 40th Birthday party, so there’ll be lots of music and Cossack dancing, and maybe even a fighting bear too. Ideally I would like to get signed to an agency to get more gig bookings. Obviously what would help me achieve this if someone made me a cool logo and produced lots of tracks for me to pretend that they were done by me. I did try this once before by employing a Russian Cossack dancing fighting bear to produce for me, but he was not good at taking advice. Once I highlighted that the riff he did in D major would sound much better in E flat and he punched me in the thorax. We parted company shortly after citing musical differences. Last I heard, the bear is now Will Atkinson’s ghost producer and is paid in VII t-shirts. I would also like to arrange to do a charity clubbing event for Weston Park Hospital, in memorial for a good friend and former Crasher Kid; Hubba (AKA Jonathan Booth) who earlier this week sadly lost his battle with cancer. Hubba has always been a larger than life character and we spoke about doing a club night fundraiser, whilst he was doing a Lands End to John O’Gaunt bike ride to raise money for Weston Park Hospital, who had cared for him during his cancer treatment. Unfortunatly, we never quite got it off the ground, but I think that it would be a fitting tribute to someone who was such a part of my life growing up.
Hubba 01.11.1979- 08.09.2018.