In The Beginning There Was Jack…
It may irritate some of the purist DJ’s out there to learn that I haven’t always dreamed of being a DJ in a club, and yet I’ve found myself playing my debut gig at CODA, Liverpool in February this year.
I have always found a deep passion and lust for music. There’s something about certain tracks that grab me, deep down and thrust me into pure elation, bossing out moves on dance floors complete with my recognisable bass face.
Years ago, at house parties whilst everyone else was chatting and dancing, I would find myself and my good friend Paul laid on the floor sifting through CD’s, excitingly lining up tracks to put on next to keep everyone up there in their moments.
For me, music is a very personal thing. There’s an honesty and vulnerability about sharing your vibe with someone. There is nothing more touching than someone sending you a track or set simply saying ‘this is a little bit of you’. Or you send someone something and they love it, that satisfaction… yeh, I love that!
I happened to meet a now very good friend of mine at the Mecca – Luminosity, in 2018, who understood my appreciation for the very music that brought us together. He would listen to me talk about what I would play if I was a DJ, my own sound that I would want to share and why, but in the same breath that I had no desire to do so. As time went by he would badger me to get up and have a go on his 1210’s, when I’d be sat listening to him play, being his ‘second ears’ as he would say. But I was too afraid to even touch them (the decks not his ears), let alone try play music on them. After countless attempts, and a record breaking amount of ice cream, I gave in. We started out very basic, finding and nailing the first beat on a vinyl, sounds easy doesn’t it… Introducing turntable number 2, it is not!
I spent hours, days, going over the same basics with the same two vinyl, teaching my ears to separate the two beats in order to realign them. Word of advice, DO NOT use your favourite tracks to learn with!!
It’s like, and I quote; ‘trying to separate a bowl of spaghetti into two separate piles in your head’, and it really is.
Once I was successfully beatmatching, I then started to look at bringing in the next track, how it sounded dropping it at different stages, understanding how to ‘read’ the vinyl so you could see where the break is, fathoming fading it in gently, #ShovelHands. At this point I hadn’t even glanced at the EQ’s… High’s Mids and what?
This was all brand new and raw to me, and a lot of the time I felt stupid and embarrassed. But I’m also as stubborn as a mule and would ask question after question, the same one on a different day. I wanted to know, to understand it all… and I wanted to know yesterday!
I would grow frustrated at doing the same thing over and over, but at the same time growing more comfortable around the whole process. I remember the celebratory lap of the room when I successfully beatmatched two different tracks, only to flop at the next attempt. I was impatient, and frustrated but kept at it. And all along I was like a kid a Christmas inside.
But I wasn’t doing this because I wanted to be a superstar DJ, I was doing it for me. To tinker away at home, so I could express myself quietly and exorciiiiiiiise the deymannns. Give myself the release that I had been gifted at all those nights on the dance floor.
I didn’t intend on playing in front of anyone, not even my friends, maybe my seven year old boy (who by the way, has immaculate taste in music, so even that would have been a bit nervy).
Next came the CDJ’s. I disapproved as I wanted to learn ‘properly’ but I begrudgingly, and with caution, succumbed to the digital era. In came all these buttons, all these assists, and flashing lights and oh my cake, did I feel overwhelmed. I felt like I was starting from scratch again.
“Just use sync for a bit so you can enjoy yourself” NO!! Categorically NO!
I took offence and curled my lip and carried on at it, until once again I became more comfortable.
Don’t get me wrong, who am I to judge the use of the sync button, but for me, I felt so strongly that I wanted, nay needed, to keep it as close to the roots as possible. It was almost like a rite of passage for me, and I maintain that to this day.
In the months that followed I lost so many dummies I had spat out after wanting to throw in the towel, because it doesn’t come over night. And it never felt perfect every time. But I was lucky that my friend saw something in me and knew that deep down I wanted this more than I didn’t like the struggle. He showed belief in me, when I did not.
Well This Is A Story All About How Zoe’s Life Got Flipped Turned Upside Down!
Fast forward December 2019…
So one day, whilst walking though a sea of bored AF husbands Christmas shopping at Cheshire Oaks, I was privy to a phone conversation between my friend and a promoter discussing a forthcoming lineup. This resulted in me giving it big licks, jokingly saying ‘I might warm up for you’. Not for one minute thinking that this cocky comment would result in me absolutely shitting myself in front of a crowd in a club not 3 months later.
You see, my mentor was very honest, yet vague when it came to compliments on my progression. I would get “you’re doing fine” but I’m a disproportionate over thinker and I needed a 1000 word essay critiquing my work to date, so I literally only said it to see if his reaction would be a thigh slapping laugh, and then at least I would know where I stood. I was secretly elated that there was no thigh slap or snigger, but played it cool… obviously.
Again, a niggle for the purists. I was lucky, an opportunity presented itself and I took it. Who wouldn’t!?
Had I been playing for years? No.
Had I spent tireless hours promoting myself trying to cut a break? No.
But I had shed sweat, and tears and put so much of me into learning something I had always thought would be just a distant day dream, and more so, I discovered that I wanted to share what I was so passionate about. I wanted to share this little piece of me, and if one person, felt good dancing and felt a little reprieve from life like I used to, then I had given back to world (without having to run a marathon or bake a cake).
So that was that, no backing out now. Shit!
After hearing that I had actually been chosen to open up the proceedings, I was as giddy as a kipper for about a week… Then I would have little flaps and consider pulling out… Then I couldn’t concentrate at work for running tracks through my mind… Then I couldn’t even remember one bit of music I owned. This exhaustingly perpetuated right up until the day of the event.
I couldn’t sit still for excitement. My heart was racing. I was like a springbok, I didn’t walk around the house, I pirouetted and squeeled like a little girl. The day was here, my big night, my time to shine…
Oh my god, how mad will they be if I back door dash it? …