Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Play Something Happy

Add N To X - This Is The Flex (Lo-Fi Mix)

Not so long ago, I used to spend some of my spare time playing records for the public in various bars around London. I believe the technical term for this is ‘DJing’ but there wasn’t anything technical about my abilities in this department as I was (still am) incapable of mixing and rarely knew what I was going to play next, preferring instead to randomly select records from my bag and hope for the best. Self-deprecation aside, I’d like to think that my enthusiasm for music and collection of half-decent records provided me with enough qualifications to perform the task in a more than adequate fashion.

Strange then that I have very few fond memories from all the occasions when I put the needle to the groove in front of an audience. It’s not as if I was under any illusions about my status. I ain’t Oakenfold, nor would I want to be. I was spinning twinkling electronica and quirky indie (think Beta Band), sometimes veering towards the more abrasive if I’d had a pint or two, in bars on non-descript nights like Tuesday, providing background music for after-work drinkers. So why the abuse? If it wasn’t plebs braying for Oasis, it was slick accountants demanding “funky house”. When playing at a pub in East London one night I was subjected to ridicule from a perpendicular-haired Hoxtonite who claimed I was “rubbish” – his justification for this statement? That he’d heard all the records I was playing before. I’ve had the bar staff telling me to turn it down and even the organiser of one night asking if I could, “Play something happy” as I was bumming out her friend. The fact that said friend was sat outside and could barely hear the music didn’t seem to matter. And anyway, what constitutes “happy” music? Timmy Fucking Mallet? That one particularly rankled as I’d just returned from tour managing a post rock band in Europe where I’d played records to politely geeky German crowds who waited for each record to finish before asking me what it was called and scribbling the answer into their notebooks. That’s how it’s meant to be – a bit of cocking respect for the man playing the songs.

It wasn’t all bad. I even rocked it one night, playing downstairs in a pub on the Essex Road with my mate Wil (with one L, it’s not a typo). I played a few records that went down quite well, and with my ego suitably inflated, I slapped on ‘The Is The Flex (Lo-Fi Mix)’ by Add N To X. Opening with military drums and a quirky whistled melody, an analogue noise sword cuts through, making way for some bitchin’ drums and bass, lots of vocoder nonsense and sci-fi effects. Cue spasmodic dancing (yes, DANCING!) from at least 10 people and a handful of patrons trying to read the label as the record spun. Exalted, I even punched the air a few times – this was it, I had a smattering of people in the palm of my hand and I wasn’t about to blow it. Or was I? Yes, I was. The next track (can’t remember what it was) cleared the area in front of the bar that passed as a dancefloor and it was back to business as usual. Bollocks.

Official Add N To X website
Add N To X page at Mute Records
Buy Add N To X from Amazon
Contact me here, if you ever want me to come out of retirement and play obscure electronic music in your front room - only happy tracks, I promise.