Profile: Jack Quenby
I always loved music. In primary school we regularly took over one of the few classrooms with a computer (it was 1995!) during lunch break to host our own radio show. Using the beige plastic desktop microphone, the on-screen audio mixer and a few CDs I had nabbed from my grandma, we took turns to play host to a handful of random celebs such as Michael Jackson (one of the CDs we had was the ‘Bad’ album).
It wasn’t until I reached high school in 1998 that I began to buy my own music, after spending a few years recording the top 40 from Radio 1 onto cassette. I remember the first piece of music I bought was also on cassette, it was Basement Jaxx – ‘Rendezvous’ and I picked it up from a tiny kiosk in our local shopping precinct. Music shopping in Loughborough was fairly limited, although a few years later I would often spend time browsing the vinyl options at the ‘Left Legged Pineapple’, although sadly they now only sell online.
My DJing life began about a year later when I made friends with a classmate whose grandad was a singer and guitar player. My friend had recently been given a Citronic CDM DJ mixer and we set about getting a gig at the local youth club. We borrowed his grandad’s speakers and amp setup, hooked up the mixer, and used a personal CD Walkman for one channel and a mini hi-fi for the other. Managing the sound levels while mixing from one to the other was interesting! I think about four people showed up, but we loved it none the less.
That Christmas my friend was blessed with a ‘coffin case’ containing a pair of Pioneer CD separates and turntables! Paired with his Citronic mixer and our lightshow – which comprised a pair of 4-way chasers, some rope light, a police light, a couple of moonflower effects, some par 36s and a cheap plastic strobe – we were fully kitted out. We even had a smoke machine, an Antari F80Z, which must be bullet-proof as I still have it now, although it’s rarely used these days.
Despite the turnout at the youth club we weren’t deterred and next accompanied my friend’s grandad to a gig so we could DJ between his sets. I knew we had to ‘play to the crowd’ and I had an Abba track I thought would go down well as it was a 50th birthday. The only problem was that (as I was a super-cool DJ) this was a dance remix, which resulted in some perplexed looks on the dancefloor!
Lesson learnt, our next gig was an 80th birthday so I went round to see my grandma to ask what I should play. I left with a wedge of CDs and a bit of an idea what to do this time. After the usual slow start I decided to go all in and dropped the Max Bygraves disc! To my surprise the 80-year-old birthday boy was soon on the floor shortly followed by most of the guests. Bizarrely this was probably one of the most important moments in my DJ career as it helped me to appreciate how important it is to understand your audience. And, despite the choices of music, it really felt great to know I was responsible for all the happy smiling faces on the dancefloor, not to mention the 80-year-old busting some moves!? It sure beat the lonely youth club gig and from that point on I was less bothered about just pumping out ‘bangin’ tunes’.
We had a run of further bookings, but eventually the relationship broke down. We were only 13 and it now reminds me of the scene from Kevin & Perry Go Large: “you are not my mate and you are not my fellow DJ! Goodbye forever!!” So to get my DJ fix I set about buying some gear of my own. I was lucky enough to get a Citronic mixer for my birthday and then borrowed £200 from my mum (agreeing monthly payment terms) so that I could buy a pair of Sony CD players. I was making £10 a week delivering free newspapers, so I needed to get some gigs lined up in order to pay her back!
It was around this time (2002) that I moved from high school up to the local college where we got to choose GCSE subjects. I really wanted to do the music course but they wouldn’t accept me as I couldn’t actually play an instrument. I tried in vain to convince them that my skills as a DJ would help, but ended up doing a general Media course that later lead on to studying Digital Photography.
Shortly after moving up to college I teamed up with a new classmate under the guise of ‘Japster – Jack & Sam’ and also met a DJ through a family connection who offered to hire me a full disco setup if I ever needed it. It didn’t take long for word to spread around college and eventually we were booked for a friend’s party. I contacted the DJ to borrow the disco gear only to realise that the hire charge would be only £20 less than what we had charged the customer, so we ended up making a tenner each!
Needing cash to fund my music purchases (and loan repayments), I ended up getting another part-time job working Friday and Saturday evenings making pizzas in the local takeaway. This was not an ideal scenario, as it meant when we got another gig I would have to take the night off (un-paid!), however it did give me a clear idea of what I wanted to earn. I had to at least make more than I would have done working at the takeaway!
We also still had the problem of lacking sound and lighting equipment, so Sam got in touch with my previous DJ ‘partner’ and agreed to buy some of his lighting that he no longer used. Paired with an old hi-fi separates amp and speaker system we were now good to go on our own. We covered a number of small parties for our family and friends in the local pub, unpaid, although we were well ‘refreshed’ and picked up further valuable experience. We had a lot of fun but we didn’t share the same ideas about what we were doing. Sam was mostly interested in the girls and free drinks whereas I was trying to take things a little more seriously. In the end we decided to go our separate ways and I ‘bought him out’ by paying him back for the lighting he had purchased (I think it was about £100!).
At the end of our first year, everyone at college had to take part in a week or two of work experience before the summer and I was lucky enough to get a placement at Loughborough University Student’s Union Media Centre. I think it helped that my mum worked on the campus! I got some great hands-on experience in the recording studio and radio suite. It was also a pivotal time for my DJ career. At the end of my final week, the university played host to a youth conference and they contacted the media centre to enquire about a DJ for their two evening events. I’m not sure of the exact circumstances but the manager offered me the gig! He also helped me to write up an invoice and even lent me the media centre’s PA system – what a guy! These gigs were both successful, and well paid, which re-ignited my desire to be a DJ.
After I finished my A-levels (Digital Photography, Business and IT) I found a temporary job at Loughborough College while the new students were enrolling. I was responsible for taking and printing the ID card photos. I did about 8 weeks of 20 - 30 hours, which was a lot more than I had been doing at the takeaway, plus the pay was monthly so when my first cheque arrived I’d never had so much money! I’m sure you can guess what I did with it… I headed to an open night at a DJ store in Nottingham, parted with £1200, and came away with a flight-cased KAM dual CDG player and mixer with a pair of wireless mic, a pair of Acme Dynatwins, a goal post stand and a pair of 15” Carlsbro Orion speakers.
At the start of 2007 I managed to secure a 9 – 5 day job at IGEM (Institution of Gas Engineers and Managers) on the science park next to Loughborough University. I started out doing general admin but quickly found myself in the role of ‘the IT guy’. Basically I covered everything they could throw at me, which ranged from help desk and servers to website and design work. I also did a lot of photography at the regular conferences and events the company organised and was even able to gain some more DJing experience as some of the events included Dinner Dances and Charity Balls, which I got to play at. For these events I would also setup an early version of a photo booth, taking advantage of my photography skills and shooting portraits in front of a backdrop, allowing the guests to then buy a print to take home.
Now, with a full-time day job, I was able to save the money the business was making and soon had a nice little pot. As you can imagine the bundle of cash soon started to burn a hole in my pocket! Rather than spend it on some new lighting effects I set about finding something that could help build the business and increase our earnings. I came across LED dancefloors on a DJ web forum and it turned out that the manufacturer (Grumpy Joe’s) was only about 10 minutes away, so I arranged to go over and have a look. My girlfriend Louise (now my wife) came along and she really liked it (I just didn’t share the price with her!). Over the years Louise has been a sounding board for many of my wild ideas; generally, if she’s on board it means I’m on to something good!
The full article can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 85, Pages 15-20.