Despite my obvious passion to be a DJ, I was politely told by the adults in my life to “get a proper job”. So, after finishing my exams, I secured an apprenticeship as a YTS Stores Trainee at Southampton Docks. That lead to me being offered a job as a Mechanical Engineer and later becoming an Engineering Workshop Superintendent, a role that I held for over 22 years, earning a degree along the way for good measure!
That was a whistle-stop tour through most of my life, but let me go back to the early days of my employment. I had a solid job with a decent income and with my first pay-packet I did what any sensible man of my age would do... I bought a pair of Technic 1210s, which I still own to this day. The following month I added a pair of second-hand speakers and some really shabby lights to my setup and a few months later I purchased a Suzuki Super Carrier van. I was now in business. It was 1995. I was 18 years old. I had a job, a regular wage and with it I had invested in some gear to launch my first mobile disco called ‘Risky Business’.
As with any new business, it's important to get your name out there so I decided to pay for some advertising. At that time Yellow Pages seemed like the best place to advertise (is it still going?), so I paid £250 and was able to get some business cards printed too. I was up and running! I waited for the phone to ring so I could secure my first ‘proper booking’. After a few weeks of continued waiting, I decided the best approach to get my mobile DJ career off the ground was to take out the middle man and plan my own events.
The first one was a ‘60s and ‘70s night, which I hoped would allow me to showcase my DJ talents to those in attendance and start filling my diary with private bookings. I hired a function room at a local football club, printed some tickets and started to sell them. The price was £4.50 each, which included a Ploughman's meal that my mum made and my disco, of course. I thought a good old-fashioned prize draw would add to the night so I asked local businesses to donate a prize and, despite clearly stating this wasn't a charity event and I would be pocketing all the money, I received numerous prizes including old stock items and electrical goods. I actually managed to collect so many prizes that I was able to extend the event to two nights and those first events were enough to get the word out that there was a new DJ sensation in town and his name was... Doctor Feelgood.
Fun Fact: The name (DJ) Doctor Feelgood was inspired by the American Blues and R&B musician William ‘Willie’ Lee Perryman (aka Dr. Feelgood) and the 1967 hit ‘Dr. Feelgood (Love Is A Serious Business)’ by Aretha Franklin.
Following the success of these early parties, I managed to talk my way into obtaining a contract with the Hilton Hotel in Southampton to DJ at their weddings (even though I had never DJed at a wedding before!). I also secured summer and Christmas work on board the ‘River Boat Shuffle’ parties at Blue Funnel Ferries that took revellers around the Isle of Wight and back.
Despite enjoying playing at all of these events, my main aim was to get into the nightclub circuit and also on the radio (the latter only took me 20 years to do!). I managed to get a slot playing at the local gay club in town, The Magnum, keeping my Doctor Feelgood persona. I also picked up a job operating the lights midweek at The Revenge in Brighton. Within six months I was busy most weekends. First I would DJ with my mobile disco before quickly packing everything in the van and shooting off to one of the nightclubs I was working at to either DJ or just to party! To say I was burning the candle at both ends is something of an under-statement, but they were heady times and I was enjoying every minute... well... that was until my engineering career took off and I was moved to 12-hour shifts. This had a huge impact on my DJ work and, if I'm honest, it began to suffer. Eventually I made the difficult decision to stop the mobile work after only a few years as it was becoming quite evident that I couldn’t do both.
For the next few years, 1999 – 2003, I worked hard to both maintain my full-time job and keep some sort of connection to the music industry. I adopted numerous roles to achieve this, including club promotion - for my own nights and those of others, flyer distribution, and I even set up a local DJ agency to represent other DJs in the area. On top of all that, I also managed to find the time to DJ myself, but in the end all of this had to stop as real life got in the way. As much as my passion was for music, it was my job that was paying the mortgage and something had to give. By 2004 I had, reluctantly, stepped back from the music industry and accepted that I needed to concentrate on my job and build a steady life for myself. I went back to university (part-time) to study for a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) and climbed the corporate ladder of the dock industry whilst quietly ignoring my passion for music, DJing... and Ibiza!
I first visited the White Isle in 1995 and it totally blew me away! It was my first holiday without adult supervision and it's fair to say that I went... well... a little wild to say the least! I instantly fell in love with the people, the music, the clubs, the beaches and the beautiful island itself. By the end of my holiday I knew in my heart this was where I wanted to be and where I needed to be. I remember sitting on the rocks outside Cafe Mambo thinking how cool it would be to play there one day... little did I know that 20 years later that dream would become a reality!
Seven years after hanging up my headphones, I remember waking up one day and realising I wasn't completely happy. Something was missing and that something was Ibiza! I needed to be back in Ibiza, I needed to be a part of the music industry again in some form and, most importantly, I needed to DJ again! I told my wife and we had a long serious conversation about it. Luckily, she felt the same and after much deliberation (about five minutes!) we began to plan our escape.
We moved to Ibiza in 2013 to live and work there permanently. We knew the island well, but didn't really know anyone who lived there and hadn't really got any solid plans in place for how we were going to earn a living. I'd walked away from a secure, well-paid job of 22 years with nothing lined up other than a desire to DJ. The initial idea was to give myself six months off so I could have time to adjust to island life and then start again with a new career. I quickly found out that being a DJ in Ibiza is hard work. It's a very small island where everybody knows everybody! I would love to tell you that we arrived, settled and got new jobs easily... but it really wasn't like that, far from it. Changing jobs at any time in your life can be stressful, but changing careers and moving abroad at the same time takes things to a whole different level.
I was determined to make DJing full-time work and create a new life for us in Ibiza. I yearned to be a success, which in our industry is measured by your last gig, or so it would seem. Because of this, I decided to set myself a collection of targets to help me keep on track and allow me to measure my success – or lack of it – in a tangible way... some, I might add, I am still aiming for!
The early days on the island for me and my wife were tough... and I mean tough! I'm not lying when I tell you that in the first year in Ibiza I made around €2000 as a DJ. I began to question myself daily. Had we made the right decision to live and work in Ibiza? Whilst others might have packed their bags, counted their losses and headed back home, I dug deep and found a new level of tenacity that helped me to secure my first residency. Whilst my first DJ gig in Ibiza was at a well-known bar called Panffers, and I'm eternally grateful to the owner for that one, it was a bar called The Funky Lizard that became my first resident DJ job and with it a regular income! I was invited to play a trial set to show the owner and her customers what I could do, playing anything from ‘70s classics to the current floor-fillers, and they obviously liked what I did as I was asked to become their new resident DJ, starting the following night! However, it soon became apparent that my role would stretch far beyond that of a DJ! I found myself hosting the nightly quiz and even calling the bingo too... but I was cool with that as it was allowing me to make new friends, build up my reputation and put bread on the table!
I really enjoyed my time there but after a few months I was getting itchy feet... or was it fingers? I knew I had to move on or run the risk of being stuck in a rut. In my spare time I had made a few mixes and recorded them to CD. I designed some cool covers and started handing them out at some of the venues that I thought would suit me. I also took time to find out who the resident DJs were as well as the promoters for each venue and began contacting them to see if there were any sets available and, within a week, I was offered a couple of gigs.
This was amazing, of course, but it was coming towards the end of the season and many venues would be closing down. So I had to find a new direction for my DJ career to ensure I could continue to live and work in Ibiza. I decided to put my energy into setting up a DJ agency, dial-a-deejay, to see if I could drum up some private work during the winter months. At that time Ibiza had huge billboards dotted around the island that the main clubs would use to advertise their events, including which superstar DJ would be performing next. Whilst they were very hard to secure during the summer months, they were relatively un-used once the season ended and October was a good month to grab an advertising bargain! Ahem!! I purchased some wallpaper paste and a roller, got a load of 'dial-a-deejay' posters printed and went around San Antonio fly-posting! This is frowned upon by some people, but it's common-practice, especially when promoting a club night, something I used to do a lot in the ‘90s and early ‘00s.
One day I was pasting posters to a billboard close to Café Mambo when the owner saw what I was doing. I was told at a later date he had remarked, “He's still keen, what's he up to?”, he was talking to the manager of Mint Lounge, which is another high-profile venue in the 'Mambo' group. As luck, or was it fate?, would have it, I bumped into the manager the next day and he asked me if I wanted to play at Mint Lounge the following night. I accepted his invite and since that day, in October 2013, I have been the resident DJ there. From a chance meeting came an opportunity of a lifetime and with it a great friendship with the manager that lead to even more opportunities to perform at some of the other venues in the group.
The following year I started work as a DJ on Ibiza’s ‘Sunset Strip’, performing at Mint Lounge, which gave me a huge amount of exposure. It soon lead to another residency at another sunset venue called Savannah, closely followed by a regular set at the legendary Café Mambo itself. That year also saw 'dial-a-deejay' really take off as I secured a string of lucrative events with some leading wedding planners that saw me performing at high-profile events both in Ibiza and around the world.
After a bumpy start to life in Ibiza, things were finally moving in the right direction. I had secured a number of residencies on the island, my DJ company was growing and later that year I was asked by Mambo Weddings & Events, a division of the Mambo brand specialising in exclusive private events, to become their music provider for their in-house events. I knew from an early age exactly what I wanted to do and where I wanted to do it and, despite a few ups and downs along the way, I've finally got there, but there are still a few goals that I continue to chase.
I've always enjoyed being able to DJ at a range of events and keep my career varied and interesting. I still perform at weddings and love playing an eclectic selection of music for those clients and their guests as well as being able to be one of those ‘cool DJs’ who play at venues like Café Mambo! For the last three years my diary has been full with events from April to October and last winter I saw an influx of even more international events where I've been lucky enough to perform in Osaka and Tokyo in Japan, Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
Over the past seven years I have gone beyond my expectations as a DJ and even managed to work alongside some incredible big-name talent including Danny Howard, Claptone, Stonebridge, Jazzie B, Jellybean, Jeremy Healy and Danny Rampling, plus recording artists like Baby D, Sugarhill Gang, SL2, Alison Limerick and Robin S. I expanded my DJ work by joining the Vision Talent team who supply DJs for most of the Butlins Weekenders, including Bootleg Balls, Disco Inferno, ‘90s Reloaded, Ibiza Legends and the awesome Absolute ‘80s events where I've worked with such luminaries as Tony Hadley, Alexander O' Neal, Go West, Aswad, Hue & Cry and the legend that is Pat Sharp! Each event allows me to showcase a different type of DJing and play an eclectic style of music, and that keeps me on my toes whilst constantly rejuvenating my life as a DJ.
A combination of hard work, determination and a bit of luck have opened up many opportunities for me to develop my career including finally satisfying my dream of working in radio. I created a show called 'The Surgery' which is now syndicated across 19 radio stations in 10 countries, allowing me to reach several million listeners. My show features my own music selections as well as guest mixes from renowned guest DJs and producers, and I'm very proud of it.
I added Music Producer to my CV recently by joining the Mastermix team, where I help them create a range of mixes and compilations for their DJ-only music service as well as inputting on blogs, vlogs and online seminars via Facebook and Zoom for their members.
After seven years of blood, sweat and tears I have done what I set out to do... well most of it... I'm not sure what's next in my DJ career, but whatever it is I'm sure it will be interesting and challenging at the same time. I've enjoyed the ride so far and look forward to the next part of my journey... wherever that may take me!
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 104, Pages 16-19.