I’ve read so many Profiles from fellow DJs in Pro Mobile over the years and I’m always in awe of the background and experience you all have. When it came to the idea of writing my own, it seemed ridiculous, as I’ve only been DJing for a few years. Well, at least that’s how it feels to me. The reality is it’s been about 20.
So, where did it start for me? Oddly enough, going through primary school I used to hate parties and school discos because I didn’t like loud noise. But at secondary school, the discos were compulsory, so I reluctantly attended and soon started to admire the equipment being used.
It was also at secondary school that I really started getting into music. This was the era of the Teletubbies. Thankfully that wasn’t the musical direction I took. Although, I will put my hands up to buying the Aqua album! The music I was interested in was dance and trance, with the likes of Sash! dominating the charts. I still remember one school disco when Martin Catt turned up with his video disco and played the video for ‘Ecuador’ – this was something I wanted to get involved with. Trance is widely regarded as being at its best in that era and it’s when my favourite track of all time (Rank 1 – ‘Airwave’) was released.
(I bought the Rank 1 album, which included a DVD of their amazing performance at Trance Energy. I wanted to go but I was still under 18 and the event was in Holland, so it wasn’t to be.)
Regular DJs at my school included Andy Dykes and Keith Hutchinson, who let me help them load in and out. I thought it was great and I’m sure they didn’t complain about the free labour either – a win-win situation. When I set out as a DJ some years later, it was no surprise that I joined SEDA.
Progressing through secondary school (a military boarding school that my parents worked at), I joined the stage crew in Drama, which led to the light and sound desks, and eventually I became the school’s stage manager. It meant I was trusted with the keys to the school hall and was allowed to put on film showings, which I used to raise over £2,000 for charity during my final year. (Admittedly, there was another motive for these events but that’s best saved for a conversation over a beer.)
By then I had a real interest in sound and lighting as well as a passion for music. I’d never planned on being a DJ growing up but suddenly I was buying equipment and creating a disco company with my best friend Paul. AP Events was formed. We soon had events booked in, including a couple of weddings, and that was before either of us had a car. Luckily many our first events were on the school site, so we were able to use a trolley to transport the gear.
I spent a gap year in the south of France (Aix-en-Provence, to be exact) as an English Assistant in a military school that was twinned with my school. This is why I’m always interested to hear Richard Lee’s tales of his DJing in the same area. My original post-school plans had been to go to university and train to become a deck cadet, with the aim of driving ships and becoming a captain. But I soon realised that it wasn’t the career I wanted. I knew my passion for DJing would be dashed if I stayed on that path.
Once my gap year was over, I started a summer job at the Dover cruise terminals. That ended up lasting several years and my skillset widened as my security qualifications allowed me to provide security at party-political conferences.
It also allowed me to volunteer for the Gateway Hospital Broadcasting Service from Dover. I quickly expanded my knowledge of music, became a producer and was responsible for the Friday night show. Due to changes at the hospital, sadly the station had to close and I was honoured to produce the very last live show. As time went on, Paul lost interest in the admin side of the business and it moved over to me. I also joined SEDA and I still remember the first Show Night in Maidstone. I bumped into Andy and Keith and made new friends too.
My career moved on when I joined the ground operation team at Lydd Airport in 2006, where I enjoyed refuelling and marshalling aircraft. I got to meet a few celebrities along the way, including Paul McCartney. And what a gentleman he is. I still remember him waiting in the rain on New Year’s Eve, refusing to board his plane until he’d finished his phone call so he could thank us. Legend!
It wasn’t just rock stars I encountered at Lydd Airport; it’s also where I met my wife, Sophie. I like to say we met in a cocktail bar, in tribute to the Human League song. But the reality is I met her at Biggles Bar, the aviation-themed restaurant at the airport. Those days were carefree and I continued my DJ career at some of the (now legendary) airport parties.
But my time at the airport was short lived, as a wave of redundancies came in. I moved back to my parents and ended up applying to work at the Highways Agency motorway control room, officially joining the civil service in 2007. Someone trusted me to answer the motorway SOS phones and set the signals (sorry!).
They say there are three great moments in your life: getting married, having a baby, and buying a house. Well, in 2009 Sophie and I did all three in a matter of months. Our first child Ruby was born in June, we were married in August, and moved into our house in October.
Now living in Ashford, I started volunteering at hospital radio with the Ashford Hospital Broadcasting Service. I joined their committee and started to digitise how we operated our station admin.
This was the birth of my first software application, the Media Operations System. No longer did we have to rely on our chairman to mail round a spreadsheet for next week's schedule; we had a calendar we could all update. And we could receive text messages from listeners.
Presenting on the radio is a different skill to being a mobile DJ. I find the music variety is much greater, which really allows you to have fun. You don’t need to worry about going from one genre to the next, you can go from a ballad into a heavy rock song with just a jingle in between and it works.
While working shifts, I wasn’t always available to DJ every weekend. Finishing a wedding at midnight with a 4.30am wake up for a shift on Sunday wasn’t pleasant, so this restricted the number of DJ gigs I could take.
In 2011, while DJing a wedding at the Little Silver Country Hotel in Tenterden, the owner, Ollie, was impressed and offered me a place as resident DJ. This was a big wake up call because when he discussed prices, he was offering me more than I was already charging. I'd been short changing myself!
I’ve had many great nights at the Little Silver, not just for weddings but also charity nights. I was even asked to DJ for a joint birthday party for the owners Christine and Ollie. With a Caribbean theme, they’d asked if I could play steel drum music while we were eating. I learnt two important lessons that night.
I was sat on a table with the family and when they questioned whether the steel drum music sounded a bit repetitive, I assured them that there were lots of different songs being covered. Between courses I checked how the playlist was going, only to realise that instead of putting the repeat album function on, I had actually put the repeat track function on. That settled that discussion and we had a greater variety of steel drum music for the rest of the meal! The second lesson was about engaging with your audience. While we were eating, knowing I was the DJ, it wasn’t long until the subject of music came up. They were quick to tell me that the mum of the table loved Jackson 5. When I played ‘Blame It On The Boogie’ in my set that night the family really appreciated it; I had listened and they felt I was playing this for them. Truthfully, I would have probably played it anyway, but we had a connection over that song.
In December 2012 our first son William was born. The house was beginning to fill nicely. He is following my interest in trains, with our model railway layout now nicely expanding in the loft. And we’re often out on our bikes to see which trains we can spot. He also likes to help load and unload the car and help at the school disco – I'm not complaining! Meanwhile, at the Highways Agency, I’d moved from shift work to a day job, which made DJing much easier. I’d applied for the role of press officer and was soon busy building and defending the reputation of the Highways Agency. One of my first big jobs was the repairs to the Boston Manor Viaduct, which saw the M4 being closed just months before London was due to host the Olympic Games.
This new role also meant that my weekends were clear for DJing. Coupled with my new residency, my calendar started filling up and gradually I was able to invest in new equipment. With a new Palladin case booth, my rig started to look even more professional. After my computer died and I replaced it, my DAC2 (yes, the controller for PCDJ) no longer worked. Apparently there is a way to adapt the chip to work with Windows 10
but this sounded like some form of black magic, so I bit the bullet and invested in a new controller. I had always been impressed with Denon gear, so ended up buying the Denon MCX8000. I love this controller and it’s still going strong today.
In 2017, a promotion opportunity came up at work. But there was a catch: it was only four days a week. Having done the sums, I realised I would be working one day less for roughly the same pay. So that was a no brainer. It also coincided nicely with the arrival of our second son (and resident daredevil) Sam. One day of childcare a week was already taken care of.
By this point, I was finding DJing less enjoyable. I’d somehow allowed myself to slip into a routine of playing the same music and not enjoying the gigs as much. I was close to approaching each event as ‘just another wedding’.
2017 was the year I rediscovered my love of trance music. As part of my new role, I occasionally stayed over in Guildford to save the long commute. I’d listen to Armin Van Buuren’s ‘A State Of Trance’ show whenever I could and one night he mentioned an upcoming appearance at Tomorrowland. MTV Dance were covering the highlights, so I recorded it all over that weekend – wow!
Trance Energy had slowly fizzled out and was nothing more than a brand name that occasionally popped up on a festival side-stage. In the meantime, this tiny little festival on the outskirts of the Belgian village of Boom had been growing over the years. In 2018 I watched the festival via their live streams. I was hooked. In 2019 I booked tickets for the summer festival, which included the Eurostar journey, transfers to the grounds, camping, and a weekend ticket.
I could probably write an entire article on Tomorrowland. The level of creativity is amazing. The main stage is huge – something like 130m tall. And sat on top of the 2019 stage was a tribute to Tim Bergling aka Avicii. Being there was truly magical and emotional; something you lack watching sets on YouTube. My love for music was restored and the effort I put into weddings ramped up. We all know what happened in 2020. Shortly before the pandemic, Sophie’s nan sadly passed away. She was the bedrock of the family, always outspoken, but with great wisdom and a heart of gold. Her 80th birthday celebrations saw us all out in Ibiza – she was young at heart. Her sense of humour continued, with her funeral set for the 14th of February.
And then we watched over the next few weeks as the pandemic took effect. I’ve been lucky to work from home throughout. I kept reading Pro Mobile and took lots of advice on board, looking at how I could remodel my business. After a trip to Andy Bax’s Dynamix Disco Centre, I invested in new lights and learnt how to use SoundSwitch, which meant in July 2021 I returned with uplighters added to my collection.
I’ve also developed my own bespoke booking system that other DJs can use too. The birth of the DJ Admin management system was a few years ago and I’m now spending time onboarding DJs as their bookings continue to return. The feedback I’ve had so far is great; they can see that the sole purpose of the system is to make admin easy.
So, what does the future hold? I’ve got a plan in place for new equipment over the next few years, with my eyes on the HH Tensor-Go. I’ve been mulling over my branding for a while, spurred on by many Pro Mobile articles and watching the wedding DJ scene. I’m now in the process of gradually transitioning from AP Events to Andrew Broughton Wedding DJ. Although I suspect the AP Events brand will still exist in some form.
For all of you attending the Pro Mobile Conference this year, I’ll be there. I’m looking forward to meeting you all and sharing ideas.
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 112, Pages 14-18.