Friday, May 6, 2011

INTERVIEW: Fergie - Dance Music's Irish Car Bomb

In Pic: Fergie
When I started listening to dance music - Fergie was dubbed a hard house DJ. Whenever I happened upon his sets (usually after Pete Tong's Essential Mix), banging they were and there was always a sense of eclecticism in the mayhem. It was hard house though, which wasn't really my cup. I still made it a point to keep an eye on him. This was an artist who had a genuine passion for music... you don't expect less from a DJ who has been mentored by the legendary Tony De Vit, who was hosting an extremely popular show on Radio1 and was regularly writing columns that featured in dance music magazines.

A little later on, I noticed John Digweed was charting Fergie. Then I heard about a Transitions mix, again for Diggers. Throbbing, twisted, evil shit? Had Fergie reinvented himself? Soon enough, Jalebee Cartel's Arjun Vagale (known to end his sets with the meanest techno ever) started giving him the big one. So I went through his latest stuff and much to my surprise, Fergie was playing some of the finest hybridtechnofunk I've had the pleasure to listen to and his label Excentric Muzik was putting out pure quality that would literally destroy anything in its path. 

If you've been to our Nightshift parties of yesteryear, you'd probably remember this one beast of a tune we would belt towards the end of the night... Fergie's "Ireland" was one of our biggest tunes from 2010 and would without fail garner the biggest reactions - hands firmly up in the air, peeps jumping mad, some drooling, some chanting. Whenever we wanted to bang it outFergie would be our go to producer. Wonky, mean, tough and in your face... just a few words I would use to describe a Fergie monster. He gives new meaning to the idiom 'hits you like a sledgehammer to the chest.' You usually think 'BOOM!' when you hear a relentless Fergie tune drop.

I'd be lying if I told you he isn't one of my favourite producers out there. Fresh off his tour in India - it's an honour to have the opportunity to chat with the legendary Fergie!

In an exclusive interview with YHIHF, Fergie talks about his inspirations, his mentor Tony De Vit, reinventing himself through his label Excentric Muzik, the Irish scene, playing in India and his bromance with Jalebee Cartel's Arjun Vagale...   

Who is Fergie and what kind of artist is he?
As a person I try to do what I can to help people in whatever way I can. This is the same way I would act as a DJ, because I remember how I felt when Tony de Vit took me under his wing. Suppose I’m lucky, every time I have an opportunity to give someone a bit of help I get to feel that feeling all over again and in a way it keeps Tony alive in my memory. I come from a caring family and had a good honest upbringing, so I have tried to be as honest along the way as I can be. Saying that, I have been a little pain in the bum at times.

Who and what have been your main sources of inspiration?
My main source of inspiration is always the feelings I have that run through my body. I love life, the highs and the lows (the highs more than the lows, of course). I try to take the best from every situation. From a music point of view I tend to draw on my past for inspiration. For example, recalling the feeling I got when I first set foot in a rave or when I first started to understand rave music... those feelings get stronger as time goes on and I realise how lucky I was to be involved from the start. So yeah, that is mainly where my inspiration comes from. We are in a great place in terms of the range of music that is available, but for me I think there needs to be soul and emotion added to the mix.

Tell us a little about your relationship with the legendary Tony De Vit (RIP).
It just so happened that Tony de Vit was playing at the club on one of the nights that I was warming up and he heard me play and invited me over to England and introduced me to the club scene. Tony took me under his wing and I really appreciated his guidance and advice.  I was lucky he helped me a lot but I was also very focused and knew that I wanted to be a DJ and here I am over a decade later; I have just been on tour in India playing at some of the of the best nights around. I think about Tony a lot and I know that he would be pleased about how things have turned out for me. I still miss him.
Tony De Vit - Legend (RIP)
You started DJing at the age of 14, legend has it standing on top of milk crates so you could reach the decks - how did you get into the DJing-raving space so young?
Yeah, believe it or not that is true! It all started in Larne in Northern Ireland. I left school at 13 and pestered the local promoter to give me a job at the club; brushing the floor, cleaning the toilets and clearing the tables… but I didn’t care because he let me play on the decks and I had to stand on a milk crate so that I could reach the decks. Eventually I got to do the warm up set and the rest as they say is history!

Can you tell us what club culture is like in Northern Ireland? How is it different from the rest of the world?
The scene in Northern Ireland is and always has been wicked. It's one of the most cutting edge places I play, to be honest. When I come home to play I have to up my game as they are so forward thinking. They will let you know if they are not digging what you are doing. I play regularly at Shine and The Stiff Kitten Club which took me years to break into... meeting the promoter to give him mixes and what not. But It was amazing when i finally got booked. I still have that same feeling when I play to a home crowd.

You've been a regular at Lush! in Kelly's Port Rush - can you tell us a little about the legendary club?
Well this club has been around forever. It was one of the first purpose built clubs not only in Ireland but the UK.  It was a massive club with 12 bars and a few big barns with several sound systems throughout. All the big DJs would come over to play every week and thousands of people would travel from England, Scotland and Wales to experience the vibe that was created in there. Was lucky that I got to go there with the biggest DJ in Ireland at that time, Robbie Nelson. Because I was so young he use to sneak me in so I got to see it all from the DJ booth first hand. Again these experiences will never leave me and words can’t even begin to explain the energy and emotion that filed that space. This was also at a time when the community in Ireland was very much divided, but at LUSH as soon as the music came on everyone joined hands and enjoyed the music together. I will never forget those memorable scenes at the club.

When I started listening to dance music back in 2000, I remember you were the only hard house DJ I could listen to... not so much a switch, but the stuff you've been releasing over the past couple of years can be labeled techno. Is this what you mean when your bio quotes: "re-established himself as a producer of innovative exciting music"?
Ha ha, I think people forget that when I started getting gigs in the UK and around the world I was very lucky as I was still quite young. I think as you get older your musical tastes change, I know mine did  and basically as a DJ I have matured, that’s all there is to it. I have a passion for all types of music, from country and western, Johnny Cash to rock, soul and of course, electronic music, which plays a massive part in my life today. To say that I will never play hard music would be presumptuous. If I play a three or four hour set, I still like to kick the arse of it - that’s all part of the journey. As I said before I’m playing the best music I have ever played, some of it's hard some of it's not. It's all just great music!

Tell us about your label Excentric Muzik, what kind of sound are you striving to push?
Excentric Muzik was originally conceived around six years ago. I had just left Radio1 and was in a different place musically. The line-ups and clubs I was playing in didn't really fit with my new sound and Excentric Muzik was my way of showing people how I saw myself and how I perceived my own style and sound. As well as being a sort of 'business card' for me Excentric Muzik has now developed more into a platform for others to have their shot at it all, it's their chance to show how they want to be perceived and I’m quite proud of that. Mr. Henry Von is an example of this… Henry used to attend the early Excentric Party Nights as a raver and wannabe DJ but he has come through the Excentric ranks and has had his track released with us and now runs two off shoot labels of Excentric Muzik, Rekluse/Tribal Rage so his is a great story.

You get heavy playtime from Carl Cox - what's your relationship like with the  beast? Any funny stories to share?
Not many people know this story but once when we are on a private jet going to a festival, I had smuggled a bottle of champagne on the flight and when we took off, I got on the tanoy and sang happy birthday to him. I was lucky not to get thrown off the plane ha ha. Carl enjoyed it, so it was ok.

Carl was one of the first DJs I went to see when I was 11 or 12. I have always admired him, so when I got to meet him it was incredible. We were both joining Radio1 as part of the very first two Radio1 Essential Mix residents. The story just gets weirder. Carl and I were part of a Radio1 charity event, Comic Relief, to raise money for children in need. There were loads of DJs taking part in the competition; Darren Emerson, Jon Carter, Fatboy Slim, Pete Tong etc and the listeners had to phone in to vote for who they thought the best DJ was. Crazy as it sounds, I ended up in the final playing against Carl and as luck would have it, I won. So that was a very memorable night, all in the name of charity and it was all good fun.

What has been your most memorable experience DJing?
There's been a lot of good and bad. When I was younger I played quite a lot with Tony de Vit, he was someone who I always looked up to. As I said earlier he helped me quite a lot and looked out for me. So yeah, when we played together it was always a massive high for me.

The worst would be when England tried to do an 'English Love Parade' like they have in Berlin. They had all the floats  driving about with DJs and bands on but it was raining quite heavily. I was playing on the God’s Kitchen float and for whatever reason, they had made the roof of the float flat instead of at a slant which meant that the rain was lying on it. I was playing my set and the promoter stood up on a chair and cut the roof with a pair of scissors which made all the water gush in over the mixer, amps and decks... I was nearly electrocuted. That was probably one of the worst.

One of the biggest crowds I played to would be about 500,000 in South Africa where I played a big old rave years ago in an old power station which was wicked. Also the Berlin Love Parade is always a massive event. I'd done my Radio1 show from there... so yeah lots of memories.

Do you miss doing a radio show?
I do miss the radio. I wouldn't want to do a weekly show but maybe once a month or something like that. I had never been on radio before so when I was signed by Radio1 it was a quite surreal experience for me. I think I was the youngest presenter they ever had and I went for it! I was there for nearly six years and had the chance to work with some of the best DJs/producers and production teams. It was a great time. I do my Excentric Muzik Session Podcast more like a radio show format so I'm really enjoying that at the moment.

Your views on the death of music in its physical form?
Personally, I think it's great that people all over the world can get my music. For a long time people were having to wait on record shops from England and other countries sending the records to their local shops and they often ran out of supplies which kept that country behind. Now, no matter where you play, everyone is up to speed and playing the latest music. It keeps all of us DJs on our toes.

I think to download music is very cheap, so it pisses me off when DJs try every way to download it for free, then go and get paid for playing it at a gig.

What does the future hold for dance music?
Well, I think we are in the best place musically. Music is easily available around the world and software is easy for young people to get their hands on. This keeps the process moving nicely. The world is a smaller place now. When I started I would be driving up and down the motorway, but now we fly to every gig. It can get a bit crazy but as I always say - I'm lucky that I have been able to do this for almost two decades.

How often do you get confused with the Black Eyed Pea member? Does sharing the same name come to haunt you?
Never, she aint as good lookin as me... ha ha ha.

You are stuck on a deserted island with a life supply of batteries and a boom box, list out life changing must-have albums you’d like to have with you and why?
Queen - Greatest Hits - Well, Freddie is God and the rest of the band aren’t bad either… I don't really need to say any more than if I could be any one for a day or two I would like to be him, not on the days he went bonking tho.

Leftfield - Leftism - This is the best rave, prog, rock, experimental album for the rave generation I still play it a few times a month.

Simple Minds - Greatest Hits - I just love the 80s and this album has it all for me. A great Glaswegian band doing it how it should be done.

What's it been like touring with Arjun Vagale? How did you guys get in touch?
I have to be honest with you and say that I have had the privilege of touring the world and meeting many DJs and promoters, but I really hit it off with Arjun. He is my brother from another mother ha ha. Sometimes you meet people and you know you will be friends for life and this is what happened when I met Arjun - when the Irishman met the Indian. It's crazy, I'm a fan of Paolo Coelho who wrote a book called the Alchemist, which is where I first came across the word MAKTUB (I even had the word tattooed on my arm). It's an old Arabic proverb that means, 'It is written.' Anyway, it wasn't till a few months later that I was doing a guest mix for John Digweed's radio show and I heard a track by this guy called Arjun Vagle, so I tracked him down as I really wanted to sign him to my label. It wasn't until he mailed me back that I saw in his email signature that his very own record label was called Maktub Music, so this is a sign in itself.

I will be repaying the favour to Arjun and he will come to play in Ireland in the summer. We will make some music together and also when I come back to India we will work on a project over the month of February. My experience of Indian culture and meeting Arjun has been one of my best. He's a great ambassador for Indian club culture. We both took part in the I LOVE MUSIC Academy, I enjoyed meeting all the young guys who were so into making beats and finding out ways of developing their skills to the max. I’m glad to be a part of that in someway and I am working with them to give the guys a chance to remix some tracks from my artists album so watch this space...

Your first tour in India, what has the experience been like? The crowds, the response, the clubs and the food. Did you get to do some sightseeing?
What can I say... I have been wanting to come to play for you guys for years and years but it has never happened for one reason or another. The crowds and clubs were great. Can honestly say I met some fantastic, genuine people and I came away with some new friends. I can’t wait to head back over there and I will say we're planning a month long set of gigs and all sorts of other musical activities so keep your eyes open.

Unfortunately I never got to see any sights as we were flying every day so it was hotel car, plane and club, but next time I plan to see a lot more. I had the chance to taste some food which was wicked as I’m a massive Indian food fan, Arjun took me to Bukara, so I’m told I got the chance to try Indian food at its best.
A big thank you to the Fergatron for taking the time to do this interview! Much appreciated! And BIG UP to Arjun Vagale for hooking it up! :) - SG

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  1. love and lots and lots of respect to both of u sir !! it was a awsme n8 at kolkata (roxy).... thankyou .... :)

  2. Ignas GutauskasMay 8, 2011 at 1:20 PM

    Great interview!Big fan from Lithuania!

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