Judge Jules Diary Report March 3rd 2003

3rd March

All week I’ve looked out at my packed dancefloors and tried to formulate explaining what it is I like so much about dj’ing in Australia. After all, I’ve been down under sixteen times (seventeen if you include a New Zealand-only tour), so I must have some idea. Let’s leave Oz’s attraction as a tourist destination to one side for a minute, and concentrate on how fantastic its club culture is. The weather’s what British would call summertime virtually all year round, so people are dressed in the attire you’d expect in Ibiza or some other holiday destination. The carefree holiday-style attitude seems to prevail throughout the country and onto its dancefloors. Globally, Aussies were amongst the pioneers to embrace dance culture, perhaps as a result of prolific European back-packing travels. I first toured Australia back in ’95 with Carl Cox and Laurent Garnier, and the attraction was immediately infectious. I’ve visited twice a year ever since, playing to a sea of funkily dressed clubbers whose sartorial influence is a fusion of club and surf culture. The atmosphere is always awesome.

For those who haven’t ventured down under, the main deterrent is usually the daunting 22 hour flight. Admittedly you do reach a mid-air point where you’re desperate to arrive and see your bags cruising slowly in your direction down the carousel. Nevertheless, it’s worth every minute when you arrive. Although the time difference of between 9 and 11 hours is debilitating, in late February you leave the short days of the UK for the tail-end of an Aussie summer, where the sun still shimmers in the sky til 8pm. Going from short to long days fills you with the energy of the summer. Whilst Aussies might look at me like I’m mad when I tell them I’ve flown in from Europe for 5 nights, the long Southern Hemisphere days and warm weather are the only tonic you need.

Our first port-of-call was a destination I’ve not encountered before, Byron Bay, in between Sydney and Brisbane. Amanda and I staggered off our day-long sortie from London to Melbourne, only to face a four hour wait for the first domestic flight of the day to Byron’s closest airport, Coolongatta (in itself a two hour flight away.) Byron’s a great surfing destination, and an intregal part of the back-packers’ trail up the East Coast of Australia. In recent years it’s become an up-market location too, attracting the attention of travel mags such as Conde Naste Traveller. Our hotel, Rae’s, was one of the finest I’ve stayed in for ages, and Keith Richards had resided there a week earlier in advance of the Stones Aussie tour. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t on our side. It hadn’t rained in Byron for four months- there were drought signs everywhere and a hosepipe ban in place. However, Amanda and my arrival coincided with the first downpour of 2003.

Each Australian tour involves five consecutive night’s dj’ing, and some cities are more British traveller-orientated, others being a strictly Aussie affair. I arrived at my Byron gig an hour before spinning and hung out at the bar supping a few drinks. There was a constant flow of people coming up to say hello, but it was 20 minutes before I encountered a single Aussie. Everyone was British, from just about every region of the UK. Byron has a permanent population of only 5000, dramatically swelled by travellers and surfers, but the ‘it’s a small world’ philosophy prevailed, as I met the brother of my boss at Radio 1, plus a guy who used to be an MC at God’s Kitchen in Birmingham, amongst others.

It’s very important to me to play smaller clubs in addition to larger events. A few household name dj’s have priced themselves out of ever playing small spaces. It’s their loss, as intimate nights are the most gratifying in which to perform- some dj’s need a slap round the face to remind them it’s not all about money. The venue in Byron held 500 people, and had sold out in advance. The atmosphere was electric, although my notoriously weak bladder forced me to escape the confines of the dj booth and take a pee out of a fire exit on a couple of occasions. Despite it’s size, the club (Moog) has managed to secure some blue chip talent in the last few months, in the shape of Roger Sanchez, Sasha and Freq Nasty. I can’t wait to get back- the shopping the following morning was great too.

Stop-off point two on our itinerary was Adelaide, where it had also been dry for months, before our arrival coincided with yet more rain. Whilst Australia’s weather is an undoubted attraction, there’s plenty more that’s appealing, and at any rate, Amanda and I were so jet-lagged that we hit the sack as soon as we arrived. I was a little nervous about the attendance at Heaven, only a stone’s throw from our hotel. My visit five months earlier had been on the eve of a public holiday, and was predictably packed. This was just a regular Thursday night, and Heaven is gargantuan-sized. From my early days as a dj, before I became accustomed to full venues, I got used to listening to the soundsystem from outside the doors of the club before entering, to prepare myself for a quiet night. If the sound is too echoey, there aren’t enough bodies to fill the venue and absorb the decibels.

It sounded that way at Heaven, as we entered through a back door. However, my ears were clearly deceiving me, as the night was very busy, this time with a totally Aussie crowd. On my previous occasion at Heaven last October, the turntables were hoisted high away from the crowd on a scaffold platform. This time I was much closer to people, which is always better, and I was able to interact in typically animated schoolboy-like fashion, really enjoying myself.

The following day club owner John Pike took us to one of the finest Thai restaurants we’ve ever visited, and on each visit the chef’s come to our table and talked us through the preparation of some of our favourite dishes. I’ve thought about including a monthly recipe on this site, but perhaps that would be digressing too much!

The next afternoon (Friday Feb 28th) we headed North to the capital of the State of Queensland, Brisbane. Despite having played Brissie multiple times, this was my first gig there on a weekend, and the difference in both atmosphere and attendance was staggering. The club, Family, was heaving. Although the decks were a greater distance away from the clubbers than is ideal, and my view of the crowd was further obscured by two poorly-positioned CD players, the atmosphere was brilliant. Brisbane has a great year round climate, but it was far more humid than usual. The club seemed well air-conditioned, but any cooling system would have struggled with near 100% humidity, and there was a bit of a problem with condensation dripping on my records. Nothing too major mind you. Family was just so packed that I didn’t hang around for long after my set, but I sincerely hope they invite me back on my return visit to Oz in late September- what a night was had by all!

The following two nights I joined the Aussie ‘Two tribes’ festival, making its way to the country’s major cities over the next couple of weekends (although I was only doing the first weekend’s gigs.) Also on the bill were Armin Van Buuren, Layo and Bushwacka, Dave Seaman, Junkie XL and Mauro Picotto. We arrived in Sydney, catching the sensational view of the Opera house and Harbour bridge as we descended into Kingsford Smith airport. As we collected our bags, the promoter informed me that Mauro had cancelled, having ruptured an ear drum. I believe this happened to Sasha a few years earlier, and it sounds like the ultimate dj nightmare. By all accounts one has to cancel all gigs for months, and I’d imagine studio work would prove very difficult too.

When you look at the total transformation of a city’s infrastructure brought about by hosting the Olympics, it’s easy to see why countries lobby so vigorously to stage them. Barcelona, the hosts eight years earlier, gained a fantastic airport, a totally reformed roads system, plus hundreds of hotels, event venues and numerous other city improvements. Sydney’s no different, and I was lucky enough to dj there during the 2000 games. There were numerous British Olympic athletes at my gig that night, many of them…. how shall we say… very much the worse for wear. Years of abstention and training resulted in many of them ‘letting it all hang out’ once their Olympic participation was over in Sydney (and the cloud of drug testing temporarily suspended.) Anyway, I’ll say no more on that, and move swiftly back to Two Tribes 2003.

This was the second time in 12 months that I’d dj’d in a venue specially erected for the Olympics (the other being in Barcelona in May 2002.) Two Tribes took place in the Sydney Showgrounds in Homebush, and was everything you’d expect from a major Aussie festival. Regular readers of this column will no doubt have tired of my constant references to my bladder, but I’ll soldier on regardless. It was weaker than ever on the night. I had to race out of an open large cargo entrance to relieve myself in the 25 degree heat four times during my set. Unfortunately, it was only on the last occasion that I realised that hundreds of people at the front of the auditorium could see what I was doing. They pointed and laughed as I raced back to the turntables. Following me on the decks was Armin Van Buuren, whose parents (both doctors) are emigrating from Holland to Australia in June. Suddenly he’s started playing down under a great deal more, for obvious reasons.

Sunday March 2nd was the final date of my Aussie itinerary. In most European countries, the mention of a domestic flight conjures up the image of one hour or so in the air. Sydney to Perth takes at least four and a half. In the circumstances, this was a good thing, as four nights in a row of dj’ing takes it out of you, and I slept virtually the whole way (as did Dave Seaman, two rows in front.) My Two Tribes Perth set time was a very reasonable 11pm-1am, which was a relaxing end to a very jet-lagging five nights in Oz. The queue outside the city’s Metro club was enormous when I arrived, and people were still flooding in when I started my set. Finishing at 1am, there was still no sign of the next act, Junkie XL doing a live set of music. When I asked the promoters where he was, they informed me that there had been a mistake, and I was actually due to be playing til 2, not 1. The problem is that you can’t simply extend your set- you spend the last half an hour knowing exactly how you’re going to end, building up the momentum. If you’re told you’ll be playing three hours you plan accordingly, likewise two. So, in the end I played a few more records and came off stage, as I’d built the atmosphere to the crescendo I was aiming at. Thankfully Junkie XL was more than happy to start his set early. Overall it was a great night, with vibrant atmosphere. I only wish I’d been told I was going to play three hours, as I would have planned things accordingly.

I’m on the flight back home now. 14 hours gone… six to go!

More next week.


Judge Jules Diary Report February 24th 2003

24th February

For only the second time in my dj career, a major motor manufacturer leant us a car to road test on our dj travels at the weekend. On the last occasion it was a Bentley, in which we looked so out of place, it was a miracle the police didn’t pull us over and have us spread-eagled on the bonnet. This time, it was the new VW Phaeton executive model. We were in esteemed company, as the previous borrowers had been Auto Express, and the next incumbent was due to be Jeremy Clarkson. It was the one and only Phaeton in the UK- it’s not been released yet, and was dripping with gadgets. Each of the four seats contained an automatic back massager, which was a peculiar way of relieving the stress of Friday night rush-hour traffic. The engine consists of two Golf V6’s bolted together, and the expression ‘goes like shit off a shovel’ sprang to mind, doing O-60mph (100kmh) in 5.5 sec’s. Freshly imported from Germany, it was left hand-drive (we drive RHD vehicles in the UK.) This was disconcerting, as each time I woke from my slumber in the passenger seat, I was where the driver would normally be sat, which was confusing and frightening in my semi-delirious state.

Unfortunately, Friday (Feb 21st) was no time to be testing a car. The UK was blanketed with impenetrable fog on the night of one of my longest dj’ing road journeys, to the Empire in Middlesborough (250 miles from London.) Fortunately we’d left London with ample time, as I really like the owners/promoters of the Empire. We always try to arrive an hour early for a ‘social’. This is partly to avoid being obliged to stay for a drink afterwards- an Empire ritual, but not fantastic preparation for my radio show the following day. Barry, the owner, has recently bought a pad in Ibiza, and we shared stories relating to the pleasures and pitfalls of owning a house in the Balearics. There’s virtually never been an occasion when owner Barry and promoter Ashley haven’t been there, which is a lesson to some of the stay-away promoters who sometimes don’t attend their own events.

The atmosphere in the UK’s North East is legendary, and the Empire is one of two venues at which I always record my dj set to be put on the website (it should appear in the next couple of weeks.) The dj booth is set up with four turntables and two mixers- a great back-to-back dj opportunity- I’ve yet to try it there, but look forward to battling with another dj sometime in the future.

The crowd refused to go home and after my third encore, accompanied by some inane chortling on the mic by my drunken self, we headed out into the night. The fog had become even worse, and it was so difficult to read the road signs that we took a wrong turning, making our journey even more complicated. The most dangerous thing about thick fog is that you suddenly encounter drivers going dangerously slow, ie around 20mph, on roads with three times that speed limit. We were only able to resume normal MPH about half way towards London, once the quantity of trucks making Saturday morning deliveries built up, giving us a sense of perspective about the thickness of the fog.

After waking around 10am on Saturday, I prepared my radio show all day before heading to Radio 1. I get the show together early in the day on Saturdays, as the 90 minutes immediately prior to it commencing are spent frantically scanning the football reports on both tv and radio. The last Premiership matches end at 4.55, and my show begins five minutes later, so advance preparation’s essential, if only to ensure that an unfavourable result for Arsenal doesn’t ruin my karma. There was no such cause for concern on Saturday, as Arsenal trounced Manchester City 5-1 to take a five point lead at the summit of the Premiership.

Anyway, I’m getting carried away on a tangent. I finished the show, and had an hour at home to polish off a cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc before heading out for Bristol and Derby. We’d had some decorating done that day, and the house reeked of gloss, so I was pleased to be out the door.

Fortunately, the weather was much improved en-route to Bristol, as Pete and I were accompanied by Lippy who runs this site (hopefully some pictures will appear shortly.) There was a reassuringly decent-sized queue as we arrived outside Creation nightclub, home of Slinky Bristol. I played 11-1, which is a set-time I always enjoy, as it enables me to build the musical momentum for the first hour, unlike a later set when I’m expected to be quite high-velocity throughout. By midnight the club was packed upstairs and down, and I left very pleased with the atmosphere.

I was clearly worn out by the nerve-racking stop-start sleep in the previous night’s fog, sleeping like a log throughout the 140 mile journey to Derby, and had to be woken by my driver Pete outside Progress. Although they’re one of the UK’s longest standing ‘branded’ dance nights, Progress have changed venues four or five times during their ten year existence, having returned to their original home, The Conservatory, about six months ago. The club was very full, and for only the second occasion, I took to the decks after my occasional musical cohort Darren Tate. I normally incorporate about 4-6 of my own productions in a two hour set. From what I could gather, Darren was packing his set with his own tunes, which is acceptable ‘cos most of them are really rather good.

I finished at 5am, and headed off immediately as I had a family lunch the following afternoon. Boy can my family drink, but that’s another story…

More next week.


Judge Jules Diary Report January 27th 2003

27th January

Now almost a year since I started my weekly reports, it’s felt like going back to school. Hopefully I’ve learned to write again. I recently printed out a whole year’s worth, and was appalled at how pompous and self important early editions sounded. Part of the problem was that I felt the need to focus entirely on my gigs. I’m lucky enough that the vast majority of clubs and parties I play are very busy with exceptional atmosphere. So really there’s not much to report in that respect. It was only upon starting to focus on travelling anecdotes and the foibles of the many different people I meet, that I believe this column began to improve. The last couple of weeks have covered two very busy spells- the Christmas and New Year period, and my Asian tour. On this occasion, there’s only two gigs to talk about, so if it seems like I’m dragging things out, that’s the reason why.

We returned from Bangkok in the early hours of Friday Jan 17th. Despite my frequent sorties into different time zones, they’re usually very short visits which only shift the body clock a couple of hours in either direction. This time I’d been away for a full two weeks, and the difference it made on the jet-lag front was major. For those that haven’t experienced 8 hour plus disorientation, you feel like your centre of gravity’s all screwed up and you’re on board a ship on rough waters. Despite feeling this way, I had two weeks of promo records to plough through. An important job- the Christmas period doesn’t throw up much playable new music, however January brings plenty of goodies. When you’ve been touring night after night with a small hand-luggage sized bag of tunes, you come home aching for some new tracks to breathe life into your next set. Fortunately there was plenty of satisfactory tuneage awaiting me. Also arrived was a new car, which replaced my previous one, only 20 months old with 80,000 miles on the clock. We covered so many miles in it, the tyres needed changing every two months, which was very expensive. This was my first ever car with sat nav. The manual was as long as a telephone directory, but once we’d worked out the key features, we were astonished how accurately it pinpoints your location (to the nearest 20 cms.) I then collapsed into a coma-like sleep for four hours of the 280 mile journey to Newcastle. According to my driver Pete, we were stationary behind an accident on the motorway for over an hour, but I was none the wiser. We arrived only 20 minutes late, with the help of our navigation system.

Gigs in mid-January can be unpredictable. Most people still haven’t received their next monthly pay cheque after the expense of Christmas and New Year. Not that Promise in Newcastle was affected- it was a complete sell out. The venue’s awesome to play in, because from the vantage point of the dj booth, you can see just about everyone in the club, and they’re dancing as far as the eye can see, and the atmosphere’s legendary. I tested all the new tracks I’d listened to during the day, and all but one got a ten out of ten reaction. I’d hoped that at least 50% of my radio show the following day would consist of tracks I’d never aired before, but only if they tested well in front of a club audience. Despite having failed to play my full two and a half hours, thanks to the accident on the way up, what a night!

When we arrived home about 6am, my body clock was all over the place, refusing to let me sleep. So I did everything I would normally do after waking up on a Saturday morning, ie preparing my radio show, writing links and answering emails. I eventually managed to get to sleep by 10am knowing that at least everything was prepared and ready for the show when I finally woke.

Rising at around 3pm, I headed straight for Radio 1, did my show, and then had half an hour to get to Heathrow for the last flight of the day to Belfast. For the third time in as many months I arrived for this BMI flight with less than five minutes remaining before check in closed. It was then straight to Armagh, 45 minutes away, for The Met. There were at least 3000 people there- I’d only played once previously, on a Bank Holiday Monday with considerably less in attendance. The Met must have one of the biggest dancefloors outside Ibiza, and combined with outstanding Northern Irish atmosphere, it was a great night. Unfortunately, I was very jet lagged by the time I hit the decks. It seems to affect you worse on the second day, and was less than my usual animated self when dj’ing. Nevertheless the night was awesome.

I ended the night at a houseparty with Fergie, who appeared out of nowhere. The get together took place in the basement of a guy called Davey’s house. He’s built a fully-fitted club down there, which could be in any city centre, it’s that authentic. It’s not cheap to construct your own nighterie in your cellar, I can assure you… don’t even think about it! I was too exhausted to hang around there for more than an hour, but it was a surreal end to a tiring weekend with two very good gigs.

More next week…


Judge Jules Diary Report January 20th 2003

20h January

Now almost a year since I started my weekly reports, it’s felt like going back to school. Hopefully I’ve learned to write again. I recently printed out a whole year’s worth, and was appalled at how pompous and self important early editions sounded. Part of the problem was that I felt the need to focus entirely on my gigs. I’m lucky enough that the vast majority of clubs and parties I play are very busy with exceptional atmosphere. So really there’s not much to report in that respect. It was only upon starting to focus on travelling anecdotes and the foibles of the many different people I meet, that I believe this column began to improve. The last couple of weeks have covered two very busy spells- the Christmas and New Year period, and my Asian tour. On this occasion, there’s only two gigs to talk about, so if it seems like I’m dragging things out, that’s the reason why.

We returned from Bangkok in the early hours of Friday Jan 17th. Despite my frequent sorties into different time zones, they’re usually very short visits which only shift the body clock a couple of hours in either direction. This time I’d been away for a full two weeks, and the difference it made on the jet-lag front was major. For those that haven’t experienced 8 hour plus disorientation, you feel like your centre of gravity’s all screwed up and you’re on board a ship on rough waters. Despite feeling this way, I had two weeks of promo records to plough through. An important job- the Christmas period doesn’t throw up much playable new music, however January brings plenty of goodies. When you’ve been touring night after night with a small hand-luggage sized bag of tunes, you come home aching for some new tracks to breathe life into your next set. Fortunately there was plenty of satisfactory tuneage awaiting me. Also arrived was a new car, which replaced my previous one, only 20 months old with 80,000 miles on the clock. We covered so many miles in it, the tyres needed changing every two months, which was very expensive. This was my first ever car with sat nav. The manual was as long as a telephone directory, but once we’d worked out the key features, we were astonished how accurately it pinpoints your location (to the nearest 20 cms.) I then collapsed into a coma-like sleep for four hours of the 280 mile journey to Newcastle. According to my driver Pete, we were stationary behind an accident on the motorway for over an hour, but I was none the wiser. We arrived only 20 minutes late, with the help of our navigation system.

Gigs in mid-January can be unpredictable. Most people still haven’t received their next monthly pay cheque after the expense of Christmas and New Year. Not that Promise in Newcastle was affected- it was a complete sell out. The venue’s awesome to play in, because from the vantage point of the dj booth, you can see just about everyone in the club, and they’re dancing as far as the eye can see, and the atmosphere’s legendary. I tested all the new tracks I’d listened to during the day, and all but one got a ten out of ten reaction. I’d hoped that at least 50% of my radio show the following day would consist of tracks I’d never aired before, but only if they tested well in front of a club audience. Despite having failed to play my full two and a half hours, thanks to the accident on the way up, what a night!

When we arrived home about 6am, my body clock was all over the place, refusing to let me sleep. So I did everything I would normally do after waking up on a Saturday morning, ie preparing my radio show, writing links and answering emails. I eventually managed to get to sleep by 10am knowing that at least everything was prepared and ready for the show when I finally woke.

Rising at around 3pm, I headed straight for Radio 1, did my show, and then had half an hour to get to Heathrow for the last flight of the day to Belfast. For the third time in as many months I arrived for this BMI flight with less than five minutes remaining before check in closed. It was then straight to Armagh, 45 minutes away, for The Met. There were at least 3000 people there- I’d only played once previously, on a Bank Holiday Monday with considerably less in attendance. The Met must have one of the biggest dancefloors outside Ibiza, and combined with outstanding Northern Irish atmosphere, it was a great night. Unfortunately, I was very jet lagged by the time I hit the decks. It seems to affect you worse on the second day, and was less than my usual animated self when dj’ing. Nevertheless the night was awesome.

I ended the night at a houseparty with Fergie, who appeared out of nowhere. The get together took place in the basement of a guy called Davey’s house. He’s built a fully-fitted club down there, which could be in any city centre, it’s that authentic. It’s not cheap to construct your own nighterie in your cellar, I can assure you… don’t even think about it! I was too exhausted to hang around there for more than an hour, but it was a surreal end to a tiring weekend with two very good gigs.

More next week…


Judge Jules Diary Report January 13th 2003

13th January

The opening dj salvo of 2003 saw me heading to the Far East for a combined dj tour and holiday. I concluded my radio show on Saturday Jan 4th, and then headed straight to Heathrow for an overnight flight to Bangkok, accompanied by my wife Amanda, three year old son Jake, manager Charlie and his girlfriend (also called Charlie.) We based ourselves in Koh Samui Thailand for two weeks, with just Charlie and I heading off midway through the trip for gigs in Malaysia and Japan (in addition to two shows in Thailand.) Jake seemed even more excited at the prospect of his holiday than he was about Santa’s arrival at Christmas. This is because he was convinced we were going to ‘Toyland’. We were concerned that he’d be able to handle the 11 hour flight OK, so we bought him a kiddies’ Samsonite roller case, and left him to pack whichever toys took his fancy in his bedroom. We were equally keen that he didn’t drive his fellow passengers nuts, which made catching a night time flight essential, in the hope he’d get some sleep. In the event we were seated near to an Aussie couple heading Down Under (via Bangkok) with three kids in tow, one of whom was crying relentlessly and made Jake seem like an angel. I brought my portable DVD player and numerous children’s titles to keep the little fella occupied, which seemed to do the trick, and it was touching seeing his tiny body in a huge seat with my dj headphones engulfing his entire head as he viewed the movies.

The Qantas flight from London was painless, and our bags came through very early at Bangkok, which was merciful as Jake kept trying to take other peoples’ luggage off the carousel. We then transferred to the domestic terminal for our 1 hour flight to Koh Samui. When we put our baggage through the X-rays at the other terminal, Jake’s bag was pulled out for search. Unbelievably, we discovered he’d packed some plastic handcuffs and realistic plastic gun, both of which had gone totally undetected at Heathrow’s security screening. How very reassuring for me, as someone who travels out of LHR a few times per week. His (quite realistic) toys were sent in a sealed package in the hold, and the weather was gorgeous on arrival on Sunday 5th. My first gig was on neighbouring island Koh Som, a 10 minute speedboat ride away, two days later. The promoters asked me to record a voiceover advert, which was broadcast from vehicles travelling up and down the crowded Chaweng Beach strip. It sounded very weird to hear my voice booming from the streets of Thailand, sounding like a pirate radio presenter advertising a rave. On our assorted shopping trips to Chaweng, I found numerous bootleg CD’s of my mix albums, priced at about 1pound (sterling) a copy, alongside booties of all the other current pop albums. I suppose I can’t complain too loudly, as I bought illicit DVD’s of current cinema films including ‘Chicago’ and ‘Gangs of New York’. The two days in advance of the Koh Som gig were spent generally sunning ourselves and chilling out, plus gorging on irresistible Thai cuisine.

Koh Som is an uninhabited island, and the party was open air with a couple of thousand expected. Many of my most memorable gigs have taken place without a roof overhead- maybe it comes from being an inhabitant of a country with some of the worst weather on the planet. Tickets were priced moderately, to encourage both Thais and backpackers on a tight budget to come along, with the event taking place over 36 hours. I played 3 til 5 and there was an incredibly mixed bag of people and a great atmosphere. Unfortunately, the sound quality wasn’t very good- the organisers had been forced to rotate the soundsystem 90 degrees because of complaints from a neighbouring island earlier in the afternoon. Nevertheless, the scene was very surreal and as we stepped off our speedboat back on Koh Samui at 6am there were still streams of people at the jetty heading in the other direction.

I then spent another day relaxing with my family before our party of five headed to my gig at Bangkok’s ‘Ministry of sound’, the first foreign franchise of the UK dance empire (Thu Jan 9th.) They intend to open clubs in Taiwan, Shanghai and Kuala Lumpur in a battle plan for Asian domination. The Bangkok club is a smaller (1500 capacity) but beautifully designed version of its London counterpart. We spent the early portion of the evening in the city’s notorious Pat Pong district, famous for ping-pong go-go girls and market stalls selling every fake designer product imaginable. The go-go bars aren’t my sort of thing (although Amanda wanted to look in out of morbid fascination) and it was certainly inappropriate to venture inside with three year-old Jake in tow. We did however come away with plenty of shopping, including some interesting designer shades that I’ll have converted to glasses when we get back to London. I often get emailed asking me where I get my glasses from. They’re all bought as cheap sunglasses on my travels, with optical lenses installed when I’m back home. This is the cheapest way of getting interesting glasses, the myopic amongst you may be interested to know. Anyway, as usual, I digress. For the second time I’ve been there, the Ministry in Bangkok totally rocked with a majority Thai crowd plus some backpackers thrown in for good measure. We ended the evening stuffing our faces at a late night restaurant with enough Thai food to feed a South East Asian army.

The following day Amanda, female Charlie and Jake headed back to Koh Samui, whilst Charlie and I left for Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. As we boarded our flight at least 20 parachutists descended on the runway at Bangkok airport, over a period of about five minutes. This seemed very dangerous- I guess they must have suspended flight arrivals and departures to accommodate them, but I couldn’t imagine seeing para’s dropping down on Gatwick. Then again, not much should surprise me ‘cos there’s a massive golf course immediately next to Bangkok’s runway, and I’ve got nightmare visions of someone teeing off and hitting a 747. About five years ago the plane I was taking off in suffered a lightening strike at Bangkok, my most horrific moment flying, so I’m always a bit on edge at the airport. The flight south to KL took 2 hours, and although the climate’s similar to Thailand, in most other respects Malaysia’s world’s apart. Bangkok’s teaming with people and very chaotic. Malaysia is clean and orderly to an almost fanatical level. KL’s airport is brand new and makes most European and US gateways seem poky and full of unsympathetic bolt-on development, but it’s f’ing miles from the city centre (a whacking 75kms.) When we finally arrived in the city we headed straight for Chinatown and yet more fake designer stuff. Unbelievably there are still people who’d prefer to buy the genuine items, when you can buy exactly the same goods that have slipped surreptitiously off the production line into various South East Asian markets. It’s the price luxury goods firms pay for outsourcing their production to cheap labour markets in the Far East. Anyway… back to the matter in hand. The last time one of my Asian tours incorporated KL it was far the best gig of the trip. The Malaysian capital may not be one of the world’s renowned party hot-spots, but the gig was a 2000 capacity lock out, and the atmosphere was electric. Like most of the far East, Malaysians are obsessed with English football, with 24 hour television coverage. The only slightly off-putting factor was the presence of a small TV monitor in the dj booth, showing the Premier League’s greatest goals throughout my set. I’m too much of a footie fanatic to resist being distracted by some of Dennis Bergkamp’s masterpieces!

I hit the sack at 4am, but had to be in a car en route to KL airport by 8am, so a long night’s sleep wasn’t a luxury I was about to get. Charlie and I were heading for Japan, and our last two nights of gigs before re-joining our loved ones in Koh Samui. The flight took all day, as we couldn’t get a direct routing to Japan’s second city Osaka, being forced to connect via Hong Kong. On the way I watched the bootleg of ‘Gangs of New York’ I’d bought in Thailand. It had clearly been recorded by someone with a camcorder in the cinema. This didn’t affect the picture too badly, but with numerous outdoor street scenes containing lots of background noise, the sound quality left a lot to be desired, as the original movie was designed for surround sound in cinemas. I’ll definitely have to check out the real-deal in a movie theatre when I’m back in the UK, I’d thoroughly recommend it- it’s sure-fire potential Oscar material. We arrived at Osaka Kansai airport around 9pm, being unlucky enough to hit the immigration hall just after the passengers from two other fully-loaded aircraft- the queue made the opening day of January sales seem like a breeze. We eventually left Kansai and headed into Osaka. The airport is an architectural marvel, floating on the sea on a man-made island. This was my first visit to the city, and it was typical metropolitan Japan, bustling and packed. After a brief siesta, we headed for the club, where I played from 1am til the close at 3.30. Someone in the crowd had clearly bought every mix CD and production I’ve ever made, so I had a lot of signing to do, and tried to incorporate a few of his CD’s in my set, including my five year old remix of ‘Funky groove’ by Untidy DJ’s. The crowd went crazy, responding well to my ‘do you want one more’ chant on the mic at the end, despite it being in English. I asked someone to write it down for me in Japanese, but it was clear that the record would run out before I’d successfully managed to master the delivery. After a couple of encores we stopped at an excellent Ramen noodle bar, before getting to bed at 5am.

By 2pm the following day we were on the platform at Osaka central station (Sunday 12th Jan.) You can either fly the 600kms to Tokyo, or do what I’d dreamed of since I was a small boy, and travel on Japan’s legendary Bullet train. It was no surprise to see our departure hit the platform at the precise second it was due. At 200mph with very spacious seating, it put Britain’s shoddy dilapidated rail system to shame. We’d opted to leave around lunchtime so we could see Japan in its full glory while it was still light- I’d only been there on a 12 hour in and out visit before. The most remarkable fact is the sheer population density. Throughout the near 400 mile journey we passed only minimal rural areas, mainly city after town after city, with a mountainous backdrop virtually the whole way. The highlight of the train journey was passing Mount Fuji, which was all the more spectacular as the sun was setting. We arrived in Tokyo dead on time, and headed for our hotel, preparing ourselves for the last dj’ing night of a mighty enjoyable Asian tour.

Compared to other long haul destinations, I’ve been to Japan a disproportionately tiny amount of times to dj. Only on my second visit, this reinforced the impression I’d made the previous occasion. I think that more than any other nationality I’ve encountered, the similarity between young Japanese and British is overwhelming. Both come from an environment where the older generation is steeped in tradition and reserve, and fight against that by becoming the craziest outgoing MF’s imaginable. The Japanese have style in abundance and incredible originality- no two individuals ever look the same. If the atmosphere in Osaka was good, Tokyo was out of this world. There have been many attempts on British tv to decipher the Japanese psyche, but these generally focus on older people, and their young have changed out of all recognition within a generation. In these weekly reports, I generally concentrate on what I see around me on my travels, rather than focusing on my gigs, which would be quite dull. Going to Japan is a fascinating experience because they combine the inimitable passion of the British with an infrastructure that works impeccably, and a sense of quiet self-confidence that can’t be shaken. I can’t wait to get back there.

I’m now en-route back to Thailand to finish my family holiday, before returning to the UK in time for next weekend.

More next week…


Judge Jules Diary Report January 6th 2003

6th January

This week’s report deals with all the gigs I did over the Christmas and New Year’s period, incorporating lots of one off events, so I’ll briefly gloss over the first weekend covered, as that itinerary included three nights I do regularly and have described in detail before. On Friday Dec 20th I played Sugar Shack at the Empire in Middlesborough, the following night took me to Slinky Bristol and Serious at the Cross. All three were very busy (as always) with an equally rampant atmosphere. This Christmas has seen clubs busier than previous festive spells, which is very encouraging. Other than making this point, the only other fact to mention is how uncharacteristically well I paced myself at the Cross, despite playing a 3.30- 6am slot. It’s difficult to get the balance right between being merry and allowing yourself to get far too drunk when dj’ing very late. Any dj will tell you that alcohol can put you in the perfect party mood or spoil your set if you’re not careful. If I’ve not performed to the best of my ability, I’d be the first to be self-critical, there’s no point deluding yourself. When this has happened, it’s almost always very late sets with too much to drink. This has occasionally spoiled my gigs at the Cross, where I usually play til the 6am curfew, but not on this occasion, which is a blessing as it’s a fantastic night. The whole area round the venue is being ripped to shreds to make way for the new St Pancras Eurostar terminal, and there was a time when the plans threatened the existence of the Cross. It seems that the work won’t now affect it, thank heavens.

The following night (Sun 22nd) marked the beginning of a series of one-off events over the Christmas period. Accompanied by Amanda, I flew to Ireland’s second city Limerick via Shannon airport. The flight was packed with people going home to see their families for Christmas and Amanda and I were sat in the front row of the Aer Lingus Airbus. Moments before the doors shut, four men of Middle Eastern appearance boarded the flight and walked right to the far end of the plane before coming all the way back down the aisle to the Business class area at the front. Despite boarding together, they then sat in totally different seats, all in the first four rows closest to the cockpit. Make no mistake, I’m no racist (in fact I abhor racism) and I certainly don’t bat an eyelid every time someone of Middle Eastern appearance travels close by on a flight, but this was highly irregular. The men had foreign passports I’ve never seen before and looked nervous and confused throughout the one hour journey. The flight took off, and it was clear that the passengers around me were quite jittery. Despite a complete lack of choppy air or turbulence, the seat belt signs were kept on by the pilot for the entire flight, which suggests that the cockpit crew felt that something didn’t seem quite right. We arrived in Shannon, and clearly we’d all been overreacting, as we disembarked without a hitch, but as someone who makes over two hundred flights per year, this was the first time I’d felt truly nervous post-September 11th. In the end, despite the irregularity of the situation, I felt very guilty for typecasting these guys. I’ve subsequently spoken to Arab friends who get very pissed off with the extra security grilling and nervous glances they get every time they board a flight. In truth, I suspect that Al Queida won’t use the same method when they strike again, but the whole episode served to remind me of the changed world we live in post 9/11. The gig itself was the first of many I was to play alongside Eddie Halliwell over the next few days. He’s the biggest name to come through the ranks over the past twelve months, and we’re handled by the same manager. Eddie’s energy behind the decks is extraordinary, his taste in music similar to mine, and the scratching he embellishes his sets with, out of this world. The Limerick gig was excellent, and Eddie, Amanda, Good Greef promoter Ben and I had an after-party in our hotel room, in the festive spirit (I collapsed on the bed after half an hour, but I believe they were still going strong as the sun came up.)

I’ve dj’d at the Escape Swansea’s Christmas party four out of the last five years, 2001 being the only exception, as I played in nearby Cardiff on New Year’s Eve that year, and it was felt that the two would conflict. Most of the UK nights I play at take place in owner-operated venues, rather than the dull monolithic leisure Corp owned clubs where every venue looks the bland same. The Escape’s typical of an independent operator, with a lot of loving attention paid to its unique decor and set up. I really like the management- they’re always ready to have a drink and a laugh, and in Big Al and Danny Slade they’ve got two of the best resident dj’s in the business. Big Al lives up to his name, but on the night Danny had lost an incredible seven stone since I last saw him, which is mighty difficult in the late night drinking and kebab environment of the club world. Although he wasn’t wearing a ‘lose weight now, ask me how’ badge, I posed the question all the same. He’d cut out alcohol, which is a sacrifice I’ve never managed to make (I come from a long blood line of broken-veined drinkers.) The atmosphere was typically superb, and I played an extra 40 minutes beyond my allotted set. This was partly because I’d let standards slip at my last Welsh performance (Cream’s huge Cardiff International Arena event the previous month) and felt extremely guilty. At that event I played the last set (4.30-6) and was very drunk- apparently I committed the cardinal sin of playing the same record twice. So I was determined to make amends in Swansea, and kept playing til I’d eaten dramatically into Danny Slade’s playing time.

I took the night off on Christmas Eve to be with Amanda and Jake. At three, this was the first Christmas he was conscious of, and he asked me ‘how will Father Christmas deliver my presents when we don’t have a chimney?’. A good question. I told him we’d left a key outside. Even before Jake was born, I’ve rarely dj’d on Xmas Eve. It’s never been a big clubbing night- people usually spend it with their families, and gigs on December 24th have generally been disappointing. The big night at Christmas is Boxing Day, on which I had two gigs, God’s kitchen in Belfast and my debut set at Good Greef in Manchester.

It was only a week beforehand that I found out how early my set in Belfast was (4.30pm) enabling me to catch the last flight back to Manchester the same day. I had to leave home at 11.30am on Boxing Day morning for Heathrow, which didn’t go down very well with Amanda and the rest of the family members who were staying over. I arrived in Belfast with my belt still loosened to accommodate the slowly-digesting turkey. The event was a 10,000 sell-out, hardly surprising considering the magnitude of the dj line-up… Tiesto, Ferry Corsten, Armin Van Buuren, Fergie, Mauro Picotto, Tall Paul and myself. The crowd were still coming in as I hit the decks, which provided me with the challenge of making a very large percentage of those inside dance within minutes of putting their coats in the cloakroom. The Northern Irish need little persuasion, and by the end of my set almost all the crowd were inside and the atmosphere incredible. I don’t normally consume any caffeine, I’m hyper enough as it is, but the bar had a choice of Vodka Red Bull or Vodka Coke. Some choice- if you don’t touch caffeine, just one Coke makes you feel so wired it’s as if you’ve taken crack (not that I ever have!) By the end of my set my eyes were bulging like a Goldfish, and it wasn’t til I knocked back a few glasses of wine on the flight to Manchester that I started to calm down. Most of the ‘superclub’ promoters have focused increasing attention on large stadium events. It has to be said that as a dj you’re forced to play a safer musical selection and take less chances at these sort of gigs, but playing to crowds that can be measured in their tens of thousands is an incredible buzz. My real love remains clubs, with a more intimate ‘whites of their eyes’ atmosphere. This was exactly what I was looking forward to at Good Greef in Manchester.

Mixmag recently dubbed Good Greef ‘the UK’s best club’, so playing a good set was mighty important to me on my first visit. I was drunker than I would have ideally liked when I hit the decks, but on Boxing Day I’m sure the same could be said for the crowd. The clubbers reminded me of Gatecrasher in its early days, with a huge range of ages and dress styles. The night was a sell-out with hundreds turned away, and I can easily see why everyone talks so highly of Good Greef- a dressy crowd who love their music really banging, with an excellent funky house room thrown in for good measure elsewhere in the club. I was straight on the phone to my manager Charlie the following morning to ensure that I’ll be back as soon as possible.

My Dad lives 20 miles from Manchester, so I stayed there alongside Amanda and Jake who’d arrived from London the previous evening. On Dec 27th we spent the day with John Kelly and family in Liverpool, where they live in a palatial house that eclipses anything a mere mortal would own in London. I’ve got lots of dj friends and you’d be surprised how little time we spend discussing work when we’re socialising. However, I did ask the inevitable ‘what are you doing on New Year’s Eve’ question. He replied that part of his itinerary involved travelling by helicopter from Blackpool to Skegness. Rather John than me – although my NYE schedule involved a private jet, helicopters in wintry weather sound just too scary. After enjoying a huge meal in Liverpool’s impressively refurbished Albert Dock, we headed nearly 300 miles south to Winchester, dropping Jake at his Grandmother’s in Bognor en route. This was a great sleeping opportunity and I woke outside the gig, which was taking place in a grand old Government building. Norman Jay played funky house in the other room, whilst I was in the main arena, which was very enjoyable. I’ve played just about every major town and city in the UK- Winchester probably completes the set.

By the time Saturday 28th December came along, I’d lost count of how many times I’d visited London Heathrow airport in the previous few weeks. In the Christmas period you lose track of days of the week, and it was only my radio show that kept me in touch with the fact it was Saturday. My last show of the year concentrates on a review of the biggest tunes of the past twelve months. I combined this with interviews and guest mixes from the likes of Paul Van Dyk, Anne Savage, Tiesto, Eddie Halliwell and others. Then it was back to Heathrow with Amanda, headed for the Temple Theatre in Dublin. The period in between Boxing day and New Year’s Eve is difficult to predict attendance-wise. I shouldn’t have worried where the Temple was concerned. Not only was it packed, but the venue’s recent refurbishment has made a huge difference. The dj booth is now perfectly situated for maximum atmosphere. I’ve rambled on at length in this column about the importance of where the booth is placed, so you’ll get my drift. It’s become a familiar routine to wake up in Dublin’s Morrisson Hotel feeling dehydrated and hung over, the morning after the night before. The previous night was outstanding, making the pain of the following day seem more bearable.

The following night in Scotland (Dec 29th) was my last gig before New Years Eve. The most sensible routing would have been to fly direct from Dublin to Edinburgh, 40 miles away from my gig in Perth. However, it’s very important to me not to spend unnecessary time away from Jake. It’s difficult balancing family life with a dj career, and there are many occasions where I’ll go home for a few hours from the airport, only to return for another flight later that day- this was such an occasion. The irony is that sometimes the little fella can be very grumpy and uncommunicative when you’ve made such an effort to spend time with him, but that’s the way kids are. The event in Perth at the Ice Factory was one of our Judgement Sundays nights. Throughout the winter period, we’re staging a number of JS soirees to maintain the vibe of our Ibiza weekly summer event. My Eden co-resident Eddie Halliwell played with me for the third time that week, and set the scene fantastically. The night built to a screaming crescendo, and I’m pleased to say I resisted Eddie’s pleas for a hotel after-party. Sadly my willpower isn’t always so cast-iron.

So along came the big day, New Year’s Eve 2002/3. This year was notable for the fact that there were far fewer large arena-based NYE events, no doubt because there were many more stadium do’s throughout the rest of the year than ever before. My gigs were probably the UK’s two biggest on the night- Belfast’s Donegal Square, followed by the Millennium Dome in London. The midnight record is a crucial decision- it’s important to gauge the mood of the party and choose the track that sends people into a frenzy of hugging and cheering when the midnight bell tolls. In recent years I’ve played the largest current record around Christmas time, whereas I used to play the year’s biggest track. On this occasion, there was only one candidate ‘Loneliness’ by Tomcraft. Although it hasn’t yet seen a UK release, I’ve received scores of emails requesting it at Radio 1, and people go wild the minute it’s played. The Belfast event was free and open air, staged and broadcast by Radio 1. Amanda and I spent the day in Belfast with R1’s head of dance Matt Priest and two R1 prizewinners who’d won the dubious privilege of accompanying me throughout the day to both gigs. Although it was barely 2 degrees (30f) at least 20,000 people turned up to Belfast city centre. We then headed for a private jet back to London, being whisked from Stansted airport to the Dome just in time for my 2.30am set. I played the same event last year, but didn’t fully absorb the awesome scale of the Dome. You could comfortably fit half a million people inside, although the NYE event had something in the region of 50,000, with crowd as far as the eye could see from the main stage. I recognised clubbers from all over the UK, who’d made the pilgrimage to London for what may well be the last Dome event before the venue gets refurbished. I finished the night visiting Serious’ party at the Cross (in a social capacity) finally getting to bed at 7am.

I’m now en route to Asia for a brief tour combined with a holiday. More in my next report.


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