Henry Johnstone, Sydney - Australia - on 16/5/12
Bill Brewster is one of those guys you would secretly envy, and you only need a quick glance at his CV to understand why. Originally a chef and then editor of a football fanzine back in the 80s, Bill now spends his time DJing around the world, running his deep house label Forensic and re-editing old disco, funk and rock records as one half of Fat Camp. Though his most well known endeavour has been his literary adventures into the world of dance music, writing books such as Last Night A DJ Saved My Life and the DJ manual How To DJ Properly with his writing partner Frank Broughton.
With an impending tour of Australia on the cards - which includes a set alongside San Soda for Co-Op's Third Birthday - we caught up with the dance music aficionado for a quick Q&A.
Pulse: The book you wrote with Frank Broughton, Last Night A DJ Saved My Life, is a very detailed chronicle of the DJ. How did you and Frank go about your research, particularly for some of the early chapters? Bill Brewster: Firstly, we pooled our resources to see what research material we had between us, like old magazines, books etc. Gathered all of our interviews together and then worked out a plan from there, which involved spending about a month or six weeks in the British Library going through old magazines and newspapers, and then going over to New York and sitting in the Library of Performing Arts. In between that, we compiled a hit list of potential interviewees and began trying to track them down. Most of the British ones, we had enough contacts to be able to locate without too much problem and the New York ones we often just opened the phone book and looked for their names. That's how we found Francis Grasso, Terry Noel and a few others.
What was the intention of How To DJ Properly? Was it simply because there wasn’t a book written on it? Or was it borne out of a need to educate? I suppose education is one part of it, but we felt that too many people involved in dance music were really stuck on mixing as the sole aspect that required any skill, which annoyed us. So we wanted to write a book that was funny, irreverent, but still had loads of nuggets of information in it, whether you'd only just bought decks or you'd been doing it for years.
I remember when I first came across it. I thought (in retrospect quite arrogantly) that it was a silly notion to learn to DJ from a book because so many people that I knew had learnt on their own, when in actual fact it’s a brilliant and very informative handbook. Was it a hard sell when it first came out? Actually, no, it wasn't at all. Obviously some DJs were a bit offended by the fact we seemed to be telling them how to do their job, but generally it came out and got great reviews and sold really well.
How do you feel about the current quality of online music journalism compared to the pre-internet era? Do you think that music is a subject better suited to the online format? The quality is worse now than it was when I started because many of the writers online are keen amateurs, rather than professional writers. Everyone thinks they can write (and take photographs), when there is a skill to it, like any other creative act. There's certainly more about music than there's ever been, but the quality has suffered. There are very few people writing online that I'd actually trust or want to read.
What book are you reading at the moment? 33 Revolutions Per Minute by Dorian Lynskey
What was the last mix, podcast or mix CD that you really, really enjoyed? Debukas' Mystery Mix for DJHistory.com
What was the last meal you cooked for a group of people? Two days ago, my friend Suzi, her bloke and me.
Name three of your most treasured vinyl from your collection. VIP Connection - West Coast Drive
Latin Breed - Maranatha
51 Days - Paper Moon
What are you DJing with these days? Vinyl, CDs, laptop? I play CDs, but I'm dabbling with the darkside at home.
You're on your way to Australia to play soon for the first time. Have friends given you any advice for playing down under? No they haven't. Give or take a few idiosyncrasies most places are pretty similar and the variations are as much to do with the night or club you're playing as the country it's in.
Will you have any time to relax and do any touristy stuff whilst you’re here? In New Zealand, I have a few days spare and I'm going to do a bit of tourist stuff. But in Australia, sadly not. I'd like to have met up with my nephew, but it doesn't look like it will be possible.
A bit macabre, but what will be your funeral song? I don't care. I'll be dead.
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