Lost in the Music: Fergie
Where was your first professional gig?
It all started in Larne, Northern Ireland. I left school at 13 and pestered the local promoter to give me a job at the club sweeping the floor, cleaning the toilets, and clearing the tables, but I didn't care because he let me play on the decks. Eventually, I got to do a warm-up set, but my first actual professional gig, the first one that I actually got paid for, was at Airport 2000 in Antrim, which at the time was one of the biggest clubs in Northern Ireland. I remember finding it hard to put the needle on the record as my hands were shaking so much. I thought I had it made.
Who has inspired you the most?
I have met so many people who have inspired me. I remember queuing up for the Hellraiser raves at Ulster Hall in Belfast in the early 90s to see and hear Carl Cox perform. I still love listening to the old mixes that were recorded from Hellraiser and I can still recall the build up of excitement. I must have been around 13 years old at the time and just been introduced to dance music. I had never heard anything like it before and I couldn't get enough of it. I still can't. I knew from that moment that I wanted to be a DJ, so when I eventually got to meet Carl many years later it was incredible. We were both joining Radio 1 as part of the very first Essential Mix residents. The story just gets weirder. Carl and I were part of a BBC charity to raise money for children in need. There were loads of DJs taking part in the competition such as Darren Emerson, Jon Carter, Fatboy Slim, Pete Tong, etc., and the listeners had to phone in to vote for the best DJ. Crazy as it sounds, I ended up in the final playing against Coxy and as luck would have it I won. So, that was a very inspirational night, and all in the name of charity.
Most people will know the story of how I met Tony De Vit, who was a great inspiration to me. I was warming up and he heard me play and invited me over to England and introduced me to the club scene. He took me under his wing and I really appreciated his guidance and advice. I was lucky Tony helped me, but I was also focused and knew that I wanted to be a DJ. I think about Tony De Vit a lot and I know that he would be pleased about how things have turned out for me. I still miss him.
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, but 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 electronic music those feelings get stronger as time goes on and I realize how lucky I was to be involved from the start. So yeah, that is where my main inspiration is from. I think 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.
What made you decide to stop playing hard house?
Changing my music was one of the biggest challenges that I have faced as it was such a drastic change. It took a long time to re-establish myself. It has been a tough journey with lots of ups and downs, but it gave me a great sense of fulfilment as I was leaving everything I had built up to try some thing new. As a DJ I have played quite a bit of music from house to the harder end of that genre and lots of weird bits in between. I have never been afraid to try out different styles of music, some good choices and some not so well, but I have had a great time along the way finding out what I liked. I would say over the past five or six years that I have never felt more passionate about music whether that's been playing it in clubs or making it in the studio.
Do you think you were pigeon-holed unfairly?
Well, I was pigeonholed for such a long time with the whole hard house label, which was OK as that's is where I made my name and enjoyed playing it for a long time, but I felt that hard house changed quite a lot, so it was time for me to move.
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, but that's all part of the journey. As I mentioned before, I'm playing the best music I have ever played, some of its hard, some of it's not. It's all just great music.
How would you define your present style?
I have always stayed close to my roots and that is good solid grooving dance floor music. It is important for me to mix the darker techno vibes with a hint of euphoric action and this is how my DJ sets have always been regardless of what style I am playing. My sound has always been big and ballsy, not too deep. It's a rave at the end of the day, so that's the vibe I like. I'm a music and party lover who just happens to also be a DJ, so I try and keep to that. I have to say that I am in the best place I have ever been musically.
Do you think genres are killing dance music?
I think that was the case for a while, but I think we are now in a much better place, as I think the term techno is so broad now and less genre specific its all back under one umbrella, so to speak, which helps to keep everything fresh and lots of different aspects of techno are merging together. I think it is good to have a sound, but to also be flexible. People want to hear different things now, so it's good to keep moving about with styles but still try and have your own sound.
Do you feel technology has helped or hindered artists?
I have been DJing for almost 20 years, but to be honest I only really got into using technology in the past few years and I have come up through the ranks with Traktor. I started off experimenting with Seratto Scratch, then Traktor 3, and now Traktor Pro, which are great to use, but I always felt that for me there was something missing. It wasn't until my computer crashed a few times and I had to use my CDs that I realized what I was missing was the whole hands-on experience of mixing and just going for it with the CDJs and mixer.
It was just like a breath of fresh air for me and I honestly think that the crowd are more into what you are doing if they can see what you are up to. I also found that when I was using my laptop I was distracted watching the computer to see when a break was about to start or finish, even though I knew when it would. So yeah, this is how I will be playing for the foreseeable future. What you see is what you get.
I feel that as DJs we are in the best position we have ever been since the music is better and the software we have is so forward thinking. Music is readily available and there are more clubs. The fundamentals will always stay the same and that is to give people a good time.
What has been your worst and best experience behind the decks?
That's a hard one — there have been so many. For me, the worst and best was when I played Trade in London for the first time. I was 16 it was pretty special and very nerve-wracking, but very enjoyable. At Trade they had the same line up of DJs every week doing the same slot so no one ever got the chance to step in. If one of the other DJs was on tour then one of the residents would do an extended set. I got in the back room of Turnmills where Trade was held. They called the back room the Test Lounge where they gave other DJs a chance. When it was my turn to play I put my first record on and the needle started jumping through the whole record, as I was very nervous. I didn't know what to do, plus all the owners of the club were in watching me. A big transvestite came over, took some gum out of his mouth and stuck it to the top of the needle in order to put some weight on it, this stopped it jumping so everything after that was fine and I had a great time. It wasn't until after a few weeks that I got a call and was asked if I could play the main room. I couldn't believe it was a major step for me and one I will never forget.
Is there a track that you never get tired of playing?
That's easy. My remix of Slam's Positive Education. When I first started DJing it was one of the first records I bought so it was amazing when I was asked to do a remix on that.
How do you keep yourself grounded and unwind from it all?
I love nothing better than being in the car with the hood down and just blasting out Johnny Cash's "Get Rhythm." Turn it up!
Are your tattoos decorative or is there a story behind them?
The very first tattoo was just a tribal tattoo on my arm. I got it done in Ibiza and the tattooist who did it was so proud of it that he put a big picture of it in his window. A lot of my fans who were in Ibiza to support me all went to him and got the exact same tattoo. At the clubs we looked like we were in some kind of gang.
I have "Lost in Music" tattooed across my stomach. When I changed my music I didn't want to ever be pigeonholed again. I just wanted to be lost in the music and to go wherever it led me.
I have the word "Maktub" tattooed on my forearm. I am a fan of Paulo Coelho who wrote 'The Alchemist' which was where I first came across the word maktub — it's an old Arabic proverb that means, "it is written." I was never much of a reader, but this book was different. I would go as far as to say that what I read in it changed my whole outlook on life.
What were the three best gigs you played in the last year?
Exit (Lithuania) — Would have to be one of my most favorite places to play from the first time I played there I felt at home. Such a great crowd.
TriPod (Dublin) — Love the vibe at the club and it is such an iconic club and the biggest club in Ireland. I have been playing the TriPod for over a decade.
Warung at Privilege (Ibiza) — This is another long-term relationship I have had with a night. I first played at Warung in Brazil in 2000, so it was great to still be playing it 10 years later.
What do you attribute to your longevity in the scene?
I have a long history in going to the early raves and an edge because I still remember what it was like then to experience the rise of the raves first-hand. I have been lucky enough to travel the world from an early age and I have seen many genres come and go, but one thing will always remain and that is music to have a good party to. As a music lover that has been one of the main things that has stayed with me whether I am paying into a club or playing at a club. I love to hear or play the big beats.
What are your expectations for of Seoul this time around?
Seoul has always been a great place for me to come to play, so I know what to expect. I think I'm playing for two hours so there won't be much of a warm-up, more like lets get at it sort of vibe. I do like to play longer as it gives me a chance to play across the board and there is nothing more exciting than when you put the first record on in a club and also put the last record on. I like the feeling you get when you see people coming into the club edging towards the dance floor and gradually getting ready to just go for it.
What can we expect from Fergie in the future?
I just released my first album 'Dynamite & Laserbeams', so I picked the producers that have inspired me the most over the past year to remix it. That will be out in the next few weeks. I have been working on a few colabs with Gregor Tresher and also Matador. Excentric Muzik will also continue to push new talent, so we will release our first compilation on Excentric with the tremendous talents of Mr. Henry Von who is one of the most promising DJ/producers around and it has been a privilege for me to watch him grow and develop within the Excentric fold.
What advice do you have for novice DJs and producers?
Making music is a must, since your music is like your business card and you will not get a look in if you are not consistently releasing it. Start your own label. I did this initially as no one would release my music.
You have to be very persistent and have lots of determination. You have to be doing it for the right reasons as it might take a long time to get where you want to go. I think one of the things that I have noticed is that a lot of young DJs expect to get gigs left, right and center when they have only been playing five minutes, or they think they should be getting paid good money when they don't have a following or bring anyone to a club.
It's probably best to strike up a relationship with a local promoter and see if you can get a gig with them. Local DJs are always the heart and soul of a club as they know the crowd and it is hard to get that job, but if you make the extra effort and bring all your friends or just go out on a whim and help promote the club you will be in the good books, so to speak.
You have to play with your heart and enjoy every minute of it whether you are in your bedroom or club. Make your sets your own and always send your mixes to promoters, or make the effort to go and meet them. I have always done this and still do it to this day. If there is somewhere I want to play but the club isn't interested in booking me I take a night off and go and meet the promoter. It's good to have a relationship with the club, I think if you are a young DJ you need to be prepared to go the extra mile and do what you can to get your name on that flyer. There are so many other DJs out there you have to give the promoter a reason to book you.
This is a column dedicated to electronic music in Korea. Our aim is to give Groove
Korea readers: interviews and updates on what is happening on the peninsula.