Writing The Secret DJ

When I toured a lot, I used to write pretty much wherever I was. Had to. There were always ructions when a magazine would call me on a Friday asking for my copy ‘no later than Monday’ when I was literally about to get on a plane to chemical central for the next 3 days and nights. Being a touring DJ and a writer / journalist as well as a producer was a lot of hours. So for a while I stopped and just did notes.

Making notes has been a compulsion as long as I can remember. Recollection is not a currency  in much demand in my industry, I can’t say it was prescience, but I always got a feeling that things needed to be written down in order not to be forever lost to posterity. I never once considered this dancing thing to be important, but I did think one day it would be interesting to look at through the lens of time. Even since the earliest days I felt the clammy hand of gatekeepers trying to re-write what I saw with my own eyes, especially their drive to put a London-centric angle on it all. I felt a small responsibility to be a self-appointed keeper of the wider tale. So yeah, notes, essays, half-finished pieces, crackers 5am vanity projects, observations in airports …I got ‘em. By the thousands. Millions of words. I find the word ‘artist’ grating but I think if you are compelled to make things, it could be a qualification to be one. Artists have to do it. Craftsmen also make things, but can choose not to.

Both Secret DJ books were ‘compiled’, then, rather than written, nearly all the words put down years ago. Some topical updates happen but it’s not turgid toil, they come together fairly fast. The second book took six weeks. I write like I make music. I do it constantly with no end in mind. Then one day I gather all the bits in my digital basket and skip off to the market. I wish I was more disciplined, in that I could churn out finished work. Nothing pours out of me, I’m too busy. I am more like a dripping tap. Eventually the sink fills and I have to empty it. I doubt there is a creative type in the world who doesn’t wrestle with endlessly unfinished work. I just find the trick, William Potter, is not minding. A project is only ever abandoned, never finished. I learned to live with how thing are and be OK about it. It works for me. I actually wrote most of the first book a while ago at my old folks house in the far north of Yorkshire. next to a waterfall. A Yorkshire waterfall though, not one from Lord of Rings. More like being next to a commercial airport than a sylvan idyll.

A few years ago, though, I fled the looming spectre of Brexit and found myself a metaphorical and geographical place where I could ‘really’ write, in Ibiza.

After years of peering through club gloom I like to have very bright light all the time, which is easy up here in Dalt Vila. The castle in the sky. Although ‘Laputa’ means something different entirely in Spanish. I look out over the rooftops, bustling port and bastions of the ancient walls. Tourists rarely bother to climb this high in the heat, even the mosquitos can’t be arsed. I’m blissfully untroubled by bugs of all species. I don’t think I live in a castle by accident. I always gravitate towards hills, mountains, sea and rivers. I’m from a deeply rural UK and Irish background so while I spend a lot of time in cities, I don’t prosper in them. This setup is ideal. It’s like an ancient penthouse. I used to go out every day and patrol the walls of the castle. These days I’m indoors more than I’d like, but as Hannibal Lecter said, it’s all about the view.

My laptop is as almost as much a survivor of life on the road as me. I’m a stickler for keeping old things alive, and I’ve had this ‘hackintosh’ for over ten years now. I don’t have a lot of clutter, not anymore. I used to be trapped, quite literally, by objects. Thousands and thousands and thousands of records and books. It dictated where and how I lived. How much living cost me was directly proportional to the sheer weight of stuff. I shed it all about ten years ago. The lot. Poof! gone. It was an epiphany of biblical proportions. People might gasp and gossip about how the writer and the DJ has no books or records. Or indeed much of anything. It’s all on the cloud now. I press a key and the letter is elevated for all time to digital heaven. I once lost about a third of a book for no apparent reason I could fathom other than one day the computer decided to lose it. Since then I’ve ditched physical data, as well as objects. I see so many of my friends totally owned by their stuff. Good luck to them, it’s not for me.

I used to get in something of a lather when I used to hear people speak about DJs as the ‘modern shaman’. Poo-pooed it to the high heavens. Alan Moore turned me around on it. He explained very clearly to me that writing is an act of magic. If you conceive in your mind a thing that is made flesh in the world via your words, then writing is the cypher. A spell. He’s not wrong. Writing is an invocation of sorts. DJs do exist in another place. We trip, dance and practice magical ritual. So maybe I was wrong. I often wonder what I am for. Who doesn’t. I know now that what I do is hardly worthy, but neither is it worthless. A good friend once pointed out to me when I was a little down about the futility of it all that I basically try to make people happy for a living.

I can live with that.

The 'Hackintosh', a veteran of many adventures, in my workspace in Ibiza Town
The 'Hackintosh', a veteran of many adventures, in my workspace in Ibiza Town

More about The Secret DJ Book Two at Velocity Press