A Diva In St Petersburg…
Reducing his management to tears, Mike Boorman battles musical differences and goes on the offensive.
Each article I've written I swear to myself that it will be the last for a while (check out parts one and two ) – that there's no way on earth a mere description of a trip to Russia could continue to be a legitimate use of anybody's time – but no sooner had I put my pen down in Moscow and finished caning the stereotype about Malaysian Businessmen in hotel lobbies, the madness kicked off again.
My next engagement was to DJ at Barbados Club in Moscow (see cover photo). A good club they tell me, one of the best in the city according to my socialite mate Olga. "Perhaps it has a Funktion One?" I thought. It didn't, but it didn't need one, for the sound system that greeted me was far batter, on the grounds of props. I walk through the dance floor to scope out the DJ booth and I am greeted by two dwarves, one on each bass bin, and just for the craic, they are both holding a rifle.
This is a stark example of what I'm seeing every day in Russia. The complete lack of shame in flaunting the daft and the sadistic; which actually works very well in the context of entertainment – sometimes this is sadly lacking in the UK, even though we often think it. But on the flipside, I can't imagine that dwarf would have much recourse at an employment tribunal if he turned up late for his bass bin one day and his boss blew his leg off with his unattended rifle, just to make a point. A written warning would be a rare privilege over here, methinks. Especially if you're a dwarf. Even worse if you're a black dwarf.
So then it was back to sunny St Petersburg, and my home from home, Cafe Geometria, for a couple of DJ gigs and a series of presentations/autograph signing sessions with the fox. I can't say I'm overly comfortable signing autographs because of this thing. The DJing I'm fine with. I turn up to the club, there are some funny photos of the fox in the booth and I work hard to resist all the freebies on offer, be professional and play a proper set. However lucky I am to be there in the first place, I feel like I am legitimately adding something to the music. But autographs and a Powerpoint Presentation about a stuffed fox that I once owned a few months ago? A fox that I would never have bought had a mate not rung me up and told me about it anyway? Weird. If anyone should be doing this, it should be the original artist.
But at times, it's quite good craic. Once you get past the "does the fox have a name?" caper, no topic is too big or small. There have been loads of questions about Thatcher. I'm astounded that anyone has heard of Arthur Scargill over here, especially the kind of person that would take time off work to come and look at a badly stuffed fox, but somehow or other, they know. English affairs seem to matter. And all the while, the fox forlornly looks on, enclosed in perspex:
Then I am introduced to Katya, my new manager. With much fanfare I am told she will make things run a lot more smoothly. We get off to a bad start. "Mike; we want you to record a DJ mix before you go home tomorrow."
"Errr, what genre?"
"I don't know. Speak to Alexey."
"Is Alexey here at the moment?"
"No, he's in Moscow."
"Errrrrrrm, urrrrrr, right. Errrm, do you know who is going to hear this mix, like, where is it going to go?"
"I don't know."
This was not going to be straight forward. And then when I catch up with Alexey and talk genres, The Swedish House Mafia is bandied about as a suggestion. That's not happening. Or at least, I would only resort to that if they try and invoke the $10,000 clause on my head in my contract about "improper performance". And besides, in most of the bars/clubs I've been to, it's been middle-of-the-road Tech House. I can tolerate that. Why the difference for this mix?
"We want something commercial. Something with hits," says Alexey.
Jesus. And it's still not clear through the broken English where this mix is going to be distributed. But we agree a compromise of commercial Deep House with vocals – or at least I think that's what we agree – but that is never the less a tricky brief, as I barely have any; so it's a mad dash back to the hotel to get downloading and cook something together, which turned out to be this:
Mike Boorman & Afterlife – Consequences
Ambient Balearic House that is in three different musical keys and samples the head of the US House of Representatives talking about food stamps… it's an ambitious jump from talk of the Swedish House Mafia… if nothing else because I am yet to hear any of the 25 + DJs I have seen play in Russia drop below the 120bpm mark. It's like hitting the speed of 119 might set a bomb off or something, or cause an unwanted meeting with The Doc and The Libyans in 1985. I'll pitch it up a couple of %, and I can always make the excuse "well it's my track – I had to play it" if Alexey doesn't like it.
Chirs Isaak – Wicked Game (Thyladomid and Adriatique Remix)
My mother likes this, therefore it must be commercial. Good chance to nick a couple of extra bpm in the first breakdown without anyone noticing me moving the pitch.
Daft Punk ft Pharrell Williams & Nile Rodgers – Get Lucky
Number one in the UK, I think that makes it a hit. Does this mean I'm selling out as a DJ? Probably. But remember, it's Russia – it doesn't fully count. And sometimes, when the money's good, selling out can be a good thing. See the transfer of Stewart Downing to Liverpool for proof of this; or any club that ever sold Brett Angell.
Loccussolus/DJ Harvey – I Want It (Lindstrom and Prins Thomas Remix)
The dons of cool, International Feel, did not intend to release this track for it to be mixed with a number one. But sod it – there's a brass link to the previous track. These little um pahs feature in both tracks. The key ain't too far off either. With the right blending, this'll go.
Visti & Mayland – Yes Ma'am
Has vocals in it, and like Chris Isaak, a nice early breakdown for some bpm-creeping. Over the 120bpm mark now; I'm safe.
Superflu – Va Ga Va Ga
A credible artist at his most commercial, but his Riva Starr impression will be just the job.
Rosie Gaines – Closer Than Close (Mentor Original)
Errm? Well I guess a lot of tracks these days seem to sound like it…
Rachel Row – Follow The Step (Justin Martin Remix)
… like this one. Well, it sounds Garagey anyway. And I saw Justin Martin tweet that Annie Mac played it a few weeks back, so my commercial duties are honoured.
Dan Gehnacia & Shonky – Close To The Edge
Musically it goes brilliantly with Rosie Gaines, but damn it… the repeated use of the word 'close' in both songs will make it look like I haven't thought about it and the coincidence has taken me by surprise; or worse still, thought about it and concluded that linking something as obvious as lyrics and song titles is a good thing for a mix. I'm not having that. I will move it to be after Rachel Row. Linking something like brass is cool, but lyrics is a bit basecourt for my liking.
Julio Bashmore – Au Seve
This was probably big enough to have reached Russia, so kind of commercial. Never mixed it before though… oof… not liking the mastering… sounds a bit weird in the mix.
Star Traxx – Step Into My Life (Mike Boorman re-edit)
Sounds a bit like the Bee Gees, so therefore commercial.
Harry Choo Choo Romero – Night At The Black
They're going to bloody get it. Granted, I've already played it in five of my sets over here so far (out of seven… only Dan Ghenacia & Shonky – Close To The Edge has got anywhere near this tally, at a mere three plays), but I just find it funny that I can get away with it. To them, it is merely another tune – the fact it is from 2001 and represents and almost defunct genre is not questioned – and until it is, they will be toking on Choo Choo for as long as I'm in the country.
Brad Shitt – Casbah Breakdown
Judging by the timewarp playlists I have heard on the radio in taxis this past few weeks, a remix of Rock The Casbah is more than fair game.
Mike Dixon – Never Enough
I simply can't end this mix in a profound fashion, because it is not a serious mix – it would be wrong. So how about some stupid Chicago Charleston sampling from 2002? Rightly or wrongly, it's a tried and tested formula. And James Curd from The Greenskeepers was actually good at it, although admittedly; this is not James Curd. But it should have been.
Feeling proud of myself that all these tracks didn't sound too bad after all, I make my way to Geometria to record it. This is all going to work nicely. Get there for 5pm, record this, and then there's a good bit of time before my evening presentation upstairs at 7pm.
I hadn't bargained for Katya. At about five past six, three-quarters of the way into the mix, she taps me on the shoulder and says "You are speaking now."
"What?!? But you said 7 o' clock? Are you fucking joking?!?"
"People are upstairs waiting."
"BUT LAST NIGHT YOU SAID 7 O' CLOCK"
And throughout the argument, I could hear a muffled Choo Choo Romero, gradually building up in my headphones, that were now around my neck.
"The time has changed," she said, with utter deadpan. No apology.
"For fuck's sake man!," I concluded, slamming down my headphones and halting Choo Choo.
She ran upstairs in tears, but I had no sympathy. I don't think many other people would have either, but lord knows what the waiting public thought when they heard all this going on. But I think they would have agreed with me that it is unwise to tell someone that a presentation they are giving has been moved from 7pm to 6pm, at five minutes past six. Even more unwise to do this when they are recording a mix that you asked them to do at only a day's notice, containing music that they had to spend the whole afternoon finding.
Having calmed myself down, done the presentation and then discussed some more wide-ranging topics with the Russian public (the size of the drug problem in the UK, the change in fashion from suburbia to city living in London, Andrey Kanchelskis: all covered), the next thing on my mind was to re-record the mix before the guest DJs came on for the night, and then of course, would the music actually be appropriate?
This was actually really stressful. As grateful as I am to be messing about in Russia and getting paid for it, I don't really want to tarnish the whole experience by being forced to play music I dislike; but equally, if I stand too firm on the musical side of things they might decide it's unworkable and the whole project's off. I'd kick myself if that happened. In fact, if I stand too firm on matters of logistics with my turkey of a manager; that's not going to look good either. How has my hissy-fit and vocal-Deep-House-compromise gone down?
I will soon find out.
Article: Mike Boorman
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