DJto DJ: Sean Johnston & Balearic MIke INterview each other.


Two R$N favourites Sean Johnston and Balearic Mike go head to head for our DJ to DJ regular ahead of their NYE showdown. We could give them a big long introduction but there’s already so much good stuff below to get your teeth into that it’s better they do the talking. 

Sean Johnston interviews Balearic Mike: 
Sean: What initially attracted you to the Balearic style of DJ’ing.

Mike: I think there are a few of reasons to be honest, but it has a lot to do with growing up in the 80s. The pop charts when I was a kid were just so insanely diverse that I think its definitely shaped my taste in that way. You could watch top Of The Pops and hear Disco, Two Tone, Post Punk, New Wave, New Romantic, Synth Pop, early Hip Hop, Reggae. You read Smash Hits and in the same issue theyll have Japan, Adam & The Ants, The Specials, P.I.L., ABC, UB40, The Human League, Orange Juice, Eddy Grant, Echo & The Bunnymen, Grandmaster Flash, Altered Images, its just so varied. When I first started going to clubs in 1986 the music was very varied and diverse, simply through necessity, as there wasnt enough House music or Hip Hop to fill an entire night, so youd hear all kinds of stuff. It wasnt until a few years later in 88 that I heard the term Balearic, and those records were completely new to me, but it made perfect sense. I just get totally bored when I listen to someone playing one style of music all night, even if its a style I like.

Why do you think that it still holds such sway 25 years later?

Again, I think there are a few reasons. One thing I learnt from working in Vinyl Exchange for so long is that music really is very cyclical, and that everything has periods of time when it will go in and out of fashion. Youll see it with all kinds of music. I can remember fishing some decent Nu Groove records out of the bargain bins in Vinyl Exchange in the mid 90s, and ten years later they were selling for 20+. That said, there were times in the late 90s and early 00s when it really felt like Moonboots, Phil Mison and myself were they only people who gave a shit about this music anymore. But then the internet helped bring a whole community of people who still cared together, and that spawned a whole new scene unto itself. Its also a musical philosophy if you like, that I think the internet/download generation can appreciate, in that its quite random and all over the place sometimes. That idea of not knowing what the hell will happen next is a lot like listening to an iPod on shuffle, or creating your own completely diverse playlists. Its also a scene that hasnt stood still. It isnt a load of sad old blokes still listening to the same 20 records they loved in 1988. The people who are playing Balearic music now are constantly looking for new (old) music to play, and constantly finding new musical seams to mine.

How did the Down to the Sea and Back Project with Kelvin Andrew’s come about?

Kelvin and I met over twenty years ago now, at an inter-club 5-a-side football competition would you believe, but our friendship was forged at various after hours parties, where he and I would invariably end up hogging the decks, playing each other the weirdest and most out-there records in our record boxes, in a kind of bizarre, ecstasy fueled version of top trumps, but with records instead of cards. It was during one such session, I think at the house I shared in Manchester with Adrian Luvdup, that I played Kelvin Jago Im Going To Go, and almost at the same moment we both said, We should release a compilation of this stuff! As it then took us nearly 18 years to get Volume 1 released, expect Volume 2 around 2028 (just kidding, it should be out early 2014). 

Who is the most Balearic DJ (apart from yourself) you have heard play?

Phil Mison is without doubt the most Balearic person and DJ on the planet. If theres a Balearic center to the universe, its the area surrounding Phil. Phil is more Balearic than Mike Francis supporting at an Elkin & Nelson gig, on a yacht, sailing around Es Vedra as the sun sets (which is pretty Balearic).

If you had to express a preference would it be for Afro or Cosmic?

I look really stupid with an Afro, so Ill have to say Cosmic.

What record would you consider to be a Balearic step too far?

Madness One Step Beyond? No, seriously. In principle nothing is a step to far. Lets face it, if your swaying around with your arms in the air to Chris Rea or Cliff Richard records, theres no where lower to go. That said, a few things that were or are considered Balearic classics are really shit. Cyndi Laupers version of Whats Going on and that Frank De Wulf remix of Santa Esmereldas Dont Let Me Be Misunderstod spring to mind. I mean, what were we thinking? I once made a compilation CD called Balearious Beats Volume 1 covering this subject in greater detail.  Its sub title was fuck! the drugs must have been amazing.

I think we are all familiar with the classic Balearic cannon by now – what modern record or records do you consider to be deeply Balearic?

There are loads actually. I think the Idjut Boys remix of Lighthouse Family definitely qualifies as a modern Balearic classic. Kylies Slow. Smith & Mudds Shulme. Its a bit over played, but Sebastian Telliers La Ritournelle I think has achieved that status. That M.Craft cover of She Sells Sanctuary I play is very Balearic. Most records Phil Mison makes are deeply Balearic.

Which records have you most enjoyed in 2013?

Its been a very good year

Top 5 singles

1) Cantoma feat. Bing Ji Ling Im Alive

2) Begin Help Me

3) Hubbabubbaklub Moped Bart

4) Stratus Spring Tides EP

5) Sketches From An Island Volume 1

Top 5 LPs

1) John Grant Pale Green Ghosts

2) Steve Mason Monkey Minds In The Devils Time

3) David Bowie The Next Day

4) Depeche Mode Delta Machine

5) Almunia Pulsar

Top compilations / reissues

1) Vangelis Bladerunner OST

2) Psychemagik Magic Sunrise

3) Claremont 56 Originals 2008-2013 box set

4) William Onyeabor Who Is ?

5) Saada Bonair Saada Bonair

6) Michael Boothman What You Wont Do For Love

7) Arthur Russell Another Thought

8) Tappa Zukie Freak

9) Femi Kuti Vs KCRW Eh Oh (Liza Richardson Remix)

10) Stephen Encinas Disco Illusion

11) Various Trax Records Box

12) Patrick Cowley School Days

8) What was your favorite event this year?

The Heavy Disco Beach Bums party at The Big Beach Caf was pretty special this August bank holiday Sunday, as was the Claremont 56 boat party on the Thames in June, but every year the Down To The Sea And Back boat party at Electric Elephant just seems to get better and better, and as its already the best gig Ive ever played its going to take something amazing to beat it. The Bowie exhibition at the V&A was very special too.

9) What will you play for the bells on NYE?

I dont think Ashley and Dave will let me play at midnight *sob* .

10) Does it get any better than dancing in a paddling pool?

Well, my wedding in San Francisco and subsequent US road trip/honeymoon, plus the three day trip to the Utrecht record fair with a dealer pass, nearby hotel room and large wad of cash come pretty close, but no, it really doesnt, does it.

Balearic Mike interviews Sean Johnston

Balaeric Mike: Like most chaps of below average looks and intelligence, I got into DJing to get girls. How, why, when and where did you start Djing?

Sean Johnston: I was primarily a record collector and music fan. I grew up on a farm in East Yorkshire and John Peel had opened up a door into another infinitely more exciting world.

My first professional DJing engagement was at the Sugar Shack at the Welly Club in Hull , I think in 1986 or 87. It was a night run by Ragna Gift (sister of the Fine Young Canibals Roland Gift) featuring DJ Pork  (later of Pork Recs) and Steve Cobby. When I first started going there they were playing Motown and Northern. There was a small room upstairs and I had lobbied Ragna to let me play up there. Like you , I was playing early house, synth pop, hi-nrg, Tackhead (and other Adrian Sherwood stuff) and anything else from my collection that was danceable. So thats the where and when covered as for the why I really dont know, I felt compelled. I had been press-ganged in to playing music at parties on the basis that I had a record collection and just found I had an aptitude for it. The same evangelical fervour that would have lead me to Africa in times gone by I suppose.

What was the worst job youve ever done? (No, crap gigs dont count).

I share this one with Mr Weatherall Furniture Porter, A role that I landed on arrival in London in 1988 whilst looking to secure work in the music industry. It was delivering Sofa Beds. I worked with a chap called Rich (the van driver) who was a chronic boozer. When he discovered I had a driving licence he stopped driving the van. Hed start work at 6.30am with a six pack of Tennants Super. He was invariably leathered by 10.00am which was not conducive to health and safety at work or the safe delivery of expensive new furniture.

Whos your favourite DJ (and you cant say Andrew)?

Thats like asking what my favourite book is its always in flux. I always have a lot of time for Optimo and Im invariably impressed by Ewan Pearson for musicality and technical prowess. However this year it would have to be Marc Pinol. Ivan Smagghe had been singing his praises for a long time and I was lucky enough to catch his set at this years Unknown Festival in Croatia. A really brilliant purveyor of modern psychedelic dance music. He was moving effortlessly between house, techno and acid but just it sounded incredibly fresh in comparison with all the other DJs I heard over that weekend. Not fashionable but truly unique.

Whats the best gig youve ever played?

I’ve been fortunate to play at some amazing clubs whilst I have been working with Andrew, Trouw, I-Boat, Lux and the Social Club in Paris. However like you the Electric Elephant in Croatia is the one that takes some beating. The combination of perfect surroundings and the friendliest, most musically clued up crowd make it the dream gig for me. Playing on the main stage there this year really was one of the best experiences I’ve had as a DJ. As pictorial evidence shows, I did get quite carried away…

ALFOS seems to me to be defined by a kind of slo-mo, musical, chugging quality. What was the inspiration behind this musical direction?

I was thinking about this really hard – it’s a difficult one to answer, but I think it was about going back to the beginning to find out what musically made DJing really exciting for both of us when we started. Being men of a similar age our musical background was almost the same, post-punk, a shared love of Adrian Sherwood, and living through the crazy days of acid house. For me personally, looking back, I think that buying records in Trax in Greek St was massively inspirational. I went in there primarily to buy Italo House records but Richard the owner and buyer introduced me to loads of stuff which I now know to be “Baldelli” Records – stuff like Richard Strange, Damascus, Pilli Pilli, Mysteries of The East that kind of thing. I went in there looking for Alfredo records but because Richard was going to Italy to buy stuff he was coming back with all these mad Cosmic records. At the same time I was going to hear Andrew DJ and he was playing lots of slower mad dubby stuff which really struck a chord with me.

I’ve always been a fan of slower electronic music. Fast forward many years and I started to actively seek out and make mixes of new music that echoed back to this sound mostly because I was sick to death of disco edits and minimal. One of these mixes was played to Andrew on a car journey to Brighton and he told me he had been buying a lot of similar stuff. That’s how it started.

What are your top 5 ALFOS records?

Neurotic Drum Band – Neurotic Erotic Adventure

Mugwump – Boutade

Marcus Marr – Pleasure Moon

Pachanga Boys – Legs

Haules Baules – Creeper

And your top 5 records of 2013?

Red Axes – Spicy Stick

Todd Terje – Strandbar

Brioski – Hey Gringo

Blonde:ish – No Place Like Gnome

Miss Kitten – Cosmic Love Radiation

What were your favourite film, book and live event of 2013?

Film – Cloud Atlas

Book – The Hydrogen Sonata – Ian M Banks

Life Event – Birth of my Daughter, Nell

Whats the shittest record youve ever played (come on, weve all been wrong about something)?

Captain Mooneasy – Wott! (an Italo cover of the Captain Sensible track) sold to me by either Justin Robertson or yourself in some godforsaken record shop in Manchester in about 1990

Scottish Independence yes or no? And if yes, will you deport me?

Whilst I have a lot of time for Jacobites I’m a firm believer in the United we stand, divided we fall principle!

Mike & Sean play NYE’s Heavy Disco & Eat The Beat. Full details and tickets here.