Filed under: Interview
In announcing his retirement from DJing at the end of 2005 last July, Danny Rampling became the first big name DJ to formally walk away from the decks, though three months on he’s as prolifically busy if not busier than ever, he admits.
“My feet haven’t touched the ground since making this announcement, with one thing and another whether traveling or putting this album together, it’s been really quite hectic and it’s going to stay that way up until New Year’s Eve,” says Danny.
“I’ve also had a lot of support from fellow DJs; people like Louis Vega, Carl Cox and Frankie Knuckles; Frankie wrote me a lovely e mail.
“In terms of thinking about it, I’ve made the right decision and I’m happy with the way things are turning out. Everything has been progressing really smoothly with the album, and I haven’t woken up in the night in a cold sweat thinking ‘What have I done?’ No, I’m really excited by the challenge that lies ahead. I’m not sailing off into the sunset to drink wine, do the gardening all day and watch the cricket.”
What lies ahead is him reinventing himself as a top end restauranteur, though in the interim there’s the small matter of his last compilation CD, his retrospective Best of selection ‘Breaks For Love’. Coming out on Defected shortly, the triple CD ranges from Mandy Smith (I Just Can’t Wait) to Dan Hartman (Relight My fire) and It’s Immaterial (Driving Away From Home) as well as 45 other favourites he’s picked from the last 20 years.
“Choosing the tracks was very poignant actually because in those early days I firmly believe there were outside influences at play in creating those glorious energies and spiritual feelings of the first two summers, and I felt some of that magic in putting the mix together,” he explains.
“I went into my record room in my cellar over four days after thinking about tracks for a couple of months, and when I came to compile it and put the tracks together, everything flowed really smoothly. I don’t play a lot of these records regularly but they are really important to me and I cherish the memories they evoke from some great times that I have had in the club scene.”
Interview by Jonty Skrufff (Skrufff.com)
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff) : One of my favourites is the ‘It’s Immaterial’ track; ‘Driving Away From Home’, what made you pick that one in particular?
Danny Rampling : When that track came out in the 80s it really represented Thatcher’s Britain and what was going on at the time;many of us said ‘To hell with this country, let’s go somewhere else’ and I went to America for one, while many kids went traveling round Europe on the Persil rail ticket thing (cheap train tickets that offered unlimited travel to the under 25s). There were a lot of people that were very disillusioned with Britain at the time and I feel that track represents what was going on in Britain at the time. I think that’s why we all connected with that record at the time, and it does have a real Balareic feel to it. It encapsulated a miserable time with very low job prospects when lots of young people said ‘To hell with this, let’s go elsewhere. That reflected that part of the eighties.
Skrufff : I understand you were a carpenter before you started DJing?
Danny Rampling : Not for long, I was an apprentice carpenter for probably three months. I was supposed to do a course at Wandsworth Technical College went there for a week but struggled to get in at 8am in the morning and one day the teacher said when I was late again ‘That’s it, I’m calling your company and I’m going to report you’. I said to him ;I think you’d better do that right now because I’m going home, see you later’ and that was the end of my apprenticeship. It was a punk anarchy thing; ‘Well, Fuck you I don’t really want to work anyway’. Punk gave me the balls to say ‘Up yours. I don’t care about your apprenticeship, I’m off’ and that’s exactly what I did. That was in 1978 at the height of punk, it was a do you own thing vibe which in a sense was very similar to acid house culture.
Skrufff : You started DJing round Bermondsey which has always been one of London’s toughest areas, what was it like back then?
Danny Rampling : It’s always been an on the edge area and there’s always been some underworld goings on there but that combination attracted people there, in the early 80s. At one time Bermondsey was like Upper Street (Islington) there were all these bars on Tower Bridge Road and the surrounding streets and people would come from all over South London to go there to those bars. So it was a perfect opportunity to DJ there. Some of my gigs there were all dayers, lock ins for some of the London underworld and it was all very jolly. I always had a really good time and would get paid 100 quid to spin at all day parties. It was a great training ground and an outlet to play music for me.
Skrufff : What job were you doing before you had the fabled Ibiza experience with Paul Oakenfold and the others?
Danny Rampling : Ducking and diving pretty much, though the main job that stands out was working in Brown’s – the fashion store, where I met some fantastic people some of whom I’m still in contact with today. That was real eye – opener because it introduced me to the fashion world and also to gay London- it gave me an understanding of gay London. Probably 80% of the store was gay, so you got introduced to that part of London and it was very glamorous working there, every pop star around used to shop there. At the time I was effectively funding a record habit, my main goal was to work for clubs and as a DJ, though I wasn’t very good with a microphone, and at that time you needed to be. You had to be very confident with the microphone and my God, I could just about pick the microphone up and have the courage to speak through it. It’s not an easy thing, public speaking.
Skrufff : At what point did it go where you suddenly became making an absolute fortune off DJing?
Danny Rampling : I would have liked to make a fortune but I didn’t, I’ve done OK off it, I’ve been paid well. There was a turning point in the mid- nineties which happened when Club UK opened. That was the start of the superclub and super- fee league and that’s when the fee went up into four figures. Then were was also Cream and Ministry Of Sound and everything began to boom: fees started rising to match the attendances through the door. I could have made lots more money before that if I’d played at raves, I know a lot of my contemporaries were paid extremely well but that wasn’t where I was at. Some DJs were earning four figure sums back in ’88/’89, playing at raves like Sunrise and Biology and those huge massive parties.
Skrufff : Did you make much money off Shroom?
Danny Rampling : We always did Shroom for the love, it was never a profit making thing and it wasn’t a business. That’s what some folk fail to recognize. We kept it very real through that period. It was five pounds to get in and we had to hire the space, the sound system from Joey Jay’s Good Times, plus pay the DJs and the promotion costs. When Shroom was at the Fitness Centre, we were really lucky on occasion to get three hundred quid. Generally the costs were fixed, the hire of the room, the sound system, the security, the door staff, there were a lot of costs there, but it was always about the party. 100% about the party. That’s how it ran for a year and a half at the Fitness Centre that way. We always kept prices to a minimum and we also gave away water and Lucozade, none of which we got cheaper.
Skrufff : Do you look back on that period as the best period?
Danny Rampling : Most definitely. It’s all been great but nothing compares to then, just from having that raw natural energy and the thrill of becoming professional and having my own place to play at and not answering to anyone else. The feeling of going through seven years of struggling as a DJ then actually getting there was remarkable and outstanding. There was all this new and exciting music to play and just a great feeling in the air, it felt like society was changing, there was so much optimism around and that certainly fuelled our club scene even further. There was this real, real feeling that we were entering into a new age. We really did believe that at the time. After the greyness of Thatcher’s Britain it was somewhere over the rainbow.
Skrufff : How much do you feel Britain did enter a new better age?
Danny Rampling : At the beginning there was genuine unity and harmony like we’d never seen before, in London, with youth culture. As I’ve often said in interviews, growing up in London before acid house, you could get your head kicked in for wearing something different in terms of a style tribe. Or if you were a gay person in a straight club you could be attacked, that was the mentality and the undercurrent that was around, especially through the punk days.There was quite a divide in London, and when acid house came along it just deconstucted everything and brought a lot of unity, which was so refreshing. London felt like a village at thet time, all these people that came together from all walks of life. Such a melting pot of Londoners all came together, it was incredible. Everyone was locked into the same universal feeling, it was very magical, a very special time. I guess it could be compared to what the people at the forefront of the sixties scene were feeling though maybe a bit more low key. In the sixties there was lot more glamour attached, but acid house wasn’t necessarily about glamour, it didn’t matter what you wore, it was about what you brought in your heart and your attitude. That had a knock on effect across a whole group of people that created their own opportunities out of acid house. It was a very idealistic period of ‘Get up and do what you want because there’s opportunity here. A lot of people did just that, through the arts, media, design, music, music management – a whole industry was born out of acid house. In the beginning it was a very genuine industry because everyone was helping each other. It was such a positive time.
Skrufff : Looking back, how much of this kind of magic was down to ‘E’?
Danny Rampling : I’d say 50% of it was a contribution or maybe forty or fifty percent. Ecstasy certainly did change a generation’s outlook and style of life and really helped to loosen that British uptight behaviour that we have sometimes. It loosened Britain up, to be fair. Those are the facts. It really loosened Britain up, and that contributed to the music and the energy of the music. The music was also very spiritual back them, the gospel music had strong messages of spirituality in the lyrics.
Skrufff : What do you make of dance culture today?
Danny Rampling : It’s been put through the tumble dryer and come out, I’d say for the better. There’s a lot of creativity going on again and some excellent young DJs carrying the torch, as well as the old guard. Let’s not dismiss some of the DJs that have been there since the beginning, it’s a craft, and any craft you do, the longer you do it and the passion that you have there, that should be revered. In terms of the club scene, it’s reinventing itself. I play in Italy a lot and there’s one thing I don’t like about Italy, which is that it has lost its soul generally. It’s becoming very narrow minded. They only want hard electro sounds, which I think all night is very monotonous. Like any musical genre, a whole night of it is just too much. Variety is something that is missing in Italy and I hope we don’t lose that here, because we’ve always embraced so many different genres of music, and that’s what’s kept this scene going in the UK, it’s our open mind for music. That’s what fuelled this scene in the early stages, that was the ideology behind the scene, the openness to music of any genre.
Skrufff : Are you sure you won’t change your mind about quitting?
Danny Rampling : Well, I can’t see myself ever doing a comeback tour, it’s not my style. I’ve made this decision for a perfectly good reason. It is a huge sacrifice to move into this new direction and focus on it and make a success of it.
Skrufff : Are you going to keep all your old records?
Danny Rampling : I haven’t really sat down and thought about it. My cellar is full of records. There’s so much space taken up down there. I’ll probably have to let some of them go, but I can’t bear to part with a lot of those records and probably in twenty years time my son is going to absolutely kill me if I sold those records and in twenty years vinyl will be making a comeback. A renaissance of vinyl through all the technology era. I do collect things. Some will go – but definitely the bulk of them I will be keeping.
Skrufff : Keep a cool 25,000 or something like that?
Danny Rampling : I don’t know about that, maybe 10,000. In twenty years time my son will probably say ‘Why did you sell those records Dad? I want to use them’. But there’s not going to be a comeback tour.
Skrufff : Never say never…
Danny Rampling : I’m making the most of this year, every minute of it and I’ve got some fantastic gigs lined up; really cool gigs. But never say never, yes.
End of the interview
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