Every one of our Gymbox DJs do their thing to get your workout working harder than your headphones ever could. In fact, for veteran regular Ash, seeing you ditch your playlist to get your sweat on to his set is the biggest compliment of all – we sent resident blogger Kat to see why working in fitness gets him so pumped.
First of all, what made you want to start Djing? How did you get into it?
Growing up in the 80s and 90s, I was heavily influenced by hip hop and dance music (garage and jungle mostly). I had a number of friends who had started out as MC’s, but there were a few DJ’s too.
I guess I was captured by the energy and the vibe when they would run sets, so I decided to start teaching myself how to mix, circa 1999. I went halves on my first setup with one of my best mates...We bought a shoddy pair of SoundLab belt drive turntables and a mixer that looked like something from Fisher Price!
A few years and a lot of practice sessions later, I progressed from bedroom DJ to Pirate Radio DJ, with a guest show on the then award-winning Freeze Fm...
When did you start DJing professionally?
Circa 2004 (professionally), but I’ve been mixing since 1999. I’m now part time - I was full time earlier this year but scaled down a bit to work on other entrepreneurial ventures!
I used to be a technology recruiter for over 12 years, but I guess I’m in semi-retirement from that right now while I pursue my dream of launching my YouTube channel: RedLounge TV and my events brand, Rouge. I’m working hard on these projects right now as I believe music is my calling in life!
How did your relationship with Gymbox come about?
My first DJ set for Gymbox was way back in 2011, at the Westfield Shepherd’s Bush gym, and I have enjoyed playing at the various clubs since then.
Back in 2011, I was working in the city...one afternoon I was coming back from a client meeting with my boss. We came across the bright yellow lights of Gymbox and decided to pop in... the moment I saw the decks I was like “wow, I’d love to play here!”
I had a trial at Shepherd’s Bush and many of the members and staff gave positive feedback on the set, and my Gymbox journey began! The rest is history.
What type of atmosphere do you try and create with your sets, and how do you try to achieve that?
For me, the most important thing is that the listener comes away from hearing my set feeling either positive, encouraged, excited, energised, inspired, uplifted...or tired from dancing and working-out hard!
...I know it’s a gym, and most people won’t really start bussing out their azonto and migraine skanks while I play, but I’m happy with a few extra reps, laps, lunges or whatever.
One of the biggest compliments a member can ever pay me is when they take off their headphones to listen to me! That makes me happy!
Do you try and create a different environment for Gymboxers as opposed to club goers?
I think my sets are uplifting and energetic by default, often experimental too. I’ve worked on them for many years to get them that way
I try to promote a positive atmosphere with my music, ‘good vibes only’ basically!...I feel that I achieve my desired atmosphere by a mixture of things...I like to try out new things, and blend vocals off one track with looped beats off another and create a one off remix on the fly.
...A bar will be different to a club as the setting is a bit more relaxed, and the people attending can require something different. My job as the DJ is to read the crowd based on a combination of elements and deliver the best possible selection of music for those guests, whilst maintaining an accurate and true representation of the venue’s brand and core values. I pride myself on getting this right.
Where have been some of your favourite places to DJ, and why?
Gymbox of course! [laughs] Mainly because it’s so far from the norms of the club and bar environment...Playing at the same types of venues all the time is boring to me!
In terms of the more traditional venues, I have been DJing in London and other parts of the UK for many years now. Over that time I’ve been privileged to be a resident DJ at The Old Fashioned Bar in Chelsea, Vinyl Bar and Bar Three Six Six.
However, my favourite events to DJ at have been the political, volunteer DJ sets that I have done. I DJed at Grime4Corbyn at Styx in Tottenham, and that event was instrumental in encouraging young people to vote in the last general election…
[I also DJed at], FckBoris, a recent street protest held on the day an unelected Boris Johnson commenced his role as PM. The streets of Russell Square were packed with thousands of people...I played hip hop, garage, grime, dancehall & reggae music as the crowd progressed on to Parliament Square.
From what I can remember, we pretty much shut down the whole transport system in Westminster (so apologies to any gym members who got home a bit later that night!) and there was coverage by Dazed and The Guardian. All in all, a successful event, a peaceful protest and the message was expressed clearly!
Who are some of your favourite artists or musicians? Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Right now my favourite artists are mostly U.K. based, as I feel like we are levels above the Americans right now! Swindle, Vibbar, Skepta, Duke Demont, Joy Orbison and Jorja Smith are some of my favourite UK artists.
In terms of other, American, music I’m also feeling YBN Cordae, Jaden Smith, Tierra Whack and Kaytranada.
A musical guilty pleasure would have to be the occasional alternative...random stuff like Steely Dan, Madness, Queen and Stone Roses.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about DJs?
I feel like many people think that DJ’s are all crazy party people that drink lots of alcohol, take plenty of narcotic substances and are immensely popular with members of the opposite (or same) sex! As conveniently shown by Idris Elba’s latest Netflix series, “Turn Up Charlie!”
Don’t get me wrong, I know how to party! However, I can honestly say that as someone who is teetotal, [the stereotype is] not true…
There are DJ’s out there who are like that, and some of them are very famous, but not all of us are that way inclined. For me personally, I prefer to be professional, sensible and let my music do the talking rather than my mouth, sensationalism or any misdemeanors!
What is something you think people don’t realise about the life of a DJ?
People definitely don’t see the amount of behind-the-scenes work and the preparation that goes into the DJ being who they are: playlist creations, crate digging (finding the records/music), contacting artists for exclusives and “dubplates”, looking for new venues to play in, contacting promoters, marketing and self-promotion, managing the financial side, social media, recording mixes, doing artwork for mixes and then handing them out as CD’s or pushing them out online.
There’s also a pretty big financial upfront and ongoing investment that comes with purchasing kit and renewing, updating, upgrading and fixing that equipment when the time comes.
What’s your favourite thing about being a DJ?
The single thing I love the most about DJing is entertaining people and making them dance.
Movement is great for the body and soul. The fact that I’m responsible for creating a vibe and influencing people’s mood based on the music I play, and the style in which I mix it, means so much to me.
...When I let my creativity go on the decks, people respond, and they can see how much I’m enjoying if. Even if it’s just a head nod, a wave, a handshake or a high five, it’s all valued more than you know, trust me!
Finally, what’s your favourite thing about DJing at Gymbox?
Gymbox is so different. Anything goes, for real! It’s literally the coolest gym I’ve ever set foot in, and that opinion has not changed in the 8 years I’ve been DJing here.
I love the vibe, the design of the clubs, the mix of people and the energy, passion and dedication that I see in the members, as well as the staff. It’s infectious!
I’ve also made tons of friends through DJing here, some of which I’m even doing business with now. I’m grateful for the opportunity playing here has given me.