DJ Derek – “This shall be my last ever gig in Sheffield”

Derek Morris AKA DJ Derek is the Bristol born and bred reggae DJ famed for his love of Weatherspoons pubs, National Express coach journeys and of course music of Jamaican origin. A man whose career in DJing only really begun well into his 30s, yet he’s gone on to accomplish some stupendous achievements. Derek began by hosting his sets in a deep voiced, patois dialect which he picked up from the local pubs and barber shops in the St Pauls area of Bristol. Those of you who know little of the man may recognise him as the OAP throwing a disco for pensioners in the Dizzee track Dirtee Disco, those of you who know much of the man will be aware of his ability to sincerely captivate any audience and take them on a charming musical journey like no other. As the city prepares for his visit to the Harley on Friday for Quality Control‘s 2nd show, I called him up on a hot & sticky evening to ask him a few questions about his lengthy musical career and discover a fair few things I didn’t know about this 71 year old.

*Ring Ring* *Ring Ring* – that’s me setting the scene there.

Chris Arnold: Hey Derek! No time for chatter, we have an interview to do! Tell me, with an extremely impressive career spanning multiple decades in which you’ve played hundreds of different venues, you must have a few places you count as favourites?
Derek Morris: Well the main venue that I’ve stuck with over the years is the Notting Hill Arts Club, it’s my current and last residency. I decided to stop all the others as they started to restrict my ability to travel up and down the country. This NYE will be last gig I do there and will also be my last ever gig.

CA: Your last ever gig?! I heard rumours but I wasn’t aware it was confirmed!
DM: Well yes, in fact I was away travelling and gigging last weekend and when I returned I saw the story plastered over the Bristol evening post, someone had let the cat out of the bag! I then headlined St Paul’s Carnival which is where I live, and it was a very emotional evening. I have Harbour Festival coming up as well, that will be my last ever open air show and I’ll be playing at a home crowd in front of loads of people. I’m pretty sure that will choke me up, I’ve always opened it and I’ve seen so many artists come by, even James Brown did back in the day.

CA: Wow, so this gig on Friday in Sheffield will be your last ever performance in the city?
DM: Yes, I may do a show in Leeds and perhaps one in Nottingham before NYE. I will be 72 the fortnight before I do my last ever gig, and while I’m reasonably healthy it’ll be nice to do some travelling without carting my gear around!

CA: There’s certainly nothing wrong with that! You’ve had a great career Derek, are there any highlights that stick out right now?
DM: Oh, too many highlights to mention, playing Jamaican Independence Dance is one, it was the first year Bristol had a black mayor and the first year Jamaican Independence had a white DJ! Touring across the World with Womad is certainly another. Around the year 2000 I played Singapore, Australia, Prague, Paris, Gran Canaria, Ireland. It was back after I just changed to minidisc, I could have never done that with all my vinyl. I remember playing at Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in front of 50 000 people, it was at a free festival on this Spanish island and nobody comes out until midnight. Well they only went and stuck me on at midnight! I had no idea what to open up with until I thought “well they are Spanish so I’ll open with Ole Ole Ole!, it was brilliant!

CA: Fantastic!
DM: I remember years later at Rob de Bank’s festival, Bestival, they had put me up in the Afterburner stage, it’s a real ramshackle stage, looks like a rock has just hit it. They put me on just as it was getting dark and I decided that I would open with Ole Ole Ole again, and as I played it all these fireworks going off and the brilliant thing was that they kept them in time with the music. At the time all these things just seem so surreal, it’s a job to take it in. It’s only when you look back you think “I can’t believe I did that”.

CA: Over the years you’ve played alongside some of the biggest names in reggae, you must have met plenty of the artists whose music you’ve played?
DM: That’s the wonderful thing you see, I used to watch people like Toots, Desmond Dekker when I was younger. Over the years and certainly from the 80s onwards, I’ve actually met all of my heroes as well as supporting them. When I met Toots he said “Yeah man, everybody know you. You’re the white man that talk the people’s talk and play the people’s music”, it was a reputation that I had garnered through word of mouth wihout realising. Had I known I might have worn a bigger sized hat back then! It’s been a wonderful, wonderful 2nd part of my life. As a younger man spending most of time of the dole to then be invited to play the music that I love is extremely humbling. Back then a lot of black people thought that white people had been using black music, they’ve been conscious of the fact that I’ve been promoting black music. I was playing music that would never have been played on the BBC for example.

CA: Naturally, you’ve proven yourself as a worthy DJ.
DM: Yes, I feel so now, as I mentioned before playing for Jamaican Independence Dance, after that then I was invited to do a few more, including the Dominican Independance Dance. This was a big opportunity for me to play to an audience of which the vast majority were black. Back then I had a big reputation in the West Country as white DJ so everyone knew about me in that area, but there were a huge amount of the black community travelling down from the midlands, Birmingham and such. When they got there they were asking “why have you got a white DJ?“. Well I got them all dancing and a steel band were supposed to be playing after me but they called up to say that they had broken down en route and couldn’t come. I had to keep these 500 people dancing for about 4 hours! It was brilliant though, I got them into a frame of mind where I was selecting that was just magic. I was selecting tunes and people were coming up and asking me for a tune and it was the next one that I was going to play. This happened quite a few times that night – I was literally getting goosebumps. It was the first time that I realised I could play for a 100% black crowd, I really thought that was the pinnacle of my career.

CA: It certainly appears that you do more then just play music, you have a deep-rooted, emotional bond with your audience. How exactly are you going to mentally prepare for your last show?
DM: You know, NYE might be very hectic, when I play there it’s usually 1 in 1 out right up until 30 minutes before I finish, but it certainly will be emotional. I’m a very busy man up until NYE, the whole summer is booked right through apart from a couple of weekends which I’ve purposely kept free. The last few years I’ve only 1 weekend a year off, by the time I’ve gone through with everything that I shall be content hanging not my headphones but my minidiscs.

CA: Derek, it’s been an absolute pleasure, thank you so much for this insight into your career!
DM: Thank you, and see you all on Friday.

An extremely fascinating and humbling man. He sucked me into his tales with his fantastic story-telling as soon as we started talking. He also mentioned such things as interviews with ITV as well as a potential documentary with Don Letts on the way so watch out for them, his final 6 months as a DJ are undoubtedly going to be a very busy time for the soon-to-be 72 year old.

Right now he’ll be headlining Quality Control at The Harley this Friday night. Free before 11, £2 before midnight and £4 afterwards. Also on the bill are Walker, Clipboard, Stoaty & The Quality Controllers. Facebook event here.

DJ Derek – we salute you!

Now Then Listings – March 2013

The snow’s thawing, the day’s are getting longer, New Year’s resolutions are now a distant/hilarious memory and you’ve quit wearing three pairs of underwear in an attempt to stop your nether regions falling off with frost bite. Yep, it’s officially March and you’ve got a whole year of excitement ahead of you. That means festivals, bank holidays, wearing shorts, bird watching, internet memes, chocolate frogs, mahogany coffee tables and more events in the Sheffield region then you can shake a brick at.

1st-2nd MARCH / IT’S A SECRET / £20.
Bunga Bunga takes it up a notch by providing not one but two parties at their next outing, and what a line up it is – MJ Cole, Roska, Joker, Deadboy, ARP 101, Palace, Checan, Autograff, Jack Opus, Mr. Dubz, DMK and loads more.

SOYO Live comes to an emotional end this month and with it you have to applaud Matt Cotrill and crew for providing a free entry outlet for bands far and wide for almost 4 years now. We look forward to seeing what these guys do next.

8th MARCH / SHOWROOM / £25.
What better way to celebrate the life of the great culinary master Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935) by feasting on a specially prepared menu that embraces the philosophy and methods of the Emperor of Chefs himself.

8th MARCH / THE HARLEY / £6.
Consistently one of the most energetic parties in the city, March sees Pangaea specially fly in France’s dEbruit and his mêlée of jack-knifing riddims, booby-trapped syncopation and bass heavy collisions.

The soulful sounds of the Steel City Soul Club & Burleskimo were coming from one lady only – Sister Dnaë Wellington. Her latest project allows her to take the rightful position of centre stage, headline set. Support comes from Riders and Sam Harrison.

15th MARCH / PLUG / £8.
Ohm Sweet Ohm, the brainchild of Tom Weatherall has descended upon Sheffield like an almighty rave wave. First showcasing Maya Jane Coles, then Joris Voorn, now it’s time for Eats Everything to step up to the platters.

Keyboard player with seminal 80s acts Magazine and Visage, Dave Formula is now fronting the Finks, a band designed to explore his love of 60s beat music. An exciting booking in an intimate venue.

21st MARCH / CORP / £12.
New York punk rockers with a penchant for very fast yet melodic tunes, tattoos and being in a band for over 25 years swing by Corporation as part of their latest tour. Chances of pogoing – very high.

22nd MARCH / PENELOPES / £5.
Heeley City Farm has been providing a cute animal hub for years now. But did you know, yes you, did you know that once it year it puts on a big party with cute animals in the background. This fundraiser ensures the party and the cute animals stay alive. Can someone please think of the cute animals? And the party? Please?

EA celebration of the coming of spring and a fundraiser for Sharrow Festival, this year planned for 6th July. Loads and loads of local DJs, including Mr. Meerkat, Powlo, Papa Al, Arnivore and loads more. Fiver in, sorted.

It’s incredible to think that no one knew who the Welsh Whisperer was 6 months ago and now he has been nominated for Best Male Vocalist, Best Album, Best Live Act, Best Dressed, Best Hair and Best Trouser Snake in the Sheffield Scenester Awards 2013. What a guy!

Fresh from a three year tour as street performers and collectively racking up over 8.5 million hits on YouTube, Beatbox blues duo Dave Crowe and Andy Balcon headline an evening of talent at the Lantern Theatre.

First Word Records and Cool Beans first came together over Tramlines Festival last summer. The experience was so enjoyable that they’ve decided to well, come together again. Performances on the night include The Indecision, the JA Soul Ensemble and the inimitable Andy H.

29th MARCH / FEZ CLUB / £12.
De:Bug’s first major party of 2013 is long overdue. No doubt Shadow Child, Waze & Odyssey and Dale Howard will make up for lost time at the venue that’s going from strength to strength – Fez Club.

That’s it for this month. You all better enjoy yourself now. Also, improve your life by hitting up the Now Then website here.

The return of the Cool Beans Podcast…

Back in July 2012 we released a podcast. It was our first podcast so we called it The Cool Beans Podcast – Episode I. Now, 7 months later, we’re releasing the 2nd podcast. This is one is called The Cool Beans Podcast – Episode II. Now we know a lot of you out there are jealous of our podcast-naming talents, but hey, some people are just born with skills, don’t beat yourself up over it.

Now, the first podcast was mainly nonsense and it had close to 2000 plays/downloads so we figured why the hell change the formula. In fact it gives us great pleasure to introduce another 45 minutes of nonsense for your thirsty ears to lap up. EXTREMELY GREAT PLEASURE.

Sure it may be nonsense but it’s still intellectual nonsense nevertheless (perhaps). Such a wide variety of subjects are tackled here it’s a wonder any of us haven’t been asked to appear as guests on Newsnight, Question Time or Blue Peter. Topics include consumerism, fitness, advertising, skin damage, the homeless, Sheffield trends, pets, fancy dress parties, speaking french and internet memes. And on top of all this the devilishly good-looking Jack Athey stops by to chat about his past, an online blogger reveals how you make the perfect cup of tea, Ham Pocket receive non-fan mail from a Mexican calypso act and Professor Terry Dix talks science.

You can subscribe to us on iTunes here. If you listen to/download the podcast you’ll make us very happy and you will be helping us combat our current afflictions (Dom – alcoholism, Andy – depressionism, Chris – fatbackism). Hell we may even manage to get the third one out before 2014. No promises though. We have busy lives to lead that include looking at dogs in costumes on the internet whilst wearing hot pants and guzzling pints of melted lard.

Anyway, enough waffle. Sit back, grab a beer and enjoy The Cool Beans Podcast – Episode II: Knocking About.

Big thanks to Alexis (Wet Nuns), Carling Extra (Temple of Coke) and Nigel Tu (Peking Comedy).

Even bigger thanks to Ed Donnellan AKA Gimpo who provided the jingles, music and many guest voices.

Much love. X