All hands on decks

After weeks of confusion and rumour, the huge Godskitchen party at the Royal Highland Centre on Saturday night has been given the official go-ahead.

Despite objections from local residents, the 8000-capacity event had its licence granted by Edinburgh District Council last Friday and is now due to run from 9pm until 6am featuring sets from 17 DJs.

Among the big names lined up for the Birmingham club’s debut Scottish event are Paul van Dyke, who takes a break on working on his upcoming fourth album to appear; trance DJs Armin van Buuren and Ferry Corsten who are both due to make rare Scottish appearances; and, proving that home-grown talent hasn’t been over-looked, Colin Tevendale and Michael Kilkie are also due to play.

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John "00" Fleming is just one of the premier league DJs who is relishing the prospect of playing at the event.

"I don’t always agree to play big events but when Godskitchen asked me I put my hand up straight away."

He says it is their attention to detail that sets them apart. "It’s always a special night. Often at big events things aren’t quite right and you get people complaining about the sound system or the lighting, but you never hear any complaints about Godskitchen.

"They put a lot of effort into the production and it shows. The sound and lighting is always great and the dcor is always good. I’m really looking forward to playing there on Saturday."

Now one of the top trance DJs in Britain, it has been a difficult journey for Fleming since he first set out more than 15 years ago.

"I’ve definitely seen some changes," he laughs. "I started out playing hi-NRG. It was supposed to be a futuristic version of disco - sort of electronic disco." Those early days were a world away from today’s scene. "It wasn’t like it is now with big-name DJs. The DJ was just some bloke in a dark corner that you never really saw."

In the late 80s, Fleming was one of the first UK DJs to play out in Ibiza. "Back then it was full of old hippies, not tourists and they were there just for the music."

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The changes on the island in recent years haven’t impressed him. "I don’t want to sound old-fashioned or go on about ‘the good old days’ or whatever, but it all got too corporate and commercial and the media jumped all over it with things like Ibiza Uncovered."

Unlike some of his contemporaries, Fleming has never been afraid to criticise the island’s excesses. "I think it was a scary subject for a lot of DJs to mention. Everyone seemed afraid to say that it had changed but now people openly talk about it."

In 1990, just as things were beginning to happen for Fleming and with dance music on the verge of exploding, his world fell apart when he was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Hospitalised, initially he kept in touch with what was happening on the outside but then his condition worsened. "They gave me three months to live. I really thought that was it. The last thing I was worried about then was my career."

After radical treatment, the disease went into remission and his condition began to improve, but by the time he was ready to work again three years had elapsed and the entire dance scene was different.

"When I came back clubs had changed, promoters had changed and I didn’t know anyone. I had to start totally from scratch, sending demo tapes out and making new contacts."

Given the battle that he faced to survive, let alone flourish, it is remarkable that Fleming has been able to progress to where he is now. His experiences have left him with a simple attitude. "My outlook on life is completely different now. I’m just thankful for every day."

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Another DJ at Godskitchen is Paul Newman, better known in clubland as Tall Paul. A pioneer of the hard house sound that has proved enduringly popular over the last few years, Tall Paul cut his teeth at Trade, the long-running London gay club night that played a hugely influential role in shaping UK club culture.

You may never have visited Trade, but you can be sure that you’ve danced to countless tracks that got their first play there. "It was at the forefront of the music and fashion scene and it set trends", Newman says. "They were really exciting times."

For much of its run Trade was based in Turnmills, a venue that was owned by Newman’s father. "When I got offered the slot at Trade it did raise a few eyebrows. It was a big established event and I was pretty much unknown. That’s when people might have thought it was through the father-son connection."

Tall Paul didn’t get the gig through nepotism though - it was strictly on merit. A notoriously tough crowd to please, the Trade regulars would have given him short shrift if he had not been up to scratch on the decks.

"I was there for four years and there were no complaints. The crowd liked me and I was playing music that went down well there, and I think that’s all that really mattered to people."

Of all the DJs playing on Saturday, perhaps the most eagerly anticipated set of the entire night will be Fergie. One of the best-loved DJs on the circuit, Fergie’s connection with Godskitchen club goes back to 1996, not long after the club first launched. "It’s always been my favourite place and promoters to work for. Me and Godskitchen have grown together, them as a club and me as a DJ. They’ve always been there to help me out, so I like to help them out too."

Fergie’s work at Godskitchen helped bring him to a national audience, but although he seemed to arrive on the scene out of nowhere in 2000 when you couldn’t escape his presence in the music press, he was no overnight success.

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He is 23 years old now but he’s been a DJ for almost 12 years and has already crammed more into his career than many of his rivals will ever manage. He owes his initial break in dance music to Robbie Nelson, one-half of the highly successful Northern Irish DJ/production duo Agnelli and Nelson. "When I was about 11 or 12 I used to knock about with Robbie and he’d get me into the Arena in Belfast. We’d hang out with the other DJs and that’s when I started DJing myself."

Bitten by the bug, Fergie couldn’t wait to save up for a proper set of DJ turntables. Instead, he splashed out on an old, battered pair of disco decks that only had two fixed-speed settings. Lacking the pitch control that would allow him to seamlessly beat-match his mixes, he soon found a way to improvise.

"I used to take a bit of cigarette packet and wedge it in between the 33 and 45 so I could vary the speed!" His resourcefulness and skill helped his secure his first bookings and despite having to stand on a crate to reach the decks, he went down a storm with the clubbers and secured his first residency when he was just 14.

By the time he was 16, Fergie had dropped out of school and moved to England. There he was taken under the wing of Tony De Vit, one of London’s top DJs at the time, who helped Fergie out by introducing him to promoters and securing him bookings. His close connections with De Vit led to something of a backlash though and as Fergie’s work dried up he decided he’d need to make it under his own steam if he was ever going to be successful.

His gamble paid off and after playing at a high-profile memorial gig for De Vit following the DJ’s untimely death in 1998, his bookings really started to snowball.

Last year Fergie landed a weekly show on Radio One. Knowing how hard it is to break into the business and to be taken seriously, he uses his slot to give upcoming DJs a break, something he feels is vital if the scene is to continue evolving.

"Nearly every week I have a new young DJ guesting on the show. We need famous names on so people can hear what they’re up to and what they’re playing, but young DJs need a break as well and the scene needs to get sorted. Hopefully my Radio One show can help." With his refreshingly generous attitude, it’s small wonder that Fergie is such a popular figure.

• Godskitchen, The Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston, Saturday, 9pm, 29.50 plus booking fee, 0870- 076 1999

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