The Guardian’s The Guide, 2010
Punters glanced incredulously towards the decks as the Jam’s Thick As Thieves zipped out of the speakers at 45rpm instead of 33. The DJ, boozing from 5pm and unable to converse using anything other than hand gestures, was on whiskey and Coke trying to “straighten up”. “Who’s this, Kanye West?” one patron smirked. As the DJ drank, for 30 seconds Paul Weller sang as if his scrotal sack were being squeezed by West Yorkshire CID in a David Peace novel. DJ L Gale VC (Burma, 1945) – my daft title – was killed in action right then. It was too huge a mistake, and there followed a cringe-fest of such whopping magnitude that I never used my surname for DJing again.
There comes a point in every DJ’s life where a decision must be made: do you use a made-up moniker or your actual name? Few conjure a title with any comic resonance or gravitas, but Bristol’s Arsequake have managed it. “Simon from Wide Records wanted to invent music to make arses quake,” explains Robert Cracknell, half of a duo that plays anything from dubstep to Iron Maiden. “At one of his nights, he kept shouting, ‘That’s arsequake, you’re Arsequake!’”
Keir Mills, a London-based DJ who spins pop, indie and electro, named himself That Perfect Fumble after listening to Eels’ Ugly Love. “The lyric is, ‘Well I decided one day long ago/I was never gonna be the greatest catch’. I thought, ‘I’m not the greatest catch, but I could be the perfect fumble.’” It’s not difficult, is it?
Jim’ll Mix It, Squid Vicious, Joy Orbison, Vinyl Ritchie: these sparkly names were worked out by folk who have an overwhelming urge to show off. But Norman Jay MBE is unconvinced: “I understood if I was to become successful, I’d want to be recognised using my own name. To me, a silly name often meant a bedroom no-mark. There are exceptions: Fred Everything is brilliant, and a damned good DJ, too.”
Often blathered about on the London soul scene is Mr Fine Wine from New Jersey radio station WFMU. His weekly Downtown Soulville show is eagerly anticipated for its foot-stompin’ gems. Like a cork popping, his name sends a clear signal he’s humorous yet musically full-bodied. “Having a swingy name establishes me as a swingy guy,” he agrees. “What I can’t stand is the typographically ‘clever’ DJ name: random capitalisation, the substitution of numerals for letters, like DJ 2Kool4SKool. Gosh, I hope he doesn’t exist!”
Clubland would be an excruciating place if DJs only used the names on their birth certificates. Gary Chislehurst, Gareth Swan, Jeff Evans … these are Reactolite Rapide-wearing coach drivers, not twisted firestarters. If Don’t Run With Scissors, Omar Gawd and Potty Mouth DJs sound like they’re going to be fun, they probably will be. Just choose carefully, as Duncan Beiny – DJ Yoda – discovered. “The name was given to me by a friend; I’ve never really liked it,” he admits. “I had this Yoda toy by my decks. I wanted to change it to DJ Beiny, but people know me as Yoda, so I’m stuck with it.” Me? I’m The Funk Pursuivant… till my next balls-up.