Tuesday, 13 September 2011

God is a DJ

Midday, Sunday. Maybe a year on from my first rave party. I’m slumped in an overstuffed, ratty couch in Hayden’s living room. Hayden is Hong Kong's underground DJ non pareil, an elusive, pretty, vampiric figure who sucks an eclectic crowd into his orbit. We’ve just walked up six flights of garbage strewn stairs. I, as the newest acolyte, got to carry his heavy record box. Sarongs in psychedelic patterns have been draped over the windows, drenching the room in an eerie glow. A lava lamp bubbles in a corner. 

A huge poster of a half-naked Asian woman flanked by faded record covers adorn one wall. Sagging shelves line two others, packed to the ceiling with vinyl in well-worn sleeves. On a large coffee table are overflowing ashtrays, ripped packs of Rizlas, a huge glass bong and a strange contraption crafted from a juice container and a couple of foil-wrapped straws. Hayden is already back on the decks despite having just played a marathon set in Neptunes. The music is ear-bleedingly loud.

The Saturday night rave and debauched after party has by now become a regular weekend routine. I know I am doing terrible damage to my brain, but I am having so much fun, or at least I tell myself I am, that I don’t really care. By now I'm necking up to three pills in an evening, trying to recapture that elusive first experience. I am also finding myself regularly around at Biscuit's on a Tuesday evening, procuring cocaine to bounce back from the “blue Monday’’ syndrome.

    “Hayden,” I shout. “Don’t the neighbours ever complain?’’
    “Regularly,’’ he says, in a clipped British public schoolboy accent. “But fuck them.’’ His Eurasian good looks, commanding height and arrogant air create a magnetic aura. Arrayed around the living room are eight others; his beautiful but spaced out girlfriend, some local club chicks, a couple of brain-fried heavies, another DJ, and Biscuit. Everyone is off their heads, nodding along to the music. Conversation is, well, limited.

Hayden puts his headphones down, and nods at the fruit juice contraption. One of the heavies grunts his assent, and from a glassine bag on the coffee table shakes out some cloudy crystals onto a creased piece of aluminium foil. Hayden picks up the homemade bong, and as the heavy waves a lighter beneath the foil, wisps of smoke disappear into the foil-tipped straw. 
    “What is that stuff,’’ I ask the Eurasian girl sitting next to me on the sofa. 
She looks at me with disdain. “Ice. Meth. Bing. Duh.’’

The foil and bong do the rounds. Some partake, others refuse. I am fascinated but uninterested, wrapped up safe and warm in my ecstasy blanket. Although I do snort a line when Biscuit pulls out his coke stash and chops out some rails on a chipped dinner plate. I hand him back the rolled up thousand dollar note and he leans over. 
   “Stay away from the other stuff mate.’’ He nods towards the foil, which is now stained with a poisonous dark treacly trail. “That’s bad news, that is.’’

I stand up and move over to the decks, where Hayden is back in control. I focus intently on what he’s doing. Then I screw up my courage and ask if I can have a go.
    “Sure,’’ he says, with an evil grin. “But it’s not as easy as it looks.’’
One record is playing. He hands me another.
    “Here, try and mix this in. You have to match the beats exactly.’’ He points at the mixer. “These are the faders. They control the volume of what you hear playing. The knobs here are the bass, midrange and treble. This light here tells you which channel you hear in the headphones. And these sliders here on the decks are the pitch control.’’

I put the headphones around my neck and cock one side up over an ear, like I've watched Hayden do so many times. I put the record on the turntable, start it playing and with shaking hands lower the needle onto the first grooves. Noise explodes in my ear and the beats are impossibly fast. Hayden laughs and stabs at another button on the turntable.
    “Some records are 45rpm. Some are 33,’’ he explains.

Now the beats are at normal speed, but they are out of sync with the record that’s playing. With increasing panic, I slide the pitch control up and down, trying to find the right beats per minute. Then I feel I have it. As I’ve watched countless DJs do, I wind the record back to the start, count in the beats and then set it spinning. With thudding heart in mouth, I slowly slide the fader up, and for five seconds, ten, the two tunes are playing in sync. I’m mixing. I’m a fucking DJ! Then it all goes horribly wrong. The beats get out of sync, drowning the room in a horrible syncopated mess. Frantically I stab at the record, speeding it up, slowing it down, but it’s no use. I’ve lost it. The Eurasian chicks grimace. One covers her ears.

    “Boo. Sack the DJ,’’ sneers one of the heavies.
I hand the headphones back to Hayden.
    “Not bad for a first try,'' he smirks

I sit down, sinking back into the sofa. We’ll sit around listening to music as our brains slowly baste for hours, drifting, timeless, aimless, mindless, before people begin to make their excuses and slope off home. And all the while I’m sitting there, I’m thinking, man, I have got to get on those decks again.

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