Joining the Dots: Milo Johnson aka DJ Mil’o aka DJ Nature

Hi,

In this piece I want to write about the great DJ Nature, aka Milo Johnson, aka DJ Mil’o. This man’s career spans five decades (he started spinning in the late 70s), plus he’s kind of an underground figure so for me to get his full story on here will be impossible. There’s still much I need to learn about Milo’s DJ’s career, but for this piece I wanted to put down a flag to explain why he gets my admiration. In fact it’s really more accurate to say he gets my wife’s admiration as well as mine.

Some time around 2004 I started seeing my now wife Niamh and it was she who got me into this mix CD which was released on the Strut label in ’02: http://www.discogs.com/Various-The-Wild-Bunch/release/123867

In my world in the mid 00s I had just moved back to Dublin after living in London for a few years. Techno seemed to me to be losing some of it’s it’s funk and I wasn’t in the loop of much of the good house music that was coming out at this time. When I take a look at this mix’s track list today I can see why it left such an indelible mark on me. It covers 80s hip-hop, Disco & Boogie and house. It reignited my interest in disco at that time in the mid 00s when my own listening habits were becoming a bit tired and I started to look back to the past for musical inspiration.

The mix nods it’s head to Milo’s roots in the sound system culture of Bristol City. This is a good example of the way that the UK bass genres are somewhat linked to disco through a wider musical history other than dub alone. Personally I think this connection is a fascinating one and DJ Milo bridges the genre stepping stones like no one else.

There seems to be two biographies on Milo Johnson: one on his hip-hop side under the moniker DJ Mil’o and another on his disco & house side under the name DJ Nature.  I wonder is this dichotomy intended by the man himself…

In an industry that likes it’s genres clearly defined does Milo wish to separate his DJ personas?

I shouldn’t really speculate, but it seems the DJ Nature persona came about after Milo moved to New York in the late 80s. At least according to this bio it is the case: http://www.residentadvisor.net/dj/djnature/biography.  But, it’s interesting that there’s no mention here of the previous DJ Mil’o name nor any of his part in the burgeoning Bristol hip-hop scene. However, in this DJ Mil’o biography it does mention his move to NY and a connection with the awesome Nu Groove house music label: http://dj-milo.net/bio.html. So we see the hip-hop and house dots starting to join up.

Listen to this DJ Nature remix from ’93: https://youtu.be/NFbc5-Z2VGI.  It sounds like Milo must have been heavily influenced by the NY house scene which is firmly rooted in disco. Who wouldn’t if you lived in New York at this time?

DJ Nature spins house and disco to this day and is arguably more popular and relevant now than at any stage during his awe inspiring career. 2014 gave us two full LPs: “Groovotica Collection 1” on Golf Channel Recordings and “Let The Children Play” on the Jazzy Sport label.

Milo’s “Year End” mixes over the past couple of years have become essential listening for me. I think the 2013 one is gone from SoundCloud now, but you can still get with his ’14 warm up selection mix here: https://soundcloud.com/natureboy/year-end-mix-2014-part-1-foreplay.  Also worth a listen is his LWE mix here: http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/podcast/lwe-podcast-167-dj-nature.

Now DJ-wise he specialises in slow groove sets. Niamh and myself with some friends were lucky to catch a DJ Nature set at a Together Disco night we went to last year. One of the great things about the party from my perspective was the way Milo kept the tempo slow and mixed between disco and house effortlessly. I have to say there is nothing “warm up” about this music when the system is tight and the crowd are up for it. I would jump at the chance to catch him play again.

I hope Milo continues to DJ and set the standard for what a successful career in dance music should look like. Go on DJ Mil’o, we are big fans!

Incidentally as a foot note I want to say that the Strut, Nu Groove and Golf Channel labels are incredible and each are worthy of at least their own blog entry by me. I may get to them in more detail another time.

That’s all for now readers and thanks again for clicking on my blog.

Cheers,

P

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Ron Trent: The Best to Ever Do It

Ron Trent?  Say no more!

For me personally getting a chance to see Ron Trent play would be akin to a spiritual experience. This guy is the zenith of what deejaying is about, no one does it better.  But, he’s the best DJ that I have never seen.

Hear me cry it:  CAN SOME DUBLIN PROMOTER PLEASE GET THIS MAN OVER TO DJ FOR US!

In the meantime we can always listen and learn from a master of the craft.  Note the mix linked below is just a section of what was an 8 hour set in Berlin earlier this year.  8 hours!

https://soundcloud.com/musicandpower/young-soul-berlin-2-13-2015-ron-trent-live-prince-charles

I could write a good bit more, but there’s is no point.  If you don’t know, now you know.  Go find his records and if you ever get a chance to be on a dance floor where Ron is spinning get on it immediately.

Cheers for reading!

P

Traxx: the Vinyl Architect and my transgression

Have you heard of Traxx?

Quickly explained Traxx (real name Melvin Oliphant III) is one of the best DJs doing the rounds right now. His style is somewhere between acid-house and dark industrial EBM (electronic body music). Here’s some info on him:

http://www.jak-nation.com/index.php?id=3

Traxx played a set in Dublin a few weeks ago and as a big fan of course I went along. The day before the party things got a small bit heated on the Facebook event page. The promoters posted a Traxx Boiler Room set video clip on the page to get people excited about the night ahead. The clip itself is really awesome, his BR set is one if the best ever put down in my opinion.

However, I had a hunch that Melvin himself wouldn’t like that clip to be posted. You see Traxx is known for being quite opinionated on the subject of commercial dance music. The whole Boiler Room thing is pretty commercial with corporate sponsorship and global reach as a brand within the dance music industry. So this led me to wonder what Traxx signed up for when he did the BR set. I came to the conclusion that he must have been well compensated for his set and that as such he would have to be cool with the clip being up online for all to see.

I was very wrong in this assumption, but what I did next was worse than a mere thought crime against Traxx. I dumbly decided that there was no way Melvin would see the event page, after all I thought he is way too underground to be on Facebook checking event pages wherever he goes. Wrong wrong wrong! Platinum Wrong!

Anyway I proceeded to post a short gif of Traxx from the same BR clip. The gif is well known and is actually pretty funny if you don’t know the context. It shows Melvin going into that deep stare one gets when they’re 100% immersed in the sound of music. Irish people might say he was away with the fairies in this gif. The gif is actually pretty cool in my view, but having known that there was a chance that Traxx mightn’t like it I still went ahead and posted it anyway. Now I feel pretty bad about it.

Melvin posted on the event page soon after and here’s what he had to say about the gif, “not fuckin funny- I absolutely dislike this and boiler room as I don’t understand why the this video keeps getting posted.” I deleted the gif immediately and privately messaged Melvin to apologise. Melvin explained that he hates the clip and the gif. He went on to say two very pointed things, “I’m not made to be a gif for people to laugh at and I’m no entertainer either.”

So that got me thinking about a few things with this situation:

Firstly, to what extent did Melvin give the Boiler Room people permission to record his set and put it on YouTube for everyone to see? Is there a chance his set was recorded and broadcast without consent and against his will?

I know a little bit about how the music industry works and it is very feasible that Boiler Room hijacked Traxx against his will. That said I think it’s more likely he gave consent, but has subsequently changed his mind about Boiler Room. Or perhaps it was written into the gig contract from the party he played at.  Perhaps all the DJ sets were to be presented by BR and Traxx didn’t see the contractual small print. Who knows?

Secondly, assuming Melvin was in fact compensated and gave permission does that mean that the BR footage is now fair game for people to use as “content.” Fair game even for folks to make gifs of and decontextualize the moment from the whole clip?

This taps into a lot of stuff already out there and the whole celebrity culture phenomenon so I’ll step away from this path. Quite honestly it’s an artistic and moral minefield that I’m not prepared to enter today. But, it is interesting to me the way the same questions that arise from mainstream culture can also arise within underground scenes.

Then there’s the whole DJ as a performer / entertainer question. I’m going to tackle this one by tying it in with how the actual party went later that night.

Traxx did a short meet & greet, or Q&A if you like, before things got started. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it to this, but I caught up with some friends who were there. My friend said that Traxx does not define himself as a DJ, instead he said that he is a “Vinyl Architect.” Now if you know how Irish people are you’d know that this kind of statement is going to be met with bemusement and a few chuckles.

What is he now? An Architect? Go away, he has some notions so he has!

So that’s it, he’s not an entertainer he’s a vinyl architect. In existentialist terms I agree with him. Be whatever you want to be. Go for your life sir!

Lastly there’s the real questions: Was Traxx any good? Did he play a great set? Was the party any use?

I had seen him warming up for DJ Funk many years ago and it was good, but this time I will say Traxx exceeded my expectations. He played slow and jacking for about 4 hours, never letting the tempo get above what felt like 118bpm. At times the sound was nasty, I could tell he was pushing the mixer into the red on purpose. It worked to great effect. He played a shed load of low-fi sounding arpeggiated groove tracks, reminiscent of early Lil Louis tunes. There was a mad kind of tape effect going on in one tune that played into the hedonism of the crowd. This was around the time people started to get nicely wasted about half way through his set.

For me there were two highlight tracks that he played. He dropped something by Siouxsie and the Banshees that I’d never heard before and as testament to his skill it worked brilliantly with the house music he was playing earlier. Towards the end of the night be played what sounded like some new stuff off his label Nation, but not before he dropped an edit of a tune by Propaganda. By this stage of the night I was right up in front of the decks dancing like a mad man:

https://youtu.be/WWoL_JkWVi8

That’s it then for my exposé on Melvin Oliphant III aka Traxx. He’s some man and I’m glad I got a chance to learn from him.

Cheers for reading,

P

Tama Sumo: My Hero

There’s many reasons to admire Tama Sumo, but to simplify how I feel about this woman I’ll just say that I think she’s a really great DJ.

Proof of the pudding can be heard on her latest mix for online dance music mag RA:

http://www.residentadvisor.net/podcast-episode.aspx?id=461

The mix is sublime as I expected.  On this one she keeps things relatively straight forward.  I like the way Tama lets the tunes ride and do their thing rather than forcing a mix where it doesn’t need to be.

Note also the first tune on Tama’s mix is “Caruso” by Stump Valley.  They’re a relatively new act that I’ve been getting into.  I might do a separate post on their work in a few months, they’re awesome.

Cheers for reading!

P

Now You’re Swingin’

Hello there readers,

Welcome!

So here’s my first post, OMG wow \o/

My good mates Grevs & Dunk have started a podcast yoke titled Now You’re Swingin’ and here’s the first instalment:  https://www.mixcloud.com/nowyoureswinging/now-youre-swingin-episode-01/

There’s some real crackers on there.  A lot of the tunes the lads have played to me over the years.  I like the way they’ve made the mix long (over two hours.)  To me a good DJ set should be lengthy, enough to set a mood and then take the party on a proper journey.

In fact I was thinking about this the other day (I think a lot about DJ mixes.)  I was thinking that a good DJ set isn’t really all that hard to do, it can be like a good beer, simple enough to brew, but it’s more about the context of how and why it’s consumed whether that beer will be enjoyed to the fullest.

So, this is really my agenda for the blog.  If you read my posts you’ll be subjected to my random, often pretentious, waffles on the “art of deejaying” and what being a DJ means to me.  There’ll also be plenty of thoughts on records, labels, parties and trends in the kind of music that interests me.

I also aim to track my own journey as a amateur DJ so you can expect posts about upcoming gigs and when any of my mixes are uploaded.

That’s it then readers, until the next post I bid you all very well!

Cheers,

Pauly