The king of summertime cool, Norman Jay, is coming out this sunny summer to play a few festival gigs. How fitting, considering he cut his teeth playing outdoor festivals, moving into clubs only after getting a good tan and warping a few records in the sun. The original “good times” DJ took a few minutes out to talk to TNT…
A lot of people here can already listen to what you play for the BBC online. Is that representative of the tunes you’ll be bringing in your bag?
What I play on the radio isn’t really representative of what I play live. Radio is a lot more personal choice and usage of my extensive black music archive. When I play out it’s a lot more contemporary such as house, hip-hop, electro, drum and bass etc.
I always try to implement a bit of my history wherever I go – always. That defines who you are and where you come from. It’s not always going to be to everyone’s liking and taste. Good times is my whole reason for being in the industry – it’s about feeling good. I love Australia – outside the UK it’s been the one place that has shown me the most love in the 10-12 years I have been coming over. I did the very first Vibes on a Summers Day when there were only 200 people there. It grew into the massive event that it became and then morphed into Good Vibrations. The weather is great and when it comes to playing outdoors there is no crowd like an Australian crowd.
You usually come later in the summer, is this your first silly season visit?
Christmas will be a unique first for me as normally I would never work at Christmas time or on Christmas Day. It may be the only time I can come as I am already booked to tour the US in January/February, which is normally when I would come to Australia. It will be an experience spending Christmas Day on the beach at Bondi for Gatecrasher.
Was it all the outdoor festivals that spawned the hat fetish?
I suppose I am just an eccentric Englishman and it’s the height of elegance to be sporting a hat – particularly a bowler or something of that ilk. I love hats and I love wearing them because other people don’t. However, I draw the line at baseball hats.
How does playing well-organised gigs compare to those early warehouse gigs in London?
It’s much better now that it’s organised as more people can now enjoy it. It’s fantastic and each gig is a learning gig in itself. No two gigs are alike and I like to be challenged musically – it’s all too easy to be very predictable and play all the big records. Anybody can do that and it’s not rocket science. It’s great to be able to build a bit of tension and release and play withpeople’s emotion a little bit, but not too much. You should never be too far ahead of the game – its all about a fine balance really, giving them what they expect and then throw in a few curve balls as well.
I am not really about educating the crowd. If they want to be educated they will go to school. First and foremost I think they want to be entertained and you educate to entertain them. Once you win their trust you can gently introduce things to the mix that they might not recognise. Its all too easy for a DJ to get off on his own DJing and be like, this is what I am about and you can like it or lump it, after kids have paid $50 or $100 for that privilege.
What are you doing in the studio now?
I am working with loads young kids around my way at the moment. I have a home studio and have allowed these kids full usage of it whilst working under my Good Times banner. Musicians, singers, producers, writers, arrangers. I do a little bit of A&R for them and now and again look in the door and give a little advice. That is a role I would much prefer to play – sort of a musical mentor.
I also do my own re-edits purely for myself and not to be released. You need one or two signatures that distinguish you from the rest of the crowd. DJing isn’t rocket science.
Sounds like you have it perfect…
Those are your words not mine. I wouldn’t rest on my laurels and take anything for granted. There is not such thing as retirement; music is a lifelong arrangement. I will never get tired of it and never get bored with it.