Mixing wizard & Fuel petrolhead Alan K tells it like it is @ Fire
Reported by Gergi108
Submitted 16-06-06 23:00
From the outset I was pleased to be given the chance to interview Alan K. Even his dj name tells a story. No the ĎKí in his dj alias does not actually stand for Ďkarambaí, but it signifies the name of his son in Chicago, named Kai.
The first time I heard of Alan K was in the most holy of places: a post-Orange chill-out with all the other little mandarins. This particular one which, when it comes quantifying anything that happens post-Orange was vaguer than your average jaffa variety, so needless to say the date of this chill-out is undefinable.
Anyway washed up in DJ Marioís (Bar Code and Super-mafia) front room he puts on this CD and there was a joyous vibe and an undertone of ferocious ability and inspiration emanating from these essentially classic gay house tunes from February 2006. To the untrained ear there was nothing special, but as I told him the first time I saw him mixing/scratching tech house in the Box Room at Later, there is nothing ordinary about Alan K.
Firstly, itís only really been a year since Paul Martin (the replay kid) played the Later CD on repeat for 1 year straight from 11Ė5 on a Sunday for those washed up creatures from Beyond downstairs at Club Colosseum. Later was always free, and the chance for the management to give something back to the people. Now, itís one of the best parties in town, and the Orange empire has expanded to produce new fruit, in the form of weekly Sunday morning afterparty Fuel.
I myself have a checkered past when it comes to Fire. Like Alan K I was converted by the joyous vibe and family but essentially nether-worldly atmosphere of the venue itself and progressed to party for over 30 hours there on the average weekend sans-narcotique of any description or variety. Anyway, moving on, as my innumerable impressions doing the washing machine/helicopter multi-spin have been long documented and hopefully forgotten.
One thing I respect about Alan is his refreshing honesty and candor. Heís also an all-round rags to riches example of how to bounce into one of the most successful clubs as a headliner and put many of the more experienced djs to shame. A couple of Bank holidays ago at Later, Alan K had the dubious test of playing in the Mirror Arch at the same time as Steve Pitron, Beyond resident and dj master who showcased his production skills on the White Party CD given out at the Fridge before White Orange and Colloseum back in the day (should straight guys remember this stuff?! Maybe itís right to be concerned . . . ). Suffice to say, Alan passed with flying colours.
That night I refused to work to attend the Bank Holiday Orange marathon and abandoned my friends at the Fridge to see what I was certain was a far superior line-up at Fire. Well, the Mirror Arch was so rammed that security had to stop more people coming in ó this I have only witnessed in the days of vast overcrowding when I worked and spun across the then damaged vinyl floors of Fire.
Well, proper air con in the main room which the venue has crying out for and two further arches, a superfly new sound system a la Fabric and a new garden area for Later, with barbecue, ice-creams and sun-lounger and a pool area ó suffice to say, I was hooked. Gone are the days when you had to fight to get into the toilets and wait forever for a procession of 10 to wade out: for the record I believe 18 people once fitted in a Fire toilet and that is something to be seen. Now itís another world.
So from a dungeon to the only all-hours after party to a one-way ticket to a super-club with a fantastic party central reputation for polysexual revellers, Fire now offers and delivers the total weekend package. To be honest, the weakest link in the chain seemed to be Fuel. In an already hugely competitive arena where an array of Sunday morning promoters are seeking to cash in on the remains of Saturday nightís straight clubbing community, once again Fire has stepped up the plate.
Starting at 5am when many Ďnormalí clubs close, Fuel is going from strength to strength with a stellar line up that seems to be consistently great. In fact, I myself didnít believe the likes of Andy Farley, Steve Thomas etc. would or could be on the roster, but like most things surrounding All Things Orange the proof is in the eating. Once you peel through the orange-peel of hype, conjecture and myth, it keeps on spraying those good vibes and giving the people what they want sometimes before they know they need it. To sum up, Fire being hugely successful has proven that one does not have to play commercial sounds to remain underground, popular and on the pulse of bi-or try-sexual London.
Alan said to me that once he gets through the doors of Fire, the top comes off and gay Alan K takes over. After being a very small part of the evolution of this club franchise, I myself can identify with the campification effect: in fact we have enough material for a book here, but letís get back on it. So from a raver who, like me grew up to the sounds of Pirate Radio-Sunrise FM: dancing and prancing to the Soul Weekenders down at Cambersands in 1989, Alan K finally took to the decks just a couple of years ago.
In the jaded and fickle world of Vauxhall super-clubs Alan is a breath of fresh air. He mixes with two decks, two CDJs and with a sampler to play with the beats. His tech house is unreal: the only danger is that he will become a victim of his own success and be content to play remixes of Stonebridge till next year. Will this happen soon? I think not. He in the process of finishing off two albums and one of the arenas in Fire is being redesigned to incorporate the latest magical touches of his live instrumental sets. He is honing his keyboard skills and added to his sax abilities: Jazzy K, as he may soon be known, will be on your ring-tones, along with the other 3000 tracks, as per QX whose tracks are already downloadable on I-Tunes. Indeed, in Alanís future I only see bright things, but some things are best left unsaid. But what he did say in our interview I will now include . . .
It seems that you started djing by accident. Tell us the story of how it all began.
Well I used to run a valeting business for BMW, and there was an Indian woman there who was a palm reader and she sat down and told me that I was musically minded and I should be doing something to do with music. At the time I thought it was all kind of waffle, but I got one of my mates to teach me how to mix, and I managed to mix in a week.
On which decks were you learning?
Just 1210s and a mixer, but I got it immediately and I got my first gig for Smile New Yearís Eve, the main set just two months after learning to mix. I just blew the roof off.
So you learnt how to mix in two months and did the midnight set. Were there lots of scantily clad women at that particular night?
Bundles. Thatís what Smile was famous for. Before Ed Real got the tits out at Riot, they must have got them out at Smile. Smile used to be at the Viaduct before it was Fire. Nick used to do the night and Stevie B and his brother Aiden used to own the club. It wasnít gay, it was straight.
I heard there was mould everywhere and manacles on the walls and shackles. How much of that is true?
I never went there when that was going on obviously, but that was never there when I was there.
Was it more messy than now?
Definitely more messy. It doesnít compare, there is no comparison. What Craig has done at Fire is nothing short of amazing.
For me itís also been amazing: Iíve played all over the place, Chicago and New York, Iím going to Dubai soon and Bahrain. Iíve played Pacha everywhere.
But Craig you know, he came to me at the Factory nightclub, I was the manager there . . . running the club, but also djing at a night called Sunday Sexual and a lot of people were talking about me.
So thatís where you lost your gay clubbing virginity then? Little would you know, two yearís down the line, youíd have your shirt off!
Not two years, six months down the line! These people, they love it. What straight people sometimes fail to understand is that gay people are the biggest earners in the country, cos they earn 30% more. They are just loaded and they love a party mate!
I was doing Sunday Sexual on a Friday night and a lot of people were talking about this Alan K guy, so before I knew it, Craig was in the club approaching me to play for his Orange group. At first I refused, but then he offered me too much money to say no.
To be honest itís been a great experience; Craig has done a fantastic job with that club and my next little project with Fire . . . well I am a resident at all his parties: Beyond, Orange and Later.
You put 100% into every set Iíve seen you play. This must be difficult week in, week out, at so many different parties?
I do. But I donít class myself as a dj, I class myself as a clubber and I play what Iíd like to hear. I know when something is working or not and if itís not working Iíve got the balls to change it.
Because I started djing late when Iíd already been a clubber, itís different. Paul Heron was a glass collector before he started djing. Thereís many routes in, thereís no fast track is there . . . you donít have any pre-conceived ideas just cos youíve been playing for 20 years.
I put 100% into everything. To be honest with you, Craig will tell you himself I am not a yes man. If I disagree with him on something I will tell him. I can tell you from an insiderís point of view, Craig is a hated man and the reason heís such a hated man is that heís so bloody good at what he does. Heís successful. I donít say that cos I work for him, I say that on a level, I say that Craig . . . how long as he been there, maybe eight years? And look at what heís done and his phenomenal success. And nobody can take that away from him. For all the most successful people jealousy comes in, isnít that the way it is. Yeah heís a great businessman, yeah heís got issues, who hasnít?!
But of course Orange is more than Craig or any one individual, itís the sum of the whole thing. Russians, Canadians and Italians have heard of Beyond. All the Orange group, Craig has got it right! I was in Brazil with Marcia [Alanís pregnant fiancťe] two months ago and I was on the beach, minding my own business sunbathing and a Brazilian guy comes up to me and goes ďoh my God, oh my God, itís Alan K!Ē And Iím like 5000 miles away from anywhere. On the Copacabana beach in Rio and this guy is like ďOrange! Orange!Ē He recognized me and the first thing was Orange, Orange, he thought Orange was in Brazil. And I was like, Iím on holiday!
You got involved at Later too. I remember you played after the Sharp Boys.
My first set was Later on a Sunday afternoon and yes I played after the Sharp Boys. It was an absolutely fantastic start. The people themselves are just fantastic, the whole gay crowd, I love it and Fire has such a buzz to it. Itís a great feeling for me, I love it.
Do you think it helps that you had a bit of pedigree when it comes to Sunday Sexual. Erm Craig didnít pick you because he thought you were famous, he picked you because . . .
He picked me because Iím a straight talker. It was by his own staff. One guy I canít even remember his name, but he works on the door at Fire at Fuel. He was saying to Craig about me coming over. There were quite a few people all telling Craig about me and obviously he was inquisitive and he came to get me.
Okay, clubs aside, letís go back to the music. Who are your inspirations dj-wise?
Back in 1989, Frankie Knuckles was amazing, he actually created the whole scene as it has evolved today. Another of the all-time greats to be honest with you is Judge Jules. Heís come through every genre of music, you know, heís a fantastic guy. It just shows how it can be done, you can have a wife and kids and still play internationally. Heís unbelievable. And you can still be a professional without losing your sanity.
Of course, to me itís all about music. I just love the music, I love the people, I love the whole vibe you know . . .
So tell us about the Alan K Live mixing phenomena? I remember coming over to see you mix the first time you played at Later as the sound was so unusual! Firstly it was tech house which I was not accustomed to see played out at Fire and secondly you were scratching at low volume. It just blew me away.
I mix on 2 decks, 2 CDJs and an FX sampler and a mixer at the same time. I use different beats, different bass samples, different vocals. I just put things together live, thatís how I work.
Do you just get inspired? Do you just get in the zone or do you plan your sets in advance?
I see the crowd.
Ok, so do you wake them up or do you just follow where they are at?
You know youíve got to take them on a journey, for me itís like youíre are bus driver and you have to take someone from A to B, and whichever route you take down there to get to B is your business, but the bottom line is the crowd, the people who sit there and go, ďoh my God! The dj is fantastic!Ē
If people actually look into it more, the dj does not actually create the vibe. The crowd creates the vibe and itís up to you to push that on them. You know what I mean. Thatís the difference in my eyes between a good dj and a shit hot dj, is to realize what going on at the time. Thatís the beauty of Fire since theyíve moved the dj boxes in rooms 1 and 3.
Youíre actually in the crowd. Youíre actually part of it. Thatís it, then I just do all different things.
You are not scared to shake people up. You were the first person I heard play tech house at Fire. It was going one way before you arrived at Fire, in a very happy clappy, fluffy way, and you were the thrust for a lot of the other djs to try and play harder.
To be honest with you, I have actually noticed since I have been playing at Fire that certain other djs are now trying to incorporate other things with their music. Of course Iíve noticed. Are they scared? I donít know . . .
So you play for the crowd, this must be interesting some Sunday mornings?!
I love the crowd, the crowd is what keeps me going. People who donít go to Fire just donít realize what they are missing out on.
I am a straight guy in the middle of a gay club, then I get on those decks and all of a sudden I turn gay. My top is off. I want to be part of the scene. I want to be part of the crowd. I think people donít understand itís another world. Thereís a lot of love there.
Who do you see pushing the boundaries at the moment in Fire?
Iíve got a couple and Iím not one of those people that, like I said earlier, Iím not a yes man. I will truly honestly say if I rate somebody or if I donít. The dj at the moment Iíd say who cuts the mustard has got to be ó and I know you donít like him ó but itís got to be Paul Martin. I know you call him the replay kid or whatever but you know what? Heís the most gifted beat mixer in London. Anyone who is knowledgeable on the scene will tell you that. With more tricks, Paul Martin would probably be one of the best djs that London has ever seen.
Heís now resident at FM at Heaven on Wednesdays too. Thereís just something pumping about his sound because you can appreciate the refined nature of his mixing. Iíve never met someone who can find a beat so fast.
Oli, you could hardly describe him as being untalented. But Iíve heard Oli say himself that Paul is the best beat mixer. If djs like Oli can rate him . . . I just think heís very very fast. He always plays over 130BPM.
I loved DíJohnny the first time I heard him at an Orange, heís just up, the euphoria that just comes out of him, he emanates positivity. He absolutely rocked it and you know what was quite funny was that he was with our friend Craig Daniels (Trax Records) at a Later that I played at and he said the same thing about me. And I was pretty chuffed, you know what I mean?!
And another one I like is Terry Brian, whoís coming through the ranks. Terry Brian does Open now. Itís kind of bubbling. Itís only £1.50 a drink but if you need any other reason to check it out, he is it. Terry Brian is an up and coming talent, heís a really good kid.
On the straight scene at the moment, I would have to say Rob Marmot and the Dirty Funk Monkeys (DFMs).
Do they play twisted funk?
No, the DFMs have their own night at Pacha called Funky for Love, once a month on a Friday they do that. They are really good djs too.
Whatís your favourite party?
Later is my favorite party. What other club in London puts 1200 people on a Sunday afternoon into a club? I donít know any. Itís now become a destination club in its own right.
Later used to be a free party . . . now they have started charging theyíve been able to make it into what it is today. You canít not charge people to get into Later man, itís better than half of the rest of them. Itís better than AM, itís better than Orange. Later is a proper rave.
Arenít you resident there?
I do play funky for that, yeah.
On the US side of things, US house has kind out of gone out of fashion as of late. Do you ever play US vocal house in the UK?
As you can tell when I mix I go from across the board. From tech to electro to funk, and Iíll throw in a couple of the cheesiest classics you can think of. Theyíre actually redesigning the club to incorporate my live instrumental sets on piano and sax in about a monthís time.
Can you tell me which room you prefer to play at Fuel?
I love the main room at Fire. I think that the club itself is legendary and itís kind of over-taking everything else on the scene.
Do you mix a lot of your own material?
There is nothing like playing your own tracks and the crowd loving it!
How did the name Alan K originate?
K is Alan and the K is for my son Kai, which is what all this started from. He is now six and lives in Chicago.
What do you think about GHB and the quest for oblivion in gay clubland?
I just think thatís a crazy, crazy drug. Itís absurd. Itís just crackers; people really need to know the dangers of that kind of game. I come from the whole rave scene in the early 1990s it was all built on a drug-infested era. Letís be fair: Woodstock was about acid, but this GHB is on another level. People just need to understand what kind of dangers they are getting themselves into. Itís a big thing. Itís a killer.
More than the others?
Yeah does clubbing need anything worse than what itís already got?! Crystal Meth has died down thank God. But I would never take anything like that ever. Itís crazy man, Iíve got too much to live for!
Youíre now working with Lady Bianca at Fuel. Howís it going?
Now she is very respected because she has her Trade pedigree. Iíve heard her funky sets and she is an all-round wonderful and loving individual. I have a lot of time for Bianca. She plays amazing funky techno. Sheís just like my ally, me and her are very tight. Sheís great. In the fickle world of promoters that we are in, she is a godsend and thatís the honest truth, she is a breath of fresh air.
Where do you see Fuel going over the next few months?
I think itís going to go through the roof. Itís the best venue for an after-party and we have such a mix and match of people there. You have the likes of James Nardi and last weekend we had Ian M doing a B2B with Andy Farley, which was unforgettable. The dj roster is a whoís who of clubland over the last 10 years!
Itís the only party to open all three rooms from the beginning of the night at 5am. Itís the only night I can remember at Fire to do that from those hazy days when I worked at the club a couple of years ago. Fuel is really going from strength to strength. It offers the total variety of sounds we crave at an after-party and itís only going to improve.
I apologize if Iíve sounded over-zealous about the merits of Fire, but most of the flash-points have been seamlessly ironed out, with the management refurbishing toilets and covering over the moss and fungi that was invading the walls of the fourth arch nearly three years ago. With the awesome lights and runway style LED wall new lasers, vjs and the djs themselves projecting visuals on screens at both sides of the dj box in the main room . . . what is there not to like?! Well except if you are homophobic . . .
Sunday 18th June
05:30 - Super Late
£10 | £8 with Flyer | Free for Polysexual Clubbers
This weekend Fuel is the official Afterparty for Polysexual! All Polysexual clubbers can carry on the party at Fuel for FREE just board the big red bus outside The Fridge.
Attention: All house music lovers!!
Keep a look for Fuel VIP passs being handed out every Saturday night at Pacha, The Cross & Ministry of Sound!
London's Number 1 after party in the most cutting edge club in town, both rooms include state of the art sound & lighting.
RoomOne is the very best in sexy, Funky Electro House & RoomTwo is all about the Hard stuff; Hard House, NRG, Trance & Techno!
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Other Features By Gergi108:
Anthony Dean dishes it out just in time for Terminal
Eduardo Herrera ó the Brazilian invasion continues
Dave Joy finally hits London
Fiction 6th Birthday @ The Cross, Friday 4 March
DTPM Christmas Party @ Fabric & interview with Mark Westhenry
The views and opinions expressed in this review are strictly those of the author only for which HarderFaster will not be held responsible or liable.
| From: James Nardi on 17th Jun 2006 10:12.18|
Top interview & top bloke.
See ya sunday morning mate.
From: TheDon on 17th Jun 2006 16:05.46
The only time I've heard Funky House and stopped and said, 'actually, thats really good' was when Alan was playing. He really is top of his game.
Good work Alan, keep it up son
From: Type 1 on 19th Jun 2006 14:47.04
Its all about fuel!!! great to be part of it all!! top interview fella! altho im always in the techno/hard room!
From: Dr DUZZIT on 20th Jun 2006 13:06.34
Nice one Alan mate, you deserve it all the way bud
From: $CARLEY$ on 22nd Jun 2006 12:39.11
love all his sets! Especially the one @ laterz.
Rock on Fire!
From: hoki on 23rd Jun 2006 00:28.16
Drunk, drunk ... hahahahahahaha!!!
Remember me, or the lites go out!!
From: Lady Bianca on 23rd Jun 2006 19:17.39
Ahhh you got me blushing! Thanks babe! FAB interview hun!! YOU ROCK AND THE WHOLE WORLD IS GONNA KNOW IT...END OF!!!
From: Jennie B on 26th Jun 2006 15:49.30
Interesting read indeed!
Talented DJ though always loved his sets at Twist!
From: alan k on 29th Jun 2006 18:08.38
thankyou everyone for your support piece and love ,,can,t we just all get along? jennie hows my double d,s keeping