Published on March 13th, 2010 | by Lisa McInerney1
A Rebel Without ID
With DJ legend Fergie landing in Cork next weekend for the gig of the year, Culch.ie has a nice cuppa tea with instigator Veronica M to find out about Dire Straits, spinning in your smalls, and being the youngest club promoter in The People’s Republic.
There’s an old saying that I’ve just made up which goes, “Tell me your Fergie and I’ll tell you who you are”.
For kiddies (and irrepressible nunkies), Fergie is yer wan tacked on to the arse of the Black Eyed Peas. For pint-swillers, he’s the scary, lairy manager of Manchester United. For women too old to read Heat, she’s the less-ginger-than-Harry member of the Royal Family. But for clubbers, hedonists, and other such yokeymagokeys, Fergie is legendary DJ Robert Ferguson, a man whose pedigree is so impressive, he may well shit glowsticks.
Playing his first set at fourteen, mentored by the late, great Tony de Vit, Mixmag’s millennium darling; Fergie was the child prodigy of the dance scene, our … Look, he’s our feckin’ Mozart! There’s a whole generation of gurners who grew up alongside Fergie, so I couldn’t be more chuffed about his playing The Liquid Lounge in Cork on the 20th of March.
But here’s the clever little parallel for you; the lady who cajoled this global superstar into spinning in the Second First City is something of a wee prodigy herself. In preparation for the big event, Culch.ie had a natter with Cork DJ and promoter Veronica M, who’s all of (prepare to choke) eighteen years of age.
But we have a glut of teenage DJs in Ireland! you might splutter. Don’t you see them at every 21st out in the sticks, playing a chipmunked version of The Gambler over beats so rapid they’d melt your eyeballs? Not so for our girl. “Techno has to be the best music to play, and the crowd is crazy!” she says, although she’s also fond of deep, funky and tech-house on the chill-out side of things. Get it? Not an ill-advised blip or Rankin-style mash-up to be heard; this is a lady who wants to make people dance, not bleed from their ears.
There is something disconcerting about how successful she is in this regard. A lot of DJs are bitten by the bug when they start going to clubs, and get caught up in that atmosphere. But by the time Veronica M. was old enough to get into clubs, she was already … well, playing in them.
The bug bit when she was thirteen or fourteen, falling in love with early 90s dance, and nicking her sister’s Prodigy cds. But she’s quick to point out that music is music; a DJ without the grá for all kinds of everything is about as good as a writer with limited vocabulary.
“Music, for me, isn’t just one type or category – it’s all music. I love reggae, and I’m a big 80s fan. Blondie, Cyndi Lauper, Queen, Marvin Gaye, Madonna, Abba, The Beatles, Dire Straits … I could go on all day! When I listen to music, I get a feeling I can’t actually describe … I feel like I could take over the world.” Her heroes from the world of choonage include “Daft Punk, Dennis Ferrer, Armin Van Helden … Jeff Mills! Adam Beyer, Fergie…” There’s definitely a sense that she could go on all day.
So what was her first set like?
“I remember playing in a night club when I was about 15 – mostly chart music and few oldies; I remember playing Dire Straits – Walk Of Life and I thought – I could get used to this! I went on from there, really. I spent a lot of time in my bedroom, practicing on my decks; they say practice makes prefect.” What effect did this have on a burgeoning social life, though? Dedication to a craft normally comes at the expense of fun, doesn’t it? “When my friends would be getting ready to go to a teenage disco, I’d be preparing to play in a night club .” Oh. Not so bad, so.
A whippersnapper behind the decks might prove worrying for clubbers, grating for rival DJs, and downright nail-biting for the promoter, who might understandably blow a gasket in terror that the Gardaí (and possibly the child labour people) would swoop down on their enterprise and run off with their DJ under an arm. “I always told people I was 21,” shrugs our bould Veronica. “And sometimes I got away with it, and other times I didn’t.“
Accompanying the party on your decks is one thing, but no sooner had she mastered that one, than she was looking to lead the fun outright. “I always wanted to run my own nights since I was 16, so I thought, Why not give it a go? I was told you should always try something once … don’t know how true that is.” Very, as it turned out. “I did it, it went great. So I took to running local nights with the Inferno lads, who have been supportive of me all the way.“
Ah yes. The lads. DJing is still very much a male-dominated sphere – for every Clare Large, there are thirty guys just as dedicated and brilliant tearing up dancefloors all over the … well, dancefloor shop. Do girl DJs, then, have to work harder to get noticed? “You have to work that bit harder to gain respect,” Vee says. “You have to prove yourself before you’re accepted amongst the lads.”
Are there any female DJs she looks up to? “Not really. I like Miss Kittin. And I respect Lisa Lashes for the success she’s had … but if I were her, I would have done it totally differently.”
No doubt, considering Lisa Lashes left it ’til she had finished school before diving headfirst into the clubbing world. She’s the first name on everyone’s lips when the subject turns to female DJs; Lisa Lashes is that rarest of things – a long-term phenomenon, partnering her euphoric party style with a serious party image (translation: rubber bras and industrial eyeliner). Which is tame in comparison to the glamour-girl stylings of many contemporary female DJs. Trying to find a photo of “World’s Sexiest DJ Colleen Shannon” with her top on is a task akin to re-launching the Crusades. Does Ms. M think that this kind of boobalicious carry-on attacks the credibility of other girl DJs?
“I think female DJs are entited to express themselves whatever way they feel like – I mean, the men do it! It’s up to the person herself; does she want to be seen as a poster girl or an artist? There isn’t anything wrong with lookin’ good and being a good DJ!” But she believes there’s a less encouraging side to all this celebration of the female form. “There is a trend nowadays for promoters to bring in a female DJ who hasn’t a clue about music or DJing, but will still pull a crowd because she’s presented as a sex symbol.”
So what’s next? “I take each day as it comes; I’m hoping to get into producing in the coming months so we will see how that goes. Obviously I’ll continue promoting.” And so she should; enticing the legend that is Fergie to Cork is no mean feat. How the hell did she do it? But there aren’t many promoters who’ll spill the beans on their bargaining tools, and Veronica M is no exception. “I was sure the people would love to see him, so I thought, why not give it a go?” She grins. “He’s looking forward to coming here. I think it will be a night to remember.“
They say that when Fergie played his first set, at the age of fourteen, he had to stand on a milk crate to reach the decks. Any resemblance there? There’s only so much cutsey myth you can attach to tenacity and talent, though. “Yeah,” Veronica sighs, when I bring up the milk-crate tale. “I’ve heard that story.“