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This old school DJ is still in demand

THRIVING: DJ Doctor C has always remained loyal to his passion for dancehall

GIVE THANKS for the soldiers. Every music genre has its back- bone supported by die-hard soldiers – the ones that battle through thick and thin to ensure that the music they love and cherish can enjoy the highs that come and battle through the lows that lie ahead.

Manchester’s Doctor C definitely falls into that category. Born and raised in the city, he has been ever-present on the scene for more than two decades. “We’ve always had a thriving scene up here,” he tells me. “My dad used to sell records, we were a part of that scene, always on the road. There was constant parties at relatives’ houses.”

His passion for dancehall grew as he started secondary school. “It was the early 1990s – there was a lot of it on the radio, especially pirate radio. I used to hear about the dances and there seemed to be a lot of young sound systems around. I wasn’t involved in them, but used to hear about them in youth clubs.

“The first dance I went to was at the legendary Ritz in Manchester. On the bill were King Addies and Stereophonic from our home town. My dad and uncle took me to the dance – this was two sounds strung up and wasn’t like any normal party I had been to.

“I remember standing on the balcony, overlooking the crowd and thinking that this is something I wanted to get into. My cousin played in Stereophonic [run by Tapper Dan, brother of legendary producer Castro Brown]. Seeing them in action gave me the motivation to be part of this thing for real.”

Sounds like classic times. However, I was keen to know how Manchester is viewed in 2019. “We are looked at as one of the major cities. In dancehall terms, we have always had a social stigma due to circumstanc- es that are usually beyond our control, but that is changing,” he comments proudly.

“I’ve never turned away from dancehall – the problems weren’t brought by the music. Sometimes we would go to ten venues to try and get a hall to play in and nine would knock us back, but one would give you a chance. Persistence was the key – trying to get bookings out of town made us forge links with places in Yorkshire and we just kept building from there.”

The struggle is similar in so many cities. “In the mid- 2000s there were literally no venues and subsequently very few dances. However, there was a hard core of around 200 or 300 who used to travel tonearbytownsto rave.”

I have worked alongside Doctor C for many years, most notably when he joined the newly formed 1Xtra. “I was shocked when 1Xtra called. To be honest, I am not sure that I capitalised on being on the station as much as I should have – I was still at uni and artists like Sean Paul were starting to bubble big time in the mainstream.

“People recognised my name and had heard the show, and that was a good feeling for me. I felt like an ambassador for my city, and as a young guy at the time, managing to get to a national BBC station was a good look. There weren’t any reggae or dancehall names
from Manchester among the big boy radio DJs in the UK alongside the likes of Robbo Ranx, Chris Goldfinger or Big John, so to know I had joined them at national level was very satisfying.”

Many would think that this would signify the end of his problems in securing venues, after all, he was a national BBC broadcaster. However, that wasn’t the case.

“Nine out of 10 doors were being closed before I joined the BBC – [and] it shifted to seven. But being on the station opened a massive student market to me – Man- chester has a big student population and I did a lot of those kind of events,” he says while reminiscing fondly.

His contribution has been recognised recently in the city – he was given the ‘Heroes And Sheroes award for DJ Contribution Music and Arts’ two years ago and last year he bagged the Black Entertainment award for ‘Best Specialist DJ’. That title means a lot to him, particularly when you look at the new young DJs that are emerging from the city.

“I’ve always been a specialist, and because the new DJs are classed as multi-genre, the younger ones are spread more musically wider. The social media and YouTube scenes have changed the audience’s demand.

“They crave newer music because they are exposed to it on- line. I’m not saying it is a good or bad thing, it can just be a strange thing.“

TEACH

He adds: “The new DJs don’t come up as ‘soundmen’ – they don’t get the direction we got.
“The elders would talk to us and teach us how to improve – now the younger DJs just play hit after hit and don’t learn the art of ‘building’ the night.

“When you are in a sound, you learn from when the sound strings up at the start of the event and you see the stages the night goes through. I’m still old school – I don’t want to re- peat what has been played by another DJ, so I get there early and listen and scope out the crowd. The nights don’t last as long because they don’t build to a crescendo.”

It’s this skill that has seen his appeal and demand grow over the years. He is in the rare posi- tion of being able to cater to different audiences. Right now, I am focusing on ‘big people’ events – I feel I am in a cross position where I can play for the younger and the older crowd.

“My radio show still plays the newest music, but I can dig deeper for the more mature set.”

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