I've known Laurent for over 25 years, and there's no question that he's my favourite DJ. He has a great attitude and an amazing passion for music, arts and life in general. We like to play alongside each other as much as we can. He understands where I'm coming from musically and vice-versa, and whenever we DJ together we definitely push the musical envelope. He's as good at pulling out obscure records as I am—and that makes me want to work harder. I definitely raise my game around Laurent.
When people see us play they'll see it's more than just music for music's sake. I like the way he's not scared to play anything. You might hear some dubstep, some drum & bass, techno, classic Detroit sounds, even the odd bit of disco—he crosses boundaries. And every record he plays, he plays with conviction and belief. I can go as far as I can go, but because he's French, he can go a little bit further!
What makes the difference between a good DJ and a very good DJ? One option (the one I will follow here) is the ability to make people travel, through the DJ's vision, without any compromise. There are some DJs who know how to break rules, elevate the debate, make electronic music sound better and fuller, and most of all inspire the whole scene. So when I think about what I've just written, one name breaks through the clouds: James Holden.
The first time I heard James playing live as a DJ was in Lausanne, at the Loft club back in April 2005. I remember that night perfectly because it was the first time I heard a DJ playing such a wide range of music, from Afx to his fabulous remixes of Britney Spears, and I saw the whole club being driven crazy. Since then, I had the chance to be part of the Border Community family and to play with James several times and he's never stopped amazing me. His results as a DJ have the same effect on 300 people in a basement as on 5000 people at the main stage of a festival, and all this with the same musical selections.
The albums, remixes and compilations that he's done during the last decade are simply milestones in the electronic garden. More than ever I'm convinced that DJing is an art in itself, equal to production if it's done by a visionary. Staying independent and true to your vision means a lot of work and courage. Sometimes I wish that more people in our business had more talent, heart, sense of family and generosity like the gentleman we know as Holden.
My favourite DJ would have to be Manoo from Lyon's Real Tone Records. I don't think there's a DJ that can play house music like Manoo. He is a storyteller, and I enjoy listening to his long sets, especially from his residency at L'Ambassade in Lyon. His sound is very heavy and deep—I love heavy sounds, and Manoo delivers that with his special touch.
His mixing is precise, a rare type of "long-mixing" that creates a transition you just cannot ignore if you are a house music enthusiast. One of my best memories of his DJ sets was when he came to South Africa a few years ago and he was playing at the Mother Of All Parties at ICC in Durban. He dropped his remix of Mzee's "Mahuwelele," and from that moment I knew it was going to be a big song in the scene. I've never heard any DJ introduce an afrodeep track like that. Epic.
Our pick is Márcio Matos, AKA Javenger Dourado, from Lisbon. Márcio joined us and Major around 2008 to create a regular party at an experimental music venue called ZDB. The idea was simply to play roots-oriented dance music that no one was really playing consistently at the time on a loud system—mostly jakbeat, raw and early acid, Detroit, Jamal Moss, some Italo, EBM, weirder disco etc. Initially he was just designing the game-changing flyers that helped create a great, intriguing identity for the party (that ran for a few good years in different venues) but when we saw his dope record collection we all decided he simply had to play records as well.
We've had the chance of playing with Márcio many times since then, but also listening to his sets from the crowd, and we have to say that he's just one of the best DJs we've ever heard. His intuition seems almost telepathically linked to the crowd's biorhythms. Flowing and breaking that same flow—steering away to a different vibe—are equally important tools to him when he DJs. Every time he boldly hits stop on the Technics he never loses the crowd, but instead bursts a bubble of dance floor bliss—no joke. He became one of Lisbon's very few DJ's DJs, and influenced a good deal of what's played there now.
When I first started going out and listening to DJs, I was hearing almost everything mixed up—jungle, soul, reggae, disco, house etc. So, from the beginning I was always impressed by someone's ability to change styles and tempo while making and maintaining a certain party mood. I don't know how it happened, but then it went from "anything goes" to "must be a sub-genre" (or something like that) and I sort of got stuck in that zone listening to the same thing over and over. Thankfully that didn't last long as I wasn't hearing enough changes to keep me that interested.
I moved around a bit and then with the beginning of the 2000s, I was back hearing more variety again with DJs at venues big and small. Maurice Fulton stood out for me as one of my favorites, mostly because of his history and variety of releases. I always feel like I'm not going to know what he'll throw in the mix next. Disco, acid house, slow/fast, new/old—when he DJs everyone is on their toes loving the track if they know it or not. Of the selectors in the world, his transitions are always spot on, and make me excited for what feel-good party jam he'll play next.
After over-thinking, procrastinating and eventually settling on my choice, I decided to choose Prins Thomas as my favourite DJ. As someone whose job it is to play records most weekends, it takes a lot for a DJ to make you take notice and stop analysing for one minute. When you watch him DJ, you are taken into his weirdly wonderful world, a world where proto-kraut-techno can happily coexist with Scandinavian flute-disco and never sound contrived. He makes records his own, hunched over a rotary mixer with a smile on his face.
He is the king of the left turn, a man willing to take risks, introduce you to things you have never heard before, and while this approach can sometimes go awry, more often than not you are greatly rewarded for your trust. His recorded sets are just as immersive, check his aquatic themed Clash mix for proof or his legendary RA mix. In a world where the jagged edges and imperfections of music are constantly being smoothed over, it's always a restorative experience to step in to his world.