Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The Importance of the Gimp in DJ Culture

Everyone's a DJ nowadays. It wasn't always so, time was that you'd have to earn your stripes by first being a DJ gimp. Now there are few things more important to a DJ than his gimp. Decks are fairly high up the list of essential items for a budding DJ, but you don't have to bring your own (although anyone that doesn't bring their own headphones is just asking for trouble). Obviously though you will spend the day leading up to the big night, fraught with fear about just how good the equipment will be when you arrive to play for your adoring public. I still remember turning up for one of my first engagements as a spinner of records, fresh faced with what I thought was killer selection of vinyl, only to find that one of the turntable's wasn't working. After a heated debate with the bands and the promoter and being told by my then girlfriend that Jah Shaka only ever uses one deck, I decided that DJ Kool Herc wouldn't be best pleased if I was to play, and walked out of Basildons famed Roundacre never to return. I'm sure the twenty or so souls that were there that night still reminisce about that to this day.

So that's decks, I guess records would be high on the list too. But those you can always borrow from someone who has an equally eclectic collection as your own. After all their copy of Wham's Last Christmas pitched up to plus 8 will sound just as good as yours. So knowledge of songs, and more importantly how songs end is far more important than records.

But the one thing a DJ can't be without is his gimp. The gimp is essential, they will start the dance floor if you so wish it, they will go to the bar for you, hold back people that want to know why you aren't playing old-skool Hip Hop/Reggae/Madonna/Sex Pistols -'But I just played the Pistols! - Yeah but I wanted to hear God Save The Queen, not Bodies', they will allow you to sneak off to the little boys wee wee room and get back safe in the knowledge that your prized box of vinyl will still be there when you return. In short they will do everything, allowing you stand there in the limelight shaking your golden locks and feeling like Lord Percy Plant. What does the gimp gain from this I hear you cry? Well this is his first step on the long road to becoming what he secretly coverts, to be a DJ god.

Now the funny thing about a DJ gimp is you can't find one, they must come to you. There's a reason that the back of the local rag isn't full of gimp wanted ads. No, the gimp will find you, and until he (it's always a bloke, no exceptions) does you're not a true DJ. My gimp was called Johan but I called him The TNG. I first met him during the quiet first hour, when I would play the music I wanted to play before the dance floor started and I became a human jukebox. He approached me with a salute and the immortal words 'Alright Gary', as if we were the oldest of friends. Well we got talking mainly about Twisted Nerve (the label not the film), hence his nickname TNG (Twisted Nerve Guy). Anyway after thirty minutes or so I needed the wee wee room and made my excuses. 'I can watch your records.' And with those words I knew my gimp had found me.

He had taken the step that I myself had taken all those years before. My DJ was a chappie called Paul Tunkin. We worked together and he DJd at my local indie pit. I still remember gladly picking up a pair of boots for him from the shoe repairers and trudging up to the Toothbrush (said indie pit), being able to say I was on the list and pushing past the queue to head straight for the DJ booth like the good little doggy I was. Tunks (as no one called him) would allow me to sift through his records and make suggestions, sometimes even playing them. And he let me do the lights. As I said it's that all important first rung on the ladder.


  1. Excellent! I was never a DJ Gimp but due to being larger than average I did get roped in to doing the door a few times at a few clubs in pub basements, including one or two that 'Tunks' was DJ'ing at. If you become a well known DJ, do you 'trade up' to a better class of Gimp, or are they like golf caddies, they stay with you through ups and downs?

  2. Well I think most gimps move on and become DJ's themselves. I actually ended up with two gimps in the end. The funny thing is that when I gave up DJing they started their own club. It makes the heart melt doesn't it?
    I always remember the rumour was that Paul played the full version of Sister Ray at the Toothbrush once. It was from before my time, was you there?
    Tim I can see you 'doing' the door at clubs. You're not really horrible enough to be a proper bouncer though are you? I always used to get the guy who did the door for me to give out sweets and biscuits to the queue. Imagine queuing to get into a club in Sweden in the winter. Well harsh.

  3. well I'll be... I never knew you were PT's gimp Gary!! Am still in very regular contact with Paul, will pass on your regards!

    Great story!


  4. Please do. You can let him know that he was a huge influence on me becoming a DJ in the first place, that and those boots he used to wear were really terrible.

  5. I hooked up with Paul a couple of times over the last month, did you know he did his first DJ set in Southend for years at Focus a couple of weeks back.. He also gave me a great tip off about a Southend related tune which is going in the next poddy. We must have crossed paths at some point Gary ,I was always out and about where Paul DJ'd and in a band with him for about 4 years...

  6. That track wasn't by The Golden Section was it? :D
    Yeah there's a possibility that we have crossed paths (but not swords) at some point. The Toothbrush was my main place as a little lad. Sun Rooms and Saks saw a fair bit of my beer money in their tills too.
    What band were you and Paul in?

  7. It was pre-Golden Section. Called The Ladykiller *winces*, ran from 83 too 87 but gigged at the Brush, and I was always there from 82 to early 90s. In fact it was me that badgered Paul to first go there (it was still Crocs at the time). We'd been in the same classes t Seevic and art college and said it would be his sort of place - sure enough.....

    PS I've got a picture somewhere which I believe is Paul's very first visit.

  8. The Ladykiller! Ah that's a great name, were you a bunch of peacocks (or just cocks)? I always forget that you are all from a generation before me, so you got to enjoy that heady rush of Punk, and wallow in it's comedown. Part of me envies that, and part of me doesn't. Are there any photos of said Ladykiller in action?
    Oh and I finished my first Podcast yesterday, so give me a day or so to sort out some artwork etc…

  9. Here you go, bit of background on it here...

  10. I'm going to slowly work my way through both yours and Piley's blogs, great writing, you do tend to make me laugh (which I like).



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