Brandon Block – Exclusive Interview
Well this guy has certainly been around the ‘block’ thats for sure, living and breathing the hedonistic lifestyle, as only you can in Ibiza. He’s still kicking it on the decks, but has taken a more laid back approach recently to the early heady days, and focuses his boundless energy into more supportive endeavors. We caught up with the man himself to get the latest…
MM – Thank you Brandon for spilling the beans on your hedonistic career, what gave you the itch to mix?
BB – I first got the itch to mix in early 80’s Mike, in my local pub (LOL) Pub 80’s they were called funnily enough. Myself and two of my best pals, Ali Jobe and Lee Birch were drinking with the lads and the Guvna any the time said the DJ that had been booked to play hadn’t turned up and would we go and get our records and play for the evening. We jumped at the chance to spin our hard earned imports purchased weekly from Daddy Ernie’s Shop in Wembley market. The rest as they say is history, we did a marvelous job and consequently took the permanent position.
MM – 1990 saw you start your long love affair with the white isle, how was your life, career shaped in Ibiza?
BB – In all honesty my love of Ibiza and alongside Alex P our residency on Sundays at Space was the most incredible time of my life, it was pivotal in the progression and world dominance of the after hour session. It makes me proud to know that we were both instrumental in the island becoming what it did and also winning various awards along the way not just for DJing……..Ha Ha Nutbags! It undoubtedly helped my career back in the UK, but at that time the UK was running things on the Dance music front but Ibiza certainly helped cement my career. Around 92 after Space had started to become world renowned and opening every morning at 6am inside and 9am on the terrace where we would play music every day until 2/3/4/5 in the afternoon. My very old friend Clara De Costa, (jacks House) was working at Es Paradis at the time and myself and Alex suggested she talk to Clockwork Orange who were smashing London and not long after they descended on the Island and took San Antonio and Es Paradis by storm for many years. Their back now doing the same fantastic parties during the summer. So yeah, I’ve never lost my love of the Island.
In all honesty my love of Ibiza and alongside Alex P our residency on Sundays at Space was the most incredible time of my life”
MM – Would you say being ‘caned and able’ and a ‘notorious hedonistic party animal’ about sums it up for the younger Brandon, explain?
BB – I suppose I would agree with that but it wasn’t such a bad thing at the time, it was an experimental era with music and also the club scene. I just happened to be very good at getting caned, I had a very high tolerance to lots of things and a strong constitution which made it very easy to get involved. I did like to party and I’ve enjoyed all of the 80’s 90’s 00’s… to the max….I did take it’s toll though, but that’s another story.
MM – As well as being a successful DJ, you also were also successful music producer on the Ministry of Sounds label under the tag ‘Blockster’ with hit tracks such as “Something Goin’ On”, “Grooveline” and “You Should Be’’, was it a natural progression from the decks to the studio, and what DJ’s / Artists / Producers are behind your ever driving passion for the scene
BB – For me my inspiration came from my partners in Blockster, Ricky Morrison and Fran Sidoli who I grew up with. I learned my dancing trade with them and when they offered, I’d go into the studio with them. I had, had a couple of previous outings with Alex P remixing a couple of tracks, and also my first Studio outing with Fran Sidoli, Matthew Donegon another long-time friend under the guise of FUBAR my club brand from the early 90’s, but it was with Blockster we had success.
Now I listen to many different producers but the sound I still love is disco, funk etc. At the time it was natural progression, M&S (Ricky and Fran) were doing good things and it seemed many DJ’s at the time we’re producing music and carving their careers. It was in the 90’s where the impact of the acid house, and the Balearic music scene became apparent, who knew it would change the whole music scene as we knew it forever. Many of the pioneers DJ’s are still at the forefront of the Dance music scene now, but it crosses over everywhere. So for me to get involved with the lads and create Blockster seemed the right thing to do. We were very passionate about our roots and wanted to reproduce somehow some of our childhood memories in music.
It was in the 90’s where the impact of the acid house, and the Balearic music scene became apparent, who knew it would change the whole music scene as we knew it forever”
MM – What is key in the whole production process?
BB – The last two weeks I’ve been up with an old friend James Hockley who has worked with many recording artists, and we laid down a few tracks which we hope to master in the next two weeks. We use drum machines and samplers and I find the loops and samples that I like and then we send them out into Ableton. Personally I feel the key to producing is knowing what sound you’re looking for and what inspires you. I’ve tried making tunes I think people may like to hear but now make tunes I want to hear and hopefully the knowledge I’ve acquired over the last 35 years will be enough.
MM – How has technology changed the game for todays DJ’s?
BB – I think you have to move with the times, as today’s technology, software, controllers and players that are available are incredible. I do also feel that, the whole process of record shopping, going to the pub after, touching the vinyl and playing with technics 1200’s is a pastime which moulded our generation. But as we speak, there are record shops opening and decks starting to appear again, I’ve had mine refurbished and I’m getting some vinyl out in fact I was looking though today, what memories shhhhhh…….
MM – What advice would you give the aspiring DJ today / Producer on how to be creatively original in an already saturated market?
BB – I’m not the best person to ask, but from what I see, it’s consistency as well as creativity which will get you to stand out from the crowd. It’s all about using social media today, which will get you noticed and being familiar with the internet download sites. There are no longer A&R people using company credit cards and maxing out expense accounts. So be passionate and follow your dreams, keep sticking the tunes out there, everyone on the world can listen…
I just happened to be very good at getting caned”
MM – How do you see the underground scene now in Ibiza, is it becoming more ‘champagne and diamonds’ with the likes of Space finally closing its doors?
BB – I’m taking the 5th amendment on this subject, I’ve not missed a season in 26 years, even during my time of being unwell due to my excessive behavior. Time changes everything, instead of nit-picking I think we just embrace the fact that we were there in the beginning, myself and Alex started the Space terrace which went on to shape after hour clubbing throughout the world. So if champagne and diamonds floats ya boat then set sail me hearties…There are enough boat trips to party on, so we are spoilt for choice…
MM – If you ended up trapped on a god forsaken island with only your decks, a crate of spirits and your vinyl fly case to your name, what would be the top 10 essential cuts that you must have to survive and why?
BB – Well I would probably would have half a crate of spirits and the rest fizzy water and Budweiser. But in my record box would be-
Change-Glow of love
George Benson-Love Ballad
Alison Limerick-Where love Lives.
PG Prince of Rap-Take Control the Party.
Brand Heavies-Dream Come True-Reality Mix
Harold Melvin-Todays your lucky Day
Fat Larrys Band-Looking tonight for Love
Lil Mo ying Yang-Reach
Romanthony-Fall from Grace-Tony Humphries mix
Tony Terry-Forget the girl
MM – What happens on tour stays on tour but, any sneaky bits of craziness you can hint at??
BB – It’s been a long time since I’ve been on tour nudge nudge wink wink, but one always comes to mind DJing totally naked in Summum Ibiza in 1991 with no-one able to see from the dance floor, as they were too low down. Very exhilarating…
MM – What drives and motivates you?
BB – My love of music still motivates and drives me, it can be a minefield searching for tunes but that’s half the fun.
Myself and Alex started the Space terrace which went on to shape after hour clubbing throughout the world”
MM – EDM, what are your thoughts?
BB – Well to coin a phrase EDM, its electronic dance music so since Atari made those first samplers and psion organisers and drum machines it’s been electronic for donkeys years, EDM is a way of saying here’s something ‘we’ invented, because it’s impossible that such a world changing phenomenon could have happened without ‘us’. Ha However our ‘roots’ in ‘real’ dance music did come from the USA in the form of Disco, Motown, House, techno, Northern Soul, Jazz and Funk, R&B and Soul.
MM – What is the future of electronic music?
BB – Well again it’s saturated on one hand, had but on the other it has made music accessible to everyone and enabled people who have amazing talent the opportunity to express and create relatively cheaply, so for a few hundred pounds you can be set up producing, Mastering and distributing music.
MM – What are your plans for the 2016?
BB – To continue to enjoy my DJing, and continue with my other work, helping people who have multiple complex needs. I’ve a partner e designed an app for helping people and I have a few Parties planned with my partner in crime Ali Jobe, Sweet Sensation which are well attended by our friends and fellow music lovers. We are planning a few events next year with some other big Promoters form the Soul scene, so all in all a busy one…
Interview conducted by Mike Mannix a Dublin based dance music writer, editor and publisher