London, United Kingdom
The next DJ who I am going to interview is a well known name in the Hardcore Techno/Frenchcore/Terror scene. His dedication, passion and weirdness makes him a much loved name. His name has appeared on many flyers, he has played for many years, seen the world, and his name is well recognised. His actions are also well known: his trademark facial expression can be seen in many pictures. He’s a well known DJ, producer and in a sense a clown. But a clown you would actually want to see. Ladies and gentlemen, sit back, relax, and enjoy the wise words from…. DJ Smurf!
Hi Smurf, how are you sir? How’s life?
“Alreet buddy? Life is a bit hectic at the moment. I’m in the process of buying a new house and my car finally conked out after 14 years, so I’ve had to get a new car too.”
We all know you and what you do, but there might be some people who do not have the faintest idea who DJ Smurf is. Can you explain yourself what it is that you do, and what you have been doing for many years?
“I’ve been DJ’ing regularly since 1994, playing early hardcore or ‘gabba’ as we called it in the UK.
Held DJ residencies in the UK at including Judgement Day, Nosebleed, Distorted and many more.
I’ve been promoting party’s from the mid 90’s, the more famous one’s being Judgement Day & Distorted.
Running two lables: GGM Digital & Deng Deng Hardcore
My DJ sets consist of trax that will stick in your head, fun samples, oldskool sounds together with a crazy energetic show.”
The most important question I think I will ask you is… the most easiest one to answer for you (I hope): where does the name come from? For those who do not know (kids under 10 years), the Smurfs were very popular throughout the 80s and 90s, did you watch the show when you were younger and wanted to be a Smurf, or is it because of something else?
“The Smurf name came to me when I was stuck in a traffic jam one Sunday in 1989/1990. Every Sunday morning in the summer months, my parents would go to a local car-boot sale, held on a rugby field in a place called Dunston (where the legendary footballer and also clown-like person, Paul Gascoigne was born).
A car-boot sale is like a big market, where people turn up with their car’s and basically sell anything they want, out of the boot of their cars and on tables. It’s like a real life E-bay ! You could buy almost anything from VHS video cassettes, furniture, pipe’s, carpets anything.
I was always at the stall’s that were selling second hand vinyl, and picking up early house stuff, movie & TV soundtracks. I also got 2 record player’s, old wooden things, with 33/45/78 speeds to play the records on in my bedroom.
Anyway, one time we were leaving the car-boot sale and stuck in traffic for a while. The Smurf song came on the radio (Father Abraham & The Smurfs (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FAQ66BKG27A). I thought it would be funny if a DJ played this as the first track and then started playing techno/acid etc. So way back then, I was already thinking about playing weird funny trax a dancefloor wouldn’t expect to hear, but would work. So I thought, if I was to be a DJ, I would call myself DJ Smurf and play this track.”
According to Discogs you started raving back in 1989, and that’s when you discovered Acid House/Techno/European Techno/Rave. You listened to Hip Hop before 1989, but what was it that got your attention, can you remember the moment when you decided that House/etc was the sound you really wanted to listen to 24/7?
“In the early 80’s, I was into the original electro sound and would regularly attend various breakdancing events around Newcastle, especially on a Saturday afternoon, at an event called ‘Sidewalk’, held in a big nightclub called Tiffany’s. Trying to spin around on my neck and listneing to the likes of The World Class Wreckin Cru (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrjWsqrVO5Q), Doug E Fresh (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDkqz5C62SM0 and Egyptian Lover (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjFs9CPGhts – I sampled parts of this on my ‘Egyptian’ track with Dr Peacock).
Electro morphed into hip-hop and I was into artists like Public Enemy, Big Daddy Kane, LL Cool J, NWA etc. In 1988 on a Friday evening there was a dance music show on BBC Radio 1 called ‘Jeff Young’s Big Beat’. I used to sit on front of my Dad’s ‘music centre’ with a C90 cassette loaded and recording the new hip-hop trax he would play. I would then, re-record them onto another tape, kind of creating a mix, to listen to on my Sony Walkman during the week.
As time went on, he started to play hip-house, which was a combination of house and rap. I loved the energy of the raps over these 4/4 beats and some of the crazy sounds in the background. I think the first track that really caught my attention was Fast Eddie – Hip House (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7v7UiDd7wBA) . Not long after this, I bought Fast Eddie’s album ‘Jack To The Sound’. One of the trax on the album I thought was the maddest thing I’d ever heard ‘Keep On Dancing’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5x-u7ssmbM) with a mad bleep noise going through it.
Another track on the album I though was mad was ‘Clap Your Hands’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urRKi73JSnc) , with this mad acid bassline running through it.
At this point, I bought as many acid-house compilations as I could. This progressed into techno, early hardcore and eventually gabber.”
You got your first decks in 1992. A year later you got your first gig in Walkers, Newcastle. But between 1992 and 1993, what did you do? Perfecting your skills, or simply mucking about?
“Partying like a maniac ! The rave scene was in the UK was huge around this time. In 1990, none of my friends were into this music, they were all into The Pet Shop Boys & Erasure, so I would travel to events up & down the country all alone, on coaches organised by local clothes shops. In 1991, the legendary Rezerection party’s started in Newcastle, so I met loads of new friends and travelled together to party’s all over the UK almost every weekend, this time in a car !
When I got my decks, I was the only person in our group that had them, so friends would hire function rooms in pubs, find disused buildings and have house party’s, where I would bring my decks and DJ all night. In 1993 I started to play a few events in small clubs. Back then I was playing a lot of Belgium, Dutch & German stuff. Treax on Music Man, R&S, MidTown etc. I was never really a big fan of breakbeats, which was popular in England. This may sound a bit strange, after being a hip hop fan, which was mostly breakbeats.”
The gig that got your name established was Judgment Day 4 in Whitley Bar. You played alongside Lenny Dee, and you were wearing a large sombrero (wtf?) with cut out pizza’s hanging from it. You were obviously goofing around back then, but whatever you did, it got people’s attention. Were the crowd expecting a mad set, during which the BPMs went up to 200!?
“The sombrero & pizza thing is related to one of my favourite tracks at the time, The Salami Brothers – Eat Zat Pizza (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_wROOQaw8k). Bass Generator, who ran the Judgement Day events, knew I loved this, so put ‘If you don’t like my pizza fuck you’ under my name on the flyer. So, I thought it would be funny to were a sombrero with cut out pictures of pizza’s hanging from it while I DJ’d.
The set is here https://hearthis.at/smurfggm/dj-smurf-judgement-day-24031994/ . I started off at 200 BPM and the tempos go up and down, as 200 BPM was considered very fast at the time and hard to dance to!”
How come someone who listened to House/etc got attracted to music with beats up to 200bpm?
“This was just a natural progression for me. From electro to hip hop to hip house to acid to techno to early hardcore to gabber. Going back to the early acid house I heard, I always like the more crazier sounds, so the 200 BPM stuff appealed to me, with its crazy fun samples and guitars.”
From Newcastle to the rest of the United Kingdom, the Smurf played everywhere. Did every set involve you mucking around, seeing as it is your trademark thing (alongside your facial expression, but we will talk about that later)?
“I think they did yeah. I remember one promoter saying something like “We don’t just book you to DJ, we book you for your entertainment “.
I was always goofing around in the clubs, doing strange crazy dancing and head banging during my set.”
Playing solo wasn’t the end station for DJ Smurf, you formed the Geordie Gabba Mafia (GGM). What was the reason why you started GGM, and what was their mission?
“It wasn’t actually me who started the GGM.
Gabber was a huge thing in Newcastle (A Geordie is someone from Newcastle) in the mid 90’s, with the monthly Judgement Day party’s having guests on the main stage like Rotterdam Terror Corps, Bass D & King Matthew, Delirium and hard acts such as Mark N, Tron, Delta 9, Laurent Ho etc in the ‘gabber toilet’ room.
Some guys called Dan, Addie (DJ UEP) and Rob (Rob S) got some T-shirts and stickers made with the circle GGM logo with ‘A Member Of The Geordie Gabba Mafia’ on them. Addie and Rob started to DJ and then it was kind of natural that I became part of the performing side of the GGM.”
You released many records, but if you had to explain to a newbie what defines a DJ Smurf and GGM track, how would you describe it?
“As I was around when gabber first started, I loved the big 909 distorted kick drums and all the funny samples in the music. Gabber is the only music genre in the world where you can have any kind of sample or sound in it and it will work. From cartoon sounds, rap’s, breakbeats, pop music samples to the noisiest industrial sounds. Almost every track had something that made you remember it once it has finished.
I take a lot of influence from those early days and most of my trax are heavily sample based, with pop samples, raps, oldskool T99 & hoover samples, basically, after hearing one my trax, it will stick in your head, in a good or bad way.”
What was your biggest release? Which track was the best selling Smurf track of all time?
“My most famous track is the trumpet song, Exposure King (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UETzSEFYUhw) released on vinyl in 2007.
I made this track in 2004 and initially got it pressed onto pressed onto a dubplate so I could play it out. I thought it was a fun energetic track, but didn’t realise how much so until later in the year.
I was closing Thunderdome 2004 in the second huge area in Jaarbeurs. I played this towards the end of my set and the whole place went absolutely berserk. I will never forget that moment. The response and all the messages I got on the Partyflock website was incredible.
It took a while for it to be eventually released. A couple of labels were messing about, so I decided to start my own label and release it myself.
I recently had a track at number one in the Hardtunes.com charts, which was pretty amazing … https://hearthis.at/smurfggm/dj-smurf-girls-ggm-digital-074/ , but selling 30 downloads isn’t as rewarding as selling 1,000 pieces of vinyl.”
From playing at events to being part of a group and releasing music on several labels, you decided to step it up and do mix compilations too. Is there anything you can’t do?
“Hehe, I didn’t set up the mix compilations personally, it was various labels that asked me for mixes.
There’s lots of things I can’t do, according to my girlfriend, such as clean and cook bacon without setting the smoke alarm off and creating a big smell. I done this this morning.”
Have you ever listened back to those mixes/mixtapes and if you have to judge your skills from back in the days, how good or how bad were those mixes?
“Oh yes, I am very critical of my work, whether that be a mix or a track.
Mixing in your house/studio is a lot different to mixing in a club, so I don’t like to hear mixes record live at a party, especially from the 90’s and early 2000’s, were a lot of booze was involved !”
Which mix/mixtape are you the proudest of, and why?
“Ohh, that’s a tough one.
The mixes for the CSR compilations were popular and the artwork for the CD’s is amazing, so these would be up there.
Other mixes I’ve been complimented on many times are :
Masters Of Hardcore Italy – https://hearthis.at/smurfggm/dj-smurf-masters-of-hardcore-italy-ghedi-italy-26-06-2010/
And a 10hr oldskool set I done in 2003 – https://hearthis.at/smurfggm/dj-smurf-a-decade-of-destruction-01/ ”
The name grew and grew, and it became a household name. You have played at not just events in the UK, but also in the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, France, and others. From small events to big events, you played the lot. But which event is the most memorable one, and why?
“Thunderdome 2004 will probably be the most memorable, as I started to play regularly in Holland right after that.
I played a set different to what a typical ‘terror’ set sounded like in Holland at the time. Whenever I had played there before, everything was just machine gun music and tracks that didn’t really do anything apart from have a kick drum and few “f*ck you” samples. I played my own style fo tracks that ‘do something’ and people seemed to like it.”
What’s the silliest thing you’ve ever done at a party?
“Maaaaan. Too many to mention.
In the past, I’ve been very drunk at a lot of party’s and done a lot of daft things. All in good fun, but a couple of things I’m not too proud of, that may of upset a few of the more serious people out there, which I apologise for. Thankfully, a year ago I went on a fitness program to lose my beer belly and get fitter, so I have cut out a lot of the booze now and can remember every party I’ve played at since then.
The worst, is probably breaking my leg at a Noisekick party in November 2015.
I was playing my Dengy Hill track (https://hearthis.at/smurfggm/dj-smurf-dengy-hil-end-of-the-night-mix/) and I usually get on the stage and run around, like on the old Benny Hill TV show. There was no stage here, just a DJ booth in the corner and a long bar next to it. I thought it would be a good idea to run back and forward on the bar, but I slipped and snapped my leg and spent 4 days in hospital in Utrecht, before being allowed to fly back home.
This was the first bone I’ve ever broke in my body and had to do it in spectacular style !”
You know how to excite the crowd, you know how to change a dull and uninterested crowd in a blink of an eye. But what’s your secret?
“Falling off a bar and breaking my leg, hehe
I’ve grew up around a lot of funny things. From fun house party’s in our street almost every weekend at various neighbour’s houses to watching a lot of early comedy TV shows such as Laurel & Hardy, Some Others Do Have Em, Allo Allo etc so I have always liked to laugh and make other people laugh.
When I started watching the WWE wrestling and the way these guys entertained the crown with catchphrases, speeches and entrances, I wanted to incorporate some of that into my shows and not just play music but entertain the dancefloor. When I was first playing the 200BPM+ music, when it was considered too fast, I had a moto “If I can’t make you dance, I will make you smile”.
The phrase on the back on the GGM T-shirts “The Greatest Entertainers On Earth” comes from the Wrestling and I always try to be ‘The Showstopper’ (Sean Michaels from WWE) at every party I play at, wether that is in front of 10 people or 10,000.”
Perfect set-up. What is necessary to make the Smurf happy on the stage?
“2xCDJ2000’s, a Pioneer mixer and GOOD monitors.
A lot of the party’s in the UK you are lucky get CDJ1000’s, if not CDJ’s at all, which is very frustrating !”
Ok. We’ve got to ask. The famous facial expression. How did it happen, and why is it already a trademark thing? Every time anyone pulls the face like you always do, everyone knows it’s your trademark facial expression. But what’s it about? Why would anyone on God’s given Earth pull a face like that?
I was playing at the Sonic 24 party in Switzerland in 2015. There was a photographer on stage and he captured this …
… I have no idea how I made that face and still can’t do it!
This is now known as the #Deng Face or a “Smurf Heed”.
I sent the photo to some of my friends and they created some hilarious pictures of my head on various things.
I’ve put some of the photo’s here https://www.facebook.com/ggm.smurf/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1036447573050902
They also got some masks made …
Check out the albums on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ggm.smurf/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1109386445757014
What’s going to happen in the future? Anything exciting you can share with us?
“I’m hoping to get booked for more festivals, as I’ve not been playing as much in Holland over the past couple of years, as I was 10 years ago. Possibly due to my drunken actions ! But now I’m not as much a crazy party animal anymore, this will hopefully change.
I’m currently working on a couple of remixes and revisiting some of my older trax and give them a little polish and a refix. I’ve learned a lot more production wise since they were first made and want to give them a little update. I plan on having these complete for October 2016 and will be given away for free.”
You’ve obviously achieved many things, but are there still goals for you to achieve in the future?
“I’m pretty laid back and have never set any goals. I just take what comes to me without licking arseholes.”
You know everything about the scene, because you have been part of it for many years. But for once it’s not about you: if you could name your favourite artists within the scene you want people to look out for or acknowledge their greatness…….
“First of I must mention the pioneers of this scene. Without these I wouldn’t be answering ay of these questions:
Lenny Dee, Marc Arcadipane, Ruffneck & Paul Elstak.
My favourite artists & DJ’s over the years …
The DJ Producer
Lots and lots more I have respect and admiration for.”
If you could organise your own event, and create the perfect line-up, who would be on the line-up, and why?
“That’s a hard one as I like many different styles:
DJ Promo & D-Passion
If anyone wants to see the Smurf play the finest Frenchcore, Terror and Hardcore Techno, where can they catch you?
“I try to keep this updated with tour dates, so check this link out .. http://www.bandsintown.com/DjSmurf(geordieGabbaMafia).Newcastle,England?came_from=198 ”
Random question: if you could base yourself on one of the Smurf characters, who would it be?
And one to finish this interview off: is it true what they say about short people? Are they packed with huge sausages, or is that a myth? (if it is true, I will never be able to look at Papa Smurf ever again).
“All I can say is, big things come in small packages”
After this very interesting and very indepth interview with the mighty DJ Smurf there’s nothing else to add from my side, besides saying ‘thank you’ for this interview. Make sure you check the man out on these websites (and don’t forget to bookmark them!)
To get you in the mood here’s one of DJ Smurf’s latest track called ‘Clowning’. Thanks again DJ Smurf for bringing us the music and the fun, and most important: being unique.