Frank and Bill
and Frank Broughton founded DJHistory.com
in 2000 as a way of promoting their book Last Night A DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey
. Since then it’s attracted a loyal following of hirsute DJs and record collectors and become a support group for vinyl-related Aspergers sufferers. In 2008 they relaunched the site with a shiny coat of paint, a music shop and a slightly more professional approach. Their aim remains the same as always: to document the rich history of dance music and to collect and share knowledge about fantastic music.
Despite growing up in Lincolnshire only several cornfields apart, Bill and Frank met on the corner of Bond and Broadway in New York in 1994. Within a week they’d decided to write a book together on New York disco, having spent several nights trading club stories collected from Sound Factory veterans, Roxy drag queens, and a couple of ancient gay truckers from Jersey. Thanks to guidance from Doug Young at Headline, this idea greatly expanded its horizons and became 1999’s Last Night A DJ Saved My Life, the first book to trace the entire history of DJing.
In the wake of their magnum opus, Bill and Frank’s partnership led to further books, including best-selling DJ manual How To DJ (Properly), and a long-running series of professional house parties known as Low Life. As well as their long-toothed experience as music journalists and magazine editors, both are DJs; Bill is also an experienced producer, remixer, chef, and catalogue consultant, and Frank has been known to be a senior digital creative in the world of advertising. Today Bill is moonlighting as our interogatee ahead of his birthday takeover of El Salon.
Is there one book that you have read that has been life-changing for you?
Bill Brewster: Yes. Mrs McGinty’s Dead by Agatha Christie. It was the first book I’d ever read for pleasure rather than schoolwork. I was stuck indoors one summer after I left school suffering badly from hay fever, found this book and started reading it. At the end of that summer, I’d read about 20 Agatha Christie novels and was hooked.
Did your parents encourage you to work in music?
Bill Brewster: They did, yes. I played E flat clarinet in the school orchestra, but I was lazy and stopped playing regrettably.
How did you begin to work professionally in music?
Bill Brewster: I was originally the singer in a band (back in 1981) and we got a record deal with a semi-trendy label, put a few singles out, toured a bit and then it all collapsed into recriminations and all that mallarkey. We were Grimsby’s answer to Tower Of Power. Anyhow, that gave me the thirst for it, but I started DJing because I couldn’t be arsed having arguments with the bass player about how loud his amp was. As a DJ, you’re a dictator, which is probably my natural inclination.
Viva la revolution
How do you apply your past experiences to what you do today?
Bill Brewster: I think everything you’ve done in the past inveitably flows into what you do now. It’s a natural process. But, I suppose, what is advantageous to me is having been buying music regularly since the early 1970s and keeping up with current trends, it’s easier to recycle and revive older records when a particular sound is in vogue.
Where is your current studio and what is it like?
Bill Brewster: I don’t have a studio, but I’m working with Alex Tepper on a project, Hotel Motel, which we’ve been doing since last November. Alex used to be in Futureshock and he works with Steve Lawler, Nic Fanciulli and loads of other house chaps. We’ve got stuff coming out on Under The Shade and Home Taping. We’ve got our capes and leather long johns ready for the forthcoming Top Of The Pops appearance.
How much have you had to consider marketing issues since embarking on your career and how has that affected your creativity?
Bill Brewster: Ha ha. I’m absolutely shit at marketing myself. I didn’t even have an agent till a year ago despite DJing for 25 years. My wife’s always mithering me for being a bit of a div, but there you go. So I can honestly say marketing issues have never affected anything I do. I tend to jiust go with what I want to do and hope that people are digging the stuff that I do, whether it’s writing books, faffing about on websites or DJing and throwing parties. It’s in my blood to get up and do stuff, and I can’t see that changing.
How would you describe your work?
Bill Brewster: Eclectic. I have a very low boredom threshold, so as soon a I get competent at something, I want to stop doing it and do something else. Not good for marketing but good for sense of self and well-being.
Who were your teachers?
Bill Brewster: Roy Bainton, who used to run a musical instrument shop called Gough & Davy in Grimsby in 1970s, was the person who first introduced to me a wide variety of music; John Peel, a saviour for people growing up in shit towns in Great Britain; Danny Tenaglia, my mentor when I lived in New York.
feat. lots of Bill's old DJ mates
Your home is burgled but fortunately the culprits are caught and your possessions returned to you. What would you deem a suitable punishment for the burglars?
Bill Brewster: I’m a Marxist and, as the philosopher Pierre-Joseph Proudhon argued: Property is theft. Mind you, if he touched my records, he’d get a good stomping.
You have to make one species of animal extinct. Excluding insects, which species would that be?
Bill Brewster: Cats. I don’t like the way they look like they’re plotting against us.
If you could spend one week in any period of history, which period would you choose?
Bill Brewster: May 1971. Grimsby Town won the Fourth Division championship under Lawrie McMenemy. I was there when they did it, but I was too young to appreciate how great it was and in our present straitened circumanstanes it’s hard to see it ever being repeated.