Today is Valentine’s Day, and in the absence of an actual human to confess my love for, you are the de facto love of my life.
From the first single and album I bought (The Grid’s Swamp Thing, and Parklife, both in 1994), you’ve always had my back.
As a teenager I grew up in the Britpop era, soundtracking my formative school years with Ocean Colour Scene, Oasis and Shed Seven. In 1996, at the age of 14 I went to my first gig: Suede at the Cliffs Pavilion in my hometown, Southend-on-Sea. Followed quickly at the same venue by one of my all-time favourite experiences a month later: Blur, who at the time were number one with Beetlebum.
I moved into sixth form and you opened my eyes to the world of metal and punk. The Offspring’s Smash and Nevermind (obviously) paved the way for my obsession with nu-metal, peaking when a friend and I skipped morning classes to buy Significant Other on the day of release.
As I reached 17, I started to go out. It was 1999 and Trance and Garage were everywhere, especially in Essex. It had taken a while, but finally you turned my head with something not based around guitars. I went on holiday to Tenerife after my A Levels with some school friends, and spent every day on the beach, listening to Chicane’s Behind the Sun. I became obsessed with Ferry Corsten and DJ EZ, and for the first time dreamed of being a DJ.
Like any teenager, I associate much of what you offered at that time with the ups and downs in my love life. Generally speaking, I’d listen to your dancier side when things were going well, and metal when they weren’t. I listened to A LOT of metal.
I stayed on this path for a while. My first year at uni mostly revolved around Idlewild’s 100 Broken Windows – still one of my all-time top 5 albums – and it wasn’t until the same friend from sixth form recommended some bands to check out, that my tastes took another sideways turn. Those bands? Poison The Well, Thursday, Taking Back Sunday and Finch. Emo had arrived.
It took over. I wouldn’t listen to anything else, with the exception of one summer listening to nothing but Twista. I got my first tattoo (probably the most emo tattoo imaginable), and spent every night in Rock City’s Basement singing as loud as I could, and making some of the best friends I’ll ever have. Sometimes I yearn to go back to those days. No responsibilities, just having fun.
Those same best friends also persuaded me to try something different, and by the time I graduated I was fully immersed in grime and dubstep, and thanks to a housemate I’d even learnt to mix using vinyl turntables. It’s not often you hear a completely new sound for the first time, but I still remember walking into Stealth nightclub in Nottingham and wondering what the hell was going on. It turned out it was Digital Mystikz reloading Coki’s Tortured.
The following 4 or 5 years with you were some of my favourites. My life became a blur of clubs and festivals. Two or three bookings a week, mostly on weeknights, and all over the country – all while trying to hold down a 9 to 5. I got to play at Fabric, Ibiza Rocks, and even at Trouble & Bass in New York. We appeared on line-ups alongside some of today’s music heavyweights. I met some of the DJs I looked upto the most, and had some incredible experiences. One night in Barcelona you really delivered, with the craziest, most fun thing I’ve ever witnessed.
After stepping back from DJing, I still couldn’t get you out of my mind, and found myself working in HMV for 3 years. Working in retail is tough, but being able to talk to the public about you all day made it worthwhile. Having said that, there’s only so many times you can have someone singing at you, hoping you’ll know what song they’re after – particularly the time a guy tried to recite an entire piece of violin-driven classical to me.
What followed were several years when we didn’t see each other much. By this time, I was about 6 years into a relationship. I’d decided to quit retail and get a “proper job”, studying and working in finance. It’s not that I’d completely given up on you, you just played a far less prominent role in my life.
I got married. And divorced soon after. I was devastated, and to some extent always will be. And this is where I fell for you all over again. As I battled with my emotions, and in particular the onset of fairly acute anxiety, I became more and more reliant on you. Anxiety can do strange things to your body. It doesn’t manifest itself like a normal illness. For me, I felt short of breath all the time, with a constant tightening of the chest, and non-stop pins and needles. The most uncomfortable sensation however, was the tingling pain I would get in the ring finger on my right hand. Even now, when things are getting to me, I still get it. It doesn’t hurt, but it sure as hell isn’t nice. And it’s when this starts happening that I know I need to turn to you.
You’ve become my crutch. You’re my main coping mechanism. I’m now at my happiest when on the dancefloor in a club, at a gig or festival with my friends and family, or behind the decks (at home or in a venue). I’m lucky enough to work at a creative agency, where you’re always present. When not at work or home, I’ve always got headphones in, usually listening to radio shows (Radio 1, NTS, Radar). I eagerly anticipate every Friday to see what new delights you have in store for me, and at the moment I don’t have enough hours in a week to listen to everything I want to. A nice problem to have.
Right now, I’m probably too dependent on you, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. You’re the reason I’m writing for this blog. You’re the main reason I go out at night. And you’re definitely why I’m always excited for my next night out.
For all of the reasons I’ve listed above, and many more, I want to say thank you. I genuinely feel like you’ve saved me. I could have allowed myself to wallow, and never feel better. But you give me a reason to feel again. Life is still hard at times, but you never fail to lift me, whether I need it or not. I know I genuinely couldn’t live without you, and I’ll be forever grateful for the part you’ve played in getting me this far.
And so Music, Happy Valentine’s Day, and here’s to many more years of happiness!
Lots of love