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Culture: DJ is a hard house act to follow; Andy Farley has a reputation for packing out dancefloors. Andrew Cowen talks to a fave city DJ.

Byline: Andrew Cowen

It takes more than having a few good records and the ability to mix them to stay at the top in the competitive world of the premier league DJ. To really succeed, you need to live and breathe the clubbing lifestyle and, most important of all, you have to love the music.

For Tamworth DJ Andy Farley, music - and in particular hard house - is an all-consuming passion. And in a few busy years, he's built up a reputation as one of the best in the business.

A regular at Birmingham's Sundissential and with a packed diary at weekends, Farley, 35, is also one of the hardest working DJs around. With four or five bookings every Friday and Saturday, he's seen more of the M6 than most, clocking up more than 22,000 miles last year.

As well as his long sessions working the decks, Farley also produces his own club tracks. He's currently working on a cut for the respected Frantic label and a remix for hard house leaders Tripoli Trax.

The hard house phenomenen has swept clubland over the last few years. Starting at the big gay nights at London's Heaven club in Charing Cross, the tough, cranked up tempo sound is the perfect soundtrack for the full-on party animals who pack out Code and Sundissential in the Midlands each week. Made strictly for the dancefloor, hard house only really makes sense at 3am on a packed and sweaty dancefloor with a crowd that's really up for it.

Birmingham has taken the sound to its heart. Pioneered by the late Tony de Vit, Farley has taken up the challenge and he's now one of the most sought-after DJs in the business.

'I started DJing in 1988,' he says. 'I had two record players and started by messing about.

'I always bought a lot of records from the age of 14 or 15 and when I first saw a DJ at work, thought 'I wouldn't mind giving this a go'.

'I bought a pair of Techniks (professional record decks for DJs) in 90 or 91 and was away.'

Starting his career at Birmingham's famous Tin Tin's club, Farley's early forays into the art of mixing saw him playing early house music, hi energy and Stock, Aitken and Waterman productions.

'The first time I went to Tin Tins, I found this full-on clubbing environment and danced non-stop for five or six hours. I was hooked,' says Farley.

'In 92 and 93, I started to feel bored with the hi-energy tracks and began to change what I was into.'

Hard house started to come into vogue in 1994, although it didn't pick up the name until later.

'It's just uptempo dance music really,' says Farley.

'The term was coined at Trade in London in 97 or 98 and it covers a multitude of styles. It originally referred to fast and funky house music but now the definition's quite vague.

'The explosion happened about 18 months ago and now the name covers styles like hard trance and hard techno. Things get more segregated in clubland but I'm trying to combat this. If it's a good tune, I'll play it.'

With the respect that Farley commands from his regular audience, he's well primed to educate the notoriouslyblinkered clubber. Farley's desire to keep pushing the music forward is an astute move. By constantly updating the hard house blueprint, he'll keep the scene from going stale which is vital if he's to progress as a DJ and producer.

'There are still a lot of hard house tunes coming out, although it probably peaked about 18 months ago. At that point some people started looking for new directions.

'To be honest, a lot of the records I used to get sent were pretty boring so I started to look at techno and trance for inspiration. Rather than stick to one rigid style of music, I prefer to mix it up, building my set with peaks and troughs. If you're playing good records and the crowd is open-minded, you're on to a winner.'

Farley finds that people are more open-minded now and more receptive to something a bit different. He singles out Sundissential as a club with a refreshing attitude.

After a rough couple of years sparked by the death of one regular as a result of taking ecstasy, Sundissential is once again on the up. The club has always considered itself to be a family and the devotion of its many thousand members is legendary.

After the death, Sundissential frontman Madders was deeply shocked and upset and the organisation took time out to rethink its situation.

It's only recently decided to return to a permanent base after playing a series of out-of-town parties at no regular venue.

Says Farley: 'Sundissential's just moved to the DNA club and it's business as usual. Everybody's smiling and a lot of the old faces have reappeared. It's great to see it getting back on its feet.

The club's success is based purely on its resident DJs, they've never followed the policy of booking big name DJs to pack the place out.'

Farley is now balancing his weeks with DJ spots at the weekend and a day-job mentality in the week for chasing his own musical ambitions. Limiting himself to producing two tracks a year, he's both a perfectionist and aware of the dangers of flooding the market with sub-standard material.

'I come home from a club with ideas in my head, desperate to get them down, but didn't have the equipment or the right people around me to help.'

Farley now collaborates with Paul James and he's slowly building up a home studio in which he can execute his ideas.

Asked the secret of a successful dancefloor smash, he has no hesitation: 'You need a strong riff for the hook, that's the deciding thing. That's what gets everyone up and screaming.'


Andy Farley, 35, is one of the hardest-working DJs around, clocking up more than 22,000 miles last year
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Apr 2, 2002
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