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PERSPECTIVE: Dance music genius gets a proper job; Making a living from dance music is easier said than done, as Alun Thorne found out.

Byline: Alun Thorne

To get by for the best part of 30 years before having to get a proper job is some going.

But reality bites when its time to pay the mortgage - even if you have been described as a genius on Radio 1.

For Midland DJ and general dance music wizard Reza (pronounced like geezer) the fateful decision came last year, having fudged the issue since leaving St Benedict's in Alcester more than a decade ago.

After a particularly severe run of cancellations on the gig front, the 29-year-old bit the bullet and got a job at a record shop in Birmingham city centre.

'I just needed some guaranteed money coming in,' he said.

'I must be the most cancelled DJ around and there came a point last year when the mortgage had to be paid and I had to get proper job - and there are worse jobs than working in a record shop.'

Not that the curse of the cancellation has subsided since he joined the world of the nine to fiver.

'I think four gigs have fallen through already this month - that's probably as much as I would have earned working in the record shop.'

But that's not to say Reza's not still very much in demand.

This weekend he's sharing the bill with Radio 1's Lotti and old favourite Al Mackenzie at Hotel:Twist in Leicester and next weekend he will be back at Fabric in London.

Indeed, his rock-solid pedigree has seen him DJing at some of the country's top clubs since he first got behind the decks as rave swept the country in the early 1990s.

In fact his life has been pretty much devoted to the repetitive beat since even before that.

'The first time I really got into the music I suppose was in the late 1980s when I bought a tape from Our Price.

'I remember playing it to my mum and this guy singing 'I've got a big dick' in this big deep voice and her giving me around the ear'I also had some other tapes like the 'hip hop and rapping in the house' sort of thing.

'But before that I was into all sorts, quite souly stuff like Prince and Michael Jackson but also rock as well like Guns and Roses.

'I went to the Nelson Mandela concert at Wembley which was round about that time so I was really into all sorts.

'But my sister was quite into the dance music thing as well and I distinctly remember her playing Stacker Humanoid. In fact I played it loud in the shop the other day and the tune still rocks.

'I heard Orbital's Belfast as well and that made the hairs on my neck stand on end.'

This soon developed into a raging thirst to party despite being in the middle of sitting his GCSEs at his Catholic school in leafy Warwickshire.

'All I remember of that party was dancing until lunchtime around the car park and then me and a mate having to be escorted out of an exam because we were so ill,' when asked about a favourite night from the era.

But it was a legendary club in a not so legendary city that cemented the dance music bug for Reza.

'I was going to various parties but what really changed it for me was the Eclipse in Coventry. It completely blew me away. There were just rows and rows of people with their heads down and just dancing.

'So while everyone else was more interested on where to get drugs, I was just transfixed by the people and the musicIt wasn't long after this that he got off the dance floor and started providing the entertainment.

'My first big gig was at Fantasia on New Year's Eve in 1992/93 where I was booked to play the 7-8pm slot even though the party didn't actually start until 8pm.

'All I remember was looking up half way through my set and there were lots of people dancing. That was seriously scaryScary maybe, but judging by his admirable decade of work avoidance, a resounding success. Not that he really had a plan of how things would turn out.

'I didn't actually own any decks until about five years ago but over the years there was always someone with them so somehow I always ended up playing on them wherever I was.

'I have always bought records but have lost as many over the years from moving house and so on. It's just one of those things and can be frustrating when you can't find that classic that you thought you had.

'But then again sometimes you are going through your records and you find a classic you never realised you had so it's not something I ever worry about. Like most DJs I also get sent plenty ofreleases so I'm sure I've enough tunes.'

As the rave scene went indoors, Reza and friends started putting on a night in Birmingham called Mellow Yellow which gained a cult following in the mid-90s moving around every Birmingham club worth its salt.

Then, with his girlfriend Jenny, who he met eight years ago on her 18th birthday, he took his records out to Spain for the summer, came back for a couple a months, and then disappeared back out there.

'It was very commercial, very cheesy but it must have been okay or we wouldn't have stayed there for four years,' he said.

As well as playing other people's music, Reza was also dabbling with his own compositions.

'I learned about the production side of things when a friend of mine went off to Australia for a year and I looked after all his equipment while he was gone.

'The turning point came in 2000 when I had a lot of time to kill and Jenny just said why not have a go at making my own tunes instead of sitting around on my arse - so I did.'

Since then he has had more than a dozen releases under various guises including Reza, Santiago Soul, Federation De Funk, Sounds of Reyes and Daywalkerz and with varying degrees of success.

It was Galactico, a 'Pete Tong main room madness' sort of tune, that was released last December that led to him being lauded on Radio 1.

'The Dream Team playedGalactico again last Sunday and said all sorts of nice things including that it was the perfect tune for down the gym!'

His last record, Soul Execution which was released on the DTPM label, sold 2,000 copies ('if you sell 750 you're doing well') and has also been signed to a Ministry of Sound compilation CD in Australia.

Now his latest record, I Am Eternal, which is released on DTPM next Monday, is already flying high in Pete Tong's Radio 1 buzz chart although things could have gone slightly better.

'He never plays the whole top ten and it went straight in at number eight and I nearly cried when he never played it,' he said.

But despite being one of the hottest properties around the money is hardly flowing in although they are considerably better than they have been for a while.

'A track can come together relatively quickly these days and DTPM are usually pretty good giving me an advance on stuff so I'm actually making some money from the records for the first time although nothing worth really shouting about.

'I've never chased royalties either on any of my tracks so that is something else that I'm currently doing.'

Nevertheless, with his legendary cancellation rate and an acceptance of the fickle world of dance music, he probably won't be leaving the record shop any time soon


DJ and general dance music wizard Reza is sharing the top bill in Leicester this weekend
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Title Annotation:Comment
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 10, 2005
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