10 DJ Pasts They’d Rather Forget
Consider yourself lucky that your style-deficient past is filed away in a desk drawer at your parents’ place. These dance music luminaries haven’t been so lucky: thanks to the archiver of greatness that is the internet, the before-they-were-famous pasts of guys like Tiesto, David Guetta and Daft Punk have been preserved for the world to enjoy. So what did dance music’s megastars get up to before they were cool? Between them, there were bad haircuts and press shots, teenage years spent on tour with a hardcore band, embarrassing TV ads, a back-catalogue of happy hardcore and even a boy band. So all in the name of fun, here’s ten of our favourite DJ skeletons in the closet.
#10 Laidback Luke and Don Diablo’s ‘Ultimate DJ Boy Band’
Okay, we’re fairly certain this video of the ‘Ultimate DJ Boy Band’ is more an epic troll than a legitimately embarrassing past. Still, Laidback Luke and Don Diablo on some kind of mid-noughties Dutch talk show is a sight to behold. Lord knows what they’re saying or what the story behind this is, but pay particular attention from the four-minute mark onwards and listen out for the one verse in English: “We can’t rap, we can’t sing, we can’t rhyme and we can’t pose; but we can scratch, we can mix, we can reverse and we can do tricks.” Does anyone here speak Dutch?
#9 Pick the techno DJ
Before he was the fearless leader of the ubercoolische and a master of the angular haircut, Richie Hawtin was this guy. Years later, fellow Detroit-er Marshall Mathers would decide to steal his look, before inadvertently dissing his style forefather with the declaration “Nobody listens to techno!” on his 2002 hit Without Me.
#8 Tiesto: Gabber king
In 2013, Tiesto is the highest-paid DJ in dance music, with illustrious residencies and a big-room ‘trouse’ sound. As Annie Mac puts it: “He’s 43 but he doesn’t seem 43, and maybe that’s a product of the world he lives in, because he’s playing to college kids and lives in this world where it’s always a party.” On his next college tour, we’d sure like to see Tijs reach way back to his Vegas-upsetting gabber and hardcore productions from the early ‘90s, like this gem below on his Da Joker moniker.
#7 Steve Aoki’s haircut
Circa 2013, Steve Aoki’s known for his trademark long black locks. Back in his school days, the future Dim Mak boss rocked a very different ‘do: a bleached curtained cut. But hey, the 90s could be a cruel decade and it’s to his credit that last year, the king of cake posted his former yearbook photo on Facebook for all to behold. “We are young so let’s set the world on fire, we can burn brighter than the sun,” the post (which, unsurprisingly, quickly racked up thousands of shares) belted, quoting that inescapable Fun. song with tongue firmly in cheek. Hats off to you, Aoki.
#6 Ghosts of projects past: Boys Noize and Ben Watt
It’s a long road to the top. True to that, most of the dance music superstars killing it today spent their formative years experimenting with different styles and techniques, before finding their place behind the decks. Before he was the effortlessly-cool Boys Noize, Alex Ridha teamed up with his friend Andi for the project Kid Alex. Andi and Alex actually did pretty well – the pair did shows around Northern Europe and released a good few tracks together, like the 2003 release Young Love (Topless) Watch it below – and yes, praise be, that’s Ridha on vocals.
As for Ben Watt, his vault of vintage press photos goes back a long way. In the days before he was running the Buzzin’ Fly label with its stylishly-designed record covers, he was making a string of albums alongside his partner Tracey Thorn as Everything But The Girl. Some of those albums fell squarely in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, which makes for a treasure trove of throwback fashion and haircuts, forever frozen in time.
#5 Skrillex’s screamo band
Before he was Skrillex, Sonny Moore was the vocalist in hardcore/emo band From First to Last. His stint in the group only lasted a few years, but that was long enough to leave a trail of perfectly-preserved YouTube gems in his wake.
Here, a sixteen-year-old Sonny Moore takes a break from the 2004 Warped Tour (an annual skate punk/post-hardcore/metalcore festival) to give an interview with his then-bandmates; talking Pennywise, kids with hair in their face and romance. “I’m always trying to find love, fall in love with a girl,” he says through pierced lips. “You feel me?” Also essential viewing is this video of Sonny jumping around on vocals (and in three quarter length pants) as From First To Last perform their wonderfully-titled track Ride the Wings of Pestilence.
But even when Sonny was a poster-boy for emo, there were early signs of the direction he’d later take. “To be honest, I’m a big electronica geek,” he said in a 2005 interview, alongside Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz no less. “I pretty much only listen to Aphex Twin and stuff.” Sounds about right.
#4 Deadmau5’s raver days
If you frequent the ITM Facebook page, you might’ve seen these vintage Deadmau5 photos before. Twisties-like bleached hair, super oversized tee, baggy, eastern-emblazoned wide leg pants, a chunky, plastic, yellow chain and headphones, all topped off by a Pikachu backpack: that’s mid-90s rave attire at its finest! So what was Joel Zimmerman dancing to back then?
“Art Of Trance, Union Jack, more or less anything on Plus 8 or Platypus Records,” the mau5 told inthemix. “Then Binary Finary, by whoever that was, ended it. Remember that? At least in in North America, that was the hell-spawn track responsible for ‘club friendly palatable trance musics’. I think DaRude should get an honorable mention in here somewhere.” Quite the contrast to Zimmerman’s current vibe, eh?
#3 Daft Punk’s Gap ad
“They haven’t done anything you could call regretful or shameful. They’ve never done an embarrassing commercial, for instance,” Madeon once said of his idols Daft Punk in an interview. “Didn’t they do a fairly bad Gap advert with Juliette Lewis?” the interviewer asked. “Oh yeah. That was fairly on the line, I’d say,” the whiz kid responded.
‘On the line’ is about right. Forget the current sequin-heavy, Hedi Slimane-designed suits, in 2001 Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de-Homem Christo were all about double denim and getting down with Juliette Lewis.
#2 David Guetta’s hair gel endorsement
…cringe-worthy though the GAP ad may have been, Daft Punk don’t have anything on David Guetta and his ad for “party proof” (with a silent r ) hair gel. No stranger to cheese, Guetta really sets the bar here: The hair style! The dancing! The water being sprayed all over the decks! As the YouTube uploader reminds us, “this is not a parody”.
#1 Sven Vath, pop powerhouse
These days, Sven Vath’s reputation as a 24-hour party Trojan precedes him. Before he was techno’s marathon man, though, Sven was what you see in this video. In 1986, the Cocoon boss-to-be did some decent business on the European charts as OFF with the single Electrica Salsa. All traces of his pop star past may have burnt away like those end-of-bender brain cells, if not for this vintage TV performance. Watch as Sven struts, prances, hip-shakes and practices the gurn-face that will serve him so well. Let’s face it, though, this only makes him more of a hero.