words: Adam Saville

DJ Mag’s alternative choices

Beyond the Top 100 DJs poll 2013 there’s a whole world of underground DJs pushing the boundaries of their art-form and championing the most forward-thinking new music. The DJs in our annual Alternative Choice feature represent a selection of unsung heroes selected by the DJ Mag team.


JAN KRUEGER
In a world where DJs are picked more for the pulling power of their latest Beatport hit than their skills on a pair of turntables, it’s refreshing to have people like Jan Krueger on the planet. In-between unearthing subterranean house and techno gems from the likes of Vera, Kate Simko and Seuil alongside Daze Maxim, the Hello? Repeat co-boss travels the world, a dying breed, one of the few DJs left recognised solely for his ability to play records. Spoken of in revered, hushed tones inside low-key circles of crate-digging heads, the Berlin resident is an inspiration for all DJs concerned with doing things properly.

His vinyl-only sets, steered by his encyclopedic knowledge of electronic music across the board, are any head-scratching tune spotter’s wet dream. Constructed of only the most prime tunes ever melted onto wax — modern classics from Soul Capsule, Laid and Jus Ed slipped strategically, and impeccably, alongside newer, tech-y tracks from people like Patrice Meiner and Bruno Pronsato — his sets weave a seamless narrative that segues effortlessly between deep house to techno, from techno to deep house. Regardless of all this, though, it’s the patience — the calculation and precision — that Jan tells his story with, that really sets him apart as one of the world’s most priceless pickers.


ANDY BLAKE

There are always musical commentators harking back to David Mancuso and Larry Levan, but there are few DJs today who can build their clubs around this kind of residency, rather than relying on the modern paradigm of a guest DJ who, in actuality, has been booked because of their production reputation.

While Andy Blake’s DJ history dates back to 1989, and includes a successful stint playing tech house in the late ’90s, his current cache came initially from his part in Dissident, the label that he launched in 2007 and sank a few successful years later.

Though this might have helped with guest spots at clubs such as the venerated Panorama Bar, his reputation as a DJ — and his wide knowledge of dance music in its myriad forms — has been proven with the rise of World Unknown, the party he runs alongside fellow resident Joe Hart. From the finest machine-crafted house and techno to disco and New Beat, via anything else of note from the last 40 years, World Unknown is more an extended family than a club — a devoted following placing their trust in the endlessly giving shelves of Andy Blake.

DJ EZ
‘The greatest UK garage DJ that ever lived’ might sound like a phrase ripped from a flyer for an Essex student union, but, when it comes to DJ EZ, make no mistake: this guy is no high street novelty act. Blessed with the sort of turntable skills you’d expect from the genetically modified offspring of Grandmaster Flash and DJ Craze, EZ has thrived over the past few years, enjoying the best of the recent ’90s revival.

Mixing up two-step, pop and 4/4 garage — ubiquitous hits like ‘It’s the Way’, ‘Gotta Get Thru This’, ‘Sweet Like Chocolate’ — into a noxious tidal wave of high-energy party mayhem, scattered and laced with US classics from Mike Dunn and MK, all at 135bpm, he tops it all off with a cheeky “DJ EZ” vocal ident. Cueing and triggering his sets in Rekordbox, this man is a modern DJ in the truest sense, even with his vintage vantage, embracing the technology that the CDJ2000Nexus has to offer, using his apparatus to cut and paste quick-fix bombs to devastating effect without disturbing the essence and flow of his sets. EZ by name but not by nature, this diminutive DJ sure packs a punch.

ANDY WEATHERHALL
A paid-up member of the UK original acid house crew, Andy Weatherall — or just Weatherall as he’s known to his devout fans — has lived a musical life oscillating between obscurism and popularity, stepping up to the brink of fame on numerous occasions but seemingly always following his nose back to the margins.

This is the man, after all, who was part of Junior Boys Own, produced Primal Scream’s seminal ‘Screamadelica’ and more recently recorded a triple-CD compilation called ‘Masterpiece’ for Ministry of Sound, the soundtrack to his current club success, A Love From Outer Space, the brand he runs alongside Sean Johnston.

Along the way he’s delved into everything from dub and rockabilly to techno and electro, run nights like Bloodsugar and Haywire, as well as numerous labels from Emissions Audio Output to Bird Scarer, and worked with the likes of Jagz Kooner and Gary Burns as Sabre of Paradise, Keith Tenniswood as Two Lone Swordsmen and Timothy J. Fairplay as part of The Asphodells, his latest project.
In fact, he’s as much a Great British national treasure as Stephen Fry, displaying the same engaging wit, eloquence and underlying intelligence in his candid interviews.

APOLLONIA
While each member of Apollonia — Dan Ghenacia, Shonky and Dyed Soundorom — could make the DJ Mag Alternative Choice individually, in their own right, it makes sense to group them all together here for triple effect. Besides, it’s their three-way partnership behind the booths of the world’s most desired clubs that caused the most hype over the past 12 months. DC10, Rex Club, Fabric… they’ve all witnessed the wonder of that trio of Frenchmen who, as a collective, wish they were (or with) Prince’s girlfriend. But it’s not just their skills on the decks — their deft ability to drop and blend house classics from New York, Chicago and San Francisco into the newest, finest breed of (real) deep house out there, all with a certain “je ne sais quoi” — that marks them out as a DJ crew of distinction.

Through the imprint of the same name they launched last summer — along with the stripped back tech house sound they’ve defined via their DJ sets — they’ve taken the (sub)culturally defining steps required to take the “deep house” movement to its next phase. Thanks to Apollonia, aspiring DJs feeling a little tired and in need of inspiration now know where to look.

 

GATTO FRITTO
Having clocked up over a decade behind the counters of various record shops since DJ Mag met him at the turn of the millennium, Gatto Fritto — aka Londoner Ben Williams — is inexplicably unrated as a DJ, despite the internet revealing that almost everyone is obsessed with cats doing weird things.

Possibly frying them is a step too far, though it might be that the cosmically mind-blowing scale of tracks such as ‘Hex’ or ‘Hungry Ghost’ is too hard for some to digest in an age of easy-to-mix dancefloor functionality and attention deficits. But behind the decks Gatto Fritto has an awe-inspiring musical fluency and technical ability that can flow from Detroit techno to Afrobeat, stoned Balearica to obscure Kraut-rock.

That he’s planning to pack up his 10,000 records and move to Berlin says much about the mindset and appetite of the UK club scene, which is happier binging on hype, novelty and bluster than taking a punt on someone genuinely mind, and ear, expanding