Bond with the dance floor

Trance music

Bond with the dance floor

In a career spanning over 20 years, DJ John Fleming has pretty much spun into a global phenomenon. With over 10 million album sales and 30 produced mix compilations, he is pretty much on top of the league. His music, that can best be described as deep and textured, progressively edged trance, is quite different from what goes down in the electronic dance music circles. 

His passion and ability to connect with audiences by injecting his unique underground style has kept him engaged with a large global following. This connect has resulted in 10 mix compilations and five singles, getting on to the UK top 40 charts on labels such as EMI, Warner and Virgin music. He has also headlined at iconic clubs and festivals all over the world. Fleming formed the trance label, JOOF Recordings, in 1999, and has subsequently started several subsidiary labels.

A geek of sorts

Starting off when he was still in school, John reminisces, “Back then, the DJ thing wasn’t like it is today with celebrity DJs, back when I was a kid, being a DJ was an unsuccessful job. While my mates during lunchtime played games like cricket, rugby and the like, I went to a record store to buy records. I was like the geeky kid, and they could not understand it. My passion for music started back then with collecting music and collecting records. I got obsessed with turntables and mixing, and the rest is history.” 

Talking about his early musical influences, he says, “There were all kinds of music going on, mostly live band music, but I was interested in the synthesiser and started listening to guys like Tangere dreams and Ja Ja. I got obsessed with that kind of music and bought a keyboard and tried to emulate them. So, it was that which got me going.”

In the early 90s, the Goa trance scene caught up with John, and although he never came here in those days, he heard about and experienced it through some Israeli friends who were regulars and the nicest stages of the Goan trance scene. “I then got really into the Goa Trance sound, it was a very specific sound, and it is still very interesting. When I first got here eight years ago, it was magical. Here is a land that has a lot of history and diversity, but you still had parties on the beach. It did influence me a lot,” he says.

Talking about how he shot into prominence, he says, “If you talk to any artiste, you know luck has a lot to do with it. You are at the right place at the right time playing a gig when the right promoter hears a new talent. Also, I must have been doing something right, because I got residencies and got signed on by some London clubs and it just kept spreading all over the UK and then Europe and America and around the world. It just happened naturally. People want to fast track their careers and try to copy what others are doing. I always did something different, and when you do that you stand out. I had this unique sound that caught people’s ears and they asked me to play in their club. So, that’s how I played it.”

Open palette

John has a very open musical palette and says, “I am from a generation where DJs are true DJs, we don’t pigeonhole ourselves and build brands. I just use music as a tool. If it takes me to house or trance or techno, that’s the tools I need to work on the dance floor. People call me more of a trance DJ, but I have a really open palette when it comes to playing.” John prefers playing live to producing studio albums and says, “When you play live, you get instant reaction from people; when you work alone in the studio, you are second guessing what’s going to work. It is rewarding to play and see the crowd going nuts.”Talking about memorable performances, he says there are way too many.

As far as India is concerned, he maintains that the audiences are really good but emphasises that “people in Bangalore really go nuts. Every city is different, some don’t express themselves. But in Bangalore, people are really vocal and there is a lot of energy, but they keep closing down the clubs and open new ones. That is very frustrating.” John recently performed at VH1 Supersonic 2013 festival in Goa and says, “Nikhil Chinnappa and I have become close friends, and I have been working with him for nine years. This fest, he put together in 21 days. What a guy! I’m going to be watching supersonic grow. It’s going to be a very special festival.”

On the subject of his numerous collaborations, he maintains that working with Simple Minds is among his favourites... “They were a band I grew up with. They were huge. When I wanted to work with them, they welcomed me with open arms, and it was amazing to work with them. Also, working with Jean Michel Jarre was a big thing for me. He was my hero.”

He says about his future, “I’ve just got to keep going. I’ve been in this industry for a long time now and survived it. Fads have come and gone, and I’m still here. As long as I am happy doing what I’m doing, I’ll continue to explore. The day I have to start doing something musically I don’t like or I feel like I’m selling out, that’s the day I’m going to hang up the headphones and say this is not for me. I have to play music that I really believe in.” 

For the moment though, John Fleming continues to leave his audiences in a divine trance.

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