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On an average Friday and Saturday night, DJ Dougal travels over 500 miles to get to between three and six gigs at a leisurely 110mph. Dougal usually does this with only high right eye on the road, while his left one is busy studying a creased map, spread unevenly across the passenger seat. Understandably, this doesnít give the 21-year-old happy hardcore DJ much time to keep a lookout for police cars lurking in lay-bys to catch lunatics like himself breaking the speed limit.
So nobody, least of all DJ Dougal, was surprised when the courts finally got tough. A couple of days before we were scheduled to join him on the road, he was issued with a six-month driving ban after he was caught doing 120 just outside Lockerbie on the Scottish border.
Telephoning us with the bad news, DJ Dougal typically managed to sound both agitated and somehow at ease with the situation.
"Itís been a total nightmare trying to arrange transport. All my mates have serious women problems at the moment which means they arenít up for taking me out," he says breathlessly before suddenly taking on a more cheerful tone. "At least I only got a £300 fine, which isnít at all bad for doing that speed and, well, Iím sure my dad will drive us if the worst comes to the worse".
Dougalís dad, Gary, is an amazing parent in that he not only enjoys dance culture, he actively participates in it by taking press photos for United Dance, Dreamscape and Helter Skelter. Heís also currently shooting a ďday in the lifeĒ video of both DJ Dougal and Slipmatt, starting with the pair of them cutting dub plates and making hardcore records in their studios, and ending with some hot footage of the best events in the country.
However, even Superdad isnít able to help out on this particular Friday night, and while our man is grateful that his friend Melody has agreed to take us in her Astra, heís upset because sheís a girl, and as far as heís concerned, girls donít drive fast enough.
"Canít you at least do 90?" he pleads with her as we leave his Northampton bungalow at a cool 80mph. He is met with a firm shake of the head. For Dougal, this is the start of a highly stressful, hair-raising, pulse-soaring night. Grumbling, he consoles himself by tucking into his third packet of Monster Munch.
"I eat because it helps me calm down," he explains, pointing at the huge mound of junk food heís just bought at the nearest petrol station. Twelve packets of Monster Munch, Flaminí Hot variety, two packets of Mr Kiplinís apple pies, three packets of Jaffa Cakes, three bananas and two egg mayonnaise sandwiches fight for space with Dougalís feet on the car floor.
Everything gets eaten before we arrive at the final destination, Tasmania on Hastings Pier. Incredibly, when it becomes apparent we arenít going to be late for his first gig of the night, Addidance at a small club called the Porthouse in Lincoln, Dougal insists we stop off at McDonalds so he can guzzle a Quarterpounder with fries because he doesnít think his "picnic" will be enough to fill him up.
"Food stops the constant palpitations I get worrying about whether Iíll arrive at all my gigs on time or not," he expands, easing himself into a more relaxed position on the passenger seat. ďI have a lot of nervous energy and if I donít eat loads, the weight just drops off me. I lost more than half a stone when I misplaced my diary at a club in Manchester about a month ago. I didnít want to let any promoters down, so I spent hours on the phone trying to find out where I was supposed to be over the next couple of weekends. I got so worked up about it, I totally forgot to eat for days."
In fact, while minor hiccups and occasional disasters seem to plague most of his weekend excursions , all the sorry tales Dougal relates during the two and a half hour drive from Lincoln to his second gig of the night, at Bagleys in London, seem to have a happy ending. In the end, his diary was returned after he had put up a £30 reward for it. And despite his frequent run-ins with the police and numerous mechanical breakdowns, he has yet to arrive at a gig more than 15 minutes late, a fact he is visibly proud of.
"Iíve had hundreds of breakdowns, but everything seems to work out. People always seem to step in and save the day just when I need them," he smiles, before swinging back into his distressed state as he shuffles around in his seat, looking for another packet of Monster Munch. "The worst disaster was when my alternator went during a previous visit to Hastings Pier. The headlights were getting dimmer and dimmer, and I kept praying the car would make it through the night. After the gig, the bloody engine wouldnít start. I had to get to Wolverhampton for another two gigs, so I was running around the car park like an idiot asking everyone for a lift. I eventually managed to convince this raver to take me in his Escort. It took seven hours and I was crushed up in the passenger seat with my two record boxes. The raver was completely off his face, too. I was sure we were going to crash and die!"
Contrary to his earlier claims, eating doesnít appear to calm him down at all. By this stage, heís shouting while feverishly chewing his crisps. However, the next minute his frenzied outburst is exchanged for laughter as he remembers he did actually arrive at his destination in one piece.
"It was one of the most stressful nights of my life, I swear! I reckon I lost about two stone that night alone. But he got us there safe and sound, though, and thatís what counts, right?"
Ironically, for a scene which has a reputation for being full of E-heads, Dougal, like 90 per cent of the happy hardcore DJs, doesnít take drugs. He doesnít even drink alcohol. Or smoke.
"Nah mate," he shrugs, "Iíve never been into drugs of any kind. I donít preach though. If people want to do them, thatís fine. My only vice is driving too fast."
Talk about the understatement of the year! After 12 hours in a car with Dougal it becomes crystal clear this guy gets his kicks from hammering down motorways and country lanes at breakneck speed. And even though heíd never admit to it, he seems to thrive on the knowledge that a couple of badly-timed traffic lights could mean the difference between playing a gig or getting some serious grief from an outraged promoter.
In many ways, Dougal personifies happy hardcore. The majority of his set consists of exclusive dub plates and tunes from his Essential Platinum imprint, a label which takes elements from the Dutch and Scottish scenes, and mixes them with the lighter, piano-led breakbeat from England. In the grand scheme of things, Dougal has positioned himself quite nicely. Of his contemporaries, DJ Brisk is faster and appeals to ravers in the North, whereas Vibes appeals mainly to the rave crowds in the South. But Dougal manages to fall somewhere in-between which, ensures heíll go down just as well at Bagleys or Hastings Pier as he will at Club Kinetic or the Doncaster Warehouse.
When you see the crowd moving to some of his more delirious Mickey Mouse tracks, like Druid Et Big Dís white label or Hixxyís "Lullaby" (both released on Essential Platinum), you will instantly forgive him for cutting the vinyl in the first place. As far as Dougal is concerned, hardcore is first and foremost about fun.
"In most places, I have to play safe as houses because itís hard work dancing to hardcore all night. If you play something the crowd isnít too sure about, theyíll just go and get a drink of water."
As well as Essential Platinum, Dougal also runs Mental Platinum and is about to unleash two new labels, Heaven and Infinity.
"A lot of people assume DJs have fuck all to do during the week except like in their beds," he explains. "But Iíve got my labels to run and the phone is going constantly. I donít get a momentís peace, I swear!"
His new Heaven imprint was the brainchild of his flatmate, Morgan, who runs a house night in Northampton as well as DJing and recording under the name DJ Breeze. Heaven is intended for hardbag tracks with a rave edge to them, starting with a respectable house version of Slipmattís "On A Ragga Tip." The first release on Infinity is "Driving Me Crazy" by DNA Et Breeze, and there isnít a trace of candyfloss piano in sight.
"Yeah," agrees Dougal. "We want the stuff on Infinity to be intelligent hardcore. Actually, Iím trying to keep away from all that Mickey Mouse crap these days. Iíve been DJing for five years now, so I think Iíve mellowed out a bit. People canít dance all night to 180bpm."
As we hit the outskirts of London, Dougal stops chatting and is again transformed into a state of agitation and despair. Melody is refusing to skip the lights and we get lost while making for Kingís Cross. Weíre running 15 minutes late when Dougal suddenly spies Bagleys in the distance. Barely letting the car slow down, he leaps out and makes a dash for the venue. When we catch up with him, heís arguing with the promoter who insists he phoned to tell him his set had been moved from 2am to 10pm.
"When did you call mate? Because I didnít get no message," he fumes.
"About 8 oíclock", replies the promoter, looking a bit sheepish.
"I was already on the road by that time, mate. It isnít good enough, we drove like fuckiní lunatics to make this do tonight!" he exclaims.
After a rather heated discussion, the promoter agrees to sort out a cancellation fee and allows us inside the club for a look around. As ravers hound Dougal for a chat, heís unhappy about having wasted precious nervous energy worrying about a gig he wasnít even playing at.
Before we know it, itís 3.30am. Weíre meant to be at Tasmania by 5am and Hastings is, by Dougalís calculations, a two-hour drive away. So we make a hasty retreat to the car and spend the journey listening to Slipmatt live on Dream FM, mixing Ďem up at the event weíve just left.
From here on in, everything runs smoothly and, once again, we arrive at the final gig early. Slipmatt seems to have had such a good time at Bagleys he wonít be coming to Tasmania, so Dougal and Sharkey agree to finish off the last hour between them.
Afterwards, we spend another couple of hours standing at the main door, handing out flyers for the latest Essential Platinum merchandise to shattered punters staggering towards the car park.
Itís 9am and Dougal is still buzzing with nervous energy. Already heís getting worried about whoís going to drive him to tonightís gigs and if any more promoters will let him down.
DJ Dougal's links to Fantazia
DJ Dougal appeared at:
The CD of this set is available from our mail order section.
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