New Year’s Day, Berlin. An entirely fictional DJ - let’s call him Snorkel - sits on his sofa stifling a panic attack while watching a dubbed version of Rock Of Ages with the sound just low enough that it won’t wake his housemate’s cousin who is fast asleep on the floor, snoring and pumping out fetid second-hand whisky fumes like some kind of horrible Glade plugin in the shape of a fat plasterer. He’s too terrified to change the channel, and too nauseous to stomach the bacon sandwich sitting uneaten in his lap, and as a ray of bitter sunlight daggers through a crack in the drawn curtains, a thought occurs to him: “I can’t go on like this.”
Addicts refer to this as ‘hitting bottom,’ the precise moment in which it finally strikes you that your lifestyle is unsustainable, and that you need to make some serious changes if you want to maintain your physical and mental wellbeing. Fortunately for Snorkel, this moment of clarity has arrived on the one day of the year when the entire developed world is resolving to live a better life, declaring which bad habits they are going to leave behind in the year just past. What better time to give up booze?
And so ‘Dry January’ it is. Along with millions of other well-meaners Snorkel pledges not to touch a drop of alcohol until February. Now for little Joey Bloggs 9-to-5ing it in the city this isn’t so hard, all he needs to do is skip the after-work pints on a Friday and he’s golden. For Joey, the spiritual vacuum left by the absence of beer can probably be filled by watching Gogglebox, or drilling a hole in a wall, or looking into the loving eyes of his child or some shit. But for those of us blessed with the god-given talent of mixing 2 records together, giving up the hard stuff is no mean feat.
As a DJ you may only be playing one or two gigs a week, but the early morning sets and hurly-burly of aeroplane travel will have monged up your sleeping pattern so much that even on a regular day by the time you’ve woken up, played GTAV for 4 hours, had breakfast, had a shower, had a ‘number two’ and a furious, cistern-rattling ‘number three’, there are very few socialising options other than going for a drink. Alcohol is the lubricant that keeps the cogs of the music business so very slowly turning, and keeping up appearances means staying well and truly off the wagon. You wanna have a ‘meeting’ with that booking agent? It’s gonna be at the pub. You wanna sign that contract? You’re gonna do it over a pint. You wanna scope out that vocalist you’re thinking of working with? Well why don’t you go to their gig and oh maybe have a drink or two while you’re there. Been invited to your manager’s baby shower? Bring a clean pair of undies, because you’re probably going to need them tomorrow morning when you wake up in Rhyl handcuffed to a pedalo.
In any other profession - apart from maybe construction or being Oliver Reed - this level of functional alcoholism would be seen as a serious hindrance to your work, but for DJs the opposite is true: your debauched lifestyle is one of your selling points. Your fans aren’t paying the entry fee to see some Cuthbert up on stage sipping elderflower cordial and pushing his glasses up his nose, they want to see Davey fucking DeeJay sinking a rum & ginger and extravagantly adjusting an EQ.
Snorkel’s resoluteness, however, is strong - he didn’t get to the upper echelons of the European DJ circuit by giving up on his goals - and for the first few days things go well. He visits his local kneipes with his freunds and stoically sticks to the lime & sodas, and it’s not nearly as difficult as he’d imagined. In fact a couple of days off the sauce begin to reveal a sharpness of mind that had been sorely missed for many a hangover-blighted year, and Snorkel envisages a new world opening up to him: a world of morning runs and evening classes, a world of going to bed at a reasonable hour and not missing the best part of the day, a world of yoga mats and .. fuckin… figs. He finally feels like a real adult human being, and the rest of his life, free from bullshit entrapments like booze and recreational drugs, stretches out productively in front of him. This is the day that everything changed for the better.
With this in mind, Snorkel sets of for his first gig of the year with the noble intention of remaining stone cold sober for the entirety, of treating his job as just that: a job. This will be the biggest test of his willpower yet, made doubly hard by the fact that the promoter will be doing everything in his power to make sure that Snorkel gets very drunk. The world of gig organising is a competitive one, and promoters love nothing better than to go running off to their little promoter friends and brag about how fucked up they got the artist: “Oh, so Ruud Pendlbaars snorted a Jägerbomb out of an albino’s bum-crack live on stage at your show? Yeah, well, we gave Skream 3 bottles of vodka and a gram of cocaine and he shat himself then had to have his stomach pumped. How d’you like THEM apples?”
In the end it doesn’t take much to cave Snorkel’s resolve. That puppyish promoter enthusiasm, seven shot glasses and six pairs of expectant young eyes backstage are enough to break him. They’re excited about having a drink with the big DJ man. They’re only 22, with their little Barbour jackets and their asymmetric haircuts. They haven’t realised that tech house is shit yet. Snorkel doesn’t want to be the guy that pours alcohol-free piss all over their chips. No, like any self respecting adult he drinks the drinks put in front of him, and It doesn’t take long for that familiar and reassuring contentedness to start flowing through the ventricles and firing through the synapses, dissolving Snorkels utopian vision of a sober life in its wake. Looking around him at the handsome young foreign people full of life and joy and youth, drinking and laughing and kind-of-dancing, he understands that this is his place in the world. This is what life is, not pomegranates and tantric sex.
And so we leave him in a schwarma house, pants on head, thumping the table and bellowing. Despite all of his hard work, Snorkel will wake up the next day with a hangover. Parched mouth, throbbing eyeballs and a distant sense of dread will be his unwelcome but strangely comforting companions for the day, like old school friends that you essentially hate but whose presence can’t help but fill you with a warm nostalgia for simpler times. And as we all know there is only one way to get through a day with friends like these: take them to the pub.
We began ‘researching’ this ‘article’ a while ago, looking for ‘hilarious’ New Year’s Eve complaints. We thought we would write an acerbic think-piece about one particular tweet, poking fun at the ungrateful no-marks that rung in your new year with a spinback of their half-arsed whubbuda-whubbuda Katy Perry remix then complained about the lack of power outlets backstage. You’d read it and almost smile once. Around fifteen of you would ‘like’ it on Menshn or Grindr, and we’d congratulate ourselves and feel like Norman Mailer or some shit.
It was a beautiful vision, but one that was entirely scuppered by the fact that we couldn’t find any complaints from past New Year’s Eves. Sure, there were a few token “delayed flight fml”s on New Year’s Eve morning, and a “hangover from hell” or two on New Year’s Day, but for the most part even the most unrepentantly complainy jockey appeared unusually optimistic on December 31st.
It’s no surprise, because frankly there is little to complain about as a DJ on New Year’s Eve. A culmination of a year’s hard work, it’s equal parts annual keynote address and office christmas piss up - for once, everything is working in your favour. You don’t have to spend it in the company of your girlfriend’s boss; or on a barge, drunk on whisky with seven people that you don’t really like; or at a Salt-N-Pepa-themed party, dressed like even more of an arsehole than you usually are. You don’t have to spend it chasing a ‘good time’ that magically evaporates from every single room that you enter. No no no, you are going to work, and you will spend it doing what you do best: playing music and demanding stuff.
The promoters will be delighted that it’s the one night of the year that they probably won’t lose money. They’ll go out of their way to make sure that every little thing is exactly as you want it, and they’ll pay you double your normal fee for the privilege. You want some mashed potato? They’ll get you some mashed potato. They’ll get you enough mash that you can give mash to all of your mates backstage, leave mash all over the table and still have had enough mash that every time you burp for the next week it tastes of mash. Loads of mash!
Best of all though, your usually fastidious crowd will have hit the town with an unfamiliar spring in their step, letting both their hair and their guard down for one night only, because even the most joyless techno blogger understands that they’ll look like a total bellend if they tweet about ‘weak transitions’ on New Year’s Eve. Everyone is out to have a good time, and as long as you play Voodoo Ray or Next Hype at midnight and don’t try to crowbar that difficult Romanian acid tune into your set you’re going to have the heaving masses excitedly gun-fingering their way in to a new annum.
Ultimately, the punters are just relieved to be anywhere. After weeks of trying to find a night that’s not too expensive and not sold out, of trying coordinate friends and loved ones. After weeks of trying to avoid, at all costs, the terrible fate of having to stop in and watch The Hootenany with their uncle, finally the night is here and they are ‘out,’ and their anxieties dissolve as quickly as the tiny ice cubes in their £7 rum & coke. In a week or two when Nathan peeks over his iPhone in the staff room to ask them how they spent the big night, they will be able to say that they were somewhere, surrounded by some people of a similar age, getting tweaked on balloons and doing the cupid shuffle; not sipping on a dissorano and watching Jools Holland and Suggs ring in the new year with an elaborate honky tonk rendition of Auld Lang Syne. You helped make their night, and for those few precious weeks when 2014 is a blank and promising page as yet unsmeared by shit, you have helped make their year.
Have a good one lads, and thanks for reading.