Echoes: Dean Thatcher

Jocks&Nerds’ Echoes series is an ongoing programme of evenings hosted in the lobby of the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch, London.
Curated by Jocks&Nerds’ resident selector, Stuart Patterson (Faith/Soulsonic), the series welcomes a different guest DJ, each of whom has been instrumental in the development of London’s club scene. Entrance to the night is free and all are welcome.
Ahead of his appearance this Thursday, Stuart Patterson sat down with Dean Thatcher to discuss his career and the impact of London’s nightlife on his own.

The DJ and club promoter Dean Thatcher has his roots in reggae, soul and ska. He started DJing at his local youth club in the 1970s and got swept up by the acid house movement a decade later. During this time he was DJing alongside the likes of Danny Rampling, Andrew Weatherall, Phil Perry and Steve Proctor. He then went on to start his club night Flying with Brandon Block.

The excitement was like punk all over again but the drugs were much better

In 1990, he formed the house band the Aloof with producer Jagz Kooner, who was also a member of Weatherall’s the Sabres of Paradise. They issued the single ‘Never Get Out of the Boat’, launching it on Pete Tong’s FFRR Records in 1991.

The duo later added vocalist Ricky Barrow, programer Gary Burns, and then drummer Richard Thair – releasing several singles through their own imprint Cowboy Records. During the summer of 1996, the group played several festivals and watched their single ‘One Night Stand’ reach the Top 30 later that year. They released the album Seeking Pleasure in 1998.

What were your earliest memories of appreciating music?

My earliest memories are junior school, first wave of skinheads, reggae and Tamla Motown was the music of the day. The must-have LP was [the Trojan Records reggae compilation] Tighten Up Volume 2. I've still got it and it's still got the 14/6 sticker on it.

What were you first club experiences and which venues, parties and DJs influenced you?

My first club experiences were the Oldfield in Greenford, Crackers on Wardour Street, the Birds Nest in Harrow, Cheeky Pete's/Brolly's in Richmond, and Scamps in Hemel Hempstead.

But the club that really blew me away was Global Village in Charing Cross – summer 1976. To say it changed my life is an understatement. In those days, it wasn't so much about the DJs, it was about the dancers Tommy Mac and John Quinn etc. It was also about the clothes. We all looked like Sex Pistols devotees and you can guess what came next.

Tell us about your first DJ experiences?

My first DJ experience was at the local youth club aged 14. I was influenced by the local cool dudes Interspin and Alan Farmer. I would spend my milk round and paper round money on US and Jamaican imports from [the store] Rayners Lane Disco Centre. I worked there many years later alongside [DJs] John Jules, Simon Dunmore and Ket Shah.

You play vintage soul and ska now but how did you get swept up in the house music thing in the late 1980s?

I was running soul nights with Simon Dunmore at C&L Country Club and Chelsea Football Club when the house explosion happened. You couldn't help but get caught up in it. The excitement was like punk all over again but the drugs were much better. Trip, Shoom, Spectrum and Boy's Own were and are legendary.

Tell us about the whole Flying scene, shop, label and your productions.

Flying was a night I ran and played at in a little bar in Uxbridge called the Villa. That's where I first met Brandon Block, we hit it off straight away and started DJing together. We decided to have a go at doing a proper club night and to use the name I already had Flying.

The club was a great success. We wanted to take it further but also wanted to concentrate on the music, so we asked Charlie Chester if he would do the promotional side of things. He said yes, and we and the club went proper bonkers.

We had a regular number of guests at Flying: Andrew Weatherall, Fabi Paras, Rocky and Diesel, Phil Perry, Terry Farley, Lofty, Clive Henry, Scott Braithewaite, Craig Walsh. It goes on and on.

It just seemed like a good idea to open a record shop with so many enthusiasts around us. At that time DJs started to make records, mine was ‘Never Get Out Of the Boat’ by the Aloof. We pressed up a load of white labels and it sold out immediately. Pete Tong came in the shop and signed it to FFRR Records, which was fun.

Cooltempo Records offered us a label deal, it didn't work out so we set up Cowboy Records out of a little office in Hayes. That whole set up lead to me DJing around the planet. I formed a proper band with the Aloof, we signed to East West Records and toured all over the place playing at all the major festivals. It was fantastic.

Do you still see London's nightlife as inspiring and with a good future?
London will always have great pockets of nightlife. It evolves a lot quicker these days. The Tube going 24 hour will be brilliant.

What do you have coming up this year?
Highlights include Lattitude festival, Secret Garden Party, Bournemouth Soul Jam, myself and Richard Epps's new monthly Plink Plink Fizz and my regular do at the Social in Studio 45.

** Echoes is a laid back, eclectic session. Give us five tracks we might hear from you on the night.**

  1. ‘We’ve Got to Find a Way Back to Love’ by Freda Payne

  2. ‘Running Back and Forth’ by Edwin Starr

  3. ‘Wake Up Everybody’ by Big Youth

  4. ‘I Dig Everything About You’ by the Mob

  5. ‘Just Loving You’ by Ruby Andrews