Bookmark and Share

John Askew on Tiesto, Trance & Brand Values (Interview) ::

Reported by Olly @ Trackitdown on November 13, 2006

“I do not see me as a brand. I hope that the name stands for a particular sound when people see it on a flyer or a bit of vinyl but that’s about it.”

Firmly centred around the tech-trance sound he’s focused on since the early 90s, John Askew remains one of the busiest, most popular DJs on the British club scene, variously holding down residencies at the Gallery, Cream and Ministry of

Sound and more recently hosting a regular show on Kiss FM. Losing the show at the beginning of the year when the station (temporarily) went almost totally R&B, he bounced back via Paul Van Dyk’s Vonyc broadcast platform, reaching a bigger worldwide audience than he enjoyed before. Also prolific on the remix/ production front, he continues to release mix CDs like brand new one Floor Control, a mix he’s done from the heart.

“I just pick a bunch of my favourite records at that time, get stoned and fuck about on the decks until I’ve recorded something I’m happy with.” John explains, with refreshing honesty about his technique,

“And it’s called  ‘Floor Control’ because that was the name of a track that I signed and remixed for Duty Free recordings – which was later released on Vandit, so there’s a bit of blatant plagiarism there,” he laughs.
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): Starting with the compilation’s title, how much is DJing about control: what’s they key to obtaining it, building it and keeping it?

John Askew: “Well to an extent the DJ does control the dance floor in a club. After all he decides what music is played and as such whether the mood will be upbeat, euphoric, melancholy, minimal, ambient or whatever. In terms of obtaining it, building it and keeping it, it normally comes from playing a club a number of times and thus gaining the trust of the regular crowd who hopefully then in turn allow you to experiment and deviate from the usual stuff from time to time.”
Skrufff: Now that so many people are aware of the mechanics of DJing, how much has that changed the way you perform?

John Askew: “Exactly the same amount of effort and energy goes into every compilation I do. Compilations today are a vital means for independent record companies to survive – not just releasing their own albums, but also, through other companies/labels albums, providing an additional revenue source for their music – in order to accommodate for the decreased vinyl sales that have occurred over the last 5 to 6 years. Getting your label’s music on to as many compilations as possible is essential. Also from the perspective of a DJ compilations are a great was to promote what you do in clubs.”

Skrufff: How important is marketing these days compared to when you started?

John Askew: “Marketing is extremely important. You can’t get work unless there is a demand for you and how can there be a demand if nobody has even heard of you?”   
Skrufff: Louis Osbourne (Ozzy’s son) has just started a law degree for the eventuality of when he no longer DJs, do you even plan/ prepare contemplate about life after clubs?

John Askew: “Does he DJ? Is he any good? How cool! I would love to hear what he plays. I have no plans to do anything other than music. I do think there is a certain age where I will give up DJing, you know ‘leave the stage with dignity intact’, but even after that I would still want to make a living from being in my studio making music in some form or another.”
Skrufff: I was a regular at London’s legendary Final Frontier at Club UK in the mid 90s where you used to DJ often, how much does the club scene of today compare to then?

John Askew: “Were you? Wasn’t it amazing. On a personal level nothing could ever come close to Final Frontier at Club UK. Even when the promoters, Universe, moved to their new club The Complex in Islington it wasn’t quite the same. Nothing will ever be like Final Frontier, but that said I’m not one of these tedious people who moans on about ‘things aren’t what they used to be’ or all that “back in the day” bollocks. One thing that’s for certain, the music now is a million times better now than it was then.”
Skrufff: It seems like you’ve enjoyed a steady, relentless career- ever had moments of crisis- eg the bookings drying up?

John Askew: “As I’m sure anyone in all lines of work experiences, there are good days and bad days. I’ve had all kinds of ups and downs, but luckily today things are pretty stable and good. Most of the negative shit I get now is to do with flight delays, computers crashing, manufactures delaying deliveries of vinyl, and other such relatively minor issues. As long as the music continues to be as good as it is now, I don’t mind dealing with stuff like this – no matter how infuriating it can be at the time.”  
Skrufff: Do you ever get bored of tech/ trance based music or feel tempted to pick up the Les Paul guitar from your teenage rock band days again?

John Askew: “Ha ha!! The Les Paul is indeed a regular in my hands once again – although it’s now a Fernandes guitar. I can’t remember the model, but it’s the signature one that the rhythm guitarist from Velvet Revolver developed. Thanks for that, John, I’m sure everyone is riveted to hear this exciting information. I play with a bunch of my oldest friends still. Every 2 or 3 months we get together for a few days in a garage, drinking beers, getting stoned and rocking out. It feels great, but it’s just for fun really. I don’t expect us to be paying the Download festival next year. Going back to your original question. I never get bored or trance or tech trance or whatever, but there certainly are a shit load of records that I get sent that are boring since they lack originality.”

Skrufff: Gareth Emery recently said '95% of trance is cheesy bollocks'; how much would you agree?

John Askew: “I think he’s mostly right, there is a huge infestation of cheese out there, although I would probably put the figure at 80%. There is an incredible amount of amazing stuff out there as well.”
Skrufff: What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve faced in your career and how did you overcome it?

John Askew: “Sacrificing quality time with so many of my close friends. They work in the week and socialize together on the weekends. I’m the opposite and away at the weekends. It’s really devastating since my friends mean the world to me, but it’s unavoidable as this is career I have opted for. In terms of how to overcome it, I’m still working on that so I’ll get back to you.”  

Skrufff: You DJed alongside Tiesto at Slinky in August: what do you make of Slinky leaving the Opera House; and the owner’s explanation that club culture is suffering?

John Askew: “It’s really sad. Especially since Slinky was one of the few clubs in the UK you could always rely on being rocking. Every time I have been there it’s been busy with a killer atmosphere, but if this is the explanation that the owners have given then I guess there must have been some quieter nights? It’s a bit of a generalisation to say club culture is suffering. I don’t know, but I will be very interested to see what happens to the venue in the next 4 or 5 months.”
Skrufff: Playing alongside Tiesto; what is it about his that makes him so popular; is he technically superior to everyone else, more charismatic; does he dance around the booth in a way that excites people usually?

John Askew: “No comment.”

John Askew: Floor Control, is out now via

Jonty Skrufff (