With the first parts of this series dealing with the lead up to birth and the early days of childhood, this final part continues into the realm of inspiration, on both the subject and their children.
Fatherhood thrusts new scenarios onto us all, the most daunting of which being that of the social situation. Be you DJ or punter, there is something to relish in the pre-night out anxiety and unknown shenanigans of a night ahead. Such adrenaline soon fades as you immerse yourself in the night, thanks to the unspoken understanding of individuals banding together to enjoy the simplest of events, a party. Next time you are in the midst of one of these moments, take a moment to step back and witness venues moving in unison to the beat, it is awe inspiring and life affirming.
But what of our little beings? Unable to forge out on their own, we, as parents, find ourselves tasked with providing entertainment outside of the safety of the home. More often than not, you’ll find yourself taking your child to the primary coloured phenomenon known as the soft play gym. It is the complete opposite of a synchronised nightclub, these boxes of unrepressed mania are a terrifying experience.
Such a lifestyle change can be jarring. Approximately one year ago, I was happily enjoying a night out with my ballooning other, bathed in the red light glow and appropriately embryonic soundtrack of Manchester’s Deaf Institute as part of gig review duty for this very site. A couple of weeks ago, I found myself subjected to this terrifying ordeal.
While the gaggle of high decibel children embark on earnest play, parents are left to awkwardly rub shoulders, lumped together with barely more in common than the spectacular talent of procreation, or find a corner to nub their iPhone in for a couple of hours. The latter is my chosen activity, knowing all to well the blank stare that comes with elaborating on a statement such as “I like techno”. However, thanks to the inspiration of children, the nightlife scene provides an unlikely solution, turning on its head and creating an environment where a world roped off for carefree adults collides with the playground.
Those of us who are lucky enough to live in the vicinity of the capital may have heard of the Big Fish Little Fish parties. These events are a godsend for the aging raver looking to meet like minded individuals, while bringing their children into their much loved world of lights and sounds. Speaking to Hannah Saunders, who runs the events alongside Big Fish Little Fish partner Natasha Morabito, the event came from the simplest of motivations:
“I don’t have any particular talents or skills other than a deep and abiding love of music, dancing and having fun,” says Hannah, ” I can’t even ride a bike, so appreciating the bass thump is the only thing I can try and pass on to my kids.”
Even though ‘life changing’ is a well worn cliché, becoming a parent was a significant milestone: “My children inspired me to do something more interesting with my life,” she says, “so I jacked in a twenty year career in the civil service and started organising the parties for other like-minded parents.”
The events themselves are a clash of worlds. You have DJ’s such as Strictly Kev of DJ Food fame, Si Begg, Bugz In The Attic‘s Mark Force, and even a techno grandad in the form of KLF’s Tony Thorpe, all taking command of the system with an eclectic weave of audio. Yet scan your eyes over the dancefloor and you will see arts and craft tables hosting glue based imaginations, glitter and confetti firing out underneath a parachute canopy, and a mixture of heights as parents and children revel in the festivities.
For the participating DJ’s, becoming part of a Big Fish Little Fish event was challenge for even the most seasoned of veterans: “As the date grew nearer I started getting more and more nervous about it,” confessed DJ Food’s Kevin Foakes, “I was analysing what I was going to play and wondering if I could actually pull it off.”
While there was a professional motivation for tackling this gig: ” I was initially sceptical but I decided to do it because it was different and I like a challenge,” there was also a personal motivation:
“It was a big deal for me,” he says, “my family came to the gig and it was the first time my boys had seen me DJ outside of the home studio. I wanted to make them proud of me.”
With this came the nerves: “If I messed it up in front of them of all people I’d be mortified.” he continued, “Their friends and parents from school came down too. The pressure was on. Forget Glastonbury or Brixton Academy, the Effra Social was one of the hardest gigs ever.”
Of course it ended up going to plan, even if the crowd posed unexpected quandaries: “There seemed to be a constant stream of kids wanting to have a go,” explains Kevin, “there was one boy who wanted to know when I was going to play another song, I think the continuous seamless mix maybe confused him.” And there was a new phenomenon to experience in the form of a youthful interpretation of a ‘reach for the lasers!’ moment: “The parachute dance at the end was the big deal,” explains Foakes, “they told me they would end with that and to pick a suitable song. I came up with the Spiritual South remix of Max Sedgley’s ‘Happy‘, which is a bossa groove that stop/starts but keeps on increasing the tempo every time the beat kicks back in.” The impact on the crowd was tangible: ” The kids soon realised what was happening and went madder and madder as it got faster and faster until the explosive end finished it all off nicely.”
So far the reception has been nothing other than a success, with scene magazines such as FACT picking up on the events. Hannah Saunders is obviously delighted:
“Parents responses have been phenomenal. People saying things like ‘I haven’t enjoyed myself like this for nearly five years’, ‘I can’t believe I’ve just danced with my 3 year to Squarepusher’ and ‘thank you, please never stop doing this’.”
Far from sending their clubbing experiences into retirement, fathers are able to embrace them on this exciting chapter in their lives: “Dads in particular seem to enjoy sticking the kids on their shoulders for euphoric acid house classics and the parachute dance,” says Hannah, “the old skool sense of unity can actually get quite emotional.”
It is also something Kevin Foakes hopes will provide a memory for his children: “I’m still not sure exactly what my kids made of it or if they’ll remember it as a big deal,” he concludes, “it’ll be one of those things that just comes out one day years down the line I expect, ‘oh you remembered that did you?'”
Far from being hyperspecific, paraphrasing Terre Thaemlitz‘s opening diatribe to Midtown 120 Blues, here is an event which lives up to the inclusive imagery that is often portrayed in the music we all love, the oft cited freedom and liberty. Through exposure to the music scene via father figures and with events like Big Fish Little Fish, seeds are obviously sown in impressionable minds. James Zabiela has cited a father who played Detroit techno around the house as a musical turning point in his childhood, and the father of Detroit techno himself, Kevin Saunderson, is helping usher in a brand new generation of Saunderson’s into the industry.
One such tale of a life with a father in electronic music is that of Jaime Fiorito, whose father Alfredo is regarded as ‘the king of the Balaeric beat’ through his sessions at legendary Ibiza venue Amnesia. It is this club that played host to some of his earliest memories:
“I started spending more and more afternoons ‘going with daddy to the club’,” he recalls, “spending my day playing around with some other friends of mine in the gardens of Amnesia.” Soon, the club became more of a home: “I was spending time in the early hours of the club and going to bed in the office and waking up at the end of the night.”
While this piece has shone light on the successes of marrying the DJ lifestyle with domestic duties, Alfredo’s work created pressures that were eventually too much to handle: “My father was always on quite unusual hours and I had to adapt,” says Jaime, “it seems like I was living during the day with my mom and with my father during the night. This created a lot of arguments and my parents split up when I was very young.”
Obviously a source of sadness, Jaime remained close to his father even though he spent years living in Switzerland with his mother. What time he spent in Ibiza meant time spent around the clubs. After spending so much time at his fathers places of work, the music bug began to bite: “I was going home and I was asking my dad for the records he played, putting them on a loop on the turntable at home.”
At first a passive listener, active skills started to follow: “It was on my 15th birthday that my dad proposed that I DJ at my own party,” remembers Jaime, “I spent two full nights trying to practice, trying to mix 3 or 4 records together, and It seems like they sounded different every time!”
As the years rolled by, Jaime’s skills matured. He began hosting parties in Switzerland and, on the back of a successful reception of these events, he invited his father to play with him. However, Alfredo had a surprise in store: “He asked me to play with him,” says Jaime, “I was very excited about playing with him and it actually all went quiet smoothly.”
This one event sparked a partnership, bringing father and son closer together: “I guess that was when the collaboration started,” he says, “from 2001-2003 we worked together on the terrace of Space for Manumissions Carry-On, before going on to experiment at gigs all over Europe – Panorama Bar in Berlin or even small clubs such as the respected Zukunft in Zurich. Although it was just recently that we finally decided to give a name to our collaboration: The Heritage Project.”
It is heritage that we hope for when we become fathers. While it is easy to fall under the thrall of our little ones when they are little coo-ing bundles of cuteness, you have to remember that eventually these bundles grow up. We struggle through the restricted hours of free time, we struggle through financial difficulties, we struggle through (sometimes unsuccessfully) relationship issues, all for the reward of watching a human gradually become part of the world and then going on to be someone who can shape it. Far from being an eighteen year long pause button, these tales from the participants across the pieces demonstrate that life not only goes on after children, it thrives.
A huge thanks to Hannah and Kevin – who has just completed a split 12″ with Matt Johnson, is currently being featured in Dust & Groove’s feature on record collecting AND will be deconstructing the Beastie Boys ‘Paul’s Boutique’, alongside Cheeba and Moneyshot, at festivals across the summer – and all the Big Fish Little Fish family for contributing, make sure you keep an eye out for their upcoming events if you fancy an alternative outing with your little ones. Plus a massive thank you to Jaime for providing a much needed final piece of the puzzle, you can catch him playing in Ibiza over the summer at events such as We Love…
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