As 1400+ people descended upon the grounds of a remote manor in North Devon at the weekend for the magnificent and electric Devon Sessions, run by South West promoters Matt Kerley, Clark Bonfield and Lee Daniels, DMCWORLD went along for the ride and managed to grab a few words with headline act, celebrity chef, fashion designer, TV personality and rather decent DJ, Gok Wan….
Interview by Nick Coles
Hi Gok, here we are in the beautiful surroundings of Devon Sessions, how are you are today?
I’m really well thank you, desperate to get on the decks, I got here way too early, and I’m excited to get up there. I’ve just got itchy fingers now.
What kind of music are you playing at the minute?
So, tonight I am going to do a heritage remix set, it depends on the crowd really, but because I know Clockwork Orange are involved, and I know the audience quite well, from Clockstock, and going out to Ibiza with those guys. I love it, I love the crowd, they are all my kind of people. they are very educated about the music, they are wonderful to play to.
As a child growing up in Leicester, what was the first record you bought?
The first record I ever bought was Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl, on a 7 inch and I wasn’t even 10. I remember feeling very grown up, and very mature, because I was buying music. I’ve still got it, the cover’s incredible. That was my first track.
What were the first raves you went to?
Oh my god, I went to all of them. I went to Raindance, Amnesia, Sunrise, Total Chaos to name a few, Being 48 now, I was right there at the height of House music in late 89 and early 90’s. That was when my musical preference was developing and evolving. We were at the Hacienda, Bliss etc. I’ve lived the House music scene for the whole of my life.
Sunrise must’ve been pretty special back in 89’, what did you take away from the whole experience?
You know what, it was the community. Where I was from and the world I was growing up in, that whole rave scene from 89 and early 90s was all about community spirit, and being around like-minded people, that were just interested in the music. They didn’t care where you were from, ethnicity, sexuality or what you looked like. If you loved the music, people became your lifelong friends, and that for me was exactly what house music does. There is no difference from then to now, when I play out to a crowd, for example a super-club where it’s a real mixture, not specifically a rave crowd, you feel the difference. It’s a different energy. Whereas you play to a crowd like this here today, and every single one of them loves the music. You feel like you’ve got something in common with them. So for me that entire two decades of music for me, it was purely about the music spirit.
Suggest an appropriate snack before and after an all-night party (pre-rave and post rave nutrition)
(Laughs) Before you go raving I’d say definitely get your carbs in, a big bowl of Chinese noodles. Get your energy levels up. And post raving, you know what, I’m absolutely obsessed with Skips,
the crisps. Always have a packet of them in the car.
What’s your guilty pleasure in food and music?
My guilty pleasure in food is probably Burger King vegan burgers, which I am absolutely obsessed with. My guilty pleasure in music is probably The Carpenters, amazing drummer, the most incredible vocalist, and also they remind me of my parents, who are both big fans. So there is a lot of heritage there.
Chinese food or English Chinese food?
Chinese food, definitely, my dad is the best Chinese cook in the world, but having said that I am very partial to a chicken curry from a takeaway with rice and chips. But my dad’s is better!
Do you practice Feng shui?
Yes I do actually. I don’t know much about it but my grandmother before she passed was really into it and herbalism, all that kind of stuff. So I am very aware of how rooms are set up. the energy you get. I’ve got mirrors up in the house where they need to be, I kind of learnt that from my Grandmother, I don’t know that much about it, but I am very conscious of it. If I go into a hotel room, and it doesn’t feel right, I move the furniture around. Always.
Describe Ibiza in 3 words?
Chaos, Euphoric, Freedom
3 favourite House records?
Frankie Knuckles – The Whistle Song
Otto Knows – Million Voices
Don Pablo’s Animals – Venus
You are so active and work in many areas – what do you do to relax?
I don’t ever relax, I’m constantly on the go. In fact I either cook, or I DJ at home. So if I need to switch off, it’s one of the two. If the cooking isn’t doing it for me, I get on the decks, and play around.
What’s the worst thing about being a celebrity?
Your lack of anonymity. We all have bad days, and when you are public facing, you can’t have a bad day. Because it’s not the public’s fault. They mustn’t know that you are having a bad day, so that’s probably the worst thing. Everything else is lovely and amazing, and it all comes with the territory.
...and what’s the best?
Your lack of anonymity. It’s a double edged sword, because it’s so nice to have a public profile, and to be validated. It’s nice to have a following. I’m very lucky, because I come down here, people congratulate me etc, it’s lovely.
So here we are at Devon Sessions. When you think of Devon, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
Countryside and peacefulness. When I walked into the party earlier, I thought to myself, this is not peaceful (Lol) it’s absolute chaos here, not what I expected at all. The music is gorgeous this evening. I have been to Devon many times. I’ve played in Devon, I have worked in Devon, and it’s such an amazing part of the country, it’s so picturesque, it’s really beautiful.
As this is an interview for DMC World Magazine, responsible for the famous Back To Mine compilation series. If you were to invite people back to yours after a gig to unwind, what 3 tracks would be the first on the system?
I would probably play Tracy Chapman ‘The Promise’, because it is beautiful, melodic and storytelling, then I would probably trip everyone’s brains with Bizarre Inc’s ‘Playing With Knives, just to completely lift everything, then I would keep it in that vein. I would play Candi Staton’s – ‘You Got The Love’ because I think it’s just one of those tracks that brings everyone together, and it’s a great conversation starter. In fashion we’ve got what we call accents, you put something in an outfit and it makes everyone talk about it, and for me that track is the accent of House music.
Have you experienced any hostility from being a celeb-tuned DJ?
I’m really lucky, I may get hostility but I never see it, but I know how people feel about people coming along and just pretending with a set playlist and whatever. The hardest thing is that I just happen to be a celebrity who loves House music. And I do love it, I am really passionate about it, and for me what I love the most is walking out on stage and noticeably DJ’ing and Mixing. My management (who are also around my age and from the rave scene of 89 and 90’s) always say to everyone, “he’s one of us” and I think that’s accurate, you know a raver when you meet them, whatever age they might happen to be.
Have you always been a DJ behind the scenes?
No not always, I have DJ’d now for around 10 years, and the most wonderful thing is that I now get to share my back catalogue of music, and on a massive scale, and I love that. I’ve collected and listened to house for 30 years !!
Can you see yourself ever moving away from any other aspects of your career, to indulge further into the music industry?
I think I will always do it all. I’ll always be a cook, I will always be a fashion designer. I will always be a writer. I’ll always be a DJ, I’ll always love my House music, and actually, hopefully there will be a million other things that I will always be. I’m almost 50 but I feel like I have only just started out. I have talked about this before, and the most wonderful thing about at this part of my life now, with the music, the TV and everything else. Is that. All those years, months and hours that I spent in clubs, it was the greatest rehearsal for this part of my life.