Des Mitchell

Without doubt, one of the nicest guys you will ever meet in the music industry. A phenomenal DJ both on the radio and smashing the dancefloor, with residencies all around the world for over five decades. With new music up his sleeve ready to rock his beloved BCM in Mallorca this summer, Dan Prince catches up with the Birmingham legend as he gets set to soothe the Maldives with another perfect sunset…


Des a huge welcome back to DMCWORLD. You grew up of course in Birmingham with Jamaican parents, music must have been all around you as a child. What are some of your earliest musical memories from those early days?

Hi Dan I indeed grew up in Handsworth in Birmingham. I can remember fondly my mother making me dance with her to Chris Montez, Chubby Checker, Aretha, or reggea like Jimmy Cliff, Delroy Wilson, Barry Biggs, Janet Kay and stuff like that. Top of the Pops was on but rubbish really, I had a friend or I think a cousin called Ronnie Mqueen who played bass guitar for Steel Pulse and he lived across the road, so I hung out with them when they practiced.

Can you remember the first live gig you went to?

Well I was a roadie with bands like Motorhead, Bad Manners, Madness, Thin Lizzie etc. so I saw a lot of them, but the first live gig I paid for was Barry White at the Aston Villa football ground. Plus I saw The Jacksons at Birmingham Bingley Hall…both amazing times.

You started DJing at the tender age of 14. What made you want to spin vinyl at such an early age, who were your inspirations and what was the dream back then?

A DJ called Johnny Olsen (RIP) started me as one of his roadies. He had a double gig one night and said I should play at Dudley Wood YC, he put the gear in and one of his crew and it went well. After I reflected in the fact that I’d just played at a youth club and got paid to something that I normally went to as a punter. I was ecstatic. I got asked to join the Mecca club at Blackheath doing under 18’s discos and that was it for me, the bug hit me and I just wanted to learn more. But even back then I was careful, a little bit selective even. The funny thing was, I was told by one club manager that he didn’t like me because I kept the music going continually! Who knew eh?

Your first real break in the entertainment industry came via the late great BBC Pebble Mill what is the story there?

So I get a phone call from BBC Radio WM (I was ex-directory). They had asked at a couple of record shops in the city who might be okay at doing a radio show and my name was put forward. So I went along and did a 40 minute recording on the Thursday of a reggae, funk and soul show. I did it how I thought it should sound, good music and a presenter everyone could understand. After the first recording I went home and heard nothing from them. I listened to the show on the Sunday afternoon, I was pleased but knew I could do better.

Three days later I received a cheque for £30 and I was asked to come in and record another show. This went on every Thursday, recording shows for 6 weeks…then on the 7th week they told me I was going live and could I do 2 hours. I happily said yes and then June Harben my producer turned and said, “oh and it’s live from Handsworth Park carnival.” I have still got the photo….

You had had a good education and I am sure your folks of their son heading in a different direction career wise. What did they want you to do and what was their reaction to your choice of lugging boxes of records around for a living?

Mom was very supportive dad, definitely not so. My father was a bus driver and wanted me to be a mechanic so I could work anywhere in the country. So I went with it but I failed a medical due to being born with asthma! My dad was more upset than me. I didn’t really let it bother me too long and got a job in a garage, but knew I could never go the full way. During all of this I was always thinking music and where was my next gig, where was I going; Manchester, Gloucester, Stoke, Leicester or Birmingham? I remember when I got the BBC show and was doing it regularly live, my father was only too glad to shout ‘my son works at BBC Pebble Mill’.

It was the sunny shores of Tenerife that gave you your first taste of a life in the sun where you quickly became the No.1 DJ on the island. Were you still on the mic back then or had you started to mix, and what were the artists you would be spinning at that time?

Around 1978 we used to go on coaches to clubs in London and all was good till we found The Royalty with the mighty Froggy doing the mix. Oh WoW that was the way I wanted to go and the way I went, but I never knew if I was good at it as I was one of the early DJ’s doing the mix in Brum back then. So we get to 1986 and I had just come out of my first DMC Mixing Final at the legendary Hippodrome in London. The winner was Chad Jackson, then DJ John Robinson who I met up with again in Japan… another chapter!

I recall my late brother Bunny and John Saunderson had put my name in for that mixing competition, I’m glad now.   So I took a holiday after being driven nuts by my mate Kev who was a partner in a bar out there… Martins Bar in Veronicas. First evening I’d gone into Trammps in Starco building and the short story is… the DJ in there heard I was a DJ and verbally challenged me to come and prove myself. I did a quick DMC mix using James Brown, Kool & the Gang, Cashflow, Janet, BarKays, D-Mob, a bit a scratching then ended by using the mic saying I’m Des Mitchell and I’ll hand you back to… what is your name!

The next day I was offered Crow’s Nest Bar which had been closed a year, I said yes if I can have a JBL sound system, a Formular Sound PM80 DJ mixer (same as the Hippodrome) and play what I think will work. It had been closed a year so nothing to lose. No bars were playing the music that was in vogue then’; Janet, Maze, Luther, Cashflow, Brass Construction, Alexander O’Neill, Jellybean, Change, David Joseph, Crown Heights, Emotions, Cheryl Lynn, Fatback, War; awesome stuff to play back then and of course Tenerife was packed full of Londerners wanting to dance a la London clubs., every other city followed suit… ‘You got to go where the black guy plays’ was the cry going around.

I was on a roll and a good respected one. Each year I moved up to better and put 2 DJs into my place. So, by the time I was asked to go BCM in Mallorca, I had installed 8 DJs playing damn good music across Veronicas and Tenerife. A proud time for me.

Ahh glad you mentioned BCM. As you said, you were offered a job at the mighty 5000 capacity venue in Mallorca, “it’s a much more beautiful island” you were told, and off you went. What was your first impressions of this giant of a nightclub and also, Mallorca?

You know something Dan, I almost didn’t make it. A friend was getting married in Canada so I thought I’ll go there for that, see Niagara, as you do then back…

All change, it was winter 88 and cold and after being in a record shop chatting, I got asked if I’d do an interview for C.I.U.T. Radio about DMC as I’d become the first UK DJ to be in a DMC Mixing Final 3 years in a row; 86 87 and 88. No I didn’t win, but doing that I didn’t need to. And remember, CJ Mackintosh had won in 87 and that year’s Semi Final I beat Carl Cox to go through! DJ’s like Mark Ryder, Paul Daykene, DJ Pogo, Hutchie & more had been in this comp… it was a BIG thing to us. DJ Cutmaster Swift of course won it in 88.

So two things; I made a live on air call to my mate in his car Danny D (D-Mob) so that had them smiling. Then two, they liked my speech and so they offered me a show. So my first show I played a Soul II Soul track and the phones went nuts, I didn’t know but Soul II Soul hadn’t arrived in Canada so I was first to play a couple of their biggies ‘Fairplay’ and ‘Keep On Movin’. Boom! Club work came in so I stayed 6 months.

The summer arrives and I head back to Tenerife where I’m told BCM had been looking for me, my first reaction was who ! where! So I head of to Mallorca and the mighty BCM June 1989. The music that was being played was Madonna, Prince, Earth Wind & Fire and they expected me to play the same. Now remember I’d come from Tenerife via Canada so my record collection, especially for gigs, was definitely leaning to USA and UK house music; Raze. Farley Jackmaster. Steve Hurley. Adamski. FPI. Adeva. Mr Lee. Jungle Brothers. Inner City. Guy Called Gerald. Frankie. Patti Day.

I played my set on my third night in Mallorca of watching the exact same set played by the BCM DJ team, looked pretty but so boring, especially after the third time night of seeing it. The crowd was a lot of Spanish and really loved the house music I played, but I was told after (management) that wasn’t the music they wanted. I said ‘am I playing for you or the crowd, as this is what’s happening and about to explode?’ The next day I was back on a plane to Tenerife lol.

Three days later I get a call at Bobby’s Bar from BCM; ‘Ok’ they said. ‘We’ll try it your way and let’s see… 32 years later after working regularly and closely with some of the best and first names in house dance music. Proud is an understatement… Tony Humphries, CJ Makintosh, The king Frankie Knuckles, Tall Paul, Erick Morillo, Danny Tenaglia, Armand V, Deep Dish, Coxy, Paul O, Seb Fontaine, Mr C, Ann Savage, Allister Whitehead, Sister Bliss, Blocko & Peasey, Sonique, Tiesto, George Morel, Roger S, Westbam, Sneak, Judge Jules, Sister Bliss, Sasha, John Digweed, Dave Seaman, DJ Rap, Doc C, Vicky Divine, Dave Pearce, Jim Masters, Smokin Jo, Paul Mendez, Jose Nunez, MK, Louie Vega, Sarah G, David Morales, Tony De Vit (RIP), Duke Dumont, Armin, Jim Ryan, Pete Tong, Felix Da Housecat, Jeremy Healy, Oliver Knight & Pablo, James H, plus being the resident for Danny Howard and his nights…

As Tongy would say, ‘we continue…’

I think I might have been right after all.

Yes the world was by now in the grip of Acid House. You had seen disco disappear, funk and hip hop emerge – what was your take on this new form of music called dance?

I embraced it and liked what was happening in clubs and on dancefloors.

People were really getting into it and the atmosphere was euphoric, it really was. I was resident at this huge club and there was such a lot of great music coming at you and I knew I was somewhere to help get it out there. I’d flown back to the UK to pop into DMC to collect some bits and also go to buy some music and ended up at a shop called R&D Records in West London. I’d met Jon Jules out in Tenerife and he was there and the chap that sold me tunes became known as Brandon Block   I remember 1990 with Inner City performing at BCM and we had about 3,000 people in by 1am and the floor was jammed. I just started playing house music similar to Inner City, starting with Zoe & mixing up to Raze, Ten City, Adamski, Serious Intention, Class Action, JM Silk, Leftfield, Petra & co. By the time IC hit the stage the club was ready and it was the best feeling ever hearing that big female accapela vocal in a huge dark club… ‘LET ME TAKE TO A PLACE I KNOW YOU WANNA GO’  then bang! The club had a booming system and probably the best club lasers in Europe at the time. Amazing memories.

You also spent six months DJing in one of your favourite countries Japan where you once infamously opened the £40m Velfarre Club. I went to the World Cup Final there once Des and it was like landing on Mars. What was it about this incredible country you loved so much?

Where do I begin on this one WoW  It’s November 94 and the Velfarre Club is owned by the Avex Records Company, it was to be a place to showcase their artist roster at different stages and events. I think the first thing I noticed was nobody cared about colour, I mean there was no shock look on peoples faces to this black man with dreadlocks walking around the Tokyo Roppongi area. I got asked where I was from more than anything and on replying UK, I got a smile as they thought (back then) that we are all gentlemen. I mean a lot of us are lol!

The club’s main resident was John Robinson who as I said earlier was in the 86 DMC Final and he’d come to Mallorca to ask me about coming to Tokyo. I was there about two weeks before the club opening so you could go and see Tokyo and it’s bars, the Joypolis games entertainment places, restaurants, cool buildings, hotels, the bullet trains – plus of course checking out the club with gold armed technics in all rooms (3) and a mixer built purely for the Velfarre Club. Mind blowing. So 2 VIP nights for opening, who has 2!?!  Well, the first night they had a couple of UK dance pop acts and then Sybil as the main act – she was just on fire. The second, which I didn’t know about till the evening, was DONNA SUMMER and a 16-piece orchestra! I was in awe, shocked, happy, excited – the lot. And she was amazing and her library of songs was just ear candy lol. ‘I’m not going anywhere if this is how it’s going to go’ I thought to myself…and it really did. So apart from them bringing over USA DJ’s like Morel, Sanchez, Morales, Morillo, Francoise Kevorkian they did things like a live album recording with Earth Wind & Fire (my sister still has my sealed copy) including Maurice White & Philip Bailey’s AMAZING night… F1 week was every F1 driver at the time brought to the club to hang out, proud to say I’m still friends with Eddie Irvine. They also did a thing called Dance Matrix where every international artist that they had signed to the label came to Tokyo over a 7-day period to play the club… From Whigfield to Newton to Bananarama to Nicki French (who came with John Saunderson) to The Prodigy… a few days with Mr Flint (RIP) Liam, Leeroy & Maxim – wow that’ll wake you up. And more.

I stayed 10 months on the first contract but I did miss my BCM and Mallorca. The following winter of 96 to 97 after a booming Mallorca summer, I was asked to go to another Japanese contract for an English/Indian guy called Suku who had a little house club in Nagoya. I had a great time playing and teaching young DJs some of the finer points of mixing. The summer of 98 and I was back in BCM, then in the winter of 1998 Velfarre had a small refit to their club – they added a body sonic sound system and bass speaker unit that hydraulically came up out the floor and doubled as a dance podium either side of the DJ cabin – absolutely awesome! They brought me back for 5 months as a resident DJ again. So yes Dan, I love that country!

True or false? You are the first DJ to have a Top 5 hit in the UK charts?

Ha ha! Well I looked into this and because I don’t or didn’t put my name as DJ Des Mitchell, I have to say ‘false’ as it falls to DJ Otzi. But it’s ‘true’ if you use clubhouse DJ’s that play BCM, EDEN, El Divino, Es Paradis, Ministry, Space etc.

My track ‘Welcome To The Dance’ was created to play in BCM by me for me as most DJs were starting to create and playing their tracks in BCM. It was a big thing, so of course I was given a few promos over the years; I had helped DJ Johan get into Velfarre after my first year out there and he stayed a good while. He was part of Airscape and as a thank you, Sven and he invited me to the studios in Belgium to record something for me. I had lots of ideas from tracks, it must have a bass run similar to a Natural Born Grooves, Strings, hi hat roll as it hadn’t been done, keys that only Sven could play back then and a drive that I could talk over if needed. The title came because each night in BCM I introduced you to the club by saying ‘welcome to bcm planet dance’. We cut it down and came to ‘WELCOME TO THE DANCE’ – ta dah!

The track did get to number 5 in UK charts January 2000 and had been a number 1 dance around the world.  I have to thank Paul Van Dyk as he heard Brandon play it in BCM and asked me what it was. I said my new track and he asked for two copies. He then went to Ibiza the next day and  played it twice in his 1999 3 hour Amnesia set and 6 of the tracks from his set went on the following month’s DJ MAG CD. ‘Welcome’ was one of them and also big shouts to Tongy for playing it new year eve at Cream at Liverpool docks; I was in a car in Northern Ireland going to my second gig and heard it being played on Radio 1…  so many stories of plays for it, probably my favourite is Tongy interviewing Sonique on her USA tour and asking what was her big track out there and she said  ‘Des Mitchell’s Welcome to the Dance Part 1’  –  HUGE BUZZ!!

You currently spend your winters as Resident DJ on the Six Senses Laamu Resort in the Maldives. Who are some of the A-Listers you have had dancing in the sand?

Well, you first need to know I saved a friend’s life back around 93 in Mallorca – Chris Young. The quick one is… He’d come to mine to watch footy and he wasn’t looking good. We ended up at the hospital and later found he had a collapsed lung. I took care of everything; insurance, parents, flights, escape from hospital (way to much £) lol. Fast forward and he marries a girl called Riff (Reef) who becomes a British diplomat and they get stationed in Bangladesh. While there he starts working with Sheraton Resorts & Hotels and they create the W Resort on Fesdu island with a nightclub which Chris helped put together. And when they said ‘we need a good DJ’… he said, ‘I might know one’  Funny how life goes isn’t it?  So yes it goes back to winter 2006 where I opened the W Resort Maldives and played a 4 month all paid singing and dancing contract for them including a water villa…. If there is to be a paradise on earth then the Maldives must be it. I’ve played a few other resorts but when I got to Six Senses I kinda loved it and the more they asked me to come back and with same deal each winter with pay rises, the more you chill and learn to enjoy the finer things, fine people around you, good food, great accommodation. It’s that old comment… ‘what’s not to love?’. I’ve rubbed shoulders with absolutely all sorts of good people from different ranges of the world. Kylie, Chris of Coldplay, Scooter, Dolce of D&G who was cool as you like, Paul Allen and his mahooooosive yacht Octopus, Tata steel owner is a regular with his yacht Amavi, Lance Strolls, Racing driver Euan Hankey, Jessie J, Sam Worthington is a regular, Holly Willoughby, Martin Garrix has been a couple of times, Ruud Gullit, Davina McCall twice and Danny De Vito to name a couple lol.

How does your musical selection change from say midnight in the Maldives to midnight at BCM in Mallorca?

I started out with soul as a young man. There wasn’t really much else that I wanted to play in a loving kind of way, so I have a really big memory in my head and music collection. I always knew how I’d want to relax and what I’d listen too, so that’s how I approached the Maldives; sunset sessions can range from Euge Grooves, Fac15, Grover Washington, early jazz, Benson, accapela mixes from Gorgon City, Kiesa, Ella Eyre, Joss Stone and then by 9:30 I take it up to Chaka, Loose Ends, Lemar, Incognito, Lighthouse Fam, Maxwell… you get the idea! Smooth soulful and up into 105bpm soul sessions till around midnight and all mainly mixed (they can be found on my mixcloud DesSoulKitchen). I know that doesn’t sound late and it’s not supposed to be as it’s about enjoying the moment; the island, the calm, the sea, the moon. Now New Year is a whole different dancing story as we build a marquee on the beach, fill it with a sound system, lights and me and it’s last one out turn the lights off. And believe me it’s a good one! BCM after midnight has it’s own direction & long may it continue. It is still a place to hear good music on a Funktion1 system that is updated regularly. I’ve mentioned the summer but even during the winter months has music played by very good resident DJs along with DJ stars for the darker side like Hernan Cattaneo, David Penn, Loco Dice, Pig & Dan, Riva Starr and Spider. 

Which brings us to 2022 and a summer that has seen BCM undergo a six million euro refurb. Covid is now behind us, the hotels are 85% full this summer on Mallorca…what has BCM got in store for us this time round?

After a refurb like that, the main answer I’ve given is everybody who’s connected to that club past or present will be wanting to see it. Yes there will be the ‘oh they shouldn’t have done that’, but there will be more of the new breed of clubber, the table braggers along with the entourage and of course you will always need to make room for your proper ‘there for the dancefloor clubbers’ too. Add to that the parties that are being discussed ready for 2022…

I’m ready.

Radio has always played a big part in your life, who are some of the radio presenters you have always held in high regard?

The first DJ on radio I ever heard was Tony Prince – late nights under a blanket with a torch so my mom couldn’t hear through a little squelch transistor radio. And then Emperor Rosko. The two of them played Atlantic Records soul, Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett or Philadelphia stuff like Harold Melvin and the Three Degrees – and did it with love, fun and feeling. I was a kid saying ‘yes! Why isn’t it all like this?’ Then my house music love comes from listening to Tony Humphries and Yvonne Mobley back in 80’s from cassettes given to me back then so I always had these loves in my head. Tony and Yvonne presented shows on WRKS 98.7 – she would do the talking while he would mix it up so I got into a lot of stuff from that. I got the chance to talk with Tony while meeting him at first Ministry party at BCM about those times and his just amazing stories. UK DJ Judge Jules was probably the first house DJ that got my attention from his London Kiss FM days, I was doing gigs at The Slammer in Gravesend and used to listen to him then. When I met him at BCM he politely sat on his record box in the DJ cabin and waited to play. He invited me a few times for Judge & The Jury on Kiss which was always fun. No fuss, no prim and proper no giving it large – just an all round great guy and proud to say we’re not only good friends, but his home in Mallorca is around the corner from me. So when he and Amanda are in, we do dinners. The other is Danny Howard, I work on Danny’s Mallorca parties  ‘Nothing Else Matters’ as his resident either opening and or mainly closing as it’s just a great feeling and a great chance for new music!

Where can we catch you on the airwaves at the moment?

Well I have been with Radio Onemallorca for 9 years now doing dance drive time 6pm till 8pm Monday to Friday, live when on the island of course.  I also do a dance promo show called TMP The Mitchell Project each Saturday for Radio Onemallorca, the same TMP show each Monday evening for Beat106 Scotland and then on Tuesday my TMP late night for Indemand Radio Liverpool. I then also do a Soul Radio classics show each Saturday morning for CJC Radio UK 11am then another on Sunday morning 10am for Indemand radio Liverpool and again Sunday evening 7pm for Radio Onemallorca… keeps the brain active and the beauty is, I get to record them from the Maldives while being away!

Your Radio OneMallorca show with your BCM colleague Gordon Phillips are stuff of legend, you have a real chemistry together, you bring out the child in each other…?

Yes we really do and usually done with some beverages, which makes the timing of things get thrown right out the window. Add to that guests who are playing the club and it makes for a fun 2 hours – especially if we get them a couple of beverages too.  Gordon I met around 93 when he came to do a club rep night in BCM, an 18/30’s for 20’s Holidays. Freestyle and proper party sessions happened, we became good friends and gigs for me at Hollywood’s in Romford meant swapping on each other’s couches between Mallorca and Greys Essex lol.

I know you have been making music whilst working in the Maldives…what can we expect next from you release wise from the Mitchell studio?

As a DJ for so long you hear so much music and of course you get ideas of tracks that could have been better or an addition here or a cut there. So when you get these ideas make notes, because once you forget it’ll make you crazy trying to recreate. Here while I’m in this wonderful solitude I come up with ideas and through the power of technology I’m able to put ideas down and discuss with online cameras with Jon Riley out of Norwich or Pep Nunez in Mallorca or the Stolen Goodz boys out of Leicester – how and which way it should go, sound and develop. Actually, it’s a great process and calming. I have two ready to go for this summer and both aimed at rocking a club and dancefloor somewhere lol.

And finally. A question I am sure you will be able to answer well. To all the thousands of aspiring DJs and producers reading this, what one piece of advice can you offer to people wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Always help, especially if it costs nothing…

So I’m stood in a kitchen with a mate at another mates house. His parents were quite wealthy and had the house to match. We were sat talking about DJ work and the weekly day job, but we weren’t really getting anywhere or going anywhere. Steve was talking and said out loud  ‘it’s all crap, all rubbish and so many mistakes for us. What we gonna do?’

At that point a voice in the corner shouted at us ‘oi’ said the man, ‘there’s no such thing as failure. There’s mistakes, then learning from them’. Our friend who’s house we were in was Jason Bonham (son of) and the voice was  Robert Plant. I have never forgotten those words. So now you use them to guide you and drive you. I’ve been here for years and I ain’t done yet…


Instagram:- desmitch57