We recently caught up with DJ Ben Ollins who was pretty excited to be invited to play at the ‘Margate Mod Weekender’. Here is what he had to say about his passion for Music, DJing and rare records.
1. How and when did you get into music and what were you listening to then?
My older brother introduced me to great records when I was very young. I loved the Beatles, Rolling Stones and the Monkees thanks to him, also T Rex, Slade and Glam stuff – chart music at the time. When the’70s Rockabilly revival scene came along, he and his friends got me listening to that too. I didn’t really know that it was any different to anything else, it was just more stuff I liked. Later there was Pebbles and that set me on the path.
2. Where was your first DJ slot?
At The Frat Shack, probably 1991 or ‘92. Those were the best nights.
3. What was your most memorable DJ spot?
A few years ago I played records at my friends’ wedding in New Orleans on Halloween. Outside, the streetcars were packed with people in crazy fancy dress costumes; inside, the bar was jammed solid, everyone dancing – on chairs, on the bar, everywhere. It felt like the whole room was shaking. It was a lot of fun, a very happy experience.
4. What so far, has been your worst DJ experience?
None stand out as notably terrible, but I’ve certainly cleared my fair share of dance floors.
5. Your favourite scene DJ’s and why?
Three from New York/New Jersey. Todd-O-Phonic Todd, in-person or on air at WFMU, the great Jonathan Toubin and the inimitable Josh Styles. All three have great records and enthusiasm to match.
6. What has shaped your DJ sound and why?
I used to do a night called The Hideout with my friend Liam Watson, he was never concerned about playing things to impress people, he just wanted them to have fun. That was a lesson, that it’s about playing things people can dance to, not just things you want to show off. The other thing is that I don’t like to hear the same stuff night after night, I don’t even like to hear the same sort of music all night. And finally, my golden rule is that there’s no evening that can’t be improved by hearing Chuck Berry’s Let It Rock.
7. What was your best ever find/discovery?
There have been a few good ones. Back in the time of paper lists I used to buy blind quite a bit – a stupid expression, it’s really buying deaf – picking stuff up that seemed it would be good, even when I didn’t know it. I got Oscar & The Majestics’ No Chance Baby that way. It was so great hearing it for the first time having no real idea how it would sound and it was incredible! That was a wonderful surprise. Often it didn’t work out so well.
8. Who was your biggest influence musically and your favourite artist(s)?
Kicks, which was the magazine Billy and Miriam from Norton Records used to do. When I first bought Kicks (issue #3, from the much missed Compendium Books in Camden Town), it had Link Wray, The Banshees, The Phantom – just great stuff, regardless of genre. That, and also all of Tim Warren’s incredible compilations; Back From The Grave is the benchmark for me.
9. Do you collect specific labels/artists/genres?
I’ve always had a pretty tight focus on US garage 45s. That’s been my main love for over 30 years now. I also buy rock‘n’roll instrumentals and R&B – Pittsburgh sounds. I try to curb any desire to complete an artist, I don’t want to be one of those guys with multiple issues of the same 45 all with minor variations, even though that’s an urge I can all too easily understand.
10. Where can folks currently catch your DJ set?
I’ve been co-running a club in Soho playing the above Pittsburgh/Mad Mike style stuff for years now, and that’s pretty much it for me. It’s called The Stag O Lee Preservation Society & Drinking Club and is on every other Wednesday, at 57 Greek Street, London W1.
11. What is the record you would most like to own?
I’ll take an Expressions on Tennalaga please!
12. Please give us your Top 10 all time favourites (with a bit of liberty taking)…
Not my top 10 of all time probably, but 10 45s that I’ve never tired of.
Larry & The Blue Notes – In And Out (Charay)
The Hangmen – I’m Gonna Love You (Flo-Pin)
The Henchmen – Livin’ (Punch)
Apollo’s Apaches – Cry Me A Lie (Barra-Donna)
The Sonics – He’s Waitin’ (Etiquette)
Rockin’ Ramods – She Lied (Bon Bon)
Zakary Thaks – Won’t Come Back (J-Beck)
The Nobles – Something Else (Marquis)
The Pentagons – Try And Find (Pent)
Chuck Berry – Let It Rock (Chess)
(Yes, that’s 11)
Current Top 5 Tracks:
The Playgue – I Gotta Be Goin’ (Rebic)
The Fabulous Depressions – Just Can’t Tell You (Maad)
Richie Knight & The Mid-Knights – Homework (Arc)
Bobby Comstock – Right Hand Man (Ascot)
And I’m still playing the two new volumes of Back From The Grave. A reminder that there’s always more new stuff to hear.
Next Club Spots: Margate Mod Weekender
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