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The Cult of DJ Harvey

He's the most name-dropped DJ around, seemingly a byword for everything that remains cool and authentic in dance music

  • Tim Sheridan
  • 21 April 2016

DJ Harvey, a 49-year-old bearded man who was born in Cambridge. You may indeed scratch your noggin at the hysteria that surrounds him. Look at his fans, a roll call of DJs, industry and cult followers. He commits ‘DJ crimes’ like constantly dropping EQs in and out to the point of distraction, sometimes playing 'cheese' and predominantly old disco records. Is this what all the fuss is about!?

Of course it's not that simple. Although simplicity is the key to much of his success. Just great records played on the best system in an outstanding space. Almost sounds easy, doesn't it? In a world that often seems to be raising up endless monotony and grey music-free beats, DJ Harvey plays songs and melody. He fits in with a wider renaissance of disco. He programmes dynamic, dramatic sets carefully amid a murky scene where flat linear mixing has become standard. Maybe he is the colourful melodic antidote to the drab underground? The acceptable face of fun in a po-faced world? Perhaps he's not the messiah, just a very naughty boy.

Wikipedia can tell you his life story, but suffice to say Harvey was a well-liked London DJ who through various circumstances left the UK for some 10 solid years. This is a very important part of understanding the cult. A large part of his appeal is the fact it comes from abroad. London loves long lost sons, especially those pre-approved by succeeding far away in distant lands. By staying out of reach and unattainable for so long, tales of parties in San Francisco and Hawaii discussed on forums like ghost stories around a digital campfire, his mystique has grown. I should assert that the absence wasn't contrived or managed at all. It was US immigration policy that kept him away. An exile in a foreign land. He isn't just an outstanding DJ, he's an outstanding DJ whose interesting story fits a narrative arc as old as time.

There are many DJs that are as good. I think Harvey himself would be the first to admit it. He's not perfect and it does go wrong. Like it always does for all DJs at some point (less-than-brilliant appearances at Love Box festival and Manchester for example). But I put it to you and any possible deep pocketed promoters reading that things have only gone awry when he is out of control of the situation. Harvey controls everything, you see. A standard is required. Usually in the area of the sound system.

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