Think of an era-defining club, and Bert Bevans probably was a part of it. From Studio 54 and Paradise Garage to Cafe Del Mar and Ministry of Sound.
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Not surprisingly, Bert Bevans has some stories to tell. And the Belize-born DJ who grew up in New York, and spent some years in London at the Ministry of Sound relays them in a warm embrace of an accent which veers between the Caribbean, New York and London. Often in the space of a single sentence.
There was an Al Green show that helped him to realize how music could influence emotions. “That was in 1977. I got good seats in the front. And I remember there were a lot of women around me. Then, when he came on stage, they were like ‘move motherf*cker or we will kill you.’ And they were mature women — not hysterical teenagers. Al Green starts singing and they start throwing their underwear at him. And I thought, ‘Oh, this is the power of music?’”
Then there’s the time Bert Bevans had to interview afro-beat legend Fela Kuti in London in a Lancaster Gate hotel. “Fela appears in his suite, four hours late, wearing just his underwear. And he refuses to talk to me. He places one joint, rolled by one of his backing-dancer wives, on the table. He lights another. And he passes me one. For the next hour, we exchange pleasantries about his visit to London. And only when he’s sure I’m mashed up – and in being so definitely not a policeman – does he begin to talk.”
Fela sadly passed away in 1997. Which brings us to the topic of mortality. “I’m not afraid of death. There could be one hell of a party on the other side,” Bert laughs. “And at my funeral there’s gonna be no one wailing ‘Oh, he’s gone’ – do whatever the f*ck you wanna do, because it’s gonna be a party. And if not, I’m gonna come back and haunt your ass!”
Bert Bevans puts Fela’s Shrine – the shamanic, seminal sanctuary Fela opened in Lagos which Bert had the chance to visit – as the best club of all. “Listen. I’ve played the Garage, I’ve played Ministry of Sound, I played Sound Planet in Ukraine – which was amazing – I’ve played The Rex in Paris, I’ve played in some of the most amazing places in the world. None of them compared to the Shrine. It was like a religion. And you were caught up in it. And it all revolved around Fela.”
Produce Music And It Will Take You Around The World
Spending time in such illustrious company, and with a career that’s taken him around the world, Bert Bevans has plenty of hard-earned wisdom to impart too. “I’d give aspiring DJs three tips,” he says thoughtfully. “First, trust your instincts and trust yourself. Second, do not move with the herd, because if you do, when the herd falls off a cliff, you’re going with them. And finally, make music.”
So, Bert Bevans who went from DJ to producer – and who today has a slew of big-name remixes of tracks by Paul McCartney, Depeche Mode, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and many others on his CV – emphasizes the last piece of advice especially strongly.
“Make music yourself if you can. Or find some else who can, and work with them, help them program. But, the days when you’re famous only for filling a club behind the decks will come to an end one day. Produce music, and it will take you around the world.”
Strictly No Fillers
Bert Bevans is living proof. He just landed in London from Rio De Janeiro. And he’s preparing to spend the New Year in Saigon.
“What can people expect?” he asks. “I get to speak to lots of DJs. And sometimes they tell me they have a bag of fillers – the tracks they play to pad out their sets. I think a lot of DJs compromise that way. I’m sorry, but I don’t compromise. You come to hear the best. Why would I give you something else?”
A Musical Journey With Bert Bevans
Bert Bevans prefers to deliver his uncompromising no-filler sets over a few hours at least. With that in mind, he’s also dismissive of a lot of DJs who spend most of their pre-programmed set with their arms in the air. “What the f*ck am i gonna do standing there for hours listening to a set you built in your living room two weeks ago?” he asks.
Although, that’s not because he’s anti-technology. “Oh far from it,” Bert’s quick to correct us, “I love the way computerization has helped move things forward. But I hate the fact it’s become a tool for some guys to play music this way. And that’s also because it makes them seem more important than the music.”
“For me, I like playing long sets,” he nods.” I like to take the audience on a musical journey. That way, they’ll come back again. Plus, they’ll most likely bring their friends too.” And you should come to Madam Kew too to see Bert Bevans. And bring your friends because it will be a musical journey.
Bert Bevans plays Madam Kew as they present ‘Champagne Players Volume 1’ on 30th December from 8pm. To RSVP call 028 38218661. And Bert plays Clay Saigon’s STUDIO 54 New Year’s Eve on 31 December from 6pm.