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  • It was 1998 when I first spoke to the band, Soulwax. It was phone interview. I'd been listening to the album sampler and I'd absolutely loved it. From what I can remember, it was three songs: Much Against Everyone's Advice, Conversation Intercom and Too Many DJs. The sound was fresh and rocky, but showed a subtle appreciation for other influences that hid just on the periphery, but disappeared when you tried to hone in on them.

    During the interview, which was on the phone, we talked about their childhood (the band is centred around the two brothers, David and Stephen Dewaele) and what is was like to grow up with their father, who was a famous DJ on Belgian radio. They were very interested in what it was like to live in Liverpool as they were massive Beatles fans. I think it was one of the first interviews they'd done in England.

    The interview got published (at the expense of Coldplay) and I went on to review their album and did a live review, where I met the band. It was an after-show party. We chatted briefly in a room with mirrors on the wall - they were being swamped, it was chaos. I was ejected from the premises for improper conduct in the toilets with a female friend. The band found it hilarious; it was all rock 'n' roll.

    I tried to negotiate a follow-up article with the band. I proposed a tour diary which would give me full access to them for a few days. These are hard to get, as bands aren't always willing to let journalists get so close to them. However, they were publicity hungry and I'd just been thrown out of their aftershow party; they were obviously impressed. I got three days.

    These were three wonderful days and although my recollection is a bit hazy. Here's what I kind of remember: singing karaoke with the band on the tour bus (I still have a polaroid shot of me singing Aretha Franklin), shoplifting DVDs from the store (don't put that in the article, they said), watching said DVDs (Happiness), listening to them record a short radio show and filling in as a guest - I pretended to be someone famous (I can't remember who), watching the gigs. During one of the gigs (they were supporting the Wanandies), Steffen, the singer, spotted me from the stage and jumped into the crowd. He came over and asked me (mid-show) what the sound was like. The band had been arguing with the Wanaadies. They thought that they'd restricted Soulwax's sound (don't put that in the article, they said).

    For me, it was a magical three days and we cemented a friendship. I've been on other tours with bands and had similarly good times, but I was never accepted as an equal in the same way they did. They were genuine, generous, open and never, ever, demeaning.

    The highlight was heading into Leeds. I'd told them my dad had been due to see the Beatles but he'd lost the ticket. He'd had seats and remembered the seat numbers. The theatre made him wait until the show started and checked to see if the seats were free. When they were, they let him in. He couldn't hear a thing because of the screaming girls. Soulwax loved the story and insisted on meeting my dad and asked him to tell them the story about the Beatles.

    Just before I left, David played me some songs they'd been working on. They were remixes - mash-ups of existing songs played over each other. It blew my mind, I'd never heard anything like it before, done in such a seamless perfect way. I promised to lend them my Ski-Lo 12'', as they'd lost their version.

    Some months later, after the article was published, the band invited me travel back to their hometown, Ghent in Belgium, where they were DJing. I'd maxed-out the possible article coverage in the magazine: album review, live review, interview and tour diary. It was OK, they explained, just come out anyway, they were paying. I met them at the train station, Ski-lo 12" and all, and we went by train to Belgium (my first Eurostar experience). I met their parents, went to their studio (the wall was covered in single covers) and ate one of the most delicious burgers in their local cafe. That night they were DJing at the art gallery. This was my first taste of what was to become 2ManyDJs. It was awesome, everything you expect from them now, but back then in 98 I'd never heard anything like it. Genres slipped and swerved into each other bumping into snippets and fragments of songs you recognised. All the while those techno beats and baselines throbbing and surging.

    I slipped into the DJ booth and chatted to them between songs. 'Hey you think you can help us get a gig in England?', asked Steffen. 'No problem', I said. 'This is incredible'.

    Back in England, armed with a solitary CD of their remixes, I set about trying to get them a paying gig. I failed. Unable to record the CD, I was loathe to leave it with anyone. Ringing the guys I explained. 'I did get you one good lead, though. Ring Eroll at Trash. I told him all about you and he's interested'. OK said the guys….

    So, I said a friendship developed. Perhaps they were just very good actors; making themselves appear friendly, playing the journalist off. Doing the PR.

    This was all in 1998, I stopped doing journalism in 2000. In 2005 I went to see the band with my wife. She only half believed me when I told her stories about how I used to be cool and hang out with bands. She once introduced me as a 'failed music journalist'.

    'Look, they'll remember me,' I promised her. 'Watch' I said loitering by the door that led to the stage. The gig was about to begin. The band started coming through. Drummer, different guy, I didn't know him. Bass player, a momentary flicker of recognition, he kept going. Shit. David walked past. The intro music was rising to crescendo, the lights were down, the crowd were cheering and whistling. The rest of the band were on stage, David kept going. My heart sunk, they didn't remember me.
    Steffen followed and I caught his eye smiling.
    He stopped, 'Hey, John! David, look its John'. David turned around and came back
    'Hey man, how you doing?'
    'Good, good', I stuttered. my wife was slack-jawed.
    'It's been ages man', they said pumping my fist and smiling. 'Where've you been?'
    The rest band were on stage looking over. The crowd were loud.
    'Errrr…' I said looking nervously at the stage
    'Yeah, right.' they said glancing at the stage. 'Look come back here after the show and we'll catch up . OK?'
    They hurried over to join the rest of the band.

    No acting; friendship.
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