Twelve Questions: Greg Churchhill

Greg Churchill, 50, is one of our most acclaimed DJs and music producers, a 25-year veteran of house music who plays most weekends around the country. He was attacked outside a nightclub last week in Wellington.

DJ Greg Churchill. Photo / Natalie Slade
DJ Greg Churchill. Photo / Natalie Slade

1. That's a nasty slash on your cheek. How did you get that?

It's either from a ring or nails or something but it involved three girls. Last Friday night I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. We'd decided to make the [British DJ] Carl Cox gig open early because of the new liquor laws so I'd played at 9.30pm and when I finished I went outside and was chatting to people on the street. The next minute I got banged to the ground. I remember getting up and this almighty rip went through my face and these girls kind of screaming and yelling. I don't remember much but there was blood everywhere. I spent two hours at A&E.

2. Random violence on the streets of Wellington. Aren't you a bit old for this caper?

This is the only time it's happened to me in almost three decades of gigs. A month or so ago a guy took a swipe at me in an Auckland bar but he missed and that's about it. I did go through a period a few years ago when I felt quite conscious of my age. But turning 50 was really liberating.

Most of the big international DJs are in their 50s now.

3. Do the late nights get harder?

The late nights get easier. Frighteningly the recovery doesn't.

The really early sets I actually find hardest. Getting prepped and ready by 8 or 9pm I find almost an impossibility. I still like to try to have a nap before all gigs yet it's usually the last thing likely to happen. I've been really lucky with my hearing - it's not shot. I have it tested regularly. One ear has lost 257 hertz, which is no big deal as a frequency.

4. What music did you grow up listening to?

I remember when I was around 10 listening to Casey Kasem and American Top 40. I'd sit in my bedroom with my tape recorder and copy songs that were at the bottom of the countdown. The big top 10 hits held little appeal. I remember taping The Commodores' Too Hot Ta Trot - I had a fascination even then with rhythm and dance tracks. My musical tastes were always different from my friends'. I caught up with an old school mate recently who said I used to even come in and change the music others were listening to then go back to the other room and continue listening to my own. I'd go to parties with a mixtape and steal the one playing and put mine on.

Punk rock hit when I was at high school and this changed everything.

I bought Never Mind The Bollocks from the Record Exchange in St Kevin's Arcade while on one of many trips to Auckland and then I hid it from my mother when I returned to Christchurch.

5. What's the ratio of guys to girls on the average dancefloor?

The number-one best party of 2013 was [Auckland Pride Festival closing party] PROUD. And I'd rather play to a bunch of guys who know the music, are into a music and will actually dance, than dealing with the stupidity of requests that come from some females (Miley, Rihanna ... guys never ask for any of that bunch). Having said that, I find most dancefloors well balanced, and if anything leaning on the side of the fairer sex.

6. Describe your average day.

I seriously don't have an average day. If [wife] Gaelyn needs to be up at 4.30am for work, I'll be up at 4am. If I'm exhausted from the weekend, on a Monday I may sleep till 1pm. I try to squeeze in studio time, but I only work in two-hour stints as I want to protect my ears, and because I become numb after much longer. It's hard to sleep after a night of working but I'm really sensible about getting my clock back to normal as quickly as I can. I used to do four gigs a weekend but these days I stick to one or two.

7. Did booze or drugs ever become a problem for you?

I'm lucky enough not to have an addictive personality but I did have a period when I first started where I thought I was drinking too much. That was in Christchurch in 1990. I thought, "Are you serious about this gig or not?" and I knew I really wanted to pursue it so I didn't drink for five years. Not a drop. That's not to say I don't party or have fun at all. I do. But Monday to Friday you have to leave that aside and live as normal an existence as possible.

8. What happened when Ecstasy hit the dance music scene?

Things got good. Life as a DJ was a breeze. Everyone was your friend.

Aggression disappeared. Before that it was really hard to get people to dance. For a long time you felt apologetic about playing this music. Ecstasy did change everything. I think the big thing about the drug was that it really lowered the testosterone among the males but sometimes the whole "lovey dovey" thing got really annoying. My mum is actually a drug counsellor. It's alcohol that causes all the real problems.

9. Who is the most annoying punter on any night out?

The "play some Marvin Gaye/Fleetwood Mac/heavy metal" type punter. I'm not a jukebox and I don't carry a computer full of my entire music collection, though if people ask for something reasonable I will always do my best to oblige. Also the punter who thinks they know more about music than me. I'll challenge anyone on Albert Ayler's or Husker Du's back catalogue at 4am.

10. If you hadn't been a DJ what would you have done?

For a long time I thought I would be a middle-distance runner. I was pretty good and had aspirations of representing New Zealand. But in the end I didn't think I was quite good enough. People still don't believe my half-marathon time was 1.09. I still run to keep fit now but I'm an embarrassment to myself and yet my mind feels sharper than ever and I think I'm playing better than ever.

11. Could you have been rich?

I already am. I'm not money hungry nor have I ever chased wealth. People's obsession with money sickens me, especially in recent decades. True wealth is derived from the things we can't buy.

12. Will you ever retire?

I can't imagine it. I look at my peers, people known worldwide, and I go, "Oh my god, you look like rubbish". But they're still going and mostly they're still really good. The obvious comparison is the Rolling Stones - they've got an audience who will come back and back and back. We were the original ravers when it all happened 25 years ago. What's to say there won't be an endless market of people who want to relive their dream, their youth, until they can't get out of their wheelchairs?

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 26 Dec 2014 16:14:30 Processing Time: 433ms