The Malta Independent 18 August 2017, Friday

Acceptable in the ’80s

Malta Independent Sunday, 9 March 2014, 10:25 Last update: about 4 years ago

 When did you decide to become a DJ and how did ’80s music become your signature sound?

In 1983, aged18, I began DJ-ing in my spare time. At the time, my father went through my record collection and recommended some music I wasn’t so familiar with to help get the not so young on the floor. Some of my gigs included DJ-ing for elderly foreigners at Bugibba hotels in the winter, so I got into Elvis, Engelbert, Sinatra, Cliff Richard, Tom Jones, Max Bygraves, Shirley Bassey, the Beatles and the Stones and even the foxtrot and the cha cha!

I also did hundreds of weddings and because I used the microphone quite a bit, people would assume I also had a radio programme. At that time there was only one radio station, Radju Malta, which had a long waiting list of aspiring presenters. You can imagine how hard it was to get in. Eventually I did, but my spell there was very short, co-presenting a quiz called Snooker bir-Radju, with Victor Tabone.

In 1991 the radio sector was liberalized and by 1995 we had over 10 radio stations. I joined Radju MAS and later, Capital Radio. At that time most radio presenters preferred to either play old classics or contemporary chart music. The ’80s were being overshadowed by the new stuff, but I couldn’t allow my teenage favourites to fade away. And so, Reflex – The 80s Radio Show began.

What radio programmes do you present now, and what do you do besides music?

Reflex has been on air for the last 18 years and I still look forward to presenting it every Saturday morning. It’s currently broadcast on Smash Radio. I’m also a presenter on One Radio every Thursday and Sunday afternoon, shows which I co-host with Charmaine Vella. The rest of my time is taken up studying Maltese and Communications at the University, where I’m in my third year.

When did you start organising the Reflex parties, and what was the first one like?

The radio show was the launching pad for them. From its feedback I quickly realised that there was a strong, loyal following for 80s music in Malta. Then, in April 2004 I organized a London tour to watch Duran Duran for over 60 local fans of 80s music. Before that, I invited them all to a small party so that they would get to know each other. We all brought friends and it turned out to be a very well-attended, fun party. That was the first Reflex party, back on 18 March 2004.

What are the parties like now?

The concept has always been one of recreating a similar environment of the discothèques back then, as well as playing all the 80s hits. My audience is into good clean fun at a value for money price. Many of them are grown ups with kids and live a stressful life, so they look forward to a good night where they can let their hair down. From time to time we also throw surprises such as local 80s band reunions such as The Rifffs and X-Tend, and theme-parties. The Grease to Black Eyed Peas Parties were an offshoot of the 80s parties and have also proved to be great events.

How important do you consider fashion and dressing up to be a factor in your parties?

Having a crowd dressed up in 80s wear could be fun, however I wouldn’t like my events to be treated as a carnival party. I prefer that people come for the music and atmosphere. Personally I love stage clothes. I have a huge collection of shirts, many of which I only wear once. I normally hunt for such clothes in Camden Town, London or in Rome. I also have my own personal designer.

How do you see you career develop, and how much will music be a part of it?

When I finish my university studies I will be taking up sound engineering and production. I would love to involve myself more in radio and TV. I would also consider setting up my own PR & Marketing company. DJ-ing abroad is also fun: they’ve always been great working holidays. I’m planning to spend some time in Australia and the States when my studies are over.

Who are your music idols and why?

U2. Watching them live in Dublin was magic. They even share the music royalties equally which is cool. No wonder they’ve been together as great friends for over 35 years and still in their original line up. Coldplay would come next. Madonna has also been my idol for many years because she was innovative and knew the music industry and market so well.

What are your own memories of 80s music and partying?

We had disco clubs which had long queues by 6pm and you had to pay a pound to get in, but only if you’re dressed well! Raffles at St Andrews, Styx at St Julian’s, Tiguglio at Spinola and Graffiti at Sliema, Stownes and JJ’s at Bugibba, the Polytechnic at Msida, the Phoenicia and the Sixth Form at Valletta, and Vibes at San Gwann. In the early 80s we danced to Soft Cell, Duran Duran, Human League and Depeche Mode. Then came Michael Jackson, Wham, Culture Club and Madonna. Bon Jovi, Europe and Queen also rocked big time. Locally we had The Rifffs and X-Tend. And who can forget the great music videos on Italian TV’s DeeJay Television and Super Classifica Show?

I also enjoyed going to the movies, weekdays at my village cinema and on weekends at the Coliseum, Savoy and the Embassy at Valletta. The cinema ticket, a pack of oily crisps and a soft-drink would cost another pound and you would get some change too. I still miss those Saturday afternoons meeting up with my friends near the Valletta Terminus next to the milk kiosk, which many will remember by a different name. Then off we’d go to watch Rocky at it again or to show off our moves on the Raffles dance floor which would light up Saturday Night Fever style.

Do you ever look back at pictures and ask yourself: Did we really wear that, or have that hairstyle?

Many of my old photos have been uploaded on Facebook and no, I don’t feel embarrassed at all. Well… maybe a little. I have a photo in white dungarees which will never see the light of day again! And I wonder how I still have a full head of hair when I consider all the hairspray, soap and mousse that I used to cake on at the time.

Why do you think the music of your formative years remained so important to you – and to the people who come to your parties?

It’s all about nostalgia I suppose. Personally the music was the highlight of the 80s decade. There was great music, a new concept of videos and fun clubbing. To be honest, I can’t think of any other positive things that happened at that time. 

 

ALEX GRECH

Born: 1965

Hometown: Qormi

Lives in: Iklin

Past jobs: barman, bank employee for 28 years

Current jobs: radio presenter, DJ, party promoter, university student

Hobbies: photography, travelling, cooking, table-soccer, Liverpool FC

Favourite musical genre: Electro, New Romantic, Rock

Favourite artists: The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Depeche Mode, Soft Cell, Duran Duran, U2, Coldplay, Madonna, Robbie Williams

Favourite album: Rumours by Fleetwood Mac

Favourite film: Notting Hill

Favourite trip: Dublin, Ireland

 

 

 

The tenth anniversary Reflex ’80s Party will be held at Gianpula on Tuesday 18 March from 10pm, featuring a performance by Marc Almond of Soft Cell whose hits include Tainted Love, Bedsitter and Something’s gotten hold of my heart. As always DJ Alex Grech will host. Tickets cost €15 (VIP at €25). More information at www.reflexmalta.com, on Facebook or call 9944 8080. 
 

 

MARC ALMOND

Marc Almond is an internationally acclaimed artist who has sold over 30 million records worldwide and is an icon and influence to a generation of musicians.

While at art college in the 70s he developed his style of mixing experimental performance and cabaret pop with music and film studies. It was there that he met David Ball and together they formed the internationally successful electronic music duo Soft Cell in 1979.

They went on to record four albums; three in New York including the iconic Non Stop Erotic Cabaret, and had a number of top 10 hits including the international classic Tainted Love which broke all records as the track that remained the longest in the US Top 100 chart.

The track has been covered many times by artists as diverse as Marilyn Manson and The Pussycat Dolls and has been sampled by a generation of dance producers for artists, notably in Rianna's SOS.

Soft Cell parted amicably in 1984, with a brief reunion and album in 2000. Almond meanwhile pursued solo projects, releasing a dozen albums and achieving another number one song in the UK in 1989 with the song Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart.

In 1987 he recorded two sister albums, one of French chansons called Absinthe, featuring songs made famous by Juliette Greco, Barbara, Leo Ferre, Robert Nyal and the poetry of Rimbaud put to music, and an album of Jacques Brel songs called Jacques. The estate of Brel cited him as being the best living interpreter of Brel's songs.

In 2000 Marc was invited to record a project of Russian Folk and Gypsy Romance music in Moscow. Heart On Snow features collaborations with some of Russia's biggest musical legends and stars, the icons of Russian folk Luydmila Zekina and Alla Bayanova, Boris Grebenchikov, Ilya Lagutenko as well as a the Russian Naval Choir and the famous Rossiya Folk Orchestra. For this he was dubbed 'an adopted son of Russia' in the Russian press.

Last year he received a prestigious Ivor Novello British songwriting award for inspiration, an Icon Award from Mojo magazine and an Icon Award from Attitude magazine.

His most recent works have been an EP called The Dancing Marquis produced by Tony Visconti, recording the vocals for a project with acclaimed composer John Harle called The Tyburn Tree and a new album called The Velvet Trail which will be released later this year.

Over the years critics have called Almond ‘the Judy Garland of the Garbage Heap’, ‘the Acid House Aznavour’, ‘the Jim Reeves of the Bedsit Generation’, ‘Marc Bolan and Juliette Greco's love child’ and ‘Britain's own Piaf’.

This will be his second visit to Malta following a successful show in 2007, one of his first performances after recovering from a near fatal motorcycle accident he suffered in 2004.

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