Past, Present and Future with Greg Churchill

This Saturday, The Story of Acid House takes over NOTW - a hugely anticipated night curated and pieced together by our mates at Friendly Potential, headlined by none other than the legendary DJ Pierre. 

In support are local champs, Greg Churchill, Rob Warner, and Oliver Gifford. It'll be a night of revelling in the acid house and dance-floor pioneers, it only made sense to have a chat to the man largely credited with drastically pushing forward our own scene across the last few decades: Greg Churchill.

You were studying towards a Masters in Politics at the University of Canterbury when you picked up your first radio slot, on RDU. How’d you get to this point? When did music become a thing for you?

It had all happened a few years prior in 1984.

I approached the station manager, Michael Higgins, about getting a radio show and this journey started right there.

I remember when I was about 15-16, hating most of the music the other kids were liking at school… The god-awful Eagles being the most obvious example.

Punk was happening, and I just loved everything about it. The music, fashion, and attitude. And, as many others have so often said, Punk opened the doors and minds for so many of us to reggae and soul music.

I loved the edginess and abrasives of punk, and at same time found I had this love for music that made you dance.

And then came a ‘trip’ to the UK… 

In late 1988 I bumped into a guy I kinda knew in Christchurch.

He was wearing a smiley face yellow t-shirt which I was pretty envious of.

He told me he had just spent the summer in the UK (the First Summer Of love).

Now, for the last 18 months, I had been importing in box loads of as much House Music and Hip Hop as I could afford with another friend of mine, Dave Ramsden, who happened to be about the only other person I knew who I could share this love of House music with.

This guy (can’t remember his name) said I should get myself to the UK for the next summer (1989).

So, early July 1989 I packed up and headed off to London, with the sole intention of just living and breathing as much of what was happening as possible.

I didn’t work a single day, pretty much went out every night, and endlessly shopped for records.

I lasted till mid November when the money ran out, and the prospect of a UK winter staring at me I then returned home full of inspiration, and over-enthusiasm.

After which you relocated up to Auckland, for what would unfold into a four-year residency at The Box. How do you think such a move impacted your career?

I arrived in Auckland in early 1996.

For years, I had come up to the Box to just soak up the club for a weekend from Christchurch.

There was simply nowhere else the compared to The Box in New Zealand.

The sound system was superb, and the tunes played were just on another level.

Simon and Tom, the owners, insisted on a no compromise musical policy.

Unlike today where so many Auckland venues will have you fired for not playing commercial enough, the exact opposite applied at The Box.

When Rob Salmon left for New York at the start of 1996, I had a call from Simon asking If I'd take over the residency.

Initially, I said no. However, two weeks later, I had change of heart and accepted.

Any move to a bigger city comes with it greater opportunities, contacts and exposure.

Christchurch was somewhat stunted and going nowhere when I left, even though a few months later it did come back to life.

Within 6 months of arriving in Auckland, I’d witnessed the likes of Jeff Mills, Derrick Carter, DJ Sneak, Ashley Beedle, and even hung out with Kevin Saunderson.

Every weekend it seemed some DJ of significance was playing in Auckland.

At The Box I was able to witness first hand, by pretty much being right there in the DJ booth, how these guys played, and trainspot the tunes being dropped.

Tips, tricks, subtle skills - I absorbed everything.

How does Auckland’s dance scene in 2016 compare?

Right now, Auckland is very fortunate to have the likes of Ink, Red, Whammy and NOTW.

The fundamental problem I see in 2016 is there aren’t enough venues run by genuine and passionate music lovers - niche, boutique type venues where there’s a greater emphasis and love for what’s happening in the world of music, rather than that almighty dollar.

Venues where DJs can develop THEIR sound with confidence and without the threat that some bar manager is going to tear them to shreds mid-set to replace them with someone who said they’ll do it for a bartab.

15 years ago, this city was alive with so many bars and clubs playing a huge variety of House, Trance, Techno and Drum N Bass.

Auckland was once a global hot-spot and a "must play" for International DJs. Sadly, we are no longer.

Over the years, you’ve gained a stellar international reputation alongside leading the local scene. What’s kept you here?

Quite simply, a love and passion for music and DJing.

What was your introduction to DJ Pierre?

I remember (vaguely) hearing Box Energy on a Trax compilation, and also Slam by Phuture Pfantasy Club around the same time in 1987/88.

I thought the drums were so big and hard sounding on those records, and just wanted to go out somewhere and hear these tracks being played in a club.

That was pretty much the reason I started DJing.

Do you think that technology, increased ease of production, dissemination and promotion has had a positive or negative impact on music?

Sure, the positives are ease of access. Anyone can write and release a track these days. And essentially anyone can DJ too. The DIY punk ethos… Of course I’d have to love it.

However, we do have a growing problem with quality control in both the DJ world, and especially within the production universe.

My greatest fear with DJing is the art of beat mixing being over-looked and potentially lost.

Ironically, this should be so easy these days with sync.

The fundamentals of what beat matching teaches you, aside from having a really fuckin' sharp ear, are frequency control and balance and most importantly and crucial to playing a club: rhythm.

There’s is nothing more beautiful to the body and the ear than tracks seamlessly blending and moving from one to the next. There is nothing more jarring than sharp changes in rhythm.

Beat matching is a pillar of Djing.

It’s also the most fun you can ever have, learning how to do it.

Who’s on your playlist this week?

Daco - A little More Volume

Jesse Perez - Boogie Down Brown

Mason - Let It Go

Kapote & Zhut - So Damn Hot (Kian T Remix)

Krankbrother - Obscure Vision

DJ Pierre - The Story of Acid House, this Saturday at Neck of the Woods.