First Gigs: George Fitzgerald

Constant requests from punters, spilt drinks on the decks, dodgy turntables and even dodgier locals, the places where many DJs learn their craft are sometimes a far cry away from the pristine clubs they now inhabit. Not everyone starts at the top, and don’t get it twisted, those who have made it have more than a few stories from less than impressive nights to share. DJ life can be tough…

Before George Fitzgerald was ‘George Fitzgerald of Hotflush fame’, he was, erm, just George, the DJ EZ obsessed young DJ who spent his formative years in tiny DJ booths across east London. Now, he’s part of a driving force in UK techno whose music is as anthemic as it is brooding, but where did it all begin for George Fitzgerald? In First Gigs, we find out.

Where was the first place you played?

It was in the Star Of Bethnal Green pub in east London (still going strong). Some friends of mine put on a regular night there and I got asked to do the graveyard set.

How did you feel before going on stage? Were you nervous?

DJs didn’t play on stages back then! The booth was tucked away under the stairs and you could do whatever you liked. I was still nervous though.

Did you always start out playing house and techno?

No, when I first started buying records, 2-step was really big in London, but the first thing that got me into electronic music was all the Warp and drum n bass records my older brother would listen to. In the 90s there were also a lot of big dance acts – Orbital, Leftfield, Massive Attack, Portishead etc. – if you were into music at all, it was hard to ignore that stuff. It wasn’t until I moved to Berlin about 10 years ago that I got the house and techno bug.

What encouraged you to start DJing in the first place?

It was just a cool thing to do, and lots of my friends at school were into it. A bit like being in a band. We used to follow DJ EZ around suburban North London clubs and were obsessed with how tight his mixing was. Pretty much all of those clubs are shut now, unsurprisingly.

Did that first show ever put you off djing again? Well, for a little while…

No not at all. When you’re just DJing as a hobby there is far less pressure. People aren’t there to see you, so in a lot of ways it gives you an opportunity to try things out and learn from your mistakes without any consequences or embarrassing fallout. It’s quite a romantic period – you really are DJing just because it makes you happy. Things get more complicated further down the road if you turn it into a career.

What did you take away from that first show?

Not very much. To be honest, I don’t remember having any enormous epiphanies. Most likely just a bad hangover.

How did your set and the night in general go, was it a success?

Maybe if I was to go to that party now, I wouldn’t think it was very good. The sound was terrible, the decks carried on being jogged by punters in the front row and it was way too full. At the time though, it was magical.

Is there any advice you’d give yourself before that first set?

Don’t plan everything in advance. It never works out.