First Gigs: Richy Ahmed

Cringing at your teenage years is basically an Olympic sport, but those foundation years of musical discovery are not things you forget that easily. Most of us can remember what the first track we ever embedded on to our MySpace page was, and we’d wager that every single one of you reading this owned at least one Slipknot hoodie at some point in their lives. You search through old CDs in your parents’ house when you return to your hometown for Christmas and stumble upon some questionable choices that you’d rather forget, repeatedly telling yourself that at some point, it must have been acceptable to like James Blunt – no, it was never acceptable to like James Blunt.

Some formative years are more accomplished than others, mind. While Richy Ahmed may now be the Ibiza staple who’s soundtracked many over those sunset moments that will last a lifetime, he cut his teeth in the clubs, pubs and bars of the north east. Before he joins Patrick Topping, Skream, Kink (live) Heidi and many more on 16th December for the Straf_Werk showcase, Richy Ahmed talks us through his origins.

Tickets for Straf_Werk are available at:

Where was the first place you ever played?

The first place I ever played was in a pub in my hometown where I was also a barman. I graduated from DJing there to becoming the resident on a Sunday night. The place was called Kirk Patrick’s, it made us into the DJ I am today, haha. We did a DJ competition there which I won and I started playing R&B and hip-hop, then after cutting my teeth I progressed onto a bit of funky house.

Did you always start out playing house and techno? Or was it something else that brought you into electronic music?

I didn’t start playing house and techno at the beginning, no. I started on Hip-hop and R&B. I mainly liked hip-hop, but I was played R&B as that was what was popular at the time and it was the only way you would get to played. I used to sneak a little hip-hop into my sets, though. Eventually when I got through University I realised the R&B thing was killing me too much, and from there I fell in love with house music. The rest is history…

What encouraged you to start DJing in the first place?

The urge took to me when I first went to Ibiza, really. I loved the music, and one of my ex-girlfriends bought me a pair of decks for my birthday one year and that’s the best thing that could have happened. It went on from there really, once I started playing a lot I got the bug and strived to play as much as possible.

Did that first show ever put you off DJing again (for a little while, obviously)?

No, the total opposite actually. My first show went really well, I practised so much and in a town like mine they didn’t really listen to R&B and hip-hop, it was just chart music, but there was a small undercurrent of people in South Shields that were getting right into it and I built a good little crowd. I mean, now there are places that play R&B everywhere, but at the time trying to get that out in the north east of England was nigh on impossible. But it worked, and proper spurred me on to play out more.

What did you take away from that first show?

Prepare your records. To know what you’re going to play, especially when you’re not proficient when starting out, is so important. I practised so much that I knew which track was gonna go next, and just kept practising and practising.

How did your set and the night go, was it a success? Or a disaster?

It was pretty good for a Sunday night. I drew a crowd and I ended up getting gigs from it in other clubs and bars around Newcastle, which basically meant I kept on playing throughout college and Uni and it paid quite well. It was getting like, £100 a night back then, and when you’re playing four nights a week it was alright, especially at around 17 or 18 yrs old. It was grand.

Are there any stand out stories from that night? Both good and bad…

I wouldn’t say there was any stand out stories for the night, just that there was probably one other place like South Shields that actually played R&B and hip-hop. I really went in at the deep end.

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

Ooosh, is there any advice I’d give myself before that first set? I would probably just say “relax, have a couple of tequilas, and chill out mate.” That’s about it.