I spoke to Sonny Wharton, DJ, producer and all round lovely bloke about his music and experiences at last month's Nozstock: The Hidden Valley 2013.
When did you start to mix and what made you want to begin to learn?
I had to teach myself. None of my friends were DJs, it was many years ago after watching MTV with Carl Cox on a show called ‘The Hit Man & Her’ and I kind of fell in love with it from there really. Then I had the same cliché story of saving up to buy some really bad belt drive decks and loads of records that naturally didn’t go together. It took quite a while to learn. I never really saw it as a career as such, it was just something I enjoyed doing.
Where did you play out for the first time?
Well the very first time was at a friend’s party. We probably had the same 20 records on rotation for about 10 hours! It was a learning curve because it’s obviously very different from playing in a bedroom set up. After playing in lots of local venues and raves and stuff I went out to Ibiza and at the same time I entered a competition with DJ Mag. I’d literally read about it at the airport on the way to Ibiza. I ended up winning the competition and the prize was to play an opening party at Amnesia. That was probably my first big show. That was pretty scary!
Have you collaborated with any big names?
I remixed a Fatboy Slim tune last year and I’ve just finished a track with X-Press 2 last week. I’m working on stuff with Skaife, Morcheeba, Steve Smith from Dirty Vegas…there’s quite a lot going on really!
Which artist would you say has influenced you the most?
As a DJ that would have to be Carl Cox, I really like his style and stage presence. He seems like a nice person as well. Production-wise, there’s quite a lot really. Some of the guys from X-Press 2, that kind of dark and tribal sound really.
What is the most hilarious thing that’s happened to you on stage?
Two years ago here we had a genuine stage invasion. That was pretty cool! Every time I tell my girlfriend that something’s gone wrong with the set it’s generally that I’ve somehow destroyed the sound system or broke the mixer. That seems to be quite a regular occurrence!
How were you mixing for before something ‘clicked’? When did you feel confident enough to really put yourself out there?
It took me a good 6 months to understand the principles of starting with the first beat and trying to match it form that point rather than wondering what DJs were doing when I was listening to them on tapes. As far as pushing it out there, I always tried to do more than just mix on two decks. Back when it was just on vinyl I used to try and use a third or fourth deck, when CDs started coming out I’d use those on top as well. The competition I entered, that set was on three decks, I suppose it was around then that it really truly clicked for me.
Is there any music out at the moment which inspires you?
I wouldn’t say really inspires me but it’s encouraging that right now dance music is back on the map. It’s always been there. I’m into the artists that have been consistently been going but to give an example of people that are breaking through who I think are great are Hear Breach, their single ‘Jack’, that’s a massive underground track which went out on Dirty Birds, their record label, that’s just got Top 40 in the UK. It’s really inspiring because you’ve got a whole new generation of people who have kind of got this new gateway into dance music and they might want to make a track or might be stars of the future.
Obviously, you’re a Nozstock veteran having played here many times before. What do you think of the festival?
I genuinely, genuinely love it. It’s one of my favourite festivals. I know that sounds like a really obvious thing to say, I mean most people would just say it, but genuinely I love it. I think it’s one of the best festivals of its kind by far.
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