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Lee Sandwith - DJ NohiJo

16 May 2012

What the hell are you doing in Dubai?
I worked in the UK for about 12 years for a big company and I took a sabbatical for a year in 2008. I went traveling for a year ending up coming here actually. I spend most of my time here and then I went back to the UK and back to the same job for a while.
I have a friend who lived in Abu Dhabi. We used to write music together and DJ together.
He lived there for about 4 years so I went over to stay with him for a while. Then really by chance I met a guy who required somebody who could do exactly what I do, program managing and managing suppliers for the telecom business. It’s a really small field and it’s just by chance that I managed to get a meeting with this guy and essentially he offered me a job.
I work for a huge company employing 15,000 workers in Dubai. It’s me and one of the top managers who is an English man and everybody else are either locals or from somewhere else at the GCC like Egypt or Jordan.
It’s a really multi-cultural place. 80% are non national. There are different levels of hierarchy. Indians are the construction workers, Filipinos are working in restaurants and bars. You got expat professionals like me and then on top of all you have the natives. There are also a lot of women. It’s not as bad as everybody make it out to be.
A lot of my friends are working for western companies and it’s just like the same as working in London or anywhere else in the UK except you are just somewhere hot. It’s pretty cool but its very hard work. I have been there for nearly for 12 months now and I plan to work there for 2-3 years more till I’ll have enough money to come to Koh Phangan, build a House and chill the fuck out for the rest of my life.

How is the night life scene in Dubai?
The music scene out there is unreal, it so cutting edge. The best House music night is Audio Tonic which is in 360 club at Burj Al Arab. It’s The famous hotel which is shaped like a shell and located in the sea. Downstairs there is a restaurant and upstairs is the club. Every Friday night they have top local DJs and every other week they bring top international DJs like Alex Ingerman, Florian Kruse and Funk D'void.
They also have the Creamfields event in Abu Dhabi which is huge. They host DJs like John Digweed and deadmau5 there. The music scene there is really cool.

How did you get into DJing and what styles do you play?
I’ve been a DJ since I was about 14 years old. I’m 36 so I have been doing it for quite a long time. I started on vinyl with some really old crappie bulk drive techniques and turntables. What the scene evolved to is totally futuristic compared to what I was used to when I was a kid. I started producing music as well when I was 20.
The first style of music I got into was old school Deep House and Garage such as old school Chicago House and those sorts of Garage sounds. Then I got really massively into Techno of Djs like Jeff Mills. Those sorts of styles are really fun stuff.  I also got into Jungle and Breaks and just everything really. For me it’s not about what style of music I’m into it’s just whether I like it or not. In every genre some of it is unbelievable and some of it is absolutely garbage. For me it’s about what my ear likes.
Since about when I was 30 and started traveling, I was into Tech House, Deep House, some Electro and some Techno.

Why did you choose the name Nohijo as you stage name?
When I went traveling my friends and I started taking Spanish lessons. We got taught all sort of various stuff but the one that stuck with us was ‘No tengo hijos’ which means I have no children. We got to a certain age where all our friends are now in the world of kids and the only reason we can travel is because we don’t have any. So I just shortened it to Nohijo meaning, a bit incorrectly in Spanish, no child.

What is your philosophy as a DJ?
I believe that less is more. Many tracks sound too busy. There is too much going on and dynamically it sounds terrible. It’s just a mess. Some of the best tracks out there are so simple. It’s just a drum track and maybe some bass lines.
The production level these days has to be very high to even get noticed by someone else. 
You have to really know what you are doing at the studio. Everything should be perfect. I’m still learning when it comes to production, even though I have been doing it for probably 15 years now. It’s not so much about new equipment or plug-ins, it’s just about how to compose the music better.

In the end of the day there is not so much money in this. I do it just because I enjoy doing it and I write music because I like writing music and not because I want to be famous. If I don’t have it in my life I don’t feel complete, I feel like something is missing. It keeps you down to earth a little bit when you believe in that. At the end of the day it’s all about the music and that’s what it should be like.

What are the differences between the styles in House music like Deep House versus Tech House?
I think it’s a very good question. I think everyone defines it slightly different. For me Deep House is something which got soul and not really massively uplifting. It’s not really up-tempo and not in your face. It’s just nice and sits and got a groove and soul.
When you go up-level it usually becomes Tech House. Faster beat, more percussions and with a bit more energy to it. When you do Techno or Tech-House it’s just how you put it together. Some of the Deep House out at the moment is so Deep and twisted its unbelievable.
The young generation likes tunes that smash your face like really full-on tracks but in Deep House you just get sucked into it. Once you get into the groove and get what it’s about, I don’t think you would want anything else. It’s all about groove and soul. But it’s hard to define as it’s really personal.

How was it on your first arrival to Koh Phangan?
When I came here to Thailand in 2008 it was the first time I traveled to Thailand. I stayed here for 2 weeks before I moved on. At the end of the travel I came back here because I just loved it so much. I haven’t been traveling anywhere else since. I do have the desire to go somewhere else but I have so many friends here now that I like going back to Koh Phangan.
I like to stay further up north on the island. It’s so chilled out. I have been staying near Haad Salad and spend quite a bit of time in Chaloklum. I know that if I’ll come over here I’ll have a good holiday. It feels like home. I actually want to live here. I am learning more about the island every time I come.
The first time I did not bring any DJ gear, I was just going traveling. I decided while I was here that I wanted to get back into production. I came back to the UK and actually I have been producing ever since then.
Last year was a big year for me. I released about 10 tracks. Got signed up for 2 labels, released some stuff and got some good feedback.

What gigs did you have on Koh Phangan on your first arrivals?
I first came here in 2008 and at that time I played at the Backyard and Paradise bungalows on Haad Rin beach.
I used to play at the Backyard often and I got to the point where they just totally trusted me to play what I wanted. They knew once I started playing it would be cool.
One of the best gigs I played was at Paradise. I played for about 10 hours solid and I just took it all over the place. In the end, when the sun came up, I started playing some really obscure music. We were trying to make people leave so we could go on to the Backyard but it just brought more people to the floor. That’s all it did. Ha ha ha.

What do you think about the music scene on Koh Phangan?
When I just arrived here for the first time it was all about Trance, popular music and a little bit of Techno here and there. Now it’s more about Deep House and Tech House. The island is heading in the right direction, definitely.
I would not say I’m into any particular style of music I am more into what’s new. I don’t disrespect people who are really into Goa Trance but I think it’s a very old hat. I was trying to bring House music to the island.
In addition, I think that the restriction here is that people tend to tell you what to play. That’s really frustrating for DJs. They want you to play sexy Deep Funky House or they want you to play Minimal. Just let me play and see what happens!
I am used to the bar owners coming over and say ‘Pick it up, pick it up’, but like in Loi lay it was so cool, Amanda and Lek said ‘I want you play nice quality Deep House’ and I said ‘I’ll definitely do that’. I think what those guys are doing, what they are trying to push is totally the right thing to do.
Deep House now these days has so much to offer. It’s the only style of music which lasted since the 80s. It’s all come back to the fact that most of the world that is into the Electronic music likes Deep House.
What Darragh is doing for example is really going in the right direction. He got the right sort of mentality. I think he has the right idea and he is moving forward.
The island has to change in terms of its music policy. I think that if it will change and will be more about what’s new and not about what style, it will be a totally different place. Kudos.





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