CJ Mackintosh on his DMC win and 30 years of house

Tuesday, 31 October 2017
CJ Mackintosh has DJing in his blood.

Born in Paris but raised in London, he was running parties with his older brother aged just 15 – mixing jazz, funk, soul, disco and early hip-hop, before appearing as a guest at Flim Flam – the influential night run by Coldcut’s Jonathan Moore.

While he's largely known for his part in the creation of MARRS's worldwide hit Pump Up the Volume, CJ Mackintosh also won the UK DMC as one of the country's first scratch DJs. Since then, he's remixed everyone from Whitney Houston to The Jungle Brothers, and played in clubs around the globe for nearly 30 years.

Before he tears down the main stage for Groove Odyssey's birthday on 11 November, we sat down with CJ Mackintosh to find out more about his contribution to London's clubbing scene.


You were born in Paris, but raised in London - what age were you when you moved to the UK?
I was about a year old.

Did you grow up in a particularly musical household?
My dad was always playing music. He was into his big band jazz but loved so many other styles too like soul, disco and even soulful house :)

You started DJing when you were just 15 - what sort of music were you listening to at the time? And how did that influence the music you were playing?
I was listening to all sorts of music from a young age - I was even into punk in the mid 70s - but, by the time I started DJing, I was listening to soul, funk, hip hop and jazz/funk, which I then went on to play.

A couple of years later, you set up a soundsystem with your brother and started running events in and around South London. How would describe your "Brothers Slide" parties?
They were just fun parties, mostly done for friends but had no musical preference. Whatever we liked, we played. I don’t think it was ever too serious.

What was it like working alongside your brother?
My brother, like my dad, was my music teacher. He was always ahead of the game in my eyes. He introduced me to so many artists and styles of music. He introduced to me to house in 1986 when he came home with Adonis – No Way Back & Marshall Jefferson – house music anthem :)

Is there anything you miss about that time?
Being Young? Haha ;) No, we will always miss the good old days as we say.

In '87 you won the UK DMC as one of the country's first scratch DJs - how did you learn how to scratch and what got you into it?
I just taught myself to scratch. We were into hip hop in the late 70s - again my brother introduced me to that. And I just remember hearing scratching on records and wondering what it was. Then when I found out, probably via TV, I just tried it out and found out that I could pick it up pretty easily.

What was your setup like?
I was lucky enough to have 2 technics SL 1200’s in 1981 and had the good old realistic mixer with the crossfade which we bought from Tandy. Went through a lot of them as the faders always used to break.

How did things change once you'd won the title?
There was a massive change. I went from pretty much no one to somebody. My phone was going mad with requests for gigs. Getting put on all the record mailing lists and getting promos sent to me for free was unbelievable.

What was your favourite track to remix?
Never had a favourite really. They were all special to me.

Not long after that you were asked by fellow DJ Dave Dorrell to join Nasty Rox Inc. - and ended up a member of the group as a DJ. What attracted you to that role?
Being a scratch DJ in a live band wasn’t happening. I pretty much think we were the first. When I auditioned with them, there was something different about being part of a band but as a DJ.

Did you learn anything from being part of a band? How did it compare to life as a solo DJ?
Yeah, I learned so much musically from just working with musicians and then recording a album in Sarm Studios and working on a SSL mixing desk and not forgetting the producer, Steve Lipson. That guy pretty much taught me how to program. He was a genius.

It was with Dorrell that you made Pump Up The Volume, which later entered both the UK and US charts. Tell me a little bit about how you came about making that track and the role you played?
That’s a long story. I’d be here all day explaining that one. Let’s just say me and Dave played an important role in the making of that track, but it wasn’t exactly financially rewarding...

Did its success change the way you produced and made music?
Not really. The only thing that started to change because of that records was sampling laws.

We're really excited to have you coming down for our 8th birthday on 11 November - in three words, can you describe what people can expect from your set?
A classic Ministry set.

And, finally, what have you got coming up for us in the coming months?
Still DJing. As most people are aware I haven’t done any studio work for 15 years, but...