"I've tried to teach a few of them to DJ but they don't get it," he sighs. "Only adults understand." For PJ the DJ is just 12 years old, and while trendy London fetes him for his precocious turntable skills, back in his hometown of Corby in Northamptonshire he's just another schoolkid. Judging from the careers of everyone from Frankie Lymon (of "Why Do Fools Fall In Love" and 1968 heroin death fame) to Drew Barrymore (of ET and pre- pubescent drug addiction notoriety) things would be best left that way.
Meeting PJ with his family, such morbid thoughts quickly evaporate. His mother, Joanne, has brought down both his sisters to attend Pulse, the under-18 event tonight at Acton Town Hall where PJ is second on the bill. It's Cherrelle's 10th birthday and she sits with Danielle, six, fidgeting as her parents talk about PJ's life and talent while the young DJ himself admits finding interviews rather boring too. Like a shy but seasoned performer on the media rounds, he stares into space waiting for the bit he truly loves: the music.
PJ's father, Peter Donnelly, had long been interested in dance music but it was only when his son Peter James was three that he managed to
save up for a pair of Technics record decks. Numerous home video clips support the parents' claims that their child showed an early fascination with this equipment and would spend hours playing on it. A selection of 12-inch singles were placed at his disposal almost from babyhood. Asked for his earliest memory, PJ says, "I can remember being on the decks, having to stand on a chair, getting off the chair, pushing it to the other deck, getting back on the chair, doing a mix, getting off the chair, pushing it over..."
A few years later, a friend of Peter's who ran a company which sold DJ mixers, happened to see PJ at work and asked if the boy could appear on his stall at the DJ Culture exhibition in Manchester's G-Mex. On the Sunday of the event PJ drew a huge crowd as, under the watchful eye of a BBC camera, he performed with natural ease, keeping the beat perfectly and deftly showing off little tricks that many hip-hop DJs spend years practising. Since then, Peter Donnelly has given up his newspaper packing job to concentrate on his son's burgeoning career. He brushes off queries about the DJ workload interfering with PJ's schooling, while Joanne Donnelly says the problems associated with caretaking the financial affairs of their progeny are not yet an issue. Despite sponsorship by Joe Bloggs clothing and a relatively high profile as a result of coverage in music magazines and appearances on MTV, Sky and Channel 4, the family coffers have yet to fill up. Matters may change with the release of PJ's debut single, "Too Young".
Luke Coke, owner of Fatt Boy Records and manager of the singer Gerideau, hatchets his car Acton-wards through London traffic like Popeye Doyle in The French Connection. "Peter sent me a letter saying he had an 11- year-old DJ and wanted some records," he guffaws. "But when a tape came back I couldn't believe how good it was and went to see PJ play. The club was jammed with 700 people but he showed no nerves and rocked the crowd." Coke, not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, decided to put PJ in the studio with proven speed garage producers Kostas P and James Reynolds. The result, an untaxing piece of dancefloor bubblegum with vocal contributions from PJ and Gerideau, will be released on his label in June.
As you walk into the venue, the school-gym smell of adolescent perspiration and floor-polish is overpowering. Groups of teenagers gaggle round the outskirts, gauging the reactions of the opposite sex. PJ takes over the decks, plucking a record at random from the previous DJ's box and mixing it in without even thinking. The floorspace fills with dancing bodies. PJ pulls other records out, records he's never heard before, and continues to cut between them with a child's assured, calm concentration.
And suddenly it makes sense. The minor media kerfuffle fades into insignificance at the sight and sound of one little boy who's good enough at his hobby to take it into the big boys' playground.Reuse content