We're crap and we're proud

Howard Byrom on the Unprofessionals, the DJs who can't mix and don't care
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Celebrated New York DJ Junior Vasquez is embarking on a European debut. But there's a mood in clubland which suggests that the real cutting edge lies far from the decks of this flashing blade. Some of London's clubbing fraternity are seeking something less uptight, but still outta sight.

Its roots more in school disco than Studio 54, It's On, a monthly Soho club-night is scratching that proverbial itch. Roland Browning, Grange Hill's fat-kid loser, grins from their flyer. "Top tunes, shite mixing," he boasts. Craptastic! Could this be a new genre?

"We don't see ourselves as crap," says DJ Rowan Chernin, "our element is fun. It's like a party, only we don't have to clean up afterwards. We don't do any of that beats-on-top-of-beats stuff, we leave the fancy stuff to the professionals. We're the unprofessionals."

He describes the setting in Gossips on Dean Street as "a roomful of dry ice and fag smoke, lit by a strobe, and a beer-soaked, slippery dance floor". It's On may not be the Ministry, but this is a reprieve for the great British amateur spirit and cause for celebration.

A slightly different exponent of the "bedroom irregular vibe" is Don't Laugh, a freebie in west London. It is organised by Stephanie, a PR at record label Emidisks, who is completely au fait with amateurism and makes no bones about singing the fave rave on her play-list down the phone - Cappella never sounded so good. Still, Stephanie has no designs on pop stardom - she leaves that to her partners in crime, Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs from St Etienne.

"We started Don't Laugh last October," says Stephanie. "We wanted a club where we could play our favourite records. It's somewhere you can have a drink and listen to someone's record collection. Occasionally, people dance." More ale than E, they hover between the decades, unhindered by worries of cross-fade acrobatics, their objective is to get the next 45 on before the last one has finished.

The play-list at It's On leans more to the present, bouncing from Latin rhythms to drum 'n' bass and back again. However, the pretence that usually bolts onto the eclecticism tag is refreshingly absent. "We're London's most honest night out," laughs Chernin. "You've had Handbag and Hardbag, well we're Carrier bag, or at least I am."

So what's the gimmick? Perhaps the range of music and the unpretentious style. "Dennis Waterman's Theme From Minder", their secret weapon, comes out from the (Tesco Metro) bag. "I might drop it at the beginning or the end of a night, but when It's On the punters are guaranteed to get Mad Crowd Disease."

So, amateurism is back, as Andrew Thompson from the clubbers' bible, Mixmag, confirms. "I'm absolutely in favour of the purposely lo-fi outlook," he says. "Hypermarket house is bland and it's dead. The cult of the DJ as personality is over - those bloated egos are the Prog-rockers of the Nineties."

Universe, the promoters of Tribal Gathering, have booked the It's On lads for the bank holiday club-fest. But Don't Laugh say their Thursday- night soirees have led to nothing but a hangover on Friday mornings. Still, not to worry, it's the taking part that counts.